Friday, August 24, 2012

Cracking the Plastic – Wings of Glory Halberstadt D.III (Luftstreitkräfte)

As a long time fan of the precursor to this game, Wings of War, I was at Gen Con when the new aircraft were released and immediately got my hands on some of the new ones.  There are three miniatures of the Halberstadt D.III – this one (a dark maroon/brown Luftstreitkräfte), a camouflage green and maroon model, and Keudell’s light colored model.  

Why did I grab the Luftstreitkräfte model?  I found that the green on the camouflaged model was too bright for my tastes.  I’m sure members of the League of WWI Aviation Historians (good men all!) can tell if it is accurate or not.  I went for my model since it seemed, to my eyes, to be more authentic.  Take a look at the image and you decide. 

This model uses a P maneuver deck which was pleasing.  The maneuver decks is one of the ways that Wings of Glory makes the aircraft really stand out in terms of performance.  It can take fourteen points of damage, which is acceptable (and certainly better than the Fokker E.III which was released at the same time).  When you buy the pack you get the stand, four elevation pegs, the painted metal miniature and the maneuver deck.  

My only gripe with this kit was that the pegs were more loose than with others I’ve purchased in this series.  No big deal?  Think again.  I (and most people) move the miniature by gripping the elevation pegs.  If they are loose, you drop the base and are constantly having to put it back on.  Wings of Glory is all about fast play.  I don’t want to get my turn slowed down fidgeting with the miniature.  A little work with a match I was able to get the rouge pegs to stick better.  Bottom Line:  I want to get that enemy in my sights and get the guns blazing!   After all, that’s what this game is all about. 

Overall – this model doesn’t have a great deal of detail.  It’s generic – no insignia or detailing that give it personality.  If you’ve played Wings of War/Glory and you’ve seen some of the minis you know they can be very detailed in their paint jobs.  That’s not the case here.  Then again, this is not some ace’s airplane like some of the others portrayed in the game.  This is a “typical” airplane that I’m sure the true fans will repaint and customize as they deem necessary.  

My rating – 4.5 out of five stars.  This aircraft is a nice addition to your Wings of Glory collection.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cracking The Plastic on the Fokker E.III (Max Immelmann)

I was at Gen Con last week and made sure I spent some time at Ares Games.  I was hoping to pick up the new Wings of Glory aircraft and was fortunate to pick up the new releases!  I’m going to give a quick review of the ones I was able to snag, starting with Immelman’s Fokker E.III. 

For those of us that have wanted to slug out the period of the Fokker Scourge, this release was a welcome one.  The miniature is metal like the others in the series and comes with four elevation pegs, a base with the firing arc, and a set of maneuver cards. 

A few new things.  First off, this airplane uses maneuver deck T – I think this is the first one we’ve seen of this.  I’ve included a shot of the cards for you to check out.  I’m glad to see this.  For a while, the old Wings of War series seemed to be reusing a lot of the same maneuver decks.  With this release, we’re going to see some of the different performance characteristics of the aircraft which is welcome.  With a rating of eleven (11) for damage, the Fokker E.III seems to be a lightweight in the Wings of Glory series.  Still, I found that it had a good turning arc which should make for some good game play. 

The miniature itself is pretty good.  I feel that the paint color is a bit lighter than what I like.  One thing that the Wings of Glory/War aircraft seem to lack is any sort of weathering.  Most aircraft look like they rolled out of the factory  rather than having been in battle for a while.  

This mini is good and sturdy and I’m sure there are enough fans out there willing to take the time to repaint or weather their purchases. 

There are two other Fokker E.III’s in the series – Hautzmayer’s Fokker A.III and Buddecke’s Fokker E.III.  I picked up Immelman because, well, I like Immelman. 

Is the new Fokker worth picking up?  If you play or collect Wings of Glory WWI – of course.  We’ve needed planes from this era.  The single-winged aircraft is a neat sight in the skies of your next game.  But it’s not alone – this series includes a monoplane from the French too!  More on that to come in future reviews.  

