Kickstarter Roundup, part two

I’m not a mega-prolific backer by any means, but I do keep my eyes out for interesting projects. Here’s what I’ve been up to since my last Kickstarter Roundup

Deadzone: Infestation

I backed this at $1 to see where it was going… but I wasn’t hooked enough by the end to back more. I really wanted the Blaine on jetbike exclusive backer model, but it wouldn’t have been worth the price.

Whizz Pop Bang

This one’s a science magazine for children, and even after the Kickstarter subscription ran out we’ve kept it going. The children enjoy it, and occasionally Fred will mention some fact that he’s picked up from months before so we know they’re enjoying it! Their school has even picked it up to stock in the library, so that’s good.

We just need to get more organised about doing some of the experiments. A shopping list is sent out by email before each issue arrives so we should be able to pick any bits up that we need in time to do it.

Penny Arcade’s Automata

This one looked like fun to back. We’ve been getting into some of the Netflix Original series recently, and really enjoying them, so I’m more open to supporting independent shows. They’ve started teasing some more stuff in updates so hopefully it won’t be too much longer until it’s out.

Mystery Science Theater 3000

I loved this show as a kid, and went in heavy enough to get a t-shirt and mug, and I am absolutely thrilled that it’s going to be out in less that a month. It was so exciting watching it grow into one of the biggest Kickstarter projects ever!

Lumbermancer

The pitch video made me laugh, the game was already finished and it was only $4. So I didn’t think it was a bad bet to try it out. It’s a fun enough game but I’ve not found the time to go back to it since the first couple of days.

DreadBall 2

How could I not back this? An update just arrived to say it’s been delayed (yes, yes…) but should still be here by Christmas. I’m going to try and paint the New Eden Revenants like the Borg, trying some new glaze techniques to make their skin seem appropriately clammy… I’ll let you know how I get on.

Drive Hardcover

I’ve been enjoying the webcomic for a while now, and it’s worth supporting creators who make good things. I get the feeling that reading it in a short space of time (rather than single pages over a course of years) would make it even better (like many long-form comics), and binge-reading comics is more pleasant in paper form.

Goblin Hood

Fantasy goblin Robin Hood models? Awesome! I know the guy behind Macrocosm Games and he’s done several mini-Kickstarters already so I was pretty certain it would deliver fine, and it didn’t take long before the models turned up (in a teeny-tiny box). There were even a couple of sweets in there! The goblins were a little bit smaller than I expected but they weren’t for any particular game or project so they’ll be fun to paint up just on their own.

Brexit – Why I’m Marching

Warning: unedited stream of consciousness.

Next Saturday, I’ll be attending a protest march in London. I know the government won’t listen, I know that nothing will change. Sometimes protests make change happen – not very often though.

So why march?

Well, there’s not much I can do to stop Brexit. My local MP defied Labour’s three-line whip to vote against the bill (which I appreciate, greatly) and any reasoned arguments against Brexit are met with “but we’re going to get the best deal.” A march will show that this is an unconvincing argument.

The 48% who voted to Remain in the EU are not just being ignored, but completely silenced. They’re already being made scapegoats by some Brexit supporters – the pound is weak because we’re ‘talking down Britain’. If Brexit isn’t a success, they say, it won’t be because it was a terrible idea, or even a good idea poorly implemented, the blame is already being laid at the feet of ‘Remoaners’ for not uniting or trying to make the best of it.

That argument has a small ring of truth. I know small business owners, technical professionals, skilled and educated people who are looking at emigrating because of the government’s course before Brexit hits properly. If what I can see in my own bubble is representative, then these ‘Remoaners’ will inflict some small economic harm on the UK by leaving. Then again, it could be argued that they are taking back individual control and leaving an undemocratic union rather than trying to make the best of it. Which 52% of the country also decided was the right course to take.

