DreadBall Southern Regional 2015

by paet the pagan-gerbil15. September 2015 08:00

The Southern Regional this year was held in Brighton, a city I have only ever seen in the dark, going to the theatre. In the day time it is beautiful. As I walked from the train station I could look down a hill along a long straight road all the way to the sea. Brilliant.

The venue was the King and Queen, an oversized 18th century farmhouse converted to a pub and really playing up it’s old roots with pictures of royalty from previous centuries on every wall. We were playing in a room upstairs although the weather was so nice maybe we should have gone and played al fresco.

The turnout was a little disappointing – Dale brought his carful down from Peterborough and I had trekked from Bristol (although staying with family in Portsmouth overnight to make the journey slightly easier). The only local was Simon, the organiser, who we had met in London a month earlier. However, such a small field was balanced by the fact that all players were extremely good at the game and veterans of tournaments – often placing quite highly in the results table too.

As I have all year, I brought the Sphyr with the same loadout of a Defensive Coach and two coaching dice.

Game 1: Leanne’s Veer-myn (the Strike-Happy Squeakers)

Immediately I had a sense of deja-vu as I had played Leanne first in London, same teams and same upgrades. This time however I was more lucky, and managed to push the rats around with relative ease using a forward Guard while a Running Interference card helped disrupt the rats scoring. The game ended at half-time in a landslide to me as I opened up the four-point shot. As an extra boost, I had the Ball Shatters card in my hand at the end of the game in case it hadn’t worked out.

Game 2: Phil’s S1 Corporation

Phil got to the top table at the end of the London Regional, and we had played previously in Wales (although he was using Teratons then). I managed to get a couple more four-pointers in this game, and ended it halfway through with another landslide win.

Game 3: Dale’s Teratons

Dale is always great to play against – he knows his team inside out and always gives me a challenging game. The fact that we have ended up against each other in the final game in the last two tournaments, which by the Swiss system means we should be roughly evenly matched, bears this out a bit. I decided to forego my normal Sphyr passing game and trying to get 3-pointers and to focus entirely instead on preventing him getting three-pointers and using my large number of good Strikers to score 2-pointers exclusively. The passing is a good backup in case one of those strike zones in blocked, but I didn’t need it in the end.

The game started a little poorly as I ran up to put the Teratons on the launch lane into threat hexes… which he teleported out of and slammed my poor strikers. I must pay more attention to the teams I am facing…

Regardless, the strategy worked well for me, and based entirely on 2-point strikes (and Dale’s poor luck) I took a third landslide win.

Game 4: Phil’s S1 Corporation again

Rather than play Rob (who I’d not played yet) or Simon (who was really the spare player), I was paired up against Phil as the second place person, and who had the best chance to beat me. This game started poorly for both of us – he fumbled a strike attempt, and I fumbled picking up the ball after it. I realised that this was the first game that the score had even gone into the other player’s track; although I could afford some loss given the relative Strike differences.

In the later turns, I moved a Jack away from defence to get the ball for a long throw… and again, I fumbled it. This left the 3-point zone open for more points from Phil, bringing the score back to a 1-point lead to me, and on turn 14 I brought it back up to a solid 4-point win.


So with 4 wins, three of them landslides, I took the tournament and the beautiful trophy! The calculations were being made after game three and it was almost in the bag – I could lose by 6 points and still be ahead on strike difference. In a landslide loss, I would need to have more cheers to win the tournament.

This shows one of the benefits of treating a landslide like a regular win in terms of tournament points. Without it, we would have been able to call the tournament completely after game three and the final game wouldn’t have had any peril, or point. As it was with strike difference it was very difficult for me to lose (I just had to prevent being completely steamrollered) it was still a possibility and I could have lost the tournament if the dice had been unkind to me.

In the final standings, Rob took the Wooden Spoon and the Most Violent (7 kills, out of 13 in the tournament as a whole), Phil took third place and Dale took second. I got first place, as well as Fan Favourite (most cheers, although this wasn’t a particularly huge number) and Hot Shot (most four pointers, I got 4 across the day). Due to the low turnout, there weren’t any prizes besides the trophy but Simon painted some Xtreme free agents in gold and silver for us – I got a Pusk Rampager for Fan Favourite and a Judwan for Hot Shot. Great stuff!

