Thursday, 19 November 2015

But it's s***!

Have you ever been talking to friends, acquaintances or just a random dude at the bus stop and you get on to the subject of hobbies? If so, I would lay good money down that at some point of the conversation, “I don’t like it, it’s shit!” is uttered with regards to one of the hobbies being discussed.

When I was a younger chap, it would usually be about which computer or games console you had. At school, you were posh if you had a Commodore 64 (but a total dick if you had a Vic 20), you could hold your head up a little bit if you had an Amstrad CPC 464 (but not the disc equipped 664 or 6128!) and it was standard for a Sinclair Spectrum (usually the +2 model). It developed into the console generation with the Megadrive and SNES (Sega for me, but I remember being very jealous of SNES owning friends. Concurrently, there was the Amiga vs ST. I was an Amiga 500 kickstart 1.3 and a 512k ram expansion guy (how times change!).

Where is this going? Well, I have recently joined the current console generation after a couple of years of sitting things out. The delay was more due to real life getting in the way (house deposits are so expensive!) but I have eventually sorted a machine out and am now the happy owner of an X-Box One. Now, this is where the above quote comes into it.

I was chatting to a couple of friends from work one lunchtime and mentioned the fact that I had purchased said XB 1. At which point, the aforementioned quote was delivered in stereo.

The reason I chose the XB1 rather than the PS4, as explained to said two friends are as follows: currently, the XB1 has more exclusive games I wish to play (Rare Re-Play, Forza 6 and Tomb Raider: Rise of the Tomb Raider. Halo 5 is on hold, I am still undecided despite being a fan since the beginning of the series). The PS4 has two exclusives I wish to play, The Nathan Drake Collection and The Last of Us, both of which the originals were played on the PS3. There are a couple of games coming out next year that will warrant a PS4 (Uncharted 4 and No Man’s Sky), but since they are not out yet, it’ll be mid 2016 before another shiny black box joins the set up under the TV.

And their response (again!), ”But it’s shit!” Okay, it was a good-natured jibe, but it got me thinking.

Why do people do that? Is it through a sense of knowledge unbeknownst to me? Is it a social superiority power trip that harks back to the school yard? (BTW, both of these gentlemen are closer to 30 than not, so I would expect some maturity…) Or is it just points scoring in a game I didn’t know I was playing?

I get it that people like to identify with groups, the social need to be one of the pack. But, and this applies to gamers of both the video and war variety, it seems to be an almost automatic response. And the key part of this discourse: The people who say it can’t tell you why they have said it. Seriously, if you don’t like something, at least have the good grace to be able to say why. The counterpoint is also true. It’s no good saying something is good, but then not being able to say why it’s good. It’s a more common experience than you would think, and it always becomes a topic of conversation at wargames shows. I mention shows mostly because you get various opinions given and the most expressive of the reasons for people liking something is ”cos it is”, and for disliking, it’s the post’s title.

Maybe it’s a forlorn hope, but it would be nice if people could explain their decisions, having experienced or put some thought into it. Or have we reached a stage in human thinking that ”It’s shit” is the pinnacle of expression?

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Saturday TWATS are right for fighting...

Saturday saw the TWATS meeting at the local hostelry for a miniature Tactica Tournament. (BTW, anyone think a sci-fi version should be released: Battlestar Tactica? No??? Just me then…). There were five brave souls, Andy, Floating Jeff, Theatrical Steve, Mechanical Shaun and myself. The plan, two tables, using half armies, so we could get a couple of games in, as well as the usual beef butties, good beer and questionable conversations.

Andy was umpiring, and the usual rule applied, the umpire is always right, especially when they are wrong. It’s the only way. There were four armies, Roman Republican, Gauls, Hoplite Greek and Later Carthaginian. After choosing the sides, it was Shaun (Greek) versus Steve (Gauls), and myself (Carthaginian) versus Jeff (Roman).

Setting up was pretty simple, infantry units in the middle, cavalry and elephants to either flank. My plan was simple, try and break his infantry before he smashed mine. So, in with the elephants. This was the first of the bad moves. Jeff had his laser guided javelin throwers destroy the advancing heavies in two turns. Really, his dice throwing was unearthly. Whatever Ancient Ones he worships, they loved him that afternoon. A similar cavalry charge also ended up with lots of dead dudes. Mine, of course. At that point, Jeff advanced. Now Tactica is a “buckets of dice” game. Once you make contact and melee, it’s a case of roll ‘em and hope for the best. The Romans had an added advantage in that they had pila. So that was an extra bashing before the melee actually started. It took just one turn and it was over. Crushed isn’t the word.

On the other table, Steve was demonstrating how evil the Gauls are, and quickly sorted out Shaun’s Greeks. At this point, half time beckoned, as did the excellent beef butties.

Suitable refreshed, and glasses charged, we had at it again. It was the two winners to fight out who would be New Zealand, and the two losers to avoid being Argentina. We also kept the same armies.

Now, this time, I put the elephants in the centre, and quickly had at Shaun’s cavalry with my light horse, using them to screen my heavy cavalry as it flanked his left-most Hoplite block. On the other flank, I had light troops against his second cavalry unit. It would be close.

As it turned out, I had played a blinder. The elephants pinned down his centre Hoplites, my troops managed to knock his horse out of play, so began turning the right flank, and the horse fight on the left meant they all died, but left my heavies alone to cause untold damage to the poor Hoplites. At this point, I was confident, confident enough to even attempt an Afrikaans accent to mimic Adendorff from the film Rorke’s Drift, the horns, loins and the like. I had victory in my grasp, and I would drink the sweet ambrosia of success. Huzzah!!!

But no. It was not to be. My heavies took too long dealing with the first Hoplite block. Well, it was my atrocious dice rolling what done it. A theme of the afternoon, it allowed Shaun time to kill the elephants and unpin his centre. He charged forward. Let it be said, Tactica is a fun ruleset, fast paced and once you get stuck in, it can be extraordinarily bloody. It also has lovely melee rules when the first round is front rank only, but then all your mates can join in. This meant that whilst I almost had him surrounded, he could count on lots of dice per Hoplite block, killing on 4’s, 5’s and 6’s. I had far less dice per unit, killing on 5’s and 6’s. The results were predictable. I was slaughtered. If I had been one turn ahead on the flanks, I would have had him, but hey ho, such is the nature of the game. It was fun and a very good laugh though, and that is the point (isn’t it?). Meanwhile, on the victor’s table, Steve and Jeff annihilated each other in the same turn, giving them a draw.

Despite my dice rolling horror, and Jeff’s supernatural ability to get crazy dice (at one point, 6 sixes from 7 dice!), I thought the games went well and I am sure we’ll come back to Tactica again in the future. Hopefully with maximum twattage, we can have three, maybe four tables.

And I promise, no more Elton song titles will be harmed in future post titles...