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Book Review - Castro's Bomb

I will preface this review by stating that for the last three years I have been researching the planned invasion of Cuba for a book I'm writing. I'm also a Conroy fan. His alternate history novels are generally entertaining and enjoyable.

Three years of research on the Cuban Missile Crisis meant that the premise of this book captivated me. After the Cuban Missile Crisis Castro steals a nuke, seizes the US base at Guantanamo, and hands America a reeling defeat.

At least that's the first part of the book.

Conroy does a lot of good character development. I judge this by how the characters appear at the beginning and the end of the book. They grow, evolve, and you get to like them. The story he weaves is entertaining. If you've read his other alternate history novels, this one is worth adding to your collection.

My favorite character in this book is the spy that discovers Castro's plan at the start of the book and acts as a backchannel for talks with the Soviets. Despite my love of the combat scenes, I found this character the most interesting and appealing.

There are a few technical flaws but in all fairness, these are minor nits at best. First, in only one case were the cruise missiles used by the Russians actually married to the nuclear warheads during the crisis and post-crisis. Second, I found it implausible that the US would hold back a full retaliatory invasion of Cuba given what Castro does in the book. Sure, the Soviets apply a lot of diplomatic pressure, but lets get real. Time to break out OP Plan 316 and in 18 days you invade and secure Cuba. Also, post the missile crisis, our military presence in the region was still substantial and on alert in case the Soviets or Cubans revoked the terms of the agreement to remove the missiles.

The counter to these points is simple - Conroy is writing a novel here and there has to be some degree of literary license. So, setting aside my insider knowledge, I accepted the book for what it was - a great ride.

I rate Castro's bomb a four out of five stars. Pick it up and prepare for a great weekend read! 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Gen Con Survival Guide

Gen Con is coming in two weeks.  For those of you who are unaware of what this convention is all about, it basically is 35,000 science fiction/fantasy/military history fans descending on Indianapolis for four days of playing role playing, electronic, board and miniature games.  It is a geek-fest second only to San Diego ComicCon in terms of fun. 

I go because I love it.  I enjoy meeting with publishers, playing games, meeting fans, almost all of it.  For several days I embrace my less-than-inner nerd.  If you love gaming and you’re not going – well, you’re missing something. 

Attending Gen Con requires a strategy all on its own.  So, tongue firmly planted in my cheek, here’s my first ever Gen Con Survival Guide! 

Tip Number One:  Plan in advance.  Go online, figure out what you want to do.  Download the Gen Con app so you can figure of where you want to be and when.  DO NOT try and figure all of this out while you are at the counter buying tickets.  This is like that person standing at line at Starbucks for 15 minutes, getting up there and going, “Hmm…I’m not sure what I want…”  Don’t be that guy.  Everybody hates that guy. 

Tip Number Two:  Pack as if you are going to be at the convention center for 16 hours straight…because you are.  Slip in some snacks because let’s face it, convention food is expensive and sucks.  (PS.  Beef Jerky is not a good public snack – no one looks good tearing off a piece of stinky meat.)  Bring pencils, pack your lucky dice (you know the ones!) graph paper, a small tape measure (for miniatures games), aspirin, you know – survival gear.  Think over seriously if you need to bring all of your rules books and game manuals.  Chances are the guys running the game are going to have a copy there.  Don’t over pack.  You don’t need to bring your PC with you, I’m almost positive.  Keep it simple, keep it light. 

Tip Number Three:  Be prepared for the rush to the main hall.  Yes, when the balloon goes up and they open the doors to the sales floor, it is a torrent of people rushing to get in.  Don’t fight it, ride it in.  Yes, it’s that crowded every year.  You can’t get in without a badge, have it out.  Nothing sucks more than being in a crowd of 2000 only to find out you have turn around and run back to the hotel room through a sea of angry and exited geeks. 

Tip Number Four:  Don’t design a costume that is going to injure passersby.  Think it over.  No one is more of a douche-bag than a guy that has designed a costume that is hard to get around or trips/blinds people when you pass. 

Tip Number Five:  If you’re going to be one of those people who stop in the middle of a crowd to take a picture of the babe wearing a chain mail bikini, do it quickly and don’t clog up the corridor.   Trust me, she’s not going to go back to your hotel room with her because you’re taking her photo and you don’t need a photo to prove to your buddies back at the office that there were indeed females at the convention. 

