Category Archives: tablet computing

The new Guidebook App for HISTORICON 2017 has been published


Greetings, this is my second try. I don’t know why or how WordPress just ate my previous posts but here we go again.


new Historicon 2017 guidebook, Web page version.

It’s that time of year. Historicon is upon us. You may want to use Guidebook, the elegant little convention directory app that works pretty well on IoS devices, Ipads, Android phones and any smartphone that can display a webpage.

Changes are pretty minimal in the interface (the part that the users see). The background content delivery technology is going through some changes, but most of that will be invisible.  General Info (front page, theme, address, directions) is the same, Schedule pretty much the same (and containing just Events and Tournaments this year).   My Schedule consists of events you’ve saved to your schedule.  Twitter works as before– you can live tweet during the convention.  I think the tags are #historicon #historicon2017 #hmgs_inc and #miniatures.  You’ll have to authorize access to twitter by the app itself.  Maps are the same, To-Do List is the same, and HMGS on Facebook points to the HMGS page on FB– you can post there from this app.  War College & Hobby University are now using their own list, making them easier to find.  Con Staff & where to find them is a list of staff leads.   Photo Album hasn’t changed, though it is underutilized.  Inbox is a way for con mgt. to broadcast to users in a hurry.  FAQs is a new list that I leached from the HMGS Historicon page.  Exhibitors hasn’t changed.

I know I have belabored the guidebook people taking the “Tracks” function away, but the addition of the new Seminars list has made it easier to compartmentalize events on Guidebook.  Schedule now just has Games and Tournaments in it, but you can sort tournaments out easily enough, simply by searching on the key word Tournaments:

And that sorts out all the tournaments.

HOW TO GET GUIDEBOOK FOR HISTORICON 2017

Simple: the landing page for the IOS version, the Android version and smart phones is here. 

The version on a web page is here

That should be enough to get you started.  Specific pictures of features are on other Guidebook blog posts on this blog (I’ve been doing this for a while) if you are interested.

Late edit:

People were emailing me saying they were having problems adding events to their personal schedules (the “My Schedule” item in the menu). I had to go back and turn check in ON, and republish, but that has it fixed. For review purposes, see the graphic below.

see the plus sign in a circle to the right of the event title? Click on THAT to add the event to your personal schedule. Enjoy the event!

Guidebook Fall-IN! 2015, some new features, some have changed so pay attention…


That’s right.. we do. And I’m not going to say “GOING” Mobile since we’ve been serving up electronic Guidebook apps for 10 conventions now!

So I’ll deliver the bottom line up front. The First Draft of the Fall-IN! 2015 Guidebook app is published, ready for download. You may download it on the landing page here.

https://guidebook.com/g/t5d9icys/

Whoah, Red Ryder!  

One thing I haven’t done is go through the feature list in long time (since Cold Wars 2012, in fact) so I’ll point out the new features and decremented features now.

Between HISTORICON 2015 and now, Guidebook, Inc, made some changes to the basic builder module, and a lot of features have changed.  Most of the changes are minor in scope.  one or two impact the look and feel some, so I’ll go through it from top to bottom to explain what is where.

FRONT PAGE

This looks pretty much as it did before Historicon.  They have streamlined the presentation a little bit (no longer do we get the tiny icon inside the big banner effect, which I personally miss).   The front page is where you see the top level for the convention– the address, the director’s blurb, etc.  Call it the “Main Menu”.

MASTER SCHEDULE

Simply put, the Master Schedule is where everything is, and this has changed.  We used to be able to define tracks and color code them.  I liked this feature– and it defined my color scheme nicely.  Red for game events, Blue for Tournaments, etc. etc.  Unfortunately, even defining tracks (and not making it a menu item) costs us extra money that we aren’t willing to spend, so no more color coding, which I think sucks.  Still, it’s FREE, and everything still works, it’s just not as easy on the eye as before.

So if you want to find something in the schedule, look in the cleverly named “Master Schedule”  Here’s some event detail.

EVENT DETAIL

This is what you’ll see when you click on an event.  There’s information here, pointing at the room, time, event, scale, GM and rules, plus even description.  All of this was pulled from the registration system by your humble narrator.

If you want to build your PERSONAL list of events to plan your convention– see that “Add to My Schedule” button at the bottom of the event detail and it will build a list for you.  As you can see, I’ve already started mine (below):

MY SCHEDULE

PLEASE NOTE THIS, and NOTE IT WELL:  Guidebook is NOT the registration system, or a replacement for a pegboard.  It is a substitute for having a program book with you all the time.. you will NOT be registering for ANY game or event when you build “MY SCHEDULE” in Guidebook.. this is your internal reminder of when your games are going to be held, and you can get it to send you an alarm as well!  So… yeah.  You’ll have to do the same thing to get into a game you always have.

Exhibitors 

Aka, the dealer’s area vendor list and table layout.  The list of vendors and their table locations are in “Exhibitors”.  The table layout is in “Maps.”

I had a picture of the list part, but I just got a huge update from Scott Landis and the picture isn’t accurate any more.

Maps are about the same as they ever were, only I found them easier to upload and size in the current builder.  That’s an improvement.   If you want to find where the tables are in a room, go to MAPS (see below).

