The other night I had a couple friends and my brother slide over to my place to play some card games, as its the only way I can really get any gaming in, as I’ve mentioned. So, the night started with multiple baby interruptions, but they faded away as the evening went on.

The first game that we decided to play was the decidedly fun Smash-UP. The game plays smooth with a simple design but seems to have a lot of replayability.

Smash up, the base set, starts with 8 decks of cards with different themes and abilities: Robots, Wizards, Tricksters (Fey Creatures), Aliens, Zombies, Pirates, Dinosaurs and Ninjas. Each deck contains two types of cards: Minions and Actions.Both are clearly labeled on every card, which makes mistakes pretty unlikely.
Every minion that I saw had an ability and a power score.

Every action has an easily understood mechanic.

Each person is dealt two decks at random, which they then shuffle together to build their deck of cards. Then, locations are dealt out that will be the focal point of the game. They have a target number for total minion power at the location. When that is met, it scores the printed victory points for first, second and third most powerful players on the location, as decided by total power. You want to stack as much power as you can onto each location to try and get the first place victory points, in order to score the 15 to win.

The game is a simple two action game: Play one minion card, play one action card. Both are clearly labeled on every card, which makes mistakes pretty unlikely. Drawing 5 cards as your starting hand, your not allowed more than 10 total. Each location has some rules on it, affecting either minion play or giving an effect when scoring. Some places are better for certain faction, and others are just straight up great. Each location, once completed, is scored and replaced with a new one.

The basics are simple, as I said, but like many good games has a significant amount of depth to it. With 28 different decks, there is some serious replayability, though getting that Final Deck achievement might be harder than it seems. I ended up with Wizard Robots, which was really cool: Tons of card draw and card filter, with robots providing a serious minion advantage. I didn’t even come close to winning, but it was really fun.

Here is where it gets cool: Expansions are already being built, and only offer greater replayability and zaniness. The first expansion is The Obligatory Cthulu Expansion and it delivers on its time honored promise: Beings from Beyond, Cultists, Researchers and townsfolk. This second game we used the Expansion with one Chthulu deck, and one Standard deck. I got the Zombie Townsfolk, which seemed pretty cool. Zombies are discard pile (graveyard) focused, and townsfolk are focused on getting more townsfolk out by skimming through the deck. It works together pretty well.

except that one of the locations allowed anyone to move cards from my discard to the bottom of my library, significantly decreasing my ability to use my discard pile. This lead to an aggravating start of the game and an impossibility of winning, but it was an enjoyable experience I would definitely try again. I look forward to it, even.

Then, We got down to playing some Commander.

After my last commander session, I sat down and did a hard look at my decks, trying to figure out how to do more, not bigger. After the game, I think I got it right. While I didn’t dominate the game in any way, I did find a way to win. Mostly off the the game plan I’d built the whole Riku of Two Reflections deck to accomplish: whatever the opponent is doing I do to. Forks, clones, and deflections litter the deck in order to utilize the opponents cards. I also have a splash of big fatty creatures and some solid ramp. Combined with Riku’s static abilities, I was able to stave off danger as long as possible, cloning Sylvan and Luminate primordials to stabilize my board after others got them out faster than I did, and then dropping a double butcher orgg once the board had cleared again. It was a long, fun game, and though I won, I didn’t feel that I’d dominated the game. I was simply the least dangerous player on the board, until I won. The other decks were Sharuum The Hegemon, Jolrael, Empress of Beasts, and Reaper king. Everyone kept blowing up Sharuums artifacts, I blew up Reaper Kings red mana to keep that vindicate machine from working, and Sharuum kept on blowing up Jolrael to prevent her from killing us all. That cycle worked itself out in my favor as everyone kept beating each other up, letting me gather all the land known to man and casting all sorts of big bombs to end the game.

It was very good times with fun guys, and I look forward to more Smash-up and EDH in the future.

Having an infant requires most of my time investment, so I haven’t had much time to do a lot of non-sedentary nerding, so i was really pleased to played my first game of Warmachine in months Wednesday before last. I felt rusty and hazzy but it was a very close, very enjoyable game. Having a buddy who also has children come over for the game was a bonus, because he knows the routine. He showed up a bit after 6, and we chatted for a bit about all sorts of topics. I was starved for non-family contact! We set up the table and pulled out the armies to get things rolling.

