Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Here's the webcam at Saas-Fe Bergbahnen in Switzerland, where Phil and I will be skiing next week. It looks blooming cold to me!

Monday, December 30, 2002

NimrodCon went off pleasantly last Saturday. We had 9 people all together, with Advanced Civilization on one table and 1830 on the other. So no room for lightweights after all! John triumphed in Civilization, which was wrapped up at about 11:30 after 9 hours of play. I felt confident of victory most of the way through 1830, but I was deluded - Dave beat me by only $300 or so. It was a great game, quite intense and competitive (although it was threatened several times, no companies were "dumped" on other players) and we got it finished in 6 1/2 hrs - very good time for us.

It was good to see some less familiar faces turn out, such as Scott who escaped from family commitments for a few hours, Gavin who was taking a break from the bright lights of Bermondsey, and William who made the journey from Portsmouth specially. Thanks for a great session everybody - we must do it again soon.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Here's wishing a very happy Christmas to all my readers (all 3 of you). I hope that tomorrow morning you get to unwrap some brightly coloured boxes with Medium Complexity or 3-5 players written on the side. But don't get too excited so that you can't sleep tonight....

In the meantime you can read Steffan O'Sullivan's lovingly done tribute to Columbia Wooden Block Games including Hammer of the Scots, which I'm expecting from Santa tomorrow!

Monday, December 23, 2002

Terminal City Gamers has a preview of Mare Nostrum:

This game is a direct heir to the "Mammoth" civilization games of yesteryear that mixed military strategy, economic management and diplomacy. Its theme is the study of the first civilizations that spawned around the Mediterranean Sea, the roman's famous "Mare Nostrum". The game's main departure from its ancestors lies in the rules' relative lightness and simplicity, and the significantly shorter amount of time required to play it through.

If it lives up to its promise I could get very excited about this one. Civilization is one of my all-time favourites.
Why does Christmas suddenly turn us into Catholics?

My church is normally so "low" that we won't even display a bare cross at the front for fear of provoking idolatrous thoughts. But yesterday the church was ablaze with candles. At the front were painted plaster images of the Holy Family, a huge crib with a plastic Baby Jesus, the glittering pagan totem known as the Christmas Tree, and a winter flower arrangement festooned with the sacred plants of the Druids.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Simon Szykman is a serious collector of one boardgame - Diplomacy. His website lists over 60 variations of over 35 different editions of the Diplomacy boardgame, 14 editions of Diplomacy variants and 9 versions of commercial Diplomacy software, 7 editions of books on Diplomacy, and over a dozen Diplomacy-related items produced by the amateur Diplomacy hobby.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

This is unusual! Rio Grande games has released an official expansion to Puerto Rico as a free download! Terminal City Gamers provide the details.
Well I negotiated the Inland Revenue down from £20,201. "Send us £110 and we'll call it quits," they said. "Done!" I said.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Don't miss this. If you're a gamer you've been there. Dan Bosley's hilarious account of his attempt to get some friends to play Trans America:

    “So let me explain how we play....”

    “Is this going to take long? Do you have Pictionary?”

    “No,” I reply. “This won’t take long. This game is quite easy. And I do have Pictionary. And we could play Pictionary after this game if you like.”

    “Pictionary’s a great game. It’s fun to play.”

    “Yes,” I say, “Pictionary is fun. Would you rather play that instead?”

    “Oh, don’t listen to her. I don’t like Pictionary. I’m no good at drawing. Let’s play this game. You said it’s good. So how do we play?”

    “What’s wrong with Pictionary? You don’t have to be a good artist. You just have to be a good guesser. I haven’t played Pictionary in a long time. We should get our own copy of it. We have Monopoly at home, but we don’t have Pictionary.”

    “Hey, I really like Monopoly. Maybe we could play that instead. I can’t remember the last time I played Monopoly. But that’s a really good game, and everyone already knows how to play!”

    Well, I think to myself, isn’t this peachy?
Yesterday I got a letter from the Inland Revenue demanding £20,201 with menaces. Hmm, must be some mistake, surely? This might put the dampers on Christmas a little!

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Phil is back from university for Christmas. I've missed having a resident opponent in the house, so I was pleased when he challenged me to Up Front! last night. We played the City Fight scenario, setting up at Relative Range 2 so that the shooting could start straight away! Almost immediately my squad's MG34 jammed, and then broke on the repair attempt. Phil's Yanks took advantage to rush forwards into buildings. My movement team were taken out by Close Assault. As a last throw I attempted to move my fire team forward but got caught in a hail of fire. Half my squad dead in just a few seconds. Game over.

Phil is disturbingly good at this game. I can't remember ever beating him at it. Still, the Christmas break will soon be over......

Friday, December 13, 2002

Financial advice from Nick Denton: IG Index has introduced a tradeable bet on the average house price in the UK. There was pretty much no way to do this before; I checked. It's particularly useful now, with UK house prices teetering on the edge of an ugly correction. So here's an idea: take out a short -- bet on a decline. That will ease the pain if house prices collapse.
I went to the doctor this morning to get a wart on my finger removed. It was a very "basic" procedure - no anaesthetic. I felt like one of Steven Maturin's patients as the doctor cut away at my finger with a curette, then dabbed acid into the bleeding wound. Ouch, that made my eyes water! Now, instead of an unsightly lump, my finger has an unsightly hole.
Why I Like Zarcana Better - Andrew Looney gives his reasons for preferring his original Icehouse/Tarot game over the redesign:

To judge from reading Jake's essay on the redesign of Zarcana into Gnostica, the newer game is so totally superior to the original that no one would ever wish to play Zarcana again. I went along with this thinking during the decision to include Gnostica, and not Zarcana, in Playing with Pyramids, since it only seemed appropriate to include one tarot card game in the book and I wanted to give Gnostica a chance to find an audience with as little interference from its predecessor as possible. However, after giving the New Kid on the Block ample time to impress me, I have come to the conclusion that I greatly prefer the original game. As a counterpoint to Jake's article, here are my reasons for disliking Gnostica.

It's frustrating - I have still played neither game because of my reluctance to possess a Tarot deck.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

How many games is too many? Recently one guy on ConSimWorld owned up to possessing about 2,500 games, mostly wargames! I have about 65 and that is starting to feel like too many. Maybe I've watched too many episodes of "The Life Laundry", but I'm feeling the psychological weight of all these unplayed games bearing down on me. Just too many worthy but complex and time-consuming games waiting in the loft or the spare room. Games like 7th Fleet, Squad Leader, Wooden Ships and Iron Men, ThroneWorld - sitting at the back of my mind like a bad conscience. Maybe it's time to have a little clearout. Maybe I'll get organised and find out how to sell things on EBay. Or maybe I'll just give them to people who help me win in multiplayer games. But yes, time for a nimrod life laundry. Especially as I've just ordered Hammer of the Scots for myself for Christmas.
Another geeklist - Scott's Desert Island Games.
Avalon Hill Games Worthy of Reissue - some strange choices on here, but at least they have included Titan.
William has sent me this link to a website giving details of Portsmouth fortifications - an awful lot of detail, in fact probably more detail than we really want. William seems to be turning into a Portsmouth nimrod.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Hasbro have posted some great articles (harvested from back issues of the General) about various Avalon Hill classics, including Kingmaker, Diplomacy and Hannibal. I hope this is just the beginning. There's a rich heritage of stuff from the General that I would love to see coming online. (via Terminal City Gamers)
David Warren places the struggle with Islamic terrorism within a very long historical and intellectual perspective. And Steven den Beste makes some typically intelligent comments:

Warren is also pessimistic about the outcome, but Warren writes as a Christian. As an atheist I see the situation as being far more positive, and oddly enough I am encouraged by the same things that make Warren fearful.

In particular, he writes:

    We concentrate too much on the foreground circumstances. The bigger issue is that the Muslims themselves have begun to wonder whether their God exists, whether he is really going to help them.

    It is in moments of doubt that one often makes the wildest, most desperate, professions of faith; and in a way Osama bin Laden is doing this within his own person, and calling to fellow Muslims who are experiencing the same dark night of the soul. It is as if they were confronting not us, but instead Allah, and saying, "Show us! Prove to us you still exist; because, if you don't, we will give up on you entirely."

If that's correct, it gives me even more hope for a positive outcome in this war, for it means that a sufficient number of terrible setbacks for their side will shatter that faith, as the infidel keep winning and Allah keeps not showing up for the fight.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

www.gapingvoid.com: Hugh MacLeod is a New York artist who does cartoons drawn on the back of business cards. (via Oblivio)

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Game Invention and Self-Publishing Resources - where to get your wooden pieces, blank hex tiles, custom dice, home binding machines, and everything else needed by the amateur game designer (via Terminal City Gamers)
More insights from John on Barbarossa to Berlin and how well it models the real thing:

My Normandy example is possibly not the best. The game limits you to turn
14 (Spring 1944) or later. This in itself is somewhat arbitrary but not
unreasonable. The key point is probably that you should not be able to play
Overlord until a certain number of turns after ASW Victory although this
probably applies to all of the invasions outside the Med. For Torch they all
had to scuttle across the mid-Atlantic off the trade routes to concentrate
at Gibraltar and hope that the U-boats didn't notice. A concentration of
transport shipping was obviously just what the U-boats were looking for and
at best surprise would have been totally lost.

