Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blogging through the slog

The slog? Yep. Not just the mood swing - which had already slowed down the lickety-spit with which RD/KA! began 2009; but also a flash of déjà vu when three out of four of the easter extravaganza reports (count them: #1, #3, #4) were marathon sessions at the GIMP, working on yet more "ever thinner Combat Commander battle reports... become uninspiring drudgery to this blogger", to remind readers what I wrote last September. This time, the drudgery was at least productive (all hail the GIMP!); not just nineteen new maps, but a new avenue in fleshing out battle reports with real history and geography.

Even so, that game of Rogue Trooper came along in the nick of time. All the more so since there's shedloads more Combat Commander on the way.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A parcel of rogues...

Rogue Trooper
Donald, Gav, Tony and I made 4 for boardgames on Sunday. Casting around for the main event as you do I spied, tucked away almost out of reach on a high shelf, my as yet unplayed second hand copy of GW's Rogue Trooper boardgame from 1987.

I confess I was never a big fan of the Rogue Trooper story, which made its debut in the galaxy's greatest comic - 2000 AD, in 1981. To paraphrase a friend at the time, there are only so many ways to ring the changes with "Eat chemcloud Norter scum!" The story was very popular though, so it was hardly surprising that a Rogue Trooper game was added to the series of licenced 2000 AD products which came out of the young design studio's halycon days.

Monday, April 27, 2009

For the record

No sooner had I returned from sunny Anstruther in Fife than I got a call from Antony (a.k.a. the mighty Grundi), who was at a loose end. His visit concluded with an outing to the tournament field in Ivanhoe, which I suspect is Antony's favourite game.

Long story short: Antony had skillfully fought his way to 3-2 up. It was late and time was getting on, but I psyched him into another game, which I won, thus forcing the inevitable tiebreaker (Antony no more wanted to surrender the night's knightly honours than did I). I won that too.

Headstrong youth 3
Wily old dog 4

History of the World
Tony's absence gave us 5 the following Sunday. There was a great appetite for giving History of the World another try after Easter Sunday's first play. Andy was content to go along with this.

Notes were taken of the scores at the end of each epoch, but again the intervening week has cleared the interesting little details from my mind. What I can report is that the Romans did make their appearance this time- in Dave's hands, and they were truly mighty, especially with the addition of weaponry; that I held the lead until epoch 5, when it was stolen from me by Dave; and that my best efforts with the British empire in epoch 7 (and they were a lot better than last time too) weren't enough to prevent Dave sneaking past me in the last turn of the game to win by a mere 6VP (216 to my 210).

A man who needs no introduction
(Because he's not getting invited back)
The civilised world 0

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Easter extravaganza #4: Rumble in the jungle

Our trip to the chateau of doom done, we proceeded to what, for Martin, was the main event: a trip to the PTO and Martin's first taste of Combat Commander: Pacific. A noted player of the Japanese in Up Front, Martin was looking forward to seeing how they shaped up in Combat Commander, a game to which he rapidly took, pronouncing it the most exciting WW2 tacsim he'd seen since Up Front.

Send out the scouts!
We started at the beginning, as you do, with Scenario A. Grassy Knoll, which Badger and I had played in our first CC session of the year back in January. Since then, the scenario has acquired a reputation as being too tough on the Americans, as witness this thread on CC:P@BGG.

Slaving away again at the GIMP (where do you think I've been all week?!), I went first to Wikipedia in search of the Battle of Mindanao to see if I could find any information that'd clue me in about the map's orientation. That search proving fruitless, google followed, which led me to HyperWar: a hypertext history of the Second World War.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Easter extravaganza #3: Country-house carnage

Preliminary reconnaisance
After a short night's sleep and a journey across the country to the east coast Martin and I sat down to the main event: Combat Commander. We decided to start with Scenario 4. Closed for Renovation. Could one of us gain the American victory which has eluded everyone so far?

Working at the GIMP to get files ready for RD/KA!, I searched for Humaine, Belgium on googlemaps, as I'd done with Scenario A. Ichiki Attacks from CC:P. I was able to find the town, but neither googlemaps nor google earth are detailed enough for me to pick out the chateau itself, so north is purely conventional on the maps for this scenario. Still, I found some pictures which show the piece of real estate to which those Germans clung so stubbornly back in December 1944.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Easter extravaganza #2: Limbering up

The Easter holidays brought a visit from 'Uncle' Martin for a WW2 tactical megasession.

Up Front
Beginning in the wee small hours, we opted for a couple of quick games of Up Front. We managed 2 games. Turning to Scenario A. Patrol as ever, random generation pitted my British against Martin's Germans, then I took the Americans in against Martin's Germans.

The details of the games escape me at week and a half's remove, and I wasn't taking notes. What I can remember is that, continuing my setup experiments, I decided to give my Germans a chance to gain a manoeuvre victory with a strong 4-man assault group on my open flank. I managed to pull this off.

