April 2014 Domino Number Pair Puzzle

Dominoes. See the number pairings? 4,4 .5,1. 0,4. 0,2. 5,4 (front), etc.

You know, it’s been a regular month of Sundays since I puzzled a puzzle to this blog, and I used to do that regularly. So here we go! For APRIL 2014, we present the Domino Number Pair Puzzle.  Think of this grid of numbers as DOMINOES (pairs of numbers).  Where would you draw boxes around the number grid to match the pairings in this grid of numbers:

April 2014 Domino Number Puzzle: Questions
Answers next month!

Here are the possible combinations:

0,1 1,1
0,2 1,2 2,2
0,3 1,3 2,3 3,3
0,4 1,4 2,4 3,4 4,4
0,5 1,5 2,5 3,5 4,5 5,5
0,6 1,6 2,6 3,6 4,6 5,6 6,6

You don’t have to answer. It’s a thought exercise. Note that 4,6 is already filled in on the top left corner.

NEW: Mutant Future character sheet as an adobe form


Taking advantage of technology as one might do, I have built an editable PDF form for Mutant Future.  You may recall me posting about the campaign kicking off recently, and how we are playing by remote RPG methods using RollD20 and Google Hangouts.  Rather than keep track of all this information on a text note like I was doing last time, I’ve added the information from the previous session onto this form, more or less.  I have to check the notes for the status of a few things like saving throws.

LARC KILLSTRIKE (filled out example)

Blank Mutant Future Character Form

If you play Mutant Future, please feel free to make use of this form for your own use.

GMT Games prioritizes tablet computing targets

Copyright BoardGameGeek 2010

Dominant Species

As you no doubt already know if you’re read this blog much, but I’ll restate anyway, I’m a bit of a tablet nut.  Especially a “wargames should be done for the tablet” nut.  I’ve posted about it enough, and for a large part, this idea has come to pass, with the releases from Shenandoah Studios, John Tiller game ports, and several onesie and twosie companies releasing indie projects in the wargaming realm.  Sadly the one player that should be invested in this technology but really isn’t is GMT GAMES.  There are many, many game designs published by GMT that would make excellent tablet games.  anything card driven and with area movement might be a good candidate (some more than others).  The Command and Colors block games are a natural.  The American Revolutionary War battles series.   Field of Fire, even.  The big kahuna, however, was always going to be the highest scoring (On BGG) game published by GMT ever, Twilight Struggle.  Until recently, GMT remained committed to a PC only Game conversion of Twilight Struggle.  This project was recently cancelled and an announcement that GMT was seeking out tablet programmers to convert it to an IoS version was released. GMT remains committed to tablet conversions of board games, as they have been saying since 2011 and earlier.   The one and only release from GMT for the IPad, the Dominant Species app, I purchased with some enthusiasm… which dried up immediately after going through the tutorial and trying to play just one game.  Granted, I have NO experience with the board game of Dominant Species, but it is rated somewhat highly on Boardgamegeek, there had to be some “there”, there, right?   Plus, I have a lot of experience with games and Ipad ports of board games, and have been around the block a little, so what’s not to like?  In a word, plenty.   I thought the Dominant Species app was wretched.  The tutorial did not engage me, graphics are dull, and game flow is confusing.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but there was no sense of narrative in the game app for me.  That’s just me, though, there are people out there who seem to like the app just fine and if you like Dominant Species (the board game) you will probably like the app.

Dominant Species App Menu

I swear; I’m not going to give up on this thing. I spent my five bucks and I want a game out of it.  So I’ll keep giving it a try.  Sometimes a game has to win me over; I know that Puerto Rico for the Ipad did after a few tries; I still have high hopes for Agricola and Caylus for the Ipad as well.    The sad fact is I don’t often grock why some games are so danged popular and rated so highly on BGG.  I think it’s a problem of opportunity.  The games just mentioned, Agricola, Caylus and Puerto Rico, looked pretty dull as a subject for a game when I see them set up to play, yet they have their strong adherents.  I respect that.  People don’t have to like what I like, either.  I just need a while to cozy up to the concept of planting crops and building buildings as being “fun”..  it took the games  of Stone Age, San Juan, and to a lesser extent Kingdom Builder to get me to come round about the  subject.

