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Updated: 57 min 19 sec ago

Guardians of the Galaxy Could Learn from Neon Genesis Evangelion

Sun, 01/11/2015 - 21:58


If you are expecting a comprehensive overview of Neon Genesis Evangelion, I am sorry to say that you are not going to find that in this post. Truth is, I have only watched the first five episodes of this piece of anime, and then only because Adult Swim was showing Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth a few days ago. From what I could tell, this was a movie cobbled together from various episodes of the series. Sadly, I had no idea what the heck was going on, but I was intrigued by the many religious themes that kept popping up during the movie, such as the logo for NERV, mankind's defense from the "angel" onslaught:



Anime with religious sensibilities and mechs? Sign me up! So I decided to start at the beginning of the series.


Like I said above, I've only made it past the first five episodes, so I cannot reach any conclusions yet. However, while the jury might still be out on this series, I can say that episode 4 has already captured my heart by doing something very simple: it paused for dramatic effect.


Let me back up here and explain something. As of late, I have been bemoaning the awful state of Hollywood, particularly the dreadful live action cartoons (as I like to call them) that Hollywood seems to think qualify as science fiction. Guardians of the Galaxy is a perfect example. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed that movie like so many others, and look forward to further adventures with its delightful cast. But I definitely believe that movie was harmed by its frenetic pace. The movie never once slowed down, but instead careened from one action sequence to another with breathless pacing. Attention Hollywood! Cinema is not a video game (and, indeed, even most video games give the player time to catch their breath!), and it certainly isn't a roller coaster ride! SLOW DOWN!


This problem with frenetic pacing was recently demonstrated by the director of Guardians himself, James Gunn. In what I consider to be a breathtaking revelation, Gunn explains how a single, brief joke was cut from the script because they thought it slowed down the movie too much!

In the film’s final version, Drax responded with “Don’t ever call me a Thesaurus” and left it at that. We figured Gunn shortened the line to make it less of a buzzkill, but Gunn explained why he abbreviated the joke....

"I think we were just making things move faster, and we had a bunch of good jokes in that section." Wow. A six word joke was excised to make things move faster. Faster! In a movie that was already supersonic!

This is my most serious problem with modern movies: they are moving so darn fast that the audience is often left with a blur of CGI and little else. What about character development? What about pathos? You cannot truly have any of those if the darn thing won't stop to catch its breath every now and then, and give the audience a chance to process all that is going on. Stop it, guys. Just stop the needless and endless adrenaline rush. Life is about more than explosions.

Now, what does this have to do with Neon Genesis Evangelion? Just this: in Episode 4 there is a wonderful moment where director Hideaki Anno just stops all activity to allow two principle characters, protagonist Shinji Ikari, and his mentor/commander Misato Katsuragi, to have a moment of powerful understanding:



Wasn't that a wonderful scene? Brilliant, even? I particularly like how Anno uses ambient noise to haunting effect. The chirping of the summer cicadas, the music quietly escaping from Katsuragi's car, and the tram stations PSAs - it all makes for a very pregnant pause where two troubled characters realize that, if nothing else, they have each other.

Sadly, and simply, you will never, ever come across such a powerful scene in any big budget Hollywood blockbuster these days. Could you imagine the chaos when the production team discovers that their movie contains sixty seconds of film that lack any explosions, punchlines, or shoot outs? The horror. The horror.

If you will permit, I will quote myself one again. As I wrote in my reviews of Girls und Panzer and Hellsing Ultimate, how badly is modern Hollywood doing its job if anime is repeatedly schooling them in the better aspects of storytelling?

This bad:

Box Office 2014: Moviegoing Hits Two-Decade Low


Wake up before it is too late, fellas.
Categories: Blogs

The Campaign Series and Facebook

Mon, 12/22/2014 - 07:55
The Campaign Series is now found on Facebook.

Link to Facebook

You will be able to find what we're up to and some new screenshots.

