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.....