Star Trek Episode Autopsy – Justice

by paet the pagan-gerbil10. April 2015 09:00

This was a memorable episode, one of the few really good ones from the first series. Or maybe that’s just the memories of the very bold fashions on the Edo planet, including the men for a change!

Cultural Differences

I liked that this planet had it’s own cultural quirks, to make up for looking like ordinary humans. The running, the odd turns of phrase (maybe the Universal Translator isn’t quite running fine?) and of course, the very very open sexuality on the planet all clearly show that this isn’t a Federation settlement with Federation values.

Aaaaand they're running, they're running...

Away Teams and Laws

“We found out about their laws, but didn’t bother discussing punishments or telling the rest of the away team about them.”

It would hopefully be standard practice to discuss a planet’s laws with all members of the away team – I’m sure Wesley’s particular problem would have been solved as it’s easier to remember strange laws such as ‘Do not go past that white fence that is easy to step over or walk around.’ It almost feels like that one is a ‘gotcha’ rule, especially as all the structures, large and small, are pure white and clean in form. How can you tell the restricted area fence from a bench? It’s not like they were particularly pressed for time having just completed a mission, where in other episodes you could get away with a certain oversight on the particulars.

Keep off the grass

Strange laws aside, the away team should have done a better job at briefing all personnel going to the planet – especially since one was a civilian who hadn’t been to an unexplored world before, or gone through any Starfleet training.

Wait, What’s That??

Then the Edo Vessel appears! An all-powerful alien spacecraft masquerading (maybe unintentionally) as a deity. What was a difficult situation becomes worse when the Enterprise can’t just sneak off and pretend they won the argument.

The completionist in me really wants to see a schematic of this vessel...

The Edo Probe is able to interface and communicate with Data just by touching him. Since it reads him so easily, is this now a security risk (a high level officer has had all of his secrets downloaded and recorded) to Starfleet? And wouldn’t Geordi or one of the engineering team be a better choice to examine Data as he recovers – despite Crushers’s skills in xenobiology, I’m sure that Data’s physiology is different enough (and unique, at that time) to what she has seen before to make her existing knowledge practically useless.

Apart from shaking the ship and being fairly difficult to scan – is that a semi-cloaking device, or does it really exist outside of the universe? – the Edo vessel doesn’t demonstrate it’s power too much. I suppose that’s a difficult gamble to take for most captains though.

Picard’s Morals

There’s a lot of talk about the Prime Directive, and how they – as Starfleet officers – are bound by other culture’s laws. However, Picard only pays lip service to this. Although he refuses to, and probably would never, use force to rescue Wesley it feels like he didn’t use his famed negotiation skills to actually convince them. The conversation seemed to be:

“He admitted his guilt, you are bound by our laws, he will be executed.”
“Yes, but can I make you understand that we don’t want him to be?”
“There are no exceptions, I’m really sorry.”
“I know, and we can’t ask for any. But still, can we just take him and go anyway?”

”Don’t worry Beverly, I’m going to follow all of our laws and let them execute your son, but I will not allow them to execute your son.”

In the end, the Edo are convinced that the boy will be rescued by force if necessary and just sit back sulking when Picard takes Wesley back without issue. The Edo God first tries to stop them, then gives up?

The Colony

The colony gets removed, by the apparent will of the Edo God who claims (unsubstantiated) to own the whole star cluster – which stars? That’s a small empire, really! If the colonists had stayed, would they be judged and found wanting by the God, and have the Edo rules imposed on them?

I found the decision to remove the colonists baffling, from both sides. Picard got what he wanted without making concessions, then offers one out of goodwill? Guilt? One that will affect hundreds of people, and Federation policy going forward. Will the Federation be happy with losing that colony? The Edo God, previously quite chatty, makes it’s request known through… silence. If I was Picard, I’d have chanced it. “It’s clear the Edo spacecraft wants no more negotiating with us, and wants a line drawn under it here. Let’s go on our way and inform Starfleet of the success of the colonisation mission.” If the God really wanted them gone it would re-open communications – if not now, then later when the human settlers loud music and late night parties start getting bothersome.

Consequences

Should this be on Wesley’s record for when he tries to apply to Starfleet? I don’t think it should negatively affect him, since saying you don’t want to die when you’re a child isn’t necessarily a sign of future rule-breaking or moral failings.

Will the Edo vessel be a little more cautious or territorial in the future? It didn’t like colonists left on the other planet, but didn’t want to do anything to stop them or tell anyone. The only thing that really got it’s goat is when Wesley didn’t want to be executed.

Will Starfleet attempt more peaceful contact with the Edo, or their God, in the future? There doesn’t seem to be a deep well of stories in that vein though.

Other Captains

Janeway would clearly have had a fit if one of her crew was going to be executed, however she hasn’t been terribly predictable when the immediate safety of her crew comes up against the Prime Directive. She is just as likely to tell everyone to stay behind, then guerilla-rescue the crew members and fly off as quick as she can as to leave them behind and just go. If that were the case, Chakotay would be the likely candidate to lead a mutinous rescue mission and recover the crew member (then try to catch up with Voyager), and get a stern telling off from Janeway that goes nowhere. They do have the advantage of being able to fly away from any consequences and pretend it never happened.

Sisko is much easier to work with. To hell with the Prime Directive, he would try anything to get that child back (given that the only two children seen on DS9 are his own son or Nog, I can see him being particularly zealous about this one), though I think he would look for a legal loophole of his own first. Given his experience with children (as the Edo Vessel views it’s people), he can relate to an alien with different values getting away with things he would strongly admonish his own son for. Maybe he’d try to claim that it doesn’t make the Edo Vessel a bad parent. He’s also had a lot of experience arguing with and lecturing god-like beings…

Conclusion

Also notable about this episode, I believe it’s the first time Klingon sex is mentioned, and the description stands up for years to come. Hooray for Klingon sex!

