Monday, May 31, 2010

Best Background Music for Tabletop Miniature Gaming

For Arcane Legions: Hans Zimmer, hands down. Que up some Hans Zimmer in GlooveShark, play all, and enjoy a night of thematic music for your epic conflicts! Actually, Hans Zimmer is probably the best background music for any tabletop miniature game, but maybe more for historical/fantasy themes like Warhammer Fantasy.

For Mechwarrior or sci-fi themed games (WH40k), the soundtrack for MechWarrior 2 (old computer game) is excellent. Lots of slow and heavy beat tracks that just exudes a 100-ton walking robot.

For Star Wars Miniatures: John William's Star Wars soundtracks of course!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Board Game Review: Dominion

"DOMINION" he said with a gleam in his eye
Dominion is basically our new favorite game bypassing Settlers of Catan as the most frequently-played. Yes, it's THAT good.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kitchen Hacks: Pickled Carrots

Finished a jar of pickles and don't feel like wasting the juice? Try this! Reuse the pickle jar juice for carrots! Cut up a bunch of carrot sticks and let them soak in the pickle jar! After a few days you've got pickled carrots! I find it's usually good for 2x batches of carrots.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Miniature Gaming: Arcane Legions Review

Tonight, we dine in ARCANE LEGIONS!

Finally played my first game of Arcane Legions the other day! For those of you who don't know, Arcane Legions is a mass-action, tabletop miniature game, focusing on scores of troops in various formations for epic-scale battles! Between spending all my time painting the Roman faction and magnetizing the entire game, i've not actually played the darn game until recently! So here is my review based on the first playtest.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Blue LED-Candle Birthday Cake

Look at it!  Just look at it!  So beautiful.....
Pure awesome! I have the best of friends who made this for me. 30 bright BLUE LEDS hot glued into straws, wired up to a driver circuit, then manually poked through the bottom of the cake! Man, it must've taken some planning and time to make this! The whole thing was powered by six 9-Volt batteries! All lead-free solder a plus (no one wants to die from eating their birthday cake).

A toy fan was connected to a PIC microcontroller, which controlled the flicker of the LED candles! Blowing on the fan triggered a mechanical switch, which was counted by the microcontroller and turned off the LEDs. If you didn't blow long enough, the candles would turn back on like those trick candles that keep re-lighting!

Pretty sweet (Literally). My buddy Erik is going to put an Instructable on this soon, i'll link to the post when it goes up!
The aftermath ...took me 30 min to clean...a mess of wiring and cake bits everywhere!
Definitely among the most memorable birthday cakes ever! My graduate school friends come up with the best birthday cakes hahahaha. Here's the one Linda made for me couple years ago. Anime girl drawn in Frosting!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The right way to introduce a game

The Hand of God

I love games. All sorts of games: Board games, collectible cards games (CCGs), and more recently tabletop miniature games, i play them all! But the only problem is you need someone to play with!

So the question is how do i teach a game to someone so that they'll want to play again later?

Rule 1. Simplify the game
What you want to do for the first game is to just focus on the mechanics of the game. You want the newbie to get familiarized with the basics of how the game works. Although alot of the strategy is in the special rules and details, it's hard for a newbie to grasp those strategies even if you straight up tell him because he's trying to learn the basics of the system at the same time. Here are some specific suggestions for different game types:
  • CCGs (Magic, Star Wars CCG, World of Warcraft TCG) - Ignore all the game text and just focus on the common card attributes like cost, attack, defense required for basic play. There is a reason why starter decks for Magic mostly include basic creatures with no game text. In a well-developed CCGs there are a ton of bold keywords/special rules and for a first game they should be ignored.
  • Tabletop miniature games (Mechwarrior Clix, Star Wars Minis, Warhammer) - A lot of the tactical depth are in special rules for attacking and model/character specific rules. Again, i'd say leave most of those out and just focus on the core aspects of unit movement and attack mechanics. Warhammer is probably the worst game in terms of number of special rules; you have entire books dedicated to faction-specific traits, tons of special characters, and even the rule book says it's easier to ask someone how to play than read the rules.
  • Boxed games/board games (Settlers of Catan, Dominion, Carcassone) - generally these are designed to be more accessible for the lay person, and you usually don't need to simplify the game for a new player.

Rule 2: Let them win
This is something more psychological. If you completely blow a newbie away with your outstanding knowledge of tactic and rules in the first game, they'll feel that they never had a chance and they'll not want to play again. FAIL. You can't rub a win in a person's face when they're just learning how to play. Save the victory dance for a worthy opponent! Take the first game casually, keep the mood light, talk about your tactics and plan, and use encouraging suggestions. In fact, let them win the first game! It makes them feel better and they'll want to play again!

