Oscar Night Scifi Superfest 2019

Another year, another Oscar night with no Oscars. For me, anyway. M once again trudged through the snow to an Oscar party at her friend’s place across the street, and I settled in to watch some unfamiliar science fiction. This is my seventh year doing this, but only the second year of inviting people to join me. Despite some miserable road conditions and a lot of wind – blown snow, I had a pretty good turnout. Only a few people got stuck at home and couldn’t make the drive (which meant we were a little less crammed, haha, so silver lining I guess). First up?

Slipstream [1989]

There’s been an earthquake convergence! And a mixing of civilizations! And there’s a globe spanning wind so amazing that everybody uses planes to get around (and occasionally to hit people)!

This was about 30% of the shots in the movie…

This one was a lot of fun, if a little loose plotwise. Not that it lacked one, but it seemed to change direction a few times. Bad guys became good guys and criminals became innocents and antihero types became more anti than hero. I expect much of this was intentional, and in a more polished film it might have worked, but the characters in this one felt more like cookie cutters that wouldn’t keep their shape than fully realized individuals that couldn’t be so simply described. Six of one, I suppose.

Bill Paxton surprised us by being a protagonist..

Ben Kingsley was in this one, too, but his five minutes were almost up before we even recognized him, haha.

I feel like Slipstream reached a little beyond its grasp. What felt like inconsistent characterization was probably supposed to be complexity and growth. I liked that it tried to drop us into a world and then show rather than tell, but it felt more incomplete than expansive.

Mark Hamill had a much smaller role than we anticipated. Slipstream seems to be one of those movies where they sell it on the presence of a well known actor in a lesser role, without really making it clear that’s the case. I forgot Paxton was even in it, despite him getting first billing on the DVD case. Added an element of surprise, haha.

Grr.

All that said, we liked it. It could have used a lot of improvement, but I don’t want to give the impression it was a tire fire. It probably tried to do a bit more than it really had the chops for, but overall it was a win. Which brings us to…

The Andromeda Strain [1971]

In terms of quality, this was the big winner of the evening. A fallen satellite/probe has brought something home with it, and that something isn’t good for people.

A whole town is dead, along with everybody that’s tried to enter since the satellite crashed. An elite team of scientists is brought together, and they attempt to identify and nullify the threat using… science. This is literally a few people in a bunker running tests for the better part of its two-hour-plus runtime, and it is absolutely intense.

Every answer brings further questions, and immense preparation proves insufficient as the team races to determine what exactly the potential epidemic is, and how to prevent it from destroying humanity.

The characters are well developed and each bring their own beliefs and scientific prejudices into this overwhelming situation. I can see why The Andromeda Strain is still considered by some to be the benchmark for epidemic/outbreak films; it really does everything right.

Who designed this DVD case? Have they even seen this movie?

In addition to the town full of dead people, there are a few animal tests undertaken as they investigate the pathogen that are a little horrific; the movie bears a PG rating but those situations could with the heavy realism make that seem a little light to me. Plus, I think you’d want to be a little older to really appreciate it, anyway.

The crowd thinned a little after this one, as we were already rolling into the wee hours of Monday morning, but a few of us stuck it out for our final flick…

TimeRider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann [1982]

TimeRider was a nice light romp of a movie, following a motocross biker with mad skillz and no navigational talents that gets lost and drives through a secret time travel experiment. Oops! Poor Lyle winds up a hundred or so years in the past with no idea what’s going on. But, seriously, no idea. Everything’s filthy, he keeps getting shot at, and nobody understands half of what he’s saying, but he mostly just seems to think he’s lost and things are weird. At one point somebody specifically namedrops the very recent Civil War, and he just responds that what they’re saying doesn’t make any sense.

This one definitely benefits from a healthy suspension of disbelief, but we had at least some idea of that going in. Not all the details, but we at least knew we were going to watch a motocross racer go back in time for some reason, so we were more or less in an appropriate frame of mind. Peasants are terrified of him, a local girl takes a shine to him, and of course the outlaws he runs into decide they need to have his ‘machine’ for their very own.

Some US Marshals turn up hunting said outlaws, and Lyle teams up with them in an effort to save the girl and his motorcycle. Classic stuff. We get a number of shootouts, some clumsy romancing, and a subplot back in our own time involving the scientists trying to find a way to undo their mistake. TimeRider didn’t feel like it was trying to do anything too fancy (it is what it is, if you will), but it promised me some goofy time travel shenanigans and it delivered.

