Thursday, April 14, 2016

Through the Rift

 Three months can pass in the blink of an eye, and along with it a lot of things can happen. I read back through my last blog post and see that I was quite full of hope and ambition. Actually, I'm quite jealous of that post, what with the feelings and all. A lot has come to pass within the past few months, and now I find myself on the fast track to getting back to normal. Well, at least I'm praying it's towards normal anyway.

Through this post I'll try to sum up what's been going on, what's currently happening, and what I've got planned for the future. To start I'll give a little back story. Almost a year ago my wife and I made an important decision that would change our lives forever. We decided we would have another child enter our family. Long story short, I planned to adopt my niece and raise her as my own. We made the decision together and started planning on how things would change. We set up a timeline and decided to move back to Indiana with this being a big reason why, among other things. Fast forward to February and we're states away. We decided to travel to my hometown and stay a while to set up the acclimation. Things were going great for a while and we were happy to be a family of four.

A few weeks down the road and we hit a huge speed bump. It turns out that my niece decided that she didn't, in fact, want to become a part of our family. She wanted to stay where she was and just like that, the adoption was off. We found ourselves in a place we very much didn't want to be in. Things were quite difficult for some time until we patched up our bruises and decided to carry on. With focus on our immediate family we put a lot of effort into the move back to Bloomington and my wife's work at the new tattoo shop.

Fast forward to the now. What you see above is my wife and her fellow artists working in the new tattoo shop, Crimson Breed Tattoo Studio. I've been spending a lot of time in the shop and it's become a labor of love, all without me getting the permission to let it. Once my wife started working again I decided to take it upon myself to sit in the "shop lackie" position of handling appointments and managing things. I figured that, since I would be in the shop while she's working, I might as well make myself useful and make the artist's job easier by handling paperwork, organizing, and helping clean up the shop. You know what? I actually love doing it. Dustin (seated to the left in the photo), the shop's owner, is actually behind me and supports the work I've been doing. Together we're all getting the shop to the standard that we know it should attain, and I look forward to going there each day. I've even been working more on my art, and there's talks of me continuing the apprenticeship I started.

It's good that I can share something with my wife, especially when it's a dream of hers. This is big item number two that brought us back to Indiana from Texas. I'm finding myself falling more in love with tattooing and the shop each time I walk in there. Currently we're working to help spread the word about the place and get it nice and organized. There's plenty of work to do!

Finally, let's focus on our plans for the future. When it comes down to it, my wife and I really desire getting things back to normal. Normal, for us, basically means that we're back on our own, budgeting, focusing on Initiative : Tabletop, and playing games. The good news is that we've been looking at and have decided on a house, which we're currently in the process of getting. Things are looking really good on that front. The second thing is a stable work environment, which I've also got in the works. I'm going to need a day job, and I'm waiting to hear back on a promising position. If everything falls into place we'll hopefully be moved within no more than 3-4 weeks. I can't wait to get back to reviewing and playing games.

Honestly I just want to play some games. We're already planning the layout of the new house, and the first thing I'm focused on is the office/game room. There's a lot for us to get reviewing, and with us returning to our friends and family in Bloomington we'll be able to get the player numbers we need to allow us to review those games. More than that, however, is the fact that we'll be able to play games again with more than just each other (which, by the way, I don't mind, dear). We've been able to still write a post here and there for I:T, and I'm still quite hopeful and happy for the site. In fact, we're still planning for Gen Con this year. It's going to be one hell of a ramp to get us financially set for the convention, but damn it, we're going.

To be totally honest, I'm just happy I'm excited about gaming again. For the first time in a long time I backed a game on Kickstarter that I'm super pumped about. It's called Rail Raiders Infinite from Soda Pop Miniatures. I finally got a copy of Super Dungeon Explore (Thanks Bryan!) and boy, do I enjoy that game! Soda Pop is doing a great job handling their Kickstarters, and their stretch goals are fantastic on this campaign. I think I feel an addiction coming...

Aside from all this, we're continuing to set plans in motion to get our finances under control so we can move and plan for Gen Con. It's all coming along, even if it's not in the way we imagined. You have to take the bad with the good and play the hand you're dealt. There's no mulliganing on this one.

