Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blasphemy or pretty damn funny?

What do I do at 2 am when i just can't sleep?  I find stuff like this;

How can something be soo damn funny and yet a little bit blasphemous at the same time?  I don't know and I really don't care.  Mario as Jesus Christ and Princess Peach as Mary has a bit of comedy that you just can't ignore.
Come on guys, you have to love this.  It's friggin funny as hell.
At the very minimum you have to appreciate the artists imagination.  While some people may look at a piece of toast and see Jesus this guy looked at a huge block of foam and made his own Jesus.  Not just that, he turned Jesus into Mario Jesus.  
While my admiration for this guy and his bold imagination to turn a tragic event in the Christian faith into something we can laugh it I do draw the line somewhere.
No, this wasn't it.
Nope, still isn't it.
Closer but a crucified Optimus Prime is not it.

This douche bag on the other hand is where I draw my line.  

For those of you who don't know who this jag off is then follow this link to the wikipedia page on him;
He is a hateful evil person who is in a hell of how own making. 

Campaign Creation

Campaign are fun.  They are far more than the basic definition, a series of games that have been linked together.  They are a new challenge, a source of bragging rights, an inspiration for future projects, and an opportunity to try something different.

Of course, not all campaigns are the same.  The 3 primary types are; Map, Tree (The results of one game will determine the type of game and mission in subsequent games), and Ladder (A linear series of battles that do not deviate from the original plan).  In addition to that limited definition of campaigns are subtypes that deal with other aspects.  One is campaign conclusion; Is the campaign open ended, with a specific win condition, or with a planned conclusion?  Another is Missions and Objectives;  Are the games pre-generated in advance or determined as the campaign progresses?  Does the results of one game effect later games?  Player participation is also a critical aspect; How many people are in it and can people enter after it has begun?  You also need to decide if the army composition is fixed or non-fixed; does the campaign require you to use certain units and keep your army list fixed or can everything vary from one battle to the next?  What about a sideboard style where you can have a combo of both types.

There are various elements a campaign writer has to keep in mind that make a great campaign;  A compelling story line has to be number 1 on my list.  Anything that connects the storyline to myself and my army is what will make me want to keep playing the games.  A sense of fairness and balance for everyone involved must also play a large role in the design of the campaign.  Try to avoid the “steamroller” effect and vary the types of missions and deployments.  Another critical aspect
is the inclusion of interesting battles that challenge the players in new and unique ways.

While it’s not necessary for a campaign to have a story line that links the games together,  I’ve found that if before the campaigns starts you don’t already have story line that links the games together one will naturally develop one on its own.  Don’t resist it if one does develop on it’s own.  That’s part of what
makes a campaign fun and memorable.

Story line development is often quoted as the most difficult part of campaign writing.  I find it the easiest and I can attribute that to being a DM in AD&D.  In those types of games a good story line is critical.  It is central to the game itself.  But if you’ve never written a story line for role playing games then where do you find one?  Story lines for campaigns are everywhere if you just look and use a bit of imagination.

My favorite source is the news.  A recent example is the toxic sludge disaster in Hungary.  To me, that sounds like Papa Nurge causing trouble.  The first battle can be the initial opening of a massive warp gate, the second would be the rescue of stranded units, and the final battle would be a mission to close the warp gate.  The recent news about the Quantis Jet making an emergency landing because of engine trouble can be converted to an Imperial starship having to make emergency repairs on an Ork infested planet that holds an old Mechanicus station.  The first battle could be a forced entry into an occupied area, the second is gathering needed repair parts, and the last is evacuation after repairs have been made.

Those examples quickly rose out of my mind as I was writing and need to be fleshed out in greater detail but the basics of a good story line are there.

History is another good source for a story line but it may take a bit of work and imagination to convert historical battles to something logical for a wargame deployment and mission.  You may have to admit that some historical events and battles would make a boring campaign even if they were critical events in history.  Move on to another historical event if they can’t be easily converted.  Others, like Sherman’s March to the Sea from the American Civil War, just about writes its self for any campaign type.  It’s series of major events and battles can be easily converted to the table top wargame.

Also look to fictional history to inspire a campaign storyline.  Inserting your games into the greater storyline of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade that forms the backdrop of the Gaunts Ghosts series is
easy.  After all, they aren’t the only regiment in the sector wide crusade.  It’s easy for an Imperial Guard player taking the role of an un-detailed regiment in the books or simply replacing the Tanith 1st.
Another option is to use a random story line generator.  Do a google search and I’m sure you’ll find dozens of sites for this.  I admit that most of them are designed for role playing games but that does not mean that the inspiration can’t apply.  Keep in mind that random charts for games don’t have to be used randomly. It’s perfectly acceptable to selectively pick the parts of these charts you want to use instead of letting the dice decide for you. It’s your game, use this material as you see fit.

