Friday, October 5, 2018

Dice City, A solo review

As I've left behind my gaming group and am now literally in Indian Country (no offense to my Native American friends), I am having to dig down deep and resort to solo gaming, for the most part. I do have some folks who want to play games, but we're not at a point where we can do that yet (I need a table and chairs!). So, I am slowly buying games that can be played solo, as well as multiplayer.

Last night, I got out my recently arrived, Dice City. I had viewed several videos on YouTube, showing game play and more, and I thought it to be a decent 3 and 4 player game. That is could also be played solo is was sold me on buying it.

So, I punched out a the few pieces that I would need and went to work.

The box has four player boards, which was nice as I half expected I'd need a second box to get to 3-4 people in it. The artwork on the accompanying cards and board is a nice and full of heavily stylized imagery. The rulebook is full color, as is now the expensive trend, and there is a plastic organizer tray in the box, which means I wouldn't need to shell out another $25-$40 for a laser cut insert.

The rule book is fairly good, although it would benefit from several examples of game play and some of the rules specific to certain cards is...somewhat vague. The game is simple and straight forward, though. One rolls 5 different colored dice, which correspond to colors along the edge of the player boards. The resulting pips on a die also correspond to columns on the player board, giving one coordinates as to spaces the dice should now be individually placed.

Some of the board spaces are production sites, others add strength to one's "army" and still others allow one to re-roll the die or to gain victory points. So far so good.

The various cards that are available are either trade ships, enemy armies, production sites, or buildings. The first three are always out and available, either being a source of victory points or goods. The buildings provide a number of different bonuses, depending upon their type. To buy a card, one expends resources gained, although only one of each of the three resources (timber, stone, iron) can be saved each turn.

In a multi-player game, the players can attack other players' buildings, causing them to not produce or be useable until repaired, but in the solo game, this option is non-existent and the solo rules do not provide for an alternative threat

In the solo rules, one is playing against the clock with 4 (or 5) building cards being drawn each turn, slowly burning down the deck, and the bottom of two rows of cards being discarded at the end of each turn (after the build phase). In this way, cards are available for purchase for a maximum of two turns. Purchased cards can be placed anywhere on the board, even over other cards, which are now discarded and out of play.

An interesting aspect of the game is that although the dice are placed on specific spots on the board, the player can use them in different ways. One is to remove one die to shift another die to a different (more useful) space on its own row.  So, I can pick up the red die and move the blue die to another spot on the blue row.

The solo objective is to reach 50 victory points, or more if the player finds the game too easy. Victory points can be awarded in several ways, the main one being by building purchase, defeating the enemy armies, or purchasing trade ships.

As mentioned before, I think this is a decent, not great, game for 3 to 4 players and I think with 2 players it would be far less interesting. As a solo game, it is downright uninteresting and boring.

It comes down to whether or not one can produce enough goods, based on the die roll, to purchase enough cards to get to 50 (or more) victory points before the building deck runs out.

To me, this was like playing Solitaire with a deck of standard playing cards....yawn. There was no excitement or tension. And honestly, had I "lost" the game (I had 64 points before the game ended), it would have been solely due to my not having enough resources to buy the "right" buildings in time.


I think a better way to handle the solo play would be to have the enemy armies attack, with the player's buildings possibly being damaged as a result. As there are three different size of enemy army, they could come in rounds; no attack, small army, medium army, large army, no attack, etc. But, this would force the player to develop army buildings, instead of using the die rolls to help determine the size of his army (as otherwise happens as one can pursue victory without every using an army), and then hope that the die rolls always give enough troops to ward off the enemy. But...this means the player loses options that he would otherwise have, and be forced to play to the new meta.

In the end, I do not recommend this game if one is going to play it solo. There's no meat and the bone is rather weedy. On the other hand, I do see some potential fun when playing with at least three players.

