Lying in bed you’re likely to catch a glimpse of something in the shadows. Every culture has legends about shadowy figures, and ours is no exception. Shadow figures are humanoid shapes the brain sometimes sees when immersed in nearly total darkness. They generally take the appearance of an adult male, sometimes wearing a distinctive hat.
They usually appear when you are falling asleep and your brain is settling down.
I’ve never been a fan of the Duggar Family. You probably know them from either 19 Kids and Counting, one of their other numerous TLC specials, the current sexual abuse claims against the eldest Duggar son, or any of their hideous beliefs.
In case you haven’t heard of them, the Duggar family is a ‘Quiverfull’ clan. That means they are a family who believes it’s their religious and moral responsibility to have as many children as possible in order to spread their faith. They have a show on TLC, and a few days ago, their eldest son was outed as a child molester.
So I have been nearly silent lately and I’m sorry for that. I burned myself out on creative writing, so I’ve been carefully putting the pieces back together on some of my RPG stories before concentrating on new projects. When I looked at my publishing schedule I realized, oh shit, it’s been over a month since I last wrote to you guys! So, I wanted to keep you in the loop on one of the things I’ve been up to.
So, in honor of Star Wars opening on this date back in 1977, I wanted to write a review of the Star Wars – Armada
miniature war game I’ve been playing.
‘Dear Words for the Internet,
I never thought it would happen to me…’
I never saw myself playing a tabletop war game. I’ve always been about tabletop RPGs and storytelling games, but painting miniatures and measuring out attack distances never seemed like fun to me.
For those not in the know, tabletop war games revolve around the use of miniatures, distance, and combat rules to simulate a battle. Each piece generally represents a unit, ship, or vehicle, and using the force you put together, you fight against a player using a different army.
War games never really appealed to me outside of the good standby’s in my life like Axis and Allies, or Memoir ’44. Stuff like Warhammer especially left me feeling out of the loop, since it was a property I didn’t really like too much, and the players I’ve met in the past have been a bit… over enthusiastic to put it kindly.
It’s not like there hasn’t been Star Wars tabletop games in the past either. Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), the company that makes Star Wars Armada, also makes Star Wars: X-Wing. The games are the same concept but on vastly different scales.
Armada focuses on large fleet battles, pitting huge capital ships against one another while backed up by waves of fighters. X-Wing focuses on small-scale dogfights between a few individual fighters. The large fleet combat was enough to pique my interest and finally convince me to make the plunge and buy the starter set.
‘Well that’s the real trick, isn’t it? And it’s gonna cost you extra. Ten thousand, all in advance.’
‘Ten thousand!? We could almost buy our own ship for that!’
One of the things that always put me off about war games are the investment to actually become competitive. Stories abound about players needing to spend hundreds of dollars to actually be able to participate in tournaments. That doesn’t include paint or other accessories to make your models customized and stand out either.
As my wife is unhappy to remind me, I already have several expensive hobbies. If I was going to get into this, I had to make sure that I’d play it.
I bought the core set for ~$66 on Amazon.com. The core set comes with everything you need to play a beginner match, and includes a Victory Star Destroyer for the Imperial ship along with six squadrons of TIE Fighters. The Rebels get a Nebulon B Frigate, Corellian Corvette, and 4 squadrons of X-Wings. It’s not enough ships to allow you to play tournaments, but it’s enough for small skirmishes.
Luckily, everyone I’ve introduced the game to has loved it. I’ve already had two friends buy the core set to build their own fleets, and several others are planning on buying expansions to add when they play with my starting stuff.
All told, I’ve probably spent about $130, and feel that’s more than enough to be competitive. I also bought a little bit of paint to spruce up the fighters since they’re unpainted and I’m anal retentive.
‘We won’t get another chance at this, Admiral.’
‘We have no choice, General Calrissian! Our cruisers can’t repel firepower of that magnitude!’
Gameplay focuses around large scale combat between capital ships. I think that’s what sucked me in. I’m weak when it comes to Star Wars fleet stuff, so a game like this, I really had no chance.
The large ships are the center of the turn system, with each getting special abilities for defense, and commands used each turn to give them powerful bonuses. You can select something like concentrate fire, which gives bonus die for an attack, or repair, which allows you to heal damage or fix shields.
