ltmurnau: (CX)
Believe it or not, I am here most days for a quick troll through my Friends page.
But I don't post much anymore, obviously - mostly because I am busy doing stuff that I would be posting about, if I posted more.

Aki made it through his bridging semester program and now he is in 3rd Year of Mechanical Engineering!
He's finding it a lot of work, but I think it's coming together for him and he can see the purpose of it, unlike the Shakespeare they made him swallow in high school.
They have them working on projects, he is doing one with a team where they are developing a way to 3-D print custom braces for children with club feet.
He's also 21 now, how did that happen....

Game designing takes up a lot of my outside-work time, my blog on that is at http://brtrain.wordpress.com .
I never did figure out a way to feed entries from there to here, I should just do it manually but I am not sure who would be looking at it.

Current projects, since the last time I talked about them, include games on the following in no particular order:

- the French-Algerian War of 1954-62 (two games actually, using completely different systems: one large one with lavish production and wooden bits, another one a revision of an earlier design)
- the Battle of the Bulge (revision of earlier design, published 11/15)
- a set of 3 battles from the first year of the Korean War (published 11/15, mangled by publisher's "development" team)
- the 1973 coup in Chile
- the Slovak-Hungarian War of March, 1939
- the invasion of Canada by the United States, 193? (revision of earlier design)
- the Polish-Soviet War, 1920 (revision of earlier design)
- the Cyprus Emergency, 1955-59
- Binh Dinh province (central coast of Vietnam, 1969; did this one up a while ago for a history professor at Nipissing University for students in his course on 20C wars and revolutions to play)
- the 1943-45 Allied invasions of Greece and Yugoslavia that weren't (two games actually, using completely different systems; one from the publisher that mangled my work (though they seem to have not mangled it too much this time, it's still the last work I will ever send them) and one I published myself)
- the Finnish Civil War of 1918

People want me to talk about my work too, which I find extremely difficult to do... I mean, I can talk technique, but as to what value there is in it, or what makes some thing better than another thing - I can't be articulate.

But week after next I am going to Washington DC to talk to people at RAND Corporation about what I do, and how it might help them in what they do... a very unexpected offshoot of a conference I went to last September that featured a workshop on quick game design that I helped facilitate.

Then in mid-March, UVic has an event on gaming (http://gameswithoutfrontiers.uvic.ca/) and I will be showing some of my work and maybe talking about it.

Then at the end of March, I am going to the American Popular Culture Association's national meeting in Seattle, to present a paper on... well, here's my abstract:

Bored of War

Board wargames, or manual military simulation games, are a form of civilian entertainment that peaked commercially in the 1980s but continue today as a small press, near-DIY activity. They remain one of Western culture’s most complex analog artifacts, rich in their ability to generate narrative and explore historical possibilities.

However, only a very small number of published civilian wargames address the dominant modes of actual post-World War Two conflict: irregular war and counterinsurgency. This paper will explore the cultural reasons for this absent focus, explain the social and political utility of these games as a means of interrogating and critiquing contemporary conflicts, and present specific games in this field as examples of “critical play” (Flanagan, 2009).


See what I mean about being inarticulate?
This is a big conference, with thousands of presentations... and the Game Studies area is quite new, with only about 100 presentations. But all of them are about digital games - their design, the sociology of people who play them, etc. - except for 3: my presentation, and 2 presentations on role-playing games.
I feel no one will have the vaguest idea what I am talking about, much less care, even if I could make myself understood.
But Lianne is making a presentation (on horror films) in much better company... I've never been to a conference quite like this before.

And then in April, trying to work through arrangements to visit the Army War College in Carlisle PA to do some facilitated play of my Algeria game, to match with a screening of The Battle of Algiers.
I wonder what the Army officers there will make of that one.

Then in June, to Tempe AZ for the annual Consimworld Expo, for more showing of work and meeting with publishers.

It took 25 years to get to this point, I don't mind being so busy but again, it's hard to write about this stuff in the larger sense.

Oh, and I have something in a book too: this spring will see a game studies anthology come out from MIT Press:
https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/zones-control
It's the first time any of my writing has been in an actual book!

Anyway, this is in large part what I have been doing instead of posting.
I will try to pop in here more often, if only to leave links.
ltmurnau: (CX)
[Reposted here from my game design blog http://brtrain.wordpress.com with some additions, well cut-and-pasted since I don't think I can automatically repost to LJ from Wordpress. Eh, anyway...]

Earlier this year I was contacted by Marc Guenette who wanted to know if I wanted to be one of the Guests of Honour at Stack Academie, an annual wargaming conference in Montreal. Gee, would I!

I went to Montreal a day or two early, on Tuesday April 30, since I had not been in the city for 24 years and wanted some time to look around. I flew Air Canada and everything went suspiciously smoothly, to the point where I even arrived a few minutes early. I took the 747 bus from Trudeau Airport (what was once called Dorval), it runs about every 7 minutes or less most of the day, very convenient though you have to buy a transit daypass – $9.00 but that’s 24 hours on the whole transit system, other parts of which you will probably need to use to get to your destination. However, I didn’t because the hotel (an otherwise unremarkable Comfort Inn) was right downtown – just around the corner from the 747 bus stop, 1 ½ blocks from the Berri-UQAM Metro stop, and 2 blocks from St. Catherines Street, the main drag for restaurants shops and bars.

Montreal after 24 years seemed much as I remembered it (which is barely, as I was more interested at the time in my then girlfriend, who was doing electrical engineering at McGill). Half of it is being torn down or rebuilt, and the other half is being measured for the same treatment. There was a heatwave, and it was sunny and 22-27 degrees all week long. And me without shorts, in fact at the last minute I decided not to pack my cardigan (however, two guys at the con told me that two years before there had been pouring rain and wet snow on the streets).

Wednesday I did a little bit of shopping, at some Army surplus stores on St.-Laurent and at Le Valet de Coeur (Jack of Hearts), a good wargame store not far up the street. I even found a few old DTP quality titles of mine, from Schutze Games (Pusan Perimeter, Somalia), still in the old comic book bags. I got a couple of back issues of Vae Victis, a French wargaming magazine with interesting games in it, a copy of Battle for Hill 218, a simple card abstract game, and two little finger puppet characters they were selling near the cash register. They were all kinds of historical characters like Edison, Leonardo and some others, but there were also others like Hannah Arendt, Frida Kahlo, Spinoza etc.. The little Michel Foucault puppet was especially funny, but I got a Che Guevara for Lianne and a George Orwell for me, so they can have mild disagreements. Anyway, a neat store. Here is George in my office, looking as happy as he ever did in life.


Wednesday night I went out to Bar Passeport, (http://www.barpasseport.com/) which has not one but two EBM/Industrial/Goth nights! One on Wednesday is more EBM/industrial (e.g. Funker Vogt, And One, Eisenfunk) and less well attended than the one on Saturday. I don't go out to bars much except for Circuit Breaker and when seeking out such nights when I'm in a different city, but one thing I did notice is people being tied into their mobile devices, even saw one guy dancing by himself on the floor with his beer in one hand and his mobile in the other, absorbed in whatever was coming in over it....

