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.


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!

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!

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!


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,

RIP Next Dimension Games. We hardly knew you.

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!


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.


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.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Weekend of Gaming Part 1 - 40K Zone Mortalis

I had a big weekend of gaming. So as not to overload you with photos all at once, we'll focus on Saturday's gaming. My friend Brian Parisi has volunteered to provide a couple of Zone Mortalis tables for the 40K Warzone Tournament at Adepticon this year. I hadn't seen them yet so we decided to make a day of trying them out and seeing if there were any tweaks that needed to be made in order to make them comply with my Stratagem List that goes along with the tournament. We spent a little while analyzing the pieces he constructed and then set up a suitable 3'x3' layout. At the 40K Warzone Tournament the players will be fielding 1000 point forces so 3'x3' is ample space for an hour and a half game.

We used last year's Zone Mortalis mission and deployed on 6" deployment zones on opposing sides. I took the Familiar Ground Stratagem which gave me Move Through Cover and Scout for all of my Infantry. In the picture below you can see my firebase, a Dreadnought castled with a Techmarine with Power Field Generator, backed up by a 6 man Devastator Squad. You can see two Adepticon poker chips in the shot, representing 2 of the 4 objectives in the mission. This grouping of models was sitting on a 3rd. You can also see a bulkhead dead straight ahead. Brian's army lurked largely on the other side.
This is about as much as you need to see of my army since everyone died in bloody slaughter.
Below are the forces on the other side of the bulkhead, including Chaos Terminators, Obliterators, and Cultists, among others.
A formidable battle line waiting to advance.
As a distraction I sent my valiant Scouts up a straight passage hugging the right flank of the board. Brian sent 2 Spawn up said flank to intercept them.
Scouts vs Spawn was not a fair match up. And to add insult to injury I dropped one of the Scouts when I got home from gaming and he broke in two.
My distraction was insufficient and though I thought I had a commanding view of the center of the board, Brian flooded the opposing quarter with Obliterators, Noise Marines, and Cultists evening out the domination of the objectives.
Overwhelmed is the only way I can describe how I felt.
Meanwhile, on my left flank, a seemingly inconsequential group of 6 Chaos Space Marines with the Mark of Slannesh moved up to threaten my own dominant quarter.
People cry about how useless Chaos Space Marines are. The might not be as points efficient as the other choices in the Codex, but they where superior to my Tacticals in every way.
While the Chaos Cultists held the back objective, Brian made his move on the center of the board while punishing me with fire from the Noise Marines.
I never put a dent in this squad. Their white armor looks fantastic against the brown backdrop though doesn't it?
Bringing up the rear, the Chaos Terminators smashed their way through the bulkhead, but I was so overwhelmed by the other 750 points of his army, he could have left them in his figure case.
This unit would have scared me if the rest of his army wasn't so effective that they were completely unnecessary and took no part in the game other than as more eye candy.
All told, the Angels of Absolution suffered indignity after indignity has he smashed his way through my squads of Tactical Marines. I ultimately ended up conceding as he had 3 objectives at the end of turn 5 and there was no way I could bounce back. It would have been disheartening if I wasn't playing against a beautiful army on beautiful tables. Okay, maybe it was still a "little" disheartening, but as you can tell from the pics I love the spectacle of wargaming and Brian delivers the goods. It was a pleasure playing against him and I hope everyone at the 40K Warzone Tournament appreciates the time and effort he put into these awesome tables.

Oh, and thanks to Brian and Mike for introducing me to Seven Wonders after the Zone Mortalis game. It was a good time. To be continued tomorrow with a recount of Sunday's gaming.

Also, check out Broken Contract Blog to see some great work in progress shots of the Security Officer concept sketches and an early incarnation of what might be the new Broken Contract logo.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Broken Contract Artist Search and Other Ramblings

Concept art by Sam Alcarez
I put out a call for artists on Facebook and on this blog and a bunch of friends directed me to artist friends of theirs which I genuinely appreciate. One of those leads has already sent over 5 sketches. Sam Alcarez has taken the ball and run with it and I can't wait to show off what they can do. In a couple of days I'll re-post the Security Officer blurb on the Broken Contract Blog with some of Sam's Security Officer art. In the meantime, go over to the blog and read about Actions and Interruptions if you want to know more about how the game plays.

