Monday, December 1, 2014

Science Fiction Miniatures for Savage Worlds or GURPS or Rifts or D20 Future or... You Get the Idea

I admit it... I'm a mini junky. I have always used miniatures, even back in the day when we didn't use them for much more than occasionally showing marching order. I've run plenty of games without them, and they've been fine... but ever since the rise in popularity of prepainted miniatures, I have been hooked.

Unfortunately, as I have complained about several times over the years, there is a real shortage of prepainted plastic miniatures for science fiction games. They're out there, but they're nowhere near as numerous as the fantasy miniatures.

Today I'll share what miniatures I've been using (and plan to use) for Alpha Enigma, my Savage Worlds campaign that began last month.

First of all, let's be honest. Your science fiction universe probably has aliens of some kind or another. There are a lot of figures from traditional fantasy lines that can be used to represent these creatures just fine. In Alpha Enigma, I have used the shadow to represent a strange ghost-like creature that was killing passengers on the Nova Eclipse, and I used this earth elemental to represent a mineral based life form that the party encountered in an asteroid mine. I haven't used that warforged mini yet, but it'll work just fine as a droid or a soldier in power armor.

Though I shy away from the more recognizable storm troopers and named characters, the Star Wars Miniatures line has a ton of generic looking miniatures that represent less iconic factions. These are perfect, as they fit side by side with minis from the D&D and Pathfinder lines without doing any work at all. I wish there were more of them, but Wizards of the Coast didn't renew their license, so they're technically out of print. They aren't hard to find second-hand, though.

Wizkids makes approximately 9,322,192,823,828,423 different lines of "clix" miniatures. From Mage Knight to Mechwarrior to the actual Heroclix themselves, there are tons of these out there. If you can imagine it, there is probably a miniature for it in one of their products. The scale is a little larger than the Wizards of the Coast lines, but it's close enough that the differences aren't noticeable on the tabletop. My only issue with these minis is that their bases are too large for 1" scale maps. Fortunately, re-basing them is a breeze, and the sheer variety of what is available more than makes up for the minor annoyance. I particularly like the Mechwarrior miniatures that look awesome as large power armor suits.

There are other miniatures that I use as well, most notably those from Warhammer 40K - but the others are typically cost more money, and I have to take the time to paint them. The older I get, the less time I have to sit around painting miniatures in the man cave, and I'll take as many prepainted miniatures as I can find.

Are there any lines of miniatures that I'm missing?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir is a science fiction novel set in the not-too-distant future. The book's protagonist, Mark Watney, is a botanist and mechanical engineer who is extremely intelligent and always wisecracking. In other words, he's the kind of guy I'm pretty sure I could hang out with if he was a real person... except for the pesky little issue of me being here and Mark being stranded on Mars.

There are some people who just love their hard sci-fi. I'm not one of them. I tend to fall in the Stephen King camp of appreciating the story a lot more than the technical details. However, since the majority of the story is told in first person from Mark's point of view, we get all of the science from the mouth of a very likable character. It makes the chemistry digestible, as if you were learning this stuff from your best friend rather than from a professor's monotone lecture.

I recall Mark mentioning several times that he would spare me the science, and even though the character makes the subject more palatable, I still remember thinking, "Man, I wish you would save me a little more of it!" Likable narrator or not, there is a lot of technical mumbo jumbo in The Martian that I felt could have been condensed. The botany didn't bother me at all, probably because my sense of humor got stuck somewhere around age twelve, but the chemistry was a little much at times. Even though it helps explain exactly how the protagonist was managing to survive, if you don't find the protagonist's explanations funny, you might find yourself bogged down in chemistry rather than enjoying the story itself.

I'm sure there is a demographic out there, however, that loves all the technical detail that Andy Weir included in The Martian. I'm certainly not a scientist myself, so I don't know whether he actually knows his stuff or not, but it certainly sounds like it... and since the plot revolves around improvising ways to survive in a harsh environment without the necessary supplies, some might even say that the technical details are necessary.

All in all, I really enjoyed the book. I may sound overly critical of the abundance of science in this review, but the story underneath all the jargon is excellent. Even if you think the science is a slog, it is presented by a character whose commentary is usually amusing and sometimes downright hilarious. If you like science fiction at all - even if hard sci-fi isn't normally your thing - I highly recommend this book.

Note: Special thanks to for providing me a free review copy of the Martian.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful for Gamer Friends

I've been known to post holiday themed content from time to time, but it isn't usually my thing. However, "my thing" or not, I feel the need to show my thankfulness publicly today, because this year has been awesome for me as a gamer. Let me explain why...

I started playing D&D with my dad when I was six, and as I grew up, I continued to play RPGs with family. The occasional friend joined in, but I have logged more hours of roleplaying with family members than any other demographic. However, over the last few years, my family has just stopped playing. My brother will argue that he still plays computer RPGs, but let's be honest. Computer games don't count, despite how much overlap there may be. 

After months of fruitless attempts to organize another game night with my old group, I decided to quit bugging people who were clearly no longer able and/or interested in playing. People get married. People have kids. Work keeps you busy. Priorities change. Life goes on. I understand.

What followed was a search for gamers in the area, and I started a Pathfinder campaign with just two players. Since then, the group has grown and evolved into what it is today: five of us who meet every week to get our geek on. That original campaign is still going, and we've added several more to the mix, but no matter what the game of the week is, I know that every Thursday I can look forward to spending the afternoon with good people having an awesome time.

I am truly grateful. Thanks, guys.
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