Monday, December 31, 2001

Howard Jacobson was magnificent in Saturday's Independent, meditating on our pre-September 11 lost world: This was not a case of accidental disproportionateness, of something going horribly wrong, or of punishment exacted more in sorrow than in anger; this was intent in the arms of execution, an exercise in the ice-cold aesthetics of ferocity – as exemplified by the unhesitating, balletic flourish of that second plane – before which all our available models of evil pale into insignificance.
And this one does the same for Battle Cry Napoleonics: Among the differences between BC and the Napoleonic game is the ability of infantry to form square; a reduction in combat effectiveness based on combat losses (something many BC players have advocated for that game); distinctions between: Militia, Line, and Light Infantry; combat strength between ranged and adjacent hexes; and Horse and Field artillery (introduced in an oblique way in Battle Cry).
This convention report gives a lot of detail on Richard Borg's projected Ancients version of Battle Cry: Among the stable of eras that have been or are being developed for C&C, Richard and Pat tell me that the Ancients game (working title: BC: Ancients) is the most sophisticated. There are many different troop types, each with their own unique movement and combat capabilities. The broad classes are Mounted Troops, Dismounted Troops, and War Machines. Among the Mounted Troop types we used for the game are Light, Medium, and Heavy Cavalry and Elephants. Among the Dismounted Troops we used were Light, Medium, and Heavy Infantry, and Warriors.

Friday, December 28, 2001

Had a very pleasant evening yesterday benefitting from Nick's hospitality, lots of food and drink, which I repaid by beating him at Hannibal. Nick played Carthage - the game got off to a leisurely start, we both spent the first couple of turns laying PCs. I think Nick let me off the hook by not being aggressive early on - perhaps he didn't have the right strategy cards - and by the time Hannibal got over the Alps there were two armies waiting for him and Scipio on the way with a third. In the end it was Scipio that got him, in a cliffhanger battle that left Hannibal with nowhere to retreat to. Bad luck Nick!

Simon came over as well, and after Hannibal we sat around and chatted for a while. Simon expressed his wish that we would stop playing different games all the time and just concentrate on one "to get all the nuances". Yes, Simon, I know what you mean, but which one do you suggest? How would you choose? There are just so many brilliant games out there to try, and life is so short....

Thursday, December 27, 2001

Lots of commentary on the new film from Tolkien nimrods at Tolkien Online. I went to see the it yesterday. Some disappointing moments, especially in Moria and Isengard, but thanks to Cate Blanchett I now have an unforgettable image of Galadriel the immortal elf-queen. Just the right mixture of good and perilous, and a mysterious sense of great age blended with youthful beauty.
Crazy Apple Rumors Site is dedicated to the fabrication of Apple rumors...
I'm currently reading John Keegan's "The First World War", which is excellent but a bit lacking in maps. I found this website to make up the deficiency - The Map Room.

Monday, December 24, 2001

Have a great Christmas everyone. Make sure you leave out a big enough stocking to fit an average-sized boardgame!

I'm hoping for "30 Years War" (especially as I've already ordered it for myself!)

Was looking forward to a nice easy Christmas at my parents', but Dad phoned yesterday to say Mum is laid up with flu, so first thing this morning I was down at Waitrose fighting over the remaining turkeys, spuds and sprouts! Luckily I can rely on Phil - who is much more talented than me in the kitchen - to do the actual cooking.

Friday, December 21, 2001

Truly excellent meditation from James Lileks today about the Simpsons and religion: That said: clumsy blunt smug slams at ordinary mainstream religion make me grind my teeth, and the Simpsons is guilty of some truly nasty work in this regard. In one respect, Rev. Lovejoy is a sharp piece of satire, an example of a man made weary by the job of prodding his congregation towards goodness and belief. That his mission is undercut by his own deep ennui is part of the joke, of course.
Nimrod Norman Smith's homepage has some good stuff on his favourite wargames. He goes for low-complexity games such as "A House Divided", "Battles of the Ancient World" or "Retro ASL". Click on the picture to get to the meat.

Thursday, December 20, 2001

Polly Toynbee in the Guardian on just how wrong the experts were: Just 14 weeks after September 11, the unthinkable has happened. Absolutely no one predicted this. Had the text of the Bonn peace agreement been mooted three months ago, every expert in the world would have laughed at such fantasy. Victory with so little fighting was beyond the wildest imaginings of the Pentagon: Geoff Hoon talked of fighting into next summer and beyond. Afghanistan, reputed to be pre-historic, war-addicted, incapable of peace, unfit for democracy, turns out to value life and freedom from oppression by a psychotic cult, as people do.
Oh dear, this is my employer we're talking about - It's hell for NTL: There are many reasons for NTL's present difficulties. Excessive ambition, coupled with the very high costs of digging up the nation's streets to lay cable are probably at the heart of it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Uh oh! Second Chance Games is now online.

The Eighties Pop Act Test deems me:

40% Eighties Pop Act

You are Phil Collins: When your friends were with you, you were the coolest, but on your own, you were a simpering crybaby. Go listen to Genesis.

(via Harrumph)
I very rarely give up on a book half way through – I’m the only person I know who has not only started but finished reading “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” – but Arundhati Roy has beaten me with her Booker-winning “The God of Small Things”. I started this slim volume last week – incidentally Kathmandu was surprisingly good for bookshops – but after only 3 chapters or so she had me beaten. “If I have to read about one more bodily fluid,” I thought, “One more glob of splittle or phlegm, one more pool of urine or patch of sweat, one more handful of semen, it’s goodbye from me.” I didn’t have long to wait, just half a page further on Ms Roy duly obliged with another routine expression of her disgust with the whole business of being alive. So I put the thing away – for good – and started on something much more life-affirming and optimistic – John Keegan’s history of the First World War!

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

If you are a nimrod, don't fail to download GMT's Winter Flyer, which has details of some really exciting games in the pipeline, especially Barbarossa to Berlin and The Napoleonic Wars. Ooh, I can't wait for these!
Looking For God in The Lord of the Rings: "Tolkien could not create from nothing," writes Joseph Pearce. "Only God can do that. But he was able to sub-create an entire world using his imagination, his beliefs, and his experiences in the world around him." His goal, according to Pearce, was to create a myth combining a variety of different mythological elements -- "a body of more or less connected legend," as Tolkien put it -- in such a fashion that the entire epic would be "illumined from within by a Trinitarian, Christian light." Interestingly enough, the "connectedness" readers sense throughout this "body of legend" is a direct result of the author's faith and worldview. Apart from the light of that Christian perspective, Pearce adds, "the story isn't going to make sense anymore. It may, literally, become incoherent -- a neo-pagan fantasy." (via Relapsed Catholic)
While I was trekking in Nepal I met a group of Americans who were relaxing after building a home for a Nepali family. The organization they were supporting as volunteers was Habitat for Humanity International. This looks really exciting to me - it's a Christian organization which aims to provide decent, affordable housing for families and communities in need.

Monday, December 17, 2001

While I was away James sent me this bulletin:

Three bits of news in order of importance:

1 Baby boy-George born last Sunday (25th Nov).

2 Mummy has already asked George which ASL module he wants to buy Daddy for
Christmas---that's my boy.

3 There is a chap upstairs in Salisbury Antiques market who sells second
hand games, very pricey.

Many congratulations to James and Emma - it's a little miracle every time a new nimrod comes into the world.
Useful essay on Coercive Rules in game design, from Kory Heath: In the spring of 2001, during an online discussion about certain problems with the game Icehouse, I complained about the way that one of its rules "ham-handedly forces the players to exhibit the desired behavior (by severely penalizing the undesirable behavior), rather than causing that behavior to emerge naturally from the low-level rules".
Steven Den Beste argues that in many cases pouring aid into a Third World country is the wrong thing to do: There are a lot of things which need to be present for a country to build a stable and prosperous capitalist economy capable of providing a high average standard of living for its populations, and most of them can't be purchased. You need a strong, fair, trusted court system and a well considered body of law which is applied consistently and fairly. You need judges and lawyers and honest policemen. You need a low level of corruption. You need a tax system which doesn't crush success. You need a substantial professional class of bankers, businessmen, engineers and technicians. You need a large and effective educational system to create new bankers and engineers and maintain the supply. None of those things can be purchased.
Nothing Really Matters - The 2001 Turner Prize: If you want to be switched off, I'd recommend standing in any empty room near the light switch. Only a little effort is needed to create Creed's award-winning effect. If you want to know what good art is, go and see Richard Billingham's photographs and videos. Be prepared to be changed. (oh I've missed Relapsed Catholic!)
Hi, I'm back from Nepal - where all the women are beautiful, and all the men are short!

What a stunning, amazing country. It was my first trip outside Europe so I was in a state of shock for the first week I was there. Just getting the hang of the place after two weeks, when I had to leave. Impossible to sum it all up, but here's a few English language adverts I saw, illustrating the sort of charmingly naive way that marketing is done over there.

Big hoarding seen everywhere: The new Kawasaki Croma - with disc brakes

Safe sex poster at roadsides all over Nepal shows a couple about to kiss, beside them stands a huge humanoid condom with its arms crossed and wearing a big grin.

