Monday, December 26, 2011

The day after the day after

I almost was a xmas grinch by throwing out our old tree when one of the elves dropped off a new one the day before the day before. Instead, I left it out on the roadside verge in case anyone who saw it needed a tree (with a little note saying they're welcome to it). No-one took it, and the bin won't have enough room for it for a week or two to come, but at least I avoided grinchisness.

As for the treasure ... a high grade micro air compressor (variable flow, water trap) and modeling airbrush plus fixtures, models of Fokker Dr VII (biplane) and 1:35 Russian Tank Crew, an Order of Battle of the Red Army's main fronts in WWII and a more detailed history of their armoured forces, and a military history 'daybook'. Treasure for those near and dear included 'The Hobbit' boardgame (a Eurogame designed by Knizia) and a pretty dramatic scaletrix track and cars (slot cars). So, Santa was kind indeed, and at least as perceptive as has been in past years.

And it was nice on the day after the day after the curse of grinchisness was avoided to finally take some time out and settle back into some solid driving on my IS-2 in World of Tanks. More on those adventures later ...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Six hours tankin' it

Just ended what was about a six hour World of Tank session with the Lizard King. My prime tank was initially a KV13 (Tier 7), while he had a T44 (Tier 8). We were striking pretty well, but in the battles where our platoon got knocked out early we then filled the time with our reserve vehicles (T34-85 and M4A3E8 'Easy Eight'). At about H+5 I had achieved the necessary credits to trade in my KV13 for an IS Heavy Tank (Tier 7).

Much as I was a bit sad to sell my KV (over 170 battles I had become quite attached to its nifty combination of speed and heavy armour, albeit its relatively weak 85mm gun was irritating at times), it was nice to move into a heavy tank for the first time in WoT. And I'm within a handful of games of being able to research the T43 from the T34-85, which will make it 'elite' and allow me to hopefully get 100% camouflage ratings on the crew while I accumulate the necessary credits with which to trade it in and actually purchase the '43.

But for now, I love it when a good plan comes together.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Two new old blogs on my list

I've added Winter of '79 and Клементи Ворошилов ('Klementi Vorishilov' - thanks Ralph) to the blogs I follow. The first is imaginations in a thatcherite UK after the coup, the second is an ASL inspired rave with a bit of attitude. Sadly my own imaginations project stalled part way to first base (ah, the fate of a million projects) and I have never played ASL (being an unregenerate Squad Leader fan), but love both blogs. Worth a look.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

WoT update

I've been playing World of Tanks (wikilink*) for just over two months now (seems like forever) and have some decent vehicles in my garage. I have just fought my 100th battle in my KV13 Medium Tank, and hope to change that for an IS Heavy sometime in the coming week. I've been in over 500 battles in my T34-85, and am within about a hundred battles of being able to begin production of the T-43 (which line of development will eventually culminate in the T-54). For a bit of light entertainment I also have an SU85, armed with a 107mm tank killer, which I may or may not decide to upgrade to an SU122 sometime in the future.

I have of course kept my T34, and still enjoy charging around with it and its rapid firing 57mm gun. One can almost sense the surprise of some of those I bump into when I seem to pour shots into them twice as rapidly as the more normal 76mm armament would!

And I still have my MS-1, though hardly ever drive it now (these days getting my lower level kicks from driving my level/Tier 5 T34). It won't last much longer though, as after I replace the KV13 with an IS, I will need the 'slot' presently occupied by the wee MS-1 for my T43 unless I wish to sell off either my T34 or T34-85 (which I don't), or stop developing my line of tank destroyers.

All good fun, and all free. What more could one ask for?

*Updated 'wikilink' to wikipedia link (18 Dec '11).

S & T Nicaragua - First Impressions

My impressions of Strategy and Tactics Issue 120?

In a word, 'impressed'. Several articles about revolutionary warfare central american style makes both for a sad list of the countries that had to undergo the ensuing 'uncivil wars' and an interesting analysis of 'low intensity' warfare environs and the strategies and tactics for use by the various factions. Of course, it hones in on Nicaragua, but the coverage is much wider.

And then there's the game. I haven't yet played it, but look forward to doing so. Suspect it might be solo, but look forward to it none the less as it appears to be a genuine 'simulation' as well as a game. I can easily foresee situations arising in the game which the dark humourist in me would enjoy - in the same way one enjoys a game of Junta or Illuminati.

Cadres, fronts, social classes, public institutions, terrorism, guerrilla tactics, diplomacy and foreign intervention, popular will, political programs, military combat and repression, propaganda, psychological operations, all interwoven quite neatly through simple row and column shifts and dice rolls. In my mind's eye, it seemed to make sense. To get a feel for it, the map and its provinces is more a 'political geography' of the land than a simulation of the terrain. In fact, the terrain rules are optional extras for the basic combat system.

Definitely a wargame, but with more of a eurogamesque approach to simulation than is usually found in such. I look forward to playing it.

To see some graphics of it (and reviews etc), check here.

As a final sidenote, the biographical notes on the game's designer (and author of almost all the articles) say he was (is) a retired US Army Captain. His military career seemed to have been spent in the psyops and then academic fields of endeavour. Thus, my theory of the game as being as much 'simulation' as 'game' might actually be correct!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

S & T

At loose ends one lunch time in the city I wondered into a newsagent's that I hadn't been inside before to scan their 'hobby' section of magazines. Imagine my surprise when I found a copy of 'Strategy and Tactics' for sale! I haven't seen this magazine for decades (!) and, when I last did, it always seemed to be more S&M than gaming fun, what with its concentration on the design, backstory and rules of the hardcore game which was contained in every bimonthly addition. Never-the-less, and realising that I've allegedly 'grown up' a bit in the intervening years, I purchased it. It was edition #270 from Sept/Oct this year, featuring analysis of the American Revolution and the game of that name.

I must say, I was a little disappointed. Firstly, no game. I know, I knew that before I purchased it, but it was still disappointing. And secondly, I felt the articles were less 'meaty' than my memory was telling me the old ones used to be. Larger font, more pictures, dumber diagrams, more filler, less content. Still a good read, but ... well ... disappointing.

It can't have been too bad, however, because when the next edition came in the following week, I bought that too (this one, looking at the Second Battle of Kharkov)! Edition #272 is going to be about the Battle of Lepanto (might give it a miss) but the following one will feature a game called 'Reischwer'. Which, of course, I am already excited about. I might even order the game itself...

Anyways...

Imagine my further surprise this morning when I'm visiting Miltary Hobbies for my bi-annual visit and, while I'm there, the storekeeper pulls out some newly arrived bundles totaling about a hundred copies of old S&T's and plonks them on the counter to show an old customer of his. Unable to help myself, I mosey on over and browse through. These were all old editions, complete with game maps and pieces (still unpressed). Gold!

Restraining myself, I ended up choosing #120 from July 1988 (the 'Nicaragua!' edition, the whole magazine being dedicated to the game, analysis and design notes for the game and background articles examining later 20th century Latin American revolutions) and #156 from December 1992 (concentrating on the Russo-Polish War of 1920 and 'White Eagle Eastward', the included game). At $10 each I considered them a bargain, and nearly got another but had blown my budget rather badly already. Might need to make a return visit!

I'll have a closer look at my purchases and report back here as to whether the inclusion of the games was as wonderful an idea as I thought at the time, and whether the content of the magazines themselves was indeed more substantial than the modern day equivalents.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

RIP Anne

I have just heard that Anne McGafferey passed on on Monday. She was 85 years old. I've read a few of the Pern series, been intrigued by the world she created, read a few of her other books. One of the great women of sf/fantasy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Can anyone here help Ralph?

Ralph, over at Клементи Ворошилов (how do I pronounce this?), is doing some really interesting stuff with Advanced Squad Leader. After reading this post, outlining some of the travails of one dedicated to simulating obscure yet important campaigns (in this case, the Brit-Soviet invasion of Iran in 1941), I wished that I knew more of the campaign, or that I had (or had the time to play) ASL - as Ralph was looking for playtesters for his project.

If you can help him, perhaps let him know.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rule of Thumb

Last week, I commenced work on my 1:35 tank model. On Sunday, I had hoped to complete the wheels and suspension, preparatory to the tracks. Seeing as it was a nice day, however, I thought would go and do some things in the garden. This, sadly, resulted in me being very un/lucky in that I managed to jamb my thumb pretty bad but not crush or amputate it (which was never-the-less very painful). Which put paid to my plan to work on the model. Who want's real blood on their model, afterall?

