Monday, December 31, 2007

Gaming token

My car got towed this morning. Initially I thought it had been stolen, but after a few calls I tracked it down to our friends at the Harringay council vehicle pound. Apparently I had been parked in front of a "dropped kerb" whatever that is. Aargh! £250 gone, what a waste! And how depressing.

But I am married to a wonderful woman. After I had recovered my car and was brooding in my study, Sue brought up a cup of tea, some chocolate, and this voucher, entitling me to a game of Conquest of Paradise (recently arrived in the post) with my wife. Excellent, my mood is lifting already.

Thing is though, a lot of wargamers would love to have a voucher like this. So I'm seriously thinking about eBaying it. It might even cover the fine......

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Man flu

Some people (especially women) speak of "man flu" in a derogatory tone of voice. However, I can report that Sue and I have conclusively demonstrated the existence of this mysterious illness. We were both infected simultaneously last weekend with the same strain of virus, and started developing symptoms at the same time on Monday morning. However, my illness has clearly developed in a much more serious manner than Sue's, as measured objectively by the following signs:
- Groaning
- Blowing nose
- Grumbling
- Sneezing
- Self-medicating
- Coughing
- Lying in bed
- Wishing self dead
- Feeling too tired to do household chores
So there it is. You heard it here first - "man flu" is real.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Christmas Challenge

Anyone for a readers-only game of Euphrat & Tigris over on BoardGameGeek? It's called Globus Pallidus and the password is "nimrods".

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I'm excited about wargaming at the moment. I'm excited because:

1) I'm meeting Marty tomorrow to play Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage. I used to play this a lot back in the 90's, it will be great to play this classic again. Marty has the new Valley Games edition with the controversial Mike Doyle artwork - it will be interesting to see how useable the new edition is.

2) I'm meeting Phil (my son) on Sunday to play lots of Up Front! And you just can't beat a good game of Up Front!

3) I've just ordered Clash of Giants II in GMT's winter sale. 50% off - that's exciting!

4) Somebody contacted me out of the blue on BGG and offered me a trade. So I swapped 2 games I didn't really want (Hansa and Caesar & Cleopatra) for one game that I pick up and look at every time I go in a game shop but put it down with a sigh because of the price label (Runebound). I'm very excited about Runebound - especially as I can play it solo. And I'm very attracted by the idea of the expansion decks. Term finishes tomorrow so I hope I'll get a couple of hours to try this one out shortly.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Tale of Two Gaming Weekends

Part i – Cardiff 2nd-4th November

Here's a nice write up from Nick of a recent gaming weekend we had at his place in Cardiff:

After picking up Peter from the station (and a swift pint at our local nationalist pub!) we got home and started playing pretty pronto; first up Command & Colours. Replaying the Battle of Zama I was the Romans and Pete the Carthaginians and, true to historical form I won – quite easily. Swapping sides Pete got his revenge though I though it was quite close – and here’s something that I’ve found out about this elegant excellent game; that there’s a fine margin between winning and losing and that a seemingly stable (even winning) situation can rapidly veer out of control. In my case I made the mistake of leaving one block units within reach of his units – Pete took advantage of my folly and won.

After a spot of dinner there was the return of an old favourite – Railway Rivals. Dani joined in and duly leapt into the lead with Pete coming a close second and me having a right mare!! I was never in it – at one point I was 100 points behind the leader, though I was catching up towards the end. Rarely for this game the game was going to be decided on the last race too....and this put me in a quandary. Dani was ahead of Pete by 15, but she couldn’t run the last race – Pete and I could. If I didn’t run Pete would win the game, if I did and won Dani would win......choices........choices!!! Well no choice really – I had to race and fortuitously won though I could hear Pete muttering something like ‘under the thumb’ as my train entered destination town!

Next up was a game of Sechs Nimmt (Dani won again!!!!!) after which Pete then went to bed!!!!!!!!!!.......Ahhhh....I remember the good old days, sitting up ‘til 3 in the morning talking intellectual things over a good glass of brandy and a cigar..........errm well, playing some complicated game over cheap cider until our eyes couldn’t stay open any longer! Ah more!

Still, I think I can forgive Pete (almost!) anything as for my birthday he gave me the first starter kit for Advanced Squad Leader. I spent the Friday night reading the rules to Pete’s rhythmic snoring (only joking.....he purrs!) and – despite being the worst written set of rules I’ve ever come across – I think I’ve become a true geek. The game is brilliant.

The Saturday was Up Front day – specifically a campaign version of the British vs Germans at Caen. This consisted of 10 linked scenarios with varying special rules (i.e. AFV reinforcements, night rules etc) and each side had varying points with which to build their squads in each scenario. The squads were built from a limited roster of soldiers and each individual could change (for better or worse) depending on what happened to him in a scenario. In effect it was the campaign game rules in the Up Front rulebook with minor modifications from a campaign system I found on the internet.

I wasn’t sure if it would work, but to judge from Pete’s reaction - and my own - it makes a brilliant game even better. Choosing your squad is difficult as it has to be tailored to the specific victory conditions of that scenario – if you have to close with enemy (i.e. reach range chit 4) then it’s important to stock up with chaps wielding automatic weapons (moving fire, good firepower close up), if you’re defending, rifles and LMGs/MMGs are the order of the day, if you’ve got to take a pillbox then a flamethrower and Demo charges are needed. But this is a choice that must be made by the player within the confines of the points allocated – and this choice becomes more difficult with each scenario as individuals become wounded (they come back 3 scenarios later), lose morale (from routing in the previous scenario) or die (forcing the owning player to pay VPs to bring them back – but only when all other soldiers with the same weapon have been used). After a few scenarios your squad has a different look and feel to it and (as I was playing the Germans) I was constantly reminded of that great film ‘Cross of Iron’.

Anyway – we only managed to play the first three scenarios and by that time the Germans were enjoying the best of it, though I suspect the Brits would have come right back into it. We both made mistakes – Pete sending on his AFV reinforcement (I got a Panther in the previous exciting!!) against a pillbox rather than a squad of vulnerable chappies – and me forgetting just how nasty a mortar is against infantry......even in a gully!! Nevertheless, we both enjoyed the game immensely and will certainly do the campaign again.

After a much needed rest (and curry!) we resumed (with Dani) a new Catan game ‘Struggle for Rome’. Advertised as an “educational” historical game it plays the Germanic tribes (each player represents 2 factions – a cavalry and infantry – of one tribe) crossing into the Roman empire raiding and then settling. Resource cards are gained much the same way as in usual Catan games and the first one to 10 VPs wins, with VPs gained for raiding, building cities (once a tribe starts this it can’t raid any more) and few other things. Despite getting some rules wrong (my fault) we finished and I won (getting the rules wrong didn’t affect the outcome........honest guv!!).

I’m not keen though – where the game says educational there should be an added bit saying “this game has absolutely no relation to what happened in the 4th and 5th centuries” – in effect it’s the usual unimaginative Eurogame-mechanism with a fake ‘period’ chrome. Furthermore it’s just a bit too easy and one-dimensional – there are only 2 strategies for each player and the game just gets too repetitive. Now if you could attack other tribes (as happened historically) that would open the game up completely – but it’s a Eurogame and while it’s OK to sack Roman cities it’s not OK to attack each other!!!!! Settlers of the Stone Age is altogether a better game – not because it’s (pre)historically’s nowhere close – but there is more variety and fun to be had. Interesting as they’re designed by the same person (Klaus Teuber) – but I suppose you can’t get it right all of the time.

After we finished no amount of persuading would get Pete to play another game (even Euphrat & Tigris!) so we all went to bed........well.... I sat up and stroked my ASL starter kit!!!!!

The next morning Pete had to shoot off early on Sunday – shame really – but I look forward to the next time. I certainly enjoyed myself – it’s rare that I even win one game against Pete!!!!

