This Week in Wargaming Episode 34 8-9-09

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MINIATURES AND BOARDGAMES

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Privateer Press Announces Preview of “The Next Big Thing” for Warmachine during Gencon

Meeples and Miniatures doing weekly video review of Historical Miniatures Releases

Fantasy Flight Games launches video preview of Warhammer, Chaos in the Old world

Forge World Siege of Vraks 3 available for pre order

Arcane Legions Box Art Previews for Romans and Egyptians

Army Builder 3.2 available

Battlestar Galactica Pegasus Expansion, Rules Posted

Tumbleweed Tank Preview for AE WWII
And the 1936 Popular Science Article it is based on

AE WWII Occult concept art for SS Vampire

COMPUTER GAMES

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Empire Total War

MEDIA

GI JOE—-

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Sorry, but I could not help at least touching on this film as it released this weekend to tepid but not terrible reviews.

The Reviews

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Shooting from the Hip – Professional GameMasters?

First, you may notice that I changed the title from daily rant to shooting from the hip. I  don’t want to restrict myself to just things that annoy me, and I find I have less things that really bother me than I thought I did going into the idea. So every weekday(ish) I will post something that I find interesting, annoying, exiting or just some random thing that pops into my head without trying to shoe horn it into a single emotional category.

 

So for today my sights are set on what I think would be a great business idea for some young, smart college kid with some free time and a head full of geekdom; Professional Gamemastering. I know that to many of you this will seem like abject heresy. “What?” you say,  “Pay for role-playing? You’re insane gunslinger!”

 

But consider this, my friend Raef Granger from The D6 Generation recently pointed out during episode 3 of TWIW that he plays World of Warcraft regularly, but would give that up in a minute to play an actual live rpg with real people online.

 

The reason he would do this, as would I, is that we are middle aged men with full time jobs, commutes and families. The likelihood that we will be able to schedule and maintain a regular role playing group in person is very small. Still Raef, myself and many of our over 30 geek brethren have very fond memories of those days in high school and college playing D&D or some other role playing game with friends.

 

The enormous success of World of Warcraft should show that there is a huge market for interactive online role-playing. The problem with such games really is the lack of role-playing that is involved. For most people this is fine as they just want to get online, grind out some levels, or raid for gear and that’s it. But the existence of role playing servers show that a significant, if minority, percentage of such gamers long for more.

 

The promised D&D insider tools should have provided a gateway, but I think they missed out on how to price this kind of service. People will be willing to pay 14+ a month to be able to easily play online with friends with quality easy to use tools. Yes there are free alternatives, but they are free for a reason as they are labors of love with highly outdated graphics, limited functionality and substantial time requirements needed to make them work with an individual game system.

 

What I believe would change the industry is for someone to offer everything D&D Insider was supposed to offer, and take it one step further. Give us the 3-D character visualizer, virtual miniature creator, 3-D virtual tabletop, online reference guide and add the option of a professional DM! Seriously, if I knew that I could join a group of 6 players from around the world, have a voice and shared virtual tabletop connection with a game run every week by a professional DM who ran one game a day for 4 hours, and prepped for the game for one or two, I would pay for that! I would pay $25.00 a month for that easy!

 

Before you say I’m nuts just think of the convenience, and the play experience you could have if someone who made a living making his games fun for the players working to prepare and support your game. I know this is just the tip of the iceberg for a concept like this, and that the economics and logistics would be hellish to manage. Still, I know I would choose something like this over the most polished and well designed MMO out there. And if even 1% of the WoW market would have similar interest, then it could really be the next evolution in online role-playing.

 

Call me crazy, but I would be first in line to plunk down my card number.

 

Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear your feedback!

Comic of the Day- Chaos Divided from S.L.O.M.

Todays comic is an old one from Secret Lives of Mobs

Sins of a Solar Empire Review

Reviewed on 2/13/08    Updated on: 2/13/08    Release date: 2/4/08    There’s a blissful nirvana strategy gamers yearn for, even though experiencing it usually involves a considerable loss of sleep along with a steep drop in productivity for days on end. Sins of a Solar Empire is one of those rare games that can deliver an incredibly addictive experience that devours a healthy chunk of your life, and you won’t mind a bit. Not bad for a debut game from a relatively small developer. Ironclad and publisher Stardock should be proud, because they’ve delivered one of the most original, compelling strategy games in recent years.

