Wednesday, April 25, 2007

PF Milestones - Online and Otherwise

I haven't got long to post here, so will limit it to highlights for the last 24 hours (isn't it cool when your gaming sublife develops at such a rate that such a short space of time is significant). Of course it relates again to Pacific Fighters (albeit, played Munchkins last night).

Firstly, I managed to land my plane on its wheels on the runway without causing damage. This was a milestone! I haven't repeated the exploit in the five or so missions I've flown since, but have at least got to the runway and almost into position before either crash landing or crashing. Problem seems to be coming in either too high or too fast.

Second, although I was shot down in dogfights last night, I was at least putting up a semblance of a show consistently, and was no easy mark to take down. Again, one of my assassins said after doing the deed that I'd really put him through the works before he could get me. A bit of a complement as this guy also is a top rated ace. I also got shots on target last night a couple of times, alas not enough to score a kill. Have also added a bit to my bombing tally on Norwegian server, putting me into the top 20 bomber pilots by result.

Finally, I went hunting and found a guide to the Full Mission Builder component of Pacific Fighters. Not only that, I have used it to construct a mission designed for landing training. The potential that this Mission Builder has to expand the game experience - allowing everything from single training missions to full on online co-op campaigns is awesome!

I have put a link to the Mission Builder tutorials on the sidebar of this blog.

Back to work tomorrow...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Game Review - Pass the Bomb

So, besides seemingly endless hours flying doomed planes over various online Pacific Islands, what else have I been upto? As always, there's various other happenings a-going on in this games laboratory which is our home.

Pass the Bomb, for example, was a game Nancy picked up at local(ish) games shop a few months ago. Good civilised party game for all and sundry. Basically, the idea is to win on points. You get points by not holding the bomb when it goes off. The bomb is passed from person to person, and ticks (!) as this occurs. Then, at an unknown time between two seconds and a couple minutes, it goes 'boom'. It looks like those archetypical warner brothers type round bomb with a wick sticking out of its top.

You can only hand the bomb onto the next player when you solve the puzzle. This is composed by a pile of 'flash cards', each with between 2 and four letters on it. The goal is to compose a word that contains the letters which are on the card. Depending on the colour of the card, there are limitations on where the letters are allowed to be located within the word chosen. Thus, a red series of letters might mean that that series of letters cannot be used at the end of word, a green series - that it can't be at the start of the word, a blue series - that it can be anywhere within the word.

If a player says a word which contains the letters and complies with the limitations of the colours, they pass the bomb on. The player who has it blow up in their hands doesn't get points. The others get points. The winner is the first to 100 points (I think).

There's not much more to it than that. It's a fun game for almost any number of players, of all ages. It presumes a decent facility with spelt english in all players, but beyond that it doesn't overly favour the wordy ones amongst us because it is mainly short words which are of greatest value (come to mind quickest).

At under $30, recommended for those who woudn't mind a word game every few months that isn't scrabble.

PS - I wonder if the frequent use of the word 'bomb' will bring the real spies to this site and our computer? If so, I hope they enjoy and have the decency to leave their calling card somewhere - we're all ultimately in this together.

PF Online Sessions 17 - 20

In the last couple days have put in four very solid sessions of Pacific Fighters.

Session 17 - Sunday Morning - flew a couple hours on Norwegian Server, great map of small part of Gilbert Islands (?) in late war. Flew several missions with bomb loaded Mustangs. No significant damage to japs. Believe I crashed twice, after getting out of two dogfights to save my even newbier colleague.

Session 18 - Sunday Night - flew Norwegian again. This map, over Hawaii and dogfighting most of the way. No real shots off, shot down several times. Again, Mustang.

Session 19 - Monday Arvo - flew Norwegian. Hawaii. Night time. P40 M. Several bombing runs through empty skies. Destroyed several planes on the ground. Crash landed on all but last mission, when ambushed and shot down. Never saw it coming.

Session 20 - Monday Night - (a) Phoenix server. Hawaii. Gnarly dogfights on low difficulty. Wayne was online also. Good fun. Neither of us shot the other down. I got a couple opponents, but in each instance shot down before could claim kills. (b) Maddog server. Hawaii. Very gnarly dogfight on almost full difficulty. Again, put shots on target several times but got taken out myself before landing attempt possible. Mainly P40M. Brutal game.