I tried something similarly unusual with my Americans, setting up:
  • The 2 ML1 wimps with Cpl. Moores at group A.
  • A 6-man firebase at group B.
  • Sgt. Burnett with Myers and a ML3/Panic 5 rifleman at C.
Sgt. Burnett and his lads got into close combat, and amongst the game's high jinks were:
  • I took a prisoner.
  • Burnett junked a tommy gun (what?!), then picked up the dead Bernhoff's rifle from the German group he was infiltrating.
In the end, Martin's assault group died in a hail on fire and on the points of my bayonets, and I won again.

Aging reservist 0
Combat-ready veteran 2

These games were part of my ongoing consideration of Up Front tactics, naturally enough. Isolated data insufficient for the drawing of conclusions, the results are grist to my mill nonetheless.

Key for the Germans was the decision to keep open the option of the manoeuvre victory with 4 men at range chit 4. Historically authentic for the Germans, this aggressive strategy is also eminently playable with their hand in Up Front. Going with a strong 4-man assault group raises the question of how to build your firebase. I opted to put the ML1 Beck and the ML2/Panic 2 Wollack at group A, and to transfer Wollack into the firebase at the first opportunity:
  • The firebase has to have at least 5 men.
  • ML1 wimps shouldn't be in your firebase.
In addition, I would consider pulling Beck back to range chit -1 to keep him out of range of the enemy. That way, he'd be able to run around for the sake of card cycle without coming under too much fire.

Unlike the Germans, neither the American hand nor their firebase favours the manoeuvre strategy. So I prefer to go with a 3-man assault group whose role is to hold out against their German opposite numbers. The novelty in this game was to put Cpl. Moores with the wimps in group A instead of with the firebase in B:
  • Moore's tommy gun makes him largely superfluous in the firebase.
  • His smoke capacity is likewise mostly redundant.
So, putting Moores in group A with the wimps means that:
  • The wimp group can lay smoke to enhance their own survivability and to increase card cycle.
  • Group A will be more durable because of Moores' higher morale.
These strategies worked against Martin on Easter Monday. Even so, the vivid memory of the utter tankings back in 2007 which refuted my alternative Japanese strategy means that I'm not leaping to any conclusions about these setups, all the more so given my concerns about the scaling of Up Front's firepower engine. Still, I know I'm going to try them both out again the next chance I get. ;)

Easter extravaganza
- #1: The long weekend
- #3: Country-house carnage
- #4: Rumble in the jungle

Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter extravaganza #1: The long weekend

Diversions, dinner, then duel in the depths
The long weekend brought Badger round on Thursday night. Events elsewhere diverted us unexpectedly for a few hours, so that our anticipated WW2 tactical megasession turned into a single visit to Stalingrad in Combat Commander, but not before dinner, naturally enough. Dinner was another new recipie from Nick Nairn's Top 100 Chicken Recipes: chicken with butternut squash and bacon.

I like cooking chicken. It ticks a lot of healthy eating boxes; is available prejointed in portions ideal for freezing, and easy to apportion to appetites; it cooks quickly and easily; and is adaptable to any and all culinary styles. Truly, the pack of chicken portions is a boon to the busy modern cook. Butternut squash was new to me, even though they've been around for ages.

The recipie was a success, just like all the others I've taken from this book by Nick Nairn. It'll be revisited, and I'll be looking for other ways to use butternut squash just as soon as I can.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Doom, despair, devestation, dastardliness and dinner

Andy, Donald and Gav turned up for last week's Sunday session. Dinner was going to be a French classic: chicken cassoulet. The recipie was a quick and easy modern version from Nick Nairn's Top 100 Chicken Recipes, suitable as ever for advanced preparation and last-minute finishing.

The dish was a great success, which was nice. I took special pleasure in the lip-smacking appreciation of my favourite spicy Italian bangers, which I believe were new to everyone else.

I was keen to have another go at the final Doom mission Donald and I had lost so pitifully last month. We were humped, again, even with 3 marines and a reduced difficulty level. Our humpage was of a degree less severe than the last time - we did get out of the first room, though only as far as the second area; but it was humpage in the extreme nonetheless.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A night on the Russian front

Up Front
Badger and I began last Friday's session with a game of Up Front, another Patrol because Badger's still green despite his excellent record. Random selection gave him the Germans against my Russians. He chose to go with a variant of his winning setup from 4 weeks ago. I went with my now standard 3-group Russian setup.

Routine trash talking aside, I was quietly confident as this game started. The Russians are probably the best force with which to take on the Germans. Sheer weight of numbers, a capacity for insane charges, and the best discard in the game are strengths which I reckon give them the edge over the British or the Americans. Plus, Badger's run of luck surely couldn't continue?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

"We go!"

The unstoppable charge of Chad Jensen's Combat Commander continues with the addition of Battle Pack #3: Normandy to GMT's P500. Scheduled to include 17 new scenarios (1 a campaign), 8 new maps, extra counters, and a host of new rules to cover the terrain, units and operations in the Normandy bridgehead in the summer of 1944, BP#3 looks set to provide hours of fun for CC fans everywhere.

