Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Best in Show...

Our little local convention, ShepparCon, entered its second year this year and it turned out to be a fantastic weekend of great games and more importantly, great people. I think I spent more time wandering around and chatting than I did actually sitting down to play, but I had a blast, the people make these events!

It was also the first year my son came with me for an extended time, and I very much enjoyed the opportunity to include him, we played a number of great games together and he was very excited to attend. A huge thanks to all those who gamed with us, my son and I had a great time, having the chance to play Hisss and Colt Express were his favourite experiences of the con (we may now have both in our collection).

So what were the standout experiences?

Colt Express

I played my first game of Colt Express, the 2015 winner of the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award. I must say that I enjoyed my first game immensely, we played this game twice over the course of the weekend, bought a copy, and have played twice since. The game is all about outlaws trying to grab as much loot as they can during a train heist, while slipping away from one another, beating up one another, and avoiding the Marshall. It's a lot of fun, and the way the movement of all the players is programmed is a very clever and interesting mechanism I enjoy a lot.

Every turn players will have the chance to play a number of action cards from their hand, these cards are played into a single collective pile, sometimes face up (allowing you to see what everyone is doing), and sometimes, if the train is going through a dark tunnel, face down (meaning no-one knows what each other is doing). After the players have played their 4-5 cards each into this deck (usually one at a time), the deck is flipped over and the actions enacted. The actions allow you to move up onto the roof, left and right, collect loot, punch or shoot the other players and move the Marshall. The way some of the cards are face up, and some face down means that you can plan and program your own actions, but there are times when the actions of others will be a mystery. You may have started in a carriage with an outlaw you had planned to punch, but by the time your card is revealed, they may have already slipped away to the roof.

There is a good level of thought to be found in Colt Express, and whole lot of fun. Once the deck has been constructed it is always amusing to see what unfolds. Outlaws shooting thin air, swinging punches in an empty carriage, trying to collect loot from a carriage already emptied by a sneaky other outlaw. Your choices make a difference, but there is also a dose of second-guessing your opponents and luck involved. These things don't detract from the game, but enhance the experience in my view, and the whole is, simply put, a lot of fun.

Flamme Rouge

My other favourite game from the convention was Flamme Rouge, and I say this as a person who finds cycling about as interesting as performing surgery on myself with blunt kitchen items. If someone said, 'We're spending tonight watching cycling', I'd cast about for the nearest black hole to spaghettify myself in. If someone said, 'We're spending tonight playing Flamme Rouge." I'd be thrilled. It really is an excellent game. We played with the basic rules, the advanced rules, as I understand it, add some variety to the track, making for some added complexity in the planning and execution of the race, but aren't a huge step up.

In Flamme Rouge each player has two cyclists, the rouleur, who is the steady pace setter, and the sprinteur, who is generally slow, but capable of great bursts of speed. Each turn players will select a card to play from their hand for each of their cyclists, the card will dictate how many spaces forward the cyclist will move. Those at the head of a peloton will earn exhaustion cards, which dilute their deck (and therefore hand), those a space behind another cyclist will slipstream forward.

Simple rules, simple game, but it all comes together on the track. The game is all about second guessing what the other players will do, how to position your grinding rouleur with your short burst sprinteur, and positioning the sprinteur so they can make the final dash forward that will win you the race. The card play and movement system is really straightforward, but the game comes together as all elegance of clean design. It works, and it works really well. I even walked away with an increased interest in cycling, ye gads!

Wits and Wagers Evening

One of the great stand-outs of the event for me was the opportunity to host a large-scale Wits and Wagers game in the evening on the Saturday night. We used a variation of the Wits and Wagers Family rules, with each team having two meeples to place, and points earned each question for a) the winning answer, and b) for each meeple placed on the winning answer.

We had somewhere around 35 people playing in six teams, and all the questions were game related, things like: How many Elektros would you have if you had all the notes in a game of Powergrid? In what year was famed game designer and unicorn hunter Bruno Faidutti born? and so on.

These events, for me, are more about community building, the friendships and laughter, than the game itself, but Wits and Wagers is a great game that perfectly suits such an evening. I'm not sure about everyone else, but as the person trying to make jokes and ask the questions, I had an absolute blast. I'm hoping that everyone else who came along had as much fun as I did!

Next year we'll do our best to run this event again, with a new set of questions and some little tweaks to the rules. I also need to make sure my set of meeples for each team is easily visible (they had a tendency to blend in a little too well), and that I use velcro or something to attach them better (Blu-tack was merely ok). We were lucky enough to have prizes for all of the winners (thanks to the generosity of Grail Games), and hopefully we can provide similar going forward.


As a part of ShepparCon we also had a protospiel event organised by Karl Lange of Ark Angel Games. During this I had the chance to play two prototypes, one by game designers and all around great people Ben and Shae Boersma of Darwin Games, which was a lot of fun. It was a mix of die rolling, power activation, deduction and memory (time didn't permit us to play a second game, which I would have liked). The other was from Karl Lange, and was a roll and write game with a pirate theme, a game which I thoroughly enjoyed, ARRRR!!

