[Surprise Attack!] The Art of Seduction

Well, I see we all survived the holidays. That’s gonna cost me a few bucks in one of my dead pools…

I’m particularly surprised to be alive today. My family and I packed into my pickup truck and drove 1,500 miles from the east coast of ‘Murica to central Texas (which is about like driving from the top of Scotland to the bottom of Italy, for all you not-Americans out there) and my young children decided to celebrate by getting stomach bugs and barfing the whole way. It was awesome. Then we spent two weeks at my in-laws’ place, turned around and did again. My kids barfed more! Hurrah!

Children are such a blessing

Then there’s the fun of catching up to a hectic job in an office I haven’t seen much of for the last few months. Always a treat. Yeah, I’ll get right on that TPS report.

All my Old Man Grump aside, it was great to leave home and see the in-laws again during the festive time of the year. My wife’s extended family is huge, cool as hell, and I hadn’t seen them in about four years. It was a nice trip.

So I’m back home and all is well now. Things have settled. I managed to head out of town for the day to get in a game with a new player (new to me, not new to the game) and even though he was just in town visiting family we’re vaguely in the same line of work and know some of the same people so it was cool to talk a little shop and do the ‘small world’ thing while rolling weird-looking dice. There’s even a casual Infinity tournament coming up at the end of the month (that anyone in or near North Carolina should attend! Even the inexperienced and vaguely interested!), and…what is this waiting for me by my door? 

It’s my Kickstarter copy of Dead Zone! That everyone else in the world but me opened A MONTH AGO, because I swore I would wait until after Christmas. Yaaaaaaaaaay! As a rule I don’t dance, but if I did right now it would be happily. Maybe I will when everyone else goes to bed tonight.

I have big plans for Dead Zone. Like many suckers, I was lured in by the promise of cheap terrain. Then I realized it probably wouldn’t be a half bad stand-alone game, but more importantly it would be a fantastic gateway drug. See, I’m all about getting my buddies into the nerdier side of life. Many of them play stuff like Dawn of War, or World of Warcraft, Starcraft, or World of Starcraft or whatever, so they’re familiar with these kinds of universes and the idea of recreational gaming. It’s the 21st frigging century, everyone plays video games. My little brother, who was a huge jock in high school (but not in the douchey way, he was just really sporty), is now addicted to Magic: The Gathering on Playstation. For context, he’s 30 years old now. My old roommate from back home (who is Li’l Bro’s current BFF) was a big Magic kid in the 90’s and worked at an FLGS, so apparently I have him to thank. Last phone call we had, Li’l Bro related to me in explicit detail how he crushes cocky n00bs with Trogdor’s Amulet of Burninating or something. I don’t know because I don’t play Magic. I have sexual relations with a consenting adult woman, instead, because I hear these two things are mutually exclusive. I got to make fun of him for being a mega-dork. I did. Me. It was a strange twist.

Then I went upstairs to the Nerd Lair and made Pew! Pew! noises with my freshly painted Ariadna Strike Force of Motherloving Doom. Because that’s what the cool kids do.

Trouble is, most people look at you funny if you bust out a bunch of dice and models and look a little too excited. It’s just not something people see that often, and if we’re being honest here there’s often a social stigma attached to it. An awkward “You want to do what…with that…?” isn’t a solid foundation for anything but a slap in the face and a sexual harassment complaint, so it takes a bit of finesse.  On that note, allow me to introduce you to Ro-Ro…

Ro-Ro and I go way, way back and we’ve been through a lot of tough times together. We have quite literally saved each other’s lives more than either of us could remember if we ever bothered to try, and when he moved out here to the same town as me while in the middle of a divorce from his crazy ex-wife he crashed in my spare room for half a year. The notion of “rent” was neither offered by him or requested by me: That’s not how we roll. We played a lot of Dawn of War on LAN and online for those months, and he has seen the Nerd Lair in all it’s hidden shame, but remains lukewarm about rolling dice. He and his new (and, thankfully, awesome) wife are over at our house all the time for drinkies and the occasional board game night. Scrabble, Cranium, Trivial Pursuit, shit like that. Board Game Night was actually their idea. Well… I have a new “board game” to bring into the mix. The seduction of Ro-Ro has begun!

In summation: Pew Pew is gangster, Magic is not. 

So we planned a ‘couple’s night’ wherein my house would cook dinner, followed by the wives retiring out to the patio to get blotto on the finest of grocery store wines while he and I kept one eye on the kids and worked our way through a few games of Dead Zone. Unfortunately, we completely underestimated how much shit there was to put together. I put in for the basic box, two extra factions, some Antenocities terrain (since shipping prices  from Britain usually prevents me from picking up their stuff and I was curious to see what all the fuss was about), and the Fortification and Landing Pad terrain terrain. Then all the stretch goal extras like mercenaries, neoprene game mat, and what not.

