World of Tanks: On Tilt and The Stopper

So I have gone back to more WoT and less WoWS.  WoT is a pretty mature game.  There’s a lot of tuning going on, but the game system is more or less complete.  There’s a lot of fun to be had and I enjoy it immensely.

But I’m not very good.  My ratings are below average, although improving, and I’m trying very hard not to care with most of my tanks.  Some of them I do care about, for example I firmly believe that if you aren’t over 50% in a fully upgraded T29 you probably shouldn’t be playing heavy tanks.  It’s just that good.

One of the things I guard against very well is going “On Tilt” which is a phrase for getting reckless or overly aggressive.  Basically you lose a game, as a result you start playing worse, which makes you lose more… you get the idea.  I am very good at avoiding this IN GENERAL.  But we all have our moments and we all mess up.  Tonight I struggled mightily in the M4A3E2 Jumbo.  Which is a VERY good tank and a VERY hard one to go on tilt in.  It’s well armored, fast enough to get out of trouble, slow enough not to get you IN trouble, and has a very good gun that rewards patience.

Somehow I lost several games in a row; one of which I scored 4 kills in and had more EXP than anyone on the winning team.  Le sigh.  I ended up finally getting a win but it was a VERY rough night and I forgot the best way to stop going on tilt.  Bring out The Stopper.

In baseball a “Stopper” is an older pitcher who may or may not be a teams Ace but is always the guy they count on to stop a skid.  For example in 2004 Pedro may have been the Ace but Schilling was The Stopper.  For all of Pedro’s emotional antics, Schill was out there to win at all costs.  For me The Stopper has become the T29.  It is VERY hard to have a bad game in this tank and it can carry games even at Tier 8 with some luck.  It’s also a relaxing tank to play, it has a very smooth roll and you can very easily make shots on the move.  In fact I’ve built mine up to make shots on the move and I love imagining the look on people’s faces when I reliably hit them on the move while moving, turning my turret and still hitting weak spots.

Going on tilt is bad.  It’s bad in EvE, it’s bad in FFXIV, it is AWFUL in League of Legends and it’s very bad in WoT.  The key is having that stopper.  Whether it’s an Alt in EvE.  A good raid leader, a good friend to pull you back, or that unstoppable tank that lets you recover your balance, find a stopper, and don’t go on tilt.

Why Aren’t We Doing More?

So I spent a lot of today driving, which means hearing a lot about Syrian and Etrurian refugees.  I know this is going to be an uphill battle because Etrurian isn’t even a word.  Hearing what these people are going through is rough.  It’s especially rough because, while I didn’t expect to have a lot of sympathy for them; I find I do.  The reason I feel sympathy for them is the strangest thing.  It’s because I’m Jewish.

Because I’m Jewish I know a lot about the Holocaust.  I know how the world turned a blind eye to everything that was going on in Nazi Germany and how they were executing Jews, and Poles, and the Roma people, and Slavs, and Homosexuals, and Dissidents.  I know about the experimentation, the starvation, the forced labor, the humiliation, the abuse, and the endless, endless executions.

Because I’m Jewish I know a lot about how the Jewish people after the war were shifted from place to place as “DPs” who couldn’t return home for fear of “retribution” and who couldn’t go anywhere else because there was no place to go until Israel was formed.

Because I’m Jewish I know a lot about how so so many refugees tried to escape before the war started, before things got SO bad and were turned back time and again.  Particularly heart wrenching, although not at all unusual, is the plight of the passengers of the S.S. St. Louis.  These people were trying to get into Cuba temporarily while they were trying to get full asylum in the U.S. Cuba reneged on the deal, the US blocked any attempt to land there, and finally they returned to Europe where most of them ended up in Belgium, France and Holland where their refuge was temporary; some escaped to Great Britain to find a final, useful refuge.

I’m afraid I don’t know a lot about Etruria but I’m a lot more confident talking about Syria.  Al Asaad and Al Baghdadi are awful people.  They are the kind of people that could give lessons to Atilla the Hun, Stalin, and Hitler.  Al Asaad is using chlorine gas and indiscriminate bombing on his own people, and the depredations of ISIS are well known.

These refugees are risking life and limb, entrusting their lives to criminal gangs in a desperate hope of not being gassed, or beheaded, or forced into a war they don’t want to fight, or being burned alive, or being raped to death, or having these things happen to their wives, or children.

So I asked my Rabbi, why aren’t we doing more?  We are giving money, we are giving aid, but we should be opening our doors.  We should be pressuring our leaders, our congressmen our senators, our governors to act, to say “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”  When we were desperate, when we were alone in the world, when no one in the world wanted to help us, when the only ones we could trust were ourselves, we promised we would never forget.  When it was over we said Never Again.

It is time to honor that promise.  It is time to say “When we asked, you didn’t help us.  Now we ask again, help them.”

No, it won’t be cheap.  Good things aren’t.  No it won’t be easy.  Good things aren’t.  Yes our enemies will try to use this against us.  That’s why they’re enemies, but at the same time we will be showing the hollowness of their “morality”.  We will be saying “We will fix this, we will help you, we aren’t the same as you but once we were and we remember when no one wanted us, we remember when we were the outcasts, we remember when there were no doors open.  We will open our doors.”

Because Never Again should MEAN Never Again.

Carriers in WoWS

So I bought my way into World of Warships.  NEAT game so far.  Right now the beta is early enough that they are still testing out some pretty basic mechanics and there’s a lot of things that should change going forward from ship types (Does anyone know where the Myogi class BBs come from?)  to some mechanics.  Now there’s a lot I could say on that realm but for once I’ll hold my silence.

I’m going to talk about carriers.  I love me some carriers.  Any game where I can build carriers… I’m building carriers.

langley

Isn’t it hideous?

 

So I raced to the Langley class and found it to be everything I wanted.  It’s a seal clubber of a ship.  The controls are interesting.  Instead of steering the ship from a “over the shoulder” camera like in WoT or normal WoWS play you get this RTS mode hovering far above the battlefield.  You usually give waypoints to your ship and maneuver it that way, ditty for your fighters, dive bombers and torpedo bombers.  A fully upgraded Langley has a fighter squadron, and two torpedo bomber squadrons.  Launching in concert these TBs can ruin a hostile carrier or battleship in no time flat.  A well-aimed spread (which has to be aimed manually) is just ruinous.  However you have a lot to do as a carrier driver.  You are steering several units at once and when all are engaging it can get frantic.  It isn’t unusual for me to be attacking two separate, maneuvering, targets at once, getting my fighters after enemy bombers and dodging fire from a destroyer that doesn’t get that I’m not interested in buying his used shells.

One of the things I’ve noticed is there’s a lot of BAD carrier drivers out there.  I see a lot of people who keep their planes close at the start of the game, often never sending their fighters out at all.  Words cannot describe how bad this is.  In warfare space = time.  The further ahead you are the less time it will take you to react to enemy moves.  Yes you HAVE less time to make a decision, but a fighter that is 30 seconds away from a torpedo squadron that will hit your battleship in 20 seconds is not doing it’s job.  A fighter that is 15 seconds from that same squadron is.  Position your fighters forward and where they can intercept hostile planes nearing your own major combatants.  Cruisers don’t worry nearly as much about TB attacks and Destroyers laugh at them.

Position TBs off the fore quarter of hostile ships.  You want to fire torpedoes into the flanks of a ship.  Done right it should look something like this

Bad Day

That Kongo is about to have a BAD day.  Note that some torpedoes have a green arrow and some don’t.  The green arrows are “Hot” and the ones without arrows haven’t armed yet.  Later on I managed to hit another Kongo with 5/6 but only one detonated because I dropped too close in and he did something real smart by turning into them.

I only just got the Independence class.  The Dive Bombers are not that impressive so far.  Apparently Dick Best is suffering tuberculosis.  Also the Helldiver biplanes are probably not the swift steeds that the USN needs.  So far I’ve set a few DDs on fire and scared the hell out of a carrier.

Fighters can usually chew up an enemy squadron pretty hard, often destroying it completely before having to go back to the barn.  If you see fighters coming for your attack planes you might want to head for a friendly cruiser or fighter squadron.

Cruisers tear up airplanes.  Once you get to about tier 6 cruisers they are more than capable of breaking up isolated attacks and more than agile enough to dive into the alleys between torpedoes.

Right now, especially in the lower tiers, a carrier can carry the battle.  I’m ok with that for now but honestly I think that the devs need to give lower tier cruisers a buff to their AA ratings.  Not huge but enough that I don’t have the ability to ignore them or even attack them with lone attack squadrons.

This is what happens when you leave your fighters "Escorting" your carrier.

This is what happens when you leave your fighters “Escorting” your carrier.  I lost two planes.  He lost a carrier.

So how do you counter them?  First off if you are driving a carrier it’s YOUR job to deal with the enemy carrier.  This means pushing your fighters out ahead, near vulnerable, high value units.  Don’t be like the guy above who got wrecked for no return because he thought his fighters should be in a close CAP over his own ship.  I circled him until the fighters were on the far side, and got in a heavy blow, finishing him off and getting well away before the fighters even engaged.

OMG A CARRIER IS COMING FOR ME WHAT DO I DO?