Gaming with my Family

The best thing about this year was that my son was able to attend for a large portion of it. Being 8 he can't join in with all games, but I really appreciate those gamers at the event that were more than happy to include him in our games together. He had a great time, with Colt Express his clear favourite of the con. I also had my wife and daughters come in throughout the weekend, and the chance to play the Disney version of Codenames was a lot of fun.

He also had a great time playing Magic Maze, and with 7 or 8 players (I can't recall exactly), it was raucous and just plain hilarious. The fact you couldn't talk during while the game was 'active' was something he absolutely loved, though I could tell he was burning to talk throughout.

The red pawn piece used to alert other players that they had something they needed to do in the game put in some hefty overtime in this game!

A Friendly Community

One of the things I love most about this style of convention is that everyone is there to play some games and have some fun. I had the chance to walk around and speak to a lot of people, as well as play games with people I haven't gamed with before. Everywhere I looked people were inclusive and friendly, and that is exactly the sort of atmosphere I love most. It was also wonderful to catch up with friends I hadn't seen, in some cases, for many years.

Board gaming is a social hobby, with the opportunity to stretch our minds, but also the chance to talk and laugh with people that share our interests. Overall it was a great con experience for me, and I hope for all those who attended. It certainly energised our little local gaming group! As part of the organising committee we were extremely pleased with how it turned out, and are very much looking forward to 2019!

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Gateway to Mayhem

I seem to have been on a theme recently, the last five posts from the Castle have all been about Gaslands. This is to make it six in a row...

The last little while I have been consumed by both getting some freelance work finished and completing my school reports, outside of that I managed to squirrel away a little time to finish off a set of four gates for my Gaslands table (I want to make some billboards next, and I think I'll be done). These gates are from an Australian company called Module-R Terrain, they went together very easily, and look great; you get six in a set (I have the last two near finished, but needed four done for an upcoming event). Well worth the price of admission!

The six gates from Module-R went together very easily. The car is to give an idea of the scale, you can comfortably fit three cars side by side within the gate.

With all of these I undercoated them with a silver metallic spray. After this I heavily dry-brushed with a lighter silver paint. The next step was to paint the black and yellow stripes. I used a piece of ragged foam to stipple on the red for the signs. Once all that was done I washed it heavily with a black wash (Dark Tone from Army Painter). Lastly, I dribbled a fair bit of brown wash over them to give them a rusted look. The tire marks and oil stains on some of the gates were made with pooled black wash - the Army Painter stuff from the tin is quite viscous, I watered it down when painting the gates, but used it straight for the tire marks etc.

So, four gates finished! All ready for an upcoming participation game I'll be running at the local game convention ShepparCon, which I am greatly looking forward to. I was also blown away that Sebastian of Module-R Terrain offered to support the event, and I'll have some packs to hand out for 'spectacular happenings' and 'ludicrous carnage' over the course of the weekend!

I also managed to finish off the cars I had on the workbench. One was a buggy, the other a monster truck...

With both of these I used plenty of Vallejo textured paint to make them look like they have a fair amount of mud caked to them. Other than that, I followed the same method as for the other cars I have completed: an undercoat of Indian red, water and salt in patches, an undercoat of the base colour, get rid of salt, detailing, wash, highlight, rust effect and finally varnish. I am fairly happy with how they've come out. Now I need to do a couple more cars for the participation game coming up, and I'll be fairly well done I think...

These are all the vehicles I have completed so far. I need to add a couple more cars, and I should be good to go... and paint the bikes I have... and do some billboards... and...


I managed a quick game of the Death Race scenario with my son and daughter the other day... It was hilarious. I was neck and neck with my son (who sped to top-gear and spent the rest of the game trying not to wipe out).

That is until an unfortunate slide had me going through a gate the wrong way, my son rammed me, and the results were not pretty. Straight after the ram my car flew forward, slid and flipped off the table.

A combination of high speed and being rammed got me in this pickle... My son won by technical knockout.

Well, those are my Gaslands travails till now. I am greatly looking forward to the upcoming participation game, and until then, I have a few more bits to do, and I should be done!

Well, I say done...

Monday, 21 May 2018

A wreck!

More Gaslands terrain! My last posts have been consumed by Gaslands, and this one is no different. The simple fact is that the terrain and cars I been putting together and painting, are just fun to do.

This time, with the explosive gas tank and concrete piles behind me, I decided to make one more piece of terrain: a pile of wrecked cars. The materials required: a MDF coaster, cheap cars, a hammer, hot glue, and paint.

So, taking the cheapest toy cars I could find outside, I found a suitable hard surface to sit them on, and then belted them with a hammer several times. Given the intended outcome, it ended up being visually appealing and quite cathartic at the same time. Next I hot glued the cars together and onto an MDF coaster I had laying around. Be aware: cars hit with a hammer have holes through which hot glue can travel, I noticed this as I also managed to hot glue my fingers. It turns out hot glue is not 'marketing speak', trying to make warm glue seem edgy, it really is hot.

After this I painted the base with PVA and sprinkled sand all over it. An undercoat of Indian Red was next.

