Saturday, 14 December 2013

Marvel shoehorns in elements from their movieverse to their comics continuity, I believe for financial reasons.

Marvel Comics is by far my favorite entertainment company........By far. I love Marvel. Out of all the comics that I own (and that is a lot), the vast majority are Marvel, probably about 90-95%. However, the company that I love has disappointed me lately. You see, they've shoehorned in a couple of elements from their Movieverse (as people have been calling the continuity of their Avengers series of films) into the comic book Marvel Universe and that bugs me. Now I don't hate the Marvel Movieverse. It and I have come to an understanding - The movies that are made are BASED on the comics that I love, I no longer feel that in this case they have to be faithful recreations of them. (Snyder's pathetic interpretation of Watchmen is another matter entirely. See my earlier post if you're wondering what I'm on about.) And due to this, I actually rather like the films in the Avengers series.
        The two elements from the films that have been rather clumsily, I believe, inserted into the Marvel Universe are, the change to what the acronym S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for and a Black(ish) Nick Fury.
        Now I remember reading an article written by the great Stan Lee in which he stated that when he first created S.H.I.E.L.D., he came up with what the acronym stood for. (Now I can't remember what that was and I don't intend to spend the next couple of weeks going through my thousands of back issues of Marvel comics to find the article of which I speak and in which it is printed.) He then said, in the article (to the best of my recollection) that he forgot, so he came up with Strategic Hazard Intervention, Espionage and Logistics Directorate. This is the acronym that S.H.I.E.L.D. has for a long while and until about a year ago stood for. Then, however, it changed to the same as in the Marvel Movieverse, Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. The in-universe excuse is, that due to changes to and an almost total collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D, it has had to re-invent itself.
        The second change, as I have already said, is the introduction of a, sort of, black Nick Fury. Now Nick Fury in the Movieverse is played by Samuel L. Jackson, who, at times, does a fairly good job. Movie Nick Fury is based on the Nick Fury from Marvels Ultimate Universe (an alternate reality re-invention of the biggest properties that Marvel have.) Ultimate Nick Fury seemed to some readers to be a cross between the aforementioned Mr. Jackson and Avery Brooks (The awesome Captain Sisko from Star Trek Deep Space 9.). When this was brought to my attention, I decided that I would much rather see Avery Brooks in the Marvel films than Samuel L. Jackson, because I believe that he is a much better actor. But I digress. So, there's a black Nick Fury in the movieverse and a white Nick Fury in the Marvel (comics) Universe. Some influential people at Marvel have decided that they need a black Nick in their comics continuity, so they invent a (to my knowledge) previously unheard of mixed-race son of white Nick Fury, complete with eye-patch.
        Some of you reading this might think that I don't like change in my comics universes. The truth is, I don't mind a bit. I like certain things to remain constant but I'm fully aware that comic universes need to evolve, for things to be shaken up now and then, for things to remain fresh and even sometimes relevant to the reader. My problem with the change of the acronym and the introduction of a black-looking Fury is that I believe that Marvel have done it as a purely financial choice rather that a creative one. I think they believe that if fans of the films (of which there are a great many), decide to look in on Marvel's comic universe, they will be more likely to make purchases if they recognise elements from the films that they like. Most of the characters and story elements are already present so I think changing the S.H.I.E.L.D. acronym was unnecessary, and the introduction of Fury Senior's son was handled very clumsily. Yes, there is a black (recognisable to the fans of the movies) Nick in the Ultimate Universe but there are only about three current titles in that line now. Attracting new fans to the main Marvel Universe would be far more profitable, what with its much greater range of titles, than, to the Ultimate one.
        It may seem like I'm nit picking (certainly about S.H.I.E.L.D.) but it bugs me that Marvel have, it seems, put profit above creativity and continuity, which I feel is a bit of a slap in the face to long time fans of Marvel comics.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Star Trek Attack Wing, Dominion War Organised Play Tournaments.

