Saturday, February 28, 2009

A minor landmark

At a loose end and getting a bit stir crazy Wednesday evening, I called Tony to meet up for a couple of beers. His assent was to be expected, his return call to say that we'd be playing Settlers wasn't. We'd got Di her own copy for her birthday at the weekend, and she was keen to give it its 1st outing. So the game we played that night represented 3 firsts:
  • First play of Di's new game.
  • My first play of the new edition of Settlers.
  • My first time playing Settlers in the pub (although Roborally was actually the 1st boardgame I played in a bar).
The game itself went really well for me. My setup left me without a sheep region to begin with, but I had an immediate route to one, which no one chose to contest. My other settlement, across the island, gave me a similarly uncontested route towards a 3-1 port. That much was OK. Building my 1st city on turn 2 of the game was even better. I imagine that this is a record which will stand for quite some time. And I just pipped Tony at the post - he built his own 1st city on turn 3.

The midgame was notable for how unusually open was the longest road. More often than not the initial setups ensure that 1 or more players are simply cut out of any challenge for those 2VP. In Wednesday's game, any of the 3 of us could've made the run across the centre of the map to join up our 2 initial roads into 1. I did it in the end, finishing off by building 3 roads in 1 turn instead of the settlement and 2 roads I'd been thinking about - 2 roads would've left Di with the chance to block me and, as much as I needed that settlement, I just had to guarantee those 2VP first.

I never looked back after that. My regions enjoyed good numbers and my cities meant that the resources were rolling in when those numbers came up. I quickly built 3 cities and I was buying development cards by the fistful (an exaggeration, but I did twice buy 2 in a single turn). Soon enough I had enough in hand just to sit through 3 turns and play Knights (the original German name for the Soldier has been adopted in the new edition) for the largest army and victory. Only Di could stop me, by grabbing it first. She didn't. I also had a victory point card in hand, so that I was on 11VP when I won.

Do you really need me to count it out for you?! :b

As noted, this was the 1st time I'd played using the recently released new edition of Settlers. I have to say that all 3 of us were well impressed with it. I've always liked the Mayfair edition, preferring its vivid colours to the more muted tones of the German edition. The new edition is graphically more attractive IMO. A more practical change is the addition of a clip-together surround after the fashion of those long since used in the Seafarers expansion. Readers familiar with Settlers will appreciate the convenience of something as simple as the board pieces being held in place.

I also like the way the game comes set up for storage. The resource and development cards are in a box. There are ziplocs for all the other parts. And the plastic box insert has a place for everything in the new deeper box. Personally speaking I'd've been happier to see the old box size without the plastic insert, but then I'm an ecofriendly gamer geek with 100's of baggies in stock and a serious labelling habit. There is a much wider market at which Settlers is aimed which will appreciate these little touches I believe.

There are a couple of gripes from this gamer. The symbols for the ports are less instantly recognisable than those from the old edition. The value of ports and their specific resources used to jump out at you, unmistakable. Now they don't. The other gripe is that I'm sure that the cards are of thinner stock than the ones in my old set. Not good, but not quite the retrograde design step of the ports symbols. ;)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Crucial apps #1: KeyNote

My article earlier this month about download dependence and Open Source has inspired me to write more about software.

My practical and theoretical ICT education and training is limited and out of date, so that to begin I'll confine myself to comments about favourite freeware and Open Source applications. This time I'm going to sing the praises of my single most used application: Tranglos' KeyNote, which I've been using for some 4 years now.

What KeyNote is
According to the designer:
"Keynote is a flexible, multi-featured tabbed notebook, based on Windows standard RichEdit control... It's always accessible with a single keypress, even if you work in another application. Take a look at the screenshots page."
The key phrase here is "tabbed". There are other note-taking apps, but a professional writer friend who's spent a lot of money on different packages assures me that he's only come across 1 that he thought was better than KeyNote - Scrivener, only available for the Mac.

