Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Here's a big article from Stephen Agar giving lots of detail about Albion, the amateur wargames zine that I subscribed to in my teenage years - The Origins of Postal Diplomacy in the UK
The last ten issues of Albion are probably those most remembered by mainstream PBM Diplomacy, which was taking off in a big way as Albion was entering old age. By now Don's formula was clear - a 50 page issue every two months or so on a wide selection of wargames and boardgames, a kind of Sumo's Karaoke Club before its time.
I've been thinking some more about how I got sucked into the hobby, and I am still confused about the order things happened in. How did I ever get to know about "Albion" for example, or afford the sub? I remember starting a wargames club at Manchester Grammar School - I must have been aged about 12 - which started with miniatures but quickly moved on to cardboard and hexes, as well as Diplomacy and Kingmaker. From that time onwards I was known as "The General" by teachers as well as pupils, which later became "Strategos" when I moved into the classics stream. At one point I started work on a game about the Gallipoli campaign, producing a detailed map before (fatally for the project) I had decided on the rules. Another design project was a Diplomacy variant based on the idea of exploring the New World without foreknowledge of what the map looked like. This was more successful, and got played a few times at school. Two decades later - having long lost the original game - I produced this variant again from scratch as "Columbus", which was played postally in various Diplomacy zines quite a few times over the last decade. I must publish it on this website some time.....

When I went off to University I dropped the whole hobby for many years - marriage and childraising intervened - until in my mid-thirties I purchased a copy of Diplomacy and found a flier for the postal Diplomacy hobby inside. My teenage games collection was mostly handed to friends or taken to jumble sales by my mother, and I sometimes ruefully think of the classics that I lost that way: "Red Star White Star", "Triplanetary", "Conquistador" (S&T version), "Flying Circus", "Sniper".......sigh.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

In response to a current discussion on ConsimWorld I've been scratching my head and trying to remember my first wargame - I *think* it was "Waterloo" (AH) but can't be sure at this distance of years. It's rather disturbing that I can't even remember how I got into a hobby which has been such a major part of my life. I know my friends and I had been playing wargames with Airfix figures and ships for years - I always lost the naval battles because my friends were prepared to shoplift from the model shop so they had much bigger fleets than me! It must have been round about the age of 11 or 12 that we discovered hexes and cardboard. I remember playing "Napoleon at Waterloo" (the S&T freebie) in the classroom every lunchtime. And I'm sure "Conquistador" got played on a bench in the physics lab. There was a thick amateur zine called "Albion" which stoked my enthusiasm. And at an impressionable age I had two postal games of "Anzio" with Tom Oleson (who developed the 2nd edition), the first of which I won! Scratching together pocket money for a few months subcription to S&T, exploring games like "Flight of the Goeben" or "Winter War" - ah, happy days.....

Friday, April 25, 2003

Big changes at Columbia Games:
Declaration of Independence

We at Columbia Games are changing our way of doing business. After 30 years, we have concluded that our products can best be sold directly. To improve product output and customer service, all Columbia Games products will henceforth be sold ONLY by mail order, telephone, or via
And to celebrate they are running a 20% sale until 27 April. They have also done a big tidy up on their website. But sadly Columbia games will soon disappear from your local game shop.

Talking of Columbia, I've just bought a copy of Pacific Victory from Ebay which looks superb - I spent a happy hour last evening sticking the little stickers onto the little blocks. My exciting life....

Thursday, April 24, 2003

This post from GMT's Tony Curtis is a bit of a shocker, showing the precarious state of GMT's finances. Time to show some support and buy a few more games in their amazing 50% sale.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Nimrods: two years old (last Saturday)

I must be getting a bit blasé about these anniversaries, as I forgot to blog this on Saturday. Two years of blogging - does that make me mainstream yet?

What would nimrods really like as a birthday present? For Blogger to stop losing half its archive links every time I publish, probably!

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Phil is fighting a rematch of Barbarossa to Berlin with me this week. I don't like to admit it, but he really got me worried this time. The Germans were in Moscow after only three turns - Stalin escaped on the last train out of town before they arrived. Thankfully I got a big reinforcement card last turn or my goose would be well and truly cooked. But as it is I'm feeling quietly confident at this point.....
Airbattle, Air Combat Wargames - this is Lee Brimmicombe-Wood's website. There are some nice pictures of map and counters for Downtown (amazing quality considering this hasn't been worked up by GMT's graphic designers yet), but the game I'm really interested in is The Burning Blue. is a website devoted to the development of "raid scale" air combat wargames. The games share many common rules and principles that allow the recreation of large scale air battles.

