Category Archives: Computing

Oh, Slitherine.. just take my money, you canny bastards. You had me at Pike & Shotte


A fairly recent development over at Slitherine Software, essentially the epicenter of turn based computer wargaming for multiple platforms, was the announcement and screenshots for their upcoming turn based game PIKE AND SHOT (P&S).  P&S will be using the Battle Academy engine, which is robust,  reasonably well tested and more importantly ALREADY PORTED TO TABLETS.  I balked at a 20 dollar Ipad game but something tells me I won’t balk at P&S if it comes in that high (though, realistically, if you’ve made the investment in the engine, I would anticipate that you gain some price efficiencies for reusing it, that’s how it works in other industries)>

The game is turn based and has a bunch of scenarios.  I don’t know much more than Slitherine’s product announcements and the basic look and feel from the screenshots.

(From product page, I’ve bolded the items that make me grin with anticipation)

  • Accurate simulation of battle in the 16th and 17th century Age of Pike and Shot.
  • Unique graphic style based on 17th century styles and battle paintings.
  • 10 full-sized historical battles in each campaign- The Thirty Years War, English Civil War (expansion) and 16th century Italian Wars (expansion).
  • Classic Turn-based, tile based gameplay.
  • Easy to use interface, hard to master gameplay.
  • Battalion-sized units.
  • Single player and multiplayer modes.
  • Stand-alone battle system allows unlimited “what-if” scenarios using historically realistic armies from carefully researched army lists, on realistic computer generated terrain maps.
  • Stand-alone scenarios are randomly generated and include open battle, attack on a defensive position, defence of a defensive position, awaiting reinforcements, enemy awaiting reinforcements, flank march.
  • In stand-alone games players can pick their armies from the army list or allow the computer to pick the army for them.
  • Effective AI makes sound tactical decisions. Historical battle AI customised to the historical tactical situation.
  • 5 difficulty levels allow the challenge to increase as you develop your battlefield skills.
  • 20 troop-types, 25 “capabilities” and numerous different unit organisations allow full representation of tactical differences and developments throughout the period.
  • Detailed model that accurately represents any substantial 16th or 17th century battle world-wide as scenarios are developed.
  • Mod friendly game system with built-in map editor.
  • Multiplayer mode allows historical scenarios and “what-if” scenarios to be played by two players using Slitherine’s easy to use PBEM server.

All great stuff, but a picture is worth a thousand words.  To wit:

Click to enlarge.

The game developers did their research and certainly appear to have the formations correct. I would have expected more linear groupings on a 30 years war battlefield but this wasn’t always the case, so I’ll give Slitherine a lot of slack.

I’m quite excited… dammit, just send me the pre-order information, Slitherine, you nailed this one. Official release date is “TBD” but the company forum says “Later this year“. NICE. After the rather disappointing “closest thing to a Pike and Shot game they make” from HPS Simulations (essentially Panzer Campaigns with Musket and Pike graphics– who thought an operational game would work for this subject matter, HPS?), I was very pleased to see a tactical engine that looks like it will do justice to the subject matter.  You know, with formations that matter, and facing, and troop differences.  Pike and Shot looks like a lot of fun.

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?

Storm Eagle Software: a company that would have made George Orwell proud


IF this is the new paradigm for software distribution, it leaves a lot to be desired.  (written in 2012, not posted until now)

Note from the year 2013: I wrote this a year ago, and sort of let it lay in the draft hopper out of apathy.  It’s still all true, but I would add a small epilogue: I did finally get the software installed after two weeks of effort and lots of repeated system admin tasks…. and it sucked!  The game interface is moronic, you have very little control over individual ships beyond steering them and hoping for the best, and it’s a bit of a yawner.  Not really worth giving an in-depth review too.  Kind of anti-climatic after all that work, no?  I have to stress that Storm Eagle, cited here, did not create the software I’m trying to install in this transaction, so I can’t fault them directly for that, that’s all on Totem Software’s head. In the end, I wasted my money, and went through a lot of stress, to boot.  I’m posting this a year later, really because it amuses me more than it angers me.  The so-called customer service rep’s replies become blander and less officious as the exchange continues, and in the end I wondered if he could type that drivel with a straight face.

There are days when I feel like a relic, and the last four days have certainly made me feel that way. I have always had an interest in games with a military history element to them; that much might be obvious from casual reading of this blog. So when I was idly responding to an advert banner ad about Dreadnoughts at the Storm Eagle Software site, I noticed this boffo new-ish product:

Totem Games Victorian Admirals

They are having a sail on Totem Games’ VICTORIAN ADMIRALS collection for roughly 30 bucks. This is just ducky for a guy like me who’s nuts for the pre-dreadnought Age of Steam naval conflict era– I have reservations about the Totem Games interface– it’s a little clunky and not exactly inspirational, but the art is lovely and the history is obscure.

So I did a mental version of “Yipppeee!” and ordered it.

Full disclosure: I just ordered it. This is TOTALLY my fault for jumping and not looking.  Don’t even bother lecturing me or shaking your head.  I didn’t think about reading the damned fine print. I did zero research. I saw something about digital delivery, but so what? I’ve ordered games from Matrix Games with a digital delivery option, I just got a download code, downloaded the thing and that was it. I’ve even ordered from GOG.com in the past, and though it was slow, I downloaded their version of digital delivery. So what could possibly go wrong?

