Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tigris & Euphrates - Trial Game

Nancy, Paul and I played our first game of Tigris & Euphrates tonight. It took about 3 and a half hours (but I would expect that to drop to around 2 hours if we three played again).

The game was good fun, with Nancy romping home as a decisive winner. Her lowest scoring colour group were green markets, scoring her 22 points. Paul and I tied for second/last place, he with 6 blue farms and I with 6 red temples for our respectively lowest scoring colours. Nancy's dynasty settled into a well balanced and isolated mid sized kingdom whilst Paul (with a large kingdom) and Mark (with a smaller ephemeral set of kingdoms) got involved in minor dogfighting over influence in their regions. A total of three monumental ziguratts were built.

Paul stirred the pot once he realised his blue leader was going to have a hard time generating victory points, allegedly to drag me down low enough so that he wouldn't come last. I guess you could say he achieved his aim, by way of converting Nancy's likely victory into a steamroller as he handed her my head on a platter after formenting major external conflicts between her kingdom and my lesser principality.

At least, that's what it felt like.

It was great fun! For most of the game we were concentrating mainly on learning the game mechanism. The game drew to its sudden end when Nancy closed it out by trading in her unused tiles to drain the bag of those few that were left.

The game certainly has great replay value. I suspect it is likely to be more conflictual in future, especially when we play with four dynasties!

We are all looking forward to playing Axis and Allies tomorrow. I expect it will be quite a different experience!

PS - I have added the new category, 'Eurogames' to the blog index on the left sidebar.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Port Adelaide, 'my' team in the national aussie-rules footy competition, has just fallen to a historic mamoth defeat against Geelong in the league's grand final. By something like 120 points, the victorious Cats stomped all over the Power in an awesome display of speed, skill and strength. Port didn't help their own cause much with what seemed a reactive strategy, but they were stunned as the cats came out of the blocks and never recovered from there.

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Geelong, they have been a band of valiant underdogs from industrial struggletown for my whole life. I have admired their persistence and resilience. Now, however, that it looks like they've started on a roll of domination (winning grand final, brownlow medal (league's best and fairest player), rising star award (best rookie in the league) and having almost half of the 'all australian' team of the year (a nominal team composed of the best players in the whole league of sixteen teams)), you could really look at this year as the Year of the Cats, and I'll have to re-evaluate my sympathy vote for them in future.

Tigris & Euphrates - Preview

For some obscure reason I had to go to a game shop this morning and get another game. Games I considered included Samurai, Ticket to Ride, Amun Ra. In the end I went for Tigris and Euphrates, another game designed by Reiner Knizien (creator of Puerto Rico). Haven't played it yet, but certainly look forward to doing so asap.

The Board is big and solid. Players get to place tiles on the map, spreading farms, temples, markets and cities across ancient mespotania. As they do so, they each use their various 'factional' leader types (each player having a king, farmer, priest and merchant in their dynasty) to gain control of the various regions of developed countryside and milk them of victory points. Monumental ziggurats get built, catastrophies disrupt the political landscape and treasure is looted from the most ancient of temple sites.

Being, at one level, a territorial game, there is conflict between forces of opposing players. It is more of what I call 'political' conflict rather than military, the contest being played out between the dynastic factions belonging to each of the players.

The design is crisp and attractive, the pieces being either clearly printed on sturdy card or cleanly machined and coloured wooden markers. Rules are easy to read with clearly illustrated examples, appearing to be comprehensive in explanation of simple game mechanics. The large number of tiles come with their own linen bag to draw them from, suitably sized and carrying an ambience of ancient agricultural society rather than modern industrial kitch.

Again, the mechanism of the game appears to be an interlocking series of subsystems that each have indirect impact upon the others. When mixed with the victory mechanism (where the player wins whose dynasty has the highest score for their weakest faction), it looks to be a finely balanced and subtle game.

I hear it's another masterpiece. Can't wait to find out.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Mount & Blade - Review II

I have played several hours of Mount & Blade since I last posted a review. I now think of this game as being in some ways better, some ways lesser, than what I then wrote.

