Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Feast

Last weekend turned out to be a bit of a feast of wargaming - thanks in part to a Saturday visit from Phil, who was keen to try plugging his PS3 into my home cinema projector in order to watch "There Will Be Blood" in glorious Blu-Ray surround vision. This plan sadly ran into technical problems of the why-is-this-plug-the-wrong-shape-for-that-socket variety. So we watched "Gone With The Wind" on old-fashioned DVD instead - at least, the first 10 minutes of it until Phil fell asleep. Anyway, well before this debacle unfolded we had spent an exciting couple of hours that afternoon with Up Front and the City Fight scenario. After a slow first deck I was feeling smug, with most of my GI's safely billetted in two building at range chit 2. Undeterred, Phil infiltrated the first building with scary Sgt Hauptmann who killed 2 of my boys with his SMG, then chucked his demo charge into the second building with decisive - and squad-breaking - consequences.

So, thrashed again at Up Front by my own son. But he made up for it by cooking a delicious ribeye steak for me immediately afterwards.

On Sunday afternoon it was over to Chiswick for a game of Unhappy King Charles! with Iain. At last I can knock this one off my list of shame! I didn't do very well as the Royalists (perhaps my heart wasn't in it). I lost Oxford early in the game, and inattention to the isolation rules cost me the South. Rupert did have his Macclesfield moment when he rubbed out Brereton (I love playing a game that features Macclesfield!) but that was hardly enough to stop the rot. We played for 5 hours and had to stop with 2 turns to go, but the outome was depressingly clear at that point.

I love this game. Yes. the rules are repetitive and wilfully obtuse in places, but it is a very well thought-out game on a fascinating subject. The history feels right - the way that big "panzer commander" armies are penalized at every turn is a good example of fine historical discernment being prioritized over the power-play urges of some grognards (which is earning the game detractors in some quarters) and I love it for that. Iain - we have to book a rematch, and soon!

Monday, March 16, 2009

If I forget thee Psion

Well there was a panicky moment after I had received back my Psion 5mx from Paul at Psionflexi, after I had excitedly loaded it with batteries and switched it on for the first time in how many years, after I had started feeling my way around the half-remembered interface and found that my hands still know how to use this thing (it's all in the cerebellum), after I had spent my tube journey writing a blog posting about DaveCon and feeling smug about the guy opposite me cradling an enormous IBM laptop, after I had rushed home on Friday evening excited to transfer my purple prose to my PC and thence to Blogger........after all this, I found I could not find my Psion PC link cable. Frustration, sorting through drawers of techno-junk, remorse, several visits to the loft, finally despair - was this whole "fix my old Psion 5mx and use it as a cheap and also ultraportable and also retro-chique laptop" idea a deluded waste of time and money?

Sunday evening - another trip to the loft and a scrabble around a previously unexamined "PS2 stuff" box yielded the prodigal cable! Hurrah! Now I can write stuff (especially blog postings?) on the tube - a somewhat moot point, now I come to think of it, seeing that my Research Assistant contract comes to an end the week after next, so the opportunities for blogging on the tube won't be there any more. Still, perhaps I will blog on my Psion while I'm sitting out in the garden in my string vest, with a bottle of whisky and a cheap cigarette, waiting for my next giro to come.......

Sunday, March 15, 2009

DaveCon 2009

I spent last weekend in Salisbury enjoying Dave's hospitality, and catching up with my gaming group of yesteryear, including Nick, John and Steve. We played Powergrid. Imperium and Circus Maximus from GMT's Rome, and Odin's Ravens, but the highlight of the weekend (for me anyway) was a 6- hour Arkham Horror session on Saturday. What an immersive experience! And such a lavish production from Fantasy Flight! All sorts of clever touches. for example the way that different characters are more or less flexible about changing their stats. It was all a bit overwhelming at first. but once I had figured out that losing all your health/sanity brings nothing worse than a short spell of bedrest, I started to relax a bit. Even being lost in time and space - surely a fate worse than death - proved to be a handy bus service from one end of the board to the other.

Of course the game was too long - our 6 hours only brought us within distant sight of the end game. We seemed to be coping well enough to stave off disaster. but nowhere near well enough to win a sudden death victory. So there was a slight feeling of being suck in limbo. And the lack of serious consequences - like insanity or death - didn't feel quite right. I wanted to feel more frightened than I did. But it was an immersive experience game, and I'd happily try it again. Thanks to Nick for lugging it all the way from Cardiff and for patiently talking us through the rules. and thanks also to Dave for hosting a great weekend.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The list of shame

I have a shameful secret, hidden away inside the boxes of my games collection. Many of these games are brand new, unpunched, and have never been played (not even solo). It's my list of shame.

Empire of the Sun: fascinating subject, the nearest thing in history to a war fought in outer space. And the idea of a card-driven hex wargame sounds cool. It's just that I can't get through that rulebook.

The Burning Blue: again a very sexy subject, and a charismatic designer who actually interviewed Battle of Britain veterans for his research. But it's another massive, impenetrable rulebook - I just can't seem to muster the energy to read it.

Unhappy King Charles: another great subject, and beautiful graphic design. My excuse here is that it's a recent acquisition and I just haven't got around to it yet.

Successors: at least I've read the rules to this one. It looks very cool indeed, and I'm planning to punch the counters and get it on the table (hopefully with friends, not just solo) in March some time.

ASL Starter Kit #3: I've punched and played and hugely enjoyed the first two starter kits, but number 3 is sitting untouched in its box. Perhaps the tank rules frighten me.

In the Shadow of the Emperor: OK I have played this online, but have never got the bits out of the box and set it up in anger. This one is hard to sell to fellow gamers.

Reef Encounter: Again, I've played online but never on a table. Also hard to persuade people to try this one.

Verrater: Another gamer's game where the buzz faded years ago. Suggestions to play are met by blank looks.

Turning Point Stalingrad: This one really is shameful. A classic game, closely related to one of my favourites, Breakout Normandy, it's been on my shelf for years, and I've never even read the rules.

This Accursed Civil War: Another hefty rulebook, moreover a rulebook that has changed (and expanded) significantly since it was publised. I don't like moving targets - I get discouraged.

A House Divided: the counters punched themselves, the rules almost read themselves too, but I've never played it yet. My sure-fire ACW opponent Dave actually refused to play it!

Commands and Colors Ancients expansions 2 and 3: The first expansion is enough to keep me perfectly happy for years yet, let alone the extra scenarios that arrive with every issue of C3i.

Various Memoir 44 expansion packs: I think I've mastered the urge to buy any more of these until I actually play some of them.

Ambush: a kind gift from Marty, but alas, no time to sit down and really get to grips with it. And I kind of prefer soloing games that aren't solo games if you see what I mean - I like to feel I am preparing for a real flesh-and-blood opponent.

Attack Sub: I heard (on the Noise Before Defeat podcast) it's like Up Front. Another casualty of my wargame opponent drought.

So perhaps you can understand my New Year's resolution - play games, don't buy games. OK I'm unlikely to stick to that, but it's a good aspiration.