Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Didn't the Germans LOSE the war?

Well, we had our September tournament of Axis &Allies on the 16th, and Rob Coulson finally lost his winning streak to John Hunter and his Perfect Army of Ubermensch (PAU). I fielded a Soviet army of spotters, PM mortars and a sniper. It had some promise, but failed more often than not. I also fielded a Japanese army of six Imperial snipers and some Arisaka riflemen and Type 92 AT guns. Someone say: "LOSERRRR." Yep, I came in last place out of four contenders. Wunderbar!
Matt Mansell came in 3rd with Rob Coulson in 2nd place. We play with historical army builds, that is to say we don't mix Japanese with Germans or Soviets with Americans. We also don't allow 1945 units. AT guns are considered in camouflage until moved or fired. Mortars cannot target aircraft (as well as flamethrowers).
But John Hunter taught us a lesson: the game is inherently broken.
That's right. This game that I invested over $600 in is broken. How? Well, the Germans are overpowered for one thing. The SS-Panzergrenadier is a 5-point piece while the inferior SS-Stormtrooper is a whopping 7 points. What Mr. Hunter fielded was a German army of nine SS-Panzergrenadiers, a Brummbar, a Hauptsturmfuhrer and some other units I can't or don't want to remember. Somehow, he beat the odds and got to pick Axis every time before a match. If he was forced to play an Allied army, he would probably lose, by his own admission. Has the game come to this? Flip a coin and whomever chooses the Axis (Germans) wins? Has the perfect army been found? The answer to these questions are a resounding 'yes'.
We have tried for weeks prior to the tournament to best this PAU build, but to no avail. Terrain and tactics matter little if you have the right pieces. So what to do? Chuck the game?
I hate wasting money and I'm sure you do too. So, John Peterson and I felt a few more house rules would surely balance things a bit.
If it were me in charge of the tourney, (and it's not), I would simply swap the point costs for the SS-Panzergrenadier and the SS-Stormtrooper. But for some reason, people don't want to monkey with the printed word (or number in this case). John added the entrenched special ability to the AT guns and gave spotters a +1 on cover rolls. So far so good.
But then he adds that no more than 20% of a given force can be Elite, Veteran, Hero or 5/5 defense pieces. But you are always allowed at least one such piece. I think this makes good sense. Having a total Hero force or a total Elite tank squadron is a bit overkill and though a tad unrealistic, it makes for better balance. Remember this game is a game first and a war simulator second (I would argue fourth or fifth). It's no fun especially for newbies to play in a game where the winner is predetermined by a die roll for who picks the Germans.
I am a social gamer first and foremost. I don't play to win so much as to have a good slog of a battle where it comes down to that last die roll at the last turn. Those are the best and most memorable games, no matter what game it is you're playing. So if we have to add a few house rules to keep the game fun and viable, then I say so be it. Do these new rules doom the PAU build? Probably. But that's a good thing I believe. We need to keep the diversity and the mix of army possibilities alive without stagnating into a 'now we found the best army so the game is done' sort of deal. It's no different with Magic: The Gathering. They keep shuffling the playable cards around to keep the decks fresh and force inventive and imaginitive deck strategies into the fray.
In short, this next tourney on October 14th is going to be interesting.
I'll keep ya posted...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Demonskar Ball: The Director's Cut

This is what I sent John Peterson prior to our last game. You will notice similarities and great differences. Here goes...

I want to preface my actions with this little blurb:

Sprited gelding, black with white socks, knows four tricks = 300 gp

Gnomeskein harlequin suit with diamond patterns complete with jester's cap and three bells each in a different note with silk chequered scarf = 600 gp.

Ceramic grotesque mask, half black/half white with gold inlaid tatoo patterns around the eyes and cheeks = 100 gp

El Kabonging a nobleman who had a bit too much to drink... priceless!

