Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bolt Action Review

 Back at Historicon last year my friend Richard and I played a demo of Bolt Action. Now, I'm not one to really be hip to historical games of the modern era for a variety of reasons, but Bolt Action seemed fun. After the demo I ended up taking home a Soviet army and the rulebook and have since collected Japanese, Germans, and have Finns and even more Soviets coming with the Winter War Kickstarter.

I'm going to cut to the chase: I really like Bolt Action. It's simple to play, fairly balanced, and has enough "there" there to be interesting. It's a fun game.

The best way I can describe Bolt Action is to say that it represents a WW2 movie. I'm not a "grognard", and instead I'm far more interested in sociopolitical topics than guns and tanks. I can't tell most tanks apart, don't care about organizational structure, and just don't know or care about a lot of the details people argue about on TMP. I do like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, though, and playing Bolt Action feels like those. Whether or not those are realistic in any meaningful way is a different conversation, and one I'm not interested in, but the game feels "right" from what I understand World War 2 to be like.

I feel like a lot of this explanation of perspective is important. I like my historical games to be based in history, but to also be based in history that has some distance. I like Vikings because Vikings are quasi-mythological at this point. Sure, it's historical but there's enough distance that jokes and laughs can be had about the setting. Even something like the French and Indian Wars can be talked about and gamed with a certain game-y-ness. These events happened, but they're stories and not pertinent to people today. World War 2 isn't like that, at all, so my reluctance to game that period stems from wanting to give it a certain level of seriousness. But, at the end of the day the game is fun and people actually play it, and there aren't a whole lot of games that have both of those components.

Rules Overview
Bolt Action plays fast. The core mechanics play fast, and the game makes a certain amount of sense. I was able to play about 90% of the game using only the 2 page reference sheet after 3 or 4 games.

Turns happen by first each player placing a special d6 into a bag for every unit they have. These dice have 6 different orders you can give a unit, and each turn you take a random die out of the bag and whoever it belongs to assigns it to a unit to carry that order out. You do this until all dice are removed and then repeat. It's fairly basic and shakes up the I-Go-You-Go of many other games, without getting in the way like games with card based activations can sometimes get.

The six orders are: Fire (stand and shoot), Advance (move and shoot), Run (move double), Ambush (Overwatch), Rally (remove pin markers), and Down (do nothing, be harder to hit). Most of these orders are given when the die is drawn, but some (like Down) can be used as a reaction to being shot at and involve taking out an appropriate die and placing that order next to the unit doing that action.

The other big part of the game is that units are given one of three quality ratings: Inexperienced, Regular, and Veteran. This impacts a lot of the game, most importantly their Leadership (which works like Warhammer) and their Toughness value, or target numbered needed to be killed. For instance, a Regular unit will have a Leadership of 9, and will be killed on a 4+. Veterans are 10 and 5+, while Inexperienced are 8 and 3+. These matter a lot as Leadership values receive many penalties, most especially from being "pinned".

Pinning happens when a unit shoots at an enemy unit and scores at least one hit. Each time this happens the target unit receives one pin marker. When that unit tries to do an order it must first pass a Leadership check but with a penalty for each pin marker. A Regular unit, for instance, with 3 pin markers would need to roll a 6 or less on 2 dice to activate. If it succeeds it can remove one pin marker and act as normal, if it fails it instead goes immediately Down.

Vehicles are handled well. So far I find them to be worthwhile without being too good. They're tough to kill, but the game still doesn't require you to build a list designed to kill vehicles. They're generally fairly expensive (with one vehicle being over 650 points, which is a ton in a game designed for 1000 points total) but are fun. Their major advantage is that each gun on a vehicle can fire at a different target, so an IS-2 can (for example) fire its main cannon at a tank, fire its hull mounted medium machine gun at an infantry team in a building, fire its rear facing MMG at another target, and add pin markers to each of these targets should you get at least one hit. Something capable of dishing out that much destruction, and hassle, with a single order die is huge, but it is also a lot of points should it get destroyed by a plucky Anti Tank Rifle Team. They feel balanced, good enough to take but not so good that you have to. There are a few exceptions, I'll talk about those below, but the game works well in incorporating vehicles while still being an infantry game.

