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.

Combat was opened straight away with some long-range shooting between Jack McGurke and "Ace" Jolie, whose huge planes were easy targets for pilots of their skill. Our 4 planes were soon caught up in the familiar confusion of a swirling dogfight, in which my 'Grey Ghost' and Tony's 'Killing Time' (Captain Killer, Jolie's wingman, flying a William & Colt Peacemaker 370) quickly ended up nose-to-nose, the ideal position for launching salvoes of air-to-air rockets. I got the worse of that exchange despite firing nearly twice as many rockets. Fortunately Jack's crate was still airborne.

New to Crimson Skies as he is, Tony sometimes lost his grip on the movement system, with the result that 1 or 2 random moves left him making a break to get out from under my guns. Eventually though Captain Killer managed to draw a bead on Jack's wingman - Germaine Greer in 'Daisy Daisy' her Bell Valiant MkII. A fearsome salvo of 9 rockets later 'Daisy Daisy' had suffered just 1 hit which had merely scratched her armour! Even allowing for needing 7+ to hit (on d10's), this was pretty bad luck for Tony, who had every right to expect some serious shredding of my light and nimble Valiant.

Across the board from Tony and I Andy and Donald were likewise engaged in mortal combat. Andy had a point to prove after Donald had ruthlessly despatched one of his pilots the last time we'd played, and prove it he did. It wasn't long before both of Donald's planes had suffered damage to the wingroot serious enough to put the planes at risk of a single lucky shoot shearing off a wing, on top of which Donald's wingman, James Bigglesworth, was suffering shock. Donald's 2 planes fled the engagement after turn 6.

Tony, meanwhile, wasn't doing much better. Captain Killer's misfortune continued when another bout of random flight sheared his Peacemaker's port wingtip, sending 'Killing Time' into a spin, and the Captain to an early grave. Outnumbered 2-1, 'Dracula' burning from magnesium rounds, and risking the same fate she'd just witnessed befall her wingman, "Ace" Jolie decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and followed the Broadway Bombers in fleeing the engagement after turn 8.

This left Andy and I duking it out in the centre of the map. Long story short: we set ourselves a time limit to leave plenty of time for another game before dinner. The result was that the engagement was inconclusive. We agreed that neither of us counted as having fled the engagement, which is important for experience points.

I really enjoyed this game. I like playing it anyway, and playing it with experience is always more fun. Yesterday's game was improved by some really neat player aids Andy had put together (more on those later). It was also fun to bring back Jack McGurke, my first ever Crimson Skies hero, who died less than heroically in a collision more than 10 years ago. Most fun of all perhaps was flying that Valiant. Its speed and agility are amazing. In 12 turns 8 manoeuvres were rated 3G's or more, and I only had to roll for 1 of those - my 2nd 7G high speed wingover looping turn. I made it too! I'm looking forward to taking that out for another flight!

In addition to all that, we worked out some simple campaign houserules:
  • If a plane is burning (due to magnesium ammunition in case you don't know) when a players chooses to flee the engagement, the player has a choice:
  1. Land on their faction's Zeppelin (difficult) without having to worry about their plane burning up (and maybe exploding).
  2. Land at their airfield (easy), but have to suffer all the already plotted burning damage (and so maybe explode).
And that's it for the first episode of our occasional Crimson Skies campaign. :)


Settlers of Catan
We were left with 2 hours to fill before dinner (one of my 3 original standards - chilli). The old stalwart Settlers was on the table almost before we knew it. We had some extra counter sorting to do before setup, because Donald and Andy had found the rules reference they needed finally to persuade me to keep separate the region counters from the basic set and the expansions. All those years of chaos, brought to an end. Sigh. ;-b

Notable features of the setup that I remember include:
  • Andy somehow managed to sneak in and get 1 of each resource, with pretty good numerical distribution IIRC.
  • I was left without sheep, and no real chance to develop to a sheep region.
The game opened with Donald and I fighting over an early lead which included a couple of quick city builds each. Elsewhere Andy and I got caught up in a race to build a settlement the loss of which might've proved less painful than I'd thought at the time. I certainly got the 2-1 grain port I'd been after, but (as expected) my grain city was robbered through most of the game, so I got no use from that. The extra lumber was certainly useful, but I might've done better if I'd gone in another direction earlier, eg. for a 3-1 port instead. This would've been doubly useful given the way that my ore/9 city kept delivering too.

The midgame's crucial moment was when Andy grabbed the longest road in a position making it difficult, if not impossible, to get it off him. This put him into a strong lead and brought him first under the boom of the all-trade embargo at 8VP.

The endgame saw Donald and I playing catch-up while trying to stop Andy building the city we expected would win him the game thanks to his lurking development card. We'd both convinced ourselves that Andy needed ore above all, so when Donald rolled a 7 and robbered Andy's sole ore supply I decided to hold on to my soldier instead of using it to move the robber to Andy's grain supply. Andy won anyway, with me on 8VP, Donald on 7, and Tony on 5. It turned out that my soldier play might've bought us some time because it was grain that Andy actually needed then. :-/

One thing that really hampered me in this game was my lack of sheep. This was particularly punitive because I couldn't get hold of the soldier cards that would've moved that robber off my grain/6 region with its city. I swear that robber easily cost me more than a dozen grain throughout that game. With that 2-1 grain port, and with the way I was rolling in ore, just half of that might've saved the day for me.

Andy 2
Donald 0
Tony 0
Me 1

Battlestar Galactica
Our recent fun playing Battlestar Galactica meant that it was only a matter of time before we sat down to watch it on Andy's DVD's. We started tonight after dinner, with the 2003 miniseries which launched the revamped BSG.

I have to say I enjoyed this quite a lot. I'm still asking myself what I think of it compared to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which I liked enough to think about buying so that I can watch it again. My feeling is still that BSG isn't quite as good as T:SCC. Why? Essentially because BSG's strengths seem to me to be simultaneously its weaknesses, and I don't remember that being true of T:SCC.

What I mean is that BSG is a fairly obvious moral parable about 21st century America and its apparent thirst for a new McCarthyism and all that went with the original. I'm afraid that the strengths of this material is undermined a bit by:
  • A core premise that strains my atheistic credulity; namely the religious culture of the denizens of the far future, which I just find naff.
  • Characterisation and scripting which is a bit hackneyed.
I know that the religious culture in BSG is a setting feature as definitive in its own way as is the Force in Star Wars, and a matter of personal taste to boot. Complaints about writing can be more objective, although I still might be wrong. So my complaints really are rather minor.

On the plus side you have what makes these complaints minor. To this viewer, the new Battlestar Galactica is already an example of one of the best features of SF/fantasy in geek culture across so many media, namely the way in which their metaphor and allusion is often driven by a shallow trawl of contemporary life. A beneficial side effect of this is that it can make this culture more sensitive to profound trends in society precisely because of the extra alchemy that is metaphor and allusion in the mass and popular culture of the fantastic. This is why SF/fantasy often 'speaks the unspeakable'.

The parts of which this is the sum include creeping paranoia, and moments of genuine horror, and pathos too. Oh yes, and some really cool space battles. I can still remember when Star Wars first did space battles featuring space roiling with spinning and twisting ships. It was fantastic. Battlestar Galactica does this too, with some really neat choreography. All very nice.

I also enjoyed watching BSG after having played the boardgame. Time and again something would happen in the show and I'd be thinking, "Been there, done that." In fact, I saw in that 3 hours of TV pretty much everything that I've seen happen in our 2 games. I'm more impressed with the game now than ever because I've begun to see how clever an adaption it is of the TV show.

I'm looking forward to more of both the game and the show now. :-)

Last but not least
Donald had been at a farmers' market before he turned up, and he'd brought me a wee present: a jar of spicy marinated garlic (available from Provence Direct). I've tried garlic in brine, which is lovely, but these are even better.

The idea of eating whole garlic cloves might not appeal to some people, but the truth is that they have a surprisingly mild, nutty flavour. I think the oily texture is a definite improvement over the bland and acid brine, and the spiciness? Well, garlic and a spicy bite, what more can I say?! The jar'll be empty by the time you read this. Cheers Donald. ;)


Andrew Paul said...

"Redmond's Gang (Tony)."

Nope. I'm sure we had this converation the last time, too; Redmann's gang.

"A bit political on yer ass!" said...

D'oh! I just copied and pasted my mistake from the last time. :¬\

Nice pictures don't you think? ;)

"A bit political on yer ass!" said...

I was able to get to work adding to your manoeuvre template that little detail I was talking about. I just opened the PDFs in GIMP, then saved them as XCFs (GIMP's PSD-type format I think), then set to work with cropping and trimming. Should have it all ready for our next game. I'll send you a copy when I can. ;)