Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hobby Matrix - January 2012

This year I would like to get back on track with some of my regular monthly posts.  Somehow I got busy last year and dropped the ball and never recovered.  Although they may not have been terribly exciting features for others to read, the monthly columns such as On the Horizon, Recalling the Past, and Hobby Matrix helped keep me both focused on looming projects and savoring those of the past.

Now is as good a time as any to start again, so here we go.

This month features some fairly big changes but that's not to be unexpected since I have not posted one since spring of last year.  My hobby ADD has been in full swing over the last eight months and it's a shame that I did not track the changes from month to month.  Or maybe it's a good thing.....

A copy of my Adventurer's Book

The big news is the acquisition of The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild from Cubicle7 games.  I had been watching this develop since early last year and eagerly awaited a chance to snag a copy.  Options for getting a physical copy (PDF's were available) were few in the early days after release but Amazon eventually started carrying them and that's when I jumped.

I have to admit that I am still in the process of reading the Adventurer's Book and have not had time to delve deeper into the mechanics with the Loremaster's Book, but so far I am VERY impressed.  Cubicle7 has been able to fully capture the theme and essence of Middle-earth unlike any previous attempt.  MERP was good and will always be one of my favorites but the system was clunky and cumbersome while Decipher's version was, least it had good artwork since it was based mainly off the movies.  The One Ring may very well be the one Middle-earth RPG to rule them all.  Once I finish reading both books and play testing a bit, I will write a full review.

While ToR may be the current obsession, there is a very real possibility that Legends of the Old West may figure prominently in my future.  Confession:  I have never been a big fan of US history.  Even the Civil War fails to grab my interest the way that the history of the old world does.  But something clicked recently.  Perhaps it was the Clint Eastwood old west movie marathon I watched over the holidays or maybe the great miniatures I stumbled upon, but I have a bit of a Wild West bug right now.  Visions of dusters, cowboy hats, and gunfights obscure my vision so I have to test it out.  I've been reading the rulebooks and I'm getting ready to paint my first two miniatures.  We'll see how it goes from there...

My first two LotOW miniatures.  Both are from Black Scorpion.

Most ever other category has suffered a loss in interest lately except for LotR SBG and MERP.  I suspect that both benefited from the general Tolkien increase brought about by reading the ToR manuals.  As a direct result, my backlog of Middle-earth minis are finally seeing some attention and I may actually purchase a few new ones from GW soon.....something I have not done in several years.

Anyhow, without further delay, here is the matrix for January 2012.

Current Obsession - The One Ring
Past Obsession - Legends of the High Seas
Looming Obsession - Legends of the Old West

Lord of the Rings SBG = 9+
Warhammer Fantasy = 2-
Warhammer 40K = 5*
Pathfinder RPG = 6+
A Song of Ice and Fire RPG = 8*
Flames of War = 1-
Wings of War = 5-
D&D 4ed = 1-
D&D 3.5 = 1-
D&D old school = 7*
Axis and Allies War at Sea = 3-
Legends of the High Seas =9*
Terrain and Scenery Design = 8*
Miniature Painting (general) = 10+
Lord of the Rings Online = 1-
Pirates of the Burning Sea = 1-
Pirates of the Spanish Main = 3-
Pirates of the Spanish Main RPG = 3-
Ambush Alley = 5*
Age of Blood = 6+ 
The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild = 8+
Legends of the Old West = 7+
MERP = 5+

(The scale is 1-10 with one being the lowest on the current interest scale and ten being the highest.  "-" indicates a negative trend and "+" indicates a positive while "*" signifies no change from the previous month.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Minis and Help Me ID this Miniature

My apologies for the lack of posts lately.  I've been super busy at work trying to replace a damaged deck on the dive boat before Coast Guard inspections next month.  During my busy spell I only managed to get all of about thirty minutes of hobby time each night before nearly falling asleep at the work bench.  Despite the hectic schedule and lack of free time however, I was able to complete a few projects.

I'm still on the fantasy miniature binge this month and this post showcases two great sculpts I recently finished.  One is from Reaper and the other is currently unidentified...which is where I will ask for YOUR help (scroll below for more info).

