Friday, 27 November 2015

First Law: Override - The 612 Bounty Store

Greetings friends!

Now I debated about featuring this here or instead keeping it closer to my chest and I figured it best to feature this bad boy right here for you all to see!

Some of you may remember a 6 part short story I wrote around a year(ish) ago called Repo Man.

The protagonists of the story were a duo of Bounty Hunters from the 612 region of The Block.

These two, along with the rest of their Bounty Store group are a number of characters I really wanted to include in First Law: Override as a unique combination of Mercenaries.
- For those unfamiliar, Mercenaries or MERCs are named characters who are hired out of your mission pool Nt (not your Force Cache) and are immune to the campaign progression system so they will never receive injuries, gain skills or die.

The plan for the 612 is to feature them as something different. They are a group of 5 units who together make up 500Nt. They are Factionless but can also be hired separately by either Faction due to their neutrality.

What this means is that you can field them individually with your force-proper, or they can be your force if you so desire**.

**Should you field them as a full force, you will not need to declare a Faction. If for any reason you are required to do so, then they are treated as their own Faction and can not be affiliated with another. The 612 Bounty Store is always neutral and under no circumstances will they do anything beyond accepting paid contracts.


The Mercs themselves consist of the following characters (stats, full equipment and Nt score still TBD):

Paul Homes: The Scoundrel
Paul is an all-round bounty hunter. Light on his feet but weakly armoured, Paul likes to get into medium to close range with his twin pistols to bring a bounty in.

Redd: The Brick
Redd is a meaty bruiser and when paired with Paul receives the added Body Guard skill (but only for Paul). A capable melee fighter with a muscly bulk behind his weight. His choice of weapons is between twin reinforced fighting gloves (counts as dual large melee) or his 2 handed hammer.

Claire Rueben: The Strategist
Claire is the brains behind the 612. She is physically weak with little to no martial combat training, however she can read the landscape like no one else providing a series of strategy bonuses to her crew or anyone who can afford her. She knows the strengths of her team and the weaknesses of her enemy and tries her best to use both to great advantage. For this reason she always carries with her a trusty sniper rifle allowing her to perform at her best as far away from the conflict as possible.

Charlie: The Hacker
Charlie is the youngster of the 612 Crew, no more than very early 20s. Growing up on Honos he was always bullied for his slight stature and inability to aim a gun straight or land a single punch. Charlie has always been adept at Hacking however and complete with his Jackhammer Deck is a dab hand at getting doors and almost any security point open with minimal fuss.

Shogun: The Mech
Shogun is an anomaly on Honos. An outwardly human female in a mech form. Acting as a Link Bot tied to Charlie she is fiercely loyal to him and comes with the Body Guard (Charlie) skill. She is also sentient and unlike normal Link Bots does not enter a disabled state when Charlie does Down or Out. More so, Shogun is not First Law enabled and is able to land a string right-hook with a mechanised fist (counts as singular large melee).


And that is the 612 Bounty Store Crew!

I hope you like the initial soundings of these guys. Over the next month or two I should be putting rules together, however they will at best go into Alpha testing. Currently they do not have a scheduled release date, but it is predicted to be either Book 2 or possibly Book 3.

Anyway, until next time! Stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

HobbySofa goes visual?

Greetings friends!

Last night I had the joy of spending about an hour and a half trying my best to edit the latest episode of HobbySofa. Why did it take so long you ask? Audio volume.

Yup for some reason that I only half understand my audio insists on recording as a load quieter than everyone else in the Skype chat. It's annoying as hell and stopping Bill & Andrey sounding like they were shouting and me sounding like a tiny mouse took all of 90 minutes, despite the actual cutting of the removable bits only taking a few minutes!

If you have listened to the show you'll have heard that for the first time recording we made use of cameras.

I don't know why we never thought of doing this before to be honest, it really makes sense, especially as whenever Tom & I play our Vassal games of Override we always use a camera.

You see, there are so many extra levels of communication that you get through visual queues which are completely missed when you stick to audio only.

Of course a lot of these visual factors are lost on you guys because you are still limited to audio only.

This is why I am going to look into the possibility of recording our next episode which will probably be early to mid January with video recording!

I'm not 100% sure of the best way of doing it, I know that through OBS (Open Broadcast Software) which I am semi familiar with, I can record video for use later on, it is how I did my Razor's Edge videos over the summer (which will be returning with the nicer weather by the way). In theory there should be nothing to stop me video capturing both Bill & Andrey's streams as well as my own and utilising this.

There are other options, but I am sure this will be the best as it will allow me to set up scenes with banners and stuff for title and backgrounds right into the show. I can also try my hand at video editing for adding a title screen.

But what do you guys think? Would you be interested in seeing our gurning faces for ~3hrs roughly every quarter? That sure sounds like a lot of punishment to me!

I'm still waiting to hear back from the rest of the Sofa Crew, and I'm not going to go to the effort of creating a YouTube channel just yet for something that could turn into a massive failed experiment. Instead (at least to begin with) the first episode will be hosted on my LoxBotLive channel just to see if it works and if it is at all popular, but I think it opens up a lot of possibilities that previously were not ideal.