So I went and looked at modeling sites on the web for a few hours, discovering some most excellent youtube videos along the way. Particularly informative is this guy, who's detailed, understandable, knowledgeable and practical productions will be very useful in future. In retrospect, it was very good that I had this enforced time-out from the blood rush of pushing ahead regardless that comes with a new model. Vicariously looking at the detail of what will be required in future, the various stagings of the project, better enables me to determine what needs doing next (my ultimate question at any particular moment). I suspect that this is saving me a lot of grief down the track, and rapidly accelerating my learning curve beyond the old trial and error ways. Of course, it must be matched by skill development which will take time, but you get what I mean. But I digress...

After a couple of days of web research I was in the middle of a busy working week and couldn't really bring time and inclination together, so contented myself in confirming a probable Xmas delivery of a selection of appropriate decals. By that stage, it would be nice to have the construction done, or at a stage at least where minor variants are all that is required to match up with the particular decal and paint job that I decide on.

The only 'real' modeling job I've done since spraying my 67 parts of wheel, suspension and lower hull, with undercoat last Saturday was to grind the diameter of the axles so they fit the wheels a bit more comfortably. Without doing this the fit would be too tight to allow what I learnt from the videos was the advisable method of construction (put on the wheels to fit the tracks during their construction, remove them then prior to painting, glue them on prior to final detailing) and I would likely have experienced grief and heartache at some point.

I've also checked out what a modeling spray gun would be worth, to give the enamel coats of paint and varnish prior to the weathering work with brush and oilpaint. Luckily for me, the Mrs thinks this is a good idea. I'm a lucky man.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Tank Stable

My cunning World of Tanks Russian Campaign unfolds according to plan.

My T34-85 continues to steadily mount up the experience, within several days I'll be able to convert the points I am accumulating into 'research' for a new, higher 'tier' tank (KV-13), with enough 'free experience' points left over to upgrade perhaps the suspension on the new tank before it even leaves the factory (from the KV13 I hope to eventually research and start developing the heavy line of 'IS' tanks). My trusty crew are approaching 70% in their camouflage skill, and will hopefully advance towards 100% by the time I accumulate sufficient further experience to research the T-43 medium tank (the other development path leading from the T34-85).

My T34 now has an 'elite' crew, having researched all the modules and models available for the tank. Being 'elite', all future experience goes directly into crew training in their specialist skill (which I have elected to make 'repair'). Sadly, as the crew approaches perfection I will probably also be becoming involved in new, higher 'tier' vehicles, and thus return to my stable to drive the T34 less and less often. Besides equipment, the T34 also required me to research both the T34-85 and the SU-85 (Tank Destroyer) before regarding the crew as 'elite'.

I've only driven the SU-85 a couple dozen times so far (compared to the almost 400 times I have driven each of my main tank models) and am still getting used to the concept of driving a vehicle without a turret, with all the tactical, practical and visual difficulties that entails. I have upgraded the suspension and am presently accumulating experience to research a better gun. I doubt I'll get an elite crew for this vehicle as will be aiming directly at upgrading to a SU-122 (in W.O.T. the SU-122 is a variant of the SU-100).

Although basically a 'sideline' to me, I am enjoying playing the russian turretless tank destroyer in a different fashion to the tanks. For the TD I am keeping my vision limited to the 'gunsight view' - a little like peering out of the commander's slit in such a vehicle. Although limiting, it puts one right 'inside' the wonderfully rendered terrain of WoT and leads to a deepening of the immersion factor.

The 'strategy' I am following can thus be seen as being focused on the development of my stable of tanks. As a 'free' player I am limited to having five vehicles at any one time. Presently I have the above three models (T34, T34-85 and SU-85) as well as the lower tier MS-1 and BT-7. When I get a KV13, I will dispose of my BT7 to make room, and develop this into a line of heavy tank development, culminating in the IS-4. I will dispose of the MS-1 when I get a T43. This line will culminate in the T-54. I will dispose of the SU-85 when upgrade to a SU-122, and dispose of that when am looking at the SU-152. The Tank Destroyer line is, afterall, only a light diversion from the main game for me.

I will hang onto the T34 and T34-85 as long as possible just for the fun of driving these classic tanks in middle tier battles in the World of Tanks.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

This leads to that

You know how it is. You go to an expo and come home with some model kits of a size and subject that you've never built before. And, after getting over the fact that there are over 160 separate track links that will eventually need to be put together to complete the T34-85, and checking that all the pieces are there (even if the decals are not) and only having one brief moment of gloom until find the piece that was knocked loose from the spruce somewhere in the last 17 years, and then looking at this site to confirm a few ideas about the turret and finding out that the model which I had been thinking of matching up with a tellermine wielding defender of the vaterland (ie circa early 1945) only to find out that the model is of the real model that was produced late in 1945 (ie after the war), I finally decided to start the thing anyway.

So I pressed out a few wheels and axles and wheel hubs, cutting off the attached spruce, filing off the bits of flash, finding out that most pieces fit together albeit a bit tightly but that some don't resulting in a bit of filing and shaving of the offending parts of the parts, learning how the glue works, thanking jah that I had approached the task conservatively, doing the parts for one side of the vehicle so I could work it better on the other side, and got to gluing.

And then I got to thinking about what should be painted when, as some things will be impossible to get to once the assembly proceeds (eg. the suspension springs) and some things will be difficult (eg. the inside 'flange' of the roadwheels). I realised that at this scale (1:35) any 'small' error is actually a 'big' error, so I want to do as well I can. So, while I let my mind work its magic in its dark recesses in a way that will hopefully bring forth the solution to my problem, I set about preparing myself.

Which means I have to sort out the odd collection of knives, blades, files, brushes, paints and other assorted and very miscellaneous modelling equipment. So, I open up the roll top desk into which I have been squirreling away such things since we got it about five years ago at some garage sale, and get to work.

Of course, when it all got too much, I went for a drive in my own T34-85 in the World of Tanks.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Model expo = models

This morning I took a break from playing World of Tanks to take Lizardking and the lads to the SA Plastic Modellers' Associations' annual expo. We got there about 11:30 and spent maybe an hour and a half on site (a large school hall in the heart of Adelaide). There seemed to be lot more viewers present as we left than when we arrived, and the vast empty table spaces between displayed models were filling up. So, we might have missed some of the treasures but we managed to savour what we saw without the disadvantage of crowds jostling us or anxious model owners snapping back against the tide of people.

Instead, we had a cool hour or so checking out the various display categories, and about half an hour at various of the stalls selecting our own wares to purchase.

My favorite individual model was a Dragon T34-85 (1:35), followed closely by a 1:72 Pfalz monoplane. Most impressive exhibition in my mind were the ships of Task Force 72, including a 3m long (!) work in progress of the HMS Hood and a 2m long jap sub. Besides being impressive scratch built models, these were WORKING ships, full R/C and working turrets, etc. The subs even submersed. The nice man said that the group meet at the boat lake in Bonython Park in the parklands, the last Sunday afternoon of each month, so I might head down there next Month (or even tomorrow, but they might have their ships all at the expo so I'll have to think about that one).

So, what goodies did we leave with? Lad #2 decided on a glossy book of American Supercars, and a three pack of 1:72 personnel transport models (Ketengrad, Kubelwagen and Jeep). Lad #1 settled on a 1:72 medieval bombard and crew, together with a 'Sheriff of Nottingham' 1:72 infantry pack. The Lizardking went for a Dragon (?) M4A3E8. And me? A Maquette 1:35 T34-85 and a Dragon kit of four 1:35 german infantry with their ambush equipment. Maybe I have some vague idea of streetfight diorama? I've never built a 1:35 kit before, nor have I constructed human figures before , so when I finally get both time and space to get to work on them I'm sure it'll be quite an adventure.

Needless to say, a good day was had by all. For me now, it's back to the grind of World of Tanks.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

91,000 players at one time

I have now driven in over a thousand tank battles in World of Tanks (WoT). The team I have been on has won slightly less than half of the battles I've been in. I've averaged a 'kill' about every five battles (though the ratio varies from one 'kill' every two battles for one type of tank to one every nine for another). I have seriously driven seven types of tank, and had cameos (ten or less battles) in three others. The most advanced vehicle in my garage is a T-34-85 has been in 252 battles at time of posting, second only to my T-34 in number of times I've driven it. The most kills I've had in a battle was 4 (T34) and the one which I gain most experience points and credits with is my T34-85. I have been playing it for almost four weeks. My immediate goals are to open up the possibility of new types of tanks by continuing to gain experience in my t34 fleet and to increase my team victory percentages. I have not spent a cent on the game, and don't intend doing so.

