Tag Archives: gaming

Quatre Bras on fire

Another great app I picked up by accident recently is DK Simulations’ Quatre Bras which is a nice little wargame which covers the Napoleonic battle of…well, I guess you’ve figured this out by now…Quatre Bras.

A British infantry square depicted in the pain...

A British infantry square depicted in the painting The 28th Regiment at Quatre Bras by Elizabeth Thompson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t have high expectations for a wargame on my tablet (much less one that cost less than $2) but I was pleasantly surprised at what I got.  It’s got some limited playability (there are only so many units and areas for your forces to occupy so once you figure out the best tactics you’re on your way to repeated crushing victories) so if you find yourself jonsin’ to defeat an enemy while your waiting for the mechanics to finish with your car, it’ll do.

There are a couple of options to keep you going:  You can play as the French or the Coalition.  Victory is based upon objectives held as well as if the French have to call upon reinforcements (which give the Coalition 1 or 2 victory points, depending on who is summoned).  You can also play normal (8 turns) or extended scenarios (uh…something more than 8 turns).

For less than $2 this is a great deal.  Enjoy…

Ah…That’s what happened at work today…

If you’re not familiar with gaming you can skip this as it will appear confusing and far too geeky for your tastes.  For the rest of you, laugh or weep as you see fit…

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The horror! The horror!

Well, at long last a movie maker is going to use Chernobyl as a backdrop for a horror movie.  The trailer for ‘Chernobyl Diaries’ is out it looks like it’ll be pretty good.

There’s also a game coming out based upon the comic/TV series ‘The Walking Dead‘.  There’s a trailer out but it doesn’t reveal much of anything.  The website, however, has some interviews with the developers and you can begin to piece together a bit of what the game looks like.  They’re explicitly avoiding the typical zombie shooter in exchange for an episodic story game.  They’re planning on releasing interconnected episodes every couple weeks with each to be playable within a couple of hours.

Mrs. TwShiloh and I finally got to see the Swedish 2006 Frostbittenvampire movie Frostbiten. While it doesn’t break any amazingly new boundaries it was quite well done and took some interesting twists on the vampire story. It isn’t everyday, after all, you can encompass SS operations in the Ukraine AND a high school party in one vampire movie. If you can find a copy with subtitles, check it out.

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I also just finished the 2010 ‘zombie’ novel The Reapers are the Angels. Pick this up now! Definitely not the traditional zombie hack ‘n slash, the book takes place roughly 25 years after a zombie apocalypse and focuses on a young girl who’s on her own and traveling throughout what’s left of the Southern U.S. It reminded me of the book Earth Abides (which you really should read as well) and a bit of Grapes of Wrath with of course, zombies and the occasional mutant. It’s so much more than a horror tale and is more a story about how people interact with a world they got rather than one they expected or were promised. This will be one of the few books that gets into my ‘reread’ pile.

Finally, Mrs. TwShiloh and I caught Tucker and Dale Versus Evil which is a romantic-comedy/slasher film.  I can only describe this film as totally charming and a ton of fun.  In stark difference to some of the other mock horror films, you actually like the characters in this one and I wouldn’t be adverse to seeing them in a follow up provided they could come up with a clever enough script.

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The Demolished Ones

Brian from Gamecrafters’ Guild is the lead designer on a new role playing game called The Demolished Ones.  I’ve been fortunate enough to get a peek at Brian’s initial plotting ideas and the game looks like a cross between film-noir and Lovcraftian horror.  There’s some great ideas in there and I’m looking forward to seeing the final product.

The project is being financed through donations via Kickstarter.  Interested people can donate whatever they want and different levels of contributions entitle the donor to various ‘rewards’.  They’re seeking to raise $3,000 over the next 57 days and are slightly over 20% of their goal as I write this.  Here’s their pitch video:

So, check it out and become a 21st century Medici by patronizing the arts!  Who knows, maybe you’ll kick off a new Renaissance.

What to do with a graduate degree

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been gaming.

The zombie shooter Left4Dead has recently seen the release of two fan generated campaigns Dead Before Dawn and One 4 Nine.

Dead Before Dawn takes the basic premise of the Zach Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead where the characters work their way to Crossroads mall where they make their final stand and eventual escape (hopefully).  The campaign does a nice job of expanding upon the idea of completing tasks beyond the ‘start the generator and wait for the horde’ task that most of the Steam generated scenarios rely upon.  Granted they’re almost all essentially re-skinned versions of that task but at least there’s a bit of variety.

It also felt like there was a lot more ‘explorability’ in this campaign setting than in the original campaigns with multiple ways to get to the same end point.  The game was a little buggy (I got hung up several times and had to restart) but not outrageously so for a non-official campaign and it was a challenging play throughout.

I haven’t played One 4 Nine yet but it uses the zombie apocalypse as a function of secret government tests theme.  It’s received very high ratings and the authors continue to tweak it with the most recent update being posted on the 14th.