OP-free gaming

My experience of a con is often spoiled by encountering one of the several kinds of obnoxious person (OP) that this hobby seems to attract: know-it-alls, rules lawyers, whiners, analysis paralytics, or bullies, to name but a few. Finding yourself across the table from one of these as you embark on a long game - Civilization, Diplomacy, or 1830 for example - can be very depressing.

Thankfully, at MidCon last week I didn't meet a single OP. Almost as soon as I got there my friend old Nick Wells arrived and we had a happy couple of hours playing ASL Starter Kit and C&C:Ancients. And then things got even better when Vick Hall appeared - I hadn't seen him for a few years, but Vick was my editor when I ran a little subzine in A Little Original Sin, his postal Diplomacy zine in the twilight years of the last century. Vick is an ideal opponent - genial, courteous, swift, and a deadly player.

Next morning we set up Civilization (not Advanced) on a table and swiftly recruited two more willing volunteers, and were soon embarked on a 5-player game. Our new recruits (Steve Hilton and Bill Mayling) also turned out to be vice-free opponents, so our epic 8-hour journey through ancient history was a thoroughly pleasant experience. So here's to you: Nick, Vick, Steve and Bill - thanks for being ideal gaming partners and the very opposite of OPs.

Friday, November 16, 2007

MidCon manifesto

I'm off to MidCon this afternoon. It's a great boardgames convention held in a businessman's hotel in Birmingham, but it does have a rather Euro-ish flavour. So let's get a few things straight before I go. I will NOT be playing anything that involves:

- Collecting jewels
- Collapsing bridges in the Himalayas
- Impressing the king/queen/Cleopatra/your mum
- Fairies, elves, pixies etc

I WILL be playing games that involve:

- Building empires
- Crushing your enemies
- Getting rich and making everyone else poor
- Machine guns or death stars

I hope that's clear to everyone.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I spent last weekend in Cardiff, helping my old friend Nick to celebrate his 40th birthday by playing lots of wargames. Nick and I go back a long way. We first met in 1992 through the postal Diplomacy hobby, Nick introduced me to his gaming club in Salisbury, and we've been firm opponents ever since.

Over the weekend we played C&C Ancients, Railway Rivals, 6 Nimmt!, Struggle for Rome, and lots of Up Front! Nick had downloaded a campaign based on the 1944 struggle for Caen. This was an amazing wargaming experience. It gave a whole new flavour to each game to know that I had to guide my platoon through 12 scenarios, managing my roster for each engagement, nurturing green men, and finding replacements for casualties.

In the first scenario my plucky Brits were assaulting a pillbox. A Panther (a Panther!!!) turned up at the start of the second deck and after a few turns of being pounded by HE I decided to settle for a loss and get my men off the battlefield ASAP. In 2nd scenario we came back at night, with a (fairly puny) AFV for another crack at the pillbox. Unfortunately the Germans had laid some mines in the interval. My Staghound fought off Nick's infiltrator, but meanwhile my manoevre group was being killed off to break my squad. Scenario 3 had no pillbox - it was more like "Meeting of Patrols". At first I was doing really well, with my mortar covering an advance into a building at range 3. But Nick outflanked both my groups, wiping out the group in the building, and I withdrew with only 3 survivors for another loss.

At this point I had 13 VPs to Nick's 69! 9 out of my roster of 26 were KIA, and another 2 wounded. We had to pause at that point, but I have to say it is not looking good for the British.....

A great weekend, and I suppose appropriate that I lost pretty well everything we played - it was Nick's birthday after all.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Things are looking up....

It's always a slightly scary moment when you meet someone face-to-face that you have so far only got to know over the internet. Will he turn out to be a psychopath, or, even worse, someone with personal hygene issues? Thankfully Marty, who was fishing for local wargamers on BoardGameGeek, and who lives only a mile down the road, turned out to be neither, but was instead a charming and hospitable opponent when I met him on Monday.

He introduced me to Combat Commander: Europe, a game that has intrigued me without obsessing me, although I have been put off by negative reviews from Chris Farrell and the boys on the Point2Point podcast. We played scenario 3, with me in the attacker's role as the Germans. The mechanics of the game are nice and simple, with table-free resolution of fire attacks, and the cards add a whole dimansion of chaos and hand-management. And it is a chaotic game. Early on a fire broke out in the middle of the board, which continued to spread as the scenario wore on, so that by the end a large chunk of the battlefield was ablaze! New units popped up in strange places, and at one point I gained a hero who sprinted past the Russian HMG to capture a key victory hex.

I can't help making comparisons with the ASL Starter Kits. Compared to an ASL board, a CC:E board feels very small and cramped (in game terms - obviously the hexes are physically large). And the way the action unfolds feels strange when you are used to ASL's account of WW2 tactics. For much of the game we had infantry units in the woods blazing away at point-blank range without either running away or closing for close-combat. This felt odd - more like the American Civil War than WW2.

Still, I enjoyed it a lot, even though I lost by a huge margin, and will happily play it again. And now that I have a local wargaming opponent at last, I shouldn't have to wait too long!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mainlining in Chiswick

I visited Iain's enviable home in Chiswick last Saturday, where we played 3-player 1829 Mainline. I played quite a bit of 1830 back when I was younger - in fact I used it as a gateway game, assembling a group of colleagues to play in the staff canteen once a week after work. They loved it! Non-gamers these days are soft, insisting on Settlers and Carcassone....

Anyway, 1829 was a bit of a surprise. It's very different to its stablemates. Francis Tresham has opened the whole thing up, introducing quite a bit of randomness with the share deal, and also opening up the board by removing restrictions on yellow tile-laying and the upgrades. And the bonus system gives the companies a way to get ready cash when they need it. The result is a free-flowing, less deterministic game, where there is less need to calculate ahead every last dollar for that critical train upgrade. I lost, but I liked it.

We had to cash up after three and a half hours in order to watch a certain rugby game, and I'm sure there was at least another hour and a half in the game. (And we were using my lovely new poker chips, which speed things up quite a bit.) So a touch long for what it is. It will never supplant 1830 or 1825 in my affections, but it's a nice change of pace, and a good introduction to the wonderful world of 18XX.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The price of knowledge

The gaming is getting very sparse now that my Masters is in full flow. (Even in the good times I manage less in a year than Brian Bankler does in a month!) Since I became a student I've played Lost Cities and Fluxx with Sue, soloed an ASLSK#2 scenario ("88s at Zon") and won a PBEM game of Puerto Rico. Oh and I've beaten my step-nephew Tom at Napoleon at Waterloo a few times on Hexwar.

It's all pretty scanty.

Was looking forward to a session with Iain Cheyne this Saturday, but England's dratted rugby success has curtailed that.

Oh well, at least there's Midcon next month to look forward to....

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

So at last, I'm a student again. Yesterday I enrolled at the Institute of Psychiatry (at King's College London) to do a full-time Masters in Neuroscience. Teaching starts tomorrow!

It felt strange to be with a group of 40 or so freshly graduated youngsters. There is only one other old guy - a psychiatrist from Slovakia - but the young folks are being very friendly and not treating me like some kind of freak.

The cycling is going OK so far, except for getting caught in a cloudburst yesterday afternoon. 11 miles each way, it's a fair old distance, but only takes me an hour and a quarter, about the same as tubing and bussing it. Only cheaper and healthier.

Tomorrow we do some chemistry revision and sessions on how to revise, how to do coursework, how to pick up your email, that kind of stuff. Then on Monday it's down to the real thing - receptors, amino acids and proteins, rat brain anatomy, etc. I can't wait....

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Never attack across open ground!

My son Phil came over last Sunday for lunch and a game of Up Front!. We played City Fight 501 - thanks to a guy I've never met called Andy Maly who, many years ago, kindly posted me a whole stack of Up Front! articles from The General, all the away across the Atlantic at his own expense. If you're reading Andy - thanks again! I'm still reading them and using them.

