Thursday, June 30, 2005

Last weekend was the third "NimrodCon", our annual trip to Hay-on-Wye to enjoy 4 days of boardgames, books and beer. It was an enjoyable weekend, with very good weather after a brief initial "Welcome to Wales" spell of rain. Celtic Lodge was more comfortable than ever, with a couple of new sofas in the lounge, and chairs and a table on the new balcony overlooking the garden and the river. We made good use of people's talents - Phil cooked us all a lovely vegetable curry on Friday night, and on Sunday Nick took us to a couple of standing stones up in the mountains and gave us the benefit of his archaeological knowledge. I spent a bit more time in the bookshops this year, picking up two Don Camillo books, John Keegan's "The Face of Battle", and "The Hardest Day" a book about the Battle of Britain. Phil came home with 3 classic cookbooks (Mrs Beeton, Elizabeth David, and Delia Smith). And we made better use of Shepherds as an excellent place to relax with coffee and cake and chat or read the paper.

Oh yes, we also played one or two games.......

Yinsh - I played this a few times with Phil and with John, and Phil taught Nick how to play as well. I wasn't sure that an abstract game would go down well, but everyone enjoyed it a lot and vowed to buy their own copies as soon as possible.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation - I played about five games of this with John and with Phil. The good guys won every time. Naturally enough there was a discussion with John about game balance.

Illuminati - I managed to avoid getting roped into this late on Friday evening. Although I quite like the concept and the humour, it just takes far too long for what it is, and in my experience it tends to be a fairly bad-tempered game as well. I think Phil won, but I'm not sure - I was tucked in bed and fast asleep when they finally finished.

Struggle of Empires - as I predicted, this was the big hit of the weekend. Five of us had a lot of fun playing this on Saturday afternoon. It took over 3 hours, partly due to explaining the rules, which was a little too long. I played Spain, but never formulated a clear strategy, instead just reacting to events and accumulating a lot of unrest through loss of armies and fleets, several at sea. Steve (England) seemed to be in the lead until the last few rounds when John (United Provinces) really pulled ahead.

Titan - oh dear! I was actually hoping for a quite 2-player game with Dave, who is a fellow enthusiast. However, when I mentioned this on Sunday morning lots of other people volunteered to play - people I strongly suspected of being Titan-phobes. People can change, I thought, I'll give them another chance. It din't work out. John and Phil got knocked out early, cursing the game. Steve found it difficult to make the many decisions required in Titan within a reasonable time. He finally got knocked out just before our 7pm deadline, leaving me Dave and Nick as survivors. We scored up and I won, but Nick also professed a desire to never play the game again. I was disappointed, but have made a mental note to only play Titan with fellow enthusiasts from now on.

Euphrat & Tigris - playing against Simon, Dave and Steve, who all know the game, was a real pleasure. I felt I was being badly punished by Dave's blitzkrieg tactics, so was surprised and very pleased to come in second.

Zendo - was played in the pub on Friday night. Good fun, but a bit intense with this group of over-competitive gamers!

NanoFictionary - Phil got this out in the pub on Sunday night but it was aborted after a glass of beer was spilled all over the cards. I felt sorry for Phil because a) this is one of his favourites and he was excited about teaching us b) he only possesses about three games, so to see one ruined by beer was a hard blow.

Lord of the Rings Risk - Dave was very excited about introducing Steve, Phil and Nick to this. But sadly it didn't catch anyone else's imagination in the same way. People actually drifted away (bad form), and poor Dave was left on Monday morning completing the game in solo mode.

Finally, here is a link to my photos of the weekend.

Friday, June 17, 2005

This is so unfair! Here I am, aching to go flying again, but stymied by British weather, leg injuries, and my unreasonable manager refusing to give me time off - and what do I see out of my own window this evening? Two paragliders (probably paramotoring actually) happily soaring across the Surrey sky about a mile from my home.
It's been a good week for gaming. I met up with Les on Monday in the Fox to play Blue Moon. I've finally bought my own copy of this excellent game, plus a few extra decks such as the Terrah and those guys with the giant caterpillars (can't remember the name just now). Pleased to be able to report a 2:1 win. Then yesterday it was a game session at Trevor's place, with just 3 of us plus Trevor's boy Oliver, who joined us for the first game - Manhattan. I quite liked this - but very abstract, and needed to go....ahem....a little faster than we actually played it. Still, it's fun to screw over an opponent by stealing his tower at the crucial moment. Then it was on to Medici - I usually struggle with auction type games. I wonder if my wargamer's mind tends to think in aggressive/defensive categories when I'm gaming, which are not much use in an auction. All that matters here is accurately estimating the value of what is for sale. I went for commodities rather than points, which did indeed give me a late surge, but not enough - even so I was pleased to come in second. (I'm pretty poor at other auction games too - witness Ra, Modern Art, Amun Re etc.) We finished with Ave Caesar, a quick fun family game of chariot racing but without (disappointingly) the whips, wheel-knives and hamstringings that I remember from the films....