So people think there’s nothing you can do when the planes show up.  There are, in fact, several things you can do.  First off, be in the right place.  Near Cruisers.  Even the lower tier ones have some ability to defend you an the higher tier ones will make TBs go a mile out of their way.  In addition they have a special ability that forces TBs to use a wide sheaf.  I don’t have a good screenshot of that because I’m too busy screaming in frustration to hit Print Screen when that happens.  Let’s just say that it’s about a 120 degree fan and ensures you couldn’t hit a barn from the inside.

Turn into the attack.  This has two beneficial effects.  First off it might make the torps hit you before they activate.  This is amazing when it works.  I’ve seen battleships shrug off massive hits by not taking it on the chin.  Second it means that if you generate a new intercept angle it’s likely that it will be behind the torpedo not in front of it.  You definitely want to cross the trail behind the torpedo.

Kill it with fire!  If you blow apart a carrier its fighters go dumb.  This is obviously the most effective way to deal with carriers.  Also the most lucrative.  They are armored like baby swiss and light up like they are made of avgas and munitions.  Wait… they are!

Carriers are good, they aren’t invincible, they aren’t impossible to deal with, but they do require you to be on your toes.  Go and get ’em!

World of Tanks: Finding What I Like

So I have gone back to WoT because it’s a fun game and it lends itself to short sessions or binges, depending on my stress level and how much of my own incompetence i can put up with.  I like this game, it’s fun, there’s as much depth as you want to put into it.

I’ve bounced around a bit.  The German TD line has long been a favorite, the artistry of their long guns, and the occasional silliness of the Derp gun on the Hetzer leans into my sweet spot of mixing art and brutality.  I repurchased my Hetzer because… it’s a good, fun experience with the ability to utterly dominate if you play smart.  I’m not talking brilliant, I’m talking smart.  Currently I’m up to the Jadgpanther II which is a very nice vehicle but… just lacks something so far.  Like the top tier gun…  Still working on it.  I loved the Marder II.  It’s murder.  The Hetzer is great fun, and might be the best Tier IV vehicle.  the Stug is also good but without the dominance of the Hetzer.  The JgPz IV is an awful, awful grind.  The Jagdpanther on the other hand is a joy.  There’s so many options with that vehicle and it can play the sniper role then turn it around and go crazy with good rate of fire, damage, and pen.

The Russian heavy line is crazy fun.  I got the glory day of the KV-1 Derp Gun.  You could go crazy and alpha half the enemy team with near misses.  The KV2 is now a higher tier vehicle that gets worse matchmaking and has a terrible turret.  I have the KV-85 which is a hoot, and leads into the IS line which has a lot of agile, powerful tanks that play like heavy-mediums from what I’ve seen.

I’m working into the French Heavy Line.  So far I’m stuck on the B1.  This tank just doesn’t like me.  It’s a plodder and I want to get into the more graceful tanks the french get later on.

The Americans have a really good heavy line with the superlative T29, and to get into it you can go the route of the M4A3E2 which is just a silly, silly vehicle.  It’s on the slow side for a medium, but still plays like a medium.  It has the firepower of a medium, but on the good side of it, and it has the armor of a good heavy.  I bounce shots off this thing with even the Jagdpanther II without good aiming.  It also has the solid M4 Sherman and the utterly dreadful M3 Lee.  Seriously this tank is so bad it should be thrown out.

The American Light line features speed and size.  VERY tall tanks with blazing speed and minuscule guns even by light standards.  I like playing them but it takes patience.  You can’t just race in you have to move intelligently.  Not my best line but a fun line.

The American TD line is a bit silly.  A lot of them are built on light or fast medium hulls.  This, combined with their light armor gives them blazing speed.  They also feature turrets and some crazy guns for their tiers.  They also tend to blow up on a sneeze and with open turrets they get eaten alive by artillery.

Right now the order I tend to play in on any given day is T29, T67, KV-85, Hetzer (gotta Hetz) B1 (ugh).

Star Wars Armada: Thoughts on the Core

So the Core Set in Armada is pretty darn deep.  It’s got a lot of layers and interactions that really push my expectations for a “core” set.  Today I will write a bit about each ship and one upgrade for it that affects how it plays, as well as the two fleet commanders.

Victory Class Star Destroyer – I want to call it the cheese wedge but that might be a bit pejorative.  In the learn to play scenario it gets handled pretty rough but at 180 points things are a lot more even and this ship thrives.  It pushes a huge wedge of fear in front of it, about 120 degrees of hate.  Even its broadsides can cripple a corvette, especially if it took hits on the way in.  Adding the Enhanced Armament card gives it a massive broadside that will really force the rebels to step carefully even when flanking you.  The gunnery team just adds insult to injury by letting you fire from the same zone twice, albeit at a different target.  Both variants are nasty, and the squashed nature of the blue band makes the Victory I a really intriguing choice, especially with the assault missiles.