There was a link on the Storm Eagle website that informed me that they were selling the software as an affiliate for SES.  Yeah, yeah, so…

Without reading much more than that, I paid by paypal, and was then told I had to download the STORMPOWERED application which is the way they were going to send me VICTORIAN ADMIRALS.  I should have had alarm bells going off at that stage, but I complied, downloaded their “STORMPOWERED” client application, which is somehow beneficial to the software delivery process.   Digital Delivery, as my hipster younger friends tell me, is the way of the future for computer programs.  That’s progress.

FOUR DAYS LATER, after frequent attempts to download the product I PAID FOR, with NO CHANCE OF A REFUND, I realized that A) I was foolish and should have read the fine print, and B) this ain’t no way to run a railroad.  Because we’re in the age of “Digital Distribution”, Storm Eagle Software has essentially adopted policies that preclude the customer getting a refund if he or she is dissatisfied, with no redress whatsoever.  There are no reasonable alternatives offered if the client doesn’t work– I can’t get a CD download (hell, I’d even pay extra for it now).  I can’t access the software from a secure FTP site, like I can with Matrix Games.  Throughout the process of dealing with Storm Eagle Software’s so-called customer service agents, I have been told that this is essentially my fault.  I have followed their instructions.  I’ve tried to download this at home and at work.  The STORMPOWERED client, essentially, is defective.  It will apparently work if I add exceptions to my anti-virus software and log in as an administrator to install and run it.  I have done so, and it still doesn’t work.   So, apparently, I’m also supposed to do all these extra system administrator tasks to download a file.   I rapidly got fed up with the defective software, requested a refund, and was told that no refunds are granted.  I asked for a CD delivery, and was told they don’t supply software that way.  I asked for a FTP download and was told they wouldn’t make an exception for me.  During the four days of increasingly fruitless “customer service” emails from  the while, every message ended with a cheerful variant of “We’re committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure you get your product”.   Except, of course, CD Delivery, FTP delivery, or any other reasonable option to satisfy a very disgruntled customer.

Do you think I’m over stating this?  Maybe, being a bit of a drama queen?  Read on by clicking below.

But wait, there’s more!

Days Gone By: SSI Computer Ambush


Strategic Simulations Inc. was a great company and a great innovator in the area of computer gaming, starting in the early 80s and lasting until it was acquired by Mindscape in the 1990s.   They were also a very liberal borrower of ideas from existing boardgames.  Back in the days of Genie Online, I read a post by one exasperated ex-SPI employee referring  to SSI as something more actionable than “borrower”, but I don’t want to cause a ruckus by naming names.  One of their better tactical games was COMPUTER AMBUSH (1982 and 1984) aka CA.   CA was a game set in France late in World War 2, where an American squad meets a German squad somewhere in a French village.  There were some… critics.. that said this game was an unlicensed computer version of VG/AH’s AMBUSH! series, but that doesn’t hold water as this game was published before Ambush.  Still, I can see the resemblance.. A pre generated squad of canned Yanks and Germans from central casting moving through territory they don’t know and confronting the bad guys when they become detectable.

Screenshot-ambush

Computer Ambush was made in an era where graphics were, frankly, crap, computer speed and computational power sketchy and media fragile and difficult to work with. One should not look back on those days and equate “Old” with “bad”, however. Computer Ambush is a profoundly interesting game, using the best influences from Squad Leader and Sniper!, being a semi-RPG situation where you are managing a squad of soldiers on a mission and inserted in an element of variability and excitement by providing computer opponents that moved in total fog of war until detected.

Screen shot of game in progress.  Orders are being entered at the bottom of the screen.  More on that late.

Screen shot of game in progress. Orders are being entered at the bottom of the screen. More on that late.

The playing experience was long, involved and required concentration and commitment from the player.   Computer controls in the early 80s were very limited, and the mouse had yet to make a splash on computing.  So doing simple things with your units required a lot of typing.  The graphics being so rudimentary (basically text on an ASCII text grid), the player had to provide a lot of the visuals with his own imagination. In essence, we do the same thing when we play any boardgame, since we’re just manipulating a piece that represents something in our heads, just CA really required a leap of faith with the user to grasp what he was doing– the game doesn’t resemble street fighting in a French village unless you squinted.

SSI helped you visualize that village by including a durable, laminated chart of the village, with helpful grid notation on it for plotting moves.

SSI helped you visualize that village by including a durable, laminated chart of the village, with helpful grid notation on it for plotting moves.

Where computer graphics technology failed, print technology supplemented nicely. Computer Ambush was published in an era where lavish detail was spent on documentation, packaging and media. There was none of this “game docs provided as PDFs on the CD” stuff back then. You got a staple bound, fully printed manual with a color cover (usually), some charts, and the latest in media, replete with labels and sometimes even loading instructions printed on the sleeve.

I don’t believe the game was produced for anything but the C-64, Apple II, and possibly the IBM computers that were the progenitors of today’s Window systems.  I think a version might have been published for the early Macintosh, or so the rumor went.  I never saw it, and word is it was very buggy.

Most games shipped in media like this.. the familiar 5.25 floppy of yesteryear.

Most games shipped in media like this.. the familiar 5.25 floppy of yesteryear.

