Saturday, March 27, 2010

Gaming with Grandma - 115

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (Grandma) and my 8 year old daughter (Maddie).

First up this morning was Cloud 9. This is a game where players push their luck in piloting a hot-air balloon. The higher you rise the more points you get, but the trick is to hop out and claim your points before the balloon crashes to earth. I won this with 51 points, Maddie was 2nd with 23 points and Grandma was 3rd with 10 points.

Our next game, Pass the Pigs, was another push-your-luck style game. In this game players roll two cute little rubber pigs and depending on how they land determines how many points you receive. Maddie had a great game and won with 104 points, just beating Grandma who came 2nd on 96 points, with me lagging far behind on 3rd place with 41 points.

The next game was Wanted!, a card game in which quick reflexes and keen eyes help determine the winner. Each player flips over a card from their hand each turn, and if it's a special action card then all players must do the corresponding action. The slowest player takes the cards. First player to discard their hand of cards is the winner. I came first, Maddie came 2nd and Grandma came 3rd.

We then played my home-made version of Diamant. Another push-your-luck game in which players explore treasure and danger-filled caverns. Grandma was the one who made the best decisions to take the win with 40 points, I was right behind on 2nd with 37 points, and Maddie was 3rd with 29 points.

Our last game of the morning was Money Money Money. This is a fun game of guessing probabilities with a little luck thrown in. Maddie was the clear winner with 30 points, Grandma was 2nd with 23 points and I came 3rd with 15 points.

A fun morning of gaming with my family and it was great to see us all have at least one win each.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Red Dead Redemption: Gentlemen & Vagabonds

Rockstar Games have just released another trailer for their upcoming game Red Dead Redemption. This one is entitled 'Gentlemen & Vagabonds'.

The trailer features fiddle music and highlights four main characters. The characters introduced are Nigel W. Dickens, a snake oil salesmen who is constantly pestered by angry mobs, Irish, a drunk who is always missing when a fight breaks out, Seth Briars, a crazy prospector, and Professor Harold MacDougal, a professor from Yale who can't deal with the pressures of the West.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Australia needs an R18+ rating for video games

Sadly, Australia currently has no R18+ rating for video games. Despite the average age of a gamer being 30, Australia remains one of the last major territories in the world in which an R18+ rating for gaming does not exist. As a result, games that fail to get the MA15+ rating are either banned or require editing to pass the Classification's Board's strict guidelines. Other outcomes of this situation include restriction of freedom of choice, encouragement of piracy, and the placing of adult material into the hands of children.

Last year the Federal Government released a discussion paper on whether or not an R18+ rating for games should be adopted and called for submissions. Submissions to the Government closed on 28 February 2010.

According to a report in The Australian, the Federal Government received over 55,000 submissions on whether an R18+ rating should be introduced for video games. has reported that one of the submissions was made by Paul J. Hunt, former Deputy Director of the Classification Board, who has written a 17-page response on the issue. Hunt begins his argument by providing readers with first-hand knowledge about his past experiences working for the Board.

“When I made a decision, or participated in a decision, that a computer game was unsuitable for minors, I was forced to refuse classification for that game. It was not because I thought that the game depicted, expressed or otherwise dealt with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that it would offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults. It was simply because the game was not OK for kids.

Not being able to restrict computer games to adults was an impediment to my ability to reflect Australian community standards.”

For years, one of the most vocal opponents for having an R18+ classification for video games has been South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson. Mr Atkinson has acknowledged that blocking the R18+ rating does deny adults choice, however, he has said this is necessary as the alternative would allow children easy access to "potentially harmful material". Bizarrely, earlier this year Mr Atkinson claimed his family was more at risk from angry gamers than outlawed motorcycle gangs.

Any changes to the current censorship regime must be agreed on by the Commonwealth and all state and territory attorneys-general. For the first time since November 2005, the issue will be discussed in April this year at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. Mr Atkinson has previously confirmed he will maintain his long-running opposition to the idea.

But will he?