Downtown - The Air War Over Hanoi, 1965-1972

Elusive Victory - The Air War Over the Suez Canal, 1967-1973

The Burning Blue - The Air Defence of Great Britain, 1940-1944

Wednesday, April 16, 2003 | Games | Lingo Bingo: Tired of boring meetings? Use all that jargon to your advantage by playing Lingo Bingo. (via Caterina)
A blogger's prayer:
Forgive us our sins,
For blog-rolling strangers and pretending they are friends,
For counting unique visitors but not noticing unique people,
For delighting in the thousands of hits but ignoring the ONE who returns,
For luring viewers but sending them away empty handed,
For updating daily but repenting weekly.


Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Barbarossa to Berlin - Post match report from Phil:

It was a bright April day when my father and myself decided to engage in a game of Barbarossa to Berlin. In keeping with household tradition I took the Germans, and father the Allies, or more specifically the Russians. It's a very good game for the lightweight gamer such as myself, as the system is rather a beauty to pick up easily. I decided to play the Von Paulus pause card at the start and hope that the Winter advantage would bring me a rapid advance. Sadly, such an advance did not go as planned. I gained victories in the south, only to be resisted in the north. The victories I did gain were too small due to rubbish die rolling on my part. Then the killer blow, Dad won massive gains in North Africa (which I had chosen to ignore as I hate Italians - not in a racist way, in a cute way) which slammed down my victory points. Then in his usual style he pulls out a card and rule which I have no forewarning of, to reduce my VP's to just 1. I was pretty desperate to push on in the East to try and regain VP's, but one more crappy die roll later and a Russian counterattack rolled into Kiev in round six of turn 5 effectively ending the game.

It was great fun, and much better than the first world war one, whose name escapes me. I want to play again, and this time there will be no mercy. Oh, and I can still whup him at Up-Front, which is by far the best and hardest game in the world.
So why all these posts about alternative worship? Isn't this supposed to be a games weblog? Well yes, but this blogger is also a Christian - although you might not guess this from watching me play Escape from Atlantis say. And one of the things that keeps me interested in my blog is that it's a fruitful way of making notes to myself, tagging things that occur to me during the day to follow up later. I've been dissatisfied with some aspects of my Christian experience for years, especially church life and Sunday worship, so when I became aware of this alternative worship movement for the first time today, I had to put down some markers to myself that this is something I need to investigate. I found it by a serendipitous route - Caterina pointed me to Jordon Cooper who is involved with Worship Freehouse which tapped me into the loop....
AltW Theory - Chillout
It became possible to use in church the music you were hearing at home, at work, in the bar at night. Nothing sets a atmosphere as powerfully as music, and church could be given the feel of everyday life instead of something set apart. And the music was picking up sacred meanings in church, which would then be retained when it was heard in other places. Or the music was picking up sacred meanings through encounters with God in other places, which could then be replayed for others in church.
the worship freehouse
What is alternative worship?

It is what happens when people reinvent church for themselves, in forms that fully reflect the people they are and the culture they live in. That's the people they really are and the culture they really live in, not sanitised Sunday-best versions!
It's an attempt to make spaces where people can be real, and relate honestly to God and one another without 'religious' masks or imposed forms of behaviour. In practice this involves a complete reappraisal of what a church service actually consists of - what it's for, how it's led, what kinds of things can happen, what kind of language is used, where people sit and what the space looks like.
Different spiritualities have always evolved out of different cultures: they are front-ends that gives expression to the same hardware of faith. At Vaux we are interested in discovering an urban spirituality: some way of doing faith that takes the context of the city seriously. Much of the main-stream church has labelled what we do 'alternative.' But we have no interest in being viewed as main-stream by an organisation that is itself so marginal. We are concerned with presenting our faith in a way that our culture would see as mainstream. We believe that this is in continuity with the way of Christ.

