Monday, May 30, 2016

May CMoN Expo

It was two years ago when I first heard about the Cool Mini or Not Expo. The Expo sounded like a fun experience. It was a small convention, featuring only two to three hundred people. Podcasters, YouTubers, and game designers gathered together for a three day weekend and played games. The atmosphere, was calm, informal, and quiet. It was an event I wanted to try. This year I got to go.
For a little bit of background, Cool Mini or Not (CMoN) started as a rating site for people to post miniatures that they had painted and get people’s opinions on the job they had done painting them. Basically, a hot or not site for mini’s. Eventually, CMoN started producing their own games. They mostly made board games that typically included some very beautiful miniatures and other pieces. I’m not sure when they first decided to hold an expo.
My adventure this year was mostly well planned. I used to travel frequently and fell back on many skills I had used for the conventions I used to go to. I got a good deal on a hotel room, got my badge well in advance, and saved money for any extras that might crop up. Unfortunately, there were some new experiences that I had to contend with. I needed to rent a car, the expo was in Atlanta, Georgia and I live in Ohio. My weight, makes air travel impractical and expensive, so a car it would have to be. I also forgot to check on how expensive parking would be. Fortunately, I had enough extra cash to cover the surprise expenses.
Now for the good parts of the weekend. I’m used to going to large scale conventions with thousands of people. CMoN Expo had roughly two hundred people total. The crowds to get in during opening tend to meld, shoulder to shoulder, into a large seething mass. CMoN Expo had maybe twenty people waiting for the doors to open. We stood in line and had quiet conversations, not having to yell to be heard over the throng of people whose voices had been raised to a cacophony of noise. When the door opened, no one sprinted for the vendor’s booth or table they wanted. We simply strolled inside and looked for a game.
Once inside the Expo, I looked for an open seat. At larger cons, you have to schedule most of your time. Here, I simply walked up to one of the many tables and asked if they had room. More often than not, the answer was yes. There were a few events and opportunities that required signup’s. These were a few tournaments, special play sessions with a games designer, or a chance to play with some podcasters and streamers.
Most of the games I played weren’t out yet. Several should be out for GenCon in August. A few should be out before that. Even fewer should be out after. I signed up for three events; one I missed. One that I made was a game of Zombicide, a board game about surviving a zombie apocalypse. The game typically features teams of 6, this one featured thirty-two players. I also signed up to play the Godfather board game, still in prototype form, with the Designer Eric Lang. The other event, the one I missed, was a tournament for Arcadia Quest.
I played several games, and while everything was fun, a few games really stood out to me. The Others, a game I backed on Kickstarter (due out later this year), was massively entertaining. The miniatures are fantastic, and the rules were quick and easy. It’s about the end of the world. Humans have been losing the world to the forces of Revelations, there is only one human city left, Haven. The players take the role of humanity’s last hope to avoid utter extinction. The game has a wonderful mechanic where the players can voluntarily corrupted themselves for temporary bonuses. The more corrupt you become, the more likely you are to fall to the forces of darkness, but the extra boost may be just what you need for a clutch success.
An expansion for Arcadia Quest that adds pets to the game, was fun and fast. It added only a slight change to the rules, with no increase in difficulty. Additionally, the figures they include are super cute. As unmanly as it was to type that, it’s really the only way to say it. Plus, they have a panda, so, a solid win.
I got to play a party game, the Unusual Suspects. The game involves a rather fun experience where one person is a witness to a crime and everyone else are detectives. You get to ask a series of yes or no questions like, “does the culprit ride a bike,” “does the culprit live with their parents,” or “have they ever been to a rock concert?” Then from the answer, you look at a series of mug shots and try and figure out, for example, who, amongst these people, would ride a bike. Basically, it’s profiling the game. I’ve seen it get both politically incorrect and stay super family friendly. It’s really up to the group playing the game. Either way, the laughter came fast, and exuberantly.
I was also one of the very few people who got to play Massive Darkness. MD is a dungeon crawler that will go up on Kickstarter in June. The game won’t be released until late next year. The game was a ton of fun, even if it wasn’t anywhere near finalized. They were actually taking notes of things that were broken or not working as intended as we played. The rules were fast and easy. They allowed for epic moments where your heroes felt incredibly powerful. I’m looking forward to watching the campaign, and seeing the game next year.
I also had a bucket list of people I wanted to meet and play games with. I didn’t get to check everyone off my list, but the ones I did were amazingly polite and friendly. I played the Grizzled, and Kreos with Teri Litorco from That Terri Girl. I also played Kreos with Rodney Smith from Watch it Played. As I stated earlier, I played Godfather with Eric Lang. I got to play Zombicide: Black Plague with Mark Streed from the Dice Tower. I spoke with Sam Healey about Zombicide. Thaigo, the designer, ran the game of Massive Darkness I played in. Meeting every one of these people was a treat, regardless of how long we were able to spend talking and playing, they were all very busy over the course of the weekend. Not a single one of them was dismissive, rude, or abrupt. Even beyond the personalities, there wasn’t a single person I met that was rude or unkind. I had an amazing experience the entire weekend.
The only regret I really have of the weekend was that I went alone. It would have been nice to have someone along to talk to and play some of the games with. It would have been nice to have a person to eat meals with. I would also have liked someone who could have used my phone to take pictures of some of the games we played, or in the case of Ta-Da, video.

All in all, the experience was amazing. I look forward to going back next year, if possible. If I do return, I hope to see some of you there as well.

