Sunday, February 28, 2010

A good stripper is hard to find...

...a good paint stripper that is.

I've been searching for a good paint stripper that won't harm either plastic or metal miniatures. The word on the Internet is that Simple Green all-purpose cleaner is one of the best. The best thing is that it's also non-toxic and biodegradable.

I've looked in my local supermarkets and hardware stores over the last few months but couldn't find it. I then found a thread on a miniature painting forum that explained it could only be found in Australia at mega-hardware store Bunnings Warehouse. So a quick trip to my local Bunnings store this afternoon and I found it in the cleaning products aisle.

AU$9.47 for a 650ml (22 fl oz) bottle. I'm keen to see if it works as good as it is supposed to. I'll report back in a week or two.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gaming with Grandma - 113

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and daughters Maddie (aged 8) and Georgia (aged 4).

Our first game of the morning was Ingenious. The object of the game is to score points in six different colours by placing plastic tiles consisting of two joined hexes. You score points when you place coloured tiles next to matching colours. The game ends when there is no room to place any further tiles or someone wins by scoring the maximum points in each colour. If the game ends when the space runs out then everyone checks their least-scored colour and the person who scored the most points in their least-scored colour wins the game.

Final scores were:

Grandma - 10, 12, 15, 15, 18 ,18
Wayne - 10, 11, 12, 15, 15, 17
Maddie - 10, 10, 11, 12, 15, 18

Grandma came first on count back, I came 2nd and Maddie came 3rd.

Our second game of the morning was PitchCar Mini. Georgia joined us for this game so we had four 'cars' on the track. I played brown, Grandma played yellow, Maddie played green and Georgia played pink. We had the house rule that whoever was in last place took two flicks.

I led for pretty much the entire race with 2nd, 3rd and 4th places hotly contested between the girls. I went on to win the three-lap race, with Georgia a surprise 2nd place, Grandma 3rd and Maddie 4th.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Orcs from Mordor!

This evening I finished my latest painting project of 24 Mordor Orcs from Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings line of miniatures. These plastic figures are 25mm in scale and were painted with Citadel acrylic paints. All figures were purchased second-hand, mainly from eBay. I stripped all pre-existing paint from these miniatures and started again from scratch. I painted them using a production-line method. Click on the picture for a larger image.

There are eight with a hand weapon and shield, eight with bows and eight with two-handed weapons.

I now have some enemies for my warriors of Minas Tirith to battle. This will give me the opportunity to do solo testing of some miniatures rules such as Lord of the Rings - Strategy Battle Game and Song of Blades and Heroes.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gaming with Grandma - 112

Our game session this morning was at Grandma's house for a change.

We played Quicksand. This is a game in which the object is to be the first adventurer to reach the hidden temple. You use cards to move and hinder the playing pieces which represent the six adventurers. The catch is that each player is secretly assigned one adventurer at the beginning of the game as their character. You win if your character is the first player-owned character to reach the temple. If a non-player character is the first to reach the temple it is reset on its starting space.

So this is a race game where bluffing is the main tactic. Advancing only your own character is a sure way to identify it to the other players who can then play 'quicksand' cards to hinder you. Trying to identify who owns which character while at the same time trying to prevent them from guessing your own, and still trying to advance towards the temple, can be a difficult balancing act.

I played black, Grandma played yellow and Maddie played red. I did end up winning, after Maddie unknowingly helped me at times during the game. Grandma progressed quite well and didn't move her own character at all during the game!

This is a fun, light bluffing game and I'm sure it will see further plays.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Modern Warfare Online Multiplayer Fun

I just reached Level 70 (the top rank prior to prestige ranking) in online multiplayer Modern Warfare 2. It may have taken me longer than others but I've been enjoying this game on an almost daily basis since I hooked up to Xbox Live back on 11 December 2009. I checked my stats of time spent playing this game online - 3 days, 21 hours, 32 minutes. That's over 93 hours so far and I have to say every single minute was FUN!

