Monday, 1 December 2014

I've Moved!

Hello! If you've stumbled upon this blog and want to see more of my stupid writing cut with my Wife's super smart writing we now have a site, podcast and youtube channel that we update 4 times a week! Check it out here!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Duke Nukem 3D Megaton Edition: A History of Violence

Back in the late 90s I had a school friend called John. John had a big house, a tree house and parents who were happy to let me and other friends sleep over. His mum would make us amazing bacon and egg sandwiches in the morning, even if his dad had to tell us off for being loud past midnight. He had stick insects and a fat tailed gecko and while we were kids we were the best of friends. John was also one of the first people I ever played computer games with. He had a SNES that we used to play Smash TV, Super Bomber man, Megaman X and Super Metroid on. We also completed Halo 1 together on Legendary difficulty which I still like to tell people today, even if they aren't interested. Some of my most enduring memories of time spent with John however was while we were playing Duke Nukem 3D
Hail to the king baby
We'd take it in turns to play, swapping if people died. His dad would let us play on his computer in their attic/office. Duke Nukem 3D was a silly, explosive, gory, and borderline sexist game so naturally as boys on the cusp of adolescence we loved it. We'd play for hours and we eventually completed every chapter and beat the game's final boss. It looks like this:
Pictured: The coolest shit for a 12 year old boy... possibly even cooler than boobs. And way less confusing.
As time wore on and me and John grew up things changed. John started doing a lot of drugs and our all night game sessions got replaced with all night parties of a different kind. I tried to stick around for a while but I didn't feel comfortable around his new friends and the things they did. Slowly but surely we grew apart and these days we barely talk let alone see each other. 

This isn't a new story and everyone changes when they grow up; I'm not naive enough to think that this experience is unique to me. I also don't blame John or resent him it's just the way things go some times. Such is life. I am however to this day a big fan of Duke Nukem 3D and many times over the years I've tried to run it on various PCs. The problem is it's horrifically dated (It's almost 20 years old) and controls like shit; it's a game from the prehistory of FPS, before standardised control layouts and iron sight aiming. This alone makes the game very hard to play after being spoilt by modern shooters for so long. To tell the truth I've never even got past the first level while playing it alone. Until now...

Old Duke, New Tricks

A few weeks ago Duke Nukem 3D was released on Steam as a shiny special edition (Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition) for about £7. Needless to say I snapped up a copy ASAP. The result is an amazing restoration of the original by Devolver Media with a number of new Achievements and special missions. The first thing that struck me about the look and style of Megaton Edition is how much care has been taken while updating the graphics. Enemies and objects are still 2D sprites in a 3D space but everything has been polished and had its resolution bumped up. It looks like I remember it but it doesn't look like fried shit. Comparisons could be drawn between Megaton Edition and the epic labour of love Black Mesa Source; both look like the original but also fresh and vibrant. The controls of Megaton Edition are also massively overhauled compared to the original; you can navigate the game world with keyboard and mouse just like a modern shooter but still can't really aim down any gun sights which is good. The Duke always shoots from the hip.

Replaying History

While the restoration of DN3D has made it playable by today's standards A lot of Megaton Edition's plus points come from the original game itself. Well designed and varied levels keep you entertained, the legendary arsenal of weapons provide endless fun (shrinking people and stepping on them isn't getting old any time soon) and the dizzying array of secrets and easter eggs add depth to what is basically a silly game about shooting the bad men.
Well the bad brain... squid things and gun alien guys.
DN3D is also surprisingly still cool. Effortlessly and timelessly cool. In a gaming era where games like Farcry 3 can't decide weather to make you stare into the darkness that dwells inside all men or play Skrillex to you while you burn weed like it's some investment banker dad trying to fit in with his son's bros Duke Nukem Megaton Edition is a breath of (old) fresh air. It's not trying to be anything apart from a big stupid boomfest with a 90's attitude and it does it so well you can't be mad at it. DN3D was a magical lucky confluence of fun, a milestone for gaming. It was a collection of well designed levels, inventive enemies and chaotic ultra-violence that paved the way for FPS games as we know them today. It's a piece of gaming history you can play today for a small fee and it's well worth the price.

