WoW...Feeling the burn out coming on

I once called World of Warcraft "the perfect game". After two years, perfection's flaws are starting to wear on me. What started off as a REALLY cool gaming experience, with tons of variety and cool people and quests balanced against player vs. player elements and compelling if somewhat hollow storylines, has now somehow become a pointless race to get gear. This pursuit appears to be a built in black hole in the game's structure -- one that Blizzard does nothing but encourage. If you, the gamer, are the turd, they're more than happy to flush.

Every update, every patch, every tweek and nerf to the character classes over the last couple years I've been playing, all have ease and speed of leveling at their heart for, apparently, the sole purpose of gearing up for "raids"; raids that honestly amount to little more than a spectacular looking Atari 2600 or early 80's coin-op video game. Fun, but pointless games like Yar's Revenge, Bezerk, Asteroids or Space Invaders come to mind.

This deconstruction of the world's most popular mmo has given birth to what I call "gear snobs" -- people who truly give the game a bad name and suck the joy right out of playing WoW. Avid number crunchers, anal organizers, and more frequently foot stamping little bitches, they live to see their toon outfitted in the best armor the game has to offer their class so they can do two things mainly that I can determine: run into instances and raid and dungeons over and over and over again for that Atari 2600/space invaders feeling of no matter what you do, you'll never truly advance the narrative of the game; and number 2, contract a very selective amnesia and enter a bubble in which they reign supreme over a video world not of their making, forgetting that they too had to start somewhere, while they rip and ridicule and generally abandon players not up to their level of gear, or not obsessed with their worthless pursuits.

Go on any server in either faction, Horde or Alliance, in between the inane and truly stupid things discussed in general and trade chat, you'll find the gear snobs. The impression of their asses firmly engraved into straining desk chairs, their mouse buttons and number keys polished smooth from use and their mouth running constantly about the tier of their gear. If you truly want to destroy any sort of joy the game could provide, if you prefer a completely sanitized and academic gameplay, turn off the music and sound, download ventrilo and listen to these same gear snobs talk for real.

I wouldn't have been motivated to post about this, but recently, I found myself urging my 9 year old daughter to get more agility from her hunter gear. She's been playing for a long while and having a great time, then here I come adding nothing to her experience but doubt and stress. Hence my toilet imagery above; even I was caught up in the swirling waters of the gear snob turd... And I think Blizzard is aware of this downward tailspin because in their next expansion, they destroy the original world of Azeroth -- literally.


The Imperial Guard back and beautiful

Last night, my friend Cain and I descended on the local GW shop to monopolize the PREVIEW COPY of the new Imerial Guard Codex. Cain's been collecting and fielding Guard armies since 1998-99 so he's WAY ahead of the curve and can fully adapt his boys to ever shifting tide of benefits and restrictions new editions place on humanity in the 41st millenium. My own collection is more modest and troop based, so I got a clean slate when it comes to the mahjority of the tanks now available in this latest incarnation of the IMP Guard codex...and holy crap are there the choices.
It's hard to say where to begin, but in the spirit of the majority of 40K blogs across the web, I'll start with a little bitching. As with most of the 5th edition geared codexes, the squad sargeants have been reigned in considerably -- not a problem for me really. But I don't like that a regular lasgun is no longer an option for the plain ol' squad sargeant. Yes they get a cheap-CHEAP power sword to make up for the loss, but at WS3, I'd rather have my sarges shooting with the boys. In the same vein, Stormtrooper sargeants can now TAKE a "Hotshot" gun like their boys. At WS4 and AP3! (AP fething 3!!)...happiness is extra shots!
The 4th edition codex saw a downturn, a recession and reigning in of the use of tanks, and apparently a blossoming of Forgeworld alternatives. With the new 5th edition codex there are tanks literally falling off the shelves in their number and variety. GW has taken their best customizable army and tripled the variety and character of it. From the familiar Leman Russ and demolisher and all of their wonderful children, and allowing 1 to 3 tanks per heavy choice it a tread heads wet dream. I'm especially excited about the mainstreaming of the Executioner tank! The only leman russ I currently own. Also, The Exterminator is back with a higher rate of fire. The autocannon is still the most underrated, understated weapon in the game, but not for much longer once these awesome 3rd edition relic tanks are dusted off and replaced on the tabletop where they belong.
From the 4 ways to use veteren squads -- as troop choices -- to the option for stormtroopers to the can't go wrong randomness of the penal legion squads to the long overdue arrival of PLASTIC VALKYRIES, regular humans in the 40K universe should have a better chance of showing off on the tabletop why theirs is the largest empire in the galaxy -- "time of ending" my ass.


