Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity Changed My Life


When I was in 3rd grade I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons by my cousins, Mike and Phil. They had gotten the Basic Set for Christmas and at the yearly family holiday gathering one of them ran my brother and I through an encounter from Keep on the Borderlands. My brother enjoyed it, but I quickly became obsessed. I was 8 years old and I had found my 2nd love (my first love was music, which I had already fallen for thanks to the band KISS).

I remember borrowing the Basic Set from my cousins and trying to DM my Mom through Keep on the Borderlands, mercilessly killing all her characters with kobolds. (Sorry mom, thanks for your patience!) I have so many memories from ages 8 and up that relate to gaming. My mom taking me to Walden Books for my first set of polyhedral dice. My mom taking me to the Greenhaven Library where I'd take out their Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, Monster Manual, and Deities and Demigods over and over again until my mom bought me my own. But one of my early moments of independence was riding my bike to 7-11 and buying my first Advanced D and D module, A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity. (Yes, at 7-11. It was a different time back then!)

Everyone from that era only seems to talk of the father of Dungeons and Dragons, Gary Gygax. But I had my own hero - David 'Zeb' Cook. A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity left an indelible mark with its orc guardians, aspis drones, and giant sundew that I think you had to kill with casks of wine? All I know is that David 'Zeb' Cook's name has been forever burned into my brain. X4 Master of the Desert Nomads, I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, and the Escape from New York board game were all in my collection. When all of my friends wanted to be astronauts or firemen when they grew up, I said I wanted to be a game designer for TSR when I grew up, like David 'Zeb' Cook.

Over the years I thought about things I would like to add to games like Crossbows and Catapults or even Monopoly (before there were 100 versions of Monopoly) and of course, I created all sorts of my own dungeon adventures for ADandD. By the end of my teens I owned a huge collection of ADandD books, modules and Dragon Magazines, and had finally started collecting games like Battletech and Car Wars. But I wasn't strictly an indoor kid. In high school, gaming was interspersed with laser tag, hacky sack, skateboarding, and eventually, playing music.

In 1994 I was singing in a straight edge hardcore punk band called Halfmast, playing ADandD when I wasn't practicing or playing shows, and had just opened a gaming store with my gaming group called Adventures Unleashed. In 1992 or 1993 I had started submitting articles to Dragon Magazine and Dungeon Magazine because I still had it in my mind that I was going to be a game designer. In 1994, I made my first real accomplishment towards those ends, I had an article I had written published in Dragon Magazine #210 as part of their Arcane Lore series.


Somewhere around then, my focus changed slightly in terms of gaming. We started carrying Warhammer at Adventures Unleashed and my interest in role-playing quickly vanished. I played Warhammer Fantasy Battle first, and then Warhammer 40K, but they weren't the real game changers. In 1995 GW released Necromunda and it turned my gaming interests upside down. Like with ADandD I was obsessed. I spent hours painting, converting, building terrain, and writing my own scenarios. Now though, I was submitting them to Citadel Journal. I even got an acceptance letter for an article that never made it into print, but Citadel Journal was going through a lot of format changes then so I could see how I'd fall through the cracks. Regardless, now, instead of working for TSR, I wanted to work for GW.

In the summer of 1996 Halfmast broke up and I immersed myself more in Adventures Unleashed, doing lots of painting, gaming, and running gaming events. In 1997 we were having trouble keeping ourselves on the payroll and one of us was going to have to find a "real" job. It was around then that I saw an ad in White Dwarf that GW was hiring Trade Sales people. I sent a resume, scored an interview, and drove all the way from Buffalo, NY to Baltimore, MD to interview. I was so nervous I was shaking as John Matthews and another guy asked me completely reasonable questions and I stammered my way through answering them. It was bad. Really bad. But I had brought a bunch of my painted models and even some scratch built work. I didn't get that job, but they forwarded my name to the guy hiring new retail staff members, a guy by the name of Sean Forbes.

