Review: Neon Trash: Forgotten B-Movies of the ’80s

Neon Trash: Forgotten B-Movies of the '80s
Neon Trash: Forgotten B-Movies of the ’80s by M.P. Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to admit that the extent of my experience with B movies in the 80s was pretty much from Up All Night on USA (thanks Rhonda Shear). I think I only saw one Troma flick during that time, the first Toxie. Neon Trash made me feel like I missed out on some great stuff. We love to sit around watching really bad movies and most of the ones in this book would fit right in.

Even so many of the reviews were godamn hilarious and I don’t feel like I need to see them. This is a quick read, great for a lazy Sunday. The bonus bio story at the end was fun, too.

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Review: Bolt Action: World War II Wargames Rules: Second Edition

Bolt Action: World War II Wargames Rules: Second Edition
Bolt Action: World War II Wargames Rules: Second Edition by Warlord Games
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am not sure whynitbtook me three months to finish this except that it was very slow goingbon the assembly of my Soviet infantry. It will be interesting to finally play Bolt Action as it will be my fist “buckets o’ dice” miniatures game. I am building a mid- to late war Soviet army but the fiddly plastic models have been a real challenge.

This core rule book provides some generic army composition rules for the major powers but you will definitely want at least your Armies Of book if not an additional source book to assemble an interesting histoeic force rather than just a generic force.

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Review: The Runner

The Runner
The Runner by W.J. Davies
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is another good story set in the Wool universe. I am impressed at how Hugh Howey has allowed other authors to extend his setting with new stories and characters. I very quickly became invested in Mick and Ace in this story and find myself wanting to continue the series. I have yet to read a story based on Wool that I didn’t like, each one seems to take a slightly different angle and they have all been interesting.

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Review: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Somehow I was unfamiliar with Louie Zamperini and his story until my wife gave me this book as a gift. I am very grateful for that as it has been both educational and emotional. Most of the reading I have done about WWII has been around the western front in Europe but I have been expanding my horizons and this started filling in the gap in the Pacific.

I have always had a place in my heart for POWs but only had a superficial understanding of the suffering endured by them in captivity. I was aware of the brutality that the Japanese disdain created for POWs but didn’t really comprehend on an emotional level exactly what that entailed. This book did a great job of not only relating what happened in the prison camps but also how it could affect a prisoner for a long time after their release. While I was intensely interested in what occurrred in the 1940s reading about the years immediately following Louie’s return to the States is what really drove home the enormity of his burden.

I have read various stories about the folly of upper management due to their disconnectedness from the daily realities of their people but it was very depressing to see that the same thing exists within the military (no doubt continuing to this day). Reading about Louie, Phil and the rest of the crew being assigned to a SAR mission in Green Hornet made me very nervous as well as angry at the despised lieutenant.

While we generally don’t see our currently serving military suffer extended imprisonment this story still affected how I view returning combat veterans with regards to the emotional and spiritual scars they may have suffered while away from home. I wish more people saw the value in learning about the past since it really does impact the present and how we interact with the world around us today.

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Review: The Boys, Volume 3: Good For The Soul

The Boys, Volume 3: Good For The Soul
The Boys, Volume 3: Good For The Soul by Garth Ennis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the times where I read part of a book then put it down because I got distracted by something new and shiny. In this case I read the first third or so and didn’t pick it up again for well over six months. I finally got back to it and was pleasantly surprise at the halfway mark or so to see Wee Hughie visit The Legend and get a history lesson on The Seven and V.A.C./Vought American.

The second half of this book was mostly world building as it tells the reader the story of how supes (i.e. superheroes) came into the world and how much of their obnoxious behavior was hidden behind the smokescreen of their comic books. This collection was published in 2008 and weaves in some recent history in a very intriguing way. The writing was absolutely amazing, it was very emotionally engaging and a bit upsetting because I felt like if we had real supes in our world that some greedy scumbags would have made the same decisions that their counterparts in this book made. The way the back story was so tightly intertwined with real history was outstanding, I was completely drawn in and will definitely read the next volume right away.

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How did I get hooked on Guild Ball?

Guild Ball Banner
In my previous article I explained why I drifted away from Warmachine and Malifaux, my pimary and secondary miniatures games respectively. Now I want to explain why I got hooked on Guild Ball and how I jumped in with both feet without even playing a demo game (a first for me). I had seen talk of Guild Ball on Facebook and sites like Beasts of War but not until long after the Kickstarter project had ended. I liked the idea of a sports game like Blood Bowl and liked the low model count so I read the GB forums and found a lot of things I liked.