I'm quite hopeful of the coming weeks. I can't wait to get back to doing what I love and I can't wait to continue working in my newfound loves.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

And So It Begins - Prepping for Gen Con and the New Year


Each year I end up writing a post talking about arguably the most exciting time of the year for me - the summer when Gen Con takes place. Gen Con has become more than a tradition to me, and it's a part of my life that I severely look forward to. Just thinking about seeing all of the people - friends and family alike - as well as check out all the excitement on the floor just fills me with tons of happy. Since it's the beginning of the year, the countdown to the convention has already started. So, with it being a new year and all I decided that I would really take a moment to sit down and analyze the things I wanted to accomplish in 2016. I really feel that I've let myself down - as well as the things I manage - in the past year and that needs to change drastically.

Towards the end of 2015 I feel like I started heading in the right direction. I had a lot of things going for me: I put more attention into I:T, I was playing games again, I started my own line of beard oil that was showing signs of success, and I started looking to the future. Even with all that, I regretted that it took me almost a full year to get it going. Now, with last year behind me, I am pledging to change things going forward. This year I’m looking forward to upgrading my life like it’s never been before. I am looking forward to motivating myself to work harder on my website, gaming, reviews, writing, finances, and much more. There’s something better out there, and this year I’m going to find it.

That’s why I’m already planning for Gen Con. I mean, we’ve already decided that Texas just isn’t the place for us, so we’ll be moving back to Indiana at some point this year. Originally we planned for February, but some things have come up to push that date back. So for now we’re looking toward getting things in order to move as soon as we can, and in the interim we’re planning for positive things. This is where Gen Con comes up. Of course we look forward to the convention at the start of the year, but this year we’re actively going to plan things out straight up to the first day of the con. In the past couple of years we’ve focused on getting a hotel room attached to the convention center. Of course it hasn’t happened yet, but we put so much focus on it that other things slip through the cracks. Last year we devoted more time to checking things out on the exhibit hall floor instead of interview after interview and it worked out for us. I even pledged some time to volunteer at the Shadows of Esteren and Harebrained Schemes booths. We had a blast, even with some mitigating circumstances, and this year we’re going to ensure it blows all the other years out of the water. I think that, with everything we have going on, putting focus on just enjoying the con as a priority will do us well. Of course we’ll spend time talking with some publishers, but this year we’ll be getting news up as we get it instead of scrambling like in the past.

Honestly, I still want to get a hotel room attached to the convention center, but this year I’m feeling like I need to let that notion go in favor of other things. If we book a room out of block, even 6 miles away from the convention center (which is still somewhat close) we’ll end up saving a lot of money in the long run and we won’t be so stammered with other planning. Once that’s out of the way we can even work on better coverage leading up to the convention. Earlier I wrote a small piece on the fact that pre-registration dates are already posted, and, in fact, they are just under a couple of weeks out. We’ll also be able to focus more on what games are debuting at the con as well as what publishers are bringing to the event. Ultimately I feel like this is a much better take on planning than with previous years. It will also help us budget things better so we can grab that one big game that we’ve been eyeing for a while since we’ll save some money by not worrying about the hotel.

Really, I just want to have a good time this year. I’m looking forward to seeing all of our friends and catching up with people. I’m also unusually excited for the prospect of meeting brand new gamers at the convention. While I’ve struggled a bit with anxiety this past year I’m pumped now more than ever to meet new people and interact with them.

With all that being said, I’m hopeful for 2016. I’m pledging to write more, post more, breathe more, and enjoy more. I’ve already played some great games in the first few days of the year and I’m raising a glass to many more. I might even finally pick up a copy of Star Wars: Imperial Assault! Until then I look forward to reviews, interacting with people, getting some beard oil out the door, and turning things around for the better.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

An Evening with Jace Beleren (Arena of the Planeswalkers First Thoughts)

Hello world, it's been quite a while. If you've been reading this blog for a while then you'll definitely notice some big changes that have taken place. Basically I performed a complete overhaul of this blog and I deleted all of my back-content. In fact, I even went so far as to delete my old Wordpress blog, which is where my previous content was originally stored. I decided that I wanted one blog to host my thoughts, crafty things, and just whatever I saw fit to post and I didn't need to have things all spread out. So, let me officially welcome you to my new and improved blog!

A lot has changed since I last wrote, and I think this will be a great place to showcase what's happening with me, including my gaming, cosplay, writing, and everyday endeavors. With that said, be sure to sit down and strap in for the ride! Now, let's get down to business!