How KeyNote works
In a few short paragraphs I can only hope to scratch the surface of what these features of KeyNote has to offer, but these 2 screencaps should help. Above you can see the fully expanded tree of the tab I use every day, mostly to draft articles for RD/KA!. To the left you can see the fully expanded KeyNote, showing:
  • The Templates tab of the Resource Panel (RHS), which contains useful tools.
  • The text-editor window, containing the contents of the 'codes' tab, namely all the HTML codes I use when drafting articles for RD/KA!, and which can come in very useful when I'm commenting on other people's blogs.
  • The closed nodes tree (LHS), in which every node opens another text-editor window.
  • The 'note' tabs across the top, in which every tab is just like the one here displayed.
  • The bold blue text at the top of this window is a 'KeyNote link', a handy wee link back to an earlier draft of the article that window is about (this one, BTW).
I dare say that you could get by with just 1 tab (ie. none, as such), but the facility to have more than 1 is really neat, and I'd want something else really, really useful (Scrivener maybe?) before I was happy to give it up. KeyNote's designer explains why this is so useful:

"The basic idea in KeyNote is that you can include many separate notes within a single file. This means that you do not need to open several files - for most purposes it is enough to create only one file and hold all your notes inside it. With the addition of the tree-type notes, you now have a three-dimensional notebook: many notes within one file and a multi-level, nested pages within a single note."
What this means is that, whether you are writing one long piece - eg. a novel; doing research for a shorter, yet still substantial one- eg. an academic thesis; or just writing regular short articles - eg. a blog; you will find KeyNote a great convenience because it makes all your work easily accessible in a single file. And the tree structure means that file can be logically subdivided so that you're not scrolling through endless pages in long documents either.

What KeyNote is useful for
I'm hoping that reader who themselves write regularly might already be realising that software of this ilk is an electronic addition to the tools of writing more valuable perhaps even than the most fully featured word processor. Turning again to the designer:
"What is KeyNote useful for? In general, any structured of [sic] free-form information, especially the kind of information which lends itself to hierarchical representation, such as lists or outlines. KeyNote's powerful search facility quickly locates information you're looking for."
The picture above shows the note tab from the WFRP campaign that'll be familiar to old hands here at RD/KA! (new readers can check out the 'my little old world' category, also at the bottom of the page). This used to be part of my everyday KeyNote file, but I exported it to a new KeyNote file when I stopped GM'ing WFRP.

After a few false starts I developed a simple approach to using KeyNote as a GM's aid. I maintained a list of NPC's, which I'd just copy and paste into the new node I opened for each upcoming session. This I would print out for ready reference. I added little details like the date and other stuff to keep them handy too. The tree structure of the nodes also proved ideal for making notes as I worked to figure out what was going on and how to keep up with the plot.

All in all then, I'd have to say that KeyNote is nearly the perfect tool for GM's, enabling them to keep campaign information in a format ideal for their purposes. I certainly found that to be true, and I've barely scratched the surface of the app's functions, some of which I'm sure would prove every bit as useful.

There's got to be a catch?
If something looks too good to be true, it usually is. My enthusiasm aside, KeyNote's main issue is that it is a dead program, the designer having given up on development back in October 2005, mere months after I'd taken it up!

I guess that this will lead to significant problems sooner or later, even for an app as stable as is KeyNote. It's certainly true that I've experienced 1 or 2 minor bugs as my Windows versions have moved on, but nothing that actually affected the functionality. Most serious perhaps is that Windows Vista no longer supports the code for the KeyNote Help files. There is apparently some fix for this, but efforts to implement defeated my limited computer ingenuity!

KeyNote is the single most useful piece of writing software I've ever owned, and I'm sure I've only scratched the surface of what it is capable of. Most of what I write is drafted in KeyNote and then copied and pasted into whichever other app it is intended for. Checking out the screenshots on Tranglos site while preparing this article has reminded me that it's time I found out more about its other capabilities. I expect I'll report on those in the future.

In the meantime, it might well be that the Open Source movement has already come up with a better app (in which case I'd love to hear about it); and the app's obsolescence might one day prove problematical (unless, that is, it picks up new followers and starts to enjoy some geek love from code monkeys in the Open Source movement; oh, if only!). Those caveats aside, I just cannot recommend KeyNote too highly. Suck it and see, as they say! ;)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A proper counter cutter, at last!

It was just last month that a CC:P@BGG thread led me to the scrub's blog Triple Point Blank Fire. Seeing the scrub unleash the vaunted C4 Corner Cutter convinced me I must have one to clip my own growing piles of counters. Already even the nail-clippers I'd been using were proving perhaps more tiresome than just using a sharp knife, something I'd had enough of with CC:M.

Counter-clipping is one of those peculiar geek specialisations, which has spawned its own sub-literature (for the curious: a BGG poll and a page of GeekLists on the subject). For me, it began as a matter of marginal utility with my old Squaddie set.