Better yet, if you can have two newbies play against each other and you act as the GM (Game Master/moderator) that's probably the best situation. It keeps the skill level fair AND you get one more player for future games!

After the first game
Depending on the complexity of the game, you may still wish to play a few "tutorial" like games before going serious. You can slowly introduce a couple new rules in each game, and if you can mix it into the scenario even better! For example, i made a sequence of 3 Mechwarrior Clix games where I introduced artillery strikes the 2nd game and flying units in the 3rd game. Video game makers do a good job doing this, just think of how the early Starcraft levels were designed.

Conclusion: Maybe you thinking that this is all quite obvious and I would say that you're right! But the take away message from this article is to consider the first game in terms of maximizing fun for your friend, not for you. If he/she has a good time, he will more likely play the game again and hence the game you love gets played more often, which means more fun for everyone in the long run. And remember, it's just a game! Have fun!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Painted Roman Army from Arcane Legions

All the units of the Roman faction from the starter set have been painted! Finally!

Here's the line of thinking that started it all:
-Is there a tabletop miniature wargame with an Asian-themed army? Oooo, Arcane Legions has a Chinese-themed army, called the Han faction! And it's cheap!
-I don't want to mess up painting the Han army, so i'll paint a few Romans units to test out prep, prime, paint, and finishing techniques.
-They look pretty good, i should just finish painting the entire Roman army.

Man, that took forever.  Nothing kills creativity and excitement like monotony, and painting 10 identical units gets boring quick. Maybe if the sculpts were better, like units from games workshop with lots of detail, it would be more interesting to paint an entire army. But that means it would also take much more time to finish. I guess that's why most miniature games are skirmish-level, i.e. usually 5 to 10 units per side duking it out, because it's much easier to get them painted and start playing the game. Arcane Legions is a mass-action level, so 4 or 5 formations of 10 units each is typical.

Hateraid: I hated painting legs. Curved structures can't be painted with one careful brush stroke. You have to turn the figure. And each figure has two legs! and two arms! What a pain!

-They look great! Much more fun to play with good-looking army.
-Worked out painting techniques like priming and finishing. Settled in on the ones i liked with a few test pieces.
-My brush stroke is much more controlled now. You get better after 40 figures so you paint more efficiently and faster.
-Figured out how paint consistency is related to how much paint is loaded on the brush. To keep thinned paint from pooling in crevices, you have to remove enough paint from the brush so it acts more like dry-brushing and paint will stay on the raised surfaces.

I'm probably only going to paint detailed, inidividual figures from now on. It keeps thing more interesting for me. I'll paint the Han faction when i'm all out of individual miniatures.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Kitchen Hacks: Banana Hanger

I don't know why i didn't think about doing this earlier!

For anyone who eats banana's, banana stands are awesome. It hangs the banana like nature intended, so you don't get the brusing you normally get when you keep them in a bowl or on the counter. However, they cost ~$10-20 and they take up valuable counter-top space. For a small apt like mine, you need all the kitchen prep surface you can get! Here's an easy <$1 solution, a mug hook (package of 4 for $0.97) from Walmart! Drilled a hole into the cupboard above my sink, screw it in and ta-ta! done!

tip: don't get the cup hooks, they're too small.

changed url link

it's now which flows much better than monkeybrainstasty. Dunno if it will screw up any subscriptions or bookmarks.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Case Western Reserve University BME promo video & beatbox track!

Hey check out the youtube vid i just uploaded! My friend and I made this slide-show video since our dept chair was offering $100 for student-made promo video for the new dept website. Totally not worth the actual time it takes to create a good video, but we did it anyway. I spent about 3 hours last night setting up and recording me doing an a capella beatbox song timed to fit the slide transitions. Not the best singing i've ever done but good enough for the amount of time i was willing to spend on this.

Turns out my $100 MXL usb condensor mic isn't loud enough and therefore picks up a bit of noise. I had to use my roommate's recording setup which is a Shure mic into a pre-amp, into the computer. It was much cleaner and louder recording. I guess you can't get around having hardware amplification for recording quality. I'll probably play around with the Sonar (cakewalk) software recording settings a bit to see if i can do some noise filtering and gain adjustments before springing for my own preamp. Also to see if i can tweak the bass level for better "oomph" sounding beats. Also need to see what i can do about the recording delay, it adds up when i'm listen to previous tracks to harmonize with.

Also on my wishlist: a loop recorder for live beatboxing! yeah, what would be pretty sweet. =)