I wish the Adventure of Lyle Swann had felt a little more adventurous, but overall we all had fun with it, and that’s really all we were asking for.

And that’s the 2019 Oscar Night Scifi Superfest! Time to start planning for next year.

Gaslands – Death Race

A couple fresh new players this week, and Brad brought his terrain along, so it was a nice big chaotic learning game.

Racers on the line and ready to go…

We were running 60 can teams, so with new players it was pretty much a guarantee we wouldn’t finish, but lots of cars means lots of interactions, and that’s always a good thing when you’re learning (whereas finishing and somebody winning is a whole lot less useful).

Teams.

We got off to a gloriously messy start. The three cars on the road in the front line got off to a decent start, but the yellow truck had to get off the shoulder and that threw everybody else off.

Going into gear phase 2.

I managed to position the Cougar decently in the first phase and lined up a Slip Away opportunity for gear 2. The Cougar (silver) bumped the GTX (green), which put the GTX comfortably in the lead. As a performance car with only armour and smoke, I wanted him way ahead before the rest of the pack hit gate 1.

Going into gear 3.

The GTX was doing well at this point, but the Cougar and my Manx (the first buggy way in the back) got pretty bogged down in that starting pileup. I was able to keep them in good shape, but they were moving pretty slow. Some I tend to soft up early and fast, that meant a lot of swerves, veers, and evades.

Going into gear 4.

More cars started to get free of the pack around this point, so I made plans to leave the track and cut across the very busy centre of the table with the GTX. This would mean some risky high gear maneuvering.

The pileup.

The Cougar and the Manx were getting ready to break free of the mess at this point, but a wipeout for the Manx left it spinning into the path of the Cougar, slowing them both down again.

Some point in gear 5/6.

We started to spread out a bit more as the gear phases outstripped some of the vehicles. It also gave me the chance to get the Cougar back in the game.

Our first casualty was that orange Flash Drive performance car. It exploded.

The jeep with the big gun opted to take the long safe route along the track instead of following the GTX through the middle. This meant my GTX would approach it head-on, and my smoke would be useless. My Cougar suddenly needed to get its machine guns into play.

All lined up…

The Cougar was able to land several hits over the next couple phases, and the jeep became our second casualty just before it rounded the corner and escaped.

Success!

And that’s pretty much where we ended this particular learning game. A couple vehicles trashed, and the rest of them spread all over the place. Good fun.

Infinity – Quadrant Control

Last weekend we ran our monthly casual day for Infinity. We only played one game, but we took our time with it; Steve and I were both playing some unfamiliar stuff so there were a lot of things to look up. Steve was running Varuna; for me, it was Ikari Company. We fielded 150pts each against Aaron’s 300pt Nomad crew.

When the Non-Aligned armies came out, I was excited by a couple of them. Both StarCo and Ikari included some models I already owned, and when I managed to get some old Wu Ming and a Yojimbo for cheap, my decision was made (while I was certainly interested in many of the Nomad models in StarCo, the idea of Yojimbo leading a pair of Desperadoes was too good to ignore). Casual day is the perfect opportunity to try something new, especially because I have a pretty bad track record with bikes in this game (they show up, they blow up). I brought:

Keisotsu x2 (1 paramedic)

Brawler

Al Fasid (HMG)

Bounty Hunter (Spitfire)

Yojimbo

Desperado (Shotgun)

No lieutenant for me, as my crew were paired with Varuna, and Steve had the better lieutenant.

The Keisotsus performed admirably. They missed a lot of shots but managed not to get killed themselves. The paramedic attempted to save some folks but without success; all of his patients failed their PH rolls and died. The Brawler accomplished very little beyond taking a bullet that might have killed somebody else, the very first shot to hit him was the DA round that killed him. I definitely underused the Al Fasid. He made some good advances and claimed a Quadrant in the final turn, but the first two turns I barely touched him. He was a little too buried in cover to be especially useful in AROs, and those pesky Nomads kept landing repeaters next to him, which had me playing a little more hesitantly than was probably really necessary.