Notice how the corners of that 5/8" King Tiger counter overlaps the hexsides? When the rules suggested (IIRC) that players trim those as a convenience, I just knew that this would just bug me batshit if I didn't. Seven SL/ASL sets and some 2500 counters later, I had a serious counter-clipping habit. I can vividly remember one particularly long session with a craft knife and the bread board.

Hell's Highway was a game in which the stacking of congested hexes not much larger than the ½" counters was an issue which led to counter-clipping. This was particularly the case with certain much-used information markers whose functions were crucial in the game. Again, the prospect of footering about during play was such that the added convenience was worth the initial effort, even for the few short solitaire plays which were all the use I got out of that Hell's Highway set.

By the time I got Combat Commander I was hooked on the simple visual appeal of nicely clipped counters as much as on the marginal utility. And when I found that the effort to get counters clipped was delaying getting CC:P on the table, and that the efforts to hurry my laborious corner-by-corner efforts were generating shoddy results, I knew the C4 was for me.

I just need some new chisel blades for my X-acto, and I'll be ready to get to work. ;)

Monday, February 23, 2009

All in the cards

Dave had to cancel due to work, so we were the regular crew of 4 for games yesterday. That 5-player game of Battlestar Galactica just keeps getting postponed. We also had an early finish so that we could head off into town for a Di's birthday night out (that's Di of Settlers infamy). This meant that we didn't have time for the game of Doom Andy and I had been hoping for.

Nuclear War
Casting around for ideas of where to start, Andy I think it was who suggested this gem - the classic satirical game of global thermonuclear holocaust - which promptly appeared on the table. Checking out the last time we played Nuclear War, it turns out that it was Andy's suggestion then too; a hint of dodgy megalomanically destructive tendencies here perhaps, hmm?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

In which I just must bitch and moan a bit...

When I was a kid, I played several classic family strategy boardgames, like Risk, Campaign and Diplomacy. Older, and into wargames, my interest in WW2 and my taste for multiplayer games meant that I was keen to find a multiplayer WW2 strategy game featuring economic planning and development as well as battles.

Pretty much the only kid on the block back in the early/mid-80's was Rise and Decline of the Third Reich, designed by John Prados and published then by the old Avalon Hill. The merits of this game are evident in its lasting success - it's still available some 35 years after its initial publication, from Avalanche Press.

I must confess I never really liked the look of Third Reich, and my single, short play with someone else's set didn't change my mind. I might've liked the game more if, as is commonplace in today's digital age, I'd been able to study the rules in advance, thus having the 1st clue about what I was doing as the Russian player in those crucial early days of Barbarossa. But maybe not, because my main issue with the game was that the rules seemed to me to be burdened by too many special cases and exceptions, for the sake of being both historical and open.

Still looking to scratch my WW2 multiplayer strategic itch, I bought myself a copy of Udo Grebe's Blitzkrieg General at Claymore several years ago. That was a flop. I found the rules so opaque to understanding that I've not even punched out the counters, which sadly puts Blitzkrieg General in the same class of untouched unplayables as ASLSK#1 & 2, great title notwithstanding.

That past left me primed and ready when I paid my first visit to a new acquaintance's flat recently, there to find displayed on the kitchen table what I can only term the splendour that is the Axis and Allies Anniversary Edition, released to mark the 50 years of games under the Avalon Hill brand. I just knew it had to be mine as soon as I saw it.

Visits to my FLGS proved fruitless, both telling me that it was out of stock at the British distributors (quite remarkable for a game released only on 18th November last year). To ebay it was then. Purchase duly made, I began my wait for my goodies to wend their way across the Atlantic. And herein lies the fly in the ointment of this otherwise happy tale.

The pound has collapsed in recent months, with the result that this game and its postage and packing were expensive. I could live with that. No one was forcing me to click on the buttons confirming my purchase after all. But what ticked me off was having to make a 3-hour round trip to my local Parcelforce depot so that I could pay an additional 25% on top of all that, for customs duty and 'handling'. With attentions focussed on the giant scams of multi-billion dollar financial frauds and bailed-out bankers' bewildering bonuses, spare a thought for the smaller-scale but ongoing scam that is customs and excise. Curse them! ;)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fine, fine dining!

Regular readers might remember me talking last December about the Two Fat Ladies West End restaurant, good enough to join a shortlist of my 4 favourite restaurants. Two of those restaurants are local oriental eateries serving authentic Malaysian cuisine which makes a pleasant change from the all-too-familiar generic Chinese fare that is very common here. The quality of these 2 places can be seen in the fact that they're always full of local Chinese people.

The other restaurant in that shortlist is Gordon's, of Inverkeillor. I was there again last week, while visiting my family in Arbroath. Quaint little fishing village it might be, but Arbroath's a really bad place for quality restaurants. There used to be one that was pretty good, but it just wasn't quite good enough to survive as the premium establishment it was styling itself. Then there was the passable Italian place that came under new management, but the less said about that the better really. Faced therefore with an utter dearth of local eateries for an Arbroath night out to celebrate our birthdays a couple of years ago, my mum opted for a visit to Gordon's.

Mum, me, Meg and sis - cheers!

I was bowled over, exactly as I was later to be at Two Fat Ladies. In all my 30-odd years as a restaurant-goer, I'd never enjoyed fare quite like what the father-and-son team at Gordon's were serving up. In fact, I'm sure some of my readers will have shared my experience of ranting at 'poncy over-fiddly food' when watching TV cooks and chefs prepare the sort of dishes you can find on Gordon's sample menu. The part of me that is a cook still reacts like that, but the eater in me has long since stopped needing excuses to go to Gordon's.

It's not just the food either. Maria, who runs front of house, is a natural at making you feel welcome. Attentive without being intrusive, and with a knack for relating to the character of each table, she makes dining at Gordon's feel like being part of some kind of, well, some kind of extended family. Take my previous visit for example, last December. Just wearing a shirt, I commented that I'd make a special effort the next time, and wear a tie. Last week I duly did, and Maria commented on this, reminding me of my promise. It's the little touches like this which make the experience of a night out at Gordon's just the best.

And don't people know this. Local farmers are regular customers, and surely they'd have no appetite for over-priced rubbish. Others travel - by taxi mark you - from miles and miles around. Luxury dining is one of those things whose prospects can never be 100% certain in straitened economic times like the present world crisis. I, for one, am hoping that Gordon's quality will continue to inspire loyalty among its customers, because I plan on eating there for years to come! ;)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Long lost hulk of legend sighted again?

Rumours confirmed?
Andy sent me an email the other day, tipping me to threads at the Bell of Lost Souls and Ain't It Cool News, between them the first sources to claim authoritative off-the-record confirmation of rumours of which I was already aware, namely that GW plans a 3rd quarter 2009 release date for a 3rd edition of their legendary boardgame, Space Hulk.

Rumours of the return of Space Hulk aren't new. Readers who knew JMcL63 before RD/KA! might remember my story from, of Jervis Johnson telling me, at GD UK 2004, about discussions at GW that might mean a possible future for this great boardgame. Clearly Jervis was then talking about something real going on, as witness this story at the Warseer forums, dating back nearly 2 years.

Regular readers might remember my lengthy 'rash of enthusiasm' for this long-lost classic (#1, #2 and #3). The more curious might even've checked my BGG profile, where Space Hulk is recorded as my 4th most played game ever. So I share the fond memories of so many who commented on the story over at The Bell of Lost Souls.

What I don't share is the oft-expressed preference for the 1st edition, which seems to come down to the matter of the timer more often than not. We can only hope therefore, that the Warseer story gives us a true picture of what we can expect from what is already an eagerly anticipated release, namely that the timer rules will be included because GW can source digital timers cheaply enough to include them in one of their own products.

Another major theme of discussion has been precisely which Terminator models GW will choose to use:
I imagine that the snap-together models will be the way that the company wants to go, but that's not so much of an issue for me in any case.

What intrigue me most are the rumours I've read about the new Space Hulk board parts. People are suggesting that GW will be doing these in plastic instead of the jigcut card with which we're all so familiar. Various reasons for this were mooted, but 2 stood out for me:
  • It'd solve the problem of the printer's films lost in the move to the Lenton site (a story Jervis told me too IIRC, back in 2004).
  • It'd prove cheaper to make plastic parts in house than it would to subcontract the production of the card parts (the recent revival of the Mighty Empires supplement to WFB suggests that this is true).
I have mixed feelings about this. Sure, moulded plastic hulk parts could look very pretty. But they'd need to be painted to get the best out of them, and they wouldn't be backward compatible with 1st or 2nd edition board parts.

The former bugs me because I'm just not the painter I used to be. Having to paint the board as well as anything else tends to defeat the purpose of my investment in boardgames - namely that the publisher does all the design work for you; all the more so since I'd never manage to get moulded plastic board parts to look as good as did the full-colour board parts from the 2nd edition. And the latter'd bug me because I have a large collection of 1st and 2nd edition Space Hulk parts.

Whatever the truth of these rumours, and whatever a putative Space Hulk 3rd edition might look like, one thing is for sure: the game will sell like hot cakes, and fans old and new will celebrate the revival of this red-headed stepchild of the 40K gaming universe. We live in hope! ;)

Monday, February 16, 2009

"You finally build your Argyle Street and I smash through with my M8!"

Another spate of cancellations left us numbering just 3 yesterday despite Dave's being able to turn up again. So it looks like our 5-player game of Battlestar Galactica is going to have to wait till next week. In the meantime, the 3 of us settled down to a session of 2 ever-familiar Euros.

Dave is new to the adventure gaming table, so it seemed appropriate to introduce him to Ivanhoe. He proved a quick learner, exactly as he had on his first game of Settlers.

Our 1st game went right down to the wire. I won with a 4-card bule laydown after a sneaky Unhorse to red by Tony, which'd cost me both a valuable action card and my Maiden's support. You can imagine I was pleased to recover after that piece of finkage!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Heroic history or Cold War revisionism?

A Frozen Hell
I was tipped to A Frozen Hell on Conflict of Heroes@CSW back in December. The games Badger and I played last October of Combat Commander's Scenario #20, A March in December prompted me to buy a copy.

My decision was made easier by the book's reputation. It's apparently the essential history of the 1939-40 Russo-Finnish war: the biographical notes tell us that it is "required reading for the [US] 2nd Marine Division"; while the back cover boldly announces that author William R. Trotter:
"Masterfully recreates all the heroism, tragedy and drama of a campaign whose lessons deserve far more attention."
- General James [sic] R. Galvin, former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe
I have to confess that this fulsome blurb lost a bit of its shine thanks to that unfortunate mistake in the name of the General making the comment - he is John R. Galvin, not the James M. Gavin of WW2 82nd Airborne fame. The truth though is that the book itself had already done a good enough job of dulling the lustre of Galvin's enthusiasm.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Combat Commander completist's C3i celebration

I noted a fortnight ago that I'd been picking up copies of GMT's house magazine C3i, for the sake of the Combat Commander material. What I didn't mention was that I'd delayed the order long enough for #19, featuring the first C3i Combat Commander scenario, to be sold out. So I had to have recourse to ebay. The transatlantic delivery was again prompt, and the package was waiting for me yesterday when I returned from a trip to Arbroath.

Badger's and my old goal of playing all the official Combat Commander scenarios, in order, can now be revived. We've already got 2 CC:P scenarios under our belt, so we've got another 26 scenarios to play before we can say that we've completed our mission. ;)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Epic adventure!

Last week, an inbox update from Matt at opened:
"My pal Keith Baker (the man who created Eberron among many other great games) is planning the adventure of a lifetime later this year. His aim? To travel around the world, running roleplaying games in exchange for hospitality. He calls it Have Dice, Will Travel."
Intrigued, I clicked through to find out more. The designer of Eberron, which I'd played back in 2006-07 with Bill, Tony et al? Looking for grub and games in exchange for GM'ing? Hooked, I signed up.

This is incredibly cool. Regular readers might remember when, mounting my final counter attack against the idea that roleplaying is art, I wrote, back in September 2006:
"Perhaps just a bit more novel is the idea that the advance that this movement represents is simultaneously a return, albeit one which recreates its point of departure in a more complex and sophisticated form.

"What I'm talking about here is the feeling that roleplaying often gives me of having 'returned' to the venerable tradition of fireside storytelling. Or, in even more grandiose terms, I sometimes find myself wondering if those legendary PC's whose adventures live on in the 'fish-stories' you and your gaming buddies share down the years don't represent the revival- in an appropriate modern form- of the epic narratives of the ancient cultures of man."
Keith is here setting out to avail himself of a feature of the contemporary gaming scene the full potential of which I first became fully aware back in the days when my Space Marines habit made me a regular at The Bolter and Chainsword. What I realised then was that, love them or hate them, you had to credit GW with the creation of a genuinely international gaming scene. With WFB and 40K and the help of the burgeoning internet gaming community, it was a case of 'have army will travel', in hundreds of cities across the western world. In this vein, I can only think of Keith Baker's journey as the adventures of a troubador of the world village. Like I said, really cool.

