Check out our friends and Affiliates
Home    News    Features    Op-Eds    Reviews    Videos    Downloads    Games A-Z    |    Groups    Blogs    Forums    Chat Rooms    |    Staff    Contact Us    Help
Join the discussion today!

Latest Blogs

Syndicate content GameSquad Forums - Blogs
Gamesquad is one of the web's finest game resources featuring coverage of video games, cheats, boardgames, miniatures, strategies, movies, computers and gear.
Updated: 1 hour 48 min 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".

....

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.
Categories: Blogs

Fantasy Conquest

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 17:28
Crossposted from my blog at Rindis.com.

Medieval-style fantasy has long had a strong hold on the imagination. It didn't take long for fantasy to become a popular genre in computer games either. As various board wargame-derivative designs evolved during the '80s, a fairly distinct genre that I call 'fantasy conquest' emerged.

These are related to the more general '4X' games, but don't always hew to all parts of that style, probably because the distinctive space 4X game emerged in parallel. (There's also some internal bias, as I generally only think of 'space 4X' games as '4X' games, with non-space borne games not being part of the genre even though some can be very mechanically similar.) They are a fairly cohesive group; for some reason, as soon as you say 'fantasy' you start seeing heroes and touches of RPG tropes appear in otherwise normal strategic games. There's a good number of board game antecedents, from LOTR-themed Diplomacy variants to The Warlord Game and Borderlands, but I'm just looking at the computer game side here.

Warlords (1989) seems to be the start of this genre. I'm sure there's other strategic fantasy games from around this period—I have dim memories of seeing a few, but don't remember titles, and have not seen anyone else mention them. It's not properly a 4X game, as the map is non-random and fully visible the entire time; also there's not much to be done to the map. New towers (defensive installations that I've never seen anyone use) can be built, and the defensive values of cities can be improved, but there's no eXploration, and very little eXploitation.

In many ways, it's a straightforward game. Start with a city, it produces military units. Use them to capture more cities, and they produce more units. Go forth and defeat the other seven factions on the map. And this is the enduring backbone of the genre: cities are always valuable strategic goals; they're a bit less valuable here, as they are more numerous and less detailed than in other titles. Also, there's no castles, or rather, the identities of castles and cities are muddled together, as all these 'cities' look like little four-tower castles.

The new thing here is the heroes. The idea of singular, highly capable units in fantasy games is an old one, and the existence of 'hero' and 'superhero' units in miniatures are the mainspring that powered the invention of RPGs, but they're not so much of a constant at this level of abstraction. The interesting part here is not only do they exist, but they can go looting ruins and visiting sages scattered around the map. The main bonuses from this is that the hero might recruit monster 'allies' (ghosts, demons, dragons...), or find artifacts that will increase the abilities of the hero. Heroes can also gain experience and 'level up', gaining combat power and movement speed.

The second game (Warlords II, 1993) was pretty close to the original, but did make one important change: what a city could produce could change. You could 'sack' cities when you take them, which would grant gold, but reduce the options for production there. Each city had up to four slots of possible units, and you could purchase new unit capabilities in empty slots. Also, there were multiple maps (and the ability to add in new, user created, ones in the Deluxe version), with standard explore-the-world vision rules, making it a full 4X game.

However, one of the charms of the world of Erathia in the original was the fact that the dwarves were in one region, the gryphons in a different, overlapping region... and the units might be different. There was one city with better light infantry. A set with tougher, but slower, heavy infantry than normal. A city that produced wolf riders faster than normal. The cities, and world, acquired character from all these little differences. But now every unit of the same type was exactly the same, so that they can be plugged into any city.

Master of Magic (1994) was Sim-Tex's combination of SidCiv and Master of Orion and Warlords. Just as MoO introduced tactical battles as an essential element of space 4X games, MoM introduced it to fantasy conquest games. Cities become complicated places like in Civilization, with plenty of buildings to construct, that control what units can be built there. An interesting thing is that each city has its own native race, and that determines the buildings and units that can be built. The tree for the building requirements are always the same, but not all buildings are available to all races.

Civilization and MoO are heavy into the colonization aspect of their respective games. While that also exists in MoM,there's also a large number of neutral cities scattered across the landscape at the beginning of the game. Taking a cue from Civilization, there are also engineer units that can build roads for faster movement.