Also when I boot up that game and hear that menu music I'm back in that attic with John, we are just boys again and I'm about to blast a psychic levitating alien squid brain thing out of the sky with a shotgun. You know what? You can't put a price on that feeling.

Stay Crunchy Internet

Monday, 28 January 2013

Dark Angels: Building the Army

So last week I wrote a post about the new Dark Angels Codex and why I very excited about it. This week I wanted to write a short piece about the army I've decided to field and why. For those of you who aren't into the GW hobby I'll be shifting focus next week so have no fear. ALSO THIS IS MY SHOW AND I'LL DO WHAT I WANT.
I'M MAD AS HELL AND I'M... going to talk about models I guess
So as I mentioned last week I have a massive amount of Dark Angels gathering dust in a box at the moment; most of which are Terminators because I like Terminators. Actually I love Terminators. Power Armour Space Marines are all well and good but Terminators have always captured my imagination more. It should come as no surprise then that I am currently building a Deathwing Army.
Real men fire Assault Cannons while they are on fire
As you probably know if you're still reading this Terminators are a Troops choice in a Deathwing army; all you have to do is include Belial (Grandmaster of the Deathwing) in your army. I have chosen to do this for more than just personal reasons though: 6th ed 40k saw a nerf to power weapons which now have AP values just like ranged weapons. The upshot of this is that most weapons that would crack a terminator open like an egg are now AP 3. Combine this with the tasty variety of close combat weapons you can equip your Deathwing squads with and their ability to Deep Strike and you get a fighting force that is actually worth its astronomical points cost. Speaking of which...

The Army List: What's Hitting the Field?



Watcher Gillius 

Mastery Lvl 2 Librarian with Terminator Armour.

Deathwing Command Squad

5 man command squad accompanies Belial
Deathwing Standard (+1 attack to all Deathwing Terminators within 12'')
Deathwing Champion (close combat beast with +1 strength power weapon)


Storm of Vengence

Standard 5 man Deathwing squad with assault cannon and chainfist

The Lion's Claws

Lightning claw 5 man Deathwing squad with cyclone Missle Launcher


The Dark Executioners

5 Deathwing Knights with Perfidious Relic of the Unforgiven (Personal Guard for Gillius)

Fast Attack

Sin's Shadows

3 Ravenwing Bikes with plasma gun, Melta gun and Veteran Sargent with power weapon.

Scatter-Logical Planning

I've decided to go for a close combat/ medium to short range fire-power army that combines Ravenwing Bikes and Deathwing Terminators along with a few additions for fun. All but one of the units in the army Deep Strike; as a veteran of many Tau defeats I understand this is risky business but new special rules mean that - with careful planning - none of my terminators should scatter off the table/ into impassible terrain and mishap. All Ravenwing bike units have teleport homers also Belial and the squad he joins do not scatter; this allows me to form two pincers of a two pronged attack on tough enemy units or a hammer and anvil to crack formations apart on. Any objectives that need defending can also be covered by the bikes as they can disengage from combat with Hit and Run then Turbo Boost 36'' across the table to provide a safe landing zone.

We Lucky Few

As you can Imagine, a Terminator army is very expensive points wise. My planned 1500 point army has only 25 models in it. This makes deployment and overlapping fields of fire very important. Luckily a change to the Deathwing Assault special rule means that you can bring any number of  Deathwing units in from reserve on the first and second turns of the game, not just half of them on turn one. this allows my bikes to get into position to prevent the vanguard from scattering and Belial and his Command squad to drop in somewhere very inconvenient amongst the squishiest part of the enemy army forcing them to spread out so I can divide and conquer.