Another helpful poster: A friend in hard times - Bagpiper whisky

On a bottle label in the minibar: Everest Whisky - blended from finest Scotch whisky and top quality Nepalese alcohol

Shop sign in Pokhara: Relaxing all-over massage - for ladis and gurls only

Sign over the Gurkha guesthouse, Birethanti: Hot and cold shower, 24 hours a day (I believed them - in the event there was no water at all, hot or cold.)

Grafitti (OK this one isn't marketing) on a wall in Kathmandu: Beware of bloody Islamic terrorism

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Well the database migration on Monday night went smoothly enough. Finished 5 minutes early after a 10 hour slot - not bad estimating eh? I've just about got my sleep patterns back to normal now, only to shatter them tomorrow with an overnight flight to Nepal!

So no more postings for a couple of weeks probably - unless I get to an Internet cafe while I'm over there. But don't forget to come back on 17th December!

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Notice the horrible times on these postings? Yuk! I hate missing a night's sleep sitting in the office watching progress bars. Thankfully everything is going smoothly so far, so I might get away at a reasonable time.....
Next time you buy a new CD, check the small print! New Scientist: Consumers unhappy with playing difficulties with the world's first mass-market copy-protected CD can now get a free, unprotected replacement.

Monday, November 26, 2001

Quite right too! Star Wars named all-time favourite film: The films won the title following an extensive poll by Channel 4, which sought to decide the greatest-ever film by polling its viewers.
Almost forgot - it's my birthday today! Not much chance to celebrate, as I am back at work this evening for an all-nighter. However, I got home earlier today and had excellent presents from my parents and from Phil to unwrap. Both gifts were history books - the Mammoth Book of Kings and Queens (amazing book, two thirds of it is pre-conquest stuff, I thought no-one knew much about the Dark Ages?!) - and Enemy at the Gates from Phil. How did he know his Dad is interested in military history?! I also wandered into Salisbury and bought myself a lovely brown leather briefcase - a floppy old-fashioned one with brass buckles. Beautiful!

And Phil also sat me down after dinner and played my favourite wargame with me - Up Front! But even though it's my birthday, he still beat me as usual.

Of course the best present of all would be for this database migration to go smoothly......
Our conductor David Gibson never loses his temper with us (the Basingstoke Choral Society), but at last Friday's rehearsal he came very close. He was almost as jittery at the dress rehearsal on Saturday afternoon. But on the night it seemed to go very well. The Brahms Requiem is a demanding piece, lots of tricky notes, and terrifying fugues taken by David at breakneck speed. But we got through without any major mishaps. Two of my friends were there, John and Fiona, and they were both very impressed, and we got lots of applause, so perhaps it was better than "no mishaps", it might even have been "pretty good"!
Stephen Pollard on the curious disappearance of mass anti-America demonstrations: In the streets of Peshawar, where a few weeks ago riot police charged mass crowds which cheered attacks on America (and, of course, Israel) and burnt effigies of US President George Bush, today "portraits of Osama bin Laden go unsold" and the few policemen present look like "a bunch of old friends on an afternoon stroll".

Friday, November 23, 2001

Oh dear, here we go! - it's the Carcassonne River expansion. What next - Carcassone in Space?
This is for Nick's benefit really - a discussion from the Consimworld Paths of Glory forum about keeping an aggressive German player (ie Dave) out of France: I need some advice. I'm new to PoG and, as the AP, I'm having no luck whatsoever keeping the Germans out of Paris in 1914.
Minden Games, makers of Retro ASL.
Some interesting postings on Consimworld about Retro ASL: Gary's variant uses an IGO-HUGO sequence of play, most apparent (and surprising initially) is the absence of opportunity type fire as such. Rather, an INSPIRED game mechanic of 'hesitation' that causes units moving within Line of Fire of certain weapons to test for hesitation. If they pass, they may continue to move, if they fail. they stop - simple, tense and excellent for solitaire play.

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Isn't the Web fantastic! Here's the answer to my question - the national game of Nepal is Bagha Chal (Tigers Moving Game).

From The Online Guide to Traditional Games.
I've been wondering what to take to Nepal in the way of games. It needs to be highly portable, interesting, colourful, easy to teach, and so likely to get the interest of locals on the trekking trail! I've decided the best choice is my Aquarius deck together with printouts of the solitaire rules from this link.

I'm also hoping to pick up local games. What do they play out there, Chinese Chess perhaps?
Meeting Richard Borg: Richard said that GMT Games was working on releasing Command and Colors Napoleonic. Possibly this would have a high P2000 benchmark, requiring 2000 preorders before development, possibly due to the large number of plastic figures. Also, Command and Colors Ancients was a possible future release from Descarte-Editeur Eurogames. Both release seemed to be over one year away. Nice photos on this page as well as the interesting news about follow-ups to Battle Cry.

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

George Orwell quoted by Andrew Sullivan "The mentality of the English left-wing intelligentsia can be studied in half a dozen weekly and monthly papers. The immediately striking thing about all these papers is their generally negative, querulous attitude, their complete lack at all times of any constructive suggestion. There is little in them except the irresponsible carping of people who have never been and never expect to be in a position of power." - England Your England, 1940.

Sounds familiar? I also like this from Andrew today: Forget the broad coalition for action against al Qaeda. Forget the U.N., which has once again been shown to be essentially useless in a real crisis. Forget the E.U., which also dissolves into constituent parts at the first sign of gunfire. The only real alliance worth anything right now is a tripartite arc from Washington through London to Moscow.
I'm going to need one of these next week: US3150831--Birthday Cake Candle Extinguisher (via BleuBlog)

Monday, November 19, 2001

Excellent discussion of Harry Potter controversy within some Christian circles: By the way, I talked by e-mail with Lewis’s stepson, Douglas Gresham. He said that much of the response that we’re seeing to Harry Potter is similar to what Lewis received when The Chronicles of Narnia first came out. Christians attacked him. They said his stories were filled with witchcraft. They feature gods and goddesses, spirits of trees, and river gods. (via Relapsed Catholic)
Nick and Ann dragged me along to see the Harry Potter film yesterday - in the gloriously pseudo-medieval Screen 1 at Salisbury. What a treat for the inner child! This is a wonderful film. I loved the galaxy of British acting talent on display. I loved the visual richness - the animated paintings, the echoes of Gormenghast, the Railway Children, and Oliver. The children were great. And I wouldn't have believed it was even possible to film a Quidditch match! I'm really glad I didn't miss this one - I'll be going back for a repeat viewing in a few weeks.

Friday, November 16, 2001

Well what a surprise, go-live is postponed for a week. Another review meeting next week - I wonder what we will decide then? My upcoming holiday (2 weeks in Nepal starting 30th Nov) was mentioned about 4 times during the meeting! I feel more and more as if my holiday is going to take the blame for the whole shambles!
James Lileks: It all comes back to 9.11: no treaty would have stopped it. No amount of multilateralism on the US’s part would have turned aside the heart of Atta et al, and in the end nothing short of guns and bombs would have snapped the Taliban’s spine and let kites fly over Kabul. Ah, but what of the problems we face NOW? We’ll face them, I presume, and imperfections will follow, since imperfect beings are all we can field. Sometimes all available options suck. What counts is doing as much of the right thing as you possibly can, and not accepting some Olympian standard of omniscient perfection as the rod against which all human efforts are compared.
Silly season at work today. Project I've been working on since August is supposed to be going live on Tuesday, but dark forces are gathering intent on knocking it on the head. Emotional meeting expected this afternoon.

Moreover I was out too late last night at Ceroc, and didn't sit out enough dances, so don't feel I have much energy today!

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

I stayed over in Newport Monday night to work on the database server in an early morning slot. Driving over to the office at 3:45am I switched on the radio and got BBC World Service, and an excitable John Simpson broadcasting live from the centre of Kabul. "I don't know how to say this modestly, but the BBC have just liberated Kabul!"

What an amazing moment, the collapse of the odious Taliban regime is just a beautiful, unexpected thing. Children flying kites, women - faces uncovered - smiling from windows, pop music playing, young men getting a shave. OK, a mixed blessing, there will still be ugliness and violence in the weeks to come: but you'd be crazy not to see that this is a time of new hope for Afghanistan.
Nelson Mandela: I also want to say that one of the reasons for coming here is to be able to express my support for the President for his action in Afghanistan. The United States of America lost 5,000 people, innocent people, and it is quite correct for the President to ensure that the terrorists, those masterminds, as well as those who have executed the action and survived, are to be punished heavily. (via Scripting News)
Anne McElvoy: The anti-war case is as flawed practically as it is ethically. The bombing, we have been warned, would "never work" and would only succeed in strengthening the Taliban's support in the population. The events of the past two days do not look like a decisive swing to the Taliban to me.

