Vorl in Antares

The free, Antares 2 SF, tabletop wargame Rick and I maintain has recently had a real boost in the release of the long-awaited Vorl, designed by the talented sculpture Joey Pruitt. The species is very different and plays differently to the humans in that setting. What’s great is that these continue and help set the tone for the future of the game in that they are released in free, 3D-print-ready format (.stls and, due to the kind efforts of Jon Harrington, pre-supported, 3-up, Chitubox format).

The digest post for the Vorl and associated articles can be found here on the website for the game, the Antares Nexus (also on WordPress).

The release of the Vorl is something we’ve wanted for a while as the Vorl Ordo are a major faction in the Antares universe, having about a fifth of the total number of Antarean gates under their control (see the map: there are more gates around the equator than at higher/lower latitudes). They have also been an enemy of panhumans for many ages, such enmity driven much more by a biological necessity than a random hatred – such motivations generally being important in Antares.

We’ve had players release other .stls already – a couple of transports and a few smaller pieces (see here), but this release fills in a gap in the figures available that was there from the beginning of the game. It would be nice to see more free .stls released, and we may have a few lined up, but just the release of a core species that fleshes out a hole in the universe’s backstory really is a delight (they are wonderful sculpts, too!).

A new state of affairs

There’s been a lot happening in the last six months. In the same week I was referred for quick-response cancer assessment, I was told I would be made redundant, along with other people from my workplace, and that the games line I was working on would be wound up. Interesting times!

But things aren’t all black. I’ve had interviews for other jobs, and one is in the pipeline (though redundancy pay has been used up!). Rick Priestley and I (see the Nexus About page) discussed continuing the wargames rules with a new edition outside Warlord Games. Rick also persuaded Warlord to shift the production of existing items in the line to their sister company, Skytrex, so the game would not go into hibernation.

So, Antares 2 was born. Warlor allowed me to work on it whilst I worked out my notice, then Rick and I released it in a free, downloadable format that was designed to be easy to maintain. I also created a new WordPress-based, wiki-like website for the 2nd edition (see What’s New in V2) with free, downloadable army lists and a lot of new material – as well as revamped versions of the existing articles.

Whilst Skytrex is not producing new items apart from those already in the pipeline (a scurrilous reprobatee called Dirag and new versions of the Isorian phase troopers – to be released in July), there is an opportunity: 3D printing and .stls. Whilst Rick and I are not using this as a commercial concern, the prevalence of 3D printers amongst the hobby community has meant we’ve been able to allow players to produce their own 3D prints for items that don’t exist: the free, downloadable .stls mean we can let players print their own…

This is fantastic. The Vorl have been a major presence in the Antares universe since it was launched, but have never been released. We got in touch with Joey Pruitt, a designer in the states, who is an Anatres fan and has already produced some interesting insects. He designed us some excellent Vorl – and very strange they are, too. In fact, so strange, have a look at these speed-painted by Ruben Lopez Catalan. For Rick and I it’s a wonderful sight, one that is likely to give Antares 2 a boost, but it’s also a step along a new paradigm, one in which games are free, models are what players want (some players still prefer plastic or metal, and that’s fine – it’s easier to produce some in those formats, too).

Of course, I now have to design and test the Vorl army list. But it’s all good fun and we’ll just have to see how this new adventure goes!

Vorl speed-painted by Ruben Lopez Catalan

Pain and Mirtazapine

I know, I’ve not blogged for a while but I’m hoping to be a little freed up from now on. So, I’ll start with a major change in my pain management.

I’ve mentioned a few times about the disasters that I’ve had with medication for pain management. I ended up settling on paracetamol (acetaminophen in the USA) for taking on and just managing the rest of the pain, using lidocaine patches (it’s an anaesthetic) placed on two points on the problematic pain sites. Due to the various issues with opioids and opiod-derived drugs, I hated taking them but have to admit the pair helped considerably, especially in allowing me to get out an exercise (walking and hiking, mostly).

But though useful, use of either – or both – still meant constant, careful pacing and a rigid adherence to a pain management routine, which meant a part-time job. And regular breakthrough instances were common, especially when the routine broke down. As anyone with Chronic Pain will tell you, breakthrough pain is highly distressing, deadening and agonising, frequently reaching a nine on the pain scale (10 being unconscious through pain, which isn’t much use).

But, for a year or more, I’ve had some new medication that has meant managing my pain is sooo much easier. Sure, I still occasionally have to use patches and paracetamol more than a non-PM person, but the frequency of use is much less and breakthrough events are far less common. It’s even got to a state where I can regularly run through a full day’s work with – which has meant I have applied for and been offered a full-time job (hopefully a start date will come through soon).

Sure, the job spec had to be carefully analysed as I still can’t do overly physical work with my arm/shoulders (lifting, even shelf stacking) or be involved in constant shaking that arises from driving or travel. But it’s a job, and one I’m pretty sure I can do day-in and day-out. It helps, of course, that it’s in an area of work I find fascinating and absorbing, so distraction is already built-in!

I’ve mentioned about depression and pain management, before, and probably also that I suffer from SAD, no doubt exacerbated by the pain. Just over a year ago I was put on a new drug, mirtazapine, one which I was informed was also used for pain management in the USA. In the UK we use amitriptyline for pain control, amongst other anti-depressants, but none worked for me. In constrast, on a high dose of mirtazapine I found no negative intellectual or emotional impact, though they make me drowsy about 4-6 hours after taking them (so I take them in the afternoon), BUT I did find that the day-to-day pain levels were significantly reduced.