Computer Ambush really couldn’t be played without the documentation, unless the player possessed eidetic memory.  This wasn’t a copyright thing.. you really needed the documentation to enter in the somewhat complex movement and combat codes.  In CA, rounds were sliced into seconds and you gave strings of commands to your soldiers using the notation described in the rules booklet.  Usually they were a Move order or a Combat order of some sort, so “Run thirty feet to behind that fence” became “MR (move running) 1224 (grid reference on map).   Orders were issued in advance, then executed simultaneously with the enemy’s orders – and it shouldn’t be surprising that  things didn’t always go as planned.  This rule writing feature always reminded me strongly of SPI’s SNIPER more than Avalon Hill’s AMBUSH.  For all this micromanaging, it had some interesting features.. such as holding fire until an opponent broke cover.. performing overwatch of sorts.

pic1131810 pic1131808

Just the charts that came with Computer Ambush

Just the charts that came with Computer Ambush

This is, in many ways, more sophisticated than many games we have today. I remember people making a huge fuss over X-Com when it came out, yet, this humble little text-only game had the same dynamic and tension and did simultaneous hidden movement much better.  The only historical wargame with a similar scale and feel that comes to mind is Squad Battles by HPS, though I’m sure there a lot more– I don’t play a lot of computer wargames any more.


This Youtube video demonstrates a game of Computer Ambush.

SUMMARY: Computer Ambush required a huge amount of micromanaging and data entry to play, which wouldn’t appeal to today’s point and click gamers, but it had some amazing elements that provided and early 80s gamer with a lot of excitement.  This game may have featured crude graphics, but the game behind the graphics was anything BUT crude.  Read the RULEBOOK sometime to get a feel for the complexity and skill that went into creating it.  You can even play the actual game, still, using a Flash based APPLE II emulator, here.  This may require a browser plugin and you WILL have to read the documentation or at least the charts I pictured above to move your soldiers around.  Fortunately, I have supplied the rules so you have all you need to play.

I’m not revisiting these games out of a sense of nostalgia.  I like modern computers and the Internet just fine.. I do think that there were elements of gaming design that were great for their day and the technology of the era, and Computer Ambush is a great example of what I mean by that.   Gone, but not forgotten!

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Aside

Chess: A Love Story, by Felipe Jose Ramirez

DOMINION, online or solo, via computer


In case you’ve been living under a rock, or maybe just don’t keep abreast of hobby game developments, you should know that “Deck Construction” games are one of the Big New Things in board-gaming.  Deck Construction games  are games where players pick cards from a common pool to assemble hands of cards that are used to meet objectives within the game.  In the case of many games released in late ’09 or ’10, the objective is a form of kingdom building or kingdom expansion– the setting might change but the mechanics pretty much the same.   Deck Construction games are different from the older Collectible Card Game (e.g., Magic: the Gathering) mechanic because the player builds decks from in-game common pools rather than an external deck he builds beforehand.

The pioneer of this the Deck Construction “wave” was DOMINION, published by Rio Grande Games in the United States in 2008 and already has become such a phenomenon that Rio has published multiple expansions that add to the existing pool of cards to construct decks from.  Other game designs have (if you’ll excuse the pun) followed suit, but Dominion remains the best seller.

Your humble narrator has played it from time to time and enjoys it quite a bit, but since Mr. Stephen Gibson lives so close by and owns every product with the word Dominion stamped on it ever published (twice), there has been no reason to purchase Dominion so far.  Besides, I stink at Dominion, much as I like it.

Recent developments have revealed the existence of two methods of improving my Dominion skills: a downloadable computer version with AI opponents, and an online client to play against live opponents with.

I have not downloaded the standalone pc application yet, but I hear good things on BGG about both the AI and interface.  There was a bit of a dispute on BGG between the developer of the standalone client and the designer of the original Dominion game as to the rights of the developer, especially over artwork.   The designer dutifully withdrew the artwork and rereleased the game.  During the course of that thread, it was revealed that Rio Grande has an official, purchasable computer game of Dominion in the works.  So, with the caveat that the artwork will have changed and the developer may get a cease and desist from Jay Tummelson of Rio Grande at any second here is what the PC version looks like:

Dominion Standalone Computer game

fan-built Dominion Standalone Computer game

The art may be drastically different by the time you download it, from THIS LOCATION.

One thing I did try was ONLINE DOMINION, which is a server based dominion interface that plays as fast as lightning and can accommodate solitaire play.   Graphics are at a minimum and the response is excellent.  This could be a factor of a low number of people using the site simultaneously.  I was quite impressed with this implementation, but it did drive home the fact that I need to read the rules of Dominion (or have them handy) as most of the times I have played in the past I’ve been hand-held through the entire game.   Here’s a screeshot..

Online Dominion from isotropic

ONLINE DOMINION from isotropic.

I recommend ONLINE DOMINION enthusiastically.  It boasts a simple, clean and efficient interface.  Most people who were online were pretty helpful about teaching how to play– I suspect that they want another opponent to come online quickly.

I have not been THAT avid of a Dominion player.. mostly because I never really buy into the Big New Thing.  However, I love community efforts like the two described here.  They extend the life and playability of a game tremendously and create a community buzz that is ideal in our Social Media climate these days.  Bravo.

The Blending of the Real and Virtual: 19th century ironclad ships


I rather like the Russian wargame company TOTEM GAMES.  They run a lean operation from the looks of their website, but deliver on the gameplay.  TOTEM designs standalone, turn-based wargame simulations.  Specifically, on NAVAL subjects (a favorite) and even more specifically, on the 19th CENTURY (even more near and dear to my heart).   As part of their “gallery” on their one page website, they present pictures of nineteenth century naval vessels superimposed over a real photographic (water) background.  The effect is startling and very real looking.

Drey deals with display bugs


Audrey gets the cool computers in this family– her latest is a laptop, a HP DV7-1183CL. A nice wide screen that’s television quality. Alas, the wide screen is her downfall. Since we brought it home from COSTCO, Drey noticed a little dot on her screen. It moved. Followed by two more within a couple days. Literally, this looked like a couple-pixel sized dot moving around. We thought it was some form of virus that actually shipped with the computer, but nothing was showing up in the scans.