The government’s attitude towards Scotland is absolutely astonishing too. I wouldn’t believe it if I read it in a book – it has an air of Douglas Adams to it. Telling people that leaving our biggest trade partner to go it alone is guaranteed to be a success, but telling Scotland they can’t afford to go it alone? Trying to explain that it would be irresponsible to have a referendum when the final relationship isn’t clear? The thing that swung the first Scottish referendum was membership of the EU. Now they’re guaranteed to lose membership of the EU, but when independent they have a chance to re-join it. And as a small economy in the union, they will see investment to accelerate their own independent growth and success, like we’ve seen with other new members. I don’t think Scottish Independence will be good for the UK. But I think Scottish Independence with EU membership will be better for Scotland than UK membership without the EU, and even that will be better than Scottish Independence without the EU. So it’s a gamble, but seems quite a safe gamble. I can’t see any reason they wouldn’t get into the EU fairly quickly after independence, other than the border issue. But Northern Ireland will already have set an example there.

I think we will either have Freedom of Movement with the EU (and riots from the 52%), or there will be some sort of a border in Ireland. I can’t see it going any other way. You can’t put up a border between Northern Ireland and the UK (it’ll be like having your passport checked to go to Wales). When I was young, ‘terrorist’ meant ‘IRA’ in any news story I heard. Since then, things have settled down a lot. Borders could start to unwind that process.

I don’t see the benefit in Brexit. We will be throwing away our trade deals (made by a strong economy with 20+ other large states to form a powerful negotiating bloc) to make new ones, as a single state with a weak currency.

The Leave campaign, and the Conservative manifesto, promised that we would stay in the Single Market. Leaving that would be completely nuts. We are going to lose many large businesses as they flee to Ireland, France or Germany. The government’s current course is like (and I steal this from someone else, I can’t remember who though) Remain won 52% and told the country that it was therefore the will of the people and a clear mandate to drop the pound and join the Euro. And then trying to tell 48% of the population to ‘just get over it’. And the leader of the opposition bullying their party to support this plan, then trying to pretend that they really oppose it.

The whole Brexit situation is aggravating, and I’m not even going to go into the whole Parliament-vote final deal stuff. The government is crazy. The country is doomed. And it won’t be my fault, I didn’t vote for it and I’m not trying to sabotage it. If there’s even anything I can do to make it work, I’ll do it because I don’t want everything to collapse more than it already has. But if me saying “I don’t think that’s a good idea…” on my private Facebook or a blog no-one reads is enough to derail the Brexit plans, then maybe Brexit isn’t the guaranteed success it’s being promised as.

So I’m going to go to this march and be counted and show that it’s not just a small minority who lost the vote. The half of the population who lost still feel very strongly, and deserve to have their concerns answered properly. Being told “we’re going to get the best deal” isn’t very convincing. Other countries have no obligation to give us a good deal. We need answers, we need a plan, and we need to be treated fairly – when Brexit fails, it won’t be the fault of the people who voted against it.

SQLite in ASP.NET Core WITHOUT Entity Framework

Try and search for ASP.NET Core and SQLite and you’ll get a dozen guides to using it with Entity Framework.

First of all, we’ll need an ASP.NET Core website and install the Nuget packages Microsoft.Data.Sqlite and System.Data.Sqlite.

I prefer to use Dapper for my database access (hence not wanting to use Entity Framework), so go ahead and install Dapper too.

Opening any connection in SQLite by default automatically creates the database file. Run this code:

var connectionStringBuilder = new SqliteConnectionStringBuilder();
connectionStringBuilder.DataSource = "MyNewDatabase.db";
using (var connection = new SqliteConnection(connectionStringBuilder.ConnectionString))
{     connection.Open();     var result = connection.Query<int>("SELECT @number;", new { number = 789 });
}

And you’ll see in the /bin/debug folder there is a new (empty) file called MyNewDatabase.db. Setting a breakpoint and inspecting the result variable will also reveal that the database is responding nicely to queries. It should have a list of a single item, and that item is the number 789.

Running basic queries for fun isn’t very exciting though. We need to be able to connect to the database, create tables and interrogate them. The way to do this with SQLite is through the command line. Since I’ve been playing with Linux, I loaded up Bash for Windows 10 and gave it a go.