Phil chose 3 small American groups, with reinforcements to come on later, while I spent the whole 501 points up front on high morale Germans, an MMG and a LMG. My firebase was awe-inspiring, as Phil found when he tried to rush me across open ground. He was inspired I think by Cpt. Winter's cries of "Keep moving!" in Band of Brothers. Unfortunately without adequate fire support these tactics led to a massacre.

Poor Phil, after Up Front! we sat down to watch Kiki's Delivery Service, but Phil was exhausted by his exertions and fell asleep before the appearance of the mandatory airship that you always seem to get in anime films.....

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Computers ate my week

A frustrating week with my computer. Windows interface going screwy, and unable to connect to my wireless router. All these faults are intermittent, hard to track down. Hard to Google for answers when you can't get online. Think I've tracked it down to my cheapo wireless card from EBuyer - a new upmarket card is in the post.

I thought it'd take me a day to get my car listed for sale on EBay - with these problems it's taken me all week. Today I can connect to the internet and finally managed to get a nice listing into EBay. Just about to press the GO button, and suddenly I can't login to EBay any more. No idea why.

Sigh. I HATE computers.......

Monday, September 10, 2007

My other hobby is more dangerous

I got back yesterday from 2 weeks holiday to hear the news that a paragliding friend was killed at my club last week. Stick wasn't a close friend, but I have often flown with him and been helped out by him with advice on conditions or a pre-flight once-over before launching on the winch. He was always ready with a sarcastic remark and a twinkle in his eye. I'm really shocked that he's gone.

And of course, being human, I'm also thinking about how this affects me. Stick had hundreds, maybe thousands of hours under his belt. He was a far more experienced and better flier than I will ever be. Yet he was killed anyway. He had a frightening, painful, and premature death. I'm not particularly good at paragliding, it would be very easy for me to have an accident. In fact I've already had one (flew myself into a small tree immediately after takeoff).

And this comes shortly after meeting a guy in a wheelchair (not permanently hopefully) at Greenbelt - another paragliding accident.

So is it time for me to give up and concentrate on the boardgaming. Let's face it, no-one ever died playing Civilization (did they?)

I guess most long-term paragliders have reached this point at some time and decided - in the end - that the rewards of the sport are worth the risks. That you have to die some day - that cholesterol or cancer will get you in the end even if you never fly again. When I started the sport I think I would have agreed - I was single, in a boring job, a bit lonely, and probably didn't feel I had that much to lose. It's different now, I'm newly married to an amazing woman, I'm starting on a new path with my Masters course. I'm really looking forward to the next few years, I'm not ready to go yet. And I don't think that paragliding is quite the overriding passion for me that it was for poor Stick.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Never mind the birds - look, D-Day barges!

I spotted these concrete barges last Saturday while walking with Sue to the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marsh. They were used in the D-Day landings, apparently, and are now gently mouldering in the sunshine on the bank of the Thames estuary.

Have I finally lost my mind?

So after about a year trying to order a counter-clipping jig from a guy in the US, I decided to make my own. It was surprisingly easy - a redundant CD case, a hacksaw, some fine-grade sandpaper, and about 15 minutes careful work were all that was needed. The critical bit was filing away the corner until the amount of counter-corner showing was just right.

It certainly makes the clipping job quicker and far more accurate. As you can see I've been going through my ASL Starter Kit counters re-clipping them for absolutely uniform corners.

But the question remains - why would any sane person want to do this?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Tottenham MiniCon

I baptized my new home last weekend by inviting Dave (centre) and Nick (right) over for 3 days of wargaming mayhem. Simon (left) joined us too on the Saturday. On the menu were Nexus Ops, Sword of Rome, and Up Front!. Nick has sent me this excellent after-action-report, so here goes:

It’s always nice to go back to London – and especially so when there’s a bit of gaming in the offing. So despite a long and stuffy journey to a bit of London I wasn’t particularly familiar with it was great to finally arrive at Pete and Sue’s bijou little set up. I was immediately greeted with a plate of risotto and joined Dave and a friend of Sues at the dining table.....very nice.....very civilised. Well it was until the game we were playing that evening was described to me; it went something along the lines of (I think it was Dave who told me) “a game with funny monsters which move around a board fighting and occasionally picking up other monsters”. Oh yes, and some sort of mining was mentioned – but by that time all I was thinking was OH NO – IT’S BLOODY TITAN!!!!

Half a bottle of wine later I’d calmed down. The game’s actually called ‘Nexus Corps’ (I think) and it’s actually really good – not just because it’s nothing like Titan! Anyway Pete won, with me and Dave a very close 2nd=. By midnight we’d gone to bed with me and Dave leafing through the rules for the next day’s game - ‘Sword of Rome’ - and plotting......plotting!

Simon arrived at 11ish and we got started pronto with me as the Greeks, Pete as the Romans, Dave as the Etruscans/Samnites and Simon as the Gauls – and boy did they suit him! Initially, though, the Gauls were under the cosh big-time with Dave pushing hard and doing well. I was having less success trying to duff up the Carthaginians – but on the bright side everyone was leaving me alone. It took the rise of Pete’s Romans to give us all a collective slap in the face – in the first turn he chomped up the Volsci and bit by bit he built a very firm recruiting base with Rome as the centre of this spider’s web. By the 3rd turn it was clear that if differences weren’t made up Pete would pull away – so we did what every upstanding, honest and noble gamer would do.....we ganged up on him!

It worked too, but it took a bit longer than we thought. I was convinced I had him when I attacked from Neapolis – especially with a Solar Eclipse card (meant I could re-roll the combat roll and choose which one I wanted). I didn’t roll particularly well with either, but I still beat him – until he played the Quincunx card which meant he could re-roll his dice.......getting a 6, 5 and 5. OUCH. Still he was under pressure from Dave too so fortunately it wasn’t too much of a problem and in the following round I captured Capua from him. It put me ahead on VPs in the 4th turn but only by one.

In the meantime Dave and Simon were having an interesting relationship. The best way for the Gauls to get VPs is for them to raid – and of course the obvious target for them is the Etruscans. Naturally therefore Simon raided......and Dave reacted, denying Simon the VPs (by forcing him to use Gallic Solidarity to convert VP and recruiting areas he’d made Etruscan). As such they were both going nowhere and getting a little tetchy to boot. As an answer to the rise of Peter, Simon came up with a novel solution – he offered to Dave that he would only raid non VP areas, meaning that Dave would not need to waste time and troops converting them back (he didn’t want to use the Etruscan Bribe ability) and could concentrate on defending against and attacking Pete.

Dave accepted and in a very short time the board was dotted with raided areas (independent markers) and Simon was 2 VPs better off. Not bad going – except that he was now raiding Greek areas! Dave, though, had managed to push the Romans back pretty emphatically and things were settling down to the usual in-fighting between all players. Certainly Dave and I were thinking about duffing up a Gallic army – though I suspect Simon was considering having a go at me with his army in the south (with Brennus).

Unfortunately we stopped towards the end of the 4th turn (7pm!) – it was my idea but I thought that it would be nice to play and finish some other games before we dropped – and we weren’t going to finish ‘Sword of Rome’! We agreed a draw and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think everyone played their country brilliantly (well perhaps not me as all I managed to do was take Capua and get trounced by the Carthaginians a few times) – although I didn’t agree with Simon’s Gallic strategy it worked well and was entertaining – though not perhaps for Dave! We MUST play again and we’ve got to try and convince Dave to like the game again (’s joined his long list of games never to play again).

So we then played 2 games of Euphrat & Tigris......and we learnt something. Pete had been practising......a lot! He absolutely stuffed us the first time while winning the second by a point. Fortunately Pete tired, sparing us more humiliation, scooting of to bed and Simon left for his part of London.

