Sunday, 2 October 2016

These Aren't the Neophytes I'm Looking For (or, Power Armour Is A Fad)

Yesterday I went into my local GW to pick up some of the new Genestealer Cult kits. By the time I got there, a whole two hours after opening, there was one box of Acolyte Hyrbrids/Metamorphs left on the shelf which I bought and spent the next hour chatting with the staffers and watching the disappointment on the faces of later customers.

In truth, I didn't go in for the Acolyte kit. My original plan was to start with the Neophyte Hybrids and work my way up the generations from the most human to the least so I could experiment with the alien elements as I went along. Instead it looks like I'll be taking the opposite path and built these Acolytes as Metamorphs and work my way down the generations towards the Neophytes.

I don't mind, I'm quite looking forward to these models, they look lovely and I have a fair idea what I want to do with the flesh and chitin elements.

No, rather what interests me is that they sold so well. I'm not surprised, this is one of those armies like Mechanicus and Deathwatch that hobbyists have been wanting for years. At this point I think the wishlist is complete barring Sisters of Battle (one can always dream...). However, they were sold out in the store, they were all but sold out on the website (only the Neophytes were available to order when I checked that morning) which goes to prove that things not wearing layer upon layer of power armour can sell.

Now, I like Space Marines fine. I've had a couple of Space Marine armies and I absolutely want a Deathwatch force but I have to admit I don't like how they dominate the game and the background. They are, in short, a bit dull. They have a very simple and uniform design aesthetic; they don't vary much in personality or personal history; and there are just so many of those armies around you end up playing a lot of Space Marine against Space Marine games in a club environment.

I don't doubt that fewer kits were pressed for this release than the Deathwatch release a couple of weeks backs but I do hope that the very fact they sold so well online (since I can't really judge from one shop's selling out how they did at retail) is a sign that GW can make some decent money on things that aren't just more Space Marines.

Who knows, is things like Mechanicus and Genestealer Cults can be a success maybe we'll finally get those Steel Legion/Valhallan Guardsmen in great coats that have been rumoured since the year dot.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Wood Elves & The Learning Curve

Yesterday I had my second game using Wood Elves and it went a lot smoother than the first. My first game was against Beastmen and I got pretty much crushed. This time I rolled out against an experimental all-cavalry Warriors Of Chaos army that Matt really wanted to try. The result? Well, I lost again but this time we actually had to total up the victory points to work it out.

Still, the fact I went from being crushed by a slightly outdated lower-tier army to only narrowly losing to a higher-tier one feels great. Especially as I used the same army list in both games so what improved was how I used my units and not what units I chose.

I'm finally getting used to the idea that moving and shooting isn't a terrible idea. My Deepwood Scouts have trueflight arrows so they shoot without penalty and the Waywatchers have such a high ballistic skill that it hardly matters. Both are skirmishing units who can float round outside of the enemy's charge arc shooting off volleys of arrows. Let me tell you, Matt loved them, in the sense that he dedicated the whole of his final magic phase to exacting revenge on the Deepwoods. Positioning is the key: keeping them in range and out of charge arc.

Shooting really is the key to the army. In the first turn Matt used his Vanguard moves to bring up two units of Marauder Horse and one of Hellstriders to unnerve me, distract me and make me call hasty charges.

Between the Glade Guard, Glade Riders, Deepwood Scouts, Waywatchers and the Treeman's strangleroots, all three units were vapourised by the end of my first turn. Which, okay left me with two units of Chaos Knights that I never really managed to shift for the rest of the game but it meant far fewer distractions bouncing around the table. If I'd had fewer shooty units I might have ended up target blind.

Combat is my weakness. My Dryads spent most of the games out of position and fighting Chaos Hounds whilst my Eternal Guard got eaten by Skullcrushers, an enemy well above their weight. Like shooting, its just a case of picking my targets better and I'm confident I'll get there.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Dwarven Mathematics

Dwarf core infantry box sets: bloody old, stupid numbers. Sixteen Dwarfs to a box from the good old days when ranks were four wide and command groups looked all lopsided. Nowadays in our modern space year of 2016 ranks are five wide, command ranks have a random pleb on either side of them and sixteen is a funny number of Dwarfs to have.

So here is the plan. I have three boxes of Dwarfs: two boxes of Warriors and one of Thunderers/Quarrellers. That's forty-eight Dwarfs.

First off, straight out of the box are twenty Dwarf Warriors with hand weapons and shields, the mainstay of any throng, which leaves me with a dozen spare bodies plus all the weapons and command options to go with them. Then I make the sixteen missile troops as Thunderers and keep all the crossbows off to one side.

Also kept off to one side are all the cloaked bodies, four from each box. Hopefully the two torso pieces are the same in each kit (they look close enough but there might be some green stuff involved to marry the two kits together). I take the cloaked bodies, the crossbows from the Thunderers/Quarrellers box and the great weapons from the Warriors to make a dozen Rangers.

In all honesty, the Thunderers are a bit of an after thought: useful but not really a unit I'm terribly invested in. What mattered here was getting a solid block of twenty Warriors and the parts to convert my Rangers.

I really have a lot of building to do...

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Bray Wyatt: This Is What Burial Looks Like

You get a lot of talk amongst wrestling fans, smarks on the internet especially, about people being buried. A lot of the time I find that it tends to be a little over-diagnosed, too often used as an overreaction to someone being beaten on PPV a couple of times.

You see it a lot with John Cena feuds. He beats someone at the end of the feud and people will say he's burying his opponent. Okay, there is the problem that after a John Cena feud there's very few ways to go for the other wrestler but down. He's the biggest face in the company, after all, and if nothing else the US Open Challenge meant that they could go from him to higher things in terms of belts. It didn't always work out and some right stupid booking could take hold (Rusev joining the League Of Nations, for instance, the biggest waste of talent on the roster not to be the Social Outcasts).

Its not what I'd call burial, though. Its not the sort of long, consistent run of bad booking like, for instance, Bray Wyatt's seeming inability to win at pay-per-views these days.

Because he just can't win these days. Take Backlash a few weeks ago: he seemed strong for a moment when he was beating Randy Orton up in a corridor and then standing unopposed in the ring insisting on the ten count so it would go down as a victory to him. He looked dominant, he looked scary, he looked like the figure he presents in his promos.

Then Kane, who simply does not need the win and isn't feuding with Wyatt, comes out so a match can go ahead and beats Wyatt in short order.

Wyatt is popular, he is over, and he keeps losing high-profile feuds. Right now all he has is the fact that he cuts really, really good promos bit with nothing to back them up and that can't last. For months on end he has either lost big matches or fed one of his minions to the opponent...

and he's all out of minions. Harper's injured, Stroman got drafted to the other show and Rowan... I'm not even sure. Wyatt is one of the best heels WWE has at the moment, one of the best talents to come out of NXT and they are utterly wasting him.

And that's burial.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Conversations we need to have (but can't because of bastards)

I really wish we could talk about men. There are a whole bunch of conversations I think we, as a society, need to have about men and masculinity. We need to talk about particular stigmas of diagnosing mental health issues in men (we are massively under-diagnosed for disorders and conditions that make us more aggressive because that's apparently just how we're meant to be whilst women are massively under-diagnosed for conditions that make them more passive because same).

We need to talk about how young men and boys are literally not taught how to talk about our emotions. I mean, we are just not taught the language and that has to have an effect on the suicide rate.

We need to talk about how funny some men get about physical contact. How we will literally shy away from each other and how that's not only rooted in unconscious homophobia but also as a manifestation of how we're not meant to connect with each other.

We need to have a lot of conversations about fatherhood. There's that distance again, that lack of contact and emotional honesty. Its a vicious cycle of fathers not being taught how to talk about or deal with their emotions and then passing that

There are health issues that have to be discussed. Not only the peculiarities of certain mental health issues but also the fact that prostate cancer is very rarely discussed in spite of being the second most common kind after skin cancer. And things might have improved since I was at school but there were a lot of sexual health and hygiene issues that weren't fully broached, though this was true of both genders. 

But having these conversations is difficult because once you try to have a serious conversation about men and our place in an evolving society some bloody retrograde “Men's Rights Activist” will butt into the conversation yelling blue murder if you so much as suggest that maybe masculinity needs to change with society.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Superman's a sub (and its canon)

(Just a warning, this post involves what my grandmother called “people getting up to naughties” or sexual content as the rest of us would say, if you didn't guess that from the title).

Do you have a "nerdy thing" that you love see people discover more than you like the thing itself?

For me, I love when people discover that Joe Shuster, the original Superman artist, had such a small repertoire of character models that he recycled Clark Kent and Lois Lane for his BDSM art. I love the reactions to that one.
Lois is usually the Domme in Schuster's BDSM art, by the way. which as far as I'm concerned makes them canon compliant with the DC Universe.

I mean, every decent version of Lois Lane starts out as an older (slightly like in Smallville or considerably like in Superman The Movie), more experienced, guiding mentor to Clark that he is most attracted to when she is in the process of taking no shit whatsoever. Smallville Clark in particular actually smiles when she tells him off (when he deserves it, which is often).

So, yeah, Superman is a bit subby and this is intended by the original creators.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

A Truthsayer comes to the Grey Mountains

Sometimes in this hobby you just inherit random models from friends. In this case I've inherited Matt's old Truthsayer and Fenbeast from the Dark Shadows campaign.

We've been talking about using mercenaries in our games, incorporating some of the rules from Triumph & Treachery and Storm Of Magic. Having an itinerant Truthsayer wandering into Castle Desfleuves with his squelchy pal seems like a good way to start testing this out. There are perfectly good rules for both in Storm Of Magic's bestiary, after all.

The as-yet-unnamed Truthsayer will bounce between my Bretonnians and Wood Elves, maybe even the Dwarfs who will be very confused about the whole affair. He has his own agenda, his own wrestling-esque enforcer in the form of his Fenbeast so no one really wants to question what that agenda is.

There's not much background on the Truthsayers as individuals but I see them (or at least this one) as an Odinic sort of figure, both a wise man and a trickster because as we established yesterday...
I have a type when it comes to mysterious, morally questionable wanderers.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Saturday Teatime: 31 Questions about Doctor Who

I saw this question and answer meme on Script Scribbles' tumblr, reblogged from and, since I want to write more about Doctor Who because it is my number one fandom ever, I thought this would make a nice introduction to how I view the series.

1. Top 3 Doctors

Sylvester McCoy, Matt Smith, Patrick Troughton... so basically that one interpretation of the Doctor as barely trustworthy trickster really works for me.

2. Top 3 companions

Leela, Ace, Rory. So again I have a type and its action companions.

3. Favourite quote

Can't beat the closing monologue from Survival: “There are worlds out there where the sky is burning; where the sea's asleep and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea's getting cold. Come on, Ace, we've got work to do.”

4. Favourite Dalek story

Remembrance, which was the first appearance of the “modern” view of Daleks that was based more on memories of the awesome, all-powerful, gigantic armies of the things from the TV21 comic rather than the four of five you'd get in any given TV story which, okay, was what you got here but it felt like more. For me, watching it on VHS before we had Dalek and The Parting of the Ways, it was the first time the Daleks felt like the scary monsters they were meant to be.

5. If you could pick any companion to travel with any Doctor, who would it be?

Jo Grant with the Tenth Doctor. I think he could really do with having that constant optimism about the place, someone to keep his brooding in line like a less cynical Donna, basically.

6. How much EU have you seen?

I've been around a while, long enough to have got in on Big Finish at the ground floor so most of their material; I own all the Virgin novels and have read about a third of them; I read the Eighth Doctor novels religiously until about The Domino Effect or thereabouts; not as many Past Doctor novels as I'd like; and, I've been reading the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip since the beginning of the Eighth Doctor era. I've also got horrible nth generation rips of the Audio Visuals and a spotty collection of BBV/Reeltime videos and CDs. There's a massive gap of Bernice Summerfield audios I haven't listened to, having given up on the series after about series four and not picking it up again until the box set era but I'm catching up on that.

7. Favourite companion/Doctor relationship?

Seventh Doctor and Ace, especially once Hex joins them in the audios. I like the way that Ace is presented as more of an equal partner and more of a rounded character than any companion since Romana and the audios (less the novels, I feel) really played to that as they aged Ace and had the Doctor be more forthcoming to her about what they were doing and what the plan was. Once Hex joined the crew it really solidified, I think, because by then Ace had been travelling with the Doctor for years and there was a sort of pecking order where, in effect, Hex was her companion and she was mentoring him as the Doctor had once mentored her.

8. OTP?

Amy/Rory. Obvious answer, I know, but I spent so much of Series Five rooting for them to work things out that it just has to be them.

9. NOTP?

Okay, this is young person language so I'm basically relying on Urban Dictionary to define it for me as my “least favourite pairing”, in which case First Doctor/Vicki. I get that it sort of works on a character level but the age difference and the quasi-incestuous guardian/ingénue dynamic just... no, absolutely no.

10. Any ships?

Not really. I rather like the idea of Bernice Summerfield and River Song but as to myself... I've never really viewed Doctor Who as a very shippable show probably because I encountered it years and years before I knew that shipping and fan fiction and all that were a thing. There's certainly no character relationship that gives me feelings of “aw, they would be so cute together” the way, say, Weiss and Blake do in RWBY (yes, Monochrome shipper, right here).

11. First Doctor you saw

Pertwee. See question 13.

12. Favourite Doctor

McCoy. Not just for the EU stuff but I genuinely feel his era was a breath of fresh air and offered a genuinely new and interesting take on the Doctor. They didn't (and probably couldn't) go as far with it as they might have done but the EU has certainly picked up the slack there.

13. First story you saw on TV

According to a helpful list of early-90s repeats I found on the internet (I love how you can find anything out these days), Planet Of The Daleks. First story I ever saw, actually.

14. How long have you been a fan for?

If I had to put a date on it I'd guess since 1995? Certainly earlier than 1996 given how much I was looking forward to the TV Movie.

15. If you could travel with one Doctor, who would it be?

Eleven. You seem to get more actual holidays and peaceful trips with him.

16. Favourite TARDIS interior

The first Eleventh Doctor one. I love the multi-level construction with all its nooks and crannies and all those random bits and pieces used to make the console. Funnily enough, I hated it when it first turned up in The Eleventh Hour but it really grew on me.

17. How much classic Doctor Who have you seen?

Every one there is to see except the most recently recovered episode of The Underwater Menace, which I keep meaning to get to, plus the Loose Cannon reconstructions of all the missing episodes.

18. Favourite Cyberman story

I think Spare Parts is genuinely the only Cyberman story ever to really deliver on the body horror that The Tenth Planet promised but could never deliver because of logistics. If forced to choose a TV story... The Invasion, but not really for any reason involving the Cybermen themselves who, as a selling point, rank leagues below getting to watch Patrick Troughton and Kevin Stoney having an eight episode battle of wills co-starring Nicholas Courtney.

19. Favourite one off monster

The Sycorax.

20. Least favourite story

Terminus, a swirling vortex of wasted potential and the crowning example of how important the script editors were on the classic series. Under Christopher H. Bidmead's hard SF fairy tale approach Stephen Gallagher produced Warriors' Gate which was complex and layered and gave Lalla Ward possibly the last genuinely good and storyline relevant companion departure of the classic series. Under Saward's very militaristic, dark and gritty vision of the series we get a script with a lot of complex ideas executed in the laziest, most simplistic fashion possible. Bear in mind these stories were made under the same producer less than two years apart and Terminus went into production mere weeks after the same team moved heaven and earth to make Arc Of Infinity look like an epic even though the script was utter crap.

21. Did you cry whilst watching any stories?

No. I am manly... okay, the final speech from Survival brings a tear to my eye every single time and I get the sads watching Ten's goodbye to Rose.

22. Least favourite Doctor (why?)

I don't hate him but there's a lot about Pertwee that doesn't click for me. There are times when he was fantastically lazy as an actor, visibly ungracious on-screen towards his co-stars and I just struggle to see him in the overarching character of the Doctor. I love a lot of his stories and his chemistry with Katy Manning is a gold standard most Doctor/companion teams can only dream of but... stacked against all the others actors to play the role, he ranks as the least good.

23. Least favourite companion (why?)

Dodo. No slight against Jackie Lane who fought against apparently crippling stage fright to give us what we got but there's no substance to the character. Under John Wiles she is literally written as an idiot to make a malicious point about young people and then she's reduced to being the most utterly generic “young girl companion” of the classic series. She has one or two genuinely great scenes in The Gunfighters where we see what we were potentially missing out on and then she gets promptly written out, all promise unfulfilled.

24. Any eras that you would like to know better?

The Second Doctor era, which the recent unearthing of previously missing episodes proves we are missing so much of just listening to soundtracks and photo reconstructions.

25. Favourite EU companion?

Dr. Evelyn Smythe. Unbeatable as a character and, frankly, an all-important element in Big Finish's redemption of the previously salvageable Sixth Doctor.

26. Favourite episode (or top 3 if that's too hard)

Not in any particular order: Heaven Sent, Carnival of Monsters and The Brain of Morbius.

27. Weirdest piece of merchandise you own

I don't own that much merch, to be honest, but I think I still have the TARDIS tin The Trial Of A Time Lord VHS box set came in back in the day.

28. Anything you want to see in the next season

For Capaldi to not regenerate at the end of it.

29. Thoughts on the current Doctor

Capaldi's great in the role and, in all honesty, his “Third Doctor but rude” routine seems more in line with Moffat's personal conception of the Doctor than the character he wrote for Matt Smith. I think that might be the secret of getting two great Doctors out of the Moffat years: he was pretty open about the fact he wanted an older Doctor to start but was blown away by Smith's audition, so he ended up writing the Doctor that emerged from that and then when it came time to cast his second Doctor he had the chance to write his ideal Doctor.

30. In your opinion, will the Doctor ever be ginger?

Eh, maybe. To be frank, I think its sadly more likely than the Doctor being a female or black or desi actor or anything other than a white man and you can't get whiter than a ginger.

31. Thoughts on the sonic glasses?

Love 'em. Glad to have the screwdriver back at the end of Hell Bent but I love seeing the writers come up with new gadgets.

Friday, 16 September 2016

The Army of the Grey Mountains

Since writing yesterday's post I've been batting around ideas for my Bretonnia / Dwarf allied army: who they are, what they're doing, how they're doing it. I'm not yet ready to forge it into a complete narrative but here are a few of the ideas I think have legs (horse legs or short legs but legs whichever way)...

Castle Desfleuves
and the Warden of the Passes

Castle Desfleuves is located in the Gisoreux Gap, one of the two passes through the Grey Mountains to the Empire. Its purpose is pretty obvious: not only to protect against invading armies coming through the pass or down from the mountains but also to handle the diplomacy and trade with the Empire and the Grey Dwarfs.

In my version, Desfleuves is the seat of the Warden of the Passes, supreme military commander of all castles and holdfasts from the Pale Sisters in the north to the southern border of Montfort just south of Axe Bite Pass. Now, that territory happens to cross two duchies so there can be some nice political complications for the warden.

Solution to this would seem to me to be that the warden acts under royal warrant and that their authority supersedes the dukes of Gisoureux and Montfort. Also, they would have access to long term alliances, such as...

The Dwarfs of Karak Ziflin

Karak Ziflin, like Castle Desfleuves, is completely undefined in the canon background. All it has is a location: it sits in the mountains just north of Axe Bite Pass. Its a Grey hold which means it is rather poorer in terms of materials than the holds in the Worlds Edge Mountains and so maybe they don't have as much material to make armour and weapons and supply their armies. Thus, centuries ago they entered into an oath of mutual protection with the wardens at Castle Desfleuves.

This explains why the fast-moving, gun-hating Bretonnians are tooling around with the slow-moving, gun-loving Dwarfs. Karak Ziflin tithes troops and engineers to Desfleuves including Rangers and Gyrocopters to act as outriders. The two armies operate independently in the main but when they need help they know who to call.

There's tension in the different ways they fight. Bretonnians have this hatred of ranged warfare, “the coward's weapon that kills from afar”, but they can't debate the honour of dwarfs which is beyond reproach. Still, a little tension between allies never did a story any harm.

The Brothers Borsson

Main characters for the dwarf contingent are Aelfrid and Lief Borsson. Aelfrid is my Runesmith and Lief is my Master Engineer. They're both makers of things and I imagine, given how mobile the Bretonnians are compared to dwarfs, that the dwarfs' main job in the alliance is building and maintaining defences. I also like the idea of having family ties between the scientific and religious officers of the army, not that the two roles are opposed in dwarf society what with both engineering and runesmithing taking place in the forges.

Still, some tension between the traditionalism of the runic arts and the experimentalism of the engineering guild could make for some nice conversations.

The Family de Martrand

The Warden of the Passes is Lady Sabifa de Martrand. Sabifa is a character from my Empire army. She's Bretonnian on her father's side (her mother was Arabyan, they met during a crusade) and has been living in exile in the Empire for some years. She's a Bright Wizard, hence her exile, its not one of the disciplines that Bretonnians make common use of and might have been seen as witchcraft. However, with her father death she's acceded to the title and has some measure of royal protection.

I've already talked to my friends and they're happy for me to run her as a Damsel of the Lady using the Lore of Fire.

As to the rest of the family, my Bretonnian Lord will be Sabifa's uncle Black Hal de Martrand, so named for his killing a black dragon in single combat. He'll probably have a son or something to be the battle standard bearer.

The Rangers of Karak Ziflin

So, the basic Dwarf infantry kits have a funny number of models in them. They date back to the days of four men to a rank so you get sixteen of them to a box. So here's the plan:

I have two boxes of Warriors and one box of Thunderers. The Thunderers I will just make as Thunderers but keep the spare parts on hand. Twenty of the thirty-two warriors will be made as warriors. As for the remaining twelve I'll mix up warrior great weapons and the crossbows from the Thunderer/Quarrellers kits to make Rangers. I'll also use the cloaked bodies from the three kits (which come to an even twelve) so I can give them a unique visual character.