So this follows the trend so far of winning one tournament each year, and proves that I can do it without the Veer-myn. I’ll probably be taking the Sphyr to the UK Nationals in Nottingham in October, where we’re hoping to bring a few more Bristolians and expecting to meet the Peterborough crew again.

Don't even ask about the mould lines on that beast

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Sphyr Team Overview – Cetamere Centurions

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

These pictures make them look more the colour that I wanted. They're really a bit darker.The Cetamere system is unusual in that every planet has a large amount of water on the surface – the asteroids are mostly ice comets caught in the star’s gravity and even the moons of the planets are mostly water or ice.

The Sphyr were invited to colonise the system to provide a ready workforce for an enterprising group of Corporations working together to exploit the system, given it’s challenges for most citizens of the GCPS.

It didn’t take long for the Cetamere Conglomerate to elevate the worker’s off-duty activities to company sponsored events, with the aim of sponsoring a team in the local sector leagues.I normally don't do much with the guards, other than try and push a space on the 3-point zone.

I intended to have the Asterians all painted up, but got distracted. It’s very difficult to stay focussed on them when I have so many other, easier teams to paint. I’ve done more work with a wet pallette on this team to try and practice mixing colours and getting smoother blends. The skin was a base of Calgar Blue mixed with Eshin Grey, highlighted with Dawnstone mixed with Calgar Blue, then a highlight with more Calgar Blue, and a final one with a little Pallid Wych Flesh.These guys are often defending with their back to the pitch, for their tail ability to make them a little more survivable.

The armour was Rhinox Hide mixed with Bestigor Flesh. Increasing amounts of Bestigor Flesh for a further three-ish layers. Straight Bestigor Flesh on the gems.

I wanted a more ‘sandy’ colour for the armour but I think I started too dark (or didn’t go for a big enough jump in the middle coat). I’m still practicing with the wet palette and I think I learned a lot from this team, as simple as their colour scheme was.Also on display here is the Gruba-Tek Coliseum pitch, a new toy and very nice for travelling

I have gotten along well with this team – high movement, slightly better-than-average Dodge, and lots of Strikers (or ‘Hulk insurance’) are nice. They can handle a pretty good passing game and they already start with a card to save me the trouble of buying one. I don’t know exactly what upgrades I would buy in an exhibition match, I don’t know that they need any coach benefits and ranks wouldn’t guarantee them the Skill boost that every Striker wants. Maybe they are a good team to fill up on coaching dice with, to help push for early scores and landslides.

Obligatory 'Strikers Run' pose

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Fantasy Battles – Kings of War

by paet the pagan-gerbil25. August 2015 08:00

With the children away and the Gamer’s Edition rulebook just landed in our laps, we decided to try out Kings of War first. I didn’t bother making proper army lists, I just put out whatever of Jen’s units I could place quickly and some of my own to try and look balanced.

She had the Undead, using her Vampire Counts. These seem to map across fairly well. She had regiments of Ghouls, Zombies, Revenants (using Grave Guard) and Skeleton Warriors with two Vampire Lords.

On my side, I used the fresh new Twilight Kin placeholder with regiments of Buccaneers (Corsairs) and Bladedancers (Witch Elves), a troop of Dark Knights (Cold One Knights), a Dark Lord and a High Priestess of the Abyss (using the very appropriate Death Hag from the old Cauldron of Blood). Adding them up afterwards, both armies were around the 800 point mark.

We didn’t take any updates to any units, or use any terrain this time, and we had a 4’ x 4’ table to play on. No scenarios, no time limit, nothing.

Jen placed her units down to cover the flanks, meaning I couldn’t get around the side – I screwed up some of my movement and she got a couple of flank charges on me. My Priestess managed to avoid fighting until the very end and spent the whole game throwing Fireballs around. They are particularly effective against units like Ghouls, which were wavering on the first turn!

There’s a lot to get used to about the game. We both found it odd to do nothing on our opponent’s turn. The combat procedure of charge in, fight, move out without being hit back made it difficult to gauge fights, and progress, and who was going to survive. Early on when I could see all the charges Jen would get in against me I thought it would be a loss for me, then I had a couple of good turns and removed almost everything, making me confident that she couldn’t recover. Ultimately the game came down to a my Bladedancers (with 10 damage already) being wiped out by what was left of her Zombies, before the Zombies were blown up by a Fireball. Finally, the last Vampire Lord chased down the Priestess and smashed her into the ground to become literally the last man standing, and Jen won.