Thursday I spent the afternoon and evening at the Interuniversity Consortium for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies (http://www.mcgill.ca/icames/), where Rex Brynen (of Paxsims blog fame) is one of the Directors. He had set up a micro-armour game that he umpired, while six of us directed the forces of Natonia (guy called Tom) and East Norkea (me) in the “Battle of the Namgang River”. A shot of one of the tank battalions heading down the road into the "Cauldron of Death":


A full account with pictures is at http://genericgaminggoodness.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/the-battle-of-namgang-aka-the-battle-of-the-cauldron-of-death/ . It was tremendous fun, even though I lost most of my command in a huge Natonian ambush. Even worse was a missed chance to take out his two tank unit commanders by infiltrating East Norkean commandos, who lofted RPG rounds onto the tops of their tanks, only to see the rounds fizzle and misfire (I rolled two 1s in succession, the only thing that could have saved their collective bacon!). It was very kind of Rex to arrange this, as he and I had first met 30 years ago while he was doing at history degree at the University of Victoria and I was a high school student who would go to the weekly meetings of the Gaming Club there. We would have these massive micro-armour battles, usually with Rex’s models, but as he collected mostly Warsaw Pact stuff we usually played Russian vs. Chinese. (Actually, we were playing with some of the same models and terrain from back then!)

Friday was the beginning of the convention, and we got right down to it – the other guest of honour was Volko Ruhnke, who ran games of Cuba Libre, his COIN system game of the Cuban Revolution, while I ran games of A Distant Plain. I also demonstrated Kandahar (in its present configuration with the District Commander engine under the hood), 1848 (a rarely-seen because rarely-requested game on the European revolutions of that year) and Dios o Federacion (card game on post-Chavez Venezuela). Even got in a few playtest turns of the last one. A Distant Plain was a big hit, a lot of people stopped by to look and we even had one young fellow who had never played before but still managed to pull off a quick win by the Coalition, a difficult thing in this game – he moved in lightly, manufactured a lot of popular consent for the Afghan Government, and pulled out, ending the Western role in the war in 2004!


I met a lot of people who I had only corresponded with online, through Boardgamegeek or Consimworld, so it was great to put names to faces – also to see people again after some time, like Volko, Michel Boucher and Barry Setser. I came away with some excellent ideas for future game projects and extensions or fixes to ones I am testing now. I wish these events were at least a week long, so I could have conversations of appropriate length with everyone I wanted to talk to. Jean-Francois Tremblay, a re-enactor when he is not instructing at UQAM, showed up in period gear to play Volko's game Wilderness War:


Saturday night we went out to Le Pied de Cochon, a very popular (you have to make reservations a month or two ahead) restaurant with most of the menu devoted to pork products (one favourite special is “Pig’s Head For Two”, at market price though I did not think price fluctuations for such a commodity would be extreme) and the remnant devoted to other meats (another great favourite is “Duck in a Can”, and that’s just what it is). Even my French onion soup had most of a small pork chop in it, it seemed. I paid a bit much for what I got, since there were several bottles of wine on the table I did not drink from, but it was still a worthwhile experience… probably never pass that way again.

After dinner I went out to Bar Passeport again, music led off with some good Goth oldies (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy) but soon gravitated towards newer stuff (though they also played some Laibach!).

Sunday I had breakfast with Rex, Volko and his wife Jill (it was the weekend of their 22nd wedding anniversary) and got back in time to finish packing and head out to the airport. Again, things went smoothly and we even landed 48 minutes early in Victoria (they asked us over the PA to remember this the next time they were late).

It was a great week and I was honoured to be asked to come by Marc, who was a fantastic and generous host, taking time to talk with me even though he was run off his feet with convention business and real-life business. Merci a tous!

ltmurnau: (Default)
DATE: 9 August, 2012

SUBJECT: After Action Report – Exercise CONNECTIONS 2012

FROM: Brian Train

TO: Dear Readers

CC: Dear Linkers

1. PURPOSE:

CONNECTIONS is an annual conference on civilian and military wargaming. 2012 marked the 19th consecutive year this conference had been held. This year the conference was hosted by the Centre for Applied Strategic Learning (CASL), a department of the National Defense University located at Fort McNair, Washington DC. The general purpose of the action was for this writer to deploy from home station in Victoria, Canada, participate in the Connections 2012 annual wargaming conference with host nation (HN) personnel in Washington DC, and to redeploy to Victoria.

Key tasks during the exercise were to:

- Attend and participate in presentations and discussions during the conference;
- Meet new people and strengthen connections with prior acquaintances;
- Conduct a major “show and tell” of the relevant design work I have been doing over the last year;
- Facilitate a working group in the Game Lab event, wherein conference participants collectively discussed the opening stages of how to design an educational game on a disaster response situation (for these purposes, the [REDACTED]).

2. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This exercise was conducted in five phases:

(i) Pre-deployment Phase: 1 June – 16 July 2012

In the pre-deployment phase, the focus of training was on logistical preparations for deployment and redeployment, and preparing game designs for the “game demos” part of the conference. Some time was spent doing preliminary reading and planning for the Game Lab event.

(ii) Deployment Phase: 17 July – 22 July 2012

17 July – On arrival at the Victoria Airport at 0dark30, it was discovered that the flight to Los Angeles was cancelled. After considerable time spent waiting in line and with an agent, emplaned for Vancouver BC, where I sat for several hours before emplaning for San Francisco, followed by a flight to Los Angeles. Arrived over six hours late; however, the rail portion of the deployment was the following day so there was no worry about making a connection.

18-20 July – travel to Union Station in Los Angeles to catch the afternoon train to Chicago, called the Southwest Chief. Travelling with Joe Miranda (editor of Strategy and Tactics, World at War and Modern War magazines, the world’s most prolific wargame designer, bon vivant, raconteur and inveterate punster). I’d never taken a long train trip before. Accommodation on the train was a roomette, which consisted of two chairs facing each other that converted into a bed at night, while a second bunk could be swung down from the ceiling. It was awfully hot so it was not easy to get enough sleep. And finally, 28 miles short of Chicago after travelling over 2,600 miles from Los Angeles, the engine packed it in – I think we just ran out of gas but it’s Amtrak, they don’t have to explain what happened. We waited three hours in a stifling hot car that we could not leave with no power and windows that did not open, until they sent out an engine to push us into Chicago very slowly.


Me and Joe Miranda in "Albakoikee", NM

After a pre-planned night and day in Chicago, we took the train the rest of the way to Washington DC. After crossing the Mississippi everything was much greener and bumpier than the West, which looked fairly badly affected by the drought. The hotel in Washington was a block from the Navy Yard Metro stop, which was convenient, and a bit more than a mile from the National Defense University. We usually caught rides though, as it was over 95 degrees and humid all the time we were there it would have been a pretty hot walk.

(iii) Employment Phase: 23 July – 26 July 2012

Conduct of the conference at National Defense University, Washington DC. I’ve outlined the entire agenda, with comments and rambling from my notes (in italics) on the parts I attended.

[ APPROXIMATELY 3,000 WORDS REDACTED ]

Day 4, Thursday, 26 July, Marshall Hall 155

This was largely Working Groups outbriefs and the best part, the Connections “Hot Wash” discussion. See 3. Lessons Learned.

(iv) Redeployment Phase: 26 July – 29 July 2012

Spent Thursday and Friday walking around Washington with Joe Miranda. Thursday afternoon we went to the Dupont Circle area to scope out a nightclub that was going to have some kind of Goth night, and spent some time at a nicely stocked, very cheap bookstore that was right next door. Later walked around in Georgetown and had lunch there. That night we went back to the club (Phase 1), but the club remained shut even after 2200, so we walked back towards downtown, passing by the White House at midnight – there was one small light glowing there, as if the President had gotten up in the middle of the night and left the bathroom light on. All the Metros were shut down it was so late, so in the end we got a taxi back and went to bed about 0130.

Friday we walked around looking at many monuments, and I went into the Smithsonian (well, the one that is dedicated to American history, there are about five other Smithsonians) for a short while. Quite unexpectedly at the Lincoln Memorial we ran into Callie Cummins and Chris Cummins Jr., of Decision Games, who had been at the conference to sell a few games.



Saturday I saw Joe to Union Station as he was catching the train all the way back to Los Angeles, and then took the train out to Maryland, where I was met by Volko Ruhnke. We played a few turns of A Distant Plain and had a nice dinner with him and his wife. Got back later and finished packing and moving items around various bags, as I usually do before travelling.



Sunday 29 July, returned by air to Victoria, Canada. Dulles Airport is a LONG way out of the city! Original plan was to go home via Chicago and Calgary, but flight was cancelled due to mechanical breakdown. After several hours delay, I got on a flight to San Francisco, then Victoria, which saw the return home several hours late, and with no luggage (this followed the next day).

(v) Recovery Phase: 30 July 2012 onwards

Post-exercise repairs, cleaning, maintenance and critiques. Begin work on post-conference tasks. See 5.

3. LESSONS LEARNED

As always, there were lots of suggestions and lively discussion in the Hot Wash section of the conference. Some of them included:

[ APPROXIMATELY 400 WORDS REDACTED ]

4. COMMENTS

The conference itself was an unqualified success – the only drawback was that there were so many excellent presentations, it was difficult to choose which to attend and which to pass up.

Approximately [REDACTED] people, mostly from the Beltway region but also from Canada, the European Union, and Singapore, participated. Portions of the conference were livestreamed on the Internet through the [REDACTED], and some speakers took part through videoconferencing.

Less successful were the deployment and redeployment phases – movement plans were drastically revised each way, due to circumstances beyond the unit’s control. However, the effects of the changes were mitigated by having extra “down time” incorporated into travel plans to begin with. And packing lighter would have been a help, as it would have allowed my bag to stay with me! I also found it difficult to sleep on the train due to the heat and motion, so arrived in Washington without adequate rest. It was certainly intersting to take a long train trip like this, but I'm not sure I would do it again.

5. ACTION ITEMS

I have a number of things to do, read and revise as a result of this conference. Also, much of the rest of the year will be taken up with playtesting and refining A Distant Plain. More details [REDACTED].

Thanks for reading.
ltmurnau: (Default)
From Times Higher Education:

***
Playing at war, pestilence and death (but it's only a model - shh)
21 June 2012

By Matthew Reisz

Matthew Reisz reports on how serious games offer insights into politics, pandemics and propaganda

Simulations and games can be highly effective in helping to teach students about politics and war - but often suffer from oversimplification, a lack of clear purpose or insufficient time to explore issues meaningfully.

These were among the views put forward at a workshop - held at the University of Westminster earlier this month - on the use of games to model everything from the effects of a global pandemic to last year's London riots.

Simon Usherwood, senior lecturer in politics at the University of Surrey, opened the event by exploring "the problems of making simulations work".

He said it was essential to develop an "appropriate level of conflict" so that participants were neither too laid back nor likely to come to blows while acting out, for example, the Middle Eastern peace process.

Philip Sabin, professor of war studies at King's College London, explained that he used games and simulations "to teach students how to understand past military confrontations - and the military how to fight future battles".

It was virtually impossible to analyse conflict without using models, he added, but all had to strike a balance between accuracy and simplicity.

What they could never do was teach people "how to look someone in the eye and tell them to go off and risk getting killed", he said.

Keynote speaker Mary Flanagan, Sherman Fairchild distinguished professor of digital humanities at Dartmouth College in the US, who has been designing such games since 1994, said they often had the goal of "moving educational tools out into popular culture so as to help people think more critically".

She referred to one of her games, Layoff, where managers are confronted by details of "workers' personal biographies" to "encourage an emotional response to the human suffering created by the economic crisis".

Pox was also developed in Professor Flanagan's design lab when a public health organisation asked for "a game that would effectively educate about issues related to vaccination".

She said the real challenge was "the subversion of introducing critical games into the marketplace".

When in doubt, she joked, it was a good idea to introduce some kind of "zombie attack" into the design.

Meanwhile, Richard Barbrook, senior lecturer in Westminster's School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages, argued that playing, critiquing and designing games offered an excellent way of "modelling political processes".

Recent students, for example, had come up with a London riots game based on backgammon, he said.

Dr Barbrook has a particular interest in The Game of War, a board game created in the wake of the 1968 Paris student uprising by Guy Debord, the French Situationist, "to teach the strategy and tactics to win the next revolution".

matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

***
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=420310&c=1
ltmurnau: (Default)
Oh dear, and another month slips by. It has been such a busy year, at least since May, and there are only a few weeks left in 2011.

But not time for end-of-year accounting and 2011 memes yet.

Chronological accounting-for-myself:

October 10 (Thanksgiving) - we gave this a miss because Aki had his wisdom teeth out a few days before and couldn't chew - and I was not about to make a turkey smoothie for him. He had five (!) taken out, they are a lot bigger than I remember. The procedure is different now too - when I had mine out, about his age, it involved day surgery in a hospital with a general anaesthetic. He had it done in the dentist's office, with IV sedation. He bled for a day or so and recovered very quickly. The following weekend we had a proper dinner at my mother's.

October 19-22 - I went to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey California. Dear Readuhs will remember the conference I went to in early August, and how well one of my games went down at the demonstration period there (http://ltmurnau.livejournal.com/237527.html). Well, out of that I got an invitation to go to the NPS and talk to them about using digitized versions of this and other games of mine, in a project related to another, much larger project they have going on. I got to make a lunchtime presentation to their Irregular Warfare students, mostly Special Forces captains and majors - I was kind of nervous about this but they were very friendly and interested. I spoke for less than half an hour and they filled up the rest of the time with questions, so I didn't get a chance to talk with them which I really wanted to do. I did have a quick chat with a Marine Corps major who had trained in Armor, and instead of charging across the desert dealing death to enemy tanks from two miles away found himself and his tank company in a neighbourhood of Baghdad, working out which streets would have priority for garbage collection and which block leaders could or couldn't be trusted.

