Friday, June 28, 2013


At the mercy of the machine?
Gav and I spent a day at Alton Towers last week. This was a bit of a turn up for the books: the trip had looked likely for September; I’d never hitherto been on a roller coaster; and I last rode a fairground ‘flyer’ ride back in 1991- a specific date I remember because it was just after my arrival in Glasgow at the dog end of Glasgow’s year as European City of Culture, and the fair was one of the popular attractions of that year. I also remember that ride because all I could think about while I was on it were the nut and bolt upon which my safety depended, and the physics of shear stresses: the ride reminded us all of both often enough to be sure. That sucked all the fun out of things for yours truly I can assure you dear readers.

Me old mucker, Gav

Well, maybe not an
ancient relic like this
Anyway, long story short, Gav persuaded me to go to my first theme park. And so we were off on a 30-hour red-eye coach round trip from Glasgow. Twenty-plus years since I crapped-out on a regular fairground ride, heading off to ride ultra-modern roller coasters? I confess I was a bit nervy but, as Gav pointed out when I quipped the heading above, roller coasters are safer than buses. Which is true, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Analogue gamer finally grokks digital? #2. In which, getting neither rules nor manual, I am confounded

Analogue and digital: opposing skill sets?
Fundamental property
or fleeting perception?
Far from original, my closing remarks last time echo truisms familiar from many online discussions of, eg. how to get more younger people to play wargames (a common enough theme on the BGG Wargames subforum). Once this notion rears its head in any thread it won’t be long before someone observes that the ‘plug-and-play’ nature of computer games’ has ‘spoiled’ younger people when it comes to reading rules for a game, especially those more-or-less complex ones you’ll find in ‘heavy duty’ wargames. And these are games like, eg. the 32 pages of detailed case point of Unhappy king Charles or the similar 28 pages of Twilight Struggle ie. average complexity medium-sized wargames with clear and concise rules not ASL’s legendary monumental tome or some such monstrosity.

The basic disconnect
These displays of condescension leave me feeling a point is being missed, somewhere. I mean to say, as wargamers we seek relaxation in a hobby predicated upon higher-grade English comprehension overlaid with standard grade mental arithmetic. If you don’t enjoy exercising these skills then you’re hardly likely to enjoy games which put a high priority on them. This surely goes some way to explain why Eurogames are far more popular than wargames: their rules are simpler and they don’t emphasise the traditionally ‘studious’ skills to the same extent as wargames. Consequentially, Euros are social and cooperative in their conflict- eg. Settlers; if not indirect in their actual competition- eg. Alhambra. In this respect analogue wargames remain the niche of a niche dominated by educated aging geezers which Jim Dunnigan outlines in his Wargames Handbook.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Analogue gamer finally grokks digital? #1. In which I neither got nor 'get' computer games

My sorry excuse for a computer game collection…

Give me the damn
instruction manual!
I noted the paucity of my digital gaming experience last September in my review of Death Ray Manta. Getting a bit more precise: as far as I can remember I’ve only ever owned 5 or 6 computer games, and only 5 which I can remember for sure:-
Abe's ood, see?
  • Quake 2: played a few times but abandoned in frustration when I couldn’t get past the first level (I ended up running around banging on the walls hoping to find the secrets I knew I hadn’t uncovered).
  • Abe’s Oddysee: this charmed me but otherwise ditto because I couldn’t solve the problems of the more difficult screens- running around in endless frustrated circles was no fun, however cute.
  • Close Combat III: The Russian Front: my most-played computer game and my favourite, naturally enough- abandoned after I'd played the scenarios when I couldn’t fathom the campaign game.
  • Panzer General 3D Assault: played once or twice- meh, I'd rather'd've had a rulebook, and probably a map, counters and a FtF opponent to boot.
  • Combat Mission: Shock Force: out of the shrink, but otherwise the CD-ROM hasn’t even been inserted into the computer.
Of all of these I still own the wargames.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Confessions of a one-time would-be career gamer

“He’s not dead yet!”
By the power of
Emerging later than usual from the incommunicado of the long darkness of my annual slough of despond, I found myself drawn back into social networking via BoardGameGeek, as is my wont. One thread which attracted my attention was Deep or Wide: What kind of wargamer are you?, to which I added my tuppenceworth, you can be sure (deep, as we shall see). Before I knew where I was I’d been prompted to make an unexpected return to the keyboard for the benefit of my readers here at RD/KA!.

Never mind the depth, feel the width?
The original and
still the best?
‘Deep’ play- ie. playing a game many times to experience the full breadth of its content and to master its nuances, has been a strong characteristic of my gaming geek since I was a young adult. A quick survey of my 10 most played games shows how strong. Look at my 5 all-time favourite wargames: