This blog is about the world of gaming miniatures, as seen from my perspective. I've been collecting and painting for over 30 years now, and while my primary focus is miniatures for D&D, I also enjoy many other games that use minis, so we'll be covering those as well. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Asheron's Call - A Look Back

It was just after Thanksgiving in 1999 when I took the plunge into MMORPGs via Asheron's Call, better known as AC. I ended up playing AC for six years before walking away from it. I've always thought it was a great game and look back fondly upon my time spent roaming around Dereth. Even though it was not as popular as EQ and UO, I thought it was the best of the bunch. Why?

1) NO ZONING! I tried EQ, and was instantly annoyed by the constant need to zone. Bor-ing. In AC, I could run from one end of Dereth to the other without zoning once. And that included entering towns. Adventuring outdoors in the wide-open spaces was a lot of fun for me over the years.

2) Monthly Updates! Well, it probably wasn't always monthly, but pretty darn close. It was always a treat to see what new content was added - dungeons, items, game tweaks, etc. It was these updates that brought "nerf" into my gaming lexicon. The moans and groans from various players over nerfs both real and perceived made for some great forum reading and debating.

3) Player-Crafted Items! To be fair, I can't tell you if EQ had anything like this in the game or not, but I seem to recall early on it wasn't available. In AC, players could do a lot, ranging from the mundane (adding dye to color clothes and armor) to the functional (crafting armor & weapons). I was even inspired to do a Covenant Armor write-up that is still live over on AC Vault.

My oldest and most favorite character was my Sho swordsman by the name of Sun Khat-Zan on the Leafcull server. Since I usually played late at night (Pacific time) I spent the bulk of my time solo. That might explain why it took me almost the entire six years of my AC career to reach level 126 on Sun. Shortly after that, I hung up my sword and walked away, never to return.

Despite my affinity for solo play, I met some great people in-game: Mahret, Wolfenstein, Grimbold, Suede Mage, and a host of other characters and players I am forgetting at the moment. Lots of fun in chat, the back and forth banter, and people helping each other out so everyone had fun.

The folks I never understood were the hard-core Red Dots, or PKers. They seemed to think that simply because they were PKers, they were better than everyone else. PKing can be fun, because no AI can replace the cunning and unpredictable human mind. I get that. I don't mean to disparage all Red Dots, because there were a few who were cool - guys who could kick ass in PK, didn't talk stupid amounts of smack, and didn't think they were better than Carebears. The rest? Good riddance.

So yeah, AC was a lot of fun. If I didn't move on to EQII with my D&D cronies, I'm reasonably sure I would have kept on ACing. I'm glad the game is still alive and kicking, and read that the August event was the 100th content update in the game - so a big grats to the devs for reaching that milestone.

I need to poke around and see if I can round up any additional screencaps. In the one above, Sun is sporting one of the first fad combos - the Mattekar hide coat and Olthoi helm (it's very purpley!). In that shot, Sun is somewhere in his early to mid 30's level-wise. The good old days, indeed.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Captain, there be DragonTooth giants!

How many of you recall reading Dragon magazine back in the day and some ad caught your fancy? For me, it was always the ones from DragonTooth miniatures. They typically featured a striking model, such as a dragon, giant, or griffin. There was just something very cool about these models - the sculpts just popped with personality.

Back in the late 70s and early 80s, young men without paper routes did not have a lot of disposable income to throw around at whatever minis they might have lusted after at the moment. Allowance usually lasted long enough to make the trek down the hill to the variety store or 7-Eleven, to be spent on 1/72nd scale models, Topps baseball cards, or health food such as candy bars, Slurpees, or Hostess baked goods. So all that cool D&D gear, ranging from modules to minis, was passed by, relegated to the "one day when I have lots of money I'll buy that (fill in the blank)." Heh...

Yesterday, a couple of my childhood desires finally arrived in my mailbox:

DragonTooth GI-5 Horned Hill Giant

Now this big fella means business! He's a thick, beefy bruiser, and those horns on his head just add to the overall mean, nasty look of this mini. His face is expressive as all get-up, and whatever loot he's dragging along in that sack was no doubt gained at the end of his massive club.

Dragontooth GI-6 Big Meg and her stewpot

OMG, Meg is so freaking ugly and I love her! Lumpy, bumpy, and bug-eyed, Meg has it all. She is using her giant ladle as a truncheon, no doubt trying to add another victim to her stewpot. The only piece missing is the stewpot handle, but I should be able to fashion one out of wire or greenstuff, no problem.

Now the part that makes me really giggle is the price. The DragonTooth giants were part of a 13 giant lot that cost me (drum roll, please) $39.00 - $29 for the lead and $10 for shipping. Hey, that's a whopping $3 per giant! When you take into consideration that a GI5 recently sold for $32.31 and a GI6 sold for $56.00, I like to think I did OK on this acquisition in a Gordon Gekko greed-is-good sort of way.

Also included in the aforementioned lot are 5 Ral Partha giants, 5 Grenadier giants, and 1 Citadel giant (FF12). I finally added the RP 01-108 Titan to my collection, complete with original shield and longspear. That one usually runs $20+ so I'm happy about that as well. And all five of the Grenadier giants are keepers, because I have yet to pick up any of the Giant's Club models until now. The Stone Giant (3502), Frost Giants (3503), Forest Giant (3504), and Two-Headed Giant (3509) make welcome additions to my legions of giants. I already own 4 of the RP giants and the Citadel Mountain Giant, so they will be resold in upcoming eBay auctions, and the rest are for my personal collection. I hate to sound like I'm gloating, but HOT DAMN that was a score!