The game itself originated in Russia and attracted a large following from Germany and Russia. More play from these two countries on the european server than from anywhere else. There are over a million registered users in Russia. The Russian server established a guiness world record for number of players simultaneously on a server in a MMPOG (91,000+ in January 2011). The US server apparently has about half the volume of players that the European Server does. Average nightly playing time is apparently 3 hours and 20 minutes for active players.

I've no doubt I'll be posting more on this excellent online game.

Most of the information summarised above about the game itself comes from this wiki.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tanking It

For the last month or so I've been busy playing World of Tanks. You might remember that I first mentioned this game in June when I found out that my (then) computer didn't have sufficient guts to run the program. Since then I had a birthday, and on my birthday (besides the amazing cake) I got a new computer. And, on that computer, had been conveniently loaded the client program for the online megamulti player game of World of Tanks. Seeing as the machine runs on Vista, most everything else I have doesn't work on the new machine, so guess what I've been doing for the past month when in front of the screen?

I'll post a pic of that birthday cake just as soon as I get this vista worked out.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Civilised

Played a game of Civilisation (the old AH classic) on Saturday. Five players and about six hours to get through to the end of the late bronze age. It was all very civilised, with only a bit of narkiness between North Africa and Italy late in the bronze age as the Italian began to feel put upon. Which, considering the african owned all the desert from Carthage to the Great Western Desert as well as Southern Italy, Sicily and Minorca, they might have been justified in feeling.

I played Crete, and had a nice comfortable little space on my own islands and well as the greek mainland city sites, where I managed to avoid any conflict except to keep the poor Balkans as my buffer against the Thracians and their western Illyrian neighbors as they spread south from the breadbasket of Europa.

Thrace grabbed prime agricultural land early and was beginning to take the pelopynese islands, as well as balancing trade, income, urbanisation, and cultural development nicely for a rush towards the iron age when the player had to depart for other activities (a zombie walk, of all things). Lucky for the rest of us, as Thrace might otherwise have become a cultural powerhouse.

Poor Illyria had a player who hadn't played for ten years (though he had previously won as North Africa, no mean achievement) and so got left behind in the development stakes, despite all the prime agricultural land he held. He does however wish to play again sometime within the next ten years (haha), so this will be a space to watch.

North Africa won on points, with Crete a fairly close second. All in all, played under the verandah with kids playing around our feet on a beautiful spring day, a great way to have some fun.

Sorry to be away for so long. I've been reading my usual blog roll when I can, but not much else. Will fill you in soon (it's gaming related) ...

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Gaming atm (rave)

My gaming life at the moment, in terms of time spent playing, is primarily Renaissance Kingdoms (where have recently been summoned to travel to advise the King in Girvan while the world stumbles towards a state of generalised war), followed by a couple email games of East Front (where I am in both cases the german defender trying to hold back a russian post-kursk armoured armada), and the occasional excursion into the Yugoslavian partisan campaign in Art of War.

Of course, I am also reading various of my fellow gamebloggers and admiring their work in the real world (ironic, isn't it?), be it miniatures, boardgames, role playing, technical, after actions reports, cartooning, film criticism, or just general good natured bullshitting (some of us are very good at that). And that is very much a part of gaming these days.

I missed the Adelaide Con, I only remembered after the event (Sorry fellas!). At the time I would have been there, however, I was at a old book store in the Barossa Valley, where I picked up Arthur Machen's "Tales of Horror and the Supernatural", Panther, 1963. Apparently it's quite rare, I haven't seen it before. Paid a fortune for it as it's a first edition (do I sound like a CoC antiquinarian?), but sure am looking forward to reading the seven or so short stories within (no rush, will take in small pieces to make it last).

Even though the Con had a lot of CoC games happening, it seems I can't be tooooo disappointed...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Trivial Success Pt II

You might remember that on The Blitz online wargaming site I had been posing a question in the twenty question competition, in the nature of a 'who am I' query. Finally, after several weeks and sixteen questions (well, seventeen, but I was generous with a whinger) someone finally guessed the answer ... Tom Wintringham. Below is my final post on the thread, with a snapshot bio of this fascinating person.

I am so glad someone could get to this fellow's name. He lived an amazingly full life, of which below I only ramble off some of the more public dimensions.

- An able mechanic/despatch rider in RFC in WWI (served with the baloonatics). Notably, convicted of mutiny and returns to front.
- Founding member of Communist Party of Great Briton, editor (Daily Worker), journalist, (Picture Post, etc). Imprisoned on conviction for sedition in late twenties.
- Core influence in the founding of the International Brigades upon Franco's rebellion in Spain.
- Captain, Machine Gun Company in the British Battalion.
- Acting Commander of the Battalion at Jarama, wounded, hospitalised for two months.
- Return to the front, wounded again, two more months in hospital.
- Convalesce to Britain, anti fascist sympathies have him propagandising to a broad public during Chamberlain's appeasement.
- In the phony war and the dark days, is one of two major voices in public inspiring resistance and preparation (his arch enemy Churchill being the other). Heard by millions.
- Founder and chief instructor (with his old spanish civil war comrades) at Osterley House, in the Irregular Warfare Training course for the Local Defence Volunteers. (5000+ trained here).
- Refuses to join the Home Guard while running Osterley House as the bureaucracy and MI5 move in - eventually closing it down. By this time has left communist party, so joins for a few weeks the Home Guard as an ordinary volunteer before resigning.
- Founds 'Common Purpose' political party in latter stages of the war, party wins seats.
- Dies and buried at Grimsby, some of his books being published well after his passing.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

AAR - Bloody Odessa

Recently I completed the East Front scenario "Bloody Odessa", after a game composed of email exchange of turns. I played the Romanians in a regimental infantry assault on fortified heights, held by an equivalent force of russians (or so it seemed), in pretty low visibility conditions, set in the late autumn of 1941. It was a complexity '4' scenario of 15 turns each, the axis (me) moving first. The optional rules for Fog of War and Armour Facing Effects were 'on'.

After I chose the scenario I looked at the field of battle. Slowly it dawned, I would be assaulting across open fields up steep hills against bunkers and trenches, with my force divided into two elements by a wide open flat area under the fire of both of the enemy's bastions. Up the middle of this valley between the hills was the sealed road to Odessa (this battle was part of the 'break in' phase of the army level assault).

Lucky I didn't yet know about the roadblocks covered by anti tank guns, or the fields of barbed wire and mines covering the northern flank (the southern was covered by forest and fen and broken ground beneath the fortified cliff face). Nor did I notice that the cliffs were in some parts too steep to scale.

I sent one battalion to loop as far north as practical (A1), another to assault up the southern heights (A4) with smoke for the initial phase, a third to cross under cover of smoke to join the southern assault (A3). My armour I sent up the middle till it discovered the roadblocks (A2). The russian appeared to have battalion units in all round defence on the two hill tops (R2), with reserves moving up from behind (R1). A little while into it, two armoured platoons (BT7 and T40) came down around my Western flank to have a go at my onboard artillery (R3). If I couldn't expose his recovery areas to fire, I'd have a hard time of it.

And, so it proved, resulting in a major axis defeat. My infantry were cut to ribbons, my engineers got caught up with the infantry assault with similar consequences, I didn't breach the roadblocks, failed to use my smoke properly, got shot up in the open basically. The brightest moments were when one of my onboard artillery pieces shot up a stray BT7 trying to be smart in my backlines, and when my first group of battered romanians first crested the ridge (they were promptly shot off by hordes of ruskis).

As a scenario, the name of it was pretty accurate. It was also an enjoyable game, despite the relative scale of the Russian victory. He was worried for half the game, and I was still hopeful for a lucky second-to-last turn to capture and hold enough 'objective' hexes to reduce the scale of my loss to 'minor'. Alas, it was not to be.

Well done Lizardking!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

My Precsiousssss - (Risk LOTR)

Following the recent rediscovery of Risk: Lord of the Rings, it predictably didn't take long before one day someone said we should play it again.

