Friday, May 31, 2013

Vikings Invade Las Vegas: NATC Pre-event Report

Can an army of Elvis Impersonators marshaled by the rhinestone golem of Liberace hope to defend against a raiding party of Norse Dwarves backed up by a troll?

Not bloody likely.

This was the first year for the NATC: North American Team Championship of Blood Bowl.
I've always been jealous, listening to events like the ETC for Warhammer, and not being able to go to the Blood Bowl World Cup a couple years ago, so I was hoping it'd work out to go to this Team Event.

In future updates I will cover the games themselves, but with 9 games over 3 days, I'll first devote an update to preparing for the event itself and selecting our team and the Blood Bowl team I would take.

First thing was to find a team.  Each team needed four people, each with a different team race.
Two of the people on the team I have known for a very long time.  One of them, Russ, was the person who taught me how to play Blood Bowl back when 3rd edition was released- so a lot of this you can blame on him.  The other was long time adversary across the table sized battlefield, Dan, who you can find in some Blood Bowl game reports here even.. when my Gators pummeled his High Elves in the West Coast Quake, and these same High Elves later making a mockery of my Orcs at the following West Coast Quake when it was in Las Vegas. The other member of our team, Steven, quite a nice guy who I've met before in a couple local tournaments, including the Seaside Slaughter in Pacifica.

So, we had a team.
Next we needed a name, and to decide what teams we'd each be bringing since we couldn't bring any duplicates.  I originally pushed for an 'all stunty' team: Goblins, Halflings, Ogres & Skinks.
This idea didn't win out, but I still think it'd be fun.  But then, I'm a big proponent of stupid ideas.

For a team name, Dan suggested 'something chaosy, and it has to have a location", and since I've always preferred teams that can have an animal mascot I suggested "Chaostriches" .. a chaos ostrich: chaostrich.
Like I said: big proponent of stupid ideas.
But this one was well received and we settled for "West Coast Chaostriches".  Dan then cranked out a great T shirt design and we were on our way to high fashion, if not glory.

Team selection:
I said I was flexible: I have a lot of teams and generally indecisive.
Steven chose Undead,
Dan chose Chaos Dwarves, since he was working on that team already- about 4 months in, so roughly half way done ;)
Russ was thinking of either Orcs or Dark Elves, and rested on Dark Elves
I was thinking of Orcs if Russ didn't pick them, or maybe Humans to play my Apes.. then again, Skaven could be fun- but what about Wood Elves- I have a team I'd never used that was close to being finished.. Chaos Pact could work well.. 3 big guys with block! or maybe dwarves- and between all of these choices I decided on Norse.

Norse. A team I've never played on the table top.
We did a practice game, where I tested out Skaven, with great success, and later decided nah.

So I'd be going in cold. Oh well. 9 games.. guess I'd get used to them pretty quick.

So I needed a name for my Norse.
The best team names, in my opinion, fit into the pattern of "Location / Physical Mascot preferably an animal" and bonus points if it is alliterated. The 'Both Down' podcast are enthusiastic about this as well and I agree with them.  I don't care for 'concept' names. There are some dumb ones in real world sports.. "Miami Heat"?  How do you draw the mascot? little wavy lines coming off the pavement? Weak. Maybe that isn't even a team anymore,. I don't know. I don't follow sports. But "Miami Dolphins"? There you go. But the better name would have been "Miami Manatees" .. alliteration... yeah, now we're talking.

I decided on "The Fjord Furies". Mixing mythologies a bit, but evokes furious fighters which seems very vikingish. For their team logo I chose a raven, fresh on the scene of a battlefield.

I gave all of the team names of Norse Dwarves from Norse Mythology, though the Troll I named 'Uffda" in honor of all the funny 'Uff Da' trolls you find in Scandinavia shops & Tshirts today.

Here is my team roster.  (click to enlarge)

A bit unusual for a Norse lineup maybe.
My idea was I wanted to have the Troll (Yeti) and both Werewolves because it is fun! Plus I wanted to use the miniatures.  After them you'll notice I have just one positional player, the rest are basic linemen!
But, Norse linemen all come with Block, so they're pretty good basic players!
Reason for only 1 positional is they are expensive! If I wanted 3 rerolls, and I insisted on that: 4 players with frenzy meant I wanted rerolls to cover the bad places they may end up in.