That's about 90% of the game. There are rules for things like flamethrowers, mortars, fanatical units, and the like but for the most part the game is very simple and straight forward. As much as I love 40k, and I love it far more than I like it at the moment, I feel that Bolt Action has a lot of that 40k "feel" without having too many special rules and abilities.

Simplicity: The game is fairly simple and straight forward. A Regular guy with a rifle is a Regular guy with a rifle, regardless of what army he comes from. If he's American he can move and shoot without a -1 penalty to hit, and if he's Japanese he has Fanatic, but for the most part there's a certain level of "sameness" across the game that makes keeping up with it simple. Never am I surprised that my opponent's army has a particular special ability and I lose because of it.

Flavor: Despite being simple I feel that the game still has enough flavor to make each nation feel like they should. My Soviets feel like Soviets, my Japanese feel like they are what I think of the Imperial Japanese Army being like. There's enough flavor to keep it interesting without it becoming ridiculous. At the end of the day they're still people with rifles and submachine guns.

People Actually Play It: I would play Warmachine if that was the only game people played. I'm very fortunate that I'm local to Huzzah Hobbies, which has a great group of guys, and that I'm close enough to do Fall-In, Cold Wars, and Historicon which have Bolt Action tournaments.

Relatively Inexpensive: The game doesn't break the bank. Warlord plastics are really solid and it's easy to make an army for under $200. I think my Germans, made of Wargames Factory plastics and Black Tree Design metals, was about $80 from sales they did.

This is still a version 1 of a game. That's a crappy excuse, but there are a few things that don't quite work right that I think can be cleaned up. The game really is 90% of the way there, though, and outside of Saga I can't think of another game that is as fun to play for me right now. Any of these weaknesses need to be viewed in light of Bolt Action being a very good game that is very fun.

Balance: Bolt Action is very well balanced. Germany is clearly the weakest book, but even then it is much closer to the better books than you might think. For comparison, I would say balance between armies is like Power Armor books in 5th Edition 40k. Some are a little better than others, but it isn't that big of a deal. There are no Tyranid or Dark Eldar books in Bolt Action. For what it is worth, I would put Soviets, Japanese, Americans, and British as all being fairly close to one another in terms of power. France and Allies, Italy and Minor Axis, and Germany are all a little bit below that.

When I complain about balance I mostly complain about some of the internal balance in the game. Light Machine Guns aren't very good or really worth taking, for instance, and two five man squads are almost always better than a single ten man squad. Vehicle Flame Throwers are way too good, and too cheap, and that's probably the biggest problem with the game. Even then, most of the rest of the balance issues are fine. I think all the other staples of WW2 such as mortars, snipers, tanks, anti-tank rifles, and the like are all good choices without being too good. They strike the balance of being viable without being so-good-you-have-to-take-them.

Missions: I think this is my biggest problem. I've become very peculiar about missions, and Bolt Actions rub me the wrong way. This could (and should) be its very own post, but right now the missions are my biggest problem. They aren't so bad as to cripple the game, but I think it's the area easiest to fix while also having a huge (and positive) impact on the game. Right now most missions only have one win condition, and as such lend themselves to draws, and force certain builds that make the game feel very game-y. It's not a deal breaker, and a lot of that can be dealt with once you get better at the game, but it is definitely something that I would like to see addressed. But, then again I just got the missions being played at Cold Wars and they are all very good, so I think this is an area that has the most possibility for improvement.

I really like Bolt Action. It has a good feel, plays fast, and just works. There's enough game there to talk about, but not so much that the game is difficult to play. I'm excited to keep painting armies for it and playing it, and expect to play a game or two a week of it for the foreseeable future. Highly recommended.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Deadzone Terrain Painting Guide

I got my Deadzone box last week. Say what you want about Mantic but they manage to get Kickstarters shipped on time. I won't give a long review, but I'm happy with the figures and the terrain. I'll always prefer hard plastic or metal over "restic" or whatever people call their plastic / resin formulation, but the minis are still Good Enough. Good enough to get boosters and add-ons when they open up the survey for Wave 2, at least.

