Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Raw Notes: Wurm Online - "I gave a cotton to someone"

Hopped onto the Reddit Wurm group today as it was forming, then got into the Steam group. Let's see how this goes...


TheWanderer: Okay, I'm back on. Hi1
TheWanderer: !
Atazs: hi
{DVH} Den Vlieghende Hollander: Hullo
TheWanderer: I'm a total newb here, but I have an ounce of sense in my head.
TheWanderer: I'm staring at the login window...
TheWanderer: Is there a thing (or many things) that I should read and learn before going into the world?
трулли нахуй лулли: you could just do the tutorial

Playlist: Dec. 3 - Dec. 9

Well, finished Spec Ops: The Line. I'm going back now to review some old podcasts, specifically Weekend Confirmed 119 and the Gamers With Jobs #305 where they did a spoilers section. Then I'll take a little time and write a little something here before I dive into the ePub from Brendan Keogh (who put up some love for games writing at the New Statesman the other day). It won't be huge, because December is devoted to a big project I'm working on for a new outlet (that makes 4!). I'm lining up interviews as we speak, and I'm really excited about the prospects. 

With all the gift giving for the rest of the family, I may well not have the cash for Far Cry 3. Given the series' track record of deep discounts I'm shooting for a half-price purchase in February. In the mean time I'll be looking into Wurm. You were all right not to tell me about this immersive MMO, internet. It could have me in thrall for quite some time from the looks of it. But I found it on my own, and it looks too good to be true. Check out this RPS article from 2010 as it does a better job at describing it than I have time for this morning. The thing's been in development for 5 or 6 years, is free to play, and looks wholly unique. Right up my alley.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Things Seen On A Recent Visit To A Government Facility

  • A series of four cubicles (half height) which bad been cleared out to create a faux conference room.
  • Three (3) offices built around support columns (doric) which ostensibly hold up the building. The columns moved through the offices directly where the chair would go, such that the wrap-around desks effectively surrounded the columns. The chair was placed to the side of the column or behind it, rendering the desk ultimately useless.
  • One (1) vent drywall-screwed to a wall. The vent did not cover a ventilation system. It was screwed to a blank section of wall. In the past someone had painted around the vent rather than take it down, such that the old wall color (yellow) could be seen underneath.
  • Asbestos floor tile. Everywhere.

First Impressions - Spec Ops: The Line

Picked this gem up for a steal at $15 the other week on Steam. It's been on my list for some time, especially with ties to Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now, both works I studied a bit in college. Mix in my love of modern warfare, as well as the promise of 50k words from Brendon Keogh (download, interview) at the end, it was just too much. So I (ahem) pulled the trigger.

I sat down to play the other night and was almost immediately disappointed.

Monday, November 19, 2012


It was a stinking hot August day in Dekalb, Illinois. The six of us were sitting in the dusty grass up the left field line just behind the bullpen. I had my mask and helmet off and was working at a sore spot where the buckle of my chest protector dug into my side. Assistant coach Pete was standing over us, casually leaning the mid-part of his thigh against a Fungo bat to steady himself. Three pitchers sipped at their water jugs while three catchers sat or lay trying to coax some of the dead air into cooling them off.

You could hear the corn rustling against the right field fence, the aluminum bleachers ringing with the impact of batting practice across the field. Pete was slacking just a bit, killing time between drills. He was staring off into the distance, trying to catch a glimpse of head coach Joe “Spanky” MacFarland, to trade some nod or hand signal about what to do next with his charges. Summer baseball camp at Northern Illinois University in a nutshell. I was maybe 13.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Playlist: Nov. 5 through Nov. 18

Yeah, I know... I didn't post last week. I also did not live up to my promise of continuing my Combat Mission AAR. I've been a bad person. 

It's not that it was busy for me though, that's the thing. I'm really in this very odd in-between-projects-thing with my freelance work, while at the same time just waiting for the other shoe to drop at the day job on a multi-year project. That's put me in a big tense knot creatively. It's very frustrating, but I'm working through it.