Monday, April 14, 2003

William has been playing games over the weekend:
I had a couple of people over last night and won only one of the 4 games of kill Dr. Lucky (and none of the many games of Bogart or Perudo) we played. Maybe it was your hosting curse come to haunt me? No, it can't be as I won at 10 die poker in 2 out of 3 games (3 games = how long it took us to realise we didn't like it). And then I triumphed at Linie 1 despite having to use a massive loop to reach my 2nd station. I had forgotten how good Dr. Lucky was, we played using Cluedo pieces which I think worked really well. The first game took ages and my Miss Scarlet failed in two attempts to do the
old boy in in the Master Suite using nothing more than a feather pillow and again he survived her attempt with the Civil War Cannon in the Armoury and Revolver in the White Room until he was taken out by Col. Mustard with a Big Red Hammer in the Piazza of all places. The second game finished after about only one loop of the house when Mrs Peacock showed him the (8 point) Monkey Hand in the Foyer. (I never knew she had it in her!) I cought up though in the next game when he was tempted in the Dining Room with Bad Cream. By the last game we played my opponents were better players and Mrs Peacock had worked out how to use the Civil War Cannon in the Armoury and he didn't last more than a couple of laps of the house.
I like Kill Dr Lucky - don't forget to bring it to Hay-on-Wye William.
This preview of the gorgeous Medieval Cards is a bit frustrating, as I was charged for this game (under GMT's P500 scheme) last October and it still hasn't been printed yet.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Battleground God
Can your beliefs about religion make it across our intellectual battleground? In this activity you’ll be asked a series of 17 questions about God and religion. In each case, apart from Question 1, you need to answer True or False. The aim of the activity is not to judge whether these answers are correct or not. Our battleground is that of rational consistency. This means to get across without taking any hits, you’ll need to answer in a way which is rationally consistent. What this means is you need to avoid choosing answers which contradict each other. If you answer in a way which is rationally consistent but which has strange or unpalatable implications, you’ll be forced to bite a bullet.

I didn't do very well at all:
You took 3 direct hits and you have bitten 1 bullet. The average player of this activity to date takes 1.37 hits and bites 1.09 bullets.
(via BurntToast)
Our friend James, who used to be such a nice, sensible lad, has been sucked into one of the strangest little subcultures that hide in the dusty corners of boardgame geekdom - the Advanced Squad Leader hobby. He actually travelled up to Blackpool recently to spend a weekend at an ASL conference called, appropriately, Berserk. Here's a brief post-con report from James:
I loved ASL at Blackpool. This link will take you to the site where I feature in two of the 2003 photos.

It took me six hours to drive up on Thursday afternoon and arrived at 19:00 paid the hotel bill of £20 per night (bargain), found my tutor from Bournemouth, had a drink, started my first game. I felt very welcome from the moment I got there they were a really friendly lot. Played 5 tournament games, won three lost two, so was really pleased. Lots drank eaten and played. Great.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Eric Zimmerman has a cool little website. I'm intrigued by the photos of gallery games, and there are some good essays about game design, games and culture, that sort of thing..
Rules of Play is a book on game design to be published later this year (with a chapter from Reiner Knizia):

Games have become as much a genre of pop culture as film or television, but game design has yet to develop a theoretical framework or critical vocabulary. In Rules of Play Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman offer an impassioned defense and definition of this emerging field. Their goal is to create a unified methodology for looking at all kinds of games and to understand game design as a design practice. The authors, active participants in game culture themselves, intend their book to act as a catalyst--to help game designers explore new ways to create games and develop concepts, design strategies, and methodologies.

(via Terminal City Gamers)
Philip is currently playing Barbarossa to Berlin with me. I am very proud of my son.
A recent email from Phil: And how come you never mention our gaming experiences on Nimrods? You're ashamed of me aren't you?
The irrepressible Kathy Shaidle: And I heard an Iraqi on the news this morning, yelling "Thank you Mr. Bush!" Call me a psychopath, but losing my friends and alienating my co-workers was all worth it just for that.
I'm considering doing the Coast to Coast walk later this year, and this site has an excellent accomodation planner. I've had an ambition to do the Coast to Coast for many years - every year there is some good reason to postpone it, so I think I should just pick up the phone and start booking. No more excuses!