The results of last weekend's South Australian election reveal that although Mr Atkinson won his seat of Croydon, he still suffered a massive 14.3% swing against him. In news just released, Mr Atkinson has announced his resignation as South Australian Attorney-General.

Mr Atkinson's decision to leave the front bench means he will no longer be in a position to vote on changes to Australia's classification system, including the introduction of an R18+ rating for video games.

Maybe, just maybe, R18+ video games are a step closer to being allowed in Australia.

Simple Green plastic test results

Last week I placed thirteen plastic Warriors of Rohan from Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings line of 25mm miniatures into a small glass jar and filled it with just enough Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner so that they were covered. The purpose of this was to see how good the product was at stripping paint from plastic miniatures. Here's a photo of the miniatures prior to getting the Simple Green treatment.

With a little gentle scrubbing from an old toothbrush I would estimate that a good 95% of the paint was removed. Here's a photo of the miniatures after the scrubbing.

One thing I was aware of is that the plastic miniatures are more fragile than their metal counterparts. The LOTR range in particular are modelled quite realistically and this means thinner weapons than normal Games Workshop 'heroic scale' 28mm miniatures. Because of this I tried hard not to be too rough with the toothbrush. Even so, I did manage to break off half of a spear. Ah well, that can be easily repaired.

Overall, I'm very happy with the Simple Green results. It's also safer and nicer smelling than other types of products that can be used to strip paint. I'll definitely be using this product for all future miniature paint-stripping projects.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wanted: Red Dead Redemption

It's fairly rare that I'll be that excited about a video game that I'll want to purchase it on its release date. After seeing a recent trailer for Red Dead Redemption I think this will be one of those games.

Looking back over the last 12 months, I've only bought one game for my Xbox 360 and that was Modern Warfare 2. This was a game I had to have on its release date. There have been other games released over the last year that I've wanted to get, for example, Assassins Creed 2, Bioshock 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Blood Bowl. However in these cases I've been able to keep my yearning under control to wait until they've dropped in price somewhat. I may pick up a couple of these later in the year, perhaps at some Xmas sales.

With Red Dead Redemption I think I'm just going to have to have it on its day of release. And it's not just because I'm a fan of the Old West, it's because it has been designed by Rockstar Games. This is the video game developer and publisher of the Grand Theft Auto series. I had a lot of fun with the story, characters and gameplay of GTA IV and I reckon they'll exceed their previous efforts with Red Dead Redemption.

Check out the trailers:

On 6 May 2009, the debut trailer became available for viewing.

The second trailer released 1 December 2009 - "My Name is John Marston" gives information about the central character of the story.

Another trailer, "Gameplay Series: Introduction," was released during the second week of December 2009. It featured almost four minutes of in-game footage, including a detailed description of the game and events players will come across when experiencing the final version. This includes such activities as an example of using the lasso rope, hunting and emphasis on the graphical presentation of the landscape.

"Gameplay Series: Weapons and Death" was released on 28 January 2010. It again displayed four minutes of game footage, detailing the numerous weapons and shooting physics.

"The Law" was released on 11 February 2010. It highlighted different character personalities, including: Leigh Johnson, the Marshal, The Deputies, and Agent Edgar Ross.

"The Women - Sinners, Saints, and Survivors" was released on 24 February 2010. The video featured several of the female characters from the game, though no names were given. A soft piano interlude proceeded the harsher Morricone-style music of the other trailers, showing off a different side of the games soundtrack.

A new trailer has just been released on 17 March 2010, titled 'Gameplay Series: Life in the West'. This trailer shows that players can set up camp at the end of a day, or join a camp with others and exchange tales of the current happenings in the game. The trailer also reveals that different breeds of horses will be available to the player, each one having different strengths and weaknesses.

Red Dead Redemption will be released in North America on 18 May 2010 and in Europe and Australia on 21 May 2010. I can't wait.

