Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This is the end... Games Workshop, Warhammer Fantasy, Warhammer 40K

Much has been stated, written, shouted, and screamed about Games Workshop and their business practices. Whether you like them or not they are the premiere company that produces lavish miniatures and gaming rules covering many genres and scales. The prevailing attitude is you either deal with them or you don’t. Love  them or leave them.  

Well, I am no longer dealing. Others of course are free to do as they will and more power to them and that’s the great aspect of this hobby is that there’s room for everyone to do their own thing.

Or not to. And that’s why I’m bidding GW farewell. Rather than launch into a prattling diatribe, here are my reasons written as succinctly as possible:

Price Increases. With the recent across the board price increases and subsequent release of Warhammer 40K sixth edition, it was seemingly felt by a great many gamers that a line had been crossed by Games Workshop this time.  Prices were already getting out of hand. I mean who would really pay $49.50 for this:

Obnoxious sales associates at GW stores. If you have ever stepped into one of their retail stores, the experience is literally like you are buying a car circa 1954. Sales associates will swarm all over you and WILL NOT LEAVE YOU ALONE even after repeated statements that you wish to browse or just be left alone. If I wanted attention like that I would slather myself in chum and dive into Amity waters with Matt Hooper.

Unbalanced gameplay. This one is completely subjective but since this is my space I can say whatever the hell I want. Having played the various incarnations over the years, I think Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40k is designed to be unbalanced. It is also my belief that this was done on purpose to promote more product buying. If one side gets a more powerful unit then just simply go out and purchase more units to counter. Or wait until your side gets a newly produced unit that can match that other one. Regardless, its buy buy buy. Well now its bye bye bye for me. Also, is it me or does it seem that these games are simply line up your forces on opposite sides of the board and rush to the center as quickly as possible and then slug it out? Stonewall Jackson would be appalled. Or even McClellan.

Finecast. This was truly the breaking point for me. After purchasing a Finecast model, there were several flaws in it. Okay, that happens. I exchanged it and got another one. And guess what? More flaws – worse than the first model. After another exchange I finally inquired what the story was with this new and improved miniature manufacturing process. I was told by an associate that GW is fully aware of the issues and has no plans to fix them but encourages exchanges. Huh? What about my time and gas money being wasted?  If that’s an actual business practice then whoever dreamed that up probably thought New Coke was a grand idea.

So this is goodbye to GW. That is not to say that I won’t play games made by other companies using their intellectual properties. Fantasy Flight Games does a great job with the Warhammer Fantasy license with their fine card game Warhammer Invasion.  Check it out sometime. And feel secure in the knowledge that you can play Warhammer Invasion with just the core set – you never have to buy anything else if you don’t want to and the game plays fine.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

And now for something completely different...

For all the things that Mrs. Crabby puts up with, it was time for a night out of gaming fun, Mrs. Crabby Style. Where did we end up? The Wandering Dragon? Games Plus? The smelly Gaming Goat?

No.  Instead:

Hey, it's still gaming and we broke even!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Arkham Horror: Never let a Magician do man's job!

A few nights ago One Angry Gamer and I got together at The Wandering Dragon Game Store in Plainfield IL http://wanderingdragon.com/ to play some Arkham Horror by Fantasy Flight Games.

For those unfamiliar with the game or the source material, Arkham Horror is a board game based on the works of pulp writer H.P. Lovecraft http://www.hplovecraft.com/. It is a cooperative game that pits the players against the old gods and their minions trying to invade earth by coming through dimensional gates. The players must stop this by closing the gates quickly or Arkham will be overrun and there will be no stopping them. Since it is horror based, sanity and losing your marbles is an important facet of the game as it was in Lovecraft writings. For more information on this great game, check out Boardgame Geek: http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/15987/arkham-horror.

Now then, for our game.

Here’s the picturesque (???), sleepy (???) town of Arkham. Kinda like Mayberry if Clive Barker was the city planner.

Angry wanted to be the Dexter Drake the Magician (because that character  is of course “badass”).

I chose the Indy rip off character Monterey Jack.

Here was the game’s big boss that we randomly chose: 

If we didn’t close and seal six gates before Arkham was overrun with monsters we would have to confront this Old One in hand to hand combat (NOT A GOOD IDEA).

Immediately Angry’s Magician Dexter was faced with a nearby gate but it had a pretty tough monster guarding it. Since you have to either kill the monster or sneak past it there was some debate as to whether or not he should attempt this or not. Still, the game calls for quick action or else so off he went.

With predictable results:

Meanwhile, Indy, err Monterey actually accomplished something and closed a gate.

See Dexter next to him on the left? He’s in Arkham Asylum getting psychiatric help. He did that even before the game.

And sadly, things went downhill rather rapidly. One bad event caused a huge influx of monsters that our hapless heroes were unable to kill thus triggering the fight with Nylar. And since the game had just started we did not have near enough gear to stand a chance.

