Xmas Vacation (sort of) begins today!

xmas2014

Xmas 2014

I have to work this coming Monday, but it’s just a sprint review and planning and then it’s Xmas vacation!  I had a bunch of time to burn this year, so I will carry over about 4 days of vacation,  but things got so busy the last few weeks I couldn’t fit any vacation in.

That said, the plan for this vacation is to play some games of BOLT ACTION for sure, an obligatory game of Talisman (my woodlands expansion is still in the shrink!!!!!!) and to get a 6-8 hour session of RUNEQUEST wherein I am converting a Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure.   We’ll see how that goes. I must say my handle on the Runequest rules are spotty at best, but Basic Roleplaying is not terribly difficult generally– but some of the specifics will be tough to remember.

Other shit I wouldn’t mind trying is some more 13th Age, POSSIBLY Numenera to try it out and likely lots and lots of the new Ascension expansion which will  hold us over until SCROLLS is released on iOS.

Mojang’s Scrolls is pretty cool

 

Scrollslogo

Mojang was sold to Microsoft for a lot of money recently and while that should be actually GOOD for Minecraft, what about this other game SCROLLS?  The one that caused such a dust up with Bethesda Software a year or so back (with the awesome challenge to settle LEGAL differences with Quake 3 Arena!!!). The game has been in beta for awhile (open like your sister’s legs) and last week it actually came out for everyone at FIVE BUCKS.

So this is a goddamn online CCG. You get a basic deck of cards and can ‘buy’ more with in-game gold that you earn by playing. It’s a typical model that everyone is using these days with all these fucking iOS FREE games and Blizzard’s Hearthstone. While the economic model for getting cards is sort of lame, really this isn’t different from any type of regular CCG like Netrunner, EXCEPT for the fact that you can get more cards by just playing the game. This means if you spend FIVE BUCKS and play, potentially you can get a ton of cards without spending any more. This is my plan.

The key thing here is if the game sucks balls and is just a semi-magic clone with +1 /-1 effects that are super boring. Since Magic itself has this same model of buying in game cards, if you really are going to play one of these games, you better play the best one. Since there isn’t one of these games out for NETRUNNER, I would say SCROLLS is probably one of the better games. I have not wasted money or time on Blizzard’s IP cash-in trash Hearthstone game but per Lord Lobo after 10 minutes in SCROLLS he mentioned it was “Way better” than Blizzard’s feeble offering.

scrolls1

Anyway, after about 7 games, this is what I think in BULLET LIST form.

  • I like the MAP a lot. It’s got this Heroes of Might and Magic vibe plus DREAMBLADE (which I’m waiting for my kids to get old enough to play). It puts context around playing cards instead of just this amorphous mass of cards on the table. Protecting a location is also very SHADOWFISTY, and that’s good.
  • The interface is quality. Mojang ain’t fucking around here. There were a couple things a bit wonky (like starting in windowed mode) but during the game it’s very nice.
  • Cards do interesting stuff. I really think the drive for GAME BALANCE has fucked up modern CCG’s a bit so the mechanics boil down to +1/-1 like Hearthstone. It’s sort of like how Diablo 3 didn’t take ANY chances with any powers PROC’ing because that would rely on some luck and not raw DPS. This made diablo 3 a really shitty and boring game (except for the sound effects).
  • The factions are generic, but the little miniatures on the board look cool. Each faction is named for a single word– GROWTH, etc. and the cards in each have pretty generic feel to them. When you’re used to JOHN FUCKING BLANCHE and ERIC SABEE art all over the place, it’s hard to get a woody about a faction that has some wolves and stuff in it. The ‘miniatures’ though are sweet.
  • I’m interested in the tactical depth possibilities. The main thing about a 2 player CCG is if it’s fun to play even if you are getting fucking schooled repeatedly (since this is how you learn). Netrunner is WONDERFUL in this way because it’s always a bit of a nailbiter at the end. Shadowfist is just nearly always fun to play regardless of who wins.