There is no release date as yet, as you would expect from the nature of the P500 system, but there is every reason to expect the pack to appear this year: at the time of writing there are 320 preorders, and that's within 24 hours of the announcement of BP#3's addition to the P500 list. I imagine a fair proportion of them are automatic preorders. Even so, I'll be surprised if the crucial 500 preorders hurdle hasn't been crossed before the month is out.

Friday, April 03, 2009

In other news

Badger's coming round soon for another session of WW2 gaming, so I've just got time for a couple of quickies.

Space Hulk rumour mongering
A recent visit to the Bell of Lost Souls GW fansite and a quick search for 'Space Hulk' has updated the rumours about the rerelease of this classic boardgame. The talk at Bell of Lost Souls is of "a full bore rework with all the bells and whistles you could ever want." You can find the full story here.

With as many as 6 months before the much-touted Q3 2009 release date, there is plenty of time for GW to do some serious viral marketing by drip-feeding rumours into the online GW community. As the comments at Bell of Lost Souls and elsewhere demonstrate, this could bring the Space Hulk fanbase to a pitch of excitement perhaps exceeding even that of playing the game itself! Myself, I want pictures.

Now that was a bughunt!
Google have finally got round to fixing a bug with the user stats for blogger, one I seem to recall arriving when they upgraded the system back in 2005.

The 'Profile Views' stat is the only counter of any sort I use here at RD/KA!. That upgrade all those years ago had the unexpected consequence of making the counter increment whenever I looked at my own profile, so I'd half the number and round down conservatively to get any idea of how many visitors had clicked through to check my profile. I actually sent google a bug report on this back when the issue arose. Is the delay in fixing this an indication of how backlogged their inbox is, I wonder? ;)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

This and that

Something fishy going on
Alert readers might've noticed a recent weekend passed without a Sunday session. This was because that weekend saw a night out in celebration of my 46th birthday. I had decided weeks ago that I wanted to make the occasion the excuse for my eagerly awaited second visit to the delightful Two Fat Ladies West End.

Snappy dressers set their own style!

Andy, Badger, Donald and Gav had all heard me sing the restaurant's praises more than once, so it had quite a reputation to live up to. For my part I was wondering how my second visit would go after the first had been such a landmark in my fine dining experience. Opinions were a bit mixed in the end.

Andy, Badger and me in the Three Judges

Several people had the Cullen Skink, which was unanimously highly praised. Andy and I started with a squid salad. I found this quite delicious, the tenderest and most flavourful squid I've ever eaten. My main - scallops with Stornoway black pudding - slightly let down my high expectations. Stornoway black pudding is a modern food legend, and justly so. Perhaps Two Fat Ladies sources its supply from a butcher other than that whose pudding I've enjoyed so much in the past. I don't know for sure, but I have to say that it lacked the pepperiness which to me characterises Stornoway black pudding.

The lads were mostly happy elsewhere around the table, although Donald was a bit disappointed with his first taste of fresh tuna, which was too mild in flavour for his liking. A wee taste and subsequent pondering has left me thinking that this was mostly bad luck: Donald's a confirmed lover of red meat, and the idea of fresh tuna steaks probably conjures up certain expectations of strong, meaty flavours. Maybe he should try the meat dish on a future occasion.

Badger, me and Gav in Two Fat Ladies

Andy, Gav and I were on our third bottle of a sluggable fresh and fruity white wine by the time the desserts came round, so my memories of that course are vague. I'm pretty sure Donald was pleased with his pudding though (and so the day was saved for him: puddings are second only to red meat as essential components of Donald's ideal meal); I certainly enjoyed my chocolate pot.

The matter of the black pudding notwithstanding, my second visit to Two Fat Ladies lived up to the promise of the first. And, although perhaps not sharing the degree of my enthusiasm (Badger took to accusing me of turning into John Torode of BBC TV's Masterchef), I think everyone agreed that we'd been served top-quality food at fair prices.


I don't know about the others then, but I know I'll be making another visit just as soon as I can find the flimsiest of excuses.

My life in the mob
In the months since I became an active facebooker, I've been invited to join and otherwise taken a look at many of the little games people play there. Of all of those, only one has managed to hold my interest: Zynga Inc's game of gangland empire-building Mafia Wars.

I'm really not sure what it is about this game that appeals to me so much. I mean, I'm a fan of The Sopranos, a big enough fan that I still expect to hear the Alabama 3 signature tune kick in every time I hear the chords and static hiss that are HBO's station credit. And I like resource management in games in general. But that doesn't really explain why Mafia Wars is the facebook game which first successfully lured me into this genre.

No, really: this doesn't explain my fondness for Mafia Wars; and I really don't know why I like it so much. What I can say for sure is that I'll be playing this one out as far as I can take it. Oh, and I won't be paying for it either. ;)

PS. I just want to add a note of thanks to Donald and Gav who took the photos of my birthday night out. Cheers lads.

- Sweat the small things?