The bikes, though! This was quite possibly my first game in which I had bikes last beyond the first turn. Both were killed, but they both went down in admirably violent outbursts, which my friend Peter (who fields many a Haqq bike) assures me is what bikes are for. Yojimbo took out a couple of threats with his CrazyKoalas. I was a little surprised to see he had no rifle/long gun (since there is clearly one strapped to his bike) but he still took out a pair of serious threats; next time maybe I can get him into close combat…

I used crazykoalas!

With the way cleared, my Desperado sped up the left side of the board unopposed and took used his shotgun to do a bit of damage.

Before & After

Kablam. He managed to take out a trio, and it would have been 4 had the last fellow not had No Wound Incapacitation. This was probably the crux of the game; it left Aaron with neither the points nor the orders to claim sufficient quadrants in the third turn (we were tied after the first two, 2-2), and I still had the Al Fasid to advance into his quadrant to claim a couple points for our coalition.

Final Score: 4-2 for Varuna and Ikari Company.

Gaslands – Capture the Flag

I think we wrapped up our ‘Darker Horizons’-style campaign the other night. This Capture the Flag scenario was our 4th of an intended 5 events, but I’m significantly ahead at this point and I think we’re going to call it rather than dragging it out. Three of us for this one, with Dave fielding a truck and a couple cars (one might be performance?) and Steve throwing down a couple performance cars and a buggy. I had 3 cars, two of which were performance.

After being on the receiving end of a pistol shot, I pulled alongside Dave’s performance car and swung my HMG into position…

I spent the cans earned last month putting a turret-mounted harpoon onto my basic car, which wasn’t necessarily a good call, but was certainly weird. Led to a lot of confusing situations. What gear is a car in if I’m hauling it backwards into my rear end? What happens after it’s hit my own side and still has remaining uncancelled hits (does it keep going in a slingshot effect)?

In our previous game, that basic car with nothing but extra armour was a real champion, but the harpoon did a lot of damage to him. By the time I was close enough to use it, the odds were pretty good that I’d drag somebody right into me. Also, we had a *lot* of explosive barrels in the field, so I caught myself in a lot of explosions as well. I think he had 1 point of hull left at the game’s conclusion, out of 12. Most of that was harpoon related. Definitely effective, though, in terms of ‘redirecting traffic flow’. Certainly kept a few cars away from flags, while my other cars got mean.

In terms of maneuvering, I got off to a rough start. A lot of terrain in my immediate vicinity coupled with some overly aggressive shifting on my part put me at risk of some early wipeouts, so I ended up making a lot of weird lateral moves that didn’t cover much ground. I managed to stay on the right side of 6 hazards, but it meant I wasn’t going to be the first one to any flag; I was going to have to *take* one.

My Corvette spent much of the game trading shots and blows with Dave’s vehicles on my right flank while my Mazda got itself mixed up with Steve’s cars.

Head on, 6th vs 5th gear, and I had a ram. I think 3 dice fell out of the photo, but the results were epic.

Once Steve’s cars were out of the way, I just had to beat Dave’s damaged performance car (it was on this side of the arena after being slingshot across the field in the second phase) to the flash and get out of Dodge.

This rather beautiful swerve probably won me the game; that red crate is the flag…

After snagging the flag/crate, I put the pedal to the metal and rocketed back across the arena with a series of gentle turns and long straights, careening into my edge during the sixth gear phase of our final turn (we were playing at a local shop, so had some time constraints). We all had a good time, but I think our next session will just be a one off race. I know Dave wants to try putting a war rig together, so maybe we’ll look into that. As for me, I need to find a sturdier anchor for my harpoon.

Saga – I actually played!

Almost two years ago, I bought a 4-point metal starter box of Vikings from Gripping Beast, with the expectation I would never actually play (I just liked the idea of painting some viking miniatures). When second edition released, I decided to get the actual books, and convinced a friend to at least snag the base rulebook, but while that has generated vague interest, it hasn’t turned into actual models or games yet. I did field some of my Vikings as Ostlanders during the last local Mordheim campaign, but that and Frostgrave were starting to look like the extent of their usefulness around here, until I recently showed my Vikings to my friend Dave and got some real results (maybe the fact that I’ve recently made a real effort to get them all painted had an effect on their usefulness in this regard). He took advantage of the Gripping Beast black Friday sale and bought himself some Normans. He assembled them over the holidays, and last night we played an actual game of Saga…

We laid lots of terrain down, then rolled Method B for deployment and ended up touching almost none of it, haha. Clash of Warlords for our first game.