One of the other, and most difficult to achieve, elements of a great campaign is a sense of fairness.  You may have to accept that in a campaign it may be impossible to achieve perfect fairness in every game throughout the entire campaign.  It’s the overall campaign that must be fair.  Both players should have an equal opportunity to win.

Special campaign rules that favor one army over another can lead to an imbalanced campaign.  Try to avoid this situation but accept that it may be necessary to imbalance an individual game to move the
campaign’s storyline along.  An example would be to give a planetary invader an advantage to get them on the surface in the opening battle.  The storyline would be silly for subsequent battles if the invaders were wiped out in the opening battle and never made it down to the planet alive.

Do this by allowing the defender a chance to win the scenario without actually winning the game.  If one side has a huge battle advantage let the other side have an easy win condition.  With the previous example I’d help the invader gain a needed story line foothold on the planet by giving his entire
army (including vehicles) “without number”.  That would represent the continued reinforcement of additional troops an invader would need.  To balance it out require the defender to keep a single specified model alive to win the scenario.   This model could represent the planetary governor, a general, a great hero, etc….

Be careful of giving out too many or powerful rewards to one side after a winning battle.  These rewards tend to stack and make that player even more difficult to beat in subsequent games.  That player will end up steamrolling everyone else unfairly if the rewards become too numerous or too powerful.  Consider giving rewards that don’t effect the very next battle, don’t stack, are very minor, or are balanced out
with special rules for the other side.

Players who are unable to tell the difference between a “win at all costs” type of game and a “story line” driven game are another huge problem.  Those kind of players belong in a tournament where the intent of the game is to determine the best general.  They will enjoy those types of games much more.  

Another huge issue is the inflexibility of the players and the campaigns setting.  Quite often the writer of the campaign doesn’t know the players, their playing styles, their army, the battlefield terrain or anything else that’s unique to your situation.  It’s your game, feel free to change anything you see fit.  Any of those situation can imbalance the campaign unfairly.  If it’s not fair then change it so it is and restore the fun.

Some campaigns systems like Plantetary Empires give advantages to the looser (underdog) as a means of balancing the games.  This allows players of various skill levels to still compete against one another and “forgives and forgets” bad and good luck that we all occasionally have.  While the underdog rules can be cheated to give a player too many advantages the effect is minor and will balance itself out after a few games.

If you do decide to give the players advantages then keep them limited and relatively minor.  Loosing shouldn’t be rewarded any more than a lucky win reinforced.  As with everything else the advantages should be consistent with the storyline.

So now that you have a campaign story line and a sense of fairness how do you build the series together?  I believe that is the minimum number of games you need to make the campaign interesting is 3.  Four to six games is ideal for a campaign with a specific ending point.  It’s long enough to advance a story arc yet short enough for the players to not lose interest.   Coincidentally most comic book series are about that long too.  I admit that some comic book series, like campaigns, are much bigger but those tend to be reserved for special characters and situations.

I highly recommend that you follow an abbreviated form of what’s known in fiction as the Dramatic Arc.  It consists of the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion.  Unfortunately that exact format works in fiction writing but it doesn’t translate to well to a table top wargame.  It, as a form of drama, was designed for the Greek and Shakespearian stage.  The falling action and conclusion will bore the players and seem completely redundant.

Skip the lasts parts and only use the exposition, rising action and climax.  This more closely resembles the Japanese form of story arc called the Jo-Ha-Kyu.  It means that all action should start slowly, speed up, then end swiftly.  This is ideal for a wargames campaign.

The exposition literally means to set the scene.  It begins the story, introduces the players, and in this
case starts the campaign.  If you do it right it will set the theme of the campaign.  How you do it is entirely up to you the players.  You could start it big.  An example is a Tyranid invasion where they all come down in overwhelming numbers.  You could start it small such as using Killzone rules.  This is much more in line with the Japanese story arc of Jo-Ha-Kyu.  To continue my previous example of a Tyranid invasion a Killzone game could be played where a Genestealer cult tries to shut down a major piece of planetary defense or kill the defending general.

Once the campaign is started you need to build up the story.  Like I said earlier, even if you didn’t start with a story you will quickly find one developing as you go along.  Tree campaigns by their very nature are known for story development.  In their case the results of the previous game determines the next battle fought.  A loss in the first battle could suggest a need for the looser to survive the subsequent battles.  A win following that could suggest a counter offensive while additional loses would suggest the need for an evacuation.  One method of building the action is to make the battles escalate from smaller games to larger games.

For these “middle” games, who’s intent is to build up the action, I prefer them to be a bit more
complicated with more than one basic objective.  Having a central objective (be it kill point based or
objective based), a secondary and possibly an additional tertiary objective will complicate the game in new ways.  These can be challenging games that still offer story line growth.  A lose for a player can still give him a moral victory if he manages to complete his secondary objectives.

If you’re deciding these games randomly then I suggest using the DLT random “tournament” games
chart.  In time we will release an updated version that will include improvements and updates designed for campaigns.