I received a series of calls from Sean because it just so happened they were expanding into Buffalo, NY. He eventually scheduled an interview for me with a guy named Brenden Terrill. I still remember sitting in the Walden Galleria food court in Cheektowaga, NY that afternoon, with this smug, sometimes serious, sometimes grinning guy sitting across from me asking me why I wanted to work for GW. I confessed, "I really just want to get my foot in the door so that I can eventually get involved in game design." He chuckled to himself and said, "You remind me a lot of me when I came to Games Workshop. You're hired."

Brenden had a lot of faith in me and reassured me that it was okay to buy my first (and only) new car, that my job was secure. In 8 months he had moved on to another new GW store and left me to manage GW108. Things were exciting and fun for a while. Then working for GW started to grind us both down. In late 1999 I started a new band called No Time Left. It felt great to be playing music again, it was such a different world than running demo games for a company that expected us to live and breath gaming 24/7 whether we wanted to or not. I remember reaching the point where I wanted to leave GW but I had those new car payments to deal with. Brenden and I left GW within a few weeks of each other in 2001, and I only had 1 car payment left. I was free. A few months later I went on my first coast to coast tour of the US with my band No Time Left.

Over the years I dodged back and forth between music and gaming as my focus, but they've always been right here with me. The desire to design games has never left me. Two years ago I fell in love with a project my friends were working on called Wreck-Age, the post-apocalyptic RPG and miniature skirmish game. I helped a lot with play testing, helped iron out some kinks in the rules, and introduced some small concepts. I left a very small mark on the game but that experience filled me with excitement, even if I felt compelled to step away from Hyacinth Games. I wanted to strike out on my own. Here was something I loved, that fulfilled my urge to create, but that I could continue doing when I was old and grey, because no one wants to see a washed up punk rocker play in front of a bunch of kids after a certain point. Those years aren't here yet, but they're coming, and I know that.

Gaming has done so much for me as a person. Its the one social outlet I have that doesn't make me feel awkward and weird as soon as the game is set up. When I was young it helped shape my education and kept me reading and learning. The education system here in the US doesn't work well for a young anti-social, anti-establishment kid. Even today, when I gather with my punk friends, what do we do? Crack out a game. Table top games bring people together while they challenge our minds. I want to contribute to that. I want to turn some kid's world upside down. I want to design some kid's Slave Pits of the Undercity.

-Nick


Friday, August 22, 2014

Just Over a Week Away!

Broken Contract worker revolt scene by Geng Gendall

On September 1st I'll be launching the Kickstarter for Broken Contract, the sci-fi western themed miniature board game I've been working on for almost a year now. This week will be a flurry of activity as I try and get everything as it should be for the best results. I have a bunch of art and 3D sculpts, but I still have to make the Kickstarter video, re-run all of my numbers again, and do a photo shoot with my mock up game pieces which are still in the process of being designed. So much to do!

Breakers by Geng Gendall

In the meantime, enjoy all of the art, check out the Broken Contract Design Blog, Like Broken Contract on Facebook, and if you run across any Broken Contract posts on BoLS GameWire, DakkaDakka, Warseer, or BoLS Lounge drop a comment. If there is some place you go to for your forum or blog based gaming fix that I haven't mentioned, by all means start a thread or make a post. Every bit of public support helps very much!

Prods by Geng Gendall

I'm still putting the finishing touches on the Broken Contract Kickstarter page, but if you want to take a first glimpse at it you are welcome to. People who follow 2ndCityWarzone are the first people to see it outside of my immediate friends, so check it out. Remember, I haven't made the video yet - that's the first thing people comment on the page needing. Believe me, I know. :)

Officer Naria Anlika 3D sculpt by Tim Barry

Here's the most recent sculpt I got from Tim Barry. I think he's doing a great job. If you didn't know he did the sculpts for Aetherium

Over this next week is the best time to get your feedback in, make suggestions, and let me know if you would like to help out in some way. I'll take any help I can get. Thanks!
-Nick 


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Big Things Afoot

Tents by me. I'm not sure about the figs. Box design by Anton Zaleski.