TIE Fighter – I like to call this a Space Inferiority Fighter.  The goal isn’t to dominate the fighter battle, it’s to prevent the enemy from capitalizing on his dominance.  These fighters will quickly get hacked from space, and while they might do as much damage as they take, they cannot take as much.  Their role is to protect and pounce on mistakes and that’s all.

Howlrunner – This is a real interesting card.  The way I’m reading it she doesn’t boost herself, and X-Wings likely have enough firepower to cancel her birthday real fast, so she really is best used sitting at range 1 from a blob of ordinary TIEs turning them into really nasty heavy hitters.  4 blue dice with a re-roll can wreck things.

Grand Moff Tarkin – Or as I call him, Grand Moff Token.  In a 180 point battle with one VSD he seems priced right at 38 points (a Corvette is 39) put three or four Imperial ships on the battle and he’s a freaking steal.  He gives so much flexibility to the Imperials that it’s insane.  Look Motti and Screed look good, but Tarkin has it all over them.  The Imperials don’t need to be tougher, or hit harder, they need to be able to make small adjustments that they couldn’t predict three turns out.

Nebulon B Frigate – At first I was really not feeling this ship.  It seemed like neither one nor the other.  I was half right.  It is neither one nor the other, it can’t brawl, it can’t snipe, but it can fence.  It has enough speed that it has to be respected, it has enough toughness that it can’t be alpha’d off the field (without a LOT of luck and poor management) and it can keep up the pressure with guns, fighters, and provide a healthy bit of support.  The upgrades here are all about the engineering team and Redemption title.  That’s a lot of engineering.  Your tokens are now worth 3 (can heal a hull point!) and the dial command can repair a shield, and repair a hull point.  That’s a LOT of fixing.  I’m not nearly as big a fan of the support version as the Escort variant.  6 points is not nearly enough for the lost anti fighter weaponry and losing control of a squadron as well.

CR90 Corvette – At first this ship seemed like a beast.  Cheap, blindingly fast, hard hitting, and it appeared fairly tough.  Until I compared it to the standard that mattered, the firepower of a VSD.  It can be alpha’d off the table even in the side arcs, and two rounds of fire will be enough to crush it.  You have to maneuver it perfectly to get the most out of it and I haven’t gotten the trick down yet.  Even getting into the rear arc doesn’t help much as I tend to go whizzing out of it the next turn.  That being said I have some ideas to put into play next time and we will see if I can get the hang of this mean little bastard.  Princess Leia is going to spend a lot of times hanging out on these little buggers.  They pick their command right at the start of the turn, and she can send it to one other ship.  Your Nebulon B needs to repair RIGHT FRIGGING NOW?  Leia’s on it!  Time to ensure you’ve got the firepower to crack that VSF?  Leia’s your gal.  Of course she’s a bit of a fire magnet so even though Electronic Countermeasures is expensive, it allows you to use that key Evasive card all the time, or ensure that you have Redirect when you eat that big shot at range one.

X-Wing – A real qualitative difference between the Rebellion and the Empire right here.  This fighter can win the Starfighter battle and carry through to do something useful with it.  Slower, Tougher, Harder Hitting, and MUCH more effective against starships this ship makes TIEs cry in the corner even costing more than 1.5x the TIEs cost.

Luke Skywalker – Nasty little bastard he is.  Underestimate him you should not.  His black dice when attacking large targets and ability to skip capital ship shields moves this squadron firmly into the “bomber” column.  Sure he can wallop TIEs as well as another X-Wing but you really want him dropping crits onto capital ships…

General Dodonna – … And this is why Dodonna has one of those “Wombo Combo” abilities.  This conniving bastard lets you turn over the top 4 damage cards WHENEVER you deal a face up damage card to an enemy and then pick which one to inflict.  Look the crits in this game are downright nasty, this card means you can REALLY ensure you get something your opponent will hate when you score one.  On turn 2.  Against a fully shielded VSD.  With Luke (Or with Dodonna’s Pride).

This is just a taste of the tactical depth this game has.  There’s other combos already possible that are just nasty, and looking ahead at the spoilers shown on boardgamegeek I can see even more that I’ll be using (I’m looking at you Yavaris and Adar Tallon, and Raymus Antilles, and Garm bel Iblis)

Armada Unleashed 2: Playing Around

Space Cthulhu eats a VSD handing me an undeserved win.

Space Cthulhu eats a VSD handing me an undeserved win.