When we finished, we looked at the time – it wasn’t a tiny game, though we could still have added more to it – and it took us under two hours. Given how simple the rules were (it takes two turns maximum to learn what everything is and what it does), we were both confident than a bigger game wouldn’t take too much. Compared to Warhammer (all editions until now), no units have unique rules and the stats are much simpler. There’s only a few calculations in the game and they are simple, and based on the rules. For example, Crushing Strength (2) adds 2 to your result when rolling to Damage. It’s a common rule, shared by her Vampire Lords and my Dark Lord, so it was easy for us to know what it meant.

So what did we like about it? Well, it was quick. Although we sat doing nothing until our turn, it didn’t take long to wait. It was also quick to pick up – the stats and rules are simple enough to get into the game quickly and look for tactical opportunities.

On the other hand, it felt like there could have been more choice. I realise that this could be down to only having a few units either side, and not really paying attention to the army lists (the criteria was ‘this is already ranked on the shelf’ and not ‘what would be an interesting or effective army’), and not using scenarios or terrain. Years of extremely infrequent Warhammer games have steered me towards straight Pitched Battles to keep things simple but Kings of War is simple enough to pick it up from scratch and play a couple of thousand points in a couple of hours, so I don’t think a scenario would be too difficult to add to the core rules.

It’s also a little bit more abstract, yet more realistic. The way that units move – specifically the interpenetration of units while moving (sometimes referred to in Warhammer as ‘virtual pivots’) means that large regiments can reorder in a way properly representative of a real unit. Knowing several people involved in historical re-enactment, I have been told a number of ways that units in wargames don’t behave like real units would. On the abstract side, your attacks, roll to hit and damage is purely a score. It’s not immediately or directly related to the weapons or units, unless you begin looking at them and comparing to similar units in their army or others and telling yourself that this unit must have more attacks because it has two weapons, or that unit has Crushing Strength because they have halberds. In old Warhammer, you would look at a unit’s list of equipment and calculate from that your armour save and damage output. In Kings of War it’s all pre-calculated and without putting that little bit of personal analysis in, it didn’t make immediate sense. Luckily the units that I’d picked were, on both sides, relatable to their statistics. The Witch Elves Bladedancers even acted in a manner I would have expected them to by causing extra morale damage and ignoring morale trouble in their own unit!

Overall, we are both keen to try this out again. Next up though is a play-through of Age of Sigmar to see what this new spin on Warhammer can offer.

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London & South-East DreadBall Regional

by paet the pagan-gerbil11. August 2015 08:00

One of these days...

My second regional tournament this year was all the way over in London. As I left Bristol by train, I saw some hot-air balloons in the distance and remembered it was the Balloon Fiesta weekend… Ah well, I’m sure I’ll catch it next year (for the twelfth year in a row).

It was held at Dark Sphere, an interesting place that felt a little like B&Q with the high shelves stacked full of models along one wall, the other wall covered with row upon row of gaming tables. The only downside is the railway track built onto the roof. I was able to tune it out from the beginning of the day but partway through the final game it started to intrude on my awareness more and more and became a real distraction. Fourteen DreadBall players came out for the event including a rather large number from the East of the country – including super-champion Leon Chapman and dedicated traveller Dale Robinson, with their crew in tow.

I was disappointed that my Kickstarter package hadn’t arrived as it meant I didn’t get to use the foldable pitch mat but it’ll be here soon… soon… I got a good look at someone else’s mat although I didn’t get a chance to play on it myself.

One of these days...

Once more, I took the Sphyr along. I’ve not had a lot of chance to practice before the event (something I will have to rectify before the next one) but I feel like they worked sufficiently for me.

Game One – Leanne’s Veer-myn

My first game was against one of Dale’s gang, Leanne. She put up the standard defence of three Strikers on the back strike zone, and they proved extremely difficult to move on. I was reduced to grabbing two pointers while she scored three-pointers, taking many more risks than I would have done when using the rats. I was rather late in blocking the three point zone, expecting that the Veer-myn’s poor skill would work in my favour. The game ended in a 3pt loss.

