The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Unconditional Surrender — Training Scenario I

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I am in the unusual position of being an early adopter again. This takes me back a few decades (before BGG, back when I ordered games directly from Germany). But this time, it’s a wargame.

So, I already mentioned that I didn’t expect to get Unconditional Surrender. But I was puttering around yesterday (mild cold) so I punched the counters (3 sheets worth, but lots of special event markers, tracking counters), read the ‘alternate learning method’ for training scenario one. That one basically says “Read X, Y, and Z, skipping these parts) and has you go.

TS1 is “Germany smacks Poland.” Just to give you an idea of scale, this has 8 Polish units (all ground), and 2 German Tanks, 2 Fighters and 5(ish) armies. So, < 20 counters total. The rules teach movement, combat, a few of the special events. Core concepts.

Now, it’s not much of a game yet. Poland’s decisions are “Where do I retreat” and “When do I commit my reserve special abilities.” Germany has all the fun. But it’s something you could teach and play in an hour. Learning it was a bit longer, but I was punching counters (and mild cold).

This is outside of my normal fare, although I like No Retreat [1] as well. And this is most definitely not a Euro you’ll be up and running in a few minutes. It’s not even 18xx where the rules cover an hour and you can stumble along. I’ll have to spend probably a full day to muddle through. (Although I could probably use the other alternate training method of just setting up the main game and reading in the SOP order).

Frankly, the amphibious invasion rules are opaque (Training Scenario II is an amphibious invasion, and has maybe 8 units on the board, but a number of special use counters), but I was not concentrating well (head cold).

So, I’m well north of Indifferent, at least for now, but I have tolerance for these sort of things, even if they are far from my primary game.

[1] (I still haven’t gotten around to playing the North Africa one, so it may just be the Russian Front I like).

PS — Make with the Gathering Reports. Chop Chop. Open Thread in Comments.

Written by taogaming

April 20, 2014 at 9:27 am

Random news

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So, I get an order from GMT games saying my game has shipped.


I have a head full of pollen; but no recollection of what I ordered. But best to see. It arrived today. Ah, it’s Churchill, the 3player card driven WWII game. Cool!

I flip the box over and what do I see? A monstrous hex map staring at me! This isn’t Churchill, it’s Unconditional Surrender. That’s right, I ordered both. But I thought I’d cancelled this one (after getting more details). Ah well, this can be the game I always want to play and never play. Actually, I might very well be able to. It looks like you can use the training scenarios to work up from a small few unit fight up. This may be my summer project. And the TaoLing may be able to handle it at some point.

Right now the game I always want to play isn’t many, and the games I never play are legion. I’ve played 12 games in the last 30 days , and that includes bridge session. This is about 1/4 (or less) of what I’d normally play, and yet I’m not raring to play random games (although I do have a session of Fed Com for Monday).

I haven’t even played Mage Knight in two months. I should, but I need table space.

Ah well, there’s news from the Gathering. You should read it. But not here.

In non-gaming news:

  • Adventure Time is Smowzow.
  • My new job (the reason for not going to N.F.) is nice. Jacqui works in the same building, so we carpool. It’s adorable.
  • I’m working through the Shield and the Sopranos. I’ve petered out on Supernatural (but I made it to season 6 or 7). I may pick it back up.
  • I need to go see Winter Soldier. Maybe Sunday.
  • My guitar playing is ok, but David Bowie uses obscure chords way too often for me to be able to play my favorites.
  • Welcome to Nightvale. I’ve succumbed. I thought they couldn’t pull it off past the first episode, but they have. (At least, I’m up to the mid 20s).
  • My allergist (a gamer) says I’m allergic to nothing, but there’s so much gunk in the air I’m still sneezing, sore throat, etc.
  • (Update) Based on a recent comic by XKCD I downloaded the Kerbal Space Program simulator. It’s fun and the potential for a real time sink.

I’m going to bed.

Written by taogaming

April 18, 2014 at 8:27 pm

We’ve already played this one

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Sometimes at a bridge game you put your hand back into the board, then the board doesn’t get moved (or someone switches the top for the bottom and someone switches it back) and you pull out the same hand and play it again. Better players will tend to recognize the same hand, but sometimes not.

I held S:QJ5 H:J64 D:AKJ82 C:A2 and ended up defending 2H. Meh. That was board 2.

We played board 3, then on board four I picked up and glanced at my hand:

S:QJx H:(J)76 D:AKJ92 C:Ax

“We’ve played this one.” I said, before fully sorting my hand.