Given that it moves, we thought, “hey, maybe they are really BUGS.. insect life.. Drey’s computer has cooties!” A little research shows that this is in fact the case. Drey pushed against the screen (before we deduced what it might be) and the satisfying crunching sound was no compensation for the fact that she now has a permanent crushed bug under her display.

Needless to say, Drey is pretty skeeved out by the creepy moving bugs under the screen. What can you do, though, spray insecticide? How in the word do these things live? How do they subsist? Are they building a civilization in there? Have they discovered fire?

I’ve been using computers literally since they’ve been around to use, and frankly, this one is a new one on me.

CGW Museum



I honestly havent’ bought or played a computer game in quite some time. Frankly, I don’t have the time any more, and the reality is that online MMO social networking environments are far more interesting to me currently than a standalone game that quickly becomes stale. This was not always the case. Back in the 90s, standalone PC games were the bomb– I still have several of them (those that can still run that is).

For PC gaming geeks, The Periodical to read was Ziff Davis’ COMPUTER GAMING WORLD during the editorial tenure of Alan Emrich. Emrich gave the magazine a distinctively friendly and engaging tone– one felt part of the greater community of gaming geekery when reading CGW. I was quite sad to see it go when Ziff Davis announced CGW’s demise in 2006.

Still, not all is lost. Many, not all, but many issues have been saved online (by a regular columnist named Scorpia), and are currently online for viewing at the CGW Museum website. The coverage is set during what I call the glory years of CGW, from the 80s to the 90s. The information is fairly dated, but it is a nostalgic window into a more pioneering era.

3D Models of WW2 Ships


bullet rocket

Astonishing Art Work

If you haven’t visited yet, check out “3DHistory“, the 3D art work page of Thomas Schmid in Germany. Thomas specializes in amazingly intricate 3D renderings of his favorite subject– naval vessels of World War Two. The Hood, the Yamato, the Graf Spee, the Prinz Eugen, and of course, the pride of the German Surface Fleet, the Bismark, are all represented in loving detail.

Each picture is indeed a work of art and worth checking out. I may even purchase one of his prints, they are so good.

Technology Upgrade!


Connectivity Again!

Since my previous Gateway laptop turned into a brick (gradually) I picked up a new laptop last night, the Compaq Presario V2000Z. It’s a lovely little machine, small, ergonomic and very light. It does exactly what I want out of a laptop at about half the footprint of the other one I had.

Audrey had to turn in her school laptop over the summer, and as she is in school now, she really needs one. So SHE had to get one. She insists on the HP dv5000z series laptop, because she’s “so used to the way the mouse is set up she couldn’t work with any other one”, Thing is, the HP costs about 300 dollars more, and I’ll be danged if I can figure out the why and the how of it.

In any event, I can now use SKYPE again, record audio files and what not. I’m pleased.

ZunTzu: The Online Boardgaming System


I just stumbled across this new software courtesy of CSW News. ZunTzu is a new PBeM utility that enables players to play each other over the net, live. Here is what the website says about ZunTzu:

“ZunTzu is a tool that allows you to play boardgames and wargames live with your friends over the Internet. See the FAQ for more info.

It is still a work in progress, but a beta version is already available.

Features

  • Real time play over the Internet.
  • Built-in voice communication.
  • Intuitive user interface close to the game table experience.
  • High quality DirectX graphics and animations.
  • Animated 3D dice.
  • Intuitive management of counter stacks.
  • Simplified creation of your own game boxes by importing graphics files for your maps and counters.”

Now here’s the upside. You don’t need dedicated servers to play, like you do with Vassal. The player iwth the strongest Net connection becomes the host. There’s also built in Voice over IP chat. Admittedly, you can do the same thing with SKYPE, but it’s kind of nice to have it built in — one less thing you have to switch to. The Software appears to make use of DIRECTX graphics, XML and some form of peer to peer networking.

The interface is very, very slick. I’m quite taken with it. Here’s a screenshot of a game in progress, using a recent Vae Victis as an example.

I’ll be giving it a try and then reviewing it more thoroughly on PBEM Emporium.

My first impressions are very favorable. There are some great features here. However, in my opinion, their method of creating gameboxes is not as easy as they say it is and is extremely labor intensive.

ZunTsu seems to be suported well and the developers (whom appear to be French) are standing behind the product. It’s free, with a donation suggested.

technorati tags:

The Future is here!!


bullet rocket

Interactive Tables…

The Tabu Ultra Lounge at the Las Vegas MGM Grand has been recently renovated with the addition of 5 interactive tables, see video snippets below. This is an impressive achievement, and the mind boggles at how it could be applied to gaming.

Credits and Accredidation:
Client: Tabu Ultra Lounge (Las Vegas) http://www.tabulv.com/
Entertainment concept: Realisations (Montreal) http://www.realisations.net/
Technology: Freeset (Montreal) http://www.freeset.ca/

Visuals copyright Tabu Ultra Lounge.

SLIDE (my favorite)

Cyberboard’s Dale Larson weighs in; REAL TIME PLAY a distinct possibility… will it give VASSEL a run for its money?


Attached art the transcripts from the recent online chat on Consimworld (“csw”) with DALE LARSON, creator of the pbem utility tool CYBERBOARD. If you don’t play games via email or have little interest in such, ignore this lengthy post.

This is an interesting discussion because Dale intimates that the next build of CYBERBOARD will include real time play capability. I helped transcribe this longish document so feel lucky you didn’t see the regular online shenannigans at CSW’s online chat room.



