Games We Play: Tanks by Gale Force 9

Tanks by Gale Force 9 is an excellent skirmish World War 2 miniatures game.

The starter set Panther vs Sherman priced from 21 to 25 dollars is an excellent deal. Everything necessary is included in the box: 1 panther and 2 sherman tank models (assembly required); rulebook, cards, dice, and cardboard terrain.

The models are the same models used in Flames of War, meaning you can use the illustrated instructions at the back of the rulebook or you can go online for some very detailed and interesting variation assembly instructions. The Panther can be constructed as a Panther tank (recommended) or a JadgPanther. The Shermans have one body style and two turret variations (75 and 76 mm). This means in one box you get 1 German tank and 2 types of American Tank-place desired turret on body). Details are nice and assembly is a breeze especially for experienced builders.

If you have played any of the Attack Wing games then you have played Tanks. Using a modified Attack Wing system of movement games are extremely quick and to the point. Instead of movement dies and movement templates, each player has a movement arrow. Place the arrow against the tank in the desired direction you want the tank to move and move the tank. Tanks can move twice in a turn.

Shooting is rolling attack dice; 4, 5, and 6 are hits with 6’s becoming critical hits. The defending player rolls defense dice; 4, 5, and 6 cancel hits with 6’s canceling critical hits. A hit does one point of damage. A critical flips a damage card that has an effect, such as crew bailing and a damage amount from 0 to 3.

A turn is based on the initiative of the tanks and their commanders. Starting with movement, lowest initiative to highest. Then shooting, highest initiative to lowest. Ending with command phase where repairs are attempted and counters are cleaned up for the next turn.

When a take runs out of damage points, the tank is destroyed.

See, really quick and to the point.

We played best out of three games in under an hour. My girl (8-years old) loves tanks. She wanted a Tiger tank because…you know Tiger, but that was not in the box. So she choose the Shermans 76 mm. I got the Panther. I expected victory.

Game 1: Lucky hit causes my crew to bail out of the tank causing me a turn. Using that turn she blew up my tank with her tanks.

Game 2: Clever maneuvering on my part sends her tanks to the scrap yard. This game we use crew cards-add-ons to tanks increasing stats or making other actions easier, such as my commander who gave me a re-roll to crew bailing out. All crew and equipment cards require careful reading, as my commander bumped my attack stat to the point where other equipment I chose was unnecessary.

Game 3: Pissed, my girl demonstrates she is listening to my tactical lessons when she moves her tanks to cover each other. A slip up in movement allows me to get between her tanks and blow up one of them. A lucky shot to the ammunition on my tank gave her the win.

Today…her Tiger arrived in the mail…I sense a lot of losing in my immediate future. 🙂

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500 and 1 Words At A Time: Working A Draft I

My daughter gave me an idea. I am giving her credit because without her what is about to transpire would not be happening. All she said was, “My cat has a pan and a pistol. My brother’s has a sword with his name on that. Cats cannot use swords.” And I was off…at least in my head. Last night I finally took some time to write for myself and those damn cats would not go away. Here they are, in very rough form.

Why in rough form, because to illustrate a point I made in yesterday’s blog about no one-and-done and draft and revision, I thought I would work on this chunk over the next blog or two. Follow along as Puddles and Whiskers get drafted and revised. 🙂

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BONG!

In the middle of the fight, the sound of a metal frying pan bouncing off a skull got everyone’s attention. Puddles bounced back from her fallen foe brandishing her frying pan above her head in an attack pose. At the same time she leveled her heavy pistol, pulled the trigger, and shot another mook charging her.

“Give up will ya!” Puddles shouted at the room.

Whiskers slide on his knees underneath the sloppy punch of a mook, using his personalized katana to gut the mook. Whiskers popped up from the gut-slide, flicked his katana clean of blood, and looked for another challenger. Whisker’s did not have to wait long. Swinging a giant club in wide arcs, knocking fellow mooks aside, an over muscled mook lumbered directly to Whiskers. Katana held in a low position, Whiskers waited for the moment to strike the perfect blow.

BLAM!

BLAM! BLAM!

The large blood spraying holes appeared in the over-muscled mook’s chest. For a brief second, he looked stunned before falling over onto his face. Three mooks jumped over his body, knives drawn to take his place.

“You’re welcome,” Puddles shouted.

Irritated, Whiskers charged the three mooks. Gutting the middle one as they passed each other. Spinning, Whiskers brought his katana down and quickly sliced to the right, killing the other two mooks with one swing.

Other than their labored breathing, the room was silent. Puddles strolled over to Whiskers, who finished cleaning his katana, turned to face Puddles with his ears leaning back giving extra body English to his irritation with his long time partner.

Pointing at the over-muscled mook, “What was that about?”

Puddles shrugged. Her tail lazily waving in an S-pattern that Whisker’s knew so well; her “Oops, did I do that” when she knew full well what she had done shrug.

“I couldn’t let you have all the fun,” Puddles said over her shoulder, holstering her pistol while stepping over mooks on her way to the door her tail swishing away like she didn’t have a care in the world.

Tail lashing, Whiskers stood there for a moment, gripping his katana tightly, before sheathing it in one smooth move. He gave the over-muscled mook one last look before following Puddles out of the room.

 

Rivet Wars Wok

Rivet 7The Allied march continues on, although opposition has gotten tougher. Another day of unpacking and playing Rivet Wars. And, the first Woking. Not bad for another day of moving and settling in. There was a brief setback when I discovered that the kids had not unpacked as asked, but instead had “unpacked” the toys they wanted to play with and dump the rest around the room. Think, giant box of Cracker Jacks, where the Cracker Jacks are Legos and the toy prize is whatever the kids thought was cool or fun. Suffice to say, time was spent unpacking for them.

Rivet 1I promised the kids more games of Rivet Wars, so they could get “revenge” on me for winning. This time instead of working as a “team” they decided to play me one at a time using the same scenario. Whoops of joy from them when they learned they were getting 6 deployment points and a rivet a turn (a rivet is a special resource used to purchase heroes and larger units, like tanks). The last game they had six deployment points and a rivet, they as a “team” attempted to overwhelm me with Dragoons (mono-wheel things) and infantry until they could deploy their tank and forgot to play for the objectives.

Rivet 3This time our boy played for one objective and played well for it, but that left the other two mostly unopposed which netted me the win. I cannot take complete credit for the win as this was our first game with secret mission cards. Secret Mission cards are a way to score victory points by completing tasks during the game. The net effect, to make an already quick game quicker. Half of my victory points came from secret mission cards. End score 3 to 10.

Rivet 4Our girl had a plan and if not for a few lucky rolls might have done a lot better. She flooded one half of the board with infantry and followed that up with a blitz of mono-wheel Dragoons. Caught me off guard as I deployed to take as many objectives as I could. This worked out for me in the end, but for a few turns it was touch and go. I had to abandon one-third of the map to her tank (yes, every game both of them save up to drop a tank), Dragoons, and masses of infantry. End score 7 to 10.

Rivet 6Two games down, back to work unpacking and organizing. Laundry is coming along…although if you listen to Barb, laundry will never get done unless we all stop wearing clothes for a week. While I do not have a problem with this, other people might.

Drum roll please….and I wokked last night and it felt great. Read that how you want. Cut up some chicken, bell pepper, and onion into the wok. Add some hoisin, soy, sugar, Sichuan peppercorns and first wok meal in at least a few years. Did I mention how much fun I had tossing ingredients around in the wok? No, I did. Years of cooking Chinese in a pan pay off in a wok big time. Quick mix, quicker cook, equals delicious.

Walking Thru Video Games

I have fond memories of playing video games in arcades; learning the ins and outs of just about any game I had a quarter for. Back then there were no guide books, no YouTube videos, and due to the nature of programing, games were harder. Don’t believe me, today a game tends to be hard because someone designed it right or wrongly to be difficult, back then, make sure you jump on the right pixel or you died. Guess that isn’t difficulty, but my point being I worked harder on older games than anything I play today.

I am not a fan of guide books or YouTube, Twitch, or any other site that walks a person through a game. I get the purpose and I have used all of them from time to time, most often when I get stuck on a puzzle. I am a huge fan of guide books for huge open world games, such as Skyrim, but I use them after I have played for a while; less of a how do I do and more of a this would be a cool place to visit guide. I like to try a game without any assistance, other than in-game, for a while before I seek outside information. The longevity of a game, for me, is directly related to how quickly I feel the need to consult an outside source; the better the game, the less likely I will need outside information, and the longer I will play the game. There are exceptions to this, for example I have no problem seeking outside information to get some cool outfit or something similar that I see in-game, but how to play the game not so much. I know plenty of people who play games with guides and walk-throughs open at the same time. I don’t think any less of them for doing that, as long as a person is having fun I don’t care what tools they use.

However, while watching our girl use a YouTube level walkthru for Unravel, I started wondering about the longevity of the video game industry if it wasn’t for people who make guidebooks and walkthrus. There are so many video games I quit playing after a short time because something just didn’t click and perhaps if I had had a guidebook back in the day I would have continued. Hell that happens today; games that for one reason or another don’t click, but after I hit a guide to get through whatever is stopping me or bothering me, such as a crappy boss fight or a camera angle that makes no sense or a puzzle, I find myself enjoying the game.

Our girl stopped playing Unravel around the third level because the puzzles were not as intuitive as they had been. Personally, while I love the look of Unravel, I think it is poorly designed puzzle platformer precisely because of lack of intuitive solutions and amount of frustration the puzzles cause. Not being a quitter, she found some YouTube walkthrus and started playing again. However, even with the assistance of YouTube she encounters problems that she has to work through. Yet, because she knows that someone has beat the level continues to plug away until she too beats the level. I wonder how many video games and the industry in general have benefited from this connection.

 

Anthony Bourdain Said So

“From Okinawa?”

“Yep.”

“Taco stuff on rice?”

“Anthony Bourdain said so on his show.”

Skeptical looks all around.

I will admit that taco meat, a heaping pile of cheese, topped with heaping pile of lettuce over a bed of white rice does not sound foreign in the least, but it was served up in Okinawa. Which makes it foreign and Asian to boot. Right?

Funny thing is I made this same dish for Barb as part of her bento rotation so I did not think anything of it. Not until my spirit guide Anthony Bourdain showed the same dish in another land. Talk about blow-my-mind. And here we are, I had leftover taco meat, a bunch of cheddar cheese, and three pound roast to do something with. In a mood to practice my knife skills, I sliced the roast into shoestring slices. Boy did that take a lot of patience not to cut it quick and easy. Emboldened with my success, I did the same to most of a head of lettuce. The steak went into a quick marinade of minced garlic, salt (very little), pepper, and soy for a couple of hours while the rice cooked.

Several beds of rice topped with taco meat, shoestring cut steak, cheddar cheese, and thinly sliced lettuce later and dinner is good to go. Small dishes with onion, avocado, and tomato as toppers and everyone is gleefully devouring their first Okinawan meal. Top that with some Sriracha and it was a damn good, but very familiar meal.

Meanwhile in another part of the house, bang, bang, rat-a-tat, bang…our girl is practicing her drum skills. Does she have a drum? No, but she has a collection of boxes, containers, water bottle (singular), and other percussion objects. Oh, and a mismatched pair of chop…sorry drumsticks.

She bangs a way for a while, then shows up with a flourish in the living room to announce some new skill or thing she discovered while practicing with her drum kit. I’m no expert, as I have no musical skill, but there have been a couple of endings with style that caught my attention. Not sure how long she will stick with the chop…drumsticks, but for now she’s doing okay.

Hopefully she doesn’t come home sporting a tattoo, odd hair, or clothing that says, “in a band.” Not for a few years at least. She just finished up a conversation with me about trying out several instruments. I said, why not. She gave me the WTF look and proceeded to explain how difficult it would be to switch from one to another during her concert. With a huff, she disappeared to practice more. Musicians…ugh 🙂

 

My Time Watching Fallout 4

I would love to tell you how much fun I had playing Fallout 4, but I never got to play. I got to watch for the entire weekend and I’m happy I got to watch, because that means that someone other than me is playing a game. Still, I too would like to have had a chance to wander the post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Barb, longing for another Skyrim-esque game, and Elder Scrolls Online not working for her, set her eyes upon Fallout 4 after seeing the commercial with the dog. Having never played a Fallout game before she was curious, but hesitant that my description of “Skyrim with guns,” would be for her. It did not take long for her to like Fallout 4.

Barb has a compulsive, yes I said compulsive, need to investigate every nook and cranny of RPG worlds and take anything that is not nailed down or that gets her in trouble, i.e. getting caught stealing in Skyrim. She explored every part of Vault 111 and this is the game’s tutorial mode. She exited the vault with a truckload of loot.

Then she proceeded to painstakingly loot every single house in the town nearby. So slow. Painfully slow. That is how she played Skyrim and that is how she is playing Fallout 4. While slow she has discovered things I would not have found on a first run through and she has more than enough stuff to last her for quite the while. She saved at the bridge before the next town.

Inspired by her mother, our girl wanted to play, the following morning (yesterday) she started her game. There were differences immediately, our girl had a goal-get the Pip Bo, then get the video game, then leave the Vault, then get the dog. With those goals in mind she blasted so quick through the tutorial that she left a lot behind and got me close to nausea watching her onscreen movements.

Exiting the vault with minimal gear, she bolted for where the dog was, goals complete our girl didn’t know what to do. Thankfully, her brother and mother came to rescue and started giving her suggestions. Which is how our girl ended up in the next town. SPOILER ALERT: She quickly and I mean quickly eliminated all of the bandits, claimed the power armor, headed home for repairs, and called it a game.

Our girl done with her lightning round, our boy sat down to play. I had to stop watching him play. He ran, RAN through the vault gathering the weapons, some ammo, the Pip Boy, and the video game before exiting the vault. Once outside, he too got the dog, and having seen what his sister did bolted for the next town. Screw exploration, he wanted the shiny toy. Except that he didn’t pay attention how to use the VAT system and used his gun like he does in Destiny-Spray and Pray.

Problem with that, is in Destiny he has a lot of ammunition. In Fallout 4, he died to molerats when his ammunition ran out. Plus, in Destiny he can double jump and throw grenades to get out of trouble. Fallout 4, not so…no, not at all. His time in the wasteland, came to an end as quick as it started.

Children done and Barb mostly done with her homework, returned to the wasteland and went to bed very late…but she now had at least three truckloads of stuff… 🙂

Silly Hats and Chess

I like playing chess.

I do not get to play chess that often.

I’m not great at chess, I think the problem is that chess is a slow game and many people do not want to devote the time to play, let alone learn.

Which is funny because I teach how to play chess more often than I play. People want to learn to play or at least start out wanting to learn to play. I’m a pretty easy teacher, I want you to want to play, thus I do not go all Full Metal Jacket Drill Sergeant on you. I teach, step-by-step how to play and play well.

Silly HatsHowever, after a few lessons people move on. Move onto faster games with an easier learning curve. All is not lost though, meet my latest pupil…our girl. She likes wearing silly hats that come in bags of “food” and rolling her eyes A LOT. So try to imagine my surprise when she asked if I would teach her chess…using my glass chess set. Ah, she wants to see the chess set, touch it, and then she will be done.

And that was true, up to a point. She was very excited to see the chess set unpacked and set up. She was disappointed that the set did not look like the one on the box. The difference is we were playing on a brown floor and the photo is on a red floor…stupid box photo. Once the board was set up we went over the pieces.

ChessPleasant surprise, she knew the names of the pawn, rookie-her name, king, queen, horseguy, and I don’t know. Off to a better start than I expected. She knew that the pawn moved one space at a time, attacked diagonally, and on the first turn could move two spaces. And that was the extent of her knowledge of chess.

Lesson one, how the pieces move.

“A rook move…”

“You mean rookie?”

“What? Yes, rookie moves in straight lines.”

“And the horseguy?”

“The easiest way is to count two space in a line and then one space over. Watch.”

“Can we play now?”

“Sure. Learn by doing.”

Check was a difficult concept. She thought she could use any piece to knock out the piece threatening her king. Sort of super piece with one purpose, save the king. It was cute, at first. Slowly, but surely we played through her first game of chess. Her brother wants me to point out that they have played chess before. I want to point out to all of you, that his version of chess only bears a resemblance to chess because he uses chess pieces. And while I am a fan of alternative chess games, such as Nightmare Chess, his version was…off.

By the end of our game our girl knew how to move all of the pieces and how to capture with most of them. The horseguy and bishop (formerly “I don’t know”) were tougher for her. The horseguy I understand. The bishop I did not until she pointed out that because of the brown floor the tiles looked similar, thus she could not tell the difference. Next time on a white or red background. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, she wants to play again tomorrow.