Hobby Projects, and Why I Missed An Update

by paet the pagan-gerbil27. May 2015 08:00

Whoops, missed a scheduled post back there. I was expecting to be able to add a write-up about the MWWS charity tournament in Builth Wells, but unfortunately was struck down ill that weekend and was unable to attend. I was extra disappointed because I was supposed to be driving two other players to the tournament, and we were unable to organise alternative transport.

I’m trying to work on building up a buffer of posts for the site to ensure I always have something ready to go ahead of time, but I’ve been working on a few hobby projects instead. One of these is a revival of my Gorkamorka/Necromunda skirmish engine in WPF, and is coming along nicely for the moment. It’s nowhere near finished, and it’s never going to have pretty graphics, but I’m practicing my architecture design on it (as a large, complicated project it will be ideal for that). The other is an actual public website: www.dreadballhub.com.

Right now, it’s a small website that only has two features. The first is an Xtreme team manager (this will need to be completely rewritten in a month or two when the Player Handbook comes out), that calculates an Xtreme team from the two sponsor options in the book. You can even download the finished roster as a PDF. It’s not entirely pretty, but it works.

The second feature is a relatively new one: a game tracker. Someone made one previously (back when DreadBall was barely out). They closed it down last June as they walked away from the game, citing irreconcilable balance issues and a difference between the support requested and the support given. A number of people have requested that the database be reopened.

I did consider building it earlier this year, but I had heard that Mantic were going to have an all-singing all-dancing ranking website to track players in tournaments, record games, and all of that jazz. Since it hasn’t appeared (and I’m still waiting on Windows Phone versions of the existing Mantic Digital apps) I thought ‘well blow it, I can write code’ and dived into the project.

There’s more things that I want to add, but I figured it would be best to get the site out there and collect data. Even if it’s not publicly visible yet, it’s there and working behind the scenes.

One thing that I want to add (that will be difficult without an internet connection on my lunch/code breaks) is a way to login to the site (with Google/Twitter/etc) so that individual players can be identified as being great players. Identifying the opponent that you played against, however, will be much harder and I’ll need to think about the process before I do any work. Possibly each player will need a unique name of some kind after they’ve logged in to be identified by their opponents? I can also see the possibility of abuse, if people record massive wins against you that never happened, and so a system of verifying games becomes necessary as well as a way to record games against unregistered players.

So that’s what I’ve been up to instead of going to tournaments and writing blog posts. I’m still aiming to be at the Wales and South West Regional tournament in two and a half weeks (yikes, best get painting) and trying to decide if it’s worth trekking across the country for the South-East and Southern regionals too.

That address to remember is www.dreadballhub.com and feel free to suggest new features! I’m looking for new ways to expand it and make a useful community resource.

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Game Review – Pandemic

by paet the pagan-gerbil8. May 2015 08:00

Pandemic is a co-operative game, where you work together (see, co-operative) to try and cure all diseases in the world.

I’d first heard about Pandemic on the YouTube show TableTop, but finally got the chance to play about 18 months ago. In my first game, I found it difficult to get my head around the ‘co-operative’ aspect. I was given some cards, and held them as I would in any competitive game – secretly. Then I saw everyone else had theirs on the table… Knowing that I would be playing with another group of friends a few weeks later, I came away from the game saying “Now I have some experience, I can pretend I’m new… no wait, that makes no sense at all…”

It was a big shift for me, having played mostly competitive games and occasionally team competitive games. In this game, everyone is working together, you win or lose together, there’s no degrees of winning and there’s no possible blame. You can’t lose the game because one person screwed up as it is entirely strategy based and the strategy is discussed heavily by all players. In some ways, the distinction of each player’s turn is blurred since everyone’s turn will be planned by the whole team. Sometimes, you can feel like your turn is not your own because you didn’t have any input, or the other players came up with a better idea for your turn. But on the other hand, the other players will be getting the same from you.

The introduction that I had to the game was “this is the board. These are all the ways that you lose.” Basically, if the epidemic tracker gets to 8, you lose. If the escalation track gets to the end, you lose. If you run out of disease counters and you need more, you lose. And there’s a time limit too, if you run out of player cards you lose. Each player draws two cards every turn, so there’s a limit to how long you can go for.

Every player gets a different role, which gives special abilities to the team. Things like making card trades easier (you can usually only trade a city card if both players are in the same place, and that place matches the city). I think all roles have some utility, although in the case of the Contingency Planner, some games may not see their ability being used.

Depending on the mix of roles a game could go very quickly. One four-player game I was in cured a disease in the first turn. In another game, the placement of diseases made the epidemic tracker advance much too quickly and we lost very fast. Even without that, the time limit does keep the playing time down and it’s a good one to bring out at a games night. Sometimes, you can win by the skin of your teeth, or get really tense moments when you have to drop your plan to be able to keep the team from losing, because someone drew an unfortunately timed Epidemic card.