Jason Petho
Categories: Blogs

Tomorrow's War: You Made Me Do This (Revisited)

Fri, 11/28/2014 - 01:49

Almost a year ago to the day, I posted a blog entry entitled "You Made Me Do This!" In a nutshell, it was my rant about the terrible state of PC gaming. At the time I had every intention of checking out of PC gaming and devoting my free time to board games and miniatures, something I hadn't done since the mid to late '90s. Unfortunately, that never came to pass. Shortly after setting up my first game of Tomorrow's War, I became ill and had to let it sit fallow for a few weeks. By the time I felt better, the madness of the holidays had arrived and I just didn't have time. Then the holidays passed, and while I did finish painting a few more miniatures, I never did recover the impetus to return to the game.

Winter turned to spring, spring turned to summer and, as is usually the case, summer turned to autumn, and now here I am, right back where I started. With the exception of needing to clear off some dust, and making a few repairs (I am discovering rubber cement cannot be trusted), the game board is almost exactly as I had left it. Seeing how PC gaming has only marginally improved over the last year, this has proven fortuitous as I am, once again, seeking an exit.

So let's return to this futuristic battle, shall we? It is long past due for this battle to be resolved!

Notes:

1) Obviously, all images are heavily touched up. I have done this because a) I have become addicted to fancy PC gaming screenshots (LOL), and b) I am just a beginning miniatures player, so both my artistic skills, as well as my paltry collection of minis and terrain, need all the help they can get! Plus, I like the graphic novel look I came up with.

2) I make no pretense about the accuracy of my rule interpretations. I am finding Tomorrow's War to be a bit hard to digest at first. I am also finding myself deliberately changing things just to suit my own sensibilities. One of the great things about non-PC gaming is that I can tinker with the 'programming' all I want!

3) I added graphical snow and, sometimes, a bluish tint to the images because I love winter fights when it comes to a sci-fi setting.


With that out of the way, let's begin!





This is based on Lost & Found, the infantry-based training scenario found in the rule book. Here, a technologically superior USMC force (on the left of the board) needs to cross a river and rescue a downed fighter pilot who is sheltering in some ruins. A force of technologically inferior DPRG troops (deployed on the right of the board) are going to attempt to stop that from happening by ambushing the Marines.

I began by sending Fire Team 3 from its patch of wooded ground in an attempt to cross some open terrain and make it to the crashed fighter (the fighter is my personal addition to the original set-up). Meanwhile, Fire Team 2, which was hunkering down in the same patch of woods, would provide overwatch fire if needed.

As they left the woods, Fire Team 3 came under heavy fire from a five man DPRG squad that was hiding in the patch of woods on the far right of the game table. My overwatch team preempted their ambush by bringing them under heavy fire:




The more advanced technology of the Marines made a big difference in this long range shoot-out: they inflicted casualties on the enemy, stopping their ambush, and pinning them down. The Marines received no casualties in return.

While that fight was taking place, Marine Fire Team 1 to the far north quietly made their way to their first objective, a patch of trees crowning a small hillock, meeting no resistance.

Before the battlefield could completely quiet down, however, the enemy decided to make a move of their own. A large, seven man squad, including an officer, departed some ruins and made a quick run at the ruins where the pilot was hiding. Their intention seemed not to be to capture the pilot, but to make a firing line along a low brick wall the lined the property, something that could prevent any attempted river crossing. Fire Team 2 spotted the movement and open fire on the column of troops:




Again, the superior technology of the USMC weaponry took a heavy toll on this unit, pinning it down and inflicting casualties while receiving none in return. So far, the Leather Necks were in control of the situation!




A medic was attached to the DPRG squad that was caught moving to the stone wall, something that helped lessen the severity of the casualties.




The medic (front) treats the man behind him (standing on a wound marker) while the CO orders everyone forward!

The most seriously wounded were stabilized, while the lightly wounded were stitched up and returned to duty. Good thing, too, because they were going to need it!

The next few minutes of combat were furious as every DPRG soldier opened fire on Fire Team 3 as they attempted to cross the open ground and, eventually, ford the river and make it to the pilot's location. Fortunately, Fire Team 2 was still on the ball and delivered devastating overwatch support to interrupt many of the planned DPRG ambushes:




Superior technology continued to prove decisive for the USMC. Nonetheless, it was only a matter of time before the tremendous volume of low-tech enemy fire took their toll on the Marines. Fire Team 3, as it neared the crossing, took its first casualty.