But it wasn’t the end for me....Oh No! Dave suddenly materialised out of no-where brandishing a box of ‘Hammer of the Scots’ suggesting a game and – like the stupid muppet I am (and maybe due to the fact that I was pretty pissed) – I said yes. We started at 1am – by 2 he’d wiped me off the board. Ah well – no different to any other time I’d played him then! As I trudged upstairs I pondered why I was so shit at ‘Hammer of the Scots’ – you see I’ve never won a game, Dave beating me at least 5 times in a row. It’s not the usual reason; I do like it. Then an idea hit me – every time we’d played it was either very early or late in the day i.e. I wasn’t awake yet or I was too pissed to think straight! I shall console myself with that (spurious) reasoning until Dave beats at midday one day.

On the final day Dave played Pete at Up Front – the return of an old favourite – with me moderating (as I know the rules pretty well). They played the City Fight scenario; Germans (Dave) against Americans (Pete) and it was a classic with the game being won (by Dave) outright only in the last play of cards, although he was ahead on VPs anyway. Dave left to go back to Salisbury (must be the ‘Hammer of the Scots’ that took it out of him!) leaving me and Pete to play a 501 City Fight game.

This is a satisfying Up Front version where you play the City Fight scenario, but each of you has 501 points to build up their own squad. As reinforcements coming on after later decks are incrementally cheaper you too can have that King Tiger tank (653pnts initially to 131pnts when it arrives on the 4th deck) – though realistically only for the final deck. Pete and Dave like to qualify this mentioning a game when I did just that; brought on a King Tiger only to have it blow up immediately when Pete fired his bazooka at it. I tell them to shut up......anyway it was a long time ago!

Anyway we played and I (the Germans) quite easily beat his Russians mainly down to Pete’s almost complete lack of rally and move cards.......and no.......I didn’t bring a King Tiger on! As a finale we played the Outpost Line scenario with Pete’s Germans stuffing my Brits – well what can you do with a bloody Bren-carrier? With that I thought I’d better leave – Pete had won so much he was looking peaky! My bag was twice as heavy as when I arrived after a visit to Finchley Games on Saturday and I fancied crawling into some quiet pub to look at my new purchase – ‘Command & Colours’! Mmmhhhh!

An absolutely brilliant weekend – many thanks to Pete and Sue. Hopefully we’ll do something like it again soon. If not there’s always MidCon.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A heritage project

I finally got around to painting the second squad of space marines in my vintage copy of Space Hulk. I bought this game - it must be 15 years ago - from the son of a colleague at work. Got it for £15 - the little sucker didn't know what he was parting with. Heh.

Anyway, it was pretty battered, with a split box, and various bits missing. Expansion sets included (in various states of disrepair). I've been lovingly, but slowly, restoring it ever since. I bought more genestealers to replace missing figures. I painted them and the first squad of marines. I sorted and catalogued the tiles, counters and doors. I bought new dice and a 3-minute timer. I patched split corners on the box.

All the while the game was being played from time to time. Amazing game - intense, tactical, atmospheric. Scary even.

And now the second squad is done. They look pretty good I think, despite the missing antennae. Time to get this baby on the table again.....

Friday, August 03, 2007

It happened again

So GMT sent me another deluxe map for Empire of the Sun - must have been some administrative error. It arrived this morning. Once again it had crossed the Atlantic without damage. Once again the postman folded it in half and stuffed it through the door. Once again I heard it happening (I was downstairs this time) but reacted too slowly.

Why is this happening to me?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Hey there just a minute mister postman!

So a while ago I preordered the deluxe map for Empire of the Sun from GMT Games. Not sure why, as I have not even read the rules or punched out the counters yet, let alone play it. But with the dollar as weak as it is, it's almost thriftless not to.

So my deluxe cardstock map and version 2 rulebook got all the way across the Atlantic Ocean without incident, arrived pristine and uncreased in the Tottenham sorting office, slipped unscathed into the postman's bag, survived all the way to my front door, where he carefully folded the envelope in two in order to stuff it through my letter-box. I heard the deed being done, I heard him fumbling at the door, but by the time I had realized what was happening and rushed pellmell down the stairs, it was too late. Sigh. So now my deluxe map is languishing under a pile of heavy games - maybe some day it will be straight again....

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Stay of execution

Thanks for the comments everyone. I think BattleLore can stay for now.

Last night I actually got around to playing the game. Les and I fought 3 battles: Agincourt (scenario 1) which I lost 4-2 as the English, and then Wizards & Lore (scenario 5) twice, which I won each way (6-4 and 6-2).

The basic game is good but a little lacking in tactical nuances compared to C&C Ancients. But once we got into the Lore cards it became a much more challenging and fun experience. I'm looking forward to trying it again with creatures and war councils!

One issue remains - I don't want to get onto the expansions treadmill with this one. But with the wealth of scenarios available on the Days of Wonder website, I think there is plenty of replay value in the base set for now.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Shall I get rid of BattleLore?

I need your advice dear reader. A gamer in the UK has offered me a trade on BoardGameGeek - my BattleLore for his Mare Nostrum (plus expansion).

Why was my BattleLore marked for trade in the first place - you may ask? I was excited about it when I bought it (must have been to shell out £45) but have only played it solo so far. To be honest I am wary of getting sucked into another Commands and Colors collecting habit. I already like Memoir 44 (and have most of the expansions) and LOVE Ancients (and already own the first expansion, with the next two pre-ordered). I'm not sure if my budget or my time or my my interest can sustain a third C&C series.

Also - I was excited about the idea of C&C with a fantasy theme, but I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed by the tongue-in-cheek way this was done in Battlelore. Dwarves in kilts forsooth! For me, fantasy has to take itself very very seriously. High art or not at all, thankyou very much.....

Monday, July 23, 2007

Random unjustified grumpyness about a new game

I played Phoenicia at Swiggers last week, and I enjoyed it (even though I got stuffed) but a day later had an uncharacteristically insightful thought - isn't this just Puerto Rico all over again? What's the difference? OK Phoenicia has auctions, but I'm not keen on auctions anyway (unless I'm playing RA!). Auctions seem to me to often be a lazy option for the designer who can't work out how to balance the different paths available to the players. I think to be honest that I haven't played Puerto Rico nearly enough yet - I have only just begun to explore the strategies in the game - so why do I need another tech tree/workers/resources/money/VPs game to worry about. One is probably enough for now (especially as it's still the BGG number 1) So, to the PBEM website!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Looking for a gaming home....

Now that I'm a North Londoner, I'm looking for a suitable gaming group near my new home. 3 options present themselves:

1) Finchley Games Club. About 5 miles away. They meet on Thursdays in a cricket pavilion with a bar. About 20 people turn up, but the majority seem to be playing a long Formula De season (which leaves me cold), so the evening I visited there was only one other multi-player game going on (Phoenicia). (I got stuck playing 2-player Carcassone - yawn!) It's a friendly club, but quite expensive - £10 to join, plus £2.50 a night, but you do get a 10% discount at Leisure Games - not to be sniffed at!

2) Swiggers. About 7 miles away. Meets every Wednesday in the Shipwrights Arms on Tooley Street. (Once I start studying this will be on my way home from lectures.) About 25 people, and all sorts of interesting games get played, including playtest prototypes by published designers. I've been twice now, the second time (last week) was a great evening spent playing Phoenicia and Tempus. It's free, and you get a 10% discount from Pevans games! The atmosphere is a bit like a con - lots of games to choose from if you are prepared to chat people up.

3) London ASL Club. About 6 miles away. To satisfy my wargaming urge I am considering going along to this monthly meeting in Chancery Lane to get some ASL Starter Kit experience. Meets on 2nd Saturday of the month. I haven't managed to get along yet so not sure what it's like. But I know I need more than Euros - I also need something with machine guns....

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I enjoyed the readers' game of Tigris and Euphrates over at I just missed a win - it was settled on a tie-break! If anyone fancies a rematch I've set up another game called "Though the Desert", password "nimrods". If you read this, feel free to join in!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Desert Fox

I finally met Iain Cheyne yesterday evening, and played him at Rommel in the Desert. We have been meaning to do this for about two years, but our diaries only coincided yesterday. We played the Gazala scenario, with Iain as the Axis. We're both relatively new to the game so we were a bit intimidated by the rules and the bewildering choices available at the start. Iain kicked off with a big advance towards Tobruk inflicting heavy losses on my infantry that stood in the way. However stong reinforcements were on their way up the coast road from Egypt, and I was able to do a short left hook and isolate his two attacking groups. Iain failed to break through the cordon and so a significant force was disrupted and later destroyed, including two of his elite armour units. After that my attack lost steam and I failed to capitalize on my victory. With the last of my supplies I did a quick run down the coast road to seize Benghazi, but Iain was able to pull back in the Buildup phase, and supplies were too depleted for either of us to do much with the second month. I finished with a Positional Victory.

This is an amazing wargame, incredibly tense and exciting, and very true to the dynamics of the desert campaign. Richly deserves its classic status.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Call me Tyres.....

As part of my "Living in London can be Fun" programme, today I cycled off (in between the showers) in search of the Spaced house. I didn't know its exact location, only the district, so I printed off a cycle route from London Transport and set off, trusting to luck. Sure enough I found the place after 15 minutes quartering the back streets of ********. Cycling is the ideal mode for this sort of search - a car would be too fast, and walking would be far too slow. It felt weird to be there in the flesh, having stood outside that building so many times before, but only through the medium of whatever episode I was watching at the time. It felt a little sad too to find that directly opposite is a huge building site, which will surely change the character of Meteor Street for ever.

On the other hand....

The thing with PocketCiv is - there's a lot of scribbling and rubbing out. Maybe I need to make up the "deluxe edition"? And the lack of opponents makes it feel slightly...flat.

Oh well. Maybe I have to organise a game of Civilization at MidCon this November after all.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The best things in life....

I'm very excited about PocketCiv. One of my all-time favourite games is Civilization, but finding opponents and time to play is very uncommon these days. Trumpeted Civ-lite games have failed to satisfy, but this one is different. It's solo for one thing, so the opponent problem vanishes, and it's not actually that light either. The clever trick is that this can be played on pencil and paper - all you need is the deck of event cards and the rules. This means that this can be played in odd moments on the train or at home, and thinking about your little paper civilization and its problems rapidly becomes a small obsession. My first attempt got wiped out in Era 1 by a sequence of earthquakes, sandstorms and volcanoes. Undeterred I drew a nice coloured map of Egypt and set off again - the gods were kinder this time and I have just finished Era 2 with 4 cities. Harder times ahead I expect though! This is great stuff - if it wasn't free I would call it my best purchase for some while.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Fun in Crondall

Les invited me back to leafy Surrey on Wednesday evening for a game session. Dave and Steve also came over from Salisbury. This was my chance to finally play Nexus Ops with someone - and it did not disappoint! What a fun game - all the best bits of Axis and Allies type games, but packed into a punchy 90 minute burst of violent action! I explained carefully at the start that turtling tactics will lose you the game in this one - but Steve turtled anyway, and duly lost. Dave went for killing as many of your enemy as possible, and Les's gentle nature meant he got off to a slow start. I lost a lot of ground and was always short of money as a result, but by keeping my focus firmly on VPs I was able to win anyway. Peter(10), Dave(6), Les(5), Steve(2).

Next we were looking for a filler to take us to midnight and chose San Juan. I always enjoy this clever little game but am not very good at it. An early chapel build does not constitute a "strategy"! Dave(42), Steve(36), Peter(33), Les(29).

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

At last! Another readers' game

I've been playing quite a bit of Tigris & Euphrates by email over at .

Time to test myself against the general populace - I've created a readers' game called "Better than Titan" with password "nimrods". See you in Mesopotamia!

The end of purchasing?

Would I buy a Titan reprint? I was very lucky to pick up my copy a decade ago at the Manorcon bring-and-buy, for about £12 - a once in a lifetime bargain!If a reprint had significantly nicer graphics and presentation, and if they hadn't altered the rules or foisted plastic bits on the game, then yes, I would seriously consider it. After all, I have two copies of Civilization - another favourite - plus Advanced Civ.

I cycled to Bloomsbury today - to continue my bum-hardening program - and visited "Playin Games" while I was there. That was the little incentive I gave myself for all that exercise. I had three purchases in mind, one must-buy: ASL Starter Kit #3, and two might-buys: Mare Nostrum and Phoenicia. None were in stock, with a 1 month wait predicted for the ASLSK3. I consoled myself by purchasing some Chessex glass beads. I also had a browse, and again I had an experience which is becoming usual in game shops - while browsing through shelves of stuff that left me cold, I occasionally would see a game that I fancy buying - then realize that I already own it! A sign that my game collection is pretty well finished these days?

Next up - a visit to Les back near my ex-home in Farnham, where I am hoping to play Nexus Ops for the first time "in anger".....

Friday, June 15, 2007

Like, wow!

Valley Games are planning to reprint Titan and Republic of Rome, among other things.

Gaming bits

I've been playing Titan against the amazing Colossus program. Titan is one of the all-time greatest wargames, but surprisingly few of my gamer friends see this as clearly as I do. So Colossus fills a real need for me.

I've also been playing a lot of turn-based Tigris & Euphrates at against some Mennonite friends. Although it's work in progress and the graphics are a bit clunky, this is a solid implementation of the game. I won my first game, I lost a few, but this time I'm doing better, and feeling hopeful of another win.

Simon came over yesterday, and we played Yinsh a couple of times. I lost both games. The same thing always happens - I get so wrapped up in my own plans that I don't see the killer play coming. I need to play more defensively.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Will cycle for games

Yesterday, as part of my acclimatization process (learning to love Tottenham), I cycled to Leisure Games in Finchley, 5.5 miles away. (This was also part of my training program, preparing for cycling to the Institute of Psychiatry in South London every day (10.5 miles) when I become an indigent MSc student in September.) The ride there seemed mostly uphill - Alexandra Park, then Muswell Hill, so when I arrived I was so hot and bothered that I forgot one of the two main purposes of my trip - to ask about local game groups. I remembered the other one - to buy ASL Starter Kit #3 - but that was out of stock. I consoled myself by buying some dice bags and a Treehouse tube to replace the one I gave to Sue's nephew Tom in Cardiff. The ride back was much easier - largely downhill, with fantastic views from Muswell Hill.

Leisure Games - given its amazing selection online - seemed strangely small and scruffy. Games jammed overtightly into the shelves or stacked willy-nilly. The back half of the store given over to desks for the online operation. But very friendly service, and it's amazing what they have there if you look - I spotted a copy of IceTowers, the out-of-print boxed set with the purple and clear pyramids. Tempting, but rather superfluous given that I have Zendo and Playing with Pyramids.

Tomorrow, maybe I head south and start reconnoitring the route to the Institute. Who knows, I may even get as far as Playin Games in Bloomsbury.....

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Rewriting history

We were in Cardiff last week staying with Sue's brother and family, and I had a great time on Friday visiting Nick and playing him at Thirty Years War. One of my very favourite card-driven wargames this is, I love the epic scope and the historical flavour. We played with the 2-star Wallenstein and tournament victory optionals. I won as the Protestants with 1 VP at the end of turn 14. Nick sent Wallenstein to his death on turn 1 subduing the Hungarians. Nick's high-point was using the Cardinal Infante to chase Gustavus back to Pomerania and kill him there. However I bounced back with Torstennson and in the last couple of turns we watched the spectacle of the Swedes capturing Vienna and Munich. 8 hours in all, and a fantastic wargaming experience. Thanks Nick!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Quick turnaround

Just back from a 72 mile pilgrimage - London to Canterbury - raising money for work with homeless in London. Off again in a couple of hours to visit new in-laws in Cardiff for the rest of the week. Quickly washing clothes, repacking bags, and catching up with online games in the meantime......