Norwegian server keeps its stats sheets online, which is really interesting to review. I've flown about 8 and a half hours on it so far.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Online Squadrons

Here is a list of some online squadron sites. Over a time I'll be adding to the following list (also editing and deleting as required). The page is referenced from the 'Flight Sims' links section on my sidebar. My favorite server is Norwegian Server, one of the more challenging servers you can get into via Hyperlobby (download the 'client' to get started).

RAF 662 (Big Group of Squads, 'Golf Squadron' is mainly Austalian)
Rogue Squadron (home of several servers and squad's - vibrant)
RACF - FB (comprehensive)
The Real Aussie Airforce
VF 101
Wedgetailed Eagles
JG 77
Air Group 51
No 76 RAAF Squadron

Friday, April 20, 2007

PF Online Sessions 15 & 16

I have just completed session 16, on the Phantom server over Hawaii for about 35 min. I entered the server when only one other player. He left almost immediately. I 'landed on the field'/crashed my mustang and picked up some bombs. Carrying these back to Pearl Harbour, I destroyed several fuel tanks before returning at under 100m. No good, I still fatally crashed. The problem seems to be that under 100m, plane wants to dive in if at low power.

Earlier this evening I flew about 90 min on Maddog. Again, one other flyer. We stayed online for entire time. In first flight, I took up a mustang and fairly quickly got shot up by him. It took him a long time to chase me down as I dodged back towards base. I was reliant on rudder and elevators only as aerlions were shot out. this guy was pretty good, eventually getting me. I flew another mission in Spitfire on opponent's advice. I did the online chats you can have whilst flying if there isn't a big furball dog fight happening. This fellow was from LA, and had flown about 1 yr with the CD before venturing online. I think we appreciated each other's sense of humour. He was flying bomber missions. I finally got on the tail of one of these missions. Got shot down by the tailgunner.

120 min, 3 mustang flights, 1 spitfire. Shot down once by zero, second by bomber tailgunner. Crashlanded once, crashed once.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

PF Online Session 14

The skies over the Pacific were almost free of bandits today. Tried to fly off of allied carrier just off of Iwo Jima, but for the life of me couldn't get a plane into the air. After a couple of tries, I switched to flying a Mustang off of the island, trying to sink the carrier. Not even a near miss. Crashed on landing. The trouble with 'unlimited ammo' in the settings on Nemesis server is that you are always carrying nasty bombs when you come into land. I flew a couple more missions with jpg, him flying a A20 low and me as top cover. I only got one burst off, I'd been shot down by AA before the bandit crashed on landing. This was after maybe a 5 min dogfight in which we each got a piece of each other, but he was generally on my tail. Wayne joined the game, we decided to change servers.

Went over to Maddog, where we flew off of the land over Guadacanal against enemy bomber base. Difficulty on almost full settings. I got some tarmac hits with my bombs and blew up the barrage baloon, but ran out of fuel on return journey and crash landed on the beach. On next flight, returned to base and 'landed safe and sound', even though the plane crashlanded with its usual force. Only time I saw an enemy plane was as I was taking off once, and then again as swooped over the bomber base and arrived only shortly after a B25 took off.

So, mixed but still poor results in ground attacks over about 4 missions. Around four missions in air cover role, no contacts. Total time, about 1 1/2 hours. GA Missions: 2XMustang v carrier, 2xKi86 v airbase. Air Missions: ditto.

PF Online Session 13

I had a few problems flying tonight after my long siesta. Couldn't seem to get up off the carrier at all where in the past I've done it without too much problems. Seemed to have real trouble taxing in a straight line, and if I found the end of the ship I seemed to dive from their straight into the sea. Jap or Brit plane, seemed to make no difference.

Then I went to land, hopped into a Mustang, and tried the usual dirt strip. Same problem (nose diving, this time, into the dirt before I'd managed to leave the ground). Even without 250 lb bombs. Hmmm.

So off I go to check out my controls. Joystick reading very poorly when pulled back. Recalibrate. Marginally better.

Go back Inworld. Take off of land strip in Mustang without bomb load. Manage to get airborne. Doesn't do me much good, shot down by Ki 86 after turning fight in which I didn't stand a chance at low speed and under 1000m. Try again. Similar result, although this time in a Ki 86 myself.


Sounds like I need to get a decent joystick.

