Gaming Products I Don’t Get

Dice Towers

Call me old-fashioned, but I like to roll dice by hand. Like many gamers, I enjoy the sound of large numbers of dice being tossed. Sometimes when I am in the mood for a little dice rolling, I satisfy my craving by watching this video from Terranscapes. (The good part is from 02:06) I can kind of, sort of understand that dice towers might eliminate a player’s ability to influence the dice. That said, from what I understand, they’re used in more casual gaming settings to begin with, such as playing RPGs. I have never seen a dice tower in use for games of Warhammer 40K or Warmachine. The number of cool Cities of Death dice towers would seem to counter that, but I’m speaking from my own experience, both with local friends and at conventions.

Yet there is a huge interest in dice towers. LITKO offers its Catan-branded model seen above, CNC Workshop offers its machine-cut wooden one, naturally. If those dice towers are too pedestrian for you, then you make your own. Besides ruins, one of the most frequent Hirst Arts builds would seem to be dice towers. An old Livejournal friend cast and made many with her fiancee for her wedding. I would have loved to see the fight over those at the end of the reception.

When I see the more decorative dice towers, I do appreciate them. I want to saw off the dice trays and then use them as terrain.

Life Counters

It must be amazing that I have played one or two hundred games of MAGIC: TG without a life counter. Wait. It’s not. If any external tool was used between friends and I, it was a 20-sided die. The utility of this mechanism was put to the test by many life-gaining White, Green, and Black spells. The die was abandoned when a friend would cast Regeneration and go up to 43 Health. If I recall correctly, someone may have even been brazen enough of a life-gainer to use a d30. The other implement used was something called pencil and paper. Otherwise memory sufficed and a respect for your opponent not cheating. Of course, I never played Magic: TG competitively. Yes, there were more conversation along the lines of “What are you down to? What are you at?”, but somehow we managed. Personally, I’d rather buy more cards.

GW’s Painting Station

This is where someone else would just type “Nuff said.” If you see a Youtube video or a review where someone points out just how useful their Paint Station is, please do share it with me. You’re paying money, $40 now, more than a squad of Tactical Marines, for what? When I have read someone mentioning the product, I can never tell if they are being sarcastic about owning one and its usefulness.

Among other things, here’s something that I use for painting, an adjustable wooden tray. It too can sit on your lap. It is a bit less pricey than the dedicated Paint Station and if you’re clean enough, you can also use it to eat meals. I have several of these commandeered away from family use. One has my Eldar army in various stages of assembly, the other has my Gardens of Morr on it.

Citadel Palette and Water Pot

Privateer Press has their Wet Palette, which intrigues me. It supposedly has the special properties of not drying the paint out on it. There is nothing intriguing about the Citadel Palette, which you can buy for $4.95. Here is what I have been using to squeeze my craft paint and Vallejo colors onto: jar lids. I used to rinse my brushes in cups. Now if I need to clean a brush, I use something called the sink. If I need to wet my brush, I use something called a plastic bottle cap. One of the many charms of the plastic bottle cap, other than its cost, is the reduction in the volume of any spill. The plastic bottle cap, alas, does not not hold six brushes or feature a screw-on lid. It itself is a screw-on lid. However if those features are indeed so useful, you can get the Water Pot by Games Workshop for $4.95. To me it is another product I don’t get.

Here is what I do get about both of these GW products: they prevent the need for the customer to go elsewhere to get supplies and they might be attractive to parents.

My Wife as a Gamer

Gaming was initially not part of my life with my then-girlfriend when we started going out. We met over the internet and first talked about comic books and music. Our first date was to see “The Fellowship of the Ring” back in 2001 on its opening night. We actually met the night before our date and watched “Dark Crystal”. A mutual love of fantasy was already out there in the open.

The Games Begin

The first summer of going out my future mother-in-law returned from Comic Con with a gift for me: the 5th Edition Warhammer boxed set featuring the Empire versus the Orcs. I believe by that time we were already playing other sorts of games such as HeroClix. I was very excited when my wife seemed to be making a Warhammer army. She had four Orc Boar Boyz and was given some Goblins.

