Sunday, December 24, 2006

Seasonal post

It's Christmas Eve and the guns are falling silent on BoardGameGeek.....

Not much gaming to report over here. I've been fiddling with BattleLore. One banner was missing - a quick email to Days of Wonder secured a replacement with no problems. Great customer service (I still can hardly believe what I'm hearing about Rio Grande's very different attitude to fixing the faulty cards in El Grande).

I've downloaded and played through the excellent introduction to Magic the Gathering from Wizards of the Coast, in preparation for a match with Les sometime I hope.
And I'm having my butt kicked in various play-by-web games of Shadow of the Emperor and Amun-Re!

I am heading off this afternoon on a grand tour of the midlands, taking in various gatherings of Sue's family and my family. Packing 6 Nimmt, Fluxx, and Bohnanza in the faint hope of steering people away from Guesstures or DVD quiz games. At least when I get back there is Die Macher to look forward to on New Year's Day!

Here's wishing you a very happy Christmas. I hope you find some games under the tree!

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Return of..... the Wargamer!

While no wargamer's wargamer, I've been in and out of the wargamers' scene ever since I was a kid. I don't have a local wargamer opponent, so I was pleased when Les, who is not a wargamer (not yet anyway!), agreed to come over on Sunday afternoon to play War of the Ring again. This time Les felt confident enough of the rules to take the Free Peoples - who have a lot more rules to remember and options to worry about. Unfortunately for Les, the blue dice left the Fellowship loitering over a late breakfast at Rivendell, and when they finally did get away there was a distinct lack of urgency about their progress. Meanwhile the Elves could not save Dol Amroth, and the Woodland Realm fell after a bitter struggle. The plucky elves of Rivendell laid seige to Moria, but Aragorn was trapped and killed in Minas Tirith almost as soon as he was crowned. Les was preparing for a last titanic struggle in Helm's Deep, when the Witch King slipped down from the mountains of Angmar to snatch Rivendell and victory. And so Middle Earth was plunged into endless darkness......

Oh well.

We had an hour left, so another opportunity to make a wargamer of Les with a quick game of Memoir 44 - Operation Lettuch. I think Les's mind was still in the heroic world of Middle Earth with its heroic charges and last stands. Whatever the reason, he repeatedly ordered his Germans forward across open ground in the face of well-entrenched American positions. That sort of tactic just doesn't work in World War 2!

Oh dear, I hope Les wasn't too discouraged by his double defeat yesterday, and will keep alive a spark of ambition to become one day..... a wargamer!

The Way Forward

Through his job, my son Phil is becoming a bit of an expert on SEO (Search Engine Optimization). He has done a bit of research, and tells me that if I use the word "wargamer" a lot in my blog, my daily hits will go through the roof. OK, anything for more traffic, let's give it a try!

Friday, December 08, 2006

How to lure people into the gaming hobby

Tip #32: Host a theme evening

A good way to invite your non-gamer friends over to play games without them realizing, is to host a theme evening. On a weekend evening (last Saturday in this case) invite 2 or 3 friends over (Sue, Linda and Balazs in this example) for a themed evening (I chose an Indian evening). Organize some exciting food linked with the theme (each of us contributed a home-cooked curry dish or a pudding) and arrange to watch a film linked with the theme after dinner (I showed Monsoon Wedding on my home projector). And here's the clever bit - set up a game that links with the theme (it was Taj Mahal in this case) and (this is critical) make sure someone else wins. I can't emphasise this enough - DO NOT WIN! Specifically, do not crush them into the dirt and laugh triumphantly over their failure (I know this will be hard for some of you). Sue won last Saturday, and I came a distant 4th. They enjoyed it, and expressed a wish to play Taj Mahal again soon. Mission accomplished....

Thursday, December 07, 2006

On the table - BattleLore

I've got BattleLore on my gaming table. It's been sitting there in its shrinkwrap since last Saturday, when I picked it up from my friendly local game shop along with my two free monsters. I've opened the monsters and had a quick look at them - in fact I tried to do that at the lights on the way home, much to the annoyance of the drivers behind me. So why haven't I ripped the shrinkwrap off this fabulous new game? Why have I been spending my evenings rebuilding my PC or watching FireFly episodes instead?

To be honest, I'm intimidated. It's a big heavy box. It's a big game, with a big future. It could turn out to be a hobby in its own right. Do I really need that right now? After all, I already love C&C Ancients and I want to spend more time exploring it. The first expansion should be arriving shortly. And Memoir 44 with its expansions is there on the shelf making me feel guilty. Likewise there is the ASL Starter Kit #2 to explore (and #3 shortly to appear), with the possibilities of Beyond Valor and beyond beckoning me.

My unopened copy of Battlelore - it's like Pandora's box. Once I open it, who knows what might change in my gaming life? Maybe it's safer leaving it there on the table, unopened. After all, I can still look at the pretty pictures on the box.....

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I just bought the Buka Invasion deck for Blue Moon. Some interesting new ideas - you can play a card upside down as a bluff, with a value of 2. Your opponent can call your bluff and win a dragon if he catches you out! They also have ships that you can load up with cards and then dump them all in one go.

Les and I are planning to have our first Blue Moon deck-building contest. Not sure if we are going to use the Basic deck-building rules, or use the Emissaries and Inquisitors decks? Either way the Buka gives me a few extra options and maybe the chance to catch him out!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Something doesn't want me online any more

Recent events have been conspiring to evict me from the internet.

First my BT line stopped working, so my phone and my broadband router no longer work. It's going to be a week or two before I can arrange for an engineer to visit when I am at home.

And now my PC has died as well. I switched it on last night while I made some phone calls (on my mobile of course). Went back to it half an hour later and found it still rebooting - again, and again, and again.......

I think I know how it happened. Last time I was closing down I went to switch off power at the wall, and before I had thought I had switched off in the middle of its closedown sequence. So I am pretty sure I crashed the disk.

I have a recent backup of data, and a less recent backup of my photo library. So I may have lost some recent photos.....

I may have to buy a new disk (which I needed anyway) so I can rebuild the system without formatting the old disk. Sigh. That will be a day's work easily. I don't know when I will have time for that before January.....

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Our very own Essen

Last night - two of the hottest games from Essen! Just me, Keith and Trevor, at Trevor's home. First up was Space Dealer. I've been anticipating this a lot ever since I first heard about it. First impressions - it's a bit confusing, easy to make mistakes and build something you can't power, or set off in the wrong direction or with the wrong goods. Atmosphere of knock-about fun, together with hastily-made strategic decisions. I enjoyed it, but need to play a few more times, and with the advanced rules, to get a clearer idea. Just beaten to a win by Keith with 19 points to my 18.

Next was The End of the Triumvirate. Like Space Dealer, this immediately gets into my good books with its theme. If I can't be a space freebooter, then surely the next best thing is to be a Roman politician-soldier! I liked this a lot. I very much liked the simplicity of the mechanics, the tricky interplay of the various sub-games, the short run-time, and the clear and evocative components. After one play it gives the impression of being well polished and balanced, but time will tell of course. Easily an 8 at the moment, and very keen to play this again.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Welcome to anyone visiting from today's Guardian interview. I hope you're not feeling too confused - this weblog is mainly about my other pastime, boardgaming. But I do occasionally write about paragliding too, as at here, and here, and here. I hope you can stick around......

Thursday, November 16, 2006

MidCon notebook

I am usually nervous when I walk into a convention for the first time (unless it's one I organized myself). Will there be anyone I know? Will it be a friendly con? Will I get invited to join a game? Or will I spend hours and hours wandering around friendless watching other people play games?

I needn't have worried. Within minutes of walkimg into the game rooms at MidCon I was greeted by a cheery Nick Kinzett whom I know from ManorCons gone by, and I was quickly sitting down to a game of The World Cup Game. Great fun this, with some clever ideas, like the simultaneous resolution of all the group games. I am not a fan of sports games, but I enjoyed this one. We were playing Nick's 1966 board, and my Russians got knocked out by W. Germany in the semi-final's, who went on to take the cup.

After that it was Railroad Tycoon, a 3-player game with Nick K and Steve Jones. I have heard people raving about the physical presentation of this game, but I have to say I was not impressed. Some of the worst faults:

- Gratuitously huge board with lots of wasted space. I spent the whole game stretching over the two tables to reach my network on the East Coast.

- Warping boards. A huge gap kept opening near Washington, a particularly busy area of the map.

- Terrible colour matching. It's especially easy to get confused between blue and purple.

- Some very impractical bits. Those plastic locomotives everywhere, falling over and slipping off the track, and making the situation impossible to read at a glance.

- Some just plain ugly bits. All those brown plastic water-towers. And the "elephant" - a black wooden locomeeple? Surely we could do better than that?

Nevertheless, it's a very interesting and challenging game, and I enjoyed it very much, despite losing hands-down.

Next up was Tara , an abstract game set in Dark Ages Ireland. The box said about an hour. Three hours later the four of us finally gave it up - it seemed impossible for anyone to make a bid for that second throne without the other three players thwarting him. Surely we were playing a rule wrong?! If not this game, though pretty and clever, is sadly broken.

Next morning: a late start, a huge breakfast, then a long day of uninterrupted gaming....

Um Krone und Kragen. So far I've not had much success introducing this to new players. But it was a minor hit here at MidCon. I was first of 5 to reach the King, but Dave Dudley snatched him from me in the final round.

Nottingham. This is rummy with thieving - a lot of thieving! About half a dozen different ways of stealing cards off your opponents. Great fun. And I won!