Let me explain.

Firstly, it appears as though the game is NOT multi-player. That's a bit of a shame. Online interaction is fun. Sadly, this seems to be the limitation on this particular game, it isn't a cyberverse. That's the bad news.

The good news is that the game bears forth what it promises, stiring combat where coolness under fire and killer instinct determine success. The horses are excellent, it is cognitively analagous to the real experience of horseriding. Very impressive. Not easy to get mount and blade to work as one in combat situation, but very satisfying when it occurs. The archery requires elevation for accuracy, and giving further lead for wind (?) and weapon. The combat scenes are bloody, but not gory in terms of actual pictoral content.

So far I have tried out 'hunter' and 'squire' types of character (still having to try the merchant and the monk). They have different ranges of weaponry and skills, the squire being slightly better in combat and the ranger being slightly better in wilderness skills (eg. picking up tracks of other parties of enemies and friends long after they've passed). Have enjoyed both.

I have yet to go on my first real 'quest' (mission), and have yet to learn how to lead my henchman followers towards anything but their inevitable deaths in this combative wilderness.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mount & Blade Review 1

Having done a spiel on Guild Wars I think it's only right that I give this little gem a plug also. Mount & Blade has a similar sort of game 'cybernity' to it, but is different in almost every detail.

The game exists entirely online, and you can play for free by simply downloading and running the client program through your web browser. This opens up a 3D world that you move through, with 'neutral' cities in which to interact.

But there is also the violent wilderness, where opposing individuals and parties roam and make slay and enslave each other. The combats you have are against both the 'automated' population of the game universe, as well as the forces of other players.

There is no magic. The whole platform is geared to giving you graphic tactical and individual level combat scenarios set in medieval harshness. And, unlike Guildwars and Warhammer (D&D) games, it creates blow by blow battles. It is more like the old 'Top Secret' type combat system than the narrative style of D&D and Call of Cthulhu. It is a world full of greys and browns.

It is created by a turkish husband and wife team, and maybe this goes someway to explaining the original 'feel' of the game system and its cyberverse. It's only a beta version, but has got a pretty loyal band of fanatical followers.

Anyway, I liked what little I have seen so far and hope to have a chance to write of the game play of this game in future also.

Here's a link to the main portal, from which you can download the client.

Guild Wars Review I

Besides being the lucky recipient of a copy of 'Axis & Allies' boardgame for my very recent birthday, I also was given a copy of Guild Wars. This is a graphically full on online mega mega multiplayer mission based game (I hope someone develops a lexicon to talk about these types of things sometime soon).

It has stunning graphics, a feature of the game which will bring back time and again even those who no longer find great meaning in the hunt for treasure and experience points in an eternal quest for more things and levels. Because, at another level, Guild Wars appears a pretty successful attempt at creating the online equivalent of the (old) D&D experience.

The disks you purchase are basically just a 'client' program, the game itself exists in cyberspace hosted by a number of servers. The bonus here is that you don't have to 'patch' (update) the program, because you don't have it. You do also a get a neat package of a couple decent booklets that give you background to the cyberverse you are about to enter, and a decent hardcopy manual to the playing of the game. You also get a poster featuring the enigmatic and vaguely erotic features of a character from the game.

Guild Wars features all sorts of quirky features. For example, each type of character has its own 'dance' command (check out the male necromancer here, and the female ritualist here for my favorites).

The game is episodic when you play its 'adventure' mode (Player v Environment) - it's a vast structured series of missions and quests set in a vast landscape for you and your party. The interactivity seems to arise within these parties, and when you meet and make up parties with other players online in the cities and towns. You leave these places to go into the wilderness. The wilderness adventureland is created new for each group (or individual) each time they leave a city. So your dungeon crawlers won't meet mine on our quest except in the eternal city streets of Ascalon.

Unless we play in the Player v Player mode, when different groups (guilds) of players face off in a tourney like fashion. It is these 'guilds' of players which give the game both its name and its vitality as an ongoing cyberverse.