Star Trek Attack Wing is a wargame made by WizKids (the guys that gave us Heroclix, Mechwarrior: Dark Age and Quarriors, to name just a few). The main game mechanics, known as the Flightpath System, are licensed from Fantasy Flight and appeared in FF's X-Wing game (you can scroll down to see some pretty pictures from that). X-Wing is quite a simple game, albeit with enough depth to keep it interesting. Attack Wing is just that little bit more complex than X-Wing, with more options, upgrades (crew, weapons, tech and abilities) and card combinations for a player to use. I hadn't planned on getting in to this game as I already had the quite similar X-Wing and, and this being the main reason, unlike X-Wing, the ships aren't to scale. I gave it a couple of plays though, when a friend, Richard (scroll down to see a picture of him asleep on a train) had bought the core set and a few boosters, and despite the similarities, it did feel a fair bit different than X-Wing. A couple of things swung it for me though. When at SELWG (An annual wargames trade fair and convention run by the South East London Warlords) a few weeks ago, Richard alerted my attention to a stall that was selling Attack Wing starter sets for R.R.P. (£25) but with the free addition of a Khan Sing (KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!) GenCon exclusive card and token set. Richard then brought  Ebay up on his phone which showed that Khan and associated tokens were selling for £50. I'm a sucker for a bargain and love limited release and special edition stuff. As Richard said: I "got the card half price and a free starter set.". It is my love for the aforementioned rare bits and bobs though, that really swung me to my decision to get into the game however. Games stores around the country are currently running a series of linked narrative tournaments based on The Dominion War from Star Trek: Deep Space 9. And, yes, at these tournaments there is the chance to come away with limited special edition goodies.

        So, today saw me (without having had any sleep the night before I might add) arriving at Waterloo Station in London at the bright and early time of 8 a.m. where I was greeted by the site of a number of cosplayers. Richard, who I met there, then informed me that this weekend was ComiCon at Excell in London's Docklands. I was a bit miffed. I'd have loved to go to ComiCon but had somehow completely missed all advertising or mention of when it was on. Anyway, Richard had put our names down for two tournaments (in one day) at a games shop (called The Games Shop) in Aldershot (about an hour's travel by train from Waterloo). I had thought I'd missed out on the first month's organised play in the narrative campaign, what with getting into the game rather late. Fortunately, The Games Shop was running both of the first two month's organised play tournaments on one day, a while after other venues had moved past the first.

        The tournaments each consisted of 3 games with players pairing off to fight each-other. The scenario for the games in the first tournament featured the Bajoran Wormhole, a self replicating minefield, and a Cardassian Nor Class space station that could in the course of the game be boarded and controlled. (If you watched DS9, you'll be familiar with these things.)  The object of the game was simply to destroy your opponents fleet. I did badly to begin with and lost my first two games. I restored a bit of glory however, by winning my third when my opponent zoomed his ships forward to take control of the space station, into which I poured an entire rounds worth of shooting (ignoring his ships) thereby destroying it and killing most of his crew who had beamed over to it. After that, his ships, bereft of a quality crew, were easy pickings. The tournaments both had their full compliment of 12 players. Due to my early losses, I managed to only come in a poor 9th place earning me the rank of Lieutenant as far as the rankings went.

        After lunch, it was time for the second tournament. The scenario for this one featured a planet in the centre of the table surrounded by four orbital gun platforms which would attack the closest ships that were within their ranges. It was representative of the attack by The Federation and it's allies on the Dominion ship yards in the Chin'toka System (also from DS9). The victory condition was again to wipe out the opposite players fleet.Unlike the previous scenario, I had had a practice game of this one at Enfield Gamers a couple of weeks ago. My fleet (with the exception of a difference of one card that I switched from the first tournament) had in fact been built to play this scenario. I hadn't even read the first tournament's scenario until about 5 a.m. this morning. I do tend to leave things to the last minute. If I had been more prepared, I may have built a fleet better suited to the first scenario for those games. This time I met with success. I wiped out my opponents fleets in every game, only losing the original Enterprise in two of them. I netted a maximum 300 points which propelled me into first place and the rank of Admiral. After my poor performance in the mornings tournament, I really expected to do about as well as I had then. After two wins in the afternoon's games though, I smelt blood and was hungry for a win.

        It was a very fun day with a good level of sportsmanship from the players. I came away with a bundle of limited edition stuff, most notably a B'rel Class Klingon Bird Of Prey.