Dale_Larson has joined room #consimworld

[Allan] dale, how do you want to do this – q&a, presentation, what?

Skip_Franklin> A little order here. First question for Dale?

Dale_Larson> not machine gun style questioning S

kip_Franklin> Dale should know most of the names here.

Grrry> <========== that christiansen guy.

Jim_Anderson> How about Allan trying to moderate….Pick which of us to ask next

Joe_Steadman> I am Joe Steadman “wargame enthusiast” and overall rotten guy

[Allan] ok, works for me

Dale_Larson> isn’t it late for you joe?

Walter_OHara> I am Walter O’Hara.. just regular old guy

Joe_Steadman> 11:10 here am

Dale_Larson> Walt my ogre buddy Dale_Larson> from years past

Walter_OHara> I just mentioned that… I learned how to use CB from you

Jim_Anderson> I am Jim Anderson, player of Cyberboard

Jim_Anderson> brought me back into wargames

[Allan] i will cue people, one at a time, to ask one question each, other than that, please wait your turn and see what happens. as you are cued, ID yourself and add whatever bio info you want to

Skip_Franklin> Skip Franklin whose first gamebox was Wacht am Rhine

MikeR> I can’t seem to find game boxes for games I own

Walter_Claytonb> I don’t have questions. I just want to watch

[Allan] does that work for everyone?

Jim_Anderson> works

Skip_Franklin> Agreed

Walter_Claytonb> YO!

guest> Sounds good. I’m just here to listen.

MikeR> yup

Joe_Steadman> I dont want to be first

mandelberg> sorry, i just joined, could you repeat the ground rules?

Jim_Anderson> allan will moderate [Allan] i will cue people, one at a time, to ask one question each, other

than that, please wait your turn and see what happens. as you are cued, ID yourself and add whatever bio info you want to

mandelberg> roger [Allan] who has to leave soon?

MikeR> me

Walter_OHara> Will someone keep a log of this?

[Allan] ok, mike, and you already have a q already, i believe, let er rip

Walter_Claytonb> Good question

[Allan] i can keep a log, anyone care to edit it afterwards?

Walter_OHara> I can help Allan… I’m selfess and professional like that

[Allan] done and done

[Allan] mike, you are up

MikeR> Miker Logn time rule reader first time gamer

MikeR> How ablut Double Blind capability for Cyberboard?

Dale_Larson> I saw the question in comments; I don’t have a plan for that. If you have an idea how that would work in CB it me.

[Allan] tex, your next, ask away

Dale_Larson> I keep a file of all ideas sent to me.

MikeR> I’ll email you through the CB site

Dale_Larson> that woudl be great

Skip_Franklin> Dale, If the players could set a hex distance where a unit would not show up for the opponent that would work.

Dale_Larson> Perhaps if I put out what I think my next big steps are…?

[Allan] yes, good idea

Dale_Larson> 1) Real time play.

[Allan] (yah!)

Dale_Larson> 2) auditted die roller

Dale_Larson> 3) better editing in CB Design (clip board and stuff)

Walter_OHara> yay!

Dale_Larson> 4) Let me open my list….

MikeR> Vector graphics?

Walter_OHara> yay!

mandelberg> could you elaborate on each of these? 2 in particular?

Dale_Larson> 5) ? Better graphical die roller that can be audited as above

Dale_Larson> > ? Hand ownership directly to another player.

Dale_Larson> ? A lobby server for online CB play.

Walter_OHara> explain “auditing”

Dale_Larson> ? Fix the damn baloon tip problem!

Dale_Larson> enough for now.

Dale_Larson> The audited roller would be to play offline but have die rolls come from a server

Walter_OHara> Aha, that is a great idea

Dale_Larson> by offline i mean online but not realtme

Walter_OHara> got it.. I follow what you mean

Dale_Larson> A person vould verify the rools by visitig the site

Walter_OHara> have a hook for input from a PBM server

[Allan] would you create a server or use an existing server?

Dale_Larson> creat a server of propose a protocol

[Allan] good

Dale_Larson> create a server or propose a protocol. Most are email based

[Allan] back to q&a now that we have some specifics?

Walter_OHara> that’s brill, Dale

Dale_Larson> oh. I meant ay questions

mandelberg> I have one!

Dale_Larson> ay -> any 🙂

Joe_Steadman> me too

[Allan] ok, mandelberg, lay into him

mandelberg> ok, for the dice, it seems to me there is a workable protocol w/o using a server

mandelberg> you would just need to make any random events unviewable until both parties “sigh off” on them

mandelberg> is that possible?

Dale_Larson> I’ve thought about something like that.

mandelberg> this is especially useful for CDGs for which ACTS doesn’t yet have modules consimworld>

Jim has a follow-up question

Dale_Larson> i think the only way people would only trust in tourny play would be off box though.

mandelberg> well, i don

mandelberg> don’t think people are worried about hacking the code, just about trying until the dice are in their favor…

Joe_Steadman> the dice thing happens a lot a Vasl

Dale_Larson> what’s the dice thing that happens in VASL

Dale_Larson> ?