Friday, November 09, 2001

James Lileks is on blistering form today: I’ve written here before about people who believe that skepticism is not only an obligation - which it is - but a modus vivendi, the only possible option for a Thinking Person. The end result of this philosophy is intellectual paralysis.
GMT GAMES: Clash of Giants: this game looks great - simple, fast to play, low counter density, 8-page rules booklet. But why, oh why does it cost £40 over here?
What isn't there somewhere on the Looney Labs website? Making Custom Card Boxes: Among the problems that weigh on the minds of card-game players everywhere are these: Why do some games come in those annoying double-wide packages? Why do some games come in boxes that are fragile or don't stay closed? Is there any alternative to those stupid plastic baseball card boxes or rubber bands? What do I do if I expand my deck so that it no longer fits in the original box? What do I do if the box my cards came in distintegrates? What do I do if the cards came in a big envelope instead of a box?
Spent the last two days at work battling with a massive Nimda virus attack. It's scary what a big impact this thing had. It's incredibly infectious - it spreads itself by email, it scans for vulnerable web servers, it modifies your web pages with malicious Javascript, it scans for shared folders and copies itself into them, and it makes "guest" an administrator. Clever stuff - you have to admire (grudgingly) the guys who write these things!

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Quick game report: James kindly came over on Sunday for an ASL teach-in. We played a scenario called "Operation Gavin" (I think?) - this was a simple infantry-only affair. I played the American paratroopers trying to work around a group of Germans in a village and stop them getting back to a bridge. I started well, using smoke to dash across open ground in view of his MGs. As I got closer to the bridge things continued to go well, with several German squads breaking. However, the tide turned when a broken German squad unexpectedly rallied and opened up with a machine gun at point blank range.

We had lunch, but I wasn't feeling too well so James was packed off home - nothing to do with me losing the scenario, honest! I really appreciated James coaching me through this daunting game system. Without having to worry too much about the mechanics- James was doing all that - it was a great wargaming experience, very tense and exciting.
I had a good laugh last night - Phil and Harriet came to Ceroc with me. Against all their 17-year-old principles of "coolness" they really enjoyed themselves - in fact they want to come again!
Thomas Sutcliffe: Coercive ceremonies of togetherness like that organised by Islam Awareness Week push us still closer to the notion that it is an inalienable human right not to have your feelings hurt – that tolerance means the agonised avoidance of all offence. And as someone who thinks the bedrock of a tolerant society is the acceptance that offence should sometimes have to be endured – I find that redefinition troubling.

Tuesday, November 06, 2001

I scored 56% in the Are You A Blogaholic? quiz. Sad or what? (via Hopeless Romantics)

462 people have taken this silly test so far.

140 people have scored higher than you.

284 people have scored lower than you.

38 people made the same grade as you.
Happy 21st birthday Gavin!

Bit worried that when I phoned you at 11:30am you were already drunk, but I suppose that's what your coming of age means - I can stop worrying about you.......
Phil was knocked out last night when I played The Mock Turtles - Can U Dig It? for him. He was particularly impressed that this track dated from 1979 - it sounded so indie to him. Unfortunately I got the dates wrong, it was more like 1989, as I found out from this link. But I also got the interesting fact that their front-man Martin Coogan is Steve's brother!
Major Religions Ranked by Size (via nutlog). Who says Christianity is dead?!

Monday, November 05, 2001

Calling all lovers of fine music

I'm singing with the Basingstoke Choral Society in a concert at the Anvil on Saturday 24th November. The highlight of the evening (i.e. our bit!) is the Brahms German Requiem. This is wonderful music, very moving - it's hard to imagine a more appropriate piece for the times we are living in. Tickets start at £8, I would love to see you there and buy you a drink afterwards in the Anvil bar.

Here's a link to the Anvil website with booking details.

Or just call the box office on 01256 844244.

Friday, November 02, 2001

Victoria Wood tour: note to self - don't don't don't miss one of these.
This game played with trading cards must take the prize for this year's funniest tie-break rule. (via textism)
Words of wisdom from Gavin:

Mac users are just like Linux users: they all write this kind of irrelevant bollocks because they are inherently insecure about the lack of popularity their chosen operating system has received. They are like religious fanatics.

Gavin's weblog is worth a visit today (for once) for a detailed account of a moonbow he saw last night. I heard about these in a physiology lecture years ago, but I've never been lucky enough to see one.

Thursday, November 01, 2001

The Mac Observer - I Wonder If Chess Will Do For OS X What Solitaire Did For Windows?: I've tried my hand at Solitaire, but can never see the point. It's monotonous and grossly uninspiring. I can understand why it's included with Microsoft Windows. The two are a perfect match.
Thursday nimrod sessions?

A few of you may be wondering what has happened to the Thursday sessions at my place. Well, I'm afraid November is stacking up to be a pretty busy month for me. A major project at work that I'm heavily involved in is going live on 20th November. This will involve a fair few broken nights between now and then. And the choral society's concert is only a few weeks away, with extra rehearsals to fit in. I'm also running a Divorce Recovery group at my home during the next few weeks. And I have to start preparing for my Nepal trip in December. So all this adds up to a fair bit of extra pressure on my time, so gaming sessions, especially mid-week, will have to give for a while. But once I'm back from Nepal I'll attempt to get the routine started again.

Don't forget everyone, it's Nick's birthday next Tuesday! He wants lots of nice new boardgames, so get shopping!

Spookily, it's also my son Gavin's 21st next Tuesday. Here is his birthday list, in case anyone is interested (I'm not):

21 yr old bottle of whisky (preferably bowmore legend)
BA return to Paris from Bristol (
DTT3500 Digital Surround System
Red faction PS2 game

I remember when he was little he'd be satisfied with £10 worth of Lego......
Heard Patty Loveless doing a live set from her latest CD Mountain Soul on Radio 2 last night. Beautiful bluegrass music - got to get this one!

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

iBook Zone: aargh, I'm getting sucked in....
Missing Pieces: stunning writing from some people who were in New York on 11 Sept. (via Harrumph)

The murderers who turned our jets into bombs and our tallest buildings into gas chambers did not bother to explain who they represented or what they wanted our country to do.

They did not come to protest. They came to butcher.

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

While I was waiting around last night for a midnight "dial-in and break the live database" slot, I was playing with my Icehouse pieces and learning Martian Chess - a chess-like strategy game in which location, rather than piece color, determines which pieces you may move.

I've got at least two ideas for my own Icehouse games - one is a simple derivative of Titan, the other is a simple derivative of DBA using ruler, dice, and Icehouse pieces as military formations. See the connecting theme? (Yes, "simple derivative = "ripping off other peoples ideas")

I had my jabs for Nepal this morning - what with lost sleep and a body full of antigens I feel a bit groggy. Will it stop me going to Ceroc tonight? I don't think so!
David Aaronovitch: This is becoming a challenge to liberals. How do you celebrate diversity with people who think the act of its celebration is decadent? Or who think that offence to the religious ought to be outlawed? Do you say, "that's very interesting, how glad I am to hear such a culturally refreshing viewpoint"?
Martin Bell: A government or coalition would have difficulty mounting a Normandy landing with the 24-hour news services in attendance, expecting daily advances but reporting setbacks and casualty totals that – in the civilian climate of our times – would be thought unacceptable and likely to undermine the will to fight.

Monday, October 29, 2001

I really fancy doing this Workshop course. A good friend of mine did it a couple of years ago and recommends it very highly. Of course it is too late to start the 2001-2002 course, I'll have to leave it until next September. But I could go along and visit for a weekend?

Doubts are discussed and dreams are nurtured; challenges are confronted and confidence developed.

Serious work is done examining the biblical text, Christian doctrine, hard ethical and apologetic questions, the challenge of spiritual development, pastoral skills and very much more besides.

At every stage the emphasis is on how to think rather than what to think. Everyone is encouraged to make mature informed and sensitive decisions for themselves.
Open Letters: Invisible I think I got to this via textism. It's about love, it's sad, and it really rings true.
Observer: Islam has become its own enemy Muslims everywhere are in a deep state of denial. From Egypt to Malaysia, there is an aversion to seeing terrorism as a Muslim problem and a Muslim responsibility.
I've been a bit slack on the game reports lately. And certain people who promised me reports (Nick) haven't come up with the goods yet!

Anyway, yesterday I played Lost Cities with Phil. Only ten minutes of gaming, but great fun, especially as I beat him (twice)!

The previous Sunday (I think) Dave came over and played Settlers with me and Phil. We played two complete games, Dave won the first, I won the second. Poor Phil! That Saturday Nick dropped in and played Up Front! (Nick's Belgians slaughtered my German paratroopers) and Battle Cry (I won). Then William turned up and we played Vinci, which I (controversially, as always in Vinci) won. Nick disappeared and William and I played 3 rounds of Rise of the Luftwaffe. This is an excellent game - Up Front in the air!

Two Saturdays ago I played Paths Of Glory with Nick, and also benefitted from Nick's excellent curry-cooking skills. I was the Allies, and I was doing really well on VPs until Nick surrounded 7 Russian armies on one turn! I hope we soon get beyond the beginner's mistakes stage with PoG!

I've also got a memory of playing Samurai with Dave and William on a recent Thursday evening, but can no longer put a date on it. We played through this great game twice in one evening, and I'd like to have another go at it soon.
Living Without Microsoft: We are building an information hub for those who would like to kick the Microsoft habit and move to using software which does not emanate from Redmond.