So, after a few phone calls and a quick scan through the simple, clear and concise rules (it is a game of Risk, afterall), it was time to get into it. A great way to use a mild and sunny late winter afternoon (hence the streaming sunlight and long shadows in the pic).

The game varies from the traditional risk in a few ways, besides obviously the map. Principally, there is a 'timer' on the game, with the Company of the Ring (represented by a gold ring on a stand) moving one territory per turn along its pre-determined path until it leaves the map via the dead marshes (that's when the game ends). In the photo here, the ring is in Gladden Fields, with two more territories to pass through. The ring might be delayed in certain locations (it's progress is delayed unless the player rolls a '3' on 1D6 in Moria, Lorien and the Dead Marshes). Additionally, there are certain 'adventure' cards which can make it tougher to advance the company also.

The addition of 'Adventure' cards is another significant change, with 'event', 'power' and 'mission' subcategories. Players draw one of these cards at the end of their turn if their leader has passed through a territory that has a 'site of power' in it. If an 'event' card (eg. wolves, snowstorm) it is played immediately. If it is a 'power card' (eg. 'knife in the back', 'wormtongue') a player keeps it for later use. If it is a 'mission' card a player will try and hold it until their leader reaches the territory named on the card, when they will be able to draw certain reinforcements.

Changes to the game that affect tactics are, most noticeably, the addition of 'leaders' (combat bonuses in attack and defence, can generate 'adventure' cards (see above)), rivers (can only be crossed at bridges), mountains (cannot be crossed), Fortresses (eg. Helms Deep, aids in defensive bonus for combat, worth victory points at the end of the game) and Ports (there are three coastal ports, connected by sea lanes, which effectively make them contiguous to each other despite the actual distance).

There are a few 'minor' changes to some of the classic Risk rules (eg. each turn a player can 'maneuver' one 'stack' or a leader from any one of one's territoritories to any other provided they are connected by other friendly controlled territories - unlike the original form of mass movement, allowable only into an adjacent territory).

In my opinion, the net result of these changes is a game which keeps the bloodthirsty cutthroat nature of Risk, but limits it in time and rewards good play a little better.

Today's game lasted about three hours. Shaun (red) won with 44 points, Adelaide Gamer (green) and Nancy (yellow) tied for second on 15 points, poor Paul got stuck in the badlands of Rhun, coming in on 3 points. I think that everyone enjoyed it. I know I did.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A day at the forge...

This is a picture of the 'Soot n Cinder' forge, a 'place' located on the forums in the Renaissance Kingdoms world. It is out the back of the cottage where my character lives with his family and friends, on a slope overlooking the Clyde above the town of Ardencaple. It exists purely in the collective imagination of those who read and write on the thread. To see it 'in real life', you'll have to travel to RK Ardencaple.

For a several months now, my character has been mainly occupying himself in his day to day actions (one a day) making things in the forge (his other main activity has been serving on a rostered basis as part of the Clan Guard, a voluntary self defence organisation which has put down about one attempted rebellion per month since our own 'great rebellion' late last year). At the moment there is a slow but steady trade in axes and knives on the town market. It is not a thriving trade so he is slowly losing money (albeit, while his capital stock increases).

In town, his tavern 'The Wounded Boar' makes a steady after tax loss, but well within the level of still being a 'hobby expenditure', so he keeps it open. At the moment he is selling cost price beer there in celebrations of the King's death. The tavern is the only one in town that has fish on the menu. For the regulars, there's (much cheaper) porridge. In about eight months, the tavern has only been drunk dry on the one occasion. My character sees this as a major achievement.

There's lots more happening in my world of the renaissance, even in the 'quiet times' we are presently experiencing there. I'll write more of it sometime soon.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Still More Treasure


What can I say? I open another of my storage boxes expecting to find painting paraphenalia and what do I find, but more missing games, a few framed pictures of medieval ruins from Scotland, some notes about force organisation for SCW wargaming, and some painting paraphenalia! I hereby publicly retract and apologise for any ill thoughts I thought about anyone who I suspected of having borrowed but not returned Risk: Lord of the Rings.

In my opinion, these are all great games. Go, because it's go. LOTR Risk, because it has all the fun and blood of classic risk, but a time limiting factor (the passage of the ring across the map on its way to Mordor, one province at a time). York Town, because it is a clean cut and physically beautiful game which puts one at ease in the playing.

BTW - to answer a question I've been asked, the most exciting 'treasure' in the initial trove was of course the game of Buccaneers.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Taking on the system...

Chaotic Good was always my favorite alignment in D&D terms, maybe because it most closely aligns with my personal reality. How could I resist this picture, and how could I refuse to share it once I had succumbed?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Trivial Success

Over at the Blitz there are a selection of ongoing forum based military trivia games of the 'twenty questions' variety. Until recently, I'd never really taken much notice of them. For some reason (idle surfing in safe waters?) I recently checked them out. To my own amusement, one of the current questions was of the 'what famous general am I?' variety, and I pretty well had it pegged after reading the third or fourth question. By the time I read the last (15th) question, it was certain, so I wrote in my answer (Jan Smuts). Which was right. So now I get to pose the 'who am I' question.

I won't, of course, say who it is I am thinking of here until they've worked it out there (or used up their twenty questions).

PS if you're interested in my Alcazian project, check out the comments in the post preceding this one, where John asks a question and gets a flow of consciousness reply (in three parts, no less!) outlining the process whereby is produced part of the history of Germania and Ruska.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Progress at Alcazia

Well. It's nearly 11pm on Sunday night, the weekend is almost done, and I'm not launching my Alcazian venture as I had optimistically thought I might be. It's not that I haven't done anything on the project, I have actually done quite a bit. It's just that there's so much to do!

I've started the new blog but not published any posts beyond a 'test post' while I was playing around with the initial graphic settings (it sure is fun to dive back into that exciting moment of the birth of a blog, with a few year's experience under the belt and a bit more of an idea of what I want to achieve than I had when I started Adelaide Gamer).

I decided to use 'pages' for ready reference materials on the imagined world of Alcazia and its times. I started with a patched 'Alcazia in the Thirties', putting down a brief thematic history of the political geography of the nation. From this, was able to deliniate in two separate pages the basic 'types' of the forces available to the principal factions. From this, a fourth page to outline the broader European scene. Then, a fifth page to act as a political gazeteer, and a sixth to act as glossary and guide to the burgeoning number of groups, individuals, parties, nations and organisations that will interact when the big day comes. As there are only ten pages one can use on the blog (and, face it, ten is a lot), I thought I'd stop at six and allow myself the luxury of keeping four up my sleeve against future needs.

The difficulty I was having was imagineering a location for Alcazia in the 'real' world that didn't push the 'disbelief meter' too high. I was also having a few problems breaking away from the determinism that a reasonably detailed knowledge of the period gives me. Eventually it 'clicked', and I created a 'what if' scenario of continental proportions, elevating the creative principle to the point of creating a new 'Europa' similar to, but not the same as, the Europe of our own 'real' time line.

So:

- The Germanian Revolution of 1919 succeeded and Germania is a Socialist Dictatorship,
- Stalin was not paranoid, there was a right wing coup in Ruska. The monarchy was restored and now international capital is basically in charge of the slave factories, and
- The King did not abdicate in Engaland. Mosley looks certain to win the general election.

Some things haven't changed, however, such as:

- Italia has a long term national front government bent on imperial expansionism,
- Frankia has a weak popular front government and tries to not get involved.

Needless to say, I had great fun thinking up the names of various political parties and international organisations (often so that their acronyms match those historically used so that I can use 'real' photos from the time and paint up roughly historical models).

As I put the finishing touches on the glossary at 3 in the morning, I reflected that I had a lot of work still to do before setting the wheels in motion. Once I get to actually posting onto the Interbellum site I want to spend my time directing the motion, rather than generating it. So there's a bit more work to do. So today I took a breather and went to the football.

*

Oh, and I've sent off my third turn in the East Front scenario, 'Bloody Odessa', that I am playing pbem. It's been too long since I last played this great game!

*

I have altered the blogscroll on the left sidebar so that it only shows the blogs with the ten most recent posts. Ironically, this way I can add more blogs to it, without generating a list that is ridiculously long. I have added the following blogs to it:

Defiant Principality - an impressively worked imagi-nation based on the 'what if' scenario that the Catalans gained and kept independence during the Spanish War of Succession.
Campaigns of General William Augustus Pettygree - dashing colonial campaigns.
The Scattergun Gamer - a little like me in that this guy is into lots of things. At present, starting off a late thirties fascist England campaign (this time, Welsh, with cameo role promised for the Anglican League).

