Thursday, 3 September 2015

Organisation...

The promise of being able to capture the thousand fractures of light and colour that make up the kaleidoscope of ideas that traverse my mind is appealing. The alternative: saying dishonestly to myself, "I'll remember that tomorrow morning," always results in the same sad and frustrated fate come that morning, when the only thought rebounding in my head is, "There used to be a better one here not so long ago."

I have a bunch of note books that are badly organised and generally filled with a mix of various projects, drawings, notes and things the children did (which can hold multiple meanings). All of which, of course, makes them less than useful. I've always found the idea of being well organised in the note book sense rather engaging, being able to jot down ideas for blog posts, podcast topics, game ideas, setting concepts and flashes of story seems the sort of thing I should be doing, after all, I keep telling myself I should, but it's something I've never really mastered.

I have tried a great many organisational apps over the years, from Awesome Note, to Evernote, to Something Note to The Other One Note to Umm Note. Every time they take me on a sort of short lived mildly euphoric roller-coaster (well, more like an energetic miniature-train ride). That sense that 'this is one'! THIS is the methodology that will help me herd and pen all those cats I call ideas. I haven't found one yet that managed to live beyond that initial mentally salubrious beginning. I write all this nonsense because I spent that last twenty minutes reinstalling Evernote on everything I own that can be plugged in and has a screen. I am hoping that my foray once again into the realm of attempting to organize the mess I usually call my mind will be more successful than the last. We shall see.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Reanimation...

There are few tales of joy to be found through plots that skirt the reanimation of something long departed. It has been nearly two years since my last post here at Castle by Moonlight, and while the moon is imperceptibly different, the castle, and it's shuffling inhabitant is not.

Since leaving the virtual ink to dry and crack in the bleak lands of abandonment I have been busy over at the Element 270 podcast and blog and more recently writing for Spartan Games. But despite these happy opportunities I have long harbored the desire to brush the cobwebs from the castle embrasures, relight the odd candle and unpack the virtual inkpot...

When I started Castle by Moonlight it was to be a largely board game focused blog with occasional miscellany thrown in for good measure. However, in the intervening years the author has changed, and likely too the content of his outpourings...

I still have an abiding love for board games (though I could no longer name an Essen release or tell you what was hot on BGG right now), but I have also rediscovered my passion for other forms of gaming I had long given up; both miniature games and roleplaying. I also want to write about more miscellany, whether Tesla cars, NASA missions, historical infatuations, good books, good authors, good podcasts or good people. The question is: is Castle by Moonlight the place for that? Or should another place be founded to write about these things?

For any old readers who may have this pop up in an RSS feed long gathering dust, would it matter so much if the Castle was animated again but wearing a face both familiar and different? I don't really expect a reply, but am canvassing my own thoughts against future action... I think  it will be here, but perhaps in another place...

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Element 270...

Some exciting news...

Several gamers here in Australia and myself have been planning a new podcast dedicated to Dystopian Wars, a fantastic miniatures game by Spartan Games.

  

While the idea started as just a podcast, we are excited to announce a multi-author blog, in addition to a podcast.  We're in the early stages at the moment, and it will be a few weeks before the podcast is launched, we have started work on what we hope will become an interesting blog site, and will eventually also be the home of our podcast - Element 270.

Each episode we will run through a couple of segments ranging through such topics as:

  • Upcoming releases
  • Nation backgrounds/setting
  • Rumours
  • Focus on a model/size class/area of the game/tactic/use of squadron etc
  • Listener feedback and questions
  • Scenario ideas, recommendations, suggestions
  • Modelling segment - paints, painting, making terrain etc.
  • Battle reports
  • Web resource reviews/highlights
  • Special guests

We're hoping that, over time, other fans of the game will jump in and consider becoming authors on Element 270, or submitting audio if they are so inclined.


If you're a Dystopian Wars fan, or a fan of Armoured Clash or Dystopian Legions, and are interested in contributing, head to the About page on Element 270, and drop us a line!

Cheers, 
Giles.



Oh - and for those of you kind enough to ask about the other podcast I run with Donald Dennis: Games in Schools and Libraries - we ran into some troubles aligning our schedules with changes in times dues to day light savings and so on.  Happily, we have found a time we can both manage and still stay sane, we have a few episode recorded already, which will start going up again soon, and more importantly, we have a schedule... Happy times!



Saturday, 2 November 2013

All in...

For months the Russians had been planning their assault.  It was a small series of islands in the middle of nowhere, innocuous enough, but intelligence from defectors had brought this tiny series of islands to the full attention of the Russian admiralty.  Plans were hatched, spies sewn, forward observers posted... there was much nervous waiting as a fleet was massed in secret and sent half way around the world to deal a blow the Russians hoped would rouse the puppeteers from their games and pull them into the open where the Russians could crush them.