Friday, October 26, 2001

Dave Winer is getting angry at last: "Can't bomb Afghanistan during Ramadan," say the Muslim leaders. Ahhh. Well, you can't bomb the US in September say the Americans. How quickly they revert to their nasty habits. All the bombers were Muslim, and most of them were from Saudi Arabia. How about we bomb Mecca, and call it even? Icon for icon. Maybe you'd better show us that you're helping to get rid of the terrorists. Seems like the Saudis are supporting them, if you can believe that bullshit.
Cool! I've added a permanent link at the bottom of each posting so that all those other bloggers out there can link to my postings.

Yeah right...

Thursday, October 25, 2001

Tolkien's War of the Ring by SPI going on ebay - over £100 already and 3 days bidding still to go!
Shows what a classic game Titan is when people are still submitting rave reviews to Funagain years after it went out of print!
Bit fed up with work this morning. Stayed in the office till 8 last night, kicking off a 5 hour database upgrade. Went home. Dialled in this morning to find that it failed 5 minutes after I left. I'm busy fixing and restarting the task now. My name will be mud when I get in.

At least I have figured out why Phil wasn't speaking to me yesterday morning. He had his earphones in. Yes, as I leaned out of the front door in my boxers shouting at his receding back, he couldn't hear me! So that's a relief.

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

A recent UseNet thread in about Space Hulk reminded me how much I love that game:

Whenever I played this game I always took the marines because everyone
around here assumed the game was unbalanced toward the Stealers. And I'd
always kick their asses. :)

There are three things to remember when playing the marines: Speed,
speed, and umm... oh yeah. Speed.

The strategy for the Stealers is, of course, to slow down the marine
player. If you can get him to waste a couple of turns not making
significant progress toward whatever goal, you probably have the game. I
have found most marine players to be a bit timid, so on those occasions
here I played the Stealers, I made them paranoid and also kicked ass. :)
The truth about the environment: Environmentalists tend to believe that, ecologically speaking, things are getting worse and worse. Bjorn Lomborg, once deep green himself, argues that they are wrong in almost every particular
(Thanks to Recovering Liberal for the lead.)
Do I need a laptop? No. So why am I consumed with techno-lust for the Apple iBook? The fastest iBook ever. Turbocharged with a blazingly fast 600MHz PowerPC G3 processor, 256K on-chip cache running at full processor speed, and a 100MHz system bus, the new iBook packs a tremendous wallop. And it comes with the ATI RAGE Mobility 128 graphics accelerator with 8MB of SDRAM and AGP 2X support for gorgeous 3D graphics.
Feeling a bit woozy, a bit stressed, this morning. Was out late Monday dancing at the Clapham Ceroc club! Last night spent most of the evening being phoned by a project manager trying to persuade me to work from home all night upgrading his stupid database for his about-to-overrun stupid project. In the end the dial-in didn't work - heh heh! For some reason Phil was refusing to speak to me this morning, very strange, but this is adding to a feeling of not-quite-coping. And it's choir rehearsal tonight - 120 of us definitely not coping with Brahms.

But I did get my car washed this morning, so something is going right.

Monday, October 22, 2001

A nice little parable from Ockham's Razor: A philosophy professor stood before his class with some items in front of him. When class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks about 2" in diameter. Then he asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar of rocks. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the spaces between the rocks. The students laughed. He asked his students again if the jar was full. They said yes, it was. The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. They laughed again.............
Everyone should see this! Booking has opened for The Valkyrie at ENO - I went to see their RhineGold earlier this year and it was wonderful. These are semi-staged productions in preparation for a fully staged Ring Cycle in a couple of years time. Can't wait!

Saturday, October 20, 2001

Howard Jacobsen: Subtly, a little more each day, as though it is the very mark of a civilised community not to mind what is done to it, we ratchet down our sense of outrage. What if we deserved it... what if we deserve more... what if we don't win... what if we don't deserve to win?

Friday, October 19, 2001

Ridiculously huge selection of Playing Cards for sale, including loads of European Tarot decks (game-playing variety). I'm still itching to play Zarcana/Gnostica!
Machiavelli has his own directory in Google!
Machiavelli Online Resources: links to essays, biographies, texts.
Nicolo Machiavelli: The Prince: full text online. Lots of other philosophy texts here as well.

Thursday, October 18, 2001

Melvyn Bragg is back with In Our Time: I enjoy formal conversations (I don't much like informal conversations, I hate dinner parties - people just sprawling about, talking about anything - it's a complete waste of time) but to get the chance to talk to people in a concentrated way about what they really know best, it's an enormous treat.

It's a treat to listen to as well. One of the biggest things I got from reading Francis Schaeffer is the primary importance of ideas. History is driven not by armies and leaders but by thinkers and philosophers. In this wonderful show on Radio 4 Melvyn Bragg plunges into the sea of ideas, swimming confidently between ages and continents. This morning's discussion (on democracy) ranged between classical Athens, the English Civil War, and the American Revolution, stopping en route in early Islamic political thought. One gem was about Machiavelli who saw the importance of conflict (rather than harmony) in a healthy political system. Very relevant at the moment - all the loud slanging matches in the West about military action probably auger very well for our civilization.

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Excellent! Just found this new Up Front website.
This is so surreal it's hard to believe it's true. Osama Has a New Friend: Reuters photographs of a rally this week organized by Jaamiat-e-Talabaye Arabia, a radical Islamic organization, show that protesters created a pro-bin Laden sign out of a collage of photos they apparently lifted from Internet sites. But -- is it fate or coincidence? -- the sign featured a Bert muppet sitting on the left side of the man believed to be responsible for the bloodiest terrorist attack in U.S. history.
Saturday nimrod set-piece?

Does anyone fancy a big set-piece game on Saturday? I was thinking either 1830 or Advanced Civilization. (We can decide which based on whether or not Dave turns up?) Start at about 2pm, pop out for a takeaway at teatime, finish before midnight (hopefully!)
I'm quite excited about this - I've volunteered to help playtest GMT's Strike Eagle Leader. This is a solitaire air mission game in the Hornet Leader series. I've always wanted to try Hornet Leader but never been able to find a copy. They are going to email me a playtest kit in PDF format, so I'll be spending happy hours printing and cutting out.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Still digging into Tarot Games. It seems the tarot deck was originally developed for games playing and only got hijacked for fortune-telling centuries later.

Monday, October 15, 2001

After getting disillusioned recently with the offroad performance of my Specialized "hybrid" bike, I took my old Raleigh Amazon down to the bike shop for refurbishment. I collected it on Saturday - it has had a full service, new saddle and saddle-post, new handlebar stem, new tyres and inners, new quick-release bolt for saddle-post. (Less than £100, much cheaper than a new bike!)

I took it out yesterday afternoon on Laverstock Down. It felt lovely to ride, really stable and responsive, great fun on descents. All I need now is a fit, athletic body to match....
Peggy Noonan: It is not only that God is back, but that men are back.
Play Spaced Penguin! Who needs a fancy PS2 when you've got the Web?
This is excellent, very informative: The World After WTC - A War Blog by Bjørn Stærk Temporarily created, hopefully shortlived, to cover the war and its consequences. (via NutLog)

Sunday, October 14, 2001

Howard Jacobson: On balance I'd say it's unlikely Osama bin Laden is going to get his own TV series when this is all over. Good in front of the camera, I grant you, and reads autocue well in unfavourable conditions. But I doubt he has the joky youth appeal which Channel 4 would be looking for, and I don't see the finger-wagging going down well with either BBC channel.
More game acquisition news from James:

Charity shop find this weekend was Heroquest for 50 pence.

This last two weeks have played:

GMT's Barborossa - urghh! I am sure it appeals to some but I did not enjoy.

Mystery Rummy cases one and two - great as ever.

The Kosmos 2 player Lord of the Rings - there are better ones in the small box series.

Labryrinth the Card Game - poor copy of a great board game.

And have purchased Cafe International Card Game

Friday, October 12, 2001

I've just watched episode 3 of Band of Brothers, I was really impressed. This is a real nimrod's show: the tactical situations look convincing - when Winters ordered the company to attack "down the middle" at Carentan I winced - I could see what was coming. Sure enough.

It makes you feel like pulling Up Front!, Breakout Normandy, or Squad Leader down from the shelf again.

In fact, I think I will. I was wondering what to do with this weekend.

The series has come in for criticism - nor enough character development, too reverent, even too noisy. I think this is unfair. So may of the details ring true to what I've read of the Normandy campaign. The producers - to their credit - seem to be avoiding cliche war-story lines. Instead they have attempted a documentary-drama. I think it works well, it doesn't always show the Americans up in a good light - plenty of prisoners get shot, for example - but it gives a credible window on the experience of World War 2 combat. Which is something well worth doing.
The Games Store website now does ecommerce. Great - I now have only seconds to fight off the game-buying impulse when it strikes, rather than the minutes I used to have.
The fantastic game designers Looney Labs are planning a set of 5 cards designed to make Fluxx more fun for Christians! Excellent. See What's on the Stove?

