Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tannhäuser Tuesday - Hoss Harbinger Arrives


Fantasy Flight Games has released the last of the Tannhäuser characters they inherited when they bought the Tannhäuser Game property.

FFG also released the Equipment Cards pack, but I will detail those in another post. And now, here is Hoss, and he is a monster, and epic character that is not quite an Epic Hero, but he is close.

Hoss Harbinger is a descendant of Atlas, the first king. His people could view events of the past and future, but somehow missed the series of events that would destroy their homeland. As the world around him was crumbling, Atlas threw Hoss into the timestream where the man escaped the fate of his people.

Hoss is determined to replay the timestream and regain glory for his people. He can foresee future events and used his knowledge to restore life to the Kaiser. In exchange for this favor, Hoss was granted power and resources.

Hoss is a Hero and has the affiliation of the Circle of Agartha.

Hoss is a Hero and has the affiliation of the Circle of Agartha.

Hoss Harbinger is a man out of time and is outfitted with a wondrous bag of tricks.

His Special Object, Prescience, allows him to move 1 circle before the attack is rolled. If Hoss moves out of path, or range, the attacker may choose another target.

His Combat Pack features an out of path mental attack that is focused through a statue that reminds me of a golden Maltese Falcon. His Chronograph allows him to use his movement to try to switch places with any other character, and if Hoss has a great roll (or a horrible one) he can give those dice to any character and they must be used on that character's next attack or shock roll.

Hoss' Stamina pack adds in the Idol of Esagila, whack weakens characters as Hoss gets weaker and the Nephesh, ancient runes that allow Hoss to steal life from teammates on his path.

The Command Pack features Hoss' rank of Reichdoktor, which balances bonus wounds scored against the life of Hoss' teammates and the Eye of Akhenaton which reduces the cost of using Command Point abilities.

Also included in the Hoss pack is a bonus pack for Eva Kramer that includes a pistol, goggles that negate the effects of smoke, and Domina, a token that lets you either choose any piece of equipment from the unused crate tokens or to automatically win Initiative on any one turn.

There are also a few crate tokens, three new bonus tokens and a new scenario.

I will detail the Equipment Cards next time!


Tannhäuser Tuesday - Shàolín Sēngbīng Tokens



Here are the tokens for the Shaolin Sengbing. More news later, featuring the new Equipment cards and Hoss Harbinger!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage #23

January 1935 - The Mystic Mullah

After reading The Mystic Mullah, I know where they got the best thing in the otherwise inept Doc Savage movie - the vaporous, floating green snakes. They appear often in the 23rd Doc Savage tale and are the weapon of choice for the mysterious Mystic Mullah.

The Mullah has been terrorizing the small asian nation of Tanan. The leader of that small, yet still mostly uncivilized nation, the Khan Nadir Shar, Son of Divinity, Destined Master of Ten Thousand Lances, Khan of Tanan, Ruler of Outer Mongolia has travelled to New York to seek Doc Savage's help. The Khan is a fierce warrior, but was educated in England and speaks "too perfect" English.

Accompanying him is 'the girl'. Every Doc adventure seems to have one. This time it's Joan Lyndell. Dent writes, "She was tall, with dark hair and lashes that were altogether delectable. But there was something else about her. She was businesslike, capable. Her person radiated efficiency.

"Her clothing was thoroughly modern, and so was the blue automatic which she held in her hand as the door opened."

An army of Tananese thugs has followed them to New York and there are a number of memorable battles. One takes place in an abandoned amusement park in New Jersey, with Renny and Johnny shooting it out among faux prehistoric terrors, and another in which Doc releases a gas bomb that bleaches the skin of everyone white. Doc "looked more aluminum than bronze."

The action soon takes everyone to Tanan and the populace, terrorized by the Mullah, has turned against the Khan. Here we learn that both Monk and Ham speak Tibetan. We also learn about the macabre human spider, a dancing girl turned trained assassin, with long sharpened fingernails coated in poison. One scratch means certain death.

Of course Doc gets to the bottom of the vaporous serpents and the mysterious Mullah, but the trip was fantastic, and exciting. This is a cracking good pulp story.

I found this to be everything I want in a Doc Savage adventure - globe trotting action, exotic locations, bizarre villians, and memorable characters. I really enjoyed this adventure. Walter Baumhofer painted the original pulp cover, Paul Orban illustrated the pulp, and James Bama's painting graces the Bantam paperback #9.

Once again, the great original art scan came from Chris Kalb's Doc Savage site. I give The Mystic Mullah a 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tannhäuser Tuesday - Shàolín Sēngbīng 

Shàolín Sēngbīng

The Rising Sun Troops

The two troopers in the People's Force One are both melee fighters, but they use radically different fighting styles to get their results.