Friday, July 01, 2011

More Treasure!


More Treasure!

Some alternate recreational gaming links

Alternate - My Alcazian project continues to develop. I am presently narratively developing the history and political structure underlying the conflict. I hope to 'officially' launch the new site at some time this weekend (having finally got some 'spare' time this week), though the link is already in existence.

Recreational - this link to youtube shows the Battle of Viborg Castle, a bunch of russian medieval recreationists at war. They are pretty extreme at times. It certainly gave me a clearer idea of mass medieval combat. Originally linked by the (soon to be closed) blog at Battles in Miniature.

Gaming - I came across this interview while reading The Excessive Gamer (another interesting blog, especially if you are into Warhammer, GW, etc). The interview article is with the founders (?) of Games Workshop and an interesting exposition on design, psychology of adolenscents, the history of gaming, running a business. It is 27 pages long but worth the effort.

Here's a couple favorite quotes:

JS: Something I found out only just a couple of months ago, a funny wargaming fact, is that
Wilkinson’s, the big Woolworth-like store, has a stipulation in their buying department that their pan-scourers have to be made in a mid-green, because “wargamers make hedges out of them, you know!” The fact is that they’ve got to be made in a colour anyway, so make them in green. Isn’t that amazing? - John Stallard

RP: Your sense of overview is very poor as a teenager, but your sense for detail is fantastically precise. That’s something that people sometimes forget, and even today, when I’m writing rules ... - Rick Priestly

Not that I've ever even played Warhammer, mind you ...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Trouble in Alcazia?

World Creation, the biggest and most daunting of tasks. I'd almost forgotten, until this most recent Imagi-nation project took a hold on me. I think the last fully fledged creation of mine was a barbaric swampy area in the back of beyond for a cut back low tech D&D campaign, many moons ago, so I have no real template 'system' to apply to the problems that go with making a world. To counteract the resultant paralysis I also remind myself that I therefore have fewer preconceptions about 'the correct way to do things' and I might as well make the most of it and let the imagination roam. We get precious few chances to do this in this day and age, so take the opportunity...

So, for now I've settled on an ‘emergent approach’ to integrated game development, take an idea and run with it and see where it takes you. It promises to be an interesting trip, as I enjoy a variety of types of game (role play, skirmish, grand diplomacy, naval, political, trad tactical wargame, operational level campaign, grand diplomacy, board, computer, miniatures, card, pen and paper, solo, two player, pebm, etc, etc, etc) and would like to integrate the experiences of as many as possible into the narrative design of the resultant/precedent 'world'.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that I'll invent the world as I play the games, with a basic historical model (spanish civil war) to follow if in doubt. I'll be designing the fabric, writing the code, of the world as I set up the games. It all sounds pretty hippy, but will give it a go.

I've decided to call 'it' Alcazia, a fictional place in the western Mediterranean in the second half of the ninteen thirties. The fun will start with some sort of military coup. I can perhaps make use of a scenario I once modeled on the initial seizure of north african airbase by Franco’s rebel Army of Africa (allowing Ju 52's of the Luftwaffe to immediately start an air ferry service for the rebels to the Iberian peninsula).

I had thought of using something like a dimly remembered card game (?) called Junta that I played once in the eighties (!) but, having had a look at the game at Boardgame Geek (here), reckon I’ll stick with the miniatures instead.

I’ve started a new blog for the project, but won’t direct you to it until I have at least the basic settings set.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Musings

Several days have gone since the penny clicked regarding the imagi-nations concept. I've amused myself with my musings, and have wandered around the web, seeing what others have been up to in this field of human endeavour. To force me to be clearer in my thoughts and ambitions, thought I'd use some time now to post a few of them (in no particular order).

Period - well, I have a bunch of 6mm Spanish Civil War figures and scenery all ready to go. And I have long been interested in the military and political history of the first half of the twentieth century. So, I will center myself into the nineteen thirties.

Scale and type of game - the nominal point of an imagi-nation for a wargamer is the gaming of the situations the imagi-nation thows up as it evolves. I'm not particularly limited to gaming with miniatures, though for any battles that occur I think that the 6mm scale is fantastic to have considering my limited space and time. If that's not practical, I can use John Tiller's 'West Front' to set up a scenario (albeit with forces pretty well limited to those of historical conflicts of the time) or even - if I wish to put the time into learning the editor function - The Operational Art of War III. With my own story telling proclivities and active imagination, RolePlay type 'board/card/dice' games are always a possibility also. So, if I'm versatile and patient enough, it should cater to most of my gaming needs. And, if my focus changes to another era of history, I'm sure there's a whole backstory to be filled with colonial, napoleonic, 17th century, medieval, etc gaming experiences to be explored!

The ethics of it - I have at times had pause to consider that from which my gaming is drawing its inspiration, the experience of war. While conflict interests me intellectually, I do not wish for war. The fact of it leaves me unsettled and disturbed. Be that as it may, the gaming of it sometimes creates ethical issues for me. Playing an imagined nation should reduce the occasional angst and give less cause for upset.

The socio-politics of it (I know this is getting obscure, but heh it's my blog :)) - the whole imagi-nationsphere is pretty diffuse. One can track it through such 'hubs' as Emporer v Elector, Interbellum or Imagi-nations (warning: non wargamer site) and the blog rolls of individual sites, but it has no real centre. Each is, in a sense, an island, true to itself yet part of the main due the wonderful internet. It's a non-hierarchical network of imaginary creations based on the principle of non-interference (the only real ethic I've identified is - don't presume upon others' imagi-nations). The transactions and inspirations that occur are really interesting to me for their own sake, praxis made visible (in a sense).

To return to more mundane things, I believe that it is the way to go for me for now. An imagi-nation set in the thirties with some affinities to the situation of Spain during its civil war. The next challenge was to break away from the historical cast of my thinking about the era and come up with a coherent narrative entity to function as my imagi-nation.

More to come...

In my musings, the following sites grabbed my attention:

Imagi-nations - the site that gave the concept a name back in 1997!
Morts 1938 Scrapbook - a ripping yarn indeed (on my blog scroll), with some designer notes.
For God, England and King Edward - another example of 'A Very British Coup' campaign setting used by Mort, though set in different part of Mort's england.
Crisis in Alcovia - modern day eastern european imagi-nation, with designer notes.
Vehiculos y blindados de la guerra civil espanola (in spanish, but not much text) - hundreds of pictures of a bewildering variety of locally and mass produced armoured trucks and cars and trains, ambulances, tanks of the SCW.
Military Aspects of the Spanish Civil War - another extensive Mitch Williamson reference site.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Week that Was

In RK I have been leading a discussion about how we can rationalise the town's production of wood from the forest. This is not a simple thing to do anymore (the rules have changed from what they were). We have formed the Autonomous Association of Ardencaple Axeworkers, or the "AAAA" for short. We have now got to the point of having to start circulating blunted axes from the foresters with sharpened axes from the smiths, via the open market. As we are a collective, we combine efforts to keep our prices down to each other. RK being RK, there will be people trying to manipulate the market for their own ends. So we are now setting up the mechanism of exchanging our items and creating chains of evidence for future prosecutions should anyone try and intervene. It really does have the feeling of being in a medieval guild, restricting trade for the benefit of the members.

In East Front, I have commenced a game after over a year's absence from the field. My opponent acknowledged the turn I'd sent him within a few hours of me having done so.

In blogosphere land, I have been joined as a contributor to the Interbellum Imagi-Nations site. Again, within hours of sending my enquiry. Very efficient indeed. In fact, I'd planned on being able to spend today mulling over the issue of what I'm gonna do in terms of my imagi-nation and maybe come up with a few ideas. Finding my name on the list of contributors so quickly adds a definite pressure to get on with this one.

Sadly, I wasn't able to do much today as I went to watch a game of football this morning and was then on family duty for the next eight hours. And then I was playing around with a glue gun on an textile-architectural project of the missus in the evening. So the imagi-nation-ing will have to wait till I find the mental space/time during the week.

Happy gaming.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Interbellum Imagi-Nations?

This picture is of the last occasion that my combined 6mm Spanish Civil War armies paraded before their commanding officer. You'll know that they've been at peace ever since and are presently ensconced in their 'barracks', still awaiting the call to duty. I was beginning to despair when that day might come, or how it might come about, as every time I felt the urge, something in 'real life' seemed to intervene. It was getting very frustrating and, grumble as they might, the troops remained at peace. That might be about to change.