        I'm off again tomorrow, to Darksphere (another games shop) at Waterloo to play the second round tournament again. I had intended to shift around my fleet list a bit and maybe add in some of the new upgrades that I won today. However, I couldn't fit any of them in without removing what I see as very effective parts of my fleet build. I'll just have to see how it goes.

I didn't take any pictures today as I was just too engrossed in the games to do so. So here are a few from my very first pair of games against Richard a couple of months ago at Finchley Games Club.

The first fleet I took. The correct captains for the ships.

And my upgrade cards for the above fleet. Still the right crew for the ships.

Tribble tokens. Remember...Klingons hate Tribbles and Tribbles hate Klingons.

Oh dear. A pile of Tribbles on a Klingon ship.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Mantic Open day.

Well, it's taken me a while to get round to writing this post considering the Mantic Open day was back on the 11th of May. But don't worry about it too much as I have lots of pretty pictures to show you (and a couple of my friend Richard too).
Mantic, for those of you that don't know, are a wargames company. They currently have three games out, Warpath, a 28mm science fiction tabletop wargame, Kings Of War, a 28mm fantasy tabletop Wargame, and DreadBall, a sci-fi sportsgame, also with 28mm figures. (There is also the forthcoming Deadzone, a sci-fi skirmisher set in the Warpath universe, the Kickstarter of which has just finished. More on that later.) It was DreadBall that took me to the open day as there was to be the first ever Mantic Bowl.

This was the set up for the first of my four DreadBall games of the day. My team, the Plecostomus Knights (in grey and purple) faced off against my best friend Richard's team, Beer Money.

Here he is also taking a picture of the set up. Now I had only ever beaten Richard once, at another tournament. It wasn't a great victory as he was attempting to gain the "Most Violent Team" award and was forsaking scoring for beating up his opponent's teams. It was an award that he did indeed get that day. At the end of the game pictured, I had lost by a landslide. Richard scored seven points in a very short time. In fact, we were the first pair to finish.

In my second game of the day I played against the only female coach in the tournament. I was lucky to win that game by a landslide. I had lost my first game but after winning this one, it meant that I might not be placed very low in the eventual rankings for the tournament.

In my third and fourth games, I was drawn against the same coach. He had a very nicely painted robot team. This is them in the above picture at the start of my third game. In DreadBall, each player usually fulfills one of three roles, striker, jack or guard. The coach of a robot team can spend an action to shift the role of a player from one to another, thus changing what it is able to do on the pitch. As all the models in a DreadBall team have to be numbered and there are different models for each role, a coach of a robot team could end up buying several packs of models. Quite a few coaches, including my opponent, have gotten around this by gluing magnets to the bases of their models then sticking player numbers to those magnets which can then be removed and stuck onto a different model of an appropriate type when that player's role changes. A few have even done what my opponent had and written the numbers in binary. A very nice touch I thought.
This third game was very to-and-fro, with neither of us really gaining the upper hand for most of it. One of us would score followed by our opponent pulling the points back his way. We ran out of time to complete all the rushes of the game. There was one rush left at the end and it was my turn. I was ahead in points, only needing three more for a landslide victory. I was confident that I would have gotten it if only I had had two minutes more to complete the rush. Thwarted.
My fourth and final game in the tournament as I have already mentioned was against the same coach. Somehow, this time, I managed to get a landslide victory quite early on.

Other than the Mantic Bowl, there were several other things going on. There was a huge Warpath game, a shop, previews of forthcoming models, alpha-testing of Deadzone and the above pictured massive game of Kings Of War.

Talking of Kings Of War and previews of unreleased models, her is a picture of a trio of werewolves. These creatures will become part of the undead army for the game.

And these models at the front in blue seem to be a type of nun flagellant. They are for the as yet unreleased human army for Kings Of War. On the right in the same colours are Human knights.

Keeping on with the Kings Of War previews for the moment, this steam-powered, choppy, grindy wagon thingy is to be crewed by goblins for the greenskins army. It reminds me of the thing that chased Sarah through a tunnel in Labyrinth.

More previews? Why not? These guys are the Terratons, a Season Three team for DreadBall. They are based on Ankylosaurus, which happen to be my favorite dinosaurs.

One more from the display cabinet now. This guy is from the Rebs faction for Deadzone.

And talking of which...

This is a second generation for the Plague faction. This and the next two pictures are from the lovely looking Deadzone diorama the Mantic had provided for us to dribble over.

This fellow here is an Enforcer, one of the Co-Prosperity Sphere's finest soldiers.

Two Enforcers take cover behind a barricade while their captain strides towards a first generation and three third generations from the Plague faction.

After a fairly tiring day (we'd had to get up around 4am to get the train to Nottingham), Richard and I had to decide what we were going to do for dinner. Being in Nottingham, we thought, "Why not go to Warhammer World?"
The restaurant wasn't open to the general public (it had been set up as a buffet for players of a Warhammer tournament that was happening in the gaming hall) so we got food in Bugmans, Warhammer World's dwarf themed pub.

In the carpark at Warhammer World, they have a lifesize Rhino APC. Apparently, it even drives. Very cool.

And they have huge Imperial Aquilla on a couple of their buildings.

After a hard day geeking out, Richard falls asleep on the train home.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

TableTop Day at Tabletop Nation.

I'll start by saying that I intended to write this post a couple of weeks ago, a day or two after Tabletop Day itself. However, due to a technology failure (my phone's micro SD card going kaput), I had lost most of the pictures and all of the video that I took on the day. These included some stills of great looking gaming tables, and a video of an absolutely beautiful 4' X 4' Carnivale table. I did though manage to retrieve, from my phone's messages folder, the pictures that I had been sending to friends throughout the day. (For those, see below with details of exactly what they are.)

For those that don't know, Tabletop Day was an international event on March 30th 2013 created by Geek And Sundry which commemorated the first anniversary of their You Tube show TableTop, presented by Will Wheaton.  It was also supported and promoted by geek queen Felicia Day. It was to promote tabletop gaming in all it's forms. Here's a link that explains much more accurately and succinctly than I, what it was all about.
The idea was quickly taken up by the gaming community with events happening all over the world.

And where better to go than to Tabletop Nation to help celebrate and play a few games.

I will now go back to the aforementioned game, Carnivale. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to get an intro game of this skirmisher set in a post-cataclysm Venice in 1793. In the setting, most of Italy has been swallowed up by a risen Mediterranean Sea and Venice itself sits on the northern edge of a great magical rent in the sky.
There are four factions to play. These are:

The Patricians, the corrupt, decadent rulers of the city;

The Guild, thieves and roughians;

The Rashaar, sea monsters;

And The Ospedale, madmen and the doctors that keep them.

There are also The Gifted, independent special characters such as The Abomination and Harlequin.

My favourite of the four factions is The Ospedal. The doctors of which use their madmen charges as psychic batteries to power their arcane weapons. And they can get a rhino, what's not to love about that.

I took the five pictures above at a previous visit to Tabletop Nation. The models in them are the actual ones that appear in the Carnivale rulebook. Neat huh?

Here's a link to the official Carnivale site:

The game that I played most at TTN on TableTop Day (and invested in) was X-Wing from Fantasy Flight Games.
I had heard that it was based on the Wings Of War games system. I have an old copy of Wings Of War from before it was re-released with lovely little aircraft models. The planes in my version of the game are simply pictures on cards. If my version of Wings Of War was version 1.0, then I'd describe X-Wing as Wings Of War version 3.0 but in space and Star Wars. An idea that is shared by a friend that I introduced to the game shortly after the 30th.
As with most stuff from Fantasy Flight, the quality of the models and components are first class. The litle X-Wings and TIE's, not to mention the Millennium Falcon are a joy.

Here are some pics: Unfortunately, the gaming mat makes it a little hard to see the models in the first two.

Luke Skywalker and Biggs Darklighter engage two TIE Fighters while Darth Vader in his TIE Advance lurks in the background.

A lone surviving X-wing and the Falcon take on a squadron of TIEs and Slave 1.

If you need to ask what this is...Well shame on you.