More than that though. As I had occasion to note only last week, way back when RD/KA! was brand new, I wrote:
"I have a theory that it is this very ICT which actually makes rpgs capable of being what they really are. Let me put that another way: I believe that rpgs are one of the great popular cultural advances since rock and roll, a true sign of our times; and that it is the same ICT technology that makes this blog possible that will allow this still youthful cultural phenomenon to fully mature. That might seem an odd thing to say about 'pencil and paper' rpgs, but it is a theory of mine all the same."
If Keith's world tour isn't a moment in the maturation of roleplaying then I don't know what could be. More even than that. This maturation can reach its full potential through the use of ICT, via the internet.

Keith's going to travel the world GM'ing a lot of Eberron. Roll that up into a campaign in which the players spend the year of Keith's journey using the web for online roleplaying as a backdrop to the crucial course of events that follows Keith on his travels, naturally enough. Like I said, "it is the same ICT technology that makes this blog possible that will allow this still youthful cultural phenomenon [of rpgs] to fully mature."

Good luck to Keith on his travels. Even if he's not coming north to try my cooking, I'm sure I'll catch up with him in Birmingham in June, because it turns out that he's to be a guest GM at UK Games Expo'09. Regular readers will remember I'm to run a Combat Commander tournament at this year's Expo. I can, BTW, confirm that the tournament already has 6 promises and 12 possibles; enough to go ahead in other words. More ASAP. ;)

- There came a wanderer #1: Well, that was unexpected!
- There came a wanderer #2: Return to Eberron
- There came a wanderer #3: Dining out and gaming on!
- There came a wanderer #4: the wind-down and the send-off

Monday, February 09, 2009

Andy? Nah, he's as human as you or m... URK!

Crimson Skies
We had our regular complement of 4 yesterday after last week's 2-player session. Andy brought his Crimson Skies models so we started our little campaign as we'd been planning. As is the fate of character sheets everywhere, some had gone mysteriously missing, so we had to waste time getting our pilots ready again. Soon enough though our heroes and their wingmen took to the skies.

We were using a mixture of metal and plastic miniatures from Andy's collection. I still don't have any decent portrait shots of Andy's own models, so in the meantime here are some images of the cardboard pieces, for purposes of identifying the factions' colours:
  • Red Skull Legion (Andy).
  • Confederate Air Corps (Me).
  • Broadway Bombers (Donald).
  • Redmond's Gang (Tony).
Our seating arrangment set Tony and I facing each other across a short map edge. I promptly offered him a truce, in the face of which he tried to hedge his bets. This was a foolish move, because I immediately directed both my planes to attack his piratical lowlives.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Fresh blood!

I've been meeting a whole new social circle in recent months, many of whom turn out to like games, or are full scale geeks even. So yesterday I found myself hooked up with with Jack, who was at a loose end. Faced with a gamer at a loose end, I did the obvious thing, and invited him for grub and games. So we took a wander round our FLGS (I was looking for a game which neither of them had in stock), and we dropped in to our local GW, where we both looked a bit wistfully at the new 40k 'Assault on Black Reach' boxed set, which is the most amazing box of stuff GW have ever created as a starter set.

I cooked Sophie Grigson's brussels sprout and caramelised onion soup which I'd been planning for anyway, to use up some sprouts I'd had in the fridge for some weeks. It's only the 3rd time I can remember cooking soup (pauses for the already familiar gasps of horror at my shameful soup record), and it was certainly the most successful.

Afterwards I introduced Jack to Ivanhoe. Jack won the first token, then lost it when he had to withdraw with the maiden supporter down. He grew worried as he watched me take a 3-0 lead, but his worries began to vanish as he was able to seize the initiative and then to cruise comfortably in for a 5-3 victory.

We were only able to manage 1 game, but Jack liked Ivanhoe. I'm sure he'll be back for more. ;)


Friday, February 06, 2009

Just another Firefox update?

Sitting geeking and spodding as you do, the Firefox update alert popped up, too quick for me to click it before it popped down again. So it was off to the Firefox page to grab the download. Following the process through its simple steps, I was reminded of an essential paradox about the whole business that is never far from the back of my mind, one I believe sits at the heart of broader realities of which Firefox is today perhaps the exemplar.