How and when a Russian spy was uncovered is unclear, but when the hammer of the Russian navy fell, it would find an enemy fully awakened to their preparations...

There would be no finesse, carefully laid plans, months in the crafting, would be worth less than the paper they were mapped on... what had been touted as an ambush assault became a titanic bloodbath, and clever tactics were eschewed for a simpler and neater plan: kill, or be killed...

The Russian Armada deploys quickly out of convoy to face an apparently awake opponent... what had hoped  to have been a surprise assault vanishes, it is clear that both sides have a fight on their hands.

Across the narrow stretch of ocean the Russian opponent waits... A full naval armada, much more than the small defence force the Russians had hoped to find...

So much careful planning wasted... initial moves would be as much to avoid a traffic jam as to engage the enemy, clearly neither navy had expected to engage the other here...

In the opening moves the first casualties were some fast moving Covenant Thales... they managed to inflict some small damage, but were destroyed for their troubles.

The strange sound of the Sturginium engines running hot... some bombers and fighters move against the Russian flank.

One of the  unlucky Russian bombers suffers a magazine explosion, neatly taking out some nearby frigates.

Fighter squadrons on boths sides hope to leverage enough air superiority to allow the dive through to their targets with minimal damage...

The Covenant are happy to sit back while the slow Russian ships advance... with enough concentrated fire some the ablative armour of their fearsome enemy could be removed and allow the Covenant to close...

Heavy use of mines on the Covenant's right wing... it was hoped these might slow the Russian advance on this side down and keep the hulking Borodino there out of the battle, at least for the short term...

The Covenant throw their smalls and mediums into the fray, hoping to peel away the ablative armour from enough Russian ships to make closing with the large ships less like suicide...

The heat is on... the monstrous Russian middle move up with the Rudnitskys doing as much as they can to reduce the effects of the sustained Covenant barrage... the Euclid throws itself into the fray, hovering down at sea level and unleashing the might of its deadly particle accelerator...

Only a short way into the engagement and it's a bloodbath, fire, steel and energy whip the ocean into a froth of destruction and a tempest of death...


Despite the best efforts of the Rudnitskys, the Russians suffer serious damage at the hands of the monstrous Euclid...


A small Russian frigate tangles with an Iceburg... without its sacrifice... next turn the Russian Moskva may have come afoul its own defences...

The Aronax appears in a storm of lightning as the Time Dilation Orb generators unzip space and time and teleport it into the fray...

Nearby the unlucky Russians suffer another magazine explosion as a Pesets submarine goes up after heavy fire...


Heavy damage has been sustained by both sides, while the Covenant seems to have the upper hand for now... had both sides stayed to the bitter end it would have gone much worse for them... the Russian heavy guns were just warming up and there was plenty to target...


_______________

This was roughly a 3000 point battle between the Covenant and the Russians.  With something like 23-25 activations every turn, we only managed three turns in something like 5 hours (over an evening and the following morning) before we had to call it quits.  At that stage the Covenant were slightly ahead on the points front... but I couldn't have sustained it I don't think... my brothers Russians were only just warming to the task as we wound it to a close.

While it might not seem like we got in many turns, there was a massive amount going on.  Each flank was almost its own battle, and there were many little turning points, important engagements and desperate manoeuvres all across the board.

It was a great game - though the board was clearly to small for so many miniatures, it was also a heck lot of fun.  This was the battle we had to fight - throwing everything we had for our two main nations onto the table and seeing how the foam settled... it had to be done, and was a hugely enjoyable game!  I'm not sure whether I'll get to play as big a game as that again anytime soon, but at least we had a shot!

Cheers,
Giles.





Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A Magnificent Day...

About an hour after waking Fleet Commodore James Harrison (Harry to his men, Jimmy to his old school mates at the race track) was feeling magnificent.  There really was no other word for it, he had gone to bed dreading the worst of what a night of whiskey and cards might bring come morning, but come morning he felt glorious.  The night before the cards had fallen his way and he now had a pocket full of bank notes.  To add to the jubilation he had received a telegram, freshly wired, informing him the horse he’d backed in Melbourne had come through by a full length the day before.  Today was a magnificent day, there was no doubting it.


Happier and more sprightly than a man who had helped knock off a bottle of Grouse should have any right be, Harry took his time over breakfast, and took it in good stride even when a second wire arrived informing him the joint fleet of Covenant and Free Australian ships he was leading had finally caught wind of the Russians they had been chasing.  Weeks at sea chasing rumour and wreckage had yielded nought, but Harry had had a feeling and taken a gamble; trying to step ahead of his enemy rather than following their wake.  The gamble had paid out, and now the rumours and mist they’d been chasing had turned into ships and men they had found. today was a magnificent day...