With regard to the turn limit on Overlord, if you look at the COSSAC plan
for the invasion of France it is clear that until Montgomery arrives from
Italy what is being considered is a much smaller scale affair with only 3
divisions landing in the first wave rather than five. Because of this and
the option of doing Round-Up instead I can live with the turn limit on

Other things do not come through in the game however. One of the major
reasons for invading Italy was the opportunity to route shipping through the
Mediterranean and Suez rather than round the Cape. Since the single
critical limitation on Allied operations in all theatres was the available
merchant shipping to deploy and supply forces, saving ton-miles by invading
Italy significantly increased the speed with which the build-up for the
invasion of Europe could be conducted.

Other oddities are the frequency of Stalin Orders - fine in 1941-42 but
totally wrong later on (unless there is a rule or card I have missed).
Stalin was much more ready than Hitler to listen to his generals once they
had proved themselves (he just consoled himself with the thought that after
the war he could have them all liquidated). Likewise it is a little unkind
to only allow the Soviets Mechanised Fronts after Lend-Lease. The trucks
are important in allowing the Soviets to carry on operations in operational
depth - their previous offensives had a tendency to peter out in the first
couple of weeks after the breakthrough. This partly disappears by the time
of the Ukrainian offensives of late 1943 and entirely disappears with
Operation Bagration in 1944 but is not just due to US trucks. A significant
factor is also internal organisation of the Tank Corps and the problems of
low availability of armour due to breakdowns and poorly organised support
services. So Lend-Lease as the route to Mechanised Fronts does not entirely
do the Russian war machine justice.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

I decided to try taking the train into work today, with a view to possibly getting rid of the car and so saving myself shedloads of money as well as saving the planet. I got up three quarters of an hour earlier than I usually do to catch the train, but arrived at work at the same time I always do, feeling very tired and with a headache from the loud vibrating noises inside the brand-new rolling-stock. Now it's nearly time to head for home. Not looking forward to the trip.
I have been swapping emails with the horribly well-informed John Medhurst about Barbarossa to Berlin. Here are some of his thoughts:

I have also had a solo go through with Barbarossa to Berlin and got a German
automatic victory in 1943 due to finally pushing the Soviets over the edge.
I am still not 100% on the rules though and am still finding things out.
Myself and Dave have whisked through to Winter 1943 (i.e. beginning of 1943)
and things are looking OK for the allies at the moment but Dave is playing
more cautiously than the actual Germans and the Fuhrer has not yet taken
command. I have kicked him out of North Africa and am holding him on a line
from in front of Moscow down through Kharkov to the mouth of the Dniepr. He
holds 4 VP spaces at the moment - Minsk, Kiev, Odessa and Sevastapol. He has
played Taifun but none of the other space attack cards. I have just got
some of the Russian mechanised fronts on the board so I feel that the
Fascist menace is under control but it is not as overextended as in the real
world so I wonder whether I will be able to knock him down to zero if he
plays Totaler Krieg. The strong point for the allies is that they have
played quite a few of the longer-term cards including ASW victory, US
build-up, Lend-Lease and so on. I have not yet played any invasions but
Dave is also looking quite strong with almost all of his units up to full
strength. I have been playing up to 3 RP cards a turn to keep the Soviets

My overall impression of the game is that it is much more bitty than Paths
of Glory - there are a lot of special rules and a lot of cards that have
quite dramatic effects - like Totaler Krieg. There are a lot more combined
event-action cards which at least makes the events more likely but is
possibly a bit of a 'no-brainer' compared with the agonising decisions of
Paths of Glory. I also find the events happening out of their real world
order a bit iffy. Compared with the First World War the second was rather
more in the way of the steady application of overwhelming force. Things
happened at certain times because that was how long it took to build up the
necessary forces. So Normandy was not possible until the U-boats had been
beaten - it took months of shipping troops across the Atlantic that would
have been much too dangerous against an unbeaten U-boat enemy.

All in all though it is a good game and Dave also seems to be enjoying it.

Well I'm not surprised John is not 100% on the rules - they are a bit of a moving target with Ted Raicer publishing new errata every few weeks. This is my only gripe with what is otherwise my latest most favourite wargame.

Friday, November 29, 2002

Wood Cubes and Cardboard is Greg Aleknevicus' boardgame site. Highlight is the articles he has written for Counter magazine. (via Terminal City Gamers)
This is challenging stuff: buynothingchristmas.org (thanks Burnt Toast)

Actually, it's probably not very challenging for a closet-Scrooge like me - secretly I would love to forget the whole business and not bother with cards or presents for anyone. Not from a desire to change the world, sadly, just from selfish idleness.
Guardian guide to Thanksgiving:

Every year the US president pardons a single turkey, a tradition begun by former president Harry Truman in 1947. This year George Bush pardoned a "fine looking turkey" named Katie.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Confession. Blogging seemed a bit tame after kayaking with wild dolphins, or enjoying wine and a cold buffet served off the bonnet of a safari truck, with two black rhinos strolling by, or climbing Table Mountain in blazing sunshine, or tubing down the Storms River. And I returned from holiday to a full-on panic at work, where I was seen as The Guru who could miraculously save our systems from grinding to a halt. It's taken over a week to disabuse them of that illusion. So I've been a bit too tired and fraught for gaming or blogging.

But I finally got round to some wargaming with Dave last night. Battle Cry: set them up, charge them forwards, shoot them down, great fun! And ideal for someone who's feeling a bit tired and fraught. We played Brawner's Farm, which is slightly biassed towards the Confederates, but Dave's Federals came very close to beating me before attrition started to tell. Battle Cry is great, can't understand why it has been gathering dust on my shelf for so long. I'm going to download some extra scenarios from John Foley's excellent website and have me some more good old-fashioned wargaming fun.

Friday, November 22, 2002

South Africa was fantastic.

I got back a week ago - standing in the concrete hell of Heathrow waiting for my bus, with cold rain sheeting down from a dark sky, I wondered why on earth I had come back. A week of driving up and down the M4 to Newport to struggle with database performance issues has done nothing to dispel this feeling......

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Oh, and have a look at The Bible in Five Words! (via Baraita)
Well I'm off to Cape Town tomorrow. I'll be back on 15th November, until then go to Terminal City Gamers for nimrod-related blogging. It's what this blog wanted to be but never quite achieved it.

Monday, October 28, 2002

I was in London over the weekend for Workshop. Visited Gavin on Saturday evening - he intercepted me on Tooley Road before I got to his flat. Weird feeling, meeting your own flesh and blood in the middle of this dark, howling, urban wilderness. We wandered over to this pub in Bermondsey, sat in an otherwise empty upstairs room with Gavin's studenty friends John and James, with this fantastic view over the river, listening to increasingly improbable drinking stories. Then back to the flat with a Chinese takeaway. Nice flat on Jacob Street, in a sort of 80's conservation area, all yuppy warehouse conversion effect. Nice flat only saved from descending into squalid undergraduate hell by presence of Ruth, Steve's nice girlfriend. At this point the 20-odd years Gavin has got on me started to tell. The boys all went off to the pub again while I deflected a guilt-trip from Gavin's flat-mate Steve about not entertaining me (not your problem Steve, this is between me and my so-called son) before going to bed. In Gavin's bed - allegedly clean sheets but not convinced. Eventually nearby generator stopped, enabling sleep until woken in small hours by sound of retching from bathroom. Ah, they're back, I thought......
Michael Barrish has resolved to join the rest of us bloggers, and write only garbage.

Friday, October 25, 2002

I knew I should have done something about that wasp nest under the kitchen roof.

Now they have found their way indoors, and my life is sliding towards some sort of Hitchcockian nightmare. Every morning when I come downstairs there are one or more groggy wasps staggering around or angrily dying somewhere. And every morning there are more of them....

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

It's always exciting to discover a completely new kind of nimrod. So I'm proud to present - previously unknown to science - the pylon nimrods! Have a look at their Pylon of the Month website, with such glorious photo captions as this:

Midland Electricity Plc's PKW 77 provides an oasis of beauty in an otherwise rather charmless Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire industrial estate.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Sixty years ago this evening, the massive artillery bombardment that heralded the battle of El Alamein began. There's a good account by Richard Holmes at BBCi.