If anyone wants to look at my script or Powerpoint slides, they are here: http://brtrain.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/presentation-at-naval-postgraduate-school/ . This is another blog I have started that will be confined to my game design and "serious games" development and other stuff. Not much there yet though, as it has not proven possible to port my game-design related entries on LJ over to Wordpress en masse.

Anyway, the ensuing discussions with the project team went well, I came up with some new ideas for games for them that I will be working on and I put them in touch with [livejournal.com profile] emperorkefka who has made up a version of Guerrilla Checkers for Android mobile phones, and will probably do the technical work for the team on what they need for the project. See a screenshot at Little Viking Games.

A "guided gaming session" went less well, I tend to forget that a game I regard as being comparatively simple (especially if I've designed it) is still quite complex to people who have grown up playing ordinary board games or just computer games. As much as I tend to dislike computer games, a lot of the complexity and fiddliness of a game design can be subsumed into the structure and interface of a game. Players do not need to remember what pieces can move where or how, when the program will simply not let them do it, so they can concentrate on playing the game - and that's enough for most players, but there needs to be some explanation of why this or that thing can't happen, or the penalties for doing so. And it's a lot easier to change a sentence to two in a rulebook than it is to rewrite hundreds of lines of code. Anyway, I left them with a big bag of playable copies of my games.

Monterey is a beautiful little town, and Friday night I went out to look around. The NPS is just a few blocks from downtown, so I walked down to the big pier that is full of shops and restaurants. I looked at I don't know how many cheap t-shirts, and got a pound of salt water taffy for Aki (and a bunch of cheap assorted candy from the Walgreen's downtown later). I had a plate of completely ordinary chow mein at a small Chinese restaurant where this huge Mexican family was having dinner - I think it was someone's birthday or something. "Dad" was at the head of the table, obviously the patriarch and wearing the biggest hat - they were having a great time. Later I walked back by a different route but did not turn when I needed to, and ended up walking by this highway to a gigantic shopping mall with no way out except the way you came in, and the buses had all stopped running - in the end I did get out and back, but had walked five miles more than I had planned!

I went back on Saturday the 22nd - the NPS had actually paid for my flight and hotel, which was great. My flights were well spaced so I didn't have to hurry at all; and I have resolved to hand-carry my luggage from now on if I can possibly help it. You can get a lot into a small bag if you roll it right. (I saved even more room on the flight down by forgetting my good pants at home! Luckily I remembered this in the air on the way to San Francisco, and got a pair of acceptable golfing slacks at the pro shop in the airport - otherwise it would have been pretty embarassing.)

October 24 - was my 47th birthday, which we didn't really bother marking except for a good dinner at San Remo. I'm feeling rather more middle-aged now, and while I'm happy to have outlived George Orwell, I don't have TB and haven't come near to matching his output.

October 29 - was "Grave Situation II", the second annual Gothvic Halloween party. (entry in respect of the first: http://ltmurnau.livejournal.com/225987.html). Lianne came out for this one too, and we had a nice time. I was supposed to DJ for the first hour and a bit, but the person who was supposed to bring the CD players didn't show up until late so for the first while I had to improvise some with what Gray had on his laptop, using Mixxx which was not-bad software. No one was dancing anyway, so it was OK - can't post my setlist right now but will later.

October 31 - we just left the lights off. I didn't see any kids out and about. Very disappointing. Aki went to play computer games and have some pizza with his friends.

November 4-6 - We went to deepest darkest Surrey, for BottosCon 2011 - the fifth annual board wargaming convention put on my Rob Bottos. It's small, maybe 60 people came this time and that was the biggest yet. About half of the attendees were Advanced Squad Leader players, who usually don’t play much else (or at least, they came to the convention to play ASL only), and the other half were people playing practically everything else, from non-wargames like Urban Sprawl to Angola or Storming the Reich.

I don’t go to many conventions, and when I do I usually don’t play games – I spend my time talking to people, catching up with friends or trying to interest people in my new designs in the hope of snagging playtesters. Guerrilla Checkers (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/71035/guerrilla-checkers ) proved to be a hit again, and someone expressed an interest in writing an iOS application for it so it can be played on iPad, iPhone, iKettle etc., which would be great. I also played out a few turns of the brigade-level version of my Finnish Civil War game (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/68072/finnish-civil-war ), which prompted someone to say that he thought he’d seen everything now, and did a complete run-through with a playtester of a newly written 2006 scenario for my Third Lebanon War game – it worked well and concluded on time, with a marginal Hezbollah victory. A minor revision to two to the rules and they’re even better – the basic designs are quite sound.

We also went out to one of Surrey's many industrial zones - the whole area looks like it's composed of strip malls, suburbs, and warehouse districts, there's more than that but that's what you see form the highway as you're whizzing through - to get 25 pounds of Cerrotru, the metal I use for casting my miniatures. It's gone up in price a lot, and this will probably be the last time I buy it for quite a while. I kind of like going to these industrial parks, reminds me that things are still made or at least assembled here.

Anyway, I went for the gaming and metal, Lianne went for the shopping. The con hotel was next door to the last Skytrain station, so it was easy for her to get downtown without aggravation. She went to check out the Occupy Vancouver campsite at the Vancouver Art Gallery, what she saw and what I've seen of our own Occupy Victoria site makes me think that perhaps it's time to fold the tents and continue the next phase in the fight. The continued and enlarged presence of conspiracy crazies (Truthers, chemtrail people etc.), deinstitutionalized mental health cases, homeless, criminals and drug addicts at these camps are just the sort of thing the detractors of the Occupy movement want to see (and in fact have even been encouraging, as NYPD cops regularly send these people from other parts of Manhattan to Zucotti Park, and police in other cities are infiltrating different Occupy campsites to instigate trouble themselves). Yes, I am fully aware that these people are just as much products of the version of semi-feudal corporate capitalism as anyone else camping out down there, but continuing to sleep out in tents like this will tend to make it easier to trivialize the whole movement as, well, sleeping out in tents.

I'm not going to say anything more about the Occupy movement itself; anyone who reads this has already read what I would say, in many other places and probably better phrased. I was looking up some George Orwell the other day and found this telling chapter from The Road to Wigan Pier, which he wrote in 1936 - he makes some good points, and this chapter contains some of his more spiteful writing, but it's also interesting to look at this from 75 years in his future.

Read more... )
ltmurnau: (Default)
Well, I'm back from the "Connections" conference at National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, and things went VERY well.

http://connections-wargaming.com/ (site)
http://web.me.com/mgkkmk/Connections/2011.html (agenda)

I got to Washington late late on Sunday night. Monday afternoon I went to NDU, first to the Metro station (what is it about every subway system I've ridden on that they all smell the same? It's a hot, dusty smell that must come from the engines on the trains or the stale air down there) and then a few blocks to Fort McNair (a small Army post named after a general who was killed by friendly fire in July, 1944 in France). Met up with Skip Cole, late of the US Institute for Peace, and reunited with Rex Brynen, the McGill professor I mentioned (http://ltmurnau.livejournal.com/233392.html), after thirty years! That night Joe Miranda and I went out and looked over Washington at night - we saw the Washington Monument, and the White House, both from afar. We wanted to have a beer at the bar of the Watergate Hotel, but apparently it has been pulled down - there is still a building called The Watergate but it is full of condo apartments and dentists' offices.