I've put a link to the portal to the (pretty comprehensive and neat) 'Official' site onto my MMPORG Resource page (link is on the blog roll to left of your screen), so you can get a taste of it.

When I've played it a bit more I'll probably post a further review of the actual gameplay experience.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Birthday Games

Well, tomorrow is my 41st Birthday. The photo you see of me on this blog was taken exactly a year ago on the morning after my 40th. Outwardly, not much has changed. I still need a haircut!

In the gaming world, much has occurred. I've been active online in flight simulator, space conquest and medieval peasant modes. We've played several new games at home - Puerto Rico, Munchkins, Guillotine, Pass the Bomb, Phase 10, Farkel. It has all been great fun.

To add to it all, I got my main birthday present tonight from wife and daughter, a game of "Axis and Allies". They seemed pretty excited to give it to me, so much so that they insisted I open it early! I think they want to try it out tomorrow night and thought they'd give me a night to read the rules as none of us have played either this game or its predecessor before.

The funny thing is, I've been trying to diversify from strictly combat/military games in the past couple of years as not everyone likes them and they usually get pretty involved. I said to the daughter that, "Yes I was happy to have this game but no, I don't know if they'll like it". She asked, "Why?" I said, "This is a full on wargame." She said, "Great, that's just what we thought. When can we play?"

With a family like this, what hope has this unregenerate wargamer got?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Factional conflict - RK 8

My scottish peasant continues to learn about virtual pig farming in my medieval village in the online game of Renaissance Kingdoms. I have sold a complete carcase now, and will soon slaughter my prize pig to sell its haunches also. It is a tight operation at times, as one must balance the need to purchase new stock and feed, earn an income, feed oneself and put labour into the farm. I think I am working out the economics of it.

Would be nice to have a second field. If I did have one, I'd grow corn on it to feed my pigs without having to hassle around bidding in the market.

The politics in the village is heating up, with the lawcourts doing a thriving trade handling law suits and prosecuting reported crimes. I have sat in the galleries and observed the pleadings and witnesses be placed before the court, where justice is dispensed.

Don't know if I'd want to be a lawyer in this world, it is very much in the public eye and the consequences to the parties before the court are fairly serious. Also, it appears that much of the legal chicanery that is occuring is a continuation of the developing competition between two coalescing factions of the town council, who till now have limited their aggressive action towards each other to words in council and on the forums.

I'm trying to just keep my head down and eventually be able to afford a nice new pair of trousers.

Ogame 12 - the pace changes

I have settled a new colony in a galaxy far far away from my homland in my online Ogame. I hope to use it as a base from which to set up further colonies in galaxies even further away. One thing I've noticed about my new galaxy is that, even though sparsely populated, it is populated with fairly high ranking active players. Some of them are keeping a watching brief on me. But as I constitute neither active threat nor juicy target, nothing has come of their interest yet.

In my homeworlds, I continue to be probed fairly regularly by relatively high ranking players. So far I have managed my resources so that I never appear to be worth a raid, unless they intend to 'crash' my battle fleet, which is now large enough now to dissuade most of those ranked similar to myself.

I have reached a level of development where every new development I now make is a major one, requiring one or more days of planning how to get enough resources to the one place at the same time without lining myself up to be raided while shuttling things around.

The character of the game is changing.

Rank: 1614
Points: 11311

Friday, September 21, 2007

If WW2 were an mmporg ...

I came across this post at 4 guys at viewpoint while surfing recently.

Very funny I think, poking a finger in the eye of the bottom end of mmporgers as it passes.

I first found a link here at techrepublic.

And a night later I found an even fuller version of it here in the great big Wiki Uncyclopedea. Seriously funny shit if you have a bit of history knowledge and can relate to the lingo and style of chat in the big multi players out there. Apparently the first version of it was anonyously created and emailed to selected tech heads over a couple of years ago and it has been replicating and transmorgifying itself in cyberspace ever since.

If you've come across it elsewhere, let me know so I can add another link to this collection.