Last update I showed off some tents and a campfire that I painted for Wreck-Age which were painted up to be used in their box art. Well here it is! I think they came out pretty well.


This pic shows the back side of 2 of the tents.They aren't as detailed without the beat up salvaged road signs but I still really like them.

Anton did mention having me do a series of other scenery kits for them but I'm not sure I'll have time with gearing up to Kickstart my own game - Broken Contract. This week I got my second 3D render from sculptor Tim Barry. Its a Breaker - a contracted miner who has raised his tool in revolt. 

3D sculpt by Tim Barry based on Geng Gendall art.
And a week before that I got this concept sketch from Sam Alcarez for a Breaker mechanic:

Breaker concept art by Sam Alcarez

Things are really coming together. I haven't been able to touch my Orks still and I regretfully cancelled my last 2 attempted gaming nights but at least the game itself is coming along,

Thanks for reading!
-Nick 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wreck-Age, Broken Contract, Zombicide, and Orks

Wreck-Age commission for an upcoming box set.

Its been months since I updated this blog. That's not to say I haven't been immersed in a multitude of hobby activities, but I haven't had a lot of time to document them. I had a little free time tonight and figured it was about time I broke my silence. Here's a smattering of what I've been up to.

More Wreck-Age commission work.

A couple weeks ago I got a call from Anton/Hyacinth Games letting me know he had a bunch of stuff he needed painted quickly and might I be interested in taking a look. I said, "Sure." and wandered over to his place - he only lives 6 blocks away. They've been quietly working away on a number of projects over at Hyacinth and these models are just a taste of what they have going on. 

That last pictured Wreck-Age tent from the back. 

I had a week to complete the models during my free time and I went a day over my deadline. These things happen right? These photos are missing the final tent, which I completed while Anton was waiting downstairs in a car to pick them up, so I never snapped a shot.They were painted to use for the box art, so I'm sure they'll post up some much fancier photos of them soon. wreck-age.net

Broken Contract uprising art by Geng Gendall.

Arguably the most involving aspect of my hobby life right now is trying to get my own miniature board game off the ground called Broken Contract. Its a sci-fi western themed board game for 2-8 players. It involves contracted workers being pushed to the brink by their corporate overlords, and their struggles against the hired security officers these overlords employ to keep the rabble working. 

Officer Hickley. Sculpted by Tim Barry.

The first model sculpted for Broken Contract is done, sculpted in 3D by Tim Barry. I can't wait to actually manufacture this guy and paint him up. The Kickstarter for this new board game is coming September 1st. In the meantime, if you want full details go check out my newly updated What is Broken Contract? page.

Me, dead in the dirt while zombies feed on my entrails, on the 4th of July.

I think everyone knows that the Zombicide Season 3 Kickstarter is going on right now. We're pretty excited about it here and my partner, Lisa, backed the KS and we check every day to see what new cool stuff we have coming. Lately I've been playing as much Zombicide as 40K.


40K never really disappears off my radar no matter what else I've working on or playing. I did try an experimental Dark Angels list last week to see if I could build a semi-competitive list for the upcoming Beef and Wing Tournament in Buffalo (Note: As a 21 year vegan that name always makes me cringe no matter how "Buffalo appropriate" it is.) As per usual, I got slaughtered, but I want to try it again. What I really want to start playing games with this year, are Orks, and a bunch of Ork Boy legs are sitting on my painting table right now. Of course, the last time I put paint on them was the week before the Codex was released and I just haven't had the time since then with the Wreck-Age commissions and Broken Contract stuff. So that's a smattering of what I've been up to the last few months Thanks for reading!