Now, saying that, I will not be doing away with the audio only version, and part of the experiment will involve how easy it is to dual run the system. Can I (for example) edit the whole thing for YouTube and then rip the audio out of it and use that? If so then I don't see there being an issue at all!

But I promise you this, under no circumstance will a visual presentation replace the audio.

What this also opens up is the possibility of even better experiences!

As it stands we have the issue that two of the Sofa crew are in the UK only about 20mins drive from each other, the 3rd Crew Member is on the other side of the pond. It is my hope that one day sometime in the future we could get the whole crew together in person, either Andrey & I going to the states, or Bill coming here. I do know that I was thinking of going to GenCon in a few years time once the little one is older and I also know that Bill does a lot of travelling for a living, so managing to wrangle him to visit could/maybe possible, but pulling either of those rabbits out of a hat would be in no way an easy or soon thing.
- But c'mon! How awesome would it be to have all 3 of the Sofa Crew actually sat on THE Hobby Sofa with a video recording of the lot?

Or maybe I'm just being narcissistic...

Anyway, hope you enjoy the latest episode (11) and as part of a New Years pledge for 2016 I'm going to try and get every episode edited on the same week it is recorded, or at the least the week after, as I know I've been letting down both the Crew and you the audience by my delays in getting shows out.

Until next time; stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Monday, 23 November 2015

I've played the future...

Greetings friends!

So over the past couple of days me and my friend Tom had a great weekend of gaming.

We had planned to spend the Friday night playing a demo of two games; Guild Ball and a then unnamed game built from the ground up by Tom. For those who may not remember, Tom is the friend who is working on First Law: Override with me. The Saturday night was then going to be spent playing Override.

What actually happened was Friday night we played an intro game of Tom's game, Saturday afternoon we played Guild Ball and then Saturday Evening we played a full game of Tom's game.

Yup no Override at all!
(But that's ok, after all it's not exactly going to be squashed, and come April I have a full weekend of providing demos for this game).

Let me tell you, the game is quite literally the future of Character Driven Skirmish games!

I've heard some people describe Guild Ball as scratching the same 'itches' as Malifaux used to, and don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my game of Guild Ball, but I shit you not! This new game does all that and more!

So I proposed the idea that Tom & I include this in our 'catalogue' of games. It is such a good game that I need to be a part of it. I want to see it stand next to Override as a tabletop game that is equally great fun to play but ticks every box that Override does not.


So currently I don't know how much we should be talking about this right now, but there are a few things that I know needs to be shared:

Firstly we have the working title of Moonstone, and from now on I will refer to it as such for ease.

Next is that we are looking at a fantasy setting but not High Fantasy (Tolkenesque). No, instead it is more like European Folklore with mischievous Faeries, trickster Goblins, gruff Gnomes, revolting Trolls and stoic Giants with Humans thrown in equal measures into the mix.

It's character driven, so rather than campaign progression like you see with Override, you have static characters, each one has a role and quite often a bit of humour around their names and/or abilities, for example "Baron Fancy-Hat" or "Cloppy-Choppy" complete with his ability Charge Geooooorge! (yes it needs to be shouted when used for full effect).

It is almost entirely dice-less! Requiring dice only to reflect the location and depth of Moonstones (objectives).

All non Melee combat (ranged attacks and spells) relies on a bluff mechanic. I'm not going into detail here, but this relies a lot less of luck of the draw and mirror the exact same skills that good poker players have including trying to convince the opponent that your cards are the ones you claim they are (when really they are not), or that you are bluffing when really you are not!

It creates a series of situations where it rarely feels like you are the victim of luck, instead where having a good (or in my case; bad) poker face can be the different between killing an enemy model or blowing up yourself.

The game itself deals with movement and terrain/LOS with a very simplistic rule set which rather than detracting from the game allows you the player to focus more on the bluff mechanics of Arcane abilities or the trading of blows trying to get the perfect strike onto the opponent in melee.


To go back to what I said before about scratching that same itch as Malifaux did, I am saying this after playing Guild Ball and greatly enjoying it (will probably be picking up a team in fact) but you can take my word for it; Moonstone rocks this game's socks!


To give you an idea of how we played it, here's a photo of our game setup from Saturday night:

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about what this photo reveals, but there is a LOT of information to be mined, at the very least you can see that unlike Override, Moonstone is played on a 3x3 board.

If that isn't enough, here is a shot of the game around the start of the final third of the game.

I'll leave you to determine what you will from these pictures.


And on that note it is time for me to say good bye! Stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

2 Days to go :s

Greetings friends!

So today is Wednesday, which means tomorrow is Thursday followed closely by Friday.

What's so important about Friday? Well for those who remember from the other day, this Friday is the first night of a gaming weekend I am having with myself and a friend, which means I have very limited time to get these models painted.

Well shit!

How did I get to this stage? Well it's because of a number of reasons; firstly you have my love of video games.

Recently my wife and I have been playing through the Batman Arkham games. She was doing it as she had never played them and wanted to play the latest Knight, and it was my recommendation to play all the previous games in the correct order first. As she was doing that I decided to join in, replay through the campaigns to refresh my memory and also aim for a higher completion percentage.

In addition to that we also have the shooters in the form of Wolfenstein: New Order which I picked up over Halloween, and Call of Duty: Black Ops III which I have also been playing up until last week.