Intercepted e-comm from one fustrated flyer to another

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

PF Online Sessions 11 & 12

Session 11 was last night. Was online around three hours. Started with no-one else active, thought I'd practice takeoffs and landings. Within a short time there were three others there. Not extremely active night. Soon there was only one other. A Kiwi. He knew how to fly. I took up a P47D and we flew around Hawaii, him on my tail and busy chatting away. He knew someone who knew someone who'd flown a Thunderbolt. Old bloke is apparently in his eighties, enjoys Pacific Fighters. Reckons the real thing was easier to fly than in the sim.

Anyway, my anzac sim partner respawns with a 'Val' Divebomber, bright yellow (to make a nice target for my lumbering beast) and we had a wee dogfight. He shot me down. And that was that.

Session 12 (tonight) - flying initially on Norwegian Server over a night time Hawaii. Hardly saw anyone, though was shot down once by an unknown plane. Wayne was online for awhile here. He got blown up by AA. As did I twice. I then changed servers to Maddog, who tonight featured the Marianas Islands, with a dogfight over Guam where B29 Superfortresses and B17 Flying Fortresses are available to the allied players. I flew my regular Ki 86 and crashed on take off twice, was shot down by Mustang once and B29 once.

If it wasn't so relaxing going for a fly, I'd probably give up the game as way difficult to do well.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Pacific Fighters Online Session 10

Just completed an hour and a half on Maddog server over Okinawa, flying my 'Frank' Ki 84 with 2x250 lb bombs on it against a destroyer coming down the strait between the main island and the american island base a short flight to the West. There were some vicious dogfights in sky nearby, with upto 6 other pilots going for it. I used cloud cover to mask my approach (the only time I didn't was the only time I was shot down by an enemy fighter) and dove in on the ship before releasing my load and heading for home. I was badly wounded by AA from the ships once, chased into the sea by enemy fighter another time, shot down once and crashlanded twice. That's a total of 5 flights.

I dropped my bombs each time, the closest was the first (which was my lowest gliding approach run), which would have washed the deck of the ship. The other bomb runs would have each been within a couple hundred metres. Will get better.

I was being chased back by an enemy fighter on the mission that I ultimately crashed into the sea. He had wounded my pilot and damaged my plane. I was limping home, dodging his bullets (he wasn't a cold and clinical killer, kept overshooting me). Then, when things looked desparate I saw beneath me one of my colleagues with an enemy intent on his tail. I looped down behind the harrassing enemy, my own opponent still behind me, and loosed off a two second burst from about 250m. Too far. Don't think I hit him. I did, however, distract him from my ally and allow him to get away.

I should practice my landings.

Thoughts on the Online experience (long post)

Just in case you're getting a bit jaded with my terse session summaries of online performance (or, lack thereof), here's a few observations about the socio-anthropological aspects of the experience.

There is a different but real sense of community in the online gaming matrix. Individuals have formed themselves networks of meaning, with functionality to the individual measureable in terms of identity, expression and self development (both utilitarian and meta). What do I mean by this.

Flyers 'tag' themselves with relatively perament names online, they use these names within different flying environments to make themselves identifiable to other over time and spaces. This is good in itself. As part of their tags, those who belong to formed up online squadrons (I'll post on this topic in itself one day) often prefix their personal tag with the identifier tag of their squadron (eg. Bob who flys with Jag squadron might tag himself to Jag_Bob). Not only allowing these individuals that share squadron membership to identify and co-operate with each other more easily, it leads also to discourses on the concurrent 'chat' facilities with which players communicate to some degree relating to their 'out-of-space' identities and agendas. It also allows other flyers to recognise them as 'serious' and more likely to be competent flyers (it takes dedication to remain in a squadron). Thus, they carry credibility. The beauty is - players are able to protect their credibility by defending the integrity of their squadron call sign against interlopers online. Thus.

Thus, people that prefix their tag with a squadron identifier that they don't legitimately have a 'right' to use are soon identified and warned by gathering clusters of chatting legitimate members. If the individual doesn't correct the situation, they will be marked players in any game they play in in which their are members of the afronted squadrons (and remember, these guys do tend to be the better flyers). Can get quite heated, but once the issue of honour is resolved things seem to calm down quickly. In about 15 hours online, I haven't seen any flamewars of serious nature.

The utilisation of the Pacific Fighter online flying multiverse for 'expression' can be as simple as putting a 'skin' on your plane which you designed, or that bears your national insignia - to flying particular types of planes or doing particular things within the game. For example, in sesion 9 I had Imperial Jap Army insignia on my jap plane, and did sneak bomb runs over pearl harbour. This to me in some way expressed my humour and created meaningful patterns to events within the game to those that noted it. The fact that I was shot down in my last several missions shows that various players did notice my activities and took advantage of it to lay ambushes and do other enjoyable online actions (giving them a bit of break from the raw adrenalin rushes of constant open skies dogfighting). Thus, through my choices we built a little sequence of connected events. Expression.