The conclusion is obviously where you end the campaign.  You may not have a conclusion pre-planned but even if you don’t I suggest ending it with a bang.  It should be big.  It should be memorable
and it should be climactic.   A huge Apocalypse game is an awesome idea but so would a character based mission like Assassination or definitive like Annihilation.

No matter how you decide to end the campaign this is what the entire series of games has been
leading up to.  These games should be kept simple with a clear winner and loser determined by a single game objective.  Campaigns don’t end well in ties.  It’s far better to keep playing to the death than to come to an inconclusive ending.   This will force the players to put it all on the line;  will the player who was winning all along be able to maintain the win or will the guy who lost most of his games make an incredible comeback?  The last game will decide.

Monday, November 1, 2010

What would you do with $50 billion?

And now for reason #610 for me to hate all things rumor and speculation.  A Macworld editor has decided that he was going to start a rumor about Apple buying Facebook.  The reason for his wild speculation; Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg had lunch and Apple is sitting on 50 billion dollars with no place to spend it.


While a wild rumor and speculation like this is nothing new for the internet what bothers me is it's lack of imagination.  Seriously people, Apple is buying Facebook?????  It's an obvious attempt to smash 2 big names into one editorial to bump up a google search.  This editor apparently forgot that Apple is a hardware company.  They leave the internet entrepreneurship to others.  Whenever Apple has gone into "non-hardware" business it's always been to support a hardware product of theirs (itunes was started to support the ipods).

But the concept of Apple sitting on $50 billion and no idea where to spend it did fascinate me.  I'm sure Apple has plenty of good ideas what they can do with that money but in case they don't let me offer up a couple of serious suggestions that relate to your hardware product line.

  1. Can you guys buy Hulu.com and work it into Apple TV.  Connecting the Internet to the TV is a great idea and Apple TV is a good piece of hardware to do it but it's lacking good content to draw upon.  Much of the content it can draw from is utter crap (admit it, 95% of all youtube is crap) or subscription based (Netflix and iTunes).  What it needs is real TV content that hulu.com can offer.
  2. Buy Skype and integrate it fully to the iPhone.  People are already doing it by unlocking their iPhones so you might as well make it official and make it work.  At the minimum you'd be able to get the iPhone out from under AT&T.
  3. Spend it on more R&D.  Apple is always on the leading edge of the tech industry and needs to stay there.  I've always said that if PC uses want to know what they will be using in 2 years they should look at what Mac users are doing now.  I'd love to see all Macs (desktop and laptop) come with touch-screens, get rid of the spinning hard drives and go all solid state flash drives, and a wireless connection between the car stereo and the iPod would be friggin awesome.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The under-rated Tyranid Warrior Prime

The Tyranid codex, while not as competitive as the other recent codex releases, does have a few highlights worth mentioning.  The Tervigon, Hive Guard and Zoanthropes are the 3 most common mentioned units and for very good reason.
The Tervigon is a solid HQ choice whose Psychic ability and special rules make him a force multiplier for any effective Tyranid list.  The ability to fit him in the troops slot is just icing on the cake with him.  Even without that FOC flexibility he’d be a very popular choice.
The Hive Guard and Zoanthropes bring much needed anti-mech firepower to the Tyranids like they’ve never had before.  While short ranged and competing for the same set of 3 Elite slots on the FOC they allow the Tyranids to destroy vehicles instead of only shaking them.
Traditionally that’s where the awesome end in the Tyranids codex.  I disagree.  An overlooked and misutilized entry is the Tyranid Warrior Prime.  He is much more than a basic cheap HQ choice similar to any other HQ choice that can be found in any other codex.   He is a step above and beyond almost any other HQ choice in any other codex and at a much cheaper price.
When compared to a Space Marine Captain you notice that the Warrior Prime has a much more potent stat line for 20 less points.  He has an additional point of strength and toughness and an additional basic attack.  Where the Warrior Prime begins to come out ahead is when typical upgrades are added.  For 20 points total the Warrior Prime can get a pair of Bone Swords,  an extra set of Scything Talons (re-roll 1’s in the attack phase) and Adrenal Glands (furious charge) for the cost of giving up his Devourer and 20 extra points.  The Marine Captain’s typical upgrades are a combi-weapon,  Relic Blade and Artificer Armor for a total of 55 points.  While the Marine Captain will have a potent shooting attack and a very good armour save the Warrior prime now assaults at a higher initiative with weapons that can cause instant death and ignore the Captains armor save entirely.  In a 1 vrs 1 combat the Warrior Prime should win every time when he costs 50% less points to field (100 points vrs 155 points).  This doesn’t even take the Warriors’s Synapse ability and Shadow in the Warp psychic protection.

