Monday, June 20, 2011

The Girl Who Circumnativated Fairyland.... - A Review

I read a lot of books, they are the single greatest thing to come into existence for mankind. They are even more important to us than sanitation (as professed by the late Donnie Darko). Books shape and influence us from childhood to adulthood. How many have read Ayn Rand and taken that as a philosophy ( not me thankfully) or wanted to go to school at Hogwarts after reading Harry Potter?

Something many do not know about me is that I read and hoard progressive children's books out of a desire to retain my childhood as well as pass them on to the next generation. Children's books are amazing and often exhibit a very different effect on children than they do on adults. For instance, when reading Coraline by Neil Gaimen, children thought it a wonderful adventure while adults thought of it as a horror story, you will just have to take my word for that since I can't seem to find the original article I read that in.

I recently came across The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Own Making, by C.M. Valente at my local hobby, gaming and Sci Fi book store. I picked it up immediately. It had the same chapter titleing and witty verbose prose as my, until now, favorite children's book Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C Wrede. To have replaced dealing with dragons as my favorite progressive feminist children's book is an impressive the feet. Cimorene, the main character of the book is quite the kick ass princess. To come up with something that can spare with that girl's adventures is astounding.

I don't usually review books but I felt this one needed it!

Valente's book follows the adventures of a disenchanted young girl named September ( who was born in May) and her adventures in Fairyland. Ya i know, DUH! that's the basically the title. But it is so much more than that too. Valente creates wonderful characters that are dynamic and modern but remember their roots too. And these roots run deep.

The female role models in the book speak of self sufficiency and individuality. September, of course, is the prime model. She is the young girl who has not been told that she can't and if she is, she refuses to listen. She is clever, humble and does not seek approval.

But ever present in September's mind is her mother, who despite never being overtly stated, seems to be a WW2 female domestic mechanic who supports her young daughter and teaches September, normally male, virtues and talents such as engineering, problem solving and self reliance.

The males in her story are not impotent but they are completely real and vulnerable. They are not superlative and they are certainly not without their power. This power is always matched to a female counterpart however.

But enough of the wonderfully feminist aspects of this book. The prose itself is wonderful. While they are verbose the sentences roll off of your tongue in such a pleasant manner many of them scream to be read aloud (and they certainly were). The prose left a smile on my face, like each little paragraph is a gem in of itself and the book in it's entirety comprises a wonderful work of art shining with beautiful inlay.

The book will delight children and adults alike. Though I feel to those males who read it her imagery and choices with regards to similes, metaphors and observations may be a bit jarring. She is a clear example of feminist writing, and I believe it is a choice on her part. It was refreshing to read this book that was unabashed in it's utilization of a subjective female experience to convey the story.

Valente is no one hit wonder either. She may have hit the charts with this book ( New York Times Bestseller) but her other books seem to keep up to par with Circumnavigate. I am currently reading The Orphan's Tale Vol 1 and can't put it down. I am sure I will end up reading more. One nice thing is that you can read a lot of her writing for free, including the first 2/3 of Circumnaviated on one of her many websites.

But Anyway how bout some eye candy? 
I got a few commissions that were recently finished and managed to clear the painting table of buisness ( at least temporarily).The first one is an infinity model and the second is the Soda Pop Miniatures mascot: Candy and Cola!

Till next time, Stay frosty!

Steve (It's my blog and I can talk about whatever I want to!)
*all images are property of their respected authors! Except the last two! Those are mine!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sorry or The Heartfelt Apology

No, I am not apologizing to anyone.

Recently I was suckered into into playing that old family game Sorry!. While this is generally a fun game for most people, in the face of the other games I play, I felt like I was playing the adult version of Candy Land. 

There were no dice, just cards. The cards told me what to do, but they weren't funny, the art sucked and the rules were way to straight forward.  Then the game was over.  Then my wife said, "let's play again", and i thought, greaaaaat.... That wasn't the end of her sentence though. The end was, "and let's make up a rule to rotate the board." Yes, that is the beautiful woman I married.

My brain started whirring immediately. I mean, I came up a way to play table top diablo with the old GW Lord of the Rings rules. Sorry! would be a piece of cake.

Thus the game "A Heartfelt Apology" was born. This is simply the game of Sorry! with a twist. When someone draws a 5, they must move one of their pieces if possible and you rotate the board 90 degrees clockwise. After this happens each player is playing a new color ( the one in front of them).