She accompanied me to my first Games Day L.A., which only further piqued her interest in the Warhammer hobby. Together we painted figures at the paint-and-take, browsed the Golden Demon entries, listened to Gavin Thorpe explain some rules changes, and enjoyed the mayhem.

Painting miniatures turned out to be too time-consuming though. The scale of large Warhammer battles just doesn’t hold her interest. What did was joining her brothers, her cousin, and myself on World of Warcraft.

Video Games

This was at the time of Burning Crusade. She enjoyed herb-gathering and exploring Azeroth. I really enjoyed having a second account and dual-playing on both computers when she wasn’t around. Sometimes this ate into her own time. I was trying to level up a priest on her account so that the priest could follow my characters around and do heals on them. “Her” priest leveled faster by having my mage follow her around doing Arcane Bursts and other AoEs.

Sadly, WoW ended for us when I tried to cancel one of the accounts to get the cheaper offer that Blizzard had offered before when i closed an account. There was no cheaper offer, so I canceled the second account as well. The only other video game that we have played together is Justice League Heroes on Playstation 2. Did I mention that she loves comics and the Flash?We played QUITE a lot of it, beating it two times through, stopping midway through our third go round. My Xbox360? Not as much interest.

Back to Tabletop Games

About two years ago my wife showed interest in playing D&D. 4th Edition was fairly new. I had bought a Player’s Handbook for a campaign I was playing in. We worked through the new character generation and soon Tekla was born.Tekla was a rogue who went by the thief name Wisp in the back alleys of Westgate. At first our game only had her as the player with her completing thieving missions, battling giant centipedes, rats, and the filthy advances of Night Masks, Fire Knives, and Ebon Paws. It later grew to be a family campaign with my in-laws and my wife’s cousin and her husband playing.

Her interests have not stopped there. In the years since going to Games Day and a Strategicon with her, I purchased some Karmans for AT-43. She loves the gorillas, loves the Yetis’ plastic see-through helmets, and says that they’re “so cool”. They remind her of Flash’s nemesis, Gorilla Grodd. We have yet to play a game, but she’s looking forward to playing on my Martian boards from Terranscapes.

The Karmans’ appeal is also in their novelty. For the same reason, the Skaven for Warhammer Fantasy have warped her heart. However she would like them more if they looked like the cute mice from Mouseguard. Who knows what sort of furry cuddly army is in her future and mine?

The Best Strategy in Gaming

Many gamers spend hours optimizing their army lists to get the most out of them or carefully planning and saving for that GenCon trip. Many gamers also spend hours arguing with girlfriends or wives about their hobby, its costs, and how they spend their time. Perhaps one of the most basic things a gamer should do is find a good partner (and spouse eventually) who supports and nurtures their interests. While I know several other couples that have even stronger shared gaming habits, I feel very fortunate this Valentine’s Day to have my wife and to be able to enjoy gaming with her.

Magnetizing Ork Killa Kanz

I love magnets. I love versatility. I love multiple points of articulation. I really do want to make toys out of miniatures. So as the years have gone by and more and more gamers’ miniatures feature magnetization, the possibilities have become increasingly exciting.

The plastic Killa Kanz kit has a wide selection of posing choices. At the very least, removing weapon arms is good in the event of weapon destroyed results on the Vehicle Damage Table. I also want to be able to swap out weapons so that my squadrons of 1-3 have the same loadout. I believe the arms can also be exchanged with the plastic Deff Dreadz’s. Part of my desire to magnetize them also was a mistaken belief that I could choose to have 2 Dreadnought Close Combat Weapons (CCW); having more CCWs is only an option for the Deff Dread, not the Killa Kanz.

The Evolution of my Attempts at Magnetizing the Kanz

1. Disc Magnet to Disc Magnet. I happened to have a disc magnet, a K&J Magnetics D41, that looked like a good fit for the socket. When I glued it in and one on a Dreadnought CCW arm, it worked, however the arm stuck out straight, but still rotated 360 along the horizontal X axis. At this point, I could have a variety of poses, switch out the arms for others, and remove them for Weapon Destroyed results. Pinning the arms would also offer the same three advantages. However when posing my Kanz I liked the variety of poses the ball-and-socket design seemed to offer, so I needed something better.