A DPRG team preparing to ambush USMC Fire Team 3 as it approached the crossing


The team leader was seriously injured by the squad of DPRG troops that was sheltered near the pilot's building:




Their morale held, but would they be able to make it the rest of the way with such a badly wounded man? Guess I would find out!

Despite successfully wounding the team leader for FT3, the situation looked grim for the DPRG. Casualties were mounting, and morale was breaking. Surely the Marines would be able to dash across the river, snatch the pilot, and get back to base in time for dinner!

Well...not so fast. Even though the superior USMC tech had been savaging the DPRG, their troops were still a tough, committed lot. They weren't going to allow these leathernecks to just waltz into their territory and snatch a high value target! Whether by willpower or, more likely, by the threatening muzzle of their CO's sidearm, the DPRG suddenly roused themselves into action. In an unexpected flash of fury, the DPRG regained the initiative from the USMC and unloaded on Fire Team 3. Their fire was so intense that Fire Team 3 was forced to abandon their attempt to cross the river, and needed to flee for their lives!



These DPRG troopers mock the retreating Marines. On a nearby hill, a USMC squad leader can be seen calling FT3 into cover
Even Fire Team 2's overwatch proved ineffective. In a rare reversal, the dependable Fire Team 2 proved ineffective against the enemy. This left Fire Team 3 totally unprotected. Enemy fire nipped at their heels the whole way back to cover:



But the DPRG wanted blood this day. Even though the Marine fire team made it to some light cover in the form of sheltering pine trees, the DPRG fire exacted a heavy toll as the seriously wounded team leader would be hit again, this time fatally:



The Marines had suffered their first KIA of the battle. Fire Team 3 was now thoroughly shot up. One man KIA, one man seriously wounded, it was down to half strength and incapable of fulfilling its mission.

If the news was bad for Fire Team 3, the USMC did get some good news further north. Fire Team 1 had managed to gain the upper hand in an attack launched by a DPRG team on the opposite hill. This attacked proved to be a very bad idea as the DPRG squad wound up with three severely wounded men, one lightly wounded man, and just one man intact. This enemy squad wouldn't be much of a factor anymore.

A calm descended on the battlefield, leaving both sides to lick their wounds. The SITREP:




The original USMC plan was now in tatters as FT 3 was no longer in any condition to rescue the pilot. It looked like Fire Team 1 might have to leave the fringes of the battlefield and attempt a crossing at the ford located further north, near a lake.

With time running out, the success of this mission hung in the balance!

With Fire Team 3 being a shadow of its former self, Fire Team 1 took the lead. Taking the initiative back from the DPRG, Fire Team 1 dashed from cover and quickly forded the northern crossing. They were covered the whole way by Fire Team 2. Good thing too, as every unit still capable of firing on the DPRG side did so! Fortunately, Fire Team 3 continued to provide deadly accurate fire, pinning almost every unit that tried to make trouble for the would-be rescuers. The plan worked: Fire Team 1 made contact with the downed pilot shortly before 1530z hours. The celebration was short lived though as the DPRG squad that successfully fought off the crossing by Fire Team 3 now made a furious charge and attempted to smash FT 1 in hand to hand combat. The remnants of FT 3 and the overwatch team opened fire in an attempt to pin them in place before they could do much damage:




The USMC overwatch team was as deadly as ever, killing the DPRG leader mid-stride, and pinning the rest of the team. Emboldened by the awesome "can do!" attitude of their fellow Marines (officially, a "It's a Good Day to Die" Fog of War card), Fire Team 1 redoubled their efforts to bring back the package. Grabbing the pilot, Fire Team 1 let loose one last volley at the pinned enemy before attempting a getaway:




Meanwhile, in the north, the savaged DPRG squad's morale finally broke - no surprise with one dead, three seriously wounded, and just one effective! Disgusted, they trudged through the snow and left the battlefield:



It was the result of a Fog of War card called "It's a Bad Day to Die" - I reinterpreted it to mean a complete rout for this badly hit squad