I’m going to try and keep a better track of these statistics – I like to keep track of silly things like that.

  • Picard wins trials: 2 (technically, he got what he wanted)
  • Wesley nearly dies: +1
  • Meet a ‘god’: 2
  • Avoid the Prime Directive: 1

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Tournaments and Painting Progress 2015

by paet the pagan-gerbil13. March 2015 08:00

The dates for this years DreadBall tournaments have been announced – about a half-dozen Regional events around the country finished up with a National tournament in October, meaning a tournament season of around six months.

As well as the Regional events this year, some tournaments can be ‘qualifying’ events with the same nice trophies and free entry to the Nationals for the winner. Information on these has been thin on the ground but there is one happening in mid-Wales hosted by the Mid-Wales Wargaming Society, which will be raising money for charity (the Wales Air Ambulance Charity).

The Bristol tournament organisation has changed – Bristol Vanguard will only be running one tournament this year. It will be an independent event outside of the official tournament circuit, around September time.

The Wales Regional has been renamed the Wales and South-West Regional, possibly in recognition of the fact that not only has every Wales Regional winner been from outside Wales, but every other player too! Rather ironic, as I believe this is the first year that a Welsh person is going to attend.

Looking at the calendar, it is possible for me to reach the MWWS event in Builth Wells, the Wales and South-West Regional, the South Regional (in Brighton) and possibly the London Regional in a single day-trip, although a lot of driving. Everywhere else is just too far away. We will still be making the effort to go to Nottingham for the National tournament in October.

I’m hoping to get some of the new teams painted in time for these tournaments. I’ll be trying to take something different each time (and my Veer-myn are on a well-earned vacation) but what those teams are will depend on how well I do. I can see myself bringing Martians to a tournament later in the year because they were just so much fun to play, even being totally useless!

On the painting front, I’ve been able to do a little bit of painting most evenings for the past few weeks. It’s not a lot, but it’s getting the main coats down on a lot of teams or doing a bit more work if I’m not too tired to concentrate. The Asterians are getting (frustrating) progress, the skin on the Sphyr and Grogans are finished, and I’m working on the Rebs uniforms before tackling their various skin tones. I was impressed when I realised that the Gaelian Jack (a centaur-like alien) was wearing a jumpsuit designed for it’s unique physiology – good show that designer!

As much as I love the Hobgoblins, I have no idea how to paint them. I don’t like the colour scheme in the book. I’m tempting to go for something yellow-brown and green without looking too much like the Veer-myn. Maybe if I use some of my new blending skills to make the armour transition from one colour to the other in a more organic style than solid plates. One of the downsides of the Xtreme Kickstarter is that there aren’t ‘spare’ models for each team like there were in the original DreadBall Kickstarter, so I can’t experiment with a bold style and then throw it away if it doesn’t work. That would mean opening up the mint, untouched, brand new bag with the duplicate team in.

Another challenge in painting the Hobgoblins will be arriving at a good colour scheme that fits both the scrawny, pathetic, stinky players and the Hulk.

My painting table at the moment is very disordered – I have Convicts, Kalyshi and Rebels on it as well as DBX scenery. There’s still a few teams from Seasons One to Three unpainted (sorry Forge Fathers…) and a few that are practically finished but for highlights. I’m helping a friend out with a DreadBall demo day in a couple of weeks and I anticipate being able to paint between demo games so maybe I’ll get something finished off in that time. Even though I’m jumping around (a lot), it’s all progress and despite not really finishing any teams that I’m working on quickly, I know that it’s helping me get them closer to finished without feeling like I’m rushing anything in particular.

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Vanguard League Season Two–part 1

by paet the pagan-gerbil27. February 2015 08:00

With our normal organiser getting too busy, the second season was delayed slightly… and then taken up by a new organiser. Me!

I always said that if no-one else organised leagues or tournaments in Bristol, I would have to do it myself. So here I am.

I kept the two divisions from the first season – there were a number of drop-outs, and a bunch of new players, which roughly evened out. Division One was a player short, so each round someone has to sit out and do nothing but it’s all equal and they’ll get the same number of games.

For this league, I’m going to be taking the Z’zor. I find that I usually get better at playing a team if I take them in a league, so my aim is to work out how these bashy teams work (while sticking with my familiar ‘Skill 5+’ style).

Game One – Merrick

We started with the best of intentions – we both turned up on time. To different venues. We weren’t able to reschedule, so I put it down as 0-pts each. Technically, we did both turn up and nobody won the game.

Game Two – Adrian’s Rats

This game went fairly well – I scored a few 3-pointers but so did the Rats. Fortunately, they dropped more strike attempts than I did so I squeezed out a 3 point lead (could have been 4, but for a last minute score by the Veer-myn).

The highlight for me was one Z’zor Striker scoring an achievement by throwing a 9-hex pass to another Z’zor Striker, and having it be caught. It took both coaching dice, but he made it! It only got a single cheer pip, but that’s not too bad.