Well this turned out to be tons of fun. The game can go either very long, or medium length, depending on weather the people want to screw over everyone or weather everyone works towards winning. There is also a little more strategy involved now. You have to think about what might happen if you end up switching colors and what you should do with your pieces in relation to the other players.  The one little catch to this rule is that if someone draws a 5 to put their last peice into home the board is then rotated and the player to their left wins. Also, when a 5 is drawn someone must say "Change Places!" in a mad hatteresque way.

So i just thought I would share this new way to play sorry with you guys. We had a lot of fun playing it. Give it a try, you might end up killing each other. Seriously though, have fun, be safe and keep sharp pointy things away from the players.

Peace out,
Steve (Who opened the glass casket and found a paintbrush.)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Kings of War - A review

Oh man! Long time ( please accept this You Tube video as an apology) Hand cannon has been going well though. And for all of you following this blog thank you :) here is a preview of the new article I recently finished on a kings of war review.  This is a great game. Something that I believe should replace Warhammer.

What happens when former GW employees decide to break away and indulge their creative desires? No, not genetically altered moles that look like goblins, you get Kings of War. This is a new large-scale table top warfare game that at first glance will have people saying, “Oh that’s just like Warhammer”. If someone sees this game, says that and you are around tell them they are wrong and should feel bad for saying such things. Then hit them with a stick. This is most definitely not Warhammer.

I was fortunate enough to see this newly released UK based game in action. A friendly Boston area player of the game ran some very well done demos at the local gaming store. While going through the process of learning the game the thing that struck me most was the fluidity of the rules. There was little to no referencing of the rules, and game play was concluded in about 45 minutes. I can’t play a game of Warhammer: Warbands in 45 minutes! 

The armies in this game are composed of block units just like Warhammer. The difference is that your units are purchased in blocks: such as 5 troop, 20 troop or 40 troop blocks. These units then have base statistics that are dependent on the size of the unit. During the game no troops are removed from the unit, that unit is either alive or dead. Period. No fumbling with ranking, no piles of dead bodies on the side of the board and it affords many good modeling opportunities.

The statistics of these troops are very easy to read and understand too. If a unit has a melee score of 4 that means it needs 4 or better to hit. If it has 10 attacks it rolls 10 dice. Then to wound you look at the defense stat of your opponent, if it is say a 5, then you need to roll your hits and get 5 or better to inflict a wound. And a unit is destroyed when it reaches 0 wounds right? Wrong.

The only way to destroy a unit is to make it route. A unit tests to route after each wound it takes. How this works is the opponent rolls two dice, and adds the wounds to the result. You then add the wounds and subtract the unit’s “nerve”. If the result is 7 or less it is fine. Above that means the unit is either shaken ( incurs certain penalties on it’s turn) or routes ( dies and is removed from the board).

That’s it. I was shocked. There are of course a few movement rules and simple modifiers on shooting and some special abilities that can modify die rolls but the rules turned out to be incredibly simple. While playing and watching the game in action I found things to run incredibly smoothly and quickly.

There are a number of other simple rules that set this game apart as well. Combat, for instance, takes place only on your turn. After combat one unit is pushed away from the other. There are cool unit upgrades that can be taken too. My favorite being: throwing mastiffs for the dwarves. This “pet upgrade” ( each race has one) is the dwarves taking a dog with a handle, and throwing it at the enemy. The dog then mauls the chosen victim. There is even a model for it! 

So it’s a large-scale war game, expensive right? Well certainly not what everyone is used to spending. The good folks at Mantic games (the producers of Kings of War) have taken their extensive gaming experience and created elegant plastic and resin models that are highly affordable. The scale is even right. No more looking like your knights are riding ponies or your orcs have some sort of huge head syndrome going on. Their army boxes can be procured for as little as $100.00, and that seems, to me at least, to be a fully functioning army.

The models are well thought out too. These aren’t throw-away bendy plastic things that you will never paint. The quality and expression of models is wonderful when you consider the company is new, and it’s a large scale warfare game. In fact I know some people that take these models and substitute them for their logical GW counterparts ( though that was before the game was released…)

All in allthis game rocks. As far as large scale wargames go this is the one to watch. Unfortuantly since it is relativly new you might have some problems finding opponents, but if you have a gaming group that wants to get into it this is the way to go. 9/10 for it's genre. Super fun. 

Now for some eye candy for all you readers out there. 

First of all some Infinity Morats that I did for my favorite client! 

I have been working on some gators too, this one i modded up to look like bowser:

And finally Caliban the Grave Walker with a custom base:

Peace out all, I hope things find everyone well! I will try and post some more cool stuff eventually. I have some pretty cool irons in the fire, I hope they heat up!

- Steve (Terrasaur menace)