The rules are really simple but fun. The game plays quickly and smoothly. There are various pilots that you can assign to each ship which change their abilities and points costs along with upgrade cards to give you an edge. And there are custom dice...I love custom dice.
I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a Y-Wing, A-Wing, X-Wing expansion pack (which comes with, I'm informed, a Wedge Antilles pilot card) and a TIE Interceptor. Hopefully I'll be able to pick them up at Salute (Europe's biggest wargames fair) on Saturday 20th of April, as they were out of stock at Wayland Games (who share space with Tabletop Nation) on TableTop Day.

I want to make a clarification to something that I posted earlier on this blog. I had stated, that in the DreadBall tournaments that I attended earlier this year, I narrowly missed out on qualifying for the SuperBall (national championship). It turns out that I missed it by a much wider margin than I thought, as the events were not actually qualifiers for the SuperBall. Still a lot of fun though.

Friday, 22 February 2013

What I beleive was wrong with the ending of the Watchmen movie.

Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' masterpiece is my favorite graphic novel of all time. And I have read a lot of graphic novels by some truly great writers and artists. With this in mind, you might be forgiven in thinking that no matter how good the film was, that it would never be good enough for me. You'd be wrong. Going into the cinema, I was willing and happy to find that in a couple of hours time I had a new favourite film. It didn't happen. It really didn't.

Okay, now, spoiler alert. If you havn't read the graphic novel, don't read on. If you havn't seen the film, don't. Read the graphic novel instead.
In Watchmen, the world is on the brink of nuclear war. Ozymandias, the worlds most intelligent man, comes up with a plan to avert this. Along with a group of scientists and artists (who he later kills to keep the secret), he creates a giant "extra-dimensional" being which, when it materialises in New York City, kills off the city's entire population with it's psychic "death" scream. With the perceived threat of a very dangerous and powerful potential enemy from somewhere other that Earth, the planets population will hopefully unite, their previous squabbles paling in comparison.
In the movie, the psychic alien is completely written out. Instead, the threat to the world come from faked (by Ozymandias) manifestations of the ever increasing power of Dr. Manhattan, one of the former Watchmen. The problem with that ending is this. In the original, the countries of the world can unite against a common enemy. Dr. Manhattan however, is not only an American but an American soldier. His powers being an american asset have  further pushed the world toward mutually assured destruction. Seeing a greater destructive threat coming from that source would further galvanise America's allies and may even gain it new ones. The world would be even more divided that before it had happened. Somehow in the movie, the human race unites instead of being further pushed apart which is the effect that I believe the manifestations would have had on the psychology of the people of the Watchmen world.

I really don't see any reason, other than time and financial factors, why the ending was changed. Putting in the creation of the alien would have added maybe another 30 minutes to the length of the film. The arrogance of the Hollywood script writers at the belief that they could write as good a, or better ending that the great Alan Moore exasperates me.

Boycot the film. Buy the graphic novel and experience one of the greatest stories ever written.

Warhammer World.

It's only February and I've already been to four games tournaments this year!

The first, which I talked about  in my last post was a DreadBall tournament, as were the two that followed it, one at Hammerhead (a wargames convention held Kelham, Nottinghamshire), the other at Wargames Workshop in Milton Keynes. I managed to come joint 5th out of 10 at Hammerhead and 4th out of 10 in Milton Keynes.

My fourth tournament of the year saw me awaken (after only two hours sleep) at the stupidly early time of 5a.m.. It had to be this early as the coach from outside Games Workshop's Chiswick store was due to leave at 6:15. Yes, the tournament was at Warhammer World, Games Workshop's Nottingham H.Q.. The tournament was called "Invasion", was a Warhammer 40,000 event and consisted of patrons of some of London's Games Workshops. It was a doubles event with each player taking a 600 point force which must be legal as per a standard  force organisation chart. I took a force of Necrons lead by a Destroyer Lord with Sempiternal Weave, a squad of six Wraiths with whip coils, two squads of five Necron Warriors and four bases of Scarabs. My partner took Grey Knights. He had Castellan Crowe as his H.Q. choice supported by two squads of five Purifiers and a Dreadnought.