Leanne's lovely rats

Game Two – Simon’s Kalyshi

Simon’s Kalyshi were absolutely beautifully painted. I’ve not had a chance to play against any of the Season Five teams yet, and haven’t had a good look at the book either (despite having the PDF). Unfortunately, they were not terribly lucky with the ball and I was able to score three pointers happily, and end the game with a landslide win.

I was so happy to have played against such beautiful modelsDidn't jump once

Game Three – Rob’s Brokkrs

Rob is a veteran tournament gamer who typically goes for ‘most violent’ prizes. He has played Marauders and Teratons in the past in service to this objective, and  the Brokkrs are just as bashy as either of those teams. Last time we played I managed to landslide him with a team of Zees in turn five to the amazement of all. This time was more difficult though. The Brokkrs were brutal, and managed to kill two Sphyr (although I did manage to get one in return). They are much more resilient than the Forge Fathers, and much harder to put down. Near the end of the game, I had a tough choice to make. Either go for a risky, moving two-pointer to win by a landslide, or a slightly easier three-pointer throw that was near to a Jack. I took the chance with the Jack who had a Running Interference card hidden away, knocking me down and giving him the initiative. The game did end a couple of turns later with a landslide win for me.Despite appearances, not your grandfather's Forge Fathers...

Game Four – Dale’s Teratons

Dale and I are fairly evenly matched. Our teams were identical to those we took to the Wales Regional, where we faced each other in the final game of the day. This time however, he beat me by 3 points. It was very nearly a landslide win for him, thankfully I managed to claw back three points near the end of the game (there was no way that I was going to manage a draw let alone a win).


Overall, Leon Chapman took home the prize with his Convict team. If he was beaten in the final game, it may have gone to someone else but he had an impressive lead at that point and it would have been difficult.

I came out fifth again, which I feel is a strong position. I had a lot of fun in all of my games, and my first games against Leanne and Simon were terrific. Simon’s models in particular are fantastic, truly beautiful pieces. He won a joint prize for best painted, as there was another team there (Void Sirens) that were also absolutely stunning – not playing against them though, I didn’t get quite as good a look at them.

It looks like I will be seeing Dale & Co at the Southern Regional in Brighton, along with Simon (for whom it is home turf). I need to decide whether to stick with the Sphyr or try out a different team.

The spread of teams at this event was very good. Season Two was under-represented, but there were no Rebel teams (surprising, given the internet’s current whines of overpower) and four Brokkr teams (mostly using Forge Father models). There were even two Convicts and one Kalyshi team, and I’m glad that in addition to playing two new players, I got to play against two new teams. Variety is fun!

All in all, I had a great time. Big thanks to Rob Taylor for running the event, and to all the players who came out for it. With the loss of the Bristol Pathfinder, it looks like it is definitely down to me to organise the next tournament in the South West and that will probably have to be March next year now. Watch this space!

Finally, some of the other teams that I managed to snap whilst there. Couldn’t work out which was which with the Convicts, and forgot to get people’s names, but some pictures are better than no pictures!

Finally, the two teams that were tied for Best Painted:

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Fantasy Battles!

by paet the pagan-gerbil14. July 2015 08:00

Big news in the world of Fantasy Battles! Warhammer is dead, long live Warhammer!

Warhammer as I know it and love it has been scrapped entirely, and replaced with a new game – Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. I’ve been playing Warhammer to a greater or lesser extent since 4th edition, and it went out on 8th edition. Unfortunately, I only managed to get a few games in of eighth because of time and friends who play dwindling and children making it more and more difficult for Jen and I to set up the table and get the armies out for a game at the weekend.

Not only was the game replaced by Age of Sigmar, but it went out with a five-part series which introduced all manner of game-breaking rules, while the story progressed ever more apocalyptic until the world itself was destroyed – utterly. And I have come to terms with the reasons for this. The background was seen as ‘too difficult’ for new players to get into (I disagree, but we’ll let it slide), the rules were seen as much too complicated and the entry price to the game was too steep. I agree that the rules were complex. Although it was what players like me enjoyed about the game, it gave it tactical depth, it’s not exactly the easiest learning curve for beginners. And the starter price of an army was somewhere in the region of £250, sometimes including books and sometimes not. To have more options or a bigger game, you were obviously adding a whole bunch more to that.

Now, the core rules are free. And a ‘get you by’ set of lists to use the old armies in Age of Sigmar are also free. There are a few big differences though:

  1. Simple rules, only four pages long.
  2. No points costs, balance is decided between friends.
  3. Old armies are not coming back; these are a sticky plaster for old players.

