Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

Or Happy Holidays, if you'd prefer.

The frigid cold, sleet, and ice has relented, at least for a few days, which will make our holiday road trip a little more enjoyable.  As much as I like a White Christmas, it's really no fun to drive in the stuff.

So, be safe, don't eat too much candy, if you drink - don't drive.  Otherwise, fly it like you stole it and have a fabulous time.

While I'm typing, I'll add a few bullet points.  Bullet points are cool.

  • The Kingdom Death campaign will wrap in 14 days.  The next week will be slow, but it managed to top $8.35M this week.  It looks like it may topple Exploding Kittens from the #1 board game slot.
  • I have a few days off next week and hope to get some miniatures painted, some WoW played, and will hopefully bounce around EVE a bit killing Sanshas.
  • The Man in the High Castle is on my list of streaming for the break.  Season2 was added to Amazon Prime, and we've made it to e4 so far.  I think it's moving better than S1 and I really liked S1.  My advice is to read the Wiki entry on the book so that you can better understand some of the backstory, and heck, taking a Wiki-dive into WW2 history isn't a bad idea either.
  • The Expanse returns in February.  Read the books, watch the show. 'nuff said.

o7 all
Abavus

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Holidaze

We are now 50% through our holiday travel schedule.  That's a big deal.  In years past we have made some poor planning choices and drove 1,000 to 1,200 miles in a 10 day period.  That gets old fast.  This year we were able to optimize the route and be there and back with 2 trips totaling about 400 miles.

Likewise, this Fall and the Holiday season (or the Holidaze as I call it) has been much more sane. I've posted a lot about last Fall's schedule - we were home only a couple weekends between Labor Day and Thanksgiving in 2015.  We were on the road a ton, I started the new job, and the period from late August through January was just an eye burning blitz of highways and airports.

This year we strategically declined several invitations, consolidated our vacation plans into a single trip, and for the most part have been home.  With winter finally settling upon us, I'm relatively caught up on yard work at the 10 acres, we've burnt a lot of wood in the fireplace, streamed some classic Christmas movies on Amazon Prime, and actually enjoyed our property. I'm far more relaxed and far less stressed than this time last year.

Game news:
For the past couple weeks, I've been consumed by the spectacle of the Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5 kickstarter.  It grows a healthy bit each day, and may go through $8M today with almost 3 weeks remaining.  It will probably flatline through the holidays but still has potential to knock off Exploding Kittens as the #1 KS board game before it wraps.

Specific to the Kickstarter, there's a little mini-community that's sprung up, with heroes and villians/trolls.  It's an interesting petri dish to watch develop.  For the most part it's a positive vibe - there's a cadre of volunteers that answers questions in the comments as people pass through - while the KD Staff do what they can, with almost 100k comments logged it's impossible for them to answer everything.

There are a handful of very well done fan pages (see Vibrant Lantern and Dobby's Pledge Helper) and google doc pages that help explain exactly what's going on, because the KS campaign is so vast that it's easy to get overwhelmed.

This next week promises to see a lot of activity - the founder has promised to reveal all the remaining Expansion content, but then he's taking a break between Christmas and New Years (and I don't blame him).  Then after the holiday lull, I expect the final week to be a bit nuts.

One of the more interesting evolutions is the group of guys trying to min/max their pledges.  Early in the kickstarter, folks started generating lists of content to try to figure out the "best" pledge level.  They developed elaborate google doc spreadsheets to estimate each pledge level's value based on MSRP, and then cross referenced that against addons that offer "Gamer's Content" vs. visual/cosmetic only perks.  Some of the higher pledges include mostly cosmetic perks, so early on, some of the groupthink/peer pressure was that these pledges didn't add value for "real gamers."  People started dropping these higher pledges as "not worth it" even though there was really no reason to finalize your pledge until the last day or three of the campaign.

But, two things:
1. Not all of the content was revealed.  All of the min/max nerding was premature.
2. Although the higher pledges were limited in availability, the KD staff continued to open more spots, so guys felt comfortable dropping out.  But - the saturation point hit and the staff stopped adding more spots.