Dominant Species Tutorial in action…

GMT, though, they are a natural for me, being kind of wargame-y, kind of historical, kind of a lover of so-called “Ameritrash” as I am.   They publish one of the top games on BGG for a couple years, Twilight Struggle (a great game).  They have spoken openly about porting specific titles (many of whom are terrific, some of whom are just okay) to a digital format.  Their decision to port Twilight Struggle to a PC game puzzled me, as I don’t see the PC being the platform of choice for boardgame conversions any more.  Still, I would have bought it.. I don’t buy everything GMT puts out, but they can’t say I haven’t been a loyal customer over the years.

Twilight Struggle, GMT Games.  Copyright Boardgamegeek 2005The recent statement cancelling Twilight Struggle for the PC was illuminating.  They appear to not be satisfied with progress or the current version of the PC game.  Their statement (read here) indicates that there will be, eventually, a tablet version of Twilight Struggle.  I have to give them a cautious holllahh!  for this decision.  If they have been trying to produce something for two years and it still isn’t up to their standards, it’s time to fish or cut bait.  Frankly the tablet idea is a better one.  The tablet market (and note, I’m not saying “Just Ipads”, I’m saying tablet.. inclusive of Androids) really is taking off for board game ports.  I’m not going to say anything hokey about ‘the future of board gaming” here, as it isn’t.. not really.  But it is growing, that much is clear.  So, good decision, GMT!!  You would have had my coin either way you went with this, but I’m hoping to see a renewed investment in tablet style games from you now.

With all that fustion being delivered in grand old style, where is my Command and Colors on the Ipad?

Knockout, a fast & furious boxing game from Victory Point Games, reviewed

A recent acquisition was this small format game of boxing from Victory Point Games. KNOCKOUT is a two player game where two players enter the square circle and resolve bouts by playing a limited series of cards that have some degree of interaction with each other.

The game is absurdly simple in concept and easy to learn. Two players enter into the ring which is a simple square grid regulating movement.

Game setup. Not pictured: draw deck, discard deck.

There are four boxer figures in the game, provided for variety’s sake, I assume, since the game can’t really be played with four (unless you are using the “Boxing Frenzy” variant (optional), which I haven’t done so far for lack of 2 more players). These are printed in the new style from VPG, rather thick and chunky so they are quite sturdy.

Health Indicator

The players start with their two figures with a square distance between them and their health markers on the strongest setting.  Their actions are executed (as you might have guessed already) by playing any one of three types of cards– Attack, Defense and Neutral.  Neutral is Movement without attack.  Defense is playing a Counter, Parry or Move (away from the attack).  Attack is more complex with Punch, Cross, Jab, Move & Punch, Move & Cross, and Haymaker.

Move & Attack cards are pretty much what you think– move 1 square and perform a slightly weaker attack.    Each attack and defense move is rated for strength, which is how the cards interact with each other– measuring the strength of the Defense against Attack.  If you can’t avoid a hit you take one damage, if you can’t avoid a haymaker you take two points.  The Round ends when the deck runs out and is reshuffled, and the player down by the most hit points gets a special pep card that balances his position somewhat.

Garrett administers the coup de main on his dear old pappa. He had the best luck the first few games.

Game play was hesitant at first as we tried to figure out what the interactions were. Once you get the hang of it you can finish a round in 15 minutes or less. KNOCKOUT isn’t the most complex game ever made but it plays very quickly and is very engaging. My son and I played it for six games back to back on the first attempt. His response was “I have nothing but praise for this game, that was entertaining”. Not bad praise for a 15 year old addicted to Halo.