While some space 4X games have allowed different populations to mix on a single planet, I have yet to see this occur in a fantasy conquest game, even though that would be physically easier. However, fantasy conquest games that have different powers for different races, and separate them out by city, always allow a player to control whatever he can take, whereas some space 4X games force you to kill off alien populations rather than let you take them over.

Combat was resolved as a small miniatures game. Most units have a number of 'figures', each with their own attack and defense, so their ability erodes as casualties are taken. More powerful units generally have fewer figures, with the most powerful being singular monsters. Units also have experience levels, with veterans being somewhat more effective in combat than their inexperienced counterparts. And then there are heroes.

In Warlords, heroes were just a bit more capable units, with the ability to go dungeon delving, although a large collection of artifacts could make them nearly unstoppable. Here, heroes are personalities, each with his or her own set of abilities which grow and develop as they level up. There's all sorts of lairs and ruins scattered around the landscape. Heroes aren't needed to fight the inhabitants and get the treasure, but they do often generate artifacts that require a hero to use.

Finally, MoM used a complex magic system in place of Civ's technology. You play as a wizard holed up in his tower, sending minions out to conquer the world while you research your next world-bending spell. These spells add to combat, as units can be enchanted with any of a variety of bonuses, or magical creatures summoned. Also spells that effect the entire world can be cast. All of this adds a lot of interesting choices and interactions to the game, especially as no player has access to more than a small subset of all the available spells.

The next year, long-time RPG series Might and Magic took a detour into the strategy game space with Heroes of Might and Magic (1995). It featured cities with buildings to build, armies that fought in separate tactical battles, heroes and lots of places on the main map to visit for bonuses, that came with a bit of text to add an RPG 'encounter' feel.

In many ways, HoMM is notably unusual in the genre, while following its main features. First, heroes are not separate units, but merely a leader who allows armies to move across the map, with normal military units being immobile (kind of like computer RPG parties?). Cities are extra large structures on the map, which is also choked with a large number of impassible objects: mountains, forests (which are usually just slow terrain), lakes, and more, with creatures holding 'choke points', that must be defeated to access the next area (they also are used to guard small areas that have treasure behind them, like many dungeon monsters; the more area-based ones can be considered akin to the more plot-driven 'roping off' of areas in many computer RPGs).

HoMM also had a campaign game, where you progress from scenario to scenario, facing challenges to get further in, as had become popular in RTS games of the early to mid-'90s (though the entire game is present from the start, just the challenges got harder). It was weak in the first one, but later versions of the game attempt actually tell a story in the vein of Epic Fantasy novels. It also points up a change in scale. The first two Warlords games feature large swathes of land, continents even; MoM is explicitly depicting an entire world like Civ (or, actually, two). HoMM is much more constrained in scale.

Like MoM, it has a complex magic system, but like everything else, it is more constrained in scale. Only (some) heroes cast spells, and while they can have a powerful effect on combat, they only have an effect on combat. There are few permanent enchantments, no spells of vast scale affecting the entire world.

The initial game had four different types of heroes (two each 'good' and 'evil' and 'might' (combat bonuses) and 'magic' (spell casting)), which were each associated with a type of city, with it's own structures and unit types to recruit, with no real differences between heroes of the same type. Later games introduced skills, which you could choose between as they leveled up, allowing heroes that started out similar to act very differently.

Combat was fairly simple, considering that it did have it's own mini-game. An army could have up to six unit types in them, which all move and fight as a single 'stack' (even when there's hundreds of them present), akin to how MoM's progenitor MoO worked, but in opposition to the detailed combat system of MoM.

Despite (or more likely, because) of all of these simplifications, while maintaining a game style much closer to MoM than Warlords, HoMM has been the most successful brand in the genre, with seven games so far, plus various expansions and the like (Master of Magic has never had a sequel, Warlords has only had four games plus expansions and a parallel release, and slightly later game Age of Wonders is just getting to its third major release). It has also come a long way from its roots, though I still need to get to the post-3DO games (V through VII). Heroes got to intervene personally in IV, at the same time that armies got to move without a leader, and the ability to transfer units directly from one point to another without the tediousness of manually moving them was added in (which makes the game feel more like Warlords...).

The genre continues to be a popular one, with not only new HoMM games (now titled Might & Magic Heroes), but other series, such as the Elemental games coming out. I haven't played any of the recent games in the genre (yet), but the unique genre structure of strategic conquest and heroes acting out RPG tropes seems to be perfectly intact.
Categories: Blogs