Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 in Review

What a year 2013 has been. While the last 2 months have been a bit disappointing in the nerdery department, it's been a pretty great year.

While it's tempting to run through my successes and (greater) failures on the resolutions, it's actually more interesting to talk about the year without the lists.

January/February started off solidly with a bunch of napoleonics painting. I eventually got led off in other directions, but I have a large block of 15mm french troops, and no officers, or cavalry. Hmmmmm.....still highly unfieldable, but a step in the right direction. It didn't help that the great online campaign I was playing died as a result of the GM's new job and lengthy commute......a big loss of motivation there.

Later into the year I made some good progress painting up some 28mm terrain pieces. A broken down wizards tower, a bunch of fencing (stone and otherwise), and a half finished graveyard are now ready to rock. I realize I have a lot of 28mm fantasy terrain now (including a bunch of foamcore buildings). The major gap in my terrain would be hills. I have trees, rivers, roads, but no hills. A serious deficiency. A big failure was not painting a 'skirmish force'. My god that is open ended and still ended up a failure. *sigh*. Always next year I suppose.

Board games and Wargames I managed to get a fair number in. Mostly spread through the year as well. Battletech, Napoleonics, and Warhammer Fantasy were tops this year. Board games were sprinkled around evenly.

Roleplaying games remained a top event. It was pointed out this year that our Space 1889 campaign has been going for well over a year. We are closing in to a break off point which I think is probably a good thing. It's nice to swap between systems and campaigns to keep things fresh. The OSRIC campaign I was playing in has died off a bit as a result of my friend in Halifax getting a large gaming group organized. The writeups he sends me are howlers, I do miss playing with him. Luckily for me, he is moving again in the fall (to Saskatoon), so I will no doubt get in more skype gaming with him for a while.

My scooter was stolen in the spring, so I was forced to bicycle to work more often (i.e. almost every day). It's actually been pretty good, even in the winter (which has been abnormally dry), so I decided not to buy a new scooter. Yay me.

The 'fab ab' challenge was a failure this year though. Every time I made it up to around 80 situps a day, I'd end up getting too tired from work, or on vacation, or sick, or whatever, and stop doing the situps. I'm currently back up to 50, but it's the progress at the top that is very, very slow.

I didn't manage to play a game with my brother this year. He recently went through a big breakup, so I think that helps contribute to the failure. I did play some of a game with my dad, but he wasn't really into it and we ended early. Need to find something more accessible than a GMT game (Labyrinth).

My personal savings target was hit, but I failed to save at all for retirement. Not getting a roommate this year was a factor, but I was holding out for a specific roommate.....which will be happening in January. My 'art deco' project was crafting an engagement ring in the art deco style while knowing nothing about it. It was a lovely, and successful operation, and now I'm having to downsize my stuff to make room for my fiance to join me in my place. The wedding is in may. Lots on the plate these days.

This one is hit and miss. As part of the downsizing I did eliminate a bunch of stuff. I certainly did not manage to half my nerd costs this year. I think I am probably up 10%. However......this includes duty paid on packages, as well as ebay shipping fees (getting rid of stuff). If I look at the amount of money I made on what I sold, I'm probably a lot closer to half. So maybe half the net costs? Maybe I'll give myself that one.

I've even downsized to a single, smaller, bookcase for my nerd books. This doesn't include history books that non nerds might look at. I'm trying to maintain a one in, one out book rule, but not sure that will be acheived. There has been some big pulses of RPG buying, and I realize I need to use this stuff dammit!

I did manage to GM a game down in portland for my fiance's sister and friends. Almost no one at the table had played before and they had a good time. My fiance was mortified. There wasn't enough time, otherwise it was a success.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Curse you XCOM!

The fall grind has worn me out so I haven't posted for almost a month and half (!). I'd like to blame a specific video game up front which was the beginning of the fateful fall. XCOM, enemy within. This is actually an expansion to the excellent XCOM enemy unknown, which itself harkens back, many years, to an earlier game: XCOM UFO Defense.