With just armor 7 for most I also wanted an apothecary: The 3 beasties are expensive and only armor 8, so I figured an Apotho might come in handy.  Add an extra linemen and it's effectively a 13 man roster: about right I would think.

We got to choose 3 skills for the first day, one being allowed to be a 'doubles skill' and two each for the next two days, with one doubles skill each.  Day one I went for Block for the troll and the werewolves. They don't start with it, and frenzy can be very bad without it.  Most would prefer Mighty Blow for the Troll, because combo'd with Claw means any roll of a 7 or more on 2d6 breaks any armor value. Nice, Very Nice.  But armor 8, no block & frenzy.. no.. I went with Block for the greater stability, and didn't regret it.

Day 2 I wanted Sure Hands, to help pick up the ball, and a Guard to help all the blocking I'd be doing.
Day 3 I added another guard and for lack of any better idea chose Mighty Blow for the Blitzer.
-- Tackle is a popular choice, to help take down dodgers, but with all the frenzy I have on the team, which almost equals tackle, I figured I could do without it. Plus, I am not crazy about taking a skill devoted to canceling out a skill that the opponent team might not have.  Plenty of times I faced a team with a tackler or two and since I had no one with dodge, it was like they'd wasted their skill choice.

So the team was set! They have their team name, they all have their own thematic name, and our squad of 4 human players have our team name too.

The four of us all arrived at different times, since we were coming from 3 different airports.
On arrival we met up at the hotel room of the world famous Zoot Suit Jeff, for drinks, pizza and meeting people from around the world.  Of the 13 teams, 7 were from the U.S., 5 from Canada and 1 all the way from Germany! Which was quite cool- very nice guys, who I'd met a few months before when I went to the Dungeon Bowl in Germany (which I've yet to write an update for -but I will, I'm working backwards on the catch-ups)

The next day's check in time for games was at bleary-eyed painful o'clock, so after all the travel and such any exploring Vegas would wait until the next day.  Truth be told, I'm not much for Vegas.  I don't gamble, don't drink much, have zero interest in strip clubs & such: not a moral objection to be sure; I have no puritan instincts and think prostitution should be legal, I'm just not personally interested in it or it's watered down forms: if I'm attracted to a woman I would want the same reciprocated in the same manner: not her interested in my wallet. A sexual exchange should be based on mutual sexual interest and an economic exchange should be based on mutual economic interest: when the two mix I lose interest. I'm also not into glitsy musical assaults, so Vegas isn't a big draw for me.  Walking around I'm left with the impression that Vegas is like the Disneyland of Bad Taste.

But I still had a lot of fun.

Next up: Let the Games Begin!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Another Conversion: Supporting the Style of Simplification with Molik Karn

Been working some longer hours than usual, so I haven't had time to start the NATC game reports, so to hold you over until I do, here is another conversion I was pretty happy with.

As I mentioned in the last update, I really like the concept of Skorne from Hordes, but the level of decorative detail bits is pushed further than my preference.

One of the character warbeasts is Molik Karn, a Cyclops Chieftain.  I've never actually used him in a game, for one, because I just love the look of the Titan pachyderms more, and for another because I just wasn't thrilled with the model.

I prefer the look of the lesser warbeast Cyclopses ... Cyclopii ? Cyclopoose ?  Oh I don't know.
But Molik just (at the risk of offending) looks a bit juvenile in it's stylings: too many spikes, the psuedo-samurai half helm doesn't do anything for me and the swords are just at a Heavy Metal level of ridiculousness  I mean really.. are they swords or are they multi tools?  Looks like they are designed to be can openers, tree saws and pasta press all in one.   And the pose is too static to be interesting.

So I set about remaking Molik in a style I would prefer: simpler, and hopefully more elegant with a more interesting pose.

Here is the result:

I did keep the serrations near the end of the blade and one of the circular cut outs near the base of the blade, but I filled in the upper one as well as the three holes, as well as trimming the end of the sword to be more like a scimitar or cutlass and less like a giant bowie knife. 