In the path of destruction - Part 3

Tropical Cyclone Ului re-intesified to a category 3 cyclone and hit the Queensland coast near Airlie Beach at 1.30am Sunday 21 March 2010. With gusts in excess of 200 km/hr (125 miles/hr) it caused over forty thousand homes to lose power, airports are closed, boats have been washed ashore and houses have been damaged. They are characterising it as a significant event with severe damage in some pockets, but not a catastrophic event. Thankfully there have been no serious injuries or fatalities.

It's now being referred to as Ex-Tropical Cyclone Ului.

Image from

Saturday, March 20, 2010

In the path of destruction - Part 2

As I've just returned from a part of our state of Queensland that is about to be hit by Tropical Cyclone Ului I thought it would be interesting to blog about the progress.

This afternoon, Saturday 20 March 2010, the Bureau of Meteorology has upgraded Ului's intensity to a category 3 cyclone.

Here's what the website says about the destructive capacity of a category 3 cyclone.

CATEGORY 3 (severe tropical cyclone)
Some roof and structural damage. Some caravans destroyed. Power failures likely.
A Category 3 cyclone's strongest winds are VERY DESTRUCTIVE winds with typical gusts over open flat land of 165 - 224 km/hr (102 - 140 miles/hr).
These winds correspond to the highest category on the Beaufort scale, Beaufort 12 (Hurricane).

Here's the latest expected tracking of Tropical Cyclone Ului as of 4.00pm Saturday 20 March 2010 (Remember that we're +10 GMT). All images are clickable for a larger image.

Image from

I have work colleagues in Townsville and Mackay. Below is a map of the state of Queensland so you can put this into perspective. I live in Brisbane, much further south and not in the path of the cyclone.

Image from

Tropical Cyclone Ului is expected to hit the coast somewhere between Ayr and Mackay in the early hours of Sunday morning, 21 March 2010.

And for those of you who are wondering where the state of Queensland is located in Australia here's another map to help you out.

Image from

And the latest news indicates that emergency services are already being prepared. From

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has declared a disaster zone across the state's central and northern coast ahead of the anticipated arrival of tropical cyclone Ului.

"This declaration is in anticipation that some properties may need to be evacuated in the coming hours as Tropical Cyclone Ului approaches and then crosses the North Queensland coast," Ms Bligh said.

"The declaration gives Emergency Services agencies the power of mandatory evacuations if required."

Friday, March 19, 2010

In the path of destruction

I just got back this afternoon from a three-day work trip to Townsville. Townsville is 1111km (690 miles) north of Brisbane. When I booked my flights last week Tropical Cyclone Ului was a massive category 5 cyclone hovering approximately 1000km (620 miles) off the coast of north Queensland in the Coral Sea. The information at that time was that, at the earliest, it could hit the coast near Townsville on Wednesday 17 March, the day of my flight. I booked my flights and accommodation and waited to see what T.C. Ului would do.

The day before my flight Ului was still slowly moving towards the coast and had been downgraded to a category 4 cyclone. An option for me was to change my flight to next week but I decided to go ahead with my trip as planned. I caught my flight on the morning of Wednesday 17 March and arrived to fine weather in Townsville.

Cyclone track as of this morning Friday 19 March 2010

On Thursday 18 March it had clouded over somewhat with the occasional rain shower. Tropical Cyclone Ului was still moving slowly but now in a south-westerly direction. It had now been downgraded to a category 3 cyclone and was expected to hit the coast some time on the weekend. This was a relief as I was flying home on Friday afternoon.

Cyclone track as of this evening Friday 19 March 2010

Friday morning and the cloudy weather had set in and the wind was starting to pick up. I had another busy day at work and before I knew it it was time for me to head to the airport and board the aircraft for my flight back to Brisbane.

This evening, Friday 19 March, Tropical Cyclone Ului has been downgraded to a category 2 cyclone and is expected to hit the coast south of Townsville some time on Sunday 21 March.

I'm glad to be home.

Images are from the Bureau of Meteorology website.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Osprey book arrives

I really enjoy reading military history books. I particularly like the Osprey range of speciality books. Osprey Publishing have a massive range of titles covering a wide variety of military history topics from ancient to modern times.

I recently participated in a competition Osprey was running and was lucky to win one of their recent releases.