My Hirdmen watch as my Warlord and a unit of Bondi advance through the woods, leaving them behind.

Being new to this whole thing, I leave a unit of Bondi hiding in rocky ground while my Berserkers run around it in the open. The Berserkers will be largely cut down by ranged fire during Dave’s first turn; only one will be left standing.

My Bondi attempt to cut down some Norman Crossbowmen, but Dave’s dice are on fire…

… son of a dingleberry! (I rolled 13 hits, and Dave defended against almost all of them).

My last Berserker decides to make himself useful and charges a unit of mounted Norman Hearthguard. Valhalla gets him some extra dice…

… and he takes them out! He’s also gone as a result of Valhalla, but this is probably the first interaction to go even remotely my way, and marks a bit of a turning point in our battle.

Having finally dragged themselves out of the rocky ground (and having been whittled down by more ranged fire), my Bondi manage to take out some more Norman Warriors, but not enough. A few still remain standing.

My Warlord has defeated his Norman counterpart, but so has 3 Crossbowmen and a largely untouched unit of Levies to deal with.

Crossbows down, Levy Archers to go…

While he doesn’t take them all out, my Warlord does take out enough Levy to negate Dave’s final Saga die, ending the game.

We quite likely played more than 6 turns, as we sorta glossed over that part and just played until one of us ran out of Saga dice. Lots of fun, though, and both of us are very much looking forward to playing again (and we’re going to get some more miniatures so we can start thinking about 6 points in the not too distant future).

Thoughts after our first game?

Normans are probably going to be a tough fight for me. I did okay once I’d closed for combat, but the Norman ranged options did some real damage (especially to my poor Berserkers!) and the mounted Hearthguard twisted some of my deployment choices back on me. Their maneuverability really limited my ability to choose my battles via deployment.

Berserkers need some real help getting across the battlefield. I’ll need to make better use of terrain and other units to get them safely into combat.

Our game took a few hours, but that included *lots* of rules searches and clarifications, plus we basically played to annihilation. Games should be pretty quick once we get a better handle on the game.

I’ll probably read through the rules again now that I have a game under my belt. It’s well laid out from a reading perspective, but trying to find specific rules while playing was pretty rough (reminded me a little bit of Infinity’s second edition, but not as brutal since the book is a lot shorter). There are definitely a couple of things I’d just like to confirm we did correctly where movement and fatigue are concerned.

TLDR: We really like Saga.

Saga: I painted an army!

Yes, with the second Bondi unit that I posted a couple weeks ago, I finished painting a full army. Not something I can say very often. Let’s take another look at those final 8 warriors:

What follows is pretty much going to be a bunch of photos, because I’m feeling pretty good about these guys. Sharing time!

A fieldable 4-pt army!

Berserkers, the Warlord, and a unit of Bondi (Warriors)

Hirdmen (Hearthguard), and a second unit of Bondi

My Warlord… I suppose he’s going to need a name

The first Saga model I painted; this guy does not care at all

Definitely the chunkiest I ever got the gore

I feel like this guy’s got some tricky moves… Watch the feet!

The whole gang again, a little closer knit.

This fellow had a bit of flash or something through his eye, so I tried to turn it into a scar. Results aren’t bad.

I think this might be the only guy protecting his eyes, haha. His posture is a lot more defensive, too. Not that it’s a bad idea or anything, but most of this group looks less than concerned for their personal safety.

And there we go. Thanks for checking them out. I am in fact working on those Gall Gaedhil I mentioned last time, but I interrupted that painting task with some shieldmaiden assembly.

Gall Gaedhil in progress…

My shieldmaidens have spears, because I really liked the dynamic poses…

So lots more Saga still coming. I picked up Njal, too. Also, Dave’s Normans arrived, so once he’s got them assembled and on bases, I’m actually going to get to play!

Saga – Viking Bondi unit 2

Tonight I put the finishing touches on my last 8 Viking Bondi (warriors). That’s right, I am now the proud owner of a fully painted 4 points of Saga. I’ll have to get a group photo at some point.