I hemmed and hawed all week about what I was going to play. It’d been so long I didn’t want to try anything super-complicated. None of my coven lists made me excited to play, and I really was going to make sure my bane knights made it into the list as well. Eventually, a different friend and I hashed out a list that seemed pretty interesting. I didn’t have all the solutions like a tournament level list might, but it had enough.

Iron Lich Asphyxious
Bane Knights (10)
Soulhunters (5)
Withershadow Combine
Darragh Wrathe
Warwitch Siren
Necrotech and Scrap Thrall

Soulhunters are generally derided, but I always enjoy putting them on the table. They fill a similar slot as Satyxis and Blackbanes, running interference until the rest of the army arrives. With the POW on guns being around 10, it takes more than pot shots to drop the arm 15 5 wounds models, but not much more.

This army doesn’t really have a general plan. Its got answers to almost everything, though, so it can almost take all comers. High Def is taken out with Nightmare. Asphyxious and the Cankerworm deal with high armor, Tartarus and Bane Knights deal with Terrain and other uncomfortable positions. Scything Touch and Parasite will swing almost any non-def based combat in my favor. Arc nodes, Darragh, Withershadow and Warwitch Siren providing support just rounds it all out. I figured I’d just react to his game plan, and see what comes up.

He brought out his Rhulic force. Solid, hard, and full of pain.

Gorten Grundback
-Grundback Blaster
-Ogrun Bokur
-Grundback Gunner
Hernne and Jon
Highshield (10)
Forgeguard (10)

I knew I wasn’t going to get to the juicy center of that rock hard nugget, so I decided to play the scenario game. We rolled up one of the new 2014 scenarios. Into the Breach – It had a single zone, two effigy objectives, and a flag. Dominating the flag gave a single point, the zone was a pair for dominating and a single point for controlling, and if I took out his objective, I’d get a point: 5 to win. I didn’t really know how the game’d play out, but his deployment was a wall of arm 18+ on the flank with the zone, and enough deployed to the flag to keep me honest. I deployed with the soulhunters to the zone flank, the bane knights ready to wander through a building on the flag flank, and the bulk of my forces front and center. Its my general deployment: A central deployment will allow me to adapt to whatever the opponent does. He tries to force one side or the other, and I’ll slide off to the opposite and play cagey. If he goes center, I’ll try and envelop: I almost always have superior numbers as cryx just does infantry well, so envelopment is always a potential.

He took first turn and trundled his dwarves up the field. I find their speed 4 allows me to do more than I’d expect with some of my units, but their having ranged models makes up for it with significant threat projection. I’m worried that he’ll gun down important models, so I’m playing a little cagey. After turn one, I abandon the flag. I’d originally sent Asphyxious that way, but He sent Brun and Lug over, and I don’t think that I really want to commit enough to take them out. The center of the board, however, turns out just as perilous for him, as I was probably within 1/4″ of being slammed by a Basher and into the stand of trees. With no focus. He chose not to go for it, so we will never know, but It was really, really close. After realizing that, I reached out and blew the damned thing off the planet: Parasite + 3 banes will do most models in for the count. I softened it up a little with other models first, but it was off the board. Slamming into the front line with the Soulhuntersat the top of turn two cleared the Zone, and I camped firmly inside it, scoring with Asphyxious who had teleported over to get his toes into the zone, now safe from a removed Basher.

I was up 2-0, but he wasn’t going to make it easy on me. Gorten popped his feat, and slid half half the zones worth of models either out of the zone or into a position that they were easily dispatched. Thankfully, I had Asphyxious safely in the back, because everything else was murdered. He moved about 3″ deep into the zone with enough models to make scoring very difficult. With the turn passed over to me, I had to rely on everything I had to score 3 point by killing the effigy and dominating the zone. I shot the damaged effigy with the Withershadow Combine, did damage to it, but not enough to take it down. That complicated matters as there was an undamaged Gunner and some very frustratingly placed Rhulfolk in the zone to take care of. The way it was all situated, there was a single dwarf behind a solid line of models that I could not easily get to. Tartarus was in range, but thresher would end with that single dwarf, in combat, still contesting, with only ranged/magic attacks to get to him. I had to use Asphyxious to trash the gunner, because no one else was available. He succeeded and used the rest to clear some dwarves, teleport back and lob a hellfire at the Objective, killing it. One point, two to go. Darragh used some strange charge angles and the power of his horse, cleared the angle for Tartarus to charge in and sweep the last few dwarves out of the zone, netting me two points.

