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Jeff's Gameblog
Friday, 2 April 2004
I am an idiot.
No shocker in the title, I suppose. But it took me until this afternoon to put two and two together. I've been looking for rules to replace DinoWars for army man vs. dinosaur action. It occurred to me today that Savage Worlds/Showdown would probably do the trick quite nicely, especially if I used 1.5" clicky-sized buildings for my cityscape.

Posted by jrients at 5:22 PM CST
Thursday, 1 April 2004

Today I ended up going to the local used bookstore in search of a copy of Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code (long story) but instead found cheap copies (a fiver apiece) of three Palladium supplements: Transdimensional TMNT, Mutants Down Under, and After the Bomb. All these are TMNT supplements, but useable as source material for Heroes Unlimited. The post-apocalyptic stuff ought to be stealable for a Gamma World game to boot. Additionally, Transdimensional includes rules for time machines and Mutants Down Under contains rules for airships. Put 'em together and you can build your own Time Zeppelin!

My chess variant games over at ItsYourTurn are at standstill; I had forgotten about the 25 moves per day limit for non-paying members. My own grim predictions have turned out to be true: I'm doing pretty good in a couple of games of Anti-Chess a.k.a Loser's Chess. I'm totally blowing chunks at a game of Horde Chess, a variant in which black is equipped only with a horde of pawns.

I broke out the old xiangqi books tonight. I had forgotten the non-western annotation method that had stumped my prior plans to study the game in depth. Maybe I can translate a game or two to western notation. Pritchard's Popular Chess Variants has at least one xiangqi game in western notation. I'll have to take a look at that.

Posted by jrients at 9:06 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, 1 April 2004 9:22 PM CST

Caught most of an episode of World Poker Tour last night. The final match between the pro and the amateur was really interesting. The icy Finnish amateur was totally 0wnz0ring the pro, who was getting visibly flustered.

I like the fact that at least one aspect of the tabletop gaming hobby has moved into the mainstream limelight. Seeing World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker and Celebrity Poker Showdown have led me to some interest in playing Texas Hold 'Em. I believe I've played a couple of times in the past at family gatherings. Penny-ante dealer's-choice poker used to be a regular feature at get-togethers with my mom's side of the family. Great Uncle Lou, who gambled as his hobby, used to call Texas Hold 'Em once in a while. As kids the lack of wildcards and small hands didn't thrill the members of my generation of the family. As an adult I can really see the beauty of the game. Unlike 5-card draw or 7-card stud you get what you get and have to play as best as you can. I'm think maybe I'll try to find out if there are any tournaments at the local riverboat casinos.

On the chess front, I had the momentary elation of a xianqgi opponent resigning over at ItsYourTurn. I say momentary because I looked at the game in question and can't see why my foe quit the field. I may send him a message asking about it. I started a game of anti-chess yesterday and have already made newbie mistake #1: exposing a bishop on your first move.

Posted by jrients at 9:43 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, 1 April 2004 9:46 AM CST
Wednesday, 31 March 2004
My first game of SpaceWarp44
For this game I retained the usage of naming the relevant pieces Bishops and Rooks, even though calling them Popes and Crooks would be more accurate.
Apologies for the slightly irregular notation and the crappy formatting.

white black notes
1.d2-c3 Ra9-b7 Black's Rook uses knight-move
2.a2-b3 d8-c7
3.d2-e3 Bd9-d8
4.Ra1-a5 e8-d7
5.c1-d3 Rb7-b6?
6.c3-b6xR! c7-b6xp White takes black Rook using warpsquare movement. Black's pawn uses warpsquare to emulate orthodox pawn capture.
7.Ra5-a6 b8-a7
8.b3-c4? d7-e6? White puts its Rook in jeopardy, but Black misses the opportunity.
9.Ra6-a4 Bd8-c7 White moves Rook out of harm's way.
10.Bd1-d2 e6-b5
11.Bd1-e4 castles, Re9-d9,Kc9-e9
12.Re1-d3 b6-a5 White uses knight-move.
13.Bd2-a5xp Bc7-a5xB
14.Ra4-a5xB Rd9-d7
15.Ra5-b6? Rd7-b6xR White allows black to capture a Rook on a knight-move.
16.Be4-d5xp c8-d7
17.e3-d4 Bb9-c8
18.Rd3-e3+ Ke9-d8
19.Re3-e6 d7-c6
20.Bd5-c6xp Rb6-c3+ Black moves Rook via warpsquare.
21.Kc1-b2 Rc3-d4xp " " " "
22.c4-b5 Rd4-a5 " " " "
23.Bc6-b6+! Kd8-d7
24.Bb6-a5xR Kd7-e6xR
25.Kb2-c3 Bc8-c7
26.e2-d3 a8-d7
27.b3-a4 a7-b6+ Check given via warpsquare
28.b5-b6xp b7-b6xp+ " " "
29.Ba5-b6xp Bc7-b6xB
30.Kc3-b6xp Resigns

All in all this game was a real comedy of errors. There was some real interesting action at the end though. I had a Mexican standoff in which each side had a king and a bishop on an outer warpsquare.

Posted by jrients at 8:22 PM CST
Chess: A Loser's Perspective
Since gaming is my hobby of choice I try to take losing in stride. My D&D character gets eaten by a dragon? No biggie. I score fewer points in a German game than everyone else? There's always next time. My forces are crushed in a wargame? Every general has his off days. Chess is where the losses come fast and furious for me. I've never studied chess the way serious players do. High-level Advanced Squad Leader and Star Fleet Battles players have nothing on hardcore chess geeks. Although I've never had much interest in bearing down and becoming a good chess player, I sometimes get this urge with xiangqi (Chinese chess). The open structure of the xiangqi set-up and the nifty cannon pieces really make for a fast and furious chess game. It doesn't take too long into a game of xiangqi before I can be in your bases, killing your d00ds. Of course, I'm usually not the one doing the killing, because I suck at chess. Right now I'm playing about 10 games of xiangqi over at ItsYourTurn.com. My level of success ranges the entire continuum from barely holding my own to totally blowing goats. That's usually where I'm at when I play chess, in sucksville. People I have taught xiangqi to have beaten me on their first game. Heck, my recent solitaire playtest of my new variant SpaceWarp44 was so error-ridden that at the end of the game I felt like I had managed to lose to myself.

Unlike many other types of game, losing at chess sometimes really brings me down. There's a purity of essence to chess. The window dressing is sparse. The set-up is absolutely symmetrical. You can't blame a chess loss on a bad die roll or a poorly written scenario. There's no way to rationalize yourself out of the plain and simple fact that the other guy whupped you. And I can't always find that zone that allows you to enjoy the game and the beauty of your position crumbling around you. In a good wargame a route is a thing to behold. In chess a loss is often just a loss. Still, I go through spates of loving chess and chess variants. My last such episode lasted much of 2001 and into spring 2002. I'm apparently entering another one now. Before I lose steam again I'm hoping to make a few contributions to chessvariants.com, learn to program zrf files for the great computer game Zillions of Games and maybe win a couple games. I'm also tempted to take up anti-chess or some other loser's chess variant. In anti-chess you win by running out of pieces, kinda like lowball poker.

Posted by jrients at 5:21 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, 1 April 2004 5:03 PM CST
Tuesday, 30 March 2004
Am I starting to get the hang of this?
It took maybe twenty years, but I finally feel like I know what I'm doing when it comes to my gaming hobby. Or sure, I have my doubts, my screw-ups, and all that jazz. But I think I'm starting to get my act together. I have a pretty clear idea of what I like and don't like, but I remain open to experimentation. I don't feel the need to hang all my expectations for gaming on one system or one gaming group. I don't feel like I have anything to prove to my gaming peers. The only person I'm trying to prove anything to is myself. And I'm sticking to individual projects with better and better tenacity, though a quick read of this blog will show that I continue to have too many irons in the fire.

Posted by jrients at 8:51 PM CST
All Genres Must Be Eaten
Eden Studios is one of the rising stars in the world of RPG publishing. Although it doesn't particularly interest me, their Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplaying games has recieved kudos for its topnotch execution of genre emulation. Two Eden games that do get under my skin are Terra Primate and the All Flesh Must Be Eaten (AFMBE) line. The AFMBE corebook has sat on my shop.rpg.net wishlist for several months now. These days I am finding it harder and harder to drop thirty bucks on a corebook, especially considering how much vintage gaming that $30 can purchase on the eBay. (Getting my copy of Savage Worlds was considerably easier than most such purchases, since I was already in a Savage Worlds campaign.) Still, AFMBE has a lot going for it. First there's the zombies, of course. The idea of running my own Zombie Apocalypse campaign appeals greatly to me, especially something that takes the Book of Revelations and runs it straight.