It’s a great game, and after two rounds you can easily turn into an expert (that is, I turned into an ‘expert’), expounding the virtues of one role over another. It’s quite a complex game made of little, simple bits that interact in a great way. I’ve more than once been in the position of a team working out the next few moves for everyone, and have the discussion of several alternative plans become so in-depth that we forget whose turn it is right now. Being able to discuss strategy around the table is a great change to the games I normally play – I am used to making moves in DreadBall that I hope my opponent either doesn’t think about or doesn’t understand, and trying to analyse my opponent’s moves in the privacy of my own head to work out what their plan may be. In Pandemic, you need to talk to everyone to be able to win at all. It’s wonderfully refreshing to get people to solve a problem together and come up with a plan. It’s even better when that plan comes to fruition – all three or four players analysing, discussing, deliberating and then executing a successful battle plan. I really like the feeling you get when, as a team, you can cure off a disease and get a bit closer to winning.

The biggest problem I can find with the game is that of the ‘alpha-gamer’ problem. I have been lucky enough to play with gamers and smart people, so everyone had a part to play in the game. But as I already said, sometimes you can feel like your turn has been played for you and for people who are not as strategically minded as most gamers are you might end up a spectator and just be doing what you are told. The other is that the game is for a maximum of four players. There is a five-player expansion somewhere, but we haven’t been able to play that version. I don’t think it will scale well to more than five players, since each additional player means that as a team, you have more special abilities – some of which are incredibly powerful – and more cards in your collective hands (maximum of seven per player). The Researcher and Scientist combination is brilliant, since the Researcher can trade cards so easily and the Scientist doesn’t need so many cards to cure a disease. Having more cards is better, because with two players you need to focus on a single disease at a time, and might have to run around to treat diseases before getting back to curing. With three or four, it’s possible for each player to collect cards for different diseases, or leave one player to mop up diseases and prevent epidemics while the others cure them. The co-operative nature of the game, and working as a well-oiled team (even the occasional Aquaman), really appealed to me and I’ll definitely try to bring this to a games night in the future (with two friends owning it, I can probably get away without buying it myself). I’ll be on the lookout for more co-operative games to try out in the future, as it’s a very nice feeling that everyone wins or everyone loses together.

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Vanguard League Season Two – Part 2

by paet the pagan-gerbil24. April 2015 08:00

Well, the latter half of my league frittered away a bit. I got in a game against Dan and managed to win by a landslide pretty quickly, so we pulled out some Season Four teams and had a follow-on for fun game. My last game was scheduled against Oli, but due to impending babies we had to call it off. That left me a fairly solid third place out of six.

I ended up winning the ‘Hot Shot’ for most four-pointers, and the most violent was Oli with a grand total of two kills. Not a very angry bunch, are we. Merrick managed to come fourth despite missing three of his games (two of which were giveaways to his opponents, rather than the draw we took in the first round).

Stuart took the league with his Void Sirens – five wins, no losses, top for cheers and score difference. Incredible!

Running a league is hard – I was told that the hardest part is getting people to play their games. I did my best, but Division One ended up not playing a single game. Division Two (which I was in) managed most of our games – I think four out of the fifteen failed (two were mine, whoops).

I wouldn’t mind giving it a go later in the year. I might relax some of the MVP rules to make it a bit easier to get them, and maybe rejuggle the Division system. It worked great for Liam last season, but it didn’t really work out this time around and I feel like being promoted to the division that doesn’t play games is hardly a reward for our division’s star!

I had fun playing the Z’zor but it would have been nice to get some more games in. I think if we did it again, I might relax the fixtures a little more – two week timeslot to play a game, against anybody, but keep the round-robin style. Maybe even four weeks to play two games to allow for some slippage without holding everyone up. It’s something to consider for later in the year anyway, I have enough to get on with without trying to launch another league so soon.

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Star Trek Episode Autopsy – Justice

by paet the pagan-gerbil10. April 2015 09:00

This was a memorable episode, one of the few really good ones from the first series. Or maybe that’s just the memories of the very bold fashions on the Edo planet, including the men for a change!

Cultural Differences

I liked that this planet had it’s own cultural quirks, to make up for looking like ordinary humans. The running, the odd turns of phrase (maybe the Universal Translator isn’t quite running fine?) and of course, the very very open sexuality on the planet all clearly show that this isn’t a Federation settlement with Federation values.

Aaaaand they're running, they're running...

Away Teams and Laws

“We found out about their laws, but didn’t bother discussing punishments or telling the rest of the away team about them.”

It would hopefully be standard practice to discuss a planet’s laws with all members of the away team – I’m sure Wesley’s particular problem would have been solved as it’s easier to remember strange laws such as ‘Do not go past that white fence that is easy to step over or walk around.’ It almost feels like that one is a ‘gotcha’ rule, especially as all the structures, large and small, are pure white and clean in form. How can you tell the restricted area fence from a bench? It’s not like they were particularly pressed for time having just completed a mission, where in other episodes you could get away with a certain oversight on the particulars.

Keep off the grass

Strange laws aside, the away team should have done a better job at briefing all personnel going to the planet – especially since one was a civilian who hadn’t been to an unexplored world before, or gone through any Starfleet training.

Wait, What’s That??

Then the Edo Vessel appears! An all-powerful alien spacecraft masquerading (maybe unintentionally) as a deity. What was a difficult situation becomes worse when the Enterprise can’t just sneak off and pretend they won the argument.

The completionist in me really wants to see a schematic of this vessel...