Thursday, October 11, 2001

There'll be no XP for me: What all these new XP "features" have in common is that they make Windows more convenient for Microsoft but less convenient for users. (Via Scripting News)

Makes me wonder if I really want to continue with a Microsoft-based career. At least maybe an excuse to get one of those sexy iBook toys?
Gosh, I want one of these! A Relapsed Catholic T-shirt!
This is very, very clever: The Postmodernism Generator (via Relapsed Catholic, where else?)
nimrods is back!

First, an apology to the folks at Blogger. It wasn't your fault at all, it was my ISP - NTLWorld - who decided on 28th September to disallow FTP from anywhere but a dialled-up connection. Nice of them to let me know. This is also a bit ironic as I work for NTL, moreover, in the very department that runs NTLWorld! So I don't know what chance the poor average punter has of finding these things out......

Not sure if I like this BlogSpot. It's not proper webspace so I can't put my pictures and graphics up here. But I suppose I can redo my HTML to link to content that sits on my NTLWorld space. And I can pay the $12 to get rid of the ugly banner at the top. But I'm not sure about hosting my blog in the same building as Blogger - I liked the disaster recovery element of actually hosting my blog in a different country. Not that the world would miss my blog archive much - but I would.

Anyway, all that is for the future. For now, I can blog again, and that makes me happy......

Friday, October 05, 2001

I am so cheesed off with Blogger! I haven't been able to FTP to my website for a week, it just comes up with "530 Login Incorrect". This happened to me once before and I fiddled with the settings a bit until it sprung into life again. Well, I've done a lot of fiddling this week and - nothing! Hand-coding the entries just isn't the same - much more hassle than Blogger (when it's working). Sigh! It's very frustrating, just when nimrods was starting to build up a loyal readership.

Tuesday, October 02, 2001

Predictably, the paragliding school cancelled because of the weather, but we had an excellent weekend anyway, a highlight of which was cycling up to and along the Ridgeway in warm sunshine. During this trip the limitations of my Specialized hybrid bike in real off-road conditions became painfully apparent. Anyone want to buy it off me?

Our trip finished with the film "Enigma" about the Bletchley Park codebreakers in World War 2. About 15 minutes from the end it was interrupted by a power cut and we were evacuated from the cinema, so I don't know how it ended! Has anyone seen the film and would be willing to fill me in?
A progress report from James on his quest to acquire every game ever published:

Saw Steve's report so thought I would write in with what I have got up to game-wise, in the last few weeks.

I have an opponent in Aldershot and we meet once a week for a wargame. Last week was Wilderness Wars the Tournament scenario and after some great Indian Raids by me (French) I was one VP away, when Louisberg and Quebec fell in six card plays by use of amphibous landings and surrender cards. I thought I had it in the bag up to that point.

Today was ASL, and it gets better as you play more and more. I could drop all other games (what a statement). Also played Rosenkonig: a great 2 player small box game.

Purchased GMT's Red Badge of Courage and what a monster that game looks, the box recommends a weekend to play. At last an honest time estimate on a wargame!

Also on the games front I have taken to trawling charity shops, this week's finds were Avalon Hill's Kremlin (£2) and Game of Nations, the Gibsons 1977 game of fighting for oil in the Gulf (£1.29) - no rules though. Can anyone help?

Friday, September 28, 2001

Feedback from Gavin: For heaven's sake don't buy a leather jacket! Phil is right - you'll just look like a dodgy old geezer. Instead, buy a marvellous 21st birthday present for your number one son!
If you run a spoof news site what do you do after something as horrifying as the WTC attacks? Well The Onion has decided, and it's pretty stunning. See for example God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule: "I tried to put it in the simplest possible terms for you people, so you'd get it straight, because I thought it was pretty important," said God
Opinions wanted

I just got a refund from the Inland Revenue! I was thinking of spending it on a leather jacket. My trendy son Phil says Don't do it Dad, you'll just look like an old man trying to look young.

Does anyone else have sartorial advice to offer? Votes on an email please!
A very short game report from Steve:

Played Dave at Bull run card game last night. I won but it was probably because I kept drawing powerful artillery cards every 5 minutes rather than any skill. I also met Dave's dog which was cool.

Thursday, September 27, 2001

Yes, I've got lots to do this evening - go to Tescos, cook and eat tea, pack a bag for the weekend, put my bike and bike rack in the car, remind Nick to feed the cat etc etc. But at the back of my mind is the thought that tonight is a Ceroc night, and perhaps I could get over there by 9 and put in a couple of hours on the dance-floor. Not a good idea really - I've got a long day tomorrow - and I've already been once this week.

I need help....

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

This is why I can't do a nimrod session this Thursday - I'm going to the ParAvion paragliding school this weekend and I need to put my affairs in order before I go.
No nimrod session this Thursday I'm afraid. Just can't fit it in this week. Hopefully next week will be OK but I'll let you know nearer the time.

I'm sort of encouraged by how things are going. Although it's a small group of people there does seem to be a level of enthusiasm for meeting to play multi-player games. Nick is back in the fold, John is becoming more active, and James's enthusiasm is a real boost. And I think people are doing quite a bit of 2-player gaming as well. I hope I will be able to make Thursdays a regular event, and it may be better attended as the nights draw in and sitting in the garden seems less attractive!

Maybe a big set-piece game one weekend would be a good idea, something like Advanced Civilization or Pax Britannica? And is anyone interested in joining a party up to Midcon 2-4 November? Let me know.
It takes a Scot to give us this bracing, unsentimental analysis. Anne McElvoy: The rest of the prattle about needing to understand what drives people to such extremes, like some social worker ministering to the world's guerrilla movements, is beyond satire. Behind it lurks a cynical argument masquerading as a liberal one – that you can buy off terrorism.

Monday, September 24, 2001

Had a great weekend's gaming. Went up to Nick's flat on Saturday afternoon to play Paths of Glory. I drew the Central Powers, and we decided to play with the optional rules and the extra cards from the Player Guide. I kicked off with Guns of August, and Race to the Sea shortly afterwards allowed me to cut off the Belgians in Antwerp. Nick and John (who had just turned up) accused me of timidity, but I played Entrench and sat on a fairly conservative line just inside France.

We paused from POG so that we could play Empires of the Ancient World with John, which was great fun Even if I came last I had the satisfaction of sinking the other two in big naval battles in the last turn. Nick produced a truly excellent curry and John beat us at Carcassone to round the evening off.

On Sunday afternoon Nick and I picked up the POG game again. There was a confusing tussle in Russia, then Nick brought in the Italians who broke through into Austria. Then he launched a very effective sequence of offensives on the Western Front, evicting me from France completely. Unfortunately for Nick, his focus on the West allowed me to encircle 5 Russian armies and 2 Italian armies in one turn.

We wrapped it up at that point (after 6 turns). Although Nick was rightly discouraged by his lost armies, my position in the West was shaky. If we had continued I would have urgently SR'd German armies back from the East, while attempting to get an outright win by snapping up Italian and Russian victory points. By no means a sure thing, and it could easily have swung back in Nick's favour.

What a great game this is! Looking forward to playing it again soon. Thanks Nick.
Fergal Keane in Saturday's Independent: In all the debates we have had we have missed that fundamental moral equation. When a man commits mass murder he has made a choice. No individual forces him into that act and no history can be blamed. It is down to him. This is true for the hijackers as it is for those who sent them on their mission. The so called progressives who have sought to characterise this attack as the inevitable consequence of American foreign policy should bury their heads in shame.

Friday, September 21, 2001

Last night's nimrod session, though attended by just 3 of us - myself, John and James - was good fun. We decided to play 1876, a "micro-1830" which is set on Trinidad. The game has a very small map, only three companies, and just one 4-train, 5-train and 6-train. Everything happens very quickly. Especially when John is playing, who was cruising to an easy victory when we wrapped it up at 10:30. It's amazing how this little game packs most of the flavour of 1830 into such a small space.
David Aaronovitch: They argue that the US, alone among nations, should have no reason to get angry when its citizens are killed
James Lileks: I’m tired tonight. I’m tired of people who can watch 5,000 people from 62 nations burned alive and crushed to death, and think: well, you know you had this coming.

Thursday, September 20, 2001

And Howard Jacobson writes with his distinctive despairing insight:
So on we go, surfing the channels for more, sitting up half the night, watching over and over, conscious, at the same time, that we are doing exactly what the perpetrators mean us to be doing. Marvelling at their work.
Scarily intelligent columnist Anne McElvoy talks a lot of sense in yesterday's Independent:
Terrorists committed a mass execution of American citizens. This must, of course, be America's fault. It had it coming for being arrogant. It had it coming for supporting Israel. They had it coming for being so big and rich. In short, it had it coming for being America.

Sadly, respected blog-pioneer Dave Weiner at Scripting News produced a typical example of this crazy attitude:
People don't sacrifice themselves for no reason. Let's find out what it is. And if we did something wrong (no doubt we did) let's apologize, ask for forgiveness, and then ask how we can do better.

