Saturday, October 26, 2013

Star Wars

My bounty hunter was down, shot by the foul slaver Trex.  My partner, the smuggler, patched me up with a stim pack while my other partner, the wookie, rushed the gangplank. 
I managed to get off a shot from a crouch position and take out one of the battle droids.  The smuggler nailed the other droid.

Trex backpedaled up into the ship but the wookie was right behind him delivering a savage blow.

I ran up the gangplank and landed the final shot on Trex.  We fired up the engines and launched just as the garrison of storm troopers rushed the hanger.  Then we had to shoot down a quartet of tie fighters.  It was a close dogfight and we were down to just two hull points before we were able to make the jump to lightspeed.  Glad I brought my tool kit.

And so that's how you play Star Wars: Edge of the Empire.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Many-Colored Land

One series of books that I think would make a really fun RPG, or a setting source book for an existing game, is the Saga of Pliocene Exile, aka The Many-Colored Land series by Julian May.  The blurb goes something like this:

There is a one way gate discovered that leads back in time from the early 22 century to the Pliocene epoch some 3 million years in the ago.  Naturally people go through it, it in fact becomes a social safety valve for the discontented and the criminal to escape the overly ordered society that earth has become.  And way back in the past there are strange, wondrous and terrible things afoot.  One group of misfits goes through the gate and finds themselves in the middle of it all.

These are an excellent read and manage to tie folklore into sci-fi in a way that is satisfying and consistent.  It's is almost the inverse of something like Shadow Run, instead of having magic mixing in with the near future world, it is near future science mixing in with historical fable.  I'd hate to spoil anything for you by revealing too much.  It's got fine characters, intrigue, humour and some pretty sweet battles.  It also has a pretty decent world that would be pretty easy to stage a campaign in.  I'm actually very surprised that there isn't a Gurps or Savage Worlds supplement for this setting simply because it is so robust and well designed and sometimes reads like someones very excellent extended RP campaign.  If I was going to run it I would have to figure out how the 'magic' and tech could work together which is why one of the generic systems might be easiest to use.  It would be a good setting for a more narrative game as well, Fate or Dungeon World maybe, perhaps even re-skin the Marvel Heroic Cortex system.

The whole series runs for 4 books, The Many-Colored Land, The Golden Torc, The Nonborn King and The Adversary.  It's a good read with an expansive cast of interesting characters and a satisfying conclusion.  The story also leads into a second trilogy about the future world called The Galactic Milieu series.  This series is pretty good as well and contains a lot of related material although it isn't required reading. The Galactic Milieu is not quite as strong as the Pliocene books in my opinion, but it is still a decent read and if you like the first books you can't go wrong reading both series really.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bode's story

I wanted to get this taken down and I hope that you write what I said because I’m going to have someone else read it to me and so it better be right.  
My name is Bode Pförtner which means porter or doorman and my family were fetch and carry men for the coach lines.  I grew up poor but not as bad as some folks. I would have been a porter too but my papi was a lucky man and once found a nobleman’s bag that had walked away on him.   It must have been an important bag because that man said now he owed Pa a debt and so Pa said you take my sons to the army to be soldiers, and not two penny men nor diggers neither.  And so my brother Cole and me we went off and became soldiers.
I had steady hands and was a real good shot, better than most, and so I went into the Crossbowmen and then the Handgunners.  My brother Cole was better than me even, and smarter too, and he made a scout and even got taught to read and do sums.  I caught on that he wasn't just a normal scout either because he knew things and the guys he ran with were not regular soldiers.  One time we were up in the Fallow Hills and Cole told me I should be sick that morning and when I told him no I’d stick by my crew he threw a punch or two and got us both in the stocks.  So in the morning I missed my post and sure enough there were gobs that had got past the lines and killed 9 guys in my unit.  Cole knew it was coming, but what makes me cold sometimes is that the brass must have knew too, and they sent us there anyhow.  Cole never said what he did and I never asked.  A soldier knows how to keep their mouth shut though and I’m saying too much, even if I’m not in the army anymore.
It was pretty good being a Handgunner and we got early mess and dry beds because the guns.  I’m glad I had good hand and eye because I never had to try to sleep squatting in a bog with my sword across my knees like I sometimes saw infantry doing.   Then again, I knew lots of infantry who’d rather kit out in a bog than sleep beside the powder.  We sometimes got overrun and had to get in with sword and board, or had to form up to break a charge, but mostly we were out of the boil and somewhere high up spotting and taking shots.  I think those were the best days of my life, back before the Third, making the Silvers and getting my Hochland.  I’d kill a man for a Hochland, but then most people would likely.  I wouldn't sell it though so that's different.
I don’t remember a lot of the actual war, just a flash here and there.  I know I was covering the Greatswords and it was going our way until they just left position.  I remember feeling that something wasn't going right and wondering where Baerfaust had gone and seeing the Mad Count’s banners flapping alone on an empty field.  Well not empty because there were suddenly gobs and squigs everywhere and we couldn't load fast enough or pull back before they hit us.  I took an axe to the head and that was all I remember until I woke up in the Shallyan temple and couldn't understand why couldn't talk or move my arms or legs.  So that’s how I found out had been knocked out for some eight months and so all my muscles were soft and also that I had a piece of brass in my head to keep my brain covered up.  Thats also how I found out I was out of the army and all my wages had gone for my care and to pay the chirurgeon and healers.  I likely would have wound up in a hole as well when the money ran out except for Gravin Clothhilde who kept a fund going for some of the more pitiful cases.  She came to the hospice too, she didn't just pay for our bread like she was buying off a lively past, she came to the temple and she helped bring us our meals and she helped us eat them.  She read books to us.
I got better fast once I woke up.  It took me another month to get my strength back after being in bed so long and I spent that helping feed and care for those ones worse off than me.  There was a man there who had lost both legs at the knees and an arm and he was the most cheerful fellow in the place and always said he was just happy he still had his prick and one good hand to hold it.   So I felt I was a lucky man like my papi. I had lost a lot of things though, and not just my trade and my money. Most of the Third was just a blur to me and I had a hard time with names of guys I used to know or remembering faces. I asked about Cole and someone said he’d been to see me while I was asleep. He had said he was doing a job down by the docks and I should look him up if I woke up. But I hadn't woke up and when I finally did he wasn't anywhere around the dock anymore.  At least I think he wasn't, I’m kind of worried that I don’t remember his face anymore either...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Belgariad (and other books)

Well worn these books
I am think I was 13-14 when I first read Pawn of Prophecy, the first book in David Edding's Belgariad series.   I don't remember exactly when it was, but I do remember that I had to wait six long months towards the end for the last book to come out in paperback which places it in that time range.  I remember plowing through these books in long gulping weekends of reading and I remember they were just great fun.   I've read them a number of times since then and I've also read the follow ups and spin offs to the series which were way more formulaic and less interesting. The original run though, it was something.
I never knew that David Eddings was like 60 when he wrote this, I never would have guessed it.  For me it was exactly what 14 was meant to be and  re-reading it now makes me feel that way again.  I suppose if I was 60 I would take offense to this, 60 is probably closer to 14 than I suspect.

