TSM Geek – Nov/Dec 2020

Had hoped to push out a few more posts than I have this holiday period, but the time has just slipped by, spent mostly just chilling with my family – that and a bit of lethargy that set in as far as the want to sit in front of a computer was concerned.

Game playing was limited to just a few games and the rest of the time was liberally spread around walking, talking, and that detriment to modern society, TV watching!

Painting has also taken a back seat over the last few weeks, mainly because the only thing left in my current paint tray is the next batch of Romans, which are underway, and I’ll come back to them shortly.

I managed to make a few things for Sue and her nursery class. These simple ‘wooden tops’ actually took longer than I reckoned upon, mainly due to the toy friendly paint taking an age to dry; it wasn’t the easiest of paints apply either.

Anyway, before I plunge into my bi-monthly round-up, I’ll take the opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year – fingers crossed it’ll be better than the last one!


Gaming

Eldritch Horror has been the prime game of the last two months with four plays, as Yasmin has decided it’s one of her all-time favourite games. Fortunately for me, it’s one of my favourites too.

Eldritch Horror Box Art

As per other Arkham Files games this one is tough, tough to the point that in twentyish games I’ve only beaten it twice!

I love the way that you can create a story, despite the random draw of cards, and it fits in with the Cthulhu Mythos of causing complete panic for the investigators.

Playing solo, I always use 4 investigators, and playing with Yasmin we use two each, as I find any fewer makes the game even more difficult despite the scaling the game uses. There is a choice of Old-Ones to go up against and each presents their own unique challenge, which really rewards repeat play to figure out how to deal with them.

It’s one of those games where you can start off with an aim – right, we’re going to improve our investigators first by visiting certain locations and then concentrate on the first mission – but it quickly becomes a problem of trouble shooting: Ah! now we have to close all these gates to stop the influx of monsters, but we’re running out of time on the Doom track and that mission needs to be done, but before we can do that we need to kill that Epic monster over there and on top of that my investigators about to go wibble!

It’s all about priorities and at times it can be really difficult to choose which is the most important one.

One important aspect of the game is choosing investigators that mesh together and it’s a fun part. One of my favourites is Charlie Kane. He’s very much a support character, allowing another investigator to take an extra action in his place, he can also use his high influence to allow others to gain any cards he purchases when acquiring assets. Also, sit him in Tokyo and he becomes a powerful slayer of monsters as he draws the locations encounter cards. Charlie pretty much works well with any other investigators, especially if you’re prepared to sit him in one place most of the game, but they’ll need to be more dynamic, moving around and hitting the problems at their source.

Charlie Kane, a man of influence!

There are lots of expansions for this game and we had Strange Remnants for Christmas, bringing our total to two. We managed to get a game in against the new big bad, Syzygy (yeah, I can’t pronounce it either!), and of course, we lost, but it was fun exploring the new decks and working out what we’ll do next time we face this beast with a name that scrabble players dream of!

Sticking with the Arkham Files games, we received Horrific Journeys, an expansion for Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, for Christmas.

With three added scenarios, 18 map tiles, 4 investigators, 4 new monster types, and a host of new cards, this should keep us busy for some time. We played Murder on the Stargazer Majestic, a ‘who dunnit’ set on an airship that inevitable ends in the appearance of supernatural beasts.

The scenario was great. We really enjoyed solving the puzzles to figure out who the culprit was and were just about to inform the captain when all hell broke loose. No spoilers here, but we lost by a hair, which is our default for this game; it’s the suspense created by the close finishes that makes this game a true great. Play it solo or with friends but put aside an hour or two… or three… okay, usually four!

Just before Christmas a large parcel arrived containing all the stretch goals for Tainted Grail, a project I backed way back, receiving the core game about this time in 2019. I’d been waiting for this before plunging back into the game. So far, I’ve barely opened the box let alone got it to the table but expect to hear more about it over the next month or two.

Also waiting in the wings, and another joint Christmas present for me and Yas, is Dice Masters. There are many variants of this game, all compatible with one another, and we have the Wonder Woman/Superman starter set plus a couple of team packs.

I though Yasmin would be right up for this game, a sort of ‘Magic The Gathering’ with dice, where you build your deck to your own requirements and then do battle against your opponent, but so far she’s been a bit lukewarm towards it. Nothing unusual there, though, as she’s quite picky about the games she plays. Usually, it takes me months to get her to play something new, and lo, it suddenly becomes her new favourite game, so there’s plenty of hope left yet.

Other than the odd game of Dominion and Star Realms, that was it on the gaming front… or was it, Mwhahaha!


Painting

Rocket and Groot. Two unique characters best known for being part of the team that is Guardians of the Galaxy. Rocket Racoon the comic hero, inspired by the Beatles song Rocky Racoon, is somewhat different from the furry fiend we see in the movies, as is his sidekick, Groot.