The Edo Probe is able to interface and communicate with Data just by touching him. Since it reads him so easily, is this now a security risk (a high level officer has had all of his secrets downloaded and recorded) to Starfleet? And wouldn’t Geordi or one of the engineering team be a better choice to examine Data as he recovers – despite Crushers’s skills in xenobiology, I’m sure that Data’s physiology is different enough (and unique, at that time) to what she has seen before to make her existing knowledge practically useless.

Apart from shaking the ship and being fairly difficult to scan – is that a semi-cloaking device, or does it really exist outside of the universe? – the Edo vessel doesn’t demonstrate it’s power too much. I suppose that’s a difficult gamble to take for most captains though.

Picard’s Morals

There’s a lot of talk about the Prime Directive, and how they – as Starfleet officers – are bound by other culture’s laws. However, Picard only pays lip service to this. Although he refuses to, and probably would never, use force to rescue Wesley it feels like he didn’t use his famed negotiation skills to actually convince them. The conversation seemed to be:

“He admitted his guilt, you are bound by our laws, he will be executed.”
“Yes, but can I make you understand that we don’t want him to be?”
“There are no exceptions, I’m really sorry.”
“I know, and we can’t ask for any. But still, can we just take him and go anyway?”

”Don’t worry Beverly, I’m going to follow all of our laws and let them execute your son, but I will not allow them to execute your son.”

In the end, the Edo are convinced that the boy will be rescued by force if necessary and just sit back sulking when Picard takes Wesley back without issue. The Edo God first tries to stop them, then gives up?

The Colony

The colony gets removed, by the apparent will of the Edo God who claims (unsubstantiated) to own the whole star cluster – which stars? That’s a small empire, really! If the colonists had stayed, would they be judged and found wanting by the God, and have the Edo rules imposed on them?

I found the decision to remove the colonists baffling, from both sides. Picard got what he wanted without making concessions, then offers one out of goodwill? Guilt? One that will affect hundreds of people, and Federation policy going forward. Will the Federation be happy with losing that colony? The Edo God, previously quite chatty, makes it’s request known through… silence. If I was Picard, I’d have chanced it. “It’s clear the Edo spacecraft wants no more negotiating with us, and wants a line drawn under it here. Let’s go on our way and inform Starfleet of the success of the colonisation mission.” If the God really wanted them gone it would re-open communications – if not now, then later when the human settlers loud music and late night parties start getting bothersome.

Consequences

Should this be on Wesley’s record for when he tries to apply to Starfleet? I don’t think it should negatively affect him, since saying you don’t want to die when you’re a child isn’t necessarily a sign of future rule-breaking or moral failings.

Will the Edo vessel be a little more cautious or territorial in the future? It didn’t like colonists left on the other planet, but didn’t want to do anything to stop them or tell anyone. The only thing that really got it’s goat is when Wesley didn’t want to be executed.

Will Starfleet attempt more peaceful contact with the Edo, or their God, in the future? There doesn’t seem to be a deep well of stories in that vein though.

Other Captains

Janeway would clearly have had a fit if one of her crew was going to be executed, however she hasn’t been terribly predictable when the immediate safety of her crew comes up against the Prime Directive. She is just as likely to tell everyone to stay behind, then guerilla-rescue the crew members and fly off as quick as she can as to leave them behind and just go. If that were the case, Chakotay would be the likely candidate to lead a mutinous rescue mission and recover the crew member (then try to catch up with Voyager), and get a stern telling off from Janeway that goes nowhere. They do have the advantage of being able to fly away from any consequences and pretend it never happened.

Sisko is much easier to work with. To hell with the Prime Directive, he would try anything to get that child back (given that the only two children seen on DS9 are his own son or Nog, I can see him being particularly zealous about this one), though I think he would look for a legal loophole of his own first. Given his experience with children (as the Edo Vessel views it’s people), he can relate to an alien with different values getting away with things he would strongly admonish his own son for. Maybe he’d try to claim that it doesn’t make the Edo Vessel a bad parent. He’s also had a lot of experience arguing with and lecturing god-like beings…

Conclusion

Also notable about this episode, I believe it’s the first time Klingon sex is mentioned, and the description stands up for years to come. Hooray for Klingon sex!

I’m going to try and keep a better track of these statistics – I like to keep track of silly things like that.

  • Picard wins trials: 2 (technically, he got what he wanted)
  • Wesley nearly dies: +1
  • Meet a ‘god’: 2
  • Avoid the Prime Directive: 1

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Tournaments and Painting Progress 2015

by paet the pagan-gerbil13. March 2015 08:00

The dates for this years DreadBall tournaments have been announced – about a half-dozen Regional events around the country finished up with a National tournament in October, meaning a tournament season of around six months.

As well as the Regional events this year, some tournaments can be ‘qualifying’ events with the same nice trophies and free entry to the Nationals for the winner. Information on these has been thin on the ground but there is one happening in mid-Wales hosted by the Mid-Wales Wargaming Society, which will be raising money for charity (the Wales Air Ambulance Charity).

The Bristol tournament organisation has changed – Bristol Vanguard will only be running one tournament this year. It will be an independent event outside of the official tournament circuit, around September time.

The Wales Regional has been renamed the Wales and South-West Regional, possibly in recognition of the fact that not only has every Wales Regional winner been from outside Wales, but every other player too! Rather ironic, as I believe this is the first year that a Welsh person is going to attend.