My point here is that downloading updates without a 2nd thought has become like eating and drinking, and all that goes with that - something you do reflexively, because it's an essential part of merely operating. And for most of us (ie. those no more code monkeys than we could be grease monkeys) there really is no choice but to accept those downloads at face value. Heck, most of us are waiting for the damn downloads just to bring the products we bought up to the specifications we were sold.

I know I am in respect of Windows Vista, which is a bit more stable than it was when I first bought it more than a year ago, but whose irksomely unstable Windows Explorer continues to bug the shit out of me now as I reported it to be doing last April. So OK, the shift- and ctrl- multiselect options now work properly, which has helped me learn new ways of handling files as I move them from folder to folder. But you have to ask some hard questions about how Microsoft's coding teams are organised if they've failed to address in the space of a year bugs such as: there is no way to set the new Folder->View options at general levels; eg.
  • Set all the subfolders of a given folder to view like 'this'.
  • Set all folders with tags A and B to view like 'that'.
  • Tag A supercedes 'this'.
  • Tag B doesn't.
No, I still find myself repeatedly having manually to set the Folder->View options to my preferred settings. I seem to be making some headway, in that a lot more folders look the way they should, assuming that I've visited them before and set them to view the way I prefer. Although I'm still not really all that confident that folders aren't just returning to factory presets or to random settings whenever I leave a given Explorer window.

I've said it before, and I'm saying it again: I've had enough of my lovely machine being screwed-over by running a Microsoft OS. There are better products out there that I could run on my PC.

Regular readers might be surprised to read that I'm still running on Vista at all, after that rant and the follow-up post of May 2008. The sad truth was that I hit a hiccup which defeated my meagre resources. I was left with no recourse but to stick with Windows, because I didn't need to learn anything new to use it. That is to say: for this user seeking ICT products better than those of the big kid on the block, the all-too-well known 'code hump' of Linux was just too much, even in the simple forms in which it appeared in Ubuntu.

And this has precisely what to do with my claim made above, about Firefox's exemplary status in the paradox our download dependence creates?

That paradox I believe is that this download dependence is the heart and soul of the strengths of the Open Source project, of which Firefox's Mozilla is a part. This is paradoxical because it is the selfsame download dependence that appears malevolent in its corporate guise.

Old hands at RD/KA! will remember my longstanding interest in the wider potentialites of the internet, as witness another bold statement dating right back to my very first week. Readers who facebook might already be aware that learning coding skills sufficient to enable a contribution to the Open Source project is something I'd like to do.

So, to answer my title's question. No, this wasn't 'just' another Firefox update. Why not? Because it's set me off on a track paralleling that I'm already on with UK Games Expo'09, namely using RD/KA! to support my efforts towards goals wider merely than itself. In this case that's getting me off Windows, onto Linux, and into training which will help me learn some fresh computer coding skills. Expect to hear more. ;)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

In which I am Donald's beeyatch!

A spate of cancellations reduced last Sunday's session to just Donald and me. We'd been having such fun with games of Battlestar Galactica and other multiplayer stuff in recent weeks that I wasn't quite sure how that would turn out. So I took advantage of the situation to get out some 2-player games I've not played as much as I'd like.

Starship Catan

Exactly whose idea it was to give this a try on Sunday now escapes me, but I was happy enough to give Starship Catan another go. The 2-player version of Settlers' sister game, Starfarers of Catan, I bought Starship Catan several years ago, while full in the flush of the first phase of my Settlers enthusiasm. I've played it a few times since then, finding it quite enjoyable though not as much to my taste as Settlers cards.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


A busy week left me unable to finish clipping the Commonwealth counters in my new Combat Commander: Pacific set, so that Badger and I temporarily bypassed scenario B, moving on to Scenario C, Ichiki Attacks, which features a Japanese banzai attack at Alligator Creek on Guadalcanal in 1942.

Before the batrep, I must note that the sitrep below is a geekish landmark for RD/KA!. Alert readers might already've noticed that the compass points N to the right of the map, instead of to the top, as is conventional (and has been habitual in my CC map-making here at RD/KA!). Why is this? Because, based on real locations as they are, the boundaries of CC maps are chosen according to the dispositions of forces in the firefights that are the templates for the scenario which accompanies each new map. On top of this, I choose to design my sitrep maps so that the opposing sides are at the top and bottom.

The implication of this - namely that N and the top of the maps in my graphics couldn't be assumed to be identical - have quietly been nagging away at me for months now. So I used google to check out the location representd by CC:P's map C, with the result that N is to the right on this map, not to the more familiar top.