The Belgariad itself is a pretty straight forward journey quest, but it's well executed and the characters are fun to be around for the while you spend with them.  The writing is approachable and the world seems to hang together quite nicely.  Even the second trilogy, the Mallorean, is not a terrible read - and if you miss the characters and don't mind seeing them pace through the same character arcs again, it's not a total waste of time to read them.  It's not until the prequels that things fall into that dreaded protagonist hellbore that causes good worlds to revolve tighter and tighter around the actions of a specific group of heroes or an author driven purpose - like Heinlein's multiverse madly striving to mate with itself.  I'd stay away from the prequels.

I've been trying to get my oldest daughter to read the Belgariad series because she has been reading lots of these new tween adventure fantasy series.  She's having a grand time reading all that crap and I thought she might get a kick out of these as well.  She had her Harry Potter moment already -that  common milestone these days for kids that manage to read books.  Now that she's hooked on reading, I figured that she might like to see some of the books that blew my mind when I was young.

It's a long planned out trap actually - there are so many good books that hit me full on in the gut between 13 and 20 that I want to get her to read, and all of them had what people might consider 'Harry Potter' or 'Game of Thrones' levels of impact on me growing up.  I can't imagine being in a head space where I'd say that a single series of books was as influential as the popular opinion attributes the Hunger Games or Harry Potter - because in my experience there was a never ending stream of them.  Joel Rosenberg's Sleeping Dragon (the Guardians of the Flame series), Steven Kings's The Stand, Frank Herbert's Dune series, Asimov's Foundation series or oh my lord -  The Gods Themselves,  Robert Heinlein's Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Stranger in a Strange Land, Ursula La Guin's Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, Pohl's Heechee Saga, Anne McCaffrey's Pern books, the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - oh just way way too many books and series to even list.  I have boxes of these books that I couldn't part with because they are associated with parts of my personality growing up.  These books defined me.  I have too many of these books. I had to take some and box them up for lack of shelf space.  So many of them come from those early years, and I have pull them out on occasion and re-read them - so I can remember who I am and who I wanted to be.

And people keep coming out with new ones.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Weekend painting update

I'm slowly making progress on the big pile of minis I have, those from before and those I was shamed into buying from the Reaper Bones kickstarter.  If nothing else having a huge pile of minis staring me down gives me something to use up the paint I bought a couple years ago.  I have to admit I do enjoy doing it, especially when I can also catch up on podcasts.  I can only listen to podcasts when driving or painting, any other activity and I can't focus on what people are saying.

I figured out a decent way to get the paint to mix, dropping in some hematite discs and fitting the paint into into my drill for a nice little spin really picked up a lot of the lumpy ones.  I also figured that painting on the Bones material is doable but you can't mix down the paint with water - just paint right from the bottle.  Also next round I'll probably paint all the shadow areas with some black when I'm doing the base coat, because unlike on the primed figures, the dark wash really beads up and away on any areas of Bones plastic you might have missed.  Nothing like having white peeking through to spoil the illusion.

Anyway the first two pictures are finished minis* that I posted before

Axe guy
Barcephalus the Elf.  His boots are not so very red in real life...
The second two are minis that are not quite finished but that are coming along pretty nicely.
You never call meeeee...
Yes those are purple hulk pants
*washed, drybrushed, based and sealed with dulcote.  Yes that is marjarom in with the rock dust.

Friday, August 23, 2013

In which a long awaited package arrives at my door

When I got back from our family camping trip there was a small parcel from Finland at the door.   My copy of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess hard cover book had arrived.  I can't recall when I signed up for this on the Indiegogo campaign, but it was a while ago.  I hadn't worried about it however because I had faith that the book would be done well and I would get a quality product.  And it is a quality product.  It is very nice to look, has nice pages, good binding and even sports a lovely ribbon bookmark.  And the art is very nice - and weird - but it all works very well.  It even sports handsome and useful tables on the inside covers.  At first I was a bit bemused because it was a small book (8.5'' x 6'') and I guess I still think in terms of the large format hardcovers.  However after only a short perusal I find that I kind of like this smaller format for a hardcover.  It is light but solid and it fits nicely in your hand.  Here is a photo comparison with the DCC rule book - which is a monster.  I would not want to take the DCC book out for a stroll or anywhere I didn't have a table to support it, but the LotFP book I would slip into a pocket and pull it out at the drop of a hat.

LotFP hardcover and adventure supplement.

Fits well in the hands, has a solid binding and includes a nice bookmark.  Quality product.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Report - Zombie Risk

So Zombie Risk works pretty darn good as outlined.  We played a 4 player game using those rules and it was noticeably more fun fighting the zombies and attacking each other via proxy than simply fighting each other directly.  There were suitable amounts of hatred for other players, but it was a little less personal. There were many more moments of cooperation and rooting for other players than you would get in a typical game. It was fun to use familiar game mechanics in a new way to quell the growing zombie hordes.

The infection on a 1 mechanic was really good and a lot of fights took a sudden turn for the worse when a player's units converted to zombie units mid fight.  It was also good that the infection cards only dropped two units into countries as this limited the attack dice at first and made these skirmishes more tolerable, but made it all the more dramatic when it happened that fallen armies were infected.  The game started out a bit slow and at first the zombies seemed to be a bit weak and it was a concern that players wouldn't be able to get their cards each turn for lack of targets.  However as the zombies gained new units after each player turn, and also the 'infection' cards caused outbreaks and conversions of player countries, it soon became apparent that these zombies were getting to be a real problem.  Slowly the zombie faction spread and soon there were heroic fights just to knock the zombies down a country or two to prevent them from getting that one extra reinforcement next turn.  By the time that players are turning in card sets for higher numbers of units, the zombies had very large hordes in place to counter.  There was a real sense of survival horror and fighting against growing hordes that came with these mechanics.

There was a lot of option for strategic manoeuvring and for player diplomacy, and since everyone had vested interest in the zombie faction it was a much more interactive game than I remember regular risk being.  I am sure that a strategic co-operation in the early game would make it pretty easy to wipe out the zombie faction, but the player self interest in controlling territory seems to be a decent counter to that.  It is good that the zombies only receive one attack per turn and then the two infection cards as it prevents them from being used too aggressively against a single opponent or for a signal purpose.

The players suggested that it would only be fair to have some sort of 'cure' mechanic where zombie forces that rolled 1 on a loss would turn into humans again.  I am not sure this is a good idea but it was a popular request all through the game.  I suggested that perhaps if the zombies lost on a 1 against a roll of 6 the zombie could be cured - making it a more rare occurrence.  I would consider this as a house rule of the house rules I guess.

Some clarifications/qualifications to the rules:

1. Setup should be done by dealing out all the country cards (minus the wild cards) and putting units on the countries you receive - at least for the zombie faction if not for all players.  I assumed this since it's always how we played, but it's not in the official rules I had.  Once all territories have a unit, then the remaining units are placed as reinforcements in player order.  Players should take turns to place a number of reinforcements equal to the number of players and then place a zombie unit until they are all deployed.

2. Zombies get reinforcements for the number of countries they control but do not get cards or continent bonuses.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Axe guy

This guy is not a Reaper Bones acquisition but he's pretty groovy.  He is all done the with base coat and I just have to fix up his right eye, do a wash, and then lacquer him up.  Then I'll glue some junk to his base, maybe try some old oregano this time.  In the back you see a couple of the plastic Bones minis I've started on. They are a bit bendy, but then again I don't have to worry about breaking off buddy's sword or bending that dude's bow too much when working.