El Alamein was the culmination of two years of desperate and not very successful fighting, when Britain and the Commonwealth, alone in Europe, and for a time alone in the World, with sheer bloody-minded obstinacy stood against the evil of fascism. I'm proud of our record in the early years of World War 2, even though I wasn't born at the time. And I'm proud too that Britain is standing alongside America in the current crisis, when again there is an evil death-cult, armed and determined to snuff out our civilization, to resist.
Weird and slightly demoralizing day at work yesterday. About a year after the division that I work for was created, we were finally moved to our new location where we could all sit together and start functioning as a team. The same day - the very same day! - we were summoned to a special meeting to be told that our division is be split up and downsized in a big company-wide reorganisation.

I've spent more than 20 years working for big organizations - why am I still surprised when this sort of thing happens?

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Considering James claims to be so keen on ASL, he is very excited by this opportunity to escape to something more playable:

Born of thirty years of gaming experience and an equal amount of frustration with dry-as-dust rules, Lock ‘n Load is all about fun, all about the experience.

Tired of games with books of rules? Sure you are; you have a life and so do we. Most of us aren’t college kids anymore. We’ve grown up and we have grownup responsibilities: a family, a career, a life. There just isn’t the time to wade through a bible of instructions before we play. Neither is it fun to spend huge hunks of your time researching an obscure rule.
Where do I sign? Eric Raymond's Draft for an Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto:

IN GRAVE KNOWLEDGE that the state of war brings out the worst in both individual human beings and societies, we reject the alternative of ceding to the world's barbarians the exclusive privilege of force.

(via Steven den Beste)

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

In a couple of weeks or so I will be here, or possibly here. Fantastic. It will be great to leave the British autumn (and the Internet) behind for a while.....
Several negative comments about the new layout, so back to the old look (for now). William missed the little dice, and James got confused about which day was which. I should have remembered that nimrods are a naturally conservative bunch. Here is what the new look looked like if you are curious.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Time to try a new look. It's one of Blogger's built-in templates, so it feels like a capitulation somehow - the old layout may have been lack-lustre, but at least it was mine. I'll see how this feels for a few days, then maybe tinker with it some more. Feedback requested.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Having coffee on Saturday morning with Nick and Ann his girlfriend. Nick and I are explaining to Ann what a weblog is - it's like an online journal where you talk about things that interest you or what's going on in your life.

Ann is slightly horrified. All straight-faced and innocent, she says, "Oh! I don't think I would like to expose myself on the Internet."
Aaaah! Isn't it cute!

I have been wondering if there are any good travel games I could take to play with my friend Fiona on the plane to Cape Town in a couple of weeks time. Would have to fit on those little tables in Economy Class. Thanks to rec.games.board I have been made aware of Travel Settlers. Doesn't it look great? Unfortunately Settlers is not much fun with only two players.

Friday, October 11, 2002

Waterloo by Phalanx games is due to be released some time in October. Euro-game production standards, mounted map, big colourful counters, card driven play, simple rules, short play time. Sounds ideal.... hard to believe Richard Berg is behind this.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

World War II - Prisoners of War - Stalag Luft I (via Ken Layne). This site is engrossing, lots of photos, artwork and eye-witness accounts.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Five of us met last Saturday to play The Napoleonic Wars. It was fun watching Nick (as France) storming through Austria and getting to Moscow in 1807. I got Wellington into Madrid but disappointingly the Spaniards refused to submit. Then general stinginess about cards among the rest of us left Nick getting a lucky game-end at that point for a crashing victory.

But there was an argumentative atmosphere around the table, for some reason. Perhaps it was me, but I think I'll be taking a rest from multi-player games for a while. A few quiet 2-player wargames with a civilized opponent might restore my faith in the Way of Nimrod.....
A terrific essay on Jonah, keying this Bible story firmly into our contemporary struggles (via Relapsed Catholic, who else?):

Suffering from sin forces us to harden our hearts. That really is a real tragedy of 9/11. Al-Qaeda and all its sympathizers have hardened my heart. I studied Islam for years under a beloved professor who converted to Islam from Christianity. My fellow students were mostly Muslims, and they were all, without exception, wonderful people. Now, when I think of Islam, I think of people rejoicing at the deaths of thousands of innocent people. I want to condemn Ninevah, not see it saved. I have issues. Legitimate issues.

Friday, October 04, 2002

Played Frag with John and Scott (yes Scott! remember him?) on Wednesday. Got fragged repeatedly, mostly by John. The game has slightly tacky production values, but manages to reproduce the Quake deathmatch experience uncannily accurately - running round in circles, grabbing weapons and med-kits, getting shot by people you never even saw coming.

A boardgame simulating a computer game? Weird, but there's another on the way - Sid Meier's Civilization the boardgame.
Andy Mallory has pointed me to this amazing resource for anyone interested in World War 2 military history, especially from the wargamer's perspective. It's a detailed description of Battalion Organisation for all the major armies involved. There's also some excellent material on infantry tactics, which I intend to read carefully before I ever play Up Front! or Squad Leader again. An amazing labour of love.
Create your own personalized Monopoly set! (via Jeff Jarvis)

Thursday, October 03, 2002

And now WebTrends have pulled their free stats service. They announced this with an email that told me how important their customers are to them. Yeah right. Yes I know I wasn't paying for this service, but this is my lonely grouchy week while I get used to Phil's departure - so I'm entitled to grumble. I suppose I will have to sign up for BlogSpot Plus now. At least now I can edit my template easily without worrying about screwing up the WebTrends JavaScript. Time to clear out my links list perhaps.....

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Well I didn't win or even get shortlisted. <sourgrapes>And I'm not at all convinced by the merits of the winner.</sourgrapes> But take a look for yourselves:

And the winner is... a duck. A Scary Duck to be precise: Alistair Coleman's witty, irreverent blog has beaten 300 rivals to take the title of Best British Blog 2002 and claim the prize of £1,000.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

As a final night out together, Phil and I went to see The Taming of the Shrew at Salisbury Playhouse on Saturday night. It was a wonderful production, and when Kate made her last speech, you could have heard a pin drop:

Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks, and true obedience-
Too little payment for so great a debt.

It sounded just so outrageously un-PC, and yet so heart-tuggingly beautiful. There were a few nervous giggles, as if people were expecting the thought police to burst in at any moment. "Is this legal? Surely you're not allowed to say such things these days? But it is Shakespeare, I suppose that makes it alright."
On Sunday I packed Phil's belongings into the car and drove him down to Exeter University. After the initial shock of student lodgings (I remember that feeling well) he seems to be settling in very well and throwning himself wholeheartedly into the social whirl of Freshers Week. I'm jealous.

And bereft. After 22 years of more of less continuous hands-on parenting, that part of my life is over. OK I am still Gavin's and Phil's Dad, but no longer sharing a family home with them, cursing their mess, providing a taxi service, taking messages from girlfriends, clearing up the kitchen after them.....

Hmm, now I think about it, getting rid of all that doesn't sound so bad after all!

Friday, September 27, 2002

NTL Broadband gets a thumbs up from the BBC! BBC NEWS | Technology | Paying the price for cheap broadband:

I pay £25 a month for my ntl cable modem connection and it is worth it, partly because I can sit there streaming music - in my case Radio 3 - all day while downloading massive files and chatting to my friends.

Selling broadband and then saying but you cannot use it all the time and you cannot do stuff that actually uses the bandwidth is like selling a swimming pool but refusing to fill it with water because it might leak.
Whatever next? - someone is talking sense in the Guardian! Martin Woollacott: Muslim societies must change:

There is a recurring delusion that most problems in the world could be solved quite easily if the west would look beyond its narrow interests, try harder, and make up for the mistakes and crimes of the past. That western countries should indeed try harder, and would make a large difference if they did, is indisputable. Yet to see the exclusive key to a better future in changes in western policies is to ignore the irreducible responsibility of the non-western majority of mankind. If you are a westerner, it is cultural imperialism to suggest that all the critical moral and political decisions are in the hands of the west. But when, for example, Muslims argue the same way, they collude in turning themselves into moral passengers.
Beware - a simple card-game could change your life. Andrew Looney's essay Playing Hearts with Pyramids demonstrates how.

I love Hearts. It's my favorite game for standard playing cards, if not my favorite game of all time (not counting my own). I have played Hearts incessantly throughout my life, and I still can't get enough of it. It was Hearts that inspired the Icehouse set, which in turn launched my professional game design career. I love Hearts.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Ted Raicer has just posted a 1942 scenario for Barbarossa to Berlin. There is also a new version of the living rules available which incorporates all the errata - just after I've laboriously copied them into the previous ruleset. And GMT have buried this excellent Expanded Turn Track deep in their site where no-one will ever find it.

I've got this game set up on the table at home now and am driving into Russia in odd moments between meals, coursework, dusting etc. Really impressed so far - this is a worthy successor to Paths of Glory. Maybe this will be my one true game?

