Monday, February 17, 2014

On Collecting Boardgames

I realized that my board game collection hit a stopping point when I ran out of space in the hall closet to store them. (No, devoting more space to board games is not an option.) The rate that I've been acquiring board games has slowed from the frenetic pace of a couple of years ago. I no longer pick up a new board game every month, but one every few months or so. Maybe. If it's on sale. In any case, a new game has to fill a new niche in the collection to justify the purchase. If a game does something that one I already own does better, why bother? This reasoning has slowed the growth of my collection, since it already covers a variety of niches.

Below is my current "working" collection of board games. It does not count games packed away in storage or miniature wargames.

  • 7 Wonders
  • 7 Wonders: Cities
  • 7 Wonders: Leaders
  • Arkham Horror
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Bohnanza
  • Nexus Ops
  • Pandemic
  • Pandemic: On the Brink
  • The Resistance
  • Small World
  • Survive: Escape from Atlantis!

It is a relatively small collection, but it covers a range of game mechanics and themes.

There are some specific things I tend to look for in board games. How well a game does in these areas tends to outweigh all other considerations except for price. I have not yet broken the $100 mark when purchasing a board game and that is not likely to change.

Engaging game play. A new game has to present an interesting and novel challenge. 7 Wonders offers deck building with a civilization building theme. It does those things well enough for me not to go looking for another game to fill those roles.

Play time. My group typically plays on week nights. We also like to finish games. A game that can be completed in 1 - 2 hours or less will get played more than a 4+ hour marathon game that we might have to abandon midway through. In other words, Bohnanza and The Resistance hit the table more often than Battlestar Galactica.

Theme. I would have rated this much higher at one point, but the tastes of my group are a more flexible than I once thought. There is still a preference for games with a strong tactical, sci-fi, or fantasy theme. However, Bohnanza won everyone over with its simple rules, trading mechanic, quick play time, and competitive play. Introducing Arkham Horror to a group with no other Lovecraft fans was risky, but the games sold itself on its own merits during the times we played it. The length of Arkham Horror has placed it firmly in the "special occasions" category, though.

Looking at the hall closet, I think I can squeeze in a couple more games if I rearrange things. The last game I got was Nexus Ops, which filled the Risk / Axis & Allies combat game niche. I guess I'll have to go over some reviews to figure out what to get next. Been hearing good things about King of Toyko and Flashpoint: Fire Rescue...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hotz Mats – Standard Felt River Systems Review and Comments on Service

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

- Theodore Roosevelt

Critical Mass Games 15mm scale ARC Fleet Infantry crossing a river section.

As a rule, I don't enjoy putting up negative posts on Over the Hill Gaming. Criticism is relatively easy. There are always ways to improve a product, a company, or a project. But doing just about anything is more challenging than it seems to be from the outside. Things like the quote above remind me of that simple fact.

Hotz Mats has drawn fire for slow service and a lack of response to emails. It has also been praised for quick turn around times. I have no interest in that debate. This post simply reflects my experience with this particular product and the process that I went through in acquiring it.

A curved section joining a bend in between two straight sections.

From Ordering to Delivery
  • Placed order on March 9, 2013.
  • Received email from Paypal confirming payment on March 10.
  • Received email from Eric Hotz confirming order on March 10. The email states: "Please allow at least 5 weeks for delivery, but you should have your purchase much sooner."
  • Sent email to Eric Hotz to check the status of my order on April 21. No reply received.
  • Sent email to Eric Hotz pointing out that it was 12 weeks since the order was placed on June 6. No reply received.
  • Sent email to Eric Hotz asking about the status of my order on July 16. No reply received.
  • Notice on the Hotz Arts website posted in the News section on August 31. Eric Hotz mentions getting caught up on the backlog and "a long series of family crises that started back in mid-2012" that delayed production.
  • Order delivered in early September 2013.

River junction section joining three straight river sections.

The Product

The Hotz Mats' 2 Inch Wide Standard Felt River Systems Set is made up of 15 sections. They range from 12 inch long straight river sections, small curved sections, and a small river junction section. The total length of all 15 sections is 9.5 feet. This is more than enough for most games. Wider River Systems Sets (3 and 4 inch) are shorter with fewer sections.