A final note: There are three expansions out for this game, but none appear to sort out the uninteresting solo play, while the multi-player experience may well be enhanced.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Still Here. A Short Update

As much as I want to get back to regular blogging, including posts about solo gaming, I've just been slammed with the realities of the new job, the new town, the move and issues related to moving across the country, etc.

I'm in a graduate program for an MA in military history, as I have mentioned in the past, but I am now also in another graduate course for Native American history and culture in education. The latter is essentially a course that will help me know how to be a better teacher on the reservation; how to relate to students who have a somewhat unique experience, at least one very different from every other minority group in the States.

In the meantime, I have been trying to put my rather limited "free money" towards boardgames that offer something for the solo player. I have recently picked up two, but I have been very disappointed in some sellers on BoardGameGeek who either ignored my order completely or cancelled it due to some lame excuse or another. I am trying to get Dungeon Alliance, as it appears to be an excellent game for solo players, and may be even be fun for 4 players. The publishers recently finished a 2nd printing Kickstarter, which I missed out on (due to the move) and are taking orders for more on their website, but I've not got the dosh for it at the moment. sigh.

I've also got some feelers out for other games, which I also need to save up for some pre-orders on further print runs. Sadly, I missed on on two excellent solo games, sold via Kickstarter, which now exceed $250 for a copy. Which is way out of my price range/budget. I am kicking myself over it, as I have very few 1-player games out of my nearly 200 board games.

I am hoping to have some fellow teachers over before Christmas time, and perhaps during that time off, to play some games, but I need to buy a table, some chairs, a couple of lamps, etc., which will take time.

I also need a work table for the basement, as I am planning on casting up some more figures using the Prince August molds that I have. I have many plans, but limited budget and time. Alas...

This coming monday is a holiday, Native American Day (Columbus Day most anywhere else in the USA), and I intend to play one of my new acquisitions and take photos. Eventually, my plan (another bloody plan) is to have a video camera and do some video play-throughs and game reviews.

Well, that is all for now. I keep peeking at other blogs and am a regular lurker on TMP and BGG, so I have my head in the game, if not my wallet.


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Where No Man Has Gone Before...

Way back, I mean WAY back, in that decadent decade of the 1980s, I owned a little brown computer known as the Commodore 64. Man, that was unbelievably liberating in that I did not have to rely on "friends" in order to play a game. I worked for a large-box retailer, at that time, and I was all too often working on Friday and Saturday nights, being then unable to play Battletech or some other game with my old chums. That little computer-that-could, chugging away with the amazing 64kb of memory was heaven sent.

Fast forward through a time when I was fixated with Apple Computer's Macintosh line, which took a nosedive by the early 2000s, until I returned to the world of Windows driven computers. Now, I loathe Macroshaft as much as the next guy, but I have to admit that they have the PC game market cornered.

Which leads me to my current state of affairs. No friends living nearby. All of my board games and miniatures having to remain in boxes until I can buy some furniture, including tables and shelves. And I get to the point where my trusty laptop is my sole source of gaming entertainment (sorry, but mobile games are, imo, useless and potentially moneysinks).

A few weeks before I moved, I saw No Man's Sky on sale on Steam. Now, I had heard and read some of the bad press from when it was originally released and I think it perhaps did deserve much of that at the time, but the NEXT update, which came out near the end of July, changed all of that, at least for me.

So far, I have sunk about 90 hours into the game...yes, more than I should have, but the draw is the game rewarding players for exploration and discovery. The impossible-to-visit-them-all 16 quadrillion procedurally generated planets makes for some mighty fine exploration firsts, for any player. The multi-player feature does not really do much for me as I am hesitant to play with total strangers in a game where they can steal from me or grief me in some way. If I could lock them out of using and abusing my base and equipment, that would be one thing, but alas that is not currently possible to do.

On the other hand, the solo exploration and continual opportunities to discover new planets, including unique flora and fauna is pretty cool. Another cool feature is the photo ability built-in to the game. Below is a picture from my own discoveries. Those creatures in the sky are actually quite large.

Although, the game may not float everyone's boat, it does provide me a bit of entertainment and relaxation, at least until I can get back assembling and painting miniatures or playing a board game solo. I figure it will take me until after the first of the year before I will be really set up, here, with a game table, painting tables, and bookshelves. Until then, it all remains in boxes, impatiently waiting to be released.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Home Sweet Home

I now live just East of Dupree and West of Gettysburg, see the river, to the left of that. It is a beautiful place, with better weather than I had in California, at least to my mind. Although, the Summer heat did follow me, it has been in the low 70s and mid-60s for the past few days. It will warm up again later this week and next, but I should see some snow in October.

It took nine days to get my internet connection set up, costing me almost what I pay a month in rent...the consequence of country living, but it is high speed fiber optic, so I cannot complain too much.

As I do not have any furniture and had to leave all of my bookshelves and desks behind (no room in the moving truck) it will take me a good six months to unpack the majority of my belongings that matter (books, board games, and miniatures).

I learnt a lesson my first week here. Whenever I make any big purchases out of town, because that is the ONLY place to go make big purchases, I must check the items first. Otherwise, a broken item will cost me at least 3 hours of driving time and fuel to resolve. Amazon only goes so far...

They do not deliver mail to the houses out here. I had to get a PO Box, which is a problem for FedEx and UPS. I've already been hit once by package thieves, so I need to be careful of when I order something. The drivers for both delivery services show up by noon, and I do not get off work until after 4pm, so it is a risk. However, work is a 5 minute walk from home, so if they deliver just before I go to lunch, I can sort it almost immediately.

Obviously, I've done zero gaming in the past couple of weeks, but I do have some solo games I hope to break out and give a go, posting about my experiences here. I need to FIND the games first, somewhere in about 100 boxes, which is not easy as they are nicely stacked and packed into one of my two bedrooms.

In about six months, I should have all the furniture (bookshelves!) that I need to get most of my things set up to where I can easily access them and put them away. I'll need to get some organizers for my paints and miniatures, but one step at a time.

I must say that I do love it here. It is a quiet, country life, with gusting winds that cool things down, generally, in the evenings. This is a far cry better than having 90+ degree heat at midnight, with nary a breeze to push the air around.

While poverty affects the lives of most here, they are, as a group, good people. I've been welcomed and encouraged to participate in community events. They have a local museum, with arrows from the Battle of Little Big Horn (I need to take pictures of those). I do expect to have stress from work and a lot of grief from my students, but my class sizes should be about half or less of those I dealt with in California. My classroom is half again larger and the retired teacher I replaced has left me all of her materials, meaning I do not have to reinvent the wheel this whole year.

They also have a local community college which has need of history instructors, so that is a possible opportunity for some income on the side, we will have to see.

I do miss my friends in California, but life must go on and I cannot move forward while looking back over my shoulder. The school here still needs teachers, and I have been asked to check with any teachers that I know of who are looking for a job. Since the housing is cheap, compared to California prices, it has its benefits, but I do not know of any other teachers who want the contemplative life in the country, which will also get very COLD in a couple of months. Still, if any of my readers know of teachers looking for opportunities, they should check out the Bureau of Indian Education website. We even have teachers on work visas, from another country, who are here to teach, so that might be an option for non-USA folks.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Signing out of California, finally!

Well, just a quick post to let you know, I am moving this weekend and am in the process of packing and preparing.

Due to the record heat-wave of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for more almost a month straight, I did not want my stuff out on the back patio to cook, especially my hobby paints, primers, glues, etc. Nor did I want my books out there, as the heat causes problems with the bindings (the covers end up coming off the books, leaving the pages to eventually come apart).

So, I elected to wait as long as I could, before packing up. I did have a number of items out at my parent's shed, for the past ten years, which did the boxes they were stored in no amount of good (animals and sun), but as I was re-packing that at 6:30am, today, I discovered I had a LOT of Games Workshop figures, including Mordheim, Battlefleet Gothic, Warmaster, 40k, and Warhammer Fantasy Battles, plus some Old Glory historicals. The GW stuff is just like found money, were I to sell it, I could probably get a few thousand dollars, as there are some rare or one-off figures that only employees and prime retailers were able to get, including a 3-up Space Marine in pewter.