Looking at the calendar, it is possible for me to reach the MWWS event in Builth Wells, the Wales and South-West Regional, the South Regional (in Brighton) and possibly the London Regional in a single day-trip, although a lot of driving. Everywhere else is just too far away. We will still be making the effort to go to Nottingham for the National tournament in October.

I’m hoping to get some of the new teams painted in time for these tournaments. I’ll be trying to take something different each time (and my Veer-myn are on a well-earned vacation) but what those teams are will depend on how well I do. I can see myself bringing Martians to a tournament later in the year because they were just so much fun to play, even being totally useless!

On the painting front, I’ve been able to do a little bit of painting most evenings for the past few weeks. It’s not a lot, but it’s getting the main coats down on a lot of teams or doing a bit more work if I’m not too tired to concentrate. The Asterians are getting (frustrating) progress, the skin on the Sphyr and Grogans are finished, and I’m working on the Rebs uniforms before tackling their various skin tones. I was impressed when I realised that the Gaelian Jack (a centaur-like alien) was wearing a jumpsuit designed for it’s unique physiology – good show that designer!

As much as I love the Hobgoblins, I have no idea how to paint them. I don’t like the colour scheme in the book. I’m tempting to go for something yellow-brown and green without looking too much like the Veer-myn. Maybe if I use some of my new blending skills to make the armour transition from one colour to the other in a more organic style than solid plates. One of the downsides of the Xtreme Kickstarter is that there aren’t ‘spare’ models for each team like there were in the original DreadBall Kickstarter, so I can’t experiment with a bold style and then throw it away if it doesn’t work. That would mean opening up the mint, untouched, brand new bag with the duplicate team in.

Another challenge in painting the Hobgoblins will be arriving at a good colour scheme that fits both the scrawny, pathetic, stinky players and the Hulk.

My painting table at the moment is very disordered – I have Convicts, Kalyshi and Rebels on it as well as DBX scenery. There’s still a few teams from Seasons One to Three unpainted (sorry Forge Fathers…) and a few that are practically finished but for highlights. I’m helping a friend out with a DreadBall demo day in a couple of weeks and I anticipate being able to paint between demo games so maybe I’ll get something finished off in that time. Even though I’m jumping around (a lot), it’s all progress and despite not really finishing any teams that I’m working on quickly, I know that it’s helping me get them closer to finished without feeling like I’m rushing anything in particular.

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Vanguard League Season Two–part 1

by paet the pagan-gerbil27. February 2015 08:00

With our normal organiser getting too busy, the second season was delayed slightly… and then taken up by a new organiser. Me!

I always said that if no-one else organised leagues or tournaments in Bristol, I would have to do it myself. So here I am.

I kept the two divisions from the first season – there were a number of drop-outs, and a bunch of new players, which roughly evened out. Division One was a player short, so each round someone has to sit out and do nothing but it’s all equal and they’ll get the same number of games.

For this league, I’m going to be taking the Z’zor. I find that I usually get better at playing a team if I take them in a league, so my aim is to work out how these bashy teams work (while sticking with my familiar ‘Skill 5+’ style).

Game One – Merrick

We started with the best of intentions – we both turned up on time. To different venues. We weren’t able to reschedule, so I put it down as 0-pts each. Technically, we did both turn up and nobody won the game.

Game Two – Adrian’s Rats

This game went fairly well – I scored a few 3-pointers but so did the Rats. Fortunately, they dropped more strike attempts than I did so I squeezed out a 3 point lead (could have been 4, but for a last minute score by the Veer-myn).

The highlight for me was one Z’zor Striker scoring an achievement by throwing a 9-hex pass to another Z’zor Striker, and having it be caught. It took both coaching dice, but he made it! It only got a single cheer pip, but that’s not too bad.

After the game, one of my Strikers got Grizzled on the Extra Coaching table (which makes him extremely hard to hurt) and the Guard got Quick Recovery on the S2 advance table, on the off-chance that he actually gets hurt. I chose the S1 Extra Coaching table since 4 of the 6 options are attractive to a Z’zor Striker – Can’t Feel A Thing essentially means ‘choose’ in addition to the normal ‘choose’ option, Lucky is universally useful and a Skill improvement is definitely welcome for 5+ players. So it stands to reason that he should gain Grizzled instead. At least I can be sure that he won’t get damaged when I come up against the two Marauder teams near the end of the league…

Game Three – Stuart’s S2 Corporation

This game was nail-biting – by turn 6 I was 5 points down, but my Guard was moving up the pitch knocking out anyone standing in the three-point zone. Unfortunately, no player went out for more than two turns and my defence was almost empty, making it easy for Stuart to score three points most turns. From that halfway point, I got lucky and scored a four-pointer for each three-pointer scored against me until I actually had a point in my favour. Unfortunately, in rush 12 he scored 3 to bring the score to two in his favour, I missed my four-point shot in rush 13 but to balance, he missed his three-point shot in rush 14.