I guess this is what you'd call a 'meme'.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Weimar Political Card Game

Social Democratic Party Poster - 1932

Fall of the Weimar Republic is a card game for 4 - 7 players which, from reading the rules, appears to fall somewhere between Gang of Four and Illuminati in game play whilst adding its own twists and turns. It recreates the political scene in Germany from 1926 to 1933, and players take the part of various political parties of the time. The game ends when the anarchy level reaches ten. I like it already, and I haven't even played it yet!

To download the rules for free, click here. You will have to make your own cards, for which this link to a card generator might be of use. When I get the time to do so I'll whip up a set of cards and try it out with some of my gaming companions. In the meantime, if anyone else has a go, I'd love to hear how it went.

Weimar is only one game of the many to be found for free at War Spawn Games.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Retreat - RK 7

In my Renaissance Kingdom game, the way you get to get away from your obligations in the virtual world (such as to keep from starving to death or worrying about the price of bread) is to go on a 'Retreat' at the local church. Whilst on retreat your fields are unkept, your stock untended and you cannot participate in the regular discourse of the village.

Whilst on retreat you are not allowed to earn anything (though your inventory of goods can remain at your home), and you must have (apparently) sorted out your labour force if you are expecting others to do the work on your fields while you are gone.

I am too poor to hire others, so my two little pigs had to put up with a couple days of not being fed. They both survived, but lost a lot of condition (I have fattened them up againg since - taking a day off from my work in the mines to slaughter the largest of the two so I can sell his meat and hide on the market(sigh)).

When you come out of retreat you can feel refreshed, knowing that the daily grind of the seasons continues as before in your humble village and that perhaps you are not so important afterall.

The Vacation Option - Ogame 11

Over the weekend I went off with the missus to spend a couple nights at Burra, an 'old' mining cum tourist/farming town in the state's midnorth (that is, it is 'old' in white australian terms - about 160 years). This got me away from my Ogame.

I utilised the 'vacation' facility in the play options. Every good MMPORG seems to have something like it, so you can leave your screen and game behind without nasty consequences (such as other players jumping on your inert empire/kingdom/farm while you are gone).

To go on an Ogame vacation, you must first complete all building, ship manufacture and fleet movement in your budding empire. Once everything has come to a halt, you can use the vacation option. Once you do that, you can't take control of your resources and fleets for at least 48 hours (you can, however, continue to look over things, albeit at a superficial level).

While on vacation, all of your planets go back to the base rate of resource production (ie all your mines stop working) and your power production goes to zero. I believe that uncompleted research goes into stasis during your holidays, but can't vouch for the fact as I made sure that my own research was completed before hitting the vacation button.

While in vacation mode, no-one can attack you. Or probe you. Or rob you. Or backstab you. It allows a little period of sanity.

At the moment I am trying to keep all of my resources either in motion (and hence invulnerable to attack) or busy, attempting to balance a continued research effort with steady raiding activity, fleet production and planetary development. I continue to be sussed out by Sciuko (rank 1011), who has now seen snapshots of my growing inventory. The fact that he hasn't attempted to attack me again implies that I am managing to keep the probable cost of my subdual significantly more than the value of any benefits to be derived from same.

Rank: 1764
Points: 9070

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tony's Villa at Iron Mitten

Over at Iron Mitten, between August 31st and September 12th, Tony the legionaire has built a beautiful and useful Roman villa for use in the 28mm scale wargames of this wonderfully artistic blog's author. Very much worth a read from the bottom up if you are interested in how good models are made.

Reminds me of the castle that Jess and I made several years ago.

Puerto Rico - my first win!

I just got back from a weekend at Burra when I had the lovely surprise of my teenage daughter offering to play any game I chose with her and her friend. This was after I said I wasn't upto playing Monopoly, which would have been her first choice (she went out and got a copy of the Austalian version of Monopoly a couple days ago and has already played three games of it - I find it not the most exciting of games but will occasionally play a game of it to be polite. Not today though).