As more content became revealed, and more hints about remaining content were dropped, it became apparent that the initial analysis was way-the-fuck-off and now guys that dropped want back in.  Replacement pledge levels have been added at a significant $$ increase, so now the same pledge that they dropped costs more.  Oops.

Anyway, I'll wrap this post here.  One of the things that's been on my mind is that Kingdom Death has a lot of parallels to EVE, i.e. the same reasons EVE appeals to me are the same reasons KD does.  In a future post I may explore that idea bit more.  But for now I need more coffee.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Monster

This is a post about tabletop miniatures-based board games.  It's perhaps the first of a few; as my EVE career continues to cartwheel in space like a dead frozen corpse.

My current EVE career.  In stasis, awaiting a resurrection and a splitting headache.

Back in August, we went to GenCon in Indianapolis for our 3rd year, and I scooped up armfuls of new limited release Brimstone goodness (and still have a pile of it waiting to be assembled and played with, sigh).  We had a great 'con, played a lot of games and spent a lot of money, talked to game designers of 2 of our favorite games, and had dinner with old friends.

We toured the show floor repeatedly, and there was one booth that stopped me in my tracks early on day 1.  I don't say that figuratively. I actually stopped in the aisle, blocked traffic, and gawked.

It was Kingdom Death: Monster.  Hence the title of this post.

KD:M Box Cover

The models/figures were fantastic.  The art/cards/books/packaging was all so exceptionally well done.  I lurked during game demos and the gameplay seemed to hit a lot of the mechanics on my wish list.  It's a co-op game, so it's something that we can play on game night without someone having to "lose."

I could hear my visa card buzzing in my wallet.  Abavus didn't know what this was, but he wanted it.

KD:M Core Box - weighs 17 lbs.
The Flower Knight

Alas, they were sold out, but I had been ensnared.  

There's a parallel between KD:M and CCP:EVE that only occurred to me this week - what stopped me on the floor at GenCon was how gorgeous the game was.  The figures, cards, board, packaging - all done in a style that EVE players might find familiar.  CCP's branding has always been very intentional, minimal/clean, and very very consistent (even to the level of detail of how their offices are decorated).  KD:M had a very similar feel -- artful but practical, and done with an amount of talent and care not present in any other product on a very crowded GenCon floor.  KD:M is described as a "Labor of Love" by its creator, and I believe that.  He's poured his soul into this, and it shows.  

Secondly, the content of KD:M is visceral, dark, and gritty. And intended for mature audiences.  Just like EVE.

This video shows some of the art.  These very figures were the ones I saw in the case at GenCon.  The statue-motif completely rocks it.




Ok, so why am I rambling on about this now?  That was August and it's now December.

Here's why:  The second kickstarter for KD:M is currently underway.  It's becoming a big deal.

As I type, it's north of $7.3M pledged.  For a 4-person company that is self-publishing a boutique game without any corporate overlords, centralized distributors, etc. that's a big damn number.  It's the #8 kickstarter ever by size, and #2 in the tabletop games category (Exploding Kittens being #1 at $8.7M). 

The stats of the campaign is impressive:  they blew past the first edition's kickstarter within a few hours of the start and had a first 48 hours that was simply nuts.  Even if you're not a board gamer, it'll maybe interesting to watch how the next 4 weeks unfolds.  And right now everyone is talking about what a huge success this is, but nobody has really thought through what the longer term implications for the gaming market might be.  There are implications to assumptions regarding distribution channels, expected art quality, expected figure detail.  And certainly, there are some old assumptions about 'mature' content not selling well that this seems to be balking.  I don't think I'm overhyping it by saying this the kind of thing that's going to send shockwaves through the industry.

PS:  I am, of course, pledged into the KS and will be adding KD:M to our shelf.


Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5 -- Kicktraq Mini


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Humbug

A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version) is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, so the title is appropriate, although I don't feel particularly crass or grumpty.  It's cold outside, but I have a healthy glass of 2008 Port from Cass Winery, a screaming fire in the fireplace, and a full belly.

Life doesn't suck.