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Chris Farrell is posting about Monopoly - and he's taking the game seriously:

We've been playing Monopoly a bit recently, and enjoying it. We've settled on the 4 player configuration, playing to the second bankruptcy, and then counting assets ..... This configuration works well, and I honestly have enjoyed it more than many new eurogames.

Ticking them off

Here's an excerpt from my task list for this month:

Task 1: Get married
Status: done
Comments: this went amazingly well, considering how many things could have gone wrong that didn't - Sue turned up, the weather was good (very important as we used a marquee), the food was great (thanks to hard work by many of the guests), and no-one got food poisoned! Even my speech went OK, and my best man Phil (my younger son) didn't dish too much dirt. At least he didn't tell the story about when .........

Task 2: Play games at wedding
Status: done
Comments: Vic Thiessen kindly organised an (optional) game session after tea. He set up and explained 2 games (Trans-Europa and Trans-America) to a small crowd of guests. These games went down very well with the non-gamers. In spite of it being my special day, I still lost.

Task 3: Go on honeymoon
Status: done
Comments: we had a lovely time in the Castleton area of Derbyshire. Beautiful self-catering accommodation at Shatton Hall Farm. We played the classic honeymoon game Lost Cities a few times- not sure why this is recommended for honeymoons as it's actually quite a nasty game when you get into it - as Sue clearly has: she showed me no mercy.

Task 4: Move to Tottenham
Status: done
Comments: thanks to marvellous help from friends (Simon, Fiona, Cathy) and family (Phil) my stuff was moved to my new home in Tottenham in a big van over last weekend. It was a big job, and left us sitting in a chaos of boxes and disassembled furniture on Sunday night. But that has (nearly) all been sorted out now - order is restored and, most importantly, my game collection is now happily established in its new quarters in my "den" upstairs.

Task 5: Find a local game group
Status: still outstanding
Comments: I'm wondering whether to try out the Swiggers in central London on Wednesday(?) evenings. But there must be a more local group in North London, but not sure how to find them. And icing on the cake would be a local and genial wargames opponent....

Task 6: Sell off some wargaming geare I never use
Status: still outstanding
Comments: in the quest for space in our shared home, I need to get rid some painted figures (an English Civil War army), some white metal (Teutonic Knights, Napoleonic ships, cowboys etc) and some home-made scenery. Perhaps I will take them to Salute (is that soon?) for the bring-and-buy?

Task 7: Go paragliding again before I get rusty
Status: still outstanding
Comments: Green Dragons and Butser Hill are both a fair old drive away now, though I would like to go to one of Andy's after-work winching sessions at Green Dragons soon. The local club is at Dunstable Downs - must investigate.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Homage to Surrey

One more day to go, then it's goodbye to Surrey and off to North London to marry Sue and live in "the smoke" for the forseeable future.

When I moved to Farnham, it felt like a big wrench saying goodbye to my little terraced house in Salisbury. I felt especially sad to be leaving behind long tramps through the Wiltshire countryside, long gaming sessions with my Salisbury group, and a long history with my local church. I didn't really see how Surrey could match this.

Three years later I can say that Farnham was a very pleasant surprise. A bit of exploration revealed lots of wonderful countryside on the doorstep - heathland walks nearby, hills and hangars in East Hampshire, and walking back to Farnham along the North Downs Way after a bus-ride to Guildford.

Then I was very fortunate to be introduced by Dave Farquhar to a great local gaming group - I've had so many fun sessions with Les, Keith and Trevor over the last 3 years. Thanks guys!

And my decision to worship at my local parish church turned out very well. Anglicanism was very new to me after decades of non-conformist churchmanship, but I found that I relished the liturgy and music at St Thomas, and made some good friends in my new church community.

So it's another wrench saying goodbye to all this, and I'm wondering how Wood Green can ever match it. But who knows? I may be in for another nice surprise.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Stag Party heaven

Last weekend was my stag party, organised by my son Phil who is also my best man. I didn't have the usual routine of paintball, go-karting, tequila slammers, strippers and waking up next morning chained to a lamppost in Glasgow. No, my stag party was.... a weekend of boardgaming! Phil specified retro games were to be played (because I'm an old classic presumably) although we didn't stick strictly to that rule as you can see below. My gaming friends Dave, John, Steve, Les and Simon turned up at Saturday lunchtime, as well as my son Gavin. Phil produced an amazing joint of roast rib of beef with all the trimmings, followed by an erotic apple pie (possibly a world first) to compensate for the lack of strippers. Here's a summary of which games were played and how I rated each experience (out of 5 stars):

Merchant of Venus
Experience rating: *****
Winner: Phil
I finished: 5/5
It's been too long - many years - since I last played this. I loved this game. Interestingly, so did Phil, who wasn't so keen when as a child he used to be pressganged into games with me. Sadly we had to stop after two hours so that Phil could make a start on cooking dinner.

Homeworlds (2 games)
Experience rating: ***
Winner: Phil, Phil
I finished: 2/2, 2/2
Played this for the first time ever. I lost the first game almost immediately by vacating my homeworld! Next play went better but I was overwhelmed by Phil's cunning aggressive play. Interesting game this, I love the theme and the luckfree tactics are interesting. I want to play it a few more times to clarify my opinion.

IceTowers (6 games altogether)
Experience rating: ****
Winner: Phil, me , Gavin, Gavin, Me, Steve
I finished: 2/3, 1/3 , 2/3, 3/3, 1/4, 3/4
Various people played this at different points over the weekend. It was very popular - easy to teach, quick to play, interesting tactics. Embarrassingly, I forgot a small but important rule - that you are not allowed to mine from a tower that you already control. Steve spotted my omission on the very last game of the weekend, so we were playing it wrong all weekend! Oh dear!

Experience rating: **
Winner: Who knows?
I finished: probably 5/5
The dark side of retro gaming. Lots and lots of fiddly bits, fiddly rules, trash-talk and whining, and long, long, looong. We stopped at midnight and carried on next morning. Finally canned it after 4 or 5 hours total of play - no end in sight for at least another 2 hours. Not for me.

Railway Rivals
Experience rating: n/a
Winner: Steve
I finished: (I didn't play in this one. Steve beat Dave's and Les's scores combined!)

Blue Moon
Experience rating: *****
Winner: Les
I finished: 2/2
When everyone had left Les and I indulged in a quick game of Blue Moon. This time Les's Mimix ground down my Aqua. This game is just superb, every time I play I appreciate it more.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Thursday game session

Last night's game session was at Janet's, so at her request we were looking for games at the friendlier end of the complexity spectrum.

First up was Les's Fearsome Floors, which turned out to be a bit of a brain-bender. It seemed to bring out the analysis-paralytic in all of us. Though the theme is fun, the actual game-play seemed rather dry and hard-work to me. Having finally played it, I'm pleased I traded my copy last year. Les won easily. Perhaps the fact that I did terribly didn't help me feel well-disposed to the game?

Next I introduced IceTowers. I've never played it before, but it was simplicity itself to explain. Everyone got into the game with gusto. The only problem was some clutzy tower-spilling incidents with 6-players all reaching at once to make an urgent move - it sometimes resembled Twister more than anything! Good fun, and Janet proved to be the clear champion after 3 rounds.

