With a few players down for our usual Hollow Earth Expedition group, we decided to kick the tires on Tales From the Loop. This is a game that’s been getting a bunch of good press — it’s an ” ’80s that never was” game where you play middle school/early high school kids investigating a weird techno-world in Goonies-style adventures.

We used the canned Boulder City, NV setting — it’s a real town, so I hit the interwebz and pulled down as much info on the 1988 BC as I could. We did character creation for three players in the space of a half an hour, using the checklist they had to let the players define the kids’ trouble, pride, and other elements of their personality and family life. We had the trailer park troublemaker who was the leader/defender of the group, his best friend and wannabe musician, their photography geek buddy. They would later be joined by the latchkey kid with a nurse for a mom (“punk rock!”), and the ham radio/phone phreak.

I ran the Our Friends the Machines adventure, more because one of my players is a mover and shaker in the Transformers fandom and I thought he’d appreciate the “Go-Bots of Go-Bots” quality of the adventure. They tracked down the toys that were a distributed intelligence and used the ham radio to good effect to jam their signals and dumb them down. It ran so well, we opted for another adventure.

The system is dead simple: it’s a dice pool of one of your four attributes and the associate skill (if you have it), and maybe a die or two for an iconic item. Get at least one 6 for most things, maybe 2 or more if it’s a really tough task. We’ve been surprised by the number of times we get no successes. Fortunately, there’s a luck and a pride mechanic to let you roll failed dice. You can also “push” the test by taking a condition. The GM doesn’t have to roll, so it’s pretty easy to run the game. The kids can get tired or scared, or injured, but death is off the table, and you get healed up by hanging with your anchor (a person you trust and confide in) or hit the hangout/hideout together. The characters’ is in a bomb shelter in the backyard of the photo geek’s house, complete with bunk beds, a storage room, dumbwaiter to get things into the hideout, and a bar and TV.

Free League is making some great stuff and it is being distributed by the behemoth Modiphius. It’s running $50ish buck for the main book and it’s definitely worth it. Buy the GM screen for the full ’80s gaming experience. I’ve backed the Kickstarter for Things from the Flood the ’90s follow-up/sequel game and should be getting it in a few months. I’ve also picked up Forbidden Lands, their strangely old school-feeling fantasy game using a more complex set of these rules.

So, as you can guess by that last paragraph, I’d say it’s worth the price.


bannerI’ve been hammered this semester with a fair amount of work. The college I work at doubled up my classes (yay, money!), and my teaching certificate program (wait, haven’t you taught for years…yes, but not high school so that’s entirely different! But it’s not…), and the usual collection of life stuff, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busting out words on Gateway to the East, our upcoming guide for pulp-era Istanbul. As with the other Black Campbell books, it’ll be for use with Ubiquity and Fate. I’m estimating a final page count of about 80 pages — on par with our Shanghai book, Queen of the Orient. There will be two adventures included in the sourcebook.

Depending on work schedules next semester, I’m hoping to have this out by the beginning of the coming summer, as end of summer seems to be a popular time for the Kickstarter campaigns of other games to fire up and we got lost in the onslaught this year.

I received the new Galactica in the mail last week and this is the biggest departure from the old Diamond Select models. Previously, the Viper and Cylon Raider were about the same scale as the DS versions, but here the Eaglemoss ship is much smaller and lighter. The Diamond Select Galactica is resin, and came with a set of launch pontoons that could be configured to be out for operations, or retracted for FTL jump. The new Galactica is molded in plastic — a departure from the usual metal diecast with plastic of the rest of the series. The other major difference is the superb base for the DS version, which sports the BSG-75 emblem on a stand shaped like the dress gray uniform device.


Despite the size, the detailing and coloration on the new Eaglemoss is light years better than the old model. Here’s an example of the nose section, Eaglemoss on the left.

And as usual, Eaglemoss bothered to do the underside, as well…


As with the Viper, the only flaw that is obvious if you are looing for it is the seam between the upper and lower hull. they smartly have it tucked in the space behind the launch pylons, but it’s pretty obvious. That said, I’m really happy with this model of the Bucket, and I’m hoping they do a Pegasus — preferably to scale with this Galactica.


It comes with a 14-page booklet, as with the rest of the series.


So is it worth the $55? Yes.

The second ship from the Battlestar Galactica series arrived from Eaglemoss and I continue to be impressed with how well they do packing these models in smaller boxes and with no excess packing, when compared to the massive Diamond Select boxes for their BSG models.