There’s some additional extended “campaign” style rules which amount to “play a lot of matches and count the wins”, plus the four man variant mentioned above.  I didn’t bother with that, I just played a lot of 2 man matches.

The artwork, as I have alluded to above, is pretty good. I think the graphics are a little dark and over-stylized, but I can see what the artists intent was– to evoke a turn of the 20th century bare-knuckle bout. The other components are splendid– big, chunky, puzzle-piecey, VPG has really come a long way in recent years.

In summary, Knockout is a good time, not expense, and plays very quickly. It’s easy to teach as well. The number of decisions are limited to the cards in your hand, and that seems fitting– I’ve not played that many boxing simulations (or any, come to think of it), but the two wrestling games that I know of Wrasslin! and Main Event Wrestling play with cards and do a fair job of portraying the give and take of a bout. I imagine Knockout compares favorably to Jab! but I haven’t played the latter yet. Play it as an entry level or filler game, or just a little testosterone-laden entertainment. You’ll be glad you did.

OSS Games Celebrating Launch of ARES Magazine First Issue



Mission Viejo, California (April 17, 2014) – One Small Step Games announced a contest to give away a free copy of SPI’s vintage Ares Magazine signed by bestselling science-fiction author Timothy Zahn, who wrote a short story featured in the 1983 issue.

The contest coincides with the premiere of the first issue of OSS Games’ Ares Magazine, which shares the same name as the vintage 1980s publication but proclaims a new vision—one updated and streamlined for today’s reader and tabletop gamer. The first issue of the science fiction magazine with a standalone tabletop board game in each issue comes out next month.

“Many of those who have shown support for our venture have fond memories of the SPI magazine,” says OSS Games owner and Editor-in-Chief Michael Anderson. “This contest is a way of both honoring the past as well as celebrating our vision for the future.”

The contest features issue #13 of the vintage science fiction and gaming magazine that was published in the early 1980s by SPI, a popular game publisher at the time. Zahn’s short story, “Damocles Mission,” appears in that issue.

Damocles Mission Countersheet

The six-week contest runs through May 31, culminating in a drawing for the autographed copy on June 1. People can increase their chance of winning through options like posting about the contest on social media and referring others to the contest. Subscribers to Ares Magazine, which launched after its successful Kickstarter in January, get an additional chance to win.

While Anderson appreciates the nostalgia for the vintage magazine, he is looking forward to getting his own magazine into the hands of subscribers.  The first issue features nine original science fiction and fantasy stories, an interview with game designer and author Bruce Cordell, and an article on singularity written by best-selling science fiction author William H. Keith (who also writes under the pseudonyms Ian Douglas and H.J. Ryker).

The issue also includes Bill Banks’ War of the Worlds, a two-player game of conquest and survival that pits the military forces of Queen Victoria against Martian forces under the command of the evil Martian overlord. The game also includes a rule book, die-cut playing pieces, and a large map.

“All of that wrapped up and delivered to subscribers next month,” says Anderson.

Contest information, rules and the online entry form are on the website of Ares Magazine. To enter the contest, go to http://aresmagazine.com/?page_id=364. To subscribe to Ares, go to http://ossgamescart.com.


One Small Step Games has been around since 1996 and has published dozens of games, including designs from Bill Banks, Dan Verssen, Joseph  Miranda, and Richard Berg. More information is available at www.ossgames.com.


OSS Games website:  www.ossgames.com
Ares Magazine website: www.aresmagazine.com
Inquires/Press: rules@ossgames.com
OSS Games Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OSSGames
Ares Magazine Facebook: www.facebook.com/AresMagazine
Twitter: @AresMagazine www.twitter.com/AresMagazine