Having spent 150 gp on dancing lessons, Flaine felt quite confident that his reputation shall do naught but increase at the ball.
Flaine primarily hung out with the religious elite. He expected to find Ix among this crowd, but Link?? Hmmmm. As he played this very rhythmic song which he 'borrowed' (as songsters often do) from the surrounding tribes of the Amedio Jungle, Link started doing this... 'thing'. It was a rather jerky, quirky movement but timed expertly to Flaine's rhythmic strums. Interesting, Flaine thought, but kinda stupid. The strumming bard was frightened that he might be 'associated' with this little golem with motor-reflex issues, so he ends his song hurriedly, grabs a glass of Jungle Juice from a nearby half-naked half-elf and scurries to another murder of nobles.
Some hours later, another bard (Flaine didn't know his name - "Just some amateur", he thought) ended his romantic serenade (he was playing a viol de gamba) and some noble dressed in a blue sash and wearing a sparkling silver eye-mask marched up to him and sputtered, "Silence, you mountebank, I am now...drunk!" Everyone laughed, but this only angered him the more. "Do you think my words are folly?" he continued regrettably, "When I speak in my household (it took him a few tries to say that, btw) I am obeyed! This ball is no different! So...silence, buffoon!" And with that, he took the bow from the musician and snapped it in two against his knee. Everyone in a twenty-foot radius gasped. Flaine strutted toward the noble.
"That wasn't very nice, sire. Taking away the man's only means to sustain himself." Flaine theatrically gestured.
"Who are you?" the noble spat.
"I am Flaine Gilgahar, rhymester and bard, at your service."
"Am I to be plagued with your kind, tonight?"
"Apparently. Fate has a strange way of doing the opposite of what you'd like. Especially, when you tempt fate by doing what you just did here."
"I answer to no one save the gods!" the noble said.
"And what god is it that teaches you to break the bows of bards?"
Whap! The masked nobleman slapped Flaine with his bejeweled, white glove. "I will take no moral lesson from a mountebank!"
At this, Flaine, though stung, started to laugh.
"What's so damn funny?" the noble asked.
"Laugh. And the world laughs at you!" Flaine strummed his mandolin, but the effect he desired did not materialize. So much for Tasha's Hideous Laughter. Flaine went white. Uh oh.
The nobleman unsheathed his gleaming rapier and lunged toward Flaine in a fit of rage. Flaine dodged it, but not easily. "How the hell did he get a rapier in here?" he thought.
The battle went back and forth...but mostly back. Some plumed guards showed up, but Flaine was wroth to discover that they only served as a velvet rope to surround what they considered a fair duel.
Ix made his way to the circle. "Flaine! What did you do this time?" he screamed into the fray.
While dodging thrusts and swipes, Flaine stammered out, "No time to explain."
A twenty seconds later the noble had him. Trapped, with his back to a guard and the point of a very sharp rapier at the nape of his throat.
"I have news for you, bard. I'm not drunk anymore."
Flaine gulped. "I kinda figured that."
"You are a saucy knave. And I'm feeling magnanimous at the moment. That is a very nice mandolin you have there. Why don't you offer it to me. You will GLADLY offer it to me... for your life." the nobleman creased a greasy smile.
Flaine heaved a sigh. He took the mandolin (which he was using to parry a lot of the noble's attacks) and offered it to him; both hands still on the neck. As the noble looked down at it, gloating over his prize, Flaine smacked him with an uppercut to the jaw. Teeth and blood flew from the nobleman's mouth. As well as a roar of pain and rage.
Flaine had no idea how he escaped the clutches of the surrounding guards, but he figured Ix or someone else lent a helping hand. Flaine left the palace grounds and rested near some fountains at a plaza outside the palace. There he saw Avenal filling up a waterskin. "What are you doing here?" Flaine huffed.
Avenal gave Flaine a sidelong glance, "Balls aren't my thing."
Flaine grimaced, "You know under less dangerous circumstances I'd make a joke about that, but I'm too tired."
Avenal looked up and noticed a contingent of guards making their way down the palace steps, glowrods and swords in hand. "Who'd you piss off this time?"
"I don't know. That's the problem. I got an idea he was a bigger wig than I could wear. It was all I could do to keep him off of me."
"They're getting close. You better go." Avenal remarked.
With that, Flaine ditched his bell cap into the fountain and vanished into the shadows of the night.