The blue square is a base. Radar ranges stretch to spain...maybe

I originally blamed this game back in early highschool. Got the demo on a high density 3.5 inch and needed to have it. Pre internet, and the BBS's of any use where long distance calls away (at blistering speeds of 4800baud...maybe).  This was a great game, and TOUGH. My gawd did your men die quickly.

You needed to build bases to launch your jets and troop carriers to splash UFOs, fight terror missions (prevent aliens from slaughtering civilians in major cities), and research and manufacture the tech and items you needed to turn back the incursion. Funding was provided by countries around the world and based on your performance. Aliens would attempt to sign treaties with countries to starve you of funds. Secret alien bases would start cropping up like mushrooms as well.

Your bases would occasionally get attacked and aliens would spill through the lift, as well as hangars. The base to your right would be doomed....DOOMED!
Especially bases that were research or manufacturing oriented, and lacked well trained soldiers. DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED!

Also, if too many countries signed treaties or you went bankrupt humanity would be destroyed. Not an infrequent occurrence.

XCOM: Enemy unknown. 
The new iteration has kept all the fun stuff, and managed to remove the vast majority of the tedious irritating crap. A huge step in updating a classic game. The main complaints where about limited maps (not procedurally generated, instead they are set), and the ability to camp your soldiers and eventually win each mission without much risk.

Nicer graphics. Still turn based though.
Tons of the tropes of the series were maintained. The skyranger is your troop ship (now only carrying up to 6, rather than about 10 guys), you can build robot gun carrier bots (mini tanks sorta), there are advance power armour suits that allow flight, you work through crappy conventional weapons up to laser and then plasma, the mind raping telepathic ethereals make a late game appearance, and so forth.

The base looks nicer. But tile based building still.
In a nod to new gamers and old hands, the difficulty level was revised to make it more friendly....BUT, they kept a harder level called 'classic'. I still get rocked on classic. Impossible is the next level up. 

Enter XCOM: Enemy within.

The updated is easily the beset expansion I've ever played. It added a heap of new maps, new aliens (to both give new problems to deal with, as well as keep the early alien types more competitive into the late game), and a reason to race through maps (to harvest a time declining resource needed for certain research).

A host of extra missions with strange objectives and stories was cool as well. A covert transhumanist conspiracy that is competing with you and needs to be crushed. Human cyborgs strapped into huge battle frames and organic mods (reptile eyes, extra hearts, bio-electric discharges). I haven't managed to get through all the new material.
Exalt. Transhumanist terrorist.

One of the creepier missions involves a hideous life form called a chrsalis that acts a bit like the lifeform in ALIEN. It moves fast, and rips you up in close combat. And then your corpse births a new one. While slightly less lethal than in the original game, it's a good nod to the fear/hassle of dealing with them.

A mission to a sea side town ends up finding a bunch of these bastards, which is bad enough until you find the source of the outbreak. A whaling ship filled with infested whale corpses. They start spawning every turn in a definite to overwhelm you sort of way. It basically takes a sacrificial trooper to plant a homing device on the boat to mark the cooridinates of a massive air strike to win the map. Also your own troops are both running to escape the bombardment and from the nasty lifeforms. A gripping mission. It'd make a good roleplaying session (assuming your PC's are somewhat expendable, like in a one off adventure).

I somehow feel that xcom would give a great scope for some small scale gaming.  Small tables with 4-6 agents and a dozen plus aliens. Various terrains (country, rural, urban). You could even come up with covert operations with 'plain clothes' agents which are hinted at in the various iterations of the game.

With low model counts and a small board, it'd be great for focusing efforts on achievable bite sized blocks. Then you can go off and do other projects. When interested again, you can introduce the next wave of aliens, or tech upgrade, or terrain features.

I'd imagine a 2x2 or 3x3 board. There would even be scope for running a solo game. The aliens would be fairly simple to program. The hardest part would be having an element of surprise in what you were facing. 2 hour wargames deals with this well with PEF's (potential enemy forces)....the counter moves according to roles, and when in site there is a check to see if it's a false alarm, so something more....lethal.

Certainly something to consider.