[Allan] i see what he is saying, in non-real time play, you can keep re-opening the save game and rolling the die until you get a desirable result and save the game at that point and go on

Joe_Steadman> in a log file… right allen

Jim_Anderson> Dale. audited die rolls sounds great, but what about log files that would let players know how many times the file had been opened and closed before being saved. It would help keep the cheaters from re-rolling until getting the results he wants. Same with cards and other random draws

Dale_Larson> Yep. that’s what an audit server is designed to prevent

Walter_OHara> The primary way you can cheat in CB

mandelberg> problem is it doesn’t hel pwith other random events sch as card dealing

[Allan] the auditable server does seem like a way to end that possibility

Dale_Larson> as long as the data is on box a clever person can cheat (not that anyone plays with folks like that)

Dale_Larson> It’s that naggin doubt we need to prvent though

[Allan] i don’t see how that is 100% certifiable without a GM in non-live play

Dale_Larson> allan… which isn’t 100%

[Allan] yep, even then

Grant_Whitley> My attitude has always been, if you want to replay a turn multiple times just to get the right die roll, you deserve it

mandelberg> mmm, but if the data is encrypted, a la shadow passwords…

mandelberg> anyway, don’t want to get too gechnical here. Thanks for the explanation.

[Allan] mandelberg, but that would require every die roll to be verified by both players before you can move on, wouldn’t that add a tremendous amount of time in non-live play?

Walter_Claytonb> what if the program or computer crashes….or just reboots..

[Allan] okay, next question, JoeS

Dale_Larson> I’ve thogh about way to keep logs by exchanging public keys but there always seems like there is a way to cheat

Joe_Steadman> HI, Joe here, how are things financially for CB? (do we need to donate more?) How does Aid-de-camp, VASSAL, Hexwar, and ACTS relate to CB and have you seen a decrease in demand for CB and new game boxes as theses others have become bigger? Do you see CB ever becoming a ?pay for? product? I have also heard some call CB “clunky”, what are your thoughts on that? thanks

Dale_Larson> > On clunky…I’ve only herad you call it that in ep2 of the dice tower…not that I’m listening 🙂

Dale_Larson> I don’t see it ever going for pay unless I couldn’t earn a living 😉

Joe_Steadman> well, that was after a few emails from others

Joe_Steadman> clunky was a nice way I summed up a few others reactions…. basicly meaning not user friendly

Dale_Larson> I don’t track demand as I don’t count downloads. People are free to use CB as the wish (or not). They shouldn’t feel like they have to be exclusicve

[Allan] hey, it’s a fair question. CB has its detractors as well as adherents

Skip_Franklin> [adherent]

Dale_Larson> I follow Windows APO conventions. I can’t account for how people relate to the program. Some like it and some hate it.

Grrry> so I should send another check then.

Joe_Steadman> so things are OK for CB money wise?

Dale_Larson> As far as donations. get a few a month. Sometimes there is a burst. It helps keep me in software an games

[Allan] dale, front page news in the NYTimes today, MAC released softwared that will let their machines run IBM type OS, free download from their website and will be included on new machines

Dale_Larson> Saw that. I think you’ll still need a license foe WinXP though

[Allan] makes sense

Dale_Larson> Boy I wisht the chat window was bigger

Walter_OHara> We’re having a talk with Dale Larson, Lone Star Walt

Joe_Steadman> how about a good tutorial? is there one I have not found?

Dale_Larson> When it comes to writing stuff you won’t see much from me

[Allan] joe! there are plenty

Dale_Larson> I’d rather write code than docs.

Walter_OHara> Gary wrote one, I did too, so did Chris Fawcett

Dale_Larson> this is the bad part about CB. However there are excellent writeups by other folks.

Dale_Larson> I’m surprised noone creted a wiki yet.

Joe_Steadman> good, thanks forthe great program and I have changed my thoughts on CB from show #2 I need to do an update onthe show

Walter_OHara> Hmmph.. that would be professional

WalterTEXAS> Okay, GREAT, but am I supposed to know this guy……is he like Jim Dunnigan or something?

Dale_Larson> who?

Walter_OHara> tch tch.. you never studied at Walt School

Joe_Steadman> to be honest I have been playing alot of VASSEL as of late…

Dale_Larson> Tiem for walt to create a CB Wiki. 😉

WalterTEXAS> are we talking about cyberboard?

Dale_Larson> I’ve heard 🙂

Walter_OHara> I could do that.. that’s a damn fine idea Dale

Walter_Claytonb> I don’t have time

Dale_Larson> Real time questions anyone?

Joe_Steadman> thanks, next person can ask

Walter_OHara> Raising hand

Walter_OHara> Dale: You may recall an item called SEALED VIRTUAL ENVELOPES by Peter Furniss. Reference: http://www.furniss.co.uk/sve/ This is a way of having two players involved in the same game to store turn information that needs to be hidden either through the course of the game, or the course of the turn, in a manner that it can be revealed to both either at the end of a turn or the end of the game. This can be very handy when you have a hidden objective for multiplayer games. Can you see Future_CB having a feature similar to this?

Joe_Steadman> slaps student in the back of the head Korean style

Grrry> oooh. great question, good idea.

Dale_Larson> I’ve heard of it but not look at it. Will someone have this transcript later so I can get teh link in case I lose it?

Joe_Steadman> give me an example Walt

Walter_OHara> I have it handy Dale… Follow up through me

Walter_OHara> The idea, in general…

Walter_OHara> A virtual Container is created that is password protected from both players. This Virtual container can be opened when the password is shared between the players

Walter_OHara> The container holds information each player wishs to hide from each other until the agreed upon time period.

Walter_OHara> Furniss created a workable solution, but it is, to quote Joe, “clunky”

dale_larson> how do die rolls end up in the container… I guess I’m missing the point as it relates to CB

Walter_OHara> It would seem to me that it could be added to FutureCB rather easily

[Allan] ok, on to the next question

Jim_Anderson> raising hand

Nate> I’m currently playtesting Salerno in CB ~any additional features for the live version to help out?

Walter_Claytonb> working on the log

[Allan] nate, i think you had one, jim up after that

[Allan] clay, we need it from before you came in

dale_larson> My plan (and I’m currently working on it now) for real time is..

[dale_larson> The interface will stay mostly the same. you shoudl be able to move seemlessly from reatime sessions to pmem sessions. all ending up in the history/

[Allan] jim, if you have a short q, ask it while nate is still formulating his question

Jim_Anderson> Dale, how about something other than bitmaps. I like to use jpg or pdf of maps, but the maps make the gamebox huge.

dale_larson> I actually have your comments about this in my wish file.

Jim_Anderson> thanks

dale_larson> Internally CB during play the format must be bitmaps.

dale_larson> I do compressthem in the file.

dale_larson> Are yous asking why you can’t import them as files?

Jim_Anderson> I do import them (cut and paste) onto the lowest level. The gamebox file is huge though 10M or bigger

dale_larson> I already compress them into the files using the same algoritm as PNG’s.

dale_larson> Of course you still need to turn on the compression.

Jim_Anderson> I do

dale_larson> If I compressed with JPEG data is lost each time. plus there is patent action going with jpgs right now.

dale_larson> My compression yields about the same as pngs

[Allan] (looking for hands for the next question, back channel me if you have a good one)

dale_larson> bitmap size also doubles when cb swtiched to 16bit bitmaps.

Jim_Anderson> Thanks

dale_larson> i was happy to get ride of palettes

Grrry> Dale, how long before we see a beta of the online version?

Walter_Claytonb> yeh yeh yeh!

dale_larson> can’t give dates since I don’t really know. however I am actively working on it on the weekends. I hope to have something before the weather get’s too nice :). I will need people who are will to risk all and test it.

Grrry> oh, yeah, another quicky… I’ve been doing graphics for headers on CSW for various folders. Would you mind if I ask john to set me up so I can get some pretty stuff in the header for CB?

Jim_Anderson> If you build it, we will come

Walter_Claytonb> sign me up

Skip_Franklin> [Gee, I helped push ver three with Ardennes ’44 gambox. Should I go for it again?]

dale_larson> I don’t understand the question re: headers

Grrry> Headers for the discussion folders on CSW

Walter_OHara> Hey, make a header for my blog, Gary!

Grrry> I’ve been making pretty for headers in various game folders.

dale_larson> ahhh.

Grrry> no Walter, you know how to do your own.

Grrry> you dolt

dale_larson> If you need something email me off line.

[Allan] dale, will there be a dedicated server site or will the game play peer to peer directly?

dale_larson> peer to peer

Grrry> Okay, I’ll drop a line to explain better off line.

[Allan] good

dale_larson> lobby server at some later time

[Allan] mandelberg, i think you had a question that skip also asked me about

Grrry> what would host the audit for the dice?

mandelberg> I’d like to know if you would consider expanding the design to incoporate various rules, for example counting movement points

dale_larson> I’ve got the network software half working with a staging area chat at this time.

Walter_OHara> Hand up!

Grrry> I’ll hit the ceiling then?

Walter_OHara> Dale:

dale_larson> rules: I’ve though a long time on how to enbable hooking the engine so rules could be hooked it. IT’s not easy but I haven’t given up on the idea. I’m currently pndering some .net style hooks… that’s off in the distance though.

Walter_OHara> Some of us LIKE turn based PBeM.. will you still be able to play games the old waywith the new simultaneous networking stuff added in?

dale_larson> grry: a server woudl be required I’d probably set one up here first just tho get it running. Then see if anyone would host it for real.

Grrry> <======== gary christiansen, privatewars

[Allan] jim, i think you had something to ask

dale_larson> walt: seemless. play pbem. go online play some more. go offline and do pbem. not a problem. the entire history of game on/off line all kept with game file.

mandelberg> no more move files?

Jim_Anderson> allan, nope, i’m good right now.

Walter_OHara> <— Makes suitable Ooooh and Ahhhh sound

dale_larson> not for real-time. pbem will be as it always was

Nate> Dale did you examine any of the winning CD Olympic GBXes… comments?

dale_larson> yes. Very nice. I especially liked… hold on…

dale_larson> can’t find it now but one said it didn’t use any scans but it was gorgeous

[Allan] anyone have a question, nothing is pending from anyone

dale_larson> talavera ,—

Nate> cool

Jim_Anderson> Yes. very nice gamebox….wish I could do maps that well

Nate> <<<does nice…..CLUNKY….work

mandelberg> i lost the list of things dale is working on off the top of the window, what else was it? The audited dice, the real time play…?

dale_larson> I’d like to do better graphcal dice so you actually roll them onto the board.

mandelberg> Ooooh. Eye candy!

dale_larson> Actually this is supported today but not overtly.

Nate> with heat comin off of um

[Allan] knocking over my nice stacks of retreating units!

[Allan] nate you had a question before you scampered off

dale_larson> If you drag from a random marker tray with ctrl held CB will prompt for the number of markers to randomly create. The markers can be die images.

Nate> already answered Allan…

[Allan] clever, just add in the definition of dice type and drms and it is done

[Allan] no hands up from anybody?

dale_larson> yep… but cb needs a more obvious way to do this

dale_larson> does anyone use the easier move stepping (spacebar, auto step etc)?

mandelberg> i do

Jim_Anderson> didn’t know about it.

mandelberg> but i use F3, not the space bar. [Allan] um, neither did i

mandelberg> autostep, you mean f6?