  • Skirmish level game. With only six models on the pitch at a time (two more on a tournament roster to allow substitutions between games) and all of them being characters it was the smaller scale I had wanted. Malifauxe started off the same way but there ended up being multi-model “units” and some forces had larger numbers of cheap (points-wise) models so it broke down a bit on that front. Not having units in GB means no repetitive painting of the same model (more or less) ten times.
  • Scoring. One thing that drew me to Malifaux was the use of strategies and schemes. Both players used the same strategy which was worth  some victory points (VP) and each player also selected a couple of hidden schemes independently (also worth VP). This provided for much more variability of play compared to Warmachine which was basically kill the opposing warcaster. Yes WM had scenarios for tournament play but they were only there to encourage players to engage and prevent them from turtling. I don’t know that I ever saw anyone win by scenario points. Guild Ball allows teams to score VP by scoring goals or beating face and any combination of the two.
  • Simple rules. The basic rules are really quite simple: moving, kicking (passing or shooting on goal), attacking and character plays are about it. Influence is used to perform those actions and momentum is generated and spent by various actions.
  • Complex tactics. While the basic rules are easy enough to pick up there is enough complexity in how your players interact to provide plenty of food for thought on the various ways to score VP and prevent your opponent from doing so.

Brewers and Fishermen

  • Lots of factions. With eight factions (guilds) available by the time I jumped in there was plenty of variety. Each guild has a different play style and visual theme. Even better the designers are aware that beyond a certain point (15 models in their opinion) a guild can’t continue to grow without bleeding into what other guilds do. Their plan is to meep adding new guilds instead of just adding models to the initial eight guilds indefinitely.

Butchers Playbook

  • Playbooks. Instead of just looking at the results of an attack roll to determine how many points of damage were inflicted each model has a playbook. Selecting which result you want is a very tactical choice and a lot more interesting than just dealing straight damage all the time.
  • Alternating activations. I learned to like alternating activations in Malifaux, it was a nice break from activating my entire Warmachine army and then watching the other player do the same for 20 minutes. I came to love it in GB since it not only keeps both players engaged but also makes the tactics more interesting as each player must constantly adjust on the fly.

I can’t be the only one who sees things this way as Guild Ball is spreading like wildfire in my area. There are quite a lot of former and current Warmachine/Hordes players among the converts as well.

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Adios Warmachine and Malifaux, hello Guild Ball!

It has been close to two years now since I have felt really engaged by Warmachine or Malifaux, it got to the point where I didn’t even bring models for either one to the Kingdom Con 2015 convention. Warmachine was my first miniature wargame and I still owe Paul a big debt for running my first demo game and getting me into the hobby during the summer of 2008. I started with the Protectorate of Menoth starter box (warcaster Kreoss, two light warjacks and a heavy warjack). I expanded my army over time with models that I liked for either fluff or abilities despite what the Privateer Press forums might say about them. While I had quite a few solos the units were quite a challenge, I started off with minimum units (six models) plus the unit attachment (two more models). I think that Holy Zealots and Idrian Skirmishers were my first two units, I quickly expanded to full ten man units though since the benefits were well worth the point cost differential.

From the start I liked the idea of the cavalry unit since they were fast and Exemplars but the price point put me off at something like $50 for three models IIRC. I never did get the Vengers, the closest I got was buying the Exemplar Gravus cavalry solo on sale. as my army expanded and I started playing bigger games (50 points instead of 35 pooints in Mk II terms) I kept adding units, first a full unit of Exemplar Errants then a full unit of Temple Flameguard. With the old packaging where you could buy a pair of models in a blister on the cheap I ended up going to 12 models in each of those units so I could run one full sized squad of each or split them into two minimum squads. I of course had the UA for both.
All of that added up to a shedload of painting. I never really grasped the concept of a tabletop standard for my painting, I think the extremely ornate armor of the Protectorate had something to do with that. I ended up with an army that was mostly blocked out (except the TFG which were more primer than paint) with some detail work but I never did any highlighting or shading to speak of and only a few solos even got washes. One thing that I really appreciated about the Protectorate models is that for fluff reasons they all wore metal masks so I didn’t have to paint any faces or eyes!

By early 2010 I was ready to expand my horizons into another miniatures game and discovered Malifaux at Kingdom Con in April. I remember driving back from the con on Saturday night with Paul and stopping at Game Empire to see what they had in the store (which wasn’t much since they had a booth at the show). I made my first purchase in June of the Arcanist (Ramos) and Resurrectionist (McMourning) box sets and the first edition book.

