Friday, February 25, 2005

Andrew Sullivan: Society is dead, we have retreated into the iWorld:
Even without the white wires you can tell who they are. They walk down the street in their own MP3 cocoon, bumping into others, deaf to small social cues, shutting out anyone not in their bubble.

Every now and again some start unconsciously emitting strange tuneless squawks, like a badly tuned radio, and their fingers snap or their arms twitch to some strange soundless rhythm. When others say “Excuse me” there’s no response. “Hi”, ditto. It’s strange to be among so many people and hear so little. Except that each one is hearing so much.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I've been meeting up with my new gaming buddy Les in local pubs to play two-player eurogames. It's a very pleasant way to spend a weekday evening, and when your gaming activity attracts the curious attention of the attractive blonde barmaid, well that's doubly pleasant.

Games we have given an outing so far:

San Juan - clever adaptation of Puerto Rico, not just the theme but many of the mechanics too. Plays well with two. I'm not a huge PR fan so this would not be near the top of my list, but it's enjoyable enough. I won with the help of the chapel - just keep burying someone every turn!

Scarab Lords - great pub game, lots of cursing. I think we are pretty evenly matched.

Minotaur Lords - sequel to Scarab Lords with upgraded production values but a serious balance problem. The blue deck seems to be unbeatable. An unusual slip from Reiner.

Hera and Zeus - this has been sitting on my shelf for years so it was great to play it at last. I really enjoy this one, it has a lot of interesting tactical possibilities. One each so far.

Blue Moon - this is great stuff, a really top-class game. Beautifully produced and fascinating Magic-style combat. Les has a playtesting credit in the rules so unsurprisingly he outclassed me. Played three times last night and I lost them all.
There's a price to be paid for being a wargames geek. Oh yes. For example, when I was a kid I was modifying a plastic French Napoleonic soldier with my craft knife when the knife slipped and nearly sliced the top of my left thumb off. Blood everywhere, lots of it, recriminations from frightened parents, and a hasty trip to casualty. 35-plus years later the scar still opens up and bleeds a little in cold weather, just to remind me. Ouch, it's hurting right now as I type......

Monday, February 21, 2005

I don't really need to blog about the weekend as Phil has covered it all already. He's recorded all the salient points - lots of relaxed time with Phil, lots of good food and wine, the pub quiz with some new friends from church, and of course the sound whipping I received at Europe Engulfed (the 1942 one-mapper). I do love this game, but gosh it's hard on the Germans in Russia. I made several boo-boos, and you really can't afford to make any slips at all - the pressure of the Russian replacement rate builds up so quickly. And I would love to see someone who really knows what he is doing play this game - I'm sure there are some vital tricks and tactics which I just have no clue about yet, that could make the challenge more possible for the Germans. (I have worked out a 1941 one-map scenario, just for the purposes of practising Barbarossa, which Dave is helping me playtest and which I will post shortly.) Final point from Phil's post - do I really have a ridiculous number of hobbies?? Answers in the comments please....

Friday, February 18, 2005

T H E ::: B U R N I N G ::: B L U E

This new wargame from our very own Lee Brimmicombe-Wood looks complex - it is a follow-up to his Vietnam air game Downtown (GMT) - but the theme is such a big hook. Severely tempted to pre-order it even though I would probably only get as far as punching the counters and gazing at the map.

Two Battle of Britain veterans, John Greenwood of 253 Squadron (Hurricanes) and John Freeborn DFC of 74 Squadron (Spitfires) have been helping the designer in his research for the game. Lee Brimmicombe-Wood is enormously grateful for their kind assistance, recalling events from 64 years ago and clearing up many matters of detail.

There are some amazing interviews with these veterans on the website. Not the usual stuff, Lee is focussing on technical issues such as HF vs VHF reception, command and control, interception rates, visibility etc. It's amazing how much these guys remember after 64 years!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

I'm auctioning off some more games over the next few weeks. First up on eBay are a mint shrink-wrapped copy of Thirty Years War (this is a duplicate copy I was shipped in error by GMT - there's no way I would get rid of my first copy of this game) and a slightly less pristine copy of Western Front Tank Leader. Bidding for Thirty Years War is going well, but Western Front Tank Leader (a game which is abundant and a bit dated) is stuck on a quid at the moment. Why not make it two quid? - still a bargain!