Harry, lucky to head the Russians off in all the open sea, lines his ships up.  A mixed force representing a joint operation between the Free Australians and the Covenant of Antarctica.

The Russians, keeping their knock-out punch solidly in the middle...


Taking water and whatever fresh supplies they could from a small island chain in the vastness of the Indian ocean the Russians had a right to feel unlucky to have been caught by the fleet so far following only the rumour of their wake.


A mix of the frigates and Victoria Class gunships concentrate their fire on the opposing fleet commodore and the squadron of cruisers making up the right of the Russian strong centre.  Some lucky strikes manage to shatter the ablative armour of their opponents.


With the plan hinging on a boarding action against the Russian commodore, a submerged Aronax heads directly.  It's advance is preempted by heavy fire from the Bounty, the Victoria gunships and the Protector Frigates - all of whom, with some luck and daring, manage to inflict some early damage.


The Protectors roll in, and with some incredible luck both their gunnery and broadsides manage to break the ablative armour of the Cruisers ahead of them, and shred half a squadron of heavy frigates to their left.


While the barrage of fire from the frigates, the gunships and Harry's own Bounty manage to wreak merry hell on the Russian fleet a squadron of dive bombers swoop in and light the afternoon with some spectacular fireworks.


Surfacing in order to shred the escorts and pile more damage on the Russian flag ship the Aronax proves it's fearsome mettle...


Under the burning sun and after a lucky guess, the pride of the Russians was withering under a storm of hellfire... Harry couldn't stop from smiling, today was a magnificent day.



_______________________________

And we called it not long afterwards, James and Ewen (joint Covenant/Australian and the Russian commanders respectively) had to leave, and the battle was heavily skewed in favour of the Covenant and Australian forces.  The range of heavy damage from the Bounty and the Victoria class gunships had managed to crack the usually frightening armour of the Russian ships early, and some insanely lucky rolling meant that anytime the dice were thrown, the Russians would suffer.

This game really moved at a fast clip, and 1000 points made for a nice and interesting fleet, some heavy hitters, some mediums, and some smalls.  A great game and a lot of fun (well, I was joint commander of the Aussie/Covenant Fleet - so things went my way).

Can't wait to play again!

Cheers,
Giles.





Tuesday, 22 October 2013

If Not for Patagonia...

Koleny, Admiral of the Covenant of Antractican Expeditionary force, unsealed the brown envelope he had removed from the drawer in his desk.  He read slowly and deliberately, paused, knocked back a dram of Cognac, and re-read.

The world at large was a spinning mass of cogs and wheels, with the dizzying array of changing, merging and shifting alliances, partnerships, deals and betrayals all too turbulent and messy for Koleny.  He no longer bothered to try and keep ahead of who was in bed with who, it all seemed a macabre and crazy dance, best to just put your head down and soldier on.

In a twisted way he admired the powers that were easiest to peg-hole - the East India Company for example were and probably always would be unscrupulous bastards.  The Australians owed their loyalty at the lowest level to the British (at least the Royal Australians did), then next the highest bidder (being formidable mercenaries), and finally, most importantly, to each other, despite their internal division.  It was easy to keep track of that way, kind of neat and tidy in an otherwise messy world.

Koleny sighed, glancing back at his orders again, he liked Australia; as part of an ongoing agreement between Free Australia and the Covenant Koleny had spent years in Sydney training future commanders of the Free Australian Navy and he had come to think of the Country as something of a second home.  Still, Royal Australia wasn't really Free Australia, orders were orders, and the machinery of international diplomacy was a shambles he wasn't planning on expending too much thought on.  He would have to be careful of course, his was a small force and the Australian's were famous for having both big guns and a positive love for boarding actions.

He glanced around his gas-lit cabin as he poured himself another dram, well, if it was a brawl they wanted, it would be a brawl they'd get.  The Covenant weren't known for their ability to board or even resist boarding, but this technological terror was another story, time to put this Aronax class submersible to the test.
______


Off the coast of South America a small Covenant force seeks out and finds a mercenary fleet of Royal Australians operating in the area.



Neither the Aronax nor the Time Dilation Orb have been tried by Koleny in the heat of battle.  



First casualty of the engagement, the big guns of both a Victoria class gunship and the Cerebus flagship lay waste to some Covenant Frigates.




The incomprehensible generators of the Time Dilation Orb teleport the Aronax into the thick of battle.  The biggest Australian ships have already activated, and the Aronax powers up its cloud generator and weapon systems.


After a blast from the maw gun and Particle Accelerator both the Cerebus and Victoria to the rear take damage.