Let’s get this clear: Sins isn’t anything like a typical turn-based space strategy game such as Galactic Civilizations or the granddaddy of the genre, Master of Orion. Instead, this is a real-time game–but don’t let that make you think that it’s Command & Conquer in space. Though it’s in real time, Sins unfolds at such a leisurely pace and can happen on such a gigantic scale that you’ll easily manage five or six gigantic fleets at a time as you battle across multiple star systems that contain dozens of worlds.

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This medium-sized map comprises only a single star system. Larger maps in the game contain up to five, linked together by wormholes.

The game is set in a distant future where the Trader Emergency Coalition–an alliance of various human worlds–bands together in the face of two threats. The first is the Advent, an offshoot of humanity that has embraced an alien philosophy and has come looking to spread the word by force. Even direr is the Vasari, a mysterious alien race that seeks the annihilation of both factions. Sins lets you play from the perspective of any of the three factions, which are approximate mirrors of one another.

Like many space strategy games, the action begins with you in control of a single planet, and from there you must explore the rest of the system worlds, locating planets to colonize, as well as resources that you can exploit to fuel your research and ship-building needs. Sins isn’t as ambitious as other space strategy games that task you with taking over a galaxy; instead, the action is limited to a maximum of five local stars, each with a network of planets around it. Travel among planets is limited via strict space lanes, so some planets are natural choke points. Planets themselves come in four varieties. Terran and desert planets can be colonized easily, but to settle ice and volcano planets you must research the appropriate technology first. Asteroids can also be colonized, but they’re so small that they can support only tiny populations, making them ideal for outposts.

To support your expansion, you’ll have to build a plethora of vessels. Scouts explore the planetary systems, locating ideal worlds to colonize with colony ships, as well as providing advance warning on incoming enemy fleets. Warships come in three classes. The smallest are frigates, and they include frontline combatants, siege vessels that can pummel planets with nuclear weapons, and missile platforms. Then there are larger cruiser-class vessels, such as escort carriers that can deploy squadrons of fighters and bombers to heavier warships. The crème de la crème, though, are the capital ships, which you can build only a handful of. Capital ships are huge, expensive, and powerful, but they’re also like the characters in a role-playing game in that they can level up as they gain experience, making them more powerful and unlocking unique and potent abilities. The ability to gain experience creates a powerful dynamic, as you want to get your capital ships into fights so they can level up, but you also want to protect them from danger, because the loss of them can be devastating. However, if you get a task force of high-level capital ships and smaller vessels together, you’ll have a force to be reckoned with.

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Like characters in a role-playing game, capital ships become more powerful as they level up.

Good strategy games force you to constantly make decisions about where to allocate your resources, and Sins does an exceptional job of this, mainly because you’ll usually find yourself having to juggle where to invest your precious resources. There are three resources in the game: money, metal, and crystal. Money is generated by having large planetary populations or by building trade stations. Metal and crystal can only be harvested on small asteroids. Building warships or structures, making planetary improvements, and conducting research consumes large amounts of these resources, and usually you’ll have a shortage of at least one of them, which forces you to make some difficult decisions.

It’s also possible to engage in a bit of diplomacy, though Sins takes a different tack than a lot of other strategy games. You can do the standard diplomatic maneuvers like declaring a nonaggression pact or forming an alliance with someone, but to do so, you’ve got to prove your worth to that faction by pursuing missions it puts toward you. For example, one faction might task you with destroying a certain number of defensive structures of another faction. Successfully completing the mission will earn you favor, though not completing the mission will earn disfavor. In order to form an alliance with any faction, you’ll have to complete several missions for it.

Sins of a Solar Empire Review of Sins of a Solar Empire (PC)

Then there’s the pirate system, which is a brilliant way of waging war by proxy. The pirates are third-party raiders who launch attacks periodically. You can influence whom they attack by raising the bounty on one of your opponent’s heads. However, this creates an eBay-like bidding war, where factions are trying to either get the bounties off of their heads or put them on opponents they really need attacked. The danger is that when you bid, you actually put money into the pot that you can’t withdraw, even if you lose. That means that if you get into an astronomical bidding war and win, the bad news is that in the next round, the opponent already has a mountain of money in the auction that you have to overcome. The other danger is that the more money there is in the bidding, the bigger the pirate attack will be. It’s a pretty slick system, though its one flaw is that it requires you to babysit each auction when it happens, a process that takes a minute or two. Given that attacks happen every 10 or 15 minutes, this is an activity that takes away from the overall pace of the game.