Seriously, it was alot of stuff: I’m a grizzled veteran of the Unboxing Wars and even I was challenged by a worthy foe in mortal combat like I hadn’t been for years. I felt young again, a raw recruit in this great hobby.

Not even close to all of it. 

We started off by washing all the terrain sprues in warm, soapy water and rinsing them off. This is important, you gotta clear off that mold release if you want to paint them. And you bet your ass I do. Same goes for all the other plastic in the kit. Eventually I’d like to have a fully painted set of factions, but it can wait for now.

Don’t worry about why I have birds in my sink, just keep washing

Next up: Gotta get a black sharpie and color in the sides of all the cardboard counters. It will look totally boss and they’ll thank me for it later with their squeaky cardboard voices.

We cut out ten trillion pieces of terrain from their sprues and stuffed them into five one-quart ziploc bags, which were bursting open. We cut out all the little dudes and started cleaning them up, but had to call it quits there. I got them glued together the next day and played around a little bit with the terrain pieces. I haven’t really gotten to into it too far, but I like what I see.

Since this is a holiday weekend coming up, he suggested we get together again and actually get some games in this time. Well, I suppose I could do that. If he twists my arm. I guess. I think helping to put it together infected him with a sense of ownership, he’s been bitten by the bug and wants more. Excellent…the seduction is almost complete…

A bit of a review now, but let me start off by saying I’m very happy with this so far. The rules are a nice mix of familiar concepts with a few new ones. It’s more complicated than Space Hulk but not as far a stretch as playing a game of 40K or Infinity would be. The core rules themselves are only a few dozen pages, with lots of pictures. It’s the perfect gateway drug. Much bang-for-the-buck came along with getting in on the Kickstarter, and Mantic is sending out an email soon with ANOTHER CHANCE for the game’s backers to pick up everything at Kickstarter prices, all over again. Hide my wallet. I’m still waiting on some minor bullshit to show up in the second wave of shipments (everyone only got six dice instead of ten, stuff like that) but the bulk of it is here. Everything was as I expected it to be, with the exception of a few things that’ll I gripe about below:

-Some of the counters were cut a bit weird by the die. The symbols are all there, but they are off center and some of them quite so. It’s not the end of the world but it did give me a frowney face.

-Mantic’s “Restic” casting material: I’m not a fan. Cheap like plastic but doesn’t glue with plastic glue. You’ll have to use superglue, but at least it’s a strong bond. Good luck pulling apart anything you’ve stuck together. It is also just the right mix of strength and flimsy that it makes scraping mold lines a pain in the ass. Speaking of which…

-Mold lines. There’s a lot of them. Probably about industry standard, but when you are looking at an ocean of minis it can be a bit numbing to scrape mold lines for hours. This is kind of a First World Problem since it’s more about the quantity of models than quality, but it still sucked. Also, some of them are in really weird spots. Try scraping a mold line that runs smack down the middle of a machine gun ammo belt that has a raised bump every 0.5mm…

-The bases. I actually like Mantic’s version of slotta bases: It’s a tiny circle on the feet that matches flush with a circular recess on the seperate base. Simple, and it makes it easy to glue together without thinking too much about poses. It’s easy to cut off if you want to use custom bases. It gets the job done…in theory. The problem is when the small circle on the feet warps the model gets unbalanced very easily. Major ass-pain. It didn’t happen often, but it did happen.

-Assembly. Holy fuck…okay let me give Mantic an alibi by saying I was a few beers deep when I decided to take all the parts and wash them, but in my defense I did a pretty decent job of keeping them organized and seperate from one another. Alibis aside, there was NO ASSEMBLY GUIDE WHATSOEVER. Typically not a problem for a savvy semi-pro such as myself, except even the reference pictures were out of date: Mantic changed the line-up of models after taking the final pics of sexy, painted minis and quite a few of them had no reference pictures available anywhere. Which is a major problem when some of them look like this:

That is a creature with six arms balancing on one of them and his prehensile tail while shooting his xenotech space gun. Try to guess how many pieces it came in, winner gets a cookie.

Okay, that’s the negatives. Everything else was as it should be, with the exception of the cards. Each faction has a deck of cards that are a mix of ‘buffs’ you can play, stats for each piece, stuff like that…but every deck is 54 cards. That means you can take an old deck of playing cards, empty it out, and stuff them into that for protection. A nice touch. It’s not a big deal, but I like that they thought of it. I don’t know why they didn’t include some card storage boxes with the game but if they are putting this much thought into it I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they looked into it but it was too prohibitive for some reason.

Like I said earlier I was quite satisfied with it as a whole and there were a few things that ticked me off and kept it from getting a rock-solid ‘A+’, but nothing that would send me into a rage.

Dead Zone, I give thee a ‘B’.

Next up: Some playthroughs from the perspectives of a gaming Grognard and a Newbie battling it out for World Domination…Dead World Domination.

Don’t change that channel, we’ll be right back.


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