It ended the game, but it was nothing representing easy. A lot of rolls had to go my way towards the end there in order to pull it out. and after that, If it all failed, I was going to face an unhurt Gorten, a nearly full unit of Horgenhold, and a driller to the face of Asphyxious. Things were not going to be pretty. It was a fun game, though. My buddy is a great opponent. The rust is starting to come loose, and hopefully I’ll be able to play again, and more often, soon.

All Hail our alien overlords!

That’s the fate of the world if I was in charge of our defense against aliens, it seems. Its been a rough start, but I think I’ll make it through one of these runs.

I’d decided, against a friends advice, to go with an Ironman run-through for my first game, with all the options I discussed before turned on.

The first mission I had my four rookies and approached the game in my standard manner, slow and steady. Sectoids were dropping a little more slowly than I remembered, and my assault rifles seemed to do a lot less damage than I remembered, but I was going to chug along. I lost a member of the team, but got the meld and made it out. The mission was hairy, though, as the meld canisters always seemed to be surrounded with sectoids. Thankfully, though, fighting sectoids is easy, especially with my penchant for explosives and their low life totals. That they link together so that I can get 2 for 1’s constantly is just a bonus. Heading back to base with goodies for Drs. Vahlen and Shen, I was confident.

Then came the first abduction mission. I lost my whole squad chasing after meld, sprinting forward to get the precious commodity, I let loose a whole gaggle of Sectoids who proceeded to gun down my poor, unprepared soilders. Dr. Shen chastised me on the debrief, and I quit the game. I don’t even make it out of March.

Iron Man 2. I have a sole survivor who makes it out of the intro mission, and I abandon the world to its fate.

I’m starting to get the hint, though. Maybe I’ve lost a step; getting old. The expansion seems to have tweaked some of the damage settings: I seem to be taking more, and dealing less.

Nevertheless, I load up game 3, and start at it. Caution, maybe. I turn off damage roulette as it feels like there is so much variance in it that I can’t rely on the game to actually have fun. The introductory mission gets three more members killed, and I abandon the game again.

So far, game 1 was the only one to make it past the intro. I’m feeling really down on myself at this point. I’ve lost my touch.

But that’s when the tough get going. I start trying to learn the games ins and outs.

Game 4 has the making of a good run. I’ve got an all-French team, and I go hot into operation “Cursed Law.”
None of my team makes it home. Laurent, Fournier, LeRoy and Roux buy the farm, and the game, on 4/6/2015.

Game 5: 4 mission, 8 casualties, abandoned 4/9/2015 after TPK
Game 6: 3 missions, 6 casualties, abandoned 4/5/2015 after TPK
Game 7: 5 missions, 7 casualties, abandoned 4/9/2015 after TPK
Game 8: 2 missions, 6 casualties, abandoned 3/11/2015 after TPK

Ok. I get the hint. After encountering Thin men who have insane accuracy, seekers that go invisible, and the ever present sectoids, I cry uncle.

The game is very different than when I left it. Damage is more variable, even without the Damage Roulette feature, and it takes much longer to level up troopers, making it hard to get to the Officer Training School that I like so much. In addition, the research trees are updated and have a plethora of new things to research and a ton of new things to build in both the foundry and the engineering workshop. my old strategies aren’t working, and nothing I research seems to be the right answer.

The Meld resource is probably what caused me the most problems. Trying to balance my old Fire Base approach with the new more nimble approach was extremely hard. I had played both my original games with a heavy firepower group: 2 Heavies, 2 Snipers, a Support and an Assault. My German Sniper was a god among women, and I never could have made it through the game without her hard core murder rampaging. Now, though, it wasn’t convenient to drop behind cover and overwatch into the future. Precious Meld was being wasted! Furthermore, obtaining meld was now one of the mission parameters. If you don’t get enough of it, you get poor grades! unacceptable! I tried everything I could to adapt to the Meld. In the end, I didn’t. Much like explosives ruining good materials to save soldiers lives, a good solider is worth more than any of the meld I’d obtain from their deaths. I was learning on an individual mission scale, but I wasn’t learning whole picture information that I would if I was getting further into the game. I needed to figure out how the game was to progress and what some of the good and bad options are If I was to actually make it through and Ironman

Boot up Game 11. (I had two that I accidentally loaded up tutorials on, and I just bailed on them). Classic difficulty, but saving and reloading enabled. I could make dumbass mistakes and learn from them, try different things and get it right.

