I want to talk about the movie Airheads. Actually, I want to talk about one scene from the movie Airheads. That’s right, that fucking weirdo 1994 movie about idiot butt rockers taking a radio station hostage to play their shit song. Starring Brendan Fraser, Adam Sandler and creepy Steve Buscemi who I’m convinced has never actually looked young. And the reason I want to talk about this film is that it represents the real treatment of Dungeons and Dragons, which was around for me both in person, and in the media, that I had grown used too.
This is an article nominally about my trip to Stockport to attend Corehammer Fest 2016 in October. If you can’t be bothered reading the whole thing, it was a great time and you should go to the next one if you can. If you can be bothered slogging through my ramblings, hopefully you come to the same conclusion.
“Come to the fucking North”
This was the response I got when I floated the idea that I’d be over to London in early 2015. Not exactly the warm welcome I was hoping. You see, for Americans, the UK wargaming scene is often seen as a sort pilgrimage to be made. The motherland where the hobby in a modern sense was launched, where the biggest and most influential companies are based, and where every field and lane probably has dead soldiers from some medieval armor wearing era buried beneath. But on this trip in 2015, I saw none of that. I did manage to meet up with one very special Stevie Boxall, who took a couple Californians to a British Mexican restaurant and a walking tour of brutalist London architecture, cheers. But that was the start, when I returned for work almost a year later I finally made it out of London and to the wonders of GW and Wargames Foundry (covered in a previous DungeonPunx Podcast, you should listen, but probably won’t) and was shown an incredibly warm welcome by a bunch of good dudes. That experience planted a brain worm that burrowed deep, and ensured I’d be coming back again, and would make gaming a priority when I did. So, when the dates came out for the October 2016 event, I said fuck it and plotted a way to make it happen.
What did I get myself into?
Like a lot of people, I raced through Stranger Things on Netflix in a weekend and absolutely loved the freaking thing. Story, tone, setting, details and music all combined into a perfect warm broth of nostalgia and entertainment. I just wrapped myself up in it like a comfy blanket and enjoyed my time in that perfectly imagined world. Don’t worry, I’m not going to discuss any actual spoilers, but I will say there is some Dungeons & Dragons being played, and it’s handled pretty damn excellently. This made me ruminate again on a topic that crosses my mind every so often. How does the media, and specifically film and television, portray Dungeons & Dragons and roleplaying games in general? Are they laughing at it, honoring it, terrified of it or just ambivalent towards it? How has this portrayal changed over time? What trends does it speak to? And how does the treatment of roleplaying in these works of creativity and art reflect on the creators and the audience they’re speaking too? To answer these questions, and bore you kind folks to tears, I’m going to be taking a look at all the D&D in media I can, and waffling on about it because that is what the internet is for (well, besides porn, porn and cat videos).
Last article I introduced the game Saga: Viking Age to readers. What I left out of my ridiculous and meandering prose was discussion of how to get your grubby hands on one of the most important aspects of any miniatures game, the figures. See, historical games are a little different than the current incarnations of Warhammer, Malifaux, WarhmaHordes etc… in that there are often times a plethora of miniature companies that make compatible figures, and there is no IP infringement or cease and desist letters on history. It isn’t always as easy as just purchasing the exact thing they show in the book, but with this added effort comes incredible choice on how you want to spend your hard earned stacks of cash.
If you’ve been primarily coddled by the sweet retail presence of Games Workshop or Privateer press, you might find sourcing figures for Saga a different (and sometimes challenging) experience. The purpose of this article therefore is to quickly discuss a whole host of manufacturers, what Saga relevant figures they’ll have and some thoughts on their quality. Its a primer, a showcase of this particular period and some of the best (and worst) the internet will throw up on you. This is not meant to be a totally exhaustive list, but as close as I could come to with the knowledge I have. About 95% of these manufacturers I own miniatures from, sometimes from the ranges I’m picturing, so while this is my highly subjective opinion, it at least has some false grounding in experience. Finally, I’ll throw in some good pop culture inspiration to get your mind working and ready to jump on board the fad train as it once again leaves the station. First however, I’d like to discuss a couple realities for those new to the historical miniatures scene.