Graeme and his companions

I have dwarf spare parts. Lots of dwarf spare parts. I have a character known as the Friend Of Dwarves, a natural liaison between the two sides. Not only can I make a nice, characterful model for Graeme himself but maybe also use some other bits to create a whole unit of dwarf-themed Questing Knights.

Enemies Everywhere

What can we have as antagonists? Obviously there are Orcs & Goblins in the mountains; Night Goblins and Skaven under them; the ever-present threat of Chaos; Imperial deserters and Bretonnian outlaws taking refuge in the peaks; and the undead out of Mousillion. Plenty to be getting on with even before we get to the Bretonnian nobles who aren't happy about this Imperial-educated witch being handed a wardenship by the king.

Yes, things are going to go a bit Richard Sharpe, plenty of enemies on the same nominal side as our heroes.

The Colours of War

Bretonnians are as varied as they come, each knight having a different heraldry but I think I can stretch the point to having some recurring motifs. Red and black as the de Martrand family heraldry to be used on banners, on champions who will be nephews and cousins of the family, and on the shields and shirts of peasants seems like a nice time saver.

As to the dwarfs, there are some illustrations in the army book that make me like the idea of deep blues and reds unifying the army with plate armour in silver and scales armour in bronze. I tried an all-bronze colour scheme once and it looked terrible but I think mixing it up a bit will give things a lot more visual interest for me. First order of business will be to test this colour scheme out, probably on something singular. I think the Runesmith has all the requisite materials: plate and scale armour, some sleeves and a cloak, enough to test out every colour I'll be using.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Graeme, Friend of Dwarves

One of the best things about the sixth edition Bretonnia army book is the heraldry guide. Not only does it give the painter a good idea of how to vary up the limited palette of heraldic colours but the names of the knights the heraldry belongs to make great background hooks.

Amongst suck fantastic names as Piers the Intrepid, Matthias the Villainous Warden and Mogen of the Flame is Graeme, Friend of Dwarves. Now, that's just too perfect for my purposes.

In my mind, Graeme gained his name as an ambassador to the Dwarven holds in the Grey Mountains. He's long retired from that position and now he's a Questing Knight because I don't see someone named “Friend of Dwarves” armed with anything other than a great axe.

Him being on the Quest gives me an idea. Now, obviously, he needs a few old friends in the Dwarf throng and I think his oldest and best friend absolutely has to be the champion of my Slayer regiment. That way they're both on quests of honour, one hopeful and one fatalistic, nice way to contrast the characters of the two armies.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Steven Universe first impressions

Yesterday I finally sat down and watched a couple of episodes of Steven Universe and as I watched I could just feel the rabbit hole opening up beneath me. What I watched, for the sake of spoiler warning and in case I make any false assumptions based on my limited experience, were Last One Out of Beach City, Back to the Moon and Bubbled, plus a couple of Youtube clip compilations about Peridot, Stevonnie and Garnet

So, first impressions:

I absolutely adore Pearl. She may be an immortal, holographic gem person from outer space but she's also an anxious homebody who turns into an absolute wreck when faced by a pretty girl. I can't claim I haven't been in that situation a time or seven.

And just... it could not be clearer what is going on. Pearl runs into a hot girl on the way to a rock show, a girl who bears some startling resemblances to her ex, and proceeds to fall over herself trying to ask the woman how she dies her hair.

How anyone with the slightest sense can try to claim “no homo” on this series baffles me (and yet, the comment sections...).

The little platoon of Rubies in Back to the Moon are adorable, aren't they? I guess from the dialogue that they appear before that and hope they'll appear again because I really want to see more of this naïve yet gung ho quintet. That said, Lapis is even more fun than the Rubies are, just casually imprisoning the lot of them in water bubbles so they can be interrogated one at a time.

I like how domestic Greg Universe is in that scene where he darkly muses about Barb holding his mail as some terrible threat.

The animation style is very interesting, Very simple yet very expressive and there's always something to see even in a functional two-hander like Bubbled there's so much to see. I imagine half the fun of this series is seeing what Rebecca Sugar and company come up with next, both visually and story wise.

I really want to see some episodes focusses on Steven and Connie's relationship, I think that'll be the next thing I track down.

Oh, and more Peridot.

Yeah, I can definitely feel the rabbit hole opening up under me.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Backlash 2016 review

[spoilers for this past weekend's pay-per-view results]

Okay, so the name of the game here was to give Smackdown Live's pay-per-views legitimacy: they got the first brand split PPV; they debuted their new Women's and Tag titles on the show; and, the fantastic ending to this show certainly tells us they intend to make these brand split PPV as consequential as the Big Four.

Aside from that, the slightly shorter two and a half hour running time is probably a good idea if there are going to be twenty-something of these things a year. You need to keep an eye on how much of your audience's time you're taking up with these things.

So, on with the matches (winners in bold):

Smackdown Live Women's Championship
Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella vs. Naomi vs. Natalya vs. Nikki Bella
(Six Pack Elimination Match)

First off, one of the few complaints I have about this show (and my only real complaint about this match) is that Naomi submitted too easily to Natalya's sharpshooter. Natalya barely had enough time to lock it in before Naomi was tapping her hand on the ring. Aside from that, this was good. It started off as a mess because these matches always start off as a mess but as it progressed things the story got clearer.