This turned out to be a very, very good thing for me. Knowing how the maps layout, and how the missions are built to be accomplished is something that is very important for an Ironman run. New council missions seem to have been added, or they come up more often. Before I would only end up running into one or two in a single run, but now, I’ve ended up with a half dozen or more. Including my favorite mission ever: The whaling ship in St. Johns, Canada. Swarming with Cryssalids, once you discover whats happening, you have to fall back to the Skyranger before the bombs arrive. It was among the coolest missions I’d played in any game. Its really hard to make a fighting retreat, but they pulled it off excellently.

Now, with a few missions under my belt, I’m only a bit behind. The invaders kept killing off my best soldiers, so It took me three months to get the Officer Training school up and running, but once I did, I was able to get my 6 man squad running, and start giving the aliens a run for their money.

This game is really hard, and I’ve had to save-scum a couple missions in order to keep going and learn the game. That is the goal here, Warmup for the C/I run that follows!

This post has taken so long to get to your desk because I’ve been playing to much XCOM. It is so hard to pull myself from it and even type anything at all. I want to be playing RIGHT NOW

My favorite game as a kid had to be Mega Man III.
But right behind that is XCOM: UFO Defense. It was a smart, fun, insane game of sci-fi aliens and decision making. I would go over to a friends house to “help” him play the game after school and it was glorious: Well worth the walk in the woods, in the dark, on the way home in the evening.

So, imagine my glee when I learned that XCOM was being remade, and then subsequently released late 2012. When I finally got my grubby mitts on the game, I was not disappointed. There were significant changes, but I liked almost all of them. XCOM: Enemy Unknown evoked UFO Defense in all the right ways. The few problems I had with the game were simply ascetic. I even managed to play through the game twice, which is something I almost never do. Classic difficulty held to the standard I had envisioned, and Ironman mode was a concept I had tried on the original XCOM to no success. This time, though: Victory was achieved and the world was saved. Taking down the Temple ship was a little bit of a let down as I was really looking forward to Cydonia, but hopefully sometime in one of the expansions we’ll get back to Mars

Two DLC’s came out for the original: The Armor DLC and slingshot. The armor customization was a great addition for only a few bucks, and allows a who host of new colors and looks for every trooper. The greater opinion on slingshot was poor because it was a small DLC. That says something, though, when people are disappointed not at the product itself, but because there was not enough of it. I thoroughly enjoyed it because it was a unique set of missions, in unique locations, with unique goals. there was only 3, but it was excellent.

Recently XCOM: Enemy Within was released, and though I had to rush through the last bit of HOMMVI to get to it, Its been well worth it. I’ve spent hours crushing aliens beneath my boot so far already!

Now, onto my playthrough!

I figure that I’ll start with my style of play, and an Introduction to the game.

The game is played on two maps. The first is greater strategic base setup, where you research alien science, build new weapons and armor, higher soldiers, Buy aircraft to fight alien spaceships, decide which countries to save or let fall, build facilities in the base, research psionic powers and train their devotees, and buy and sell alien artifacts. Whew! That’s a massive game in of itself. I dare say if they fleshed it out a bit, you could have a game in which you only direct XCOM in saving the world.

The second map is the smaller, tactical, turn based map in which you fight aliens and their sympathizers. Aliens come in all shapes in sizes, from the Brutal Mutons, to the Small, emaciated Gray man like Sectoids. Their weapons are powerful, and they outnumber you from the get go. Your Out manned, outgunned, and out technologied. What you do have, is good old human determination and the home field advantage. Your troopers level up and gain classes, which give them specific abilities, and as the game goes up, even more abilities become available to choose from.

The game also has a number of other settings that you can tweak: Advanced Options, and Second Wave Options. Advanced Options cover what type of DLC is on, Tutorials, and the famous Ironman option. Ironman is a mode in which you have one save. A single file that can’t be reloaded or reset. You’re choices have real consequences, and your soldiers die real deaths. Along with the fact that it is very easy to loose the game and need to start over on Classic and Impossible difficulties, it can be a great challenge. Second Wave options are the fun ones. They enable you to capture some of the feel of XCOM: UFO Defense.I turn Training Roulette (enabling random skills from leveling up), Not Created Equally (all rookies have random starting stats), and Hidden Potential (Skill ups are random every level, so that I can capture the essence of random troopers. I also turn on Damage Roulette (larger damage spreads) and eventually, New Economy (Countries funding is not tied to real life economy), just for fun. The final two, Save Scum and Flanking angles, I leave off, as they seem unfun. Part of the game is playing within its save game rules and trying to flank.