2. I knew that K&J Magnetics had ball-shaped magnets and ordered 18 of the 0.25 inch S4s, having measured the Dreadnought ball joints as having a diameter close to 0.25 inch. Once they arrived, I glued one in place of the plastic ball. And then I realized, after putting in on a Kan with a D41 in its shoulder socket, that the sphere magnets still have two poles. It is possible to get an odd side attraction, but there is repulsion from the other pole. Gravity also pulls down the arm because the attraction doesn’t overcome gravity and the joint has very little friction. Of course, I would never have the ball resting on the disc and not sitting in the socket, but I got the same results with a magnet disc inside the Killa Kanz torso.

3. I next thought that I might place a small magnet in a drilled-out hole at the bottom of the shoulder socket hole. Then I should be able to rotate the ball-magnetized arm around as needed. Fortunately by just putting one of the small magnets (a D21) near the arm ball magnet, I realized that this would not work either. The ball magnet was not going to rotate as desired. The issue became the sphere magnet having polar attraction. What if I used a steel ball instead?

4. After having no luck finding ball bearings at Lowe’s and AutoZone, I went online and quickly located VXB Bearings in Southern California. $3.33 later and I had ordered 100 chrome steel 0.25 inch ball bearings. After gluing a bearing to a Kan arm I was pleased that they were the right size, but dismayed because the magnetic attraction with a magnet glued to the other side of the socket, inside the Kan torso, resulted in a floppy arm. Even the simple disc on disc would be better.

5. My final solution was to keep the strong disc magnet pulling inside the torso, a D41 or D42, but to bore out the hole in the socket and implant a smaller disc, a D21, so it would be in contact with the steel bearing, but also have the larger attraction of the disc behind it. It worked! I now have Killa Kanz with fully rotating arms. The arms maintain whatever pose I leave them in.

Some Other Points About Magnets and CA Glues

I used HobbyTown USA Insta-Cure Cyanoacrylate to glue the discs into the arm sockets as well as to affix both varieties of balls to the weapon arms. I then had a very hard time trying to remove the discs which were a near perfect fit for the holes. While trying to make sure I knew how to pronounce cyanoacrylate, I had read the wikipedia article on the chemical. I recalled from it that acetone, found in nail polish remover, weakens the cyanoacrylate bond and kept applying some to the socket and eventually worked my magnets free.

The other point about using super glues/CAs is that the bond between the metal and plastic is incredibly weak. While I could augment it with some green stuff, the answer is simply to use care in handling the weapon arms with their steel shoulder bearings. When I bring them near a magnet, such as the ones in the socket, I need to apply counter-pressure to slowly bring them into contact. Similarly, turning the steel bearings in the socket is fine as long as it is done slowly and carefully. Jerky motions will just snap the CA bond off.

How Not to Win Her Over This Valentine’s: Throwing Games

My Disenchanting Magic: The Gathering Losses

Once upon a time, in 2001, I was seeing a girl. While we shared some of the same musical and movie interests, her love of anime far exceeded my own. We watched show after show together, OAV after OAV. At some point though, yearning to game, I taught her how to play Magic: The Gathering.

We spent many pleasant hours playing the game. Since I taught her and we were restricted to my selection of cards, the games were relatively even in deck building, with the advantage going to me of experience. I don’t build powerful competitive decks; I tend towards weenie decks without the cards to even level the field (like Wrath of God or Armageddon). I love building empires of Thrall tokens or Saprolings. While she never quite adopted my fondness for creating armies of tokens, she also would delay the kill in favor of drawing more cards.

All of our Magic playing though came crashing to a halt one day when I revealed that I had thrown a few games. I don’t recall why I felt it neccesary to reveal that fact,. Most likely, my ego was wounded. The effect was immediate and chilling: no more MTG games for us. Most of her victories were legitimate. The relationship eventually ended, though I really don’t think my Magic blunder was the source. I didn’t turn her off of Magic: The Gathering entirely. She emailed me months later revealing that she’d bought her own cards and now kept a Serra Angel of some sort in her wallet.