Anyway, the terrain is really nice. Even if Deadzone ends up being a bust (and I hope it isn't as it looks good) I can use it for Dredd or Infinity or whatever else.

A few quick thoughts and tips about assembling the terrain. When assembling I only assembled straight wall pieces. After priming I assembled the rest of the buildings.

The biggest tip I have is that I think there are mold lines in the holes for the pegs to go into. Cleaning those a little bit with a knife made assembly a lot easier. I'm not sure how this affects its ability to be taken apart or the like, but since I glued my pieces together I didn't care.

Also, keep in mind that the set doesn't quite come with enough "connector" pieces. There's enough to get the job done, but I have a few buildings (my 2x2 building especially) that would be a lot sturdier if I had extra connectors.

Painting Guide

Step 1: Prime the pieces, both sides, grey. I used Krylon's Grey Primer as it is dark enough, almost the same shade of un-primed pieces, and works as a great base.
Step 2: Assemble your buildings. Paint on liberally Tallarn Sand. This will be painted over, but gives the final result a lot of extra texture and makes it look a lot less boring than just flat grey.

Step 3: Do a "wet brush", not quite a dry-brush but not straight out of the pot, of a rough coat of Dawnstone over the top. As you'll see the brown undercoat still has an effect and I think it gives the grey some richness that straight grey wouldn't have.

Step 4: Pick out a detail or plate to paint with a vibrant color. I chose yellow, GW's Averland Sunset. I tried doing different colors for different buildings but I don't think it worked, adding some reds to other buildings gave the pieces the look and feel of a fast food restaurant.

 Step 5: Get some sponge and dab on black. Dab this on some paper towel to make it mostly dry. Then dab it on the pieces at different angles. I got this idea from the White's Wolves blog in their terrain painting guide for Deadzone. I'll likely also use this bit when I paint my Enforcers.

Step 6: For even more weathering, I did the bottoms of the buildings to look a little muddy and dirty. To do this I brushed on GW's brown texture, Stirland Mud, and then brushing on Steel Legion Drab on top.

Step 7: I used GW's Nuln Oil (black wash) on some bits. Namely the girders for the building frames and the big "fan" looking bits on other panels.

Step 8: I then applied some of my secret blood wash (a pot of different inks, washes, and glazes that I keep adding to) on some parts. I then used the sponge to dab on some so it gives a splatter effect. I imagine GW's new blood wash would work well on this.

And here's a finished panel:

I'm actually quite happy with how it all turned out. I painted 24 sprues worth in about 4 hours, and I think the table looks solid and matches well with the mat that came with the Kickstarter.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kairos Fateweaver and a Converted Lord of Change

I'm making a lot of progress on my Daemons for NOVA. At this point I only have 30 Pink Horrors to finish up and 3 more Flamers. I really love the Daemon army because its play style is hyper aggressive and fast, but it's also easy to speed paint and very colorful. I like colorful armies, that's why I dug the Aspect Warrior Eldar army so much and my Space Marines are a Crusade force of bunch of different chapters.

Anyway, I'm a big fan of GW's Fateweaver model. He's a little leaner and weaker looking than the Lord of Change, but he should be. It was a fun model to paint and I'm very happy with how the feathers on his back go from purple to green. The pictures are a little dark, but I hope you get a good idea of what he looks like.

When I got the Reaper Bones Kickstarter I ended up short one model (the Frost Wyrm which I'm going to see if it could work as a Mawloc) but got two Jabberwocks instead. The Jabberwock looks really cool, but it's also the right size and general shape of a Lord of Change. After playing a bunch of games with a Great Unclean One I figured that the Lord of Change would likely be a better fit as the Great Unclean One never dies, but he also never gets anywhere.

After some green stuff for his loin cloth (diaper, more like), brass rode and green stuff'd staff, and some chains for jewelry I think he comes out a really nice looking Lord of Change.

Instead of spending whatever GW charges for a Lord of Change (I don't complain about costs) I got this guy done for not much at all.