This was now crunch time for the DPRG. If they didn't stop Fire Team 1 from getting away with the pilot, they never would. With the unit CO killed the previous turn, it was up to the squad leader to rally the men. With a bellow, the DPRG squad picked themselves up from the ground and charged through the snow at their USMC enemies once more. Fire picked men from their ranks, but they managed to close with the enemy nonetheless:




But it proved to be not enough. The full strength USMC fire team was ready for a fight and met the enemy gun barrel to gun barrel, iridium bayonet to iridium bayonet. Despite their best effort, the DPRG squad was beaten to ground again, this time losing yet another member of the squad, with the rest receiving various injuries. It was too much. The DPRG had to break contact. The USMC fire team was free to take their charge across the river:




Liars! With their last rounds of ammo, the DPRG squad attempted once more to pin the Marines but failed miserably due to their casualties. All they really accomplished was to get another squad member killed as he attempted to rush across the ford.





Fittingly, it was the shot-up Fire Team 3 that stopped the attempted rear attack. They might not have been able to complete their mission to get the pilot, but they certainly helped Fire Team 1 get the job done!

And with that, Operation Lost & Found came to an end as the remaining DPRG squads were all rendered combat ineffective due to casualties sustained during the course of the battle. Victory for Charlie Squad of 1st Platoon!


Casualties


USMC DPRG
Dead 1 11
Seriously Injured 1 9
Lightly Injured 1 1

Overall, I really don't have any thoughts on what I might have done differently as the DPRG player. This was a messy play-through as I was just too busy coming to grips with the rules to have keenly focused on the optimal tactics. Truth be told, I often just threw the troops at each other to see how the rules worked! I will say that the quality difference between the USMC and the DPRG definitely swung the balance in favor of the Marines. Even though the DPRG had far more troops, a d8 roll for the Marines versus a d6 for the DPRG was just too great an advantage at times, hence all the DPRG casualties. Still, I like to think that the DPRG put up a good fight nonetheless!


Concluding Thoughts


Wow, that was tough! This PC gamer isn't used to doing so much work myself to play a game. Usually I just sit back and punch buttons. LOL! Being in total control of a game - not just moving the pieces, but also applying the appropriate rules and calculating the results - can be a shock to the system after having a computer do the heavy lifting all these years. Still, it was a refreshing experience because it was nice to have such control. Not having to wait for a dev to fix a bug or tweak a sub-optimal rule is a breath a fresh air (seems like PC gaming these days is 25% gameplay, 75% waiting for a patch). Also, knowing just why a certain result was reached - that is, seeing all the usually behind-the-scenes calculations for yourself - makes for a much more transparent experience. I found these factors made this a much more memorable gaming experience.

As for Tomorrow's War itself, I have to say that I find the rules to be a bit cumbersome. Even though each part of the game is relatively straight forward, I find putting it all together can get confusing at times. I think this might be do to how dicey the game is. A d6 for this, a d10 for that, an initiative die for this, and quality die for that...it can all get very muddled. I think I would have appreciated some streamlining abstractions instead as having to constantly recall which die, not to mention how many of them you need for a roll, can be a pain. Still, I have no regrets about trying this system. And I am looking forward to seeing how vehicles are handled....

Speaking of, that is the next chapter in the book that I need to learn. However, I don't think I will be getting to it any time soon because I haven't even began to paint the three tank miniatures I received as a gift last Christmas, and I doubt I will get to do so anytime soon what with the Christmas rush kicking off NOW. Not only that, but having the infantry portion of the game sitting on my table for so long has made me a bit tired of looking at this particular game (this is no fault of TW, of course!). LOL! So I think I will shelve this minis adventure for a bit and explore the many, many other board / minis games out there in the short term. Still, I am eager to return to Tomorrow's War ASAP!