-Nick




Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Farewell to Next Dimension Games

WFB 1000 point tournament at NDG from just 2 weekends ago.
Today Next Dimension Games announced they were closing their doors. I started helping out there in October - initially just painting up their scenery and then progressively working towards building the miniature hobby within the community, and eventually volunteering to take on their event schedule.
My friend Aaron Schmidt of Horror Show Miniatures teaching the nuances of working with green stuff.
Our hobby community at NDG had a lot of ambitious hobbyists, so I brought in local sculptor Aaron Schmidt to demonstrate sculpting with green stuff and he did a 2 hour presentation. I had started a rotating Tuesday board gaming night, and I ran a 1000 point WFB tournament. I had plans for many more events and classes, but it wasn't to be.
Zombicide Survivor painted by Ken Aponte.
Slowly but surely, people were starting to find the store, like Ken Aponte who came in to play Zombicide on the first Zombicide Game Night we ran. He bought Zombicide: Prison Outbreak that night, and a few days later came in to show off the survivors he had started painting. Before we knew it, he became a regular fixture like so many others were becoming, but it was too little too late I guess.
Ken Aponte and Nick Powell playing Super Dungeon Explore on one of our Tuesday Game Nights.
Over the months that I was at NDG I made friends with gamers and hobbyists and I hope they continue into the future. I'd love to revive the roots of 2ndCityWarzone by hosting regular gaming at my house with some new blood, and I swear I miss the days of owning my own store. I've learned a lot in the last 20 years since I had Adventures Unleashed in Buffalo, particularly from my years at GW, and think I could create an environment the gamers would really take to with engaging events. Maybe I might strive to make that a reality? Its something to consider.

In the meantime I need to focus on AdeptiCon in the immediate and Broken Contract in the months to come as I work towards launching a Kickstarter. So much to do and so little time.

For those looking for a deal. Next Dimension Games announced this:

As a thank you to everyone who has supported the store, we will be opening up the store this next Monday 3.24.14 and Tuesday 3.25.14 for anyone looking to pick up something at a great sale price. everything will be on sale for anywhere from 25% off MSRP or better.
This sale will be for all on hand merchandise.
NO special orders will be taken.
We will be open from noon - 8pm both days.
Thank you,
Nate


RIP Next Dimension Games. We hardly knew you.
-Nick

Monday, March 17, 2014

Two Weeks to AdeptiCon, Gaming, and Broken Contract

I've used this pic like 3 times. Myself and Eric Brose in the team tournament. Also pictured, Max and my old friend and team mate, Mike Nogle (who sadly won't be at Adepticon for the first time in like 8 years.)
 AdeptiCon is two weeks away and I'm feeling very unprepared. I have tables to finish, army lists to write, a scenario to prepare, and (theoretically) models to paint. I have to say that working on scenery non-stop at Next Dimension Games has given me serious hobby burn out. When I get home my hobby time is almost entirely Broken Contract related because I'm using a whole different set of "hobby muscles", focusing on writing and game design, or discussing the concept art.
Another re-used pic. The archers were not in my army list, but that spear unit with the Light Wizard aka Liche Priest was the unit that was decimated in its own Skullstorm.
I at least have had the joy of getting some gaming in. In addition to Tuesday night board gaming at Next Dimension Games, I ran a WFB tournament, and while they were playing their final round I got in another 1000 point game with my Tomb Kings - this time against Vampire Counts. On the first turn I tried to cast Sakhmet's Incantation of the Skullstorm using 6 dice and it of course blew up in my face devastating the skeleton unit my Liche Priest was in and forcing me to take evasive action with all of my other units to avoid the Skullstorm as it moved away. Somehow, I managed to come back from this cataclysmic mistake and still win the game. Once again, my star players were my Screaming Skull Catapults, and my Carrion weren't too shabby either. It was a fun game and I'm looking forward to playing against Ken Aponte again.
New Broken Contract logo by Sam Alcarez.
This week I made a pretty detailed post at the Broken Contract blog discussing the concept art for the Security Officers and how I decided to do some concept art of my own by taking Sam Alcarez's work and cutting it up with scissors and re-pasting it together to vary up the looks he's be working on. I feel like it was a pretty effective exercise so go check it out.
"Paper doll" of a Security Officer using pieces from 3 separate pieces of Sam Alcarez concept art.
Speaking of Broken Contract. Before I part for today, I want to mention I created accounts for all of your social media needs relating to Broken Contract. Follow Broken Contract on Facebook and/or Twitter. Thanks and more soon!

