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.