Rest assured I'll be giving Black Ops III a second opinion, as my views on the campaign seem to vary drastically from that of Joe Public.

Then as if that wasn't enough I was introduced to the Constantine TV show after seeing the cameo on Arrow last week. Since then I have been watching those episodes via my computer pretty much every night, and am currently at Episode 09.

What this means; the time I have set aside to paint my models has instead fallen on the way-side and I have only moved slightly forward.

How slightly? Well I do now have Link Bots for both Red Claw and Trydan forces!!

Check out these bad boys for my Red Claw. They look sleek and high tech now, but gimme the right paint job and an attempt at dirty-ing and weathering and we should have what looks like Bots that have been salvaged from other tech and put to use.

Then we have these spider dudes! Never before have I seen models so perfect for Trydan Link Bots! They are high tech and sinister looking at the same time, the type that look perfect for the closest we have for an 'evil' Force in Override.

You may recognise these babies from the Dropzone Commander range, and until now it never occurred to me how perfect an Epic scale model could be for synthetics and Link-Bots in Override.

Since those photographs were taken I have done a little bit of modelling work on the Red Claw bots, namely taking one who was not properly sat on his base and moving his leg into more of a run pose, I have also removed the Gatling Guns from their undercarriage. There was nothing that could be done with them for a paint job, they were Gatling Guns.

Normally that would be fine, however for Link Bots it poses the issue because Link Bots are all 1st Law Programmed, so it is impossible for them to hurt anyone, so why would they have guns? And teeny-tiny ones while they're at it?

So where am I with my Red Claw? As a reminder this is where I left off before:

So I am happy with the skin and hair, that looks striking enough for my liking, it is now time to work on the weaponry and bases as well as sort out the armour.

The armour I figure I do not have a hope in hell in sorting out before Friday. The weapons and bases are another story.

The weapons are going for urban camouflage. I will try this by creating a two tone pattern tonight in different shades of grey. I will then black wash the lot and then try and highlight back up in the relevant places.

The bases are similar. It's a dark grey base, a black wash then shaded up in 2-3 shades higher. Once complete a brown wash to dirty the lighter tones completes the effect in a way that I for one am very happy with.

Once done it is then just a case of painting the Field of Vision guidelines. These I am going to be trying to do tomorrow, namely as the guide tool I've been sent by my friend doesn't work fully so I need to wait for a new version.

His version of FOV guides can be found here, with his very impressive looking UEF Force:

However I am going to try for something more subtle with mine, aiming instead for single bold lines rather than block colour. We will try out the differences in our game(s) and see which/if either works best. We can then use photos of these in the book as examples of painted guidelines.

Anyway, so yeah that's my plan for the next two nights including tonight. Fingers crossed I can stick to it!

Until next time; stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Monday, 16 November 2015

The Road to a Honan Gaming Weekend

Greetings friends!

So this Friday me and my collaborator in Override are having a semi gaming weekend. He is arriving at mine in Friday and leaving Saturday. During that time we are looking at playing Guild Ball and a yet unnamed future game project on Friday with First Law: Override on Saturday.

It is with hope going to be super fun. I'm really hoping to get two games in of Override if I can including a 'classic' match of UEF vs Red Claw.
- I refer to this as a 'classic' match because these two are the poster-boys for their faction. If we were to ever produce a miniature line and have a 'starter set' UEF vs Red Claw would be the Forces of choice. I'm also hoping to take out my Raiders for a spin, however I am also reluctant to do so as I still have a great number of these who are still metal models with resin bases, ie totally unpainted.


One thing I am also hoping to do is see about having a discussion about Code Black.

This is something which with my recent ill health and focus on creative writing has taken a bit of a back seat but is still something I would be really interested in working on.

For those who may have forgotten; Code Black is the Pen&Paper RPG set within the First Law: Override universe. More so than that, it focuses almost entirely on the Technomantic Space or the 'Mantiverse as it is more commonly known.

I've spent a while thinking about if games of Code Black should span both Mantic Space and Honos itself, but I think this causes so many issues that it's just not worth it. After all hours in Mantic Space only consist of minutes on Honos, so if you as a party member 'jacked out' from the Mantiverse then for every minute they spent in the 'real' world, they would be an hour behind the rest of the group. Doesn't sound like the most enjoyable experience to me for that player who gets essentially 'locked out' from the gameplay.

What this does allow however is for extended downtime.

If you are playing a weekly session and that session is supposed to span about a day in game-time, then if a player can not make it for a session, it can be explained through them 'jacking out' for a short amount of time. Maybe they needed the loo or a shower, after all a short 10 min shower, that becomes 10 hours of absence in Mantic Space!

Most importantly it allows for entire campaigns to play out all within the timeline of Book 1. For this is one of the important factors. Mantic Space is NOT Honos. If Code Black proves to be fun to write and play then it will have it's own series of 'world changing events' much like future Override books will.


Anyway I've kinda gone off on a tangent here, so I'll leave you for now and as always wish you to stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Friday, 13 November 2015

GW restarts Specialist Games - A Second Opinion

Greetings friends!

So the big news today is that Games Workshop have announced that they are relaunching their Specialist Games department.

All read that? Good!

