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Jeff's Gameblog
Tuesday, 6 July 2004
Well, poop.
Topic: Collecting Games
Looks like someone else is more serious than I am about acquiring Tom Moldvay's Seren Ironhand. I can't justify more than ten bucks for an old module that is probably well written but maybe not even really compatible with D&D. Best of luck to whoever gets it.

(Of course, I'm seriously considering buying the Wraeththu rpg at full retail sight unseen. I'm not sure why I think Moldvay's adventure is only worth $10 but I can stomach the idea of dropping $40 or $50 on an rpg that may be an utter bomb. Maybe it's cause at least I'd be getting a brand new shiny book. Maybe it's because I like to root for the underdog.)

Posted by jrients at 12:36 PM CDT

Topic: Chess Variants
The ideas for the 6 Islands Chess flavor text keep bubbling up into my consciousness. I really need to seriously tackle a first draft of my Chessvariants.com entry.

Meanwhile, another insane chess idea has sprung into my head. As a Gary Gygax fan and World of Greyhawk booster I'm pretty much required to like Dragonchess, but I'm not really a fan of 3-D chess variants. Thus is born my new idea Dragonchess 2-D, a two dimensional translation of Uncle Gary's nifty variant. As a prelude to Dragonchess 2-D I have started work on a smaller undertaking that I call Gygaxian Chess, which is basically the middle Dragonchess board pulled out from the 3-D set-up and played as a separate game. I'm stripping out some of the D&D-esque window dressing for Gygaxian Chess. For example, Dragonchess refers to rooks as oliphants and knights as unicorns. All fine and dandy for a chess variant that exists in the World of Greyhawk, but for the Chess Variant pages I think this sort of stuff can be dispensed with. That's the attitude I took with Enochian chess, with the result being a better chance the game will be enjoyed and played by chess variantists.

Posted by jrients at 12:08 PM CDT

Topic: Collecting Games

So one of my longterm automatic eBay searches finally panned out this week. After looking for over a year and half, a copy of an old third party module has come up for auction. I don't know much about the adventure, other than it was authored by one of the unsung heroes of the hobby, Tom Moldvay. As I type this bidding is up to a whopping two bucks and a quarter. Maybe I can walk away with this puppy for cheap.

Posted by jrients at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 6 July 2004 8:59 AM CDT
Monday, 5 July 2004

Topic: RPGs
Finally, some inspiration hit for my "Home Team" campaign. I still need to write up Heroes Unlimited stats for everything, but I've now got some villains and a thread of a plot for my next session. I've got the cover of issue #3 done. Now all I need to do is schedule a session. Oh, and get together with Paul to make a PC. I learned my lession from last time and left a largish field open on the comic cover for insertion of last minute info, such as "Introducing... the new PC!"

Posted by jrients at 9:19 PM CDT
Sunday, 4 July 2004
Happy Independence Day!
Topic: Video Games
Going over to the folks again this weekend. I'm taking my Namco gamestick along in case my sister and I find a few free moments to game. Happy holidays to all the Americans out there.

Posted by jrients at 7:34 AM CDT
Saturday, 3 July 2004

Topic: Books
I finished reading Chase into Space today and I'm starting to figure out some of the reasons this trilogy seems so bland. The only real conflict in these books is Us vs Them, all of humanity versus the insectoid alien menace. Without a Darth Vader figure the overall conflict has no villain to boo. There's no real person-to-person conflict. Nora and Cris reunite without Cris showing any anger over being abandoned as a child. The only real interpersonal conflict, between John and the fatass major, is brief and basically played for laughs. And there's very little intrapersonal conflict. Nora manages to just stop being an alcoholic. Cris's anger management issues never jeopardize a mission. The whole trilogy seems to be hinged entirely on the alien threat, there's nothing else under the surface. That must be why these books are such a fast read, they're about the most shallow sci-fi I've ever read.

Posted by jrients at 7:37 PM CDT

Topic: Board Games
Last Wednesday when Pat was over at house he handed me a copy of a great book entitled The Games We Played: The Golden Age of Board & Table Games. I haven't had a chance to flip through it yet, but it looks interesting. Here's the Amazon info on it. When Pat hands me stuff like this it isn't always clear to me whether he's giving it to me or lending it. Sometimes I end up trying to return a "borrowed" gift. Of course, if he lent a book to me and I kept it forever he might not say a word about it either.

Posted by jrients at 9:50 AM CDT
Friday, 2 July 2004

Topic: Video Games
With my daughter in bed and my wife at the grocery store, I managed to play my new gamesticks some more. I got through one game of everything on the Namco stick: Pac-Man, Galaxian, Dig Dug, Rally-X, and Bosconian. Bosconian continues to impress, while Pac-Man and Dig Dug stand the test of time when it comes to great gameplay. Twenty years later and I still gasp when the ghost monsters on Pac-Man's tail inexplicably reverse course. Galaxian is a great Space Invaders descendant, right up there with Gorf and the Atari cartridge Phoenix. The one thing I take points off for on both Galaxian and Gorf is that the setting for the game is deep space. Defending Earth, visible at the bottom of the screen, seems incredibly important to me with regards to the psychology of Space Invaders style games.

I got in three games on the SpongeBob stick before Amy got back from the store. Super Chum Bucket is a great single screen platformer in the tradition of games like Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Wizard, a great C64 jumper. I got a little farther into the sidescrolling shooter featuring Sandy the squirrel. The Sandy game develops very nicely, adding terrain, foes flying in formation, and power-ups that give you more raw firepower. Patrick and the Maze involves running around an undersea labyrinth, using items, collecting treasure, and dodging baddies all while searching for a way out. Overall, I like the SpongeBob games. The graphics have a little too much white in them, making some items look like an overexposed photo, and the stick is very touchy in Super Chum Bucket, but I still had loads of fun.

Posted by jrients at 9:51 PM CDT
The Hard Truth About Collecting Stuff
Topic: Collecting Games

(Shamelessly ripped-off from Lore Brand Comics. I heartily recommend reading the entire archive.)

Posted by jrients at 5:17 PM CDT

Topic: Chess Variants
I'm not normally a fan of completely abstract chess pieces, the kind that depict how a piece moves. I prefer some sort of variant on the traditional Staunton design that is used in serious chess play, not because it is used in serious chess play but because I like the way the pieces look. Still, there's something to be said for the ability of purely abstract designs to carry useful information in an uncomplicated manner. Among other reasons this is why board wargames often use NATO military symbols on their pieces instead of little graphics of infantry and tanks.

I'm thinking about making up some abstracted Shogi (Japanese chess) pieces for the large variant called Ultimate Shogi or Taikyoku Shogi. This is one of the largest chess variants I've ever seen, comparable in my experience only to the chess variants that led directly to the first military wargames. Ultimate Shogi is played on a 36 x 36 board (1296 cells) with 402 pieces per side. The reason why I would use abstract pieces is because there are about 200 different types of pieces on the board at the start of play! As per normal Shogi, almost every piece can promote, some to additional piece types past that 200. Without systematic abstract piece design, this variant would be a bugger to play. Heck, even with good piece design it would still be a huge undertaking. Although you can find lots of wargames out there that use bigger boards and more pieces, some grognards might even balk at Ultimate Shogi. After all, board wargames generally allow you to move most or all of your pieces in a single turn and most wargames involves less differentiation among piece types. A wargame might have a thousand pieces, but if 500 of them are the exact same type of infantry piece then learning the game looks a little less daunting. And I think the 'one move per turn' aspect of Ultimate Shogi might drive some wargamers to madness.

Which of course only motivates me more to build a set and try it out on some wargamers. Mu ha ha ha!

Posted by jrients at 11:27 AM CDT

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