Finally, Self development. In a utilitarian sense, I used my pearl harbour bombing missions to sharpen up my flying skills. Having other players around who'd shoot me down if they saw me added a fair bit of spice to the experience, more fun than on the standalone game. More fun = probably learn quicker. I am also to use the 'chat' if I need advice on particular problems.

The other aspect of 'self development' I will mention that happens through participating in these online adventures is the long term extension of self through the online conversations and friendships that one has. When these are stretched beyond the confines of that particular universe (eg. from being members of the same squadron, to being old mates offline), we have added another facet of,and means of expression of, those friendships. And that's self development.

PF Online Sessions 8 and 9

Session 8: Played Pacific Fighter online last night for about 2 hours. I flew Japanese planes over Iwo Jima. Not very successful. I think there were about 5 times I got shot down. No shots off on others. Full difficulty levels.

Session 9: Probably my most satisfying session yet, even if it didn't reach the peak heights of enjoyment which were reached in previous sessions. Again, Norwegian Server. 2 hours. Six flights. Shot down twice, crash land 3 times, AA once. All my missions were flying Ki 84 with 2x 100lb bombs on sneak raids against US air base on Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbour. I got bombs on target four times, on one occassion destroying about four planes and some AA on the ground (was pursued and shot down by spitfire). Good fun doing the sneak raids, but I got the impression that the bandits cottoned onto the concept that someone was setting themselves the task of sneaking in with bombs after my second strike. I think they appreciated it. I used the session for bombing and landing practice.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

PF Online session 7

Flew this morning over Japan. Norwegian Server. Full blown options in this game (ie all the difficulty settings are 'high'). Intimidating, but that's where the action was. About 6 planes when I started, 15 when I finished about 2 hours later. Some very good pilots, and some of them hunt in packs. I suspect that that is because they fly together in an online squadron when they aren't playing general dogfights.

Being the neophyte, I got shot down pretty quick a couple of times. So I did a couple of bombing missions. This meant that I avoided the dogfight area, and skirted the coast with my map reading before setting course to hit the US airfield. I got through the flak once, only to be shot up by a spitfire who'd just beaten my bomb on takeoff. I tried to kamikaze my shot up crate into an AA ship, but narrowly missed. The guy who shot me got a bit of a chuckle out of it.

The second bomb run was not so successful(?). I had another spit ambush me, and my bomb blew up with me attached. That was enough for this session.I was getting the hang of the planes and the map this mission. I still have to learn how to get better value out of my plane in the dogfight. Will return later tonight probably.

Online Solomons.

Tonight I flew one or another Japanese fighters over an Online Solomons Islands for about 3 hours. In that time I conducted a couple near miss bombing raids, ineffectively strafed an enemy airfield packed with B 24s, crashed on take off twice, hit by naval fire several times before takeoff, crashed on landing twice, had fuel catch alight 3 times, be blown out of the sky or otherwise die instantly at another's hands 3 times, bailed out about 4 times. I also loosed off maybe 2 seconds of fire. Not a good ratio.

In the two bombing missions I set myself, I narrowly missed an aircraft carrier and bombed tarmac of US airfield.

Must improve.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Online Woes

Played PF online for about 90 minutes tonight. Wayne came on at almost the same time I did. He shot me done once. I think it was either as I was taking off or landing. I think I got shot down about 8 out of 8 times. It was really interesting neverthe less. I got to watch some fairly good pilots stalking newbie prey. Like myself but different.

Worst of all, the machine eventually crapped out on me, and didn't fix itself after trying to re-enter several times. So I had to terminate the session just as it was getting interesting. Over that 90 min, however, the online population went up from 2 to 8 at peak. Which was pretty exciting.

Adddictive, almost ...

Update: went back and was directed by another helpful player to a server with which I had no problems. It was over guadacanal. I flew Ki-84 jap plane. Never flown jap before. fairly steady platform. This server's (ie maddogs) online rules used all of the difficulty settings (ie engine management, no map icons - multiple missions). A bit intimidating to start but actually makes the whole thing more intuitive. Sadly, didn't have sufficient time to get into the campaign feel of this server before had to sign off as have to get up in the morning.