I plan on keeping a lot of this, but may sell large chunks, which I will of course regret later. But, as I am starting a whole new life, with the needs of a new life, my budget for the next six months is very tight.

I also found, in excellent condition, many of the older GW publications from the Black Library, including Epic 40,000, Warmaster, Town Cryer, Blood Bowl, and other 'zines. I was relieved as I thought I had accidentally thrown all that out years ago.

As the paints, and I am talking about a thousand dollars in paints, if I were to take them in the moving truck or in my car, which is being towed behind the truck, they would cook off and harden up, becoming useless. Since this already happened to me before, when I moved from Wisconsin back to California, I want to avoid it again. So, I purchased a ice chest/cooler, with some chemical ice packs, to keep everything cool for the two days of driving. The temperature in the cooler should be about 40 degrees, which will not cause the paint to freeze.

Luckily, this Sunday's temperature is supposed to only be 96 degrees (only!) and that means the internal temperature in the car will be under 130, so maybe my primers will survive the trip. I cannot fit them inside the cooler, unfortunately, as 100+ bottles of paint takes up a large amount of space.

Yes, there is a bit of stress with the move, just the packing, loading, driving, unloading, and unpacking, to look forward to over the next week, but otherwise it is all good and all ahead full.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Finally, I have my move date.

Well, I can now feel safe to announce that I am moving to South Dakota in August. My new job starts on the 20th, but I can move into my home any time after the first. So, I will be moving up there about the end of the first week or the beginning of the second week of August.

I will be living on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, teaching at a Bureau of Indian Affairs school.

My new home is two bedrooms, with a detached garage and full basement. In other words, a perfect mancave. I'm hoping to acquire some prints from historical painters, within the first year, to hang on the walls.

Everything in the small town is withing walking distance. I will be able to see my place of employment from my house. Between the savings in gasoline and other living expenses, it will be a financial boon for me.

The best part though, are the students I will be teaching. I am excited and looking forward to teaching Native American youths, helping them earn and education and find their roads to success.

My move will be stressful, as it is a long drive in a rental truck, but I have a friend who is planning on helping me drive and unpack, before I send him home on a plane.

Future plans are in the works for hobby related projects, mainly finishing ones I've already started, but there are a few others that I can now start as I will have the space to do the work.

I am looking forward to the peace and quiet, something I rarely ever get in California.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


Well, yesterday I finally received some word on my new job. I've passed their internal background check and now I get to deal with the Office of Personnel and Management, sometime in the next week.

I am supposed to receive an email explaining the next step(s) and once this last portion is completed, I should receive my move-in date to my housing unit.


Also, over the next few weeks, I will be going over the results from the various medical tests that I've had to undergo, hopefully with good news all around. I am thinking my inability to get more than a couple to a few hours of sleep a night is due to sleep apnea, which then triggers my frequent and painful headache episodes, among numerous other symptoms and issues that are causing me problems.  I am hopeful and expecting some form of treatment that will improve my quality of life, starting before the end of this month.

I am about to bid farewell to my current job, which comes to an end on Thursday afternoon. While extremely excited for the new job, the move out of California, and going to live on a reservation (I honestly cannot express the huge relief this will bring for me), there is a slight feeling of melancholy lingering. I have some very good co-workers, which is rare, and leaving them behind will be a permanent parting of ways. I love teaching and being a plank owner of this school site means I have a lot of good memories from here. However, I simply cannot wait to get to my new school site.  I promise to reveal more on that soon.