There were a few issues with the model. The biggest is that he falls over. The Bones material is soft and has good detail, but for taller figures (or at least for this one) he wants to fall forward. I'm sure the extra bits I put on him didn't help much, but the only thing I could do to remedy it is to sculpt a stone for his front right leg to lean against. Without this he falls forward way too much and takes up the whole length of a large oval base.

The other problem is that some parts of the wings crack. The paint just shows a little bit of cracking and it's a little concerning.

After Dull Cote this guy becomes a little more rigid and is fine. I like the way he came out and I think he looks good. I'm especially happy with how the raised dots on his skin fade from bright red to purple to blue to turquoise to green. I think it looks really good.

Also, I thought I should take some size comparison photos between the two.
I don't have the GW Lord of Change model, but this looks close to how they look together. The Jabberwock is a little bigger, but I think he fits well within a reasonable size of what the Lord of Change should be. I think they work together just fine.

Next week I'll have 20 Flesh Hounds up, and maybe the Pink Horrors. The week after that will be NOVA Open Battle Reports and a review of the event itself.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Daemon Prince for Chaos Daemons, or How Reaper Models Fit In


I'm finishing up my Chaos Daemon Army for the NOVA Open. More so, I've also been painting models that don't fit into what looks to be the list I'm taking to the NOVA Open, which is good as it'll give me some flexibility moving into the future.

While I'm only taking one Daemon Prince in my actual list, I ended up painting three of them. I wanted to see how some Reaper models fit in and I took some pictures to show the paint jobs and the scale as well.

First, the plastic GW Daemon Prince.

I like this kit pretty well. It's a little beefy and not without a ton of personality, although it's plastic and easy to convert, but it's a good kit. I painted it with whites and purples because I associate those colors with lots of things, and I figured they were good enough colors for him to be Nurgle, Slaanesh, or Tzeentch.

Next I got an Eldritch Demon from Reaper (now in Bones and should be ridiculously cheap) to use as a Nurgle Daemon Prince. He's a little small, comparison photos with the plastic Daemon Prince are included as well, but if you were to mount him on some cork or something he'd fit in pretty well.

Last, I got the Reaper Vulture Demon Skalathrix. He's thin and a little short, but again I think he would do well if put on a bigger base. Very Tzeentch-like, too, and a good enough figure (especially for the cost).

Last, I picked up the Rauthuros figure from the Reaper Bones Kickstarter hoping to use him as a Blood Thirster. I think he fits in well, but again is a little shorter than I would like (although he is more than wide enough). For how much he cost ($10 which also got another Khorne looking Demon that would work perfectly as a Daemon Prince, he's almost the perfect size)  he really can't be beat, plus I think he looks good.

Next week I'll have my Fateweaver and converted Lord of Change (from the Reaper Bones Jabberwock figure) to show off.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Chaos Daemons - Great Unclean One and Plaguebearers

I've not been blogging much lately, which is especially sad as I've been painting and playing a lot this year, but I'm hoping to change that.

For the NOVA Open this year I've decided on Daemons. I know everyone is really excited about Tau, but I don't think they are that good (they're good, just maybe not great) and I really don't want to be in Game 6 with someone who has had 4 previous games against Tau.

Daemons, on the other hand, I think are undervalued. They're relatively cheap, fast, have an Invulnerable save, and are a dynamic army that fit my play style better. I like movement and I like attacking my opponent. I enjoy throwing models at whoever I'm playing and enjoy the frantic pace assault armies provide.

I'm not 100% sure as to what I want to take for Daemons yet. Part of me wants to do 50 Lesser Daemons with a bunch of Flesh Hounds and Seekers of Slaanesh and other goodies. Another part of me wants to do 4 Flying Monstrous Creatures with Chaos Space Marine allies for a Helldrake because Winning Is The Only Thing. I'm not sure, but I'll get it figured out.

Either way, I've been painting Daemons. The last 8 days I've painted 40 Plaguebearers, a Great Unclean One, and a Herald of Nurgle. It's not a bad start and I'm very happy with how the miniatures came out.
 This set of 42 figures probably took me about 15 hours total to paint, which is not too bad for how they came out. I'm actually very pleased with the look of these models and I think I did them justice in how I painted them.