Tip Number Six:  Bathe and use deodorant.  This shouldn’t have to be a tip, it should be common sense.  Based on my own experience moving through the crowd, I had to include it.  Look, you paid for a hotel room right?  Go back at some point and at least use the shower. 

Tip Number Seven:  Taco Bell Burritos are not breakfast.  Frankly, I’m not sure that they even have meat in them.  You are what you eat – and in this case, that makes you “questionable.”  The smell of burritos in the morning is not the smell of victory, it’s the smell of desperation and despair. 

Tip Number Eight:  Eat outside of the convention center.  First, convention food sucks.  I don’t blame the folks in Indianapolis for this, it sucked when the convention was in Milwaukee too.  It is something of a tradition to stand in line at the nearby Steak N Shake for 20 minutes at least once during the con for me, but that’s just me.  I also like the brisk walk to the attached mall.  They have a food court, variety, better prices, and it’s a hoot watching the locals interact with the convention attendees.  While we’re on it…

Tip Number Nine:  Don’t frighten the locals.  Look, Indianapolis really seems to like having Gen Con in town – well, at least they like our money.  Don’t try and frighten that family with your Orc costume on the streets of the city.  Not cool dude.  We’d like to be invited back next year.   

Tip Number Ten:  If people have to guess at what your costume is, it sucks.  Take it off.  Go play D&D. 

Tip Number Eleven:  There is always someone that knows the rules better than you.  He’s arrogant, overweight, and wearing a black tee-shirt (then again, who isn’t?)  Nothing kills a game faster than two guys trying to prove who is smarter about the rules regarding the splatter effect of a Mark IV plasma rifle in zero-G.  We get it, you read and memorized the rule book. 

Tip Number Twelve:  Don’t just sit around.  Go and check out the miniatures games, or some of the big events like the Live Dungeon.  You didn’t shell out all of that money to sit and read a catalogue you picked up did you? 

Tip Number Thirteen:  Do some prep work.  Some companies are bringing limited quantities of games to the con for each day, or a certain day.  If you aren’t in line at the right time, you’re hosed.  Check the web sites and Twitter feeds of your favorite companies to see if that new product will be available and when. 

Tip Number Fourteen:  Wear comfortable shoes.  Preferably shoes that do not have an aroma (see Tip Six.)

Tip Number Fifteen:  Go back to your hotel at night and get some sleep.  You’ll need the energy.  All night gaming is great, if you’re young, but even then you need some sleep. 

Tip Number Sixteen:  Attend the auction.  You’ll be able to tell your wife/mother/cat/significant other that that shelves and containers of games you have ARE of value.  You’ll be surprised at what games people collect and what they will pay for one.  It’s also kind of fun to see last year’s hot products being sold for a pittance of what people paid for them a year ago. 

Tip Number Seventeen:  Play the demo games.  Look, games cost money – a LOT of money.  I sit in on demos, watch tournaments, etc. to figure out where I’m going to spend my cash.  I recommend you do the same. 

Tip Number Eighteen:  Don’t insult your favorite writer or game designer intentionally.  These guys work hard to produce your fun.  Don’t be “that guy” that shows up to tell someone how horrible a product they wrote in 1992 was, or how they made a mistake in an out-of-print 1989 book.  We get it, you can read.  If you’ve traveled all of this way to show off your knowledge, you’re a decade or two off.  If you meet writers, authors, artists, designers – be cool and respectful. 

Tip Number Nineteen:  Go early.  Get out of bed and get to the convention early.  There’s a lot going on and the lines are significantly shorter.  I hit the MechWarrior pods usually at 8-9am when the convention hall is empty-ish. 

Tip Number Twenty:  WIN.  Savor your victories.  Cherish the lament of your foes as they are crushed under the weight of your killer die rolls and strategy!  Don’t rub it in, but enjoy it.  You didn’t travel all of this way to lose did you?  Hell no!  In other words, have fun!

There you have it guys – GAME ON!