Then another game of Railroad Tycoon, with no less than 6 players this time! I started building in the New York/Washington area, competing with Nick Kinzett. I took an early lead in VPs, and from then on Steve Jones was relentlessly chasing me to catch up. By the end of the game he was only 5 VPs behind. I had failed to meet my Tycoon criteria, and I felt sure that he had. I was right, but it only gave him another 4 points, so I won by 1 point!! This was the highlight of the weekend for me, a very gratifying victory against stiff opposition. The whole game took about two and a quarter hours - not bad for a 6-player epic.

Last game of Saturday was 5-player Puerto Rico. I was feeling a bit rusty. Josh (2 seats to the right of me) was a PR newbie and getting a LOT of coaching from the other 3, so it took a lot longer than it should have. I came in 2nd with 37 points. Enjoyed this in spite of the length - I had forgotten what a good game PR is.

Retired to bed about 10:30, so Sunday morning was not such a late start. But breakfast was huge again!

First game of the new day was New England, ably taught to us by Mike Head. This looks a bit drab and unintersting out of the box, but the game play is subtle and interesting without being overtaxing on the brain. I would definitely play this again. I came 3rd out of 4.

After this another game of Um Krone und Kragen was requested. There were 5 of us this time, including Lindon Gordon who was new to the game but proceeded to win.

This was all I had time for sadly, After spending a happy hour unpacking and reading the rules to my newly purchased Space Dealer, I had to leave to catch my bargain basement train reservation back home.

On the buying and selling front, I sold Scotland Yard for £10 in the Bring and Buy sale, gave away Slick! (yes I gave away a game - makes me feel chilled just thinking about it!), and bought Space Dealer (which I am very excited about) with a convention discount.

It was a very sociable and friendly con for me, thanks to Nick Kinzett and the guys from the Halesowen Boardgaming Club. I will certainly be looking to go again next year if at all possible.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

MidCon newbie

I am off to MidCon tomorrow, the annual convention organised by the British postal diplomacy hobby, held in a hotel in the centre of sunny Birmingham. MidCon was already a familiar landmark when I joined the hobby back in 1992, but strangely this is the first time I have ever got round to going. I have missed ManorCon for the last few years, so I'm really looking forward to being back in a Con environment, with a long weekend of solid gaming to enjoy.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Talking of play-by-web, there's a new readers-only game of Samurai at MaBiWeb. "Howl's Moving Castle", password "nimrods". See you there!
I've been enjoying my dip into Play-by-Web gaming. Samurai on MaBiWeb with nimrods readers was great fun - we cracked along at several turns a day, and got each game finished inside a week. I lost the first one badly, came close on the second, and won the third.

I've also been playing a pick-up game of Shadow of the Emperor on MaBiWeb. This is going much slower, but even so I am enjoying my first ever run through this one, as I have never managed to persuade anyone to try it face-to-face. (You can watch it here.)

I have also started a game of Amun-Re on SpielByWeb (here) with friends from London Mennonite Centre, which took about 6 months just to get started. (This is what you might expect from Mennonites and their leisurely style of decision-making.) The interface on SpielByWeb is nowhere near as pretty as MaBiWeb and does not have the option to confirm or reset your move. On the other hand MaBiWeb has been suffering from outages the last couple of weeks.

All in all, this is a great way to get some Euro-games played without setting aside dedicated time online to BrettSpielWelt, and I plan to continue with it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

At last! The recognition I deserve

I was interviewed by a journalist from the Guardian last night about my paragliding hobby. It was a phone interview - she does a small weekly column on people with ordinary jobs but extraordinary pastimes.I really enjoyed the experience - I don't often get the chance to talk at length about one of my obsessions with someone who genuinely wants to hear my answers! Most people nod politely for a few minutes then change the subject. It will probably go out in the Monday Guardian Media section in two or three weeks time. I will keep you posted....

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Player or Collector?....the sequel

Hmm. Maybe it's not as easy as I thought to shake off a well-embedded collector addiction.

Last Saturday morning saw me in the Post Office with my copy of Battle Cry, a wad of bubblewrap, and some scissors, packing the game into a newly purchased cardboard box (£2.79? You're joking!). Safely taped up, I took it to the counter to post off to my BoardGameGeek trade partner in the States who is sending me a brand-new Nexus Ops in return. "That will be £36.50 please," said the cashier, guiltily. "How much by surface?" I croaked, turning white. "That is by surface, sir. It's just over 2kg you see, which means you have to use ParcelForce. It's also too large to count as a small package."

Oh dear. A quick rejuvenating cappuchino to think things over, then back to the Post Office to buy some brown paper (99p) and rewrap the game, discarding the cardboard insert that fills half the gamebox with fresh air (98g, not insignificant). I proudly carried the completed parcel back to the counter. £9.30 this time, not so bad if I forget the cost of the unused cardboard box and the cappuchino. Not to mention the anxiety of worrying about my parcel getting squashed for the next few weeks until it arrives safely in the States. Hmm, I'm starting to wonder if trading on the Geek is really for me after all.

An hour later I was in Aldershot for a for a morale-raising visit to The Games Shop. They had End of the Triumvirates on the shelves (£29) which I duly picked up and turned over, tempted to make a purchase. But what's this? A fresh copy of Reef Encounter! Only £27, and much heavier than End of the Triumvirates too. Maybe I should buy this instead of Triumvirates? Or maybe I should skip Reef Encounter and buy Triumvirates? And then there was Beyond Valor (£59) lurking temptingly at the back of my mind and at the back of the shop. Indecisive and confused, I left without buying anything. OK I pre-ordered BattleLore but that hardly counts as a purchase, as no money changed hands (yet).

Oh yes, one other item I noticed before I left - a copy of Nexus Ops knocked down to £15. Roughly what I spent in the Post Office this morning......

Monday, October 30, 2006

Breakout Normandy (or not!)

I've been very busy lately, and so I was planning to have a quiet weekend on my own, enjoying my flat and the nearby countryside, and recharging my batteries.

By Saturday evening, being alone all weekend didn't seem such an attractive proposition, and I was also feeling seriously in need of some wargaming action. Something inside me snapped, and I called Dave....

By 2 o'clock on Sunday afternoon we were setting up Breakout Normandy in my living room. Dave was in high spirits - we used to play this a lot back in the nineties, and it was exciting to come back to it. The rules, however, were presenting quite an obstacle, and we got off to a slow start, constantly referencing the rule-book to make sure we had got the procedures more or less correct. The first turn of course is particularly complex as you have the D-day landings to work through with several special rules for the amphibious assault to worry about.

I was playing the Allies, and it went badly for me from the start. One naval bombardment and two air attacks on the coastal batteries around Omaha beach produced precisely nothing, and the inderdiction rolls knocked out about half of my units assaulting Omaha. And the assault rolls went really badly as well, and I forgot to use my Advantage for a mulligan. The end result - a pile of spent and disrupted units cowering on the shoreline at Omaha beach under intact German fortifications.

The other landings went a little better, but it took me 3 days to sort out the mess at Omaha, with a rescue mission from the Brits at Gold beach next-door valuable diverting resources from the fighting around Caen. So halfway through the game I was way behind any realistic timetable for getting the 10VP needed for victory, and I actually ended the game (at 11pm) with only 4VP (which was better than I had thought I would manage!)

One tactical highlight for me was clobbering a bunch of spent SS units in Bretteville with naval fire - in his haste to get them to the front Dave had forgotten how vulnerable a concentration of spent units can be to bombardment.

There is much to love about this game. Unlike many wargames, elimination of units is fairly unusual - the real struggle is against exhaustion and disruption. A D1 is a good result against a powerful unit - it means it won't be troubling you again until the day after tomorrow. And you are constantly struggling against the friction of bad assault results and enemy bombardments which can quickly leave you with an army which is largely unable to move or fight for the rest of the day or perhaps even longer. Even though my chances were largely ruined in the first turn through a combination of bad planning and bad luck, I enjoyed the rest of the game immensely - attempting to rescue the situation and get an effective offensive organised was fascinating and enjoyable, even though I had no real chance of winning. A classic wargame, and well worth dusting-off. Even if it does mean that I am not as rested this morning as I might have been.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I didn't make it to my local games group this week, but here's a report from Keith:

Had 4 players last night for Canal Mania (me, Les, Lance and Jon) ashamed to say the game still took 3.15 hrs altho' Jon had to learn the rules and Lance was telling us about Essen. And like our last encounter of Tempus when Lance pipped you by a point, I was miles out in front and was pipped by Lance by 1 point. (He's competed most contracts and I was 2nd=, reduced to 3rd on the value of the contracts). Another Dick Dastardly/ Devon Loch finish.....

Name of the games club? It has to be the Buena Vista Social Games Club.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Samurai again anyone?

Samurai went a bit better this time. I thought I was winning, but Jason snatched it away from me at the last minute. Another game anyone? "Princess Mononoke", password "nimrods".

Friday, October 20, 2006

Collect or Play?

What are you, a collector or a player?

A lot of my boardgaming activity this year has centred around wishlists, eBay, BGG trade manager,P500, game shops, maths trades, preorders, release schedules, and trips to Oxfam. Hobby activities have been buying, selling, trading, reorganising, reshelving, cataloguing and rating my games collection.

What's missing from this list?

Ah yes - actually playing the games. Not enough of that.

So this autumn i am making a concerted effort to stop collecting and start playing games.

To that end I am dipping my toe into Play-By-Email - so far on my second game of Samurai and having great fun!

I am inviting people to my home for game sessions.

I am seeking out opponents for 2-player wargames.

I am booked into Midcon in November for a long weekend of solid gamimg.