So for those of you with fond memories of '90s gaming will remember it was the Specialist Games department which brought us games such as Necromunda, Blood Bowl, Mordheim, GorkaMorka etc.

Many of you will also remember how GW handled these games once their lines had been released; most noticeably that the games were dropped faster than hot cakes so that the company could move onto their next 'specialist' game.

Now you must understand, it is impossible for me to talk about this subject without a degree of vitriol. I loved playing Necromunda, and when that was left behind and the company moved to GorkaMorka I moved with it and found a game that has always had extremely positive memories. Quite simply, I loved that game! It was after they dropped direct support for GorkaMorka that me and GW parted ways. They had little to nothing that interested me and for me was the beginning of the end.

It is interesting to see the number of super positive reactions that the Internet has received to this news but that initially strikes me as something to be cautious of. I have seen statements thrown around about GW 'listening' to the player base, and that these games were 'perfect' as they were with really great mechanics.

The thing is, as I am sure most of not all of you agree, there are problems with all of those statements.

In reverse order, most of these games' mechanics were far from great. They were mechanics that worked functionally, but more often than not made little sense and did not follow the narrative that we as players were telling.

The games were far from perfect. In fact it may interest you to know that when I started working on the initial pre-alpha rules for Override, I tried to read through the Necromunda ruleset again, and I have to be honest. It's poor. I thought it was good at the time because I had little to compare it to, but it could be so much better. That was something that I tried to reach with Override. As a friend of mine put it "Like Necromunda, but not shit".

Lastly about GW listening to players and fans. Come on! This is GW we're talking about! They are the abusive spouse and we are the habitual victim in this situation. Are we really going to get our hopes up that they have 'changed'? Sorry, but no. They have made some bold statements and movements with AoS and the release of free ruleset etc, but that's more like going to anger management counselling than actually changing. It's a step in the right direction, sure. But to me they have yet to prove themselves as a company worthy of my money.


Now what are we going to see with the rulesets?

This is something I am very fascinated by, and I am anticipating a lot of problems here.

A lot of these games such as Blood Bowl, Necromunda and Epic have seen continued survival despite no support from GW all thanks to fan support and their ow versions of Living Rule Books.

The way I see it GW is going to go one of two ways:

Either they deny the work of the communities and instead put out their own half-assed ruleset, or they instead incorporate the living rules and go ahead with that.

Let's look at those two choices in greater detail:

1). Denial: this should be fine! After all if everyone reads the new rule sets and says "bah this is shit! Let's stick with our own" then they can just purchase the new rules and play with their own rules, right?

Sure, and monkeys might fly outta my ass!

Let's get real here!

Look at every previous game released not only by GW but by other companies too; Warhammer, see many people playing 4th Ed? What about 40k 3rd? Malifaux 1.5? Hey how's that Warmachine Mk1 community growing?

It's a fact of wargaming that gamers flock to 'official' rulesets like a moth to a flame. You can create community projects or classic editions as much as you like, but players will gravitate towards the official ruleset enmass. Why? Because then you can go to any club anywhere in the world and find other players rather than having Sammy who only plays v14.2 and Johnny who only plays PublicBeta6.

Yes within small communities, like 2-8 people who play each other and pretty much no one else, then yes you do see these older editions thrive, but don't lie to yourselves, even if they are better, it is older by how they will be regarded.

2). Integration. So maybe GW will integrate the LRBs into their new rulesets, great right? You can play the same editions that you love only with high quality print runs and an official stamp on them. Yeah that is true, but let us not forget how GW regard their IPs. Did you spend years working with the community to create that rulebook? Think you will receive any recognition for that work? Think the tiny handful of workers that will be assigned to Specialist Games will even consider you when they go on to make sweeping changes, errata and retcons? If you think they will then I really think you are deluding yourself. Instead we will see the Great Devourer that is GW absorb those rules, put their own spin on it and claim it is 100% their own work.

Then there is the continued existence of the Living Rule Books to consider.

As it stands the official standpoint as far as we were concerned was that GW had totally dropped their Specialist Games, it wouldn't surprise me if this was the only reason the publication and distribution (even if it was only via the digital medium) of the LRBs was tolerated. There was no chance of it affecting sales of GW product, because there was no GW product.

So what will happen to those projects when all this goes out? Do you really think the same company responsible for the Spots the Space Marine debacle will just sit back and allow you to distribute copies of your LRB that is in direct competition with their 'official' rules?

Monkeys... Flying... Arse...


So yeah. Call me a cynic and a twat if you will, but that's how I currently see this.

We are standing in the midst of a Tabletop Renaissance where new games are being created on a monthly basis, and many of those exist and were created to plug the holes that GW left, what are we going to see happen now? Will little Timmy's version of NU-cromunda ever see the light of day when the 'real' thing is available in hundreds to thousands of physical and online shops?

I hope not, but I believe it may be a real possibility.

Until next time; stay safe and be excellent to each other.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Blog Writing

Greetings friends!

Do you ever look at yourself and wonder if you are intentionally trying to satirise your own life?

I do. I do regularly in fact, possibly self analysing a lot more than is actually healthy. But what I am going to write here today is leaning my thoughts closer and closer to an affirmative.


