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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Christmas, the aftermath

Christmas this year was pretty wonderful. After some past holiday debacles which need not be detailed here, the two oldest kids were trying hard to stay on their best behavior, and having learned some valuable lessons ourselves, SuperWife and I put on a show. All presents were eagerly fallen upon and appreciated, although the biggest hit was the gift Santa left for our entire family - a karaoke machine, along with 15 mixed karoake discs.

It wasn't such a nice gift for our new neighbors, I imagine, but when we originally decided to get the thing, the apartment immediately above ours was still empty. Ah, well.

Super Drama Adult was delighted to find the new Beatles version of ROCK BAND upon unwrapping a gigantic box to the rear of the tree; Super Dependable Teen was equally pleased to open a tiny, tiny giftbag and find within a new I-pod. And Super Adorable Kid was over the moon about her new American Girl doll and attendant paraphenelia, although Nate entirely stole the show with his gift to her of a 17" flat screen TV for the top of her bedroom dresser, which he then also installed for her using his Level 7 Tech Geek skills to hook it up to our existent cable line.

As for me, well, it wasn't about me, but thanks to a last minute, unanticipated Christmas bonus, SuperWife and I okayed each other to spend a relatively small amount of money on each other at the last minute... about five days to the Day, actually. So I ran around like a monkey on crack trying to spend my allotment, and SuperWife, naturally, deployed her assets far more wisely and strategically, with the end result that she wound up with a lot of crap she has no use for, while I got huge stacks of incredibly cool loot, including many, many books (deep breath: WHISKEY AND WATER and BLOOD AND IRON by Elizabeth Bear, THE GIVEN DAY by Dennis Lehane, THE SPIRAL LABYRINTH by Matthew Hughes, INSIDE STRAIGHT by George R.R. Martin, and THE PREFECT by Alastair Reynolds), a couple of hardcover comics collections (the second DC Archives Supergirl volume, and the latest Fantastic Four Treasury), a Tampa Bay Buccaneers Santa hat, an extra special Snuggie with pocketses, a fabulous t-shirt, a card shuffler, some comic book image imprinted undies, a lovely warm corduroy winter jacket, the Director's Cut of WATCHMEN on DVD, and, in my stocking, a booster of HAMMER OF THOR, just for nostalgia's sake, and what appeared to be a pack of DISSENSION Magic cards, but upon opening, proved to be a customized booster created by my wife full of amazingly cool and rare vampire cards, which have already energized my vampire deck to the point where everyone else at the table groans when they see me breaking it out of the box.

Then from other people:

Nate gave me an entire booster box of DISSENSION packs, which was awesome, Super Dependable Teen gave me QUANTUM OF SOLACE on DVD, Super Adorable Kid gave me one of the books listed above (the George R.R. Martin one), Super Drama Adult and her girlfriend gave me a much appreciated copy of THE MARVEL VAULT, which I had pined and moped over ever since we bought the last one off a Books-A-Million remaindered table and sent it to Mike Norton last year, and which, now that I own it, has proven to be a fabulous treasure trove of wonderful and beloved goodies indeed (although the interior text by Roy Thomas and Peter Sanderson is generic, boring, imprecise, all but useless as either a historical or journalistic document, and in short, not much more than a fairly tedious advertiser's puff piece), my mom and stepdad got me a movie trivia game, my in laws gave me a sweatsuit and some microfleece pajama pants and a Christmas ornament and some socks.

But far more important than that is the fact that my kids had a wonderful Christmas and my wife had a wonderful Christmas and I suspect even Nate had a wonderful Christmas.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas, too.

And for Mike Norton: Pluto, Fandral, an Asgardian Warrior, Malekith, and Mico Minoru. I'm a little shocked at how crappy most of the sculpts I got look; Pluto is especially disappointing, although Mico Minoru looks like her mutant ability is stretching her neck like a giraffe, or something. The Asgardian Warrior looks by far the best of the lot, although Fandral isn't all that shabby, either. I didn't get any kind of Feat or other sort of card, besides the power cards for the sculpts, so I don't know if I got a bad booster or if the new company isn't including cardboard components any more.


At 2:16 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

A karaoke household is a very, very different place than here. I hope you all have enjoyed it. For me, well, I’d likely have to loosely quote the Bowler: “There’s not enough beer in the world for me to want to do that.” (Not that I drink beer in the first place.)

Ours was the most subdued Christmas since the kids were born, primarily as a matter of finances. 2010 is likely to be something of a crisis point for us; I’ll know for sure in a few months how sustainable even this is. Enough of that for now.

The rest of this babble (one, two or whatever comments it'll take) is all Heroclx related, so abandon all hope...

At 2:18 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

The new Wizkids opted to eliminate all cardboard items from the boosters save for the character cards, though they did create Feats and Battlefield conditions for the set. They made them available online and simply announced a Print ‘n’ Play policy, whereby all Heroclix cardboard elements (including bystanders, Feats, Battlefield Conditions, and 2-D objects, including those that had previously been issued as LE items for prize support) could now be printed and used in games. As they sold the prize packs (at a fairly low price) to the stores their intention is to allow individual venues to make the final call on anything related to retirement, with Wizkids not playing the part of the bad guy.

All in all I very much enjoyed the Hammer of Thor set, among the perks being the increased number of generics in the set and a focus on a loose Minions class of Special Powers to grant several of the generics special abilities if a given character or class of leader/god figure (the latter via a couple of keywords) is on the map, on their team and within (usually) 8 squares of them. As this was all mainly the design work of Kelly Bonilla, under the old company, and she’s over a year and a half off onto other pastures, it’s unsure if the new company will take the hint and continue these in the sets they design themselves. More on that in a moment.

