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