As I am working on a second Master of Arts degree, this one in military history, I am again back to researching and writing in preparation of a thesis. The topic centers on British preparation for WWI in tactical and technological innovations as influenced or not by the American Civil War. I have some very good books on this subject, but unfortunately they are not from academia, meaning they are useless to this project apart from their bibliographies. I've bought a few hundred dollars of books and then saw another two, last night, that are more than a hundred dollars each....ouch!  I'll have to wait on those until after the move is complete.

Anyhow, this present line of inquiry has inspired me to build the 28mm ACW army I mentioned in my last post. I've ordered a box of Union infantry and Zouaves from Perry Miniatures, as test units for painting strategies and assembly times. I intend to use the "dip" method a'la Army Painter, but we'll see just how far I can bring myself to not paint the detail.

Lastly, my 50th birthday is in three weeks. on the 27th. As I am lacking a significant other, I do not have anyone who is all that supportive of my birthdays, anymore. Last year was the first, in the last decade, where I did not pay for my own birthday dinner. My last birthday gift received was in 2010, from my last girlfriend, an expansion for Campaign Cartographer 3. So, it was a good present, well appreciated, she just turned out to be a complete nutter. <sigh> Thus, I end up buying myself something that I want or need. I have no idea what it will be, this year.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Future plans, projects, and predicaments

...still. Well, the job I accepted back in February, with the proviso that I pass their background check, as still yet to complete said background check. I understand that time goes more slowly there, truly, but as I live in California, time brings tons of pressure with each passing moment.

Thus, I am under a little bit of stress, far too much according to my blood pressure, while waiting for the "your move in date is ___." I cannot think of anything that would prevent me from passing through his background check, but government workers cannot be forced to move at anything beyond a glacial pace. No insult intended, just a commentary on the culture of working in government.

Of course, this puts me into a predicament, in that the longer it takes for me to get the final okay, the more it will cost me to move. Which reduces my spending money, delaying what I really NEED to buy...more miniatures. <sigh> ...and books....lots and lots of books.

Which brings me to future plans.

I've long wanted to have at least one nice 28mm army, actually opposing armies, so that I can invite someone to play a game, where they do not have to bring anything except their beverage of choice and themselves.

I am looking hard at ACW, using Perry Miniatures (mainly plastics, but metals for leaders and special units).

I mean, just look at these figures. They paint up very nicely, at under $1 per figure.

And this leads me to a future project...

I will need to buy, assemble, and paint these models in a fairly quick manner. This way, I can either invite someone over or travel to play elsewhere, with most everything necessary to play, minus the table.

I've seen the suggested method of using Army Painter sprays to basecoat the figures, but they also used the same color for boat coats and trousers. I'd rather use a darker blue for the Union coats and a variation of good colors of greys and browns for the Confederate coasts.

Any suggestions, using Army Painter or GW paints? I've already got most of both lines and really do not want to go into Vallejo. Now, if a few paints from Wargames Foundry would work, fine, but again, I do not want to invest into a large amount of paints.  They will all dry up before I can use them up.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018


I have been a fan of Battletech since it was first released in the early '80s, when FASA was a thing. The idea of walking tanks, which is what a 'mech essentially is, was cool then and remains so, today. My fandom cooled somewhat when WizKids took over the reins, but now that the storyline and products licensed by someone else, from Topps, at least things seem to be back in order.

I really like Alpha Strike, a new edition of which is pending for release this summer, as it speeds up large games tremendously. But Classic Battletech still resides in a warm, soft region of my gamers-heart. I own all of the current core books, and quite a few of the old ones, but I no longer have any of my metal miniatures, except a Battlemaster. In one of my many moves, they disappeared. So, I have to again collect the 'mechs I will need to play a solo campaign. Luckily, the newer plastic miniatures are reasonably priced if in unalterable boxed selections by lance type.

Once I move again, as I will then be a solo gamer, I will convert the rules over to running a solo campaign. I've already got a good theoretical view of how I will accomplish this and look forward to the challenge.