There could be a bit of argument on how best to use the Warrior Prime because of his Independant Characters status.  Because of the Brood Progenitor rule most people will run the Warrior prime with brood of Tyranid Warriors Troops.  Although this is a good diea it forgets that Tyranid Shrikes are a varient of Tyranid Warriors too and are able to benefit from the Brood Progenitor rule.  Although they will lose the speed of wings during the movement phase if the Warrior Prime is with them the smart player will take advantage of the Independent Character rule and only attach them at the end of the movement phase when an enemy squad is within assault range.  That allows the Shrikes to stay behind and enjoy the protection of cover while the Warrior Prime charges forward attached to another squad of much cheaper gaunts.

In both cases I’d recomend giving each model in the Tyranid Warrior or Shrike brood a pair of Boneswords and Adrenal Gland for 15 points.  While it brings up the model cost to 45 and 50 points each they will gain power weapon attacks and furious charge.  This is especially deadly vrs MEQ opponents as you will be hitting on 3, wounding on 3, and allowing no save at initiative 5.
Of course if the Warrior Prime stays with that original brood of Gaunts he significantly boosts that broods close combat ability.  The humble (and dirt cheap) Termagants and Hormagaunts are unable to have any power weapons in the broods.  That liability is usually overcome with massive numbers of attacks from cheap models.  At their cheapest a maxed out brood of Termagaunts is only 150 points and can dishout 60 attacks on the charge at initiative 4.  While that many dice being rolled at once can pose a serious danger to any squad their attack is only at strength 3.  Which limits the damage they can do to MEQ opponents.  Even with that bucket of dice rolled that lower strength results in an average of 10 wounds on a typical Marine squad.
Of course anyone who runs Termagants should have a Tervigon nearby and that will boost the damage causing ability of that brood if the Tervigon is equipped with Toxin Sacks and Adrenal Glands.  Suddenly their 60 attacks go before the Marines and are now Strength 4 poisoned allowing a re-roll to wound.  That gives a doubling of wounds caused by the same 150 point brood of Termagants.  That will force the MEQ player to take an average of 22 saves from the Gaunts and 4 power weapon wounds from the Warrior Prime before their own attacks are rolled.
Another ideal use of the Tyranid Warrior Prime is to attach him to another brood of Toughness 4 multi-wound models.  This allows you to take advantage of wound allocation rules and assign the Strength 8 power fist and missile launcher wounds to the Warrior Prime.  Nobody wants Their critical Zoanthrope or Doom of Malan’tai doubled out to a single hit.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The death of Dice Like Thunder

I am sorry to announce that Dice Like Thunder has just died.

A sudden unforeseen issue has crept up and forced us to cancel the show.  

This was completely unplanned, unexpected and unavoidable.

There is no infighting between cast members.  

We are all still good friends.

Nobody is in trouble and money wasn't the issue.  

We purposely never generated any money to begin with.

We never had any IP issue's with our name, Fluid 40K, mission book, or any other part of our show.

In early November we will start a fresh new podcast called The Eternal Warriors.

As you can imagine it will be a podcast about Warhammer 40K, Warmachine, and all things awesome. 

The entire current cast of Dice Like Thunder will return and what would have been episode #106 of Dice Like Thunder will be episode #1 of The Eternal Warriors.

Old back episodes of Dice Like Thunder and certain downloads will only be available for a short period of time.  

When they get removed, it will be permanent. 

More specific detail will not be given publicly. 

This has nothing to do with GW, any GW employee or any other game company.

It was simply time to start a new podcast that incorporates the lessons learned by the hosts from a combined total of 300 podcast episodes.

For 105 episodes of Dice Like Thunder, you the fans have been incredible and we want to thank you one last time while under the Dice Like Thunder name. 

So from Chris, Dan, Dave, Jon, and Rich;

Thank you for listening and hope to see you soon.

pozegnanie, adiós, Auf Wiedersehen, au revoir, goodbye

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I must be the odd one because....

                After watching the news and reading commentators I’ve come to an inescapable conclusion about myself;  I’m a weirdo.  That’s right, I’m apparently the only person in the world who’s been raised Catholic who has never been molested by a priest, I’m not wracked with crushing religious guilt, I’m not bitter about some aspect of my childhood religious experience, I don’t endlessly preach to everyone I meet, and I don’t agree with everything I’m told like some mindless robotic voter.  Apparently it’s true, I’m the weirdo.
                I’m not sure what’s made me such an oddball.  Turn on the TV, read a blog, read the newspaper, listen to the talk radio.  All I hear is that every Catholic in the world has had a horrible childhood religious experience.  They can’t enjoy life today because their fragile little minds have been warped by evil men who prey on vulnerable children.  O’h and let’s not forget how the Catholic church is trying to take over the world in some corrupt new world order under a single government run by a secret society.  Yup, no secret there, the Catholic Church is a horribly guilty guilty guilty organization.
                I wonder why I’m so weird.  Is there some hope for me to join the ranks of the eternally guilty and miserable self loathing Catholics?  I hope not, I kind of like being the odd one.  I’m a very well adjusted person who’s happy and content with life.  I actually enjoy going to church every week.  I’ve volunteered for church activities.  I find the time to pray and be thankful for what god’s world has provided for me.  My childhood religious experience, while apparently odd and unprecedented, can only be described as rewarding and enjoyable. 
                I missed out.  Thank you god, I prefer it this way.  You don’t have to send anyone down here to fix the situation that apparently makes me so weird.  I’m quite happy the way I am. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Adepticon after action review