I haven't done a lot of painting on the Bones yet, and I am practicing on some of the old minis I had never finished along side my initial test pieces.  It is a different way to paint than I'm used to, not that I am seasoned painter by any means.  You aren't supposed to need primer on the Bones minis, but I think I'll look into options for it anyway because if you thin your paint to where it's nice to apply, it kind of beads up on the soft Bones plastic.  I had gotten into a grove with metal minis and I was used to painting over black primer because all the hard to reach spots are shadowed by default.  Painting the Bones minis, I am always seeing white bits where I missed a spot - always - I'll never get them all!  For standard dude size minis I think I still prefer the metal ones, since they are easier to prep and prime.  I find when trimming the flash on the soft plastic you can get some 'fur' going on if  you are not careful.  The plastic gets all rough and hairy.  I also find it hard to see the fine details and mold lines in the white plastic before it's painted. I think that the larger Bones will be better to work with though, they are a bit sturdier but are lighter than metal and certainly easier to put together than metal ones.  It will be fun working on the bigger pieces and I won't have to worry so much about gluing them wrong or breaking them as I would with big metal pieces.

And here's a closeup of one of the Bones minis (in forced perspective no less!).  This is my new DCC character (the previous two died).  He's an elf but his skin is blue because of a spell corruption effect.  He's pretty much done with the base coat as well and now needs a little cleanup before going for a wash.  I'm not even sure I can lacquer and dulcote these guys or if that coating would wind up cracking with the more flexible material.  I'll find out I guess.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Zombie Risk

Can such a precision machine be tuned?
Its funny how some ideas are so simple but you never think of them until you hear that simple phrase or concatenation of terms that sparks the self evident.  I was pretty much done with Risk years and years ago.  I kept a copy in hand for nostalgia, and then later on, to play with the kids.  I didn't think I'd want to play it again though.  Risk: Legacy looked interesting but it didn't look 70$ worth of interesting.
A couple days ago I saw the term Zombie Risk in a google search on house rules for Zombies!!! and immediately I realized what that there was potential for shenanigans here.  Without even reading any details I could think of ways to revive that Risk board and maybe fix some of the problems with the game, make it fun again.  It is not an accident that this synergy has occurred, Zombies!!! and Risk have much in common being games that are very popular and fun while being pretty flawed.  The universe loves them despite themselves.

I've looked up some different rules going under the label of Zombie Risk and I think my favorite are the ones that have a semi-cooperative feel to them.  These variants use one faction as the zombies and have the other factions not allowed to attack each other directly but use the zombie faction as the beating stick.
I'm going to try a few different ideas and play test this with my family.  My goal is to shorten the game,  make it more fun to mess with the other players without getting too personal about things, and to prevent turtling up and the Australia effect as much as possible.

Basic rules: 
  • Set up the game as normal* but with one faction being the zombies.  I'd use good old zombie Black but what ever floats your boat.
  • Every turn players play their turn and then take a zombie turn.  Players may only attack zombie controlled countries in their regular turn but are free to go after anyone as the zombies.
  • In the Zombie turn you add armies for countries controlled as normal** and then make one attack on someone, and then flip two cards - placing two zombie units in each of those countries and then resolving those combats as well. 
  • In combat, players who loose a combat roll with 1s convert their lost unit(s) to zombie units which immediately rise up to continue the fight.
  • You win by being last player standing or the player with the most points (countries and continent bonuses) if the zombies are wiped out.
I'm going to try this basic set of rules and see how it works out.  Then adjust to suit.


*Setup should be done by dealing out all the country cards (minus the wild cards) and putting units on the countries you receive - at least for the zombie faction if not for all players.  I assumed this since it's always how we played, but it's not in the official rules I had.  Once all territories have a unit, then the remaining units are placed as reinforcements in player order.  Players should take turns to place a number of reinforcements equal to the number of players and then place a zombie unit until they are all deployed.

** Zombies get reinforcements for the number of countries they control but do not get cards or continent bonuses.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Open up the box
He just wants to be your friend!
Bags and bags of miniatures to unpack.  And a handsome carrying case!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Slacking Off

Been off the airwaves for a bit, but I'm still doing stuff and that means I'll have things to write about.  Here's a bullet list of all the fun stuff I may or may not write about later on sometime.

  • I've been having fun playing a series of unlucky losers in our Dungeons Crawl Classics game.  Man those guys were bottom of the pile, but it's often fun to play random murder hobos and make them into special snowflakes...or some kind of flake anyway.  You can read about that here.
  • Got to play Game of Thrones second edition and I'll probably write that up soon.  I feel obligated to make my comments about the graphics and the rules streamlining.
  • Had a chance to read the updated Mecha rules and the new Mecha Mercenaries book.
  • My Reaper Minis are in a dogsled somewhere over Greenland, but soon to arrive and when they do I'll try to get some pictures up.
  • I managed to grab the Ashen Stars source book and I'm working on a little adventure for that.
  • I been listening to a lot of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff pod cast.  Man them dudes can talk about stuff.
  • Work is crazy so I'm playing lazy.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cangames 2013

I usually don't get a chance to attend the Cangames convention in Ottawa, primarily because of double booking with other activities on the May 2x4 holiday.   That's a shame because whenever I look over the schedule, Cangames is the local Ottawa convention with the most diversity.  Well, OK, I can't speak about miniature wargaming, but if you are interested in older boardgames or RPGs other than Pathfinder/D&D, you will find more options at Cangames than the larger Gamesummit.

I looked over the schedule for this year and noticed that there were some pretty good things running, unfortunately a lot of it was running on Friday and I wasn't going to be able to play them.  I was especially aggrieved about having to pass up a session of Dune themed Diaspora.  I would have loved to be able to see Diaspora getting played and figure out how it compared to the kind of iffy results we had with the system.  I just realized that I haven't written up a review of Diaspora yet, either - poop.  There were some other cool things going on too.  Jason Pitre was running Durance again.  Someone was running a lot of Junta and  Shogun sessions.  There was an Axis and Allies session scheduled.  There are a number of games that are hard to find time or players for, Avalon Hill Civilization, Twilight Imperium, Diplomacy/Machiavelli, Axis and Allies or any other Game Master series game - like Fortress America or Shogun.  I had some success running a session of Twilight Imperium at Hammercon a couple years ago, but not so much running Civilization last fall.  This year I noticed that there was a game of Machiavelli scheduled so I knew I needed to show up for that. Someone really needs to do a 'long form' game convention where all the games are 8 hour monsters and the schedule is set up to accommodate that style of marathon. 

Ashen Stars
A steal for 20 bucks!
I had a bit of trouble parking because they are tearing up all the streets in Ottawa as is usual in the summer, and so I got to the con a bit late and missed registering for Durance or any of the other afternoon games.  I wandered around a bit and picked up a copy of Ashen Stars in the marketplace swap which was great.  Someone had a really clean copy of Advanced Civilization for sale for $150 and I was tempted to grab it for a minute or so.  I ran into a couple of guys from work and they were having a good time playing the Monster Mash which is as I understand a perennial Cangames favorite.  Moster Mash is a D&D monster arena for 24 players who get assigned a monster each and have to slug it out till there is one left.  It ran every 2 hours and it looked rowdy and fun - the guy running it calling out which monster was up and everyone making deals and hosing each other.  I never found where they were playing Durance however, so that's twice I've missed out seeing it played.
I had a little issue with the Cangames schedule being so orientated around those 4 hour slots.  Showing up just after 2 as I did, I found there wasn't a lot going on until 7pm.  There didn't seem to be a game library sort of thing going on either, or if it was there the convention folks had no clue and there was no advertising for it.  The convention could also have really benefited from an hourly game 'sprint' sort of event and like they had at Hammercon and Gamesummit,  the kind of thing where you can just drop by and try out a number of games in a short time period.   Also, I really think that any convention will benefit from a simple chalkboard to co-ordinate pickup games looking for players.