Tuesday: first day of the conference proper. Keynote speakers were James F. Dunnigan and Peter Perla, both great figures in the development and history of board and professional wargaming, and they spoke well. The panel on which I was presenting came right after. I was third, and was sitting at the end of the table waiting to go, and James FREAKING Dunnigan walked back into the room and sat down next to me, muttering that it was "standing room only back there". I told him I thought he could sit anywhere he wanted. I went up and made my presentation, which went well but was a bit rushed because I was third. My presentation was called "Ploughing in the COIN Field" and was about the series of seven counterinsurgency/guerrilla warfare games I had designed since 1995, very different from each other in topic but using the same basic system.

I went back and sat down, fielded questions and that was it for the panel discussion and then JAMES freaking DUNNIGAN shook my hand and said, "I like what you're doing".

Anyway, that's certainly my brush with greatness this year.

That afternoon were game demonstrations, my Guerrilla Checkers was a hit! (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/71035/guerrilla-checkers).

Ya know, sometimes Value Village will give you just what you need... I had found a bag of 1,358 little red buttons, 1 cm across with a "handle", just in time for $2.99. This made up 20 sets of 66 guerrilla pieces, and I used some miniatures from an old parts copy of Risk for the 6 counter-insurgent pieces for each set. I copied a grid and shortened rules onto a card, and gave those away for free. I got some cotton napkins from VV as well, and had an 8x8 grid silkscreened on them, and got some large and small stones in contrasting colours from Michael's to make up another set of nice copies.

I started showing someone how to play, and within five minutes the free copies were flying away and there were five or six games going at once.

Rules, in case you're interested, at: http://www.islandnet.com/~ltmurnau/text/Guerrilla%20Checkers.rtf. Next thing to do is make some kind of Web or mobile app for the game; I had a couple of discussions with people on this.

Tuesday night were some more playtests, Wednesday was devoted to more presentations and working group work. Interesting discussions, including some talk on how to involve non-military people in military wargaming. I suggested we should call ourselves "ludic futurists"!

Wednesday night Joe and I went out to Georgetown. It started to pour rain the moment we stepped outside the Metro station, and we walked and walked. I was absolutely saturated but it was quite warm, so we dried out a little bit at a good Italian restaurant staffed by Filipinos.

Thursday were some final discussions and meetings, promises of further action, and the long flight home. I still think it's pretty remarkable that I could travel over 5,000 km and visit three coasts of the continent in less than a day. I got home at midnight on Thursday. Security wasn't too bad, only one pat-down in Seattle and I lost the little snow-globe of the White House Lianne asked for - apparently those are verboten, in any size, unless you drain them yourself first. So remember!

All in all, a good week - I made a lot of good contacts and plan on going back next year (it will be at NDU again).

Oh, and I also found that the article I wrote on the Dieppe Raid (http://ltmurnau.livejournal.com/225987.html) was nominated for "Best Historical Article" in the Charles S. Roberts Awards (http://charlesrobertsawards.com/results.php?theYear=2010). But it didn't win.
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So, last week I was interviewed for a podcast by a guy who writes a blog on games. Oh God, there's almost an hour of it.

http://ivebeendiced.blogspot.com/2011/07/ive-been-diced-episode-20-brian-train.html

http://armsandinfluence.typepad.com/IBD/IBDEp20.mp3

I really, really hate my voice on the air - do I really sound like that IRL? I sound like something's pinching me inside. The cordless phone I was using died midway through the interview, as if it had killed itself rather than listen to me anymore.
ltmurnau: (Default)
Yes, been a while, hasn't it... Among other things:

I didn't write about the outcome of the convention in Tempe. I think I found homes for ALL of these designs, except Virtualia, which nevertheless was the predecessor for Kandahar and EOKA, both of which attracted interest. But hoo boy, I never talked so much in all my life - and I owe a great debt to Todd Davis, He of the Blue Hair, who made sure that I got a chance to talk to people who mattered.

I observed and kibitzed some folks playing Summer Lightning, and at least one copy was given away as a door prize. I helped to playtest Andean Abyss, (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/91080/andean-abyss)a new game on counterinsurgency in the 1990s in Colombia that was quite clever, and showed Guerrilla Checkers (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/71035/guerrilla-checkers) to quite a few people. Got a couple of small games and picked up two items in the game auction, normally the high point of the convention.

It was up to 105 degrees in the daytime, and would cool to about 80 around 4 in the morning. My good intentions of getting exercise by walking up the butte behind the hotel in the relative cool of the morning soon evaporated, and we never did get into downtown Phoenix (it would have been easy as there is a new light rail station a couple of blocks away) to look around. But we did walk around in the general area, and I got some cheap CDs at the record exchange down the street we always visit - Lianne got some nice antique glassware at the little store down the street from there, that we also always visit.

We went out to the club (it was called Sanctum) twice that week, Wednesday and Saturday. Wednesday the music wasn't so great, and not many people there, but Saturday was a lot better. Lianne came along the second time and had a good time, I think.

I hadn't been to this convention in three years, and it appears my reputation has grown slightly in the meantime - getting published in Strategy & Tactics and World at War magazine certainly helped. Joe Miranda and I also made a presentation at a rather sparsely-attended panel discussion on simulating modern warfare.

We left on Sunday, and getting home, while it took a while, was less unpleasant than getting there. On the way down I got the full TSA style pat-down three times, including having my hands swabbed for explosives/gunpowder residues in the Victoria airport, before I'd even left the damn country! It's the metal rod in my leg that does it - the metal detector trips, and then I get the business... the TSA drone knows I haven't done anything wrong, I know I haven't done anything wrong, but we both have to go through this non-consensual Security Theatre piece - he'll lose his job if he doesn't do it, all it takes is one smart crack from me and then I get on a watch list forevermore, and both of us, it has been decided, must demonstrate to everyone watching that You Must Submit, It's For Your Own Good, Really....

Anyway, in Phoenix airport they had a full body scanner, so all you do is stand with you hands in a triangle above your forehead while they probe your innards. It was easier that time. Then we flew to San Francisco and sat there for a few hours, thankfully did not have to go through Security again, and then a flight straight home to Victoria. But we arrived late, and took a while to get through Customs, so did not get home until almost midnight, too late for me to go and do a set at Circuit Breaker - sigh.

Monday the 13 I had a cleaning appointment at the dentist - tired as I was it was still only all right to sit in the chair while he poked and scraped at my teeth, until *SPUNG* an inlay popped off. Well, if you are going to have your dental work wrecked, a good place to do it is in the dentist's office - so they cemented it back on until I could get it seen to that Wednesday. Oh how I love these dental follies - but it beats having to whittle a new set of choppers every month.