So that's what I'm planning to field this year. I'll be posting pictures of the units as I finish them (bikes are almost done) feel free to tell me how wrong my army list is in the comments. Or don't, that works to. If you fancy a game I tend to be in/ near Warhammer World/ the Leamington Games Workshop most weekends so drop me a message!

Stay Crunchy Internet

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Dark Angels: New Year, New Army

Happy New Year Internet! Oh it's the 16th? Did I miss it? Well shit. I've had a busy winter holiday period/ Christmas time so I guess I have an excuse. No? I'm lazy and just wanted to play DayZ and Warhammer 40K? Ok you got me. But I'm trying to get back into a regular blogging rhythm. So with that in mind prepare yourselves for THE FIRST POST OF THE NEW YEAR (read that in a booming sonorous voice for extra epic points).

I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of Games Workshop and it's various rather expensive uses of polymers but since about two years ago I haven't really tried to build a new army, especially not one made specifically for the new edition of the Warhammer 40K rules. That all changed last weekend when GW released this rather lovely book:
Ok Steve move your bolt pistol up a bit... a bit more... man it's hard to frame this shot with all those flags in the background
You see I've always loved the Dark Angels, since I was but a wee nipper they have been my favourite Space Marines chapter. So when I heard a new codex was being released for them (without Matt Ward's Involvement) I got quite excited. I may have squeaked a bit. In a manly way of course. On Saturday I finally got my hands on it and boy does the finished product live up to my expectations. At £30 the price is a bit steep but the fact that it's a hard back and in full colour makes up for this. Also the new codex lay out is really easy to use, everything is page referenced and there's even a fold out 3 page reference section at the back opposite all the stat lines for universal special rules and so on. So no stopping a game for ages while you flick back and forward through your codex.

Content wise the background (AKA 'Fluff') of the Dark Angels remains largely unchanged besides some minor changes to bring it in line with the Horus Heresy book series. This is a bit of a shame because I was hoping to learn a bit more about the secretive and shadowy first of the Space Marine Legions but if you've read the books there is nothing new for you here. There is one big new secret however, but I'm not telling for I have taken a sacred vow of silence. One nice addition is there are some basic army building tips buried in the fluff section of the book which grounds the tabletop game in the narrative quite well.

Now on to the biggest deal breaker of new codices for many hobbyists: the rules. As I said this is not a Matt Ward codex. It is not a clusterfuck of broken bullshittery. The author is Jeremy Vetock a veteran of Warhammer Fantasy army book writing but as far as I'm aware this is his first time writing a 40K codex solo. It would appear the boy done good. The new rules for existing Dark Angels units like the Deathwing and Ravenwing companies are full of little tweaks and intuitive special rules that make sense from both a gaming and fluff point of view. The Ravenwing for example now have the Hit and Run rule as standard on all bike mounted marines. This allows you to make daring lightning raids against enemy units then withdraw out of their clutches before making another pass at them or breaking away to another target. Deathwing Terminators also have the new Vengful Strike special rule which means that their shooting attacks are twin linked for the first turn after they deep strike and they can split their fire; shooting at more than one unit at once. New models also join the army roster including fragile but deadly fighter jets, tanky Deathwing Knights and the Landspeeder Vengeance, a Ravenwing landspeeder which can mount either a cloaking device that ups the cover save of all friendly units around it by 2 or a deadly Plasma Storm Battery which can take out Tanks and Troops alike. Also Asmodai is back!
Sorry I was out at the unnecessarily big sword shop... I'm trying to keep up with these JRPGs that the kids keep talking about
Nothing in the codex seems overly showy or crazy overpowered it's just solid and well written. Also it doesn't feel dumbed down at all; the complexity of equipment choices for veterans etc is all still here, it's just organised better. What we have is simple task specific units that combine to make a whole which is much more than the sum of its parts.

Oh wait, I already did that
On the subject of putting units together I should probably use this codex to field some of the 3000 odd points of Deathwing Terminators I have sat gathering dust in a box somewhere.