In any case, I ran into Trevor and we found a couple of guys who wanted to play Clash of Cultures.  I enjoyed it and think it's a pretty decent game.  I don't think Trevor liked it as much.  One of the players was pretty intense and although I wasn't too phased by it, having played with his sort before, I know Trevor was a little put off by him.  I think Clash of Cultures is a really great game, but I also think it's a little narrow as a four player game and would be better as a five player game.  I think with five or even six you would get a much more epic feel although I understand that the game would be a lot longer, but then again Civilization is one of my favorites and it's not short.

Machiavelli Board
Machiavelli: come for the famines but stay for the plagues...
I managed to talk Trevor into playing Machiavelli.  It's not a complicated game, being based on the Diplomacy rules, but like Diplomacy it does take a while to play, mostly because there is a large amount of planning and negotiation going on.  There isn't a lot of downtime like you'd get with a turn based game because you are always either writing orders or negotiating with other players, and all the turns are executed at once.  I haven't played the game in something like 25 years and I was reminded how much this game is like Game of Thrones board game by Christian Petersen.  I can't believe that's an accident, and I can imagine that Machiavelli had a influence on GoT, although they are very different in some ways too.  We only had four players which isn't the best way to play the game, but I though it was still an enjoyable session, the other players having the right mix of serious and easy going to make a game like this fun and not a chore.  I managed to get totally boxed in the middle of the board and probably didn't play aggressively enough, but it sure was fun to be playing this old gem again.  I think that Machiavelli manages to take the excellent but rigid formula of Diplomacy but throw in enough grease to make the game a little more tasty.  There is more chance involved with famines and plagues, and there are a lot more ways to mess up people with the inclusion of money and bribery.  It is not as tactical as Diplomacy, but it is still very strategic dealing with the increased randomness, and it also means that even a runaway leader can be brought low by an unplanned event and a player with few armies can have more of an impact on the game than in the more streamlined Diplomacy.  I think Trevor liked it and I certainly enjoyed myself.  I'll have to break it out more often.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hey what about Mecha?

I realize that I owe you a PDF for the Mecha campaign I posted way back in the olden time and no, you are not going to get it soon.  I have been thinking about a return to that game however, another one shot or even a short campaign based on the Jeanne d'Arc and those young space pilots (not so much) in love.  I thought about running the campaign in another system like Traveller or Fate or even Atomic Highway's V6 engine.  I've kind of dismissed those ideas as problematic for various reasons, especially after playing Diaspora and not quite getting the hang of it.  I would however like to take some concepts from Fate and bolt them onto Mecha.  I do like the concept of Aspects and I do like the Fate stress tracks and I've thought about how to use those ideas in both a Mecha game (and in some alternate universe version of Beacon for that matter).  Mecha already has Traits, a something that is a lot like Fate aspects already.  Mecha also has stress track type hitpoint system for mechs and pilots.  It would seem like the systems are not too different after all.  The big difference here however is that Mecha Scenes are quite a different way to do action resolution and if you jigger with he scenes you also jigger with stuff like Overdrive and Tactical points which would be a pretty big gutting of the system.

I also had a few issues with the scenes and players with different visions of the setting and partial knowledge of each other's visions trying to keep a cohesive narrative, something that can obviously work (see Fiasco, of other people playing Mecha...) but wasn't working for me and my group for this game.  I don't think the answer to these problems is to revert back to a more traditional action-resolution system.  There is something I like about this scene mechanic and my inclination is to make it work for me rather than looking to a different system.  So it's probably a good time to try to figure out what it is that I like about it before tinkering with it.  I know you are now waiting expectantly for a good old bullet list or perhaps even a Venn diagram, but I think I'm going to do this in a rambling and inefficient way instead.

  • Littler Scenes

Ha, that was a fake out, I am using bullets.  But I think more narrow or smaller scenes is part the solution I'm looking for.  Instead of big scenes where a player takes narrative control and drives everyone on their rail, I see breaking player turns into smaller scenes where something happens but it's more within the context of the larger act in the story.  I think that I need to keep the established scene types so that player can get overdrive and Tactical points and all that but I think that they also need to be able to have more 'filler' scenes that don't give those rewards and thus don't make combat into a point cashing out cake walk.   Also to keep things rolling along the proscribed narrative path I think that there needs to be more GM scenes to introduce or reintroduce those narrative themes - perhaps between each player scene or perhaps as the cap for a round of scenes in-lieu of a combat.  I do still think it's pretty important that each player only gets one of the standard 'reward scenes' e.g. a repair or a field ops scene, between each combat or they will be walking pretty tall.

I'm not entirely sure how this would play out without becoming "you see a box", "my scene will be checking for traps on the box" which is just regular old action resolution.  It's pretty obvious to me that a scene requires a die roll, but if there is a chance of failure, what is the penalty or reward for success one of these 'filler' scenes?  Do they need any reward beyond success itself?  Adding RP to scenes traditionally gives you Advancement Points - is this the reward?  How do you stop accelerated advancement then?   I think that maybe disentangling the Role Playing Objective from the standard scenes and attributing it to these 'Role Playing Scenes' might be an answer.  It is sensible that these role play scenes drive the narrative and the other scenes give a mechanical bonus for the upcoming combat, but I'm not comfortable with them automatically paying out AP since that is the mechanic that encourages trait use to make all scenes more complex .  I'm still trying to figure out how this would look in execution.
  • Players messing with each other
This is one of my thoughts from my session write up.  I think that what makes Fiasco work is that a player gets to select the scene or the resolution but not both.  I think there needs to be some sort of opposition to player scenes or they will tend to drive the narrative in the direction of immediate reward.  If you know there is a big fight coming up and you need Tactical points you will try to do the easiest field ops scenes you can get away with, you won't describe a risky scene because that lowers your chance of needed resources.  Even drama players will tend to play it safe when the bigger picture is on the line, but in a good narrative  those moments are the ones that would benefit most from a crazy scheme.  My thought on this is to have the other players insert an element into the scene.  This allows them to include their narrative desires as well as give the GM something else to assign difficulty to.  I think this approach might work because it gives the table some input instead of imposing some kind of automatic counter to the problem or having the GM try to deal with it.  I think the table will do the cool thing where the player might be tempted to do the safe thing.
  • More gear but not too much gear - or something
It stands to reason that if there are more kinds of scenes there will be more things going on then the base fighting skills cover.  Some of this will get offloaded onto Traits perhaps, making them more like aspects.  I especially like the idea that your mech (or ship in this case) passes on some Traits to your character.  I can see this being somewhat like Fate where the negative side of traits get 'tagged' by the GM or other players in scenes.  However since the stats are orientated to compliment the standard scenes, there needs to be something else to interact with in these new role playing only scenes.  I also have the idea that the more complicated nature of the game might require more than just pistol+flak vest or las rifle as inventory.  I don't want the game to get bogged down in any sort of  inventory though. You get assigned what you need for the mission.  Perhaps allowing a couple extra slots on the sheet for items or ideas that act something like traits that can give bonuses to resolving RP scenes.  It would be interesting if a character found a 'precision hacking kit' or 'teddy bear concealed dagger' or something that they could use for a bonus modifier.
  • Penalties for failure
Last point for now, but I was also thinking that there should be more penalty for failing than just not getting the scene reward.  I don't think that it's right to take reward points away from players, but I have been thinking it would be interesting to award points to their opposition if they fail, or fail over a particular margin.  This idea comes from the combat session where the players used a couple tactical points in one shot to move the Tatical Waypoint right to themselves and ace the combat encounter.  As a GM I really would have liked to have a point to spend there too.  I think that might be a thematic as well as interesting consequence to have the badguys benefit from particular failures.