So that’s enough points for now. if you want to dip your toes in, there is a demo of the game, but at 5$– what the fuck. For the next two weeks or so (some of you know how my attention span is for games) I’ll be playing quite a bit. My username is: ajdghlkajhclkA. Not joking.  I had to try 3 times to find a name that wasn’t taken (littlemute? seriously??) and it became a random string of letters.

Numenera: this is pretty cool

numenra8I don’t play Numenera but I have read the Player’s Guide and have the (giant) rules PDF picked up on the cheap. The book is beautiful, but I’m not sure about the game– basically there’s probably only one or two people I know that would ever even consider the setting interesting. I talk to a guy on my bus that ran it for about a year and thought the system was OK but then he switched to Dungeon World which is just a flavor-of-the-day spoof.

Anyway, Numenera sets up character generation as a phrase, such as “I am an Adjective NOUN who VERBS” and this site delivers these randomly which, frankly, for a new player is probably the way to go.

My deal with RPG’s is that I always want to try new shit, which is both awesome in that I get exposed to all the new RPG tech out their (which there has been some great stuff recently — looking at you Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, Tenra Bansho and Lamentations of the Flame Princess), but the bad side is that SYSTEMS don’t hold my interest very long. Exalted  2nd edition probably had the longest run as an interesting system, but what a beautiful and terrible mess that is.

That said, In seconds I generated the following character.  Give it a whirl!

I am a Cruel Nano who Reforges Completely

Pools
Might (Edge: 0)
7 + –
Speed (Edge: 0)
18 + –
Intellect (Edge: 1)
14 + –

Skills
Trained in all tasks relating to deception, intimidation and persuasion when interacting with characters experiencing pain.
Inability at all tasks involving discerning motives, feelings or disposition.
Training in understanding and identifying numenera

Abilities
Cruelty: When inflicting damage, can inflict 2 points less to decrease difficulty to attack target next round
Practiced With Light Weapons
Two Esoteries from the following: Hedge Magic, Onslaught, Push, Scan, Ward, Aggression, Distortion, Erase Memories, Far Step, Machine Interface, Mental Link, Resonance Field, Sculpt Flesh
Rapid Reforging

Equipment
Valuable memento from last victim worth 10 shins
Clothing
One weapons
A book about the Numenera
Three cyphers (chosen for you by the GM)
One oddity (chosen for you by the GM)

Notes
Pick a non-varjellan PC. You never understand that character’s moods or emotions
Shins
You have 4 shins to spend.
Cyphers
You can bear up to 3 cyphers.
References
Cruel
Numenera Character Options, pg. 20
Nano
Numenera Rulebook pg. 32, Players Guide pg. 21, Numenera Character Options pg. 10
Reforges Completely
Numenera Character Options pg. 73

numenera-booty

And an excuse to post a sci fi booty picture (art by Phillip Kruse (http://philippkruse.artstation.com/)

 

Anally Proficient Virgins and the books I read in 2014.

I read a bunch of history stuff this year along with my usual sword and sorcery and noir pap and these are some random thoughts on each if you have an interest. All three of these are extremely accessible for the non-historian, and with the exception of the last one, are quite short to boot.

