Monday, April 17, 2006

GAME STORE CONFIDENTIAL ~ Why Easter sucks & four miniature game recommendations

I used to own a Commodore 64 home computer. Some of you people owned one of those also, didn't you? It was a terrific little machine that I equipped with a word processer, a basic spreadsheet and a few pc games. Why am I bringing this up in a blog about board games?

Well, because my favorite site on the internet is boardgamegeek. I know, I know... it's a sad testimony that in an era where there is more porn than any normal human being could ever imagine, many of us are sick, twisted individuals and use the power of the net for something other than sexual fantasies. The plus side to me not being a pornoholic is that if I get run over by a bus anytime soon my kids won't be saddened by what they find on my hard drives. They will be pissed about what they find in my bank acounts though.

Anyway, back to the C64 wonder machine and boardgamegeek. I bought a game called Bard's Tale, a popular game in the 80's. Half of the adventure took place in a town and the other half took place in the sewers and underground locations beneath the town. So... let's say you got the needed equipment to kill something that needed killing... now you went down below the town. This action required a very delicate process on the part of the C64, one which would bring tears of frustration to C64 owners as well as beads of perspiration as they sat by their computer willing it to succeed at the intricate task. The task? Bard's Tale required the Commodore to access the disk drive for data every time you went below ground or resurfaced.

The small red disc access light on the C64's floppy drive became an instrument of the most extreme torture for C64 owners. That single light must have been designed by NASA, that's how bulletproof it was. In fact, I think they could build an entire space shuttle out of the material Commodore used for the light... it was unbelievably resiliant. It was a tiny red cyclops that could actually burn a hole in your forehead if you stared at it long enough. And many, many, many of us stared at the disc access light... entranced, mesmerized, hypnotically fixated, focused so single-mindedly on the small red dot that we imagined we could one day control it.

But we couldn't. The disc access light ruled the life of many a pc gamer in the 80's. If I drove down a residential street at 2am I would often see the flicker of televisions behind the drapes of homes... ah, some insomniac watching bad movies eh? But every so often I'd glance at a home and see a small red dot glowing malevolently from deep in the recesses of the house and I'd know that there was some craven geek, hunched on his chair staring at the disc access light mindlessly while spittle ran down his chin and a tipped over Mountain Dew pooled on the floor. Someone in that house was playing Bard's Tale... of that I was certain.

What does all this about 25 year old pc's and disc access time have to do with board games? Plenty. Have any of you tried to use boardgamegeek lately? If so, and if you used to own a C64, does the page load time remind you a little bit of playing Bard's Tale and suffering through the red light trauma?

What's up there? And even when BGG is running a bit faster it's missing a few features. Like avatars or sometimes images altogether. I happen to like my BGG avatar and I miss it. I want it back. I also don't want my BGG experiences to remind me of 1995, my 28.8 modem and the anxious minutes I'd spend listening to the squealing of my modem asking someone elses modem if it could connect.

And then, right in the middle of this whole issue, Aldie and Derk go trapsing off to something called "The Gathering of Friends"... which I understand to be a yearly board game hoedown sponsered by Alan Moon and a bunch of people who wear XXL t-shirts on XXXXL bodies.

Aldie certainly needs to get this problem fixed soon because when I have logged on the last couple of weeks I've noticed that the only people who seem to be posting are the ones who do enormous lists of games they want to buy, games they can get some wretched and shrewish wife to play or ones where they lie about finding shrinkwrapped holy grail games for $1.75 at a thrift store in Carbuncle, Ohio or Sludge-on-Trent, England.

That stuff is boring. Who cares? I like the other geek lists and threads... the ones where people piss and moan and agrue and fight. I like the ones that get people's blood boiling and generate 100 responses in a matter of hours. I'm not sure that BGG could process 100 responses in 24 hours right now. Once they get it fixed I'll probably celebrate by doing another Geek List myself... one designed to annoy as many Canadians and Europeans as possible. Oh, okay, I'll try and annoy some Americans too.

Bye Mary

Sadly, we're temporarily losing our Wednesday writer Mary. I'll miss her. She's so, so, so frickin' normal. I love her stuff. Mary brought this group-mind the balance it needs... a healthy, clean and interesting look into the kitchen table game life of a mentally healthy American family. Hmmmm... now that I think about it, maybe it's the rest of us that are normal and Mary's family that is rare. Whatever. I am saddened that she won't be around for a while and I fear that her replacements will be gamers who are as disturbed and unbalanced as the rest of us.

Easter means no gaming

That's right. No gaming this past week-end. Why? Because it was Easter. What is rideculous about that is my normal game buddies are definitley not Church people. Well, maybe they secretly went to Church, but still, why do religious holidays mean no gaming? It's as if the entire world has to go on hold because of a holiday that everyone other than you celebrates. And even if you are Christian, church is on Sunday. That still leaves Friday and Saturday night. Bah.

I celebrated Easter by buying a copy of a book called The Da Vinci Code and reading it. What a dumb story. I was half way through the book and realized that these people had gone from the Louvre, to a Swiss Bank, to a huge estate outside Paris, onto a private jet, landing in the UK, then to a hidden Templar monastary in downtown London and not once did either of them have to go to the toilet. Total garbage. Any normal person would have crapped down their trousers by the time the hulking albino accosted them in the tombs.

Okay, enough griping for a Monday. The bright side of my life is that in less than two weeks I'll be in my new house. I'll enjoy a brand new dining table, purchased specifically because it can hold games all the way up to the size of Railroad Tycoon and Conquest of the Empire... and the room which will be for my office is just large enough that I can set up a portable table for Europe Engulfed. Since I'll be having my son Wyatt with me more often after I move the need for a seperate room for war games ought to be obvious to any of you with toddlers. And since GMT is apparently serious about producing the Pacific Theater version of Europe Engulfed I'll want to work the kinks out of my new house before that one is published.