I'm sure I'll be back to the well on this.  Work is long and I'm so far behind on my one pet projects that I have just resigned myself to enjoying the games I have been playing and mulling over these ideas in my head. I can see trying to actually solidify these ideas into a playable mess for a summer one shot however.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Space Empires III

Space Empires III is one of the best games ever.  It's too good for the technology that it was written for (Windows 95 people!) and I don't think I have even managed to find another game yet that did what that game does so well.  Asynchronous turn based multiplayer space 4x.
Your window into awesomeness.
Space Empires 3 looks simple, and sure it has simple graphics and sound. The menus are not fancy or animated or all tool tippy. The AI isn't brilliant.  But what SE3 does have is it is the best damn computer assisted space board-game you can play with your friends over email.  Oh I'm sure someone out there has made more complex games or more realistic games, and even the folks that made SE3 went on to make bigger prettier versions of the same game (SE4 and SE5)- but here's the thing SE3 got it right.  It has enough depth to keep things interesting but not so much that you need to study a couple books or log a million hours to play.  There is also a surprising amount of power in the way it organizes the game information for you.  All your ships, all your planets, all the orders you have issued are all there to be examined.  I tried other games and this is the break point for me - they get too hard to manage, their menu systems are too obtuse to navigate.  Space Empires IV might have been a better game but I could never get past the UI to find out.  Space Empires III is sleek and efficient.

The other thing that makes this game so good is the strategic combat and the combat simulator.  Don't even bother to play this game using the tactical combat system in single player mode because that's not where it shines.  Where SE3 works is building and testing your fleets and then sending them off with operating instructions to fend for themselves.  It's an wonderful feeling to get a notice that your fleet has trounced another fleet in some far sector of space.  It's a dreadful feeling to get news that your fleet has been expunged from existence.  There is more than just the combat. There is a decent research tree to juggle. You get mad benefits from managing your population properly. You can pump resources into espionage, and you can do well by being a good diplomat and skimming points from trade agreements.  You can win on points or by taking out all the other players.  And the best part is that you feel like a real emperor doing it all at arms length and waiting for your next turn to see what has transpired.

I've thought about how I'd make a 4x game quite a lot and I believe that it would fall pretty much in line with what SE3 accomplishes.  I might add some spokes to the tech tree for that rock paper scissors effect. I'd probably want to increase trade and tribute so that you could move units.  I might even add in some mining or resource collection.  But I have to say all this was attempted in SE4 and it didn't make the game work for me.  My one big wish I guess would be to add in simultaneous turn resolution and some method of having ships/fleets resolve combat at slight distances to compensate for this.  I can see it now, programming your ships to engage if anyone flies within strike range, or having them programmed to flee and conserving some of your movement for these eventualities.  However until the day that I see that, I'll be pretty happy with this electronic board game I think.

I meant to write a post about SE3 for a while now, in fact I started writing this one and ended up kicking off a new play by mail game of SE3 instead.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Broil-mate for the win

This is my BBQ, which I bought a good number of years ago.  It was at least 6-7 years if I recall rightly.  It's a Broil-mate built by Onward Manufacturing Company (OMC), a Waterloo Ontario company that builds the shit out of BBQs.  It's got ceramic coated grill that's plenty big and a warming rack in the top.  It's not fancy but what it is is solid.  I've left this bugger out every winter, I've used in every season and I've accidentally left the cover off in some pretty big snow and rain storms.  Even after all that I just went out to check it out, to clear them spider webs and sweep out the ashes, and it's all good.  It's not even rusty.  Well the burner is a little rusty - but it's surface rust mostly and after a few taps and passes with the brush all the little fire-ways seem to be clear and the ignitor still sparks it up by the second click.  I've been reading all those horror stories about $60 stainless burners that rust out after two seasons so when I think about paying less than $200 for this baby on sale at Home Depot, it makes me smile.

With all the other crap falling apart a little more in my yard every spring (I'm talking to you shed!), it's been good to know that this BBQ is ready to fire me up a sweet set of coffee steaks and a rack of stuffed jalapenos despite all the abuse it takes. 

*March 2015 now and this baby is still going strong.  I thought I might need to replace the burner but turns out it was just full of crud and a good brushing fixed it right up.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Broken Heart Kraken

So sad.

So you might notice something from the picture here, mainly that my Kraken has no heart counter. He was born this way apparently and that's how the game came from the store.  No I don't have a receipt to take it back to the store because I bought the game way back in the fall and didn't even open it until after Game Summit.  I did send an email to Iello about getting a replacement heart dial or something but they haven't replied.  Not even an automated reply which in this day and age is dumb for any company.  Love the game, not impressed with the customer service.  I wasn't even asking for a free replacement (although - hey why the hell should I have to pay to get all the pieces in a game I bought), but I didn't even get a form letter directing me to download an order form for replacements.  Boo.

Right now I'm using a d20 for the Kraken heart but I sure would like to get this resolved.  I suppose I'll send them another email.  If that doesn't work I'm going to have to start sending packages of calamari to Richard Garfield or something.

Also isn't that illustration a little odd - I mean look at the guys lower torso - those are some pretty spindly tentacles there.  No wonder this guy is spends all that time on his upper-body work...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful

Went to see Oz the Great and Powerful in IMAX 3D at the Kanata Empire Theatres.  A very nice theater,  they've apparently redone the whole place and it is pretty nice.  Actually this week I went on Wednesday to see Django Unchained with my Brother in Law, and then again tonight (Sunday) to see the Oz movie with the kids.  Both times I was impressed by how polished and clean the theater was and how well comported the staff was.  Also by how few people were in there which is a shame.  I hope don't go out of business because it's worlds nicer experience than going to the mall cineplexes, especially the South Keys one which is dreadful.

Anyway Rami/Disney's Oz is a amazing looking film and the 3D was really good.  Less popping out and lots of depth, which in my experience seems to be what works the best.  The first part of the movie looks really nice in old style aspect ratio and in black and white 3D with little flourishes here and there.  It looks very nice.  When the movie expands out into colour and full screen however everything looks amazing and there are some really nice design touches in all the environments.  There's even a nod to the IMAX experience via a cinematic trip over a waterfall that makes your stomach rise up into your throat.  Very pretty.

The acting is ok, not amazing but it is fine.  The kids didn't mind at all, and James Franco has enough charm to pull off the lead role.  My only complaint is that it was a bit draggy, this movie could have afforded to drop some 10-15 minutes and quickened the pacing on some of the characterization and plot points.  The china doll and the flying monkey butler were decent companions, Glinda was good (hehe) and the other characters were passable but they could have dropped one or two secondary characters and focused more on the ones they had. Plot wise, well movies today do tend to telegraph waaay too much, and they could have done a bit less of it, but it was a kids movie so I can forgive.  There is a nice little reversal that plays well, but after that some of the character elements and exposition could have been tightened up considerably.  Also there was too much time spent pointing out munchkins and emerald cities and comparing sets with the original OZ movie, which was also probably inevitable I guess.  I did enjoy pointing out Bruce Campbell to my kids though and was glad to see his cameo.   He got hit in the face a bit which was fun although they are too young to have seen the Evil Dead movies for that to make much sense to them.