Short Review: Inferno 2, Escape from Hell by Larry Niven

Escape from Hell (Inferno, #2)Escape from Hell by Larry Niven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not given to being a big fan of sequels for sequels’ sake, but as I had some distant memory of enjoying the previous book in this sequence some 20 years ago (!), I thought why not, it’s in the library. (Spoilers) If you remember the previous work, Inferno, the protagonist, Allan Carpentier (aka Carpenter), a somewhat down at his heels Science Fiction writer, dies in a very preventable, stupid accident while he was drunk. He wakes up in the vestibule of Dante’s Inferno. That’s right, the one with the nine circles. His guide is memory of Dante’s poem and Benito Mussolini, who is redeeming himself by guiding souls out of hell. I don’t want to get into the particulars of the previous book– it was light, it was fun. The theme was a rationalist (Carpentier) trying to explain a very supernatural version of Hell and not coming a suitable explanation beyond “This must be a giant theme park being put on by aliens for their own twisted amusement”. At the end of Inferno, no great spoiler, Benito escapes and Allan seeks to redeem himself further by trying to rescue souls from Hell. Which leads us to this book, which begins almost directly after the previous, in the Vestibule area of Hell. Allan begins trying to prove to himself that this medieval conception of Hell is fundamentally unjust and that everyone in it should theoretically be able to escape like Benito. The thing is most people he encounters don’t want to risk their little petty sinecures in Hell to even consider leaving. Carpenter meets Rosemary, a New Orleans prosecutor who stays with him until he reaches the Great City of Dis, then she takes a job with the Infernal prosecutor’s office. Much of the book is taken up with the protagonist replaying the same scenes of the previous book, but with a refined viewpoint of Hell and the reason for why he is there. After Dis, he finds himself in the wood of the Suicides, where he encounters Sylvia Plath, who becomes his primary companion and motivation for the rest of the novel. The plotting is somewhat patchy in spots, but added new elements I personally liked. The reaction of Allan Carpentier (who died in 1974) to events like 9/11, and suicide bombers, and laptops and the internet is pretty amusing. The first INFERNO was definitely light fare for Niven. The sequel has a much harder, almost bitter edge to the humor and social commentary– aside from the classic “is it just for a finite life to earn infinite punishment, even when they repent?”, there were some interesting interpretations of sins and some very unlikely sinners that appear as fellow travelers for Carpentier. I liked the previous Inferno for the Science Fiction interpretation of Hell, but I found myself liking this one more. Perhaps the characters were less two dimensional than the previous work, or perhaps I thought the story had more depth. In any event, Escape from Hell is a good read, still pretty light for a hard space writer like Niven, but sufficient to be entertaining and very engaging. I think I finished it in two days.

View all my reviews

On the Bad Vicarage, by Frank Key, read by Walter O’Hara

Read by.. me! (repost from Airy Persiflage)

“The vicarage is bad indeed, as bad as any vicarage in Christendom. But the vicar whose sinecure it is is, shall we say, a fair to middling vicar. I would not call him good, but he is by no means as bad as the Bad Vicar of old.”

Click on the picture to go to Airy Persiflage

Not for the faint of heart, Mr. Key’s spine tingling tale of a monstrous vicar of old and the evil that he wrought!

It was high time we did a Frank Key piece here, and this tickled my fancy when it was written two years ago.

To Listen:

(If this does not play quickly or hangs up, click on the picture of the vicar above and go to Aery Persiflage for the original recording.

Visit Hooting Yard for the originals..

An old dog tries out Mutant Future, by Goblinoid Games

My friends and I played the early versions of TSR’s  GAMMA WORLD and METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA to death when we were kids– generating tons of campaign material some of the most memorable games ever.  These early SF role-playing games had lots of things going for them– none of the minutiae associated with D&D but roughly the same structure we were already familiar with and a conversely lots more open ended than their older brother, D&D.  Sadly GW and MA went by the wayside as I got older and my RPG group kind of drifted apart.

