Sunday, June 14, 2009

All the Fun of the Fair

It was a beautiful winter day today. In Brisbane Australia that means a cool crisp morning, warm dry day and a clear blue sky. The perfect day to head outdoors and get some fresh air. So me, my wife Deb, our two girls Maddie and Georgia, and Deb's Dad (AKA Dah) hopped in the car and drove to a local school fair.

I was pretty impressed with what was available at the fair; jumping castles, a mini-Ferris wheel, putt-putt golf, huge slippery slide, tea-cup ride, swinging chair ride, outdoor rock climbing tower, a laser tag course, not to mention the amount of food and activity stalls, white elephant, trash & treasure, and books to name a just a few.

If I was a 10 year old boy I could have spent the entire day playing on the awesome laser tag course which had sandbagged barricades and other obstacles to run around. The laser guns looked pretty cool as well.

The girls had a great time and we spent about three hours wandering around enjoying ourselves before heading home.

On the gaming side I picked up a some board games - Loopin' Louie, Tank Battle and Tip-It for only a couple of dollars. We all had a great time and it was fun to get out of the house and do something different in the fresh air.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Gaming With Grandma - 99

Saturday morning at our house means family time playing games together, mostly board games and card games with myself, my mother (Grandma) and seven year old daughter Maddie. This morning we decided to try out some games my wife had picked up at a garage sale last weekend.

Our first game of the morning was Wanted! which is a quality card game from Ravensburger. In this game the deck is dealt equally face down to all players with any remaining cards put aside. The winner is the first player to get rid of all their cards. The cards depict the four main characters; a police officer, a judge, a bank teller and a burglar. Each character has a main specific card where they are shown doing their profession. For example, the police officer is holding up a badge, the judge is shown in court with a gavel in his hand, the bank teller is in the bank and the burglar is coming out of a window with a bag of jewellery. These are called 'action cards'. Now the catch is that there are also cards showing these four main characters doing the other characters' professions. For example, there will be cards with the police officer burglarising a residence, or the burglar sitting in the bank, or the bank teller holding up a police badge.


On your turn you turn over the top card of your deck and quickly play it to the middle of the table. If it is not an action card the next player will quickly turn over their top card and play it on top of the card played by the previous player. This will continue, the tension slowly rising, until an 'action card' is played. That's when the fun really starts. If it is a police officer action card then all players must grab one of the police badge cards (there is always one less than the total amount of players). If it is a judge action card all players must bang their fists on the table and shout "Guilty!". If it is a bank teller card all players must slap their hand onto the action card (or over other faster players' hands already on the action card). If the action card is a burglar card then all players must put their hands up in the air. The slowest player to perform any of these actions takes the cards on the table and adds them face down to the bottom of their deck. If a player makes an incorrect action then they also share the cards with the slowest player.

All in all this is a simple, fast and fun game which adults can easily play with children. I suspect it would also be a fun little filler for an adult game group. We played two games with the results being myself 1st, Maddie 2nd and Grandma 3rd in both games. This one is a keeper.

Our second game of the morning was Haunted Castle, another game from Ravensburger. This is a fun and quick memory/observation game with lovely artwork. Essentially it's flip a card showing seven characters and be the first to spot the missing eighth character. First player to correctly guess keeps the card. Final winner is the player with the most cards when the deck is exhausted. We really enjoyed this one as well and ended up playing two games. Final scores of the first game was me 14, Maddie 10 and Grandma 9. The final scores of the second game were me 20, Grandma 8 and Maddie 5. We all agreed this one was also a keeper.

Haunted Castle

Our final game of the morning was Right Turn, Left Turn which was published by Playroom Entertainment. This game was designed by Reinhard Staupe who also designed Sherlock (AKA Der Plumpsack Geht Um which we all enjoy) and it is easy to see the resemblance between both games. Whereas Sherlock is a memory game, Right Turn, Left Turn is more of a puzzle.

Right Turn, Left Turn

When a card of the central face down deck is turned over, all players must then follow the directions on that card and mentally calculate the final destination card. The direction card will state which traffic officer card you will start at by showing a symbol. You start directions at the traffic officer card with the matching symbol. Then you must move so many right and left spaces following the perspective of the starting traffic officer. You'll notice that some of the traffic officers have their backs turned and some are facing the front. The left/right perspective of each of these will of course be different. The first player to correctly identify the final destination card gets to keep it. If you guess incorrectly then you must give back a previously claimed card. The first player to collect 6 cards is the winner.

We only played the one game. Final score was me 6, Maddie 1 and Grandma 0. There are ways you could handicap older players by having them close their eyes and only open after the other younger players have had a chance to follow the instructions for say, a count of 5. Even so, the game felt like more of a chore than a fun time. There was little player interaction and we all thought it just wasn't that much fun. We agreed that this was not a keeper.