In other exciting news, Zombicide Gaming Night at Next Dimension was packed and we're looking forward to doing it again. Tomorrow night at Next Dimension we'll be playing Settlers of Catan. Also, today I got an e-mail from Brian Parisi showing off some bulkhead doors he created for the Zone Mortalis boards he's going to share with me for this year's 40K Warzone Tournament at Adepticon and they look great.

Speaking of which, the tweaked rules for this year are up on the Adepticon website now:

40K Warzone Tournament 2014 Rules

More soon!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Artist Wanted II - Character Concept Design Brief #1

Breaker Concept Sketch by Oliver Zavala.
A lot of people viewed the Artist Wanted Ad a few days ago and I got some responses. For those who might be interested but don't want to commit to anything, I created an initial "design brief" so that you can scribble something out at home or on your break at work and if you think its pretty cool you can send it my way via e-mail or a link to wherever you want to put it for viewing. Here's the specs:

Character Concept Design Brief #1
Ideally character concepts will show the character from head to toe. Any details or equipment that might need additional focus might need to be separated out or shown at a different angle. This will allow a sculptor to get a sense of the composition. Examples of this might be unusual/unique weapons, cool details like charms, logos, or something loosely concealed. The characters are described as having a gender identity, but that is a loose guide. In a co-ed indentured servant operated mining colony where everyone is on the same playing field, gender norms and roles would be blurred or thrown out the window. Depictions can be as ambiguous as you want them to be. Additionally, I mention on of the sketches to be a person of color. This is to encourage a diverse future where class is more important than race. There are some links to visual references at the end of the post.

Overview of Breakers vs Security Officers

The Breakers are indentured servant miners. They are given the bare minimum to complete the job. Shovels, pick axes, the occasional head lamp and/or breather (mask). Their clothes would be pretty utilitarian, like the "Cool Hand Luke" workers, but occasionally with heavy duty overalls, like in this image - http://www.pinterest.com/pin/466826317596936722/ For the most part they're just disgruntled men and women who turn on their taskmasters. The important thing is for them to be dynamic, varied, and action packed. These are rioters.

Security Officers
They are poorly paid brutal security guards. The "western" looking prison chain gang guards from Cool Hand Luke are a good starting point. Give them a kevlar vest and a taser instead of rifles and it’s the right look. On the Concept References Pinterest there is an image of the riot cop with the riot shield and helmet but no armor to speak of. He's so bare and at risk - that's how I imagine the security officers. Throw a brimmed hat on him or something else to give him a little more western feel and he'd blend right in to the visual. Once again, they're trying to stop the miners from rioting and escaping the mines so they'd be action packed as well.

Where To Begin?
Ideally do a rough sketch of at least one Breaker and one Security Officer and send them to me and we can discuss the look and feel. If you’re really enthused you can do more, but this would be to show off that you have a good idea of the look and feel being discussed. This does not need to be finished work. Just a rough sketch to get a feel for the look.

Starting Character List

Breaker Characters
Gaylen: Gaylen is the daredevil of the group. A young agile female who is used by the IronSky Corp to get into tight areas to plant dynamite and other dangerous duties. She would be lightly equipped to not interfere with her mobility, but she’d have would have a breather with exposed eyes/upper face and some sort of head lamp. She carries concealed dynamite that she stole but could be depicted throwing it. She also carries a shovel.

Bickler: Bickler is the grizzled veteran in the mines. Formerly a soldier, he didn’t have the status, connections, or value to be kept in uniform as he aged. He was discharged and signed a contract as a miner and was dropped here. He should look older and a bit haggard, but solid. He carries a pick axe and a chip on his shoulder. He might have a headlamp, but he should have an exposed face to show his grizzled features.

Trest: Trest is the Genetically Modified Brute. He was engineered strictly for labor purposes and stands taller than a normal man and is more hulking. Trest is pure muscle and brawn. He carries a pneumatic drill (like a horizontally held jackhammer) and wears a gas mask and overalls. He’s unknowingly addicted to corporate supplied narcotics and is prone to violent outbursts.