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings,
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

- Pilot Officer John Magee, Spitfire pilot, killed 1941
(via the ConsimWorld forum on GMT's upcoming Battle of Britain game The Burning Blue)
Blogger admin news - I have removed the "legacy" comments from this blog. The code provided by Enetation was producing javascript errors, which seemed to slow down loading of the page. So I ripped it all out. Sad about this, as I have lost a record of your sage comments over the last few years before I switched to Blogger comments. Grrr - Enetation is rubbish, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
Over at GameWire an interesting interview with Craig Besinque, designer of classic wargames Rommel in the Desert and East Front: Currently I am working on Hellas, a strategic ancients game on the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, which will be out this summer. It is based on the Hammer of the Scots/Liberty system, with provision for naval warfare and sieges. The design target is a simpler, faster (12 page rules, 4 hours) but still high-quality game with good period 'feel' on one of the more crucial military struggles in western history.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I am not a huge fan of computer games, but I have been steadily working my way through Final Fantasy X for the last couple of years or so. I don't put in a lot of time - just odd bursts of a couple of hours every few weeks. Then I put it aside until I next get the urge to return to the strange and beautiful world of Spira. Last weekend I breached an important psychological barrier - I finally managed to beat the third(?) incarnation of Seymour on Mount Gagazet. A few months ago I got my ass totally kicked by him, and since then I have been wandering around the Calm Lands levelling everybody up (even the useless Wakka), earning enough money to buy Yojimbo, and gathering my courage for another trip up the mountain. It was a great feeling when we returned to the battle and Yuna unleashed a queue of Aeons all on overdrive attacks, dispatching Seymour to the Farplane in about 5 minutes flat. And as a bonus Phil was there to witness my moment of triumph!

So at last I've reached the ruins of Zanarkand and the end can't be far away now. 80+ hours on the clock - I will be sad to say goodbye to this game. Sure there are a few annoying characters - Wakka, anything to do with chocobos, and even Tidus gets on my nerves sometimes. But I really feel I have lived the story with the characters, and I've been amazed again and again at the incredibly beautiful locations I have visited along the way. It baffles me how all this can fit on just one disk. I wasn't exactly an early adopter - I bought the game 2nd-hand, long after all the PS2 geeks had completed it and moved onto something else. Now it's nearly time to look for the next thing - I wonder what FF X-2 is like?
Less than 3 weeks now to NimrodCon - the annual gathering at Hay-on-Wye with my Salisbury gaming buddies. And the big question in my mind as I'm looking forward to the trip is: what games do I pack?

At the moment my thinking is still gelling, but it will be something like this:

A couple of short wargames - Rommel in the Desert and Memoir 44 perhaps?

A few pub-friendly games - Blue Moon, Yinsh, Lord of the Rings Confrontation

Some really good multi-player games - Struggle of Empires (this lot will LOVE this one), Taj Mahal, 1825, Flandern 1302, Amun Re

And because it's on the Tshirt - Titan

Oh dear, that's rather a lot already isn't it! And I have just received requests from Simon for RA and Euphrat & Tigris to be brought along too. If everyone else brings the same number of games, there's no way we can do more than scratch the surface in four days. And of course there is a lot of walking, browsing of book-shops, and sitting in the pub to be fitted in as well. Maybe we should make it a week next year?!

Monday, June 06, 2005

I wish I had known about this when I lived in Salisbury - apparently there is a game shop in Frome called Wassail Games, which is associated with a group that meets in the Packhorse pub every Thursday, and runs a game convention every July. Sounds like a lively scene over there!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

I spent last weekend on pilgrimage, walking the 72 miles from London to Canterbury with about 80 or 90 other folk. As well as a pilgrimage this was also a sponsored walk to raise money for St Martins Connection, a charity that works for the homeless in London. Four days of tramping, starting in Trafalgar Square, toiling down the Old Kent Road in Friday's boiling heat, regularly refreshed with tea and cakes by the WI or the Church of England along the way, stopping overnight at churches or (on Saturday) a priory, having our feet lovingly cared for every day by a team of podiatrists (angels from God!), and finally braving Monday's thunderstorms before our first glorious sight of Canterbury Cathedral in the distance. It was a great trip, and I met lots of great people along the way. My legs are slowly healing up now, and I can almost walk without a limp today. These are a couple of sketches I did at rest stops, and here is my photo gallery of the journey.