I recommend going to see this in the IMAX 3D just for the eyeball candy, otherwise I'd just wait for the video to come out and watch it at home where you can pause for a pee break.  My two enjoyed the movie and now want to load up the original Wizard of OZ so they can see the 'next part', which is a lot more than I expected from the movie going into it.

Oh and Django was good in case you were wondering.  I liked it fine, and it was a very good movie, but I found it wasn't as quite as interesting as Inglorious Basterds.  Like most Tarantino films, I'm probably not fit to analyse all that is going on in there but this was as well crafted as you might expect.  I found the whole thing very enjoyable and the acting was exceptional.   I thought that the tone wasn't as consistent as Inglorious Basterds and I didn't find it as nuanced or on as grand a scale.  It seemed like a smaller movie, but it was a western, so that might have been the intent.  It was certainly worth a watch.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Games, whiskey and internet shows

I had a chance to play Eclipse and Agricola last night.  Both pretty good games.  Of the two, I think Agricola is the better game and I would be much interested in playing both of them again so that's a success I guess.  Agricola I bought like a year and a half ago at Hammercon with money I made selling a couple games I probably wouldn't be playing again.  I'd like to do more of that since I'm not as hung up on collecting as I am about having the right game available these days and I'm already making my list of 'trades' for the next con I go to.  It's been a thorn in my side to look over and see Agricola but not play it, and although I did do the usual learn the game run through, it hadn't clicked for me.  Now that I've had a chance to play it I know I will be bringing it out more.  I can see it as a light version of Le Havre in many ways - the shorter play time is a definite plus and the farming theme makes it more family friendly than the commodity theme (got to pick up some sheeples for this game, that would up the chances of playing it considerably) although I'd still probably want to play Le Havre if I had the time and the right group of players.

I don't think I'd buy Eclipse, at least not at it's current price.  It was a good game and I enjoyed it but I really thought the components were crap and although the mechanics were interesting I don't know if it's something I'd play over say Galactic Emperor.  Certainly not Twilight Imperium.  Ok, now that I've said that I can see how Eclipse has a more interesting research/upgrade mechanic than you see in most of these types of games.  If it had better components I'd probably buy it.  I played a three player game and it worked pretty well with three, the victory point mechanics offsetting the traditional last to fight wins the game problems so many three player war games have, so there is that.

I've also been sampling a number of single malt scotches in the last six months.  I made the mistake of cultivating the habit, and now I'm spending too much on it.  I started by trying a budget McClellands speyside single malt and it was alright but nothing special and I figured I just didn't like whiskey.  I much preferred a cheap bottle of St. Remy VSOP  or a dark rum.  However after buying a 12 year old Bowmore single malt on recommendation from a fellow at work, I realized that I really (really) like the single malts as long as they are good ones.  I like the peaty ones and Bowmore is my favorite as yet but I have been enjoying all of them quite a lot.  I've had a chance to sample about 8 or 9 different bottles now having worked my way through some Aberlour, Jura, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Glengoyne, Auchentoshan, and I just got a bottle of Glenrothes which I'm eager to try.  All these are in the low price range and between 8 and 12 years but are still  more than twice as much as I used to spend on a bottle of booze. I do like a good glass of whiskey now, which is something I don't think I would have said last year. I'm both interested and horrified to realize that I am now becoming very tempted to spend even more than that to try something like a 15 year old Laphroaig or a 18 year old Bunnahabhain.

I've been drinking that whiskey and watching a lot of CrashCourse on YouTube.  This is a series of short educational videos that are both interesting and entertaining.  I have waded though the world history and the literature and am onto the biology and chemistry.  I think that these are a wonderful example of the best of the internet, engaging content designed to be accessible and done with a genuine joy.  I have to salute these guys (the Green brothers and all the folks they have contributing to this) for doing something so valuable and then giving it away to the world instead of hiding it behind a pay wall or using it as fodder for a premium cable channel.  The old promise that television would be a revolutionary medium for educating the masses has not seemed to pan out so it's nice to see another medium take a shot and that quality educational content is being developed alongside the dancing cats and extreme cooking videos.  I think there is a conscious philanthropic component to this as well, likely it has something to do with their DFTBA (Don't Forget To Be Awesome) tagline.  Maybe I'm wrong about that and they are truly evil men in pursuit of unspeakable ends (the more terror connotation of the aforementioned "awsome"), but I am going to give them a big bravo regardless, since they are still very probably inspiring people, especially young people.  We can thank John Green for informing us that authorial intent means squat anyway.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Watchmen: the director's cut

I read the Watchmen long before the movie came out and I did think it was an amazing book and I did wonder what the hell did they think they could make a movie of this and I did remember thinking I had thought the same thing about Steve Jackson doing Lord of the Rings and look how that turned out. Whew, that's a mouthful. It's also pretty accurate because I was hesitant but not entirely dismissive about this movie when it came out. I wanted to like it. I didn't, but it wasn't terrible either, and so I thought that perhaps it was worth a second viewing when I saw the director's cut Blu-ray version in the bargain bin. Maybe the movie didn't get a fair shake, perhaps the director was forced to cut out some bits that would have made it work. Well I watched it and now I can say no, that wasn't the problem at all.

I saw the Watchmen at the theater and I didn't like it.  My wife liked the intro and the music and hated everything else.  Almost all the people I talked to about the movie said they liked the music but not much else.  I actually didn't mind the movie, although it seemed a bit off but I hated the music. Oh not the songs themselves, but the way they were implemented in the movie.  I thought that the music choices were obvious instead of interesting and the transitions were really really blunt and jarring.  I hate jerky music in movies, you have to seduce me with your mood altering sounds, not flash your baboon ass.

I also didn't like how the movie looked.  Ontario Canada has had the slogan Ontario, yours to discover for a long ass time.  It's a great slogan and it is all over the commercials and bumper stickers and says something about tourism and nature and stuff.  Ottawa, which is a city in Ontario, wanted something like this too so they paid a lot of money to have a PR company come up with a good slogan for the city.  Ottawa paid money to have the slogan "Technically Beautiful"  put on their signs and stationary.  Really.  It boggles the mind.  Ottawa needs to sell their slogan to the Watchman movie.

The movie looked very polished, all the right lighting and props and makeup was there (well with the exception of Nixon's makeup - that was bad), but there was a distinct wooden feeling to the scenes that ruined it.  The scenes were pretty but screamed look how accurate this shot is to the comic in a way that totally ruined the immersion and pacing.  Really it was amazing how much craft went into it and how that just didn't matter in the end.  This movie is a great example of the difference between comics and movies even though they are both highly visual narratives that do share so much.  The moved from comic panel to comic panel but we didn't have the chance to linger over the details like we would if we were reading it, and flipping back and forth to compare.  And when we were forced to move on to the next image, the movie didn't breath in any life between those panels.  So the move seem to be breathlessly rushing to tell the story but also very slow and plodding.