The car on the right of frame was a rubber one that came with a monster truck, the paint never fully dried on it (damn chemical reactions), so I pulled it off and replaced it with another cheap car mauled beneath a hammer. Next the base coat - some metal dry brushing, the few windows in blue, the tires in black (and hubs in metal), and ground in brown.

I washed it heavily with an Army Painted Strong Tone, and not happy with the result, again with a Dark Tone, allowing it to pool in spots on the base to look like spilled oil etc. Lastly, I broke out my Tamiya weathering kit and dusted the whole thing down heavily with rust. Lastly I sprayed the entirety with the last drops of a flat varnish spray - which came out patchy, and caused a wrinkled effect I would have been furious about if it had not been a car wreck.

The wrinkling in the paint is due to the flat varnish coming out of the can poorly, and the pock marks in the surface from bubbles in the wash (which I would normally remove). Overall, the effect is solid I think. A car wreck, for other nearly wrecked cars to get wrecked on.

The next items on the docket are two more cars for the teams, a set of gates from Module-R terrain, and some bikes that just arrived from Ramshackle.

Module-R Terrain gates
Ramshackle bikes

Edited in response to Wouter's question below, about how the bikes scale with the HotWheels:

I think the scale fairly well, it should be noted of course, that some of the HotWheels cars are chunky and exaggerated, but on the whole they sit nicely alongside them and will work a treat once based and painted. I did notice the resin is a little brittle, so take care when trimming them. But the detail is solid. I'm very happy with them so far!

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Obstacle Course!

In between getting the various teams ready for Gaslands, I have also been working on a few pieces of terrain to liven up the board. Last post I wrote about the board I made, and a few piles of concrete to provide things to drive or slide into.  This time I took a few of the cheap plastic city pieces that came with one of the car kits I bought and made them more post-apocalyptic-y (it's an adjective right?).

First were some witches hats, because in the smoke, gas, and blood fueled ultra-violence of this post-apocalyptic roller derby, someone spent time before the starting horn to set out traffic hazard cones. Getting ripped apart by .50 cal shells or having a 2.75" rocket detonate your fuel tank is one thing, losing traction on a slippery part of the course though? Not on!

Garish plastic cones, stripped of the sticker, stuck them to a washer and added some sand, and finally masked with some thin tape.

A spray of black undercoat, in retrospect I should have bent a few of these up.

Peel the tape off, and now we have added safety!

Next up I took a plastic gas tank, glued it to a MDF coaster, added a plastic street sign (which I bent up with a pair of pliers), and some left over pieces of MDF railing from my Spartan Terrain sets.

Stupidly I undercoated the whole thing red. Realising shortly afterwards this wasn't what I was after I resprayed in black.

That's better...

Brown and drybrush with a lighter brown on the base. The tank, fences and sign were heavily dry-brushed in metal. The fence and sign were dry-brushed again in a lighter metal. Following that I applied white to the tank using heavy to light stippling with a torn piece of foam.

The rust was a light brown wash dribbled over the top and around all the edges and valves. With a final coat of Tamiya rust weathering powder in patches all over.

Originally I did a cross on the sign, but wasn't thrilled with it. I decided to paint over it...

That seems more appropriate.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

A Post Apocalyptic View

My last few posts have been all about Gaslands, the post-apocalyptic demolition derby where roll cages and machine guns are minimum requirements for entry. It's a fun game, and I've thoroughly enjoyed messing around with some Hot Wheels cars making them look the part (you can see more here and here). Well the nest two cars are done, I have two more to do next, and then I'll be waiting on some bikes from Ramshackle, after which I'll be done (yeah, that's what I tell myself).

Next is a monster truck and a buggy, after that the bikes, and then... well... I need a war-rig right?

As well as getting the cars done I remembered I had some 4x4 boards sitting in my shed for use with Infinity, and after some careful deliberation (it may have been pure impulse), I decided to paint one up all post-apocalyptic. It was pretty straight forward stuff - a large quantity of cheap brown paint and three quarters of a plastic cup of sand mixed together and then rolled onto a 4x4 board of 3mm MDF (yes, I did mix my Imperials and Metrics in the same sentence...).

Ok, so doubtless a big open space is fun if no-one is about and you can let the car go a bit, but this is Gaslands! I need some things for cars to crash into!

From previous terrain building I had some left over pieces of cork-board floor tiles. I broke them up with the idea of making them into heaps of concrete walls etc - nice and tough objects for the cars to bounce off.

Ripped up bits of cork floor tile, glued together using PVA or white glue...

A black spray undercoat...

We don't need no Jersey Barriers in the POST-Future! No! We smash up Jersey Barriers and pile them up to make POST-Jersey Barriers!

After undercoating, I dry-brushed thickly with a blue-gray craft paint, followed by a light gray, and finally a very light dry-brush with white. They're not the best, I should have gone easier on the light gray step to let the darker tone beneath come through a bit more. But they look reasonable, and were quick to do.
The new cars with the new POST-Jersey barriers...

The board, as well as the various vehicles I have finished so far... I think I need some gates...

By the by, the latest episode of my podcast, On Minis Games is up, and in it we review Gaslands! Oh! If you're interested you can find it here, the link to subscribe can be found on the same page, or you can find us in iTunes...