I had the choice of one of the following:

  • RAID 2 Israel's Lightning Strike: The raid on Entebbe 1976
  • CAM 204 The Second Crusade 1148: Disaster outside Damascus
  • MAA 454 The Seminole Wars 181-58
  • MAA 451 Imperial Roman Naval Forces 21 BC - AD 500

As I'm a big fan of the history of the Crusades I chose The Second Crusade 1148: Disaster outside Damascus.

It was waiting for me in my letterbox when I arrived home from work this afternoon, safe after its journey all the way from the UK to half-way around the world in Australia.

Thank you to Osprey Publishing and Joe from the Osprey Blog team.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Simple Green plastic test

I'd already established that Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner worked wonders stripping the paint from metal miniatures. Now it was time to see how it worked on plastic. For this test I chose thirteen Rohan warriors I'd picked up on eBay in a LOTR miniatures lot last year.

These are the only Rohan warriors I own and I'd like to get them painted for some skirmish gaming. It's just that the paint jobs from their previous owner sucks. Into the Simple Green they go!

This photograph reminds me of the Dead Marshes scene from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films.

'Who are they? What are they?' asked Sam shuddering, turning to Frodo, who was now behind him.
'I don't know,' said Frodo in a dreamlike voice. 'But I have seen them too. In the pools when the candles were lit. They lie in all the pools, pale faces, deep under the dark water. 'I saw them: grim faces and evil, and noble faces and sad. Many faces proud and fair, and weeds in their silver hair. But all foul, all rotting, all dead. A fell light is in them." - The Two Towers 'The Passage of the Marshes' - J.R.R. Tolkien

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Simple Green success

Last week I decided to test the merits of Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner as a solution to the problem of stripping paint from my miniatures. So I placed a couple of metal Mordor Orc Captains from Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings line of 25mm miniatures into a small glass jar and filled it with just enough Simple Green so that they were covered.

Well, six days later and I've now taken them out. I was a little disappointed to see that they looked exactly the same as when I'd put them into the liquid. So I grabbed an old toothbrush and one of the miniatures and started scrubbing under some running water. Then I got excited. The paint just sloughed off very easily. Even the paint in the various nooks and crannies of the figure came out without much trouble.

I've used oven-cleaner and brake fluid in the past to strip paint from miniatures with varying degrees of success. What I didn't like about those products was their hazardous nature. Simple Green is non-toxic and biodegradable. It also smells nice and leaves the figures feeling clean. To top it off it didn't affect either the metal or the plastic bases. I'm now hooked!

Check out the results for yourself.

The only reason I had these miniatures soaking for six days was today was the first opportunity to clean them. My next test will be to see if Simple Green is as effective with stripping paint from plastic miniatures as it is with metal. I'll also do some test runs on shorter periods of immersion and report back.

Magpie and rainbow

It was showery this morning. I was soon alerted to the fact that there was a rainbow in the sky by my excited 4 year old daughter Georgia. I joined her on the back deck and noticed a lone magpie on our neighbour's roof. With the rainbow in the background I thought it would make an interesting photograph.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Gaming with Grandma - 114

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and 8 year old daughter (AKA Maddie). This morning we chose to play Atlantis (AKA Survive, AKA Escape from Atlantis) a game kindly given to me by Friendless.

The version I have is the German one produced by Schmidt Spiele and made under licence from Waddingtons Games Ltd. I'm not sure what year it was made because I could find no date on the board, rules or box. I suspect it was made in 1986 (when the original English Waddingtons Games version was released) as this particular German version was made in the former West Germany. We used the 1996 Parker (Hasbro) rules obtainable from BGG. The plastic land tiles, sea creatures and ship components are very nice. The wooden people playing pieces are colourful and functional. I played green, Maddie played blue and Grandma played yellow.