Overall I hadn't had high hopes for any of these kids games. I was pleasantly surprised by both Wanted! and Haunted Castle and I can see these games being played a lot more, especially when Georgia (who is currently three and a half years old) gets a bit older.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Blood Bowl HeroQuest Goblin Conversion - First Four

So I've recently got into the Blood Bowl board game. Now "got into" really only means downloading the Living Rulebook, reading the rules and scouring for more info every Blood Bowl related website, forum, image gallery, podcast and YouTube clip that I can find. I haven't yet played a game but I've read a lot on the various available teams and their tactics.

While my initial enthusiasm is so high I decided to have a go at creating a Blood Bowl team from scratch. Looking around at the spare miniatures I have lying around I came across some HeroQuest goblins. I've bought a number of second hand HeroQuest board games over the years and have a collection of miniatures from that game that have been damaged in some way. Most notably are the goblins which seem prone to having their weapons broken off.

This is what the goblins should look like.

Some of my HeroQuest goblins still on the sprue

And this is my collection of damaged HeroQuest goblins.

Weaponless HeroQuest goblins

I've been wondering for some time what to do with these little guys. What good are weaponless goblins? Well, what about Blood Bowl? I could create a goblin Blood Bowl team! Sure, the goblins are probably one of the suckiest Blood Bowl teams but they sure look like a lot of fun to play. The decision was made.

The first thing I did was to get some epoxy putty for converting the miniatures. The most famous type of modelling putty is Kneadatite which is also known as 'green stuff'. This is a type of putty that comes in blue and yellow strips and when mixed together forms a green-coloured putty with the consistency of sticky chewing gum. The beauty of this product is that after a few hours at room temperature it will dry rock hard. I didn't end up getting green stuff though. The easiest stuff for me to get at my local hobby store was Tamiya Epoxy Putty. This stuff comes in yellow and white strips and when mixed together turns a pale yellow colour.

The only modelling tool I used was my normal hobby knife with a scalpel-like blade. I used this knife for both cutting off the arms and also the sculpting of the putty.

The first step was to cut off the arms of the goblins and then use plastic cement to glue them back on at different angles. I then mixed small blobs of putty and used these to model shoulder pads and helmets. Here are some photos. All photos can be clicked on for a larger image.

Goblin with knuckleduster

Goblin with single spiked shoulder pad

Goblin with double spiked shoulder pad

Goblin flippin' the bird

Below are two of the goblins next to original goblin figures. This will give you a better idea of how the arms have been repositioned and see the putty conversions that have been added.

Here are the other two converted goblins next to a couple of original sculpts.

And here are the four boys next to a human and orc linemen from the 3rd edition Blood Bowl boxed set for comparison. I think the large goblin armour shoulder pads give them an amusing appearance.

Size comparison with Blood Bowl figures

And finally I present the first four players of my goblin Blood Bowl team. This was my first time sculpting with epoxy putty and I found it to be a very enjoyable and satisfying experience. It took me on average about two hours per model. My plan is to create 16 goblin models (11 players plus reserves) with each model being a unique individual. After that I plan on sculpting a couple of troll players for the team and of course I mustn't forget the goblin bombadier, looney, fanatic and pogoer models.

The first four goblin players for my goblin Blood Bowl team

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Blood Bowl

I've recently become interested in Games Workshop's Blood Bowl. I always find it interesting how I develop a new passion for a game. I often forget exactly how or when the initial spark of interest occurred. Often it will be through noticing an image or comment on BoardGameGeek or a blog. In the case with Blood Bowl it was listening to a podcast.

First up let me say that I've been aware of Blood Bowl pretty much from when it was first released back in 1987. I was a big Talisman fan around that time and read White Dwarf magazine for its role-playing articles (yep, back in the early days White Dwarf actually had non-GW related miniatures articles!). I saw the advertisements for Blood Bowl, but not being into Warhammer I wasn't that interested. Fantasy football with orcs, humans and elves? Pfft! I never gave it another thought.

Then back in June 2008 my wife picked up the 3rd Edition Blood Bowl boxed set at a school fete for $2. Sure, it was missing the rules and 4 human players (1 catcher, 1 linesman, 1 blitzer and 1 thrower if anyone has any spares!) but pretty much everything else was there. And it was only $2!

The 3rd Edition Blood Bowl Boxed Set

Even with the boxed set in my hands I didn't think it was a game I would seriously get into. I thought I'd probably sell it on eBay or perhaps see if I could trade it. I stuck it on a shelf and pretty much forgot about it. Until, that is, a couple of weeks ago when I listened to the latest World's End Radio podcast.