However, the computer version of Battletech was released recently, after a lengthy period of beta-testing (yes, I was a beta-tester) and I have been playing, perhaps too much if I am honest, the single-player campaign and am enjoying the experience. While not a perfect game and while it may not have every feature that I want to see in a computerized version of the miniature game, it IS a good game and a reasonable representation of what is played on the tabletop.

The game is set in the 3025 era, but does have some missing technology available for the player to acquire, some as very, very, rare salvageable loot and others as a reward for completing a critical mission in the campaign story line.

There are some bugs in the game, and a few have reported that their games have crashed, but in the hundred hours or so of playing, I've only had a single crash occur.

From the mechbay on the second of two dropshops the player can acquire.

Although there is a storyline, there is a sandbox element to the game. Players can go on other missions, for salvage and MC, to gain new mechs and pay the maintenance costs for your mercenary company. Yes, you run a company, potentially, of mechs, but you only ever get to field a lance of four at a time.

Salvage is handled in a functional and clean way, gather three pieces of mech salvage for a given mech type and variant and your busy maintenance crews will assemble the pieces into a new mech for you. You can then either store this mech, to save on the maintenance fees each month, keep it in a mech bay, ready to use, or sell it. You can also salvage weapons and equipment, including improved gyros, more protective cockpits, advanced targeting systems, AC and missile ammo, etc. Players "negotiate" salvage rights and MC, using oppositional sliders (increase salvage rights and MC payment decreases), so if you need an influx of hard cash, you can focus on that. If cash rich, then go for the salvage.

Conditional effects are just above the 'mech armor readout to lower left. 

Piloting skill checks are handled far differently than in the tabletop version, which may be off-putting for die-hards, but it is done in a fairly logical manner, with ballistic and missile weapons affecting stability and with each mech having a stability threshold. Once the threshold has been passed by weapon damage, the mech becomes unstable and the next stability hit causes the mech to fall. Whereupon the pilot takes an injury, but no additional damage is done to the mech's armor or structure, a departure from the tabletop version. This can be abused, especially if a player has some missleboats, such as a Stalker and Catapult, that between them send off 70 missiles a turn for 12 turns.

The mission system is adequate, but not fully dynamic, yet. Players can check for missions via the ComStar/MercNet, but I've never had more than four missions listed at once, with one of them being the storyline mission. They do have defensive and offensive missions, often with secondary missions that can provide MC bonuses upon completion. The missions change when moving to a new planet, and sometimes there are no missions available from a given location.

Environmental conditions are present, and players will see these listed as they click on a given mission, but also sub-types including water and geo-thermal vents. These all affect heat dissipation as a percentage of heat sink efficiency, where the heat sinks give a set amount of heat reduction (-3 per turn). Getting too hot causes a 'mech to shutdown, but in its next turn it can restart, losing all accumulated heat in doing so.

Pilots gain XP for completing missions, not by what they accomplish within the mission itself. So, if you have a pilot that is of low skill, send him/her off in a Spider or Firestarter, keeping them safe, while the rest of your lance finishes the mission. They all get the same amount of XP at the end. Note, after the first few missions being a 'mech down can make completion a bit difficult. The pilot XP is used to rank up four different traits, with each trait having a primary and secondary ability, which is either passive or active. A pilot can only have two primary and one secondary ability selected and the secondary must be in the same trait as one of the two selected primary abilities.

At the top, the initiative system in action. Activations 5 and 4 have come and gone, now it is the 3rd activation of the round/turn. The two grey chevrons indicate the player has two 'mechs to activate, the one red chevron means the enemy has a single 'mech or vehicle or turret to activate.

'Mechs are moved one at a time, moving then firing, in initiative order (5 to 1). A pilot ability does allow a 'mech to move after firing, provided it has not already fired that turn. This can be very handy when conducting a fighting withdrawal, what some may call "kiting." 