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Interview with Chris Seay author of "The Gospel According to Tony Soprano" (via Relapsed Catholic):

We see Tony Soprano as he really is. He's a sick man, and yet he's a beautiful man. There are all of these things present with him. And I think most characters that we get in popular film and television are not very real to life. Most of the ones that we have emerging from Scripture are very real when you read them in Scripture, but we have distorted them. We've tried to make them into morality heroes, which they are not. These were really broken men and women. They were very messed up, very sinful. The beauty of the story is that God continues to meet them there.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

18AL and 18GA Game Kits are now available again. I played 18GA at ManorCon a few years ago - it was very appealing because it has the authentic 1830 flavour but takes much less time to play. I declined the chance to buy 18GA at the time so may well take this opportunity to set that right.

Friday, September 20, 2002

I've just discovered this marvellous Titan fansite by Chee-Wai Kan. It's got everything - strategy articles, variants, downloads, software, new battleboards and creatures etc etc etc. A treasure trove.

I sometimes envy people who can do this - focus on one game enough to really get deeply into it, exploring the design, mastering the strategies, playing around with variants. Some days I think it would be nice to sell off my collection - all except the one true game that I would devote the rest of my hobby life to. But which one? Which games in my collection are complex and rich enough to reward deep study. ( A few spring immediately to mind - Advanced Civilization, Up Front!, Paths of Glory) And how would I know there wasn't something even more worthy about to be published soon?

Oh well, I know that I'll never do it. I guess I'm doomed to endlessly repeat my cycle of collecting, punching, reading the rules and shelving more games......
Don't really know how I did this but on Wednesday night we played Web of Power again, and I repeated last week's feat of winning the first game and tying the next with John. Unfortunately everyone is now determined to "get Pete" next time we play....
A few comments about the presentation of Barbarossa to Berlin (haven't had a chance to actually play it yet - but very much looking forward to that!)

    Graphics discontinuity. The box and card-backs (WW2, military stencil font, serifs, pastel colours) have a very different look to the map and cards (WWII, italics, no serifs, bold colours).

    Signs of a last minute rush, eg the rule about the Mediterranean dead-pile was clearly added after map and counters were finalized.

    Bit dismayed by length of the errata.

    Missing German corps counter - does this often present a problem during play?

    German parachute army - why is it the same colour as the Free French?

    "Repl" markers actually labelled "Reinf", also in the rulebook. Could be confusing for first-timers who haven't cut their teeth on PoG.

    Errata to a card - another sign of hurried production? Will this card be reprinted at some point?

I also posted this on ConsimWorld today. Hopefully it will be taken as constructive criticism (I have the highest respect for GMT and Ted's work in particular). But I suspect I will be hung out to dry for it!

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Have you had a go at this yet? New Scientist tells me I will die in 2034 aged 76. But having sex every day will buy me an extra two years.Yikes! Better arrange that ASAP!
One of my favourite games of all time is the hallucinogenic 1970s weirdness known as Titan. Now reborn as a Java program Colossus.

Colossus is a Java clone of Avalon Hill's Titan(tm) boardgame. Right now it allows hotseat play, play versus a working but not very strong AI, and (new) TCP/IP network play. We're mostly working on improving network play and variants right now. Improving the AI will follow.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Margaret Atwood writes with great insight about Ursula LeGuin and her latest collection of stories - "The Birthday of the World":

The last story, "Paradises Lost," continues the note of renewal. Many generations have been born and have died on board a long-distance space ship. During the voyage a new religion has sprung up, whose adherents believe they are actually, now, in Heaven. (If so, Heaven is just as boring as some have always feared.) Then the ship reaches the destination proposed for it centuries earlier, and its inhabitants must decide whether to remain in "Heaven" or to descend to a "dirtball" whose flora, fauna, and microbes are completely alien to them. The most enjoyable part of this story, for me, was the release from claustrophobia: try as I might, I couldn't imagine why anyone would prefer the ship.

Le Guin is on the side of the dirtball, too; and, by extension, of our very own dirtball. Whatever else she may do— wherever her curious intelligence may take her, whatever twists and knots of motive and plot and genitalia she may invent—she never loses touch with her reverence for the immense what is. All her stories are, as she has said, metaphors for the one human story; all her fantastic planets are this one, however disguised. "Paradises Lost" shows us our own natural world as a freshly discovered Paradise Regained, a realm of wonder; and in this, Le Guin is a quintessentially American writer, of the sort for whom the quest for the Peaceable Kingdom is ongoing. Perhaps, as Jesus hinted, the kingdom of God is within; or perhaps, as William Blake glossed, it is within a wild flower, seen aright.

I was recently bowled over by Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale", and of course LeGuin's work has been a treasured part of my mental furniture for most of my life. (via Nick Denton)

Friday, September 13, 2002

A very thorough and very positive review of The Napoleonic Wars has been published at The Wargamer. Quite a coup for GMT and the design team.
The redesigned Relative Range site is superb, with all sorts of game support material, including a free-for-download version of Ancients, and lots of stuff about Down in Flames and Up Front!. They will also sell you a 96-page digest of Up Front! articles and scenarios.
Talking of winning, we played a nice little game Euro called Web of Power at John's place last night. Very interesting but short enough to play it through twice with time to spare. It's loosely set in the world of medieval monasteries and involves competing for various kinds of networks and territories. Sort of El Grande meets Railway Rivals. I won the first time and tied with John second time. There's a clever little rule about scoring for territories that means it can be a lot better in cost/benefit terms to come second in several territories rather than first in a few. I think I twigged this before the others which gave me a head start in the first game.
Tomorrow I go to Bristol to start work on the Workshop course run by the Anvil Trust. This will take 12 weekends spread over the coming year, as well as time spent on reading and assignments at other times. It covers applied theology, apologetics, ethics, church history as well as other stuff. I'm excited but also quite apprehensive of the commitment in time, energy and extra travelling. I feel that this will be an important step for me - my Christian life has been coasting in neutral for a few years, and I want to use this opportunity to go back to the basics of my faith and have a long hard think - is this really true? do I still believe this? am I living up to it? where do I belong in the spectrum of church practice? how will this play out in the rest of my life?

Might mean less time for gaming, sadly. So if I don't turn up for, or invite people round for so many sessions over the coming year, this is the reason. It's not that I'm sulking because you never let me win........

Thursday, September 12, 2002

This is a glorious day!

Another volume of Uncle stories has been published by Red Fox. And if you don't know what I'm talking about here's a page at Infinity Plus that's sure to suck you into the cult:

It's time to rip the lid off a secret cult lurking undetected in the sf/fantasy community ... a cult so obscure that most of its members don't know that it exists. These people are the fans of Uncle.

I discovered this sinister cabal at a post-convention restaurant meal where half the writers round the table suddenly started talking excitedly about the Uncle novels. Neil Gaiman was so boggled to find his enthusiasm shared that he momentarily forgot to look cool.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Sorry (but not very sorry) if you think I'm banging on too much about the war against terrorism today, but this little article at Blogs4God is important. Terrorists, or Suicide Cult? (via Relapsed Catholic)

I truly think if we only approach the likes of the Taliban or Al Queda as terrorists, then we run the risk of merely addressing the effect without cutting out the cancerous cause - in this case, an evil, abusive suicide cult who hate their own lives as much as they hate ours.
Ha'aretz (via Americans for a Third Way):

For the first time since the outbreak of the intifada two years ago, the official journal of the Palestinian Authority last week published severe criticism of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leadership, and the Palestinian public as a whole - for rejecting the proposals that were put forward by former U.S. President Bill Clinton at Camp David in July 2000.
Christopher Hitchens' article A View from the Patriotic Left lays out the issues with plain-speaking intellectual clarity. The whole article is a must-read, not least for his radical questioning of our whole current structure of alliances in the Middle East. (via Nick Denton)

So, as civilians in this war, and therefore as primary front-line targets, we do not need to submit to any culture of trust or loyalty or deference. We have a right to know who is in charge and what policies are being debated and what measures taken. We do not have to agree with the choice of any old ally in this struggle, and we dare not assume that any step taken in the name of the "national security" mantra is automatically OK.

Let me give some illustrations of what I mean: First, I'll take the international front. The most annoying thing, in arguing with peaceniks last fall, was confronting their refusal to see that a wholly new situation had arisen. They would insist on translating the fresh, challenging information back into the familiar language they already knew, of Vietnam or Nicaragua or the West Bank. Well, the same was true of the president's "axis of evil" speech, which attempted to fit the new reality into the reassuring old list of "rogue states" or official enemies. In particular, it seemed insane to include Iran in the "most-wanted" category.
This site is a nice introduction to The UK Amateur Postal Games Hobby. This was how it all started for me - back in the early 90's, buying a copy of Diplomacy from a local toy shop, and finding a flyer inside for the postal hobby. It's been downhill all the way since then....