So the game ended as a loss, but I made it as tough as I could (and I’m amazed that Z’zor Strikers can score four-pointers…) We tried out the Achievements rules again, and since I was mostly beating up human Jacks I got a lot of ‘triple-Slam’ results. Unfortunately, most of these (and my fan checks in general) ended up being events. With an extra Coaching Dice, maybe I’d have won…

After the game, my second Striker gained a Skill advancement (again, on the S1 Extra Coaching table). And I’m aware of the counter-intuitiveness of complaining about not having enough Coaching Dice and then spending one to roll on an advancement table. Don’t judge me.

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The Nameless–Pascal-Psi Pool-Kings

by paet the pagan-gerbil13. February 2015 08:00

The Pascal-Psi corporation was left with some bad planetary holdings in the wake of an unfavourable shake-up with controlling groups merging, splitting and going bankrupt – leaving some of the smaller players in bad straits. With their experience of providing hard-wearing equipment to high-gravity planets, getting deeds over mineral-poor planets covered entirely in water was not to their taste.

However, their management have always had an attitude of making the best of any situation, and trying to turn a profit. By branching into related fields such as high-gravity habitation and extreme atmospheres, they could produce hard-wearing structures suitable for humans to survive underwater. Now all they needed was an incentive for people to visit their aquatic hotels and holiday spots.

Humans crave variety, and so Pascal-Psi got the first underwater DreadBall pitch licenced by DGB, under restrictions pertaining to competition outside of it’s own system, and drew in sentient marine species from across the Co-Prosperity Sphere to form their own league of teams. No-one had seen the Galaxy’s Greatest Sport played underwater before, and thus the Pascal-Psi Pool-Kings made their name before moving on to the big leagues.

There isn’t a name – they’re Nameless, right?

 

I didn't realise I'd painted them to camouflage with the pitch...

I didn’t like the purple on the studio models. It just isn’t for me. I have already put a light purple skin on my Asterians, and a deep purple armour on my Z’zor, so I wanted to keep away from making another purple team for now. I thought since they look a lot like octopus, and have a marine vibe, I wanted to reflect that with an octopus/squid like orange skin, and turquoise and blue or green armour.

The skin is Squig Orange with a Carroburg Crimson wash, then brought back to Squig Orange. I put Bestigor Flesh on the top of this and hated it. Over the next 24 hours, it grew on me and now I quite like the effect, but went a bit easier on it after the test model. I may redo this in the future mixing the colours together to reduce the jarring change.These guys are Hard.

The armour is Stegadon Scale Green, Sotek Blue and an edge highlight of Temple Guard Blue. I painted the bindings and other details with Averland Sunset, and highlighted with my ancient Sunburst Yellow (with thanks to the DreadBall Fanatics Facebook page for their advice on that third colour).

It was a nice simple paint scheme and I like the effect it gives, I was told later that the colours worked well together because of colour theory. It’s not something that I know anything about, but maybe I should look into it a bit more.These guys find it super-easy to catch things.

I’ve taken the team to a couple of tournaments – the May 2014 Mantic Open Day and 2014 Welsh Regional – and performed pretty poorly. Even with the known double-whammy of stick ‘em and hit ‘em, none of my slams seemed to have much impact. At that time, they were just starting to be discussed as the auto-win team, the unenjoyable opponent team, etc… I wouldn’t say that I’m a bad player, but I couldn’t see them being too easy to use. Maybe I just need more experience with bashy teams. I can see how in a league, their guards could become something truly terrifying and it’s very easy for their Strikers to get Skill 3+.

These guys are Sticky.

I’ve got a few ideas for taking this colour scheme further when it is time to paint the Nameless Spawn and John Doe – that’s a little way down the line though!

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Star Trek Episode Autopsy – Lonely Among Us

by paet the pagan-gerbil30. January 2015 08:00

This was a disappointing episode. The main story, with energy beings hijacking the ship, wasn’t too bad but I feel like it could have been done better. I’ve got complaints about the dialogue, direction, etc but that’s not really what I write these about so I’ll put those aside. The secondary story, with the Anticans and Selay, was very poorly handled in my opinion.

The Odd Couple

We have two alien races who hate each other, have always hated each other, and can barely stand to be in nearby rooms. The best way to get them to a peace conference is on the same starship, and the crew assign them to quarters literally next door to each other until they complain. We never meet the hospitality officer on the Enterprise, but given some of the deep research that Picard and Troi go into when meeting other races, you’d think someone would have paid a bit more attention to this.

He just accidentally brutally chopped off his own head while carving a turkey...

What about the peace conference itself? We see the Antican delegates more than the Selay, but the impression we get is that they were sent along as a matter of form and they’re not really that bothered whether peace is achieved or not. I think that if everything had progressed smoothly and the delegates were delivered happily to the conference, the Anticans weren’t really committed and fairly unlikely to actually agree to any concessions (on their part, at least).

Nasty Ferengi

There was a drop-in reference to the big baddies for the series, the Ferengi. The implication was made that they had bribed the delegates to sabotage the ship. At some point, they stopped being the bogeymen of the galaxy but they’re still a big, dangerous threat to the Federation at this point.

Politics and Morals

I’d be interested to find out if Gene Roddenberry was a vegetarian. There is a discussion early on in the episode where it’s explained that humans only eat synthetic meat and don’t raise animals to be eaten. This raises a few questions – if meat is synthesised, why not vegetables? If humans go to another world, are they able to digest the foreign meat that’s come from a real animal? This is a consideration in general for food though, not just for vegetarianism. It seems that people have a fairly relaxed attitude to foodstuffs (and especially foreign processed foods) across the galaxy and will eat it without checking it for edibility or toxins.

In addition, when did vegetarianism become the standard? It can’t have been too long ago, as the Antican has seen humans ‘eating meat’ – synthetic meat fashioned to look like real meat by the replicators. On the other hand, it seems totally normal and expected to Tasha Yar who grew up homeless on a dangerous, backwater planet. Vegetarianism must have been fairly ingrained in human culture to be the norm even somewhere where the expectation is ‘kill or be killed’ and ‘fight to survive’.

There’s also a sly nod to the Cold War – “people even used to go to war about economic systems.” That makes it sound silly, and was probably written in to show how enlightened we are going to be to have eliminated war within our own species, but it’s actually an interesting point. Since previous episodes have pointed out that humans have abandoned money, aren’t the Federation following more Communist principles than Capitalist ones?

Troi’s Insights

I liked Troi’s insight on things in this episode. I heard an engineer in her voice, explaining patiently that she can’t detect two consciousness's in the crew because of the inherent duality in everyone. There are many times that I’ve heard technical people explaining ‘no, that’s not the way that things work’ and this conversation brought back all of them.

The big difference to those conversations is that everyone listened and accepted the answer on the show!

Murder on the Enterprise

I was very confused by the almost negligent attitude to the peace delegates on the ship. They’re able to hide behind corners and ambush crew members, hide weapons in their quarters and on their person and even catch Riker (inadvertently) in a net. Now, there were bigger problems on the ship, but they could probably still have spared a couple more security personnel to guard all the visitors. To have Riker essentially assaulted and possibly hurt by a neutral/unfriendly alien visitor, but have no consequences is quite strange.

In addition, the murder revelation at the end seemed almost as if nobody cared about it – Picard takes the news as if ‘well, I’ll just palm off that responsibility on you then!’ and Riker and Tasha don’t appear to want to deal with it but not because they actually care about someone being killed and eaten (offending their vegetarian sensibilities even more, I imagine). The fact that it happens at the end of the episode means that there’s no way to find out what the Selay think about the murder – do they blame the Anticans or the Federation, or both? Will the peace conference fail now that a peace delegate has been murdered by his opposite number? Do either side, or both, blame the Enterprise delays for the peace talks stalling (as the murder of a peace delegate would no doubt cause them to fail anyway)?

Will the Federation implement a policy of having separate ships deliver peace delegates to their conferences in the future?

Data and the Energy Beings

Could Data host the energy beings? Would that have been an acceptable compromise? Does there even really need to be a compromise? Would it at least facilitate communication? Who knows.

New Life and New Civilisations… Sometimes

The energy beings that are trapped in the ship, communicate with the crew and have a society and a home that they want to get back to could be interesting to explore. But instead, not enough attention is paid to it and in the end it doesn’t really go anywhere. It would be nice to have some sort of follow-up where a science vessel approaches at a safe distance and attempts to make contact with them, and discover more about these energy beings. Is their whole race within the phenomenon the Enterprise encountered, or is it more like a starship carrying a small crew of explorers, like the Enterprise itself?

Picard is essentially abandoned and trapped on their ship, just as they were trapped on his. Do they try to help him? Can they try to help him? We don’t know.

So many questions... So much mystery...

Other Interesting Titbits

Also spotted in this episode – a medical visor used by Dr Crusher, that I don’t remember seeing anywhere else. I’ll try to keep an eye out for it in the future.

And again, there’s not much to say about it, but the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes. Data jumps into the act full throttle, but over the years as his humanity grows his eccentric behaviour fades. Although it doesn’t seem connected, the more his empathic skills increase, the less he is given to acting rash or illogically. No-one would question an android studying Sherlock Holmes’ methods, the odd thing is why he thought it appropriate to begin smoking a pipe.

Come to think of it, what WAS in Data's pipe?

What Would Other Captains Do?

As usual, there are two big things going on in this episode, the peace delegates and the ‘hijack’.

Sisko would almost certainly call the Anticans out on their behaviour. They aren’t even pretending to want peace. They’d end up locked in a cell on DS9 (although the actual escort would probably be on the Defiant) in fairly short order, and between Odo and the Bajoran authorities on one side, and the uncompromising standards of Sisko, I can’t see them getting out any time soon. To be honest, I would see Picard doing much the same thing if he hadn’t essentially washed his hands of anything to do with the delegates.

Sisko is harder to tell with the energy beings. He is an adventurer, an explorer, but unlike Picard he has a strong sense of commitment and family. He has his son, his father, his connections to Bajor (strengthening every year), and at times Kassidy Yates. Picard has a brother he was not as close to, and no real sense of family himself. Eventually, of course, Sisko does disappear with energy beings to explore strange new worlds but this was not entirely at his own volition. I do wonder how Odo would have fared hosting the energy beings, given his odd reaction to Curzon Dax’s personality?