Why did I throw the games? My overall aim in losing the few games I deliberately lost was to make Magic more enjoyable for her. She would be more likely to play if she won more often. This seemed to be verified by her increased interest in playing after she had won. In my experience, very few people have the mental stamina to constantly lose games and quickly want to move onto something they’re better at. There is a large philosophical debate as far as game demoing goes as to whether you let the person trying your game out win or not. Most demo teams side towards letting the newbie enjoy the thrill of winning because they’re more likely to get into the game that way. When I’m playing a demo game, I want the opposite: the full experience and intellect of my opponent against me. Yes, victory is nice, but I need to see how challenging the game will be.

History Repeats Itself: Heroclix

Fast forward a year or two and I was playing Heroclix with my eventual wife. We played fairly often, even bringing some pieces and a map on a trip with us. After one loss to her when she began to gloat, I let it slip that I had let her win. It was the truth. I had wanted her to remain interested in the game. She would only beat me 2 out of 10 times and was showing signs of disinterest. Overall, my decision to throw the game (and reveal this to her) was a horrible strategy. She and I have not played Heroclix since.

Old habits die hard. Whether with a love interest or just a friend, you may want to think twice before deliberately losing in order to win him or her over. Or just keep your mouth shut.

LITKO Industrial Tower System (ITS)

ITS Overview

I originally began with only one of Litko’s 3-Hex Industrial Tower System (ITS). The basic hexagonal design was refreshing. Unlike other CNC terrain manufacturers, parts are sent in individualized plastic bags with labels, already punched out.

Getting the Pringles can in through the laser-cut central holes was a bit of an effort and a very tight squeeze. I thought I might break something, but it ended up working. I saw enough potential to order three Base Plates and another 3-Hex tower. Using the ITS for games of Necromunda is a no-brainer, as well as for games of Infinity, Dust Tactics, Combat Zone, and Void. Of course, the ITS towers can also be used in larger games like Warhammer 40k, Dark Age , or AT-43. It is also industrial enough to fit into modern wargames, though I have never seen a stucture quite like it.

Assembly is a snap, quite literally. I haven’t glued any part of the ITS. To my eye though, a Pringles can is too short an object to be convincing as a smokestack or exhaust. I added two widths of PVC piping to create, I hope, a more convincing exhaust. There is more on the innards of my metal smokestack in the Youtube video.

Another thing I like about Litko’s wooden products is that they give you the parts that were laser removed. In the case of the tower system, it’s the 2.75 inch diameter plugs that were cut from the centers. The same is also true for their movement trays: you receive the base-sized wooden cut-outs. I love versatility and variability in my terrain, so being able to add the plugs back to the hexes for a larger playing area is excellent.

Floors are separated by 3 inches, perfect for Warhammer 40k. If you have the Pringles can in the center of the 3-Hex, you only have about 34mm clearance, so models on 30mm Dark Age bases (including Warmachine bases) are fine. Otherwise larger miniatures on 40mm bases like Terminators and Meganobz are too large. You could always arrange with your opponent whether they can walk around the smokestack or not.

Getting the Most From the Industrial Tower System

One way you could possibly use your product is having a rust-stained, dirty filthy hex tower. If you want a clean version of the same tower, just flip it upside down. The rusty dirty tower will then be on the bottom, out of eyesight while the clean parts are face up on your gaming table. Another variation of this would be to have industrial toxic sludge made with Water Effects tinged with paint on one side of the platforms, while the others were “clean”. You can get a lot of extra mileage out of “the Flip”.

I also like that a larger tower can be constructed in a second or two from two smaller ones simply by stacking them. The thickness of the wood is only about 1.75mm and not that noticeable if you decide to stack yours.

If you are using the Short Wall Sections, it is possible to have reversible pieces with decoration on one side and the other left plain. This is much more viable if you have the Pringles can inserted to block the internal view.