Monday, September 09, 2002

I just heard (on ConsimWorld) the awful news about the forthcoming "Master and Commander" movie with Russell Crowe playing Jack Aubrey - he's supposed to be a beefy Englishman for goodness' sake! But while investigating I found this superb gallery of Marine Art by Geoff Hunt, which is some compensation I suppose.
This morning's Independent has an excellent rant from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown who lashes out in all directions - including her co-religionists. But why don't we hear more Muslim voices saying this sort of thing?

I have had it with apologists who think that Muslims, whatever they do, only do these foul things because they are upset, humiliated, angry, despised and maltreated. There is no excuse big enough to explain the actions of cold-eyed slaughterers who descend on helpless Christians in Muslim states; the men who cut the throat of Daniel Pearl, the young Jewish American journalist; the grisly crowds in Nigeria who want to stone to death a young mother; the gang rape of children which is ordered as "punishment" by Muslim tribal leaders in Pakistan; the people who danced in the streets to see exploded bits of Americans and others.

I cannot stomach Muslim leaders and writers who jump up when there are signs of injustice against us (discrimination against Muslims is a serious problem, no doubt about that) but who never speak out to denounce outright the various discriminations which ruin the lives of non-Muslims, gays, and women in Islamic countries or in communities here.

Friday, September 06, 2002

The Americans have been playing Barbarossa to Berlin for weeks now, but my copy finally arrived today.

I thought I would share with you the experience of opening the box. This is the central moment of a nimrod's existence, the supreme ritual. You are privileged to witness it through the magic of blogging:

    Hmm. Box is a little smaller and lighter than I expected....

    It's shipped from UDG in Germany, not direct from GMT. Not sure if I like that.....

    Let's get my penknife out. Carefully does it....

    Not very well packaged. But miraculously the game seems undamaged.....

    Yuk. The box illustration is bitty. Very bitty! What were they thinking.....

    The back is nice. Maybe I should open the shrinkwrap. Better wait till lunch-time. I'm so excited....

No, I can't do it. Breaking into the shrinkwrap is just too personal, too private. I can't possibly share this online.
The Romans, like others, as soon as they grew rich, grew corrupt; and in their corruption sold the lives and freedoms of themselves, and of one another.

Samuel Johnson

There, that was in my notebook. But that's as far as it goes....
Caterina has produced this list of online sketchbooks. My favourite is John Keegan's.

I keep a sketchbook/notebook myself (a nice Moleskine one), where I jot down quotes, observations, angst, Ceroc moves, holiday journals, and drawings. But I don't think I would ever consider putting it online for the world to nose through!

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

I heard this today attributed to Roger Scruton:

When someone tells you there is no such thing as truth, he is asking you not to believe him. So don't!
The normally deeply annoying Deborah Orr is today deeply satisfying as she lays into the farcical panic measures that have followed the tragedy at Soham:

What all of the fear about paedophiles, and the demands for registers, checks and warnings supposes, is that we can always be made safe from danger. The CRBs elaborate system can only ever warn about peodophiles who have already struck, and the same goes for Sarah's Law. But what those who place their trust in such systems really want is something more foolproof - a cast iron promise that our society is risk-free.

That cannot ever be achieved. But already extraordinary liberties are being taken by a government that actually seems to want to deliver this dream.
Nick Denton has provided this wonderful gallery of imagined cityscapes taken from sci-fi films from Metropolis to Minority Report. Dream.

Monday, September 02, 2002

Maybe I need a break from all this serious simulation stuff - Napoleonic Wars, Paths of Glory etc - maybe it's time for Marvel HeroClix!

This looks really cool actually. I want SpiderMan, obviously, having just seen the film. I like the idea of miniatures with little dials in the base to record hit points, damage etc. Much better than the usual pile of tiddlywinks.

Sunday, September 01, 2002

I've just returned home from a few days walking in the Brecon Beacons. This morning I climbed a lovely mountain without encountering (or even seeing in the distannce) one single other walker. As it was a cloudless Sunday morning in the middle of summer I find this remarkable! Try finding an empty mountain in the Lakes today.

It says something (possibly quite sad) about me that I am blogging before I have even unpacked my bags.

While I was out there I did a little research on the Welsh language. Here's what I learned:

That it is it? = Is there anything else I can get you sir?

Have you payed? = Excuse me. Can I see your ticket please? Thanks.

Teas or coffees is it? = Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?

That's it then isn't he? = I agree with what you just said.

It's 2 pound = That will be 2 pounds please. Thanks.

(On a road sign) M4 Newport = M4 Newport Bristol & London

Chris Dickson posted some nice things about nimrods in Spielfrieks - which accounts for my recent surge in visitors. Thanks Chris!

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Terminal City Gamers have a very nicely put together website which is basically in weblog format, only they don't seem to be aware of it!
I'm suddenly getting lots of hits this week, about three times my normal number of visitors. I've no idea who you all are or why you're visiting - I must have got a mention somewhere I guess - but welcome! Hope you'll find something of interest and pop back from time to time.
I've got the week off. Not planning to spend much time in front of the computer - I've got exciting things to do! Like painting the house, filling in my tax return, camping in Wales etc.....

But I should tell you about the Napoleonic Wars session we had on Monday. Dave (typecast as the aggressive Corsican), Simon as Russia (supposed to be a quiet sector while he learned the ropes), Nick (the patriot) as Britain, and me holding the line as Austria. The first game finished after one turn with a French victory. We had lunch then set it up again. This time it went for nearly three turns before we had to break up for the evening. There were a couple of highlights - the epic march of Austria's John who took Marseilles, torching the French fleet, then spent impulse after impulse evading a ring of vengeful French armies, crossing the Alps no less than 3 times before his fate caught up with him. And the surpise march of the Turks across the Apennines to Naples - whose garrison was so startled that it immediately took flight, even though it outnumbered its attackers! As Nick had left Simon spent the last part of the game handling the Russians, Austrians, Prussians and Turks (so much for a quiet sector) and was in a commanding position by the time we quit.

What a great game this is! Full of incident and twists of fortune. Not a simple game to master, but well worth the effort.

Friday, August 23, 2002

Looney Labs are finally shipping their new game Nanofictionary:

Where are we?
Who is there?
What's going on?
And how is it all going to end?

These are the crucial questions each player answers, choosing from the cards they're dealt to tell a very short story. Players combine and recombine Settings, Characters, Problems and Resolutions to create the best story they can, while other players mix things up with wacky Action cards. Everyone votes for their favorites, including onlookers, and the winner is the player who's story garners the most points!

Some imagination required.

This looks really intriguing to me. The storytelling aspect might not appeal to some of the hard-core wargamers around here. But after all, what is RPG but telling an elaborate story?
Nappy FAQ ~ at last! The answers to every dumb question that you ever thought of asking about The Napoleonic Wars and an awful lot that you never thought of too. Clears up everything I was confused about. Plus loads of strategy tips, comments on the cards etc. A bit overwhelming - best don't attempt to read unless you've played the game a couple of times.
Lots of good advice at www.safedriving4life.co.uk including this:

Remember the two essential rules of motorway driving: maintain a safe following distance (two seconds between you and the vehicle in front is the minimum safety gap) and exercise good lane discipline. Traffic on motorways usually travels faster than on other roads, so you have less time to react. Look much further ahead than usual and use your mirrors early and regularly.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

David Warren continues his persuasive apologia for the War on Terrorism:

It strikes me that out of real intellectual humility, Mr. Bush has "drifted" into the boldest, most counter-intuitive of all the possible courses of action: a project to re-align the United States explicitly with every opposition force that can be found within the Middle East, no matter how small, that aspires to democratic constitutional reform; and to gradually manoeuvring the full power of the U.S. behind them. In other words, truly digging to the root cause of terrorism: which is the intellectual and material enslavement of the Arab and Persian masses.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

I wonder why Ceroc is always on a week-night?

It was great fun last night, dance-floor very crowded, very very warm (high fluid loss), and lots of invitations to dance given and received. And the moves we learned in the intermediate class were fairly challenging. And it was all on top of a pretty busy day in the office. But I wouldn't have missed it.

I just feel shattered today.

I need a day off to recuperate.
The Froy Marriage Test: Taken from How To Avoid Matrimony by Herald Froy (1957)

This online quiz for bachelors is of course unacceptably rude to the fairer sex, but very funny nevertheless. (via Nick Denton)
To my shame I'm only just becoming aware (thanks to blogs4god) of the growing wave of persecution being suffered by Christians in Indonesia at the hands of the Laskar Jihad.

Christianity Today Magazine - Christian Villages Burn Again in Central Indonesia:

"The sound of automatic weapons was coming from every direction mixed with the hysterical voices of mothers calling for their children, and shrieks of fear from the children," said the Rev. Vence Waani, pastor of the Sepe Pentecostal Church. "The flames were engulfing the houses. It was a scene of horror."

Waani, his wife, and child were forced to flee the burning village as attackers fired volleys of bullets behind them. They did not see their newly-rebuilt church burnt down.