After the game, one of my Strikers got Grizzled on the Extra Coaching table (which makes him extremely hard to hurt) and the Guard got Quick Recovery on the S2 advance table, on the off-chance that he actually gets hurt. I chose the S1 Extra Coaching table since 4 of the 6 options are attractive to a Z’zor Striker – Can’t Feel A Thing essentially means ‘choose’ in addition to the normal ‘choose’ option, Lucky is universally useful and a Skill improvement is definitely welcome for 5+ players. So it stands to reason that he should gain Grizzled instead. At least I can be sure that he won’t get damaged when I come up against the two Marauder teams near the end of the league…

Game Three – Stuart’s S2 Corporation

This game was nail-biting – by turn 6 I was 5 points down, but my Guard was moving up the pitch knocking out anyone standing in the three-point zone. Unfortunately, no player went out for more than two turns and my defence was almost empty, making it easy for Stuart to score three points most turns. From that halfway point, I got lucky and scored a four-pointer for each three-pointer scored against me until I actually had a point in my favour. Unfortunately, in rush 12 he scored 3 to bring the score to two in his favour, I missed my four-point shot in rush 13 but to balance, he missed his three-point shot in rush 14.

So the game ended as a loss, but I made it as tough as I could (and I’m amazed that Z’zor Strikers can score four-pointers…) We tried out the Achievements rules again, and since I was mostly beating up human Jacks I got a lot of ‘triple-Slam’ results. Unfortunately, most of these (and my fan checks in general) ended up being events. With an extra Coaching Dice, maybe I’d have won…

After the game, my second Striker gained a Skill advancement (again, on the S1 Extra Coaching table). And I’m aware of the counter-intuitiveness of complaining about not having enough Coaching Dice and then spending one to roll on an advancement table. Don’t judge me.

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The Nameless–Pascal-Psi Pool-Kings

by paet the pagan-gerbil13. February 2015 08:00

The Pascal-Psi corporation was left with some bad planetary holdings in the wake of an unfavourable shake-up with controlling groups merging, splitting and going bankrupt – leaving some of the smaller players in bad straits. With their experience of providing hard-wearing equipment to high-gravity planets, getting deeds over mineral-poor planets covered entirely in water was not to their taste.

However, their management have always had an attitude of making the best of any situation, and trying to turn a profit. By branching into related fields such as high-gravity habitation and extreme atmospheres, they could produce hard-wearing structures suitable for humans to survive underwater. Now all they needed was an incentive for people to visit their aquatic hotels and holiday spots.

Humans crave variety, and so Pascal-Psi got the first underwater DreadBall pitch licenced by DGB, under restrictions pertaining to competition outside of it’s own system, and drew in sentient marine species from across the Co-Prosperity Sphere to form their own league of teams. No-one had seen the Galaxy’s Greatest Sport played underwater before, and thus the Pascal-Psi Pool-Kings made their name before moving on to the big leagues.

There isn’t a name – they’re Nameless, right?

 

I didn't realise I'd painted them to camouflage with the pitch...

I didn’t like the purple on the studio models. It just isn’t for me. I have already put a light purple skin on my Asterians, and a deep purple armour on my Z’zor, so I wanted to keep away from making another purple team for now. I thought since they look a lot like octopus, and have a marine vibe, I wanted to reflect that with an octopus/squid like orange skin, and turquoise and blue or green armour.

The skin is Squig Orange with a Carroburg Crimson wash, then brought back to Squig Orange. I put Bestigor Flesh on the top of this and hated it. Over the next 24 hours, it grew on me and now I quite like the effect, but went a bit easier on it after the test model. I may redo this in the future mixing the colours together to reduce the jarring change.These guys are Hard.

The armour is Stegadon Scale Green, Sotek Blue and an edge highlight of Temple Guard Blue. I painted the bindings and other details with Averland Sunset, and highlighted with my ancient Sunburst Yellow (with thanks to the DreadBall Fanatics Facebook page for their advice on that third colour).

It was a nice simple paint scheme and I like the effect it gives, I was told later that the colours worked well together because of colour theory. It’s not something that I know anything about, but maybe I should look into it a bit more.These guys find it super-easy to catch things.

I’ve taken the team to a couple of tournaments – the May 2014 Mantic Open Day and 2014 Welsh Regional – and performed pretty poorly. Even with the known double-whammy of stick ‘em and hit ‘em, none of my slams seemed to have much impact. At that time, they were just starting to be discussed as the auto-win team, the unenjoyable opponent team, etc… I wouldn’t say that I’m a bad player, but I couldn’t see them being too easy to use. Maybe I just need more experience with bashy teams. I can see how in a league, their guards could become something truly terrifying and it’s very easy for their Strikers to get Skill 3+.

These guys are Sticky.

I’ve got a few ideas for taking this colour scheme further when it is time to paint the Nameless Spawn and John Doe – that’s a little way down the line though!

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Star Trek Episode Autopsy – Lonely Among Us

by paet the pagan-gerbil30. January 2015 08:00

This was a disappointing episode. The main story, with energy beings hijacking the ship, wasn’t too bad but I feel like it could have been done better. I’ve got complaints about the dialogue, direction, etc but that’s not really what I write these about so I’ll put those aside. The secondary story, with the Anticans and Selay, was very poorly handled in my opinion.

The Odd Couple

We have two alien races who hate each other, have always hated each other, and can barely stand to be in nearby rooms. The best way to get them to a peace conference is on the same starship, and the crew assign them to quarters literally next door to each other until they complain. We never meet the hospitality officer on the Enterprise, but given some of the deep research that Picard and Troi go into when meeting other races, you’d think someone would have paid a bit more attention to this.

He just accidentally brutally chopped off his own head while carving a turkey...