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Nimrod Session

Please come over to my place this Thursday at 8pm. I think we will probably play Samurai and perhaps an IceHouse game if time permits. But bring your own ideas and games with you....
I've always thought the Foreign Office was a moderately useless organization, but the Travel Advice on their website is actually up-to-date. I was amazed! (The last time I looked was about was about a week after the massacre of the Nepalese Royal Family, an event which the Foreign Office website seemed to be blissfully unaware of.) So I've signed up for email updates on travel to Nepal so that I will know whether it's wise or not to go over there in December as planned.

Having just filled in my tax return I'm pleased to be getting something useful for my tax pennies.

Monday, September 17, 2001

Had a great time on Sunday at James' place. We kicked off with Wilderness War - the tournament scenario - which I thoroughly enjoyed. As the French things are starting to turn against me in this scenario, with large British reinforcements and competent generals (like Wolf) arriving. But I was able to make plenty of successful Indian raids, burning stockades and settlements and slowing down James' offensive towards Montreal. In the final turn James was left with too much to do in too little time. This is a fantastic game, beautifully produced (except for the usual ultra-thin GMT map), a notch below POG in complexity, very enjoyable and reminiscent of We the People. It took us about 5 hours but of course James had to spend a lot of time explaining the rules to me.

We finished off the afternoon with two enjoyable fillers: Titan the Arena (James won), and Lost Cities (I won). The latter is excellent - really interesting tactical play with very simple rules.

Thanks to James and Emma for their hospitality and an excellent lunch!

Thursday, September 13, 2001

I guess most people are feeling the same way, but a weight of depression settled on my heart yesterday as the reality of the tragedy in America started to sink in. It hasn’t lifted yet. I feel as if I’m going through the motions at work, living in a daze.

I’ve always loved history, and with that perspective I thought I could be fairly philosophical about bad news. After all, the history of mankind is just one bloody massacre after another. But today that thought doesn’t seem to help. I feel sickened and weary of this age-old procession of violence and hate. This world is often so much like a paradise, but as a race we seem so determined to turn it into hell-on-earth.
Last night I went to the choral society’s first rehearsal of the autumn. We are singing the Brahms Deutsches Requiem. When we came to the climax in the second movement:

Den alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras

Behold all flesh is as the grass

It was so desperately sad, I don’t know how we kept singing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Heaven on Earth
We need it now
I'm sick of all of this
Hanging around
Sick of sorrow
Sick of pain
Sick of hearing again and again
That there's gonna be
Peace on Earth

U2, Peace on Earth

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

On a day when all the big news websites are impossible to access Dave Winer's Scripting News Weblog is doing a reasonable job of keeping up-to-date with the unfolding tragedy over in the US.
I've got an identity at last! Apparently I belong to Generation Jones.
prolific: beyond the polder is my weblogging twin!
Monitor the moves you learn with this Ceroc checklist.

Types of Cerocer is pretty cutting!

How not to Ceroc is actually the only useful guide to the Ceroc moves I have found.

Ceroc stages: I'm definitely at the the "Dammit I wish I didn't have to eat, sleep or drink so I could spend more time Cerocing" Stage.

Actually there are very few Ceroc resources on the web at all. I've blogged the best of them here, and there are websites for local and national clubs as well. I guess everyone is too busy enjoying themselves dancing to be messing about with websites!

Friday, September 07, 2001

Fluent Dance - a great essay on Ceroc, really captures the experience (that I'm currently going through) of learning to dance for the first time. I watched myself transforming from a fellow who loathed dancing into one who couldn't stop himself from trying.

Thursday, September 06, 2001

In today's Telegraph Jonathan Sacks says: In a world run by MTV, nobody has time to think.
The Irish Times says Bono ripe for sainthood. If nothing else, U2 have served the church by not leading the youth of Ireland astray, the direction traditionally favoured by rock bands. The worst they can be accused of is a series of bad-hair decisions during the 1980s, a time of general lapse in this regard.

(via the ever-fantastic Relapsed Catholic)
Wow! Have you seen what the sun is doing today?

These current solar images from the SOHO mission are blinding!

Wednesday, September 05, 2001

James Lileks is finding that you learn from your children:

Last year fall and winter arrived perfectly - Gnat had given us both a sense of each day as a dense & concentrated object, and we paid attention like never before.

Tuesday, September 04, 2001

Nimrod Sessions

I'm quite heavily booked up for the next two weeks, so no Thursday sessions until 20 Sept I'm afraid. I didn't want it to be like this, but hopefully I will get my life under control shortly!
Today Heather is practicing Pronoia: "The opposite of paranoia; the sneaking suspicion that the whole world is conspiring to shower you with blessings. Symptoms include sudden attacks of optimism and outbreaks of goodwill."
A writer I admire discusses a writer I worship - Yancey on Chesterton

Monday, September 03, 2001

Well, I'm back on dry land (and at last it has stopped rocking beneath my feet). On last week's passage I was reading "Master and Commander", which was even better second time around. And not surpisingly a lot of the nautical terminology made a lot more sense to me in these surroundings. I have a few ideas revolving around my head for making a solo game of this wonderful book. This website devoted to Patrick O'Brian will be an invaluable resource if I get round to working this up.

Friday, August 24, 2001

Whatever next? - PhotoShop tennis!
Fine bunch of nimrods you are!

No-one turned up last night! Humph. But I was determined to have a nimrod evening so I actually finished glueing my IceHouse pieces together. Now I can play IceTraders, Martian Go, Zarcana etc. Groovy!

Anyway, I'm so disgusted that I'm running away to sea - on the lovely Irene Jack. So no more postings for a week.

Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Read Robert Locke's refreshing plea for an open mind about evolution. Excellent stuff!
About Board Games is a massive resource - and I'd never even heard of it before today. Loads of game-related stuff.

For example they have a fascinating interview with James Ernest, the founder of Cheapass Games.

Tuesday, August 21, 2001

From Kory Heath - an illuminating discussion of game design, elegance and emergent phenomena. It would be interesting to think about these ideas - which Kory has developed through his interest in abstract games - in relation to elegant wargames (they feel elegant to me, anyway) such as Paths of Glory or Krieg.
This is not a drill.

Come over to my place Thursday (23 August) at 8pm. We might play Samurai. We might play 1876. We might play Cosmic Encounter. (Why not? Let's live a little!) My paper IceHouse pieces might even be ready for action. Bring wine and beer. Eat Steve's corn-chips.

And I promise not to cancel this one.

Monday, August 20, 2001

Having spent Saturday night sleeping in a marquee (don't ask), I was napping at 2pm on Sunday when James arrived hungry for a Paths of Glory foursome, closely followed by Dave and James. I was still feeling groggy, so I let James and Dave slug it out in the grand old manner, while I had a quieter afternoon teaching Steve the game and having a much gentler war of it.

The slugathon next door came to a spectacular conclusion when James managed to lose about three quarters of the German army in France, and Dave gave a fine example of his trying not to look smug face. My Germans were dealt a lesser but still bruising setback by Steve's Brits at Calais. After poor James left for home we gave my new Aquarius deck a quick outing, which everyone agreed was great fun, and more thought-provoking than the hippy graphics would suggest. A great nimrod afternoon - thanks guys.
Andrew Maly's Up Front Page is still there, after all these years, and back issues of Mike Nagel's (now defunct) Relative Range.

Amazingly, Andy has also published the whole UpFront! Rulebook as HTML. What a labour of love! Mind you, this game deserves to be loved.

Friday, August 17, 2001

Big congratulations to Phil, my younger son, who achieved great results in his AS-levels. Here are his grades:

A Law
A Sociology
B English
C Art

Well done, Phil!

Thursday, August 16, 2001

John Cooper's four-eleven is one of the weirdest, but also most strangely compelling, weblogs I have come across. He just records whatever is happening to him at 4:11pm every day! He is part of the Looney Labs crowd so his entries are quite often games related. He also has some sort of science job and I'm still trying to figure out what it is from the limited snippets of information in enigmatic entries like this:

010703 tue
"That's our big guy," I say, pointing to Hardy, our lab's six-foot diameter sphere. Then Sandy and I turn to exit the cleanroom.

Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Isn't it always the way? When I'm looking forward to a quiet evening at home to catch up with chores, I always seem to get button-holed for some urgent task just before I leave work! But the people concerned have just given me a Lions rugby shirt, which is a really nice gesture of appreciation. And it's still only 6pm, so it wasn't actually that much of a sacrifice!

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

More from Gavin, who writes:

Kill me now! I have just ordered my first ever real BOARD GAME! After reading about "Kill Dr Lucky", I decided I had to have it. And it was only a fiver! Bargain.

[If any potential advertisers are reading, please note the revenue generating potential of this weblog.]

Gavin has also had an article published on!
Had a great time on Saturday at Jonny and Caroline's new beach-hut down at Bournemouth. It was a bit blowy, but regular cups of tea kept us warm, and we played boules, rounders, and even went for a dip, as well as having a massive barbeque. Lots of people there, with lots of little kids running around, it was great!