When we left off, I’d put in a couple evenings of paint, and the Bondi were looking like this:

Day 4: more paint, plus some dirt on the ground!

Day 5: finished up any still unpainted spots, but mostly a bunch of shades and washes. I don’t think I snapped a picture of that.

Day 6: some detail work (including shieldwork), and some light drybrushing to give the hair, fur, and dirt some depth.

They’re starting to really look like something at this point.

Although they can’t look at anything themselves. No eyes just yet.

Day 7: Day the last! Eyes and blood! Here’s a few of them before and after the finishing touches:

And one final group shot:

Up next: the Gal Gaedhil (Sons of Death)?

Saga – Viking Bondi unit 2 WIP I

K, this is it! I’m only 8 miniatures away from having a fully painted 4 point Saga warband, so I’m painting all 8 at the same time.

Day 1: Prime the last few that were still bare metal…

Day 2: Some blues, some greens, some browns. Moving right along…

Day 3: A few different skin tones and wood colours, and most of the clothing complete.

Until next time!

Saga – Vikings!

The painting bug finally caught hold of me again, and the result is a whole mess of Vikings. Previous to the last week or so, I had slowly worked my way through two Berserkers, a Hearthguard, a Warrior, and my Warlord. 5 models. I have now more than tripled that, and I have also convinced a friend of mine to take advantage of Gripping Beast’s black Friday sale, so I’m actually going to get to *field* these ruffians (and not as Ostlanders).

Viking Paintfest, Round 1:

I started with these three Bondi (warriors), as they were ‘based’ and primed and ready to go. Realized pretty much immediately that if I was going to work on multiple minis at the same time, I should do more than 3. So I finished that first night by grabbing a few more that I’d already gritted the bases on and priming them.

This brought the count to 5 Bondi and Gunnar Hamundarson. I don’t have Njal yet, so he was probably a silly choice to paint at the moment, but it’s just such a great model.

I used a lot of different colours on this lot (and so many browns!), but I like the feel of it. Uniform in their lack of uniformity, if you will.

And there’s that batch finished, and bloodied up. I think I mixed about 7 shades of red for this group; I reduced that to about 3 for the next lot.

Next lot! 7 miniatures this time: 2 Berserkers, 3 Hirdmen (hearthguard), and 2 Bondi.

I went with this combination because it would finish off a bunch of units that I’d started over the past year (usually one at a time for local painting contests).

I picked up some GW Nuln oil to wash the armour (is it weird that I’ve never bought any previously?) and decided to try a few more interesting shield designs.

Mixed results. I’m not exactly a freehand genius, but I’m happy enough with the results. Once I’ve bloodied these fellows up a little it should soften the aspects I feel look weird.

It takes a pretty serious effort on my part not to overdo it with the blood. Maybe I do anyway, but it strikes me as pretty unlikely that vikings wading through a battlefield *wouldn’t* be visibly bloodied, so here we are. Weapons and hands seem like obvious candidates, and I picture shields just being another weapon; either via a classic bash, or using the edge (with shields this big, though, maybe that’s unrealistic? I have no personal experience with dark ages combat, haha). That’s enough overthinking for now…

So, the result of this latest painting binge? I have now painted:

Gunnar Hamundarson and my Warlord.

One point of Berserkers.

1 point of Hirdmen.

1 point of Bondi.
Next up? Another point of Bondi and maybe Njal or a mercenary unit, depending what finds its way onto my desk.

Infinity – Preparation vs Tactics

Before I get started here, I would probably mention that the meta I play in is relatively casual. We’re competitive, we play to win, but the vast majority of us would rather lose an interesting game than win a boring one. With that in mind, the following thoughts and opinions might get more or less mileage based on your own community, but I think the core sentiments stand.

One of my favourite things about Infinity is that it’s not a list-building exercise. What you bring will totally impact your game, and your ability to react to situations or complete specific objectives, but the miniatures you put on the table are far less important than what you do with them. There are totally benefits to preparing ahead of time, but that isn’t enough on its own. [Aside: the primary reason I could never really get into Warmachine/Hordes is that it always felt like the opposite; the outcome seemed determined before the game even began, because no amount of skill seemed able to overcome a ‘weak’ list.] I feel like one of Infinity’s strongest selling points is the necessity of *playing* well. In a straightforward Annihilation scenario, a really skilled Infinity player could do decently with a list provided by their opponent.