I quite enjoy the theme of trying to escape from a threatening disaster (e.g. The Downfall of Pompeii) and also the mechanic of racing to be the first to get all your people to safety (e.g. Cartagena). This game pre-dates both of those games and is a nice mixture of both. Each turn involves moving your people, then removing a land tile and then moving a random sea creature to either help yourself or hinder your opponents. Under each tile there are symbols that refer to events that are either good (e.g. a ship or dolphin appearing) or bad (an octupode, shark, sea monster or whirlpool).

Limited movement points mean that it's always a tough decision trying to work out which of your people to help save that turn. There's also the fun element of occasionally being able to send a shark to attack an opponent's swimmers or a sea monster to gobble up a ship. I find that at her age Maddie doesn't appreciate this part of the game. Or should I say she has no problem with sending a sea monster to destroy a ship full of Dad and Grandma's people but doesn't take it well when Dad sends a shark to eat one of her swimmers (heh heh!).

I don't normally hold back in trying to win a game when playing with my kids and this game was no different. Despite that, Maddie went on to grab a well-deserved win with 4 points, I came second with 3 points and Grandma came third with 2 points.

I can see this game becoming a regular favourite.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Simple Green test

Just over a week ago I bought some Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner to see if it was suitable as a paint stripper for both plastic and metal miniatures. As the first test subjects I chose a couple of metal Mordor Orc Captains from the Mordor Orc Command set from Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings line of 25mm miniatures.

I picked up these Orc Captains through some miniature lots I won on eBay last year. Although I only have two, luckily they are different versions of the same style of figure. I'm not happy with the paint jobs from their original owners, however having said that, these two are painted better then the majority of miniatures I purchase on eBay.

I think these guys are painted in acrylic paint, as opposed to enamel paint. I'm not sure what glue was used for the basing material. No matter, into the Simple Green they go!

So this morning I dropped them into a glass jar (an ex-salsa jar...mmm...salsa) with the liquid just covering them. I screwed the lid on so there would be no chance of spillage and placed it into a high, out-of-the-way place so the kids wouldn't find it.

I'll report back shortly on the outcome.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Gaming interrupted

A rainy morning. Perfect weather for playing Escape from Atlantis with my mum (AKA Grandma) and daughters while my wife was at work. Not so perfect weather for a plumbing mishap. Unfortunately a washer in one of the shower taps went and the water just wouldn't stop dripping. And it wasn't just a slow drip, it was a fast drip, almost a steady stream.

By this time Grandma had arrived. So after a quick cup of tea I left her in charge of the kids. I grabbed an umbrella and trudged out to the front yard, located the sunken box which contained the main tap and turned off the household water. I then prepared myself with the necessary tools to change a washer.

Now the innards of our shower taps are probably original from when the house was built back in the 1970's. I've had the displeasure of working with them on a few occasions since we've been here and they're certainly showing their age. So much so that as I was undoing a screw it broke off, leaving half of it in the spindle (jumper valve). Grrr!

So I borrowed Grandma's car and drove through the rain to the local hardware store. When possible I try to support this small store with my business as they're close and offer excellent knowledge and service that can't compare to the large chain stores like Bunnings Warehouse.

I tried to buy a similar jumper valve but found they no longer make them (I told you they were old!). So I purchased two new ones as well as some washers. While I was there I decided to pick up a couple of new tap handles as well because the old ones were looking a bit worn. I then made my way home through the rain.

Back in the shower, as I was preparing to insert the jumper valves, I realised the chrome flanges (the circular covers that go against the tile and into which the tap handles sit) were also a bit old and grotty. D'oh! I should have bought a couple of those as well when I was at the hardware store! Fast forward me trudging out to Grandma's car, driving through the rain, entering the hardware store, buying the said items, driving back through the rain, stomping upstairs.

Back in the shower again. I now had new (21st century!) shower taps ready to install. After all that preparation I found the installation the easy part. Everything fit in and together as planned and before I knew it I was done. All except the sealer that needed to go around the edges of the chrome flange. D'oh! Not another trip back to the hardware store! Thankfully I found some sealer from another household job I'd done in the past so was able to finish the job.

So, a couple of hours after I'd started, the shower was once again drip free. I stood back to admire my handiwork and felt a sense of satisfaction.