I also removed the horns from his shoulder armor and replaced them with gems. this as well as not using the backbanner lowers the central focus of the eye back to where the action of the miniature is. 

Also I replaced the head with one from a lesser Cyclopse: a full helmet which I think just looks better. 
Then I changed the angles of the arms and swords to hopefully create more of an action pose and less of a 'look at mighty me' type pose. 

The original to compare: 

More angles of my Molik: 

That's all for now, but more to come, and I'll get to those game reports soon too.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Give a Banner Bearer a Break! & micro rant on not dazzled by bedazzlers

I understand that I am quite possibly alone in this.
If not alone, then a safer bet is in a low population minority looked on with confusion by the majority.

But I'm just not a fan of massive amount of detail.

I prefer the elegance of simplicity over the burden of Baroque.

Games Workshop: please halt the mechanized decapitator of your skull-making factory.
Privateer Press: not every mini must compete in spikiness against the Shrike.
Mini Manufacturers everywhere: It is ok for a mini not to carry the contents of their household in bags & packs.

Not all of course..many fall right where I like it best: Copplestone, Zombiesmith, World of Twilight

I suspect the trend in details started as the cost of metal went up and the relative cost of having sculptors outdo one another to add more detail was insignificant in cost in the overall process, and companies were eager to show off the finer detail of the ever increasing quality of casting techniques.

But just because the technology can do it, doesn't mean it is always an improvement.
Just because it now must cost me twice what a miniature once cost doesn't mean I'll feel I 'get my money's worth' if the mini has 35 skulls & tiddlybobs all over him.

If a pizza is going to cost twice what it used to because the cost of running the oven is twice what it used to be, don't throw walnut shells and candy corn on it thinking I'll be happier about it.

So I've been noticing a tendency for miniatures to be too detailed lately.
Just laden down with a Liberace-level of visual confetti.

Someone thought Versailles furniture was a good idea, so I imagine someone- manyones- probably love all the gory and gaudy detail but I think it's often overmuch.

So I've noticed I have been converting to remove detail rather than add it.

One of the most afflicted are banners.
How often is a mini forced to hold up a banner half the size of a tallship's mainsail, adorned with an anvil, half dozen corpses, minotaur skulls, or made of solid brass?

So here are some Skorne conversions. I love the idea of Skorne, who make me think of VSF Martians in a lot of ways, and their beasts are great.  But I find I remove all the back banners, clip off the multi-back spikes, shave the horns off shoulder pads, and more.

Their banners are especially burdensome. Here are three after converting:
These have plenty of detail. Almost too much even after converting, to my eye.  Plenty of spiky parts and charms, showing an ornamental culture. For two of these I've used back banners removed from characters to be the standard, and the third I cut away a lot of the extra bits that to my mind looked like someone had designed it in absent minded doodling while bored in class.

The originals:

Maybe nothing wrong with them, just not a style I appreciate: it's just too much.

A: Army standard: This might look cool mounted on a wall, but that solid metal gong icon must be impossible to hold up! Completely awkward even if it is painted wood.

B: Just a flag, but a big one! But this is just a unit's banner, should it be bigger than the army standard? and notice the side metal on the right edge, much like the one C has on the left side? that'd be a lot of extra weight for this poor fellow to hold!

C: That side metal jutting out, up and back to hold a flag that a simple pole up would hold seems silly, plus it detracts from the banner it is holding.

So I replaced the two massive items and cut away the pointless metal pole detour on the third, opting for simpler icons.

Sometimes less is more.  Or I think so at any rate.

Oh, and get off my lawn.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Make Way! When a Troll Falls on the Pitch.

In the middle of a board game marathon weekend for the holiday weekend.
No Kublacon this year for me- saving a bit of money after the expenditures of Europe & Las Vegas.

But a quick update for a Troll Token.

One concern I had about the Norse Dwarf team was the size of my team's Troll. It is a very big mini.
On the off chance someone managed to knock him down (read that: 'likely event') I didn't want to lay the troll down on the pitch because he's simply too big not to take up 3 or more squares!