Janeway’s behaviour with the delegates would probably be closer to Picard’s actual behaviour in the episode. Chakotay would probably be in charge of them, and he walks an odd line between following Starfleet protocol to provide an example and being flexible with the rules because of the pressures of life being isolated in the Delta quadrant. I think at the point of the murder he would be very, very keen to push them out of an airlock (or at least kick them off of the ship early). If they want to play hard, he can certainly play hard…

Conclusion

So-so. Too many things happened here that essentially felt like both the characters and the writers couldn’t give a monkeys. “Murder on my ship? Phoo, is that the time? I’d best get some sleep…”

  • Ship captured: +1
  • Crew possessions: +1
  • Unknowable energy beings: +1

Riker: "Did he just...? Am I stuck with...? Hang on a second!"

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Kickstarter Roundup

by paet the pagan-gerbil2. January 2015 08:00

It’s been an interesting few years for me with Kickstarter – here’s where I’m at with all of my backed projects.

Order of the Stick Reprint Drive

This was my first Kickstarter, and is still outstanding. The reason for that though is clear – the sole artist and writer of the saga damaged his hand pretty badly shortly after the Kickstarter, and has been fulfilling the bonus content as and when he can since then. It should be noted that the core pledge – books – were delivered on time without problem and I’ve received all the physical goods I ordered. The remaining things are mostly digital short stories, and I can wait for those to drip in slowly for another couple of years. I trust Rich to be able to fulfil the Kickstarter promises, and in theory all the bonus content will actually make up half of an extra book – if the promises made don’t mandate exclusivity, of course. I’m not hung up on exclusivity myself, but I know some people can get really irate about that sort of thing.

Broken Age

It’s been an interesting project, given that the whole thing has been relatively public on video since it’s inception. I’m getting a bit itchy since finishing Act One, and the pace of the videos has slowed down dramatically, and before too long they’ll be going dark for Amnesia Fortnight again. Hopefully, there’ll at least be some more AF videos this year even if the Broken Age ones are slowing down.

Wasteland 2

An entirely complete project! I only put in for the game itself, and no physical rewards, so I’m absolutely thrilled with the final result. The only problem is that my aging graphics card finally gave up and packed in. I’ll need to get a new one before I can play any more modern games.

Broken Sword

I was a huge fan of the original Broken Sword games, I remember getting awfully stuck on the first one (the goat…) with my cousin on the Playstation. I still haven’t completed BS4 yet, but the control system was just too unpleasant to deal with. I’ll try and get back to it one day, I expect. This Kickstarter delivered on time, and it delivered an awesome game. Not as hard as some of the older games, but not a pushover either.

Satellite Reign

This is possibly the riskiest project that I’ve backed – it is by a studio I’m not familiar with remaking a game I loved but was no good at. It’s still ticking along, and I’m aware of the long lead time in games (looking at the finished or nearly finished projects that I’ve backed, that’s clearer to me now) and their work in progress has been encouraging so far. They’ve also just released keys for Steam Early Access, which is a relief!

Torment: Tides of Numenera

I backed this because I was so confident in the team to deliver Wasteland 2, and because I know people who loved Planescape: Torment. I never got that far into it, and was playing it years behind the times when UI conventions had changed a lot (2d to 3d, no zoom, etc) and it makes some games age poorly. At the time, I could have loved it but interface and resolution had come a long way and I didn’t like the feeling that I was dying too much…

Cirque du Mort

The latest project that I’ve backed, on a recommendation from a friend. It’s a comic book that by KS prices comes out pretty cheap – definitely worth a shot to see how it goes.

DreadBall and Xtreme

These two projects really hit me hard, I fell for DreadBall bad during the Kickstarter and bought almost everything (figuring I could sell it on later at a profit if I wanted to). When Xtreme came around, I just went for the ‘one of everything’ pledge to make it easier, rather than keep adding stuff on. To this day, the only thing I’ve had to buy for DreadBall separately is the Azure Forest expansion.

I picked up the Xtreme game at the Open Day, and look forward to getting the first Season Four bits in the new year! It’ll be great to finally play with them, but I’ll have to get cracking on the painting…

Mars Attacks

This one didn’t interest me until it added a DreadBall team add-on. That’s all I went for, so I was surprised when I was sent the digital rules as well. Turns out that the rules for the DB team are hidden somewhere in one of the expansions – hopefully, they will be available to the world at large sometime afterwards.

As far as I’m aware, it delivered on time for me. I know some things were delayed but only by a few weeks, so it shouldn’t have been too big a deal.

Dungeon Saga

So I’m becoming a bit of a Mantic fan. This looked like another good, quick game to play and also a good introduction for older children to complex games. As a bonus it’s co-operative and multiplayer, so it could be brought out for a games night (full campaign in a day?) with the option of pitching it at ‘out of the box’ mode for new players or ‘analysis paralysis’ for the keen roleplayers amongst us. I went in for one of everything again… whoops.

Kings of War Second Edition

Oh dear. Another Mantic project. I only wanted one model, but with postage added it was only a little extra to get the rulebooks as well… so I went in at the low level, no upgrades, just to get the Blaine miniature. It might be easier to get a large fantasy game in as well since the rules are faster than Warhammer.

The Underground: A Sam & Fuzzy RPG

This one I backed on a whim. It looks like a silly, cartoony RPG much like the comic it’s based on. It might be a good game to play between our (no longer regular) regular RPGs, which are always planned as pretty serious and straight stories and then meet the players.

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DreadHeads Tournament - Mantic Open Day November 2014

by paet the pagan-gerbil11. December 2014 08:00

The last weekend of November saw us once more making the pilgrimage to Nottingham for the twice-yearly Mantic Open Day and DreadBall tournament!

The gang this time was Dan, Oli, Jen and myself. We met another guy from the DreadBall Fanatics Facebook page called Barry staying in the same hotel, and had an Ultimate game the night before (as is now custom) and got a little bit drunk (as is now custom...) The Ultimate game had four human teams (three of them Season One!) and me, playing Zees.

I was undecided between Zee and Z'zor - I kept going back and forth, Zee, Z'zor, Zee, Z'zor.... After asking advice, I got lots of suggestions on how to make the Z'zor competitive. So I chose Zees!

The tournament itself was a four-game event, with the 'fake league' rules to make teams better and better all the way through.

Oli's Void Sirens attack Orx and Slippery Joe!

Game One - Simon's S1 Corp

Simon was a great opponent, and we had a good laugh - I managed to win by a single point, and the major achievement in the game for me was scoring four points with a monkey!

Game Two - Rob's Teratons

 

I've seen Rob at a few of these events in the past, but never played him. I've been unsure whether or not it's wise, since he has won 'Most Bloody' more than once, and especially this time with his very smashy Teraton team. Somehow, my Zees got everything they wanted and walked off with a turn 5 landslide win. We were both stunned. It helped that the Praetorian (Rob's MVP purchase) couldn't pick up an undefended ball...

Dale won 'best painted' for his team at the Nationals, and they are even better in good light!

Game Three - Mike's Nameless

Mike is another player I've seen many times in the past - he was the first person that Jen played in a tournament, what feels like an age ago... I tried my best, but he had a Sticky Guard with 360 Vision in the three point strike zone, effectively shutting me out. This was a landslide loss, but at least it wasn't quick! Mike very charitably lent me his dice, which rolled way too many sixes for me - I'd have been more embarrassed if they were my own! There was one nasty turn where I sat on the launch lane, got a monkey knocked out by the ball, it scattered to another monkey who (obviously) couldn't catch it, then I lost the whole turn before it started. Annoying, but it doesn't happen as much as it did before the launch rules changed.

One monkey did manage to knock a Hard Guard out for two turns though. That's almost a win, for Zees.

Game Four - Leon's Asterians

Leon's converted Asterians (sorry about the blurriness...)

Leon is the current UK Champion and I was very much looking forward to playing him. His Asterian Dirty Tricks don't work too well against monkeys, but he was dynamite scoring. I managed to keep it away from being a landslide (somehow), including an incredible 9-hex throw from inside a threat hex to a Zee who caught it, moved into the three-point zone (another threat hex) and scored! Not enough to win, but pretty impressive. I eventually lost by four points.

Leon is really fun to play against, he doesn't take things too seriously and he makes it an entertaining game. I definitely wouldn't mind being thrashed by him again some day!

Results

It was a fun tournament, and I think a net -3 score difference is pretty good for Zees. There were two other Zee teams there, one came dead last and the other was captained by the TO (Rob T). None of our crowd got a prize this time around, but with players like Mike (who won this one) and Leon (who won the 2013 Nationals), and regulars like Rob F and Dale (both taking Teratons and going for blood) it's a hard competition. Full results are here, but to summarise: Oli came fifth, I came eighth, Dan was tenth and Jen eleventh.

Dan's Costa Coffee Corporation take on the other Asterian team

Unfortunately, the event was marred by not having the custom tokens we were expecting and being squashed in a room too small - the tables weren't wide enough for a Dreadball pitch, so boards were being knocked all the time. Having been to a couple of nice venues recently (the Bristol Megalofunotron 2 at the Ratepayers Arms, and the Crusader Bowl at Meadow-something Community Hall), this was a big let down. The prizes as well had to be announced in a noisy hall and consisted entirely of credit to spend in the store - it didn't feel particularly well-loved.

It was still a fun event, great to catch up with people and fun to play new opponents again!

Another Zee player got the wooden spoon, even with the Enforcer to help them along.

Open Day

And what of the rest of the Open Day? There were no outside exhibitors this time, which is a bit of a shame but I'm not too worried about. I wasn't going to pick up any new games anyway. We got to see the DreadBall Xtreme stuff, and pick up the box game from our Kickstarter package, and see some shiny painted models from the next few season's teams... Mechanites, Koris, and Tsudochan, among others! I'm starting to get accustomed to the fact that people there know us - they gave Jen my KS package while I was still playing a game, and Ronnie waved us in even though I'd forgotten to print off our confirmation.

After the tournament, we hung around waiting to see what pub everyone was going to when Ronnie came out to say that they were going to close the doors so if we wanted to come in for pizza, we could. Can't say fairer than that! I had been wondering what we were going to do about dinner anyway. It also gave us some time to look at the awesome display pieces without bumping into lots of people. Then it was home to drink, play Tarot of Loka (which Alessio had demonstrated to Dan, who promptly picked it up) and our first crack at Xtreme. It's a really fun, really brutal game. We went twelve rushes without scoring...

We'll definitely be back next year!

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