[This is cross-posted from my main blog. For a slightly more in depth retelling of this battle, visit here: http://burkesjoystick.blogspot.com/2...revisited.html
Categories: Blogs

Tomorrow's War: You Made Me Do This Revisited

Fri, 11/28/2014 - 01:49

Almost a year ago to the day, I posted a blog entry entitled "You Made Me Do This!" In a nutshell, it was my rant about the terrible state of PC gaming. At the time I had every intention of checking out of PC gaming and devoting my free time to board games and miniatures, something I hadn't done since the mid to late '90s. Unfortunately, that never came to pass. Shortly after setting up my first game of Tomorrow's War, I became ill and had to let it sit fallow for a few weeks. By the time I felt better, the madness of the holidays had arrived and I just didn't have time. Then the holidays passed, and while I did finish painting a few more miniatures, I never did recover the impetus to return to the game.

Winter turned to spring, spring turned to summer and, as is usually the case, summer turned to autumn, and now here I am, right back where I started. With the exception of needing to clear off some dust, and making a few repairs (I am discovering rubber cement cannot be trusted), the game board is almost exactly as I had left it. Seeing how PC gaming has only marginally improved over the last year, this has proven fortuitous as I am, once again, seeking an exit.

So let's return to this futuristic battle, shall we? It is long past due for this battle to be resolved!

Notes:

1) Obviously, all images are heavily touched up. I have done this because a) I have become addicted to fancy PC gaming screenshots (LOL), and b) I am just a beginning miniatures player, so both my artistic skills, as well as my paltry collection of minis and terrain, need all the help they can get! Plus, I like the graphic novel look I came up with.

2) I make no pretense about the accuracy of my rule interpretations. I am finding Tomorrow's War to be a bit hard to digest at first. I am also finding myself deliberately changing things just to suit my own sensibilities. One of the great things about non-PC gaming is that I can tinker with the 'programming' all I want!

3) I added graphical snow and, sometimes, a bluish tint to the images because I love winter fights when it comes to a sci-fi setting.


With that out of the way, let's begin!





This is based on Lost & Found, the infantry-based training scenario found in the rule book. Here, a technologically superior USMC force (on the left of the board) needs to cross a river and rescue a downed fighter pilot who is sheltering in some ruins. A force of technologically inferior DPRG troops (deployed on the right of the board) are going to attempt to stop that from happening by ambushing the Marines.

I began by sending Fire Team 3 from its patch of wooded ground in an attempt to cross some open terrain and make it to the crashed fighter (the fighter is my personal addition to the original set-up). Meanwhile, Fire Team 2, which was hunkering down in the same patch of woods, would provide overwatch fire if needed.

As they left the woods, Fire Team 3 came under heavy fire from a five man DPRG squad that was hiding in the patch of woods on the far right of the game table. My overwatch team preempted their ambush by bringing them under heavy fire:




The more advanced technology of the Marines made a big difference in this long range shoot-out: they inflicted casualties on the enemy, stopping their ambush, and pinning them down. The Marines received no casualties in return.

While that fight was taking place, Marine Fire Team 1 to the far north quietly made their way to their first objective, a patch of trees crowning a small hillock, meeting no resistance.

Before the battlefield could completely quiet down, however, the enemy decided to make a move of their own. A large, seven man squad, including an officer, departed some ruins and made a quick run at the ruins where the pilot was hiding. Their intention seemed not to be to capture the pilot, but to make a firing line along a low brick wall the lined the property, something that could prevent any attempted river crossing. Fire Team 2 spotted the movement and open fire on the column of troops:




Again, the superior technology of the USMC weaponry took a heavy toll on this unit, pinning it down and inflicting casualties while receiving none in return. So far, the Leather Necks were in control of the situation!




A medic was attached to the DPRG squad that was caught moving to the stone wall, something that helped lessen the severity of the casualties.




The medic (front) treats the man behind him (standing on a wound marker) while the CO orders everyone forward!

The most seriously wounded were stabilized, while the lightly wounded were stitched up and returned to duty. Good thing, too, because they were going to need it!

The next few minutes of combat were furious as every DPRG soldier opened fire on Fire Team 3 as they attempted to cross the open ground and, eventually, ford the river and make it to the pilot's location. Fortunately, Fire Team 2 was still on the ball and delivered devastating overwatch support to interrupt many of the planned DPRG ambushes:




Superior technology continued to prove decisive for the USMC. Nonetheless, it was only a matter of time before the tremendous volume of low-tech enemy fire took their toll on the Marines. Fire Team 3, as it neared the crossing, took its first casualty.