Security Office Characters
Officer Moerta:  Moerta is a security guard equipped with a Shock Baton and Riot Shield. His head is exposed, but the lower part of his face should be covered with a breather. He is a person of color “just doing his job” and he is exceptional at close combat.

Officer Anlika: Anlika is the diplomatic Officer, more adept at talking through confrontations than violence. Anlika has short cropped hair, an arc pistol (high powered taser) and a standard baton. Visible empathy gives credence to her attempts at diplomacy but will have no qualms about taking down a Breaker if she has to.

Officer Hickley: Equipped with a Kevlar vest, Crowd Control Repeater (a larger sub machine gun with rubber bullets), a baton, and possibly a helmet or maybe just sunglasses. Officer Hickley is a sadistic authoritarian. He will fire indiscriminately into mobs, while shouting uncontrollably and then follow it up with some hearty kicks and cracks with his baton.

Have a go at these concepts or use it to spark your own and we’ll take it from there. There will be plenty more Characters to develop from here and an expanding universe of ideas.

You can find some helpful references here:

Thanks for reading! Send me your concepts. :)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Artists Wanted for Broken Contract

I'm looking for up-and-coming and established artists willing to help me get my miniature board game off the ground. I need people willing to work with me to flesh out concept sketches to base miniature sculpts off of and I need finished character art, box art, and a logo to to take my game, Broken Contract, to the next stages of development.

At this point the rules are just about ready to enter Beta Testing by the general public, but if I'm going to be able to attract crowd funding through Kickstarter I'm going to have to have a much more polished presentation. To put it simply, before I can run a Kickstarter I really need some solid art and at least a few miniature sculpts.

Without a stockpile of funds to dole out for commissioned work I'm at a catch 22. I need the Kickstarter to acquire funds, but I need artists and sculptors to run a successful Kickstarter. What I really need are some people who are really interested in getting in on a project like this to build their portfolios and be willing to gamble on a later reward for work completed. Even still, it would need to be "on the cheap" for now (even in this "bill me later" scenario), and depending on how successful the Kickstarter might be would could potentially scale up.

Its a lot to ask, I know. Still, play testing has seemed to demonstrate that the rules are fun, and people seem to find the background engaging and full of opportunity. This project has legs, but I need some help to boost it to the next stage. Get in touch and let's help each other out.

So what's this game all about?

You can find out the basics here: Background Introduction
Here: Breakers
And here: Security Officers

But the condensed version of what you'd be drawing are rioting miners and the security officers that keep them in place in a dystopian sci-fi wild west setting. Imagine Cool Hand Luke meets Firefly as good points of reference. You can get a feel for some of the ideas by looking at my "Concept References" Pinterest.

If you, or someone you know, would be interested in this please get in touch and let's work something out. I'm determined to make this game a reality.

-Nick Baran

Thursday, February 6, 2014

New Broke Contract Blog and Thoughts on Warhammer Visions

Last week I made the decision to give Broken Contract its own space. This has its pro's and con's. I wanted it to have its own dedicated space so that as I go into Beta Testing there is a place where people can find it. I also wanted it to have chapter headers so that if people just want to read a bit of the fluff without sifting through all the game design ramblings, Angels of Absolution pics, Adepticon prep, etc. Instead, they can just click on the relevant heading. The biggest disadvantage to that plan is that unlike 2ndCityWarzone, Broken Contract doesn't have followers and it doesn't have a spot on the BoLS blog roll yet which is where a lot of my traffic comes from. So if you've been reading up on Broken Contract and think its looking pretty cool, please please please go to the new blog, Follow it, and if you have a blog roll: p9lease add it.