By 8:30p.m., the village of Sepe was gutted. The Sepe Pentecostal Church and the Eklesia Protestant Church were destroyed.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Another WilliamCon report, this time from the man himself:

A new war cry has been added to the Nimrods vocabulary. On Sunday 6 nimrods came down to Gosport to play games and watch the Red Arrows fly by the Tall Ships. Everyone arrived at about 10:30 we tried to decide which games we could play with 7 people. However once everyone saw Escape From Atlantis we decided to split into teams and play that instead. We laid the board out and Dave started to make alliances with Robin (so that he would later have some to break) and John started analysing the probabilities of making it to the coral reefs. I was forced to point out that this was a game made by Waddingtons for Ages 8 and up and "This is a Waddingtons game!" was shouted out a few times in the game, notably when people mistook it for diplomacy or dithered on a move. Maybe it was a mistake to let wargamers loose on such a game but we all really enjoyed it and would play it again. (Robin won by acting innocent while John and Simon made too many enemies, Steve and myself were beset by Octopi and Dave and Peter came a close second through good use of boats.)

After the game we made our way to the sea and watched a stunning display by the Red Arrows and had a very nice lunch in a pub next to the ferry. After lunch we saw the last of the tall ships leave (under engine power, not sail sadly) and returned to my house for some ice cream and more games.

In the afternoon we played Formule De and raced around Laansvort with Steve cruising in to a comfortable first place and John coming from the back of the race to take a surprise second place. (Apparently something to do with following his Granny’s advice about starting off cautiously and then going for it.) I came in third and everyone else finished too apart from Robin who gave up a promising position to play in the sand on the last corner. In our second game Steve again crossed the line turns ahead of a much closer race in the bunch for second place. I came in second with Dave (in a redesigned car) a very close third. The rest of the bunch arrived the following turn apart from Robin who slowed down to saunter in at a much more leisurely pace.

The day wound up with a couple of quick games of Jenga and Camel Back before everyone went home.

Monday, August 19, 2002

WilliamCon was excellent. William's new home, despite being in Gosport, is very pleasant with a quiet relaxing atmosphere. There were seven of us attending on Sunday morning - myself, John, Robin, Dave, Steve, Simon and our host. We started with a game of Escape from Atlantis which was great fun. I loved the disappearing plastic island and all the sea monsters, sharks, giant octopuses etc. And the game lends itself to the nasty spiteful dealings that appeal to our group so much! Robin won, I think, but most of our little men got eaten or drownded.

We wandered out into the sunshine to watch a spectacular display from the Red Arrows. Then lunch in a pub - unfortunately by the time we left the pub all but one of the tall ships had set sail. Oh well! Back to William's for two games of Formula De, both of which were won very convincingly by Steve, who is clearly World Champion material.

A really enjoyable day out. Thanks William.
Ted Raicer, the designer, has posted a new Scenario for Barbarossa to Berlin. Here it is:

A short "Blitzkrieg" Scenario for BtB:

This scenario ends at the instant the Total War cards are dealt into the game (so no need to actually deal them in), unless of course the Axis win an Automatic Victory before that. (An Allied Automatic Victory in this period is hardly possible.)

At the end of the scenario the Axis player wins if he has 17+ VPs. 16 or less and the Allies win. The Axis player will have to be aggressive to win this scenario, more aggressive than might be wise in the campaign game (but then he doesn't have to suffer the effects of overreaching since it only covers the period of the Axis High Tide). If desired for balance, I suggest bidding VPs to play the Allied side, said VPs not to count for Automatic Victory.

And Ted reports on a game in progress starting with this post.

Just keeping myself happy with this stuff until the game itself arrives.

Saturday, August 17, 2002

Is there anything that you can't find on the web these days? Some Narnian book covers by Pauline Baynes. I loved these illustrations as a child and I love them still. I was looking for inspiration for a children's talk that I have to do in church next week. Now I've found the pictures, let's think up some spurious reason for using them.......

Friday, August 16, 2002

Gizmodo : The Gadgets Weblog

Gizmodo is a weblog dedicated to everything related to gadgets, gizmos, and cutting-edge consumer electronics. It's edited by Pete Rojas, a journalist who writes about technology for Wired, Salon, Red Herring, and the Guardian, and backed by Nick Denton.

....and it's a serious attempt to make blogging pay.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Phil got his A-level results today.

What Phil needed: ABB
What Phil got: ABB

Fantastic. So he's all set to go off to Exeter Uni, his first choice. Nice warm feelings.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

William sent me directions for getting to his house in Portsmouth. Here's an excerpt:

If you drive past a submarine or a church ring me, you're lost.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Ran through a turn of The Napoleonic Wars with Dave last night. Even though it was just a learning game, we had great fun with this. I assembled a big Austro-Russian Army Group to challenge Napoleon's march on Vienna, only to have the whole lot sent home to the Regroup Box (Napoleon as well) by a Shortage of Fodder. Laboriously reassembled the Army Group only to have it stopped dead in its tracks by an attack of Dysentery! A highlight for me was sending the British into Bordeaux on a reckless cutting-out expedition. I destroyed the French squadron at anchor, but lost 3 British squadrons in the process - and Jack Aubrey always made it seem so easy!

What a great game! More complex than the 4-rating on the box suggests. Can't wait to try it out multiplayer.

Friday, August 09, 2002

Mark Steyn makes the case for the invasion in The Spectator:

When Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, warns the BBC that a US invasion of Iraq would ‘threaten the whole stability of the Middle East’, he’s missing the point: that’s the reason it’s such a great idea. Suppose we buy in to Moussa’s pitch and place stability above all other considerations. We get another 25 years of the Ayatollahs, another 35 years of the PLO and Hamas, another 40 years of the Baathists in Syria and Iraq, another 80 years of Saudi Wahabbism. What kind of Middle East are we likely to have at the end of all that? The region’s in the state it’s in because, uniquely in the non-democratic world, it’s too stable. It’s the stability of the cesspit.
James must be getting tired of ASL. He has recommended Mark H. Walker's Lock & Load which is a projected ASL-alike for middle-aged guys: a 10-page rule book for busy family men, big counters with big numbers for tired old eyes. Looks appealing. Only trouble is it seems that it will be a DTP effort, so these shaky old hands would have to do lots of pasting and cutting out.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

David Aaronovitch says we have not met the conditions for starting a war against Saddam in which we are certain to kill civilians.

Saddam is not Hitler; he is not Nasser; he is Saddam and that is bad enough. His Tikrit gangstocracy is among the nastiest regimes in the world; he has invaded two nations, enslaved his own people, built and used biological and chemical weapons and tried to build nuclear ones; and there is nothing in his record to suggest that he is amenable to diplomacy. This is the man who refused to budge from Kuwait between August 1990 and January 1991 when the air war began, and then refused to budge when the ground campaign started. When retreating, he set fire to the oil fields. We could probably do the Iraqi people no greater favour than removing Saddam and giving them a chance to build again.

But we can't. And we can't because the church people are right. Wars are very particular things and civilised nations can't just have them when they feel like it or when they feel they have run out of options. Wars have to be justified, overwhelmingly, by a conviction that the alternative to war is actually worse. And that conviction must be widely held, as it was after 11 September in the case of Afghanistan.

I think David is right. And for me just as serious an objection is that the Iraq project is a distraction from the real task of fighting al Qaeda and the sponsors of Islamic terrorism. It betrays a dangerous lack of focus on the real dangers that face us. The priorities in the war on terrorism should be applying pressure to Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and the Palestinians, not settling an old grudge from the years before Sept 11.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Will you deed your computer over to Microsoft or wean yourself from your Microsoft dependence? (via Scripting News)
This is fantastic for a games fiddler like me: Plastics for Games Ltd. They have all sorts of dice, counters, different shaped game pieces, and even sand-timers (which would very useful for our group in Salisbury). I fancy getting their sample box - one of everything for £30. The challenge - design a game that uses everything in the box!

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Not much gaming action recently. I've been slowly punching out The Napoleonic Wars and reading the rules. I'm very very impressed by this game, the rules look very tightly written, lots of good ideas for game mechanics, looking forward to setting it up and playing through the example of play. But I'd better shut up about this as William has been complaining that I have become a mouthpiece for GMT games.

Game session planned at John's place tonight. Hopefully we'll play Puerto Rico again. Hopefully we'll play a bit faster than last time.

Friday, August 02, 2002

Steven den Beste is spot on in this analysis of why we were attacked. It was nothing to do with American foreign policy - it was American ideas.

We have no problem living side by side with them, but to Islamic extremists we are a stark danger – and we would remain a stark danger even if we militarily disengaged from the world, stopped supporting Israel, and made all the other concessions that some suggest we should. Because it isn't the Third Armored division which they fear; it's television and radio and fashion and the Internet. It's bikinis and Saturday night dates; it's rock-and-roll. It's comfortable clothing. It's Saturday in the park, and hanging out at the mall after school. And it's our women, our damnably independent women, who not only demand equality with men but have proved that they deserve it by performing just as well as men. They fear our women, because they fear their own women.