A DPRG team preparing to ambush USMC Fire Team 3 as it approached the crossing


The team leader was seriously injured by the squad of DPRG troops that was sheltered near the pilot's building:




Their morale held, but would they be able to make it the rest of the way with such a badly wounded man? Guess I would find out!

Despite successfully wounding the team leader for FT3, the situation looked grim for the DPRG. Casualties were mounting, and morale was breaking. Surely the Marines would be able to dash across the river, snatch the pilot, and get back to base in time for dinner!

Well...not so fast. Even though the superior USMC tech had been savaging the DPRG, their troops were still a tough, committed lot. They weren't going to allow these leathernecks to just waltz into their territory and snatch a high value target! Whether by willpower or, more likely, by the threatening muzzle of their CO's sidearm, the DPRG suddenly roused themselves into action. In an unexpected flash of fury, the DPRG regained the initiative from the USMC and unloaded on Fire Team 3. Their fire was so intense that Fire Team 3 was forced to abandon their attempt to cross the river, and needed to flee for their lives!



These DPRG troopers mock the retreating Marines. On a nearby hill, a USMC squad leader can be seen calling FT3 into cover
Even Fire Team 2's overwatch proved ineffective. In a rare reversal, the dependable Fire Team 2 proved ineffective against the enemy. This left Fire Team 3 totally unprotected. Enemy fire nipped at their heels the whole way back to cover:



But the DPRG wanted blood this day. Even though the Marine fire team made it to some light cover in the form of sheltering pine trees, the DPRG fire exacted a heavy toll as the seriously wounded team leader would be hit again, this time fatally:



The Marines had suffered their first KIA of the battle. Fire Team 3 was now thoroughly shot up. One man KIA, one man seriously wounded, it was down to half strength and incapable of fulfilling its mission.

If the news was bad for Fire Team 3, the USMC did get some good news further north. Fire Team 1 had managed to gain the upper hand in an attack launched by a DPRG team on the opposite hill. This attacked proved to be a very bad idea as the DPRG squad wound up with three severely wounded men, one lightly wounded man, and just one man intact. This enemy squad wouldn't be much of a factor anymore.

A calm descended on the battlefield, leaving both sides to lick their wounds. The SITREP:




The original USMC plan was now in tatters as FT 3 was no longer in any condition to rescue the pilot. It looked like Fire Team 1 might have to leave the fringes of the battlefield and attempt a crossing at the ford located further north, near a lake.

With time running out, the success of this mission hung in the balance!

With Fire Team 3 being a shadow of its former self, Fire Team 1 took the lead. Taking the initiative back from the DPRG, Fire Team 1 dashed from cover and quickly forded the northern crossing. They were covered the whole way by Fire Team 2. Good thing too, as every unit still capable of firing on the DPRG side did so! Fortunately, Fire Team 3 continued to provide deadly accurate fire, pinning almost every unit that tried to make trouble for the would-be rescuers. The plan worked: Fire Team 1 made contact with the downed pilot shortly before 1530z hours. The celebration was short lived though as the DPRG squad that successfully fought off the crossing by Fire Team 3 now made a furious charge and attempted to smash FT 1 in hand to hand combat. The remnants of FT 3 and the overwatch team opened fire in an attempt to pin them in place before they could do much damage:




The USMC overwatch team was as deadly as ever, killing the DPRG leader mid-stride, and pinning the rest of the team. Emboldened by the awesome "can do!" attitude of their fellow Marines (officially, a "It's a Good Day to Die" Fog of War card), Fire Team 1 redoubled their efforts to bring back the package. Grabbing the pilot, Fire Team 1 let loose one last volley at the pinned enemy before attempting a getaway:




Meanwhile, in the north, the savaged DPRG squad's morale finally broke - no surprise with one dead, three seriously wounded, and just one effective! Disgusted, they trudged through the snow and left the battlefield:



It was the result of a Fog of War card called "It's a Bad Day to Die" - I reinterpreted it to mean a complete rout for this badly hit squad