The other rhree players looked at my like I was insane, then I realized that my Heart Jack was actually the Club Jack.

A few spots had changed (the D8 had become the D9. The club deuce was now the five, but all my honors were the same (except the heart jack had moved to clubs), my shape was practically the same.  Certainly the most similar hands I’ve had in the same round

Written by taogaming

April 13, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Posted in Bridge


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I suspect that part of my indifference is due to the fact that the game was mostly over before anything clicked, but I don’t feel like playing again just yet. Perhaps later. (And also, everyone looses as a mechanism is a touchy subject. Few games pull it off, and it really requires the players to feel like Role Playing. It never really worked in Supremacy, but did work for Republic of Rome. Not sure it works here).

Written by taogaming

April 10, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Posted in Session Reports

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Jeremy Silman plays Nations

I played my 6th game of Nations last night, and in the ensuing discussion I wound up thinking about Jeremy Silman. Back when I played Chess (semi-exclusively), his book “How to Reassess your Chess” did very well, mainly because it rhymed. But also because he presented things clearly to amateur players. The most interesting idea was on exploiting imbalances.

Nations is a game of exploiting imbalances.

You can have lots of coal, or coins, or wheat. You can have little. You can have great production, or not. Military: Big or Small? Earn VP during the game or via buildings/wonders? Etc. You can’t beat everyone everywhere; you must choose your imbalances.

If you have great coins, that means you can afford the high-ticket items, so you can afford to take a few turns to get architects (for example) and pay a premium for better stuff. Or you can buy the cheap stuff, then snag a few expensive things later on. If you are coin-poor, you need to get the most important thing. If you have lots of coal, you can move people around to optimal places. You can also presumably afford to move to a high military for a turn, planning on abandoning it if necessary. (A coal poor person would be forced to keep it, since he couldn’t afford to move the workers around). A small military person may have to recognize that and boost stability (or preemptively buy a war) to avoid losing to much.

There are lots of specifics (and I’m vaguely tempted to write a few thousand words about them, but perhaps later). But the basic ideas are simple, and apply to many games:

  1. Be Flexible. If you put yourself in a position where you need to grab some card, you can be screwed.
  2. If you are going to be losing one type of fight (and you are), then make sure that isn’t a critical fight for you. If you are going to lose a war, by god, lose it. No point fighting for 6 grain on a crappy building if you need 7. Take the hit and boost your books and VP to compensate.
  3. If everyone is fighting for resource X, then there is some resource Y they are ignoring. If you corner the market in it, they’ll all fell the pinch.
  4. Having a ton of resources and few gained VP by the middle game is often just fine.


Written by taogaming

March 25, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Posted in Strategy, Thoughts about Thinking

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South Park — The Stick of Truth

Damn funny, if a bit short (I got it Friday after work and finished it today after maybe 15 hours or so). I did have to go to the internet for the minigames, some of those are opaque. (In particular, the “Sneaky Squeeker” is much easier than the controls hint shows. And probably the cup game, too, although I gutted that one out and eventually stumbled onto it).

As you can expect from Parker/Stone, it’s a pretty gross game. One of the best jokes was when the SWAT team busts into a scene and then one one of them looks at his doohickey and goes “Woohoo, the ESRB ratings are off the chart bad!” And that’s true. I let the TaoLing watch for a while (because he’s old enough the foul language isn’t such a big deal) but during the first night it started getting a bit awkward and by the second night he was banished.

I could play again as a different class (I played Mage, the other choices are Fighter, Thief and Jew) but I suspect there’s not much replayability. I still have some quests to complete and I may finish them. I saw a lot of South Park characters I knew, and a few more I’d never seen before. I think most (if not all) characters show up at one point.

So between that, the new Rocksmith game, and my new job I haven’t been playing any new board games.

Written by taogaming

March 9, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Posted in TV & Media

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Simple Puzzle, Stunning Solution

So I stumbled upon one of those logic puzzles that I love.

Six boys are accused of stealing apples. Exactly two are guilty. Which two? When the boys are questioned, Harry names Charlie and George, James names Donald and Tom, Donald names Tom and Charlie, George names Harry and Charlie, and Charlie names Donald and James. Tom can’t be found. Four of the boys who were questioned named one guilty boy correctly and one incorrectly, and the fifth lied outright. Who stole the apples?

And I got the solution correct (in a few mninutes).

But how a mathematician proved the solution in a few seconds was a revelation to me.

Hat-Tip:Futility Closet.

Written by taogaming

February 24, 2014 at 9:34 am

Posted in Non-Gaming

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