So some of you may have seen that over the summer I guest blogged a little for Wayland Games writing less about product itself or a certain game, and more about gaming culture itself.

For a while due to a combination of ill health and my focus on First Law: Override these blog posts have dropped off the map.

Recently I spoke with the General Manager and we exchanged a brief series of emails. Within these I propositioned an idea that could be mutually beneficial to us both, namely allowing me to continue my focus on Override, but also post about topics to encourage sales. These topics would cover the game design process and use of Open Source model selections.

I would get to promote the game while also promoting the very items that Wayland stock.

You could say it's a win|win situation.

To date I have yet to send a single blog article under this topic for publishing.

You might be wondering why this is, after all this is a wonderful opportunity for me/us and you would be right! It's a fantastic opportunity! And that's where the problem starts.

The posts need to be -just right-

They say you only get one chance at making a first impression, and I want Override's first impression to be a great one!


To a lot of you who write your own blogs, this probably doesn't seem very unusual as you undoubtably take a long time over your blogs, writing one draft then revising it, spell and grammar checking and then shelving the post for distribution at a later date.

That is not how I write.

My blog is one & done! I write on the tube and train, whatever is my first draft that is typed out on my iPhone, that is the version I publish. It is why a lot of my posts start off interesting, meander onto a side topic and then just stop out of nowhere. You are reading through a window of my mind and seeing all the free association involved.

- Take my stories for example. Much like the blog posts themselves, they too are first draft editions.

I have said in the past that I am not a writer, my writing writes itself. Of course this is pretty much nonsense. I am writing it, as I mentioned before it is essentially free association, I am not consciously thinking about what I write, I am instead subconsciously thinking.

This is why more often than not the posts are nonsense and full of holes the size of New York State, but I would hope that there are a couple of gems in there, at least one... Maybe...

But that is where I am comfortable writing, i shut my brain off and let the stuff flow.

It's cathartic.

Writing these posts for Wayland, they are anything but cathartic.

Don't get me wrong, they are rewarding and every time I have seen one of my posts up there, I get a little buzz, kinda like the exact same buzz I used to get when I Henched for Wyrd. It feels special in its own indescribable way.

At present I am roughly 2 posts down. I need to get the right pictures for them as well as run them past Tom to see if he is happy with them; after all he is part of Override too. But I want to first write at least another 1-3 posts so that I can submit them to Wayland and they can be published as and when they seem appropriate.

Why do them in bulk? It's simple really, I want to ensure that there is cohesion between them all, that they flow and work. I don't want to end one post that should lead onto another but instead take it in a whole different direction.

So yeah... A blog post about finding it difficult to write blog posts. Talk about meta eh?

Until next time; stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Honour & Glory - A First Law: Override short story

Hey friends!

So for the time being I am sticking a pin in Yet Another Day in the Block as I move onto another short story.

Worry not, we are returning to catch up with Tannus soon, but for now we will leave him mid jump as he follows his target.

Instead I wanted to show things from a slightly different angle. This time it's a regular Joe UEF soldier who's caught up in something he didn't expect.

I introduce you to Honour & Glory - A First Law: Override short story


It was November Fifth Earth date as Corey Silverman known by his squad mates as 'Pockets' crouched low behind a series of reinforced plasteel crates piled three to four high. He had been given the nickname just days after signing up for UEF service thanks to a particularly lucky game of Pool, but at this point and time, taking cover behind the crates before him as a series of bio-seeking missiles roared overhead he felt like every ounce of luck had long since evacuated his body.

The battle Pockets was currently engaged in had been going on for only seven minutes. His face-plate infused heads up display or HUD told him as much, but these seven minutes had been the longest of his life. Pockets remembered the briefing in perfect detail, how his sergeant had outlined their basic operation, to infiltrate an Anchorage-Falls factory and liberate it from the Red Claw terror group who currently occupied it. His Sergeant had been confident, this woman had seen plenty of combat going all the way back to the AI war on Earth, Pockets had no reason not to trust her, she was as tough as nails and knew her shit. So when she had told her squad that they would be deployed south of the facility, that their rockets would apply cover and a small fire team comprised of some of their most adept soldiers would sneak in and take out the Kratel terrorists, Pockets had no reason to doubt her.

What events had actually transpired were drastically different. Yes the squad had deployed at the south of the facility, and yes their rockets had opened up, laying down covering fire against the terrorists, but Pockets was not part of a team of adept soldiers. Instead they were a small team of four soldiers and a Comms-Tech, each of them just as green as he was. The facility was in lockdown and their only hope of getting to the enemy was providing support for the Comms-Tech as she hacked the facility's security allowing their own soldiers inside. The terrorists had expected this the moment the rockets had opened fire and had deployed their own troopers in Heavy Carapace armour to lay down their own suppressive fire with Heavy Machine Guns. Pockets knew that at their current range those HMGs couldn't break through their UEF issued armour, but Pockets also knew that they were not fully armoured. All it would take is for a single stray bullet from one of those HMGs to hit him in the wrong place and he would be down and out, bleeding like a stuck pig as he waited for air support to pull him out and hopefully patch him up without too much damage. Then it wouldn't matter how expensive your armour was, how accurate your issue-rifles were or what your commander was barking into your ear-piece, your life was a game of chance and if you rolled badly you would be dead.