This was now crunch time for the DPRG. If they didn't stop Fire Team 1 from getting away with the pilot, they never would. With the unit CO killed the previous turn, it was up to the squad leader to rally the men. With a bellow, the DPRG squad picked themselves up from the ground and charged through the snow at their USMC enemies once more. Fire picked men from their ranks, but they managed to close with the enemy nonetheless:




But it proved to be not enough. The full strength USMC fire team was ready for a fight and met the enemy gun barrel to gun barrel, iridium bayonet to iridium bayonet. Despite their best effort, the DPRG squad was beaten to ground again, this time losing yet another member of the squad, with the rest receiving various injuries. It was too much. The DPRG had to break contact. The USMC fire team was free to take their charge across the river:




Liars! With their last rounds of ammo, the DPRG squad attempted once more to pin the Marines but failed miserably due to their casualties. All they really accomplished was to get another squad member killed as he attempted to rush across the ford.





Fittingly, it was the shot-up Fire Team 3 that stopped the attempted rear attack. They might not have been able to complete their mission to get the pilot, but they certainly helped Fire Team 1 get the job done!

And with that, Operation Lost & Found came to an end as the remaining DPRG squads were all rendered combat ineffective due to casualties sustained during the course of the battle. Victory for Charlie Squad of 1st Platoon!


Casualties


USMC DPRG
Dead 1 11
Seriously Injured 1 9
Lightly Injured 1 1

Overall, I really don't have any thoughts on what I might have done differently as the DPRG player. This was a messy play-through as I was just too busy coming to grips with the rules to have keenly focused on the optimal tactics. Truth be told, I often just threw the troops at each other to see how the rules worked! I will say that the quality difference between the USMC and the DPRG definitely swung the balance in favor of the Marines. Even though the DPRG had far more troops, a d8 roll for the Marines versus a d6 for the DPRG was just too great an advantage at times, hence all the DPRG casualties. Still, I like to think that the DPRG put up a good fight nonetheless!


Concluding Thoughts


Wow, that was tough! This PC gamer isn't used to doing so much work myself to play a game. Usually I just sit back and punch buttons. LOL! Being in total control of a game - not just moving the pieces, but also applying the appropriate rules and calculating the results - can be a shock to the system after having a computer do the heavy lifting all these years. Still, it was a refreshing experience because it was nice to have such control. Not having to wait for a dev to fix a bug or tweak a sub-optimal rule is a breath a fresh air (seems like PC gaming these days is 25% gameplay, 75% waiting for a patch). Also, knowing just why a certain result was reached - that is, seeing all the usually behind-the-scenes calculations for yourself - makes for a much more transparent experience. I found these factors made this a much more memorable gaming experience.

As for Tomorrow's War itself, I have to say that I find the rules to be a bit cumbersome. Even though each part of the game is relatively straight forward, I find putting it all together can get confusing at times. I think this might be do to how dicey the game is. A d6 for this, a d10 for that, an initiative die for this, and quality die for that...it can all get very muddled. I think I would have appreciated some streamlining abstractions instead as having to constantly recall which die, not to mention how many of them you need for a roll, can be a pain. Still, I have no regrets about trying this system. And I am looking forward to seeing how vehicles are handled....

Speaking of, that is the next chapter in the book that I need to learn. However, I don't think I will be getting to it any time soon because I haven't even began to paint the three tank miniatures I received as a gift last Christmas, and I doubt I will get to do so anytime soon what with the Christmas rush kicking off NOW. Not only that, but having the infantry portion of the game sitting on my table for so long has made me a bit tired of looking at this particular game (this is no fault of TW, of course!). LOL! So I think I will shelve this minis adventure for a bit and explore the many, many other board / minis games out there in the short term. Still, I am eager to return to Tomorrow's War ASAP!

[This is cross-posted from my main blog. For a slightly more in depth retelling of this battle, visit here: http://burkesjoystick.blogspot.com/2...revisited.html
Categories: Blogs

Moving Away From 4X

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 21:58
Crossposted from my blog at Rindis.com.