I was, I admit, sceptical about Carmella getting a heel push where she keeps rushing in and beating up Nikki Bella in promo after promo. Seeing it in the package it looked like the bookers were writing a storyline for a much larger woman but when it was just Carmella and Becky in the ring at the end... it worked. Carmella got in a savage offence before Becky, rightly, turned the tables, took her to Suplex City (oh, it did my heart good to see that in a women's match) and took the win.

It had to be here. Since this was announced I think we were all sure it was down to her or Nikki, it just came down to whether the management thought a Horsewoman or a former champion would lend the title more legitimacy.

And they chose the Horsewoman. I think this was right, not only because I think a brand new title works better with a brand new champion but because the inevitable Four Horsewomen Fatal Fourway will be a bigger money match if everyone involved has held gold. Its just time, as well, Becky is a great worker and that way she was brought up for the Women's Revolution (egh......) meant she missed out on the NXT Women's Championship.

Well deserved.

Smackdown Live Tag Team Championship Tournament
The Usos vs. The Hype Bros

I've not got much to say about this one except that it was the right result. I genuinely think the Usos vs. Heath Slater and Rhyno is better booking than the Hype Bros vs Heath and Rhyno. My only real observation on the match? Zack Ryder is less of a wuss than Naomi since it actually took time for that submission move to make him submit.

(Please, please note I do not actually think Naomi is a wuss, she could kill me with her shoes).

Intercontinental Championship
The Miz vs. Dolp Ziggler

Match of the night, no question. Started with aggressive matt wrestling from Ziggler and just got better and better from there. Surprisingly, and hearteningly, the crows were well behind Miz in spite of him being the heel, which I hope is a sign.

As pointed out in that fantastic (Work? Shoot? Who knows?) interview with Daniel Bryan, the Miz's style is very much the perceived WWE standard: steady and safe. And you know what? As Miz pointed out, he has never had a serious injury in all the years he's been in the business and he's never caused one either, as far as I can tell. If this is all build up to Bryan having one more match then I can't think of anyone better to carry Bryan through it. The whole angle also acts as mud in the eye to the internet smarks who are far, far too keen on criticising wrestlers for not putting their health at risk.

I love this angry Miz with something to prove and I love what the end of this match could do for him. You see, with camera angles and such I am not sure that Miz saw Maryse spray Ziggler in the eyes before getting the pin. Personally, I would have preferred Miz to win clean to prove the point to Bryan but this looks to be an ongoing feud so I'll take the trade-off of getting more matches like this.

Bray Wyatt vs. Kane

WHY!? Why did Kane win this? What was the damn point of Kane winning this? There generally seems to be this huge fear in WWE management of letting Bray win on pay-per-view. I don't know why. You can't watch any entrance of his and tell me he isn't over: thousands of people hold up their phones to be part of his “fireflies”. He cuts amazing promos but that's all he does now.

Its the same pattern again and again: he cuts great, creepy, batfuck insane promos and theneither he loses on pay-per-view or he feeds a minion to his opponent. He just looks weak, there's no other word for it. He went into this match having given Orton enough of a kicking that he couldn't compete (to hide a real life injury, apparently) and then he got his arse kicked.

People like to talk about wrestlers getting buried and generally I feel they're too keen to use the term but this is what burial looks like.

Smackdown Live Tag Team Championship
The Usos vs. Heath Slater and Rhyno

Um... solid match, good result. I like where this Heath Slater angle seems to be going and Rhyno as mostly silent straight man really plays to the man's excellent comedy timing. Whether or not they have legs as a team we'll have to see.

WWE World Championship
Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles

I have been waiting for Styles to win a top tier title since he came on the WWE scene at the Royal Rumble and I was starting to doubt it would happen. Okay, he's only been with them eight months but he is a major signing. In hindsight, I genuinely think they waited exactly the right length of time, built to this wonderfully with his victory over Cena. The only downside is that I really would have liked Ambrose to have a better run but I'm hard pressed to disagree with people who say he became somehow less fun once he had the belt.

It was an amazing match, too. A slow start that built momentum and tension, lots of jumping off ringropes and turnbuckles. Yes, AJ won through a low blow but as much as I love him he is a heel and a brilliant heel at that, plus winning dirty allows Ambrose to hold on to some dignity in defeat.

Now, Raw, you've got a fortnight to get Clash Of Champions in order to beat this.

Monday, 12 September 2016

I may finally watch Steven Universe

I have been aware of this series for a while now and the buzz around the episode Last One Out Of Beach City (from which the above images are taken) has finally convinced me I need to watch this show. The episodes are only about ten minutes long so its not that much of a time investment.
And having decided to watch this thing I suddenly realise how much information I've absorbed just through osmosis. I'm not coming to this fresh. If I decided to watch from the beginning (I'll probably go the edited highlights route) I'd know about the relationship that underpins Garnet's existence; I know that Peridot and Lapis will be redeemed; I'm pretty sure there are no surprises for me in Jasper's motivations; and, how good Pearl looks in a tuxedo.
Obviously, this is all down to the internet. One of the brilliant things about this here medium is that it allows you to research just about anything. Any show or comic or music genre, with a little effort you can get a decent grounding knowledge in just about anything.
This is great because, frankly, without the internet and the way it just delivers discourse and fan art to me I would probably never have even heard of this show that isn't aimed at my age group or carried on any channel that I can readily access. Judging by the buzz (and the utterly amazing fan art) this is a show I'm going to want to see at least a bit of between the fun plot synopses I've read, the rather charming animation style and how people rave about the characters.