As with the Viper Mk II, the new Cylon Raider is a diecast top piece, and plastic bottom piece. It’s heavy, on par with the resin DS version. The joins on this are much less obvious than they were on the Viper, and similarly, it’s not as dark a piece. The weathering and other details are better, although the DS version has more organic looking coloring. As with the Viper, the undercarriage detailing is better; the DS versions skimped on that.


Scale is the same between the two, whereas the Viper from Eaglemoss was just a touch smaller than the old DS version. The base for this one is a bit awkward and doesn’t quite fit the nose section as well as the Viper base did (It’s very good and holds the model securely), and require a bit of adjustment to get the Raider to sit well.

As with the Viper, the Raider comes with a 14-page booklet detailing the vessel, talking about the design evolution, and ending with an interview with Ronald Moore.


So how is it? Again, Eaglemoss’ use of the shooting CGI models makes for a more accurate  model. There is more surface detailing in the Eaglemoss version, although, in this case, I suspect the Eaglemoss version is from later in the show when the Cylons loose a bit of the organic look from the early seasons, which the DS model captures well. Is it worth the $55? If you’re a BSG fan, yes.

I saw a few ads popping up on Facebook a few months ago for a new line of science fiction spacecraft models from Eaglemoss, the guys famous for the small Star Trek ships.  (I’ve got one of their Akira class and it’s lovely.) This new addition to their Hero Collection would be a twelve ship set from Battlestar Galactica — both old and new shows. I’m a reboot Battlestar Galactica fan, as any long-time reader of the blog will know, and I have the four limited edition ships from Diamond Select’s run from back when the show was still airing. So, of course, I signed onto their subscription. You get a ship every other month for the Galactica collection. The first one was the Viper MK II.


The original Diamond Select Viper is an excellent bit of modeling, done in resin and nicely detailed. The specific ship is Viper 2220NC, Apollo’s (and originally Commander Adama’s) ride in the early portion of the show. It’s well done, with a fair bit of accuracy to the markings and the weathering. The canopy comes off (even when you don’t want it to) to expose a detailed cockpit. the stand has the 3rd Squadron (Vigilantes) symbol on it, although the nose markings for the Viper are 1st Squadron (Primus.)


The scale puts the Viper at about 11″ long, and the Eaglemoss Viper is almost the same scale. (It’s a touch smaller.) The packaging for the Eaglemoss Viper is much more compact and less wasteful. Inside, there’s a simple oval stand with clear arm to hold the model. The model was surprisingly hefty and weighs about the same as the resin DS model. The main hull is diecast metal, with wings and engines and lower hull assembly done in plastic. The seam lines on the Eaglemoss model are more pronounced where the undercarriage meets the rest of the nose, and around the engine assemblies, but it’s nothing tragic. Looking at the screen models online, the detailing of the Eaglemoss bird is much better, with some of the warning on the hull scaled more correctly. The weathering is not as extreme as the Diamond Select version and she is sporting the 8757NC markings for Starbuck’s Viper. The canopy is darkened plastic and there is no cockpit detailing visible.


The first model is $20 on the subscription, then they are $55 after that. The first models are the Viper MkII, the new Cylon Raider, the new Galactica, and it looks like the next one up is the Viper MkI from the original show, followed by the new and old basestars. If you’re not interested in the old stuff, you can cancel at any time (and I’m assuming join back up for the ones you want.) This accounts for half of the twelve ships supposedly in the queue, so I think we can assume there will be an original Galactica and Cylon Raider, a Viper MK VI, a Raptor, leaving two others. I’m hoping for a Pegasus from the new show, and I suspect Colonial One will be the last in the group. (I’d much rather have a Zephyr…)

As with the Star Trek models, each ship comes with a 14-page booklet on the vessel and some background on its design for the show, and an interview — in this case — with Ronald Moore.


So how is it? The build quality is better on the old Diamond Select, just because of the use of resin molding. For accuracy of markings, weathering, and overall appearance I’d go with the Eaglemoss. Is it worth the $20 for signing up? Yes. It would be worth the $55 for the main subscription fee, in my opinion.

I’ll follow this up with a review of the Cylon Raider and Galactica soon.

Last night I introduced a friend of mine to the 2008 movie Speed Racer. He’s about a half generation or so younger than me, in his early 40s, but similar enough in age that he remembers the old TV series fondly.