To do it like that, run sudo apt-get install sqlite3 in your Bash shell to get the client application. Then navigate to the database file location (you can get to the main drives with cd /mnt/c, where c is your drive letter). Then hit sqlite3 MyNewDatabase.db, and you’re into command line SQL mode! All commands must be terminated with a semi-colon, but otherwise it’s easy to add tables, set them up, etc. I will be saving all the commands in a separate file so the scripts can be re-run if necessary, or if I choose to create a new database on the live environment and deploy to it separately.

A few hints from this site on using SQLite:

To list all tables, type .tables and to exit the command line type .quit.

New Year, New Host, New Blog

I mentioned at the start of the year, I’m hoping to get back into blogging a bit more this year. I had a pretty good run of posting once a fortnight, but it fell away as my commute got shorter and less convenient for typing.

I’ve moved my blog to Digital Ocean. The reason is partly cost-based, but also because I wanted to play around with SSL certificates for DreadBall Hub. My previous web host was eHosting, a UK based provider of Windows hosting. That was important as a .NET developer, until last year when .NET Core has brought my skills to Linux.

Anyway, I wanted an SSL certificate and could get a free one from Let’s Encrypt. I spoke to eHosting, and they said that I could absolutely install a third-party certificate like Let’s Encrypt, but I’d need a static IP address. That’d be £1 a month (+VAT). Well, that was still cheaper than the £50-100 for another provider’s certificate, so I thought it was worth the cost. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the option to buy that add-on.

Their support staff were very helpful – the solution was to upgrade my subscription at an additional cost of £5 a month (+VAT), so that I could buy the £1.20 add-on for a static IP address. So that’s a total cost of £72 (+VAT) a year, to get a free SSL certificate.

Rather than spending an extra £80+ every year, I decided that with the Linux portability of .NET Core another option was open to me. Try out a Linux server (and Digital Ocean charge by the hour, so I’m not locked in too tightly) and see if I can do everything I want on there. Even with the collapse of the pound against the dollar, the hosting is cheaper than I was paying at eHosting with the downside of having to be the administrator.

The upside of course is that with free SSL certificates, this blog and DreadBall Hub are now encrypted. My mail is handled by another free domain-mail handler. I’m saving money, and I’m getting to learn new things about Linux and .NET Core – exciting new stuff! Onwards and upwards!

2016

I’ve not done ‘the meme thing’ since 2013… First of all, I had a bit of a blog break, and when I got back into it I just didn’t feel like answering all the questions there entirely truthfully. For a start, some of the questions were just a bit samey, and not much changed from year to year. I’m still not keeping up with new music, still not changed my style, etc… Other things, I have to keep confidential for important reasons.

So it feels less interesting than it could be. But, here I am, trying to get the blog back into a sort of shape. I did pretty well blogging every fortnight for a while. It was helped by a long train commute so there was plenty of time to put words in computers. Since I started a new job closer to home (and I travel by bus), that time has gone.

Still, I’m going to give blogging a go again, and in-between new posts I am trying to repair the old blog posts. More information on ‘what happened’ is going to come… soon.

HATECon One Tournament February 2016

This was a last minute decision, since East London isn’t terribly easy to get to from the West Country but I have a friend living there that I haven’t seen in a long time – the efficient use of time is to visit one and attend the other!

My choice of team was made, as is traditional, on the morning. I chose the Rebels in the end since they are better painted than the Ada-Lorena, and I wanted to show off. As for upgrades, I chose two ranks on each of the Gaelian Jacks (they’re the centaur-type that can run and slam).

This was the first tournament to use the 2016 style rules pack, where Jacks can move up to half of their movement on actions.

Game One – Dale’s Tsudochan

Dale was running this tournament, and he brought his stunningly painted Tsudochan team. As usual, he’s got to the precise requirements of the team and did a great job of keeping the pressure on me. On the other side, my dice completely abandoned me – I don’t normally complain about my dice, but right here they were awful. I failed so many “easy” rolls, to dash, to pass, to catch, and so on… it was a little painful to watch. It wasn’t too bad, as I managed to score 2 kills and 3 4-pt shots but I ended up losing by 3 points. The game had swung quite significantly, I was 5 points down early on and three points up later in the game, before the final score.

Game Two – Leanne’s Veer-myn

If I play Dale in a tournament, I’m probably also going to play Leanne. Her luck was typically excellent, and I was almost completely unable to clear the 3pt zone of rats. In the end, she won with 5 points.

Game Three – George’s Teratons

Teratons are as usual a challenge. George was fairly good at keeping the Strikers away from scoring, but eventually I managed to scrape together 7 points for a landslide win, and my first of the day.

Game Four – Andrew’s Marauders

This game was incredibly close, and it was the first time of the day I hadn’t been the Home player (Andrew had been slightly luckier; this was his fourth Home game). Andrew’s Marauder team had an interesting setup – they ignored guarding the strike zones and instead bunched up near the centre line for an early push. Like George, Andrew’s guards did a fantastic job at managing the Ralarat Strikers. When they were on the pitch, they were too far away usually to do anything. He scored a 2pt lead early, and it was several turns before I managed to equalise – to be immediately bested by another greenskin 2-pointer. The ball moved around a lot without a score, until the very last turn when I finally managed to score a 4-pointer and edged a 2pt lead. That last action was the first time the score had moved into my favour, that was how close the game was.

Conclusion

Two wins and two losses, I feel is a fairly good result. It was great, as always, to see Dale and co again and I got to play against some new people which is always a pleasure. I look forward to seeing some of them at the Bristol tournament.

I was a little too tired to explore the rest of the con, but they had a lot of other wargames events on, demo games, some roleplay stuff and a bring-and-buy sale upstairs. It’s probably for the best that I stay away from shop, I’m sure that many people would understand! The only downside is that I feel the lighting downstairs was a little dingy and dim. Overall though it seemed very well organised, there were plenty of staff checking things were going smoothly and they were easy to identify with their bright yellow t-shirts.

On to the scores! Dale rather embarrassingly took first place with his Tsudochan, Rob failed to take most bloody. I ended up in fourth place myself, and had most 4-pointers. The thing that I was most pleased with however was the Best Painted award, as done by player vote! It’s the first time I’ve won best-painted and it was one of the (distantly hopeful) reasons that I brought the Rebels instead of the Ada-Lorena. They are one of the teams I feel I’ve done the best on, but my opinion is not always matched by that of the world at large. I was disappointed in a previous tournament not to have won for the painting of my Martian team which was, at the time, my best work. I have a nice certificate, and another art print to put with the others (I must get those on the wall some day).

All in all, it was a fantastic day and I will try to go again next year if they run again and I get the opportunity.

2015 Nationals

Here it comes, the big one of the year! Since 2013s final was late (beginning of 2014), and 2014s just didn’t happen for some reason, it’s nice to see the big tournament happening on time and organised. The regional champions all get free tickets, and I am glad to be one of them now. Hopefully we don’t have to show our Blaines at the door…

I figure the team to beat will be the Convicts. The standard strategy of putting three players at the back and blocking big strikes is easy for the convicts to take out. Action one: Sprint a player to sit next to all three defenders. Action two: Shock Collar, undefendable and watch them all get sent off or knocked down. Either way they are no longer a barrier to scoring. The other possibility, of leaving two players on the bonus point lane to threaten three-pointers and prevent four-pointers, isn’t going to work for the same reasons. However you place the players, it’ll be possible to knock them both out with a Shock Collar or else you’re not even threatening some of the three point shots.

By simply inverting the standard three player defence – instead of forming a line on the strike zone itself, you form a line around the strike hex (so two players are not on strike zone hexes), it becomes massively more difficult to take out all three at once. On the other hand, it puts an unthreatened hex front and centre for your bonus lane defender to get Slammed. With my Sphyr team, I will intend this to be a Striker with his back turned, to make it the most favourable match-up that I can.

The other thing that I can do is to move that line forward a hex so that pushing the middle player back does not place them on the Strike Hex (and thus a potential target).

By trying to keep as much threat in the three-point zone as possible, it’ll be essential to remove the Convicts ability to score bonus points at all by removing their Strikers. This is dangerous, since trying to threaten a Striker enough to knock them out bunches my remaining players up enough to be hit by a Shock Collar themselves and the Convicts Guard is pretty nasty regardless. I can’t be sure exactly whether to go for the Strikers and slow their advance or their Guards and keep my offence safe.