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The tech tree will demand your attention, as you can research better weapons, armor, new ship classes, and much more.

All of this sounds like it might be a handful to handle in real time, but Sins unfolds at a stately, almost leisurely, pace. The action is fast enough that you’re constantly busy making decisions, but it’s rarely frenetic to the point where you’re overwhelmed. To help you manage a huge empire, there’s an innovative empire tree on the side of the screen that gives you an outline of all of your planets, fleets, and factories. Let’s say you have a fleet battling in a distant system and taking losses. Without zooming away from the battle, you can select a nearby shipyard and start ordering up replacement ships that can automatically join the fleet. With the empire tree, it’s relatively easy to manage multiple fleets consisting of dozens of warships each.

If Sins has a downside, it’s that larger-scale games will easily take hours upon hours to resolve. Medium-size maps will chew up six to eight hours, often to the point where you will be looking at the clock and wondering just how effective you’re going to be the next day on about three or four hours of sleep. Larger games can take even longer at the default speed settings. Things would end a lot faster if there were alternate victory conditions or if the artificial intelligence would surrender after it clearly has no chance of winning. Instead, you have to pulverize each enemy position before the game ends, a process that can take a while. One thing that you can do while you’re finishing someone off, though, is to work on accomplishing achievements. The game has its own achievement system that rewards you for remarkable performance, such as wiping out a certain number of enemy capital ships or settling a pirate base. One dastardly achievement challenges you to win without researching a single military technology.

The game features random maps and scenarios, but one thing that’s missing is a campaign. Still, Sins of a Solar Empire is an excellent single-player game and one that translates well into the multiplayer realm, especially since it’s a lot harder to beat a human opponent than it is a machine. The built-in server browser connects to Ironclad Online, where it’s easy to create a multiplayer game or join up with others. The one thing to keep in mind is that, for the sake of brevity, it’s usually best to go with small maps in order for the game to resolve in one sitting. Though it’s possible to save a multiplayer game, it will take a considerable amount of dedication and scheduling by all parties involved to tackle a huge game.

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Did someone say achievements? If you want to go for 100 percent, you can try pursuing some of these challenging tasks.

Finally, the game’s visual presentation is excellent. It’s not a graphically flashy game, but it works on many levels. The ship designs look cool up close, and watching fleets slug it out is always fun. Pull the camera back, and ships and squadrons are replaced by distinctive icons, giving you the big picture even when you’ve zoomed out and are looking at a solar system as a whole. The interface is also quite elegant, and it scales nicely to a wide variety of display sizes. The audio and sound effects aren’t quite as distinctive, and the music provides some decent sonic wallpaper.

In sum, Sins of a Solar Empire is an absolute must-have if you enjoy strategy games. It’s an addictive, deep game that elevates space strategy to new levels. At the same time, it provides a fresh, original take on one of the oldest and most revered subgenres in all of strategy gaming.

Video Game Review: Call of Duty 4

Title: Call of Duty4

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Format: Multiplatform: PS3, XBOX 360, PC

Developer: Infinity Ward

Publisher: Activision

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Description: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare arms gamers with an arsenal of advanced and powerful modern day firepower and transports them to the most treacherous hotspots around the globe. As both a U.S Marine and British S.A.S. soldier fighting through an unfolding story of twists and turns, players use sophisticated technology, superior firepower and coordinated land and air strikes on a battlefield where speed, accuracy and communication are essential to victory.

 

 

Review: As franchises go Call of Duty has become one of the premier properties in the FPS genre and for good reason. In a series known for it’s amazing immersion and excellent graphics, Call of Duty 4 has raised the bar to a new level. I can’t remember the last time I played a game with so many jaw dropping moments. The single player campaign takes the frenetic ‘you are there’ feeling of the previous games and adds a much deeper and more interesting story element to the game.

Graphically the game is technically average for a top of the line next generation title. What makes the game so visually striking is the hyper realistic art direction and brilliant use of lighting. The skillfully use of the engine combined with good level design and an excellent eye for dramatic first person angles. The level designs will be very familiar to anyone who has played the previous games in the series. Players move from checkpoint to checkpoint in a linear fashion guided by the on screen compass as well as the visual and verbal prompts of their squad mates. There is not a great deal of freedom of action in the single player campaign, but even more than in the previous installments, the player gets the feeling of being part of a film in progress and is drawn into the story brilliantly.