Broken Contract Blog

Otherwise, there isn't a whole lot to report on the Broken Contract front. Its been over a week since the last play testing and after I sifted through the core rules to correct any areas that stood out from the session, I began working on the scenarios in greater detail. In the last few weeks I had mapped out how I envisioned the mining complex and created key locations. Going into this week I had written a bit of narrative about each key location and this prompted me to look at the win/loss conditions I had created for the original couple of scenarios. I was using a Victory Point system that gives and takes based on goals achieved and mistakes made. It occurred to me, to add to the narrative feel why not carry those Victory Points over from scenario to scenario so that you look at your night of gaming (or your campaign) as a whole instead of as individual parts? Then I could build special rules into certain accomplishments or failures so that they carry with you so that the VP's sort of act like experience points but that can be taken away. I'm curious to see how this idea goes.
Warhammer Visions

 I wanted to take a moment to comment on everyone freaking out over how much they hate Warhammer Visions. I've been playing GW's games for 20 years now and have been reading WD for the full duration. Its had its ups and downs as a magazine. Everyone has their favorite era - mine was from about 2000-2006 though people complained about it then too because some issues were too heavy on this game system they don't play, or that one. But as I've gotten older I've found that the one thing that I keep my WD's around for is as a painting reference. Long after the rules for each edition are obsolete, and the fluff has evolved, the one thing that always endures are the photos. It just so happens that when I would get a new White Dwarf the first thing I did was to flip through it from cover to cover looking at the photos. Now, when I grab an old White Dwarf off my shelves, generally speaking, is that I flip through it looking for some photo I remember seeing years ago that inspired me.

Now we have Warhammer Visions - essentially a beautiful magazine of just photos. I flipped through the first issue and I was pumped. This is the magazine for me - a timeless reference I can keep on my shelves for inspiration. While everyone is cancelling their subscriptions I'm wishing I was in a position to start a new one.

And on a final note, as people gnash their teeth about the price. There is a push right now to make the Federal Minimum Wage ~$10. When the minimum wage was ~$4, White Dwarf was ~$4. The world has changed quite a bit since then, but if the Federal Minimum Wage goes up to $10.10 or whatever it is, and Warhammer Visions is $12, well that seems about right to me for 250 pages of gorgeous full color photos. That's my take.


PS. Broken Contract Play Testing will be happening February 9th at Noon. Drop a line if you want to come check it out.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Zombicide Game Night at Next Dimension Games February 11th, 2014

On Tuesday February 11th I'll be running a Zombicide Game Night at Next Dimension Games using Guillotine Games Zombicide Gaming Night Kit #1: Cars, Food, or Guns.

On the 11th all you need to do is show up and play, no experience necessary (its a very simple game). The Zombicide Gaming Night Kit's come with exclusive miniatures and dice as prizes for you to try and earn. It'll be a fun night of gratuitous zombie killing and an easy introduction to a very cool game.

The scenarios run about an hour and a half (unless you go buck wild and get yourselves killed right away) so we'll shoot to start at 6PM so we can try and get two scenarios in.

Reserving a spot is not required but it would be helpful. If you can't get to the store at 6PM, let me know because I can arrange for you to join in late in the game if needed. We can accommodate 6 players in a single game. If more sign up we might have to track down another copy of the game.

If you're wondering what the exclusive miniature is, its Kyoko:

Head over to the Facebook Invite or to Chicago Wargamers and sign up.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Updated Blog and Moving Forward on Broken Contract

My original blog was called Redemptors of Golinar, referencing my unique Imperial Guard army I had created. Going full circle in a way, these very same infantry models have been drafted into service as proxies to play test Broken Contract.
I've been a really busy guy the last several days. After the last play testing session for Broken Contract I sifted through the entire document again to do more editing and tweaks to various rules and refined how grenades work, which wasn't really fleshed out in the rules. I uploaded all of the updated files today for my Alpha Play Testers and then immediately sat down and updated the list of available skills from 5 to about a dozen or so. Its a large enough list that all 16 Characters have a Skill. I also roughed out rules for people to create their own Characters, which will eventually become "downloadable content" for the game and the basic Stat line for Dogs, and what their Actions and Interruptions will be. I figure when I get to developing Broken Contract - Enforcers or Broken Contract - Steaders this will be a cool thing to add in. My brain is always thinking ahead and I maintain a file of ideas for the future.

I also watched a bunch of videos about iron mining and read a couple glossaries of mining terms so I can improve my terminology and refine my vision of the mines the would-be Breakers work in; and will need to escape to make their Break. I actually really enjoy doing this sort of research, its fascinating to find out how things are done that we take for granted.