I have a few board game reviews pending for Armchair General and Paste, and those are all fine and good. But the feature-length things are eluding me, as they usually do, coming into the holiday season. That's usually AAA reviews season, and I am not as inclined to play in that space. I just don't have the time to commit to solid play throughs prior to general release of a AAA game. That's just a fact.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Playlist: Oct. 29 through Nov. 4

Over the weekend I had the absolute pleasure of participating in International Gamers With Jobs Day (IGWJ Day) at Penguin Con. Named for community member and organizer OilyPenguin (who I now know is named Brian), it is a chance for GWJrs to gather under one roof in the midwest, roll some dice, play some 8-bit games, and generally share in our hobbies together over a homebrew or four. And this year it was held in a castle, owned by another community member.

It was flat out phenomenal.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Playlist: Oct. 22 through Oct. 28

Slow week last week. Feels like when the day job is slow that my freelance work slows as well.

I did get some stick time with War of the Roses. For the first hour I was beginning to wonder why the hell that I'd asked to review this broken, shitty game. By the end of the second hour I was white knuckling my mouse, fully engrossed and locked in mortal combat with a claymore-wielding warrior in red enameled armor. The game is deceptively complex, requires more than a little bit of skill, and the only thing I think it is lacking is an enemy lock-on button. As it stands it's a bit dizzying to play. More soon in my review for

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The WarZ Alpha

Spent a few hours inside The WarZ last night.

That pause was a big long sigh while I gather my thoughts and organize my words carefully in my mind.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Playlist: Oct. 15 through Oct. 21

A personal goal for me this year was to add one more publication to my freelance portfolio, and I've overachieved by adding two. ArsTechnica earlier this year was kind enough to let me put up some articles there, and most recently Garrett Martin at has given me some space to put out board game reviews. This lead me to a unique achievement last week by having two pieces show up at on two different sites, one at Armchair General and another at Paste. Do check out the Paste piece especially, where I talk about a game called All Things Zombie. Quite a treat that one. 

Anyway, pretty exciting time for me so pardon if I gush a bit. On to this week's business.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Playlist: Oct. 8 through Oct. 14

"Big sky is in the AO. Reading you five by five."
Things went remarkably well last week. Got lots of XCOM played, and put up my review at ArsTechnica. It was well received, although my spelling remains atrocious. Their PR team told me that I'd be getting new retail code eventually, but not even the fear of losing my save games could stop me from staying up way too late last night playing more. Such a luxurious game. I also got invited to the Gamers With Jobs podcast, which is always a hoot and a half. It'll be up Wednesday as per usual with a big chunk of time devoted to XCOM.

Went at least four more rounds in my Combat Mission game, which is a lot of game in an already busy week. Much to update there this week when I get around to it. Things are going more or less to plan, but my entrenchment was not able to hold up and score any hits on the US tanks. Very sad to lose those men in that way, but their artillery was just awesome whereas mine was horrid.

Played some Zombicide, and need to get that written up this week. If Last Night On Earth is a campy B-movie, Zombicide is straight up Left For Dead-style undead murdering. Literally hundreds of bodies in the streets. It was insane.

Did not get around to A House Divided, and managed to contract two or three more reviews on top of that. So I'll be pretty busy through October. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Playlist: Oct 1 through Oct 7

Finally got A House Divided out on the table in front of me. It's a big, operational map of the Civil War with each turn divided by the months within each year of the campaign. There's special rules for supply, for generals, for draft riots... For being a light wargame, it's pretty dense. Walkthroughs that I'm seeing are saying a quick game is 4-6 hours. Sounds like I need to commit one Saturday to beating this things into submission. Just have to find a friend to help.

Features I'm excited to explore include using rivers asymmetrically (Union forces had a naval advantage that stretched to the rivers, it would seem) as well as using cavalry forces to cut supply and generally harass forces at the flanks. Also, the number of "recruiting cities" you have under your control effectively sets an upper limit on the number of forces you can field at any one time. Promoting units puts more militia back in your draft pool, but without fighting you can't promote. Therefore if you turtle up your units are that much weaker when the guns start going off. 

Put Zombicide on the table as well. You know a miniatures-focused company is behind a game when every single mini has it's own vacu-formed cubby. This is the most densely packed box I've yet seen, and the sculpts are really unique. Only thing that's bothered me so far is that every female sculpt, zombie or otherwise, has their underwear showing. Not sure that's necessary.

Also hoping to get some review code for War of the Roses and XCOM in this week but I'm trying to push that to the back of my mind.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Eroudeville Turn 30

Things are happening very fast right now. The tanks have fully driven off my artillery spotter that was in the church. That has left the fire mission incomplete! It’s hanging there until someone finishes the spotting. Even though other command units can see where the rounds need to go I can’t end this mission and start another one. I need to get that last radioman somewhere he can see the final few rounds. Otherwise, the US Infantry Right will have enough fire support to enact an assault of my Entrenchment.