However, by this time I wasn't really in the mood to play a board game, and the kids were playing the Wii, and I just wanted to sit down and relax with a hot cup of tea, and so unfortunately we'll have to wait until next week to play Escape from Atlantis.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Game magazines at the library

Although I don't play Warhammer Fantasy Battle or Warhammer 40K, I do collect Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings range of miniatures so I find White Dwarf an interesting magazine to browse through. I like the painting and terrain articles and anything in relation to the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game or War of the Ring.

Most libraries in Brisbane have a range of White Dwarf magazines available for borrowing and I recently got out a bunch to read. The magazines are also full of inspirational photographs of very well painted miniatures.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

An evening with Friendless and Scrabblette

I went over to Friendless and Scrabblette's place this evening to play Antike with them. Antike is a strategy board game about evolution and competition among ancient civilisations. Players can create cities, build temples, sail the seas, and discover new principles of science and technology. Your legions and galleys create new settlements and defend their people against attacks from their enemies. Players choose from Greeks, Romans, Germanic tribes, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Persians, Arabs, Egyptians, and Babylonians.

The board at the end of the game

Every nation tries to win kings, scholars, generals, citizens, and navigators for themselves. The nation that acquires a specified number (depending on the number of players) of ancient personalities first wins the game.

As we played with three players the winning target was 10 points. Friendless played the Arabs (yellow), Scrabblette played the Persians (blue) and I played the Greeks (green). This was the second play of the game for Friendless but the first time for Scrabblette and me. Friendless taught us the rules in about 15 minutes and then we started.

We each employed slightly different strategies, with Scrabblette going with a military strategy, Friendless with a gold strategy and with me I think somewhere in between. Friendless went on to win with 10 points, I came 2nd with 9 points and Scrabblette was 3rd with 7 points. The game took us about two hours to play. I found Antike to be an enjoyable game and one I'd want to play again.

And to top off a great evening Friendless very kindly and generously gave me his copy of Atlantis! This game (AKA Escape from Atlantis, AKA Survive!) is one that I've been wanting to get for many years and I know it will see a lot of play with my family.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

My next painting project

As any gamer who has been bitten by the miniature hobby bug can attest, one often has interests in many different periods and scales. A miniatures gamer will often have a 'pile of lead' comprising a number of armies stashed away in secret places just waiting to be painted. The problem is that the enthusiasm for a certain army will fade when the next 'oooh shiny!' thing comes along. One's miniatures intake will soon quickly outstrip one's painting output. A lot of miniatures gamers suffer from this problem, and I'm no different.

Now let's put this into perspective. I'm probably on the lesser end of the scale of unpainted miniatures versus painted miniatures. I know of guys with tens of thousands of unpainted miniatures who still continue to buy more. It's an addiction I guess, sort of like board gamers who continue to buy new board games with loads of unplayed games already lining their shelves.

I've been pretty happy with my painting output so far this year and I really want to keep the momentum going. With this aim in mind I came across an unfinished project that I haven't touched in over two years. Yep, it's been over two years since I last put a brush to my 15mm Lord of the Rings-themed Dwarven HOTT army. These guys have been languishing for this long in a darkened drawer, waiting until my enthusiasm had reached a point when they would once again be in favour.

I hate unfinished projects and so I've made a vow to finish these guys before the end of March. It shouldn't be too difficult, most of the boring preparatory work has already been done. There are only 47 of them and also a couple of banners that I'll have to scratch build.

When I'm finished I'll have a Dwarven army consisting of the following elements; 1 x Blade General, 1 x Hero, 9 x Blade and 2 x Shooters. And when they're finished they will join in battle against an already completed 15mm Mordor-themed army.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Saxon Stories 2

I'm almost finished The Last Kingdom, the first in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Stories historical novel series. I've enjoyed it that much that I headed down to the City library at lunchtime today and picked up the second book in the series, The Pale Horseman.

I love it when I find an enjoyable series of books to read. As Cornwell weaves actual historical figures and events into his novels I can't resist researching into the history and learning more about the period.