In the past I've put little markers on a big guy's base, but they can't be seen from all angles or when the area gets crowded with players.  I've seen the prone/stun markers that Impact sell, which are a good idea: remove the mini and place the marker, but I wanted something more visually appealing and at the same time more personalized for the team, so this is what I came up with:

When the Troll get's knocked down:

Flip it over if instead he is Stunned (in which case it gets flipped to 'knocked down the next turn):

A fast job, done in about 15-20 minutes but happy with the results. 

Even happier when I don't have to use it though! 

If you have a holiday weekend this weekend, hope you're having fun and making the most of it! 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Norse Dwarf Blood Bowl: toying with team building

In an ongoing tradition of not leaving well-enough alone, I present the third in a series of new Blood Bowl team rosters.  The first team I made was Hobgoblins. The Hobgoblin team deviates from Chaos Dwarves in that there are no Chaos Dwarves on the team: it represents the Hobgoblin culture that the Chaos Dwarves prey upon, but these are independent. The second team I made was Apes.  When the Apes of Wrath miniatures were being produced I couldn't resist trying my hand at constructing my vision of how the team should be. Now I turn to Norse Dwarves.

As I was finalizing the team I showed in yesterday's post, I started thinking about combining the Norse team list and Dwarf team list to better reflect how Norse Dwarf teams might play Blood Bowl.

For the concepts behind the team I aimed at a Tier 1 team, but one that was lower in power than the Dwarf list and likely a bit below Norse as well, but a solid, middle-of-the-pack Tier 1 team.

Norse Dwarves would have less armor than their standard dwarf cousins, and should be a bit wilder, with some weres and a big guy, similar to the Norse. Freed up from some armor, they'd also move a bit faster than Dwarves, but not as fast as the longer-legged Norse.

Every team should feel unique, or why have it? Such as the (Pro)Elf team: there were already 3 elf teams, so the new one needed something different, and what they got was the sturdy and amazing strength 3 nerves of steel catchers, which define the play style of the team.

This proved a bit difficult when making a team designed to fit in the mid-point between two established teams!

The solution I found was to remove frenzy.
The reason is that Frenzy defines Norse.  They have 5 players who can frenzy and it makes their play style different than any other team. The dwarves have their two frenzy TrollSlayers so they get a touch of this, but if Norse dwarves got the same or a bit more to fit in the middle, then they wouldn't be different enough.

So no Frenzy.  Instead they got the other side of the frenzy coin: an attitude of "you will fight me on my terms and you will not get away and your size and strength mean nothing when we fight on my terms." In Norse mythology dwarves were the master crafters, often of plans and plots as well as artifacts. How to accomplish this?  Grab & Dauntless.  Now, Troll Slayers have Dauntless too, but it is usually a way to send them off solo as they push bigger guys off the side of the pitch, and the Norse runner's dauntless isn't central to play and often an after thought since the team has better access to strength.

So here is the Team list: (click for larger)

Linemen are cheaper than Dwarf linemen, more expensive than Norse.  Movement is between those two teams at 5. Armor is between the two as well.  Compared to a dwarf blocker, Move +1 Armor -1 is neutral cost, lose the Tackle skill for 10k less cost.  Compared to the Norse linemen, with Move -1 and Armor +1 that is neutral, they lose a point of agility but gain thick skull and cost 10k more, so maybe overcosted compared to the Norse, but that point of armor from 7 to 8 is more valuable than other bumps, so I think it is right. This should make for a more mobile team than the dwarves, but still sturdy with decent armor and Block. Keeping Block was mandatory as both Dwarves and Norse have block on their 0-16 players, and nothing indicates a cultural move away from that.

Runners are similar to Dwarf Runners but there is a subtle difference.  Strip Ball.  In the tradition of Norse Runners and Dark Elf 'Catchers' (should be Runners too) I wanted a useful skill that wasn't the typical skill for starting or first choice, which would change their style of play.  Instead of the standard Sure Hands, making them reliable ball carriers, they have strip ball, making them reliable ball thieves! Again the 'you will fight me on my terms' attitude.  This also makes the team less reliable than Dwarves since they lack the Sure Hands re-roll for picking up the ball easily when they receive.