"How is that so?", the reader may well ask. Well, I'll come to that, but please first bear with me as I work my way from then to now.

Miniatures wargaming was not the only thing that took a hit as I lived my life over the past few years. Adelaide Gamer, for instance, took on a torpor often associated with death in the blogosphere. East Front and Renaissance Kingdoms were put into minimalist mode. Hardly even any boardgames and, even then, none of the hardcore ones. Something has changed recently (moved through the midlife crisis?) and I now find that Adelaide Gamer has more and more to talk about - I have probably a month's worth of posting materials lined up with more materiel arriving almost daily.

"All very good," the reader might rightly say, "but what's the relevance to the mustered 6mm armies?"

An bonus side effect of my prolonged absence from the scene was that there were lots of nice surprises when I returned, including the growth of the gaming blogosphere and many of the amazing blogs that I have since found. A 'new' subspecies of gaming blogs are those of the 'Imagi-Nations', a concept which I immediately found fascinating, if obscure in its meaning.

For several weeks I was looking around the web for a definitive guide to what this whole concept of Imagi-Nations is, and was beginning to get frustrated when I couldn't find any location. Eventually, it dawned on me that the whole concept was one whose philosophy and 'rules', such as they are, is actually contained in the accretion of sites forming the imagi-nations network of blogs and related activities. In a sense, a non hierarchical and non centralised game of games. Very philosophical, but it did make a lot of sense to me then.

After this realisation, I went back and had a look at two 'hubs' of imagi-nations with fresher eyes, Emporer v Elector and Interbullum. Now I think I get it. I like what I see. I am thinking that my armies might find their place again in my active gaming universe if I become an active player.

I love the worlds and spaces and writings created for the EvE set of Imagi-Nations, even though 17th century is not really my scene. So, when I came across Interbellum it didn't take long for the thought bubble to form, why not create my own imagi-nation set in between the two world wars? Afterall, I love a bit of history and role playing and I have a set of armies of the period, and the creative bug has been attacking me quite strongly recently...

So, I've written off to the Interbellum mob and asked if its worth the investment of time and emotion that a worthwhile imagi-nation will deserve. I think the answer will be 'yes'. If so, I'll set about creating my own imagi-nation (probably on its own separate blog) and working out some sort of campaign / battle system to take advantage of the online tools I've come across over the last few years, just in case it takes a while to sort out some space and time for the 6mm panoply.

So. Another project beckons. I'll of course keep you informed how it goes.

I think my diary is getting full!

Have added four more sites to my followed blogs:
Interbellum - hub site for interbellum imagi-nations
New Byzantium - a gamer/imagi-nation blog of interest
Battle Game of the Month - imagi-nations active, classic wargamer, philosopher
Mort's 1938 Scrapbook - a great imagi-nationesqe campaign set in a 'fictitious' English Civil War in 1938. The history of the Anglican League in particular is an interesting thread!

Return to the East Front

This is my avatar at the Blitz. It's a picture of an unnamed digger, taken in Sydney 1916 before he went off to the war. I don't know about the ethics of this, but I find it a striking image. Of the First AIF which went to fight, a third of them never returned. So his odds weren't good.

I have finally sent in my battle report for the game of East Front which I found myself badly losing about March last year (my bad). Because I could only bring around myself to do it today, I put down the 'completion date' in the battle report as being today. Therefore, I have an entry on the Blitz's Championship Ladder for East Front for 2011, as does my opponent, Lizardking. One thing I like about games in the Blitz competition is that both players receive some credit for it by way of points on the ladder. Points for participation is always a good thing in my eyes.

Seeing as I've finally ticked this item off my list of things to do, I rewarded myself with emailing Lizardking the first turn in a new scenario, 'Bloody Odessa'. The short version, set in autumn 1941 it recreates a part of the Romanian front as the axis finally closed in and around Odessa on the Black Sea. It is (approximately) regimental in scale. I am expecting it to be more of a bloody footslog than the dashing armoured thrusts we tend to associate with Army Group South. I'll report how it goes.

I might even whip up a AAR for the game I just conceded ('The Desperate Lunge').

Friday, June 24, 2011

Quick Hexographer Link

Grognardia recently posted a reference to the online hex mapping resource, Hexographer. Although I don't have time to play around with it at the moment, between the Grog's commentary and what I see at the linked site I can already see a number of uses for the application. And I know that some of my regular readers will appreciate it also!

I really will have to sort out my label categories and go through this blog with the edit post feature. Another gaming project to add to the list...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Life in Arden, 1459 - Pt 1


My character in Renaissance Kingdoms continues to live his happy life at the port town of Ardencaple, County Glasgow. He has not traveled outside of town since he went for a picnic in Stirling with some cousins around new year (after the rebellion and siege) and it is over a year since he moved there with all his family and possessions. He had first visited the place several times since the town's formation in 1456.

When we moved Arden's natural resource was 'fish'. The young of the town could go fishing if there was no work available for them elsewhere. Life was easy. Since that time, a number of things have happened that will potentially change the sleepy seaside village for ever.

Firstly, the game underwent a major 'rationalisation' in terms of the number of towns and counties. Population had declined to the extent that some places were dying ghost towns, trade and commerce was grinding to a halt, the intensity of the 'community experience' provided by the game was diminishing. So, after a consultative process, entire towns and counties were 'mothballed' and their populations redistributed amongst the surviving locations. The intention was to recreate a critical mass.

Ardencaple remained on the map, as did Glasgow County. The county lost the town of Lanark, whose population was relocated to the capital, Glasgow Town. Lanark had been a 'fruit' town, Glasgow Town a 'wood' town. When the Lanark population was relocated to Glasgow Town, Glasgow Town was converted from a 'wood' town to a 'fruit' town. Unfortuantely, sadly, Ardencaple was turned to a 'wood' town and we lost our fishing grounds.

To make things worse, the county council (which, we later discovered, had actually asked for our town to be converted from fish, without actually asking (or even informing) us first) closed down the local gold mine, removing the one source of income left to our youth. And to cap it all off, the rules about axes and forests had changed before all of the above happened, so as to make running a 'wood' town a painfully expensive operation if organised the same way as it had been for years. With no warning that we were going to be faced with a forest one morning, we were rather unprepared.

Previously, mayors could buy some axes and then 'loan' out up to 20 of them each day for citizens to take into the forest where they would cut wood. For each loaned axe, there was about a 5% chance of its going 'blunt' per day, in which case the mayor would have to pay a smith to sharpen it before being able to loan it out again. And about every hundred days an axe would 'break' and need replacing. In return for loaning each axe, the mayor would receive one bushel of wood per axe per day (the forester would keep the rest), which they would then redistribute to the smiths and bakers and construction workers as required. It was all very neat.

Then, the rules for axes were changed. Now, axes break frequently unless the user keeps their character's 'mood' up (which is done by going to the pub a lot, or going to church - haha). This requires a workforce of socially responsible drinkers. A consequence of low levels of public education (or public spirit) has meant that this requirement has generally not been fulfilled. A consequence of that has been that the repair and replacement cost for mayors has rocketed up. Axes have become a serious drain on a town's resources. The young are discouraged from using (breaking) the declining number of axes in use and taxes need to be imposed.

Life has grown tougher all round.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More piracy

Had another quick game of Buccaneer tonight with Nancy, Jess and Brodie. Jess went out to an early looking lead, till newbie Brodie jumped her ship and took the treasure so labouriously traded for crew in Brodie's port. Me, I got caught at Treasure Island and lost most of my crew overboard so had to hang around far too long in order to replace them. Meanwhile, Nancy roamed the seas, followed her treasure map, raided my harbour and won quite comfortably. Good fun.

I've added Garage Gamer to the Blog Roll. A pretty well fully documented large scale Napoleonics Campaign, plus other things. A lot of material to work through and some great looking battles. Have a look at the earliest posts to get an idea of the garage.

Finally, John over at Roll Dice and Kick Ass is back in the land of blog. Welcome back, John!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Buccaneer - Treasure Ahoy!

Waddington's "Buccaneer" was published in 1971 and is as much fun now as it was then. My old box is getting a bit crusty, and there's a substituted button for a missing pearl amongst the treasures, but it is otherwise holding up well after nearly forty years. Not bad for a family game.

The basic idea is to collect at your home port 20 points worth of 'treasure' - barrels of rum, pearls, gold ingots, diamonds and rubies before anyone else. You do this by hanging around Treasure Island, trading at any of the ports, or piracy (of course).

The rules are well written, and printed on the inside of the colourful box cover. Although simple, they leave players with different strategies, modified always by the vagaries of Treasure and Pirate Islands, as well as the tropical storms, yellow fever, lost charts and piratical hero's like (Long John Silver). A player needs to be flexible to catch the tides of fate in this free flowing game.

The structure of a player's turn forces them to consider their plans for future turns (as one would expect with a good sailing game), especially when maneuvering in the waters off Treasure Island (left).

We played a couple of three player games this evening. Each game took less than an hour and, surprisingly for us, involved no vigorous debate. There was one act of piracy in the second game (shaun plundering nancy's galleon), but combat did not feature heavily. For the record, I won the first game on a conservative sail and trade strategy, and Shaun came home with the goods in the second - from my port! I suspect there'll be a few more piratical adventures over the next week or two.

All in all a grand ol' game, accessible to new gamers young and old, and with enough intricacies in its play to satisfy the old seadogs amongst us.

"Haaaahr me hearties!"

PS I have added Storm and Conquest to the blog scroll. Part of another aussie group, interested atm in ECW and Dark Ages. His blog scroll is interesting also. In his most recent post, he has some nice pictures of a magnificent motte and bailey at the Goulburn Gamers, with a bunch of his viking and saxon rebels attacking it. The defender's perspective is here at the Unlucky General. All of it worth a read.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It was fun while it lasted

Another post on posting, sorry! It's that danged anthropological bent in me.

The mystery becomes a little clearer. The updating scroll of over a thousand wargaming blogs over at blogs of war has changed its settings, and is now a static list (presumably in order of being joined to it with the most recent additions to the list at the top, as Adelaide Gamer is in the top fifty or so). This appears to be an action designed to wind back the 'acceleration' of traffic measurements being driven from the site. I wonder if it was the site's authors, or blogger admin, that brought about the change.

Much of the recent increase in traffic to Adelaide Gamer was steered here from Blogs of War. The fact that I had commenced more frequent posting would have explains why. It seems that there is a 'systemic resonance' on the web whereby some traffic generates more, so the new traffic brought more. The 'reverse resonance', of course, might also be true, which would explain the marked decline of hits when, firstly, blogger (or someone) disabled the count of visits from Blogs of War - or, if not, disabled counts from blogger scrolls generally - which would be really sad), and then reverting the scroll to a static list ordered by date of addition to the list.

I raise the possibility of the disabling of counted traffic from the blogger scroll function at blogs of war because, even when the scroll was still functioning (for a few hours after I posted the previous post earlier this morning) there was none of the usual 'spike' in numbers. As I know there were a fair few people watching their stats (like me) over recent days and eager to talk about it, this was unusual to say the least.

So, the 'distortion' is being taken out of the numbers.

But, at the same time, the insight provided by the dynamic view of the active gaming blogging community which was the blogs of war scroll, has been denied us. Unless, of course, there is a system update happening. Which I doubt.

It is still a great list, mind you, and a treasure to be troved, but one whose use has been changed from hub to historian.

It was fun while it lasted!

PS The other big change with blogs of war is that if you now click on a blog's name, it takes you to a 'formatless' version of the most recent post, with the blog's own template and dressings pared away. One actually has to click on the post to be taken to the actual blog. So it is now a much more restrictive environment for those of us who were getting the hang of surfing the wargamer's blogosphere.

PPS I added a couple more blogs to my own blog scroll:

Udder's Well - a documentary history of active ongoing D&D campaign sessions, and
Jim's Wargaming Workbench - with among other things a concentration on weird / alternate games, particularly a fascinating looking campaign set in Edwardian Age transcaucasian regions.

PPPS Update about 10 hours later - Blogs of War has now come back to 'normal', with its scrolling update including snippets of the most recent post. This, of course, puts my theory back into its place about the reduction in posts. Maybe no one likes me anymore?

I forgot that I also added these two to the blog roll:
Wall Advantage - ASL (Advanced Squad Leader)
A Wargaming Miscellany - Involved in imagi-nations, SCW and ancients, and a cool writing style.

Hits return to 'normal'?

Over the past week and a bit a lot of wargamer blogs reported a large 'spike' in the number of hits they were receiving. Although not as big a spike as some, this site experienced that. Numerous theories for why this occurred were washing around the comments pages of those that mentioned it.

Over the last two days, albeit two days when I haven't posted, the number of visits to this blog suddenly dropped back to their pre-spike levels. I'll see if it's related to lack of posting fairly shortly...

I wasn't gonna post on this subject (too many posts on posting makes for a dull read) but thought I'd mention it as it appears no one else has. I'll post on what I was originally going to shortly...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cthulhic Tomes

Because I promised Grey Wolf I would.

(click on the picture to expand it a bit)

Lots of treasure in this lot, too!


Monday, June 13, 2011

On blogging, and some renovations

I recently returned to active blogging after two years' of 'survival posting'. On my return my blog was much the same, but the world in which it lived had sure changed!* For example, there was a new tab on the 'blogger' dashboard interface called 'stats'. As google is collecting the information anyway, I see it as a good thing that they are sharing some of it with me. Very interesting. So I looked at my stats in between postings...

Eventually I found that a significant source of traffic for the Adelaide Gamer was coming from a Blogger site called "wargamesblogs". I went and had a look, to find it going under the name of 'Blogs of War', a perpetually updating list of the posting activity of a sizeable portion of the wargaming blogosphere. It has over a thousand blogs listing on its updating scroll. Treasure indeed! So I added it to my list of favoured sites and, inspired by the many wonderful blogs I had seen, returned to my dashboard page to look at what else had changed in the years of my virtual inactivity in the scene.

As far as this blog goes, some of the results of my investigations are evident in the design of this page.

Previously, I had featured links to gaming sites, and a set of static links to blogs I followed. I did it this way for a purpose, linking to sites of activity in the 'real' virtual gaming community ahead of what I saw as 'pushing' myself or other individuals. This was my way of being a wargaming community activist.

In the two years I'd been gone, the online gamer community had exploded in size, hiving off into multiple parallel communities that blogged in ever increasing numbers about more and more things they had in common. Fascinating. Something had hit critical mass and the community was now definitely maturing (I have seen the same thing happening elsewhere on the blogosphere of recent times) into something that was functionally 'new'.

Which meant my place within that community was also changing. Now, it is individuals and the links between them which are the constituent things (rather than just our shared interests), the connections are developing around all of us as individual nodes on the network, rather than as mere feeders to the 'activity sector'. We are now a part of the wargaming world, as a blogging community, as a 'player' as well as an abstract phenomena (eg. a 'market').

So, to cut a long story short (haha), I renovated the page design of this blog. I have put my profile at the top so people can see who I am. I also changed the content of my profile to reflect my blogging soul more accurately than what was there (from another age, I started this in 2004).

I elevated the scrolling 'other blogs I read' updater** to just beneath my profile, both to (1) share out the traffic that comes my way from google searches etc (I have several posts that rank fairly high on some reasonably 'popular' search expressions), and (2), make it easy for me to see and access (I find that Adelaide Gamer is becoming practically my 'home page' these days).

I inserted a small section of 'my handy links'*** between profile and blogscroll to catch those sites that fit the definition of frequent use and not a blog (even though 'blogs of war' technically is a blog).

I kept my archive available, immediately beneath the scroller.

I have kept my other collections of links (some of which are now inactive, I suspect) beneath the 'active' parts of the margin. I will have to think about what other sets and sources of information I want to include on my page before I decide what to do with them. For instance, the concept of stand alone 'pages' intrigues me, and blogger has added it as another feature to its growing palette.

What interesting times we live in!

_______________


*The world is always changing. Here's my Adelaide Gamer Brief History of the Blogosphere.

1993 - the first Weblog (though not yet named as such), created by an I.T. student, the year the 'web' is born.
1999 - The term 'blog' is coined, 23 'blogs' in existence (?), Blogger starts.
2002 - 1 million blogs in existence.
2004 - 3 million blogs in existence, Adelaide Gamer is born.
2005 - 50+ million blogs in existence.
2007 - I notice a new wave of gamer blogs
2011 - ?