So I just got back from the LGS where I played several games of Armada.  So far I’ve only played as the Rebel Alliance and I doubt I’d have much interest in playing the Imperials so that suits me.  Even if the Imperials do suit my “Subtle is a smaller sledgehammer to the face right?” mentality.  First I’m going to talk about how the game plays, then I’m going to run through how I feel about these decisions and mechanics.

How it Plays

So the basic mechanics of the game are, you set everything up, including your stack of commands, your ships, your fighters, your defense tokens, your turn marker, your initiative marker, your scenery, your deployment markers, everything.  Each turn you flip over the top marker in your command stack (on subsequent turns you pick a new command to go on the bottom) and start activating your ships.  When you reveal a command you can choose to convert it into a token that has less power than the command dial but can be banked up and spent later, a ship can bank up as many tokens as it has command points.  This gives large, lumbering ships some flexibility by letting them store more tokens, at the cost of having a lower chance of having a useful dial command on any given turn.

Large ships activate alternately, with the ship activating, then moving, and special commands being used throughout the turn.  This can give you some interesting combinations.  Longer ranged ships can activate earlier in the turn without issue, closer ranged ships like to activate later to increase the chance of getting shots in.  Ships then move in a more flexible manner than in X-Wing, you don’t commit to a move until you’ve had a lot of time to measure and prepare (outside of tournaments) and ships like the CR-90 Corvette can really dance around the field.  Both firing resolution and movement resolution are very simple, without the opposed dice rolls, and reactions, and re-rolls that can drag out the X-Wing sequence, there’s a roll, a defensive reaction, MAYBE a re-roll, and move on.  Just simplifying a step makes life a lot easier.

During large ship activation you can use dial commands or tokens.  These use the same icons but commands are better than tokens.  For example the Concentrate Firepower command gives you an extra dice, the token gives you a re-roll.  The squadron one is where the game gets interesting.  An Escort Frigate has a squadron value of 2.  This means that it can activate 2 squadrons with the command, or 1 without.  Those squadrons can move and shoot, or shoot and move, during the frigates activation.  Quite spicy.  The other commands let it repair or manage damage, or adjust it’s speed and maneuver batter.  This is the only way to change speed without upgrade cards.

Fighters that aren’t activated by large ships activate at the end of the turn.  They can move or shoot.  This severely limits their ability to engage the enemy, though depending on their role it lets them still contribute.  Fighters can roll a lot of dice against other fighters but generally only roll one dice against capital ships and only hits count (hits and criticals if you are a bomber, which the X-Wing is).  Fighter Squadrons are highly specialized and the Ace squadrons are even more so.  Luke Skywalker can skip shields and start chipping away at a ships hull right away, Howlrunner makes other fighters do even more damage just by being there.

Fleet building is an interesting challenge.  There’s a couple of real wombo-combos so far, Grand Moff Token… erm… Tarkin leads the pack by handing out tokens each turn to his ships.  The Rebels can build lots of crit combos around their ships using Dodonna’s ability to select a certain critical hit out of four whenever one is played.  This can be brutal as critical hits are just that, critical.  They do immediate and sometimes catastrophic damage to a ship.  Others can give ships added capability, like additional attack dice, or special abilities on crits.  There’s already a lot of depth in the game even with just the starter set, once Wave 1 arrives at the end of next month things might get silly.

This would be a lot better for me if the Corvette hadn't gone from out of range to here in one turn.  It died shortly thereafter.

This would be a lot better for me if the Corvette hadn’t gone from out of range to here in one turn. It died shortly thereafter.

My Reactions

Ok, this game has a LOT more depth to it than X-Wing.  Movement is more fluid, damage resolution is quicker, but turns are longer as there’s a lot of measuring, planning and thinking going on.  Ship movement is neat.  Having to plan on firing before you move is awkward, and it’s meant to be.  I like the mechanic but it is going to take a LOT of getting used to.  As a Rebel player I had a lot of trouble getting both my ships in range to do something in the same turn.  I expect this to be somewhat easier as the games get bigger, 2 on 1 matches are a bit rough as I have to move a ship that is dealing with the only Imperial ship on the table.

Firing resolution is very fast, as it should be.  Once an attack is planned, executing it shouldn’t be a huge to do, and sometimes in X-Wing it felt like it was with dice being modified, re rolled, etc, to what felt like an excessive extent.  While that CAN happen in this game, it isn’t the norm.  Yet anyway.

The integration of fighters into a battle is going to be a very interesting thing to watch.  I love fighters and I plan on using them heavily in a fleet, having to use a fighter command to get the most out of them is a REALLY neat idea, with the current lack of dedicated carriers and general dearth of them in the Star Wars canon it ought to be interesting to see how this plays out.  There’s a lot of things you want capital ships to do and purely shepherding fighters isn’t always one of them, of course once a fighter gets into combat it can generally be left alone.  Another neat mechanic is how fighters engage each other.  Once fighters are in range they lock up and must shoot at each other, they cannot move.  This means that one sacrificial lamb can jump into a throng of enemy fighters and tie down the whole striker force.  Tie being the operative word, at 8 points each a TIE squadron can very easily tie up many more points of Rebel fighters on a key turn.  Pre-empting this will be a major tactic in getting your own bombers onto the target.  Of course that means you have to spend your precious fighter activations on your interceptor to get it there.  See what I mean when it comes to complexity?

Movement is what this game turns on.  Having to fire, then move means you HAVE to think a turn ahead, and having to move first can mean getting hit on the chin at times.  I don’t think it will be quite as extreme once wave 1 comes out but there were times when I had ships roll into range and get alpha’d by a well prepared Victory I.  That hurts.

The turn before the previous pic.  That's how fast movement can be.

The turn before the previous pic. That’s how fast movement can be.

The gameplay is fun, it feels faster than it is, this game is an hour-eater.  It has the flow and scope of the kind of epic battles you see in the movies, and it’s easy for me to see what I’m looking forward to and what I’m worried about.  I’m looking forward to big battles with lots of ships zooming about, pounding each other while wings of fighters slash and fence between them.  Escorts charge in to harass major ships, while the big brutes hammer each other, ocasionally venting their wrath at an escort that has drifted out of place.

What I worry about is people saying “Ok, for 400 points I can build a mammoth ISD, park it in a corner for 5 turns, vaporise anyone with the temerity to come near me and have enough fighters and fast escorts to nip out on the last turn and deal with any pesky objectives”.  Currently most of the ridiculous combos are offensive, and make demolishing ships easier, not harder, but it only takes one wonky card to tilt the balance and that is a worry I have for the game, especially with even bigger, harder to kill ships on the way.

Still the gameplay is excellent, engaging, fun and did not disappoint.  10/10 for gameplay, 8/10 for box contents.

Armada Unleashed Part 1: WHAT’S IN THE BOX MAN?

Fantasy Flight Games has finally released Star Wars Armada.  The game that lets you put Star Destroyers against Rebel Cruisers (This summer, because those are in Wave 2, and Wave 1 isn’t even out yet).

Fantasy Flight Games does brilliant, fun, well designed games.  The rules are clean, the models are attractive, the systems they are built on are balanced and well thought out.  Star Wars Armada is more of the same, and at the same time is STILL a unique, and different game from X-Wing.

Anyway let’s talk about the box.  The box is big, heavy and loaded.  Containing 10 squadrons of fighters (3 ships in each, 6 TIE-ln squadrons and 4 X-Wing squadrons) a CR90 Corvette, A Nebulon B Frigate, and a Victory  class Star Destroyer.  None of these are front line starships for any of the combatants, but they each have their own unique role.  The models are a bit of a mixed bag.  At one end you have the Star Destroyer which is an impressive slab, well shaded and attractive, with lots of detail, and the CR90 which is one of THE iconic ships of the franchise, looking sleek and potent.  At the other end the fighters look more like ordinary game tokens and the Frigate’s paint job is… amateurish.  There’s a good chance it’s getting re done.  None of them are necessarily bad but the fighters and frigate are disappointing, even though they are more than serviceable for gameplay.

The rest of the box is a cornucopia of goodies.  A movement tool that looks like it might have started off in the dentists office, enough counters to play any four games I ever played growing up, objectives, ship data cards, damage cards, upgrades, identification cards, and of course the obligatory Range Ruler and Fantasy Flight Proprietary Dice Set.

The ONLY thing I don’t like is the dice set.  Look Fantasy Flight, I get it.  You can sell dice and make a mint.  I own your app already, I’m good.  JEBUS am I getting tired of each and every game having a new dice set.  I love the games, but man learning to read new dice every time is annoying.

The rest is very high quality thick cardboard, good cardstock and the parts that require assembly (shield counters, speed counters and command counters) fit together fast and intuitively.

I haven’t played a game yet, but you can tell at a glance that it will run longer than X-Wing.  Tournaments double the time of a game in the current rules, and I expect things will be frantic in that time frame.  I would expect casual games to take 2-3 times as long, especially with the amount of pre-measuring that is allowed.  My first impression is this is a fantastic game if you are interested in this scale of combat, and in battles that require development and strategy.  Currently it loses a point for some of the models being a bit less than expected, and for the proprietary dice.