Rocket…yeah!

Atomic Mass games use the comics for the basis of their Marvel characters rather than the MCU, and that makes things a little more interesting, as there’s a wealth of material to choose from. It also makes it difficult and I found that trying to find consistent source material for Rocket was one such case. In the end I elected to copy the box art and images provided on the Atomic Mass Website.

Groot was much easier, and other than the ‘glowing’ bits (what are they?) I went with quite a simple process, which I’ll go through when I post about this troublesome twosome.

I am Groot!’

Other than that, I’ve been painting Romans and that’s probably why my painting has ground to a halt. I’ve over done it. I primed up a batch of 12 Legionnaires and 7 Auxiliary Cavalry; doesn’t sound a lot, but it’s made a difference compared to the 9 and 5 I did last time…

12 is, for me, too many to do in one batch and it bored me silly! My enthusiasm has waned some, but to be honest time has been the biggest issue. As temperatures have dropped and painting in the garage is no longer feasible, I have to set up in the kitchen, do a little painting, and then put everything away again. I seem to spend more time setting up and tidying away than I do painting, despite having everything more or less ready to go on an old tray.

Temperature caused me another issue, one that took some time for me to figure out. I keep all my paints in a nice warm room – I learned long ago that paint and especially varnish, matt varnish in particular, do not like to be kept in the cold – but I do all my airbrushing in the garage, and that’s where I keep all my spraying paraphernalia – airbrush, compressor, cleaners, etc.

Well, I came to prime my latest batch of miniatures only to find that my airbrush kept clogging after only a few seconds of spraying. I dismantled it several times and even left it in my ultrasonic cleaner for a while to make sure it was totally clean. It sprayed neat water and cleaner no problem, but as soon as I added paint – airbrush ready paint – a bit of flow improver and occasionally some thinners, I was back to a quick spray and then nothing but air.

After some serious head scratching, I happened to glance at my bottle of flow improver (Vallejo) and noticed that what was running down the side had turned to a thick syrup – lightbulb moment!

So, after cleaning the airbrush once again I added paint and a little thinners but missed out the flow improver and lo, I sprayed paint!

After doing a few experiments I came to the conclusion that flow improver, like matt varnish, just doesn’t like the cold. Matt varnish doesn’t mix very well when it’s cold, the particles it contains that give the matt finish thicken in the bottom of the bottle and no matter how much mixing you do it doesn’t form the right consistency with the medium and you end up with a glossier finish than expected.

With the flow improver, I found that adding it cold to paint it didn’t mix and just formed a thick, almost glue like, substance within the paint that quickly blocked the nozzle of the airbrush. Oh well, lesson learnt!


Screen shot

Not much in the way of movies watched but have been keeping up with the release of Agents of Shield season 7, as well as the Mandalorian Season 2, on Disney+.

Both have been truly excellent, and I was so disappointed to hear that this will be the final season of Agents of Shield – Boo Hoo!

Mando was over almost as soon as it began, I wish they’d look a little further than 8 episodes a season; quality over quantity, though, I suppose.

We’re also re-watching the entire run of the X-files, as we managed to get Yasmin interested. One of my all-time favourite programs, and I’m happy to be watching it again even though I can still remember what happened in most episodes from the last run through.

We’re halfway through the first season and it still holds up now, nearly 30-years after its release. I really like the first few series, as they concentrate more on individual storylines – each episode is its own adventure – whereas later on things start to build more on a building a centralised plot. Saying that though, there are little titbits being dropped in these early episodes that appear again later on, and it gives the feeling of great depth to the program.

I did introduce Yasmin to the X-files with an ulterior motive, though. She doesn’t know it yet, but pretty soon I’ll be putting Legendary Encounters: The X-files deckbuilding game in front of her, and she won’t be able to use the excuse of knowing nothing about the program like she did last time!


Between the sheets

Ah, Ah! As was hinted earlier, a return to gaming!

For Christmas Yasmin received the Call of Cthulhu Investigators handbook. So, guess what I got? Yup, the Keeper rulebook!

Great, except that which muggins is having to read them both, yeah, right again, me!

Not that I mind, of course, it just means it takes longer before we get to play the game. Yasmin has thrown herself into creating Investigators though and is just about to start her fourth. Meanwhile, I’m three-quarters of a way through the Keeper book and so far, I’m pretty impressed by the ruleset.

There’s loads of examples of what is, essentially, a straightforward method for an RPG. Based around percentile rolls, the game uses half and fifth values of skills to determine if a hard or extreme success is required. This forms the core of the games mechanisms and I much prefer it to the D20 system used by many other formats.