Ilsa Darkstep (right) and a female adventurer (left)
First up is Ilsa Darkstep (02796) from Reaper.  I'm not a big fan of intricately detailed miniatures.  For one, my poor skills as a painter precludes me from taking advantage of all the nooks and crannies created when heaps of weapons, accessories, and other attachments are thrown on a mini.  But more importantly, when it comes to fantasy miniatures and fantasy in general (novels, gaming, movies, RPG's, etc..), I adhere to the philosophy of "fantastical reality".  It's just a fancy term I use to describe the fact that I like my fantasy to be grounded in realistic possibilities.  I guess I'm strange or just have too much time on my hands but when I see a miniature loaded down with tons of "stuff", I can't help but think, "how does that guy fight, much less move around in all that gear"?  Anyhow, Ilsa Darkstep fits the bill perfectly for me.  She's simply attired and looks as if she could have stepped right out of any low fantasy setting.

I chose mostly muted colors for Ilsa Darkstep since she strikes me as some kind of agent or informant.  Soft browns and grays suggested ease of movement for me along with the ability to move silently so I mixed several blends of each color to soften the contrasts.  Going this route however, it quickly became apparent that I was at risk of having a very nondescript model upon completion so I needed something to make her pop.  The blond hair and the blue cape was the answer.

Overall I'm quite pleased with the result.  The goal of every miniature I paint by the way, is not to win a contest or wow onlookers (I really do not have the skill for it anyhow) but to allow the mini and the colors to tell a story.  Such is the case with Ilsa.  Once I was finished the figure I stared at her for a moment and her story was apparent to me.  She is an agent for some influential guild in a rather large city.  Her cape suggests that she is socially competent and is comfortable around those of higher class...a skill that would be very beneficial in her line of work.  But she is no stranger to the night and to the seedier parts of town and her attire allows her to move quickly and quietly there when the need arises.

Now I need the help of those who visit this blog.  After I painted the miniature below and prepared to write about her in this post, I realized that I did not remember any of the information about her....which is very uncharacteristic of me.  I'm definitely more of a collector than a gamer and as such, tend to keep lists of my minis and games.  But somehow she has eluded every list I have.

I guess I simply assumed that she belonged to either the Reaper or Dark Sword Miniatures lines, since they are my main sources for fantasy minis.  However, I'm fairly certain she does not belong to either.  I used every combination I could think of on Reaper's Figure Finder database and could not make a match.  Plus, after I started really looking at the miniature closely, I realized that she doesn't fit the Reaper style at all.  She's much too thin and refined for their heroic scale figures.  Which lead me to Dark Sword.  She certainly fits the Visions in Fantasy style of that line but unless she has been removed from the website, she is not there either.

I've tried all kinds of Google searches but without luck.  I've also poured over the websites of other companies I sometimes buy from such as Hasslefree, Fenryll, and Black Scorpion but with the same result.
So I'm turning to the miniature community on the web for help.  If you have seen this mini, please, please, please let me know where I bought her.  Your help would be GREATLY appreciated.

As for the miniature itself, I know why I bought her even if I can't remember where.  With the simple attire and the torch, this miniature practically screamed for directional lighting.  That was the plan but when I neared completion and began to think about adding the effects of torchlight on her left side, I chickened out.  It's not that I didn't want to ruin a miniature by experimenting.  That's how one learns new techniques and skills.  Mainly my reluctance to try directional lighting on her was that she is perfect for a new miniature project I'm working on.  To coincide with my Legends of the Fall project in which I'm trying to paint one of each iconic RPG character class as high level adventurers, I'm also working on doing the same with their low level counterparts.  I don't have a title for the project yet but how could I pass up this miniature as the first party member of low level noobs?  The minimal armor and equipment, as well as a pose that suggests that she is about to enter her very first dungeon was too good to pass up.