U.S.S. Pulsar

Spending time away from Azeroth and World of Warcraft and the mind wanders. Not only have I made some progress converting my generic Codex Space Marines over to Salamanders, worked on a rocky desert tabletop for 40K and finished a full set of Imperial markers for a 40K Cities of Death Table, but I've found I've still got Trek on the brain. If you've seen the previous two postings, you'll know this has been building for awhile.

While my friend Mike and I were set on the "Movie Era" Trek and even played games of FASA's Star Trek Combat simulator with our futrure GM Jay to lobby this era, we've been sucked in to the late Next Gen era. My friend Casey's enthusiasm for ALL things Trek helped this along. Assuming we will start actual gaming soon, I'll be recording the exploits of the crew of the U.S.S. Pulsar here -- a Nova class starship patrolling along the Romulan Neutral Zone. With a relaxed Commander on his last tour of duty before retirement and a female Andorian XO not afraid of inter species "relations", it should be a good time on a tight ship.



Trekkie, Trekkor, Whatever right?

With the new movie coming out soon, I would expect a lot more Star Trek gaming news and merchandising and collectibles and everything else that goes with the mania. I'm looking forward to seeing the latest addition to Hollywood's current trend of restarting and re imagining every franchise they can; the action looks fantastic. The Enterprise herself, not so attractive. Worlds away from the original Constitution class, but nowhere near the elegant beauty of the "movie era" Enterprise.

Frankly, from what I've seen, the new Enterprise looks like a Galaxy Class got the jump on the movie era Enterprise, raped her and spat out a bastardized version. The sets that I've seen look like SNL got themselves a huge budget, and the uniforms -- well yea for keeping 60's style mini's on the female crew. Still, that negativity aside, it looks like it's going to play well on the big screen.!

Speaking of "play", I started the year out right by dusting off the near ultimate in Starship table top gaming:

Only GamesWorkshop's Battlefleet Gothic plays better for Space Combat. Plus, you just can't beat the look and feel of movie era Trek. The Starship interiors looked functional and plausible the uniforms -- I have to say the uniform design was probably a mistake in their awesomeness because everything before or since, sorry to say, are pajamas in comparison.

Even Picard, arguably the greatest onscreen StarFleet Captain of them all, has that much credibility in the blood red tunic (sans the turtle neck unfortunately)

And the Klingons owe everything they are now to the movie era of Trek. Rebooted in the late 70's and 30 years later, they haven't changed from the look established for them in Star Trek the Motion Picture. And remember the phasers. Like the uniforms of the movie era, phasers before and since seem tame and lame. You hear and see the phasers in Wrath of Khan and there's no doubt those beams are going to punch through a ship's hull. This is the Trek Universe as it stood for Fasa and Star Trek Combat Simulator.

To be fair, the movie era and TOS are "my" Trek. I grew up watching the reruns in the early 70's and the brief run of the cartoon. The movies came out in my preteen and teen years. So my bias is built in. But it'll be fun to see the new version for sure. Looking forward to that. And as it's set before the original series, the old Fasa game holds it relevance for the new era.


Vulkan fever

I'm not alone in recognizing the awesomeness that is Vulkan He'stan. He's a link to a great 40K blog showcasing not only their version of Vulkan He'Stan, but 4 others as well, including yours truly. http://maxstarscloud.blogspot.com/2009/02/vulkan-hestan-space-marine-champion.html Thanks a lot for the nod Maxstar and finding all these great conversions to showcase.