To bring me back down to earth, I didn't win a book I was bidding on - a copy of Ed Konstant's The Book of Fantasy Miniatures. It's a vintage reference work I've been trying to add to my library for some time now.

Well, you win some, you lose some, no? I may have lost the book, but I gained a pair of Tom Loback's miniature masterpieces.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanks for the memories, Dave.

Dave Niehaus, the voice of the Seattle Mariners, passed away on Wednesday. I used to listen to Dave call Mariners games on my trusty old AM radio in the late 70's and early 80's. He was one of the great ones, for sure, and he will be missed.

Back in the day, before ESPN and internet sports coverage, guys like Dave were your connection to the game. I can still hear his voice in my head, calling another meaningless game when the Mariners were a young expansion team. Pitches were "lowwwwwwwwwwwwwww and away" and most of the players had nicknames. Glenn Abbott pitching to Bob Stinson was "The Tall Arkansan" throwing to "Scrapiron." Play this clip of him calling Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS, but close your eyes and just listen. Magic!

One day, hopefully before I die, the M's will win the World Series and the headlines will read "My, oh my!" Baseball has lost a broadcasting icon.

Thanks, Dave.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Zombies ate my Tiger!

I stopped by American Eagles today in search of some blue spray paint that is reasonably close to Ultramarine Blue so my son can finally paint his Whirlwind. I settled on a small can of Tamiya Brilliant Blue (TS-44) and some Testors Dullcote to kill the glossy finish.

But even before I arrived at the shop, I knew I was going to make a purchase for myself. I think it must be the Flames of War talk over on Dave Taylor Miniatures that got me going, and I knew I needed some 1/72 armor to satisfy my craving. I was hoping to get a Pzkfw III or IV and possibly a T-34, but the Mk.III and IV kits were around $20 and the only Russian armor was a KV-I, also around $20. I finally settled on a Fujimi 1/76 Tiger I, and since it is a late war variant, I will prepare it for service on the Eastern front.

So while I was working on Mr. Tiger, I was also putting together some GW zombies for my son. And I gotta say, I like these models! The first one has a bunch of exposed guts, and is using a leg for a club - heh. The next one is armed with a polearm. They both have neat heads - very expressive - and I wish I was going to be painting them instead of my boy! Since all the parts are mix and match, it's not hard to give each one a bit of personality. Legs for weapons, heads lolling to the side, guts for all to see - if you are into the slightly campy zombie look and need some zombies for your game (any game), I'd look into this set (GW Vampire Counts Zombie Regiment).

And just because I'm a lead whore, I picked up two packs of RP 35mm metal bases (99-114) that were 50% off. Seems the folks at Eagles are in the midst of a long-overdue inventory, and there was a bunch of lead marked down by half. I should be able to use these for ogres/trolls/demons, etc. and at the bargain price of 8 for $4.50, what the hell.

I'll get some WIP pics posted soon.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Crystal Brush 2011

Wow...$10,000 for painting a miniature! Now this is going to be interesting, especially when you take this rule into consideration:

"a) Judging will be by panel selected by CoolMiniOrNot and Adepticon, which shall account for 50% of the score. 50% of the score shall be determined by popular vote on between April 1st and April 3rd."

I wonder how the painters feel about that. I guess if you have a lot of fans, you like it. But will it just degenerate into a high school popularity contest? Full rules can be seen here.

Someone is going to walk away with $10K for PAINTING A cool is that?

Supporting My FLGS

Saturday was my oldest son's 8th birthday, so he and I paid a visit to our FLGS, otherwise known as Ernie's Games. My boy was flush with some gift certificates and cash, and it was more or less burning a hole in his pocket.

Mr. Frodo (his nickname, natch) decided he was lacking undead, so in the spirit of the season, he picked up some skeletons AND some zombies, as well as the Angel of Death. He was also looking for a dragon, but Reaper's Lavarath was $50, so he's holding out for something a bit less pricey.

I can only imagine what it's like to be 8 and making a trip a shrine like Ernie's. Walls of miniatures, display cases with painted armies, tables with terrain, minis being painted, and of course all the books and games, too. I should mention at this point that Mr. Frodo also picked up a can of Silly String, and ran around with his older sister decorating our backyard.

It took me back to when I was a lad of 12 or so, and a magical place called USS Enterprise, my first FLGS that used to inhabit the upper mall of Totem Lake Mall. The monochrome modules, AD&D hardbacks, and good old-fashioned LEAD miniatures. There was even a room in back where diehard gamers could huddle around a table and play! Turns out some of my future friends gamed in the back of Enterprise. Now they just keep me around because I'm the only sucker who paints minis for the group ;) Later, I would discover other haunts such as American Eagles (back when they were on Greenwood) and Triple Alliance in downtown Bellevue.

But back to Ernie's and the present. It's gotta be hard to own a brick-and-mortar store these days. Case in point: the Reaper Lavarath dragon miniature. Ernie's price is $50 + tax. Direct from Reaper, the price is $44.49 and you get free shipping. And over on eBay, the lowest price today was $28.92 + 3.49 for shipping. Since I am a frugal bastard by nature, I would opt for the $33 mini off of eBay. So on big-ticket items, it's hard to compete. Now when I need a mini or a couple of paints in a hurry, it's huge to be able to drive a couple of minutes into town, grab what I need, and head back to the workbench. Same goes for my kids, when they want to spend birthday money - it's more fun to go somewhere and browse the shelves and walk away with a purchase in your bag than point and click and wait for the postal carrier to show up next week.

I hope that my little bit of business helps keep Ernie's around, you know? Because I want my kids to have fond memories of toy & game nirvana, just like their old man.