The Shàolín Sēngbīng were the first and last Chinese women to graduate from the famous temple in the mountains of China. Young girls from around China were secretly brought to the Shàolín monastery and the best were taught by Miao Xing himself. From this class of 40 students, 10 graduated and became the People's secret weapons.

The figure for the Shàolín Sēngbīng is Lady Shiva from DC Heroclix - Cosmic Justice #059. She can be had for as little as 39 cents. I still need to figure out the faction symbol for People's Force One, so that will have to wait til next week, along with the Tokens and abilities descriptions.
Stay U-Chronic!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tannhäuser Thursday Bonus - Hellboy Upgraded

There are two bits of news today. First off, I have collected the BPRD characters onto their own page for easy reference - look for the Tannhäuser BPRD link under the banner.

Secondly, with the frightening appearance of Asteros and his mighty stats (along with several players that indicated that Hellboy may be too weak) I have upgraded Hellboy. While his stats still do not equal Asteros', Hellboy has good ranged attacks and this should put him on better footing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pulp of the Week - DC's First Wave Miniseries

Geof Darrow Cover

Pulp of the Week
First Wave #1-6
DC Comics
Writer Brian Azzarello
Artist Rags Morales

I don't know if it is ironic or just sad that the flagship book of DC Comic's First Wave Universe has just  finished its six issue run as the whole Universe is rumored to be scrapped.

Several sites have reported the demise of the First Wave Universe, but as of this writing, DC Comics still has the books listed on their schedule. Time will tell.

J.G. Jones cover

If the line is cancelled, that would be a shame. For all of Azzarello's bluster about changing everything about these characters, he wrote a pretty good story. It didn't hurt that Rags Morales is a great artist. The same can't be said for the Doc Savage solo title as the art has been poor, in my opinion.

The real issue is that the First Wave miniseries ran hopelessly late, and in fact should have been completed as a set up to the solo books, instead of seeming to have nothing to do with them and finishing 6 months late. The miniseries is also a far better story than any of the Doc Savages so far. The Spirit has fared better.

I like happen to like this combination of Doc Savage, the Batman, the Avenger, and the Spirit, although I know many pulp fans don't.

The First Wave miniseries follows Doc Savage and his men, The Bat Man, and The Spirit on a globe-trotting adventure to thwart the machinations of Doc's nemesis, John Sunlight. Along for the ride are Richard Benson (The Avenger), the Blackhawks, and the jungle girl, Rima.

I liked the First Wave mini series and give it a 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tannhäuser Tuesday - Eastern Dynasties Preview

The U-Chronic History of
The Peoples Republic of Eastern Dynasties

At the turn of the 20th century, a rapidly modernizing China was threatened by the Boxer Rebellion, a  movement that sought to return the Empress to power. The Chinese people fought back. The Imperial forces were ruthless and killed many Chinese and even more foreigners.

Europe and America were greatly alarmed by this sudden, violent turn and sent a Grand Union of military forces to China to rescue their besieged embassies, merchants, and diplomats. British, Russian, Italian, German, French, Austrian, and American troops all fought side by side. They helped the Chinese defeat the Imperialist Boxers and started China on the path to democracy.

This Grand Union did not last as squabbles between the members quickly led the Russian, Austrian, and German forces to go their separate ways.

In China, the great Sun Yat-sen was appointed as first President. Sun Yat-sen's fervent fight for equal rights gained him a lot of clout in the west, but as the outside world soon learned, China's idea of democracy was starkly different than their own. While Chinese leaders are chosen in free and fair elections, their constitution is vastly different. The state started as the sole property owner. Each individual was granted a share of the land. People can barter and exchange their land, but all income generated is paid to the state and all salaries are paid by the state. Every citizen, from the President on down, receives the same salary. Needless to say, there is a thriving black market.

The Socialist Democracy Movement swept the East. China, Mongolia, Thailand, Siberia, and Japan all adopted similar governments. When the Great War began, the Democratic Socialists decided to stay out of it, and formed a Union of their own: The Peoples Republic of the Eastern Dynasties, known commonly in the West as the Eastern Dynasties, or the Rising Sun.

Their military force is tremendous in size and skill and relies equally on ancient arcane arts and martial arts. Technology has advanced far slower than in the West. Walkers, Tanks, Zeppelins and airplanes are still at their infancy. But their skill with the inner arts - mental and psychic powers - is without compare.

Threatened by the Reich's contact with the U-Worlds and The Matriarchy's contact with ancient Gods, the Rising Sun is finally getting involved in the Great War.

The Rising Sun Expeditionary Force is as exemplified by People's Team One.

Here's the Rising Sun factions first team - The People's Team One - From left to right:

Wūshī Zhǔ Qayan - Hero - Chinese Elemental Sorcerer with power rings and amulet.
Ryokō Seishin - Hero - Japanese Half spirit/half human with cosmic powers.
Ashigaru Budō - Troop - Japanese Bo stick fighter and marital arts expert.
Shàolín Sēngbīng  - Troop - Chinese Monk and aerialist Kung Fu fighter with stone fist.
Michiko Tsuki Ken - Hero - Japanese bladed weapons expert that can threaten multiple foes.