A bit of serendipity had a feature on Radio 2 yesterday about beach-huts, pointing out where I can search for one of my own to buy! However, there are many more wanted than for sale or to let adverts.
Gavin really needs to work on his negotiating skills.

When I offered my tape-chewing VCR to anyone who wants to risk it, Gavin offered to give me £30 for it!

Talking of Gav, the vote about his plastic surgery is balanced on a knife-edge, so go over there and vote NO to save him from a future with numb lips.
Apologies to anyone who was planning to come, but I'm cancelling this Thursday's session at my place (16 August) as I am going to the Proms!

Monday, August 13, 2001

Does anyone want a VCR?

I replaced mine this weekend, because it occasionally chews up tapes. I'm not willing to risk my Star Wars trilogy! It's a Toshiba, only three years old. It may be relatively simple to fix. If you want it you can have it.
Friday evening picked William up and drove over to James' place deep in West Wiltshire. Met Emma, his wife, who is not only pretty and charming, but also a keen games player. Easy to see now why James always wears a happy smile!

We played Linie 1 (I can never get my head round this game), Castle (intriguing - but has little rules printed on cards which you need to read from the other side of the table), and Kill Dr Lucky. The last one was the highlight - like Cluedo, only fun. Instead of detecting a crime you have to commit it! You wander around a big house looking for a nice old man called Dr Lucky, then attempt to kill him! This is a great piece of game design, elegant, amusing, and very tactical.

Thanks James for a great evening, and for feeding and watering us so generously.

Friday, August 10, 2001

Observations of a Game Tester is a great piece of writing which shines the clear light of experience on what makes a good game. It also puts into words many of the reasons why I enjoy mucking about with games so much.
Good grief, a massive archive of IceHouse games!
Well, is Happy Fun Die a game? It's certainly the funniest set of game rules I've read in a while.

Thursday, August 09, 2001

Place your vote at Planet Gaz for whether he should have his jaw operation. As his Dad, I'm campaigning for a big NO vote!
I was as irritated as the next man when Seamus Heaney pipped JK Rowling to the Whitbread Book Prize: but I'm listening to him reading his translation of Beowulf as I drive to work this week, and I have to admit I'm bowled over by it.

Wednesday, August 08, 2001

More tantalising details of the forthcoming Napoleonic Wars. Better start saving for 2002 straight away - there's going to be this, Barbarossa to Berlin, and Ancients Battle Cry, just for starters.
killingthebuddha is fantastic.
Any nimrod with an interest in the Napoleonic Wars will be pretty excited by this news from GMT Games. Oh there's a bright day gonna dawn.......
James Lileks is fascinating today for his American-eye view of The Royle Family.

Monday, August 06, 2001

Betty Bowers is a Better Christian Than You - pretty bad taste but very funny! And a fair target?
There will be no gaming at my home this Thursday, but James has kindly invited us over to his place for a session on Friday (10th August). Please contact him ( if you need directions. (I know I do!)
The Cheapass Games Double Secret Web Page looks interesting, especially Brawl. Kickboxing teenage girls in leotards, sounds good to me!!

Sunday, August 05, 2001

Stuff this! I'm going out on my bike......
I'm also spending far too much time in front of my PC this weekend when I should be out in the sunshine. Unavoidable, as it is work-related. Upgrading a development box to SQL Server 7. Lost one of their databases unfortunately - oops! Hope no-one notices.
Hmm. Still glueing my paper Icehouse pieces together. Good grief, there are lots of them......

Saturday, August 04, 2001

OK, as promised, here are some Things that Grind my Nads

    Guys gesturing at me when I overtake them

    Chocolate on my new keyboard (Phil!)

    John Humphreys

    Overfishing of the North Sea

    Bad losers

Erm......can't think of anything else. I'm just not angry enough!

Friday, August 03, 2001

Good grief, the ultimate in design-your-own religion! - the Religion Selector. Worryingly, I came out as 100% Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic. Which confirms what I have suspected for a while, I'm just not cut out to be a Protestant!
Low turnout at last night's nimrod session - just William!

Where were you all? Enjoying yourselves doing something else, I suppose.....well, that's just not acceptable!

We played Space Hulk, great fun, I won both times, but William seemed to enjoy the game nonetheless.

No session next week, I'm afraid, normal service resumed Thursday 16 August.

Wednesday, August 01, 2001

Do I come across as too enthusiastic?

Reading my recent posts I get that impression. All these positive feelings can be a bit wearing. There are lots of things that grind my nads too, maybe I should write about them sometimes? What do you think?

Tuesday, July 31, 2001 is an intriguing, attractive idea. The website links up people who want to contribute to some sort of object - a journal, a box of things, a photo project etc - which is passed around by snail mail, accreting contributions as it travels the globe. Amazing! Count me in!

Monday, July 30, 2001

My son Gavin and 3 of his fellow students have developed a game called ScribblyDraw, which is a kind of online version of Pictionary. This weekend they were contacted by Compuserve who want to offer Scribblydraw as part of their online gaming service!! Wow, I hope he remembers his old Dad when he's rich.
Cool, Conway's Life is a long-standing interest of mine and, now that I'm busy glueing together my new Icehouse pieces, here comes MARTIAN LIFE for me to play with them.

Friday, July 27, 2001

Fun nimrod session last night. Steve, Dave and John turned up. We played Lord of the Rings and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. The game managed to create this sense of rising panic as we stumbled from one disaster to another, the Ring-Bearer (Master Samwise Medhurst at that point) falling into the hands of Sauron on the very slopes of Mount Doom!

Thursday, July 26, 2001

Minden Games publish Retro ASL - the whole ASL experience distilled down to 28 pages!

Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Is there such a thing as a Ceroc nimrod, I wonder? Probably not, too many females involved. Ceroc is a French Jive apparently, you can go along Tuesday or Thursday evening to Salisbury Cattle Market (I'm not making this up!) and have an hour's Beginners instruction, then a chance to revise while the Intermediates have their class, finally a freestyle session which is the best bit - it's like a party, everyone dancing, and you don't get left to sit for more than a few minutes before some girl drags you up for another dance. I've been going along for 3 weeks now, after initial hesitancy I'm really starting to enjoy myself now as I get a little bit more confident with the moves. Excellent fun! And a great chance to hold hands with dozens of women in one evening.......

My Paper Icehouse pieces have arrived. Only took a few days from the US. My next step towards apostasy is to get hold of some aquarium gravel and glue these babies together...

I've finally managed to buy something off ebay!!! The Star Wars trilogy on VHS, the original versions (not ruined by the new special effects). Great condition, got them for £16.

Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Manorcon was very enjoyable. It was good to have William and Dave along. The new venue (Shackleton Hall on Birmingham University campus) was a bit more spacious than Lake Hall. My room was OK but the food was a deep fried death diet as usual! On Friday I played History of the World with the fancy (and fiddly) new Hasbro set. I was leading for ages – always a big mistake - and finished 3rd of 6.

On Saturday I signed up for Advanced Civilization, really enjoyed it. Played Babylon as usual. A run of early catastrophes left me trailing badly, so I was really pleased to finish 4th of 7. That took 7 hours, so I wandered around dazed for a couple of hours, then joined Nick Kinzett for a game (doctored Kinzett-style) of Lord of the Rings. Great fun, loads of atmosphere, and interesting to cooperate rather than compete for a change.

On Sunday I coasted, introducing lots of people to Battle Cry and getting another game of Lord of the Rings too (this time we all died horribly on Gorgoroth). Dave was swimming with the 1830 sharks, hoping just to learn a few tips from the experts. Against all expectations he won!

The games trading is always a highlight of Manorcon. I managed to get rid of two of my games (Battle Hymn and Carrier), but bought two as well (Throneworld and Lord of the Rings) so no relief for my storage problem back home.

Great weekend. Maybe I’ll sign up for MidCon this year?

Monday, July 23, 2001

Met this guy Pete Phillipps at Manorcon, who was there with various ASL nimrods running a tournament and trying to recruit people into his evil sect. Like most evil cultists he's a really nice guy. Here is his fanzine View From The Trenches which includes a PDF introduction to ASL with a map and counters for a starter scenario. I found it an excellent read even though I'm only marginally interested in ASL.

Thursday, July 19, 2001

HANKISMS is a hilarious if irreverent take on comparative religion. I think my favourite is Greco-Roman.
This website dedicated to the Japanese artist Kawase Hasui is stuffed with beautiful images.

Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Attention! Attention all nimrods!

No session at my place this Thursday I'm afraid - I don't want to peak early
before Manorcon this weekend!

But you are invited over on Thursday 26th July. William will probably bring
Samurai over, and surplus people can play Battle Cry or Space Hulk perhaps.

Let me know if you can make it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Hmmm. What games shall I take to ManorCon this year?

To sell:

Pacific War (? I once spent weeks learning the rules, do I want all that effort to go to waste?)
Battle Hymn
Empires in Arms (? it's a nice looking game, I just never ever play it)

To play:

Empires of the Ancient World
Titan (oh bliss, a chance to play Titan!)
Battle Cry (I was hoping Nick would be bringing his copy too, but he's dropped out this year)

Musn't take too many, as I don't want to spend the weekend explaining rules to people!