Raid Warning: On Radar

So right now my Hard Drive is a bit crowded. I’m going to talk about the major MMOs that I at least have installed, why I have them, and why you should consider them (if you should)

Get ’em While They Last

These are games that I don’t think will last very long for whatever reason.  These may or may not be bad games, but they are endangered for one reason or another.

Lord of the Rings Online

Where to start.  Look.  LotRO will be on my computer until they shut down the servers.  I love the game, I love the community, and I loved many of the devs who have worked at Turbine over the years.  But this game is heavily threatened on multiple fronts.  First off they are going to lose their license.  Right now I don’t think there is anyone as pissed off as Christopher Tolkien is with the licensing structure of his Tolkien estate.  So there’s that.  The player base continues to erode away under the winds of lackluster patches, no endgame content, buggy systems and overall disappointment.  I’ll make the march into Mordor with all the rest, probably through Cirith Ungol, but if this game is going 2 years from now I’ll be surprised and if it’s going 4 years from now I’ll be stunned.

I would recommend playing though.  You can see SO much detail and love for the world, and visit SO many famous locales that even if you are only a casual Tolkien fan you owe it to yourself to try it out for a couple months.

Star Wars The Old Republic

SWTOR has followed the development strategy of “Two steps forward, two steps back” ever since launch.  It’s a good game, it’s a fun game and the stories should be played through by any fan of the Star Wars expanded universe.  That being said the mouse is going to want a mint to extend the license and Bioware probably won’t see the value in doing that based on the money they are making.  There’s still plenty of players out there but if the mouse takes his cheese and goes away there won’t be a game, just more disappointed Star Wars fans.

This is another “Log in while it lasts” game.  Do you really want to miss the chance to force-choke people or steal an Imperial prototype out from under the nose of a Sith Lord?  I didn’t think so.

Planetside 2

Who makes this now?  Daybreak?  Who is that?  Oh.  Does anyone work for them?  Ouch.  This one will last longer than the rest but… Don’t invest a lot of time into it.

MWO

Notice how there’s a lot of big IPs involved?  Yeah this thing has been a massive disappointment.  I just patched it and while that was downloading I lost interest in actually playing.

I Should Log in More

World of tanks

WoT is offering a lot of bonuses right now so I actually am logging in every day.  I should probably play more though.  This is just a fun game to drop in and pew pew.  If you like it and especially if you have people to play with it’s worth the time.

League of Legends

This is another game that I can log into for 20 minutes, play a game or two, or drop 6 hours on in a binge.  It’s a fun game if you invest the time into it but my GOD is the community shit.

Chugging Along

World of Warcraft

Not logging in a whole lot.  The games in a great place, and it’ll be in a great place without me.  The problem with this run through isn’t that the game isn’t fun.  It is.  The problem is that you can do everything you want to do pretty fast and just don’t feel like you have to do a lot more unless you put in the time on alts.

The Secret World

Every time there’s a story I get excited, patch, and try to remember my login.  This game has SO much potential but whenever I play it feels janky and like there’s no plan for most of the fights.  The story is fun, even better than SWTOR in a lot of ways but the gameplay feels poor by comparison.

Star Trek Online

Another one of those “It’s worth logging in to take the tour” games, STO sets the bar low and revels in fan service, acceptable, if mediocre-to-average gameplay and capitalizing on a community that wants to make the game MUCH better with its robust fleet and foundry systems.  It would be nice to see more developer driven content, and there is some neat stuff on the horizon.  I spend a fair amount of time in the Alpha quadrant these days, albeit not as much as I probably should.

EvE Online

Unsubbed right now, maybe even for good, although I doubt it.  I just don’t ever feel like I’ve done anything when I log out.

The Time Sink

Final Fantasy XIV

FFXIV has become the time sink that EvE would be if I could get anything done these days.  I always have made progress in something and now that I’ve set some goals for myself I’m actually enjoying working through all the stuff I want to get done.  The game is a blast to play, visually stunning, the score is fantastic and the sound effects… the score is stunning!  The community is great with far more helpful people than dickheads even if the dickheads retain the ability to be incredibly annoying from time to time.

So that’s what’s on my menu right now.  How about you guys?

Winning

What do Hannibal, and Robert E. Lee have in common?

They lost.

They were also very unlikely to ever win.

Hannibal and Lee won famous, shattering victories. They won seminal battles and frequently dictated the course of entire campaigns if not wars with impunity for extended periods of time. They dominated the battlefield, imposing their will on the enemy. Yet they lost.

There were operational reasons they lost, Hannibal had no ability to breach the walls of Rome, or to besiege it. Lee never had the resources to force a major decision. But that wasn’t the extent of it.