The figures chosen are all inexpensive HeroClix figures. The prices indicated are from Game Hollow, but there are many other online retailers for HeroClix singles. Total figure price is $1.55.

Mandarin - Marvel Heroclix - Xplosion #073 - .49
Yukio - Indy Heroclix #061 - .19
Arashi - Indy Heroclix  #031 - .19
Lady Shiva - DC Heroclix - Cosmic Justice #059 - .39
Kabuki - Indy Heroclix  #077 - .29 - I painted her clothes a bit to fit in with the team better. Here’s how she looked originally:

In the coming weeks I will detail the team. Which name do you prefer - Eastern Dynasties or Rising Sun?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Game Preview - Omen: A Reign of War

Omen: A Reign of War
Small Box Games
Game Designer: John Clowdus
Illustrator: Michael "Riiven" Ng

Small Box Games has produced an astonishing number of good games in the few years they have been publishing. In three and a half years Small Box Games has published 35 games. The number is surprising because this is literally a Mom and Pop operation with John Clowdus and his wife being the company.

Politico, Seii Taishogun, Elemental Rift, and Dirge are some of his more popular games.

The games are simple, yet strategic, compact, and inexpensive. You get a lot for your money with Small Box Games. If there have been any criticisms of the Small Box games, it has been that the graphic design is functional, if not always beautiful. The games are known for the play and not the chrome.

Well that has changed with their newest game, Omen: A Reign of War. After reading the rules and getting a peek at some of the cards and the art, Omen looks to be a home run in terms of both game play and appearance. John's tight but strategic rules and clean graphic design have combined with the beautiful art of Michael "Riiven" Ng to create a gorgeous game.

 In Omen, each player is vying to take control a number of cities in Greece. Using a combination of cards and coins, the players challenge each other for victory. The players use Rewards, Feats, Soldiers, Oracles, and Beasts to build their power and dominate the world. 

Omen: A Reign of War will be released soon, with pre-orders opening up tomorrow, March 7th. Check it out at Small Box Games.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Spam Haiku

This is the first in a series of actual emails I have received.

Pete Miller, Become muscle, like Trent
Pete Miller! Go as a hoodlum, like George did!
Taint bad person, clear alertness and influence!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pulp of the Week - Operation Red Jericho

The Guild of Specialists Book One
Operation Red Jericho
Written and Illustrated by Joshua Mowll
Additional Illustrations by Julek Heller and Niroot Puttapipat

Operation Red Jericho is a terrific adventure story by Joshua Mowll. The tale is framed as the research the author has done in his great aunt's secret archives. You see, the great aunt had quite a series of adventures with her brother in the 1920s. There are three books in the series that is called The Guild of Specialists Trilogy. They come packages like thick journals.

The first of these novels takes place mostly in the South China Sea, with pirates, warlords, and a secret society, the aforementioned Guild of Specialists. In addition to being an author, Mowll is a professional graphic designer and the book is chock full of maps, schematics, and drawings.

Joshua Mowll's graphic elements support the pulpy adventure tale of sibling teenagers Rebecca and Doug MacKenzie as they search for their missing parents. Becca keeps a journal and Doug is an artist. Julek Heller provides the sketches that in the story are attributed to Doug. The artwork is beautiful and illustrates the story without feeling like it is duplicating the text.

We learn about an age-old conspiracy as well as the secret society, The Guild of Specialists, that the elder MacKenzies are a part of. Exactly who and what the Guild are is still  mysterious, but we do know that they are trying to save mankind from the evils of the world.

Here is a schematic of a small submarine that Doug and Becca encounter. It is a three-part fold out.

There are also numerous side bars featuring character information and other notes.

I was very impressed with the quality of the art and extras in this book. It really makes a neat package along with the pulpy goodness of the story. I look forward to reading the next one.

This is packaged as a children's book, but I guess that is because kids are reading and buying books. They are not hung up on what genre a book is, because kids books themselves are the genre. The characters here are teens and the language and action are well done and thrilling. Characters are killed, and there is danger and torture, but it is not gratuitous or graphic.

A high school english teacher of mine once said that great children's literature is first and foremost great literature. While I'm not sure if Operation Red Jericho is great literature, I am sure that it is great storytelling and I for one am happy to have found this book at all.

The book industry seems to be trapped in a self-fulfilling prophesy where they are losing adult readers. Hiding good adventure fiction from millions of those readers seems a poor way to go about your business. Just because a book isn't full of swearing and sex does not mean it is of no interest to adult readers. I think that much of the best adventure fiction being written today is hiding in the YA section of the bookstore and library.