The first time they raised her she said, ‘Behold, I see my father and mother.’
The second time she said, ‘I see all my dead relatives seated.’
The third time she said, ‘I see my master seated in Paradise and Paradise is beautiful and green; with him are men and boy servants. He calls me. Take me to him.’
That’s right folks, we’re going to do an introductory article for a 5 year old historical miniature game. Here at Corehammer, we like to be only the most current and cutting edge with our content. Stay tuned for our Warhammer “The End Times” thoughts and possibly some rumors on a shadowy new edition of the game with talk of controversial round bases. Maybe a quick review of the first Avengers movie and bitching about Tom Hardy’s Bane while I’m at it. Also, did you know women can vote now? Topical. So why am I actually spending time introducing Saga? It started with a simple WhatsApp message from the frozen Nordic lands, “Did I hear you played Saga?” I gave some quick thoughts, praise and warnings back and went on about my day. But something about that little conversation stuck with me. I started thinking about the game again, how more people should be playing it, how it is such an interesting introduction to the historical miniature hobby, and how dammit, I want to be playing again. Some weeks pass and the fad light has been switched on (not by me) and my friends group were all looking to dive in for some sweet, sweet, Saga gaming. I quickly realized there is still a lot of information out there that is either missing, or hard to find, and is relevant for someone looking to get into the game. This means that even though the game was released a little while back, and was reasonably popular for a niche wargame, there is enough of a gap out there that makes it worth my frankly pretty worthless time to write up an intro. This first article will focus on the original Viking Age flavor of the game, a part 2 with shopping and figure recommendations and a follow up to cover those Mediterranean romps in the sun from Crescent and Cross. This ultimately will be my utterly cack-handed attempt at opening the vault and sharing my nonsense ramblings on what really is a superb little game.
I’ve grown up surrounded by gaming dreamers. My school friends talked about making their own RPG for the entirety of our younger teenage years. Another group of friends attempted to make their own Warhammer 40k Codex and wanted to send it to GW because “maybe they’ll publish it.” After a number of contentious arguments and broken dreams that project flamed out with barely a page written. A totally different friend couldn’t read a gaming book without wanting to chop it, change it, or add comic book characters to it. When I had found a massive box of micro machines in my late teenage years, I filled up half a notebook making a weird racing/destruction derby game that would have been an absolute ball ache to ever play. This is but a shallow dip into the pool of stories I could tell, but what is most important, is to understand my entire gaming life has been filled with stories about new video game ideas, RPG’s, miniature rules etc… There is always someone at the game store, on the internet forum, hanging around the club or part of your friends group that has some idea “in the works.” What almost all of these have in common is that they never actually finish anything. This is the nature of things, what we’re passionate about one week might fade as the months go by, the hard work and real life issues pile up, or you just figure out that the great idea you thought you had, was actually pretty shit. Look, finishing stuff is hard. Juggling life priorities, especially as an adult is some damn tricky business. My jaded self has tended to just summarily dismiss works in process I casually hear about. I honestly just nod politely and mentally file them in the “never going to actually happen” section of my brain.
So when I first heard from friend of Corehammer Chris a while back that he was making his own skirmish miniature game, I have to admit, I was skeptical. So I need to quickly interrupt this post with an apology, time to stand up and say how fucking wrong I was, Wild in the Streets is not only here, but pretty damn fun as well. While I waffle on about games, Chris actually went out and made one. He’s taken that magical leap out of the soupy swamp of “dreamers” into that rarified air of “doers” and for that he deserves a firm handshake and some excellent San Diego Mexican food. Well done sir.