This was originally going to be a completely different essay, but I've realized it's past time to tighten up my definitions some, so I'm not continuing having to stop and figure out/explain pieces of my foundation just so I can say something coherent. This really should have been the first post in the 'game genre' series. Well, second would have been acceptable.

So, now to talk about what's been the elephant in the room, the 4X genre. Borrowing from Wikipedia:

The term "4X" originates from a 1993 preview of Master of Orion by Alan Emrich, in which he rated the game "XXXX" as a pun on the XXX rating for pornography. The four Xs were an abbreviation for "EXplore, EXpand, EXploit and EXterminate".

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While many strategy games arguably contain a similar "explore, expand, exploit, exterminate" cycle, game journalists, developers and enthusiasts generally apply "4X" to a more specific class of games, and contrast 4X games with other strategy games such as Command & Conquer. Hence, writers have tried to show how 4X games are defined by more than just having each of the four Xs. Gaming sites have stated that 4X games are distinguished by their greater complexity and scale, and their intricate use of diplomacy beyond the standard "friend or foe" seen in other strategy games. Reviewers have also stated that 4X games feature a range of diplomatic options, and that they are well known for their large detailed empires and complex gameplay. In particular, 4X games offer detailed control over an empire's economy, while other strategy games simplify this in favor of combat-focused gameplay. The next thing to note is that I both agree with the fact that '4X' adequately describes the course of a wide range of strategy games, and that I tend to define it even more narrowly than the restrictive game journalists. Because of the initial definition of "4X" with MoO, I always associated it with space conquest games. Part of this is also from the fact that the standard 4X cycle is implicit in the nature of space-based wargames. The standard idea, from Stellar Conquest and StarWeb on, is to start with one planet in a big, unknown universe, explore it, claim and settle it, build your empire into a powerful economic force, with which you can eliminate the other players and win the game.

In fact, MoO itself subverted this already existing style with its diplomatic model, and the ability of the game to end without conquest (the Galactic Council vote). For me, 4X naturally already meant games that strongly relied on this cycle without fiddling around with 'greater complexity' or 'intricate diplomacy' as differentiators, and I would indeed say those don't make an adequate definition. Reach For the Stars is not that complex compared to many strategy games, and there is no in-game support for any diplomatic status other than 'war'. But it is a space 4X game.

The heart of the 4X game is the interplay of discovery (explore), colonization (expand), development (exploit), and warfare (exterminate). I've touched on the role of colonization in some strategy games already, and should probably tackle those subjects explicitly soon.

But for the overall definition of '4X': Command & Conquer (to use Wikipedia's example) has you explore the map, and Tiberium fields are one of the things you look for. Then you send units out to get the Tiberium, and get it to your base so you can build more units to kill the enemy with. Sounds fairly 4Xish. And it is. As Wikipedia then points out, it can get hard to say many typical combat-heavy games are not 4X games without a lot of hair-splitting and tightening of definitions.

But I would say the difference is the hair-splitting of scope and emphasis. In fact, it has to be, as everything we are talking about here belongs to the general category of 'games about being rude neighbors and wanting their stuff more than they do' (and 4X, no matter how defined, is a subset of that). My first rough breakdown, with the genre labels I tend to like using:

  • Wargame
  • (Base-building) RTS
  • Fantasy Conquest
  • (Space) 4X
  • Empire Management
  • Civilization


There's more, and overlap, and complications, but that's enough to be going on with. I've also arranged them in something of a sliding scale with games that have detailed combat and little else at the top, and games with simple combat a lots of other detailed systems at the bottom.

There's some strangely specific ideas mixed in with some very broad ones. Of course, these are meant to be... real genres—genres where there are a number of different games that center around similar ideas or mechanisms, even if that is a fairly lumpy distribution. The main standout from that viewpoint is wargames, which is a superset genre with a long and varied history in both board and computer games, and has plenty of sub genres, like hex-and-counter, CDG, area-impluse, and so on. The definition in this list says they are games with combat, and no real economic or diplomatic systems. Risk fits here as easily as War in the East, but Third Reich starts separating out and moving down the list. That will sound a bit strange to an old board wargamer, but helps with the more general discussion I hope to continue soon.
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