The following week was Aki's final exams, he did OK on the things that counted - A in Math, A in Social Studies (he got extra credit for volunteering in the federal election and that made the difference), B in Auto Mech, C+ in English - could have been better but the exam was sooner than he thought it was - bad planning on the school's part, and I was certainly less than impressed with his teacher. Anyway, it's good enough and after English 12, he'll never analyze another novel in his life. This week he is on the Trades Awareness Program, something Camosun College puts on in the summer - each day they go to a different shop in the Trades area of the campus to see what's involved in being an electrician, plumber etc. and they go to a construction site to see how it all comes together.

By the end of the week my boss was back from her vacation, so that was the end of my nearly-one-month-long Reign of Error acting in her position. I really don't care for being Boss. But I like the job a lot. Oh, and because of the dental stuff I missed the ceremony for getting my 15-year service pin too(actually I've been in the Public Service since 1993, but better late than never).

Canada Day I stayed well away from downtown! We finally got a big and good-quality barbecue, so I have been grilling dinners lately - so that's what I did, and later stood on a chair on the deck to see the fireworks going off over downtown, six miles away from drunken vomiting teenagers. The following night we went out to a gallery opening, and had dinner at San Remo, a place I have been meaning to go to for over ten years. It was pretty good. And Sunday the 3rd was the annual "Gothnic" in Beacon Hill Park: Lianne came along and I made up a big batch of sandwiches. I don't think my priest getup fooled anyone, but it does look rather like a demented church picnic.

And that night was Circuit Breaker again (a week earlier than usual because of Pride Week)! Here's my setlist:

Severed Heads - Come Visit the Big Bigot
Nash the Slash - Wolf
Epsilon Minus - Antigravity (to test the outpout from a laptop)
Yello - Bostich
Residents - Diskomo 2000
Einsturzende Neubauten - Abfackeln
Laibach - Now You Will Pay
Ad:Key - Seelenstrip
Front Line Assembly - Provision
Blutengel - Bloody Pleasures
Mythos - Robot Secret Agents
A;Grumh - New Fashion
Penal Colony - Third Life
Die Bunker - Gewalt
Die Krupps - Machineries of Joy
And One - Panzermensch
DAF - Der Mussolini
Apoptygma Berserk - Electronic Warfare
Einsturzende Neubauten - Yu-Gung

That about brings things up to date. This summer I am spacing out some vacation days to go to a four-day work week, and there's lots to do to fill in the time.

In the first week of August I am going to the Connections conference at the National Defense University in Washington DC to speak on a panel, and demonstrate some of my games. Again, I am not looking forward to getting there (Continental Airlines, which I understand is one notch above the way Aeroflot used to be, and a long period of cooling my heels in Houston TX of all places). I am taking just carry-on luggage so at least none of that can go wrong. And DC in August is a steambath, I hear, and there are no clubs for Joe and I to go to on the nights we are there (without travelling 90 miles to Richmond or Norfolk VA!).

Busy Times

Feb. 21st, 2011 04:27 pm
ltmurnau: (Default)
Busy times indeed. What's been going on...

Read more... )
ltmurnau: (Default)
The day after Remembrance Day I went over to swingin' Surrey for "BottosCon": a wargame convention organized by one Rob Bottos, who had been asking me to attend for a few years. It was held at the Compass Point Inn by the King George Highway, which hardly means anything because to me, Surrey looks like an enormous strip mall criscrossed by highways.

The hotel was adequate and they had enough space for the con in one of their two downstairs ball/meeting rooms: the last two years running there was a furry convention in the other ballroom, and guys told me that furries would wander into the room in costume, look at the fat nerds playing their complicated games, and wander out again. The hotel staff were pretty upfront about how they liked our crowd better. This year the furries had had their convention the weekend before; I've been told that next year the two coincide again so, I'm definitely planning on going!

I met Michel Boucher, a guy with whom I have been corresponding and trading games for several years. He is from Ottawa, but his daughter lives out here so he makes a combined visit. He's helped me a lot over the years with practical suggestions and in making a French translation of the rules to my game on the French Algerian War. It was great to meet him finally! Here we are playtesting a game I just started work on the week before, on a hypothetical second invasion of Lebanon by Israel in the near future to stamp out Hezbollah:



But honestly, a good digital photo cannot be taken of me - it's as if a hidden Photoshop filter or macro slides in place, a filter that would have the name "Moronify" or "30% Drunk". And I am not as fat as I look in that photo. Here are some better ones:



Better picture but my mouth is open, as usual



Listening to Wilhelm



What could he have said to make me my grab my head like that?
He doesn't look as if he cares....



Making notes, revising on the fly - "no, don't do it that way, do it this way!"



More note-taking but this one shows off my widow's peak to greater advantage, as well as my bad posture and gracefully rounded shoulder-humps.

We also played Hearts and Minds, an interesting newish card-driven game on the Vietnam War, and I got several people to play Guerrilla Checkers with me. Everyone said they had never played anything like it before. I sold a couple copies of my games, and about $100 of other games I had been trying to hawk on Boardgamegeek, so my hotel was half paid for. I bought a copy of Combat Commander: Europe, which looks to be very interesting.

What a nerdy time I had of things! It was great to meet people who had heard of and liked my work, and I talked for hours about game design with some other designers. I got an invitation from an organizer to attend Dragonflight, a gaming convention that has taken place in Seattle in August for the last 31 years.

The only bad part was finally succumbing to a cold I had been successfully fighting off for a week (something Akito had brought home with him from school). It was the hotel air conditioning, it always gets me in the end. I took Monday off sick and I'm only just now out of the woods, a week later.
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A few weeks ago I designed another game: Guerrilla Checkers. I was thinking about how two people could be playing two different games on the same board at the same time, with the common objective of killing each other, and came up with this hybrid of Checkers and Go, for two players.

Equipment required: checkerboard, six checkers, and 66 small flat pieces (buttons, glass beads, small Go stones, etc.). The "Guerrilla" player, using small Go stones or some such, plays on the intersection points of the checkerboard squares to surround and capture the enemy pieces. Meanwhile, the "Counterinsurgent" player, using checkers, moves on the checkerboard squares to jump and capture the enemy. Actually illustrates some Maoist tactics, in an abstract way and if you are sufficiently imaginative/trusting.

I looked around on the Net to see if I had not unconsciously copied someone else's idea, didn't find anything like it, and so it's released to the world as a free download. So here are the rules, if you want to give it a try:

http://www.islandnet.com/~ltmurnau/text/Guerrilla%20Checkers.rtf

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/71035/guerrilla-checkers
(Boardgamegeek.com entry, another place you can get the rules, record your ownership, plays, etc.)
ltmurnau: (Default)
I am Geek of the Week, this week!
#241, to be precise.