Finally we played Diamant, a fun little game which I enjoyed (and won - that always helps!)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Now We Are Six

Another year, another blog birthday! Six years on, this has become a habit. Some months I'm more enthused than others, but it's hard now to imagine life without this little public outlet. I enjoy talking about myself (who doesn't?), and it's always great to get some feedback in the comments section. It shows there are real readers out there (not just stats). I get a buzz every time a comment is posted - keep them coming! And I will try to write something worth commenting on. Is that a deal?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lent is well and truly over. Easter has been celebrated, and I consider myself free to buy games, books, CD's, DVD's - all those toys - again.

It was a good exercise - good for me to focus on the games already on my shelves and enjoy those without spending all my hobby time researching what to buy next. And it was good preparation for this autumn when I plan to leave my well-paid job at IBM and become a Masters student at London University. A year without game purchases can now be anticipated without too much anxiety.

Meanwhile, the fast has been broken with a purchase I have been holding off for a long time - poker chips! Finally decided that I really have to have these for 1825, Merchants of Venus, Acquire etc etc. I never thought I would be patronizing a site called (I hate gambling) but they were very helpful, sent me sample chips of two kinds - pricey NexGen chips and the cheaper 11.5 chips that have gold numbers hot-stamped on each side - and when these got lost in the post they promptly sent another sample. The cheaper chips (£1.50 for 25) looked fine to me, and the hot-stamped denomination is important to me, so I went for those, along with a bargain genuine alligator skin (simulated) case. Very pleased with them - can't wait to try a money game now!!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Mid-air with a model glider

I had a frightening experience today at Butser Hill. About 4 in the afternoon I was soaring the north face of the hill, having a great flight in light but thermic conditions, getting high, about 130ft above takeoff. I was the only paraglider in the air - there was one other pilot on the ground packing his wing away. But there were 4 or 5 model gliders flying the same ridge.

Suddenly - a model glider swooped out of nowhere and smacked into the top of my canopy, then tumbled off the trailing edge groundwards. "Shit!" I shouted, heart pounding, but was surprised to find I wasn't spinning or dropping. Looking up I examined the canopy and lines carefully - no damage! So I continued flying for another couple of beats, but I was rattled and had lost my rhythm, and did a clumsy slope landing a couple of minutes after the incident. (I probably should have landed straight away - wasn't thinking straight.)

I packed up slowly and walked back up the hill. I approached the model flyers (politely!) but apparently the guy who flew his model into me had already left. I was feeling angry at this point - at least he could have had the courtesy to stay around to speak to me!

Driving home, and thinking about it this evening, I have started to feel scared by the thought of what might have happened. 150ft above ground - hardly enough space to deploy a reserve. I always told myself that if I experienced a serious incident while paragliding I would quit the sport. Is this that incident?

I have filled out an incident report and will send it to BHPA tomorrow.

I feel like there was nothing I could have done to avoid this collision (a paraglider moves too slow to avoid a fast little model!) except maybe never fly at sites where models are flown. But that excludes nearly every site in S. England! Not sure what to do with this experience......

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Nuptial games

My wedding to Sue is rapidly approaching. Rather than paying out thousands of pounds to caterers etc we are going for a more DIY approach, which has its stresses let me tell you - as we tactfully approach lots of friends with requests to bring a pudding, reorganise tables, or reheat curries for us. Oh well. At least everyone will feel involved. FULLY involved!

I can confirm that there WILL be a games session at this wedding. My lovely wife-to-be suggested this! It will happen in the interlude between eating the cake and the evening entertainments. About an hour and a half is scheduled for this (or other chillout activities, such as a walk in the woods), which allows time for a quick game of Ticket to Ride or Settlers - ideal relaxation after the stress of the speeches! Any other suggestions anyone for a good wedding-day game?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Three personal firsts

1) First time ever in a political demo: yesterday evening I joined Sue in Parliament Square for the CND rally against the Trident replacement. Worryingly, I also bought a brown corduroy jacket from Oxfam the other day. Am I turning into a leftie?

2) First time this season in the air: I just got back from a glorious afternoon paragliding at Butser Hill. I can still fly! It wasn't just a crazy dream.

3) First time for 30 years I've been offered a place at university: today I was notified that my application to do a Masters in Neuroscience at Kings was successful. Scary stuff - now the ball is firmly in my court.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I had another great pub session last night with Les in The Plume of Feathers. We managed to bag two tables which gave us plenty of room to set up Blue Moon City. First time we've played it 2-player: it worked really well, a very tense race which was neck-and-neck all the way to the finish. I got my final offering in just a turn ahead of Les, it couldn't have been any closer. We also had time for two rounds of Roma - I won both of these as well! Poor Les, he was very gracious about it.

Our previous pub session - a couple of weeks ago in The Fox - saw us playing Carcassone the City. By a strange coincidence the couple at the next table were huge Carcassone fans! Not boardgames generally, just Carcassone, so it was one-in-a-million that we happened to be playing Carcassone and not some other game that evening. Needless to say we have arranged to meet them soon for another Carcassone session, also hoping to draw them into the wider world of Eurogames......

Friday, February 23, 2007


I am finally punching out the counters in my ASL Starter Kit #2. I have been doing this chore on and off for at least the last 35 years. I think the first wargame I ever punched counters for was Avalon Hill's Waterloo. Since then we have had personal computers, the internet, mobile phones, robot spaceships exploring the solar system - but wargame counters are exactly the same as they always were. They don't punch out properly, they tear, you get wispy bits on the corners. Note too that these products are from the USA - the most technologically advanced nation on the planet. I bet they are still using the same dies on the machines as they were in 1970.

One thing has changed though - for the very first time in my long wargaming career I am taking the nail clippers to my new counters. Very light clippage - no octagonal counters for me thanks - but clippage nonetheless.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A rashly public Lent commitment

Following Maggi Dawn's suggestion, I intend to give up buying toys over Lent. You know the sort of things: CDs, DVDs, computer games, books, and (gasp!) boardgames. It's gonna be tough.....

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Online is where it's at...... for now

In the absence of real opponents I'm hitting the web servers.

Tipped off by Moritz Eggert (?) from The DiceTower, I am trying out HexWar, which allows you to play old SPI wargames by email. The free try-out, Napoleon at Waterloo, is a trip down memory lane for me. I got it when I first subscribed to S&T back in the 70's, and I used to play at lunchtime with friends at school. Back then my nickname was "The General".

I've also usually got a couple of games of Amun Re on the go at SpielByWeb - I'm not doing very well at the moment, though I did win one (somehow) a few weeks ago.

But hopefully soon I'll be at a table again looking my opponents in the eye.....

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I played Napoleon with Dave last night. An old classic. (I mean the game, but could equally well apply to Dave!) My Gamma Two Games edition is dated 1974. We actually played with Dave's Avalon Hill edition (1979) which has much clearer printing on the blocks, but also has a battle board which unnecessarily (I thought) turns the simple battle resolution procedure into an ASL-style procedural nightmare.

I took the Allies. I played this game a lot when I was a teenager, and I thought I was quite good at it. What illusions we cherish about ourselves. Dave soundly demolished my forward deployment with a centre/left strategy. We switched sides, and I sent the Grand Army up the centre. Dave used cavalry screens to slow me down, and managed to link the Prussians with the English to defeat me again.

Sigh. The only way to salvage any self-esteem was to cynically introduce Dave to a new Euro, so out came Lost Cities, which I duly beat him at twice while he figured out how the game works. It was low work, but my ego was desperate for affirmation. Sometime you have to do these things......

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A sad day for the hobby - Chris Farrell is retiring from blogging. Chris's writing about games was the gold standard as far as I was concerned, and his blog was always the first one I went to if BlogLines indicated that he had posted. His writing shaped the way I think about gaming, and he was responsible for pointing me towards so many great discoveries - Rommel in the Desert, Taj Mahal, Blue Moon City, and many others. I admire the breadth of Chris's enthusiasm - that his expertise encompasses euros, wargames, miniatures, CCGs and RPGs astonishes me. How does he find the time for all that gaming?! Above all, Chris knows how to write. I will miss reading his blog very much. Thankyou Chris, and enjoy your retirement.