I will be playing on Vassal and BrettSpielWelt when I can.

I may have a go at email Diplomacy, for old times' sake.

I may even seek out a local ASL cell and see if I can get some coaching.

All in all, this could transform my hobby......

Creative Commons

I'm not sure how they are doing it, but people are stealing my great blogging ideas before I get around to posting them. Last week I was turning over ideas for a posting about BattleLore and how the information about how magic will work on the battlefield had been a bit of a turn-off for me, only to find that Mary had posted the same ideas (only better) before I even wrote mine down. Then a few days later I was planning to write an ironic piece on "Why I Hate Boardgaming", only to find that Yehuda had just posted a characteristically thorough treatment of the same idea.

Not sure what's going on here, or how these people are tapping into my creativity - but please stop it immediately!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Well that was all over very quickly! Mainly due to my incompetent play, our nimrods-readers-exclusive game of Samurai finished early with 4 ties. Anyone for another go? This time it's called "Nausicaa", password "nimrods".

Friday, October 13, 2006

More gaming last night with the Farnborough group. (Actually, since Keith moved only Trevor actually lives in Farnborough now, so maybe we should call it something else....). Les had asked me to introduce Tempus so, having got home from work a mere 15 minutes beforehand, and pausing only to grap Tempus, a beer and a bag of savoury snacks, I arrived at Les's flat barely on time and hastily set up the game. It proved fairly easy to teach - the game is straightforward and simple - but there was a foul-up at the end of turn one when Trevor attcked Les even though he only had three hexes. We had to rewind a few actions unfortunately which left Trevor with a rather boxed-in situation.

I have to admit I thought I was cruising to an easy victory, but I had underestimated Lance who beat me by one point to win with 23. I think I became fixated by that little aircraft at the end of the epoch track, and neglected to spread out into as many spaces as possible - not that many were available without a fight.

Biggest disappointment was the time - well over 3 hours for what is supposed to be a sub-2hr game. This group is remarkably slow, even compared to my Salisbury group (and I thought they were slow). I feel that they sometimes treat a gaming evening as a relaxing social time instead of what it obviously should be - a relentless, nose-to-the-table, time-trialled, blood-soaked boardgaming machine.

I like Tempus. I like the way it keeps everyone moving around the board in search of the latest fashion in tribal terrain - no chance of positions stagnating. I like the variable map. I like the simplicity and accessibility. I don't like the graphic design - it is almost impossible to distinguish black from purple pieces under electric light. And the murky terrain colurs are also puzzling sometimes. As are the city tiles. I will certainly be taking a paint brush to the purple wooden pieces in the near future, or replacing them with scavenged bits from another game....

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Festival of War 2006

Don't be too disturbed - it was not really a celebration of war, just a gathering of my old gaming friends from Salisbury to play a few games - especially two-player wargames - and spend some time eating and drinking together. Dave and Steve were first to arrive on Friday morning, closely followed by John, but Nick didn't turn up until 6 and insisted on a few pints in the Railway Exchange when he did arrive. It was ideal gaming weather on Friday - pouring with rain - so we had no qualms about staying indoors hunched over the tables. The weather did improve as the weekend went on but failed to lure us outside, except for a quick trip to the local game shop on Saturday afternoon, where we spent so much between us that we managed to negotiate a rare discount!

A quick run-down of what was played:


2 games of C&C Ancients, both times the Bagradas scenario. John's Romans beat me in a close struggle. Steve and Dave's game was abandoned due to player incompetence.

Dave's USA lost to Steve in the 3rd turn of Twilight Struggle.

I started a game of Twilight Struggle with John.

After dinner John beat us all at Through the Desert. In case you're wondering, this "John won" theme continued throughout the weekend. Sometimes I'm tempted to just not invite him....


My USA lost to John's Glasnost card on turn 8 of Twilight Struggle.

Meanwhile Nick gained an unprecedented Euphrat & Tigris victory over Dave and Steve.

After the game shop binge, we played a much anticipated game of Struggle of Empires. I really enjoyed this, even though my Netherlands was condemned by Nick's aggressive bidding to alliance with Steve for most of the game - being the 2-player alliance in a 5-player game we usually got the worst of it. John won (again!) Unfortunately there were some post-match recriminations as I prepared dinner - Dave felt that Nick had reneged on an agreement. My feeling was, more fool Dave for trusting Nick in the first place! I was a bit surprised by all this - one of the charms of Struggle of Empires for me is that the alliance auction removes the scope for a lot of the negotiation and unpleasantness that you often get in multi-player empire-building games. But I suppose there is still room for a bit of deal-making and breaking if you really want it.

Pacified by dinner we sat down to a Wings of War dogfight - no room for negotiations here! I managed to fly off the table again, but the others were kind and let me off. In the end I was shot down by John's Nieuport.

It was getting late so I pulled out Um Krone und Kragen as a light filler. Surprisingly Nick and Steve found it anything but light - in fact Steve dropped out altogether pleading his brain was fried. I won this one (not John!)


Sunday morning saw folks leaving for journeys home, but Dave and I had one last game of C&C Ancients, the Trebbia scenario. Dave (with Steve's help) took Carthage. The Mago ambush never materialized, but it was a knife-edge struggle. Dave's phalanx did great things, as did the elephant "Stompy", but Stompy died in the end, and I just scraped a 7-6 victory. What a great way to end our festival. Wargaming doesn't get much better than this!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Let's see if anyone still reads this rag....

Does anyone fancy a play-by-email game of the Reiner Knizia classic Samurai? Go over to MaBiWeb and sign up for a game named "Spirited Away" with password "nimrods". See you there!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Death of Blogging

Well, I still am enjoying my time off work - I have been doing some more paraglidng this week. Yesterday was an especially....


Er, yes, OK. It's just that yesterday was a particularly good day at Butser Hill, and I....


Well, not much to be honest. I started soloing an ASLSK scenario.


S2 "War of the Rats".


I didn't finish. I cleared it down again, so that I could set up Twilight Struggle.


I'm trying to learn the rules of Twilight Struggle ready to play it with Dave this weekend.


Well I've been doing some clearing out of my games collection. I took a few down to Oxfam (Star Wars Monopoly, a Compendium, something else I have forgotten already) and I have been doing some trading on BoardGameGeek - I swapped Medieval for Tyros and sold Triumph and Glory. I also want to trade away the D&D Boardgame and the 1995 Acquire, but no takers so far. Plus I have an auction currently running on eBay for Grand Illusion.


Oh, I was forgetting, I met up with Les in the pub on Monday.




Aton - I enjoyed that. It felt like a big game in a small box. I suppose it's an area control game of sorts, with a few clever variations on the theme. I won (just). Then we played BattleLine....


....where Les scraped a victory after a hard struggle. Finally we played Um Krone Und Kragen. I ran away with that one, and I'm not sure if Les enjoyed it much - he was struggling to read the icons on the cards.


Well, not really. But there will be more - lot's more - this weekend. After the success of last year, I am holding the Festival of War again at my home, from Friday through to Saturday. Nick, Dave, John and possibly Phil and Steve are expected to come.


Well, let's say I'm heading in that direction. But it's just a gaming weekend really, with an emphasis on 2-player wargaming. That's the idea anyway - last year it was mostly drunken Beowulf.


OK, will do. But, er.... who are you anyway? You remind me of a character from a Terry Pratchett book.... what was he called now?....


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Flying with Kestrels

Tuesday afternoon at Butser Hill, clipped into the harness, with my wing laid out tidily behind me on the grass. Looking westwards out over the Hampshire countryside, watching the cumulus clouds rolling in towards the hill. Each puffy, building cloud represents a thermal, warm air released from ploughed fields baking in the sun. I have already flown once today, a one-minute fiasco that ended with a much-too-fast slope landing and quarter of an hour unpicking my wing from a bush.

There are four of us flying here today, and this is only my second time at Butser. Although this is my local hill I have only recently summoned the courage to join the club. The young guy with long hair - who annoyed everyone by turning up and flying without speaking to anyone - launched a couple of minutes ago and immediately sunk out of sight. This is a narrow ridge with complicated bowls and spurs - it doesn't generate much dynamic lift, you are reliant on thermals for soaring. Last time I was here Shippo, the septuagenarian club coach, tipped me off about the magic tree visible further down the slope from launch - when its leaves start rustling there is probably a thermal on its way up the slope.

Sure enough, the leaves of the magic tree have started frantically waving around, even though it is fairly still up here at launch. I quickly turn to face my wing and arrange my hands with crossed risers. I am nervous of reverse launches - having done lots of winching at Green Dragons I am happier with forward launching. I can feel the wind strengthening on the back of my neck, so I hastily switch the vario on, then pull gently on the risers to inflate the wing. It comes up beautifully with a rushing sound as I take one step towards it, brake gently, then turn and lean forwards in the harness, pushing down the slope as it lifts me into the air. The ground rushes by a few feet below me then drops away as I settle into the seat, then - whoa! - as I approach the hedge I am lifted strongly skywards. Carefully I turn right along the line of the hedge, then follow the contours of the ridge trending away northwards, vario bleeping enthusiastically as I continue to gain height. The landscape is opening up but I am captivated by the sight of a kestrel hovering about 30 feet below me. As I approach his airspace he stoops, and I see him grasping at the grass with outstretched talons, groping for a luckless mouse or shrew, before he gives it up and leaps into the air again.

I make a left turn, trying to keep it flat with some opposite brake, then cruise back down the ridge. Launch looks far below, though it can't be much more than 100ft, and I imagine Pete and Jan are watching me enviously - Pete raises a camera to his face. Ahead to the south I can see clear to the coast around Chichester. There is lots of lift coming off the magic tree, and I turn away from the ridge, trying to make the most of it, then left again into the bowl which funnels the air skyward, pushing me higher as I turn right again for the return trip. And so it goes on for 10 minutes, other flyers joining me in the air to enjoy these moments of grace. Again I watch the kestrel stoop and come away empty-handed. And later a buzzard cruise below me on the opposite tack, only a few feet below. I can see every detail of her mottled plumage and the delicate twists of her tail that control her flight with perfect precision.

Then suddenly it's gone. The warm lifting air has moved on, and I quickly lose height. I decide to try for a top-landing - not something I have managed very often, and come in over launch with lots of ground speed, and the trees approaching quickly. This time I keep my head and as the ground approaches I turn away into wind, keeping the brakes on, and drop gently onto the ground, whooping with exhileration. Back to earth, bound by gravity again, having inhabited - for brief, privileged moments - the realm of the kestrels and buzzards.......

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I visited my friendly local game shop today - I am currently enjoying 2 weeks, yes 2 weeks off work - and this is the sort of idle thing I can afford to do with this vast tract of empty time. Reef Encounter caught my eye - a nice heavy box of pretty stuff for £27. And I was tempted by another even heavier box - Beyond Valor (£59), gateway to the black hole that we call ASL. And then there was tempting small fry like Tigris & Euphrates Card Game, Gang of Four, and various Age of Steam maps. But, like a long-period comet, I kept returning to the same shelf, and its Runebound (2nd Edition). I picked it up - I turned it over and looked at the blurb - I put it back on the shelf - I returned 5 minutes later - I studied the blurb this time - I went back round the shop - I came back to study the expansion sets and the card decks - they looked really cool - this looks like a hobby in its own right. But do I even like generic-fantasy-themed games? And would I ever find anyone to play this with? But it looks like it could play pretty well solo? But £35 is quite a lot of money.

In the end I walked away empty-handed. But I may well be back......

Friday, September 22, 2006

Book Meme

I just noticed that Yehuda has tagged me with this Book meme. These are just the sort of questions I love to answer, so here goes....

1. Book that changed your life.

The Bible of course, specifically the gospels. Pretty much every word that C.S. Lewis ever wrote. More recently True Conversion (Wallis), The Openness of God (Pinnock) and How Going to the Movies Helped Save My Soul (Higgins) have made a huge impact.

2. Book read more than once.

The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien), War and Peace (Tolstoy), The Worm Ourobouros (Eddison), Tristram Shandy (Sterne), any of Jane Austen's books. Actually I reread books quite a lot, there are many more I could add to this list. Not quite sure what this says about me - I prefer safety? I spend too much time reading? I'm too mean to buy new books?

3. Book on a Desert Island.

BBC rules - I'm allowed the Bible and Shakespeare anyway? On top of those I think I would want the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations - gives you a window into the whole history of Western thought and culture.

4. Book that made you laugh.

High Fidelity (Hornby), all of Patrick O'Brian's books.

5. Book that made you cry.

Hmm. I don't cry easily, but Persuasion (Austen) gets to me every time.

6. Book you wish you'd written.

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (Jon McGregor). I loved this book, then heard the author speak at Greenbelt last month, and he made me feel that writing is not only a marvellous thing, but a possible thing too......

7. Book you wish had never been written.

Very hard to say this about any book - I hate the book-burning mentality. I don't think we ever improve the situation by suppressing ideas - not de Sade, not Hitler even.....

8. Book currently reading.

Empire of the Sun (Ballard), which was my choice for our next book group meeting (I belong to a fabulous book group in Richmond West London).
I have also been stuck in the middle of Boswell for several years now.....

9. Book meaning to read.

Don Quixote (Cervantes). And I really will, soon, it's there on the bookshelf waiting for me....

10 Tags ...

Phil, Rob&Bob, Annie, Mayank, Gareth

Tempus - is it Coffee or is it Tea?

Once I was drinking a cup of coffee and wondering why it tasted so disgusting. Half way through my drink I realized that it was a cup of tea. The second half tasted just fine - once my brain was no longer confused by misleading expectations, I was able to enjoy the familiar beverage as usual.

I have just listened to Tom Vasel's interview with Martin Wallace, and I think I have understood something about Tempus. It's not a WarFrog game, it's a Martin Wallace design that is published by a German games company, and it's aimed squarely at the family strategy games market. So if you sit down to Tempus expecting a Civilization-type gamer's game - you're expecting the wrong flavour. Your brain will be confused and you won't enjoy it. But if you expect a fairly light game that aims to give German-style gamers their first taste of empire-building in a short, slick package, I think Tempus delivers this in spades.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Mystery Game

Smatt (weird name) debuts today at Gone Gaming with a post about the Nepalese game "Tigers and Goats". Which brought back memories of my 2001 trip to Nepal - hence these scans of a couple of consecutive pages from my trip diary. While I was out there I saw this game for sale all over the place, but I never saw anyone actually playing it. Which makes me wonder if it is more for the benefit of the tourists than a popular folk game in its own right.
A game I did see being played, with great enthusiasm by a crowd of idlers in a village called Birethanti (at the entrance to the Annapurna National Park) involved two dice, a bag, and little piles of shells in various places in a semi-circle. You can see below the sketch of the game that I made. A difficult hand-waving conversation with my porter yielded the (tentative) information that it was a Tibetan gambling game called Sho. But I have never found anything about it on the Internet, and if anyone out there knows any more I would be very interested to hear from you.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Think of it as a Game of Darts

This is me last weekend doing a tow launch at the Open National Paragliding Championships. Note the superb technique. It was my first ever flying competition, and I had a great, if low scoring, time. There were about 20 competitors, including some very fine flyers and at least one former world champion, so I was a bit out of my depth!

Think of it as a game of darts - and you are the dart! They mow a 10m radius target on the field, and the idea is for us to release from the winch cable, fly back to the target and land on it as accurately as possible. We got one practise and 6 competition rounds done over the course of the weekend. The sky-gods were making scores like 15 or 30cm. My best two results were 2.1m and 3.1m - that's right, a different unit of measurement for me. All the other rounds I missed the target completely! It is an incredibly subtle and delicate judgement - you are estimating your ground speed and sink rate, the wind speed and direction at various heights, not to mention the little thermals popping off the grass at random intervals. You have to be able to think very fast in 3 dimensions. It boggles me how the sky-gods can consistently make such tiny scores. Unbelievably skillful!

The feeling of achievement when I did manage to get my boots down inside the circles was amazing. It felt almost as good as buying a permanent train in 1830. I definitely want to get some more practise in next season, and compete again.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Maths Trade Madness

Well the UK Maths Trade finished on Wednesday. I suppose I fondly imagined that the trade resolving software would work some kind of magic, whereby I would get rid of 3 items of old tat from under my bed, and receive in return 3 exciting new games in shrink-wrap. It didn't quite work like that - no-one wanted a copy of Dampfross with the pens dried out, or of Slick! the obscure cousin of Railway Rivals, complete with its original tube. However I did get rid of an ancient copy of Sorceror's Cave, with The Sherlock Holmes Card Game thrown in as a sweetener. The trade circle is interesting:

I send Sorceror's Cave to someone who sends...
Shadows over Camelot to someone who sends...
Blue Moon (German) to someone who sends...
Formula Motor Racing to someone who sends...
Dungeons and Dragons the Boardgame to me!

I feel a bit sorry for the guy who swaps his shrink-wrapped Shadows over Camelot for my ancient Sorceror's Cave (perhaps he's a Sherlock Holmes fan?) but the other trades look mostly kind-of reasonable.

An interesting exercise - it's very exciting reading the list every day and wondering what you will end up with. Next time I will try trading something a bit more valuable. Advanced Civilization anyone?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Like, Wow....

I got a mention on this week's, in their "testimonial of the week", for my posting about Treehouse. So, here's a warm welcome to any visiting hippy-gamers:

Peace Dudes!

My So-Called Games Hobby

I finished another solo game of Ancients last night - sad isn't it? This time it was Ticinus River, the cavalry and light infantry engagement. My impression was that this looks very difficult for the Romans - how are you going to stop your light infantry being overwhelmed by those heavy cavalry lined up opposite? And the back edge of the board is much too close (there's one hazard that the historical commanders didn't have to worry about!) So the very first priority was to get those light infantry forward, even if it was into the face of the heavy cavalry, just to give them some room to evade or retreat. As it worked out the Carthaginian right wing was immobilized for the whole game, through lack of cards, and their assault on the Roman right turned into a disaster - never use light troops to close-assault anything but other lights, no matter how outnumbered the enemy look. In the end, against the odds, the Romans won an overwhelming victory. Rome 6, Carthage 1.

I also downloaded the latest VASSAL module yesterday. After all this intensive training I feel almost ready to risk an online opponent.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Yes to Blogs, No to Consimworld?

Days of Wonder are using a blog to keep us informed about their new Commands and Colors game BattleLore. This is a great idea - fans can add their comments, but the rest of us don't have to read them if we don't want to. Unlike many of the forums on ConsimWorld, the interesting stuff from the design team is not drowned out by a stream of chatter and bitching from the gaming "community".

I gave up reading the GMT Games forum on Consimworld a couple of years ago because of the extremely low signal to noise ratio. I had to wade through so much rubbish - baseball chatter, whining, flamewars, Richard Berg insulting people, dumb suggestions for new games - just to get the latest news from GMT. But I miss a sense of connection with what is going on at GMT. I wish they would just give up Consimworld as a bad job, and start a company blog instead.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More Ancients News

GMT have also posted a bonus pack with 5 more battles from the Truceless War. One of them uses those war machine blocks we have been wondering about!

New Ancients Scenarios

GMT have posted a new scenario booklet for Commands & Colors: Ancients. As well as the 3 bonus scenarios originally supplied with pre-orders only, it also has two brand-new scenarios: Bagradas and Great Plains. I tried them both solo at the weekend.

Bagradas was fairly evenly matched. The Carthaginian elephants advanced behind their cloud of skirmishers pushing into the Roman screen of light infantry, it was spectacular. Eventually the elephants broke through into the Roman line and did quite a bit of damage. The clincher was a Carthaginian Double-Time card which brought the phalanx into contact with the Romans and won the battle. Carthage 7, Rome 3.

Great Plains seems less balanced. It's hard to see how the Carthaginians could win this one - they are outnumbered and they only have 4 cards to the Romans' 6. They made the most of the slingers' longer range as the battle opened, but pressure from Roman cavalry on the Carthaginian right, plus the relentless grind of the Roman line in the centre, wore them down. Hasdrubal was killed in combat, and their centre dissolved for a convincing Roman victory. Rome 6, Carthage 4.

Ancients is very enjoyable solo when opponents are in short supply. I remove the Strike First and Counter-Attack cards, and don't look at the new card drawn until that side's turn comes round again. I even have a chair on each side of the table - it makes for a lot of getting up and walking around, but it helps me put myself in the shoes of the side whose turn I am taking at the moment.

Friday, September 08, 2006

I watched "A Scanner Darkly" yesterday at Covent Garden Odeon. I left the cinema wanting to see it again as soon as possible - there is just so much to think about and notice in the film. A really striking film - several things struck me in fact:

1) The incredible technique used to create the animated look. Every shot looks stunning. The shifting images and colours are used to build the atmosphere of paranoia and doubtful appearances. The close-ups of Arctor inside his scramble suit use a different technique - they seem to have been drawn, giving an extra intensity to his isolation inside his hidden identity.

2) For a Hollywood thriller, there is almost no violence - just an imagined incident and some horseplay in Arctor's house - except of course for the hidden act of gradual but extreme violence that is at the dark centre of the film.

3) Nevertheless the tension builds unbearably, and is not resolved at the end of the film. You leave the cinema with that tension still stuck in your gut. 24 hours later I'm still processing it.

4) It's a quiet film. Usually at the cinema the idiots next door munching bags of crisps get drowned out by the soundtrack. Not in this film - I heard every rustle and munch. What music there is, is all Radiohead. Very appropriate.

5) Biblical references - I counted four - are used to add resonances not of hope but of despair.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Check out the latest UK Math Trade - I'm hoping to unload some of my ancient history!

(Thanks Iain for the tip.)

It's my PRECIOUS!!

Dave arrived on my doorstep yesterday evening, all the way from Salisbury and full of enthusiasm for another War of the Ring session (with the beautifully painted figures, isn't they, Precious.) I took the Shadow this time - it's quite a while since I was on this side of the fence, and I enjoyed it a lot - brooding in my dark tower, gathering numberless hosts of minions, sending forth my Nazgul to spread terror abroad, and launching waves of dark armies to enslave the world.

There were a couple of highlights in the game: Dave sent Gandalf to Erebor to rouse the dwarves and gather an army, which attacked a large army of Easterlings in the Vale of Carnen and destroyed it! Unfortunately for Dave there was another army of orcs close behind who found the defenders of Erebor nicely depleted by their victory. Another time the Witch King returned to Angmar and marched against Rivendell, taking it after a long and bitter seige.

The struggle ended with the fall of Dol Amroth, sealing a military victory for me, with the fellowship yet to reach Mordor.

I really enjoy the sense of story in this game, the way it follows a narrative arc towards a definite and rapidly approaching conclusion. At the moment every playing is dramatic and different, it's hard to imagine it becoming stale for a long while yet.

Friday, September 01, 2006

OK I know this is a board games blog, but you need to have a look at this.

The machinery of gaming has run amok.

Instead of serving creative vision, it suppresses it. Instead of encouraging innovation, it represses it. Instead of taking its cue from our most imaginative minds, it takes its cue from the latest month's PC Data list. Instead of rewarding those who succeed, it penalizes them with development budgets so high and royalties so low that there can be no reward for creators. Instead of ascribing credit to those who deserve it, it seeks to associate success with the corporate machine.

It is time for revolution.


I had to cancel a game session with my local group last night because I was working late. And a long-awaited Rommel in the Desert session with Iain tomorrow fell victim to Iain's family pressures.

Adult life, eh? My gaming life at the moment seems to consist of reading gameblogs, occasional visits to game shops, reading rules - but never actually playing the games. All foreplay and no main event. Sad isn't it?

Music, Mud and Muesli

Greenbelt was good again. I didn't see so much music this year - I think the real strength of Greenbelt lies in its talks and seminars. However I did spend an hour on stage with a full-on rock band! This was on Saturday morning when I was helping to lead a worship service with The Burn Band - don't worry, I didn't sing, I was just doing a few readings. But with the lights and the mikes and the music - I felt like a star!

Many highlights this year: Andrew Motion doing a reading; sessions from Steve Turner on the Beatles and Johnny Cash; Vic Thiessen on the myth of redemptive violence in film; Jon McGregor ("If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things") on the process of writing; Jim Wallis on God's politics; Juliet Turner singing to an audience of twenty in the Sticky Music tent, with as much commitment as if we were thousands.

No gaming was done, unless you count noodling with an Icehouse solitaire game in a little coffee tent - as always the coloured pyramids drew questions from curious onlookers.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Two Things

1) London is great. Yesterday I discovered a cool little street around the back of Waterloo station called Lower Marsh. It's just a few steps away from the office, and it has several interesting bookshops (a classy independent, a second-hand, a military specialist, and a remainders), a wind instruments shop, and a classical CD shop full of bargains. Lazy lunchbreaks beckon.

2) I'm off to Greenbelt today. I am also taking my wing and may visit a Welsh hill afterwards if the wind is right. See you next week.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I Remember When This Was All Zines

It was 1990 or thereabouts when I bought a copy of Diplomacy from a toy shop in Salisbury. I think I must have been at a loose end - I remember writing down a list of potential hobbies with "For" and "Against" columns beside each one. I can't remember what the other potential hobbies were, or whether this was before or after my Diplomacy purchase, but it must have been after, because the hobby I was deciding to take up was Postal Diplomacy. Inside my new purchase - the first game I had bought since my teenage years, and the second copy of Diplomacy I had ever owned - was a flyer, written by a man named Danny Collman, who published a zine called "Springboard". I didn't even know what a zine was at the time, but I remember the excitement of receiving Springboard every month. Even now the smell of gestetner ink brings it all flooding back. I remember my first postal Diplomacy game, played to monthly deadlines - it took about 2 years to complete! I used to take a fat folder on the train to work every day with paper, carbon paper, envelopes, stamps, Diplomacy maps, and a bundle of letters from other players that I would sift through, trying to decide who I could trust.

"The Hobby" was very well organised for welcoming newcomers back then - not only was there Danny with his flyer and Springboard, there was also something called.... er.... "The Welcome Pack" (I think) which was a booklet with an introduction to postal gaming, and strategy articles for all 7 powers in Diplomacy. The pack also included a bundle of sample zines, which led to me subscribing to "Electric Monk".

Electric Monk was a very different proposition to Springboard. It was slickly produced on a laser printer as an A5 booklet, illustrated with Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, and each game adjudication included a map - so I didn't have to draw my own any more!

Playing a game in Electric Monk I came up against Vick Hall, who was just starting his own zine "A Little Original Sin". Vick was a persuasive man and before long I found myself producing my own 4-page subzine "The Dissecting Room" which used to go out with ALOS every month. I would laboriously type this up on my Psion Series 3 on the train, print it out back home and literally cut and paste it together with some illustrations before posting it off to Vick. I ran a couple of games - Colonial Diplomacy, and Cannibalism (?) - and found this to be a substantial workload. To this day I don't understand how so many editors managed to faithfully produce their zines month after month, adjudicating dozens of games by hand.

There was a real buzz about the "zine scene" back then. The PC revolution had made it all possible - desktop publishing was an affordable reality at last. But that same revolution, in the shape of the internet, would sweep it all aside by the end of the decade.

I subscribed to other zines as well. "NERTZ (Now Eat The Rabbit)" particularly sticks in my mind. This was the opposite of slick. The insanely clever William Whyte pasted scribbled or badly typed material on top of pages ripped from old comic books. The end result was often deeply unintelligible but fascinating - I used to spend hours poring over NERTZ trying to decipher William's thoughts on "Godel Escher and Bach" or the latest Railway Rivals adjudications.

And then there was ManorCon, The Hobby's annual convention at Birmingham University in leafy Edgbaston, which was an annual pilgrimage for me for many years. 3 days of non-stop gaming, stuffed into a students' dining hall with 300 other sweaty guys on what was always without exception the hottest weekend of the year. Bliss.

There are still a few postal Diplomacy zines around of course, but the excitement has gone out of the scene now. Instead of "wave of the future" the atmosphere is more "hanging on against the odds". It was inevitable I suppose, but I still miss the heady days of the 90's when zines ruled the gaming world. Pass me that bottle of gestetner ink.....

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pub Games

I spent a pleasant evening in The Fox in South Farnham yesterday, playing games with the ever-genial Les. Three enjoyable new experiences:

1) Tribute ale from St Austell's in Cornwall.

2) Einfach Genial, the little two-player version. This is Reiner in typical "torture the players" mode - lots of difficult decisions, hard-thinking required. One of those abstract games that is so symmetrical and graceful it almost looks discovered rather than designed. Les beat me, but by the slimmest margin.

3) Um Krone und Kragen, on its first outing since I bought it in a kitchenware shop in Austria. Gorgeous to look at, fast-playing and involving, we enjoyed this a lot. Les got to the King first, and in the final round my 9 6's were beaten by his 10 3's.

There is certainly a category of games I own that I think of as "pub games". To qualify a game must be:

a) For two players. For a relaxing evening with a pint and a friend.

b) Portable. You don't want to be humping a holdall full of big-box games into the bar. The 2-player Kosmos games are ideal. Dvonn and Yinsh, though superb in other ways, are a little too big for this purpose.

c) Compact on the table. You don't want to make yourself a nuisance to other drinkers by spreading out too much. Um Krone und Kragen is almost too spreadout - we were lucky and had a largeish table to ourselves yesterday. BattleLine is just about OK. Blue Moon is ideal.

d) Reasonably short play-time, or at least episodic like Blue Moon so that you have natural breaks for visiting the bar.

e) Not too stretching mentally. You're relaxing with a beer after all. ASL Starter Kit probably disqualifies itself here.

Looking at this list, it strikes me that Magic the Gathering would fit the bill exactly. I have a few decks at home, never used. Must try them out with Les some time.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Mike Barton has posted three first-class strategy articles about ASL Starter Kit#1 on BGG. Well-written strategy tips always get me drooling to play (or buy) the game. If I was a games company I would send freebies to people like Mike who do so much to keep interest in a game alive.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Work-Game Balance

I had to cancel a gaming session yesterday evening because I was working late. Just how late would only become fully apparent later - I didn't finish until 1am this morning! I was particularly annoyed because I was hosting this session, and so by a universally acknowledged but unwritten rule, I got to choose the game! I was going to put Elasund, or perhaps Tempus, on the table, and was very excited about either of those choices.

This is clearly a sign that my life is seriously out of balance. Which led me to meditate on what would be needed to attain a harmonious Work-Game balance in my life. Here are some of the key requirements that flitted through my mind this morning while I lingered in that horrible post-working-late-exhausted-and-trying-to-sleep-but-still-stoked-on-adrenaline state before drifting off.

1) You need a home of your own, with plenty of storage space (for games) and floor space (for game tables to be set up and left with long running games on them).

2) You probably need to avoid marriage, and you definitely need to avoid having children. The little buggers play havoc with your free time, not to mention choking on your meeples at any opportunity. Ruins the meeples.

3) You don't want a mortgage, as this means you will have to do a proper job with long hours. Note this conflicts slightly with requirement 1.

4) You should choose a quiet little part-time job, somewhere calm like a book-shop or a library where you can think about strategies or your next blog entry.

5) You need lots of disposable income to buy the latest Knizias or to fuel your ASL addiction. A credit card is indispensible for all those online retailers, eBay bargains, and GMT pre-orders. Note this conflicts slightly with requirement 4.

6) You need a regular, satisfying sex-life, so that you don't waste all your evenings chasing women instead of playing games. Note this conflicts slightly with requirement 2. But don't worry guys, this will become less of an issue as you approach old-age.

7) You need lots of opponents living nearby who can also meet these criteria. A friend of mine says that when he wins the lottery he will pay us all a salary so we can play games with him every day. My response is a) you're not going to win the lottery and b) you may have underestimated my hourly rate.

I only meet three of those - I'm not telling you which - no wonder I'm having problems.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Ethical Game Shopper

I sometimes wonder about all those plastic soldiers in Memoir 44. I really appreciated the fact that I did not have to remove them all from a sprue before I could play the game - but there must have been a sprue once. You can't make plastic soldiers without a sprue, right? So someone must have painstakingly and carefully taken them off their sprue, one by one, countless thousands of them, day after day. Who did this tedious and finger-hurting job for me? I guess it was someone in China, I wonder if it was a man or a woman or (God forbid) a child? I wonder what sort of room they worked in, was it properly ventilated, with decent toilets available? How many hours a day did they work? Did they get regular breaks? Were they allowed to belong to a union?

There are other things I would like to know about the games that I (so obsessively) collect.

All this paper, cardboard and wood, is it made from renewable forests, or even recycled pulp? Where is it made? Is it made in a way that minimizes pollution of the air and the water? How toxic are the paint, ink and bleaching agents used?

How much carbon is released during the manufacture of these games? What about their transport from cheap manufacturers in the East to their markets in Europe and North America? I want to know about game-miles as well as food-miles.

I want to know if the workers who made my games had security of employment, a fair wage, union representation, and reasonable working hours?

On these criteria I suspect that North American wargames (with their ethically dubious themes!) would probably score more highly than many Euros (with their more innocuous themes) which I suspect are often manufactured offshore in order to provide all the pretty bits we love so much at a price we are willing to pay for them.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

And yes it's Black

Well I finally did it - last week the price of the 30Gb iPod dropped a fiver on Amazon, and that was all the prompting I needed to press the Add to Shopping Basket button. I've got my entire pop/rock collection ripped to disk (but not my much larger classical collection - yet), and I've installed that fairly fragile Yahoo widget for downloading the album art, so I'm all ready to wire myself for sound.

Strangely, I waited until my colleague Mayank was not in the office before making the purchase. I wonder if this indicates a degree of residual guilt at my high levels of elective spending?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Weekend in WW2

Today we have a guest posting from my son Phil. There are many great things about Phil, one of which is his liking for tactical wargames. He also has his own blog. Today Phil brings us an after action report from last weekend when we played scenarion S3 "A Simple Equation" from the ASL Starter Kit.

It's a rare day when I call my Dad and tell him I "fancy playing a game". However, this weekend the call of the Nimrod was too strong, and I returned to the arena of many a triumph and failure to have a crack at ASL:Starter Kit, one of the least excitingly named games I have ever played.

Dad and I have played this lite version of ASL a couple of times before, and have always enjoyed it, so we had high expectations. Choosing the Aachen scenario, we set up, full of excitement and "Band of Brothers" quotes.

As the Germans, Dad had to defend a large group of buildings at all cost. As the Americans, it was my job to take control of these buildings in a pretty stingy time limit.

It is noteworthy that the first hour was wasted trying to get back to grips with the rules. If this is the simple version, I dread to think what the full, hardcore version is like. I doubt it's much fun.

Halfway through it looked distinctly like I was moving too slowly, probably taking a little too much care over the lives of my men, and worrying too much about maintaining a nice shape. Dad had taken some casualties, but was holding firm, and I hadn't even begun to take objectives.

However, in the last few turns the hard preparatory work paid off, and the Americans broke through the German front line. Once up close and personal, the superior equipment, leaders and morale of the Americans paid off, and with a quick scramble on my last turn I was able to secure the mandatory number of buildings to win!

This is a great game, of that there is no doubt. The rules are sufficiently detailed to challenge, not so crazy as to put you off for life. And the gameplay itself - well, it's fast paced, exciting, and realistic (as far as I can see). Particular respect must be given to the subtle distinctions in the rules: pinned versus broken; first fire, final fire, firing at range; rates of movement; it's all really great at capturing the decisions needed in the middle of battle (again, as far as I can see).

It is possible that the Germans have an impossible task in this scenario. I do think, however, that Dad didn't line up as effectively as he could have, and I think this led to his downfall. Still, he's a worthy adversary, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Monday, August 14, 2006


There was a sign on the door of Playin' Games:

"WANTED STORE MANAGER. Must have relevant experience"

Wow, I thought, that would be fun! I wonder how much it pays? Hmm, I don't have any experience of managing a store. But I could speak knowledgeably about almost any game you have in stock, does that count?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Sashinka, one of my favourite non-game-bloggers, is currently spotting Islamic games in shop windows....

Scoring Opponents

We all used to spend many happy hours browsing the now sadly defunct BoardGameGeek for game ratings, setting great store by the single point difference between a 7.3 and a 7.4, and carefully pushing our own scores into the mix as well. But just as big a factor in my enjoyment of a game session is the quality of my opponents. I would MUCH rather play an average game with a polite, considerate, friendly, speedy opponent, than play a totally excellent game against a whining, over-competitive rules-lawyer with a bag of crisps in his hand.

When BGG comes back (and what if it never comes back? what a terrifying thought! I hope they take regular backups!!) I propose a new ratings system that will allow us to score our opponents as well. The scale would go something like this:

10: Excellent, playing against this person is better than sex.
7: Good, will usually play this person.
5: Average, I can take him or leave him.
3: Truly obnoxious, I will always look for an excuse not to play this person.
1: Last time I played him I changed my mobile phone, my email address, and moved to another town.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Tempus Run

I got out of work early yesterday and strolled over the Hungerford bridge in the sunshine and through Covent Garden towards Belgravia. The destination? A wonderful establishment on Museum Street called Playin' Games. Long-suffering Sue was with me - she very effectively concealed her excitement at her first visit to a full-blown games shop.

A quick scan round the ground floor, then plunging down to the basement where they keep the hard-core stuff - and there it was, a shelf stacked with several new copies of Tempus. So one of those was purchased on the spot - thanks to £35 of eBay takings transferred from my PayPal account - and I also picked up two IceHouse stashes (Black and White). I am noodling with the idea of a Europe Engulfed inspired IceHouse game, and I need a few extra colours. (It's probably totally unacceptable to feel this way, but black would be sooo cool for the Germans!) Looney Labs have started selling their pyramids in mixed colour Treehouse sets, but Playin' Games have a box-full of old-style monochrome stashes at £6 each so get them while you still can!

Then it was over to the Orc's Nest where I put my foot seriously in my mouth by asking if they have any Games Workshop black spray paint. Back came a sniffy response that they "never touch that stuff". Oops! It just looks like the kind of place that would - my mistake. It's funny how much bad feeling about Games Workshop still lingers in certain sections of the hobby.

First impressions of Tempus? Expensive for a Warfrog design - we've got used to these being bargain purchases at the £25 mark. Dodgy graphics - as soon as I opened the box I was wondering what Mike Doyle could do with this. Nice solid components, it's all going to work physically. Easily the most comprehensible ruleset we have seen from Martin Wallace so far. Very simple rules, no stunning new ideas, but I expect it to play nicely as a light empire-building and progression game, sort of in the same space as Vinci, but probably more interesting. Now to persuade my local group to try it.....

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Case Against Consimworld, part 2

Let me give you a couple more examples.

Sword of Rome, as published, has a very simple if unusual combat resolution system, which has the possibility of producing surprising outcomes when the opposing forces are strongly mismatched. Now Wray Ferrell had spent the last few years reading and thinking about the period, and many of us were prepared to believe he knew what he was doing. It was simple, it worked as a game, and if there is one thing you learn if you read any history at all, it's not to be surprised by "surprising outcomes". Nevertheless, a small but vocal bunch of grognards set up the cry of "historically inaccurate!" by which they really meant "it doesn't fit with my narrow ideas of how a wargame should work" - I don't believe these people have any serious knowledge of history at all. Poor Wray, a novice designer, caved in to pressure, and now we are all stuck with a messy exception to what was once an elegant and interesting mechanic. What is worse, I believe the end result is possibly less historically accurate than before, as it eliminates the possibility of those shock upsets that are a regular feature of military history.

Barbarossa to Berlin - this time we are dealing with an experienced designer with a stellar reputation. Soon after its release, some grognards on Consimworld started who whine that they had lost as the Soviets because they did not get a big reinforcement card in their initial hand. Ted's reply, very properly, was "It's a card-driven-wargame, one of the skills you need is to play with the hand you're dealt." Nevertheless, the outcry continued, with howls of "It's broken!" In the end Ted allowed himself to be browbeaten into adding a messy mulligan rule, which can have the Soviet player hunting through the deck looking for the card he wants. But why play a card-driven-wargame at all if you want that degree of scripting?

As Chris pointed out in his comments yesterday, what is really needed is for the designers to grow some balls. As an honourable example, I present to you Rick Young, novice (at the time) designer of Europe Engulfed. A large part of his vision for this game was a short rule book, and again and again he faced down demands for exceptions, clarifications and extra chrome from the Consimworld crowd. Unfailingly polite and helpful, he nevertheless refused to let his game be ruined by the vocal minority on the forum. Years of refining and developing the game had obviously given him confidence in his design that after the hue and cry had died down, its excellence would shine through.

Finally, I don't believe that Consimworld represents the whole wargames market, not by a long way. I can think of three of my regular wargaming opponents who never use it, not even as lurkers. Why should their experience of wargaming be spoiled by the vociferous minority rabble on the Consimworld forums?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Close down Consimworld before it ruins wargaming!

I decided to read through the rules to This Accursed Civil War again, only this time I printed off the latest version from the GMT Games website just to be up-to-date. I was dismayed to find that v4 of the ruleset has bloated to an intimidating 26 pages, from the friendly 16 pages of the original out-of-the-box ruleset.

Even worse, the out-of-the-box rules were gracefully written and easy to understand, but v4 has many passages of almost impenetrable legalese - useful perhaps for a regular player who wants every last exception tied down, but very difficult for the first-time player.

I blame Consimworld.

This is the way it works. The new designer, keen to promote his new game to "the community", spends every spare moment day or night online (nearly losing his job and his marriage in the process), fielding questions from the grognards on the Consimworld forum dedicated to his new baby. He is quickly overwhelmed by a tide of queries, criticisms and suggestions from a small but vocal minority of "fans", who are usually only interested in competitive, tournament play, and who specialize in rules-lawyering and loophole-finding. Invisible to the designer is the silent majority of gamers who are happy to play the game as a friendly, sociable contest with a like-minded friend, and who have no interest in bending the rules or maintaining weird readings of ambiguous wordings in the face of all common-sense. The inexperienced designer, anxious to please, starts to make on-the-fly rulings, rewording rules, adding new rules, or even redrafting whole sections to meet the loadly articulated requirements of the tiny but vocal minority. And before you know it an elegant, beginner-friendly 16-page ruleset has mutated into a 26-page legal document.

The answer: close down Consimworld. It's damaging our hobby. Deny the grognards a platform. Now, before it's too late.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Andy Looney's perfect travelling companion

Treehouse proved to be a great portable game - 9 Icehouse pieces, a small d6, a printout of the rules, all stuffed into a small dice bag, it sat happily in the lid of my rucksack with no perceptible increase in the load. The game proved popular with Sue, who feels less intimidated by games with a reasonable quota of luck, and we played on four separate evenings, sitting in pubs or hostels after a long day tramping St Cuthbert's Way.

Treehouse (like most of Andy Looney's games) has no strategic planning, but it has nice little tactical puzzles along the way, and each round only takes a few minutes to complete. Best of all it cost me nothing (except a little ink to print out the rules) since I already own Zendo.

Question: should I go through BoardGameGeek marking as "owned" all the Icehouse games I can play with my Zendo stashes? It would seriously inflate my totals....

Friday, July 28, 2006

I have next week booked off work and lots of geeky things I would love to do in it - repainting my Sauron figures from War of the Ring, carefully punching out and trimming those beautiful counters in This Accursed Civil War, playing C&C Ancients on Vassal or Amun Re by email, soloing a few ASL Starter Kit scenarios......

Sadly it's not to be. I am travelling up to Melrose in Scotland on Saturday with Sue for a week's walking holiday. Fresh air, exercise, beautiful scenery...... but no gaming for a week.


I enjoyed Canal Mania quite a lot. I like network building games (I "grew up" with 1830 and Railway Rivals) and this one has a lot going for it. I like way the Contracts restrict your building choices - it's not just a free-for-all like RR - and I like the way that your card drafting choices can also manipulate the placement of goods. However the turn-order is fixed and seems to have a big influence on your chances - the guy who plays last gets a pretty raw deal on goods movement, though he does get the pick of the engineers as compensation. The turn-order thing felt a bit old-fashioned, even RR rotates who goes first anti-clockwise.

I came in 3rd out of 5, but I was only 4 points behind the winner, and felt I had a good chance of winning all the way through.

We had an issue with playing-time. On the box it says "About 2 hours" but we took nearly 3 and a half! I was getting a bit weary of it all by the end. But I think this was more to do with our group than the game - we hadn't met for a while, and everyone was in the mood for a friendly chat.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Playing another new game tonight with the local group - Canal Mania. I love my gaming group to bits and wouldn't change them for the world, but sometimes I think they are a little.... erm.... flighty. Always trying the next thing, always learning a new game, only to play it once then move on to the next thing. Surely all this restless searching must have an objective - to find one of the truly great games that deserves repeated play and study?

And I am just as bad. I was in Covent Garden yesterday evening and just "popped into" The Orc's Nest. What a great little shop, with a nice selection of boardgames crammed into the shelves upstairs. It was so tempting to buy something - another new game, Louis XIV perhaps, or Warrior Knights, just to try it out. But I resisted - really, I have enough truly excellent games in my collection already. I just need to play them.

Another thought - perhaps this is why I am feeling drawn towards wargaming at the moment? The investment in terms of learning a new wargame is so much greater than for a Euro, that you have to get a few replays to make all that study worthwhile.


Dave the Dark Lord

Dave drove over from Salisbury on Tuesday evening for a game of War of the Ring. I was looking forward to playing with my painted figures, but didn't anticipate the effects of this heat. When I opened up the box I found that the Sauron figures, which I had rather over-varnished, were sticky and had stuck to each other in the box. I managed to get them untangled and set up on the table by the time Dave arrived, but it looks like I will be cleaning the Sauron figures off with white spirit and re-doing the paint job. Sigh.

Dave took the Shadow this time and initially went for a heavy hunt strategy, which made life very difficult for my Fellowship - Gandalf died when they got revealed in Hollin, and they took a few more hits getting though Moria. Then as Dave got into the military side of the game the Fellowship got a reprieve and made good progress towards the Morannon. The fighting was going badly for me - my double Ent play failed to kill Saruman, and Minas Tirith fell, shortly followed by Dale, Erebor and the Woodland Realm. But I got lots of dagger dice on my final two turns which enabled a swift rush through Mordor. But it was a very close thing - Dave was only a couple of actions away from taking Dol Amroth and victory when I reached the Cracks of Doom, just in the nick of time!

I love this game and feel no desire at the moment to buy the expansion set, it seems just perfect the way it is.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Black is the New White

Pricerunner says that a white 30Gb iPod will cost you £150, whereas a black 30Gb iPod (identical spec) will cost you £180.

That says one thing to me - no-one wants white Apple stuff any more.

In the meantime, I am laboriously ripping my CD collection. The rule of deferred gratification says that only, repeat only when I have ripped ALL of my CD's, will I allow myself to buy myself an iPod.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Swimming with Grebes

Went swimming Monday evening after work at Frensham Great Pond with Mum and Sue. Sue, who instigated the expedition, is crazy about freshwater swimming, and liable to jump at short notice into any stretch of open water she comes across.