When I was a kid, I would run home every day from school because at 3:30 Speed Racer, the old Japanese anime, would come on. It was followed by another favorite, Star Blazers, these older shows having been dumped for cheap on local broadcasters out of Philadelphia. Speed Racer was a corny show about a young race car driver who got involved in all sorts of crime-fighting, all while trying to finish races. His car, the Mach 5, was a marvelous GT two-seater with jump jacks, sawblades to cut through obstacles, and other high-tech innovations. It was wonderfully stupid (and on a more recent view, glacially paced by today’s standards…)

I didn’t know a single kid who didn’t like the show. It was popular enough Hot Wheels kicked out their notoriously close to copyright infringement “Second Wind” car. (And yes…I’ve had this since I was a kid.)


I was highly skeptical when I heard the then-Wachowski Brothers were doing a movie. I had liked The Matrix, but the sequels had been unimpressive, for me. Right before release, Warner Brothers dropped the first seventeen minutes online and was surprised to find that the directors just might have actually managed to capture the essence of the old show. I was in the theater that first show with maybe a dozen other people. For the next two hours, I was assaulted by a frenzy of color and sound, an amazing score by Michael Giacchino (this century’s John Williams…). This kaleidoscope of color and computer generated imagery was derided by a number of the critics. “Twelve-year-old boys should be wowed, but for the rest of us, it will depend on your appetite for eye candy…” was Tom Charity’s comment on CNN.com, and in that blurb he captures the challenge of the movie: Yes, the colors are cartoon bright, the world they build is both that of the 1960s and some alternate future, the technologies are ridiculous…but this is a movie about a guy with a car with f***ing sawblades that pop out the front! His dismissal of this as something for twelve year old boys was exactly the point when I had watched the preview online. This is the world when you were eight or ten or twelve, when everything was possible. This is the world of the Hot Wheels tracks you built, when you drove your Matchboxes up the side of that cliff (played by the arm of your mom’s couch); if you pay attention, you’ll see some of the race tracks are those toy racetracks from when you were a kid!

You have to watch the movie as that kid you have to be. If you do, you can look past the eye candy, and what you get is an earnest and beautiful movie about a young man coming of age, and his family’s difficulty in accepting this. But accept it they do, and they go on to help him achieve his goals, despite the pain and fear they suffer in doing so.

Speed Racer is the second of three sons to Pops Racer (brilliantly played by John Goodman). The whole family is racing obsessed, but not for money, for the pure joy of it. The eldest brother, Rex, is a superb driver who gets caught up in the criminal element of the racing world and fakes his own death to protect them. Rex’s seeming fate, for them, provided a lot of the drama for the movie when Speed cuts out on his own to “be the best”, but is confronted with the villains of the piece, a racing sponsor E.P. Arnold Royalton. Royalton looks to co-opt Speed and when he doesn’t play along, he seeks to ruin the Racer family.

During one of the meetings, Speed tries to explain this childlike world that the movie presents and the Racers represent. At the end of a heart-felt speech, Royalton laughs in his face and says, “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that sickening bit of schmaltz…are you ready to put away your toys and become a real race car driver?” The villain isn’t just a corporate bigwig who sponsors races and fixes them for his enrichment, he’s the real world, seeking to crush the joy and innocence out of us. The Wachowskis had anticipated exactly the tack many of the reviewers you can read on Rotten Tomatoes take: the movie isn’t serious. It’s cheesy. It’s too bright, colorful, energetic, simple-minded. That was the challenge of the movie, to accept this childish world as you did when you were running home to watch Speed take on some guy in an improbably fast race car that was bent on some kind of evil.

The fight isn’t just Speed against the corrupt machine behind racing. He’s the inner child fighting against a reality that wants to break up your family, crush your dreams, and consign you to mediocrity.

Textually, it is a masterpiece. Visually, the eye candy is designed to pull the viewer through the story, and even this is a tremendous feat. I’ll leave that to someone who covers this better than I will:

A little something that showed up in a recent game session of Hollow Earth Expedition.

Putilov “Stalin” Stal-2 


This strange aircraft is based on plans stolen from the American project to reverse engineer a Vril flying saucer recovered by the Los Angeles mission to the Hollow Earth. Putilov group created the Stal-2 (Steel-2) — a small flying saucer that uses contra-rotating blades around the circumference to provide lift. The craft is extremely nimble but has problems with arresting fast descents. It takes lots of practice to learn how to fly well, and only a few of these have gotten out into the field. None, so far, have survived testing or use in the wild.

It is armed with a pair of 20mm cannons facing forward that are controlled by the co-pilot/gunner. The craft features a pressurized cabin and can achieve high altitudes.

SIZE: 4     DEF: 6     STR: 10     SPD: 150   CEIL: 21,000     RNG: 300     HAN: +2     CREW: 2     PASS: n/a; Twin 20mm cannons:  Sze: 0   Dam: 8L   Rng: 500’   Cap: 150   Rate; A