Blitzers on this team are a bit more standard, but Dauntless gives them the flavor of the team.  A bit of a bargain compared to the Human team's blitzer, with the same cost, minus 1 move but with Thick Skull and Dauntless. Still, movement 7 from 6 is one of the major steps and this team can only have 2 Blitzers, not 4. Compared to the Norse Blitzer, at the same cost, this one loses a movement and gains an armor, a slight advantage, but the two skills Thick Skull and Dauntless are a lot more situational than Frenzy and Jump Up which has great synergy and sets the Norse Blitzer up for Pile On. Dauntless on the Blitzers give the team more control, compared to more chaos the Norse team has.

Bjornjaris or the 'bear warriors' continue the sturdy control. With movement and stand firm similar to Flesh Golems, they serve a similar purpose, but more than just a road block, Grab lets them funnel the opposition to where the Norse Dwarves want them. The trade off is less durability: Armor 8 for such a player is vulnerable and without the regeneration a Flesh Golem has.

Lastly, the Ice Bear gives the team a Big Guy, but not one of the better ones.  Armor 8, like the Yeti is very vulnerable for a Big Guy, but unlike the Yeti, he's not the glass cannon the Norse enjoy, since he has the standard Mighty Blow, not Claws. I didn't want to give him Claws, since that steps too much on the conceptual territory of the Norse Yeti/Snow Troll. Wild Animal is the perfect defect trait, considering he is an animal. His second benefit skill is Dauntless. I thought at first for Grab (anyone for a Bear Hug?) but decided that was too powerful for a Big Guy for a starting skill.  Dauntless is questionable at best as there are not many players out there with strength greater than 5, but it seems the right choice for the style of this team: should they face a Treeman or a Star Big Guy, they will be able to equal them- at least when they have the turn, so they must make the most of their momentum.

Re-rolls cost 60k, making them less reliable than the Dwarves. Combined with no Sure Hands to start and players that are more expensive than the Dwarf team, this means a starting team can not have more than one reroll if they wish to start with all the positional choices.  A tough decision, which tells me that overall the cost is probably about right.

The team is going to be a bit slower than most teams out there, requiring them to go for it and push to cover the opposition. Their armor is good, but with no player with armor 9 they are at a disadvantage when facing another armored bash team.  Also, the linemen of this team do not have standard access to Strength skills, so it won't be spamming Guard like a Dwarf team will.

I'm hoping the team has a good mix of advantages and disadvantages.

So if you like Dwarves, but your league gives you grief over the inevitability of your 8 turn deus ex machina grind, or you like the Norse theme but hate Loki's curse that is armor 7 and frenzy, then maybe try out the Norse Dwarves.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Norse Dwarves: Pining for the Fjords

Continuing from yesterday's post where I showed the team after all their weapon-snips & shield-shavings, here is the Norse Dwarf Blood Bowl team, 'The Fjord Furies'.

This is a 'combo team': two teams in one. With the Troll & Wereboars, it functions as a Norse team, without them, and the possibility of a deathroller, it functions as a Dwarf team.
2 complete teams for just 4 more minis!

To help distinguish the dwarves for team position I grouped them by hair: red, white, blond & bald.

The snow troll who takes center stage (because who's going to stop him from taking whatever he wants?)

Uffda the Troll!
In case he doesn't grab some tasty opposing goblins, he takes the pitch with his lunch on his belt:

Norse men sometimes become werewolves, but for dwarves it is more common to be Wereboars:

Always crowd favorites, hotheaded Berzerkers or Troll Slayers:

Adding wisdom and experience, the Throwers (or skilled linemen if no thrower selected) or Blitzers: 

Shaving their head for speed, and to limit what defense may grab, the Runners in either team:

Backbone of any team, the Linemen or Blockers (either team, a lot of block!):

The Deathroller: 

And the Staff: Cheerleader, Coach, Apothecary

I didn't make counters for this team, since the staff tracks Turn & Score, and for rerolls I used a set of Norse Runestones. 

The Team:  The Fjord Furies:

Look for their exploits in game reports coming soon! 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ode to the Weapon Snip

Oh warrior! Most brave, strong and true
with shining sword to give the foe their due.
Thy valour is not in thine sword and shield 
It is your heart that you wield!