Each ship is divided into hull zones, and has shields for each zone. Port, starboard, bow, and stern all have their own shields and weapon values, so lining up your shots while not exposing your weak points become huge. Most of the large ships don’t turn on a dime either, so you need to set your approach up in advance.
Range is also a determining factor, with certain ships being great at close range, but having little long range power, and vice versa.
‘Pardon me for asking, sir, but what good are snub fighters going to be against that?’
Each ship gives you a certain point value, and up to 1/3rd of your fleet can be made up of fighter squadrons. This is a good thing, because it keeps fighters numerous enough to change the tide of a battle, but not overwhelming to the point where it slows down gameplay.
Each squadron is like its own little ship. They have health, deal damage, and need to attack targets in range. Unlike big ships however, they can dart in and out of combat with ease, turning on a dime and covering large distances. The only issue being that they have to engage enemy squadrons they’re within shooting distance of, allowing players to tie up enemy squadrons with interceptors and prevent bombers from swarming your fleet.
The core set comes with X-Wings and TIE Fighters. The X-Wings are excellent dogfighters and useful anti-ship bombers, but are expensive and rather slow. TIEs get the advantage of bonus attack die when several squadrons are grouped together on one target, and while they are cheap, they are also paper thin in hit points.
The starfighter expansions, both Rebel and Imperial, add more bombers, interceptors, and escort fighters to the mix. Like I said earlier, I liked having the extra choice of fighters so much that I bought two sets of the Rebel fighters.
Unlike the capital ships, fighters come unpainted, so of course I needed to buy paint. …What has happened to me.
‘The odds of successfully surviving an attack on an Imperial Star Destroyer are approximately…’
I can say that I would easily recommend this game to friends. Most of my friends have already started purchasing core sets or expansion sets (all of them Empire, bunch of wusses.) Since I’m the only primary Rebel player, I’m definitely not short of enemies.
If you have a friend that might be interested, maybe see about splitting the cost of a core set to give it a try.
If you’re like me and love tabletop games, Star Wars, and fleet combat, I’d say then just make the plunge.
Overall it’s a fun game, and one that gets more rewarding the more you play and add.
Now I just need to wait for the Mon Calamari cruisers to come out at the end of the year…
So I’ve just returned from one of our trips to my friend Graham’s farm. Outside of spooky noises and finding bear droppings close to our camp (turns out we camped near a game trail) not too much spooky stuff happened.
I told stories of Skinwalkers, the Wendigo, and Black Eyed Children around the campfire as I’m expected at this point to do. We listened to some music and chatted, but we mainly relaxed.
It’s funny, but stomping through the woods with a full pack, or chopping wood for a fire, well it sucks, but it’s also so very relaxing. I was isolated from technology for two days and realize I needed the break.
However, that’s not what inspired me to write this post. What prompted it were some of my thoughts on camping and safety. It seems so strange to me that we think of tents and tarps as protection from the unknown. I know that I’m sitting in a room made of material thinner than my t-shirt, but for some reason I feel safer than exposed. Could be an ‘I can’t see you, you can’t see me,’ kind of thing, but it still interests me.
After talking about malevolent creatures that can only come in if you invite them, I questioned my friends as to whether or not tents counted as your property when set up. Does it count as a home, and would it keep out traditional vampires, or Skinwalkers?
The general consensus was yes.
Even in the deepest of the wild we still cling to notions of home and safety; that there are rules to be followed. It pops up in my stories, and in our interactions with nature.
One of the brighter spots of the trip was our hike into the woods themselves. We just followed a game trail and came upon what felt like abandoned hunting blinds every 500 feet. In one of them, a big fat porcupine had chewed out a corner to squeeze in and make a home. We were able to peek in and take a look without being in any danger, or endangering the animal. It was a neat little up close encounter with nature that wasn’t the normal deer or coyote we generally run into.
Unfortunately our hike was cut short by the sound of gunshots somewhere deeper into the forest, so we returned to our camp.
One interesting thing I noticed is that we all settled into roles. We had a guy who made fire, the guy who organized everyone, the guy who chopped firewood. I still don’t know what my role was, maybe the storyteller, maybe the comic relief, I have no clue.