What about the peace conference itself? We see the Antican delegates more than the Selay, but the impression we get is that they were sent along as a matter of form and they’re not really that bothered whether peace is achieved or not. I think that if everything had progressed smoothly and the delegates were delivered happily to the conference, the Anticans weren’t really committed and fairly unlikely to actually agree to any concessions (on their part, at least).

Nasty Ferengi

There was a drop-in reference to the big baddies for the series, the Ferengi. The implication was made that they had bribed the delegates to sabotage the ship. At some point, they stopped being the bogeymen of the galaxy but they’re still a big, dangerous threat to the Federation at this point.

Politics and Morals

I’d be interested to find out if Gene Roddenberry was a vegetarian. There is a discussion early on in the episode where it’s explained that humans only eat synthetic meat and don’t raise animals to be eaten. This raises a few questions – if meat is synthesised, why not vegetables? If humans go to another world, are they able to digest the foreign meat that’s come from a real animal? This is a consideration in general for food though, not just for vegetarianism. It seems that people have a fairly relaxed attitude to foodstuffs (and especially foreign processed foods) across the galaxy and will eat it without checking it for edibility or toxins.

In addition, when did vegetarianism become the standard? It can’t have been too long ago, as the Antican has seen humans ‘eating meat’ – synthetic meat fashioned to look like real meat by the replicators. On the other hand, it seems totally normal and expected to Tasha Yar who grew up homeless on a dangerous, backwater planet. Vegetarianism must have been fairly ingrained in human culture to be the norm even somewhere where the expectation is ‘kill or be killed’ and ‘fight to survive’.

There’s also a sly nod to the Cold War – “people even used to go to war about economic systems.” That makes it sound silly, and was probably written in to show how enlightened we are going to be to have eliminated war within our own species, but it’s actually an interesting point. Since previous episodes have pointed out that humans have abandoned money, aren’t the Federation following more Communist principles than Capitalist ones?

Troi’s Insights

I liked Troi’s insight on things in this episode. I heard an engineer in her voice, explaining patiently that she can’t detect two consciousness's in the crew because of the inherent duality in everyone. There are many times that I’ve heard technical people explaining ‘no, that’s not the way that things work’ and this conversation brought back all of them.

The big difference to those conversations is that everyone listened and accepted the answer on the show!

Murder on the Enterprise

I was very confused by the almost negligent attitude to the peace delegates on the ship. They’re able to hide behind corners and ambush crew members, hide weapons in their quarters and on their person and even catch Riker (inadvertently) in a net. Now, there were bigger problems on the ship, but they could probably still have spared a couple more security personnel to guard all the visitors. To have Riker essentially assaulted and possibly hurt by a neutral/unfriendly alien visitor, but have no consequences is quite strange.

In addition, the murder revelation at the end seemed almost as if nobody cared about it – Picard takes the news as if ‘well, I’ll just palm off that responsibility on you then!’ and Riker and Tasha don’t appear to want to deal with it but not because they actually care about someone being killed and eaten (offending their vegetarian sensibilities even more, I imagine). The fact that it happens at the end of the episode means that there’s no way to find out what the Selay think about the murder – do they blame the Anticans or the Federation, or both? Will the peace conference fail now that a peace delegate has been murdered by his opposite number? Do either side, or both, blame the Enterprise delays for the peace talks stalling (as the murder of a peace delegate would no doubt cause them to fail anyway)?

Will the Federation implement a policy of having separate ships deliver peace delegates to their conferences in the future?

Data and the Energy Beings

Could Data host the energy beings? Would that have been an acceptable compromise? Does there even really need to be a compromise? Would it at least facilitate communication? Who knows.

New Life and New Civilisations… Sometimes

The energy beings that are trapped in the ship, communicate with the crew and have a society and a home that they want to get back to could be interesting to explore. But instead, not enough attention is paid to it and in the end it doesn’t really go anywhere. It would be nice to have some sort of follow-up where a science vessel approaches at a safe distance and attempts to make contact with them, and discover more about these energy beings. Is their whole race within the phenomenon the Enterprise encountered, or is it more like a starship carrying a small crew of explorers, like the Enterprise itself?

Picard is essentially abandoned and trapped on their ship, just as they were trapped on his. Do they try to help him? Can they try to help him? We don’t know.

So many questions... So much mystery...

Other Interesting Titbits

Also spotted in this episode – a medical visor used by Dr Crusher, that I don’t remember seeing anywhere else. I’ll try to keep an eye out for it in the future.

And again, there’s not much to say about it, but the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes. Data jumps into the act full throttle, but over the years as his humanity grows his eccentric behaviour fades. Although it doesn’t seem connected, the more his empathic skills increase, the less he is given to acting rash or illogically. No-one would question an android studying Sherlock Holmes’ methods, the odd thing is why he thought it appropriate to begin smoking a pipe.

Come to think of it, what WAS in Data's pipe?

What Would Other Captains Do?

As usual, there are two big things going on in this episode, the peace delegates and the ‘hijack’.

Sisko would almost certainly call the Anticans out on their behaviour. They aren’t even pretending to want peace. They’d end up locked in a cell on DS9 (although the actual escort would probably be on the Defiant) in fairly short order, and between Odo and the Bajoran authorities on one side, and the uncompromising standards of Sisko, I can’t see them getting out any time soon. To be honest, I would see Picard doing much the same thing if he hadn’t essentially washed his hands of anything to do with the delegates.

Sisko is harder to tell with the energy beings. He is an adventurer, an explorer, but unlike Picard he has a strong sense of commitment and family. He has his son, his father, his connections to Bajor (strengthening every year), and at times Kassidy Yates. Picard has a brother he was not as close to, and no real sense of family himself. Eventually, of course, Sisko does disappear with energy beings to explore strange new worlds but this was not entirely at his own volition. I do wonder how Odo would have fared hosting the energy beings, given his odd reaction to Curzon Dax’s personality?