** To the old few I have added several which I have come across since discovering the Blogs of War:

The Man Cave - aussie gamer with dark ages passion.
Victoria's Boys in Red - weird and alternate wargaming genres.
Warfare and Wargaming - representative entrant for Mitch Williamson's sites (see here).
The Nothelm Chronicle - nice dark ages modeling and gaming theme.
Emporer vs Elector - well trafficked member of the imagi-nations worlds. I don't know much about it, but I like what I see happening in the background of the wargames.

***The links I include on this select list include:
Renaissance Kingdoms
Blogs of War
The Blitz

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Another quiet year in the Renaissance

Dracmuller MacTavish has been alive (mostly) and kicking in the online RP world, Renaissance Kingdoms, for nearly four years. It's been over a year since I last related his exploits in any detail, and even that was merely a reprint of his ingame profile.

At that time, Dracmuller's horizons had generally shrunk to what was visible from where the walls once stood surrounding his hometown of Ardencaple. After spending years in the army and in public life, usually surrounded by controversy, he had retired and taken up sheep farming on the hills above the Clyde.

When we last left him there, his most public activity was a weekly rostered shift in the Clan Guard, helping maintain a watch over comings and goings in the quiet village (does this sound like the start of an Asterix comic to you?). As it's rather late but I still feel creative, I'll blog for our mutual pleasure the exploits of Dracmuller MacTavish since then:

1458

27 May, Take up sheep farming - where we left our hero the last time we looked.

19 Jun, Oscar Hohenzollern MacTavish born to Arien. A busy night for Drac and his cousins as they provided moral support.

10 Oct, Convert fields to corn - in response to the threat of the new Count to bankrupt all sheepfarmers. To this threat is added increased levies of taxes on local town halls, closures of mines, massive tax hikes on vegetable farms. To this is added the continual insult of a shouting, deaf, aging madman as Count. The Count takes control of the courts and laws, all verdicts and legislation being reduced to his whim and backed by his mercenary muscle.

22 Oct, MacTavish Torc Tog Aghaidh. The flag of protest is raised outside Ardencaple, shortly followed by two allied commands. Over the following week the county marshals its own and allied forces in the capital, while free citizenry and clansfolk congregate around their banners and organise themselves at Ardencaple. Eventually, the county army marches on the town. The locals retreat behind the walls at the last moment.

1 Nov, The Siege of Ardencaple begins. It will last about a month. Significant events of the siege would include: the attempted rebellions of a 'fifth column' within the town; the imposition of martial law to restore order by the MacTavish Commander; the furious debates that occured about tactics and strategy amongst the town inhabitants; the cameraderie of the town taverns; the dying expressions of liberty or death by clan, citizen (and even a revolutionary frenchman who happened to be present on his honeymoon); the aid given the non professional rebels by a handful of hardened foreign volunteers; the Count's need to retreat back to the capital on one occasion to reorganise and re-equip; the valiant though illiterate milita; the international interest; the fact that the town did not declare independence from the king, and that work on the harbour continued almost without break through the siege; the mad escapade of a couple surviving MacTavishes near siege's end to burst through the besieging army and make a mad cross-county dash to confront the count in his home town (he cowered and didn't show himself) before returning past a second hostile army hunting them down, back through the seige lines, in time for the last of six or so battles - all but one (the last) won by the rebels.

8 - 16 Nov, Treason Trial of Dracmuller MacTavish occurred in the County Courts. He had been grievously wounded in the first assault on the gates, about a week into the siege, and found himself before a trumped up court with a judge who dispensed with all evidence or charge in his urgency to finish the trial and execute the clan leader. Condemned, the Count's men came at dead of night to do the deed - but failed. In the morning Drac was to be found at death's door, but at home (and his would-be executioners, unexplainedly found dead in his old cell). And there he remained till the final days of the siege, protected by the King's Edict until he again raised the sword of rebellion.

29 Nov, Siege of Ardencaple ends in a welter of blood. All the defenders have been either killed or badly wounded in battle, most have been bound up by the king's bailiffs following trumped up trials. The rebellion's leaders and their advisors are all put on trial for their life, lesser rebels are generally paroled after a hefty bribe. The final battle occurs on the day Dracmuller first feels fit enough to again pick up a sword (!) and he is taken down again, the last man to fall, taking the banner from his valiant wife as she is struck down, and holding it aloft before being overwhelmed (somehow, smuggling it to a cousin before he is again led off to captivity and trial).

30 Nov, Disorderly trial starts. The first ever trial in Scotland where the penalty for disorderly conduct is death.

2 Dec, 'The Wounded Boar' opens, Drac's tavern. Displaying the blood stained banner of the rebellion behind the bar, many come and have a drink with Drac while he waits for the drawn out trial procedures to end and him to be put into custody.

9 Dec, Disorderly trials ends. Needless to say, Drac loses the trial (which is a repeat of the farce of the first trial). In total, 36 MacTavishes and friends face the courts, 35 are found guilty, there are 9 executions. The repression begins. Drac executed, exists in limbo for four days before deciding to 'resurrect'. NB 'death' in RK need not be permanent unless one wishes it to be. There are, however, attendant ingame penalties and restrictions that follow a 'death' - even after one 'resurrects'. These penalties are particularly harsh if one dies by 'execution'.

1459

13 Jan, Return to good health, the regulation 45 days after the execution. Now able to travel again, if he chooses, his stats are markedly poorer than they were when the banner was first raised.

19 Jan - 1 Feb, Picnic in Stirling with an armed mob of cousins to get some wood from their forest as there is none in Arden due the Count's austerity measures.

Feb - Mar, Childcare and home duties. Self explanatory, while Arien goes into longterm retreat following long term harassment from our foes. Drac does not blame her, is himself tempted, but who would look after the baby?

April - producer of fine axewear to support the local forestry industry, freeing other smiths to work on the harbour's defences.

2 May - Clan Guard reforms and takes up duty, this time in accordance with a contract with local authorities. Outside the town a county army lurks, ostensibly keeping watch over the harbour but equally keeping a watch on the locals.

These days, Drac occupies himself doing a couple days on town hall duty per week with the clan guard, parcels out the rest of his time between various tasks at his blacksmith forge. He keeps the Boar's Head open despite the fact it loses him money (everyone needs a hobby) and can be found in one of the local taverns (not necessarily his own) for between a half hour and an hour of an evening. Life goes on.

In other words, just another quiet year in the Renaissance!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

WoT? Whoops!

World of Tanks was recently recommended me by a friend. I had recently also been reading about it (on one of Mitch Williamson's sites, can't remember which), after hearing of it for a couple months (in a Renaissance tavern!). So, as I occasionally do when the gods of synchronicity roll a double, I went to have a look at this free-to-play online MMO. Not much luck.

The download of the client onto my machine required 1.8 Gb so it took a couple hours to get ready. Installation took awhile also. Right at the end of the process (just before it asked if I want a desktop icon) a windows message flashed up on screen telling me that the program's needs exceeded my system's capability and that the installation was thus aborted.

I'm not used to seeing messages like that, so went to the FAQ on the forums. System Requirements: 2 Gb RAM. Check my system specs: 1GB RAM. No dice. How sad. I haven't been so disappointed since I found out that Conan Online wanted my credit card number after downloading the 4Gb client ('play for free' promotion (for which I'd bought a magazine I normally wouldn't, all because I dig R.E.Howard))*.

At one level, WoT appears to be a pretty standard shootemup, (excepting the premise that you are a (upgradeable) tank amongst other tanks rather than a psychotic killer amongst other psychos). It operates the way a lot of games do these days, with a free player able to grind their way forward just at a slower rate to payers. You can join a platoon, even a clan. There are clan wars.

This is where it gets interesting, as there is another 'level' of game set on a provincialised map of europe, with warring clans struggling for world conquest by taking over one province at a time via a formalised 'tournament style' scheduling of battles. This in turn creates a long term persistent 'story arc', and opens up a whole 'Risk' style of strategic meaning to interclan battles, with a bunch of live players rather than lifeless drones as one's opponents in tactics as well as strategy. And that, to me, was and is interesting.

Alas, I'll just have to read/hear about it as I'm not planning to upgrade my RAM anytime soon.

* Over at the Blog that Time Forgot, Big Al is in Howard Country. He's made the trip to the grave. Reading that, I had to work in a Howard allusion somehow for the link! Also ... if I find the link for Mitch's article on WoT, I'll let you know.