In actuality, they attacked us out of self defense, as they viewed it. They were attempting to defend their faith against the heretical influence of our culture, and the slow but sure way that it is destroying what they see as the true practice of Islam. And as long as we believe in things like freedom of expression, and freedom of behavior, then to a greater or lesser extent we will continue to eat away at the roots of Islamic culture simply by existing.
GMT are running an August sale - worth a look if you are willing to order from the US. I've had very good experience so far with GMT shipping across the Atlantic.

So, for example, you could order Napoleonic Wars for $55, and choose a Paths of Glory for only $25 ($50 retail). Or you could get Ivanhoe or Flagship or any other $25 or less retail game for FREE along with the Nappy Wars Order.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

blogs4God is marvellous as a listing of Christian blogs, and of course it is itself a blog too. Moreover, it lists nimrods as a techlog and awards us a little green "COOL"!

Gosh, I'm in their Hits Top 10 list as well. nimrods - the 7th most popular Christian weblog on the planet! Musht be shome mishtake, surely......
Played Puerto Rico at John's place last night. Also present were Dave, Robin and Steve - good turnout. It took us over 2 hours to get about half-way through the game before Robin and I left, pleading work the next day. I know we were learning the game as we went along but, good grief, this was slow play guys! I guess I was spoiled at ManorCon by a weekend gaming with people who liked to crack on. Anyway, I propose new legislation to ban the following behaviours:

    Gazing into middle distance while the others wait for you to think. Finally jerking awake and saying "Is it my turn?"

    Requesting explanation of a rule that has just been explained.

    Requesting explanation of a rule that is clearly summarized right in front of you on the game board.

    Trying really hard to win even though this is "just a learning game".

    Giving a lengthy explanation of a rule that everyone already understands.

    Refusing to start a game until every rule and the implications of every rule have been exhaustively spelled out for you.

    Attempting to calculate ahead like a chess computer even when the game is clearly not susceptible to that kind of analysis.

    Offering unsolicited tactical advice to someone who has finally made his mind up - throwing him into fresh confusion.

    Gazing into middle distance while someone else has his turn. Finally jerking awake and demanding a detailed explanation of what just happened while you were dozing.

    Dozing between turns rather than planning your next move.

    Taking the whole business too damn seriously!

Maybe I need a break from this whole boardgaming business.......
Feeling a bit sick about this - Empires In Arms going on eBay has reached £51 already and 4 days still to go. I recently got rid of my copy for £10 at Salute. Sigh........

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Nepal at Night. Wonderfully evocative images, taken a while ago - the curfew would make it difficult these days. (via plep)

Monday, July 29, 2002

A few months ago I promised to let you know how I got on with GMT's P500 scheme. This is a system they devised to mitigate the risk of producing a new game by collecting preorders which provide the cashflow they need to produce the game. It also provides a way for the punters to "vote" for the titles they want to see produced.

On 27 Febuary this year I use GMT's online order form to preorder The Napoleonic Wars and Barbarossa to Berlin. On 28 February I was charged $38 for The Napoleonic Wars plus $8 for surface shipping. (On 8 April another $35 plus $8 was charged for Barbarossa to Berlin, but that's another story that hasn't concluded yet.) A few weeks ago The Napoleonic Wars started shipping and my copy arrived, well packaged and in perfect condition, on 25th July. So they had my money for 5 months before I actually received the game, but it only cost me £34 including postage (compared with £43 from The Games Store for example) and I had the satisfaction of helping GMT produce this fine wargame.

I'm very happy with P500 so far, so much so that today I preordered two more hopefuls - Europe Engulfed and Blue vs Gray. And before anyone says anything, this obviously didn't break my game-buying moratorium as these were preorders stupid!
David Warren on the Catholic kids waiting to see the Pope in Toronto:

The young today are, to a remarkable degree, looking beyond their parents for guidance, for their "role models" -- looking beyond that failed and lost generation of which I am a member. Reaching past their parents to what remains of their grandparents, and to the other old, to get some hint about how to live. They don't want to be "ironical", they don't want to take the easy way out, they don't want something for nothing; they yearn to become fully real.

Friday, July 26, 2002

Today's soundtrack

Stereophonics: Mr Writer
Doves: Words
A 16th century Galliard I heard on the radio this morning

I asked Phil about Doves the other day (trying to earn cred points). Phil: I know they're good. But I don't like them.
I have to face facts now. It's out of control.....

Rommel in the Desert arrived this morning. In my defence I could say that I paid for this weeks ago, it was an eBay bargain, it would have been silly not to get it. But that doesn't alter the facts - 4 new games in one week.

A self-imposed games-buying moratorium of several months is the only answer.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

BBC NEWS | Talking Point | What is the best view in Britain? Salisbury Cathedral, as seen from the watermeadows, is the loveliest view in Britain according to a vote in Country Life magazine.

It's also five minutes walk from my front door!
Bit embarrassing yesterday. Got home with my new copy of The Napoleonic Wars under my arm (it arrived at my work address) to find that Puerto Rico had also arrived, and of course there's my brand new Euphrat & Tigris on the coffee table as well. And Phil and Simon sitting there being sarcastic about my games-buying habit. But this is just a temporary blip, honest!

The Napoleonic Wars looks splendid, by the way. Lovely map counters and cards. And the Battle Book is magnificent, stuffed with scenarios, strategy articles, designer notes and an example of play, beautifully produced. Reminds me of the level of support documentation that came in-the-box with Advanced Civilization. I'm very excited about this one....
Guardian Unlimited is launching the first competition to find the best British weblog. The winner will receive a cash prize of £1,000 and five runners-up will receive £100 each.

Hmm, how will I spend all that money?

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Chris Farrell's Homepage is well worth a look especially if you have a broadband connection - lots of nice photos of wargames in progress.
Last weekend's visit to Manorcon was very enjoyable as usual. But you might wonder why when you see my results:

Clash of Giants: 2nd of 2
Puerto Rico: 5th of 5
Settlers: 4th of 4
Civilization: 3rd of 5
Elfenroads: 4th of 4
Empires of Ancient World: 3rd of 4
Chrononauts: not 1st of 3

Dave spent a lot of the weekend playing Paths of Glory (and losing). The only one from Salisbury who showed any sign at all of gaming ability was William who won a game of Settlers.

Game of the convention this year was definitely Puerto Rico, a wonderful, absorbing business game which can be played in under 2 hours. I bought a copy, along with a shrink-wrapped Euphrat & Tigris in the second-hand games sale. I didn't take any to sell this year so pressure on my storage space continues to build up.

Also I took along some little business-card sized ads for nimrods, and William took it into his head to start fly-posting copies of this website all over the Convention. So if you're visiting this site for the first-time after picking up a card at ManorCon, here's a warm welcome - hope you'll visit again.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

It was just like the old days - on Tuesday we had an evening games session at John's place. We played El Grande which I find very puzzling for some reason (no suggestions what the reason is please). First time I played it I didn't even realize I was losing. This time I understood enough to know I was losing. Maybe next time I will understand why I am losing?

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

This is a wonderful, detailed article about the connections between Star Wars and Wagner's Ring, two of my favourite artworks:

There is one central premise, however, that unites the two works: The interest in myths. Wagner's Ring was certainly an attempt to reinterpret, re–present, and even to analyse several of the Teutonic, northern European myths, as well as a tremendously successful attempt to create a new myth for the modern man. Star Wars may lack the analytic approach of Wagner, but it shares the goal of representation and creation of a new, accessible, mythical world. The enormous success and the huge cult following is proof enough that the film series to a large degree has succeeded in this. More than 20 years after the initial release of Episode IV, the Star Wars series is a daily, living presence in the minds of thousands of people; it has indeed become a modern myth.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Blogjam's random kitten generator will melt the hardest heart.....
15 ways to refute materialistic bigotry: A point by point response to Scientific American - read it now, before Scientific American's lawyers get this article removed! (via Relapsed Catholic)
A useful review of Guerilla, which I am thinking of taking up to ManorCon, if I can find time to read the rules again. In classic Avalon Hill fashion, it's a simple, fun game with complex rules that are no fun at all!

Monday, July 15, 2002

Ten Reasons to dislike Thirty Years War from Bruno Piqueur, of the Red Barons club in Ghent. Lots of other interesting stuff on this website too.
Woohoo! Only four days until ManorCon, my annual pilgrimage up to Edgbaston to play boardgames with about 300 sweaty nimrods at Lake Hall. ManorCon is run by the postal Diplomacy hobby (what's left of it) but lots of people, me included, tend to avoid the harrowing experience of face-to-face Diplomacy and go for more relaxing alternatives, like a 10-hour Advanced Civilization session (I'm looking forward to my annual fix!) William and Dave are coming along too, ready to overspend in the bring-and-buy.