On Friday Scott Kroll, the gentleman who originally started 2ndCityWarzone, gave me admin capabilities. I know it might be surprising to find  out considering there hasn't been any activity from my fellow authors, but there are actually 8 authors and admins for 2ndCityWarzone. Scott doesn't do much wargaming these days, and has put his time into drawing comics and the other guys all moved on to their own blogs, gaming companies, and clubs that they've immersed themselves in and left 2ndCityWarzone behind. With my admin status I decided to add a couple of things I've wanted to for a while: a small blog roll, expanded ways to follow the blog, and added a direct link to my old blog Redemptors of Golinar. I left that blog behind when I focused on  2ndCityWarzone, but it still has some cool pictures to look at and a Step By Step of how to paint an Angels of Absolution Space Marine among other things.

Also, I reserved BrokenContract.blogspot.com because a time is going to come when Broken Contract is going to need its own home as it evolves into more than just an idea and people who are interested in it might not be so engaged in watching me expand my Ork army or whatever. More on that as time goes on. I need a cool logo and a "vision" for that blog before I start filling it with content. Plus, as of  right now anyone who's following Broken Contract is looking here, but the time is nearing that it'll need its own space.

I think next we will look at the Stat line so people can get a better idea of how the game works. More on that in a few days.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

VII. Broken Contract - Discussing the Mechanics and More Play Testing

Boylan's Ginger Ale and board games. This is from the first play testing session with Monkey (pictured) and Chuck (capturing the moment). Also pictured: Lisa, Ian Mackaynine, and Jean Harlow (making out in the far background).
I've talked about the background to the game and I've rambled on about theory, but I haven't really discussed the mechanics to the game outside of a tight circle of people, so I'll talk about that a little now.

Broken Contract uses an Action system, similar to Zombicide, Wreck-Age, and even Infinity (though they call them Orders). Each Turn begins with the players drawing a numbered card for each Character on the board. The deck contains a card for each Character, so if the game has 8 Characters on the board, you would have cards numbered 1-8. This is how you establish Initiative Order in the game.

Starting with the Character who drew #1, you would work along completing each Character's Turn until you get to Character #8. Each Character has 3 Action Points with which they can perform either Actions or Interruptions (an Action performed out of Turn). You don't have to use all of a Character's Action Points when your Initiative comes up because you just might want to have Action Points remaining to perform those all important Interruptions.

The list of Actions includes the usual suspects, Walk, Shoot, and Attack, but it also includes a host of uncommon ones like Running Jump, Dive Roll, Apply Restraints, and Carry a Comrade. The Action system is geared for cinematic play and big drama. The list of Interruptions includes Defend, Parry, Dodge, Flee, Beg For Mercy and a bunch of other exciting options. Now you might ask yourself, "why would I ever Beg for Mercy?" Begging for Mercy allows you to make a Dealing Check to halt an Attack with desperate groveling or pathetic charm. Done at the right time it could spare your life for the moment while your opponent is out of Actions, the hope being that you can flip the situation to your advantage on the next Initiative draw. This makes for great "action movie moments".

Almost all of the Checks in the game require a simple roll of a D6 to keep the game play easy to process, and thus, fast and furious. The principle exception to this are Combat Actions as they require a roll to hit, and a roll to wound. The Checks all play off a list of 16 Stats from the obvious Move, Melee, Shoot and Strength; to less obvious ones like Dealing, Perception, Recovery, and Psyche.  The robust list of Stats allows the Characters to be more varied with subtle distinctions of how they are specialized.

The list of possible Actions and Interruptions is extensive which does require some contemplation, but they all involve very simple mechanics so that once you get familiar with the list it becomes fairly intuitive how to carry them out. Of course, with so many options available you may find yourself making hard decisions as there will likely be multiple right and wrong answers for any given situation. This makes for a fun, exciting, and sometimes challenging time.

