The Weekly Top X- ‘Lo Visits Von-

[Lo appears to be in the midst of a foggy, muddy field. It looks she’s been there for a bit as there are tracks and ruts all over, and spatters of mud cake her from the knees down. She scowls quite seriously at a scrap of rumpled paper. She twists it this way and that, muttering words that are NOT PRINTABLE HERE under her breath as she twists, looking behind her in utter confusion. Her rantings veer off into something comprehensible and (somewhat) printable after a few moments.] 

Where  IS Wolverhampton? It’s NOT anywhere Near The Hamptons… It’s not in Connecticut (last time I listen to that darn Xeno fool)… I know it’s in England… but this place is confusing as well… who the heck calls places WestANYTHING if it isn’t WEST!!!! These nimrods can’t even make a decent map!

[Loquacious sighs deeply and then rummages in her pocket for something. She pulls out a small metal miniature and holds it up to her ear. She quickly jerks back and shushes the little man in her hands.]

Look, BigSword, I KNOW you made it from his house to mine. NO, “consorting with the enemy” is NOT the reason I got lost. I get lost in the MALL, you petrified cum bubble. I’m horrible with directions, and that pompous Brit talks through his beard and I can’t understand a damn thing he says. He didn’t even have the decency to leave the clogs to point the way like I asked… that smug jerk.

[A voice drifts over the mud and briars. Its owner probably thinks it’s a rich and cultured voice, and he’s almost right. It’s just ever-so-slightly nasal, ever-so-slightly too fast, and ever-so-slightly… not to put too fine a point on it… smug.]

“Well, if that’s going to be your attitude, I’m not sure I want to help you.”

[There is a tall, pot-bellied man perched on a stile at the edge of the field, where seconds ago no such man had been. His hair appears to be migrating; thin and wispy on top, surprisingly lively about the chin regions. He wears a thick, sensible tweed coat, a pair of obscenely shiny shoes, and…]

“Tights, Von? Really?”

“I was practicing my clog-dancing. Have you ever tried to clog-dance in cargo trousers? It’s not easy.”

[Von discards the coat. It is probably fair to say that the rest of the outfit doesn’t suit him.]

“How the blazes did you end up here, anyway?”

[Lo somehow manages to scowl even more fiercely, in the general direction of Von’s shiny shoes. She drops her gaze to her own very muddied pair and sighs insufferably.]

I turned left at Albequerque? No seriously- I changed trains at Birmingham. Did anyone ever make it known to the monkeyknucklefuckers in charge over there that the Birmingham New Street Station will kill people in their tracks just by existing? And WHO DREW THIS MAP? Holy lord of kumquats, how can you make getting to the MIDDLE OF THE PICKLE EATING COUNTRY so hard?

“What does Burton-upon-Trent’s finest export have to do with… never mind. What are you even doing here?”

I am here to help YOU with Top X (not like I didn’t have “machine stuff” to do this week) since Lauby has gone and…. well… I don’t think I’m allowed to say. But he’s doing something important… so here I am. Do you have a topic?

[Von puffs a bit and smiles at his own thoughtfulness.]

“Why, yes I have.”

[Lo almost smiles, but seems very put out by the condition of her shoes, and keeps eyeing Von’s in something like lust.]

“Well, do go on then. I don’t have all day…”

“I don’t know – I wouldn’t like to interrupt all that standing around making mud pies you’re doing. Not that I can blame you, really – the Black Planet has this effect on people. I remember, this one time…”

[Von trails off mid-anecdote, realising that Lo’s rapt attention is not directed at his face, nor the words issuing from it.]

“Why are you staring at my shoes?”

Lo: Oh, no reason… just, you know, thinking. So you had this Top X idea?

Von: Oh, yeah, that. Well, I thought we could talk about the Specialist Games for a bit. You know, those things GW made that they don’t actually make an effort to sell any more.

[Lo’s adoration of Von’s shoes is broken for a moment at the word “sell”, and she clearly starts analyzing what Von is actually saying for the next little bit.]

“Go ahead then. I’m listening.”