I really do mean significantly. The difference in my quality of life is fantastic.

The pain is still there – I have some now, as I type – but the general levels are so much reduced that I can manage the pain much easier, sometimes even ignoring the pain and forgetting pain management strictures completely. For a while, that is, as forgetting a PM routine always leads to increased pain and eventually breakthrough and a lack of ability to do anything… it does mean that I have to be more mindful of following my routine even when the pain is low.

Is it a cure? No. Am I still in pain? Yes. Do I have to take the maximum dose? Yes. Do I still have to be mindful of my pain management routine? Yes. Has it made a positive difference? Emphatically YES. Cure or not, it has become a major plank of my PM routine and one I am relieved has made so much difference.

Warlord Games’ Action Fiction Competition

Warlord Games are inviting players to write short pieces of action fiction for Beyond the Gates of Antares. Whilst there will be up to five winners for a some store vouchers, Warlord will publish the best shorts on our websites, we’ll also be looking for more fiction from the best writers for future supplements.

There’s only 4 weeks left.

We’ve had some great submissions – and multiple submissions from the same person, too! It is an action fiction comp, deliberately short to match what we’re looking for and can use. And I’m happy to offer first-cut once-over advice to those who have never written before.

The link for more details is below. Do read and follow the instructions!


Homeworking – a few tips

Given the isolation and homeworking that is now being encouraged due to current crisis (March 2020), a friend and screenwriter posted some advice which reminded me to do the same (thanks, Nicky). Originally, I couldn’t get to this blog – a very strange affair – but it’s now been sorted.

I work at home, and have done so on and off for decades. At first it was to have quality time to design or write before returning into the office, or managing staff who were doing the same, then in a home office, then later it was because I have to due to pain management. What follows is based on that experience, and I hope it helps…

Continue reading

Exercise and pain

There’s a number of steps to exercising with pain which are worth bearing in mind. Why? Predominantly because, in my case, walks in the open air, amongst the green, are fantastic for health, well-being and enjoyment. Others may find the social contact or body support in a swimming pool useful, the low-impact nature of cycling and swimming achievable. But there are a number of steps it’s worth bearing in mind before doing the exercise.

Whatever you do, though, it’s worth bearing in mind that finding the right exercise for _you_ may be difficult, but it is worth it. The health, breath and relaxation it brings can be immense. And that’s good for pain management.

The steps I consider worth looking at are:

1) Discovery. Explore the options you think might work, or which others suggest, and be prepared to fail. Yes, I know failure means pain, but it’s a process in which all results are steps onto the next. Try cycling, swimming, walking, pilates, yoga, even jogging, etc – as long as it will not overly impact pain. For me, for example, I was aware that stretching of arms and impact jogging will cause pain due to aggravation, so that drew a line under a bunch of types, but I tried returning to cycling and swimming just to see. As it happened, cycling aggravates my arm too much and swimming involved too much stretching and overload. Some pilates exercises I had already developed (apparently) to resolve intermittent back pain (cause by sitting too long in a couch, really) and they are low-impact, work almost totally on core strength/back, and do not affect the rest of my pain. On-road walking can be high-impact. However, off-road walking, especially hills, is deceptively more strenuous (balance, uneven surfaces, etc) and takes me out in the green spaces and amonst woods.

2) Start gentle. Remember pacing and developing periods of activity. Do a walk/exercise at a gentle pace, but be very aware of how it affects your pain/body at every moment. Build up time and ‘speed’ (however speed is measured – it’s really exercise level). Don’t be afraid to back off for a while and start again – it’s your pain and no-one else knows how it affects you. Once you realise it’s working, then go to step 3 but keep step 2 going.

3) Research good practice. Be aware of what is beneficial about the exercise, walking in my case. Due to humans being so well optimised, slow ambles bring almost no physical benefits but may bring great emotional/spiritual benefits just by being outside in the fresh air – and don’t forget the sunlight vitamins. :slight_smile: However, faster walks and at 20 minutes plus (last time I checked!) bring masses of benefits.

4) Build up. I’ve worked out a maximum time for walks and focus on that. Yes, I go for longer walks, but I stop at the pacing mark or even if pain is building up too much. Don’t be afraid of taking those rests-stops or calling for them if walking with others. And just don’t overdo it: make sure you’re in control or in a comfort zone. More of the exercise means you’ll build up confidence.

5) Take the support and clothing you need. For example, I walk in all weathers. Which means I have a good jacket, decent walking boots, take a hat so as not to get too cold, and carry a sling. And if it looks as if I’m on the edge, I take low-end painkillers beforehand, just in case. Water is always good for longer walks when you think you may have to stop.

6) Be aware of everything around you – it’s not just the exercise itself that’s good. Research is constantly coming up with the benefits of green spaces on well-being, but I find it’s also the views and, when I can, the company that helps. For me, there’s a lot of enjoyment and relaxation to be gained by breathing in the fresh air, being aware of the sights, small and large: the plants, the birds, the trees, dew on a spiders web, frost on the grass, mist in summer and winter hovering in the valleys. Take time to appreciate all this beauty.

Ultimately, an exercise such as walking can help fulfill a whole bunch of pain management goals: relaxation, the physical exercise, encouraging breathing, fitness and just enjoyment – those good brain-chemicals really help beat back the pain. But the exercise that’s good for you is good for oyou – just be aware of the various factors involved and try it!

Happy walking!