As long as I was on a roll, I finished up another member of my Escher gang this week… my gang leader, Amanda the Raven.
I got impatient with this one, and didn’t really give the shades enough time to really set. Unfortunately this led to some messy drybrushing that I’m not entirely happy with. Instead of a highlighting effect, it’s more of a shoddy mush, but I can’t be bothered to redo it all. Good enough for the tabletop, anyway…
In case anybody’s curious, the miniature is from Bombshell, I think (it’s been a while, haha).
Well, I have made good on my promise and finished painting Jane in recognition of her Pitfight win on the 8th.
We’re mostly just talking about some drybrushing and base work at this stage; most of the primary painting effort was done when I posted last week.
I like a lot of things about these Raging Heroes miniatures, but I do have a couple minor complaints. There a lot of low-relief detail that’s hard to pick out until after it’s been painted, and that sword, oof. Super crooked and twisty on arrival. It’s resin, so that’s sorta expected and it was pretty easy to reshape with hot water, but I never really felt like I got it perfect. Even after straightening, it feels a bit shifty.
After preordering the box, and buying all the Gang War books, and the hardcover rewrites (with slipcase!), and some extra Escher cards, I have *finally* played a couple actual games of the new Necromunda.
I like it.
That said, let’s get the worst out of the way. The rulebooks. The Gang War supplements are a tire fire (tyre fire?) of retcon design, full of ‘Replace pages 17-24 from your first supplement with the following…’, etc. The fact that they parceled out the rules in this manner angers me to no end. It’s like the hardcopy version of offensively designed DLC; imagine you paid $90 for a videogame only to find out when you got home that it was episode 1 of 5 (providing only 4 hours of gameplay) and that each additional episode would be $35. Oh, and a year later $99 would get you the whole thing, with all the bugs worked out.
The hardcover rewrites are a definite improvement, but still manage to kind of fail all over the place, in glorious Games Workshop style. The rules are of course split (rather arbitrarily it sometimes seems) between two books, and constantly reference other rules in other parts of the book (or the other book) while rarely providing page numbers or anything else. It’s like everything is cross – referenced but with no actual references. Oh, and there’s no index. Just a minimal table of contents that’s pretty much limited to what are essentially chapter titles. Kind of reminds me of the second edition of Infinity; it reads okay, but looking anything up is a nightmare. Except that Infinity provided an amazing online wiki that pretty much negated any need to look anything up in their rulebook, and also *fixed* those shortcomings when it came time to release 3rd edition. The Necromunda hardcovers are literally the clearer *rewrite* of the new Necromunda rules and the only real improvement they seem to have bothered to make over the Gang War supplements is that they reduced the number of books from 5 to 2, and deleted the paragraphs that were retconned out of the rules. Grr. I like this game, but GW has pretty much hung themselves out to dry as far as my hobby cash is concerned.
K, just needed to get that out the old system, thanks. Moving on.
Necromunda 2017. First off, the game uses an alternating activation system that feels like they ripped it directly out of the Frostgrave rulebook, right down to Leaders and Champions having the option of activating additional models alongside themselves (models within 3″, even, haha). I’m fine with this – it’s a great system that keeps everybody more engaged and provides additional tactical depth – but I totally find myself mixing up the details with the Frostgrave method. Good thing they’re so darn similar, haha!
Close combat is *not* a face to face roll of any kind, which threw me off in my first game. Unlike Frostgrave, Infinity, or even the old Necromunda, being the one that charges in and attacks is a pretty big deal. If you can take somebody out fast enough, they won’t even get to strike back. I’m still up in the air about this, but I don’t hate it. I think I just need to get used to it. Might make armour more useful in this iteration. If they release a ‘slow’ gang at any point (I’m thinking of Mordheim’s dwarves right now), I expect they’ll be pretty much boned.