They didn’t have the ability to string victories together to break the will of the enemy to fight like Scipio Africanus, or Grant and to carry through on their battlefield victories to conclude their wars.

Hannibal entered Italy and proceeded to destroy every army the Romans could scrape together time after time. To the point where the Romans more or less sat behind their walls and ignored the armies as much as possible. Hannibal could win all the battles he wanted but he couldn’t break Rome’s will.

Lee won victories just as devastating but he lacked the capability to string these victories together. On occasion he simply left the field and failed to seek a final decision, settling for driving back the Federal armies, but he never could turn A victory into victory for his “country”.

The US has won nearly every battle in the Vietnam War, and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet at the end of our contribution to the Vietnam war the North Vietnamese overran the south at about the same speed as they could drive through it. Iraq is as stable as a 3 year old doing cocaine and it’s an open question whether the current regime in Afghanistan could hold a PTA meeting let alone the determined Taliban offensive that is in the offing. We are a great nation for winning battles but we have forgotten that you have to win the war. We assume that if you score enough points time will run out and you can dump the gatorade and go hit the showers.

To win you have to set your goal and work backwards. Hannibal knew he had to take Rome but once his siege train was lost in the Alps he never reconstructed it (and it might not have done any good against Rome’s walls) and Rome is a rather hard city to besiege. Lee never could make the assault on Washington DC or destroy a Federal Army enough to let him inflict serious damage on the North to force a decision, instead scoring victories then letting the Union lick its wounds until the next time. America hasn’t set a goal since wrapping up the show on the U.S.S. Missouri and since then we have spent a lot of time accomplishing very little.

“But Corelin” I hear you ask “This is a gaming blog. Why are we talking about this stuff?”

Because it’s my damn blog! GET OFF MY LAWN.

And because it’s important in gaming. Sun Tzu famously said “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” I realize quoting him is a bit pompous. You may have read my blog before, it happens. Hannibal, Lee, and every US General since Ike put down his stars has forgotten this lesson. They go into battles prepared to win but not wars.

EvE Online has seen this as well. When I was in CoW our “Planning” was lucky to get 20 people with the right ships/fights in anything like the area we were fighting in. The Russians on the other hand were famous for getting the ever living snot knocked out of them for months then suddenly winning the whole damn war. Goons take meticulous planning to the level of any modern organization to turn their cavalcade of clumsy cohorts into a well-oiled machine. Admittedly a steampunky, lurching, “who knows what that bit” does machine but it gets the job done.

When you are getting into a game you need to set goals, and you need to at least be able to figure out how to reach them. FF XIV has lots to do and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by choices. EvE has an even bigger menu and higher bars to leap to get there. Minecraft is a mind boggling game with nearly infinite possibilities (your world is about the size of Neptune) where you can get lost for days until you realize what you want to do, or just give up.

On the tabletop you are given objectives. You know what you have to do to win you just have to do it. And keep your opponent from doing it. The same rules apply though. Just because you have an objective doesn’t mean you are past step one. You have to define the objective in a way that your force can accomplish it, and hope they can. You have to plan what you will do to overcome your opponents moves and then you have to execute.

Have a plan. Stick to it. And let me know if you want me to write a post on how Lee was a terrible General.

I Level Capped my Money Making Job! Now I’m poor.

So my miner hit 50! Always a good time in FF XIV. Now I have access to high level crafting mats. I can efficiently farm crystals and in-demand materials to buff my wallet. AND I’M OVER A MILLION GIL POORER AND MIGHT PAY MORE THAN 4 MILLION TO MAX IT OUT.

Yeah. I’m POOR. I mean incredibly poor. I’m nowhere NEAR first to market of course, and I can’t gather the absolute top end gear. I’m making money at an acceptable rate, I could probably clear a couple hundred thousand on a work night and I don’t doubt I could clear a million on a GOOD weekend binge. Between the ventures I can complete and the unspoiled nodes as well as crystal grinding or finding key materials to farm I am quite sure I can make a lot of money out there but WOW is it pricey.

Right now we are a month or so out from the 2.55 or whatever patch which will probably be the last content patch before Heavesward. Heavensward will render all my gear useless and require me to start over. That being said it’s not the worst money grind I’ve ever had and it’s certainly a different sort of engagement in gameplay style.

Money isn’t a huge deal in FF XIV. There’s not a lot of things you need to buy and it seems like accumulating it to buy vanity gear or to fill in key pieces (or help level an alt) is the big priority. I will keep grinding money and try to figure out the best ways and places to spend it when the expansion drops but it will be interesting to see how fast I can make money and how worthwhile it is to upgrade gear I will be dropping in three months or less.

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