That said, in ITS and other scenario based formats, a well planned list can still be a huge benefit. This is usually my weakness. Life makes a lot of demands, and I don’t always make time to sit down and prepare lists. I often set up the tournament and then just select a couple of appropriate lists from among my past creations. This generally serves me fairly well. I play vanilla, and tend to like well rounded ‘toolbox’ lists that provide me with an appropriate response (albeit a limited one) to just about every game-based situation that’s likely to come up. I’m usually short on specialists, so I have to both play well, to make up for those shortcomings, and really pick my early targets carefully (I often lean towards trying to get second deployment in these cases, since my ability to respond effectively in the early game becomes particularly important to me). In Direct Action tournaments I generally do really well; Operations tournaments are harder but I can usually eke out enough minor victories to place in the top half (we’re a pretty small community, so that still usually means I’ve placed). It’s a bit of a slog, though, and I sometimes feel like I play too slowly when I have to lean so heavily on tactics. I can speed myself up by using Limited Insertion, but I’ve had mixed results with that so far. It definitely keeps me fast, but I wind up really feeling the paucity of orders.

The last couple of tournaments I’ve tried to prepare my lists around the declared scenarios. The first time was a very small tourney where I had a pretty rough day with the dice, so it was hard to tell whether the lists were working or not. A couple weeks ago was the second time. 3 rounds: Nomads (can’t remember if it was vanilla?), Qapu Khalki, and Military Orders.

Round 1 (Acquisition) – Nomads

This was the scenario I didn’t plan for, and was my best game. Controlled everything, and even got the Classified objective (I *never* get my Classified objective), so it couldn’t have gone much better. I played a strong tactical game. I had to, since my list didn’t provide any really advantage.

Round 2 (The Grid) – Qapu Khalki

I lost this one, and I shouldn’t have. I brought a list that should have crushed it, and then focused on all the wrong stuff. Tactically, this one was a tire fire. I brought a Limited Insertion list with 7 specialists (I think 5 were Forward Observers). Peter’s QK went first; he had no useful specialists for this one, so his only hope was to kill the Designated Target, and to kill me before I could tag some Antennas. He did indeed manage to take out the target with his Datatracker for 4 points, then got into playing some long range tag with me. We were pretty even, dice-wise, and both lost a couple units. On my turn, I neglected to respond to the situation. My initial plan when designing the list was that I’d wait for the second turn to start attempting to designate antennas; this would avoid wasting orders on antennas that my opponent would just flip back anyway. You see what happened there? I let my preparation trump my tactics. Peter *couldn’t* flip antennas. Designating even one would have netted me a guaranteed 3pts. Half my list or more had Anti Materiel weaponry, so another 3pts would very likely have followed in my second turn. Instead, I focused entirely on trying to remove some of his units, thus giving him 2 full turns to reduce my numbers before I even attempted to *fulfil the scenario objectives*. He eliminated most of my specialists during his second turn, and took out the last one with an ARO during mine. I managed to kill the Designated Target, but not with my Datatracker. I lost, 2-4. Peter approached the scenario with a nearly useless list, but played with his weaknesses in mind and prioritized eliminating my strengths before I could put them to use. I failed to respond to the situation at all, and let my preparedness be a hindrance. Well played, sir.

Round 3 (Rescue) – Military Orders

80% of this list had terrain rules, and I selected one of the other 20% as my Datatracker out of habit (I often use the Unknown Ranger because I find he survives very well). That’s about how this round went. I spent about half the game’s orders dealing with 2 *very* hard to kill units (ignoring them as much as possible would have been a much better plan), and then made a bad call in my last couple orders of the game. I used an order or two to try and clear a path when I should have just triggered AROs instead. The orders used up trying to remove threats meant that my Datatracker couldn’t get his civilian to my DZ (to add insult to injury, I also failed to remove the threats). The extra order worth of movement would have gotten him there, which would have resulted in a major victory instead of a minor one, and that would have won me the tournament. Our first kit ever, and I was so close… but so far. I put too much faith in my lists, and let my preparation get in the way of my tactics.

It was an eye opening experience. I still came in second, and I had a blast, but it hurt to be able to look at the games and see so easily what I’d done wrong. If only I’d opened my eyes earlier, while playing. Hahahasigh.