With the advent of the Internet and streaming cameras, Google Hangouts and a decent webcam and Mic, much of the problems of distance and time that drive someone out of roleplaying are solved. I have written about my adventures trying something new with remote play of RPGs before with a RPG called Labyrinth Lord from Goblinoid Games.  LL is a fairly obvious D&D clone that harkens back to a time when TSR/Wizards of the Coast allowed for outside development by putting D&D out as an open license.  The result was a multitude of RPG games similar to Labyrinth Lord– the most famous being Pathfinder.   Mutant Future was Goblinoid’s second product.  To say it’s “just a Gamma World clone” is perhaps overstating it.. the mechanics of GW were not released under open license, after all.  So Mutant Future is essentially a post-apocalyptic RPG skin of Laybrinth Lord, which is based on the D&D license.  With that stated up front.. yeah, it’s a lot like Gamma World.

Lone mountain bunker, where the adventure starts

We played members of a village called Lone Mountain, which is built around some ancient bunkers that still have a few tech items left from the pre-apocalypse days. The Eldars are concerned about the encroachments from the outside and sent out a scouting party that never returned. The preliminary returns from the reconnaissance brought back the map fragment you see above. We were sent out to determine who lives around us and to assess the threat situation more accurately.

My character was a mental mutant with four mental mutations, only one of which appears to be much use:

Larc Killstrike

Larc is a dark-visaged youth, in his early 20s who is apparently human, but for some reason he exudes a sort of anti-charisma not usually associated with humans. His negative empathy generation has caused him to grow increasingly paranoid and defensive as he has gotten older. As he spends a lot of time alone, he talks to himself a lot and he frequently fidgets. He favors dark colors– another culture might accuse him of being “goth”.

STR — 17 +2 mod TH, DMG, Door
DEX — 12 0 Mod
CON — 13 0 mod
INT — 13 +5%
WIS — 12
CHA — 13 -1 RA, 5 Ret 8 RM
58 HPS

Mutations: 1D4
Mental Mutant

1) Vampiric Field
2) Negative Empathy
3) Neural Telepathy
4) Metaconcert

110 GP starter


2 Ball Bearings

 L Crossbow 17 GP
+ 20 quarrels 1d6 dmg
Longsword 10 GP 1d8 dmg
studded Leather Armor 30GP
Shield 10GP
- clothes
- small items
- bedroll & blanket attached
- rope wrapped around
- mushrooms

Unless stipulated, in pack:
Bedroll 1 sp
Blanket, winter 5 sp
Crowbar 2GP
Flint Steel 2GP
pole 10 ft 2 sp
lantern 9GP
rope 10GP
9 days trail rations at 5GP
Waterskin 1GP

=102 GP
8 left

Vampiric Field This mutation grants the mutant the ability to absorb the life essence (hit points) from all creatures (friend or foe) within a foot radius equal to 30+WIL. This power absorbs 2d4 hp per round from all creatures in the radius, and these absorbed points go into a separate reserve for the mutant. All damage to the mutant is taken from these reserved points until they are gone; after this point the mutant’s regular hp begin to be affected. Stored hp will disappear after 24 hours.

Negative Empathy The mutant sends out waves of negative mental energy, causing anyone with less than 17 Intelligence within a 90’  radius to have a 15% probability of attacking the mutant.  Only one check is necessary per person until they leave the field and reenter it.

Neural Telepathy Using this ability, the mutant can connect his mind with another creature’s mind and communicate directly, even if the two creatures speak completely different languages or are of different species. The range of this ability is 30 feet.

Metaconcert This ability allows the mutant to link its mind with other
mutants of a similar type or those who have the same mental mutation. These include those with the Metaconcert mutation, or other mental mutations that facilitate control between the minds of two beings. The
mutant may combine his WIL with the WIL of other mutants for conducting a mental attack, or some other joint  purpose.?

That’s right.  I’m playing a guy named Larc Killstrike who essentially can leach the vitality out of everyone in the room and automatically makes stupid people hate him.  This is going to be hilarious.  I’m playing him as shy and kind of anti-social, as he would be very self conscious of the hostility he creates just by walking into a room.  Fortunately our “Mutant Master” (GM) ruled that the party members know Larc and are used to him by now.    Of these mutations, Neural Telepathy came in handy (once) and I never used the Vampiric Leech thing.  Metaconcert seems nice in theory but really I’m not sure what we could use it with.  I have nothing that really “Attacks” mentally– and I don’t think any of the party members do either.