Shooting is pretty much what you’d expect, although they’ve tried to ‘simplify’ the stats as they’ve done with so many games recently. So your ballistic skill will be 4+ instead of 3; means the same but fewer charts. Makes some of the modifiers actually feel *less* intuitive, but that’s quite possibly just because I’ve used so many variations of the old system for so long that it feels more natural than it is. A lot of the heavy weapons are cheaper than they were in the old Necromunda, but on trying to use them in game, I think it balances out. ‘Unwieldy’ (N17’s trait for move-or-shoot) is pretty brutal. By making heavy weapons a double action instead of single (rather than just requiring no movement), one is prevented from aiming carefully, or even from using most of the sights and other upgrades. A suspensor modification negates this, but effectively increases the weapon costs by 60 each. Like I said, seems to balance them out okay, but it also means that some of the basic and special weapons seem a bit undercosted. Hopefully nobody tries to play this competitively, or you’d probably see a lot of lists spamming a lot of identically outfitted minis.
I think that’s all I’ve got to say at the moment. I like the new Necromunda, and hopefully will continue to.
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?
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 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.
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.
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 
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.
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 
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.
I’m playing a pen and paper rpg again!
The game is Stars Without Number, an Old School style science fiction rpg with a cool setting, written by Kevin Crawford and available via rpgnow, etc. The other night we sat down to build our characters and even got a little bit of gaming in, and it felt good. Too early to really declare an informed opinion (we were only half-using the rules, since we didn’t arrive planning to play and hadn’t prepared), but we had a lot of fun. We’ve got 5 of us playing, with CP running the game, and in classic scifi style, we opened with a jailbreak. Our players?
P – Ashok, a weak but pretty confident wanderer that seems to have both a knack for getting into trouble and a talent for talking himself back out of it.
MM – XLT to be Decommissioned (Decom for short), a medical robot that was manufactured with an assassin’s body by mistake. He seems unsure about where his destiny lies.
MR – Weesah, a victim of a misogynist tech-based caste system that was drafted into a revolution and trained in explosives and terror tactics
CD – Asdon, an illegal salvager that’s apparently got some aggression issues and a *very* lax moral compass.
Me – Jaeger, a pilot from a dysfunctional and once-powerful family heavily involved in technology R&D, especially where space travel is concerned. Recent events have left me alone and broke, supporting myself via contract work.
After a contract gone wrong, we all found ourselves locked up in a Star Command prison cell. A riot broke out elsewhere in the prison and we were able to get free of our cell. Weesah hacked some systems, Ashok distracted and misdirected some guards, and Jaeger retrieved or belongings from some lockers before piloting our impounded disaster of a ship out of the prison and to safety.
Decom ran interference and provided support, and Asdon shot a couple guards in the back so he could take their Star Command shuttle. After arriving at a nearby moon known as Luke’s, Jaeger stripped a few useful upgrades out of the shuttle and then Asdon sold it for parts.
We’re a strange crew; it’ll be interesting to see how these characters develop…
Haha, this one was bonkers! It claims to be a post-apocalyptic version of H Rider Haggard’s She, but that’s a pretty ridiculous stretch. There is indeed a character named She, and there is a journey undertaken by a couple of friends, but that’s about as close as it gets. The first chunk of it was pretty much just a mess, but after about 20 minutes it leveled off a little; the movie remained pretty insane but the plotting turned into something relatively followable.
It all starts with Tom, Dick, and Tom’s sister Hari (can’t make this up) traveling to a neighbouring valley to sell soap at a post-apocalyptic market. Unfortunately the Norks (kinda nazi footballers) show up and kidnap Hari. The movie flits back and forth between Tom and Dick (spending their time getting poisoned and sold and mostly running around in circles) and She, the living goddess of the something-or-others (a clan of amazon warriors). They mostly seem to be buying or stealing men for her to sleep with and then kill. Eventually Tom and Dick convince She and her right hand woman to assist in their quest to rescue Hari from the Norks, which is where the movie finally finds its plot. It’s not an amazing plot – mostly it just follows our intrepid heroes as they stumble from one band of weirdos to another – but it’s simple enough that the movie finds a certain bizarre groove to settle into.
Cruel mutants, hippie werewolves, a weird cult led by a telekinetic, a strange ‘doctor’ with a tutu-clad giant for an assistant, and of course our Nazi footballers/gladiators/punks. Lots of escapes and mediocre fight choreography serve to shove Tom, Dick, and She (and her right hand, to a lesser extent) from one weird post-apocalyptic community to the next.