I also picked up the beta version of Fate of the World which advertises itself as:

…a global strategy game that puts our future in your hands. Decide how the world will respond to rising temperatures, heaving populations, dwindling resources, crumbling ecosystems and brave opportunities.

If you buy it now you get it at a discount, can play the beta version now plus some extras and so I figured I’d give it a shot for $16.

The beta version has one scenario available for play which involved dealing with the consequences of a world wide oil shortage and limiting the effects of global warming.  You play the role of the head of a global environmental organization that actually has power and resources to do things.  The world is divided into 12 regions that act as coherent political entities that you have to engage with.  They contribute to your cash flow while members of your little club but can also assert their sovereignty and kick you out if they think you’re dissing them.

The game starts in 2020 with turns covering 5 year increments and ends in 2120.  ‘Victory’ involves keeping global warming increases under 3.5 degrees, the global HDI above .5 and maintain membership in at least 5 (I think) regions.

The beta version of the game doesn’t come with rules but the basics of the system are fairly easy to figure out.  The nuances and interactions of the numerous factors and components of game play are more difficult to figure out and time will tell if that’s going to be part of the game (‘Hey!  You’ve switched the entire North American transportation industry to biofuels.   Great work on reducing emissions!  Oh, by the way, 200 million people are dying of starvation in India because nobody is growing food anymore.  Nice job.’)

I have to admit I underestimated the complexity of the game system because the user interface is so simple.  I suppose there will be critics that argue with some of the underlying science involved but it is neat  to see how interconnected environmental/developmental/economic policies and played around with various strategies like focusing only on the developed world, trying to do a bit of everything everywhere and trying to strong arm the world.  The possibilities are endless and even within those broad strategies there are so many potential alternatives you could (and I wanted to) always feel you’re so close to success with just a bit of tweaking (I haven’t made it yet).  Focus on heavy R&D, business friendly policies, heavy handed regulation, disaster mitigation or whatever your heart desires.

And don’t get the impression that this is all about tree-hugging, feel good lefty stuff.  The game designers seemed to want to give you a lot of options to accomplish your goals.  So, in one game I launched (covertly, of course) a biological plague upon India to reduce its population (using too many resources and becoming politically unstable threatening to kick me out) by 25% in five years.  In the same game I also overthrew a government or two, launched an insurgency and implemented a secret sterilization program in China’s water supply (hey, you can’t make an omlette without breaking a few eggs).  Unfortunately, my scheme was found out and I was brought to trial for crimes against humanity but what are you gonna do?  The pressure you feel as you see that temperature creep up every turn and you get the news of species going extinct, mass famines, natural disasters and wars makes you contemplate increasingly drastic measures, especially when you start to see whole portions of the world start to kick you out and you realize you’re pulling in less and less money to do things in fewer and fewer parts of the world.

There’s tons of data and metrics here so I assume you can totally geek out if you want.  GDP, employment, demographics, energy usage by sector, etc. etc. etc.  all changing as a result of your policy decisions.

I hesitate to say this is a ‘fun’ game in the same way L4D or even another strategy game like the Total War series but I suspect that’s because there’s less opportunity for periodic payoffs.  Things are grim and probably going to get grimmer and the best you can hope for is a pathetic crawl across the finish line by the skin of your teeth. But I was hooked for gobs of time on it over the weekend and have a half a dozen strategies peculating in my mind that I’d like to try.

The game has definite teaching potential and I’d like to see a co-operative version (with players either playing as the heads of regions that can cooperate or not as they see fit or on some executive council where negotiations could add a whole additional level of complexity and realism to the game).

 

 

Hannibal: Rome and Carthage playtest

I got and finally had some time to play Hannibal – Rome and Carthage, the game I’ve written about a couple of time before.  Now, I’m ready to pass judgement.

While I really enjoyed it, I think the true pleasure of this game comes from having a familiarity with the subject matter.  Without it, it might be a casual wargame of some limited potential but it really comes alive (and is worth your time) if you’re familiar with the course of the Second Punic War.

And if you are familiar with that war, boy are you in for a treat.  I was blown away at how the designer could use such an apparently simple set of game mechanics to realistically capture the flow and feel of that war.

The game graphics are beautiful if decidedly low tech.  Everything about the game is designed to replicate the feel of the time, from the parchment notes to the sound of stones sliding against each other while you’re moving tiles that represent your armies.

It finds a nice balance between strategy and fate with both random events (Yeah, that huge fleet you’ve been building up?  Storms can be a bitch in the 2nd century BC.) and through event cards that you can use for varying effect (encourage a revolt at Syracuse to get them to switch to your side; play up the unpredictability of the Guals by making half of them get drunk right before a crucial battle, let Hannibal slip through the Roman fingers by escaping by sea, etc.).

The game flows back and forth with mind spinning speed and, just like the real war, you can be convinced all you’ve got left to do is mop up some rag tag Romans one moment and the next turn you’re scrambling to regroup before you’re the one that’s crushed.  But how you can develop your long term strategy will determine how well you can withstand cruel twists of fate.