The quality of the 2 Inch Standard River Systems Set is acceptable, especially considering the low price ($14.00 USD, including shipping). The sections are made of fairly dense felt and seem durable enough for extended use. The effect of the sections at tabletop distances is convincing. Both 15mm and 28mm scale figures work well with the river sections.

Overall, the product is a good balance between appearance and cost.

Please note that the product is no longer linked from the main page of the Hotz Mats' site. However, the Felt River Systems product page is still accessible from this link.

A Cygnar Ironclad Heavy Warjack and Commander Coleman Stryker defend a small bridge.

Personal Opinion

I understand about personal issues and how they can drain the energy out of the rest of a person's life. Dealing with a crisis can make everything else seem meaningless. On the other hand, I can understand the frustration expressed by critics and their arguments about committing to doing a job after accepting a customer's money.

There is a lot of criticism and a lot of praise for Hotz Mats. Personally, I have a mixed opinion. I'm not happy with the delay and the lack of response to my emails, but I understand why. I did receive my order and the product does what I purchased it for.

Will I order from Hotz Mats again? I'm still thinking that over. There are a couple of items that I'm interested in and the prices are reasonable.

Am I looking at other options for mats and road sections? Sure, but I'm always on the look out for good deals on quality terrain.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Workbench #8 - Hexagon Construction Missile Silo and Communications Station

Here are a couple more results of playing with Hexagon Construction Sets. Details on this product and earlier terrain pieces can be found here. Both of these are works in progress.

Missile Silo

This depicts the launch site for a large missile - an ICBM or a surface-to-space warhead delivery system for planetary defense. The structure represents the above ground portion of a mostly underground missile silo. One of the arms would give access to a stairwell or elevator to the underground portions of the silo complex.

Opening silo, preparing for launch.

The silo covers are partly open to make it clear what it is intended to be. At the moment, I've been going through my bits collection for a suitable missile cone to place in the silo.

Communications Center

Why are we always guarding these things?

This represents a communications building made from modular components. The arms of the structure contain communications equipment and storage. Right now, I'm looking at options for an antennia for the central hex-shaped area.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Space Coins! The Futuristic Metal Coins Kickstarter by Minion Games

Space cash.

These shiny trinkets are rewards for backing the Futuristic Metal Coins Kickstarter by Minion Games. They showed up in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago.

I picked these up for two purposes:

  • Cash tokens for board games. Which was Minion Games' original purpose in making them.
  • Props for the players while roleplaying in futuristic settings.

Overall, these are very nice. The coins are metal, so they have weight and make a pleasing sound as they shift around. Most of the coins are two color, making it easier to distinguish them. All of the coins have two sides.

I understand that Minion Games will have a surplus of these after fulfilling their Kickstarter backer rewards. There is talk of selling them off to non-backers at some point.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Painting By Numbers #12 - Khurasan Miniatures' Dethroids

On the move, looking for trouble.

These are the Dethroids from Khurasan Miniatures' Planet 15 line. They come in a pack of four bodies with five separate heads - four Blasroid heads and one Overroid head. The Blasroids are armed with a prominent "heavy antimatter cannon" and no sense of humor. The Overroid is equipped with what I assume is a sensor array.

The backstory on the Khurasan Miniatures site depict them as pitiless, warlike creatures inside armored shells that double as life support systems. It fits well into the cinematic feel of the Planet 15 line. I'm not going to speculate on the inspiration for this background.

The miniatures resemble reconnaissance robots from a popular sci-fi franchise. The detailing is very good for 15mm figures. In-setting, the danging arms would give them an ability to manipulate objects that, for example, a single arm fitted with a plunger would not.

Trouble located.

The paint job was straightforward:
  • Spray primer.
  • Reaper Russet Brown (09199) basecoat.
  • Citadel Badab Black Wash to bring out the details.
  • First metallic layer - Citadel Tin Bitz, applied with heavy drybrushing.
  • Second metallic layer - Citadel Shining Gold, applied with light drybrushing as a highlight.
  • Reaper LED Blue (09288) to pick out the sensor details on the Overroid head.
  • Testors Dullcote seal.

I plan on using these figures as advanced robotic units for 15mm scale games. The cannon-armed ones can be the rank-and-file combat robots. The sensor-equipped one can be a command-and-control or reconnaissance robot. All four could be a scouting unit or a heavy weapons team.