Walter_Claytonb> explain please?

dale_larson> space bar is has some special features so you can blast through a playback and also stop and resume autoplayback

Nate> yep uses that in playback

Walter_Claytonb> ah!

Walter_Claytonb> didn’t know that….I click the arrows

[Allan] same here

dale_larson> that’s the hard way. I got tired of doing that

mandelberg> would be nice if reverse step were as swift as forward step

[Allan] and so you rewrote the code, nice d

ale_larson> guess cb needs a manual. 🙂

[Allan] it will need a new one soon enough

Nate> tip guide with key function secrets….. players do not know that you can “select” units out of a stack for movement… they disassemble the stacks and drag out the victims instead

dale_larson> reverse step is slow because I totally playback all steps up the the previous move behind the scences. I guess you need a faster computer.

mandelberg> hey now! I’ve got a 3.2 GHz machine!

dale_larson> I just upgraded to a dual core amd64. Sweet!

Jim_Anderson> Gary, you need to get rid of that 386 machine of yours.

Grrry> um… Grrry> I’m on a 1.8 ghz

Jim_Anderson> Ah.

Grrry> I might still have a 486 in the basement. maybe.

Grrry> maybe.

dale_larson> I’ll be dropping of at about 10:30 or so CDT… just a warning. I have to get up at 4:45 in the AM and I’m just not as young as I used to me.

Nate> Thanks in advance for coming Dale

[Allan] ok, last questions, anyone who hasn’t had a chance to ask yet, do so now

Grrry> but we do appreciate you being here.

dale_larson> I’m 51 … got you!

mandelberg> i’d like to just say thanks to dale for all his hard work. what a great service to our hobby.

Jim_Anderson> Thanks for stopping by Dale. we ended up with a max of 17 people at one time….very good attendance

[Allan] best i can remember in a long time

Skip_Franklin> Thanks for dropping in Dale

dale_larson> still here for questions.

[Allan] no one?

dale_larson> got 10-16 to go… unless you want me to leave!

Grrry> so you need us all to send another batch of donations, right?

Nate> as soon as you leave we’ll turn on each other like wolves

dale_larson> Donations are always appreciated but don’t feel obligated. They should be form the heart

Grrry> I have 3 mos of the pain pills I hope not to have to use

[Allan] dale, they always are, trust me

Jim_Anderson> Dale, any chance of you showing up at a Con?

Skip_Franklin> I’m trying to think of anything about CB I do not like but…..

[Allan] lago, are you here for the CB/Dale Larsen session?

Grrry> even just show up for a visit if you must, the hell with the con.

Iago> Nope…just saw there were a few people here for a change

dale_larson> I attend Gencon. I;ve been going for years. I was thinking of trying origins next year

Jim_Anderson> I have done some CB demos at the Cons Did a big one for Compass games this past weekend

Grrry> happy squirrel dance.

Skip_Franklin> Origins would work

[Allan] we are just wrapping up here on that anyway

Grrry> Origins is a great choice.

[Allan] jim, yeah, do you think i sold compass games on CB?

Grrry> as an officer in CABS, I’d be glad to help you out.

[Allan] dale, where is home for you?

dale_larson> man the text is really flying now. can’t read it all

Grrry> that is unless I resign.

Nate> playtesting via CB too

Iago> oh good, just have to be careful of the publisher I’ve found

Iago> That the Salerno game?

dale_larson> what bulge game are you refereing to?

Nate> Iron Tide…of course

[Allan] nate designed Iron Tide

Grrry> Well nate designed Iron Tide

Jim_Anderson> Allan, I got an email back from Ken. Might be doing some boxes for them

[Allan] that was my goal, jim

im_Anderson> Wait until you see my CB box for that Gary

Iago> speaking of PbeM in general, CB and VASSAL are why i’m still playing boardgames

Nate> Dale….told you the hot blooded CB guys would be here

dale_larson> i see that!

Grrry> there’s a pile of people who started back into wargaming I know because of CB

[Allan] lago, between PBEM aides and CSW, i think the hobby is tighter than ever

Jim_Anderson> we were holding back, knowing you were going to visit. Kids are restless now.

Nate> agrees with Gary

dale_larson> 🙂

Jim_Anderson> That’s right Allan. thanks Dale

[Allan] definitely a g-dsend for the isolated gamer

[Allan] or the gamer on the road all the time

dale_larson> What is the typical topic for these chats?

Jim_Anderson> Or one on the road like me….

Jim_Anderson> I see I just got an EFS .gmv file in my email

Iago> Allan, absolutely – I have 5-6 PBeM/Virtual gamesgoing on at one time…plus have bought wto 24″ dell LCDs so i have workable screen area

Grrry> typical topic, whatever happens to catch the imagination.

Nate> topic? we rant and rave then calm down and talk games each week

Grrry> sometimes it even degrades into discussions about music and politics, religion, and utter crapola

Grrry> then again, we can talk aboutt Nate’s turtles.

[Allan] i have the entire log file up until about 20 lines ago already saved. walto will be editing it down. dale, do you want the raw unformatted text or the final product?

dale_larson> Well I’m be heading out. THANKS FOR THE INVITE!

Nate> Lago you playing IT with CB or on the table?

[Allan] before you dart off, let me extend a big thank you for dropping by and taking all these questions. cb is definitely a major plus to the hobby, and it’s all thanks to you and your devotion to it

Jim_Anderson> hear hear

Nate> yay Iago> ditto

Walter_Claytonb> >>>>>agrees

dale_larson> I appreciate the thoughts adnd support. It’s what makes it fun. Thanks!