As for scoring, it’s going to depend very much on the opponent. If they commit to blocking the three-pointers (as I will be), then I will probably focus on two-pointers. This is also more action efficient, allowing me to Slam their players more as I go. If there is a three-point path open, it’s not too difficult for a Sphyr to go for it and try to eke out a lead.

All that talk about the Sphyr aside, I didn’t end up taking them. I flip-flopped up until the morning of the event (how many times I’ve sat in a hotel room staring at two teams…) and eventually decided upon the Kalyshi.

I think the Kalyshi are the dark horse of Season Five. With the Mutants and Mechanites taking a lot of thought in construction, and the Convicts having such a shocking ability, the Kalyshi are sort of forgotten. I think it helps that they are the less optimal team in Xtreme, where they debuted. However, they have four excellent Strikers that get a 50% chance of a Skill upgrade on the Season One chart, and their Jacks (if used correctly) can get a 7 dice Shove-Backstab-Slam to push people off of the four-point lane. It’s only Strength 5, but they too have a 50% chance of boosting that Strength. And all I need to do is move someone a little, since the Strikers have Jump and can squeeze into tight gaps to drop a few points.

Game One – Mike Clark’s Nameless

Mike is a strong player, and his setup caused me some extra thought. He had two Sticky Guards on the 4-point line, and flanked them with two Strikers. His two Hard Guards were on the 2-point lines. I had no chance of moving both Guards in a single turn, and the Shove can’t remove a player from the pitch so they would only get moved back in the following turn.

Eventually his Strikers moved, but that still placed a lot of threat hexes on the three point zone. Luckily, I was able to score just a little more than he did and kept the game pressed firmly at the far end of the pitch. One memorable moment was the end of a rush where my Striker had the ball but no chance of scoring due to threat hexes – no dice left. So I ran it into the far corner to reduce the chances of having it taken. He chose to pin me in place with a Hard Guard… meaning that I got a chance to use Jump to avoid two Evades and sneak out to score 3 points. The game ended with a three point win.

Game Two – Dan’s Veer-Myn

Dan came up from Bristol separately this time around, and it’s always a pleasure to play him. He had his Veer-myn in the configuration I normally choose (to mixed success in tournaments) – 2 Strikers with two ranks each.

We each scored every single turn. Every. Single. Turn. Every damn one of them. No failed shots, no balls left lying around, just wall-to-wall scores. It was a grind, but the score was moving slowly my way. It ended up on rush 14 as a landslide win to me, although I tend to think of rush 14 landslides as “technically” a landslide.

Game Three – Gareth’s Rebels

After explaining in detail to Gareth earlier in the day why I thought the Kaylshi got underestimated and why they were actually pretty good, I realised that perhaps this was unwise. I have only played against Rebels once before, and won in sudden death. I last played Gareth at the 2013 Nationals, where he had Marauders and killed three of my Veer-myn, contributing to his unexpected leap to Most Violent player (and totally at odds with his friendly, pleasant demeanour!)

Gareth scored four points in his first turn, and I dropped the ball in mine. From there, the score fluctuated between 3 and 6 points against me but somehow, by rush 14, I had pulled it back to a draw (with a few more “easy” catches rolling away across the floor). However, sudden death is pretty easy for the Home player and he picked up a one point win far later than I expected.

Game Four – Richard’s Rebels

Wow, Rebels are hard to play when you don’t have a lot of offensive power. Who am I up against next then? Oh.

I’ve not met Richard before, and he had an amazing custom built pitch with hand-painted floor, transparent acrylic walls, walled-off subs benches and even strike posts cunningly placed between hexes so as not to interfere with the model placement. The hexes were extremely large, since he has played with Nameless teams a lot in the past. It’s always great to meet new people!

This was another close run game, but at least it got to one or two points in my favour a couple of times. I used my Defensive Coach to call Offensive plays a couple of times to make sure that I got my lone Striker all the way back to the ball, up to the three-point zone and score. Again, at the end of the game I managed a final turn equaliser to put us into Sudden Death and again… the Home team advantage put me down a one point loss.