There were two things I liked about Malifaux from the get-go: it was skirmish based with a small model count and minimal units (which were usually only three models) and the strategies & schemes. The former was appealing since it kept the buy-in cost a bit lower and the latter because it afforded more complex game play than just march forward and bash in the face of your opponent when compared to Warmachine. I know that Warmachine had tournament scenarios but they weren’t used much if at all in casual play and even so they were really just a means to getting players to engage rather than turtle up. It wasn’t too often that I saw someone win on scenario points.

Being only my second minis game the alternating activations of Malifaux was probably the biggest change for me but one that I didn’t really appreciate much at the time. Now that I have picked up Guild Ball which also uses alternating activations (instead of “I move & attack with all my models, then you do the same”) I have found that it really adds a lot to the game. Not only does it keep both players constantly engaged (instead of partially tuning out during an opponent’s 20 minute turn in Warmachine) but it also forces the player to adapt on the fly since they don’t get to set and and execute a big strike all in one turn. In face there is no such thing as an alpha strike with alternating actvations (although there are factions in both Malifaux and Guild Ball that will allow you to activate more than on model in succession due to special abilities).

I enjoyed Malifaux when I was able to play it but there just wasn’t a big scene for it in my area. These were the first models where I tried out resin bases and they worked out rather well. I used Micro Arts studio for both factions, ruined factory for Arcanists and cobblestone for Ressers. Unfortunately I never did get fully motivated to get all my models painted and kept buying more before I finished painting what I already owned. I even crafted elevated bases out of wine corks for my Night Terrors but never got past priming and base coating them in brown.

Ultimately what killed Malifaux for me was M2e (i.e. second edition). I can’t say that there was anything inherently wrong with it, in fact it was nice that more emphasis was put on gaining victory points on the schemes each player selected and a bit less on points from the randomly selected strategy used by both players. No, it was the changes to the models and the art style that really turned me off. Instead of having Masters who had a huge number of rules and abilities on their cards (some of which I would need a magnifying glass to read today) they kept a few rules/abilities and then let the player choose additional ones by spending soulstones (points) on upgrades; those points came from the pool used to hire other models for the army. The art direction took a hard turn to what I thought was the silly. That might have worked for another game but it just didn’t work for Malifaux in my opinion.

At some point I turned to an alternate Warmachine faction to get some variety (since I just wasn’t getting in any games of Malifaux). Believe it or not I picked up some filthy Morrowans aka Cygnar aka the nemesis of the Protectorate. I think it was the electrical attacks that really drew me to the faction and after the battle box my first unit was the Stormblades. I painted them (somewhat, the ‘blades are still in an all olive drab base coat) and got in quite a few games with them. I even picked up the much maligned Ogrun Assault Corps mercenaries (with the required attachment to make them in-faction) since Cygnar didn’t have any medium based units.

I saw the writing on the wall for Warmachine as far as I was concerned when they released the first battle engines in 2011. These were huge models on 120mm bases which was more than twice the diameter of the largest bases we had before (50mm). Their points cost in-game coud easily be over half of the allotment for a smaller game and the monetary cost seemed excessive to me at $85 list price for just one model. Later the colossals were release which took this idea even further. They had the same 120m bases but were much more powerful, harder to take out and hit the wallet even harder at $130 and more per model. This just wasn’t the game I fell in love with any more.

All of that said I am still loathe to sell or trade off my armies (well maybe Cygnar). Part of me wants to at least get what I have painted up, especially since I bought some neat resin flagstone bases for my Stormblades and some shale bases for my Bastions. I am not sure how much of my collection I will get painted or if I will get in even casual games in the future; I am definitely not into the hyper-competetitive tournament scene. At least with Malifaux I know at least a couple of local gamers who share my dislike of M2e and might be up for some version 1.5 games in the future.

In my next article I will explain why Guild Ball was such a good choice for me.

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Weekly Beer Update #4

This is too funny: I had intended to do a weekly blog post about beer at some point but this one got stuck as a draft. I think that was four years ago! I have more trouble writing on a regular basis than I expected but here it is. I don’t think that I will be continuing with this idea unless something unexpected happens.


2/19 Indra Kunindra from Ballast Point Brewing Company (bomber). This was a collaboration with a homebrew contest winner and was brewed with curry spice, coconut, kaffir lime leaf, cayenne & cumin. My wife noted the coconut aroma from the glass but my poor sense of smell didn’t pick that up. This one was a bit too spicy (not hot but just too much spice for me).

