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


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:


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'.


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.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Thanks Mitch!

While looking for a picture of a shed on the web (chasing down a witty idea for a post) I came across one of Mitch Williamson's websites and got diverted. He has created and built a number of websites with a whole heap of stuff on a whole heap of things of interest to wargamers (and others). He's collected a lot of information and links and made them available in useful format. A grand service indeed. Casting my eye down one of the lists of sites on one of his sites, for example, I see the following niche sites on subjects which appeal to one of the various gamers in me...

Broch, Crannog and Hillfort - the centrepiece of an idea for my RK 'other' life ...
Jacobite Rising - ... where I am a scot royalist.
Spanish Civil War - a Military Legacy - a couple armies of 6mm waiting to play.
Malvinas Conflict - long held desire to create a TOAW III scenario based on this.
Best Mods Central - frontpages a mod for TOAW III at time of post, need I say more?
Minor Nations' Militaries 1914 - 45 - mmm, the 'interwar' years.
World War I in Africa - again, a minor theatre of major interest to me.

The above is a sample only. There are others. Well worth checking out the links from any of these sites, something will grab your attention. I'm not going to nominate a single site to go see for this dude, but have included one on my blogroll to make access easy for me - Warfare and Wargaming.

If you ever read this Mitch, thanks!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Computers, the Final Solution?

Wizardry Screenshot

My issue of "Wargames! Presenting all aspects of this exciting hobby" magazine (1985) is full of gems of articles and titles. For example, the final (unattributed) article is entitled, 'Computers, the final solution?'

The article doesn't really make clear what the problem is, but spends a good two pages covering the usage of computers in gamingland circa mid eighties (with competition between Atari and BBC at the upper end of the author's perception of the market). I assume Asquith wrote the piece, as he was the editor at the time. If so, it makes an interesting development on his ideas put forth in the opening piece, 'Computer Wargaming ... is easy?'

The author in 'Final solution' surveys the field of 'wargamers' as we then were; tabletop players, board gamers, role players*. In brief, the author doesn't think that tabletop wargamers will have much need for the computer and that it won't affect them much in what they do. For the boardgamer, the limited range of quality product at the time seems the main concern. So, jury still out on whether computers will solve all their gaming needs.

For roleplayers, the author first looks at the range of classic dungeon crawl games that were around. I personally remember two of these, Zork (text based) and Wizardry. For the record, I never got the chance to get any further than frustrated with either of these games. All a bit lonely, however, on one's own.

This is where the author makes their most interesting and final comment, announcing that Ultima III, which allowed for group play on networked computers, was the reason that computers indeed were the final solution for our ultimate gaming needs.

Which is kinda comforting to know.

*Note the absence of the dedicated 'computer gamer', one who's gaming existence is defined by the computer itself.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Computer wargaming ... is easy?

Tandy TRS 80

The title of this post was the title of an article by Stuart Asquith in "Wargaming: presenting all aspects of the Hobby" (1985). At the time he wrote that article we'd moved past the kit built TRS-80 (illustrated above) and into the age of BBC, Commodore 64, Apple 2e and the early IBM PC's. Asquith saw the main role of computers as an adjunct to tabletop gaming rule mathematics, spent a lot of time putting his rules into BASIC code, thought there was a role for computers in this aspect of the hobby. He was pretty excited at the prospect of being able to link computers together to hundreds of "K's" of processing power and looked forward to the future.

It is particularly heartening to note that one of his group's first two projects was to 'computerise' their Spanish Civil War rules (a point which I missed at the time). Good to see that SCW and interwar period gamers were at the front of the wave, even in 1985!

Needless to say, I report the above after finding a copy of said magazine in my 'archive' of the era. Lots of other goodies also, including a 1980 'Breakout' magazine "Dedicated to the future of gaming with computers". I'll read and report when I find the thing again (as I already filed it away in a fit of organisedness).

When that was published, we were building our first PC's at school instead of going to sports (true geekness). Hence the picture of the TRS 80. It had an onboard memory of 4Kb and used a audio-tape and tape deck for data storage. You had to program your own game for it. I was very proud the following year when 'taught' the computer to 'teach itself' how to play noughts and crosses (tic tac toe).

Ah, memories...

Friday, June 03, 2011

Bookish Indulgence

Here's the bulk of my books on military history, strategy, etc. Since taking this snap I have found a few more, including the quarto sized picture books. When I have them all sorted and settled, I'll post another update pic. It's hard to believe, but in the mid nineties I had but a literal handful of these books. Scary. On the other hand, I had quite a few science fiction and fantasy novels, so when I sort those out I'll wack up a pic of them also (as I know more than a few of my regular readers are into that sort of thing).

The emphasis on history and strategy is probably reflective of my approach to wargaming. Not much emphasis on the minutae of uniforms and weapons systems, only a little on small unit tactics, more on campaigns and operational aspects, interest in the 'ancillary' aspects (eg. logistics, command structures, signals and intelligence, training) and lots of maps. And aeroplanes.

Congratulations to Ubergeek for his winning entry to the treasure hunt. Now I just need to figure out what the prize will be. While I do that, there's opportunity for others to still get their late entries in if they wish. Then I'll have to think of consolation prizes...