So we played a three player game of Puerto Rico, myself and two teenagers. It was their first try of the game, but we didn't need to play any 'test turns' 'cause they were comfortable with the system very quickly. It was a close game, with Jarrod leading in the middle game, myself swinging into production/export mode and stacking on victory points in the later game, and Jess blindsiding us by getting enough doubloons to purchase city hall and colonise it in the last turn of the game. The game ended when we ran out of colonists.

I held them off, and won with 44 points. Jess came narrow second on 43, and Jarrod a respectful third with 34 points. Whole game was over within two hours.

They enjoyed the game, and were picking up on how the mechanics interact quite comfortably by the end of it. So we now have eight people who can play the game, should make it relatively easy to organise a session which includes it in future (perhaps as a prelude to Diplomacy, which seems to be a perrenial favorite).

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Ogame Order Sheet - 2 days in September, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Justified War - Ogame 10

A bit has been happening in Universe 31 on the Ogame, where I am into my fourth week of building a stellar empire. The most important factor in the strategic environment that has changed is that I have passed 5000 points, so anyone can now attack me and I can attack anyone. I feel like a very small fish in a very big sea.

Almost as soon as I passed 5000 points I started being checked out by espionage probes from various powers that be in the local galactic neighborhood. Initially worried by the experience (as a probe will usually preceed an attack upon a planet) I became a bit more relaxed when I realised that the pattern of probing was consistent with being part of a systemised scanning of the neighborhood, and that as long as I didn't stand out in any way to the viewer, I was just one of many and unlikely to be attacked if my defences made it appear to be a costly proposition.

This strategy (ie. keeping my head down) worked for a while. I used the time to rebuild the remnants that were left of my cruiser fleet after the Brushfire War, built up my productive facilities to a self sustaining level, and poured resources into the development of research facilities and techological advances on my home world.

For a while I was able to have a 'nodal' system going, with my three planets, each in a planetary system separated from the other by at least 20 such systems, sending out farming fleets to attack the most attractive of the vulnerable planets thereabouts. The 'outer' nodes of the system were used as collection points for other fleets which transported surpluses back to my homeworld, where is located the hungry maw of my scientific behemoth.

I used the resources to drive along my research into the high tech required to produce heavy ships of war. I have just now reached the point (in about seven minutes time, actually, as I write this) where I (will) know how to make battleships. I will use these powerful spacecraft to exert my influence further into my galaxy (I have only really checked out about 1 twelfth of it so far).

Or, so I thought. And then I was attacked by a bunctious nearby upstart, who'd just made it into the cruiser age. He smashed his fleet in a 'sneak' raid upon one of my colonies. I don't think he even knew that I managed to have a whole fleet of cruisers arrive about seven seconds before his own fleet of fighters and freighters did, giving his light fleet no chance.

I returned the favour by sending a strong force against his homeworld about 20 hours later. Although I didn't break through his defences and lost a lot of shit in the doing of it, I totally destroyed his own fleet and severely damaged his defences.

I used an online 'combat simulator' to make sure my fleet would have a chance before allowing it to strike home. I have added a link to speedsim (the combat simulator I used) on my 'MMPORG Resource's page. Follow the link to this page from the sidebar of this blog if you are interested.

Preparing to shift from my high research levels to running things as a 'war economy,' I am only now awaiting the necessary completion of my final technology advance (level 3 in 'hyperdrive') to allow me to build battleships. This will happen in 4 minutes. Then I will prosecute my Justified War against Sylwek Kalisz.

See you later.

Rank: 2001
Points: 6532 points

Renaissance Kingdoms 6

My scottish peasant continues to struggle along in the virtual village of Renaissance age Whithorn, County of Galloway, Kingdom of Scotland. Things have moved along since I last posted on the experience of playing this game.

I am now ranked 'level 1' and start having some actual choices in the game. I made the transition by going to see the county chancellor, paying him 90p, and chosing the type of land mine would be (from various crops or livestock). He then told me to bugger off for a day while he fixed up the paperwork.

So it was back to the mines. Except that I couldn't 'cause they weren't hiring! And the wage had dropped from 16p to 15p. So I had to go and work for the church again to earn my keep, eating bread that I had stached at home.