Adepticon is over.  It was an exhausting few days in the nirvana of wargamerdom and I’m counting the days until the next one (361 if you’re counting). 
So what is my big “lesson learned”?  My first is to stop making damn plans.  No I didn’t get my 12 games vrs 12 opponents in.  Eight was the best I could do.  It wasn’t for lack of trying, stuff just kept coming up.  The podcast was a huge factor in me not getting in all 12 games.  It wasn’t that I spend all that time recording, we actually did very little recording. I went from booth to booth talking to third party suppliers trying to schedule some future interviews for the year, chatting with fans, talking with people about the differences between games (later update on that), checking out armies, scheduling tournament winners for interviews, and partying. 
That last one is new.  In previous years Adepticon and other table top wargame conventions were far more about games than anything.  For the vast majority of gamers it still was about the game and only the game but for the first time I noticed that the “con party” crept into the mix.  While it’s nothing like the party scene of more famous cons like ComicConthe party atmosphere of Adepticon is growing and will only get bigger. 
I can credit the internet for this one.  I met dozens of people who previously were little more than forum names.  Meeting the flesh and blood person is much better than their digital avatar.  While previously I had to type fast to communicate now I only had to look across a table in a bar while sharing a beer.  It’s a far different experience.  Even those people I bumped into briefly on the game floor were a pleasure to meet.
There are also the people I rarely get to meet.  I’ve often compared the Bunker to the Cheer’s bar on TV.  It’s where everyone knows your name and is glad to see you.  The problem is that not everyone is there every Friday night for 2 years straight like I’ve been.  It gave me an excellent opportunity to say hi to people I only meet once or twice a year.  Some people I haven’t seen because of their health reasons and I wish them well in the future.  Others, like Karrick, may live in the area but are still too far away to be regulars.  By the way, Karrick isn’t abrasive in person like he is online and is much more entertaining to have a conversation with.  I’ll even go as far as calling him brilliantly opinionated. It’s a goodthing, he is more opinionated in person than he is online.  Having a game with him was an education in how to beat a tri-land raider list by taking advantage of it’s major weakness (to be covered in a future episode). 
The party con aspect was very small and unplanned.  Nobody planned it, it’s just what happens when people who don’t get to see each other finally get together.  We get some beer, we start talking, we hang out and then we go out on the town.  Well, we did plan on Hooters and I’m glad that it came out well.  I’d hate to think of what would’ve happened if we posted something about it at the con. 
I’d love to see the Adepticon organizers would consider making official party plans for attendees.  It wouldn’t be hard, put up some signs, post a schedule online, and warn where we’re going.  Yes it would be that easy.  People were looking for something non-game things to do.  The Weston Hotel where the event was hosted had a good bar, Miller’s Ale House was across the street, Hooters was a little bit farther down the road, and a quick jump on the expressway took you straight into the city to some real party places.
So it’s over and I still have GenCon and Games Day to go to complete my wargamer trifecta. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Oh the irony, I went on-line to get ready for the great outdoors.


You can kind of say that  the first sign of spring is when Dan starts getting anxious to get back outside and into the great outdoors.  So while haunting a website I occasionally visit I found this article; 

Where do I begin.  Oh yea, bullshit!!!!!!

Sorry about the cussing but I call shenanigans on them.  One of the habits I’ve carried from my hunting and fishing hobby to my gaming hobby is the use of a notebook.  In it I write down little notes and idea’s that come up before, during and after the hunt (or game).  While I’m not as regular with it as I used to be the old notebook is still there and giving lessons back years later.  One of them is that farmers are hypocrites.  

I’ve spent plenty of time in the country with old timers who will bore you to death with stories of the old days on how pheasants used to live where the Walmart now stands and how kids these days don’t appreciate the way their parents used to live and love the land.  I remember these people while flipping through my notebook and count the number of farmers who will in one sentence lament the loss of the country way of life and in the other tell you to get the hell of their land.  The irony of course is entirely lost on them.  Yes it’s their land so I agree that it’s their right.  I don’t own thousands of productive acres to hunt and fish on.  I have to crowd into the public land and bump into the idiots who have no idea what gun safety is or go ask the people who do own land.  

Shall I now count the no’s I’ve received from the hypocrites?  10, 20, 30, 50, 86 landowners of all sorts have said no while only 1 has said yes.  That 1 yes wanted $1,500 per hunter and big restrictions on what, when and where we hunted.  No, he didn’t get any of my money.

I’ve heard the excuses; 

You’ll shoot yourself and sue me.  No I can’t.  The law protects you.

You’ll drive your ATV all over the place and dig ruts in the land.  No I won’t, I don’t own an ATV.

You’ll shoot the trophy deer I’m trying to hunt.  Actually I’m hunting to fill up my freezer full of meat.  It’s the young doe’s and ducks I’m after.

You’re not from around here.  True but that doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with me any more than something being wrong with you if the geographic situation were reversed.  

Now I’m willing to pay for access.  Before I became a father I, my brother in law and a friend leased access from a farmer.  This is a capitalist society and land is how they makes a living.  I just wished that they'd keep in mind that if I can’t afford to buy my own land then I probably can't afford to pay him 1,500K for lousy access.  Of couse we don’t actually live in a pure capitalist society do we?  Farmer Bob here may own the land but I and 300 million other people own the game animals on it.  And we also pay him numerous subsidies that he couldn't own the land without.  

So this summer I'll be at it again, knocking on doors asking for permission to hunt on their property.  In the fall I'll probably be back on public land again.  The difference is this time when I hear a farmer say how kids these days don't appreciate the land and how city folk don't understand I'll pull out a mirror and introduce him to the one responsible.  

Nobody will appreciate what they don't understand and they can't understand it until they experience it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Seriously folks

Seriously folks, the sky isn't falling.  Let's all calm down and think for a moment here.
Yes the health care bill got passed,  no this isn't the health care reform that I would've asked for, and yes we are all going to survive.

Today was a pretty f-ed up day on facebook.  The debate was carried out of the cable news networks (where it didn't belong) and on-line among people that are actually going to be effected by this bill (where it did belong).  At first I was actually happy to see people finally talking about it until I saw what they were saying.
"All because our elected officials can't manage our money and now they're going to raise our taxes to manage healthcare. Of course I want the uncovered to have coverage but I'd like to see people back to work and leave my taxes alone."
"You must all enjoy paying more taxes."
"What if we have to pay more for insurance now?"
That was some of the more tame examples of stupid comments I've seen today.  I wish some of these people actually read what's in that bill and actually got their info from more than a single source with questionable objectivity.  
Taxes, if your taxes go up because of this bill then you're making 250K a year and can afford it.  That's right, if you make 250K a year you can afford to pay back to the society that gave you the opportunity to be very prosperous.  If that tax increase is going to make your life suffer then maybe you need a reality check on what real suffering is all about.
I admit, maybe my opinion is a bit jaded because I hate insurance companies.  You see in my experience they are all a bunch of soul sucking daemon leeches.  That isn't opinion, it's a fact.  Twice I've had insurance policies cancelled because I dared to put in a claim.  Right now I have to pay for a dental procedure for my 5 year old because my insurance company found away to weasel out of paying for it.  I guess my child's pain and my 12 years of on time premium payments mean nothing compared to saving $150 for their bottom line.  

So those people who know me will call a foul and say that this rant doesn't match my political belief.  You see, I'm a Libertarian.  Libertarians believe in personal responsibility and a free market.  In a perfect world personal responsibility and a free market would be more than enough to fix the health care problem.  Of course we don't live in a perfect world do we.  We live in a corrupt world where personal responsibility gets taken advantage of and a free market is corrupted.  That's where I withhold my Libertarian principals and accept a dose of reality.  The health care and insurance industry need a bit of regulation.  Weather you like it or not the strong arm of big government is going to act like a parent and restrain the rotten brat that the health care and insurance industry have become.  
With luck they will be restrained enough or at least be coerced into restrain themselves into doing the right thing. 

So I applaud President Obama for passing the biggest health care reform in my lifetime.  Full credit to him for having the balls to do something about the problem.  No this bill isn't perfect, it might not work, it may even hurt some people but it's going to be far better than the alternative of doing nothing.  

I may not agree with many of his policies but I do agree with his intentions.  

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Da "Homebrew" codex

Having a blog but nothing to post sort of sucks.  So I'm drawing on some material I just submitted to the Astronomicon web magazine.  Since homebrew codex's seems to be a DLT specialty they asked me to write an article about the subject.  Being a shameful whore for publicity I agreed.  The following is the article that will appear in their next edition.  It will be followed by a second article where I'll discuss the process of making a homebrew codex, the problems that occur and make a few examples.