For the record, two more missions - one bomb strike against airfield (destroying a plane taking off), crashed once (too excited about my successful bomb run to notice the jungle coming up at me).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

First online kill

Have flown again for about an hour or so. Same server, same location. I flew a Corsair (1944) this time, not too bad handling but a bit fragile in control surfaces. I had a crash due wing being shot off, and another when half my tail was shot off (I was able to get back to airfield but found it too difficult to hold her level as I came in).

Surprisingly, I obtained my first online kill. The flight began with me being chased for about 5 min by two spitfires. I survived, dodging clouds, using stall spins, ground level barrel rolls, the whole box and dice. This bought enough time for a fellow blue pilot, flying a spit, to come into the battlezone. He distracted the opposition (I'd had my tail shot off by this time). I decided to fly for home and try and land. As I swung around, a bandit rushed through my sites at say 150m. I let of a short burst (the only burst I've loosed in about 3 hours of flying). I thought I'd be lucky if I got him(although he did fly at the right distance for my convergence of fire angles). Five minutes later, just before I came in for my fatal attempt at landing, the R/T broadcast a victory for me. I'd obviously damaged him, and he crashed later over his own airfield.

As I did over mine.

Tally = about 8 flights, corsair. Shot down 7 times (bailed out 3). Crashed once. Kills: 1 Spitfire.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Newbie Battles

Flew online again over Hawaii for about an hour tonight. This time, had only one opponent for most of the time. He shot me down three times, I didn't get a shot off. At least I saw it coming this time. First time up I flew a spitfire VIII but found it a bit jumpy. Opponent flying same type of plane. Then I switched to my old and trusted P40 E. Bad move, although I lined him up twice for an approach run, his superior speed and climb rates soon had him gunning up my tail. By the time I could shake him, damage done and he only had to come back to finish it off.

I did finally get the messenger system working properly, so was able to talk with opponent a bit. He said he was a Newbie as well. If so, I'd say with not a lot more flying experience than I have. He's part of VF101 - an online squadron that takes it all a bit seriously (training sessions, flight formations, total realism missions). I like the concept. There's another mob out there called the Wedge Tailed Eagles, based here in Australia which would make it a bit easier to keep up with folk in real time (a necessary thing to do if playing in real time online).

The Wedgetails play with IL46 however, so I'll have to save a few scheckles and get into it...

Until then, I hope to put in at least an hour each night online at hyperlobby to get the feel of nasty competitive kill or be killed flying.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Online over Hawaii

Yeehah! At last have been in an online flying environment with Pacific Fighters. Seem to understand how it goes now (the basic protocols, not the flying as such). It was easier and harder than my usual - icons, unlimited fuel and ammo, but need to do takeoffs and landings to get the points. The second of these (ie landings) is something that I've had no need to do yet, having been shot down on each of the four or so missions I flew in where I didn't crash. Good fun. There are some good pilots out there - the last three times I was shot down by the same player on the other side.

Perhaps I'll keep a bit of log for this over time, starting now.

Tonight I flew about three missions over Iwo Jima - no real success or failure. Beaufighters - just learning basic game system. Then I flew maybe five or six over Hawaii, initially in a Kittyhawk P40 E - but then upgraded to a Spitfire VIII as that's what most of the other allied players were piloting. In each case, I took off from the rearmost airport and gained altitude asap. Never got a shot off in anger, and never saw any of the one's that got me. I think I'll have to start tagging along as wing man to a more experienced pilot next time and see how I go.

Thanks Wayne.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Online slaughter

I've just played a few hours of the fps (first person shootemup game), Ghost Recon. I've played this game off and on since my wife got it for me around 3 years ago. This was the first time I have played online.

There's potentially a lot to say about the experience. Let's say it was a blast, and a very unforgiving and uncompromising game environment.

Hilight was one mission where the team I'm on is trying to clear out an embassy ground. I somehow got into the game with only two pistols (everyone else has at least an SLR, if not heavy weapons). I snuck around, and allowed my wingman, Lizardking, to distract the last remaining enemy while I snuck up on his flank and got him with one pistol shot. Cool.

I don't like the fact the servers keep crapping out, nor that the ping rate for us aussies seems to be way high generally, a measure of the distance between ourselves and the global centres of online computer gaming.

Friday, April 06, 2007

History of a gamer Pt I (long post)

I thought it might be interesting for some of you to know how I got from there to here by plotting some of the key moments in the evolution of my gaming gene. It's an interesting biographical thing to do also...