 Actually painting them was fairly easy. I searched around for a good recipe for Nurgle skin and couldn't find one, so I thought I'd share the one I came up with.

First I primed them with Army Painter Necrotic Green. Next I washed them with GW's Agrax Earthshade. After which I did a dry brush of Nurgling Green, followed by another dry brush of Ogryn Camo, and then a final light dry brush of the old Rotting Flesh color.

After this I paint the wound sections either a flesh color or pink, pink especially for entrails and things of that nature, before washing them with my home made blood wash (it's a weird mixture of red ink, brown wash, red wash, red glaze, and some other things. It's not scientific and I just add new whatever colors when the pot gets half empty, but I love it and use it a lot). For the pimple sores I paint them with white dots before going over them and their surrounding areas, as well as the edges of all cuts and open areas, with the red wash. I then reapply the white dots on the pimply bits.

I paint bone in a boring way (I think Steel Legion Drab followed by Tallarn Sand and finally with Ushabti Bone) and do yellow eye dots. The swords are painted black and then edged with Daemonette Hide and the old Lich Purple, and I do apply a gloss coat on them after they've been dullcoted to give them a little something.

All of this paints up very fast and I think looks good. I'm very happy with these figures and I think they're some of the nicest I've painted.
Next I'll be finishing up my Tau, have 2 Devilfish, 12 Fire Warriors, and 12 Pathfinders to paint, and after that it'll be Daemons and Daemons and more Daemons until Nova. The tentative plan now is to do 40 of each of the lesser Daemons and a bunch of other things so I have enough variety in army list for both Fantasy and 40k.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bioshock Infinite Review

I'm not much of a video game player. I'll play maybe one or two games a year, and there will be years that go by without playing any. Every few months I'll walk over to the Game Stop and get a used game, play it for twenty minutes, and just stop. I did that with Gears of War, Prince of Persia, and a bunch of other games.

Recently I've played the first two Dead Space games. I really enjoyed those. They had good stories, great environments, and fun gameplay that never got too fast or crazy. I'm not very good with the XBox controller, but Dead Space moved at a deliberate enough pace that it was both fun and rewarding for my skill level. Before that I played the the Telltale Walking Dead game which was so good it has made the television show unwatchable. Before that I played the first Bioshock and before that Half Life 2. Half Life 3 would likely be enough for me to get a new PC to play it, but I'm not hip to most video games. I'm just mentioning all of this to give some perspective as to where I'm coming from, and because those are the big points of comparison I have for Bioshock Infinite.

I picked up Bioshock Infinite largely because of its setting and themes. Eugene Debs is, as I've discussed many times, my hero and someone I find endlessly fascinating and inspirational. Eugene Debs got over a million votes in the election of 1912, and when I found out that Bioshock Infinite took place in 1912 and dealt with issues of labor and resistance it became apparent I had to pick it up. I played the first Bioshock in large part because it was a critique of Ayn Rand, although being a big fan of System Shock 2 didn't hurt.

I'm going to approach this review by tackling the actual game play first, and then by talking about its story and themes.

I'm not very good at playing first person shooters with the XBox controller. I do well using a mouse and keyboard, but for some reason I always feel clumsy with a console controller. I'm sure some of my feelings about the game play resulted from this, but I feel like some of the other issues I had weren't caused by my own ineptitude. 

Bioshock Infinite's game play isn't much different than the first Bioshock. It's not a bad game by any means, but it was never especially satisfying or tactical. A game like Half Life 2 features a lot of interesting scenarios that resulted in challenging game play that necessitated smart play. I always felt like a lot of the battles in Half Life 2 were won with a combination of tactics, thought, and twitch reflex. Bioshock Infinite, on the other hand, felt way too frantic and muddy so that I never really felt as though I was using any sort of tactic. I never felt like the actual game play was especially satisfying. I would mostly just shoot the baddies, run around to regain health, and repeat. 

The biggest problem I have with Bioshock Infinite's game play is that I'm not sure they ever figured out what they wanted the game play to be. Did they want it to be a fast paced action shooter? Did they want it to play like a first person Prince of Persia where jumping and using the sky railway was essential? Did they want it to be about the pseudo-magic abilities you controlled so you could possess, disorient, and lay traps? Or did they want the game to be about opening up "tears", basically controllable pieces of terrain that you can activate, to use to your advantage? The combination of all of these creates muddled game play that is less exciting than it is merely frantic and overwhelming. This combined with my sloppiness with the controller made it so I treated the game almost exclusively like a standard shooter by ignoring most of these other features.

Don't get me wrong, the game play is never bad. I never disliked it, but I mostly found it to be a price to pay so I could advance the story and explore the world set up in the game. Had the game been a bit slower and more measured like Dead Space I think I would have liked it more. Still, it was perfectly acceptable, especially since it is clearly not the selling point of the game.

The major reason I purchased and played the game was because of its setting and themes. The 1890s through 1930s period is one of the most interesting periods in American history, and it is a history that never gets discussed. We might hear about prohibition or World War 1, but rarely is there talk of the labor struggles and ramifications of laissez faire capitalism. Bioshock Infinite promised a game that would take all the elements that fascinate me so much about this period (nationalism, labor, industrialization, technology, race, women's liberation, and many others) and make them the focus of a video game. 

Sadly, I feel that most of these issues only serve as window dressing. While some of these issues are touched upon, they seem to be discussed in only the most obvious and on-the-nose way. A lot of this has to stem from the world simply not feeling real. I felt that the first Bioshock existed in an actual world, I believed that Rapture was an underwater city that ate itself alive because of the untenable nature of its philosophical foundations. The world felt real in the game as well, especially since we arrive in Rapture after things got bad.

Columbia never felt real. You enter the city on a normal day and the streets are largely empty. Columbia doesn't feel lived in or real. Once things go bad and the action starts I became confused about why some people were shooting at me and others weren't. It's a beautiful game and Columbia looks gorgeous, but I never felt like it was a real breathing city. I'm sure it's easier to create a rotting corpse of an underwater city like Rapture, but Columbia feels like it doesn't quite attain its lofty goals.

I felt underwhelmed by the themes the game wanted to explore, and I think a lot of that comes from the world it exists in. We see a few instances of how awful unfettered capitalism is, one of my favorite scenes involves an auction site where workers bid on how fast they can accomplish tasks at a factory, but for the most part it feels as though the game simply asks us all to come in understanding that things are bad for the working class. I'm sure some of this comes from my desire to be beaten over the head with Eugene Debs and allusions to the Pullman Strike, but I feel that if you're going to make a game that deals with these issues that they need to feel immediate and real. Instead, I come away knowing that the wealthy, like the industrialist Fink, are bad to the working class but don't find myself caring.

That the game *SPOILER* eventually has the labor resistance, the Vox Populi, become almost as bad as the industrialist overlords feels like a silly attempt to be neutral. That combined with your inability to actually be involved in any of the struggle that occurs between Comstock and the Vox Populi makes me feel as a viewer and not an active participant. That normally wouldn't be a problem, but this is a video game. I wanted to be part of a worker's revolution in the sky and to murder cloud bourgeoisie with fire. It's not fair to judge something for not being what I wanted it to be, but I feel as though the game paints this world and then asks you to be a viewer instead of a participant.

Other issues, such as nationalism and religion, are handled well enough. Even then, they are a little on the nose. Instead of being an incisive critique on American exceptionalism, the game becomes a bit of a comedy. Comstock and Columbia are too broad, too obvious, and too comical to really have any teeth as actual criticism or commentary. 

Despite my problems listed above there is a lot to like about the game. While I'm a little annoyed that the reasons I got the game were merely window dressing, the game ends up telling a much more personal and existential story. Similar to the first Bioshock there is a twist that changes a lot of what you see during the course of the game, and ultimately the game is about the relationship with Elizabeth. Again, it's not fair to judge a game based on what you want it to be, but I do wish the game focused more on its setting and the societal themes within. 