What a night! So much for reputation...

It's a good thing that John changed it to where I am not doomed or otherwise exiled from Cauldron, but I felt the truth must be told. So, for those who play this game with me and wondered what I was referring to when I mentioned 'the e-mail' to John, this is what it was. Take it for what it's worth.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Where the Hell Have You Been?

Geez, I got a few stories to tell regarding that.
My job has been going well. Busy. Which is always a plus. My car's engine light came on last night on my way home from work, so I have that going for me.
Other than work (and that's a lot) I went to ConQuest SF and ran a game of Twilight Imperium 3rd edition which was a full house (six players). It went famously! I played the Naalu Collective against the L1Z1X Mindnet, the Barony of Letnev, the XX'cha Kingdom, the Yssaril Tribes and another empire that I have forgotten. All I remember is that he played the yellow pieces and loaded up for bear, attacking the Xx'cha Kingdom for over half the game. The game lasted six hours (which is about par for a six player game), but a great time was had by all.
I got these four six-sided dice with my name on the number one spot which was cool. I also bought a T-shirt and a couple games: Zombies!!! and Zombies!!! 2: Zombie Corps(e) as well as two Wings of War expansions: Top Fighters and Recon Patrol. Good times!
I met some friends from Patterson while I was there as well as Phil who was totally wrapped up in his Flames of War games. I played two games of Ra, some Wings of War, Masons, Puerto Rico, and El Grande.
I could only stay for one day (this was over Labor Day weekend) because I had to get to John Peterson's D&D game on Sunday.
The only thing I have to say about that Sunday game is: Flaine is STILL a very accomplished mandolin player regardless of what the intelligentsia of Cauldron may say. Only by the slimmest of margins did my bard, Flaine Gilgahar, rescue the party from certain doom by a mirror image song and Tasha's Hideous Laughter. Pure luck. I would never have considered that that 2nd level spell would have affected a frost giant, but I'll take it. It's good to be the bard!
Today, I am about to test my Soviet army against The Ultimate German Army at the Axis and Allies minis tourney. In just a few hours, we will see if Rob Coulson will retain his title or finally be smitten by an upstart John Hunter with his Perfect Army of Ubermensch. I'll keep you posted on the results.
I ripped my right palm open with a nice laceration while removing a stuck toner cartridge in Modesto last Wednesday. No stitches, thank God. It was just a routine 'toner delivery' mission. And this lady was talking to me at a hundred miles an hour, while ripping the box open and shoving the toner into the Dell M5200 laser printer. Then she realized it didn't feel right so she tried to remove it where she found that it was stuck... hard. After a few minutes of her trying to remove the toner, I moved her aside and told her it would be best to have a professional handle this. So I start yanking and pulling and cussing. She wisely left the room. Sweat cascading down my grimacing face, I removed the printer and placed it on the floor for better leverage. Realizing that I may well destroy the printer, the toner, or both by doing what I was doing, I went ahead and YANKED that toner cartridge out of the printer! It came out. And the plastic guide jutting out of the cartridge went right across my right palm. (I yanked the toner out with my left hand). OOOOWWWWW! Goddamn! Now I have a great aversion to blood, especially my own, so I retained my composure, cleaned out my wound at the nearest restroom and applied first aid from the back of my car in the parking lot. It was really no big deal, but it looks like it'll take a week to completely heal. It turned out that the lady did not remove the orange spacer on the toner before shoving it in there. I have since learned that it would have been a smarter play to remove the fuser from the back of the printer and remove the toner that way. But you live and you learn. Luckily, the printer was not harmed. The plastic guide plate was displaced, but I put it back with little effort.
My roommate is thinking of starting a day-care center in her home (which I happen to share) so I had to go get tested for TB in accordance with California law. I hate needles and I hate blood. So my sacrifice regarding her entrepreneurial success was substantial. I have to go back today to find out if I'm a lunger. I'll keep you posted on that outcome as well.
Next blog entry, I'll talk about the Zombies!!! game I played with my friends up in Yuba City. It was a blast. See ya'll later.