A draw for me is that the game can be played solo, albeit in a limited, ‘choose your own path’, kind of way – there are several solo scenarios available to purchase – it also lends itself to one-on-one play and again there are purpose built-scenarios available.

I’m just starting to put together a campaign for Yasmin to play, combining some published one-shots as well as my own ideas. Starting with ‘Alone against the Flames’, which I also got for Christmas, and will see the investigator travelling to a new job in Arkham, then moving on to The Haunting from the quick-start guide. In between all this the investigator will be having dreams, well, let’s call them nightmares actually, where she shall be placed in the body of someone else!

Investigators tend to have a short lifespan in this game, hence the fact that I’ve told Yas to create lots of them. I’ll be using some as NPCs to give them background within the campaign, and then, when Yasmin’s investigator inevitably goes wibble, she can take control of someone already invested in the story.

I’ll also be using drop-in NPCs, which Yasmin will take over and play when the time is right; for example, when she’s dreaming, she will play the person whose perspective she is seeing from, though I wouldn’t expect that person to be alive for very long… Mwhahaha!

I really need to find the time to get all my ideas on paper, as I’m hoping to begin the campaign next weekend(ish)

The only other book I’ve read lately is Lancaster: The Forging of a Very British Legend by John Nichol.

Wow, what a fantastic book. Drawing from the memories of several Bomber Command veterans, Nichol builds the story of the Aircraft and those who flew in her. It really emphasis the risks involved with flying such missions and how the crew, and groundcrew, dealt with the pressures under which they found themselves.

I’ve flown many times in a Lancaster and have sat where these brave chaps sat, but to do so in the conditions they were faced with must have taken immense courage. Sitting in the tail gunners position I have no idea how they ever shot anything down, especially at night. I’ve listened to our comms telling me that a Spitfire and Hurricane are about to form up on our tail and so have been actively searching for them, but I still failed to spot them until they were almost close enough to touch; we would have been dead meat long before that!

The view from the tail gunner’s position – spot the Hurricane and Spitfire in the distance.

It’s an emotional rollercoaster topped off with the last few chapters, which poignantly closes the stories followed… Lest We Forget!


Looking forward…

I’ll finish off with a look forward to a few things I’ve already started.

I’m slowly putting together two reviews, Marvel: Crisis Protocol and Eldritch Horror, both of which I hope to post before the next Geek. Eldritch will probably be first; I want to get a few more games in of MCP, as I’ve a few things I want to experiment with, especially the new characters I’ve acquired.

Which brings me onto Rocket and Groot, which should be my next post – just got pictures to take.

I’ve written a scenario for MCP that needs testing before I post it, and I’m toying with how to make it a solo experience too.

I ordered several Davco 1:3000 ships, which turned up just before Christmas. These were all ships involved in the Battle of the Denmark Straits – Bismarck, Prinz Eugen, Hood, and Prince of Wales – as well as the ships involved in the subsequent hunt for the Bismarck – HMS Rodney etc.

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Left to right – Prince Eugen, Bismarck, Hood, and the Prince of Wales.

Once I’ve figured out stats for all the ships, I intend to replicate the battle in miniature using the Victory at Sea rules. I’m then looking at doing it all again with a more in-depth ruleset, though I’m yet to decide which one. It will be interesting to see how they compare. I might even get around to painting the ships at some point too!

I’ve got so many miniatures to paint that I’m struggling to decided where to start. I’ve ordered some transparent bases for all the Mansions of Madness minis, as it’s a game we play regularly and the minis can be used with Eldritch horror too, so I thought it a good place to start.

Realistically, I’m never going to increase the number of miniatures I turn out unless I dedicate more time to painting, and I can’t see that happening any time soon.

Well, that’s about it for this bi-monthly roundup, hopefully the next one will have more content – I’ll leave you with a few more images of that iconic aircraft, The Lancaster…

Lancaster

5 thoughts on “TSM Geek – Nov/Dec 2020

  1. Great Lancaster photos! Did you take them? If so, then am I right in thinking you were in the BBMF Lancaster, being followed by the Canadian visitor? Wow, what an opportunity! Looking forward to the VaS rules comparison.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, and yes, your spot on. Taken during the two Lancasters tour 2014 – awesome to get the only two flying Lancs together and I’m proud to have been a part of it. Happy Memories.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Well, I read it all, Justin, but was then completely bowled over by the Lanc pics! 🙂 I really can imagine it was brilliant to have been a part of it! Enjoyed reading about how your games are progressing and I’ll look forward to seeing how you do in trying to sink the Bismarck! And, of course, Happy New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, John.
      I received John Nichol’s other book, Spitfire, for Christmas, so I reckon I’ll have to dig my photos of them out for the next Geek!

      Liked by 2 people

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