2/21 The Dogfather imperial stout (bomber) from Laughing Dog Brewing (Idaho)

2/22 Moose Drool brown ale (six pack) from Big Sky

2/24 Bison Organic Chocolate Stout (bomber) from

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Book review: By by Rich Bottles Jr.

ByBy by Rich Bottles Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you are familiar with Rich Bottles’ work then you probably won’t be shocked by anything in this book. However two points if you are not: (1) Shame on you, he is a really good writer and if you like bizarro then you should have read at least one of his works by now. (2) There is a lot of really perverse sex in this book including multiple scenes in Hitler’s Berlin bunker so you have been warned. If you are easily or even not so easily offended this is not the book for you. The trigger alert on the back cover was hilarious and should give you an idea of what the book has in store for you.

I am really glad that Rich put together this compilation as it would have been a shame for any of these stories to not have been (widely) published. It kicks off with “Bitter Night”, a nice Nazisploitation piece that feels like a speculation on how effed up Hitler and his cronies might actually have been. I thought the opening quote before the story was quite apropos.

The author states in the foreward that “There’s No Place Like the Sanitarium” wouldn’t have fit anywhere else but the aborted bizarro Wizard of Oz collection that never saw print but I disagree. I really enjoyed the story and feel that it could be included in any compilation. It really gave me a new perception of Judy Garland even if it is fictional.

“Exciter” was tailor made for me since I grew up with 80s metal and really appreciated all the inside jokes and references. 

I had already read “Hamster and Gretel” when it was published in another book and really enjoyed it. It is a creepy one but just as enjoyable here as in the Hamsters! collection where I initially encountered it.

“Unarmed and Dangerous” was a wild ride, I thought it had a really neat storyline and the two main characters were quite interesting. This one really shows the author’s creativity as the main character Thomasina is unlike any other character I’ve run into when reading bizarro material. I was enjoying the story then it took a twist that I totally did not see coming which was great.

“A Town Called Rupture” closes out the book with a bang. The storyline and setting were great, Michael and Patrick were awesome main characters. Once I again I was so engrossed with the story that I didn’t see a plot twist coming at all. I haven’t read much bizarro (if any) set in the old west so the setting was a very nice change of pace. This is another one where the opening quote (this time from Annie Oakley) was quite fitting.

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Kindle mangles PDF

For some reason my Kindle is displaying the PDF of Bigboobenstein by Jeff O’Brien with some funky fonts. I looks fine on my iPad though.

And yes, I bought a physical copy directly from the author but couldn’t wait for it to arrive to start reading it. After reading the intro by Dustin Reade I need to go watch the movie I Spit on Your Grave now.


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Pax Titanus giveaway

I really enjoyed reading my ebook of Pax Titanus as part of a group read earlier this year. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I am going to buy a hard copy so that I can help Tom get a book deal. Yes, it was that good, five stars from me. If you are squeamish stay away as this is true bizarro and not for the faint of heart.

Check out Tom’s post for all the details.

Pax Titanic May Spectacular

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Steam Crow

I was fortunate enough to talk to Daniel and Dawna of Steam Crow at Wondercon yesterday. They put out some really fun art and I joined thier new Steam Crow Scouts program. Check it out, there has got to be at least one thing you like there.

Steam Crow Scouts

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Geocaching Find #500

After about 16 months I finally found my 500th geocache which I specifically picked for this milestone. Fear Factor: Up the Rat Hole by the DAK Girls. It is difficulty 2 and terrain 5 and was physically challenging.

We (myself and NavalAv8or) had to get into the drainage tunnel which is only about four feet high and walk at least 35 yards in. You can see the next challenge on the cache page.

This picture was taken as I exited the tunnel while trying to keep my feet dry. I definitely made a good choice for a big milestone. Here is my full log entry.

Returning from geocache find #500

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Time to re-read Utopia

I decided that since one of my reading groups at Good Reads is discussing the definition of the dystopian genre that I should to back and re-read a book from one of my college lit classes: Utopia by St. Thomas Moore. Pack rat that I am I still have my used copy bought at the UCSD bookstore in about 1988 or so.

I think this read may be more interesting because there are at least two distinct highlighting styles from the previous owners of this book (one in black ballpoint, one in orange highlighter) so I will be melding those into my interpretations.

I bought this used copy at the UCSD bookstore in about 1988 and still own it in 2014.

I bought this used copy at the UCSD bookstore in about 1988 and still own it in 2014.

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Learn Point & Shoot Photography

I am really looking forward to some great tips on how to shoot better pictures with something besides a DSLR. The new Pocket Lenses web site. They have tutorials and I am really looking forward to the podcasts since I know Sonny puts out great audio content as well.

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