Nico was a manufacturing mistake – perhaps a taunt from those yellow devils assembling these things! When they started to put the pieces together whoever did it didn’t consult the actual sculpt and put the head/neck on improperly, and the rest of the production run followed suit. The fix: Pop the head off. Turn it so she is looking at her staff. Put it back on. That puts it back into the condition the sculptor intended.

It generally doesn’t even have to involve tools, though some of these may have enough glue in place to prevent it from coming off easily. Glue may not even be necessary as her head naturally wanted to be that way, though I prefer to use a little to lock any of these fixes down as best I can. There is even a groove in her sleeve for where her hair is supposed to be. Some have mentioned trimming the neck a little, too, though generally it hasn’t been seen as necessary.

As the old regime had been hard at work right up until that November day two years ago when Topps let them know they were to be shut down, considerable work had been done on product for the following year and even a little beyond. When the new company took over a year later they largely dusted off the plans and sculpts, made very few changes (selling the Chariot of Thor at first as conventions and soon thereafter open to all as a separate item, rather than the Brick-buy mail-away it had been designed to be, as a means of splashing back into the market and drumming up some initial cash, for instance) and have rolled ahead with it. Hammer of Thor was essentially 99% set but for physical production and distribution. By all indications the next set, Brave and the Bold (due April 14th) was also similarly fully designed well before the old Wizkids shut its doors. So it is that probably the first truly original, NECA/Wizkids Heroclix product we’ll see will be this May’s DC starter, based on their highly successful Blackest Night story arc. (More...)

At 2:18 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

So far the new company has come across as fairly responsive, something we got a good taste of when they let us know that they’d heard the hue and cry over what were quickly dubbed “god packs” (boosters which had 4 SRs and a chase piece) by the fans, which took an already imbalanced rarity situation and made it worse by concentrating a huge amount of the rarity in one spot. Worse, on average these were created in a way that resulted in a deficit of Super Rares in the cases that didn’t contain a god pack. It turned out to be a roughly 50:50 chance that one’s case would contain a god pack, resulting in a chase piece and 7 or 8 Super Rares, or no chase piece and perhaps as few as 2 SRs. Typically, some of the feeble-minded (along with some who were undoubtedly simply trolls, delighting in the anguish of others) cheered these on as being terrific. Meanwhile those of us with any sense whatsoever, even if we were in the fortunate half (my case, which was my grand splurge of a Christmas gift, had 8 SRs and the Thorbuster Iron Man chase), made our displeasure with the move known. Anyway, they announced that they’d heard us loud and clear and we would see no more of this in any future sets. They didn’t go so far as to say if the move was planned or the inadvertent result of someone at the factory making a packing logistics decision when it came to working the SRs into the boosters.

Anyway, they tell us they’re directly working on what is likely the #1 quality issue: Paint. Having seen many of the original sculpts for the pieces, along with taking the time to look beneath the paint of the actual production pieces, it’s the thick, imprecise application of paint that does the most to wreck the pieces. In the short term, though, I fear they’re shooting themselves in the foot because they’ve taken to previewing many of the pieces using digital sculpt tech, which gives the appearance of a ric, 3D figure, including paint, with a level of detail one would expect of a Bowen statue. Having already seen several of the production pieces from the upcoming set, with the thick paint and the sometimes disfigured faces/loss of detail that comes from it, I’ve mentioned several times they should keep the digital sculpt images to themselves for now.

Brave and the Bold seems to be rolling out just as originally designed, with the benefit being that they appear to have stuck to the original idea of making all of the SRs Duos. As I resolutely stand on the basis that no matter how playable they may make them that most of these are conceptual abominations even if just for the fact that it’s two characters who have not only been robbed of independent movement but have been reduced to a single target, the idea of a set that’s approximately 28% Duos was ghastly, Making all of the SRs Duos, however, means that I can skip going after the SRs. This is the first Heroclix expansion I haven’t placed a pre-order for for even as much as a brick. My intent is to go straight to the secondary market and buy a set of Commons, Uncommons and Rares for around $50-$60… and even that much depending on how the discretionary finances look. Aside from not being interested in the Duos (aside from re-sale/trade possibilities) I don’t want to directly pump any money into this set’s sales. I’m hoping the message will be clear enough that no possible change to the Duo mechanic (strongly rumored as coming with this May’s new starter rules) will fix the innate problem, and they shouldn’t try this with a future set. Of course, if they do decide to do a Marvel Team-Up type set, I hope they stick with putting the Duos in the SR slot as they did this time. It’s a huge money-saver for me.

Good God, I’ve babbled on again. I'm done with this one, though.

At 8:08 PM , Blogger Doc Nebula said...

Karaoke is something I only do among family, in a comfortable home environment. When it comes to singing in front of complete strangers, I'm with you... there really isn't enough beer, or, as I also don't drink beer, enough orbital mind control laser satellites, in the world to get me to do that.

However, it's fun to do with family members.

Part of me yearns to get back into clix again. Another part of me, however, knows I'd just end up with more plastic figures I'd never get to play with, and it's just a pointless expense I really don't need.

It's similar to how I feel about comics, these days. Although I did recently pick up some free IRON MAN demonstration mag, and it was okay, right up until the scene where Pepper showed Tony her thong as she was walking out the door, and it hit me like a titanium softball bat to the testicles that, yes, Marvel's target demo is still made up of male adolescent hornbags, and apparently, so is their staff. So that reassured me that I'm entirely correct to concentrate my energies on stuff like the second KAMANDI Archive Edition, and such like.


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