Pockets had been trained for this, he knew the actions, he knew the steps and moves. He recited them in his head.
"Clear, grip, aim, lead, fire"
The rifle was tight against his shoulder as he stood to full height, the barrel of the gun just inches above the top of the plasteel crate that largely protected him from enemy fire. He recited the final stages one more time.
"Aim, lead, fire".

A short burst of fire erupted from the end of Pocket's rifle. It was in the rough direction of a large muscled Kratel warrior who had left the facility. Pockets didn't know if this Kratel was either brave or foolish, and until this point the Kratel had not been aware of Pockets, instead it had stood in a defensive position against two UEF soldiers who were advancing on the warrior's position providing protection for the closing Comms-Tech. As Pockets' shots ricocheted against the reinforced door behind the Kratel, it turned to face him. For a brief moment the two's eyes met and Pockets was filled with a terrible dread.

The Kratel warrior was now racing towards Pockets at great speed, it wore what appeared to be traditional armour that protected only it's lower half allowing it's rippling torso to almost shine and glint in the dark as weapon fire illuminated it from it's rear and flank. The warrior was easily a good six inches to a foot taller than Pockets and in it's bear-sized hands it carried a massive axe with a blade made of a metal Pockets had never seen before. It appeared almost onyx-black but with a sheen and tint of intense red that seemed to visibly hum as it was carried by the warrior. Pockets allowed himself a moment to gather his nerves and closes his eyes tightly. Aim. Lead. Fire. Pockets opened his eyes and readied his rifle.

The line of fire between where the Kratel had been and where Pockets stood was empty. Pockets panned from left to right, but the Kratel was nowhere to be seen, it was as if the brute of a creature had simply vanished into the night sky, but such a thing was not possible. Pockets continued to pan his vision from side to side, his panic growing as he removed his view from his scope. It was in that moment that Pockets saw his assailant. The same Kratel warrior who had been barrel charging his position was now a matter of feet away from him only coming at him from an angle. In a flash of panic Pockets saw the route the Kratel had taken, the rows of barrels and crates that had provided the Warrior with an elevated position away from Pocket's scoped and narrowed field of view.

At such close proximity Pockets could make out the true extent of the warrior's armour, it was not just a series of tribal cloth tied and tattered from years of combat. It was interlaced with a series of skulls, bones and symbols, all of which appearing to act almost like the tribal fetishes Pockets had read about as a child in school when they had studied the history of the many ancestors who's heritage had been almost abandoned in the exodus from Earth. Pockets saw with his own eyes the red-tinted axe blade that was raised high above the warrior's head and with those same terrified eyes he watched on motionless as that axe blade swung down striking him at full force square in his chest. The pain was immeasurable to begin with, it felt like a white hot pain being thrust right into his chest and with a tight rasp Pockets tried to breath.

The first breath was ragged, it came in a gasp, but it was forced and painful. The second came harder and Pockets knew what was happening to him. The axe had cracked his ribs right open and cut deep into his lungs, at that very moment while he thought of this he knew that he was both suffocating and drowning in his own blood. Pockets looked up at the warrior who pulled the axe from the soldiers chest, and gestured towards him with a finger. Pockets didn't know what the gesture meant, but for that instant he wished it was a symbol of respect, one warrior against another, that this Kratel would remember him and would forever honour this kill.

The Kratel left Pockets in his own blood that pooled on the hard asphalt, and Pockets looked down at his chest. For a moment he was surprised at the realisation that he was no longer in pain. Instead a warm calm had washed over his body and he began to relax. Pockets had read about this as well. Apparently the Red Claw coated their weapons in an extracted venom from a creature native to their home world. The venom had an effect on the prey's nervous system that overrode any flight or fight mechanism and encouraged them to lay still and allow the corrosive element of the venom to eat and burn away at the victim's inside. Pockets knew this all too well, but that did not concern him. He knew that his present calm was those exact tranquillising effects the venom had on it's prey, but all Pockets could think about was how for the first time in days he might be able to actually sleep.

For a moment Pockets glanced skywards, it was still night and his squad was still bombarding the Red Claw's location with bio-seeking explosives. Pockets noticed how the explosions illuminated the sky in such a way. He thought about all the traditions he had read about from Earth, but had been lost, forgotten or abandoned when humanity had arrived on Honos. One of those was that of fireworks on November fifth, but here he was, laying on his back in the middle of an unfamiliar city, fighting an alien race that he knew nothing about, but somehow he still had his own private fireworks display. With a warm smile, Pockets closed his eyes.

"One! Two! Three!"
The voice was gravelly, the type of voice a man would get after smoking cigars every day for over twenty years of his life.
There was an intense pain in Pocket's chest as a huge armoured fist thundered down over his left breast plate. The force was incredible as it fractured what was left of his ribs and the pain intensified in ways that Pockets had never thought possible. He opened his eyes and glanced down at his chest where the Red Claw axe had ripped him open. There was so much blood, he couldn't even see where the wound was anymore and as hard as he tried he could not breath. For a moment he thought that he must have been dead.