The downsides of these things are:

  1. No tactical depth; there’s no point to manoeuvring.
  2. Balance between friends will be a matter of trial and error; balance between strangers is impossible.
  3. I love my old armies!

Balance is the big thing. I understand that balance is now a matter of ‘don’t be a dick’ but in reality, my mate and I will need to play a few games to determine what is fair between us. Then we’ll go to a club and either get walked over for being totally useless (maybe our opponent has decided something else is fair with his regular opponents, maybe he’s a dick, maybe he’s trying out something new and doesnt realise the disparity) or we’ll get thrown out for bringing an unstoppable power force and not playing fair.

Having read the rules, and some reviews, I have come to a few conclusions. It will be a smaller, possibly faster game than old Warhammer but it will not scale well. Every unit plays differently, with different special rules. Very few cross-cutting rules, and very little that can be cross-applied, and since units no longer move as units it will take more time to move things across the table. It will not take as much manoeuvring as the old game, it will be more a matter of ‘push it forward’.

I am planning to be fair to it, and give it a try. If it is quicker, maybe we’ll have time for a game in the evening when the kids have gone to bed, and it’ll be nice to use the old armies. On the other hand, the game isn’t the same style as I had, doesn’t have the background I loved, and it sounds like they want to rely on scenarios (read: future purchases) to introduce balance and purpose to games. If the rules depth I want isn’t there, and the background I want isn’t there, and my armies won’t be an ongoing part of the game… what’s in it for me?

On the other hand, Kings of War is on it’s way too. The rules are also free. And it is also faster and just as tactical as old Warhammer. I’ve been meaning to give it a go for a while, and this will be the push. Having read through that this last week, it is very big on manoeuvring. Getting into an opponent’s flank is devastating, getting to the rear is absolute murder. The game is focussed on units rather than models, so pushing things around is quicker. It also doesn’t have the background that I have grown to love, but at this point that’s no longer a concession – and they are also planning on army lists to match the old GW ones so with any luck, my Dark Elves will have a place. Having read through, I could probably use my Wood Elves as ‘Elves’ or as ‘Forces of Nature’ and with Undead Jen is pretty well set in any Fantasy game.

So my plan is to try out both of these games, then report back on how they went and which one we’ll move forward with. Wish us luck!

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Wales and South West Regional Tournament 2015

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

This year was a huge improvement for the tournament. There were fourteen players overall, coming from Bristol, East Anglia and even Wales! Genuine Welsh people! And just after Mantic added ‘and South West’ to the name, too.

I’d been intending to bring the Asterians, but had screwed up the painting a bit so took the Sphyr instead. I was joined by Jen with her S1 Corporation as usual, Dan with Veer-myn, Stuart with his S2 Corporation and Dai who forgot his team on the day (he borrowed Dan’s S1 Corporation). As for upgrades, I took two coaching dice and a Defensive Coach.

Game 1 – Chris’ Rebels

This was a very, very close game. We went into Sudden Death, which I don’t recall happening in a tournament for me before. I scored a few four-pointers, and my Jack at the back of the pitch was indestructible – as a result of Slambacks, he sent off both Rin Guards and the Gaellian Jacks before he was finally knocked out for a turn.

These guys were knocked out in short order by a single Sphyr Guard...

In the first round of Sudden Death I managed to grab a single point and win the game. Exhausting, nail-biting, thoroughly exciting game!

Note the sin bin and Subs bench...

Game 2 – Phil’s Teratons

Phil had travelled from the other side of the country for his first tournament with Dale, a well-known and very strong Teraton player from East Anglia who I’ve seen at many tournaments and hadn’t played competitively (he did come to see us for a DreadBall day in Bristol, where we got a friendly game or two in).

These guys were also knocked out by a lucky Sphyr Guard...

Phil has been trained well, and made things very difficult for the fish men. However, the dice were still with me, and I managed to not only move two of the players blocking the three-point zone up – but kill them completely! It wasn’t helped that in the first action of the first turn, he slammed one of my Strikers, who doubled moving onto the ball, evaded out of the threat hex, and scored two points to get the very earliest of early leads. The game ended in a landslide win for me.