Which games shall I take along (to play not sell)? Not too many I think - don't want to spend the whole weekend explaining rules to people. But I will probably take:

Empires of the Ancient World
Rise of the Luftwaffe/Eighth Air Force
Battle Cry

Hmm, that's too many already. Have to thin this list out a bit.
Top 30 UK Blogs. Or something. Lists the most popular British weblogs, but does not include blogspot sites (like mine). Doubt I'd make the list even if it did....

Friday, July 12, 2002

The usual griping on ConSimWorld about who is still waiting to get his copy of "The Napoleonic Wars" from GMT, produced the following post from the designer Mark McLaughlin:

Gene's shipping method is very fair. Gene is a real Christian and a man of God. So he takes all the order slips, throws them into the air, and let's God sort out the shipping order.
Why bother with all that tedious painting? Cardboard Heroes:

An often-requested reprint is our Cardboard Heroes line . . . beautifully drawn full-color stand-up figures. Much cheaper than miniatures, and more convenient too!

More to the point, a useful place to buy those little plastic stands there aren't enough of in The Napoleonic Wars apparently.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Have a look round Bruno's Titan Home Page too.
Really excellent strategy tips for Titan from David desJardins. I'm amazed he was actually willing to give all this away! One of those articles that makes you itch to play the game again. Also makes me glad that Dave (my usual Titan opponent) hasn't got Internet access.
William pointed me to Fiendish Games who are a sort of British Cheapass Games. Breaking Away is their most famous title, but the one I like the look of is Office Politics.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Gavin's graduation ceremony at Bristol University yesterday was very impressive, and Gavin looked rather splendid in his gown and red hood (except for his 'I'm an idiot' hairdo which will live on in memory and his graduation photos). Shame about the rain. A bonus highlight of the day was buying lots of cheap CD's from FOPP and Replay on Park Road. I went on a nostalgia splurge with Led Zeppelin, Bowie, Roxy Music, Hendrix and Motown stuff, as well as Kula Shaker and Mark Knopfler. All for about £35. Would have cost twice that on Amazon.

Monday, July 08, 2002

christian counterculture: nice web design, not sure about the premise. You can go too far with antithesis (ie saying the opposite).

OK, it wasn't a convention really - it was just me visiting Nick in Portsmouth for an intensive Thirty Years War session. We also went to Southsea Models and had an enjoyable time browsing through their gloriously chaotic stock of second-hand and new games. I bought a handful of teeny dice (for marking hits in Titan) and a Magic the Gathering starter set (I know, I know - shoot me now).

I've always been very fastidious about looking after my games, and have often criticised Nick for his cavalier attitude to his. Imagine how mortified I was when I spilled a glass of wine (white thankfully) over his brand-new copy of Thirty Years War! It made one end of the map go all crinkly, and soaked into a few counters too. I was mortified, but Nick was very gracious. I am contacting GMT to see if I can get hold of a replacement map - let's see if their famous customer-service can come up trumps.

We were playing the campaign game, which was very tense and enjoyable, and ended with a Protestant (Nick) victory by a single point. We finished the evening with a few rounds of Magic, which was surprisingly enjoyable. I don't know why I'm surprised really, the game is so popular, there must be something good about it.

After a good night's sleep and breakfast we had another crack at Thirty Years War - this time the short Intervention Scenario, which was won by the Catholics (me) this time.

Many thanks to Nick for a fun weekend (and sorry again about the map - I'll never criticize your gamecare habits again!)

Friday, July 05, 2002

Intifada fatigue hits Palestinians:

In their silent cities – with the exception of Jericho, all Palestinian urban areas in the West Bank are under Israeli-imposed curfew – Palestinians are criticizing Arafat and the bombers in ways they would not have done just three months ago.

"I feel a bitter sadness to be separated from [Issa], my youngest brother, who was the hope of this house" says Khalid Budair, sitting on a tattered couch on the porch of the family's home in Bethlehem. "We all thought Issa would be the one to pursue higher education. And instead he straps bombs around himself."

In another Bethlehem home, Amer Daraghmeh, whose brother Mohammed carried out a suicide bombing outside a Jerusalem synagogue in March that killed 11 Israelis, scorns the militants who trained Mohammed. "May God forgive them," he says.
I sometimes feel like Strider in my job. Down there in the sunlit Shire are all the hobbits, beavering away in their cosy little projects, happily unaware of the Wild World outside. And I'm the lonely Ranger, roaming the cold hills, battling with the dark monsters - service packs, name resolution problems, security issues, network protocols, database performance, replication, space problems etc etc. And little thanks we get from the halflings for our lonely vigil.

I was feeling grumpy about it but actually, that's quite cool!
Alexander Fritz runs a bilingual blog that talks about chess - that's a boardgame right? - and music and has the google-friendly name sex and sunshine.
Robert Fisk talking sense for once:

Deprived of political freedom, isolated from the world of ideas, repressing their women, and with science and development stunted, the Arab world will find it difficult to fault the conclusions of a UN report which all too accurately sums up the barren, ossified life of so many Arab countries. (via Americans for a Third Way)
So here it is at last - nimrods has a tribute site: nimrods jnr. At least I think it's meant as a tribute....

To be totally honest, I am just doing this to show my idiot father that he is not the only person in the world with too much time on his hands. I also possess enough grey matter to write a couple of garbage sentences capable of entertaining a simple mind.

Thursday, July 04, 2002

The Guardian has a great list of weblogs including a good number of British bloggers. I'll be working through this for days.
Gavin's in America today - the glorious Fourth of July - the jammy so-and-so! Hope he's got the sense not to mouth any of his arch-monarchistic sentiments for the day.
About 6 weeks ago I won an auction on eBay for a shrinkwrapped copy of Clash of Giants. It finally arrived yesterday! I was buying from a guy in the States, and opted for surface shipping to save money. OK it was quite a long wait, but I got this excellent game in mint condition for £21, which would have cost me about £41 from a dealer in the UK. So go on, give eBay a try, there are some bargains out there!
The designers of Europe Engulfed are very enthusiastic about promoting their game. Jesse Evans even went to the lengths of emailing an obscure blogger in Salisbury:

As co-designer of Europe Engulfed (with Rick Young) I'd like to thank you for posting info about the game on your website.

You sounded as if you were on the fence regarding ordering EE so I thought I'd give you a little push!

First off there is always room for another ETO game and Europe Engulfed is completely unique. It uses blocks for a fog of war effect but takes little else from the Columbia style system, in fact, design was started back in 1990 while Rick and I were waiting for Columbia to release Eastfront.

Our top goals in designing the game were:

1) It must be a serious simulation of the ETO.
2) It must be playable in a day.
3) It must be fun and present the players with the same challenges faces by the actual leaders.

We feel we have achieved those goals - even though a 10-14 hour day is a little long, we usually finish the game on the lower end of that scale. Setup is quick (15 minutes) with free deployment and the entire game moves along at a quick pace. Politics, strategic warfare, and naval warfare are covered with unique subsystems that allow the players to have full control but take up as little time as possible so you can focus on the ground conflict.

I've attached a pdf of the draft rulebook so you can get a detailed feel for how the game works.

Also GMT has added a example of play to their P500 page covering the opening turn as Germany invades Poland.

Finally there is a rather lengthy discussion board (over 1000 posts) on Comsimworld - under Boardgaming/Era: World War II (Individual Game) / Europe Engulfed - that includes some after action reports.

Monday, July 01, 2002

I've just finished an excellent history of the War in North Africa which I picked up from the charity book table outside Tesco. It's called "The Desert Generals" by Corelli Barnett (1960), and as well as being a vivid telling of the story it's also an angry polemic against Monty, and an attempt to make the case for his hero Auchinleck. I wasn't completely convinced. I think Auchinleck deserved to carry the can for the defeats at Gazala and Tobruk, after all he appointed Ritchie and was too nice to give him the boot even though his incompetence was costing the lives of thousands of our soldiers in the disasters of 1942.

Here's a good quote on the state of the British Army at the start of the War:

It is generally true that an army is an extension of society; military disaster is often national decline exposed by the violence of battle. Examples are Imperial Russia and Austria-Hungary in the First World War, France in the Second. Any army thus reflects in sharp focus the social structure, the state of technological progress and the creative vigour of a society.

This is what worries me more than anything about the current crisis. Have we as a society got the stomach for a fight against our new Islamic-extremist enemies, or have we been so eroded from within by post-modernism and a refusal to make value judgements that we no longer have the will to defend ourselves?

Friday, June 28, 2002

Colin's Dune Page is an unofficial fan-site for the legendary Avalon Hill game Dune.
Detailed instructions for making inserts to fit together multiple Battle Cry boards for big scenarios. Classic nimrod behaviour this.