Adam B of The Dice Abide kicks us off for this week, explaining why people get into these Specialist Games in the first place in his review of Battlefleet Gothic. The Specialist Games offer us something different from the usual rules and the usual missions and the usual builds and the same-old same-old that percolates in the Interblagotrons like day-old coffee and needs just as much sugar and microwaving if you want it to be palatable. BFG is a weirdly two-dimensional spaceship game but it’s sure as hell not like any 40K you’ll have played recently, and therein lies its charm.

Lo: A spaceship game? Huh. I always thought Battlefleet was… well… that isn’t what I thought it was. I will admit that I don’t do near as much homework as I should, and get confused easily (as evidenced by my appearance in a field in the West Midlands) but… neat.

Von: I’m curious. What did you think it was?

[Lo just sputters, seeming totally bewildered by the question. She doesn’t seem to have an answer, and the little man in her hand makes a noise quite like]

“You don’t know, do you?”

[Lo shushes him again.]

Lo: Quiet, you raving lunatic, or I’ll stick you in a drop pod…

Von: Poor lad. Can’t say I’d want to be there. I prefer swords to spaceships too…

There’s really only one choice for Mordheim blogs – Cobblestone Chaos, a blog founded specifically to talk about the only post-apocalyptic fantasy game in which fish and apple cores are recurring motifs. Really, I could pick pretty much any of Infamous’ posts, but this recent one shows the great attraction of the Specialist Games: lacking the pressures of tournament, meta, balance, edition change et hoc genus omne, they’re a much more ‘appropriate’ venue in which to mess about and homebrew things. You can of course do that with any game you like, and the success of Killzone points to that, but you’ll generally find less resistance from the people you’re playing the games with when you hit up the Specialist range.

Lo: Oh dear gawd. You know, I’m supposed to be the one that talks a lot, and says incomprehensible stuff. But if I got all that, you LIKE — actually enjoy– Mordheim (meaning Lord of the Rings) games?

Von: I wasn’t going to mention the Lord of the Rings, since you can actually buy it in Workshop branches and all. And, y’know, it is technically a Core Game.

Lo: That’s dodging the question, you know.

Von: Fine. Yes, I like Mordheim. And the Lord of the Rings game. Not that War of the Ring thing though, that’s a Hobbit too far. And not a Specialist Game. We’re going off topic.

[Von harrumphs a bit, consults a small, raggedy notebook full of indecipherable handwriting, and continues.]  Sticking with the gang warfare theme for a bit, Phil over at The Shell Case has written up his iiiinterrrresting take on background for a Necromunda campaign in the form of a short story, and iiiinterrrresting it assuredly is. Many of the Specialist Games lend themselves to this sort of thing, being concerned with smaller forces, individuals rather than squads, experience points, territory mechanics, that sort of thing. Even the more conventional pick-up game ones like Epic: Armageddon or Battlefleet Gothic are embedded in a particular campaign. They cry out for backstory and personalisation, bless their wholesome little hearts.

Lo: Could you be anymore patronizing? I’d give my left ovary and a few toes to be this creative when it comes to – well… anything. I swear, you need a heart.

Von: I have a heart. Several, actually. I keep them in little jars, on the shelf above my RPG books.

It’s the difference between the Specialist and ‘mainstream’ games, and the presence of house-rules, that occupy the ever-dashing Curis when he’s not illustrating terrible jokes about Egyptian pharoahs with funny names or sculpting Falcons out of cheese. In this post he explains a key difference between 40K and Epic, and how various approaches to house-ruling manage that difference. Except he makes it sound interesting, and funny, and not at all like the sort of thing done by committees of grey men in suits.

Lo: You mean there’s articles at Ninjabread? Wow. I have to pay WAY more attention. I get distracted by the art. Well, I get distracted, period- I mean… how DID I find myself in this hopeless place, anyway?

Von: It’s not that bad. I live here, and I haven’t given in to crushing despair entirely. And yes there are articles at Ninjabread! I wrote some of ‘em, damn it!

Lo: You are a writing whore. I thought *I* wrote for a lot of places… you and Lantz with your ninety billion blogrolls… But somehow I like both of you. Maybe something is wrong with me.

Von: Is it still whoring if you’d do it for free?