It really doesn't mean anything except that last week's geek picked me, and here is where people ask me questions about my games:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/516989/geek-of-the-week-241-brian-train

Go me.
ltmurnau: (Default)
Yes, as has been noted all over the Internet today, Gary Gygax has died.
Sure I remember him for D&D, I played a lot of it in my high school years, but I also remember him for his miniatures rules and board games. At one time or another I owned and/or played:

Cavaliers and Roundheads (English Civil War miniatures rules) http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/25990
Chainmail (the "magic" appendix to this set of minis rules grew into D&D) http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/8193
Dragon Chess (mostly unplayable 3-level mega-chess, in issue #100 of The Dragon) http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/12776
Dungeon (board game for kids; still have this one) http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/1339
Tractics (WWII - modern armor miniatures rules - this one drove me spare with its clunky mechanics, but boy was it detailed) http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/3716

Dunkirk: Battle of France (seen this one, lusted to have it) http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/26519

And before there was The Dragon magazine, there were The Strategic Review and Little Wars magazines, which he edited and contributed to massively.

But as usual, The Onion has the last word:

http://www.theonion.com/content/amvo/dungeons_amp_dragons_creator_dies
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Yoinked from [livejournal.com profile] jeffreyab

Take this list (of titles from an upcoming book on hobby games by James Lowder: http://www.amazon.ca/Hobby-Games-Best-James-Lowder/dp/1932442960/ref=wl_it_dp/702-7235100-0834436?ie=UTF8&coliid=I5YKXUU99ZW8F&colid=33KDB5X0RKGH5) and divide it into:

Owned and played (give comments if you like)
Played
Owned and not played (everyone has a few of these I think)
Not owned or played


A House Divided
Acquire
Amber Diceless
Amun-Re
Ars Magica
Axis & Allies
Battle Cry
BattleTech
Blood Bowl
Bohnanza
Britannia
Button Men
Call of Cthulhu
Carcassonne
Car Wars (old and new)
Champions
Civilization
Circus Maximus
Citadels
Cosmic Encounter
Cosmic Wimpout
Dawn Patrol
Descent
Diplomacy
Dungeons & Dragons
Dynasty League Baseball
El Grande
Empires in Arms
Empires of the Middle Ages
The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Fire and Fury
Flames of War
Fluxx
Formula Dé
The Fury of Dracula
A Game of Thrones
Gettysburg
Ghostbusters
The Great Khan Game
Hammer of the Scots
Here I Stand
Illuminati
Johnny Reb
Junta
Kingmaker
Kremlin
Legend of the Five Rings
Lensman
London's Burning
Lord of the Rings
Machiavelli
Magic: The Gathering
Marvel Super Heroes
Metamorphosis Alpha
My Life with Master
Mythos
Napoleon's Last Battles
Naval War
Once Upon a Time
Ogre
Paranoia
PanzerBlitz
Pendragon
Pirate's Cove
Plague!
Power Grid
Puerto Rico
Renaissance of Infantry
RoboRally
RuneQuest
The Settlers of Catan
Shadowfist
Shadowrun
Shadows over Camelot
Silent Death: The Next Millennium
Space Hulk
Squad Leader
Stalingrad
Star Fleet Battles
Talisman
The Sword and the Flame
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Terrible Swift Sword
Thurn and Taxis
Ticket to Ride
Tigris & Euphrates
Tikal
Toon
Traveller
Twilight Struggle
Unknown Armies
Up Front
Vampire: The Eternal Struggle
Vampire: The Masquerade
Vinci
War and Peace
Warhammer 40,000
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
The Warlord
Wiz-War


Here's mine:
Read more... )
ltmurnau: (Default)
From today's Tyee, a positive article about board games:

Gaming's New Boarders
Why board games are scoring video's players.


By Joseph Liau
Published: June 14, 2007
TheTyee.ca
Read more... )

Meanwhile, I'm back from the Consimworld convention held at Tempe, Arizona. It was pretty good! There were around 250 attendees, the highest number yet. I got to meet John Hill, the designer of many of my old favourites, and had some good talks over the redesign of my Green Beret game. I also met some old and new fans, including a guy from Peru who had a lot to say about the secret history behind my Shining Path game.

I brought prototype copies of Balkan Gambit and Konarmiya to show, and people were very interested in them. News of the forthcoming Battle for China deluxe package, with diecut counters and the expansion kit, was also received with alacrity.

Sales of Operation Whirlwind were, um, not brisk owing to the relative obscurity of the project. But that's OK. I sold a couple of copies of Freikorps on the strength of the notion that Konarmiya would link up with that game.

It was over 100 degrees and sunny-hazy each day. Lianne felt ill the first day or two but spent a lot of time at the pool - I went in long enough to get a sunburn on my chest, and only my chest (looks as if I've been painted with something pale pink). We went to a very good video and CD store just down the street and got a LOT of stuff. Bought a few books besides. The district is just down the street from Arizona State University, so it's full of hot-bodied coeds with Daddy-bought BMWs and trim frat-boys annoying everyone in sight. Nearly everyone under the age of 25 you see is blond and rich or modestly Mexican.

Friday night we and Joe Miranda went to "Goth night" at a club called The Palazzo. Getting there was kind of odd as it was near downtown Phoenix, about 11 miles away, and the street in front of it was all torn up for rebuilding. There were two big rooms in the club, one in front for the bar stars and Normals to listen to their club-rap (the big hit of the evening was a very loud and simple piece featuring the refrain "do that shit, do that shit" over and over again) and one in the back for the Goths. A very high ceiling and some nice furniture - we sat in two tall chairs like thrones. Mostly industrial or EBM was played, a nice variety of costumes and it seemed well attended. There was a sort of garden area outside where we went to get a breath of air and talk. We were all pretty tired, Lianne especially so, so left after two hours. Took over half an hour to get a taxi and we got home fine.

We left very early on Monday morning and were home by 7:30 that night, but it was a long day - plane to Seattle, taxi to Federal Way, car to Port Angeles, ferry to Victoria, and no time for stops. I think next time we will go straight from Victoria, which adds a lot to the ticket price (and humiliation of airport security and border crossing angst) but saves us some time.
ltmurnau: (Default)
I thought this was cute:



And this was Just Odd, but I think I read aobut this kink in a Savage Love column once. But why would the reporter conclude by saying that the women reported no injuries? Maybe in case one of them stubbed her toe on its way to the guy's lungs, the hard way?

Man allegedly approaching women in Guelph, Ont., asking to be kicked in groin

Published: Monday, May 28, 2007 | 12:23 PM ET
Canadian Press

GUELPH, Ont. (CP) - Police in Guelph, Ont., are looking for a man who allegedly approached women and asked them to kick him in the groin.

Three women reported similar incidents to police and two of the women reported the suspect was on a bicycle. The various incidents allegedly occurred over the last two months. The suspect is described as white, in his early twenties, with a brown goatee and a large gap between his front teeth.

None of the women reported injuries.
***
ltmurnau: (Default)
In 2002 I designed a game called Operation Whirlwind, about the Soviet intervention in Hungary in November 1956. It was about the street battles in Budapest. It was published by the Microgame Design Group, sold modestly and went out of print when the MDG deactivated.

Yesterday I got a box of copies of the 2007 reissue of this game, by Fiery Dragon Productions of Toronto. The tin boxes are gone (they could not find a reliable supplier), and the cardboard boxes are really tight, but the graphics are great and the die-cutting and thickness of the counters is much, much improved.