My greater Strategic goals are simple: Loose few countries, Figure out how to save my troops lives, and get more money. Saving my troops involves researching weapons and armor as fast as possible, with all other R&D going to the wayside as I make sure my troops can face the aliens fighting them. I rarely sell anything, as I want to be able to research what I have available at any time, so pretty much the only money I make is through corpses, broken spaceships, and funding. Managing the worlds panic levels seems to be much of the game to me, and I’ve managed to get pretty good at it. Classic makes it a little difficult with a starting panic level of 1 in every country, but I manage. In the effort of saving money on what I use, I always start the game in Aisa. Future Combat enables me to spend tons less on the projects I value most: Foundry and Officer Training School. The OTS is the facility I aim for from the very beginning. Enabling Wet Work, New Guy and both squad increases is one of the primary driving forces for how I play.

When it comes to Troop Actions, I generally lean towards offence being a good defense. While explosive weapons destroy artifacts that the aliens have and set me back some in terms of research or monetary value, it has the high reward of keeping my troopers alive, experienced, and ready to fight the alien threat. This means I’ll sometimes be behind the times when it comes to fragments, I have excellently trained troopers in multiple sets that I can send out when the time comes. I tend to lean towards a fire base of troops that can lay down a ridiculous amount of firepower. This is going to change, definitely with the new Meld resource. In the first game my go to squad was 2 Snipers with Double Tap and Squadsight, two Heavies with Bulletswarm, and either two support or a support and assault. The amount of firepower I could drop was apocalyptic.

I am going to jump right into Classic – Ironman (C/I) and see how this works out for me. Wish me luck.

I hope I can tear my self away from the game long enough to give some reports on how this is all going along.

Before I go into my blog on XCOM (which I am having a blast with already), I want to get a little bit of how I play games out there, so that my playthrough doesn’t seem insane.

I have developed, over my time playing video games, a small list of cardinal rules that I try to adhere to at all times. These rules have helped me play and enjoy more games that I have ever before.

The first rule, my greatest rule, came about as a result of having never only very few games when I was growing up. it ties in strongly with rule 2, but at a different level. When playing games, its very hard to switch between the skills and challenges in each game. Rule 1 facilitates playing only games I really want to play:

Thou shalt only play one game at a time.

As a caveat to that, I was tired of having games hang around, that I would get to sometime in the far future. So the second cardinal rule was developed”

Thou shalt beat ever game you play.

The Third rule was created to save money and make sure that I only play games I want to play. I have to choose from among a pile of games in a given month or week, and pick the one I really want to play. because rule three is.

Thou shalt not buy a game before you beat Your current Game.

The final two rules are developments on the first three because I play relatively few games, and I want to get the most out of every experience. I really enjoy the discovery and challenge of video games, and find great pleasure in beating games. because of this, though, replay value for me is almost non-existent. All the above circumstances lead to the final two rules:

Thou shalt play all games on hard.
Thou shalt play all games blind.

Each of these rules is a consequence of some event or revelation that I had while playing other video games, and have truly served me well.
Before these rules, I could count the games I had beaten in single digits: Mega Man 3, XCOM: UFO defense, Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy VII, Rayman. there may be one or two that experiencing all, but since beating the original God of War, and experiencing the feeling of accomplishment that beating a hard fought game can bring, I’ve kept to the cardinal rules and can list on one hand the games I have abandoned.

This all wraps up with me finally beating HOMMVI, and launching into XCOM: Enemy Within with a reinvigorated furor. Playing blind, and playing on Classic is how its got to be!

Stay tuned, I should have my write up of my first week of XCOM on Monday!

I have finally beat Heroes of Might and Magic VI, and it could not come a moment to soon. By the end of the day tomorrow, I will own XCOM: Enemy within, and will be playing that whenever my daughter does not need attention.

The game has two endings, corresponding with the two reputation paths that every hero can take: Blood and Tears.

The Blood ending has you chasing down the faceless, and the Tears ending has you confronting the angels. You can only play each with heroes that followed the corresponding reputation path. The endings seem a little mixed up, as the faceless are considered evil, and the Angels good, but the blood reputation is the less noble, offensive choice that ends up going after the evil guys, with the noble, defensive path assaulting the angles.