Even though she has been relegated to another project, that doesn't mean that I didn't experiment with the lighting just a bit.  It may be difficult to see in the photos, but I did add a bit of light from the torch reflecting off the stony dungeon floor.  To create the soft light of the flickering flames, I blended GW Scorched Brown with GW Codex Gray to come up with the reddish-pink color on the base.  I liked the outcome so I'll be sure to remember it when I finally attempt my first lighted model.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Epic Fail --- The Year in Review

Everyone else is doing it so why can't I?  Yep, it's that time again when bloggers post a review of the year that was and set goals for the year to come.  I pulled my goal list from my 2011 New Year's post and reviewed each one below. 

1. Keep a Current Hobby Blog:  This is the one goal I set last January that could be considered a success.  My little space on the web has been around for four years now but the first three were very quiet.  Over that three year period I had a total of six posts.  But a year ago I decided to either give it my full attention or take it down.  My goal was to make at least one post a week and report on whatever I was working on at the time or simply yap away about some aspect of the gaming hobby.

Well, my tally for 2011 was 46 posts.  Although I was several entries shy of my actual goal, I will still consider this effort a victory.  But more important than the successful completion of the goal was the lessons I learned about blogging in general.  I learned that to keep a blog current, professional, and entertaining was a lot of work.  More work than I ever thought.  Notes have to be kept to create tutorials.  Photos have to be taken during each stage of a project then those same photos need to be edited and archived.  Entries have to be planned to coincide with certain events or time frames.  The list could go on but I think the point is made.  It's not easy to keep a good blog.

Now let me state that I'm not implying that this little hobby blog is the pinnacle to weblogs.  Far from it!  I'm definitely still learning and have a long way to go.  But what I am trying to say is that almost anyone can throw up a few photos from their phone and toss some gibberish in the text block and call it a blog.  But to make it look good, make sense, and attract visitors takes quite a bit of effort.  In fact, I sometimes wonder if the folks whose blogs I admire the most (and try my best to emulate) spend more time with the act of blogging than they do with their chosen hobby itself.

Anyhow, my goal for this year is to continue to strive for weekly entries and improve the content and overall look of my hobby blog.  With luck, and lots of inspiration from the blogs you see on my blog roll, I'll have another successful year.

2. Paint More Miniatures:  Well, this goal was a victory of sorts on the one hand and a failure on the other.  Looking at the title of the goal itself, I certainly rocked it!  I painted more miniatures this year than any other since getting back into the hobby a few years ago.  I was able to complete 46 miniatures, not counting the items I painted that really do not fall into the miniature category such as cannons, barrels, etc...  Well over half of the 46 painted were pirates, or pirate related figures for my Legends of the High Seas project.  The others were various fantasy minis for other projects or just for fun.  No matter how I categorize them, 2011 was a good year for miniature output considering my terribly slow painting style.

However, I actually failed this goal by a considerable amount.  The fine print from last January states that I wanted to complete at least 100 miniatures..  Yeah....I lost on this one big time.  I did not even make it half way.  To be honest, I'm not sure what I was thinking.  One hundred miniatures equals about three completed minis a week.  Unless painting an army (in which I'm still slow), I'm lucky to complete one miniature every other week.  I think I was quite lucky just to get 46 across the finish line.  One hundred?  Not gonna happen.

So once again, my goal for this year is to paint more miniatures.  However, I'm going to lower the bar quite a bit and shoot for 50 completed figures before December 31st.

3. Make More Terrain:  The easy answer is yes, I made more.  I have pieces sitting around for LotR, Legends of the High Seas, and general wargaming.  However, very few of them are complete.  Just sitting here at the desk I see a Rohan watchtower awaiting paint, a 18th century inn needing a roof, and a fleet of pirate and merchant vessels needing.....well, a little bit of everything.  The biggest unfinished project however is Port Antigua.  The giant port for Legends of the High Seas has been flocked and primed but little else.  The docks are in disrepair and most of the buildings are without roofs or shutters.  Sticking my head out of the door and into the game room I see the port sitting there looking like a bomb went off.  Definitely unfinished.

So I will add this goal to the queue for this year as well, but with the specific direction of completing existing terrain projects before starting new ones.