From inside his chest the remains of his heart began to glow a vibrant combination of red and greens. Pockets knew all to well from his studies about what was happening, about the Accord technology that was implanted into the very heart of every citizen in the Outer Fringe collection of planets. He had received his own implant before he could remember at the same time as his dermal implant audio translator. This one was in the form of a self replicating nanite technology. It was injected when you were young and it lay dormant until it reached your heart. Once there the nanite would latch onto the organ tissue and begin it's replication process. It was a slow process that would not be complete until your sixteenth birthday, but once complete this device would remain inside your heart until either you died or it was forcibly removed. It's function was simple, it was activated via a strong forcible hit in exactly the right location and when activated it would release a single batch of much smaller nanite technology that would poor through and across your body repairing and replacing vital organs and stitching you back from the point of death. Rarely would it return you to perfect condition, but it would be enough to take you back into the fight. Within mere moments his breath had returned and with it the severe pain often referred to by other soldiers as After-Death. For the first time in his life, Pockets understood exactly why they called it that.

Above Pockets stood an impossibly tall man, clad from head to toe in heavy armour, the man's chest insignia denoted him as Lieutenant rank and his reinforced visor was retracted revealing a face that looked more a kin to a bouncer at one of the Block's many seedy night clubs. Between his teeth he chewed a large cigar and in his hands he held both tightly and lovingly a heavily customised HMG. When the Lieutenant spoke there was a drawl to his voice, but his accent was almost impossible to place.

"Get up kid! You're not dying here tonight!" The Lieutenant turned his gun in the direction of the Red Claw facility and opened fire on fully automatic setting, a strangely sadistic grin had spread across his face.

"Not when we got Grunters to kill!"

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Looking back - How things change

So we are coming to the end of the year, we are only about a month and 2/3rds until we reach 2016, and this got me thinking about one of my new year resolutions I made at the start of this year.

That resolution was to get a minimum of 2 games of Infinity in. The plan was to play an intro game back in February and take a trip to Leisure Games or a club and play another game there.

Yeah, so that never happened.

The game I was supposed to play in February was all lined up, my friend Tom paid me a visit and we were going to give it a try.

As an idea however, what was initially a 'pity-play' we gave my rules for Override a go first.

The plan was to go for maybe 30mins with that, then put that away and set up a test play of Infinity.

Instead we played through the full game of Override and came back for more!

I know it sounds crazy, but the reason I haven't played any Infinity is because I've been too busy playing Override since.

It's a crazy idea for me. Through the use of Vassal and our own models I have played more games of Override than I have Malifaux, GorkaMorka and Necromunda combined!

Sure this probably sounds a bit obvious; of course I am playing more of this game, after all I need to play test it and build up the rules, but you must also remember that for pretty much the entirety of 2014 I didn't play a single game of anything!

Now I have games coming outta my ears and in a couple of weeks have another gaming weekend along with a demo of Guild Ball, a full game of Override and a test play for something my friend is milling around with.

It's an exciting time for my gaming table, and as of this morning I am beginning to feel like I may be over the worst of the damned sickness that has had me in it's grips for the past month or so.

- What does all this mean?

I have no idea! I just thought it was interesting to look back at how all this began, and how in totally failing that resolution I have instead had a tonne of fun regardless.

Anyway, that's all for now, so until next time; stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Hobby Update: It's falling over

Greetings friends!

So my hobby update pretty much sucks today.

My Red Claw when last we saw them had their Red Hair and Blue Skin finished as per:

Currently things arnt that different. I have greyed their cloth and that is pretty much it.

I blame sickness. I know it's a cop-out but it's true. My chest infection is only now really going away, and the first half of this week was spent just feeling like shit!

I realise it's a rubbish excuse, and I really shouldn't be making it, but it's the truth.

It does however mean that my initial pledge is out of the window and I'll be lucky if I just get these Red Claw finished in time for my game on 21st.

My aim now is damage control. I need to base coat the bases and weapons as well as wash them. Then I can try for first layer highlights as well as FoV markings on the base (or whatever we're calling them) and I may -just- make that happen.

Well that pledge lived long...

Until next time; stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Monday, 2 November 2015

The Park - A Second Opinion

Greetings friends!

So on Friday as part of Halloween I did a full playthrough of The Park by Funcom.

Now before we begin getting into the meat of this game I need to warn you - this Second Opinion is likely to be spoiler heavy. I will try my best to avoid them when possible, but I can not in good conscience guarantee that it will be spoiler free.

What is The Park?
Ok so The Park is the latest in pseudo first person horror games similar to Dear Ester and it's ilk.

Make no mistakes, The Park is not the next Alien: Isolation, Amnesia or Outlast. It's not even the next SOMA.

A word I have seen thrown around a lot is 'walking simulator', as in you the player go for a walk and stuff happens around you that you have no control or influence over.

Now this might sound like a bit of a negative, and to an extent it kind of is, but it's important that we get that out of the way. While The Park has jump scares and a creepy atmosphere, you will not be running for your life or bashing in the heads of monsters. If that is what you want out of this game, then this is not the game for you.

In this game you play the character Lorraine who is searching for her lost son in an amusement park after hours.

It's a simple idea, all about taking a place that should be shiny and friendly and twisting it into a horrid nightmare that most parents harbour as a terrible deep seated fear of experiencing.

I should also say that this game has a lot of ties into Funcom's MMO The Secret World, however you do not need to have played this to play The Park.