The first ending I tackled was the Blood ending, because I really wanted to play my super-powered Necromancer Nerina again. I knew I had gone out of my way to make her personally powerful in ways that I just didn’t have the tolerance for in later campaigns. It turns out, and I never bothered to research and had to have a friend tell me, that the Hero lends a portion of their personal power to each of their units. Nerina had so much Magic Power at the end that the Liches, Fatespinners and Specters were doing massive amounts of damage. This lead to the actual map, in which you fight each faction in succession except for Inferno, pretty simple. I took massive stacks of Liches and Fatespinners and just launched a massive magical fusillade at enemy until they crumpled. It was stupendously glorious. Sanctuary was first, and went down swiftly, followed by Stronghold, Haven and then Necropolis. The final battle had Cate, your mother and Dragon Knight of the Faceless, Turn into a giant dragon (she may have summoned it, to be honest, it wasn’t very clear.) I sent everything I had at her, doing a significant portion of her heath with most of my army. The final unit to act was the champion unit, Fatespinners, who critically hit, doing over 1/3 of her hp in a single blow. The Fatespinners acted at the start of the next round and crit again, putting away the Shadow Dragon once and for all. It tool me, all told. 1 round and 1 action to drop her. I was exalted because I’d actually blasted her off the planet so fast it wasn’t funny.

The Tears campaign was a completely opposite type of campaign that I happened to pick the right faction. You fight against Haven the whole time, and you have almost no resources (mines, crystals, lumbermills) other than what the neutral mobs hold. This causes you to fight a strange war where you don’t ever really fight the enemy faction, you just spend the time running around blowing up hapless neutrals to get their resources and gold, which you then convert to resources. Thankfully I picked Haven as my faction, mostly because the only other faction I could play in this one was my Sanctuary Magic hero, and I had just done that.Haven, however, allowed me to just occupy the opponents towns and forts and use them immediately. I have no idea how I would have made it if I was playing a faction that, using the limited resources of the map, had to constantly spend them not to advance my faction, but to convert the enemy forts I captured to some form of usable condition. With the goal being to take and hold a single fort, haven was singularly capable with their defensive oriented suite of abilities, along with the might abilities that I had taken. The whole of the map was confusing, without really any way to know what was going on. However, in the end, you get to mangle the Archangel Michael, and it is very satisfying to beat his smug face into the earth.

Between the two, I found the Tears/Faceless battle much more satisfying. Honestly The blood and tears path concept was really intriguing the first campaign I played, but after that felt unassumingly boring. The main method you get blood points for casting offensive spells and other direct-damage related abilities. You can also get them from choosing power over defense in the Libraries (Magic) and Arenas (Might), and sometimes from quests. The final way of getting blood points was in pursuing enemies that fled. This is extremely tiresome, as each fight has the capacity to take a significant amount of time, deplete your mana and your units if played wrong, and waste map-based buffs that you keep until your next combat. This proved to be extra frustrating because every time you choose not to pursue them, you gained tears points, which is very counterproductive. Tears points are gained in the exact opposite manner as Blood: Casting defensive spells and abilities, Choosing defensive bonus’ at Libraries and Arenas, and from letting fleeing monsters live. This would be a great boon, except that almost all of the good Tears abilities are passives, and most of the spells were terrible. This lead to a stagnation of reputation points and conflicted gains. I was very disappointed with this part of the game, to say the least.

Overall, however, The game was a fun play. I really wish I had known more about how to play the game before I started, as it would have made the game much more playable. I really wish, as well, that there was a resource for the game as a whole, as I’ve not found a single site that is even remotely useful to the theory and play of the game. I’d give it a solid 7 out of 10. There are some problems, I’m not going to lie, but overall, its been what I wanted from it, though a bit longer and drawn out than I would have liked.


XCOM, Enemy within is downloaded and ready to play when I get home!

So, a while back I posted that I had acquired a box of Bane Knights from a friend, and that he’d gotten the better end of the deal.

I’m not so sure now.

Once I started cleaning the bits and getting them ready for general assembly, I decided that I wanted to do a shield swap. Not really knowing where to start, I headed over to the Privateer Modeling and Painting forums, and asked them what was out there. I got some really cool options, but what really struck me was Scibor Miniatures spartan shields. With my degree in classic history, how could I resist! Now, armed with a shield swap out, I was emboldened. What else was out there? I found, again on Scibors site, Spartan helms. Sure they had heads inside, but I could drill them out, right? I could make them work. Now I was in a bind. I had spartan shields and spartan helms, but the bane lances of the bane knights didn’t fit the theme at all. I needed a good, solid, no frills, spartan spear.