Our party headed toward the river (see map above), discovering some delicious truffle mushrooms on the way.   They turned out to be edible so I filled my pack with them.

We avoided an encounter with some cubs of a really awful monster called a vile slasher or something like that.  Sadly when we went north to the next riverside hex and tried to cross, one of our guys (Johnny Walker) got shreddded by mutated piranha fish.   We fished our volunteer out and headed north some more.. only to discover a group of friendly little pig men called the Suidioi or something like that.  Fortunately they were telepathic and we conversed easily– it helps to have telepathy.  They were a nice bunch.  I tried not to think of bacon too much.  We did some trading and one of our guys got a chain mail outfit out of it.    They turned us on to a building “that was very dangerous and had led to the death of many suidioi” or something like that.

where we were by the end of the night.. Southern edge of the lake in the north end of the map.

There’s also a lake with a human-ish village North of the drawing up top.  We got to the location of the single building and encountered a compound of sorts, with a large “box on treads” patrol in a very predictable path around it.  I tried to break into guard shack but failed twice, making too much racket and attracting the attention of the box.  I ran for it and it went back to patrolling.  The other guys did a circuit around the building to map it out for us.  When we got back together (behind the dumpsters in the drawing below) we called it a night.

The Compound, end of session. Yes, as you can see we had quite a crowd.

This game went well. It definitely had that old Gamma World, “exploring in the ruins of the ancients” without a lot of the paperwork modern games put you through feel to it. The GM, Eric, is a good referee, funny, and he admits when he doesn’t know something, and is creative enough to improvise as we move along. I’ve gamed with these guys (remotely) before, or at least many of them, and they are a good bunch. Technically I was beset by some problems. I got the impression that SOME people heard me over the mic and some didn’t. I think the problem came from RollD20 (the app about which I’ve spoken before– it allows you to run a RPG game over a browser) taking control of my mic when I was already using Google Hangouts to communicate– then when I muted it on RollD20 nobody seemed to hear me. Stuff happens. I communicated as best I could.

I’ll definitely play Mutant Future again. It’s a real blast from the past. I’m liking Goblinoid Games more and more these days.


Short Review: The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan

The Steel Remains (A Land Fit for Heroes, #1)The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Steel Remains is a book I’ve been meaning to get around to for a while.. it’s been staring at me on my Ipad for about a year without me cracking it open. I’ve been a fan of Joe Abercrombie for about three years now, and his gritty, realistic hardboiled fantasy introduced in the First Law trilogy, so I was hoping for a new series similar to that one. Richard Morgan is an author that I’m familiar with, having read Altered Carbon and tried to start Market Forces for a Goodreads book club but failed miserably. I like Richard Morgan’s style, too, and discovered he is quite capable of lending his sparse, hard boiled prose style to an epic fantasy setting. How well does he execute this transposition? Well, it’s a mixed bag, really. The Steel Remains takes place in a world that is recovering from a cataclysmic war with some Reptilian race that featured Lizardmen and apparently dragons. I liked that the story starts at least 15 years after the big “Epic Event”.. imagine a Lord of the Rings novel taking place 20 years after the One Ring was destroyed. The story is told through the primary POV characters Ringel, Archeth and Egon, all of whom were heroes of the previous war. Egon (Dragonbane) is a doughty Viking-like northman who has become to urbanized for the tribe he has returned to after the wars. Archeth (Lady kir-Archeth Indamaninarmal) is your elf-standin from the Elf-Standins in this novel, the Kiriath, who have “departed these lands” after the end of the last big war (does that sound familiar, Tolkien fans?). And the PRIMARY focus of the plot is on one Ringil Eskiath, the tough as nails warrior type and anti-hero who did something big and impressive at a place called Gallows Gap during the big war. Right up front, it’s clear, Ringil is gay, and that’s a huge driver in his character. Ringil lives in a world that isn’t very live and let live about homosexuality. Much of his plot line is influenced by societal rejection of Ringil, and society’s grudging respect for his battlefield prowess. The plot was a lot of stuff we’ve seen before in fantasy.. an ancient race called the Dwenda returning to reclaim their world. The Kiriath, their ancient enemies, have long departed these shores. Predictions of dark lords rising, etc. Morgan really amps up scenes to “Noir up” his fantasy, including explicit gay sex scenes told in explicit detail and a very modern argot that I found more off-putting than any sexual references. The casual use of “Fuck” and “Yeah” and other linguistic 20th century speech nuggets took me out of the setting.. frequently. Not a terrible sin. After all, Joe Abercrombie can sling the F-bomb on occasion too, and I love his work.

In general, the plot is decent enough, and I won’t dispute that Morgan is a good writer in the SF genre, at least. The Steel Remains reminded me of a SF novel full of genre archtypes putting on a fantasy costume. Mysterious demigods or demons. Hardbitten heroes.. we’ve kind of seen this before. Maybe Morgan intent was to play with the genre a little and experiment. I liked it enough to try more in this series, but it’s nowhere near as good as Joe Abercrombie’s novels. I’ll give it a solid mezzo-mezzo.

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Ancients (Freeware Ed) as an Epub, in Digital Rules

Click on the cover to go to the Digital Rules page

Correction:  Ancients isn’t freeware after all.  Had to take it down, ONE SMALL STEP complained..

Howdy!  Many years ago, Bill Banks published a tidy little boardgame focused on Ancient warfare.  It was called “Ancients” and came in multiple editions– the basic edition, edition 2 that added naval rules, a third edition and a combined 4th edition.  3w imploded many years ago, and when the rights reverted back to Bill, he very generously offered them up as freeware.  For many years the files for Ancients were hosted on Mike Nagel’s excellent Relative Range site.  They were recently taken down, possibly to avoid confusion with his game Ancient Battles, which is being published by VPG.

Anyway, I have just converted the entire package (sans maps and counters) to EPUB format.  This includes the rules, the naval rules, the scenarios for both land and sea.  It’s a pretty big EPUB file compared to most of the ones I’ve posted so far, but it does have dozens of ancient battle scenarios included.




WARLORD Soldiers and Strategy

WARLORD Soldiers and Strategy

You knew it had to happen sooner or later.

Emphasizing the story aspect of wargames

Conflict goes hand in hand with drama; and military conflict generates dramatic moments by the bushel load.  Very rarely are games presented as stories; as players, we tend to get caught up with either the history as it really was or the tactics of the situation we are in, or the mechanics of the game simulating the event.  There are all kinds of players out there.  One kind that I admire is the kind that can recognize the story aspect of a game and does what he or she can to try to communicate that to you in some fashion.  Like “Stuka Joe”, for instance.  Whomever that is.  Check out his video of a recent B-17: Queen of the Skies game.  Joe invested in a component upgrade and took pains to give the game a multilayered three dimensional look– and shot the event as a dramatic narrative instead of a series of dice roles (which is mostly what B-17 is– looking things up on a table and rolling a number of D6s).  Dice rolls aren’t even mentioned, just the results.  The result is a fun, dramatic narrative as “Diamond Lucy” makes her second trip over the skies of Occupied Europe.

I particularly liked the idea of inserting the faces of people the author knows as crew members on the “Diamond Lucy”, instead of just a nameless Ball Gunner, Tail Gunner, Flight Engineer, etc. Nice touch!


How they come up with these results is beyond me.

The Draco Tavern by Larry Niven, a review

The Draco TavernThe Draco Tavern by Larry Niven
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Draco Tavern is Larry Niven’s version of the “Space Bar” trope of science fiction. The main star is the setting; a nexus where alien species of a startling variety come together to interact and tell stories, and short stories ensue. The Space Bar isn’t startlingly original as a literary idea; Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon and Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille, and earlier, Tales From The White Hart could lay claim to exploring the concept before the publication of The Draco Tavern, though Larry Niven has been writing these stories in the Tavern setting for quite a while.