What sort of horror is this game about?
See this is where the game begins to get a little vague.

At the very onset it appears that the 'horror' present is the creepy atmosphere of the park itself, however that quickly shifts into the horror of loosing a child, which then shifts into the horror of the realising the events that Lorraine has been through, or done to end up where she is.

I have to be honest; it's not great in that way. It results in a series of events that are played out that actually rather incoherent, and as a player there were more than one occasion where I didn't really feel that my character knew why she was there, or worse; cared.

Ok but what is gameplay like?
Gameplay in The Park is a semi mix of brilliant crossed with redundant.

Throughout the game you stumble across notes and interact able objects which are used via a Left Mouse Click. How do you know where an interact object is? By Right Clicking! In doing so a visual queue presents itself over any objects in view. At the same time your character will call out to her son. The idea being that as the game progresses what she says and her tone of saying it becomes sadder and more panicked.

This is a genius idea, but I found the reality actually worked against itself. As you speed through the park (because after all, if you are desperately searching for your lost child, you would run not casually walk) you're field of view is changing every few seconds, therefore you end up spamming the shout button a lot, and frankly hearing the same voice shouting the same number of 'contextual' lines repeatedly begins to just become background noise.

Then there is the park itself.

As you progress you encounter rides, these rides include but are not limited to: swan boats, bumper cars, Ferris wheel and roller coaster.

The first ride you encounter is the swan boats. You see your son hop onto one and ride off on the set circular path through a spooky cave. Another boat arrives with a prompt for you to jump into it as well.

The thing is, you can see that the boats come out on the other side of the cave and circle back to where you are, so my reaction was that I wanted to stay put, wait for the child to return, tap my foot, give him a stern look, grab him by the collar and drag him back to the car. Of course the game doesn't let you do that. If you want it to progress you have to ride a swan and at this point my sense of immersion was broken. The choice of riding a freaking swan which would force me to stay far enough behind the child that he would have time to run away again once he gets to the other side was not only ridiculous, it was totally ludicrous.

Shortly afterwards you then encounter yet more rides which you hop on, and unless you do certain scripted events do not happen do you are unable to progress. However I need to point out; there is no reason to jump on these rides. Your son isn't on these rides. You don't use these rides to try and look for him from a vantage point, you ride them because you want to and so you can indulge in your own self pity(*).

What's up with that asterisk?

Ok I need to explain this.

Throughout the game you encounter moments where the character enters a moment of monologue.

These moments are supposed to be poignant and thought provoking as you explore the deaths the character has had to endure of those around her and her own 'home truths'.

One example of these home truths that has been widely publicised is about the day her son was born, and how after months of build up and friends/family shoving the 'wonders of childbirth' down her throat she held her son and thought "is this it?".

I have read a lot of people saying about how it really touched home for them, that for the first time ever a 'game' got them.

My reaction? Cry me a river bitch!

Those who are long time readers will be familiar with my early Adventures of Geek Dad posts, and you will remember myself talking about this exact topic only from a male point of view. The point is that this sort of thought and/or realisation is not novelty, it is not thought provoking. It's normal.

This is pretty much how it continued, line after line of the lead character feeling eternally sorry for herself and blaming everyone else in her life for her own choices in life.

I understand that there is a deeper side to this, that there is more going on behind the scenes, that we are looking at post-natal depression, but Jesus! Did they have to make her so pathetically annoying?!

The more that happened within the story the more I disliked the character and the more I wanted her to show even an ounce of regret for her being a totally shit mother. But no, all we saw was yet more blaming of everyone who was not her.

Lorraine is supposed to be a victim in this story, and that is how she came across.

The game wanted you to feel sorry for Lorraine and they tried too hard. I left having no sympathy, no empathy and no pity for her. I wanted to see her burn! Not because of her actions, but her inactions. Her inability to take any responsibility for her actions beyond feeling sorry for herself, and personally from my view there is nothing worse than a protagonist who as a player you can not stand.

The Good
Ok so the game is developed in the U4 Engine, and it's all the better for it. At it's best it is atmosphere rich and quite unnerving.

The Bad
The rides and the park itself. It serves no real purpose.

The Ugly
The worst part of all of this? The thing that is most unacceptable of all?
The final third/quarter is really really good! Once you leave the park behind and delve into your apartment, the game really comes into it's own and is all the better for it. However before this point you have the park itself which feels redundant.

It is my understanding that the game began life as a tech demo that someone made at Funcom and someone up high saw and said "we should make a game of this!"

The park itself feels like that tech demo, the loose fitting storyline, the lack of a reason to be riding the rides and the forced narrative all lead to this. It is as if that was created, then they came up with the story, superimposed that over the top and added the more coherent and really good final third/quarter.

Why is this so bad? Because if they had abandoned the tech-demo content and instead made the entire game about the apartment then the game could have been so much better!

It's a terrible thing to say it, but the worst part of The Park, is the park itself.

In Conclusion
So there you have it.

The Park is a short game, rocking in at about 1.5 hours, and when it is good, it is really good, with a fair few chilling moments; especially if you are a parent yourself. When it is bad however it is very bad and will leave a nasty taste in your mouth.

Or at least that is how I found it.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley