Quick little killers

I’ve been on a bit of a Battletech kick lately, enjoying some of the older Technical Readouts and checking out the new ones as well. After reading this neat little nostalgia piece by Abe Sargent about your five favorite ‘mechs from the 3025 guide, I realized that I’m a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to my affection to the Battletech universe.

I was introduced to the game by the 3025 era and have a lot of nostalgia for it. TR 3025 is definitely the most read of the TRs for me – not surprising, given how chock-a-block it is with stories about the units.

However, the bulk of my play came a little later in the early Clan era – think TR 3050 and the Kerensky books. I’ll write more about my affection for the look and feel of those early Clan units in another post.

But…my strongest period of Battletech-related play is really those years in grad school when I played Mechwarrior: Dark Age. I’m confident I played more Mechwarrior than I’ve ever played Classic Battletech. So I have huge affection for many of the units in Mechwarrior, as well as the look and feel of the game.

All of that brings me to this guy:


The Gyrfalcon, a “totem ‘mech” for Clan Jade Falcon.

This is where I find the compare/contrast between Classic Battletech and Mechwarrior kind of fun. Pretty much everything that appeared in Mechwarrior has been statted out for Battletech as well. The Gyrfalcon’s stats appear in Battletech: Technical Readout: 3145 The Clans (that is an unwieldy title).

In Mechwarrior, Gyrfalcons were amazing packets of long-range, high-endurance death. They were highly mobile, outranged most other ‘mechs, and like all the Jade Falcon “winged” totem ‘mechs, could cool like nothing else. The upshot was that while every other ‘mech had to really give it a rest every few turns, you could race a Gyrfalcon around with minimal downtime.

In short, they were brutal.

In Battletech, the Gyrfalcon is fast enough and cools better than average, but it just doesn’t feel like it would be as mobile (or as brutal) as the Mechwarrior Gyrfalcons were. Are LB-2Xs and ER Large Lasers going to rack up as much harm in Battletech as the Gyrfalcon’s guns did in Mechwarrior?

…and, of course, this is the point. They’re just very different games. The games model key factors (like heat and maneuverability) differently, so at the end of the day some units just won’t translate over well. That said, I haven’t actually played Battletech with these guys yet, so who knows?

Just some musings as I look through Technical Readouts published over the past three decades or so.

Rich Dad, Poor Game – trying out Cash Flow 101

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve indubitably been spammed at some point with ads for Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad line of lectures and products. Starting with the release of its eponymous book in the 90s, the Rich Dad, Poor Dad empire has expanded to include a host of follow-up books, in-person events, recorded lectures, and, bringing us in line with the point of this site, games.
The back story behind the book is actually that Robert started out with a game. He’d designed the game to try and impart his ideas about the philosophy of wealth and how to achieve it in a palatable form that people would enjoy playing. An acquaintance who played the game then suggested that he write a book as well, and the book eventually took the lead in spawning the afore-mentioned empire.
I recently tried Kiyosaki’s game, Cash Flow 101. Click through to the extended entry for some commentary and a review.

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Breath in again, 40K RP didn’t go away

People were wigging out over on RPGnet at the announcement that Games Workshop was going to reorient the output of its imprint, Black Library, canceling the nascent Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying line and canceling Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. This was particularly irritating to people who’d been hoping for a Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game for two decades only to see the game canceled after a lone book saw print.
Well, as it happens, GW wasn’t killing the line. Instead, they’ve just signed an agreement with Fantasy Flight Games, publishers of Arkham Horror, World of Warcraft: the Boardgame, Tide of Iron, and a personal favorite of mine, War of the Ring, to be the exclusive publisher of board games, card games, and roleplaying games based on Games Workshop’s properties.
“We are just so thrilled to partner with Games Workshop in such an encompassing deal,” said Christian T. Petersen, CEO and founder of FFG. “Not only will we be able to continue the publication of some phenomenal roleplaying, card, and board games currently on the market, but we look forward to creating new games for the popular GW universes!”
This is exciting news, as FFG has a good track record for publishing fun, high quality games. I especially like that they’re not just going to be a reprint house, but will be able to generate new games based on the licensed material.
You can read the original press release, in PDF form, here.

Good, solid theming

I haven’t played this game, but “Oh My God! There’s An Axe In My Head.” The Game of International Diplomacy has a great premise:
GENEVA, 1920.
The League of Nations convenes for the first time. Proud to be the host for this august world body, Switzerland invites their champion axe-juggling troupe, Les Bella Lieben Jolie De Von Giorno, to entertain the assembled delegates. Unfortunately, halfway through the demonstration, the Troupe goes insane, and begins hurling axes into the audience, splitting head after head. The Secretary General calls for calm, but before he can order a recess, his cranium is split as well.
The remaining Great Powers use the confusion to pass the gavel between themselves, conduct international business amidst the chaos, and generally try to shift the balance of world power while escaping a bunch of armed psychopaths.

Brought to you by the folks who also brought you the classic Yamara strip in Dragon magazine. Looking back, Yamara is in many ways a sort of ancestor to the current hilarity of The Order of the Stick.

