Sunday, July 20, 2008

Help me decide what to do next.....

As regular readers will know, I am coming to the end of a Masters course in Neuroscience at King's College London. And I just can't decide what to do next. Shall I try to stay on in the lab as a PhD student, working hard for long hours, perennially short of money, with an uncertain future at the end of it as a 50-something competing with 20-somethings for my first post-doc position? On the other hand, I would be working on one of two questions in science that really matter - how did the universe begin? and how does the brain work? - all the rest being trivia according to my supervisor Gerald Finnerty. Or shall I try to get a job in bioinformatics? As our knowledge of genetics mushrooms this is a booming field, and one where I might be able to use my 30-years of IT experience. But it could be quite difficult to get that vital first job. Or shall I go back to Egypt? Back to the commercial world of IT - giving up the dream of working in science, but at least earning a decent wage and building up some kind of pension fund so that Sue and I have a chance of retiring some day.

I've put up a poll - please vote, and post a comment as well. Help me to think this through.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Drive on Metz, 1944

This wifeless weekend just gone also saw me punching and clipping the counters for Drive on Metz which came as a cover game in the latest issue of C3i. It's an introductory game from Jim Dunnigan the veteran designer of SPI in the 70's. I have happy memories of playing his Napoleon at Waterloo in school lunchbreaks (and more recently at and this game is very much in the same mould - if enything even simpler and with even fewer counters (about 20!). It's a very simple ruleset with a completely bloodless CRT, which gives the game a strangely puzzle-like feel. This is not the place to go to quickly satisfy your wargaming bloodlust (try Up Front for that!) The carefully thought out victory conditions enhance this abstract feel - JD's experience clearly shows here, and it's a lesson many designers would do well to attend to. How many otherwise impressive wargames are let down by sloppy victory conditions (Paths of Glory - why all those VPs in Italy? Von Manstein's Backhand Blow - where's the incentive for the Soviets to overextend themselves?)

So, not a thriller (it's not Breakout Normandy!), but a possible gift to my potential wargamer nephew, or a quick lunchtime game if you're lucky enough to have an opponent at work.

PS C3i also included 4 new scenario cards for Commands and Colors:Ancients, and an excellent article on the Trafalgar campaign, which makes it £11 very well spent for me.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Seeing that my friendly local wargames opponent is betraying me by moving to Ireland (what's wrong with Tottenham Marty??) I need to look for alternatives. So I finally got around to trying out Sue is away for the weekend so, being at a loose end on Friday evening, I tried a game of Commands & Colors: Ancients. With all the seasoned players that hang around there I was fully expecting to get creamed, but was pleasantly surprised to get a win. I was very impressed by the software - graphically it's crude, but it is so great having a system that enforces the rules (unlike Vassal or Cyberboard for example). A bit more sophistication in the display would help, like highlighting attacks as they happen, or at least labelling the hexes, but overall it's excellent. Can't wait to try C&C:A again, and maybe move on to Twilight Struggle or Up Front (which has a clunky command line interface!) after that.