Perhaps the core concept isn’t original, but unlike those other collections, Niven has invested a lot of creativity and thought about the setting and universe surrounding the Draco Tavern, and he really seems to be having fun with the alien species in particular. Almost every one of the short stories centers around the humans (often just the bartender/narrator, Rick Schuman) encountering some nugget of truth about life by interacting with a race of beings that does something entirely differently and is shocked or amused with homo sapiens and their quirky ways. It’s a good theme; and the deeper theme of acceptance and good natured hospitality instead of xenophobia is a timely one these days.

Stories in the Collection:

“The Subject is Closed”
“Grammar Lesson”
“Assimilating Our Culture, That’s What They’re Doing”
“The Schumann Computer”
“The Green Marauder”
“The Real Thing”
“War Movie”
“Table Manners”
“One Night at the Draco Tavern”
“The Heights”
“The Wisdom of Demons”
“Smut Talk”
“Ssoroghod’s People”
“The Missing Mass”
“The Convergence of the Old Mind”
“The Death Addict”
“Storm Front”
“The Slow Ones”
“Cruel and Unusual”
“The Ones Who Stay Home”
“Breeding Maze”
“Losing Mars”
“Playground Earth”

Of these I rather liked The Wisdom of Demons, The Green Marauder (which posits the existence of a predecessor to humanity that lived on the pre-oxygen Earth), and The Schuman Computer (where the narrator builds a super computer that grows so powerful it gets bored with helping humanity…)

In summary, The Draco Tavern isn’t Niven’s greatest work, and maybe not even his best collection of short stories. I liked his milieu quite a bit and found the alien overlords (the bemused, 11 feet tall “Chirpsithra”, which look like kind of like willowy lobsters) very entertainingly written. This collection isn’t Ringworld, or even close, but it is worth a read for Niven fans. I found the stories a bit abrupt and even a little preachy at times. The reader is often left in a position to draw his own conclusions as the story abruptly ends. That can be a little jarring from time to time.

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Mission Viejo, California (March 26, 2014) – The last day to enter One Small Step Games Tabletop Day Contest isFriday, March 28.

The three week contest, which began March 7, celebrates gaming and International Tabletop Day’s worldwide effort to promote gaming and connect fans and publishers.

When someone enters, they get to choose from a list of seven OSS Games. The first six are sets of Millennium Wars, a strategic-level, two-player simulation of possible current and near-future conflicts including Ukraine, Iraq, Kashmir, Air War, Korea and America. Entrants can also choose the notorious Politics as Usual, a wild, multiplayer card game that lets players run the campaigns of their favorite candidates in a bid for the White House.

Winners will be chosen on Saturday, March 29. One winner of a Millennium Wars title will receive theMillennium Wars: Six-Pack, all six games in one package. Up to 10 winners of a Politics as Usual game will also receive a Politics as Usual—Unusual Suspect Expansion set.

For every 50 entrants, OSS Games is giving away one game. People can enter the contest up to four times through options like posting about the contest on social media and referring others to the contest. Subscribers to Ares Magazine, OSS Games’ latest project which launched after its successful Kickstarter in January, get an additional chance to enter.

Contest information, rules and the online entry form are on the website of Ares Magazine. To enter the contest, go to http://aresmagazine.com/?page_id=341.


One Small Step Games has been around since 1996 and has published dozens of games, including designs from Bill Banks, Dan Verssen, Joseph Miranda, and Richard Berg. More information is available atwww.ossgames.com.


OSS Games website:  www.ossgames.com
Ares Magazine website: www.aresmagazine.com
Inquires/Press: rules@ossgames.com
OSS Games Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OSSGames
Ares Magazine Facebook: www.facebook.com/AresMagazine
Twitter: @AresMagazine www.twitter.com/AresMagazine