Friday, January 26, 2007

I'm sure you'll agree that an overhaul of my sidebar was long overdue. This week my project at work has been cancelled so I've got time on my hands, giving me a chance to finally get around to it. Now all my blog links are handled by BlogLines, which will make it more natural to keep them fresh, I hope. I've also weeded out and reclassified my links to non-blog websites. In particular, have a look at the "Good Causes" section - this is stuff that matters to me.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

You feeling lucky?

I'm just coming to the end of three games on SpielByWeb - two Amun-Re's and a Reef Encounter, and I'm feeling the need of more challenges! So here's an invitation to join me for a rollicking game of Amun-Re on SpielByWeb - it's called "Thutmose IV" and the password is "nimrods".

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

You remember what trials I went through trading my Battle Cry for a copy of Nexus Ops located in America?

Well, I finally broke the shrink wrap off Nexus Ops and played it through solo, and you know what? It was really worth all that hassle!

This game is such great fun, even solo. With other players it must be fantastic! It's the pinnacle of the evolutionary tree that started with Risk and went on to spawn Axis & Allies, Twilight Imperium and the rest. Ignore the Hasbro label - this one's been really well thought out. Easy to learn, quick to play, lots of incentives to get stuck in and attack, interesting special cards and special powers for the units. And I love the dayglo bits as well, the game looks really striking on the table. I suppose I would love it even more if the hexes were planets and the bits were spaceships, but that aside, it looks on first sight pretty much perfect for its genre.

Now to try introducing it to my local group of dyed-in-the-wool Eurogamers.....

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Catching up

I've been falling behind a bit with my gaming news....

Last Monday (15th) I joined Les at the wonderful Plume of Feathers in Crondall for a game of Blue Moon. The new twist - we were each to bring two decks we had built using the Inquisitors rules. A first for both of us.

I had spent a good hour on Sunday building my Aqua-based deck, using the inquisitor Swift-Fist because I anticipated getting a chance to shuffle my discards back at some point. Les had spent 5 minutes in his lunch-break building a Mimix-based deck with the same inquisitor - my deck wiped the floor with him. Les's sloppy preparation exacts its price! On examination we found that Les's deck was 7-moons short, so that may well have contributed to his defeat.

Next up - my Khind-based deck vs. his Vulca-based deck. I won again, and this time both decks were correctly built!

We finished with a quick game of Aton, where Les rebuilt his self-esteem with a 50/32 victory.

Good company, good beer, great games. What more could one ask?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Valley games are planning to reprint Hannibal. I have a copy of the AH version, but I'm very tempted to preorder the new one as well.

Is that so wrong?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

OK then - in response to popular demand: I wasn't there, but apparently Sue used a small selection of NanoFictionary cards, some of which were slightly modified to fit the characters and settings of the Ruth story in the Bible. E.g. "A distant City" was a perfect fit already. She prepped 3 creative people from the congregation, gave them a handful of cards, and asked them to prepare a little story. They told their stories in church, and everyone else voted for their favourite.

Sue then preached on the way that the stories we tell as a church community affect the way we think of ourselves and the way we serve God together. She meditated on the Ruth story and some of the alternative outcomes that could have come of those characters, settings, and problems. And on the way the Ruth story has been important to Jews and Christians ever since.

Hope that helps.

Monday, January 15, 2007

My amazing girlfriend Sue works for a small (and rather unusual) church in North London. She's not a gamer in the (slightly obsessive) way that we use the word around here, but she actually used Nanofictionary (slightly modified to fit the Book of Ruth) as the basis for the interactive bit of her sermon last Sunday!
I had a great time last Thursday - the local group came over to play Blue Moon City. This game fully lived up to expectations. It felt complex to explain, but we very quickly got into the flow once we were playing. I think everyone was as impressed as I was. This game looks like a classic to me. Final scores: Peter(4) Trevor(3) Les(2) Keith(1).

We finished with Space Dealer. Les's first time, so basic rules again. Good fun, I got completely left behind! Les(19) Trevor(19) Keith(14) Peter(12).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Right, enough of the soppy stuff - let's get back to some cardboard conflict! Who's up for a quick game of Samurai on MaBiWeb? The game is called "Castle in the Sky" and the password is "nimrods". See you there!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A clarification

She said yes.......

New Year's Day in Bali

I got my first game of Indonesia on New Year's Day, I was invited over by friends at the London Mennonite Centre in leafy Highgate. Vic gave us a thorough rules introduction lasting an hour - during which Don fell asleep - and we got started by 3:30. I had the same feeling I had when I first played 1830 - feeling my way i nto a complex, deterministic game, with lots of levers to pull and unsure which levers do what. Not surprisingly I drifted for the first few turns, and made some bad decisions (though I'm not entirely sure what they were!). The other 3 players, who were also playing for the first time, seemed able to analyze the game more effectively than I was, especially Don, who won handily in spite of having missed half the rules.

We finished at 7pm with the following scores: Don (775), Vic (709), Chris (552), Me (404). Many thanks to Vic and the folks at the LMC for their hospitality.

A few first impressions (coloured by my defeat, no doubt).

I am quickly developing a strong aversion to the "bidding for turn order" mechanism. Even in Indonesia (where it is softened by the way that you don't really lose the money you bid) it smacks of lazy design - give them a bunch of options, no need to balance them out or make them equally interesting, let the players sort it out in the auction. And what real-world business activity can "bidding for turn order" possibly correspond to? It breaks the spell for me, and it is a prime opportunity for the AP people to freeze their brains for 10 minutes before deciding to pass.

The map is beautiful, really beautiful, and fairly functional as well, though the scrolly script is hard to read at a glance. And I hate the anachronistic microwave ovens.

I had problems reading the situation - the links between markers on the board and company certificates in front of the players are not at all clear visually.

Calculating out the shipping routes and payouts rapidly becomes a complex, even bewildering task. The physical design doesn't really offer much help with getting through this.

Analysis paralysis - it's a deterministic game with a lot of variables. Players with AP tendencies will tend to freeze over at nearly every decision point in this game.

On balance I think I'm glad I didn't buy it at a discount when I had the opportunity at Midcon. I would be happy to try it again soon, but I have plenty of heavyweight games already sitting on my shelves waiting to be played for the first time (Die Macher, Revolution, Dune, Shadow of the Emperor).

Monday, January 01, 2007

The search for victory

I was on the road with Sue over Christmas, visiting her family then my family. Various games were played along the way, with increasing frustration at my inability to win anything.

Christmas Day, at Sue's family gathering in Market Bosworth. In the evening I persuaded everyone to try 6 Nimmt! Sue won the first round with a score of zero, and declared she doesn't like this game. Her sister-in-law Maggie, who also doesn't like the game, won the next round.

Boxing Day in Sandbach, with my brother Tim and his family. I taught 8-year-old nephew George how to play Risk. He gave me a sound thrashing, and spent the rest of the visit calling me “Failure” instead of “Uncle Peter”.

Wednesday, at my mother's home in Ashley. There's no point even suggesting a game to Mum, but in the evening Sue kindly played Fluxx with me. We played four rounds – Sue won them all.

Thursday, back at Sue's in Wood Green. Sue suggested Scrabble. Ah! I'm good at Scrabble. But not as good as Sue it seems. She thrashed me by about an 80 point margin – I never had a chance. She was raised by crossword addicts.

I was getting desperate. I had to do something drastic to change my luck, end this run of defeats.

Saturday, meeting Sue in London before going over to my son Phil's for dinner, I asked her to marry me. After dinner Phil pulled out Gang of Four (one of my gifts to him) and I won, yes WON! Then a quick game of NanoFictionary. I felt inspired, and told a great little story with some local colour – and WON again!

Sometimes you have to do something drastic to change your luck.....