Leaving off two supports creates a different feel to the tower. I can’t vouch for its stability after doing so, but it’s another direction you could take your build in.

A Few Drawbacks

As seen in the Youtube video, the tower sections cannot be joined up next to one another while still preserving the ability to install the short wall pieces. The supports can be turned inwards and then the hexes can butt up against one another, but then the wall sections do not fit in. They can imperfectly adjoin each other though and just be off by a centimeter or two. I don’t know that many buyers might want to adjoin them like I do, but it’s possible. I really envision six or seven hex stacks adjoining each other to create one mega hex.

The other related drawback that I can see is the design of the wall pieces themselves along with their pricing. To pay $9.75 for 10 pieces of thin wood is a bit much, especially when they don’t fit in precisely. Instead, the tabs used to hold them in place remain a bit conspicuous and there are gaps. When inserted, there is a 3 millimeter bit of vertical support sticking out past the wall sections.

Litko’s Shipping

Having placed two orders with Litko now, I must say that they have the slowest shipping times of any manufacturer I have yet encountered, Terranscapes excluded. An order placed on Jan. 1 wasn’t shipped until Jan. 24, while my first order was placed Dec. 12 and shipped on Dec. 28. In every other respect including their email list, website design, and wide selection of products, Litko seems like a burgeoning small business, but when the order is actually placed, I get the feeling that it is a one man operation.

Final Thoughts

As I’ve already said, I’m very pleased with how my 2 3-Hex towers have come along. The design problems are minor and I recognize their existence now and look forward to working within their parameters. I will be adding a few more 3-Hex towers and trying out some of the other wall sections and the railings, so check back for those in a few months.

Micro Art Studio Barracks – F00023 – HDF, Resin, and Foam

Micro Arts Studio’s Barracks product is an impressive offering combining high density fiberboard (HDF), resin, and foam.

Packaging and Assembly Instruction

Like Micro Art Studio’s District 5 packaging, the Barracks packaging really pops out visually with strong graphics. You won’t miss this on the shelf.

The directions suffer from poor translation from Polish to English, but are also mostly unnecessary. It becomes obvious what each part is as you assemble the guard tower. The confusing part I found was that the four crenellated sides of the roof of the guard tower are not identical. Two are wider than the others.

The Resin Doorways

The resin casts of the doorways were relatively clean with only a few defects, a bubble in the corner of one sign area. While the raised lines on the door frames make for a nice surface to drybrush, their presence is puzzling. Why would you have wires just hanging on the surface of the door? Couldn’t an enemy step up and yank them out? Otherwise the doorways are well-designed and could be used for many other futuristic buildings. I plan on expanding mine with little labels, as can be seen eventually to the right. They would have a look like the destination or route signs on a bus or in the vaults in the Fallout video game series.

The Foam Barracks

The two barracks I got were equally well produced. I have seen something with the same visual look, this excellent Space Marine Armoury from MiniWarGaming, but I’ve never seen a similar item for purchase anywhere. They look superb and could even be used as modern buildings. Of course, most gamers will be using them to dress up their 40k gaming tables. For games like Dark Age they might be more of a stretch, but I could still see them on the battlefield.

One of my barracks had a little bit of damage on its top, which I didn’t bother to try fixing (not that I’d know how).

The Guard Tower

I have to admit puzzlement at why Micro Art Studio markets the product as Barracks, when it includes this sentry tower. I love that the tower can be closed, by removing the four supports. It looks a little impractical as a functioning bunker in that case, but it’s a great touch. Much better, the structure can pop right off its tower for use on the ground.

Final Thoughts

For $27.99 you get a very solid well-designed product with three separate buildings. They all paint up easily while retaining their details. Other than the damage to one of the barracks, the air bubble on one of my resin doors, and the odd wires on the blast doors, it’s hard for me to find fault with Micro Art Studio’s Barracks. The two barracks buildings can be any sort of small futuristic building that you might have in a forward outpost. The guard tower has even more utility. Gaming clubs might want to pick up multiple packs of these; I certainly would like another one.