Conclusion

I always try to have fun even when I’m losing. And having such close games that finished much later than I expected, and much better than I expected (I was pretty sure Gareth and I would be commentating other games after a landslide early on) I really didn’t feel like I was losing. I was a little surprised to hear that I had come seventh out of fifteen (I was thinking that fifth was still possible) but on reflection, it makes sense since I really only won two games. If I had beaten Rich by two points, I would have been third place… but if wishes were horses, etc. I was really surprised that Jen came in last place, since that’s normally reserved for someone who lost all their games but the competition was so close this year that everyone (bar the stand-in player) had won at least one of their games.

Gareth was the only player to win all four of his games, beating Leon (South-East Regional Champion, and previous National Champion), Dale (North-West Regional Champion), and me (Southern Regional Champion) to get there. I feel glad that I gave him such a tricky game, hopefully I was the toughest opponent for him to beat! That’s almost an imaginary second place, right? But well done to Gareth, he played an excellent game, was great fun to face across the table and I can’t wait to see him again at the next Nationals, or one of the 2016 Regional events.

The only other thing I was close to was a Fan Favourite award, with a personal best of 39 cheers – I was only beaten by Mike, with 41 cheers.

Outside of the games, we caught up with a lot of people we’ve not seen since the last National tournament. Chris came up from Wales, Dale and his crew from Peterborough (Dale had some terrible luck, and perhaps his Teratons are now going to retire from a successful 2015?) and the more Northern folks like Dan, Charlotte and Gareth who don’t often make it down South far enough to cross our paths. It was really, really great meeting up with everyone and having a good laugh.

DreadBall Southern Regional 2015

The Southern Regional this year was held in Brighton, a city I have only ever seen in the dark, going to the theatre. In the day time it is beautiful. As I walked from the train station I could look down a hill along a long straight road all the way to the sea. Brilliant.

The venue was the King and Queen, an oversized 18th century farmhouse converted to a pub and really playing up it’s old roots with pictures of royalty from previous centuries on every wall. We were playing in a room upstairs although the weather was so nice maybe we should have gone and played al fresco.

The turnout was a little disappointing – Dale brought his carful down from Peterborough and I had trekked from Bristol (although staying with family in Portsmouth overnight to make the journey slightly easier). The only local was Simon, the organiser, who we had met in London a month earlier. However, such a small field was balanced by the fact that all players were extremely good at the game and veterans of tournaments – often placing quite highly in the results table too.

As I have all year, I brought the Sphyr with the same loadout of a Defensive Coach and two coaching dice.

Game 1: Leanne’s Veer-myn (the Strike-Happy Squeakers)

Immediately I had a sense of deja-vu as I had played Leanne first in London, same teams and same upgrades. This time however I was more lucky, and managed to push the rats around with relative ease using a forward Guard while a Running Interference card helped disrupt the rats scoring. The game ended at half-time in a landslide to me as I opened up the four-point shot. As an extra boost, I had the Ball Shatters card in my hand at the end of the game in case it hadn’t worked out.

Game 2: Phil’s S1 Corporation

Phil got to the top table at the end of the London Regional, and we had played previously in Wales (although he was using Teratons then). I managed to get a couple more four-pointers in this game, and ended it halfway through with another landslide win.

Game 3: Dale’s Teratons

Dale is always great to play against – he knows his team inside out and always gives me a challenging game. The fact that we have ended up against each other in the final game in the last two tournaments, which by the Swiss system means we should be roughly evenly matched, bears this out a bit. I decided to forego my normal Sphyr passing game and trying to get 3-pointers and to focus entirely instead on preventing him getting three-pointers and using my large number of good Strikers to score 2-pointers exclusively. The passing is a good backup in case one of those strike zones in blocked, but I didn’t need it in the end.

The game started a little poorly as I ran up to put the Teratons on the launch lane into threat hexes… which he teleported out of and slammed my poor strikers. I must pay more attention to the teams I am facing…

Regardless, the strategy worked well for me, and based entirely on 2-point strikes (and Dale’s poor luck) I took a third landslide win.

Game 4: Phil’s S1 Corporation again

Rather than play Rob (who I’d not played yet) or Simon (who was really the spare player), I was paired up against Phil as the second place person, and who had the best chance to beat me. This game started poorly for both of us – he fumbled a strike attempt, and I fumbled picking up the ball after it. I realised that this was the first game that the score had even gone into the other player’s track; although I could afford some loss given the relative Strike differences.