The day consisted of three games. The first saw us facing a father and son team who had a combined force consisting of Space Wolves and Chaos Space marines. We managed to beat them quite considerably. My proudest moment was when my close combat contingent (my Wraiths lead by my Destroyer Lord), after dispatching a squad of Thunderwolf Cavalry, took out a squad of Terminators lead by non-other than Logan Grimnar.
After lunch, in our second game, we fought against a two guys using Slaaneshi Deamons and Tzeenchi Daemons respectively. This pair turned out to be the overall tournament winners. They beat us too. They were good players who knew their armies well. The Tzeench player had two squads of Flamers. It is the general consensus of 40K players that for their in game points cost, these daemons are way, way over-powered (the guy they belonged to even said nearly as much). I honestly don't know that if these models had not been on the table whether my partner and I would have won or not. We certainly would have stood a much better chance and it would have been a very close game indeed. One thing that I thought was a mistake by Matt Ward (the guy that wrote Codex: Grey Knights), was that despite the Warhammer 40,000 universe fiction, The army (at least the options that my partner took) had nothing special that was particuarly effective against Daemons. In the stories, the Grey Knights are the most elite of all Space marines, a specialised chapter whose job it is to destroy daemons.
Our third and last game saw us facing off against a couple of young lads who were using Necrons and Tyranids. The Necron player took, for his force, a special character, Illuminor Szeras, plus two squads of 19 warriors. The Tyranid player took a big monstrosity the name of which I don't know plus loads, and I mean loads, of Hormagaunts. They went for strength in numbers. It didn't work. We beat them, but it was close.

They day, which included a hot meal and coach travel there and back, cost £30. I thought it was good value for money, a change to the usually inflated prices that games Workshop charge.

Now how about some pretty pictures and a bit of video?

This video is of the gaming hall at Warhammer World, to show the scale of it.

Warhammer World includes a very nice Dwarf themed pub called Bugman's.
This is a pic of the Bugman's fireplace which even has fake glowing wood.

Some of the wall art in the pub. An orc's head on a shield.

Bugman's, along with it's fake fire, even has fake stained glass on the doors to its balcony. They are just stickers but do look rather good with the sun streaming through them though. The orc head is fake too by the way.

The front of the pub is actually in the gaming hall. here's a picture of it.

Here's a closer look at the pub sign.

Monday, 28 January 2013

DreadBall Copper cup and Tabletop nation.

On Sunday, I went to Tabletop Nation (my second visit there) to play in the DreadBall Copper Cup.

DreadBall is a Sci-Fi sports game produced by Mantic. It has the flavour of games such as Speedball 2 and Rollerball.

The tournament was run, extremely well by Rich J from Enfield Gamers, a wargames club based in Ponders End, North London that meet on Tuesday evenings. Due to the distance between where I live and Ponders End, I rarely get the chance to go down there now unfortunately, so it was good to see many members of the club at the event. Here's the address of the Enfield Gamers web page. New members are always welcome.

I managed to come 4th out of 20 players in the tournament. I was very pleased with my performance but gutted that I narrowly missed out on third place. It wasn't the fact that I missed out on getting a voucher for more "toys" but that the first three placed players got an invitation to the DreadBall Super Bowl later in the year. There will however be other DreadBall events this year that I believe will give players the chance to get a ticket for the Super Bowl so I may enter one of those and try my luck again.

Tabletop Nation itself is a wonderful gaming facility coupled with Wayland Games' bricks and mortar store. It has the most beautifully constructed gaming tables that I have ever seen, so much so that I couldn't help taking some (jerky) videos of them. I thought Id share them with you.

The first is a table designed to play Infinity (a 28mm Sci-Fi skirmish game) on. It features a brilliant ruined elevated roadway.

This second table is made for Bolt Action (a WWII 28mm game). This is a really beautiful table.

This third one seems to be for a 6mm skirmish game. I think that, partly due to the scale of the scenery and partly because there is not enough room on the board for large formations of troops.

This last video features a table that I think would be great for Warhammer 40,000. I can just imagine an Imperial Guard force on the raised paved area, Basilisks shelling no mans land while Chaos cultists skulk in the trenches.