Janeway’s behaviour with the delegates would probably be closer to Picard’s actual behaviour in the episode. Chakotay would probably be in charge of them, and he walks an odd line between following Starfleet protocol to provide an example and being flexible with the rules because of the pressures of life being isolated in the Delta quadrant. I think at the point of the murder he would be very, very keen to push them out of an airlock (or at least kick them off of the ship early). If they want to play hard, he can certainly play hard…

Conclusion

So-so. Too many things happened here that essentially felt like both the characters and the writers couldn’t give a monkeys. “Murder on my ship? Phoo, is that the time? I’d best get some sleep…”

  • Ship captured: +1
  • Crew possessions: +1
  • Unknowable energy beings: +1

Riker: "Did he just...? Am I stuck with...? Hang on a second!"

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Kickstarter Roundup

by paet the pagan-gerbil2. January 2015 08:00

It’s been an interesting few years for me with Kickstarter – here’s where I’m at with all of my backed projects.

Order of the Stick Reprint Drive

This was my first Kickstarter, and is still outstanding. The reason for that though is clear – the sole artist and writer of the saga damaged his hand pretty badly shortly after the Kickstarter, and has been fulfilling the bonus content as and when he can since then. It should be noted that the core pledge – books – were delivered on time without problem and I’ve received all the physical goods I ordered. The remaining things are mostly digital short stories, and I can wait for those to drip in slowly for another couple of years. I trust Rich to be able to fulfil the Kickstarter promises, and in theory all the bonus content will actually make up half of an extra book – if the promises made don’t mandate exclusivity, of course. I’m not hung up on exclusivity myself, but I know some people can get really irate about that sort of thing.

Broken Age

It’s been an interesting project, given that the whole thing has been relatively public on video since it’s inception. I’m getting a bit itchy since finishing Act One, and the pace of the videos has slowed down dramatically, and before too long they’ll be going dark for Amnesia Fortnight again. Hopefully, there’ll at least be some more AF videos this year even if the Broken Age ones are slowing down.

Wasteland 2

An entirely complete project! I only put in for the game itself, and no physical rewards, so I’m absolutely thrilled with the final result. The only problem is that my aging graphics card finally gave up and packed in. I’ll need to get a new one before I can play any more modern games.

Broken Sword

I was a huge fan of the original Broken Sword games, I remember getting awfully stuck on the first one (the goat…) with my cousin on the Playstation. I still haven’t completed BS4 yet, but the control system was just too unpleasant to deal with. I’ll try and get back to it one day, I expect. This Kickstarter delivered on time, and it delivered an awesome game. Not as hard as some of the older games, but not a pushover either.

Satellite Reign

This is possibly the riskiest project that I’ve backed – it is by a studio I’m not familiar with remaking a game I loved but was no good at. It’s still ticking along, and I’m aware of the long lead time in games (looking at the finished or nearly finished projects that I’ve backed, that’s clearer to me now) and their work in progress has been encouraging so far. They’ve also just released keys for Steam Early Access, which is a relief!

Torment: Tides of Numenera

I backed this because I was so confident in the team to deliver Wasteland 2, and because I know people who loved Planescape: Torment. I never got that far into it, and was playing it years behind the times when UI conventions had changed a lot (2d to 3d, no zoom, etc) and it makes some games age poorly. At the time, I could have loved it but interface and resolution had come a long way and I didn’t like the feeling that I was dying too much…

Cirque du Mort

The latest project that I’ve backed, on a recommendation from a friend. It’s a comic book that by KS prices comes out pretty cheap – definitely worth a shot to see how it goes.

DreadBall and Xtreme

These two projects really hit me hard, I fell for DreadBall bad during the Kickstarter and bought almost everything (figuring I could sell it on later at a profit if I wanted to). When Xtreme came around, I just went for the ‘one of everything’ pledge to make it easier, rather than keep adding stuff on. To this day, the only thing I’ve had to buy for DreadBall separately is the Azure Forest expansion.

I picked up the Xtreme game at the Open Day, and look forward to getting the first Season Four bits in the new year! It’ll be great to finally play with them, but I’ll have to get cracking on the painting…

Mars Attacks

This one didn’t interest me until it added a DreadBall team add-on. That’s all I went for, so I was surprised when I was sent the digital rules as well. Turns out that the rules for the DB team are hidden somewhere in one of the expansions – hopefully, they will be available to the world at large sometime afterwards.

As far as I’m aware, it delivered on time for me. I know some things were delayed but only by a few weeks, so it shouldn’t have been too big a deal.

Dungeon Saga

So I’m becoming a bit of a Mantic fan. This looked like another good, quick game to play and also a good introduction for older children to complex games. As a bonus it’s co-operative and multiplayer, so it could be brought out for a games night (full campaign in a day?) with the option of pitching it at ‘out of the box’ mode for new players or ‘analysis paralysis’ for the keen roleplayers amongst us. I went in for one of everything again… whoops.

Kings of War Second Edition

Oh dear. Another Mantic project. I only wanted one model, but with postage added it was only a little extra to get the rulebooks as well… so I went in at the low level, no upgrades, just to get the Blaine miniature. It might be easier to get a large fantasy game in as well since the rules are faster than Warhammer.

The Underground: A Sam & Fuzzy RPG

This one I backed on a whim. It looks like a silly, cartoony RPG much like the comic it’s based on. It might be a good game to play between our (no longer regular) regular RPGs, which are always planned as pretty serious and straight stories and then meet the players.