First the injured Cerebus, followed by the Victoria, swing about and broadside the Aronax, which takes enough damage to render it's weapon systems useless.


With little hope of getting the weapon systems back online after a lucky hit, Koleny orders the stokers on the Aronax to have at it, and the submersible steams in a wide circle back around the ram the Victoria in the hope of crippling her.


A boarding assault!  Men from the Aronax attempt to prize the Victoria, in the end both ships lose their compliment of Marines, the Aronax is left effectively indefensible, but the Victoria lies drifting and derelict.

Later that turn the weak Aronax, with an injured and brave Koleny, cleaning the taste of blood from his mouth with a flask of Cognac, falls to a boarding assault initiated by a Protector class Frigate.  He had given his all, and in the end, the biggest of the Covenant ships fell to the smallest Australian one.


Soldiering on despite the loss of their admiral, the squadron of Platos swings about and circles the badly injured Cerebus like wolves about a dying calf.


After several devastating broadsides the Cerebus slowly breaks apart and sinks.


The turrets of the Platos, with nothing large left to target, seek a quick end by firing on the wounded Frigate.  A massive 16 hits leaves little in the way of debris to wash up on the shores of the nearby islands.

It had been a struggle, but in the end the Covenant had handily won, despite the loss of their Admiral and his remarkable squid submarine.

_________________

Note:

We noticed after the battle, that we had accidentally left off the table one of the Victoria class Gun Ships that Aussies would have had - how I can't say, but it was entirely my fault.  At the end of the game, while the Covenant had thoroughly won, there had been a tipping point in the mid game, where the Aronax had it's moment of glory, and it was in this tipping point that the game could have swung.

We'll say that the other Victoria was hauled to in a natural port along the coast of Patagonia, trying to make contact with their SUSA employees, but we'll never know how it could have been...


Since playing I've also managed to finish a few more models...









Now to start work on my Aussies...

Cheers,
Giles.




Thursday, 26 September 2013

An Epic Game...

For a little while I’ve been thinking about writing a series of reviews, each based on a single word, like epic, majestic, lucky... some form of adjective, like a word association review - which game matches that word to my mind and why.

To kick what will probably be a sporadic enterprise off, and in keeping with episode 323 of The Dice Tower, a podcast about board and card games that I am a sometimes contributor to, this review will be based on the word ‘epic’...
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An epic game...

I could write about burgeoning space empires exploring and exploiting their way to domination, or fantasy slug fests where armies of untold steely eyed warriors do battle for dominion.  But instead I want to focus on the historical, the type of game that charts the growth, development and ascendancy of empires and civilisation.  No theme could so fully engulf the term epic as this.

There are many of course, some great and long lasting like the empires they simulate, there are others that are less so, they burst forth in a maelstrom of forum post laden excitement and fade into the footnotes of game history.

The game I want to talk about seeks to compass a scope and span of human history that no other game I know of dares to assault.  It is Origins: How we Became Human, by the inestimable Phil Eklund.  Now, I need to begin by stating the typical Eklund Caveat - this game is obtuse, unbalanced and complicated, and is certainly not for everyone, not even for most perhaps.



However, for those fascinated by the theme, Origins: How We Became Human is a civilisation game like no other.

Is it epic? Well four letters do little to expound on it.  It is a game of evolution, beginning some 120,000 years ago it tells multiple tales as players guide their civilisations through this enormous gulf of time.  In the first age players represent a variety of hominds, from Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon man, to Homo Floresiensis and Homo Sapien.  The goal is the achievement of consciousness, and players develop social and technological practices that will help them spread, develop and unlock aspects of their developing selves, literally unlocking parts of their brains, and access to behaviors that may have been beyond them at an earlier stage.



In the second age the variety of hominds have disappeared and players represent cultural groups struggling to reach modern consciousness through the invention of metaphoric language - a Jaynesian and controversial perspective.

In the third age players struggle with ideologies, and seek to build and develop the most advanced and complete civilisation before the game winds to a close.



It is a game that seeks to explore not only the rise of civilisation, but the rise of us ourselves, it compasses not only the development of technologies, but explores the impact those technologies had on our potentials, it’s a controversial perspective on the evolution of modern human consciousness, and in every game, every player walks away with a story to tell.  


This is not simple civilisation building, where the drive and output of generations of a people is anatomised and boiled away to a short race to build the biggest building.    Origins How we Became Human, by Phil Eklund, is not an epic civilisation building game, it is a game the charts history as we know it.  This is a game that seeks to explore, through play, the journey of our species from our humble beginnings to the scintillating glories of our modern achievements, in short, this game tells the story of us.


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If you have any suggestions, words or phrases that would be fun to base reviews around for this series - feel free to add a comment and suggestion!

Cheers,
Giles.