The AI is very robust and I was quite happy playing at the introductory level for quite a while.  The ‘normal’ level gives me a good run for my money and I’ve yet to beat expert.  What I particularly like about the AI is that it just doesn’t increase the size of the Roman armies or make harder to damage.  The Romans actually strategize better.

And the real gem is that at the ‘advanced’ level of play, you not only have to deal with Roman armies, but you also have to contend with the Carthagenian senate.  At all levels of play the Senate decides what the main theater of the war will be and that’s the ONLY theater that you can move reinforcements in to.  Things looking ripe for a raid into Sardina?  Too bad. The Senate thinks you should be paying attention to Spain so quit screwing around.  This isn’t Rome after all. We’ve got civilian control of the military.  Now do what you’re told or you’ll find yourself cruicified.

At the introductory and normal level of play the Senate will do whatever Hannibal wants.  It still means you can only move forces to one theater at a time so you still have to plan several moves in advance while trying to hold off Roman advances if you want to make your plans comes together.  At the advanced level, however, the Senate feels free to do what it wants and Hannibal can only offer advice.  There are ways to exert more influence on the Senate (through event cards) but that usually comes at the price of giving up additional army units.  So you have to decide how important it is to try to get the Senate to go your way and how much you can try to ignore them and just get the job done in spite of them.

The game turns each represent one year and if neither Rome or Carthage hasn’t been captured (or Hannibal killed) the game ends at the end of the 20th turn and some system determines how you fared (it explains the system in the rules, I just haven’t read it since I generally don’t like to look too closely under the hood while I’m first playing a game).

I defy you to play this game and not have at least one or two moments where you go ‘Ah…now I get why the Romans did this or Hannibal didn’t do that.’

Kvick Tänkare

Who knew the Germans were still paying reparations from WWI (uh, probably the Germans.)?  Their last payment is due on the 3rd of October.

A study came out claiming that atheists and agnostics are pretty knowledgeable about religion.  More so, in fact, than all religious groups.  That kind of makes sense since agnostics/atheists need to understand a wide variety of religions before they can reject them. Winner quote about the story is from the NY Times:

“I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people,” Mr. Silverman said. “Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”

CNN had a short (10 question) quiz from the poll so you can check out you knowledge (for the record, I got 9 out of 10).

A while ago I wrote about a demo of an upcoming game called Hannibal.  Well, it’s out now.  I’ll be picking up a (virtual) copy soon.  It has a cool, old-school board game look to it and the demo was a lot of fun.  Check it out and crush those pesky Romans!

Last winter the Finns created a massive snow pile from plowing the streets of Helsinki.  Well, the thing has just about melted…just in time for snow to start falling again.  It was ginormous when it was created (see picture below).

Weekend miscellany

I’m listening to the Teaching Company’s course Bach and the High Baroque now and it rocks.  I’m totally sold on Baroque music and haven’t been able to get enough of it.  Conversely, I’m thinking that music from the Romantic era sucks…bunch of pretentious poseurs (Beethoven is the exception that proves the rule, btw).

So, here’s your weekend music

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Since I recently wrote about Soviet/Finnish conflict, EnglishRussia comes through again with some photos of a Soviet bomber that crashed in 1939 on the way to the front.

Some really cool people have created a trading card game (think Magic:  The Gathering) based on the principles of biodiversity and ecology.  It’s called Phylo and it’s free.   There’s a forum where the game system continues to be hashed out (the game is still in beta).

Kvick Tänkare

Great headline:  Monkeys hate flying squirrels, report monkey-annoyance experts. (h/t Boingboing)

IBM has created a web-based version of the CIA factbook.  There’s enough variables to filter, views to alter and colors to see that even the most jaded of you will start to drool. (h/t sources and methods)

Sitherine is coming out with a new game that looks fun.  Battlefield Academy is based on a free BBC game of the same name.  You can still play the BBC versions with allow you to fight the Battle of Trafalgar or the original games which takes you through Rome, the Middle Ages, Napoleon’s time and WWII.

Peter talks about the Soviet withdrawal from his country (Hungary).

FBI epic fail.  Wikimedia epic win!  Hopefully the FBI realizes they are in a hole and will stop digging.

Lung Hu has two great posts worthy of your attention both revolving around that Iranian scientist defector/abductee/whatever Sharram Amiri. If you like your international relations with a lot of alternate hypothesis you probably haven’t heard before, check it out.

Kvick Tänkare

Nice video about the war on drugs (h/t daily dish)

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The reliability/credibility ratings most intelligence personnel use in the U.S. is bunk and information to that effect has been known since 1975.

I want one….now!  And please don’t burst my bubble by telling me how impractical it is.

I have no idea what this game will be but the promo video has a 1984 feel to it and I’m a sucker for distopian entertainment….

Yesterday the Swedes officially ended conscription and are now converting to an all volunteer force.

Machine teaches men what it feels like to menstruate.  And why would I want to know that?  I also don’t know what it feels like to have hemorrhagic fever, is some knucklehead going to make a simulator for that too?