So what is Wild in the Streets? It’s a fast paced miniature skirmish game where gangs of youth subcultures clash in quick and brutal street fights. What does that mean? You get to take a gang of goths and go have beef with those crust punk dickheads that are illegally drinking outside the club. Or maybe your working class skinhead gang has just been jumped by the devilish murder cult girls and need to use all your skills to not end up crushed under their high heels and hate. You can even throw all of the gangs on the board and have an all-encompassing melee punctuated by windmills, circle pits and goth dance offs. Wild in the Streets uses small gangs, a card driven initiative and event system and minimal setup and record keeping to throw you straight into the action. What this means is each individual figure (or group of figures) has a card that activates it. These are shuffled together and drawn, so you’re never quite sure who is going next and what kind of beating is getting laid down. Special cards, which is where a lot of the flavor of the game comes in, are also pulled out of this deck so can influence the game a little randomly. This creates an unpredictable and light game that moves quickly. This will never be a serious tourney game, or something you spend hours planning lists for, but there are enough of those games out there already. Seriously, if you don’t want to play a game where some crust punk lady is about to smash your face, but a free beer card comes up and stops her death blow as she chugs away…then you can probably fuck right off. The game is quick, can be hilarious and makes for great multiplayer.
One of the most interesting things about this Wild in the Streets to me is how much I heard about it before ever playing it. Folks I knew would wander up in all kinds of settings and tell me how they’d gotten a chance to playtest it. Now hearing a bunch of nerd excited by new games is nothing all that original, we’re all about jumping into a new system as soon as the fad claxon goes off. What intrigued me about Wild in the Streets was the amount of usually “non-gamers” recommending it from our friends group. These weren’t the folks I normally geeked out about Warhammer with, these were civilians, and they fucking loved this game. It is easy to see why, when I finally got a chance to play it I found the game to be entertaining, relatable and quick to dive into. These things combine so that it makes it a great time for people who would be bored to tears with an average game of 40k. Trying to talk someone only vaguely interested in gaming into 4 – 6 hour multiplayer game where most of your shit got blown up turn one and you’re just hoping you get to do something cool while everyone else argues over inches and cocked dice can be rough. Grabbing a few friends, learning a page of rules and fucking up those sXe kids with your crust punks, easy sell.
Look, regardless of how jaded I pretend to be, I have a pretty childlike and innocent view of how things are created. I still at some fundamental level think that someone, somewhere was so passionate about a product or thing, that they just sacrificed and created it themselves. I pretend that things started with that bootstrapped/DIY ideal and then just grew through hard work and smart choices. Now I’ve had the veil lifted a few times and understand most entrepreneurs are not necessarily passionate creators of that one thing, but instead, are passionate creators of companies. I now know that not every cool bicycle company started with some weird guy in his garage welding frames. That not every game bursts out of a designers unfettered imagination, but can be instead a carefully wrought piece of sales and marketing built to fit into an open niche or follow a market trend. What excites me about Wild in the Streets is that it fits that true DIY design ethic. It was built as a labor of love, and with a strong player first mentality.
In the end, Wild in the Streets is a quick play, easy to learn, skirmish game. It’s great for a group of friends to kill a couple hours and just have a damn good time around the table together. The game, at its core, allows for the creation of unique gaming moments, something different and possibly more entertaining than a bunch of Orks or “Space Fascists” smashing each other. And in the end, having those moments around the common campfire of the gaming table is what this hobby is all about.
Available on Kickstarter Now! Get into it
Check Owain’s interview here!
A short while ago I wrote an article (here) about DIY gaming and how making your scenarios, armies, rules or entire games is a magnificent use of your time and creativity. The indie RPG and tabletop scenes are absolutely flourishing right now so I wanted to take a moment to highlight a particularly interesting game that has just launched its Kickstarter.