Game 3 – Dai’s Corporation

I was coming away from lunch on a bit of a high – I’d bought myself some new toys, I was winning my games (though not in the lead, certainly)  when I came up against Dai – an ex-work colleague who I hadn’t caught up with very recently. He completely dismantled my team and I hope I didn’t come across as a sore loser – there was literally nothing I could do to stop it. There were no glaring errors in his play to exploit, and in the standard approaches I tried my dice disappeared. He kept apologising (I probably had a real frown on by then) but really, I’d just done the same thing to Phil in the round before so it wasn’t a problem. One landslide loss to me.

Actually borrowed from Dan - these are run by the Costa Coffee Corporation.

Game 4 – Dale’s Teratons

Finally, we got to play each other in a tournament! Both a little tired (admittedly, he had driven four times longer than I had and most of the Welsh guys had come further than us too), I made some huge errors. I didn’t calculate the Teraton Teleport properly and kept miscalculating where he would choose to go, then I got into place for a risky throw only to have it pointed out to me that the shot was blocked. Despite the fouling up, I got a three-point victory.

I took this picture twice, this was still the best result. Le sigh.

Final Results

One day, you will be mine...

Chris’ Rebels came in first place, as well as getting Fan Favourite (most cheers) and Hot Shot (most four pointers). He was only beaten once, and barely at that, so I take some pride in my first game win against him. Stuart had been in the running for first place but the way the final scores shook out, he dropped down to fourth place. I finished in fifth, which I feel is a fairly good place in a fourteen-player tournament.

Looking back, I was much more aggressive than I needed to be in some games, and needed more defence than I put into. A single player to guard the three-point strike zone doesn’t work against all teams, and I need to vary my setup depending on my opponent. I think the upgrade options were right for the team overall, the defensive coach saved me a couple of times (against two Teraton players, and to deny the Rebels a four-point shot, definitely!) and having the coaching dice to boost a high scoring shot early in the game were extremely helpful.

I will probably try taking the Sphyr to another tournament this year, I’m still planning on going to the Southern Regional and the UK Nationals for certain and it’ll either be the Sphyr or the Rebels (because they are probably my best painted team). I know that Dale is aiming to get to every regional this year, who knows if we will face each other again in Brighton or Nottingham…

Finally, here are some of the painted teams from the event! I’ve forgotten who they all belong to, because I am an awful awful person. If you want to correct me on anything, please comment below! It was really difficult to choose my favourite, every time I looked I had two favourites… then I went for another more detailed perusal and came back with two totally different favourites… it was a tough decision and I don’t remember who I voted for in the end. Here’s the few I managed to grab a picture of - enjoy!

Not my Sphyr - didn't get a chance to play against them either.Lawrence York's human teamSorry, I don't know whose they areA better shot, in addition to the two above.Again, sorry for not knowing who they belong to.I didn't get a good shot, but they have radiation symbols on the backWish I had a portable light...

The Thundercougarfalconbirds! Best team name ever!Two Hulks guarantees Most Bloody coach...I didn't get to play these Sphyr either.One day, I will get around to finishing these guys... sorry honey!

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In defence of my rights

by paet the pagan-gerbil10. June 2015 08:00

Our new government wants to take away our human rights. Well, specifically, they want to take away the Human Rights Act which allows us to prosecute breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights in this country. The main narrative for this is to ‘bring it home’ and ‘stop the unelected judges in Strasbourg ruling on British matters’.

These are complete nonsense.

1. The ECHR binds us whether we have the Human Rights Act or not, and all citizens of states signed up to the ECHR have the right to prosecute in the courts in Strasbourg. Scrapping the Human Rights Act will not stop people going to Strasbourg for human rights issues.

2. The Human Rights Act is what allows us to prosecute human rights issues in this country. Scrapping it will not give us more power to prosecute human rights in this country than we already have.

3. The ‘unelected judges in Strasbourg’ are actually elected by the MEPs we send to the EU. The judges in this country are not elected.

We are being placated by being told that a new British Bill of Rights will hold all the parts of the existing Human Rights Act (itself a clarification on the ECHR) but without the nasty terrorist-friendly bits. I am sceptical about this, since the ECHR is very, very simple. It is written in short, friendly passages and protects our rights to not be tortured, to not be arrested without cause, to not be executed by our government and also more day-to-day rights – right to freedom of assembly, of political thought and belief, of privacy. I can’t think of a new British Bill of Rights (note the word ‘human’ isn’t there anymore) that contains all the important bits of the ECHR (all of them), and then comes down harder on terrorists somehow.