Miniature Games

Okay, my last thought for the day. Once I get settled I plan on teaching some of my local boardgamers a few old miniature games. Not Warhammer and not WarMachine. Well, WarMacine is okay, but I burned out on Warhammer years ago. When I find my Undead and Chaos Dwarf armies they're going directly onto eBay. Here are the games I saved:

Legions of Steel
Man O' War
The Great Rail Wars

Of that group only Flintloque is still in production. The others are long gone. Except for Man O' War I suspect you can get copies of the rules and miniatures at a fair price on eBay or via the trade utility on BGG (assuming it's currently working). Each one of these miniature games has unique mechanics, unique settings and offers something that many popular miniature games don't offer... they require only a few miniatures to play. Legions of Steel needs no terrain as it uses a board mechanic that is similar to Space Hulk and Flintloque and Rail Wars are squad level games that can easily be played on a 5x4 or smaller table with a minimum investment in terrain. I saved three Man O' War fleets, a few isalnds and a 4x6 screen printed sea mat and that is all I need to enjoy Games Workshop's best evar table-top game.

I'm done here. The Harley-Davidson dealership over in Boise is having some sort of parts and accessories sale that starts today so I need to run down there and geek out on my other fetish in life. Have a great week.... and if you pray, pray that Aldie and Derk fix their damned website.

See you next week.


Anonymous said...

I got to play Res Publica and Deflexion at my in-law's on Easter, so it was a good holiday!

Anonymous said...

I'll see if I can get the gerbils going a bit faster.

I've been working on the problems 10 days prior and now after the GoF, I'm definitely on the problem.

Anonymous said...

Odd, when I looked at the various pictures from the Gathering, I saw a really nice cross section of people from all over the U.S. and the world. Men and women, different races and backgrounds, and different views. It was a fantastic group of people to spend a week with. Lots of different tastes in games were represented to from euros to wargames, to 18xx, to traditional American fare.

What I didn't see at the event while I was there were any jerks. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Chris Farrell said...

I'm a fan of GW's Lord of the Rings minis game, as well as Battle of Five Armies. Both are nice sytems, not too complicated, and neither require a ton of figs. There is also a lot of not-unreaonsably-priced plastic in the LotR line now, so getting into it isn't rediculous, by minis standards anyway. And gamers like the Lord of the Rings, generally :)

Fraser said...

Oooh Bard's Tale that takes me back. We played a lot of that back in the mid 80s on a housemate's Amiga. All the way up until Dave wrote a character editor to fudge the characters and it became too easy.

A year or so back Melissa and I found a PC version of the game, interestingly enough it is now packaged with a character editor. One of the great brain-suck computer games.

Anonymous said...

and a bunch of people who wear XXL t-shirts on XXXXL bodies

thanks for the guilt trip... I was eating Doritos as I read that. I had to put the bag away. I'm only an L but I wan't to keep it that way.

The Da Vinci Code and reading it. What a dumb story

I thought The DaVinci Code was kinda boring. Try Angels and Demons for some more exictement.

The Harley-Davidson dealership over in Boise is having some sort of parts and accessories sale that starts today so I need to run down there and geek out on my other fetish in life.

Nothing better than paying $100 for a $20 piece of chrome just because it has a bar & shield stamped on it is there? Sometimes I think I'm no better than my students who shop at that Abercrombie place.

gamesgrandpa said...

Ah, the good ol' days. I'm impressed that you had a 28.8 modem. I thought I was really getting somewhere when I MOVED UP to a 14.4!

I never played Bard's Tale, but loved the Zork series.

Disk drive was slow, yes, but faster than the old tape drive I started with, connected to the VIC-20......

Geez -- how old am I, anyway?!

DWTripp said...

Thanks Aldie... I wasn't really bitching. Well, not in a mean way. I'm just spoiled.

Chris reminds me of something else Games Workshop did that was excellent and not overly pricey, that being the Warmaster rules set. As they have also published ancient and other period sourcebooks for this excellent 10mm rules set it's easy to see GW isn't always a money pit. You just have to be selective.

What I didn't see at the event while I was there were any jerks. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Why is it the caustic comments are always anonymous? I suppose the right way for me to respond to this booorrring and snooty comment is to say all the jerks were at home writing blogs? Get and ID dude, hiding is for cowards. You may have a great point (and no tolerance for my style of humor) but it's lost in the anon.

By the way Pennisi... one deluxe lighting kit,a 3" chrome riser and drag bars with the diamondback cables sets, a 1" lowering kit (basically two threaded metal pieces so the shocks can extend 1" extra) and 6 hours of shop time equals $2,000.00 US dollars. I'm thinking about it... which pretty much means it's a done deal within the next couple of months. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

BGG's slow b/c of the load.. but also b/c they're running an unreasonable amount of javascript. Try disabling it, just as a test, and see if it's any faster.

Craig said...

Not sure why I'm chiming in, but I'll second the comments regarding the Gathering being a great cross section of gamers enjoying a large variety of games. Sure there were some that fit your description DW, but that is part of that cross section of different people.

I suppose the end of that comment could be construed as boorish and snooty, but not any more so than your original comment. Both seemed to be meant as a humorous slam that comes off as mean spirited. Maybe the poster missed the humor part in your post, then again, maybe not. The anonymous part seems really irrelevant.

Anyway, enjoy your chrome risers and such. Althoguh I know that they are, it is good to actually see that other hobbies can be as obsessive as games.