Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Monstrous Dilemma

I grew up watching monster movies. KTVU Channel 2 out of Oakland, California would show a Godzilla movie just about every Saturday afternoon back in the early 70s. I loved 'em. Couldn't get enough. I loved Godzilla and all the Toho Studios monsters like Ghidorah and Rodan. I loved King Kong. I even loved more obscure giant monsters such as Reptilicus (a Danish/American film) and Gorgo (British).

So, a few years back when Privateer Press announced Monsterpocalypse I was stoked! A giant monsters miniatures game? And, pre-painted to boot? I was there! The monsters looked awesome, and the game featured some of the best pre-paints in the industry. Really good stuff.

But, again, finding players has proven elusive.

Monsterpocalypse came out in 2008, if memory serves. And here we are in 2010 and I can't find players in my area. There was a glimmer of hope about a year ago. A former customer of mine was really into the game and wanted to play. But, he had a very erratic work schedule and we were never able to meet up for a game. And now he seems to have disappeared.

20 some odd years ago Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. I think we need a new book, When Bad Things Happen to Good Games. Monsterpocalypse is a good game. The rules are solid. The theme is fantastic. The miniatures are amazing. It's fun to play. These are all good things. But, the game has struggled to find a player base. At least in Ohio. And, certainly in Central Ohio.

Privateer Press
has been pretty silent about the games future lately. There was no news at Gen Con this past August. There are the two-player Starter Boxes due in October, but those feature miniatures from the original "Rise" release. But, hopefully, they can attract new players to the game (and is, maybe, how the game should have been marketed from the beginning). There is also a big-budget movie on the horizon with Tim Burton attached to direct. I suspect that the movie has something to do with Privateers period of silence regarding this property.

Is it the collectible nature of the game that's proven a hindrance? I don't know. Heroclix seems to be doing well after it's death at Topps and resurrection at NECA.

I don't know.

What I do know is this game deserves to be doing better than it is. It really is a good game. There are those gamers that assume that if a game is of the collectible variety then it has been "dumbed down for the kiddies. While that may be true with some games, I don't feel that is the case with Monsterpocalypse. There is plenty of depth and strategy to be had.

If you have any interest in giant monsters, you really should do yourself a favor and check out Monsterpocalypse. You'll be glad you did. And, if you're in the Central Ohio region, by all means, let me know!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Play's The Thing

This past week a friend emailed me to make me aware that my recent decision to play Wood Elves in Warhammer 8th Edition (aka Rockethammer, according to the guys at World's End Radio) might end up being frustrating for me as they're a difficult army to play under the new rules.

Now, I certainly appreciate his comments and insight and did take them under consideration. But, ultimately, I decided to stick with my Wood Elves.

I read up on all the various armies available in the Warhammer World. The reason I chose Wood Elves as my Warhammer army has little to nothing to do how competitive a force they are, but it was all about the fluff and look of the army for me.

Living out in the country as I do, I am surrounded by woods. We have a small farm. Not much. Some egg laying chickens. Some meat chickens. A couple of pigs. But, it's enough that I feel more in touch with the land than I do anymore with the grocery store. Story-wise this puts the Wood Elves right up my alley. I look out the window as I type this and see a wonderfully old, tall two acre patch of woods between our land and the neighbors. Across the street from us is countless acres more. I can imagine the Wood Elves right at home out there.

My friend's comments made me aware that, over the years, I've developed a style of game play that I was scarcely aware of. In miniatures games where you must comprise your forces, I tend to play thematically rather than strategically.

In Heroclix, I play characters that work together more from their comic book history as opposed to figures whose abilities compose a deadly combination.

In AT-43 I play the Karmans because I really dig their look (I mean, c'mon, great white gorillas in power armor? Awesome!).

In Monsterpocalype my factions of choice are Terrasaurs and Empire of the Apes. What can I say? I grew up on a steady diet of Godzilla and King Kong.

Do I have a winning track record? Nope. Not at all! Do I still manage to have fun playing? Absolutely. And that, for me, is the most important thing. I'm not a tournament player. I play for the fun of it. And, every once in awhile I manage to pull out a win.

And that's just fine with me.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Never Say Never

I don't think you can be a gamer, and not be at least tangentially aware of Warhammer. The venerable miniatures game from Games Workshop is something of a lightning rod in the gaming community. It seems like one of those games you either love it, or you hate it. And, sometimes, those feelings have little to do with the game itself and more to do with your feelings about the company behind the game.

I remember seeing Warhammer products on the shelves of D&J Hobbies in Campbell, California back in the 80s (the game debuted in 1983) and loving the over the top artwork adorning the packaging and books. It was a stark contrast to the other fantasy game artwork at the time, especially what was coming out of TSR, makers of Dungeons & Dragons. But, I never bought it, or played it.

Even in the last few years when I had my store, I had zero interest in the game, nor it's futuristic sibling, Warhammer 40K. My indifference was mostly due to my disinterest in modeling and painting, which are a huge part of the Warhammer hobby. I thought the models were cool. I picked up the odd issue of White Dwarf magazine here or there. But, that's about as far as it went.

That is, until word of the Warhammer Fantasy Battles 8th Edition rules came out. Suddenly, the game had piqued my interest. Of course, it helps tremendously that my buddy Dan, with whom I play AT-43, also plays Warhammer fantasy..thereby overcoming the massive hurdle of finding someone with whom to play!

Then, that massive, gorgeous tome came out. Locally, The Guardtower had a fantastic deal on the rulebook that I just couldn't pass up! As I began to read the book, my enthusiasm for the world of Warhammer began to grow, and I began thinking about which army I would begin to (slowly) put together.