The Weapon list features a lot of non-lethal options as Security Officers and Enforcers are hoping to bring back escaping Breakers alive. So Arc Pistols and Shock Batons can Shock opponents leaving them Prone and twitching, while Neuro Grenades use gas to Drug the victims leaving them Stumbling around. Of course, you have to have big guns, so a Repeater Rifle with Rubber Bullets can easily Stun a Character (remove an Action Point for the remainder of the Turn) but it has a harder time Wounding. Meanwhile, the Breakers use a lot of improvised weapons like Shovels, Pick Axes, Pneumatic Drills, and "home brewed" Molotovs.

Like some of my favorite old games like Bloodbowl, Necromunda, and Gorkamorka, there are plenty of opportunities for Characters to trip and fall, break weapons in half, run out of ammo, or accidentally drop a Molotov at your own feet. All of these unfortunate events come from rolling natural "1"'s during some of the more dramatic Checks that take place during the game.

At the end of a normal Turn, you will likely have Characters defined as being Shocked, Down, Out of Action, or Seriously Injured. For all but the Seriously Injured there is a Recovery phase where Recovery Checks are made to see if their condition improves or worsens before going into the next Turn.

Play continues until the scenario has been successfully completed, or all of the Characters on one side are unable to act or off the board.

As one might expect, the board game will come packed with scenarios, and more will be planned for Expansions as well as downloadable content to keep game play varied and interesting.

That should give you a rough overview. The last play testing session on Monday yielded some tweaks but overall it plays pretty well, so I'm focusing on editing and writing more scenarios. That's it for now. Thanks for reading.


PS. If you're curious about the previous articles:

I. Broken Contract
II Broken Contract - Breakers
III. Broken Contract - Enforcers
IV. Broken Contract - Security Officers and What is Broken Contract?
V. Broken Contract - Board Design and Scenario Development
VI. Broken Contract - Play Testing and Revisions

Sunday, January 19, 2014

VI. Broken Contract - Play Testing and Revisions

Breaker with pneumatic drill concept sketch by Oliver Zavala.
Up until sometime last week, Broken Contract had only been played by me, alone in my living room. I've sent the rules to ten of my trusted gamer friends for scrutiny and got a good amount of feedback and commentary - much of which has be used to refine my ideas. Still, nothing gives you a true sense of how the rules play than seeing them in action. Its actually fascinating to watch, to see how easily people pick up on the rules and what choices they make during the game that you did not expect. Last week I finally got to experience that when my friends Chuck and Monkey came over to try the game.

I read through the scenario narrative text to give them a sense of where they were and what they were doing, handed them a list of Actions they could take in the game, and had them roll for Initiative.

Less than 5 minutes in I found my first flaw. Each Character on the board has their own randomly determined Initiative. In solo play testing I had tried alternating initiative, rolling by side and choosing initiative order, and also trying rolling 2D6, 3D6, and 4D6 for each individual model. No matter how many dice you roll, certain numbers came up all the time, forcing a need to re-roll. Each new Turn in a group setting saw the Initiative taking 2-3 minutes as we rolled and re-rolled for each Character. This needed a better system. The next morning it came to me: A shuffled deck of uniquely numbered cards, If there are 8 Characters on the board you use a deck of 8 cards numbered 1-8, shuffle them, and everyone playing draws a single card for each of their Characters. This presented a seamless and quick solution to Initiative.

As the game progressed Chuck and Monkey were clearly having fun but I felt like certain Actions were ignored, gear was forgotten, and in one case, a weapon I expected to be really effective, a Repeater Rifle with Rubber Bullets, just didn't perform how I planned. Some of these occurrences can be chocked up being new to the game, but seeing a part of the game used and not perform how I intended was clearly an issue so I re-wrote it.

This prompted me to do a read through of all the current rules documents I have assembled for the game in order to purge, consolidate, simplify, and preserve the continuity of. That one night of play testing was invigorating for me. Seeing people have a good time playing a game that I designed was hugely rewarding. I can't wait for the next play testing session, which happens to be Monday (tomorrow) evening. 

In addition to all of the rules tweaks that were inspired by that first night of play testing, I've had my brain cranking along on the contents of the game, where I want the story line to go, and what sorts of expansions could evolve from that story line. Finally, I've mapped out the scenarios, created a rough draft of how I envision the mining complex, and sketched in where the various scenarios I had brainstormed would take place so I know what board sections to make. All in all, its been a very productive week. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and what inspiration it will bring forth.