There is a miniature sandy beach running down to the water, which was lovely and warm. The highlight was being in the water a few yards from a family of Great Crested Grebes - two adults working hard to feed their extremely noisy and persistent brood.

A sunset picnic finished off a perfect evening.

Reading the Rules Again for the First Time

If you are a Type A gamer then reading rules will be a big part of your gaming life, accounting for a significant portion of the hours that you spend on your hobby.

A Type A gamer, in case you're not familiar with this classification (which is likely since I just made it up), is the kind of gamer who spends hard-earned money on his game collection, often hosts his game group, is likely to be the one who suggests what the group plays, has the game set up when everyone arrives, and is the one who explains the rules and gets everyone ready to play - and usually loses. A Type B gamer is the kind who only owns 2 games, doesn't care what gets played, just turns up and lets someone tell him how it works, no-one has ever seen where he lives - and he usually wins.

Over the course of my life I have spent many happy hours reading rules - which tells you which type of gamer I am. From preparing to play Red Star White Star with a school friend many years ago, right down to yesterday and completing my first read-through of This Accursed Civil War. It's a part of our hobby which gets scant attention, yet consumes many hours, and can be anticipatory fun or headache-inducing toil.

I think my favourite rules in terms of layout and useability are the Alea big boxes like Ra or Puerto Rico. Those summary side-bars are inspired, they make it so easy to just quickly review the rules before you play it again after a break.

Many wargame rules suffer in comparison with German games. Empire of the Sun and Grand Illusion have both recently defeated me by just being so long and impenetrable.

When you read a new set of rules you are attempting to imagine how the mechanics of this game work, picturing the pieces and how they are allowed to move on the board. For a wargame you want to know how many pieces you can stack together; does facing matter? do they have zones of control? how is combat resolved? are there markers that sit on units to mark morale or losses? will it all become unmanageable? how does retreat work? what is the sequence of play?

Nothing destroys my enthusiasm for a new game faster than errors in the rules. If I notice obvious mistakes or ambiguities on my first read-through, the game is likely to hit eBay in the near future. The same goes for big errata sheets posted on the web, or an impression that the designer is struggling to fix serious balance issues, or if the rules seem to be a moving target, with a new version posted every time you look. This was what killed my interest in Barbarossa to Berlin.

The order in which the rules are presented makes a big difference. For the first read-through, it helps a lot if they are sequenced to tell an unfolding story that makes sense. If rules refer forwards all the time to rules that come later, they will be very hard to understand on a first read-through.

This Accursed Civil War and Von Manstein's Backhand Blow are two rulesets that I have read recently that made good sense to me on the first read-through. The rules to The Napoleonic Wars on the other hand, made very little sense to me even after I had played the game 5 or 6 times!

Even the physical quality of the rules makes a difference. If they are printed on nice thick creamy paper with beautiful illustrations, it makes a big difference to how I feel about a game. Likewise with layout, font, brevity, and English style. Columbia Games score highly in this area.

The next step is to punch out the counters and set the game up on the table. Run through a few turns solo, then go back and read the rules again from front to back. You'll be amazed how many little things you got wrong, and this second reading will start to cement the game in your head. Internalize it as the grognards say.

Once you have mastered a game your requirements change. Now you need rules that are organized according to the sequence of play. A good index is essential, so are well-designed and accurate play-aids. You need to be able to find the information you want quickly. (Full marks to Commands and Colors Ancients for its superb play-aids.) Repetition is a killer in this respect. If the rules you want are repeated in several different sections, with subtle differences between them, confusion and disillusion awaits. See Empire of the Sun for example.

And please leave out the chatty asides and so-called "jokes" that pad out the rules with useless text. (Richard Berg are you listening?) Likewise historical notes or justifications for design decisions should be removed from the body of the rules - to the designers notes or a separate playbook.

One final dilemma - should I fold back the pages of a new rules booklet? I want it to stay pristine and new. But by the time I'm playing the game for real the rules will be starting to get a bit dog-eared and worn, and besides, a back-folded rules booklet takes up half the space on the table. So I usually end up folding them back at some point - it's a sign of a well-loved game.


Friday, July 21, 2006

The Quest for Civ-Lite

With all the excitement of Tempus about to arrive, I've been reminded of the ongoing quest for Civilization Lite - the nostalgia that many of us more... ahem... mature gamers have for remembered late-night Civilization sessions when we were young in years, poor in money, but rich in time. Many commercial attempts have been made over the last few years to reproduce the Civ experience in a Euro-sized package: Mare Nostrum, Vinci, Antike, Manifest Destiny, and now Tempus.

I have been wondering about another approach. Would it be possible to make a variant on Civilization that keeps the elegance and balance and epic scope of the game, but cuts out some of the time-consuming fiddle, perhaps refactors or reprices some of the elements of the game, and so carefully and respectfully trims it down to a manageable but satisfying 2 or 3 hours?

So far I have just been musing on possibilities. Here are some of the half-baked ideas I have come up with so far:

Reduce the number of turns, but keep them interesting. Also make each turn shorter.

Increase the breeding rate, perhaps double the number of tokens each turn with no cap.

Reduce city build and city support costs to 5.

Shorten the AST.

Recalibrate the catastrophes to make them less severe, especially Civil War. Also less time-consuming to resolve.

Reprice the Civilization cards.

Limit the game to fewer players (2 to 4?)

Smaller map (use the smaller areas on the Gibsons map).

Use a timer to limit trade sessions?

Drop the ships. Allow units 1 or 2 extra moves if along coastline, modified by Cloth and Astronomy. Modify the Piracy event.

Simplify the census. Count something else - number of cities? number of Civ cards? Position on AST?

Reduce the number of tokens in stock.

Allow catchup movement on AST. Discard a Civ card to move forward an extra step??

Abolish the AST altogether? Use Civ cards value as Victory/end of game condition??

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Reading rules on the train

Now I have a 50 minute train trip in to the Shell Centre at Waterloo every day, that gives me 1h40m of reading time every day. I've been frittering that away reading second-rate "classics" such as Philip Pullman's "Dark Materials" trilogy, or the real thing like Ursula LeGuin's "Wizard of Earthsea" (which explains why Pullman is seeming slightly weak by comparison). But I've decided to take a break from "litritcher" and read something more useful for a few days - game rules!

So the following rulebooks were stuffed into my bag this morning in the slot where "The Subtle Knife" usually sits:

Commands & Colors Ancients: Yes I've already played this quite a bit, but I just want to make sure I'm getting it absolutely right. I've already noticed some subtleties about elephants battling back with slightly different rules to when they are the attacker. And the current noise on BGG about leader loss makes me want to go back to the rules before I get too confused.

ASL Starter Kit 2: Time I got this punched out and on the table - it's been sitting on my shelf for at least a year. Reading the rules is a good first step.

This Accursed Civil War: Time I got this punched out and on the table - it's been sitting on my shelf for at least a year. Reading the rules is a good first step. (Sorry, am I repeating myself?)

Before next Tuesday I also need to look over the rules for War of the Ring again, as Dave is coming over to Farnham to play this with me. It will be embarrassing, not to mention time-wasting, if I am umming and ahhing over the rules.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I decided to cancel my pre-order for Combat Commander. I've got Memoir 44 if I want fast and furious World War 2 playtime, and I've got the ASL Starter Kits if I want to immerse myself in the ultimate World War 2 serious tactical study game (note to self: and it's about time I did). Combat Commander seems to fall midway between the two, and they have already announced the first expansion game (Vol II Mediterranean) - the last thing I need right now is three tactical World War 2 completist obsessions.


Monday, July 17, 2006

While we are on the subject of Commands and Colors, if you are a completist like me, Memoir 44 is becoming a bit of a nightmare. The very day that I ordered the Terrain Pack to complete (so I thought) my set of expansions, I discover that the Pacific War expansion is available. I must have it of course, even though I haven't even started on the Eastern Front scenarios yet.

And now I find that World of Wonder are planning a Memoir 44 wooden carry-case to hold all this stuff. With model planes and extra rules just to make the thing indispensible. This is definitely feeding the same instinct that I believe makes ASL so popular - it's not playing the game that they enjoy, it's sorting all the stuff into carefully labelled fishing tackle boxes, and the feeling that you can pack the whole of World War 2 into the boot of your car and take it with you on holiday.....


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Talking of Ancients, I connected to ConSimWorld this week for the first time in many months, to have a look at the Ancients forum. This posting should be read by anyone interested in the game. It's a list (and what a list!) of all the scenarios to be included in the first expansion. No less than 20 battles, including all the big ones like Issus, Gaugamela, Marathon, Plataea..... And again, 3 bonus scenarios if you pre-order. (Like I have, he says smugly!)


Friday, July 14, 2006

C&C Ancients - against a real person!

It all worked out just as I had planned......

I lured Phil over to my flat yesterday evening with the promise of interesting beer, and before he knew what had happened he was setting up his Romans on the field of Beneventum. I was hoping for some more aggression from Phil, but he mirrored my slow build up - a bit of cavalry and elephant action on my left wing while we both got our lines organised ready for "the moment". My "Darken the Skies" card did little more than introduce a brief slightly overcast spell, but I had the "Line Command" card available at just the right time. My warriors and heavies did terrible damage in that first impact. Nevertheless, there was chaos in the turns that followed and opportunity for Phil to get his magic 3 flags, that brought him up to 6 cards. But as I crept ahead again he made the mistake of trying to save the day with his light troops - threw them away in futile close combat against my weakened warriors and heavies, and handed me the battle prematurely.

Loved it. We both did. What a great wargame this is.