Thus the world was overrun. Monterey decided to join the cult of Cthulhu (“Throw me the Kool-Aid and I'll throw you the idol!”) while our Magician friend started a profitable mail order business selling...

Although the game was short we had a hoot playing it. The mechanics are easy to pickup and game flow is smooth and suspenseful. It's pretty hard to win with just two players but considering the subject matter that just lends to the fun.

Footnote: The Wandering Dragon is an excellent game store. The owner is a nice guy who understands what gamers want and don’t want in a game store. Great selection of games too! Truly a gem establishment! Worth the drive just to see it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

How it all started with Miniature Wargaming or this is how the slide to nerdom began.

My love affair with miniature wargaming began as a five year old. Yes, I was one of those kids who innocently bought multiple sets of these:

instead of these:

and these:

Now, it would be a few years before I would discover SPI and Avalon Hill wargames, so play with these plastic soldiers mainly consisted of setting them on a table and imagining war type things occurring. That is until my older sister, who never knew H.G. Wells wrote the first miniatures wargame rules, presented me with the following simple rules:

Each side takes 100 men and set up on your side of the table.

Each side takes 20 pennies

Each side can move three inches on their turn.

Every turn each side drops one penny at a time from above the table. Any figure knocked over is considered a casualty. For every five casualties one figure is killed and not allowed to set up behind the farthest back alive figure after your bombing is over.

Winner is the side with fewest casualties.

That was it. Simple and perfect rules for kids under ten like us. Sometimes we would increase the casualty count for longer games. Other times shorten it. We played this was for a couple of years until my sister reached a more mature age when playing with your younger crabby brother was like drinking Drano.

Regardless, it was how it all began and to this day, over forty years later, continues unabated.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

In an effort to actually play more board games rather than simply ogle at them on the shelves, I have been making the long trek to my good pal One Angry Gamer's neck of the woods in the Joliet/Plainfield Il area. There are two good gaming stores there offering a decent  variety of games for sale as well as dedicated gaming space. Further, customer service is friendly and knowledgeable although a bit talky in the Games Workshop way where you know you are being chatted up in an effort to purchase something. Regardless, a good gaming store is like gold these days if you want to do something more than just play with yourself (we are nerds after all).

Therefore, I wanted to try and locate a store closer to the Crab Shack. You know, a quick car trip rather than an hour's drive. Twenty minutes driving time  or less was the goal and Angry (the king of all Social Media and Google-Fu) sent me a link for the Gaming Goat stores in Elgin and Schaumburg. IL:http://thegaminggoat.com.

I asked Mrs. Crabby to accompany me. Normally I try to shield her from all things geeky since she willingly married me and truly doesn't need any more exposure to nerdom. However, I thought that another opinion might be a good idea since often times I let my inherent grumpiness cloud my thinking and judgement

Thus we first visited their Schaumburg location as it was a bit closer and would be on the way home from work. Upon entering the strip mall storefront, there was a wall of games, many banquet tables, and the usual glass cases filled with collectible gaming cards singles and boxes. A small group of typical gamers were hunched over a table eating and playing something. One of them acknowledged us and provided the obligatory spiel. I stated we were just looking and as it was Mrs. Crabby's first time in such a store she wanted to poke about and get her footing.

I could not find what I was looking for but she picked out a fun looking card game called Gloom (that's why I love her).  When we tried to check out we were ignored as the customer service person had his back to us while he was eating and his confederates who could see us standing by the register didn't deem it worthwhile to alert him. Eventually they figured it out and once he was ringing us up I inquired about the things I was looking for. Sadly, it was obvious he had no idea what I was talking about although these were really common items (FFG sleeves and Warhammer: Invasion expansions). After some explanation on my part he did state their Elgin location would probably have these.

Upon exiting the location, I asked my wife what she thought of the place.  Her one telling comment was, "The place smelled like urine."

Okay, on to the Elgin location.

Presumably traumatized, Mrs. Crabby decided to stay in the car and not brave a second exposure. The good news was this location's interior was visually more pleasant and the storefront made better use of space. Multiple walls in the front of the store shelved a better selection of games and card games including the expansion I was looking for. Unfortunately, the customer service person was not particularly any more knowledgeable than his fellow as he had no idea FFG offered card sleeves and kept trying to sell me more expensive Magic the Gathering sleeves instead. But at least this guy wasn't eating and did mention they would match Amazon.com on board game pricing (note to self: this is good). Moreover, there were actually people other than the owner's friends playing games in the dedicated gaming area and the joint had no untoward odors.

So, of the two locations, I will obviously visit the Elgin one again. They offer a Tuesday night Meetup group for board gamers so that will be my next exposure. I just hope their employee training improves because if you really want to sell something knowledge beats inane chatting up every time.