But what are my plans for this force, how will they play and do I have some kind of a backstory in my head for them? You'll have to wait until next week to find out.

Stay Crunchy Internet

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Dota2: Launching Dad's Army

Morning internet! It may come as a surprise to none of you that I have always had a keen interest in competitive online gaming, particularly the Warcraft 3 Mod come international gaming sensation Defence of the Ancients (DotA). DotA is a cross between a strategy game and an action RPG; a so called multi-player online battle arena or MOBA because nerds love acronyms almost as much as we hate sunlight. Recently the modders who made the original DotA were taken on by Valve to make a stand alone version of the game running in it's own engine. It is fast becoming a global e-sports phenomenon with huge cash prizes and people playing all around the world to be the very best like no one was before. Also it's crazy anarchic fun:
Below all this crazy team fighting and shouting of commentators there is actually a deep strategic game with almost 100 heroes you can play as, each with their own specific skill sets, strengths and weaknesses. I'm not going to lie to you, the learning curve is so steep it's almost a vertical wall and it can be hard to know where to start but that's where I come in. I've been playing DotA and Dota2 for over 3 years - I'm no expert but I have a vague idea what I'm doing and I have 4 free passes for the Dota2 beta. A full team includes 5 people. I have therefore decided to share this amazing game with you. I am building a Dota2 team made from people who have never played Dota2 before. I call it Dad's Army
A great British tradition
If you want in here are the rules of entry:

  1. You must have never played Dota before. Other MOBAs are fine but the less experienced the better.
  2. You must have a computer that can run Dota2 at better than minimum settings and a decent latency internet connection.
  3. You must speak English at a competent level.
  4. You need to be available at around 8PM GMT every other Monday for team practice and general LULZ.
  5. You must not think the internet is SRS BZNS.
Now you're probably thinking "why would I want to waste my time playing games with you Simon? You're kind of an ass hole" well I have a good answer for this. Late next year Dad's Army will be entering some kind of competitive Dota2 competition and we are going to win. I want to see if in just one year a group of people who don't know each other can become a competitive e-sports team. Are you up to the challenge? Are you up for a laugh? I only have 4 places available so let me know either via Facebook or in the comments if you want in.

Stay Crunchy Internet

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Bronies: an Internet Intervention

At the beginning of this year a friend of mine wished me a happy 'Winter Wrap Up' just as the weather was getting warmer and fresh leaves were starting to show on the trees. Confused by her phrasing I asked her what she meant and she linked me to this:
Towards the end of 2010 Power Puff Girls creator Lauren Faust had re-imagined My Little Pony for a modern audience; and it turned out that the result was a charming and well written show for young girls that taught the values of getting along with people who are different to you and the power of friendship through troubled times. Having long been a fan of PPG I decided to check it out and have since watched a couple of episodes (about 10). The new art style and snappy dialogue make it hard to dislike (even if it is for kids) and at times genuinely laugh out loud funny. I was also surprised to find out that a few of my friends were also watching the show and had been for some time (I was quite late to this particular party) and I discovered that in a few short months it had achieved a sizable cult following. Did I mention that said cult following is weird as shit? Unsettlingly strange? Lovecraftian in its oddness? No? Well let's begin with some images to illustrate my point:

Wait is that a picture of a cartoon pony with a Frank Herbert quote next to it? It totally is! NONE OF THIS MAKES SENSE. I know that this week's post may cause me to step on some toes (particularly those of some people I know) and I apologise if I cause offence but seriously people, can we stop taking cartoon ponies so seriously? It's getting stupid. A few months ago a tiny gangster kid threatened to stab me because I laughed at his pony stickers at a yugioh tournament. Let's all chill the fuck out. Also stop invading my anime conventions, you're creeping me out (which is tough to do in such a crazy environment)
Hahahaha what? There is nothing sexy about MLP. I checked with the Furries and everything.
Speaking of anime conventions I think I've noticed a trend in the popularity of MLP. Lauren Faust created a show that features 6 cartoonish representations of feminine characters having fun together to promote friendship between cliques of young girls (I assume). But there is another cartoon based medium that uses this tactic to appeal to sweaty awkward young men. I am talking of course about Moe Anime.
So Kawai
Moe is a pretty complex concept but in this context essentially means creating female characters in anime who make male viewers want to protect them and enjoy their cuteness as opposed to flat out want to fuck them. Once you've been exposed to a character you enjoy in that way enough however you start to develop deep love like feelings for them (and you also may want to have weird sex with them). I've seen it happen. But don't just take my word for it, here's some clips from the show pictured above (K-ON)
and here is one of the top rated comments:

It would appear that the archetypal social identities of the Mane 6 (the fashionable one, the sporty punky one, the shy kind one etc. etc.) have attracted the freaky Moe crowds who have been programmed by years of anime abuse to respond to this kind of thing. Now however they have all these feelings that aren't even attached to fictional people and it confuses them. Young men are falling in love with ponies and they are very defensive about it. So if this describes you or you are currently composing a death threat or other angry correspondence to me it's time to take a deep breath sit back and say this to yourself aloud: "They're just cartoon ponies. I may have a problem." A few years ago I had a similar word with myself concerning anime girls and it worked wonders for me.

Stay Crunchy Internet

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Slenderman: A Ghost Story for the Information Age

Evening internet. It's Halloween tonight and fell winds are howling around my house as sallow faced goblin like children roam the streets in search of sugary treats. On this ghostly eve I would like to tell you a tale most chilling. A tale of an otherworldly being who stalks the woods and forests of the world; an enigmatic being who patiently watches and waits for its chance to steal you away to somewhere else, never to be seen again. A faceless terror who could be watching you right now. I am talking of course about the Slenderman
Run if you like but it won't help
The Slenderman legend dates back to the 1600s when families who lived around the black forest in Germany would tell tales of "Der Großmann" a tall fey creature who would steal bad children away into the forest. Below are two reproductions of wood cuts from that period depicting what is believed to be Der Großmann (also known as "Der Ritter")
Note the inclusion of an hourglass in both pieces, possibly symbolising Fate or Death
In more recent years there have been many sightings of Slenderman although its appearance has changed somewhat. From a distance Slenderman appears to be a tall thin man in a business suit. On closer inspection however eye witnesses have reported that Slenderman has no face and limbs that are much longer than a humans. It also may just look like it's wearing a suit due to markings on its body. In many cases Slenderman is also seen with many branch like tendrils sprouting from its back which can easily support its (and your) weight, appears to have the ability to teleport short distances and occasionally psycically dominates people do do it's bidding as "Proxies".
Even in 2009 you are not safe
Slenderman has become the subject of a number of Youtube channels and even a popular Indy Game
but there is one fact about him more shocking than any of what I have said so far. Slenderman is an utter fabrication. In fact I have socks older than Slenderman. It was created back in 2009 in this thread on the Something Awful forums. All of the images I have used so far are from that same thread. I had the privilege of watching events as they unfolded back then; as one picture, one creepy idea spawned an entire mythos which (via the work of some very creative individuals) retroactively wrote itself into history.

Slenderman has always fascinated me because it's a concept so creepy and engaging that it would appear people want to believe in it. Mix this up with the internet and you get a whole bunch of people suspending disbelief in a similar way that one does when viewing a card trick; deep down you know it's fake but part of you wants it to be real. In the cold light of day you know its all made up but put someone in the woods at 1AM and they believe in Slenderman. Hell I think I've seen him near my old family home at 6PM.
Ol' Slendy taps into something primal in all of us: he's just human looking enough to be easy to miss, just twisted enough to be frightening and just original enough for you to remember him. He's the subject of the greatest ghost story ever told. Also he's right behind you. Made you look.

Happy Halloween Internet