The way the missions appear to be set up is that one either destroys buildings and/or an opposing lance, and then an enemy  reinforcement lance arrives, taking on the player's now damaged lance. However, the way it works is that the reinforcement lance can show up even before the player encounters the primary enemy lance, so one can be facing eight 'mechs or a combination of 'mechs and vehicles at the same time, seemingly a bug. This can go badly, if the randomly determined enemy mechs are all heavy and/or assault. I've faced two Highlanders and two Zeus who were reinforced by a King Crab a pair of Orions and a Stalker.

A saving grace is that if the player desires, they can reload the mission and hope for a more promising random selection of enemy units. I admit that I have done this, rationalizing that the reinforcement bug is not intended and thus unfairly punishes the player in what would otherwise be a balanced game. I have read that the developers will be adding an Ironman mode, which I look forward to playing, once the bug is sorted.

One of my major complains is that the flamers only have enough ammo for 6 uses each, with no means to increase the amount of fuel/ammo for them. Thus, the tactic of overheating enemy 'mechs and then using called shots to "leg" them can only be of very limited duration. This is a huge departure from the tabletop version. Also, flamers and small lasers count as "special weapons" and can only be installed on a 'mech that has special weapon slots.

A major change is in how initiative is determined. Individual 'mechs have an initiative rating, with most 'mechs of a given size class having the same rating, where assault 'mechs are initiative 1 and light 'mechs initiative 4. There are five initiative ratings and this is because there are ways in which a pilot can improve the initiative of his 'mech due to certain actions or skills. Also, the more agile 'mechs can "reserve" their actions, taking action later on in the turn, potentially forcing the opponent to act with his 'mechs first and allowing a reaction.

Another departure is that 'mech pilots have a morale rating, both individually and as a group. The group morale is partially determined by the funding level set at the beginning of each pay cycle (every 30 days), but is largely determined by a base rate plus an increase which comes from improving the company dropship's recreational facilities. Morale is also gained within a mission, some from special cockpits that a player finds and installs and from killing opponents. This morale is then spent on either called shots or a defensive action which decreasing incoming frontal fire by 50% and clears any instability. I've used this many times, often by sending out a 'mech as a forlorn hope, to take all the enemy fire, while allowing my other 'mechs to concentrate fire on a heavy hitting opponent.

Called shot screen. Notice the weapons on lower right, which can be toggled off. Enemy rear center armor has already been damaged and is selected for the shot. White is undamaged.

Headshots do come into play and I have killed three enemy 'mechs with a single gauss rifle hit to the head. Those are nice, but very infrequent, as they should be. I've done it twice with my first shot of the mission, a nice moment of relief when a heavy 'mech goes down immediately.

The graphics and music within the game are above par and greatly enhance the experience. The voice over work can be a little annoying, but fits within the theme.

I'd like to see more work on the negotiation part of the game. One does not gain any skill at all, it is just a simple slider. So, no RPG aspects at all in an otherwise crucial part of the game. Of course, I'd love to see 3039 and 3050 technology and 'mech designs, which may come later if the game sells well enough, according to the developers.

I'd also love to field 12 'mechs at once, but I doubt that would happen in this game, maybe in a Battletech 2, but the developers have stated they want the experience to center on a single lance in action.

One thing which would be very exciting is the inclusion of player owned ground vehicles and infantry, or even just enemy infantry units at all. This would open up the game so much more in terms of mission design. And this leads me into my last desire, a fully dynamic mission designer, where players could create single missions and linked-missions or even mini-campaigns, and then share these with the rest of the players.

All in all, I do recommend the game to Battletech fans.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Historical (?) Wargaming...

While I was attempting to sleep, last night, while undergoing a sleep study, with a lot of wires attached to various parts of my face and body, causing me to be highly uncomfortable, I was thinking about wargaming and especially historical wargaming in general. No pun intended.

When I frequent, less often than before, the biggest (as far as I know) wargaming forum website, I see posts about games or campaigns of historical battles. For example, "Waterloo," "Kolin," "Gettysburg," or even "D-Day." I think think to myself, "why?" Why are historical wargamers so fixated on "re-fighting" battles that happened historically?