It generally doesn’t make a whole lot of sense; this one seems to fall more along the lines of ‘viewing experience’ than ‘tour de force’. Eventually our heroes find their way, disguised, into a gladiatorial arena and nearly kill each other before recognizing one another and stealing Hari away from the Norks. They make their escape from the Nork fortress to a nearby bridge (where they earlier fought a duplicating man), and set a series of traps while the Norks delay pursuit. I’ve already forgotten why they delay. The Norks are certainly in no hurry. Probably busy generating inspired graffiti.
Norks have horses, so they’re loaded with pursuit confidence, I guess.
She, Tom, Dick, and Hari go all Swiss Family Robinson on the Norks until She’s right hand turns up out of the blue (she left the party about 35 minutes ago and hasn’t even been mentioned since) with the entire Amazon army and kick the snot out of whoever’s left.
Happy endings ensue.
Certainly not one to watch with any seriousness, but as a goofy parade of chaos it was decently entertaining. I expect I’ll watch it again some day.
Any recommendations for weird bad scifi/fantasy films I shouldn’t miss?
It’s that time of year again already! M trekked across the street for her annual Oscar party, and I settled in for some science fiction flicks that I’ve somehow managed to never see. First up?
Primer must be one of the most recent movies I’ve ever watched on Oscars night, but it’s still been on my list for entirely too long. If you’re not already aware, it’s a super-smart independent time travel film. This particular DVD has been sitting on my shelf for the better part of a decade; I knew it was complex and intelligent, so I didn’t want to sit down and only half watch it, as I knew I’d get lost doing that.
I’m glad I gave it my attention. Partly because it was really solid, and I liked it a lot, but also because I’d heard right… this movie had some serious expectations for its audience. I paid attention throughout, and I’m no dummy, but I still checked online the next day to make sure I’d caught everything (I did pretty well if you’re curious). Really glad I finally got around to seeing this.
This is the first year that I actually invited other people to join me for Oscar night. Life being what it is I still ended up mostly soloing the first and last films, but I had a couple other viewers for the most anticipated movie of the evening:
Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity (1985)
Daria and Tesa, ready to fight back.
This was pretty much just as amazing and bad as we all expected it to be. Chunks of plot seemed to exist purely so they could justify the title, and it was way beyond cheesy. High points included the bickering androids using ‘robot voices’ to accuse one another of shirking work and tattling, the completely random insertion of a ‘phantom zone’ (full of zombies, for the record, and no phantoms at all), and a villain that – from about 2/3 of the camera angles – looked like an uncanny-valley clone of Christian Bale.
The plot is ostensibly a ‘most dangerous game’ sort of deal, but it takes most of the movie to get to the game itself, and the main hunt only lasts about 20 minutes. We were all very entertained, though, so we’ll call this one a win this time around.
Daria leads Rik back to the castle, after a long night of setting up two traps that will accomplish little to nothing…
Silent Running (1972)
This is probably the youngest I’ve ever seen Bruce Dern. He cares for one of the Earth’s last forests, in a dome attached to a spacecraft. The other 3 members of his crew don’t care so much, and when they receive orders to jettison and nuke the forests so that their ship can be converted into a commercial freighter, poor Bruce is the only one not thrilled with the orders.
Tragedies occur, things go south, and Bruce is left trying to care for a single surviving domed forest with the help of three squat little bots; he renames them Hughie, Dewey, and Louie. Tortured and alone, he eventually reprograms the drones for medical needs, poker playing, and other useful skills, and goes a little stir crazy while he’s at it.
I liked this one as well (it was a good year for SciFi night), and I’ve been meaning to watch it for ages. It’s on tons of ‘you need to watch these’ science fiction film lists, but it always got bumped for other things. No more! It wasn’t exactly a fast-paced film so it may not be a great fit for everybody, but it certainly feels timely (environmental issues haven’t exactly faded into oblivion over the last few decades), and was a fine closing to 2018’s Oscar Night SciFi Superfest. Here’s to next February!