I settled on the Wood Elves. I figured that was a suitable army for a rural gamer!

So, first the first time in years I am looking forward to breaking out the paint and glue and brushes and building me some miniatures. It'll likely be a slow process, as I don't have a lot of time and/or money to spare on an army right now.

So, here I am excited about a game I swore that I'd never play. Just goes to show you: never say never.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Greatest Challenge

Finding a fun game to play is never a problem.

Finding people to play that game with? Now, that can be a different issue entirely...especially if you are not fortunately enough to live close to a FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) with an active gaming community.

That has been my greatest challenge since moving out to rural Delaware County two years ago, finding players. I've got my monthly AT-43 night at Guardtower with my friend, Dan, sure. And, we've been mixing it up a little lately trying out some other games apart from AT-43. But, the Guardtower is an hour and 1/2 round trip! That's almost the same amount of time I have to actually game!

I know that this is a challenge that is not unique to myself. And, I know it's not even simply a by product of living in the sticks. There's plenty of gamers, or potential gamers, who don't have a game store in their town or anywhere within a couple hours drive of where they live. It makes it tough to find players.

I've found myself envious of the gaming club system they have in Europe, and wish there was something similiar here. With the Internet, gamers don't necessarily need a FLGS to keep up with the latest gaming prouduct ('though there is no substitute for being able to pick up, handle and touch a product before making that purchase)...but, here in America, the local game store also provides the opportunity to meet other players.

So, what is the solution for the rural gamer?

I don't know. I'm working on that. As I mentioned, we have a store in town (Hobby Central) but they don't have a website or any way to announce upcoming games or look for players. That makes it tough. Not impossible, mind you. But, tough.

I'm determined to find a way to crack this nut...

Monday, September 6, 2010

AT-43: Rise and Rise Again...

My current game of choice is Rackham Entertainment's AT-43.

I was first attracted to AT-43 by it's look and the fact that all the miniatures came pre-painted. Not being much of a painter myself, the minis were painted at least as well as I could have painted them, and, in some cases, better. I really dig the fluff for AT-43, as well.

I have found the rules to be solid, for the most part. Sure, there's some fiddly stuff in there and some poorly translated bits that present some challenges. But, I've found those to be in the minority.

Back when I was running Alley Cat Games, AT-43 did really well for us. We ran games each Thursday evening and had 10-15 players at it's height. Those were fun times! A few of us still play, but most of those players have scattered and gone to other games now.

Sadly, the game has struggled to catch on with the general miniatures gaming community at large for a variety of reasons. Some hardcore gamers, due to its pre-painted nature, thought of the game more as toys than a real wargame. Others couldn't get past the translation issues or didn't care for the rules. It's an army-based sci fi miniatures game which put it in direct competition with Games Workshop's Warhammer 40K behemoth. Then there were the product delays, the near bankruptcy of the company and subsequent purchase and restructuring into what is now Rackham Entertainment. To say this game has had a bumpy history is something of an understatement.

But, here we are in 2010. AT-43 is 4 years old, and is considered "dead" by many in the gaming community - gamers and retailers alike (the a passionate and faitful remnant remains). But, it is about to rise again with AT-43 v2.0!

That's right. AT-43 2.0 rules are coming out late this year from Rackham Entertainment. Towards the end of the last cycle of product releases from Rackham was a series of Army Boxes, which contained a 2000 point, ready-to-go army. It was a great concept. From what I've read thus far, the 2.0 rules (which is more of a streamlining and clarification than a wholesale overhaul) will be based around the Army Box concept, allowing for expansions.

As an AT-43 fan, I'm very excited about the 2.0 rules. I hope this time Rackham is able to catch lightning in a bottle and the game can find the audience that it deserves.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Rural Gamer - an introduction

Hi there. My name is Jeff Cope, aka The Rural Gamer.

I've been gaming, in one form or another since being introduced to Dungeons & Dragons in my freshmen year of high school way back in 1979. I played D&D for several years, dabbled in Gamma World and RuneQuest (the original & best Chaosium version, btw) and eventually found my way to GDW's Traveller. For any San Jose folks who may be reading this, back then I used to get all my gaming supplies at either The Game Table or D&J Hobbies in Campbell. The Game Table is, sadly, long gone...but I believe D&J is still around.

After awhile I grew tired of RPGs and moved into tabletop wargaming, but this wasn't until I had moved from San Jose, CA to Columbus, OH at the tail end of 1999.

After getting married and having a kid, I found I had little time for painting miniatures, and moved primarily into pre-painted games such as Heroclix and AT-43.

In September of 2007 I opened Alley Cat Games & Comics in Dublin, OH and, regrettably, had to close it up in October 2008. I'm proud of our 13 short months in business. Statistically, 80% of new businesses close in the first twelve months. So, I'm happy that we at least beat that statistic.

Two years ago we bought an 1890 farmhouse outside of Delaware, OH and have been slowly rennovating it. It became, as these things tend to do, a far larger job that we ever anticipated. This year we really embraced country life and are now raising chickens (some for eggs, some for eatin') and pigs.

Moving out to the rural parts of Central Ohio has been great. This city boy has been growing in appreciation for the land, and cultivating our own vegetables and animals. But, from the gaming perspective, it's put a bit of a crimp in things.

There is a gaming store in town called Hobby Central. They carry some games (mostly Heroclix and Warhammer with a smattering of a few other things) along with comics, model kits and trains. But, it's been a challenge to get games going there as the shop isn't online. So, it's difficult to find out when games are running.

So, part of the purpose of this blog is to chronicle my attempts to find and develop the gaming community in my area. But, there's also be gaming news, interviews, reviews and more.

Stay tuned, and tell your friends to join the ride!