Monday, July 16, 2001

The Center for Ludic Synergy is an extremely weird and amusing game site.
GMT website now has an official Historical Paths of Glory scenario.
Two game reports for last Thursday's session. The first is from James:

Attendees last Thursday were Robin, Simon, William, Peter (host) and I. Peter had set up Empires of the Ancient World on the table and explained the rules to Simon, Robin and I.

The game is turn based and you can do a number of things on your "go" either attack by force or diplomacy, trade with neighbouring regions or recruit one of the available armies or units. As I had rolled the six and had to go first I picked up the Military Commander card, it looked good and it was for that reason I picked it up ( a lot of my game playing is on that basis, ohhh dear) everyone else also spent a peaceful round "educating" the neutral nations or picking up new units. Peter picked up a large galley and on his next round he started his conquest of the Mediterranean by unprovoked attacks on William and I. That was it and then the call to arms went up and this resulted in everyone bashing Peter. Throughout the game William grew steadily in the East, Diplomat Simon expanded his nation around Italy with little military attacks, Robin defended France, Germany and Britain well and I held Spain and Africa with the aid of my Military Commander, that on numerous occasions allowed me to deploy Pikemen infront of opponents charging cavalry (ouch).

We only managed two of the four turns by 10:30 so called it an evening there and totted up the scores.William won, myself second then Simon, Robin and Peter last.

A great game with a very clever card system.

Ohh by the way does anyone play Advanced Squad Leader, or interested in learning (Shameless Plug).

And now William with his version of events:

We started to play with William rolling highest to start (despite his absence from the room due to the curse that is mobile phones). He chose the rich Middle East and proceeded to build his empire around Cappadocia. He was hindered by Peter who immediately went for the Eastern Med and Egypt and West Turkey. Between their turns Simon started an empire in Italy and James in Britannia. Robin took Iberia, being the only place left with an amphora.

The game didn't start well for Simon who during the uprising phase narrowly missed out on losing his starting nation, Italy, because he had a fort there. He spent the rest of the game using his Ambassador to build a big empire and having nowhere to go but get trampled by surrounding nations.

Peter tried to attack all of the sea lanes but everybody fought back. Having painted the word 'Target' on his forehead he never really recovered.

Robin build quite a nice empire but spent too long being destoyed by James who proved to have a better army than Peter.

After two rounds it was 10:15 so we tallied up (so much for a two hour game). Having three amphorae helped William build up a large trading empire and having only one nation (Peter) on his borders wasn't attacked too much. It did no harm either that the neighbour was Peter who, busy expanding elsewhere, got no help while pointing out that William was the real threat hidden in the East.

The final score was close but William just beat James (62 pays 55 points) after a rout of Peter's army from his last Turkish holding in the final turn.

Friday, July 13, 2001

More feedback on my ethics dilemma:

Evil Gavin says: Nooooo don't do it!

Unfortunately Gavin is my son, so I have to think about setting him a good example and boring stuff like that....

John Toomey says:

When Christians celebrate Christmas, they celebrate the birth of Christ, not the fact that the pagan holiday Saturnalia was replaced by a Christian holiday in order that the enthusiasm which already existed could be harnessed (versus attempting to generate new enthusiasm).

When today's artists rave of a work of a past master, they revere its execution, conception, impact on audiences, etc. -- not necessarily the religious ideals which it represents.

When you use Tarot cards to play a game, you're celebrating the joy of a good design, not an archaic system of beliefs.

Thanks John, I like your phrase "celebrating the joy of a good design" - that's how I feel about some of the classics eg 1830 or Civilizaton.

Tom Synge says:

Your ethical dilemma is an interesting one. My initial reaction is strongly against the purchase. In the same way, I would not suggest that you go out and buy a ouija board even if it is a central feature of determining actions in Spiel des Jahres 2002!

My principal concerns are:

1 That other people might see you, a practising Christian, using a deck of tarot cards and draw incorrect conclusions, possibly along the lines of "oh, so tarot cards are fine then" or "Hmm, Peter is losing it".

2 That your family and friends could be influenced by your decision to use them - although your son is presumably old enough to make his own decisions.

3 That this is a subtle form of temptation via something that is close to your heart. Although you can say now that you are going in with eyes open, it could lead further.

I am not familiar with the game, but could you not make up a set of alternative cards with the same values and distribution?

Thanks a lot for that Tom. Actually the rules for Zarcana include a section about adapting a standard deck, so maybe this is the sensible route to go. I'm also thinking of ordering the $5 paper Icehouse set before I commit to the £30 plastic set.

It's great to get all this feedback - I did wonder if anyone was actually reading my weblog!

Thursday, July 12, 2001

Went to see Tomb Raider last weekend (my uncle made me go!) What a dismal, boring, monumentally stupid film. And what a wasted opportunity, too. This could have been a post-modern classic, playing with identity, virtual reality, gender, fame, and teen culture. We should have seen Lara playing a Playstation game where she has to get a spotty teenage virtual boy through his school day. We should have seen her having repeated nightmares of swimming through an underwater maze and drowning again, again, again. She should have said "I sometimes get this feeling I'm being controlled." She should have taken us on a guided tour of her home and taught us how to make her jump. She should have shot lots of dogs. She should have cut a lonely, slightly sad figure throughout the movie (instead of wandering around with a motley crowd of servants, commandos, villains, archaeologists etc.) We should have seen her on stage with a huge video wall behind her showing U2 dancing to her music.

What a waste. The Lucozade advert had more intelligence and humour in its 90 seconds than this whole tiresome movie.

Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Don't forget the nimrod session at my place tomorrow evening. Planning to play Empires of the Ancient World. Email me for details.

Just found Chris Lawson's nice Euphrat & Tigris website. Mmmm! Maybe we should play this tomorrow?

Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Blackwater Station is a great resouce for the 18XX enthusiast. It made me nostalgic - why don't we play these in Salisbury any more?
More feedback on my ethical dilemma (see 4 July) from Steve (of the excellent nutlog):

Well you asked for it. I think you should get the Deck ;).

This is an interesting poser for me because it's made me put myself in your shoes, and I may not entirely share your belief system. :) But it's good to have a challenge...

I think it's ok because you will be using the deck for gaming, rather than anything occult, which would contradict your belief system. Quite simply, meaning is more important than symbolism, and you won't be using the tarot deck for anything which goes against the 'meaning' of your beliefs. Though you may be uncomfortable with the symbolism, but I think that's more an aesthetic question than an ethical one ;).

Then it becomes an issue more like - 'Should I paint my bedroom blue or white?' - rather than a question of right or wrong.

This is the first advice I've had that tells me what I wanted to hear - so I guess I will follow it!

Steve doesn't share my belief system - but he also probably doesn't understand the force of the games-collecting compulsion that I'm subject to - so I guess these two factors balance out!

An interesting (but possibly irrelevant) aside is that Charles Williams (close friend of CS Lewis) wrote a terrific book based around the Tarot (but also rooted in Christian world-view) called "The Greater Trumps".

Anyway, voting currently stands at: 2 Against, 1 Wishy-washy-you-decide, and 1 For. Any more?
This page on the ManorCon website gives excellent descriptions (with pictures) of some of my favourite games of all time.

There's still time to book for ManorCon by the way. It's 20-22 July, it will cost you about £50, and you can cadge a lift up there with me and Dave. Don't miss it!

Monday, July 09, 2001

Another fantastic ebooks resource at Christian Classics Ethereal Library - only if you are interested in theology, I admit. As well as supplying books in Microsoft eBook Reader format, they have developed a variant of HTML called.......and this is not a wind-up........THML, or Theology Markup Language!

Friday, July 06, 2001

I've had two responses to my ethics dilemma (see below) so far. One dubious, one adamantly against. Rats. Come on all you woolly-minded liberal types, tell me it's OK to go ahead and buy the cards!

4 nimrods + 2 bottles wine + 2 euro games = fun evening. In the event Dave, James and John turned up last night. We played Carcassonne, which was excellent - simple rules, nice components, lots of brain-teasing decisions - and Wyatt Earp, which is Rummy with chrome, good fun, nice Wild West atmosphere.

Let's do it again next Thursday.

Thursday, July 05, 2001

Note to myself: The Civ Page has a colour image of the Civilization map including the Western Expansion. Edit it! Print it on cardstock! Use it!

Wednesday, July 04, 2001

I've been hit by a Gaming Ethics Dilemma!

Zarcana is a game of war, journeys, growth, life, and death. Icehouse pieces are your minions, spreading out across a world composed of tarot cards.

I really want to play this game - and all the other cool-looking games you can play with the Icehouse pieces. But I am a bit reluctant to get a Tarot deck. A long time ago when I became a Christian I threw away in disgust my trusty Tarot cards that I used for fortune-telling. 24 years later would it be wrong to buy a new deck - not for semi-occult purposes, but for wholly laudable nimrod purposes?

Advice on email please - I reckon you've got a couple of days before I crack anyway.....
Mike Nagel has just put together a very nice website for the Down In Flames series of games, well worth a visit!