-Nick


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Weekend of Gaming Part 2 - WFB 'Its How You Use It'

Next weekend, Saturday March 8th is a small friendly tournament at Next Dimension Games using Adepticon's 'Its How You Use It' WFB Tournament guidelines. For those that don't know, the 'Its How You Use It' format is 1000 points, which in WFB is generally considered - "not a lot".

One of our regulars at NDG, Josh Raymond, was looking to get in a warm up game to see how his Warriors of Chaos might fare in the 1000 point arena. Originally we were going to play the game at NDG, but I couldn't swing the bus fare, so he graciously offered to make the drive out to my place.

Now its important to note that the last time my Tomb Kings hit the tabletop was 2 years ago at Adepticon's 'Its How You Use It' tournament that year. My knowledge of 8th Edition is pretty abysmal and I felt really guilty making Josh stand around for an hour while I made my army list and asked him a million questions. Finally, after muddling my way through making my list I was ready to go. I would be fielding a Tomb Prince, a Level 2 Liche Priest, 19 Skeletons with Hand Weapons and Shields, 19 Skeletons with Spears, 10 Skeleton Horsemen with Spears, 3 Carrion Birds, and 2 Screaming Skull Catapults.

The ensuing conflict was surprising to say the least. Early on in the game Josh charged through a forest into my Skeleton Cavalry on my flank with a unit of Chaos Warriors and a Chaos Gorebeast Chariot.
My Cavalry draw a combined charge through a forest. I ultimately lost the combat but it left his big unit of Chaos Warriors wide open.
Meanwhile my Skeletons with Hand to Hand Combat Weapons and Skeletons with Spears glared vacantly towards the oncoming Chaos Warriors. My Cavalry were quickly destroyed, but left a perfect target for my Skeletons with Hand Weapons as you can see the tempting flank in this shot.
These two units made a lot of 2" moves this way or that way to always be in the idea position to deal with Josh's forces.
To reduce the threat to my own flank, I hurled Screaming Skull after Screaming Skull into Josh's exposed units and Chaos Warriors and Gorebeast Chariot (proxied with a normal Chariot) fled the scene allowing my Skeleton Warriors and Carrion to beat up on the Chaos Warriors.
Catapult view of the fleeing enemies. You've got to love "Skulls of the Foe".
 Multiple times the Chaos Warriors, Gorebeast Chariot and Chaos Hounds were forced to panic and were kept at bay consistently the latter half of the game. It was a hard day to be a Warrior of Chaos.
Heading north to Kislev, Troll Country, or maybe Norsca. Regardless, they decided the deserts of Khemri were not for them.
All told, I played a solid game. My memory of WFB tactics is still solid and I made sure to make his charges difficult and to take advantage of his own exposure which helped win me the day. Though, my fighting skill was pathetic. The only thing that saved me was my constant use of charging two facings at the same time. It wouldn't have been enough though if it wasn't for my Screaming Skull Catapults which honestly won me the day. They started off slow the first couple turns, but later in the game the scored direct hit after direct hit absolutely punishing his lines. It was glorious, but not easily repeated. It just happened to be my day in the sun.

I really appreciate Josh coming over to get a game in. It reminded me that I genuinely miss playing WFB and that I should play it more than I do. two years between games is far too long.

-Nick

Shameless plug, if you haven't checked out the blog for the miniature board game I'm developing, go check it out. Its called Broken Contract.