Cast aside your sword, your spear,
don your gridiron for game time is near.
Wargear aside, just so many bitz.
Time now to star in a kick off blitz!

Butchering poetry forms aside, hacking apart miniatures to make them different, converting, is great fun.

The most common form of conversion is the 'weapon snip' where you just clip a sword out of a guy's hand.

You see this a lot in Blood Bowl teams. 
Understandable, since though the number of minis producers for Blood Bowl figures is expanding: Impact Miniatures, Willy, Greebo, Gaspez-Arts, Comixininos and others sometimes you just want something completely unique, or sometimes you want to save some money by using miniatures you have on hand. 

If you have some orcs with axes, cut the axes out of their hands and you have some passable players. 

It has gotten to the point that now when I look at miniatures, for whatever reason or genre, I also instinctively  ask myself 'could these work as a Blood Bowl team?' 

Helpful Tips:

If you find yourself wanting to snip some weapons to convert a Blood Bowl team, before you start take these considerations:

1. Is a weapon-snip enough? 
Taking the sword away from a Paladin in full plate armor isn't going to create a Blood Bowl player as much as a knight without a sword. Even more so when you take away a chainsword from a Space Marine. 

Some teams are more forgiving than others: Orcs, Norse, Dwarves, tend to have similar looks for everyday war & on the pitch, but Humans, Elves, not so much.  So look at the miniature and decide if you'll need to do more converting to make it work, such as shoulderpads. 

2. Pose: Dynamic or Silly? 
A miniature with a 'come get some' pose might be just fine, but an on-rushing warrior with a claymore might look odd without the sword, making someone wonder if he got his bracelet caught in his earring and he's trying to untangle it as he's running. Some poses won't work without a weapon, so visually remove the weapon first to see how it looks. If the pose is wrong, ask yourself if you can bend it, cut & reattach or whatever it takes to alter the pose until it looks right. 

3. Drill Baby Drill
Snipping the weapon off isn't enough.  I can't say how many times I have seen decent enough looking weapon-snip conversions that could have been much better with a bit more effort. When a weapon is cut off the surface of the top of the hand is now flat.  Make a fist and look at it: your curling fingers look like a cinnamon roll. So, take a small pin vice drill and drill a shallow hole at the top of the mini's fist. carve a bit with a knife to get some finger distinction. You can also put a thin layer of green stuff on top and press in the curl markings, but the drill is easier and quicker. 

So on to a recent 'weapon snip' team of mine. 

These started out as some barbaric hill-dwarf warriors from Rackham for Confrontation. 
I love the Rackham sculpts.. so much character in their faces.  Really some of the best sculpting there has ever been in my opinion.  
All weapons snipped (and set aside into the bitz for future possibilities).
Unfortunately, these also had integrated shields on their left arms- seems from this angle I didn't take a decent picture of the result- but I clipped the shields and filed them until what was left was an 'arm guard gauntlet' which I imagine might be useful in Blood Bowl! 
Angry little fellows who will now fight just as hard on the pitch as the battlefield!

The idea for this team was to 'double dip' for two teams in one. The pictures above show the basics of a Dwarf team, with blockers at top and at bottom: 2 slayers, 2 blitzers, 2 runners.

They have a 'hill dwarf' theme: armor 9 because they're tough sons of anvils not because of any protection they wear!  But all that exposed dwarf skin and more barbaric look made me think of running them as a Norse team as well: Norse Dwarves rather than Norse Men. 

So they'd need 2 Norse Werewolf minis, in this case I went with Wereboars:
These are Farrow Bone Grinders from Privateer Press' Hordes.  
Note: These are not simple weapon snips! If you're new to converting, these might take some practice.
They had cleavers in one hand and a bone in the other. The cleavers laid across clothing and legs, so some serious clipping, cutting, digging and a bit of resculpting was needed. On their backs they had large scabbards for the cleavers, so these had to go, and same situation applied. 

They needed a tie-in with the rest of the team, so i sculpted some shoulder pads with the same look as that of the dwarves. 