Age 5 - 10
Family games, such as 'snap', 'old maid' and 'rook' (an old card game from my mum's youth which we all got indoctrinated into fairly young), tic tac toe, snakes and ladders, Buccaneers (Waddington boardgame classic), and monopoly.

Somewhere around the age of ten I borrowed a library book about chess. I think it was by Fred Renfeld. Fascinated, I made my own set out of bits of paper and taught myself how to play. I then taught my sister, and eventually others. Not a brilliant player, the highlight of my primary school chess days was winning a knockout tournament amongst all my class mates for the right to play the grand final against our teacher. Mr Weckert beat me, but I didn't feel crushed. He was a good bloke.

Age 11
Accidentally found "Battle" by C.S.Grant at the local library. This is where I learnt what to do with those airfix 'toy' sodiers someone had given me once. This is when I got infected with the twin blight of the modern gamer - obsession with collection and deficiency of comrades. Discovered 'Military Modelling' magazine - with its 'Battle for wargamers' section and column by Charles Vassey (how do I remember all this?).

Age 12
After months of solitaire adventures, I finally asked one of my neighborhood friends around to have a game with my carefully painted airfix figures. I was horrified when all he wanted to do it seemed was throw marbles at them! I terminated that game pretty quick. I tried with another local friend, same experience. I began looking towards school as a recruitment ground.

Age 13
Aquire copy of 'Traveller', Sci Fi Role Playing by Game Designers Workshop. In those distant days, it was composed entirely of 3 x 48 page (?) booklets. Had a couple of classic games, but got diverted before we got too far into Dungeons and Dragons. My more affluent friend (or so it then seemed) had the books, so he was the Dungeon Master. Endless fun.

Age 14
I played chess for a school team, usually occupying fifth or sixth table in our D grade team. Even then I only had one or two wins over a couple of seasons. My most memorable victory came in year 9 when for some reason I ended up in a B grade team for a night, a result of their desparate shortage of players and my being the most expendable of players to be sacrificed from the D grade team for a game against an opponent school of which there was no hope of winning. I, however thought it was pretty cool.

I thought it was even cooler when, towards the middle of the middle game and when I was having my pieces attrited away, I observed an open rear rank in my opponent's otherwise invulnerable position. I constructed and executed a cunning plan which involved the maintenance of a poker face and the sacrifice of what few other pieces of value I had to get my last rook on the last line, and his pieces in a position so that they blocked each other from intervening. Checkmate. Victory. Utter disgust and disbelief on my older opponent's face (I didn't like him so didn't bother trying to make him feel better, he had been a psychological bully when it had looked like he was wiping me up). Sweet memory.

To 15
Games were mainly either WWII 1/72 miniatures or AD&D heroic quests.

In the WWII scene I had a bunch of American Infantry and associated tanks (Shermans, Chaffees, Jeeps, Priests and Long Toms), and faced off my friends who had built up similar company sized collections of Russians and Germans (with a surprising preponderance of King Tiger tanks in this latter). We played initially with slightly modified CS Grant rules, towards the end of the period with 'modern warfare' (4th ed.?) rules by Wargames Research Group.

We played numerous brutal take no prisoners never run away battles on cloth covered tabletops and the sand tables which my two friends had at their places. Once we took over the backyard at my house and played at something approaching scale. I was king of the rules, and recall fighting bitter battles over their interpretation at that time.

For D&D, I tended to play a dwarven fighter character. Much of what we did was loosly inspired by Lord of the Rings crossed with dungeon crawling as per the random encounter tables. A time of magic and mystery as none of us except the DM knew what was in the DM Guide or Monster Manual.

Significantly, at about 13 we hooked up with a local wargames club (SA Historical Wargaming Society) for a few months (after bargaining with the treasurer). There we were introduced to 'Risk' - which opened up a whole world of boardgaming. Although I didn't play any other boargames there, I remember pouring over the collection of games the club held. This would become significant later in life. We also played a couple of games of Napoleonics with borrowed miniatures on club tables. We used simple rules I cobbled together from the many books I was by this time borrowing from libraries all over the Adelaide metro area.

Perhaps of most interest to Dan, was the fact that I bought a painted collection of 15mm republican roman lead figures from a thug at school. I think now that the collection had been stolen, and thus find some reluctance in bringing them out (I get the guilts whenever I look at the detailed paintjobs - even though it was years later that the penny dropped).

More on this some other time.