Painted Vulkan

There's the guy, painted. There are a few areas that need another go over, but largely, Vulkan's table top ready. He's painted in typical Salamander colors -- or at least their equivalent -- as far as the green and lighter green highlighting. The back pack I left understated. Yes, it's covered with bones and skulls, but leaving it black with a dark gray highlightwill marry the miniature to a larger Salamander force while still setting him apart. I also came down on the side of "fluff": Yes, the Salamanders make great artificer armor, but they've also got a humble streak in them.

He'Stan's pic in the New Marine Codex shows a nice piece of artwork on his left shin-plate. On that small of a space, and with my eyes, that's a stretch, but I did pull it off somewhat in miniature, pictured below.

The inside of the cape: I went away from the tanned leather look and did a few decorative lines and some hammer symbols. The spear's shaft was done with GW's "Tin Bitz", but to me it looked like mahogany or some rich wood. Maybe if it were decorative only... So making a bunch of tiny letter "S"'s with a copper paint hopefully gives it a more metallic look. I left the blade itself plain white. It's stated to burn white hot and with the overall darkness of the rest of the model, I like the way it stands out.

I know, the crossed hammers look a little lame and I'll fix them. But for the 3+ Invulnerable save giving mantle, I painted it a darker green then dry brushed it with a metallic paint called "Crystal green". Like the backpack, it's understated, even with the bony protrusions, but still stands out as a lizard's hide that could survive sunbathing next to a lava flow.


Building Vulkan He'stan

In the past, Space Marine Codexes would come out, and in my opinion, future codexes of other armies seemed to be centered around taking the Marines apart. Not this latest issue. The Space Marines are back! Their latest codex for Warhammer 40K introduces all sorts of new pain to inflict on Mankind's enemies, but one that stands out for me as a favorite piece of "dirty" is Vulkan He'stan of the Salamanders Chapter. Since my "regular codex" Marines were already green with a flame motiff, conversion to Salamanders makes sense. Since Vulkan He'stan's presence on the board makes all thunder hammers master-crafted and all flamers, heavy flamers, meltaguns and multimeltas twin linked, he is a MUST have! Since no miniature exists of him yet, this is how I put him together:

The Space Marine Captain body is a good place to start because of the cape if nothing else, but the set itself has lots of extras in it. I used a more tech looking head because among all his other sweet attributes, He'stans got digital weapons. Assault Marine legs are good for the action pose and worked out well I think. Since he is a Salamander -- essentially a Chapter of Blacksmiths -- I used an old Legion of the Damned back pack to convey a little sense of that artificer armor and in the same vein put a Chaos shoulder pad over his right arm, with the arrows shaved and smoothed off. After shaping and detailing the bottom half of his mantle out of greenstuff, I added a couple teeth to it and then tore it downwards giving it a rougher look.

The Mantle conveys a 3+ Invulnerable Save to He'stan so I went for a chunky scale appearence, rolling several sizes of greenstuff balls and smashing them in place on the plastic cape. A few teeth from Fantasy Ork sheilds and a Tyranid node accessory reinforce the whole "hide" motiff and I think make that awesome save of his believable. For his Gauntlet of the Forge -- a heavy flamer, twin linked just because it's his -- I scraped the wolf skull and bones from a Space Wolf power fist and set two Imperial gun turrets from Battlefleet Gothic on it. These have to be shaved and trimmed with the curve of the fist in mind and the gun barrels bent downward for the same reason. The spear is a master crafted relic blade and needed a spiked ball from the Empire Flagellants set on its end, just because.

The business end of the spear is made from two different Ork knives/Choppas. The illustration in the new Marine Codex has a clean looking blade, but I liked the serated edge better. A spike from the Dark Eldar accessories completes the halbrid.

Not pictured is the simple bolt pistol-in-holster glued to his right hip because first off, he's a Space Marine and needs a firearm despite his weighty arsenal, two, because it's partof his wargear and three, because he's hardly going to draw and fire it with the gauntlet on his left hand. Now to paint it.