Also, the Unisystem game mechanics are highly thought of. In fact, you could argue that AFMBE is really a generic rules system hidden under a zombie facade in much the same way that Big Eyes, Small Mouth is a generic system hidden under anime window dressing. By publishing the TriStat dX rulebook, the folks at Guardians of Order have basically admitted that BESM is really a generic system that previously had a non-generic marketing plan.

Then there's the oft-praised AFMBE genre supplements: Enter the Zombie, Fistful O' Zombies, Pulp Zombies, Dungeons & Zombies, Zombie Smackdown, and the forthcoming zombie/pirate book. These books take your favorite genres (Hong Kong action, Westerns, Pulps, D&D fantasy, wrestling & pirates, respectively) and zombify them. Now I'm feeling zombified!

Still, I haven't bought AFMBE yet. I'm trying to figure out why. Part of it is undoubtedly my apprehension about learning a new system, especially a target number system. I hate assigning target numbers. In my experience systems that rely on target numbers invariably push the GM into a corner where I find myself hosing my game because I pulled the wrong target number out of my ass at a crucial moment.

Another problem is similar to issues I have with running Call of Cthulhu: everyone expects the unexpected. If you're running AFMBE you can't really shout out "Surprise! Zombies!" and expect your players to react. This is why fewer and fewer CoC games I run actually use Mythos monsters. Last CoC game I ran used mummies, a randomly generated Lesser Other God, and a Hellplant or two.

Then there's what I call the "X plus Zombies" factor. Just because I like Zombies and something else doesn't mean the two go well together. Admittedly, lotsa people rave about Enter the Zombie. Just today some bloke on rpg.net acknowledged that he wasn't expecting Zombies and Kung Fu to mix, but, by God, the folks at Eden had made it work. Zombie Smackdown still looks dubious to me though. I mean, I like big time professional rasslin' as much as the next guy, but zombies and wrestling? I just don't get it. What next? You got your zombie in my peanut butter?!?

Finally, I guess I'm feeling some sheepishness about diving into the subject matter. I like zombies and ninjas and pirates and all that other stuff. But let's face facts: these genres are the geek ghetto of popular culture. I kinda wonder if I'm not selling myself short by going for this stuff, when I could be tackling heavier stuff, like an intense Sorcerer storyline or a meaty tale of political intrigue in the 3rd Imperium. Zombies and ninjas seem like cheap trickery compared to some of the stuff out there waiting to be played.

And yet as I write this blog entry I'm also scanning eBay for cheap copies of AFMBE and Terra Primate. My instinctual urge to buy more games can override a whole slew of other concerns.

Posted by jrients at 4:42 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 30 March 2004 9:16 PM CST
Monday, 29 March 2004
new Rondoo advancement plan
XP purchase
5 Edge: Healer
10 +5 Power Points
15 Spirit to d10

20 Smarts to d10
25 Healing, Faith skills to d10
30 Edge: Power Surge
35 New Power: Dispel

40 New Power: Greater Healing
45 +5 Power Points
50 Edge: Common Bond
55 Spirit to d12

The Common Bond edge could be moved to just about anywhere on the chart, since Rondoo qualifies for it right now. The Dispel power could be bumped to as early as the 20xp line, if it turns out we are facing a lot of magical foes.

Turns out that the folks at dragonsfoot.org are into Savage Worlds and have a bunch of useful stuff on their site, including D&D/d20 to Savage Worlds conversion info.

I'm already getting my butt kicked over at ItsYourTurn.com. No big surprise there, I guess.

Posted by jrients at 5:03 PM CST
Speaking of Chinese chess...
I started playing a game of Xiangqi on ItsYourTurn, a great free gamesite. Its been months, maybe years, since I played a game over at ItsYourTurn. I've stayed away a bit because last time I let the games take over my life. I was playing maybe 20 or 30 fast-moving games at any given time. This time I'm planning on sticking to a handful of slow chess games.

(It sure looks like I got the chess variants bug again, don't it?)

Posted by jrients at 11:14 AM CST

I spent a little time this morning snooping out online used game sellers. One company I found also sells some new stuff. In their boardgame/wargame department I found a publisher offering "Oriental" chess sets. Oriental? WtF? Is that supposed to be Chinese chess (Xiangqi) or Japanes chess (Shogi) or Korean chess or what? Last time I checked it was considered impolite to lump together the vast array of cultures and peoples living on the Asian landmass. And it is just plain stupid to use the term Oriental when you need to be more specific. I could use a Shogi set, but not from these guys.

Posted by jrients at 9:57 AM CST

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