The lead tank rounds the corner, and my anti-tank gun at the Entrenchment opens up. 

The .50 cal coaxial on the bow of the lead Sherman rakes the trenches while the two big guns square off.

There’s a flurry of rounds exchanged and the Germans get the first hit on target, landing one on the upper front hull. I receive a message that I’ve penetrated their armor, but they don’t slow down!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Eroudeville Turn 28

I promised a bit of an overview last time, so let me do that while I bring you fully up to speed.

Aerial view of the Eroudeville map. North is down.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shuttles and Guns

"I used to be somebody."

Such amazing writing today in my Twitter feed that I had to gush a bit. At The Atlantic Ian Bogost wrote a piece that perhaps only he could write. As a child of the Shuttle program, both chronologically and literally (he was an instructor at Space Camp), he has seen the glory and man’s achievement in space hollowed out and monetized. So much less now the journey to the frontier, now merely the incremental income of tawdry sales to be made. No longer the four year mission of the Enterprise, but an enterprise to justify itself.

“Elon Musk will take over the task of shipping sewage pumps and waste processing units and air filtration systems to the [International Space Station]. Richard Branson will sell Justin Bieber and Mitt Romney tickets past the Kármán line. Eventually, inevitably, Mark Zuckerberg will slip a bill to the surly bonds of earth and start his own space enterprise, just to keep up with the Rothschilds.”

His point of view throughout the piece is wistful, sad, melancholic. But it is also biting, sardonic, contemptuous. You can almost imagine the Shuttles gathering around the high-topped tables in a dark, smokey bar, their fedoras tilted ever so slightly to cover their aging foreheads. And like sad Willy Lomans they rise, take up their coat and case, and shuffle off down the street.

Ian is there, alone in a corner unobserved, the only man who sees and is proud of them for what they wanted to be--not what they have been reduced to.

Across the internet at The Wall Street Journal Yannick LeJacq places Borderlands 2 into proper historical context. The game transcends the irony of the genre, and it should be recognized for doing so. His piece is deep and thoughtful, if not concise then as thorough an analysis as you'll find on a game of any type. I would have never guessed that Kill Screen would do some of their best work at WSJ, but there you have it.

Both pieces today are real treats for me, learning experiences in research and composition, tone and grace. Something to aspire to. Bravo gents.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Playlist: Sept 24 through Oct 1

Lots on my plate at the moment, but nothing particularly pressing. While I wait for Swampy's next turn in our CM:BN campaign (SPOILERS: He just got a tank platoon reinforcement!), I'm working on a few things for publication.

I've received a copy of Mayfair's latest reprint of A House Divided. I'm excited to crack it open and see how it plays. It's much more traditional than I'm used to. I'll be writing that up at soon.

Also in the mail is Zombicide. I've heard good things, but I'm still put off by the $90 price tag. Also hoping to get another zombie themed board game in for review, but I'm keeping the identity of that title under my hat for now. Both games are for a review I'm putting together in honor of the next season of The Walking Dead TV show.

On my computer I'm still working my way through Black Mesa. If you've not downloaded this game yet you're doing yourself a disservice. It's a thoughtful re-imagining of HL1 and it's incredibly well done. Look for my thoughts, hopefully, on GWJ soon.

It's been a while since I finished a book, so I picked up Fiasco at the Naperville Public Library for $1. It should prove to be a nice companion to my passion project, learning to play GMT's Labyrinth well enough to teach it. I'm 50 pages into the book and I already want to punch Paul Wolfowitz in the throat.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Eroudevile Turn 22

For over a year now I've been playing a campaign of Combat Mission: Battle For Normandy with SwampYankee from the GWJ forums. That's not a typo. It's a slow game when you play by email. I'll fill you in on what's happened so far in a later post. For now, let's get you up to speed on our latest battle for Eroudeville.

In short, the Americans are trying to punch through my lines. From the northwest to the southeast their column of mechanized infantry is trying to dig deep into German lines. My job for the last two battles has been to stop them, and this engagement is no different. Except it's a huge battle, easily twice as long as any we've fought so far. We join the action with my scout teams along the eastern flank running a delaying action with MG support.