Oh, and it apparently really, really gay. When an Englishman of my leanings watches something like this we can basically feel Mary Whitehouse turning in her grave and we take joy in it.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

The Male Gaze and Name Tags

I am terrible at names and so every day at work is a constant battle between my feminist principles and wanting to call my female colleagues by their names.

There must be a better place to fix names tags than the boobs. There must be.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

What Supergirl has to teach us about handling rejection

[SPOILERS for the first season of Supergirl, mostly character stuff.]
Because, in all seriousness, this show might have the most healthy and real portrayal of handling rejection I have ever seen in a mainstream TV series.

Winn loves Kara, a fact he keeps from her for a variety of reasons both spurious and legitimate (seriously, he displays several motives for this behaviour and not all of them are just insecurity, which is a step in and of itself). He copes with this in a bunch of ways, not all of which are healthy like outright trying to sabotage her attraction to James Olsen at one point but largely he seems to have resigned himself to the fact she isn't attracted to him. Then there's an incident involving his father which is hugely traumatic for Winn and he realises he's been bottling up his feelings out of fear and Kara is right there so he comes out and tells her how he feels.

And she rejects him flat, being as kind about it as possible but a clear and definite rejection nonetheless. To my surprise, what follows is Winn dealing with the situation like an emotionally mature adult.

He sulks for a couple of episodes, which is more than fine. I think sometimes we mistake a negative emotional reaction for a bad one. He mopes, he avoids Kara for a while but he never displays any cruelty towards her. There is no attempt on his part to “get back” at her, only to give himself the space to deal with his feelings. He commiserates with James Olsen over a drink, even opens the conversation to broach James' own frustrated feelings towards Kara. Hell, in that last point he's actually correcting his behaviour from earlier in the season, letting go of the jealousy he felt when Kara was paying romantic attention to James earlier in the season which provoked a downright unworthy and malicious outburst from Winn.

(Actually, as an interesting sidebar, Kara has a substantially similar storyline to Winn where she expresses interest in James only to find out he's already in a relationship and it plays out much like Winn's does.)

A couple of episodes of awkwardness later, Winn is brought back into the main plot. Kara asks him for help and he resists for a moment, continuing to feel the awkwardness that has influenced his behaviour since his big confession. He breaks in about five seconds but not because of his undying love of Kara. The writing has been clear: he may not be over her but he sure as hell respects that she doesn't feel about him the way he feels about her. No, he does it because the weird and insane world of Supergirl is the thing he lives for and that's actually something he and Kara have in common.

You ever have a fight with a friend and end up breaking the ice over some interest you share? Some TV series or sport you have in common; the antics of a mutual friend; or just bringing up an old joke?

Yeah, this is that. It might not seem like the most logical way to cap the story but it feels real and that's important.

And throughout it all the fact that Kara said no is never questioned or brought into doubt. It isn't seen as a golden opportunity for Winn to “prove his love” through all those charming behaviours films romanticise and real women call stalking. He never sets out to change her mind and he sure as shit does not try to wear her down with persistence.

Oh God, persistence, the worst myth Hollywood has ever brought us. Decades of movies, television and other media telling young men that all that stands between them and a “yes” is persistence.

Which is psychological warfare, by the way.

So what we have here is a case where not only is the female character's agency respected but the emotional reaction of the male character is not oversimplified or downplayed. His negative reactions are completely legitimate and he gets to experience them, which is genuinely important in its own right. Lesser writers, I think, would be tempted to teach the lesson of how to handle rejection by having Winn experience only the “good” reactions: the respect, the reconciliation. Instead, Winn gets to sulk, gets to be a little ungenerous, gets to have a little drink to drown his sorrows which is all a lot closer to the actual experience of rejection and thus something that young people watching the show can learn from more effectively.

It is okay to be sad about being rejected. It is okay to want to take some time away from the person who rejected you. It is okay to commiserate with your friends. It is absolutely compulsory to respect the rejection. Working through our negative emotions is a perfectly healthy thing to do and Winn's reaction here is basically a masterclass on how to do this without being a dick about it. 

Friday, 9 September 2016

Dwarfs: Starting Small

As the Avatars of War Berkserkers are proving a little challenging to build (hard plastic is a bastard to work) I picked up something quick and simple to get this project off the ground: the Dwarf Organ Gun.
If nothing else, the models gives me a safe place (i.e. models that are going to sit at the back of my battle line far from the opponent) to practice a few things such as ruddy skin, hair colour for the beards and the metal palette that'll be getting a lot of use across the army. It also has the benefit of being a small number of models so I can dash this off quickly and move on to something else. Artillery might not be my favourite thing in the world to work on but it means getting that all important first unit done nice and quick, getting some momentum into the project at the beginning.
And it is just a nice model on top of all of that. I love all the character that has been put on the crewmen from the clipboard to the gunpowder barrel.

On the build front, this wasn't that hard. The little dragonhead things that form the firing mechanism are a little hard to fix in place but aside from that the construction is pretty straightforward. You do have to pay attention to the instructions for the crew, however, as at least one of the heads doesn't fit on at least one of the bodies. Aside from that, no issues to speak of.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Reconstruction of the Daleks

I have to admit, the BBC's record of commissioning animated reconstructions for Doctor Who is mixed, to say the least. Unpopular opinion time: I actually think The Reign of Terror had the best animation of the bunch. Yes, the ultra-modern editing style with its jump cuts and changes in camera angle stood out like a sore thumb against the surviving episodes but the basic style was solid.

Judging by the two released screenshots, though, Power of the Daleks will probably have a simpler style more like The Ice Warriors. Which, you know, makes sense from a cost point of view, there are six whole episodes to animate.