The World's End Radio podcast is produced by a couple of Western Australian guys, Luke and JJ. They had an episode (episode #19 'Going for the Grope') devoted entirely to the Sand Groper Cup. The Sand Groper Cup is an annual WA Blood Bowl tournament and this year was attended by almost forty players.

Listening to this episode, with Luke and JJ's discussion around their team composition, tactics and strategy, the interviews with the tournament organisers, and interviews with some of the attendees, and how much fun these guys were having, it really made me reconsider my original opinion of Blood Bowl. So much so that I downloaded the latest free version of the Blood Bowl: Living Rulebook from the Games Workshop specialist games site and have been researching the game like crazy over the last few weeks.

What appeals to me about Blood Bowl is that the rules are free and you only need 11 miniatures for a team. That means it's a fairly cheap game to get into. There's also the almost roleplaying-like aspect of league play where you develop a fledgling team through a season of games, increasing individual player's abilities as you progress.

I've been pretty surprised at what appears to be a huge cult following of the Blood Bowl board game world wide. And coincidentally, a new Blood Bowl video game will shortly be released for the PC, Sony PSP, Nintendo DS and Xbox 360 platforms.

An image from the computer game

The ratings and personal comments on BoardGameGeek give this game a glowing recommendation. I may just start painting up the teams from the boxed set and will look around at whatever other miniatures I have that I can use. Oh yeah, I even found a Blood Bowl league currently running in Brisbane.

Garage Sale Goodies

My wife picked up some kids games at a garage sale on Saturday morning. They were Wanted!, Haunted Castle and Right Turn, Left Turn. A bargain at $3 each and all the cards were still in shrink wrap.

With a family of two young girls (7 and 3) I'm trying to build up a fairly good library of board and card games for their age group. It would be nice if, when Georgia's a little bit older, they can pull out a board or card game to keep themselves amused on a rainy weekend. Within a year or two they'll be bringing their friends to our house to play. While I suspect that they'll probably be engrossed playing Nintendo Wii or DS, it will be nice to have some actual face-to-face games as a back up.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Gaming With Grandma - 98

Another Saturday morning of gaming with my mother (AKA Grandma) and seven year old daughter (AKA Maddie). We only played the one game this morning and that was Der Schwarze Pirat. This is a kids game from the German company HABA and was designed by Guido Hoffman. Players use a rubber squeeze tube, or bellows, to blow a jet of air to push their playing piece, a small wooden ship, around the board. The board represents the ocean and a number of islands laden with pirate treasure. The object of the game is to move your ship around the islands, entering the bays (the light blue areas) and grabbing the gold coins. The person with the most gold coins at the end of the game wins.

The beautiful artwork of the board

On your turn you roll two dice. The first die determines how far you can move your ship (either 3 or 4 squeezes of the bellows), or allows you to move the black pirate ship (3 squeezes of the bellows). The second die determines on which islands you will place a gold coin or coins.

This was our seventh time playing the game and we all noticed that our skill with the bellows has improved a lot since our first time. It's much more exciting when a player can skillfully manoeuvre from one side of the board to the other between the numerous islands with four bellows squeezes. Mind you, there's always the chance of shipwreck by either blowing your ship over on its side or by accidentally forcing it on to an island. There's also the amusing chance of having someone misjudge a squeeze altogether and the ship goes nowhere. Having said that, we found ourselves cheering for the other players when they did make skillful (or just plain lucky!) moves. A fun, fun game.

The Black Pirate AKA "Der Schwarze Pirate"

Final scores were me 16, Maddie 11 and Grandma 8.

Queensland - 150th Anniversary

The state in which I grew up and currently reside, Queensland, celebrated its sesquicentennial anniversary today. 150 years ago, on 6 June 1859, Queen Victoria signed Letters Patent separating the state of Queensland from New South Wales.

Although one of my parents was not born in Australia (my mother emigrated from Switzerland with her family when she was nine years old), I've done some family history research on my father's side and the earliest Australian-born direct ancestor I've found is one of my paternal great-great grandmothers who was born in Brisbane (the future state capital) in 1855.

The area that currently forms Brisbane was originally (from 1825) the Moreton Bay penal colony, intended as a place for recidivist convicts who had offended while serving out their sentences in New South Wales. In 1839 transportation of convicts to Moreton Bay ceased and the Brisbane penal settlement was closed. In 1842 free settlement was permitted and people began to colonise the area voluntarily.

I have no indication whatsoever (unfortunately) that this particular great-great grandmother was the daughter of convicts. In Australia in the past, having an ancestor who was a convict was quite shameful, however times have changed, and these days having a convict ancestor practically means that you are 'Australian Royalty'. ;)