The story is shown from the perspective of SAS operative John ‘Soap’ Mactavish and USMC Paul Jackson as they attempt to deal with the threat of a nuclear attack. The change from the played out WWII setting to a more tense and topical scenario helps the game immensely. Even with the change in setting however, Modern Warfare retains the impact through authenticity that has become a staple ingredient of the series. Although we won’t ruin any plot details, Modern Warfare’s portrayal of what could happen with ‘lost’ nuclear materials in the wrong hands is particularly harrowing and without spoiling the ending I will say, that the good guys don’t always win in Modern Warfare.

As amazing as the single player game is, and it is a triumph to be sure, the best feature of COD4 is the multi player experience. It is not revolutionary and doesn’t do anything we have not seen before but it does combine the elements of persistent level based games with the frenetic FPS deathwatch with a skill not seen previously. Gaining a new rank and ability in COD4 does not just increase your abilities, it changes your options. Each game you can select from your list of options and upgrades to customize your character for the opposition you expect. This feature has particular value to the serious clan member as it allows players to literally game plan based on the knowledge of their oppositions tendencies.

This might not sound like much, but it can really be a game changer. Once you begin to have detailed strategies and counter strategies based on the use of each players abilities you can really begin to feel like a coordinated team. The closest approximation to this is the varied classes available in Team Fortress and how combining them and using each role properly makes a team far better than just the sum of it’s parts. With COD4 you have this, but with the ability to use new combinations to create a look that your opponents do not expect.

The one major drawback to this system is the steep learning curve for the noob. The cool abilities and upgrades are all well and good, unless you don’t have them and your opponents do. This can make your first few games feel deeply unfair and frustrating as you try to get your first few abilities. Once you have made it past the initial learning curve however, there is definitely a lot of great game play ahead for the devoted fan.

With so many things going for it, it’s a shame that COD4 had to be released during such a glut of spectacular titles. Only in a year with the astoundingly original and creative titles like BioShock, Crysis and Mass Effect would there have been any question of Call of Duty 4 topping every game of the year list. Still, even if its not the very best game of the year it is still the very best game in the Tactical First Person Shooter Genre, and quite possibly the best such game ever. If you have ever felt the need to help rid the world of terrorist aggression, or just want to pick up an HK G36 and kick some butt, then you need to give COD4 a try. You will be very happy you did.

Browncoat Gamers Rejoice!

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Posted by Sam on Thursday, 3 Jan 2008

From Slice of Sci Fi

Joss Wedon’s “Firefly” series will get its own massively multiplayer online game (MMOG). The Multiverse Network, Inc., one of the largest and fastest growing companies responsible for MMOGs has only recently acquired the rights to develop the MMOG based on Whedon’s highly, but short-lived, popular sci-fi television series. 20th Century Fox optioned the rights to The Multiverse Network, Inc. for an undisclosed figure. One item that was revealed has Multiverse selecting and leading an independent production team to develop the project. Fox and Multiverse expect the offering to be available to the public through The Multiverse Network sometime in 2008.

“Fox’s Firefly series is set in an incredibly rich and exciting universe. It’s going to make a very compelling and unique online experience filled with adventure, humor, and mystery,” said Corey Bridges, Multiverse co-founder and Executive Producer. “It’s our hope that Firefly’s passionate and dedicated community of fans will enjoy the chance to become part of the story as they develop and explore the worlds of Firefly.”

Fox Licensing & Merchandising selected Multiverse to lead the evolution of Firefly into an MMOG because of the technical strength and advantages of the Multiverse Platform and the vision both companies share for the future of online entertainment, according to a report on MovieWeb.

“One of the first meetings I had when I joined Fox was with Multiverse,” said Adam Kline, Vice President of New Media Enterprises at 20th Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising Division. “We see virtual worlds as an extraordinarily promising new entertainment medium. This is a great opportunity for 20th Century Fox and for the fans of Firefly because Multiverse will deliver an experience that will remain true to the original series, while enabling a whole new level of personal involvement for fans.”

“In addition to our world-class technology, developers choose Multiverse for our network, which lets them launch their games into a built-in market of consumers who are just one click away from any game on that network,” Bill Turpin, co-founder and CEO of The Multiverse Network, Inc. said. “Firefly will bring in even more consumers, making the network that much more attractive to developers of other worlds.”

Warhammer Online, continues to look awesome.

Take a look at this awesome cinematic trailer for the Warhammer online mmorpg.