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Happy Birthday to Phil - 19 today! I bought him a box set of Beethoven symphonies, a recording by VPO and Karajan. I judged that full-blown emotionalism was more likely to appeal to a teenager than stripped-down period authenticism. Remarkably (considering he spends much of his life watching MTV) Phil seemed very pleased with my gift.
BlogShares - Fantasy Blog Share Market - what a great idea! I remember a game like this that used to be played postally. You traded currencies in parallel with a current Diplomacy game. The prices varied with trades, and you lost your holdings in currencies of countries that were eliminated . I did very very badly the only time I ever played, well below random performance. The experience helped me form a conviction that I should never speculate in real markets like the Stock Exchange - a conviction that has served me well ever since. But I will certainly try playing BlogShares.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

William - the king of fluff - alerted me to this stash of free fluffy games from Cheapass Games.
Some clear-sighted comments from John Keegan: Because the war has taken such a strange form, the media, particularly those at home, may be forgiven for their misinterpretation of how it has progressed. Checks have been described as defeats, minor firefights as major battles. In truth, there has been almost no check to the unimpeded onrush of the coalition, particularly the dramatic American advance to Baghdad; nor have there been any major battles. This has been a collapse, not a war.

Monday, April 07, 2003

GMT's latest projected game on the P500 list is Downtown. This looks like a new concept - an operational level game about aerial warfare.

Downtown is the first of a new genre of air combat games that model entire air raids in detail. The US player is the raid commander, marshalling packages of 30-70+ Air Force or Navy aircraft, comprising bombers, fighters, defense suppression, jamming and recon ‘planes. The North Vietnamese (DRV) player manages a network of AAA and SAM anti-aircraft defenses supported by a ‘thin red line’ of MiG fighters.

Friday, April 04, 2003

This is an excellent article, that brought nasty flashbacks of my own miserable early teenage years at school - Why Nerds are Unpopular:

I know a lot of people who were nerds in school, and they all tell the same story: there is a strong correlation between being smart and being a nerd, and an even stronger inverse correlation between being a nerd and being popular. Being smart seems to make you unpopular.
New Scientist: Tiny molecular daggers that latch onto fibres stab and destroy microbes have been created, meaning "killer clothes" may soon be available. (via Rebecca's Pocket)

So Gavin's huge pile of unwashed laundry isn't down to laziness at all - he's just prophet ahead of his times. One day we will all live like this.
Another webzine - - this one's about litritcher.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Google Acquisitions Create Movable Bloggerland: Asked whether this was a shot across Microsoft's bow, VP of Microsoft's Platform Group Jim Allnose said "Absolutely not. People are already blogging with Microsoft software. You just download the .NET framework, install some service packs, grab a few things from MSDN, install Sharepoint Team Services, and upgrade everything to Office 2003. Once you do that and upgrade to Windows Server 2003 which ships in the next few weeks, you're ready to go. It's simple, and we think it represents the future of consumer-based blogs."
I'm trying to sell my house at the moment, so that I can move closer to my job in Hook. Farnham seems nice - it's only 10 miles from work and 5 miles from the Game Shop in Aldershot. Here's my house details. Looks good doesn't it? Shame no-one seems to want to buy it....
The Games Journal is a nicely done web magazine. This month has reviews of Sunda to Sahel and The Antoni Gaudi Tile Game amongst other things.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Last Saturday I had a great afternoon playing Nick at The Napoleonic Wars. We played the 1812 scenario, with Nick as the French. I had some lucky rolls, especially on the Spanish partisans, which allowed me to clear most of Spain before Wellington marched over the Pyrenees into France only to get killed in battle. Nick's invasion army only reached Smolensk, severely punished on the journey by the Russian Winter (what a powerful card!), but he did manage to capture St Petersburg. In the end there was a margin of only 2 keys, but I just scraped a victory.

I can't understand why this game didn't get a better reception from the rest of you. With Dave it was "I don't see how the French can win" or "I don't see how the French can lose" depending on which side he was playing. And with John it was "But you can't recreate the movements of the 5th Pomeranian Hussars on 12th October 1813". And it wasn't fluffy enough for William. I think I will take it along to Hay and see if I can convince you lot to give it another chance.....
James sent me a link to this article in the New York Times: As the Battles Heat Up, War Buffs Turn to Maps and Play Board Games