At the same time, I was selling off everything I had left of my GW stuff. Among that lot was a huge bitz bag, some pound and a half of plastic parts. Among those parts were these spears:
Ungor Spears from GW

They seemed perfect! I only had 8 of them, but how hard could it be to get more? I’ve got a post out there on bartertown now with a pair of leads, so here is hoping!

Now I’ve got everything: Spears, Helms and Shields. Time to get to work!

I had to drill out the helms, which was easier than I thought it’d be, but still no simple task. The Scibor resin is extremely soft and I would have been disappointed with it in any other circumstances but having the soft material was useful, as it allowed me to cut the helmet down fairly easily. Once the hole was drilled, I carefully cut out the face using my hobby knife. I then shaved as much as I could out of the helmet, making it as thin as I could, so as to fit on the bane knight heads.

Grabbing one of the Bane Knight skull faces, I tried to stuff it in there.

The head was too big.

I was a little stuck, but like any good, determined nut job, I went with plan B: cut the face off. I’d expected something like this, though not as extreme, and figured out the basics of what I wanted. Cutting the face off was difficult, no lie, but nothing I couldn’t do. Well, except that once face that I had the clippers on backwards, and the face completely shredded.

Sadly, even the face clipped off was to large. I ended clipping the forehead off, both cheekbones, and even some of the eye socket. Whatever it took to get the face to fit in that head. Thankfully, I never needed to take away any of the defining characteristics that made it a face.

I had the face all cut and ready to go, and I shoved it into the Helm. The skull face was a little far back, but I figured that that would work out just fine. I kept trudging forward, drilling holes into heads and cutting off faces. The third one, I managed to get perfect.

Damn it. That meant that I had to go back and do the rest of them correctly. Ah well, the price of a coherent unit!

Once I got the heads drilled out, I had to build necks. I’d completely missed that neither the faces nor the helms contained them after I was done chopping them apart. The necks took some doing, but with proper green stuff blobs, they lifted the heads so that they weren’t sunk into the chests.

With all the heads mounted on the bodies, I did the easy part next: Shields. I clipped off the spike that held on the bane knight original shield, and slapped on the Spartan lambda shields. Done!

this next part was the second trickiest because I’d only done it once on a much larger centurion warjack. I clipped the bane lances off the hands and gingerly drilled through the hands to be able to line up the spear shafts that I had clipped off the Ungor hands.

Once I’d gotten the spear arms ready, it was all over but the posing!

I only got the first set of heads, which allowed me to get the 6 members of the minimum unit finished. Once I get the rest of the spears and heads, I’ll be on track for my Bane Spartans!

Oh, and of course, I have to do nice bases on them, so I just had a friend order the Forgotten Empires bases from Dragonforge. because dead spartans of a forgotten empire make only the most perfect of sense.

Stronghold Conquered!

I’ve made my way through that trials that were the faction Campaigns, and have emerged stronger for it. This trial is not for the faint of heart.

Stronghold was, as I said in the other article, one of the more fun campaigns, and thankfully it didn’t let up at any point. The first three maps lead smoothly to the fourth, which has a unique end game that forces you to play the game just a little different, changing up how the game ended.

The Stronghold units were balanced enough that I didn’t find the faction skewed towards might or magic heroes. The campaign rewards strongly favor might heroes though, giving me gauntlets, armor and weapons that were restricted to might only, thus diminishing some of the enjoyment I got out of completing certain quests.

The Faction play style was refreshing even for someone who has trudged through the 16+ maps to get here. The faction has a TON of melee capacity, even before you factor in the heroes skills and powers, which no other faction really capitalizes on. Inferno and Haven, the other two melee factions, approach melee with different styles, and I really think that Stronghold strikes the concept dead on the head for this game. The key to good melee is alpha striking, no retaliation attacks and Stronghold units delivers in spades.

Unlike the rest of the factions, the game play of Stronghold revolves around using all of your creatures. The core units are goblins, harpies and orcs, the elites are centaurs, orc shamans and Aztec themed ogres, and the champions are cyclopes. Whats unique about this set of units is that they are pretty bland before they are upgraded, but once upgraded, are perfectly built to execute the strongholds best tactic: axe to face.