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DreadHeads Tournament - Mantic Open Day November 2014

by paet the pagan-gerbil11. December 2014 08:00

The last weekend of November saw us once more making the pilgrimage to Nottingham for the twice-yearly Mantic Open Day and DreadBall tournament!

The gang this time was Dan, Oli, Jen and myself. We met another guy from the DreadBall Fanatics Facebook page called Barry staying in the same hotel, and had an Ultimate game the night before (as is now custom) and got a little bit drunk (as is now custom...) The Ultimate game had four human teams (three of them Season One!) and me, playing Zees.

I was undecided between Zee and Z'zor - I kept going back and forth, Zee, Z'zor, Zee, Z'zor.... After asking advice, I got lots of suggestions on how to make the Z'zor competitive. So I chose Zees!

The tournament itself was a four-game event, with the 'fake league' rules to make teams better and better all the way through.

Oli's Void Sirens attack Orx and Slippery Joe!

Game One - Simon's S1 Corp

Simon was a great opponent, and we had a good laugh - I managed to win by a single point, and the major achievement in the game for me was scoring four points with a monkey!

Game Two - Rob's Teratons

 

I've seen Rob at a few of these events in the past, but never played him. I've been unsure whether or not it's wise, since he has won 'Most Bloody' more than once, and especially this time with his very smashy Teraton team. Somehow, my Zees got everything they wanted and walked off with a turn 5 landslide win. We were both stunned. It helped that the Praetorian (Rob's MVP purchase) couldn't pick up an undefended ball...

Dale won 'best painted' for his team at the Nationals, and they are even better in good light!

Game Three - Mike's Nameless

Mike is another player I've seen many times in the past - he was the first person that Jen played in a tournament, what feels like an age ago... I tried my best, but he had a Sticky Guard with 360 Vision in the three point strike zone, effectively shutting me out. This was a landslide loss, but at least it wasn't quick! Mike very charitably lent me his dice, which rolled way too many sixes for me - I'd have been more embarrassed if they were my own! There was one nasty turn where I sat on the launch lane, got a monkey knocked out by the ball, it scattered to another monkey who (obviously) couldn't catch it, then I lost the whole turn before it started. Annoying, but it doesn't happen as much as it did before the launch rules changed.

One monkey did manage to knock a Hard Guard out for two turns though. That's almost a win, for Zees.

Game Four - Leon's Asterians

Leon's converted Asterians (sorry about the blurriness...)

Leon is the current UK Champion and I was very much looking forward to playing him. His Asterian Dirty Tricks don't work too well against monkeys, but he was dynamite scoring. I managed to keep it away from being a landslide (somehow), including an incredible 9-hex throw from inside a threat hex to a Zee who caught it, moved into the three-point zone (another threat hex) and scored! Not enough to win, but pretty impressive. I eventually lost by four points.

Leon is really fun to play against, he doesn't take things too seriously and he makes it an entertaining game. I definitely wouldn't mind being thrashed by him again some day!

Results

It was a fun tournament, and I think a net -3 score difference is pretty good for Zees. There were two other Zee teams there, one came dead last and the other was captained by the TO (Rob T). None of our crowd got a prize this time around, but with players like Mike (who won this one) and Leon (who won the 2013 Nationals), and regulars like Rob F and Dale (both taking Teratons and going for blood) it's a hard competition. Full results are here, but to summarise: Oli came fifth, I came eighth, Dan was tenth and Jen eleventh.

Dan's Costa Coffee Corporation take on the other Asterian team

Unfortunately, the event was marred by not having the custom tokens we were expecting and being squashed in a room too small - the tables weren't wide enough for a Dreadball pitch, so boards were being knocked all the time. Having been to a couple of nice venues recently (the Bristol Megalofunotron 2 at the Ratepayers Arms, and the Crusader Bowl at Meadow-something Community Hall), this was a big let down. The prizes as well had to be announced in a noisy hall and consisted entirely of credit to spend in the store - it didn't feel particularly well-loved.

It was still a fun event, great to catch up with people and fun to play new opponents again!

Another Zee player got the wooden spoon, even with the Enforcer to help them along.

Open Day

And what of the rest of the Open Day? There were no outside exhibitors this time, which is a bit of a shame but I'm not too worried about. I wasn't going to pick up any new games anyway. We got to see the DreadBall Xtreme stuff, and pick up the box game from our Kickstarter package, and see some shiny painted models from the next few season's teams... Mechanites, Koris, and Tsudochan, among others! I'm starting to get accustomed to the fact that people there know us - they gave Jen my KS package while I was still playing a game, and Ronnie waved us in even though I'd forgotten to print off our confirmation.

After the tournament, we hung around waiting to see what pub everyone was going to when Ronnie came out to say that they were going to close the doors so if we wanted to come in for pizza, we could. Can't say fairer than that! I had been wondering what we were going to do about dinner anyway. It also gave us some time to look at the awesome display pieces without bumping into lots of people. Then it was home to drink, play Tarot of Loka (which Alessio had demonstrated to Dan, who promptly picked it up) and our first crack at Xtreme. It's a really fun, really brutal game. We went twelve rushes without scoring...

We'll definitely be back next year!

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Phobos Phanatics

by paet the pagan-gerbil28. November 2014 08:00

When a small force of Martian invaders fell into the GCPS following Blaine, they became side-tracked by their guerilla tactic foundations of establishing a DreadBall franchise. This, they hoped, would manoeuvre them into position to stage a coup at some point in the future.