I do not exclude myself in this. Way...way...way back, I owned a number of Avalon Hill games, ones which let me game out some of Alexander the Great's battles or Gettysburg or, yes, D-Day. I suppose it was too much for hobbyists to ask them to play a WWII-ish game, and then create a game system allowing them to do just that. No, the designers and publishers had to have historical OOBs, a relatively correct hex map, and CRTs that required a 3-1 numerical advantage for the attacker to have a decent chance at winning a combat. This was likely due to the state of the market at the time, a post-WW2 group of consumers that had recent history inundated within society.

However, in miniature wargaming, this just does not make any sense to least in perspective. Now, I have put on games that were "not-Austerlitz" and "not-Wagram," borrowing many of the terrain features of those battlefields and also the OOBs, but these were really games, if I am going to be honest, that were based closely on actual historical battles.

Looking at different historical miniature rules systems that I own, the majority are set within the period of a given conflict, but do not force the player to "re-fight" certain battles. Any of Sam Mustafa's games fall into this category, but so does Flames of War (which I do not play), and the numerous rule sets from Too Fat Lardies, SAGA, and others. These rules all give the player the tools to play games of certain eras and ages, but they do not shoehorn gamers into only re-fighting a set group of historical battles.

So, why do we do this?

We are not Robert E Lee, so re-playing 3 July 1863 again and again is not going to save the South from utter defeat and it will not gain us eternal glory on the field of battle. Most often, we're going to remember "good" die rolls or "bad" ones, from those games, and maybe a few of us will walk away thinking, "If I'd been there, the battle would have turned out differently." I do not include myself in the latter group, but I have to allow for the outliers from those involved in the hobby.

Over the past half-dozen years or so, I have become more and more inclined to play historical games that have no direct relation to a particular battle. Thus, my various ImagiNation projects, which are temporarily on hold due to my pending move across the country. I have also become more involved in working on versions of the Portable Wargame, which will allow me to play different kinds of periods, beyond what the currently available rules support. This is not to say I am better than others, just that my tastes have changed to be a bit more flexible and ahistorical when it comes to gaming.

But is that really even true? Isn't gaming by its nature ahistorical? Even the values used to represent strength, weaponry, armor, etc., are relative representations to historical entities and not actual history themselves, no matter what name we give it. Of course, this applies to historical wargaming in general, which probably would be more accurately called science-fiction, as the historicity of a game or rule system is only found in the names and titles given to places, pieces, and persons found within them.

One of the early and common criticisms of Flames of War was that it was a WWII version of 40K, and as a playtester (unofficially) I felt the same way. Yet, could not 40K be called, in a sense, a sci-fi version of a historical game? Sure, two systems are not all that dissimilar, using measurements and dice to adjudicate movement and result, only the genres differ, and in some cases not all that much. One could compare an Ork army to a Sino-Soviet one, with green skin and "advanced" weapons, but they are tactically similar in many respects.

I'm not sure there is a definitive answer, at least one I am not qualified to diagnose, but there must be something in us that wants to make that connection between what happened and how we play. I mean, even games we played as children, at least my generation and a few before it, such as "cowboys & indians," which pulled its terms from the American west, and no other. It could have been called "nobles and serfs" or "knights and peasants" or whatever, "cops and robbers" being another name and another variant of the same game.

In my club, we have a game coming up, WWII Pacific, Tarawa. A good friend is putting the game on, and I will play it because he is putting it on, but he went through a great deal of effort to cut out a foam table, closely matching the island. While not a criticism, my question is why does it "feel better" to have named the game Tarawa and not "a WWII marine amphibious landing?" A possible answer is that the latter name is a mouthful to say in comparison. But, my point is that it is a LOT of effort to go through in order to put on a game that the club members will play. Could it not have been a rough oval, with some jungle terrain, pill boxes and bunkers, surrounded by "water" with USMC figures and landing craft? Would the players like the game experience any less if it was a generic title?

Yeah, just some of my questions and thoughts as I was trying to go to sleep.