Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Gaming Notes: June 9, 2013

Space Gaming News:

Car Wars (e23) Aeroduel is now available in PDF format.

Commands & Colors: Ancients (BGG Thread) “My gaming buddy and I have played Advanced Squad Leader for the last twenty years. Love it. Then, I bought CCA and persuaded my opponent to try it. Right off the bat we were hooked and recognized CCA for what it is…a very well designed game that is much more than the sum of its parts. We haven’t played ASL since. We have more fun and challenge playing CCA. Why spend an afternoon playing one scenario of ASL when we can play four or more battles of CCA in the same amount of time? And have more fun too! I don’t expect everyone to feel the same about CCA as I do, but it’s well worth giving it a try.”

Commands & Colors: Ancients (BGG Capsule Review) “In philosophy and science, simplicity is always in a theory’s favor. It is a factor if [sic] excellence, such as explanatory power, or predictive ability. I think simplicity is also a virtue in game design, and here it helps Ancients shine. The game can be learned quickly, and you aren’t going to forget the rules after a few plays.”

Blog Watch:

History of Gaming (Playing at the World) Arsouf (1969) by Gary Gygax — “Given that it represents a medieval wargame designed by Gary Gygax a full year before the founding of the Castle & Crusade Society, Arsouf preserves unique insights into Gygax’s earliest thinking about medieval wargame systems.”

AD&D (The Mule Abides) the pulsating heart of ad&d — “When I was 9 years old, we had the super-simple Mentzer Basic rules, and we couldn’t be bothered to actually understand the text, or even read it.  We made up our own rules as we needed them, and then broke them. Years earlier, however, poor Gary or Dave or Larry Schick or Mike Carr or Zeb Cook or whoever else, was slaving away on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1e, with a zillion times more rules.  What’s the ratio of design effort in Lake Geneva to fun at your table?  I think us kids had a far better labor-to-fun payoff.”

Adventure Design (Monsters & Manuals) Players Are Like Lucifer — “You simply have to accept that players will not do what they are ‘supposed to’, and will constantly find ways to pervert what the game is for. And the stricter you make the narrative, of course – i.e., the more you define what the player is ‘supposed to do’ – the more this perverse streak will emerge, and the more it will work against the game.”

GURPS (Gaming Ballistic) Melee Academy – Team Tactics 101 — “Sometimes the bad guys get a good one in. Maybe it’s just a single blow, but you’re suffering from shock penalties. Maybe you’re knocked down or (even worse) stunned. If you’re off in the wild blue yonder all by yourself, well, GURPS is a game filled with death spirals, and it’s been nice knowing you.”

Elegance Defined (Fast Company) JOSH KLEIN: FREE YOUR MIND: MAKING HARD THINGS SIMPLE — “A lot of times someone who works with code will say, ‘That’s an elegant hack’ or ‘that’s an elegant piece of code’ or whatever it is.’ Well, looking at it looks like any other piece of code. How can you tell? Well it does everything it’s supposed to, it’s easy to understand, there’s nothing more than you absolutely need there, and it does it better than anything else, better than anyone’s ever thought of.”

On the Table:

We had guests over one night this week and… when confronted with the full panoply of my collection, my casual gaming friend chose Revolution! It took a little explaining to get going, and my son was totally in on it. We were still working our way through the first turn when my daughter showed up offended that she had been left out. This was quickly rectified by making room for her to join in.

I know enough of the tactics of this game that I can just absolutely crush people. My first impulse is to let it stand so that people can learn from my extremely obvious and devastating moves. But it could be time to figure out some sort of handicap for me. At any rate, I found myself running ahead with a perfectly epic lead. I ran out of blocks so that I couldn’t end the game by filling in the last few squares on the board. I wouldn’t mind if the game had a slightly different tempo than this– I’m either doing something wrong or else the game doesn’t handle a diverse range of skill levels particularly gracefully.

I encouraged the rest of the table to fight over second place. Throughout the game, my daughter consistently managed to take the Printer and my son almost always got the Mercenary. My guest steadily learned to put up a fight for the blackmail and force squares while pulling some dirty tricks with the Rogue and the Apothecary. At the end of the game, though, in spite of his wrestling control of the Fortress from me and ruining my control of the Harbor, the massive amount of support from the Printer was enough to put my daughter easily into second place. The steady support generated by taking the Mercenary so often was enough to put my son in third.

My daughter was quite pleased with the outcome. During the game she got very frustrated and thought that she just wasn’t accomplishing anything much. My son is a bit demoralized at this point in spite of the fact that he beat an adult fair and square… even after wasting his precious force token several times with illegal plays. “I’m not any good at this game,” he’s said rather glumly. Meanwhile my guest raved about it and said he’ll come back for a rematch. This is an interesting game… and it appears that despite my first impression it is straightforward enough that even my young children can enjoy being included in it.

One footnote on including children: as soon as the bids are revealed, they go crazy talking about which squares they won. As I work through the various awards, there is often confusion as the stuff on their boards get mixed up with the blackmail and force that they receive. In order words… it can turn completely chaotic– at which point the children start complaining about how you’re messing up their turn. This eventually culminated in a sharp rebuke from me: “if this is going to work, then you have to be quiet and not touch anything as I work through the results!” Man did I feel like a party pooping super-meany! But my kids got over it and we finished up the game in some semblance of decency and order.

Aeroduel and Revolution! are registered trademarks of Steve Jackson Games, and the art here is copyrighted by Steve Jackson Games. All rights are reserved by SJ Games. This material is used here in accordance with the SJ Games online policy.

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