So, even though we huddled in the firelight, and listened to voices in the forest from a cabin somewhere beyond our property, we had a great time. A lot of work, but a lot of relaxation.
Still, night-time brought that familiar feeling out in all of us. That fear of the unknown. The fear of what may be lurking in the dark. Of waking up the next morning and seeing how close deer had bedded to our camp, or how coyote droppings were only twenty feet away from the furthest tent.
That’s why we go though, to see things and experience what most people don’t care to, and for just a moment, be irrationally scared before we head back to civilization. Just for the relaxation, yet also the rush.
I enjoyed the movie ‘Frozen,’ and have on more than one occasion professed my love for the movie, ‘The Thing.’ As such, here is something that mixes the best of both worlds for all of you horror fans who just may be a bit sick of that song.
(Made by Lee Hardcastle, check out his awesome work here!)
I just wanted to share that our newest podcast is out! It’s based on a story that hasn’t appeared on the site yet, and I hope you enjoy it. So far we’ve put the most work in to this one and I think it shows. As always, thanks to Graham for the great audio work.
Enjoy, and if you like it, subscribe to the channel and like the video! You can do this through clicking the “Watch on Youtube” video on the player.
I’ve been recently told that I need to slow down on my projects or I’ll burn myself out. This is a valid concern (given my New Years pushups and running resolutions) however with writing and my side projects, I feel like slowing down will burn myself out. I am enjoying creating content for others to read. I can only hope it’s entertaining, but the goal here is to create something worthy of just two minutes of someone’s time. Just a year ago around this time I heavily started writing. I’ve always written, but I wouldn’t have called myself a writer until then.
Back then, I was terrified of criticism. I would worry about each piece I was thinking of showing to people, and then show them only to select groups from where I knew I would get positive feedback. I would never dare put my writing up online for fear that someone wouldn’t like it. Just getting one negative review would be enough to throw me into a shame spiral. But you know what? Now I don’t really care about that.
I just started on YouTube working on my podcast. It has been a long time in the making, and my friend Graham is lending his amazing sound mastering experience to help supplement my writing. We’ve gotten pretty positive responses, but also something that I’m not used to. Now, for the first time I’ve received visibly negative feedback.
I got my first dislike, my friends.
What would originally have destroyed me has actually inspired me. I try and think of what I can do differently for the next video instead of beating myself up about it. When I look at my project’s failings, it’s not out of self-pity, but to continue to improve and thrive.
A few posts ago I mentioned that I had scrapped the work on my novel. People I know, to put it simply, politely freaked out. They worried about all the time I put in to the current drafts. What they didn’t realize was that I was already on my third attempt at the same story that just wasn’t working. I had invested all told about 40,000 words on writing that I was trying to force to work. Now I don’t believe that all writing is inspiration and magically flows through you or some such. Writing is work, in some cases harder than other things. But when you can’t shake an idea and keep it as a sacred cow, you can’t improve on it.
So, I scrapped it. There are still copies of it on my hard drive so I can’t say I dramatically burned the thing to the ground, but I no longer consult them. I started writing fresh and shed the plot elements I was so concerned were needed, and ended up having my characters take me to where I needed them to be. Yes, writing is work, but sometimes there are those moments when the words talk back to you. You just put them to paper and they glow. Other times you stare out the windows wracking your brain for the next big step.
The dislike on my video was more puzzling than disheartening, but I get it. A week ago I sent Graham a new cut of recordings I did for the next episode of the podcast. I waited for a response because I wanted to get in to it, and he replied that I had made my voice so gravelly and stuttered that I sounded like a barely literate Batman. I thought I had sounded creepy, he thought that me being ‘creepy’ sounded like I didn’t know how to pronounce the word ‘exercises.’ He was brutally honest about it, and I loved it. I learned more about recording in that 5 minute conversation than spending time trying to figure out what I think people would like. It’s been one of the most helpful criticisms I’ve gotten in my career.
Like any other blooming YouTube sensation, I tend to exaggerate but I also watch my click-through-rate and advertising statistics. They make sense to me now. They ebb and flow just like everything else and the goal to getting views isn’t just good marketing, but also providing great content. I had run ad campaigns that shot up my views, but did little to keep people except for a dedicated core of viewers and readers around. I was getting my 15 minutes without any of the benefits.