Box art featuring a sombre painting by David Sourwine, who did a couple of the other covers for my FDP reissue games.
ltmurnau: (Default)
Games companies speed up old favourites

Last Updated: Thursday, March 29, 2007 | 4:23 PM ET
The Associated Press

Toy makers are developing short-form versions of traditional games to match the faster pace and shortened attention spans of modern life.

Read more... )
The faster games are aimed at people like Massachusetts mom Michelle Hastings, who admits she has cheated to get through a game with her 5-year-old daughter.

"A lot of times, you don't play games because they take so long," she said.
***

I cut the rest of this article. It's at http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2007/03/29/faster-games.html.

Seriously, fuck that and Fuck These People. I grant you that Monopoly and Sorry are not very good games, but at least they were a contrived excuse for people to spend some time together. Perhaps it's understandable that these people, certainly parents want to cut even this to a minimum, while maintaining (at least to the Judge Judy) that they'd done the right thing - but 20 MINUTES?

OK, I admit I come from a childhood and adolescence where my friends and I would sometimes spend most of the day playing one game. We weren't idiots - said games were pretty complex and a lot could happen, but the important detail was that we did not grudge the time. And some of the best times Akito and I have had were from hours spent at the game table.

Things like this drive home to me that I am becoming a cranky old fart. Sorry for the outburst - I'll return to my prune whip now.
ltmurnau: (Default)
Hey, guess what?

I was randomly Googling one of my game titles (to see where it pops up, is being sold, or has comments) and found that Alex Cox (director of Repo Man, Sid & Nancy, etc.) is doing a project for Venezuelan TV called Against The World. http://www.alexcox.com/future_prod.htm#P3

It's a semi-documentary about the various US Rainbow war plans, namely "Red" (war against Britain), "Crimson" (invasion of Canada) and "Green" (invading Mexico).

I offered him a copy of my War Plan Crimson game, and he accepted! (Though at first he asked if it would play on a Mac....) I sent it off to him today, with my regards.

I don't expect to hear back from him, but I don't mind - Repo Man is my favouritest movie EVAR (!!!) and it's nice to be able to send him something in appreciation for his work.


ltmurnau: (Default)
I'm working on four game projects right now. In alphabetical order:

Balkan Gambit
“The Allied invasions of the Balkans that weren’t”. One of the great what-ifs of World War 2 in the Mediterranean theatre, at least to Hitler and the German High Command, was the possibility of an Allied invasion of Greece and/or Yugoslavia. In history, the Allies did nothing of the kind until Operation MANNA, the liberation of Greece in late 1944 after the German garrison had already withdrawn into Yugoslavia. But the Allies knew the Germans perceived such invasions as a credible threat and created several strategic deception plans, leading the Germans to move or keep critical troop formations in northern Italy and the Balkans when they would have been much more useful somewhere else.

The game comes with four scenarios:
- Operation BOARDMAN: In summer 1943, the British 8th Army is sent to liberate Greece and Crete. This was a deception to cover Operations HUSKY and AVALANCHE, the historical invasions of Sicily and Salerno.
- Operation ZEPPELIN: In summer 1944, the notional British 12th Army attacks Greece and Albania while the US 7th Army attacks in Dalmatia, in concert with Soviet amphibious operations against the coast of Rumania and Bulgaria. This plan was part of Operation BODYGUARD, the overall deception plan to disguise Operations OVERLORD and ANVIL (the invasions of northern and southern France).
- Operation GELIGNITE: Actual plans were drawn up to send the British 8th Army across the Adriatic in late 1944 or early 1945 to cut off the final retreat of German Army Group F and forestall any further Soviet advances towards northern Italy. The plan was shelved due to shortages of troops and landing craft.
- Operation SLIVA (PLUM): Between 1948 and 1955, the possibility of a Soviet invasion to bring Yugoslavia back into the Soviet orbit remained the largest factor in Yugoslavia's perception of external threat. This hypothetical scenario frames such an invasion as an intervention in support of pro-Soviet Yugoslavs, in the name of “fraternal assistance”.

The idea of doing this game has stuck with me for a long time, and I worked hard on order of battle research - orbatwise, designing a game on something that never happened is just as hard as the other way! The game system used is one that I introduced in a Bulge game I designed a few years ago called Autumn Mist, available from Fiery Dragon Productions (the tin box lads). This situation is a little different in that the unit scale (mostly divisions) is about the same, but the time and space scales are larger (20 miles/hex, and about 1 week/turn), the terrain is very different from the Ardennes, and there is a very varied set of combatants: several flavours of Allies (Americans, British, Bulgarians, Canadians, Greeks, Poles, Soviets and Yugoslavs) including two flavours of partisans, and varied Axis types (Bulgarians again, Germans of course, Croat-Serb-Slovene collaborators, Italians, miscellaneous SS nasties).

Because of the weird and chaotic nature of the campaign, I had to put in some new rules but hopefully they won't be too bulky. On the other hand, I have had to sluff off a few minor weirdnesses as I felt they were military irrelevant, no matter how picturesque they might have been (e.g. the Chetniks get a rather abstract treatment). Everything seems to be working in playtesting though.

This game will get the "P500" treatment from a publishing company called Lock n'Load. This means that the game will be advertised on the company website and people will "pledge" their support, in the form of credit card information, until they have about 500 pre-orders - this being the round figure the company has to sell before they are sure to recoup printing and production costs. I freely admit this is an obscure topic and frankly unlikely to get that many orders - if it doesn't, the design reverts to me and I can do something else with it. I might even just give it away, I've spent so much time on it.

Battle for Baghdad
Very much an embryonic idea right now, this is to be a very chaotic design on the current strife in that unhappy city. I am not sure how to approach its mechanics.

Battle for China
A proposal to run this in Strategy & Tactics magazine got a favourable enough response that I got a contract! The game's been in print since 1999, and been published three times already (originally by Microgame Design Group, then by the Japanese edition of Command magazine, and then by Fiery Dragon Productions) for several thousand copies distributed - but the circulation of S&T is up around 6-7,000.

My only concern is that the game has been handed over to a developer whose name I do not know and who may decide to muck around with what I think is a pretty solid design.

Konarmiya
A prequel to Freikorps, my alt-hist game on the Soviet Red Army lurching for Berlin over the corpse of Poland in the fall of 1920. It covers the Russo-Polish war from July to the end of September 1920. It uses the same system and map scale, and the maps match so you can play one big struggle for North East Central Europe. Because of the distances involved, the map is 22x17" and runs from Warsaw to Kiev. Features the Polish Legion, Polish National Army, Konarmiya of course, volunteer Hungarians, Lithuanians, and Ukranians, Pilsudski, Trotsky, and the usual mayhem and chaos. Somewhat fewer counters (192) than in Freikorps, enough for play of the game with no problems though. The game is in playtesting, seems to work fine, and will in all likelihood be published by Fiery Dragon Publications of Toronto.

I have loads of other ideas, but no time to work on them. So it goes.

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ltmurnau

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