Goblins and centaurs are ranged units, able to do a ton of damage with out retaliation, and the centaurs ability to take a free shot at the first enemy to close the distance with my army gave another retaliation-less attack. harpies, when upgraded to furies, attacked without retaliation. Jaguar Warriors, the ogres, when upgraded had a retaliationless charge attack that struck everyone adjacent when he ended his move. Orcs got a second, free, attack after the first and the retaliation that results from it, but did enough damage that I just often used them to finish off stacks. My favorites, however, were the Dreamwalkers and the Cyclopes. Dreamwalkers have the ability to curse units so that they take damage if they act, and the upgrade makes it affect the whole enemy army. With a magic hero like mine the effect was devastating and would be the first troop I upgraded to get the greatest output from them. The cyclops is definitely my second favorite champion unit behind the fate weaver. The basic unit is a melee beater,which works out alright, but the upgrade gives the damn beast magic laser-eyes. This attack does immense damage, has no range modifier, and burns for additional damage over time! It is right up my alley!

The whole setup lead to an extremely enjoyable campaign and a great bookend to the single player faction campaigns. I recommend doing them in order: Necropolis, Haven, Sanctuary, Inferno, Stronghold. It creates a flow that, while frustrating, starts strong, wanes in the middle, and finishes with oomph.

I’ve finally moved on to the final map(s). The game has two endings depending on what type of character you played, and with me playing both, I’ve got them each to play through. However, with XCOM: Enemy within snapping at my brain, I’ll probably just play the one.

Over the past few weeks, I have had my interest in fleshing out the RPG world I’ve created rekindled. Its been what I think about in my spare time, which generally consists of time between holding my baby, and the ride to and from work. Well, one of the concepts that I have always known about my world is that there are tribes of barbarians with totem animals on the fringe of the main country of the island, Tyrndall (tear’n’doll). These barbarians, I’d always thought, would ride their totem animals into combat, and probably have lycanthropic leaders.

Continue reading

I’ve finally come back to HOMMVI after a decent Hiatus, and I am tackling the last two campaigns before I move onward to XCOM: Enemy within, Which I am extremely excited for. I’ve got to stick to my cardinal rule as hard as possible: One game at a time.

So, Stronghold!

This campaign finally feels like the Heroes of Might and Magic game that I remember. I’d started to sour on the game, very slowly, over the last few campaigns. The design theory was good, and it evoked the fun of my bygone childhood, but there was something a little off. At first I thought it was my adult brain taking on the child’s version of the game. The deeper I tread, though, the more I was convinced that this experiences was markedly different from the experience of my childhood. Stronghold has now confirmed that.

The Playstyle of Haven and Necropolis is extremely cautious. Sanctuary and Inferno are slightly better. Stronghold, however, is aggressive. Its Stacks are fast, its creature growth is plentiful, and it has access to almost all the best ability trees. Its is enjoyable to play, and the adventure map does not feel as tedious in these first two campaigns as they have been feeling.

The Battle map, however, is the same old boring method. Open with a withering salvo of magic and ranged attacks, have your melee troops wait for the enemy to inevitably cross the battlefield and into your threat range, and pummel them mercilessly.

the alpha strike is critical. The way the game structures its retaliatory strikes you take damage only after you inflict it, so if you hit first against weaker stacks you have a significant advantage. allowing your opponent to get the first hit is less problematic than giving ground, as the board is so compact that almost every unit can traverse it in two turns

Knowledge, though, is perhaps the greatest contributor to making Stronghold feel like the old game. I know to use the trade matrix early and often in order to get critical resources and buildings built. This allows me to have giant stacks of monsters early on. I have learned what spells and talents are good (chain lightning, Immolation) and what don’t do as much (armor of light, mass heal). I have also learned that enemies grow at the end of every week, which has contributed to me attacking early and often. Also, roving heroes are to be attacked head on, even if they are a challenging difficulty: if you come out on top, and have a better production setup (see trade matrix), every enemy stack you take out is an advantage. These are hard learned lessons over 4 campaigns, 16 maps and tons of mistakes.

In addition to the knowledge, having a both dynasty weapons fully leveled up is a huge boon that has enabled me to move forward swiftly.

I do get bored fighting the same type of armies over and over, but that is more a fault of having 5 factions with 5 campaigns each with 4 maps. Very rarely do I have to change the method I fight between hero’s or towns.

Soon, very soon, I’ll stop talking about Heroes and instead blather on about who died and how in my XCOM: Enemy Within games.