The “Homebrew”-
Why on Terra would someone try to write their own “Homebrew” codex?  We’ve always been told that such a feat is absolute heresy and should never be attempted by mere mortals.  After all if GW can make such horrible codexes what makes anyone believe that a mere hobbyist can write a better one. 
     That last statement isn’t completely true.  GW actually makes very good codexes.  The “homebrew” codex could and should never replace an existing codex but it does have its place in the 40K game world. A minor but essential place for the advanced wargame hobbyist. 
     There are a few occasions when a “homebrew” codex can and should be used as a supplement to existing codexes.  The primary reason is when a current codex is so woefully out of date from 3rd edition and is filled with redundant rules, wargear and concepts that it screams for an update.  GW is in the process of updating all of their older codex’s but until they complete the process it’s inevitable that some will have to wait.  Fluid 40K by the Dice Like Thunder Podcast was an early attempt by hobbyists to use minor revisions to certain rules to bring the older codex up to date with the current rule set.  To a large degree it succeeded. Speaking as one of the writers, I’m as pleased with the result as I am to see GW make it redundant with every newly revised codex.  
     What inspired us to commit such a travesty against the game?  While some of the older codex’s may still be competitive (Dark Eldar come to mind) many are simply too aged.  Within them you’ll find outdated rules, wargear and codex writing styles.  There is also the question of codex consistency, why are there so many different versions of Land Raiders and Force Weapons?  Why does a vehicle in one codex cost a certain point value while in another codex the identical vehicle is a completely different point cost?  Why does Machine Spirit work differently from one Space Marine codex to another?  These codexes may also be so old that codex creep has left it behind and now it’s in drastic need of a redux (like the Necron codex).  Many of those older codexes were written with 3rd edition rules and tactics in mind and now what once was an army limitation to maintain balance has become a crippling handicap.  An example is the Daemonhunters lack of transport vehicles.  Grey Knights are competitively priced in points compared their abilities but to be used effectively in 5 th edition they need to be mounted in a transport.  Unfortunately the only transport option for Grey Knights to use the Land Raider which will force a reduction on model count in an already high model point cost army.  The reason for that was to deny the “Rhino Rush” tactic that was so popular in 3rd edition from an army with such potent close combat ability.  The viability of that old tactic has been significantly reduced but the limitation on the Grey Knights remained. 
     So if an aged codex is a reason for a player to rewrite a codex and give it a “homebrew” revision, which ones should it apply to?  The obvious answer would be any codex that hasn’t been written with the current 5th edition rules.  The longer it’s been out of date the more of a justification a homebrew codex writer has.  Even the competitive Dark Elder codex should be open to some minor revisions to bring its 3rd edition rules in line with the current 5th edition rules. 
But what about the underpowered codex that's weak and uncompetitive?  Once again the Necron codex surfaces as a codex that screams for a revision.  Other codexes such as the Dark Angels and Daemonhunters could only be helped by a codex revision.  This doesn't mean that all older codexes are uncompetitive.  Recent tournament results will prove that these older underpowered codexes can and sometimes do win tournaments against the current crop of codexes.  While this does lend argument against changing a codex is doesn't prove it.  A talented player can win with an underpowered codex vrs a poorly run newer codex.  The older codex such as Dark Eldar, Tau, Daemonhunters and Necrons tend to be run by older more veteran players with a bit more skill than the average player.  They know how to win with any army.  That alone can more than make up for a perceived codex’s lack of power.  My own personal counter argument is that no codex should require an inordinate amount of player skill to have a chance of being competitive vrs an opponent of average skill.  All codex’s, despite their age, should be balanced in relation to each other.
     When determining which codex’s are “underpowered” I would recommend avoiding any individual player’s opinion.  Too often that is based completely upon their playing ability and self bias and not the true capability of the codex.  A website resource I recommend for this is http://www.gosfordgamers.net/ATR/YTD_Armies.htm .  Although its statistics are based upon the tournament results in Australia the army rankings can be applied anywhere.  The critical chart is where the armies are listed by their Podium Ratio.  Podium Ratio is a comparison of the percentage of times an army places in the top 3 of a tournament divided by the percentage of its appearances in tournaments.  A score of 1 would be statistically average.  Of the current codex’s only the Eldar achieved that score.  The highest scoring army was the Dark Eldar who achieved a podium finish 13 times out of 60 tournament appearances for a podium ratio of 2.49.  At the complete opposite were the Dark Angels who achieved a podium finish only once out of 77 tournament appearances for a podium ratio of 0.15.  Does that mean that a Dark Elder army is 16+ times more likely to place in the top 3 of a tournament than the Dark Angels?  Sadly, the statistics say yes. 
A “homebrew” codex should never ever be used to give a player of lesser skill an advantage because they can’t otherwise win.  If your codex has a podium ratio that puts it in the bottom tier of winning armies then you may have an excuse to make a “homebrew” codex.  If it’s not then you need to learn to play your chosen army better.  That statement may sound abrupt and rude but it’s also very true.