In the later turns, I moved a Jack away from defence to get the ball for a long throw… and again, I fumbled it. This left the 3-point zone open for more points from Phil, bringing the score back to a 1-point lead to me, and on turn 14 I brought it back up to a solid 4-point win.

Conclusion

So with 4 wins, three of them landslides, I took the tournament and the beautiful trophy! The calculations were being made after game three and it was almost in the bag – I could lose by 6 points and still be ahead on strike difference. In a landslide loss, I would need to have more cheers to win the tournament.

This shows one of the benefits of treating a landslide like a regular win in terms of tournament points. Without it, we would have been able to call the tournament completely after game three and the final game wouldn’t have had any peril, or point. As it was with strike difference it was very difficult for me to lose (I just had to prevent being completely steamrollered) it was still a possibility and I could have lost the tournament if the dice had been unkind to me.

In the final standings, Rob took the Wooden Spoon and the Most Violent (7 kills, out of 13 in the tournament as a whole), Phil took third place and Dale took second. I got first place, as well as Fan Favourite (most cheers, although this wasn’t a particularly huge number) and Hot Shot (most four pointers, I got 4 across the day). Due to the low turnout, there weren’t any prizes besides the trophy but Simon painted some Xtreme free agents in gold and silver for us – I got a Pusk Rampager for Fan Favourite and a Judwan for Hot Shot. Great stuff!

So this follows the trend so far of winning one tournament each year, and proves that I can do it without the Veer-myn. I’ll probably be taking the Sphyr to the UK Nationals in Nottingham in October, where we’re hoping to bring a few more Bristolians and expecting to meet the Peterborough crew again.

Sphyr Team Overview – Cetamere Centurions

These pictures make them look more the colour that I wanted. They're really a bit darker.The Cetamere system is unusual in that every planet has a large amount of water on the surface – the asteroids are mostly ice comets caught in the star’s gravity and even the moons of the planets are mostly water or ice.

The Sphyr were invited to colonise the system to provide a ready workforce for an enterprising group of Corporations working together to exploit the system, given it’s challenges for most citizens of the GCPS.

It didn’t take long for the Cetamere Conglomerate to elevate the worker’s off-duty activities to company sponsored events, with the aim of sponsoring a team in the local sector leagues.I normally don't do much with the guards, other than try and push a space on the 3-point zone.

I intended to have the Asterians all painted up, but got distracted. It’s very difficult to stay focussed on them when I have so many other, easier teams to paint. I’ve done more work with a wet palette on this team to try and practice mixing colours and getting smoother blends. The skin was a base of Calgar Blue mixed with Eshin Grey, highlighted with Dawnstone mixed with Calgar Blue, then a highlight with more Calgar Blue, and a final one with a little Pallid Wych Flesh.These guys are often defending with their back to the pitch, for their tail ability to make them a little more survivable.

The armour was Rhinox Hide mixed with Bestigor Flesh. Increasing amounts of Bestigor Flesh for a further three-ish layers. Straight Bestigor Flesh on the gems.

I wanted a more “sandy” colour for the armour but I think I started too dark (or didn’t go for a big enough jump in the middle coat). I’m still practicing with the wet palette and I think I learned a lot from this team, as simple as their colour scheme was.

Also on display here is the Gruba-Tek Coliseum pitch, a new toy and very nice for travelling

I have gotten along well with this team – high movement, slightly better-than-average Dodge, and lots of Strikers (or “Hulk insurance”) are nice. They can handle a pretty good passing game and they already start with a card to save me the trouble of buying one. I don’t know exactly what upgrades I would buy in an exhibition match, I don’t know that they need any coach benefits and ranks wouldn’t guarantee them the Skill boost that every Striker wants. Maybe they are a good team to fill up on coaching dice with, to help push for early scores and landslides.

Obligatory 'Strikers Run' pose

Fantasy Battles – Kings of War

With the children away and the Gamer’s Edition rulebook just landed in our laps, we decided to try out Kings of War first. I didn’t bother making proper army lists, I just put out whatever of Jen’s units I could place quickly and some of my own to try and look balanced.

She had the Undead, using her Vampire Counts. These seem to map across fairly well. She had regiments of Ghouls, Zombies, Revenants (using Grave Guard) and Skeleton Warriors with two Vampire Lords.

On my side, I used the fresh new Twilight Kin placeholder with regiments of Buccaneers (Corsairs) and Bladedancers (Witch Elves), a troop of Dark Knights (Cold One Knights), a Dark Lord and a High Priestess of the Abyss (using the very appropriate Death Hag from the old Cauldron of Blood). Adding them up afterwards, both armies were around the 800 point mark.

We didn’t take any updates to any units, or use any terrain this time, and we had a 4’ x 4’ table to play on. No scenarios, no time limit, nothing.

Jen placed her units down to cover the flanks, meaning I couldn’t get around the side – I screwed up some of my movement and she got a couple of flank charges on me. My Priestess managed to avoid fighting until the very end and spent the whole game throwing Fireballs around. They are particularly effective against units like Ghouls, which were wavering on the first turn!

There’s a lot to get used to about the game. We both found it odd to do nothing on our opponent’s turn. The combat procedure of charge in, fight, move out without being hit back made it difficult to gauge fights, and progress, and who was going to survive. Early on when I could see all the charges Jen would get in against me I thought it would be a loss for me, then I had a couple of good turns and removed almost everything, making me confident that she couldn’t recover. Ultimately the game came down to my Bladedancers (with 10 damage already) being wiped out by what was left of her Zombies, before the Zombies were blown up by a Fireball. Finally, the last Vampire Lord chased down the Priestess and smashed her into the ground to become literally the last man standing, and Jen won.

When we finished, we looked at the time – it wasn’t a tiny game, though we could still have added more to it – and it took us under two hours. Given how simple the rules were (it takes two turns maximum to learn what everything is and what it does), we were both confident than a bigger game wouldn’t take too much. Compared to Warhammer (all editions until now), no units have unique rules and the stats are much simpler. There’s only a few calculations in the game and they are simple, and based on the rules. For example, Crushing Strength (2) adds 2 to your result when rolling to Damage. It’s a common rule, shared by her Vampire Lords and my Dark Lord, so it was easy for us to know what it meant.

So what did we like about it? Well, it was quick. Although we sat doing nothing until our turn, it didn’t take long to wait. It was also quick to pick up – the stats and rules are simple enough to get into the game quickly and look for tactical opportunities.

On the other hand, it felt like there could have been more choice. I realise that this could be down to only having a few units either side, and not really paying attention to the army lists (the criteria was “this is already ranked on the shelf” and not “what would be an interesting or effective army”), and not using scenarios or terrain. Years of extremely infrequent Warhammer games have steered me towards straight Pitched Battles to keep things simple but Kings of War is simple enough to pick it up from scratch and play a couple of thousand points in a couple of hours, so I don’t think a scenario would be too difficult to add to the core rules.

It’s also a little bit more abstract, yet more realistic. The way that units move – specifically the interpenetration of units while moving (sometimes referred to in Warhammer as ‘virtual pivots’) means that large regiments can reorder in a way properly representative of a real unit. Knowing several people involved in historical re-enactment, I have been told a number of ways that units in wargames don’t behave like real units would. On the abstract side, your attacks, roll to hit and damage is purely a score. It’s not immediately or directly related to the weapons or units, unless you begin looking at them and comparing to similar units in their army or others and telling yourself that this unit must have more attacks because it has two weapons, or that unit has Crushing Strength because they have halberds. In old Warhammer, you would look at a unit’s list of equipment and calculate from that your armour save and damage output. In Kings of War it’s all pre-calculated and without putting that little bit of personal analysis in, it didn’t make immediate sense. Luckily the units that I’d picked were, on both sides, relatable to their statistics. The Witch Elves Bladedancers even acted in a manner I would have expected them to by causing extra morale damage and ignoring morale trouble in their own unit!

Overall, we are both keen to try this out again. Next up though is a play-through of Age of Sigmar to see what this new spin on Warhammer can offer.