The downside of Specialist Games, and the reason we all have to go around making up our own rules for things all the time, is that GW doesn’t support them waah waah whatever. Dead systems don’t have developers messing with them and invalidating all our hard work just so they can justify the continued existence of their company, so forgive me if I see an opportunity here rather than a problem. Especially since the rules for all of them are free, legitimately free! That’s not to say that there isn’t a very real problem with games being ‘dead’ – ‘official’ pieces are hard to come by, their prices in the secondary market tend to escalate into obscenity, and they’re very attractive to counterfeiters, as eriochrome warns us on Sons of Twilight. Check out the rest of his Blood Bowl archive too, it’s good stuff with pictures of and thoughts on most of the extant teams.

Lo: Oooh Blood Bowl. I’ll admit that my first exposure to this game is the video game, and that I’M TERRIBLE at it, but it is so much fun! Playing the tabletop version is a little …different, after having played the video game- there are far fewer “cheats” on the table than in the console game; but it’s still just as awesome as sliced bread. There isn’t a week that goes by that someone doesn’t ask about this game in my shop, and the last “copy” we had was missing pieces and still went like crazy once someone realized what it was.

Von: Case in point – the demand for the Specialist Games is huge. I’m still surprised that the Mystery Box turned out to be Dreadfleet and not a Blood Bowl reprint.

Lo:  Well, the “Mystery Box” was a mystery to me- in how the heck to sell it. I finally got it out of the store on sheer aesthetics, but it was a rough go.

Von: Good job you did, or it’d be sitting there forever. Wouldn’t be the first game to do that, either…

The other downside of ‘dead’ games is that it’s often bloody hard to find people that play them. Some, like Blood Bowl, are perenially popular, well-supported by third party manufacturers, and enlivened by a popular computer game release. Some, like Warmaster, are perfectly decent games which, for whatever reason, never quite took off as they could have done. Warmaster Historical remains quite popular off in the world of rivet counting and accurate uniform pigmentation, but its Fantasy progenitor languishes in obscurity, beloved of a few people who would TOTALLY have gotten into it if there’d been anyone else interested in playing it with them. Oh, and people like Tomsche, whose blog Società di archeologia e cimeli is chock-full of 15mm delights.

Lo: If I could SEE the figures, it might make more sense to me to get into a game like this. I started out playing historical games, and if anyone could have convinced me that Fantasy wasn’t THAT much different, I might have gone for it. But, they didn’t; and so I continue to love Napoleonics.

Von: I think that’s it – they may have been trying to appeal to a market that was already pretty much saturated. Wouldn’t be the first time. I mean, there’s Inquisitor.

Do you know, I went back through ten pages of HoP posts with the New Google Search Widget (plug plug) and I couldn’t find A SINGLE POST about Inquisitor? Plenty about Inquisitors in 40K armies, a few bits and bobs about the upcoming fan-film The Lord Inquisitor, but nothing about the 54mm narrative wargame. Not a peep. That may seem like a strange case of affairs, but Inquisitor is a strange kind of game. So strange, in fact, that I’m devoting this week’s Von Show to talking about it. Since, apparently, nobody else does.

Lo: There’s a game for those giant things? We have guys at our store who buy them secondhand now and then, and paint the crap out of them. I think there’s ONE GUY who was making a large scale something or other with those awesome dudemens, but…that’s one guy. Wow, what a way to make money… and… HOW did Top X turn into a lead in to YOUR show? Jeez.

Von: I’m sure I don’t know. Maybe it’s my sheer charm and rugged charisma.

Lo: In those tights?

Von: Maybe I’ve just hypnotised you all with my sultry tones and menacing beard.

Lo: Does it count as hypnotism if I notice? Or maybe it’s those shoes…I do LOVE shoes…

[Von pauses, considers the matter, eyebrows wrinkling, and then enlightenment dawns, with a malicious gleam.]

Von: Do you want me to help you out of that mud, or shall I just leave you here for the wolves and GMort?

Lo: C’mon, what do you take me for? Even I know there’s no real wolves in Wolverhampton.

[The camera cuts away as Lo makes a sudden jump in Von’s direction, in a blatant attempt to steal his glittery shoes.]

Von: Get off those! They won’t even fit you! I take a size twelve! Get…


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