     But what if the current GW codex library doesn't fulfill a player’s individual thematic taste?  With the abundance of quality Black Library fiction it’s natural that players will attempt to build army lists based on what they’re read in the various novels.  Any fan of the Gaunts Ghosts series by Dan Abnett will feel the urge to build an Imperial Guard list that accurately represents the look and feel of the army they’ve read about.  The problem is that doing so forces a player to give up half of what’s good in the Imperial Guard codex, vehicles.  It’s a severe restriction in mobility and firepower that often times leaves an all infantry army lacking.  In addition leaving the vehicles on the shelf still leaves an Imperial Guard player with an army that still doesn’t represent the feel of the Tanith 1st. 
For the most part I say, “Tough breaks buddy.  That’s the army you chose to run so play what you built.  Your codex is brand new.”  On the other hand I do feel that a few minor revisions could modify the codex to allow an all infantry army to remain competitive and still recapture the look and feel of the fictional Gaunts Ghosts?  Allowing Veteran Squads to be taken in IG Infantry platoons will help.  That would give them access to the regiments signature camo cloaks and represent the more accurate shooting they are known for. 
     The same could be said for the Dark Angels Deathwing.  While it’s not a crippled list it does seem to fare poorly in comparison to other Space Marine codexes.  Many of the Dark Angels wargear upgrades are completely out of date, underpowered or overcosted when compared to the standard Space Marine codex.  Would it break the game to allow the Dark Angels to use the wargear rules and upgrade points costs from the Space Marine codex?  In light of their tournament results I’d say no.
From a pure fluff perspective all Space Marine chapters have a 1st company Deathwing.  Why should the Deathwing concept be limited it to just the Dark Angels?  Why not an Ultramarine Deathwing?  Aren’t they the ones who fought the Tyranids in the polar fortress during the Battle of Magragge?  They exist in all Space Marine Chapters so why not allow all Space Marine players the option of running a legal Deathwing?  GW set precedence when they established in the most recent codex that a Captain on a bike would allow Space Marine bikes to be taken as troops.  Wouldn’t it also be fair if a Captain in Terminator armor allowed Terminator squads to be taken as troops?
Shouldn’t a Chaos Marine who’s dedicated his life to one of the specific Chaos gods be able to summon Daemons under the influence of that particular Chaos god?  To many of the veteran Chaos Marine players the entire concept of a “generic” daemon is absurd.  Nothing is generic about chaos.  When a Chaos Marine player with an army of Noise Marines summons daemons it just seems far more appropriate to allow him to summon Daemonettes if he’s willing to pay the point cost.  
None of these examples are game breaking.  All use the established rules and points set out by GW.  They shift a few things around a bit between similar codex’s and the FOC but all of it is still found in a legal codex. 
     So now we’ve got our reason for writing a “homebrew” codex.  The last question is, could we do it and make a respectable result?  GW is full of professional game designers with years of experience, a budget, hordes of playtesters and background fiction to draw inspiration from.  A home hobbyist can’t compete on the same level as GW as an amateur athlete can’t compete with professional athletes in sports.  Of course the inability to compete with pro athletes doesn’t stop people from having fun playing a game with their friends at the park.  So why should it stop you and I from making a “homebrew” codex for no other reason than pure enjoyment of the 40K hobby. 
If the primary issue for you is the fact that you play an old and out of date codex that’s nearly as old as you are then Fluid 40K is a good start.  It’s been playtested and revised numerous times and it serves the purpose it was designed to do, update the older codexes to 5th edition rules.  We did all the work and playtesting.  It’s been updated regularly for the past year to deal with issues that come up and mistakes we’ve made.
     Unfortunately Fluid 40K was only designed to address the issue of out of date rules, wargear and rule consistency.  It never attempted to address over/under point costed units or wargear.  Neither did it make any changes to the force organization chart.  We didn’t believe that it was appropriate to address those issues.  The beauty of Fluid 40K was its simplicity and limited scope.  Like I said before, old and out of date does not mean weak and underpowered.  Dark Elder tournament results prove that older codex’s can still be competitive. 
     Homebrewing a codex for army theme is different.  It does break the rules even when held to a minimum by the simple and minor changes in the examples given previously.  All of those are perfectly good ideas that are either impossible or uncompetitive with the current codex selection. 
I firmly believe that anyone with an active imagination and an idea in mind can come up with a very good army theme and build a balanced “homebrew” codex out of it.  It is true that occasionally someone will fall into the trap of making an army with every possible advantage and no applicable weaknesses and label that monstrosity a “homebrew” codex.  Unfortunately too many players believe that example is what a “homebrew” is all about and refuse to accept an opponent who uses one.  Whatever their reason it is their choice not to accept it.  But I would like to encourage everyone for the fun of the game and friendly game play to be willing to accept an opponent with a “homebrew” codex now and then.  They can be fun to create and memorable to battle against.

First post just to post a post but not to post something worth a post

Welcome to the personal blog of Dan from the Dice Like Thunder Podcast.
When they said that you can create a blog in a few minuets they weren't kidding.  A few clicks here, a few clicks there, type a few items and blam.  It's done.  This sort of reminds me of when i started facebook.  My page looked like crap.  At least it was much better than myspace, that interface was crap.
In either case this is my blog.  I don't have any idea what I'm going to do with it yet.  Give me a bit of time to make a few articles on SOMETHING and I'll post it.