You can check out my pile of photo's on Instagram.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

April: Paint Quest

I suppose this could also be called March part 2. First, I know this is going up a few days into May. The final piece of this was done on the last day of April and went until very late in the evening. We played for far longer than I anticipated. That, is enough apologizing. You didn’t come here for that you came to hear about the minis, the painting, and the game.
Most of the month was dedicated to my painting everything I still had to get finished for the game. I was nearly half way finished when I started and not sure how much I would finally get by game time. There was a bit of a rough start at the beginning of the month. Real life reared its ugly head and distracted me from my figures. Once I had gotten some time again I went straight back to work. Still, I was worried that I wouldn’t get finished.
And yet, I went forward. I placed everything I could in groups and painted as I was able. Some of the models were surprisingly easy. Darryn and Chaz, being in mostly metal armor, required very little work on my part. While the Queen of Beggars, whose outfit is made up of several pieces of mismatched fabric and assorted bits of trash took significantly longer. Despite this, most of the paining went very quickly. However, with only two days left to the event, disaster struck.
Heading out for an evening with the family, I still had a small number of models that needed to be base coated in white. It was dark out and the light on that side of the house had burned out. I quickly went outside and without being able to see, sprayed the minis down. I was gentle with the coat, and was confident in my ability to not over paint the models and obscure details. What I wasn’t aware of, was that the spray paint nozzle had become partially obstructed and caused the paint to come out splotchy. Not only that but Schmetterling the Troll had become gritty and rough.

I should explain this. To prep a model for painting I usually coat the model in paint, typically while or black. This helps give the models a more uniform look, allows the paint to stick better and more consistently, and allows the paint to shade either brighter or darker depending on the base color I use. For Arcadia Quest, I was using white as I wanted the colors to pop and appear brighter. To base models faster, many people will use spray paint, myself included. The danger of this is, sometimes the nozzle gets covered or blocked and it causes the paint to come out in splotchy spurts. While painting in a well-lit area it’s easy to tell this is happening and to make immediate changes to fix it. However, I was doing it in the dark and ended up giving Schmetterling a coating that had the consistency of someone mixing sand in the paint first. Of course this is easy to fix when the paint is still wet, so is usually not an issue. Except, it was dark and I was in a hurry.
I discovered this several hours later when I came home and checked the models. There are ways to remove spray paint. Most of them include very abrasive and corrosive substances. These are not ideal for plastics, especially the soft plastics that Cool Mini or Not used for Arcadia Quest. This led to several hours of me scanning the internet for ways to remove the paint without damaging the model. Eventually, I ended up soaking it in water with dish soap and then going over it with a scrub brush used for cleaning dirty dishes. This got rid of most of the grit, the rest I used a very light touch with a file to get rid of. In the end I was able to paint Schmetterling and get a very fine result.
I finished the last of my models and put them away. I learned two things that helped me get my models to a place where I really liked them. The first was to take pictures of my models from all sides. On a couple of models, the pictures I took for Instagram led me to notice details I had missed or mistakes that I had inadvertently left behind. I was then able to go and fix these things. For example, on Spike, the picture I took to show off his tartan kilt also revealed that the wash (a thinner paint used to fill in cracks and shadows) I had used for his hair had spread out across the top of his head. I was able to go in and fix this with a small amount of skin tone.
The second lesson I learned was a nice trick for doing black. Most of the time when I paint something black I try and pick the details out in grey and end up leaching the depth of the black that I really like. I never get the rich dark coloring that black should have. In a way I picked up a rather nice trick for this one. Wanting my models to have a more cartoon or bright feel, instead of painting something black, I painted it a very dark blue. I would then go over it with a black wash to add depth and shadow. The secondary effect of this was to darken the blue up even more. This made the character who were in black have a deeper color that came off richer and more vibrant. It still looked like black, but a better black. Models like the King of Thieves, Lord Fang, and Scarlet look more pronounced now.
I did one last piece of prep for the day. I wanted to make sure I knew the rules of the game and started to reread them. Then I abandoned that idea and watched the video Rodney Smith from Watch it Played put together.
Then came the day of the game. We played on April 30th, or International Tabletop Day. This is a fun little day invented by Wil Wheaton to share and promote his love of board games. I have an entire post about it you can check out here. The day was well received. I made one mistake, I forgot what time I had told everyone I wanted to start and at the last minute rescheduled the beginning for three hours before I had initially told some of the people coming I wanted to start. Other than that the day went fine.
We started at noon and played till eleven at night. One person was sick, one person left early, in both cases someone filled their position. The game was fun and fast. People were brutal and hard hitting. But more than that we were forgiving and laughing. No one took the attacks personal, no one got angry, and no one gave up despite a seemingly hopeless situation. While we were only able to get through five of the six scenarios that make up a complete campaign, I was still able to use all of the minis. The final mission required that we face Lord Fangs shadow and thus place the model on the board.
In the end Bobby and his Panda Guild defeated the rest of use with one extra title beyond the Lori in second place. The day was won, and Arcadia was saved. True we didn’t play the final mission, and we decided to not use the mission record to record our match and come back to it later. We had a good day. We called it because it was good enough to be a great memory. Next time, maybe we can finish the match, since we won’t need to learn the rules.

Well, that’s two months of project. Next up, I’m preparing to leave for the Cool Mini or Not Expo in Atlanta. I know that I will write the event up and let people know how it goes. I personally can’t wait to get to the con and see what happens there. Until next month, game well.

If you'd like to check out the photo's from the process and the day, you can see them on my Instagram