I quite enjoy the process of selling on eBay - presenting the game nicely and selecting some good marketing text makes a big difference to the end price.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

What a cool idea, I want to join in!

moleskinerie: The Wandering Moleskine Project:

We are happy to announce the launching of the 'Wandering Moleskine Project' @ Moleskinerie. Several notebooks will be sent on their way from various points around the world, and scans of pages will be posted as they are filled.

-Participants are entitled to use one page of each notebook and to send it on to the next recipient within one week of receiving it.

-The notebooks are to be mailed/passed along to the next person on the list.

-You are pretty much free to write/draw whatever you desire, provided your entry does not deface or alter the notebook or others' entries.

-Participants are requested to scan their entry and to send it to Moleskinerie when mailing it to the next recipient.
Well I got to play Flandern 1302 - the game I picked up on my recent trip to Germany - a lot quicker than I anticipated. With boardgame newbies as well. Kez and Joe, my two ex-nephews, were over last weekend to visit Phil. You can read a graphic report of their epic Saturday-night bender in Guildford over on Phil's weblog - and another on Kez's weblog. I can't believe I was seriously considering going along with them at one point - I'm sooo glad I chickened out at the last minute! I would still have the hangover now. Sunday morning in the flat was very quiet as you can imagine, but I had been fiddling with Flandern 1302 on the coffee table all weekend trying to learn the rules, and after lunch they were all keen to have a go. Everyone seemed to enjoy the game a lot. The way the game works is fairly simple to explain and understand, it only takes an hour or so to complete, and the subtleties of the tactical possibilities gradually dawned on us as the game went on. What helps a lot for newbies is the pacing of the game, which starts slow and gentle with players choosing between possible tile lays on various fairly empty cities. Eventually the first city is completed and ready to score, and from that point onwards there is a gathering sense of urgency as the cities get scored more frequently, you are starting to run out of tiles, and everything becomes urgent all at once. Phil won easily on 46 and I trailed badly, finishing on 19. I like this game a lot, and can't quite understand its low rating on BGG. Perhaps this is a result of its low profile as it has not been published in English. However all the components are language-free and there is a reasonable translation of the rules available on BGG. It is beautifully produced and it doesn't cost a lot (22 Euros). Highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

I played a Hammer of the Scots rematch with Neil last Wednesday. This time we chose the Bruce scenario and I took the Scots, who start the game heavily outnumbered but with the King already crowned and on the board. This scenario has a very different feel to the Braveheart one - without Edward I's overwintering ability the English effectively have to start again every year, marching a fresh levy back up into Scotland to have another go at penetrating the bottleneck into the highlands. I managed to keep Bruce and Galloway alive for several years and with the help of the Norse the Lowlands were kept in ferment for much of the game. Meanwhile of course I was using the King to clean up the Highlands. There were several big battles with stunning reversals of fortune, but Neil was never really able to halt the slow ratcheting progression of nobles declaring for Scotland. I think I was luckier than Neil with dice and cards, and drawing the Norse early helped a lot too. We got it all finished in 4 hours. First time in a long while that I have won a game of Hammer, and first time ever as the Scots.

Monday, February 07, 2005

I've just had an enjoyable weekend in Germany visiting my friends Bruce and Louise who live on a British Army camp near Dusseldorf.I especially enjoyed the half hour I spent in a big toy-shop in Aachen browsing through their shelves of boardgames (while my god-daughter Eleanor was downstairs having her face painted). The shop was called Teddy& Co, and it looked like a big chain a bit like The Entertainer in the UK. The difference was the amount of space given over to boardgames - about a third of the 1st floor - with lots and lots of serious games on the shelves, and two large tables with a big box of demo copies for customers to try out. What a contrast with toy shops back home where games marketing is limited to a sad pile of boring crap like Cleudo, Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit at the back of the shop. No wonder the average Brit thinks that boardgames are boring given the pathetic dross they are exposed to on the high street.

I bought Flandern 1302 on impulse for 22 Euros and downloaded English rules when I got home. I will let you know how it plays as soon as I find out.