The Phobos Phanatics moved away from their primary grounds and began touring the BR57L sectors, playing against such teams as Zoatally Z’zorsome and the Starport Starlets in their bid to conquer the hearts and minds of sports fans across the GCPS…

First team I painted the prone models for - it only seemed right.

I’m aware that I snuck out on writing up about the Zee team as well, but the written background for the Martian team is pretty much perfect. I wasn’t interested in the Mars Attacks game, but followed the Kickstarter out of interest in Mantic’s projects (just as I had for Deadzone). It hadn’t seemed to be going too well, stalling and going backwards a bit, and the pledge levels were confusing. Then late in the campaign the DreadBall team was announced, so I threw my money in for that at the special ‘DreadBall only’ pledge level. I still managed to resist getting anything else for it though – I have my game, and I’m happy with it.

I’m very proud of the painting that I’ve done with these guys. I used a wet palette for the first time, and found it a great help when mixing paints – something else I did for the first time here. The whole impetus was that they had turned up a week or two before the rules. The rules came out with no pre-warning at all, and I got straight on to the guys running the Crusader Bowl in Cwmbran to see if they’d be let in. I knew I could only paint one team in time for the tournament, and would have to work hard if I was going to take the Asterians (as I was hoping to do). They said that Martians were going to be allowed, so I got the whole lot done in a week to be ready. I even painted the prone figures, which I haven’t had time to do for any other team. Having no time to play Dreadball before the big day, the first game that I actually played with them was at the tournament itself… Those poor Asterians are always getting left behind. Serves me right for choosing a particularly hard paint scheme with them.

"There's nothing behind my back. Oh, /this/ hand?"

The armour is Temple Guard Blue highlighted with a mix of Temple Guard Blue and Sotek Blue, and finally highlighted with Sotek Blue. The brains are Squig Orange with Bestigor Flesh, the face is Snot Green with Orc Flesh Wash strategically placed to bring out the gills and mouths, which I think I screwed up in the basecoating phase. Then more Snot Green, a bit more Orc Flesh Wash, and some Snot Green/Goblin Green mixed to highlight the face. The eyes and teeth were Pallid Wych Flesh with a steady hand, and a dot of Mephiston Red and a really steady hand for the pupil.

Hidden blade...

Their weapons, tubes and the top of the armour were Eshin Grey/Dawnstone Grey, highlighted with Dawnstone Grey again, then an Armour Wash to bring out some of the detail. The backpacks were Rhinox Hide/Mephiston Red base, Mephiston Red for more definition and finally Blood Red to top highlights.

The only bit I was really unhappy with was the boots/shoulder pads. I used Gnarloc Green, with Snot Green to highlight. I just couldn’t get it to blend the way I wanted. That might be because the older foundation paints are too concentrated in pigment – I have had trouble mixing Dheneb Stone in the past too (one of the reasons I have taken this long to try mixing paints.

These guards can dish it out, but they can't take it.

Finally, the helmets. I put two on, and the PVA was smudged everywhere, and I almost cried at how terrible it looked. In the morning the glue had dried clear and it really improved the appearance (and slightly covered the poor work I’d done on the teeth of the models. I made sure to take pictures of them without the helmets in case the photography wasn’t any good once they were on. I know that Mantic have photoshopped the helmets onto many of their production shots (a bit too obviously in the case of the DreadBall team), so it’s possible that without their professionally painted models, in a specially lit studio with high-quality equipment and professional photographers mine might not come out looking that great. I think they came out OK though!

I thought one of these guys was broken from a distance, then realised he wasn't supposed to have a helmet on.

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Crusader Bowl

by paet the pagan-gerbil23. November 2014 08:00

The Crusader Bowl is a tournament held in Cwmbran, just over the border in Wales. A couple of weeks before the event, making slow progress with my Asterians, I asked if they would allow the fresh-off-the-press Mars Attacks team in and was told… yes! So for the first time in quite a while, I’ve made a very easy decision on what team to bring. I was planning on bringing the Z’zor to one of the tournaments at this tail end of the year, but I guess that’s not panning out at all. Maybe next year they’ll have their day in the sun.

We’ll be going en masse again – Jen can’t make this one, but myself, Oli, Dan, Gareth and Dai will (almost) all be trekking over the bridge to participate. There seem to be a good range of prizes on offer - I doubt I can get lucky again though! There will be painting prizes (voted by the players), top three prizes, last place and possibly some spot prizes too.

I really have to remember to take more pictures at the next one...

Game One – Rhys’ Nameless

This was an excellent opportunity for some delayed vengeance. Martian rayguns work very well against the nasty guards of the Nameless, and really took the edge off of their tag-teaming tactics. I managed to keep them either on the floor or on the bench for a good deal of the game, but it didn’t help me score many points. Time was called when we'd eked out a draw.

Game Two – Tris’ Martians

The game was as fun as we thought it would be, although Tris didn't try using his hidden rayguns nearly as much as I did (I don't actually recall him firing a single shot, actually...) and I ended up a single point up at the end of the game.

Game Three – Shaun’s Z'zor

I got the big guard!

Had a great game against Shaun - I managed to get rid of that nasty guard (thank goodness they only start with one) and he was dreadfully unlucky with the ref checks against my players meaning that I could keep blasting away with the rayguns. Again, as fun as making 'pew-pew' noises is, I couldn't keep the score in my favour and lost by two.