Next up, a big guy! 
A Yeti or a Snow Troll was needed. I returned to Rackham for one of my favorite trolls ever: 
He had a massive club in his hand, but it was easy work to cut it, drill into his hand to redefine the anatomy and fix his shoulders. 

Now all the Fjord Furies needed was paint!

.. more on that to come. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Help! I've Fallen, and I can't get up! : a.k.a. "5 months down the well.. thanks a lot Lassie"

"This is Life Alert, here to help. What is the problem?"
"I've Fwallen...and I can't gyet up!"

"I understand. First, look to check, are your legs still attached?"

"Yes, my legs are still there, but I can't gyet up!"

"Can you move your toes?"

"Yes, I can move my toes, but I can't gyet up!"

"Alright, here is the solution: you want to get up, you have legs, so just get up already.
and thank you for calling Life Alert."

-- For those who've lived their life outside of the US, the 'I've fallen and I can't get up' lady is from a oft poked-fun commercial. 

I guess that works great if you fall and can't get up, but if the help they offered was just 'well get up lazy' it wouldn't be much help. When Timmy falls down the well, it isn't overly complicated for Lassie to bark out instructions to the neighbors.

So yeah, I fell down a well and couldn't get up for many months. 
To be honest I'm really not sure I am out of the well, and not just emerging from it to find that well is at the bottom of another still to go, but time will tell. 

In gamer terms (which I've used in my own mind to translate this phenomenon):

1. Your character has a number of 'stress points' available in each game, let's say 100 stress points. 
2. Each turn you can spend as many stress points as you'd like to do the things you want your character to do, such as 5 points to cook a meal, 10 points to deal with online bills, 30 points to file taxes, 5 points to give a friend advice on a problem, 20 points to deal with a computer that won't work, etc. 
3. You can harvest stress points to add to your total by doing pleasurable things: watch a movie with a friend: add 10 points, walk your dog: add 5 points.
4. Reset to full points at the start of a new game (day).

Hard Mode: conditions change, all stress points are only 1/5 as effective as normal: pay 5x normal cost. Also, no harvesting allowed: nothing done will add to your current total.  Do not reset to full at the start of a new day, instead roll randomly to generate 1-20 new stress points, not the standard 100. Good luck. 

That is a fair description of what it is like when in a period of depression. 
I have always suffered from clinical depression, it runs in one branch of the family. 
Unlike some of my family, medication doesn't help me, in fact it makes it worse in some ways. 

When I was a kid, it was before depression was as acknowledged as it is today (more on that later) so I didn't have any idea being low was something internal, it was just assumed it was from the bad family circumstances I'd been through and in teen years I wrote it off as a side effect of being smart enough to see what the world was actually like: the other side of the 'ignorance is bliss' coin, which I still think has a lot of truth to it: the more you know and understand the more cause you have to feel deflated about the world we've made. A topic worthy of it's own at another time. 

But no, it's more than that, I've got the 'clinical depression' condition.  So with that always threatening to bring me down, I have found I can function better when indulging in creativity. 

I need a creative project at all times. It motivates me, it keeps me above the waterline, it makes me happy. 
So miniatures gaming has been ideal: I get a constant influx of creative projects. In inventing the backgrounds, worlds, creating something physical in sculpting, converting, painting, there is a release that keeps my brain floating in happiness.  

Provided I have the minimum happiness to generate the 'stress points' to jump start into the creative mode.
Usually I do. Normally that isn't a problem.
But recently it was.  And without that momentum, it's like a bicycle that slows down too much: it falls. 

Even with depression more understood and greater awareness of it today than when I was a kid, there is still a lot of the "well just stop it" response from a lot of people. Without direct knowledge of what it is like I guess a lot of people see it as a phantom problem, like it isn't real, as if 'push it aside and deal with it later' is an option.  Might as well tell someone who's paralyzed to 'get out of that wheelchair, lazy'. Just doesn't work. The Ron Swanson approach isn't always an option. 