Whenever I have a spare half-hour and feel the need for some first-person shooter action I can log on to Xbox Live and get in a few quick matches of MW2. Sure, my game play sucked at first and I didn't know what I was doing, but I soon mastered the controls and with time became familiar with the maps and tactics. I play mostly Team Death Match and Free-For-All.

So why do I like playing this game online?

1) I can play against other human beings. Human beings are so much better opponents than the AI. Humans are at times both predictable and unpredictable. There is nothing better than matching wits against other live players.

2) I enjoy dexterity-based board games. Video games are the ultimate in testing your skills of hand-eye coordination and reflexes.

3) Although I've never played skirmish paintball games, I've always wanted to, and I feel MW2 (and most FPS games) would be a close electronic equivalent.

4) So many different weapons, classes, maps and tactics to explore.

5) An experience system that brings back memories of my days of roleplaying games.

The only negative for me is the lag that I experience. Lag is where what I see on screen is a fraction of a second behind what other players see. This is a symptom of connecting from Australia to games mostly hosted by North Americans.

But even with lag I do fairly well, winning the occasional game and generally placing in the top 30% of matches. I dream of lag free games but this only happens when the host is an Australian or New Zealander.

Having said that I still very much enjoy the online play for the immense FUN factor.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Some New Games

A parcel arrived for me today. A parcel of new games. You won't believe this but it has been 12 months (one whole year!) since I last purchased a new game. I was shocked when I realised this. What is happening to me? Am I reaching a point of board game saturation where I'm satisfied with the games I have? Say it ain't so! ;)

MilSims recently had an overstock sale with some great titles for only $15 each. I ordered Lord of the Rings: Friends & Foes expansion, Lord of the Rings: Sauron expansion and Quicksand. I would have also ordered Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation - Deluxe Edition for $15 had I not already had it in my collection.

Alas, they'd sold out of Lord of the Rings: Friends & Foes Expansion by the time they received my order. I'm looking at introducing the Lord of the Rings cooperative game to Mum and Maddie in the future so was looking at picking up both expansions. Ah, well.

Quicksand looks interesting, sort of like The Great Balloon Race which is a game I quite enjoyed playing.

I'm off to crack open some shrink wrap.

Local Gamer Wins National Settlers of Catan Championship

It was cool to see a board game related article in today's issue of mX, a free newspaper available to commuters in Brisbane.

The article features local Brisbane gamer Danny Frahm (BGG user FinalAttack), and recognises him winning the fifth Australian Championship of Settlers of Catan, held at the Australian Games Expo (AGE) in Canberra last month.

I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Danny in person, but am aware of him from BGG, and he games with some people I know. Congratulations Danny, and it's great to see the board game hobby being celebrated in the media.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Return of my Xbox 360

Sadly, on the evening of 30 January 2010, my Xbox 360 got the dreaded Red Ring of Death (RROD). This was the second time my Xbox 360 has had the RROD since I purchased it new just over two years ago in December 2007.

So I contacted Xbox Customer Support and they said they would cover the cost of postage as well as the repair. I carefully packaged my console and sent it off.

My Xbox 360 coffin ready for posting

And today, only eleven calendar days later, my Xbox 360 arrived home. Or did it?

My Xbox 360 is reborn!

A letter was enclosed with my Xbox 360.

Dear Xbox 360 Customer:

So that you can get back to playing and enjoying your Xbox 360 quicker, we have replaced your Xbox console with a replacement unit.

Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience you have experienced by having to send your Xbox 360 in for repair.

It is our goal to provide you with the best gaming and entertainment experience possible, and hope to regain your trust, satisfaction and loyalty.

Please accept this complimentary one month Xbox Live membership card as a gesture of our appreciation to you.

Thank you for your continued support of Microsoft products and services.


Xbox Customer Support

So, I have a replacement console. They transferred my warranty registration to the replacement console and cancelled my old registration. Bear in mind, this is not a new replacement console, rather a refurbished replacement console. Still, it works and does appear to run quieter than my previous console.

So, has my trust, loyalty and satisfaction been regained? Let's just say that there better not be a RROD hat trick, OK Microsoft?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Toilet Fit For a King!