I also really didn't like the violent ubermensch take on the heroes as opposed to the comic's very human take on the masks. I have no problem with violence but here it was just done wrong.  A huge portion of the story to me is how Dr. Manhattan is the only actual superhero and the rest of them are very human.  This was especially true of the fight scenes with Owlman and Silk Spectre.  Having them wading through bad guys in super slow motion was totally wrong for this movie in exactly the same way it was so right for 300.  300 was an epic mythos, the watchmen was written as a response to that kind of story.  Those scenes should have been as paunchy and awkward as Owlman was in the comic.  Not to say that there was no place for that style in the movie.  Rorschach's combat scenes were better as he was a ruthless improviser and that super efficient slow time combat was appropriate for Veidt's fight scenes - he was kung fu enough to able to catch a bullet after all.  However it was over applied to the detriment of the theme in my opinion.

I had no problem with the way they adapted the story or the changes they made to the ending however, I actually thought that the ending was pretty good and made sense. I wish that they had done more adaptation. The story itself is pretty good and although it would be hard to boil it down into something more suitable for a movie instead of an elegant comic book, I think it could be done. It needed to be told for motion pictures however and not as a series of iconic images in homage to the comic.

After watching the extended Directors cut edition (over 24 minutes added!) I can say that there was no magic restored here with the additional content or that the cuts were not responsible for the movie's poor showing.  Sure the extra material filled in some parts of the narrative, but in the end it wasn't the narrative that was the problem, it was the presentation.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Gamesummit 2013

Gamesummit in Ottawa was in Gatineau this spring and it was easily twice as big as it was last year.  It was in a larger venue this year and it was also pretty full.  Everywhere the tables were packed so that bodes well for the event, and already next years date is booked at that location.  It ran for two days and I went both the Saturday and Sunday, Saturday for some serious game activities and Sunday to bring the kids.  It was a pretty well run convention and even though they had some issues with registration I think they did a really good job running the show.  I only had two real beefs about it in fact.  My first complaint is that they didn't provide a white board for the game library so you could easily announce games looking for players.  That's a minor thing but since they did have this in the past I was kind of relying on it and was ticked to see it wasn't available.  One of my friends did manage to get the MC to announce a game we wanted players for, and that was great, we got all sorts of folks dropping by so that then we had to turn folks away.  It was an awesome band-aid on an otherwise easily solvable problem.  Next year set up a whiteboard for games looking for players.  My second complaint was that they only had the picture booth running on the Saturday and so when I came on Sunday with the kids we couldn't spend our tokens and get novelty photos made up.  That was disappointing since there was little to spend the tokens on for them and I had saved them up just for that purpose.  Neither of these were big deal breaker issues by any means.

I got to try the Le Havre: Inland Port and I have to say it was interesting but I wouldn't buy it.  The game had a very neat goods abstraction system that entirely solves the issue of having gobs cardboard tokens that the original game has.  Unfortunately it solves it in a way as to be highly abstract and that takes away from the visceral fun of processing goods in the first place.   More interesting was our trial of Clash of Cultures (that's it in the picture) which is a true civilization style strategy game that was a lot of fun.  We messed up the rules and had a few false starts but the components and the game mechanics were really good.  I'd like to try this one again for sure.  I also got to try out a game of Chaos in the Old World which was an interesting and good looking area control style game based on the Warhammer franchise.  Evil gods trying to dominate the world.  It actually reminded me a lot of the Diskworld: Ankh Morpork game but with a more over the top heavy metal theme.

On Sunday the kids and I got to learn to play Munchkin which was pretty fun.  My oldest liked it and asked to play again sometime (of course I had a copy of Munchkin at home we haven't played yet - Axe Cop flavour), the younger one balked at the amount of info on the cards and didn't like it as much. She won the game but was more along for the ride than anything.  We also got a chance to learn and play King of Tokyo at the game demo tables which is a fantastic game, fast fun and very accessible to all types of gamers (of course I had a copy of King of Tokyo at home we hadn't played yet).  We also go interviewed for the local newspaper, likely because the two girl children at a game convention bites dog angle the reporter was looking for.

The market place was huge, at least twice the area of the whole convention space the previous year.  There were lots of vendors and the kids picked up some little nic-nacs but I really was keeping my self in check this year.  I was very tempted to buy Cyclades which I had heard good things about and which I saw being played.  That game is really pretty.  I was also tempted to get Clash of Cultures but I didn't because it is a 4 player game and I have a surplus of 4 player games.
I did get a chance to pick up a copy of Durance, which was a kickstarter RPG book by Jason Morningstar, the creator of Fiasco, that recently shipped.  That was a score because I missed out on funding that and was actually worried about finding it in a store before the zombie apocalypse.  Durance is a space penal colony themed story game that I am pretty eager to try out sometime.  I also grabbed a copy of Dino-Pirates of Ninja island even though I probably won't get a chance to run someghting like that for a hella long time (still gotta bplaytest Beacon whenever possible)because the dude was there with his book and we must support those dudes.

So good times.  Next March I'll be looking to go again.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The New Crew

My opinion on setting up for a run is that you need to be light about it but you need to think it too and if you go too light or too ready it's no good either way.  I had a long time to consider things while healing up and helping out them Farthrow missionaries, and I figured that I was pretty used to setting up and working a plan and maybe that's where I had that problem before.  Plans were like wishes and you could get attached to wishing instead of seeing what you got.  I was just about ready to get back down in The Cut and maybe find some folks and join their crew and I decided to go lighter the next time I did a run, less thinking it.  I was putting it off mostly, I knew I was on top of things again from a physical angle but I wasn't too happy about having to be low cat on the scrotum pole and having to smile it up or fight all the time anymore.  So it was lucky me when the Dubliner pilot Patio came looking for me in the creche.  I kind of considered old Patio a decent guy because he represented himself very well when we jacked his shuttle that time.  I was kind of surprised when he said he knew a fellow that was looking to get a crew together because I thought offworlders were kind of like them adams and all businessmen and workers and all tubes and cubes and stuff.  But I should have known there was crews out there in the other worlds too cause people need to get by, funny ways or not.

I kind of figured that I'd have to prove myself and so right off when Patio introduced me to the crew boss I made myself useful and hooked him up.  He said he needed to do a run for some data and I knew I could help out and make some points with him because I still had a line on access chips.  He sure was a weird guy though and I couldn't figure his tell or if he was playing me or not because he set me right up with some really fresh gear for that find.  It was really fresh gear too, way too good for some old finder share.   I watched him real close but couldn't figure him so I suspected he was working it to see what I would do.  I made he was running a test on me but not like the usual fight or beatdown, he was running my personality.  He asked me what kind of trade he'd need to get a decent corp chip so he could tap their terminal and when I asked what he had, he pulled out some real quality meds and food bars.  We were in a pretty crummy dive and he was waving around some real flash and attracting lots of attention which I also couldn't figure.  And sure enough one really big old mutie comes over to mess with him and then I knew what was going on.  This was a set up so I could call this guy out and he did it because I was so small and all and he figured I'd back out and he'd get back all that gear anyhow.  Well he didn't know that I was Eloi, and that was really some quality gear.