Knowing that some regard a depression sinking as a character flaw, or as not real, or as whining, only makes it even harder to deal with in trying to get out of it.  It takes more stress points. It is easy to say "my leg was broken, but it's healed now" but "I was in a depression black hole, but I'm out now" has a whole host of added burden applied to it by the culture.  It is a lot like a broken leg.  Saying it is broken isn't whining, it isn't a plea for attention, it's just pointing out the fact.  It is nice to have someone give condolences, it can be appreciated, but where no one would think that saying 'I hope your leg gets better' would actually help it get better, people do seem to think saying "I hope you feel better" should have an affect on someone who's depressed. Wish it were so, but it isn't.  That helps someone who is sad, but not someone who is depressed. The two states are very different. Which I don't think is understood by a lot of people, since many people use the phrase "I feel depressed" when they don't-what they feel is sadness, which is bad, but it isn't the same as depression.   But knowing well-wishers often have an expectation that their well wishes will help, it becomes almost an extra burden for the depressed person (at least I have found it so for me) and so makes it less likely to draw attention to the problem, to avoid the additional weight. Not that it isn't appreciated abstractly, just that it can't help at that time. 

When I stop to think about it, that doesn't seem right at all.  leg, brain.. they're both part of the body, they both have a function, they can both stop working and need time to repair.  So why the stigma about a part of the brain not working when no one would think twice about a broken leg or a coma.  
So to hell with it: my happiness was broken and while it still isn't working in full, I can limp on it enough to get around at the moment. 

And so I'm limping back here. 

The Half-Year Catch Up: 

So I was in that funk, hoping it'd be a short hiccup, starting in December, when I needed help from my family to solve the only problem that matters to me and I found I didn't even merit a reply: kind of puts one in his place. I always suspected I was the Cinderella of the family, at least when you know for sure, you know. 
I went to Belarus for February and some of March, and then to Germany in March for the Dungeonbowl: one of the biggest, and longest running, Blood Bowl tournaments in the world! How cool is that? 

So I thought everything was fine for my return.  
But I got the flu on the way back- out from that for weeks, which turned into bronchitis: out for more time. 
Add to that a return to depression as I was back in the US, where I don't want to be, and I crashed down into depression worse than I've had in many years.  Just completely debilitated me. The things that normally made me happy gave me no recharge, things I might look forward to normally became daunting propositions that I just avoided.  I had plans to go to the NATC: North American Team Championship for Blood Bowl in Las Vegas. It took every bit of energy to crawl out of funk to go. I even had to change my plane ticket to go the night before instead of early morning because I could see that if I'd leave it to the morning I would likely just not have the emotional energy to get out of bed:I'd just end up not going and let everyone down. Going to the event helped though- I think it force-kick started the momentum up enough I could return to a pattern of regular life. I needed it: the longer I was depressed, the longer I was removed from the social world, the more energy it took to come back, but the less energy I had to do so. So yeah, it's a lot like falling. 

I haven't even looked at my blog yet ...or anyone elses, which I've missed, but visiting other blogs made me think about mine, which made me think about the weight of not being functional,and it made it worse: what a troublesome cycle.  The stress points choice was either write this return entry or see what people have commented and I figured if I don't write this down I might delay and sink back away yet again. I was told by a friend that people were wondering if I was alive, which is nice to know. So know I do appreciate it, I've just not been in a state where I could appreciate it and feel good from it rather than bad- when in that well even good things can feel like weights pressing down- so I avoided even coming to the blog, which before has been a great source of fun & enjoyment for me.  But I'll likely be back to where I will enjoy & appreciate it all pretty soon. But limping before I start running ;) 

Shut Up and Show Me Some Minis:

I've rambled on a lot, and most who stumble on this won't really care, and will have skipped it until they see this more promising heading.  Not to worry, I'll be returning to the expected episodes of painted minis, conversions, game reports, background fluff and occasional sharply critical commentary on civilization that you've come to expect. 

I've got many games of the Dungeon Bowl & NATC to cover, as well as some fun conversions, Blood Bowl teams, a return to some dormant projects as well as plans for some new ones.

Because that is the upside of this depression thing, when it's manageable, and it almost always is, it keeps me cranking out creative projects at a strong clip. 

And then you can enjoy the creative stuff now that I'm done bitching about Lassie. 

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