Moving forward, I’m working on making myself better in all ways. I’ve started doing my pushups again, and now I’m learning how to use video editing software in addition to the sound aspect of the project. Graham has his own projects to worry about, so the more I can help him with the mundane aspects of the editing the better. But I need to start considering my technical skills in addition to my creative ones. Graham is awesome with sound because not only is he a skilled musician, but he’s also passionate about all aspects of recording music. Thanks to this podcast, he’s transitioning into Foley work as well. It is as new a field to him as recording and video making is to me.
That’s what I need to learn how to do. Not just focus on the technical or creative aspect, but both. They can live together in harmony and don’t need to be mutually exclusive. I can watch CTR’s and also not compromise myself as an artist or whatever pretentious spin you want to put on it. People will like things, people will hate things, but if you want to be successful you need to keep putting out work, and scrap your sacred cows when they aren’t working for you.
I was so afraid of failure with the podcast initially that we had the episode recorded for months before it actually hit the internet. It was my first foray into the audio arena of the internet, and while it isn’t perfect, it was a start. Scrapping my novel and starting over has been the best decision I’ve made yet, as I’ve written more in two days based around the same general elements than I have in the last month on this project. It all comes down to not being afraid to admit failure, but not letting that failure stop you or slow you down. That’s how we learn and that’s how we prosper. If I hadn’t gotten rid of my flawed progress on my story, I would be rewriting the same 40,000 words. Just spinning my wheels unhappy with everything, but since I had already gotten that far, there was nothing I was able to do.
Getting that far is only part of the trip, the other is making sure the journey is worth it. If Wally World is closed, savor the journey, but also turn the damn car around and go to Disneyland.
So I’ve been getting slightly into the technical side of audio recording with my buddy. Graham, who is an awesome audio engineer, has been guiding me through the worst of the pitfalls, but for the moment I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with it myself.
It’s actually been fun as hell!
I always wondered just why exactly it was so prohibitive with regards to cost to get in to, and now I get it. I’ve been using free software and have been seeing the limitations. With video editing, I’ve run in to the same problem. My wife, the graphic designer, has access to a bunch of Adobe programs except the ones for video production. Windows Movie Maker can only take you so far.
Either way, I hope you guys enjoy the work we’ve been putting in to the podcast. Sorry I’ve been a little sparse on updating on here, but I’ve been working on audio-only stories, as well as print-only stories. I’m debating whether or not to start adapting ‘The Map’ for corresponding audio pieces as well, but I feel like I would want to get a stable of amateur voice actors for that one.
So timeline wise coming up, you should be able to hear the new podcast episode come out next week. I should also have a few new stories for the next week as well. I’ve been trying to do a few horror let’s plays as well, but there have been technical as well as ‘Chris-in-front-of-the-camera-with-nothing-to-say’ limitations.
Regardless, I’m having fun, and should have some impressive stuff for you guys soon considering how quickly we’re learning. Thanks for checking out our stuff, and consider subscribing and liking stuff on our YouTube page!
I’ve done it. I’ve scrapped all the work I’ve done on my novel so far. As I mentioned here, I’m having all kinds of trouble actually getting started. I don’t mean like putting words on paper, I was 15,000 words in when I scrapped it. I mean I’m having trouble being happy with my set-up, which set the basis for the rest of the novel, so I spent weeks trying to figure out how to fix it.
You know what? I scrapped it completely, and I feel so relieved. I feel like I’m so much better off, and can be more creative with the story than I ever could be before. I can refine my characters again, and have them feel a little more fresh. Before they were hemmed in a bit by the amateur beginning, but now I feel they can breathe and explore.
I’ve always been so hesitant to start something new again, just because I worry I’ll never finish. So, I plow ahead on a bad course, just trying to get through it. A first draft doesn’t mean anything if it requires rewriting the entire book.
So, my question for all of you. Have you scrapped a heavily worked on project and restarted it? How did it work out? I’m optimistically excited, but also interested to here from all the writers out there. Did you keep the same characters and basic plot?
Thoughts, horror, and short stories from Chris Burcham, published freelance author and all around scoundrel.