This evening I had the great opportunity to play a new game that I've heard a lot of people talking about - Magic: the Gathering: Arena of the Planeswalkers. It's fitting, when I think about it, because it's almost like Jace Beleren got a hold of my blog and wiped it clean with an erasure spell. If anyone knows what it's like to need to start with a clean slate it's that guy.

I've been playing Magic: the Gathering for about 13 years. I got started in the game when the Mirrodin block had just been introduced and I fell in love instantly. That's why, when I heard about Arena of the Planeswalkers, I got extremely excited. You see, I unfortunately missed out hugely on a game series while I was growing up: Heroscape. That game had some serious awesomeness going on with it and I am so upset I was in the dark during its prime. I've seriously been considering saving up and dumping the cash on any full set I can find to learn and play the game. I mean, it had everything: sweet terrain tiles, awesome hero miniatures, fun rules, and did I mention the sweet terrain tiles? 


Arena of the Planeswalkers is apparently made along the same lines as Heroscape, and some gamers are even porting over heroes and whatnot in between the two games! I got my first play in tonight after the game arrived. I found it available online, ordered it, and tore it open with excitement as soon as I got my hands on it.

Basically how it works is like such: you control one of the iconic Planeswalkers from the MtG universe along with an army of creatures at their disposal. You can go head-to-head in different scenarios or play whacked-out free-for-all matches against other Planeswalkers. The game is played on a sweet board that uses some of the old Heroscape terrain (I KNOW YOU CAN REMAKE THEM HASBRO. GIVE THEM TO ME.) along with some new pieces to make it all unique. Players take turns summoning creatures, moving about the board, attacking, and casting spells in hopes to be the last Planeswalker standing on the battlefield.

The game is a helluva lot of fun, though the rulebook for it is ATROCIOUS. I mean, there was so much page flipping when trying to clarify things that I nearly lost my mind! The fact that my wife (who sat down with me to game) and I are both MtG players helped a lot, though, and we got through our first game with little effort.

I took on Liliana, because, well, she's Liliana and I've got a little bit of a crush on her. No seriously, I geeked out hardcore when I met her at Gen Con:

The talented cspranklerun as Liliana!

Anyways, my wife decided to go with Chandra and we got setup for battle. One of the first things I noticed with Arena of the Planeswalkers was the Planeswalker model detail. While I think the sculpts are cool, the pre-worked paint jobs are horrendous. I can't expect too much since this is quite the mass-produced game, but sheesh. Still, there's nothing wrong that a set of touch-ups can't handle.

The rest of the components for the game are astounding. The terrain boards and battle ruins are stout and stand up well. The cards remind me of the ones that came with Dungeon Command and the various D&D board games like Legend of Drizzt. Everything else was nicely packed in the game's pre-inserted organizer and for an MSRP of $30 was much better than I expected them to be.

Gameplay was quick, and we knocked out a "kill the rival Planeswalker" scenario in about 20 minutes, including time to check the rulebook a few times. Players basically take turns that play out mainly the same way as turns do in MtG:

  • Draw a card
  • Summon dudes
  • Choose an army card to activate
  • Activate dudes from that card
  • Move the turn marker
The cards in Arena of the Planeswalkers use the same artwork from MtG, and though I thought it would bother me it really doesn't. The cards even act sort of the same way they do in MtG, although we're talking in board game terms instead of just a card game. The stats are simple to understand, combat is fluid, and the game works to provide a fun experience.

So far I'm happy with Arena of the Planeswalkers. My wife came out strong in the beginning as Chandra, what with her many spells that let her attack and activate and attack and summon and attack... You catch my drift. Just like a red deck in MtG, though, Chandra ran out of steam and I, playing Liliana, was in it for the long game. Setting up my armies correctly I made sacrifices to empower the models I had on the board and gave Chandra a beatdown she never saw coming. The game's similarities to MtG only make me want to play it more, and I'm excited to see what's coming next in terms of expansions and such.

I'm definitely going to get more plays of this game in, along with some others I've got on the list. Things have been a bit busy lately but I am hoping for some cooldown within this coming week. Games on the docket include: The Undercity, D&D Attack Wing, Mice & Mystics, and much more!

So, that's what I did with my evening. What did you do with yours?