But this blog has been in desperate need of updating for a long time.  And for that I apologize.

Reality is:  I've not been playing EVE much.  And by "not much" you should interpret that as I may very well have a pair of accounts with empty skill queues and I kind of don't care.  Maybe the min/max nerd in me should, but that's the truth of the situation.

I've been busy.  Very busy.  I could type a lot about work being hectic, or family being demanding, or a half dozen other "real life" excuses, and all would be true stories.  But those are cliched excuses for not writing, and you deserve better.

But for the sake of completeness, let's get the obvious out of the way:  work has been mega-busy.  My boss, the guy that sought out and hired me a little over a year ago, transferred up and out of our area back in May, and in his absence myself and 2 others have been backfilling him.  His replacement was only named in October, and in the nigh-6month interim I was taking on tasks 2 pay grades above me.  Great exposure, great experience, but no additional pay.   But it was a peek behind the iron curtain between "executive" and mortal, and these are dividends I'll reap later. Count on it.

On the PC, I've been playing WoW.  Yes, the evil Warcraft.  The latest expansion (Legion) struck a chord with me, and for the most part it's been the best gaming experience since Wrath launched.  I picked up my old main (a Warrior that I ran from 2005 through mid-Cataclysm) and have him sitting on a pretty good set of gear and have been abusing the raidfinder and world quest system.  It's not EVE-level of complexity, but it's accessible in the time that I have available each night.

I gave up Overwatch.  It was fun, but gave me headaches.  I'm happier for dropping it.  I likewise don't play Hearthstone any more.

I'd like to revisit Guild Wars 2, but haven't made the attempt yet.  I bought the expansion but actually never played it.

And EVE.  I followed the EVE Vegas updates and try to keep up on news.  To be honest, I'm disappointed that the Drifter storyline hasn't advanced.  So much momentum was initiated with Caroline's Star, and Burners, and the promise of advanced AI making its way to the average mission runner.  So much opportunity squandered.  I'm not bitter, but to be blunt, I've consumed the available content and need a refresh before I can think about venturing back.  Nostalgia may drive me to fire up the Golem and go bash some lvl4s, but feelings of nostalgia are sated quickly.  I have little interest in Alpha accounts, revamped NPE, and such.  But that's where CCP is deciding they need to invest.

And that's fine. The game needs customers to continue.  I'm not challenging the decision, but I am perhaps a casualty of their approach (although technically I'm still a paying customer, so maybe the joke's on me).

I'll sign off with a happier note - tabletop games and miniatures.  I meant to post a GenCon update and never got around to it.  We attended for our 3rd year this past August and had a blast. I spent a LOT of money at the Flying Frog booth.  In spare moments, I've been painting Shadows of Brimstone miniatures and we've been playing through the content as I've had it painted up.  I still have a lot of painting to go.

I'm a dude in his early 40s that enjoys table top games. Oh no, I must be a nerd.

Meanwhile, Flying Frog did another Kickstarter for their 3rd core set.  I went all in and spent more nerd money; I have an absurd amount of miniatures and expansion packs inbound whenever the guys at FF can deliver.

And a few minutes ago, I chose to support Kingdom Death's 1.5 Kickstarter.  This was a game I fell in love with at this year's GenCon.  The KS is currently at $6.6M and climbing - a runaway success.  The miniatures are insane and the game looks challenging and fun.  Back in August at GenCon, I kept steering Mrs. Durden back to their booth even though the core game was sold out.  I just wanted to look at the miniatures and lurk while the demo games played.  It's got some adult themes (i.e. "boobies") but the entire game is simply saturated with the same grittiness and darkness that draws me back to EVE year after year.

Thanks to the port wine I'm drinking, I also spent too much money on the KS than I should, but I can always amend the pledge level once I sober up.  I'm going to have to figure out a better storage/display option for this stuff.

Enjoy Christmas.  Enjoy the winter chills and the icicles and snowball fights and snow days.  Fall and Winter is the absolute best time of year. Enjoy it.

And in the immortal words of Bill and Ted, be Excellent to one another.

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