The following day I got the title for my field. I proudly (or at least as proudly as I could in a loincloth) went off to market to buy me a piglet and knife (so poignant), as well as a few bags of corn with which to feed the little bugger on if I could work out how to do this.

For the last few days I've been grabbing work in the mines when I can, grizzling about the wages on the forum, eating bread and watching my pig root around in my field. Will be using my knife as soon as it has fattened up a bit more.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Brushfire Battles - Ogame 9

With a false sense of confidence gained after his pre-emptive strike on 'Cheese', a local active player who had the misfortune to be misunderstood and falsely punished (crushed) as a consequence, although entirely innocent of any wrong doing, the Great Drac cast his eye further afield and gazed covetously upon the next available planet ripe for plunder. Having kickstarted his empire through pluder, the Great Drac grew greedy.

Without warning, his space fleets struck the unsuspecting world of the victim, wrecking its defences and carting off its resources to the devilish mills of the seat of empire. Again, and again, Drac's raiders hammered the now defenceless victim, seizing all of value.

Of course, this situation couldn't go on forever. From his distant homeland, the victim sent first his probes and then his attack fleet against the homeworld of the Great Drac's warfleets. Because of Drac's deviousness, however, the only contact the victim had had with the forces of Drac had been with those despatched from the homeworld. Thus, the victim didn't know of the existence of Drac's colonies. Lucky for Drac.

For a brief period the fleets of Drac and his victim swept in waves at each other. The victim, perhaps not as alive to the information that can be gleaned from such things, launched fleets from all of his scattered planets, none of them close to the land of Drac. From Drac's perspective , this was akin to 'reconnaisance by fire'.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, there were two major battles. In the first, Drac's prized fleet of space cruisers pounded themselves apart against the defences of the victim's main colony. This was the end of Drac's ambition for a war of conquest.

The victim's fleet, much larger in numbers of vessels than Drac's capital fleet had been, broke through the defences of the homeworld only to discover the valued resources that had been there had been lifted off planet at the last moment by the wily defenders. His fleets, disconsolate at the lack of plunder, limped back across the galaxy to their lairs.

And thus ended the Brushfire War.

Rank : 2700
Points: 3653

Renaissance 5

I have been playing Renaissance Kingdoms for a bit over 2 weeks now. The discursive world, created by the combination of game engine and thousand(s) of active players, all occuring real in real time in/on the virtual world of renaissance age western europe, continues to grow on me. Closest thing to compare it to in my experience was those old 'Tamagochi' virtual pets from about ten years ago.

Not much happens to the outward eye, but as the days and weeks pass, positions within the medieval village grow and change, preferments occur, businesses build, the priest conducts marriages and baptisms, deals are done on market days - all on top of the weekly grind of working in the mines, meetings in taverns to talk about corn prices or whatever, going to market to get your bread and going to church on sundays.

Over time people become known, and you develop a strange fondness for your outwardly boring scottish peasant, because you know what his dreams really are!

At the moment, I continue to work in the mines to build up my little nest egg with which I intend to well stock my field once I receive it from the county chancellor and cross his palm with 90 hard earned 'pounds'. My dream? In the short term, get a pig farm, knife and trousers.

Was it not always so?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Ogame 8

I have been playing Ogame for nearly 2 weeks now and am presently ranked 3048 with 2271 points. My colony, Iguana, is now thriving, with capacity to build its own fleet and conduct basic research if necessary. I am using it as a base from which to snoop around the next 50 planetary systems, and then go and raid out the resources available from planets owned by inactive players. Goal here, to have Iguana set up as insurance to retreat to if I start getting hammered at home on Aardv Ark.

Which might be a possibility as I am stongly considering attacking my second active player, also a member of the fairly weak alliance to which my first victim belonged. The advantage of doing this successfully will be that I will have cleared them out of the local area. The disadvantage (successful or not) is that I might bring myself up on the radar as a potential threat to others in that alliance and they might then pull their fingers out and come for me.

Perhaps I'll get another colony going somewhere else entirely first ...