In the end, the story told is compelling. While I don't find the relationship between Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth to be as compelling or emotional as the relationship between Lee and Clementine in the Walking Dead Telltale adventure game, it still manages to be engaging enough. Ultimately, I enjoyed this game but am a little baffled by the amount of love and critical praise it gets. All the things I liked about the game I found done better elsewhere, but all the same it's a fine game and one I don't regret playing. Now back to painting my toy soldiers and not wasting my time with these dang video games kids like to play.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Jack Swagger, Zeb Colter, and the Tea Party

I was always a fan of Jack Swagger. I enjoyed his push ups, I liked his flying around like an eagle soaring high above, and I always thought he had a lot of upside in the actual act of doing the wrestles. He's a good wrestler that was only held back by his inability to talk.

His humorless Kurt Angle shtick ran its course quickly after he stopped working with Dolph Ziggler. After a few adventures on Mars he came back and had a new fire in his belly. That fire was racism, or patriotism if you're one of those people.

His friend, Zeb Colter, has been doing the talking and has been rather controversial. Instead of getting into what has been said it is easiest to direct you to their YouTube videos.

There's two ways I approach this. First, is as a wrestling fan. As a wrestling fan I'm not sure how this angle plays out. Like I said above, I like Jack Swagger and this seems like a dead-end gimmick for him. He obviously can't win long term with this angle, and at a certain point this shtick won't work. Worse, my bleeding heart has a bit of sympathy for jobber types so once this angle runs its course and he ends up jobbing to Fandango it'll just make me feel sympathetic for him.

As a fan of wrestling and politics, however, this angle is really exciting. The thing I like most about it is that it is not too obvious and is not as on the nose as it could be. It would be very easy to have Colter and Swagger yell derogatory comments and just become a South Park parody. Instead they use language that is grounded in the reality of today's right.

It would be easy for Zeb Colter to be entirely too villainous, but instead he uses many of the same code words and way of phrasing things as the actual Tea Party. Instead of talking about how he hates brown people he instead talks about America and it being a "City on a Hill". His arguments are completely in line with what is fairly mainstream in conservatism. I'm sure many of you have family members that would be near indistinguishable from Zeb Colter.

One only has to look at Michele Bachmann's statements on the Pigford Settlement and white farmers harmed by floods, Sarah Palin's constant yammering about "real Americans", or just an otherwise quick glance at RedState or Free Republic to see how realistic Zeb colter is.

I'm somewhat hopeful of where this angle could go after the inclusion, or at least the attempted inclusion, of Glenn Beck. In Colter and Swagger's video inviting Beck to Raw they constantly refer to Beck's "followers". That's a peculiar way to phrase things and not altogether inaccurate. Going after Glenn Beck the way they did shows a certain degree of perspective that one can assume the WWE wouldn't otherwise have.

Many of the reasons for the Tea Party and the rise of right wing populism stem from economic despair that is entirely too understandable and sympathetic. While it is too easy to wave your hand and speak of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh whipping these people into a frenzy for ratings and money as the exclusive reason for the Tea Party and its racism (and this is something I've seen many liberals say, because the real reasons for these people are with issues liberals do not wish to address), there is a small bit of truth to the belief that the tail wags the dog.

Further positioning Zeb colter as an almost cult like leader of Jack Swagger works as an interesting critique of these media personalities by the McMahons. Linda McMahon, despite being terrible in almost every way a member of the bourgeois class is able to be terrible, was a fairly mainstream Republican. She thought she had a decent chance at becoming Senator of Connecticut, and one must wonder how much the McMahons blame the Tea Party for shoving them far to the right and becoming unelectable in a blue state like Connecticut.

So much of the Zeb Colter story seems to be a broadside from the McMahons at the Tea Party and the media darlings associated with it. It makes a lot of sense that they are going to depict the Tea Party in an unsavory way. Moving forward I hope they allow this angle to run its course, but for Swagger to get a change of heart and understand that him and Yoshi Tatsu aren't so different afterall and that instead of yelling at poor immigrants he should start hurting hedge fund managers and politicians that support globalization. And he should rename all of his moves after Emma Goldman.

No war but class war, brothers and sisters.

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