Relicblade, a tactical fantasy adventure game created by Sean Sutter. I had a chance to conduct a meandering interview with Sean where he discusses everything from his gaming history, the benefits of sculpting digitally and the importance of incredibly dangerous battlefield conditions, but first a quick review of the game itself. Continue reading
“Comics are just words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures.” – Harvey Pekar
Because I’m an adult, and so is the rest of my D&D group, and that apparently means doing adult things, and having stupid adult responsibility, my D&D game only actually ends up playing about once per month. We all probably want to play more, and individually could make it happen, but as a group, it just works out that way. This leaves me with a lot of time during each month where I wish I was slaying things with sword and dagger, but I’m disappointingly not. That sorry mental state of D&D withdrawal has led me for a search of other items that can hit that certain ‘Swords and Sorcery’ sweet spot. I’m chasing that short term nerd high that will get me through to my next dice rolling, quick thinking, smooth talking and treasure plundering adventure. While I’m pretty up to speed on the state of the fantasy genre as it relates to videogames (excellent), books (saturated), film (mixed bag) and television (mostly shit), I had no idea what was going on with comics. Now I love the medium, comics are pretty damn amazing, but I had sort of fallen out of the comic scene a while back as it is somewhat exhausting to keep up with. As I thought about it though, the fantasy genre is perfect for comics. With sequential art you can create whatever the fuck you want, and then all you have to do is go out and draw it. There isn’t a special effects budget to restrict your imagination, creators can just make whatever stokes the fires of their imagination. Fantasy and comics should be a beautiful match and I was sure if I just poked around a little there would be hordes of graphic novels that could satisfy my D&D cravings. Continue reading
Warhammer 40k is the most popular wargame on the planet, full stop. It is a sprawling franchise that encompasses novels, video games, a theatrically released film, RPG’s, board games and miniature games (that happen to dominate its industry). The grimdark future world created by the Games Workshop design team decades ago still captures the imagination of gamers across the world and drives sales of a massive product line and supporting hobby supplies. This doesn’t surprise me; the world of 40k (and 30k) is pretty fucking cool. Even as I’ve aged out of their core demographic, Games Workshops dark vision of space has a lot that can draw me back in. Powerful imagery, insane power struggles and every aspect of military cultures turned up to 11. Massive hive cities where 100’s of millions of inhabitants live on top of each other in Dickensian despair, in their midst hide alien conspiracies and brutal gang warfare. Powerful manifestations of chaotic gods pour forth from a rip in space and time so massive its swallowed whole planetary systems.A devout order of space fascists, sitting in a fortified monastery on a surviving chunk of their destroyed planet, secretly hunting traitors from their own order. This world is batshit crazy and insane in some of the best possible ways. It’s a Tolkien fantasy world ripped to pieces, thrown into deep space andstitched back together with a punk rock ethos, space opera drama and a heaping helping of gothic trappings. Warhammer 40k is without question the showpiece game of the hobby (for better or for worse). It is the most popular, best selling, widely known and most visible game of the entire wargaming world. Sadly, it’s a game that is still lacking in female representation, and that’s some shameful shit. It’s a world that quite frankly deserves female Space Marines.
“The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.”
This time of year breeds resolutions like a fetid swamp spawns plague carrying mosquitoes. Gyms, health food stores and libraries get packed as legions strive for self-improvement after the decadent and sometimes soul crushing holidays. A newer better version of your life is tantalizingly close if you just change these small things, form new habits and check boxes off a list. Easy as can be right? Eat less, exercise more, be kinder, care less about work and more about friends, value experiences over things. Now resolutions rarely work, and often if you look back at previous resolutions you could just carry them forward year after year and nothing changes. Honestly, when you catalog what you don’t like about yourself, these are usually those things that don’t change, so you find some outward trait to attach meaning too. A month of pushing off hard in all directions, trying to do everything at once as part of the new you, crashes out, and by March you’re cheating yourself and by June you’ve forgotten all about it. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try though. This hard look in the mirror at the lazy bastard staring back at you is important, and can be quite positive, you just have to do it more than once a year. So this is the 1st of what I hope to be a monthly update where you have visibility into, and hold me accountable, to my gaming goals. Instead of just talking shit about all the things you should or could be doing, I’ll have to actually step up and produce. God help you. Continue reading