4. Field My Cadians:  Not even close.  It started out as a clever little title of March of the Cadians, in which I planned on painting them in the month of the same name.  Then it became April of the Cadians.....not nearly as witty and clever.  Then July of the Cadians.  Then....well, you get the picture.  All I managed to do with this goal is to paint three test models which instead of advancing my goal, actually hindered my efforts because I couldn't decide which on I liked best.  Damn!

So for 2012, I'll start with "January of the Cadians" with the hopes that by the time I get around to them, it really will be March and the title will sound oh so much better.

5. Find an RPG Group:  Absolutely nothing on this front.  Living on a tropical island certainly has its advantages.  Finding an RPG group is not one of them however.  To find any gaming at all, I have to drive up to the mainland in Miami.  The closest hobby shop is 64 miles away.  While I do drive up from time to time to see what's new in the hobby world or to play a game of  it's much too far to drive regularly.  Instead, I've been slowly "tricking" neighbors and friends here on the island into becoming gamers.  I'm starting with easy games like Pirates of the Spanish Main and Wings of War but soon *rubs hands in an evil manner* I will begin to slowly coerce them into some type of RPG.  Then I will rule the world!!!

6. Organize a Wings of War Campaign:  Read the poor pitiful excuse from above.

7. Spend More Time With My LotrO Kinship:  I really wanted this one to happen but alas, I simply cannot get back into the game after all the changes.  I had been waiting for LotRO since it was just an idea called Middle-earth Online.  I stayed active on the boards and discussions to make sure I was invited to test drive the game and became one of the players in closed beta.  I loved the game and the way Turbine stayed as close as possible to the world created and imagined by Professor Tolkien.  But with every new release, the game strayed from the successful model used in the beginning and my interest began to wane.  All that kept me hanging on was the absolutely wonderful group of like-minded roleplayers that provided a world within the world where we could ignore the trend the game was taking, along with the thousands of Legolazzes, Freedos, and Araaagornzz running around talking leet speak.  We remained strong as the oldest roleplaying Kinship on the Landroval server but even our loyal fellowship could not withstand the long defeat of the game itself.  Sadly, as I write this, it has been months since I logged in.  So this goal too was a dismal failure.  However, on a brighter note, I still remain in contact with some of the folks from the old Kinship and our love of Tolkien and all things Middle-earth has not completely faded.

So all in all, it was a fairly disappointing year as far as goals are concerned.  Basically, I was able to conquer one and three quarters out of seven.  However, looking back it's safe to say that I set myself up for failure with most of the goals.  Some were not realistically attainable while others were simply the effects of nostalgia.  This year will be different however.  How?  I'm not planning on setting any new goals.  Beyond the few I mentioned above (50 miniatures, hobby blog, etc) I am planning on not planning at all.  I will simply cruise along and enjoy the many hobbies that take up my time.  Who knows, perhaps the lack of pressure will lead to more productivity and creativity in 2012.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Happy Birthday Professor Tolkien

Today is the birthday of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.  It is also the day when fans from around the world honor the date with a toast to the master of Middle-earth.  According to the Tolkien Society, the proper way to toast Tolkien is to "stand, raise a glass of your choice of drink (not necessarily alcoholic), and say the words ‘The Professor’ before taking a sip (or swig, if that’s more appropriate for your drink). Sit and enjoy the rest of your drink". It has become almost a holiday for his legions of loyal fans and admirers. 

Every year, I too make it a point to take time from my busy schedule to pause and remember my favorite author (and dare I say, "historian") and the man who introduced me to fantasy literature and by extension, gaming in general. This year was no exception.  In fact, it turned out to be one of the most memorable in many years.  The reason for the significance?  Cold weather.  Winter is a relative term in the Florida Keys since temperatures rarely fall below seventy degrees.  It's rare to get highs in the sixty's and downright unusual for anything less.  Well, a very strong cold front made it all the way down and dropped our temps into the fifty's for a high.  Standing outside next to a palm tree, bundled up with a glass of wine in my hand, was rather surreal.  But having the "cold" weather surround me as I made a toast to Professor Tolkien somehow seemed more appropriate than eighty and sunny. 

So once again, let me raise another glass of wine and toast the man that quite literally, changed my life.  Feel free to join me.....

"To The Professor!"