Friday, September 24, 2010

Sunday part 2

It was probably a mistake to follow Maria with another "big beast" like After the Flood. It didn't help that I did not do a great job of explaining the rules, and everyone's brains were a little fried by this stage, I suspect. And to be honest, After the Flood did not benefit from the comparison. After Maria it seemed - well - unpolished. A little bit fiddly, and lacking in drama perhaps.

I still rate this as a very good game indeed, probably an 8, but a game of this complexity and length needs to be the main event. Definitely not a wind-down game. (Chicago Express or Nexus Ops might have been a better choice.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

There's something about Maria

I will eschew cheap smutticisms and just say that I finally got the chance to play Maria on Sunday. I've been excited about this game for a while, bought a copy a couple of months ago, and have been itching to play ever since. Iain "the acceptable face of gaming", and his friend John agreed to try it out last weekend.

I loved it.

As Prussia/Pragmatic I played very poorly. Not really thinking about the implications of what I was doing, I hammered into Austria with the Prussians and into Northern France with the Pragmatics. Won lots of battles, but handed the game to the French. But this game is a beautiful beautiful thing. I love the subtleties of hand management interacting with the suits on the board. I love the positional play and the simple way that the flavour of 18th century siege warfare is captured. I love the look of the board and the pieces. Maria is currently well on the way to joining my exclusive 10-rated list, alongside timeless works of art like Civilization, 1830, and Tigris & Euphrates. When can we play again?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In which we plays Blackbeard, me lads.

Something else we played at Nick's last weekend was Blackbeard (GMT's new edition). Danni easily beat Nick and me, storming ahead in notoriety and booty after sacking Portobello. This is a fun game, though poor Nick spent most of the game scanning the rules for us. He was effectively a full-time GM so it's hardly surprising he came in last.

I have the 1st edition and used to play it solo quite a bit (back in my lonely bachelor days). A couple of things that struck me about the 2nd edition - first, dumping the hexes is no great loss. It always felt a bit anomalous cruising around the hex-grid with no regard for wind direction. Second, the cards are considerably simplified (and prettied up). However there's a cost - a lot of complexity is offloaded onto the huge player reference card.

Let's face it, Blackbeard is all about the chrome. In fact there's hardly a game there at all - it's all chrome. So not a satisfying collection of graceful interlocking mechanisms. More a chaotic pile of historical accidents. Like a roleplaying game, it's all about imaginative immersion.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A happy time with the Unhappy King

I had an epic game of Unhappy King Charles with Nick last weekend. I was the godly faction, and things were looking pretty bad for my foppish long-haired opponent by the end of 1643, after a series of disastrous attempts to take Bristol. But he hung on to the end, and I scraped home with 13 points. Excellent fun! 7 hours of really first-class wargaming.

This is the second time I've played UKC. The first time I felt pretty lost, and a bit grumpy too with some of the complexities of the game. This time round I pwas better prepared, and I'm beginning to see that this game is a real classic, with serious intellectual muscle under the surface. Whatever you might think of Charles Vasey's online persona, you can't deny that he has put a lot of thought into this design. I can't wait for another chance to play.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Our Island Story

Well I'm off to Cardiff today to meet Nick for a weekend of unbridled wargaming. As we are both Englishmen and wargamers, it seems highly appropriate that we plan to spend the weekend playing games about Englishmen killing each other, namely Unhappy King Charles and Richard III.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Homeopathy at OK Corral

We visited Phil & Laura in their new den in Whitechapel last night. Highlight of the evening was Phil's amazing savoury pastry slices, but I also got to try out Red Dead Redemption. (Aside: why has my son got a PS3 and a huge telly when I have neither of these good things??) It must have been difficult for Phil watching my incompetent attempts to walk into a saloon without getting shot. But I have to say I was disappointed by the importance of herb-gathering in the game.

Herb-gathering??!

I don't believe I ever saw John Wayne gathering herbs. Did you?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

45...then you're dead!

Wow! I just won an online game of Shadow of the Emperor. I thought I was swimming with sharks. Turned out they were all sticklebacks like me.

It's a nice game online. Takes a while, but it's thoughtful, interesting. I've never actually got my copy onto a table - there's always something else more compelling. Shame. Underrated I reckon - possibly because of its small box!

Time enough for Ra

The other evening I persuaded my lovely wife to play Ra: the Dice Game. She's a Roll Through the Ages girl really, but she agreed to give it a try. I wasn't sure she was enjoying herself so I was mortified to realize, half-way through, that we were starting Ra from the 4-player spot, thus tripling the play time!

Anyway, in the end she won 69 to 64. And agreed to play again - provided that is that we stick to the long "version" (i.e. rules mistake). Turns out she doesn't like too much time pressure in this sort of game - she likes to have enough time to finish building her little cube projects.

Hmmm....maybe I should try her with Civilization? Plenty of time there.....

Our pledge to you

No sooner was Phil yesterday taken off the road by the theft his beloved bike, than I picked up the baton and cycled through the morning sunshine and traffic into town. Our pledge to you - every day, somewhere, there will always be a Haslehurst on his bike.

I was impelled by the (as it turned out mistaken) belief that the tube would not be running. It was quite a nice experience - only 3 people made a serious attempt to kill me (one of whom was a cyclist - they are always the worst). London was looking its best, and there was lots to see along the way (like the "daring" despoilation of Arundel Square currently nearing its grotesque conclusion).

This morning, out on my bike again - this time the tube really is closed in earnest. Streets a lot busier, crowds of cyclists - some of them quite bad-tempered. And worst of all - day 2 bum, that painful sensation of getting back in the saddle the next morning after a long ride. Still, it was fun to be peddling through Clerkenwell, admiring the quaint streets and dodging iPod-absorbed pedestrians.