Game Four – Connor’s Forge Fathers

It’s been a long time since I played against Forge Fathers. I don’t think I’ve seen them in a tournament since my very first tournament game. Connor was fun, he wasn’t expecting to do anything and called people over whenever he killed one of the squishy Martians. I got my only kill of the tournament against him though, one of his guards. I wasn’t able to do much damage to his Strikers through poor rolling, and needed to concentrate on his Guards to try and retain some players on the pitch!

In the end I lost by two points again.

Ultimate – Chris’ Zees, Lawrence’s Nameless, Gareth’s Teratons and Dan’s Corporation

Lawrence's Nameless were truly stunning.

The novelty of ending a tournament on an Ultimate game is starting to wear off. It's a long day, and Ultimate is a long game, and as a couple of players pointed out "it's not so much fun when you're trying to win". Maybe it'd work better as a first game, rather than a last game? It'd be fairer on the Swiss system too, probably.

Regardless, it started the same as most of my games in the day - score fast, get close to the landslide, then slowly bleed out points while my players are squished into the ground. Luckily, there being four other players, as soon as Dan started edging to the lead I was left alone while they concentrated on him. Finally, in the last turn I had a 'not too threatening' four points... realising that this was my last shot, and waking up long enough to do the maths, I called an Offensive play with my coach, ran a Striker onto the ball and somehow doubled the pickup, moved towards a Strike zone; played a card to get him closer, another action to make it to the 3pt bonus hex and then finally the strike. One score, 7 points, unexpected landslide and I could go to bed.

Results

I kept forgetting to take useful pictures, so I snapped some other people's games...

I don’t know exactly where I came – I expect it was in the bottom half, but I honestly don’t care. The Martians were huge fun to play with and against, and offer a nice alternative to both hitty and fast teams – they’re easy to put down, not terribly easy to score with, but they have that ranged attack that is difficult to defend against. Most of the games began with me taking a rapid lead, then losing my players very, very quickly. The second half of most games had three or less players on the pitch, and running damage control rather than any co-ordinated game plan.

As a group, we fared pretty well (if I can take some of the credit). Dan picked up prizes for Best Painted and Most Bloody, Oli got a prize for third place (he is fairly consistently one of the top players) and Gareth got the Wooden Spoon. The prizes were excellent, donated by Mantic and Firestorm Games in Cardiff – the wooden spoon prize was a voucher towards another team with the tagline “since you’ll be throwing that one in the bin…”

It was a long, tough day but the Martians were so much fun to play with I may try and bring them to a league. With some development, they could be pretty powerful.

Just under a week to the Open Day, I can’t wait!

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Shadowrun

by paet the pagan-gerbil7. November 2014 08:00

Hooray, we’re back to roleplaying! Dan is running a Shadowrun-ish game for us. At least, the word ‘shadowrun’ has been mentioned in the world, I don’t know if that is really the system or not.

There was once an Alliance in the galaxy, rather idealistic, that was destroyed by alien invaders. The aliens were driven off, but the Alliance was totally smashed up. In it’s place are Corporations, behind the scenes on every planet and local government.

There’s a diverse range of species – our crew has a female human chemist (a bit of a pusher…), an Ogre soldier, a Dwarf engineer and an Orc medic. We are on a largely-lawless pleasure planet, where almost anything goes. On our way to a local restaurateur (Fat Jeff) to look for make-work, we were followed by a shady character. Trying to lose this miscreant we ended up in the robot red-light district, in which another shady character jumped out in front of us and threw a datapad at us. It had instructions for a meeting.

This meeting occurred in an abandoned warehouse, and we were offered substantial rewards for assisting in the resurrection of the Alliance, and the subsequent throttling of Corporation power. We were given free rein to choose what equipment we liked. The mission was to destroy a device involved in time-travel and/or inter-dimensional travel – dangerous stuff.

After a quick trial of combat against some holographic practice dummies, we were ready to leave the planet and head to our destination in the SS Shagnasty IV – an Orc garbage scow.

The spaceport was surrounded by an angry mob… we didn’t see any need to worry, so we snuck onto our ship and set course. Arriving, we found a forest planet with very little traffic and almost no buildings at all – the facility that we wanted was out of the way, and had a landing pad. We radioed in, told them we were in trouble (pushing smoke out of the engines and wiggling the steering wheel to make it believable) and that we needed to land to make repairs. We were allowed, and met by a human woman who said her job was receptionist (good to see some old-school sexism in the fantastic future).

We managed to get a tour of the facility, which stood up to it’s claim of being a pharmaceutical research centre (not the advanced physics danger we had been told about) until we got to the room with a strange device – our guide couldn’t explain the ‘difficult science bits’ but it was a way to get drugs to emergency zones faster than anyone else – the very instant they are required, in fact – and have enough of them produced to deal with the emergency. Sounds like something time-travel-ish for sure.

Just then, the facility was attacked! Our guide ran off to the bunker, we stayed behind to destroy the machine and download the plans for ourselves. We met some of the attackers (who didn’t stand a chance…) and made it through to the bunker. Opening the door, we found lots of dead people and a big creature who had clearly made a nest in there. We closed the door and left.

On the way out, we encountered one of the attackers carrying a big box who asked us who we were before saying “Oh, you must be the distraction.” This rankled us, so we killed him and headed to the ship. As we left, we saw the other ship being loaded with crates and loot so we destroyed it (hooray for hand-held nuke launchers!) and made it into orbit where we were congratulated for a successful job and informed that payment was in our accounts.

A few troubling things here – the technology stolen/destroyed doesn’t appear to be what we assumed it was, the facility was set up and we were part of it, and whoever organised the whole thing either doesn’t know that we screwed the other part of the plan, or are not working directly with the other team (and have no problem with their failure). I’m very interested to see where we go next…

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