More later in the week!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

V. Broken Contract - Board Design and Scenario Development

Four new prototype board sections that I'm using to play test Scenario #2.
I finished the rough draft of the rules to Broken Contract back in November. I've made tweaks here and there since then as I've gotten feedback from friends, but most of the tweaks I've discovered in the heat of battle when I hit a situation, read what I wrote, and say, "Hmmm. That doesn't make much sense." That's what alpha testing is for: tightening up the rule set before it gets exposed to a larger group of play testers so that the obvious errors don't ever muddle their play testing. In order to expose myself to a variety of circumstances, I needed some boards and missions to play on, so I set myself to crafting some.
An early play test game for 'Its Time!' the introductory scenario and initial Break attempt. The white counters represent ore carts meant to be barricades/obstacles to hide behind or get in your way.
Originally I designed two 12"x12" board sections, drew them out on some heavy card stock, and started playing. I wanted to the Introductory scenario to be the initial Break attempt, dubbed 'Its Time!' Five laborers rise up to over take their masters. It was based on a tiny piece of fluff I had written to open up the "Actions and Interruptions" chapter of the rules. 

“Open revolt. One of the miners in your crew, Trest, has overtaken one of the guards. You had discussed this. You planned for this. The moment is upon you and all those plans are blurred by fear and adrenaline. It’s time to act. A Security Officer moves past you with his shock baton charging towards Trest, demanding that Trest stand down. You step forward and swing your shovel, connecting with the Security Officer’s head. You instinctively anticipate gunfire from the Overseer’s position and drop to the ground to take protection behind a bin and plan your next move.” 

Overall, I was happy with how the rules were playing out but the scenario ran a little long for an introduction (Note: It took an hour and I was hoping for 30 minutes.) Also, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the large board sections made it more difficult for the Breakers to flee off the board and escape into the mines. Additionally, 12"x12" board sections would be difficult for me to turn into PDFs for my play testers. Over time, the board evolved into a more compact 8"x10" and the mission objectives and victory conditions evolved too.

I played out the opening scenario a dozen times using the various skills, special rules, and equipment to see how they interacted with scenario special rules and board. I think it came out fun, and as I hoped there were lots of options to choose from. It isn't a finished product, but its something I was happy enough to share with my friends who were interested in play testing.

Once I had 'Its Time!' up for them to download with the board sections I had to ask myself, "Wow. What happens next?" "What do I want the Breakers and Security Officers to do?" "What do mines really look like?" "How do I want the expanding board to be as a result?" Then came a mix of brainstorming and research. I needed to come up with a series of challenges, from people the Breakers might want to go back for due to friendships or to expand their available skill set. I needed to think about the role I wanted the Security Officers to take and how tooled up I would expect them to be. And I needed the board to be interesting, and a straight line mine shaft didn't seem to meet that criteria even if I added debris, chasms, and check points. Then I discovered room and pillar mining and I knew this would make for a cool section of the board. Room and pillar mining is where they weave a grid leaving of massive columns behind to support the roof of the mine. For a game board, it felt more interesting than a horizontal drift mine, though I'll likely combine elements of various sorts of mining. The internet is fantastic at times because it even gives approximate sizing of the rooms and pillars and I was actually able to design the board sections to the smaller end of the actual scale.

Out came the card stock and pencil. I drew out 4 board sections to try out the rooms and pillars. I played out a game on it based on the assumption that the alarm had been raised and the Breakers would need to weave through the rooms and pillars to get to their next destination as Security Officers come running. I was happy with the results so the craft paints came out and I detailed my prototype sections.
Heavy card stock, you've been a valuable friend. These board sections also line up with the board sections from the introductory scenario so that you can combine them.
Here are the room and pillar board sections with the photo taken halfway through Turn 1. The Breakers are on the bottom 2 sections and they need to exit through the Security Officers in the upper right quarter as they head to a variety of stops along their way out of the mine. What happens next? Well, I have a lot of ideas jotted down. I want to have at least 5 or 6 scenarios take place in the mines and an equal number take place after the initial escape out in the desert wilderness, so I have a long way to go. Thankfully, I have a lot of ideas.