persian

Before reading this book on the Persian Empire (and Meades and Assyrians by extension) I had no idea what cruising meant in Sparta, I knew it as something people did with muscle cars down on the south side.  Yet, it has a different meaning when applied to Spartans.  We have this vision of the austere, martially focused and hard-hearted Spartans going to war together and fighting against the decadent Athenians and Persians. Well they were all those things as you had to kill a HELOT during your early teen years as a right of passage (yes, in the movie I know it was a tiger or wolf or something, but in real life it was a person and it wasn’t a straight up fight/kill, it was supposed to be a sneak-kill to boot), and they lived in barrack most of their lives.  Despite being all bad ass in the movies (which to some extent they were in real life) the actual citizen Spartans also had people to do all their work (Helots: who were basically slaves) and  were always worried about the helots revolting, which they eventually did. None of these things may surprise you, but Sparta’s habit of cruising might. Basically, once you got to be about 12 you could be legally raped at any time by any older members of the city (not Helots!). Girls AND boys would both be raped, and for the boys usually they would get other types of favors from their male rapists after the deed or deeds. The girls, of course, were not allowed to get pregnant while being cruised, so it was up the bum and no babies for them too.  The title of this post comes from a line in this book describing Spartan wives as anally proficient virgins out of the gate. Quite disturbing and really one of the punchlines of Tom Holland’s excellent PERSIAN FIRE. For me, this book filled a gap of pre-Persian empire history between the Assyrians and the Persians attacking Greece across the Hellespont and Marathon and all that.  As one of the best currently working narrative hostorians, and like Holland’s RUBICON, it’s highly recommended.

gaul

Secondly, I re-read Caesar’s Conquest of Gaul. This was an amazing read as it’s written by the man himself (in third person no less) about him dismantling in detail the petty empires of southern and northern France (with the Germans getting in the mix a bit too). There are a few pretty disturbing parts due to things NOT said rather than what Caesar is writing. For example, one Gaulish town that had a big wall around it had a Gaul army swing by for a visit despite the townspeople’s wishes since they were being pursued by Caeser.  Soon after, the town became surrounded by the Romans who they themselves built a second wall around the town and then an OUTER wall to protect their inner wall from counter attack. The Army of Gauls that were in the town ejected the town’s original inhabitants (you know, the old, and women and children) but they had no where to go as Caesar would not let them through his walls– so they stayed outside the town between the walls until they fucking died of exposure and hunger. So, I think it was Dan Carlin who said something like– ‘go ask the thousands of people that Caesar killed if he was a ‘great’ man or not.’ To the Gauls, he was a right bastard for sure. Like Machiavelli’s The Prince, Conquest of Gaul is a pretty good handbook on how to fuck people over and how to not get fucked yourself in real life, as well as a poignant view into one of histories greatest figures.

mirror

Lastly in the history area is a friggin’ monster of a tome I picked up on a whim and found was as amazing as it was horrifying. A DISTANT MIRROR by Barbra Tuchman details 1300 – 1400AD in Europe (mostly France and England) during what I think could be the worst time in history for human beings on the planet Earth. This hundred years, in France especially, make the Dark Ages look like a fucking Mayday Carnival in comparison. The Black Plague depopulation, a completely corrupt and luxury focused Catholic Church that goes into a non-protestant Schism (it wasn’t about doctrine, there were just two popes at once and neither would abdicate) whose response to the black plague was to increase the price of pardons and the like to those who were left and who would persecute ascetic monasteries who weren’t as greedy since it made the actions of the mother church look bad, and let us not forget the Free Companies that ravaged France and northern Italy for the early part of the century. Lay on top of that completely destructive private wars between noble families (like some sort of West Virginian blood feud except these people had lots of money and castles and towns and cannons) and you have a simply horrifying hundred years. The book loosely follows the life of Engerrand De Coucy, an actually pretty swell noble who owned a massive (now destroyed) castle in Picardy during the century. I recommend this book heartily but it is extremely LOOOONG and took me a month or so to push through. It’s also quite amazing to me that a book of this sort was written by a woman.  If you are looking for  some of the historical influence to A Game of Thrones or Liebowitz and the Wild Horse Woman (who’s central plot is the schism in the church), this is a singular read.

Mordheim City of the Damned

Looks quite interesting, proceedurally generated maps, custom warbands and a spell system that has a chance of failing to cast. What I really liked is that it mimics the miniature game in that you don’t know if your guys are wounded, dead or OK until after the battle when they get taken out. It’s in pre-order at the moment for eventual early access on steam.

Oh, and this is by the blood bowl guys.