Plus, I don't want to prejudge it too hard on the basis of two screenshots. For one thing, stills of animation never look as good as they do in motion. For another, I am not going to look a gift horse like this in the mouth. I love the Loose Cannon photo recons but there is something a little off-putting about watching a two and a half hour slideshow and anything that gets more Troughton on my DVD shelf gets the benefit of the doubt from me.

Even if their version of Troughton looks a bit creepy its not like its the worst artistic representation of the Second Doctor ever...
… as you can see.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Batfamily Dynamics: Tim and Cass

There were never enough scenes of Tim and Cass having dick measuring contests. That might sound an immature way of describing their dynamic but I stand by it. Here was had the two Bat-characters who had some claim to being better than Batman: the girl who could outfight him and the boy who could out-think him.

And in their later pre-Flashpoint incarnations as Black Bat and Red Robin they bounced off each other amazingly. They didn't get enough chance to do it, Cass' chronic lack of a series saw to that.

Grief, was DC ever had a bigger missed opportunity than Cass as Black Bat? She's still Cass Cain but she's operating as Hong Kong's Batman! Hong Kong! Just imagine the stories a setting like that could have generated.

Ugh, water under the retcon, I suppose.

Anyway, one way Rebirth has done right by me is putting these two in the same title. True, Cass is a very different character (and I do like the new Cass, mind) but I do hope they delve into this dynamic again sometime soon.

And if I'm lacking enough sass in Detective Comics there's always Tim and Steph's relationship to tide me over...

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

My dumb nicknames from Pokemon X before I delete them

It turns out the 3DS (or the Pokemon X cartridge, I'm not sure which) can only hold one lot of save data. This means I have to delete all the progress from my first run and with it all the little critters I captured and gave silly nicknames to.

Still, before I consign them all the digital oblivion, I spent ages coming up with those dumb nicknames and it is Tuesday so I have no better idea for a post than to display to the world just how stupid, dumb and twistedly referential my sense of humour can be.

So, here it is, an exhaustive list of stupid names I have my Pokemon. See how many of the jokes you can get!

The All-Conquering Team
Gumdrop the Greninja
Redbird the Talonflame
Dorfl the Golurk
Cuddles the Pangoro
Rosebud the Venusaur
Yggdrasil the Xerneas

Languishing in the PC
Curly the Pansear
Potplant the Pansage
Rosewater the Panpour
Stinky the Caterpie
Well'Ard the Kakuna
One Punch the Bunnelby
Dusty the Scatterbug
Dangles the Burmy
Pinky the Skitty
Dandelion the Flabebe
Posey the Budew
Sweetie the Combee
Dotty the Ledyba
Feels the Ralts
Kinniekins the Fennekin
Wuffles the Furfrou
Tagteam the Doduo
Honey the Beedril
AC the Plusle
Gutsy the Gulpin
'Eadbutter the Skiddo
Sunstone the Espurr
Swede the Oddish
Oathkeeper the Honedge
Duvet the Snorlax
Murdoch the Nincada
DibDibDib the Sentret
Louie the Kecleon
Shifty the Croagunk
Sugar the Swirlix
Brushstrokes the Smeargle
Luna the Volbeat
Daenarys the Axew
Thornbrow the Roselia
Brucie the Zubat
Floaty the Drifloon
Shaolin the Mienfoo
Discoball the Inkay
Emo the Cubone
Sandy the Sandile
Churchill the Snubbull
WonkyTonk the Linoone
Baskerville the Houndour
Swoop the Emolga
Mysterio the Hawlucha
Wellington the Nosepass
Darwin the Eevee
Hiero the Sigilyph
Big Ben the Chingling
SteeleyeSpan the Roggenrola
Diamondback the Carbink
Snuffles the Woobat
Spanky the Tauros
Ditzy the Slowpoke
Nessie the Lapras
Philip the Mareep
Jackanapes the Lucario
Chipper the Pachirisu
Gobby the Trapinch
Menage the Dugtrio
Hammerhead the Gible
Flatbread the Stunfisk
Pinata the Carnivine
Pokey the Skorupi
Gobby the Weepinbell
(yes, I used that one twice)
Flubby the Quagsire
Weatherwax the Murkrow
Teonanacatl the Foongus
Kasparov the Pawniard
Lily the Lombre
Giggles the Mightyena
Boggle the Watchog
Cluster the Magneton
Aircon the Beartic
Peekaboo the Haunter
Racefail the Jynx
Swirlywirly the Poliwhirl
Frobisher the Delibird
Mervyn the Abomasnow
Selina the Sneasel
Evergreen the Snover
Homeopathy the Tentacool
Tempest the Mantyke
Semiskimmed the Miltank
Eggbound the Exeggcute
Chekhov the Pinsir
Mucus the Solosis
Pepe the Stunky
Popehat the Staravia
Pinky the Nidorino
(yes, another double dip)
Bluey the Nidorina
Smiler the Heatmor
Sumo the Hariyama
Greasepaint the Mr. Mime
Pamela the Floatzel
Sizzles the Raichu
Antimony the Durant
Irn Bru the Gurdurr
Oracle the Noibat
Headbanger the Lairon
Molder the Shuckle
Quill the Sandslash
Pinchy the Karrablast
Yeats the Sliggoo
Comb Morion the Shelmet
Miho the Gothorita
Adele the Jigglypuff
Roosevelt the Ursaring
Pillowcase the Altaria
Slashfic the Scyther

It was a fun run. Let's see how well I do in “hard mode”... and how many other horrible references I can give to my next team.