Robert Frost hates unstructured play

Actually, the relevant quote is “I’d sooner write free verse as play tennis with the net down.”
In the most recent episode (15) of their Magic podcast DeckConstruct, hosts Alex and Dan go to a local Magic scene and ask people what they think of casual play, as well as how they’d define it. The consensus understanding of “casual” is “not tournament play,” as embodied in the phrase “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose.”
There is, of course, nothing wrong with this. If every game were about qualifying for a Pro Tour and a $25 entry fee, I’d be a pretty grumpy camper.
But even in casual play, there must be structure. A lot of the interviewees said that they liked how they could bring “any old deck” to a casual game, no problem. But there is a problem, inasmuch as without any particular rules, it’s hard to say what you can bring. Or, to put it another way, “Sure I can make a deck that sucks, but how do I make sure mine sucks as much as yours?”
In competitive Magic, this is easy. Format? Standard. What can I play? Anything in Standard. Put in the best cards, optimize your deck, try to win. Everyone’s on the same page.
In default casual, it’s unclear. This is social contract territory, because the “rule” really is “try to win, sort of, but not too hard.” If you go into the “tournament practice” area in Magic Online, you will occasionally run into people who haven’t made the best possible deck. You will run over them, and that’s okay. If you go into the “casual play” area, it’s entirely rockier. Hit someone up with a Stone Rain and you may find them complaining publicly that you suck for playing land destruction. Or perhaps not. Who knows? There are no hard-and-fast rules, and this kind of casual play often amounts to “whatever I don’t feel put off by.”
That’s a vague, vague rule to follow.
My preference is for structured play. Rather than the fuzzy implied social contract, set an actual contract. Play Standard. Play Extended. Play Highlander, Pauper, or anything else with defined rules. I want to be on the same page with my friends, whatever that page happens to be. The fundamental problem with the implied contract is that you’re trying to play suboptimally, and there’s no good way for everyone to accurately be equally bad. Someone may well accidentally bring an overly good card to the dance, and then they just keep winning over and over again, which isn’t fun for anyone.
Back when I played Mechwarrior a great deal, we had an explicit agreement across the tournament players to play “faction pure” forces (that is, forces derived all from one faction within the game, a situation not required by the game rules). We did this because pure forces looked better, and because pure forces came with inherent strengths and weakness that mixed-faction forces smoothed out. Had we not formalized this, the one person who didn’t care as much and showed up with a mixed force might well have walked all over the others — whether they really wanted to or not!
In gaming, as in the rest of life, I like my social contracts to be explicit. When everyone’s on the same page, it’s just that much easier to have a good time.

“A Game of Dune”

Click here to see a beautifully done custom retheming of “A Game of Thrones” (based on the Martin novels) into “Battle for Dune.” It’s a thorough job, with a new board, new pieces, new cards, the whole deal. I’ve never played AGoT out of a lack of interest in the setting, but this looks like an amazing reworking.

Rethemed games

Since I keep mentioning this and then forgetting to provide a link:
Non-comprehensive list of games whose themes were changed between design and publishing, compiled by Bruno Faidutti, himself a designer of many games. Some of the interesting rethemings include:
Medieval Japan –> Aborigines (because war-themed games aren’t popular in Germany)
Trojan War –> Renaissance Spain (because there was a competing Trojan War game already released that year)
Medieval War –> Trojan war (because the Trojan war was more “original”…that year)
Mississippi cotton shipping –> Loire wine shipping (because there was already a successful Mississippi shipping game)
Space empire building –> Polynesian island exploration (because SF games aren’t popular in Germany)
The short version often amounts to “game publishers are as twitchy as movie producers when it comes to guessing what will or won’t sell.”

Photon torpedos and phasers

Back in the day, FASA released the Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator, a wargame depicting ship-to-ship combat in the Star Trek universe. Cataptromancer owned a copy, which I coveted purely for the cool counters. As it happens, it seems to have been a decent, if record-intensive game.
Fortunately, Jason Robinson has converted ST:STCS into a free, downloadable computer game. Now, all the calculations are done “under the hood,” leaving you to allocate power and then maneuver your ship and fire your weapons. It’s a sweet little game, even if I can’t manage to beat an L42B with a Chandley.
It should not shock anyone I know that a computer game that appeals to me is a port of a board game.

The price of old things

As I wrote earlier, I was selling some old minis and other stuff off on ebay last week. Here are the final selling prices:
The Last Starfighter Tunnel Chase game came in the lowest, at $1.25. I guess that 1984 bad-SF-movie nostalgia isn’t strong enough.
Random Eldar came in at $3.50, and the Space Marine diorama at $4.28.
The Chaos Space Marine collection hit $42.75, while the now-rare Melniboneans came in at $52.00.
The Imperial Space Marine boxed set that I bought way back when for $20 sold for $88.78. What’s sad about this is that it would run a person about $110 to field an equivalent number of plastic Space Marines these days, so even though I made a massive profit, it’s still a great deal for the buyer.
Finally, my old Harlequins sold for $97.77, which surprised me until I realized I was offering a complete set — unlike the little groups of Harlequins I’d seen sold on ebay previously.
I hope everyone enjoys their new toys.