As I was recording a play of King Me! on BoardGameGeek I noticed there was a mini-expansion (of a single card) to this game entitled King Me! - The Toilet which was released in 2004. I looked on both the Mayfair Games and daVinci Games sites but couldn't find any trace of it.

I decided to make my own. I copied an image from BGG and manipulated it with the GIMP. I then printed it out and glued it onto thick card. After that I trimmed it with a craft knife and finally gave it a spray of protective gloss varnish.

Voila! One toilet fit for a King!

My home-made Toilet expansion card

The rules for this expansion state: Before each round, put the toilet next to a floor (3, 4 or 5). The toilet is a special space that you can move a character to, from that floor, instead of moving him to a higher floor. There can be only one character in the toilet at a time. A character in the toilet is still counted towards the 4 character limit for that floor. You may move a character from the toilet to the next higher floor as a normal move. If a character is in the toilet when a new king is elected, he scores only 1 point.

My home-made toilet expansion card next to the the Crown card from the base game

My home-made Toilet expansion card on the King Me! board. It blends in quite nicely!

This expansion sounds like it will add a little fun to the game. I'll try it out next time we play.

Gaming with Grandma - 111

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my elder daughter (AKA Maddie) and mother (AKA Grandma).

Our first game of the morning was King Me! (AKA Viva il Re!), a light bluffing game in which the object is to ensure your favourite characters are increased in rank in the hope one can be crowned king. We last played this game 18 months ago. King Me! can be played free online at

We played the required three rounds.

Round 1 - Wayne 15, Grandma 14, Maddie 5
Round 2 - Grandma 23, Wayne, 19, Maddie 18
Round 3 - Wayne 31, Grandma 23, Maddie 18

Final scores were 1st Wayne 65, 2nd Grandma 60 and 3rd Maddie 41.

Our second game of the morning was Cartagena, a racing game where the object is to ensure you are the first to have all six of your escaped pirates reach the waiting boat at the end of the tunnel. It had been almost exactly one year to the day since we last played this game.

Final scores were 1st Wayne 6, 2nd Grandma 5 and 3rd Maddie 0.

Cartagena can also be played free online at

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

BioShock 2

Today, 9 February 2010, was the world-wide release day for BioShock 2, the sequel to the critically acclaimed video game BioShock. I have the original Bioshock (which is an awesome playing experience) but as I have not yet fully completed it I've made the decision to hold off on buying the sequel until I've done so. BioShock 2 will definitely be on my Xmas list (if I can wait that long).

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Saxon Stories

In my teens and twenties I was a big fiction reader, mostly fantasy and science fiction. In my thirties and now early forties I find that I lean towards reading histories and biographies (when I'm not reading game rules). I also find that as I get older I tend to read less (or maybe that's got something to do with having two little kids). These days any spare leisure time I have is usually spent listening to podcasts, surfing the Internet or indulging any of my many hobbies.

Years ago I read all of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series and his Starbuck Chronicles. I do enjoy historical fiction and Cornwell's novels have inspired me to research more about the eras in which they were set (not to mention buy several miniature wargames rules for the periods).

I've recently read some good reviews about Cornwell's The Saxon Stories and have been enticed into wanting to read the series. So today I visited the library and now have the first novel in my hands, a nice hardback of The Last Kingdom. I'm quite looking forward to reading this.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Gaming with Grandma - 110

My 8-year-old daughter Maddie decided to opt out of the game we played this morning - Red November. That left my mum (AKA Grandma) and I to play this cooperative game together. We chose to play using two gnomes each. I played green and red and Grandma played yellow and purple.

We've previously played Red November three times. Each time we have failed and our submarine has been destroyed in some cataclysmic event, ending the lives of our brave gnomish submariners.

The final board layout when rescue came

This time we actually beat the game! It was a tense time throughout but close to the end we thought all four gnomes would survive the 60 minutes and be rescued. Alas, with 1 minute left before rescue, my green gnome died tragically in a fire. Gnomish tankards of grog will be raised tonight in memory of his valiant and heroic efforts that saved the lives of his three comrades.