The mutie was really big and he had some kind of skin thing that made him look pretty tough and hard to cut.   He was touchy about it too and tried to give the boss a hard time over it.  There was a small gang with him but he was a bit spooked and cooling off a bit too and also a hard guy in the bosses crew had give him back some spine while he was sniffing around.  He started walking away and so I didn't want to miss my chance so I called out 'Hey you forgot yer skin cream' and sure enough then he comes at me like a storm.  I figured I should play it a bit cause this was my show, so I waited for him to close and then jumped up at the last when he took his swing. But factually I was still a bit tight and I botched it up.  I hadn't done much slash and tumble in the cloud hugger creche, so I was way out of practice.  I jumped too slow and he clipped me pretty good and I was on the floor.  Ugly's buddies step up too thinking maybe they'll score some of our flash, but the rest of this new crew is all moving in on them and it's back and forth a while and everyone in there except the boss. Then I saw my chance to put this guy out and quick as tunnel snakes I jump up and drop the guy.  We lit out of there pretty quick after that.

I thought the boss would be all perturbed because I botched it, but he was still playing it really fresh.  I couldn't figure him out, either he had a wicked hard scheme running or maybe he was just all tell and didn't care. He wanted to know the best way across town to my chip guy and when I told him we could go below and use the tube he was all for it, till he found out we'd have to walk.  I guess on his planet they have trains running in their shit tubes or something.  Anyway he wasn't hot to walk so we got a rickshaw and I made a good trade with some of them food bars to get us there without any shakedowns or jacks.  I was all tweaked too and feeling very fine because this crew seemed alright and wasn't mean or stupid either.  This crew were almost like folks, and we were on a run.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Le Havre

I got to play this at Hammercon and I enjoyed it so I ordered a copy of it (from this great on-line game store in Canada German Boardgame Company which is another post itself really) and I got a chance to play it a couple times over the holidays.  I'm not going to go into the mechanics or the theme since you can read about it, but it's a resource manipulation game where you build up wealth by converting raw materials into goods and money and investing in infrastructure.

First thing - Cards and Cardboard.  This game comes with a lot of cards and a lot of cardboard.  There are lots and lots of tokens for the resources.  Cardboard chits represent cows and clay and fish and iron and wood - it's all about the goods.  I played twice with containers for those chits and one time using the spaces on the board and I believe that you need to have some strategy for managing the cardboard or it gets out of hand.  Little square bowls seem to work best - especially if you can put them on the board in the spaces provided.  There are cards for buildings and ships that need to be laid out and also the turn sequence is done using cards.  Have enough space at the table for players to organize all their building cards and resources too.

Next thing - Time.  It's a good three hours if you play the short game (the one where you start with more goods and play fewer rounds).  If you play the full game you start with less goods and really feel you are building up from scratch, but it's not a lot different in the end, just longer.  It's just like Titan in that respect.  You can start with more tokens and some of the early combos done for you already and it won't really change the game, but it will seem like you've cheated.  I say don't be afraid of the short game, especially if you're playing with less hardcore gamers or those with less patience.

How does it play?  I really like it, it has a lot of fiddly bits which I enjoy and there is a whole strategy in blocking other people from using buildings that can be interesting.  It isn't directly confrontational but there is a feeling of resource pressure from the other players which I don't get out of Puerto Rico.  I enjoy the hard decisions and the game moves quickly for a turn based.  Set up is an ordeal however with many cards to arrange and tokens to pass out, so a good storage strategy is essential if you don't want to add that time to the start of the game.

I like it and it fits into the same niche as the Mayfair crayon train games or Puerto Rico.  Its a good grown-up family game.  I haven't played with less than 4 players (played 4 and 5) but apparently it plays well with 1-5.  I don't see myself playing it single player since I'd just play a video game instead of wrangling all those chits around - but if the power was out and the zombie barricades were all in place it might be fun.  I'd try it with 2-3 however and it probably works much better than the train games or Puerto Rico with smaller numbers of players.  There is also a stand alone 2 player game called Le Havre: The Inland Port which looks interesting because it does away with all the goods tokens in favour of a resource dial or something.

Le Havre is a good game.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The worst thing

The worst thing that ever happened is when I got shot.  I can kind of remember my mother, and it was pretty bad when she went away, but that was a long time ago and it's hard to remember that time.  I still remember every part about getting shot though.  I can remember jumping down from the window. I can remember the dusty air pulling against my arms as I slid out my knives to take the guy out.  I can remember the merc and how his visor reflected the flash as he stepped out from the cargo door and the weight of the thing as it slammed into my chest.  It didn't even hurt, it just slammed into me and spun me in the other direction.  I can remember not being able to get a breath and then blood in my mouth and I couldn't see anymore, just white.  I can remember hearing folks and guys yelling and more shots but I don't remember what they were yelling.  I remember being surprised that Cross was there and not up watching the window and then he picked me up and there was so much pain.  I don't remember after that, but he said he thought I was capped for sure and he just grabbed me so he had something.  He thought he was capped too.  He got out though.

I figure that it was Lad that tipped them off, and that's how they knew we were going to do the port run and how they set up for us.  I don't know what he got for it, but folks never saw him again so he either got a lot or they tossed him in the cycler.  He wasn't on the run, but almost everyone else was because I had planned it out forever and it was going to be a real good one, real big.  I had the stock lists and all the right gear and even some suits and chips from their corp fuzz.  I got it all together after we found a guy that had keycode for InterSee, a low grade shipping corp that had warehouse at the port.  I used those credits we had and it was planned out and we were stocked legit for a run on them.  The list said there were only a few guys on security and we had a perfect run getting in, but that was all sour because when we got in they had mercs set up for us.   They got a lot of my crew right off, most of my crew capped or caught, and even the ones that got out went deep after that. I didn't see those folks again.  They could have killed everyone, they could have changed the chips too so we couldn't even get in, but InterSee wanted to make sure our gang did get in and was busted up, and they wanted some folks to get away too.  They wanted folks to know.  It was pretty smart if you think about it.

I was laid up for a long time, like just a month just trying to not be dead. Cross always said he knew a bunch of adams up in the city that were as good as folks and ran some kind of crew that helped out muties and bents.  They lived in ships or something and were all deep thinkers and holy rollers who came down to G4 to  be good and helpful or something.  I didn't figure any of that, and I used to say they must want something but now I don't know because they took us in and didn't flag or turn sour on us either.  Not that I had a choice trusting them, I wasn't going to make it in The Cut the way I was busted up.  I always figured Cross was angling to be boss of the crew and that he didn't much like me cause he always got on me about things, but he was good folk and he took care of me even though he didn't have to.  I didn't figure it back then but now I think maybe he didn't care about being boss as much as he wanted it to be good for the crew.  He took care of me because I was all the crew that was left.  Anyway these adams did patch me up and were all pretty chuffed to see me and they even knew I was Eloi and that was pretty important to them for some reason.  They knew a lot about my mutie though like how I didn't look old and how I could live with a broke heart for so long.  They even seemed kind of sad about it, like when you owe someone for a trade but you can't make good on it.

The adams were from some place called Farthrow which wasn't in any of my code or even the files I read from that datacore.  I wanted to run some searches or navsim  and check that out cause I was laid up with nothing to do.  They didn't let me use their gear though, and mine was all spragged and no way to fix it.  I didn't even have any of those old audibles to listen to and all the stim these adams had was like clouds whispering or something.  I was nearly out of my mind bored except that Cross would come by and tell me a joke or blow some dust up some adams back for a laugh.   They were so easy to dust and they had a really bad tell so you knew just how to twist them up too.  He would tell me about some folks we knew or if he saw someone from the crew or what he heard going on.  He stopped coming though.  The adams let me stay with them for a couple months more and I kind of helped around the place while I got better.  I was itching to get out of there though, I thought I might try to find Cross or maybe see if I could get in with a new crew.

And then that pilot showed up.

next: The New Crew