There are a few different interpretations on what the government wants to achieve with this action.

The Scheming Narrative

The government knows that the ECHR binds us just the same, and is doing this to trick the frothing, ill-informed masses for whom Human Rights have become synonymous with turning the UK into a terrorist hide-out, preventing us from arresting or deporting dangerous criminals who hate this country and everyone in it and it’s only a matter of time before we’re all murdered in our beds by religious zealots.

The trick will be thinking that the government has come down hard on Human Rights and sorted out the problem. In reality, nothing much has changed, except that it may be slightly more difficult to solve a legitimate human rights grievance – you’ll need to go to Strasbourg, the same way as if the Human Rights Act in this country doesn’t work for you.

I want to believe that we are not just being placated and condescended to by politicians who don’t think we can handle the truth. On the other hand, the policy makers are not idiots and they must know that the solution they’ve offered will not solve the problem they have described.

The Cynical Narrative

This one declares that the HRA is only a first step, and seeing the above about scrapping it being almost pointless because the ECHR continues to tie us up, the ECHR will be next.

If you look at government policy over the last five years, and proposed policy, I believe we have found a crazy conspiracy theory for the reasons why the Human Rights Act needs to go.

1. The Snooper’s Charter: Our right to Privacy is protected.

2. Capital Punishment: Michael Gove, the new Justice Secretary, is on record as supporting hanging. The Death Penalty is forbidden by the ECHR.

3. Privatisation of the Probation Service: The government has been pushing through a controversial privatisation of the probation service, and on top of a horrifically shambolic implementation the ECHR had ruled that to make profit on unpaid labour (ie, probation community service) is ‘forced labour’ and/or slavery, and illegal.

4. Workfare: As above, but with less risk to the public’s safety than a privatisation of criminal rehabilitation. Forced Labour is forbidden by the ECHR.

5. Proposed ‘anti-extremism’ laws: The government wants to crack down on extremists and radical groups that ‘stop short of terrorist activity’. This would allow the police to break up groups for radicalising others or for being ‘against British values of democracy or tolerance’, even if no crime has been committed.

This last one causes the most problems for me. It will probably come up against the rights we have of Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Association and Freedom of Belief, as well as our right to not be arrested if no crime has been committed. And even if it is only used to attack nearly-terrorist groups, why should I lose my human rights over it?

It could also be claimed that the Green Party speaks out against British values of democracy, as they are demanding electoral reform – implicitly stating that British Democracy is not working. UKIP speak out against tolerance – just listen to their rabid attacks on immigrants. And from where I sit, the Conservative parties intolerance of our right to meet who we want, say what we want, think what we want and be allowed to conceal it from the government (assuming that we are not criminals) is counter to British values of tolerance, and their dogged commitment to the First Past the Post system is counter to the British values of democracy. A party that can claim a majority government from 37% of a 66% voting turnout is clearly not democratic. Once you start defining political parties as extremist groups you start moving awfully close to some dangerous precedents.

Even if the woolly definitions are not intentional, the government’s ‘porn filter’ on the internet was designed not just to block titillating or extremist material, but ‘esoteric material’. What are toy soldiers, old sci-fi shows and thoughts on programming on this blog but esoteric material? What is wrong with material ‘understood by or only meant for the select few who have special knowledge or interest’?

What do I think?

I really don’t know. I want the HRA to stay, since it’ll be easier to bring my grievances about my human rights being trampled to court in the UK rather than go to Strasbourg. I definitely want the ECHR to stay since to leave that will jeopardise our Acts of Union with Scotland and Northern Ireland (and probably Wales), our position in the Council of Europe (we would have to leave) and the respect that other nations have for us. We do not want a reputation of being dismissive of human rights. It will probably adversely affect our ability to inform policy in the United Nations. At worst, it will set an example for countries like Russia that it’s OK to just leave these regulatory bodies, conventions and responsibilities and do whatever the hell you feel like, and set the cause of global human rights back by a fair whack.

In summary, the government will do the country a great disservice by leaving the ECHR. It will do the people a great disservice by pretending that scrapping the HRA on it’s own will ‘bring more power home’ because it will do exactly the opposite – make it easier to prosecute human rights violations in Strasbourg than in Britain.

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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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