MAPS

There are tons of maps for this convention in this guidebook.  You change them by clicking “Right” on the direction arrow top of the screen.

I broke Distelfink into three maps– one big one showing everything, one smaller one for the front, and a similar one for the back.  I was going to do this for the Lampter, but hey, what’s the point.. all you really need to show there is the relative locations of touraments and flea market, and the current size does this.  I also uploaded the vendor hall map as is.. if its unreadable, GET IN TOUCH WITH ME and Ill break it up into a front and back view.

HAPPY TO GLAD STUFF: NEW-ISH features

Guidebook is going whole-hawg into social media with this release, and made the previously charged-for menu items for social media stuff free.  We did this a little bit at HISTORICON.  Anyway, here are some of them..

Facebook

This is set to automatically go to the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society page on Facebook.  Why?  Well, Fall IN! doesn’t have a page, and I’m not sure it needs one.  Yet.  So if you want to post what’s going on in your convention and post pictures to the FB page, here’s how.

I don’t have a better idea for Facebook, but this seems to fit.

Twitter

We actually do have a Twitter account for Fall-IN!, I created it, it’s @FALLINCON.  However, what this menu item does is facilitate that “live tweeting” thing that goes on during a convention.  Our official #hashtag for the show is #FALLIN15.  Some soccer competition is using it but let’s hope that’s done by November.  It will also recognize #HMGS and @FallINCon.

Not much being tweeted at the moment (as you can see) but this really started going up last HISTORICON the closer to the show we got.  I like this idea.

YOUTUBE

We can also have a menu item for a YOUTUBE Channel for show videos, presuming people post to Youtube about miniature conventions.  Right now I have it pointing to Teri Litorco’s miniature wargaming show on Geek and Sundry.  Why?  Well, it’s a fun show (a little Warhmmery but still fun) `and there aren’t any ‘sanctioned’ Youtube shows for miniature gaming (as there seems to be in boardgaming, but that’s another story).  If you can come up with a better idea, I’m all ears.   Now, IDEALLY, this would be pointing to a HMGS youtube channel where GMs would have the ability to load SHOW VIDEOS to a single “Fall IN” or “H’con” channel and everyone could see our fun events… almost as they happen.  This hasn’t happened yet.  Want to work with me on it?  Contact me.

There’s some other Social Media stuff we can consider.  I’d personally love to have a team Periscoping miniature events (the big, fun ones anyway) as they happen so people can see what we do.  (for the oldsters out there, this is what Periscope is).   I added in a news feed to the TMP page, but this is just a nice-t0-have because it’s free feature.  If you have an RSS feed we SHOULD put in there, let me know.

Other stuff

Inbox, My To-Do List, and Attendees are not new items, but a few reminders.  “Attendees” is not a registration system.  It’s a way of announcing to Guidebook users that “Hey! I made it and I’m here!  Find me!”  Inbox is how you receive email FROM me (or convention management).  We can send you a message from a computer and it will show up on all your Guidebook apps.  I usually just use messaging for guidebook updates.  The to-do list is nothing special..  I use it to list my convention volunteer schedule and shopping list for the dealer’s hall.

That’s about it.  It’s about finished now.  There will be some updates in Events (i have yet to add banners, but I will) and Dan owes me about ten new events.  Also, there will likely be some new vendors in those “TBD” Slots before show time.

Last Changes/Updates to the HISTORICON 2015 guidebook app


Various Guidebook Formats

Various Guidebook Formats

HISTORICON 2015 convention goers.. I’m making the last changes to the GUIDEBOOK app for HISTORICON 2015. So here are a few notes for you.

Dudley Garidel got the final vendor count and maps to me, they are now included. I’ve added one more event since PEL.  There’s one BIG map image to show how the tables fit together, then I broke the big map into 3 smaller ones, front, middle and back.

I enabled three new features for HISTORICON 2015. Twitter feed, Notepad and TMP News feed. What the heck, why not, they are free!

1) A News feed uses a RSS feed to transmit news items to the Guidebook. Since HMGS doesn’t keep up a RSS feed, I used the miniatures page, which is as close as we come. It’s not very relevant to a specific show, but what the heck, it might provide interesting reading.

2) Notepad is just that– a place for the user to keep notes.. like ” I need to vist PicoArmor and buy Hind D helicopters”.. etc. etc.

3) Twitter feed. Again, there ISN’T a Twitter account for Historicon (that I could find), so I’ll do some tweeting about it during the show using my account (@TheLastBrunch) and the hashtag HISTORICON2015. I encourage EVERYONE who uses twitter to use #historicon2015 during the show!!

If you need a reminder about how to get the GUIDEBOOK app and the specific HISTORICON 2015 guide, visit the landing page.

HERE is the guide on the web

COUP by IoS: Reassessing


I have to admit, I wasn’t much impressed with COUP (the IOS game) when it was announced recently. I will not dwell on the In Game Purchase model, which I think is rather greedy for very little in return– why? Because the game is perfectly playable as a free product. You need never purchase a single other expansion and you can still have fun with it. So it’s kind of hypocritical to complain about the publisher trying to squeeze every last drop out of this turnip. They aren’t requiring you to buy anything.

I was, however, not impressed with COUP as a game– it didn’t seem to capture the concept of bluffing as well as the regular pasteboard version did, and again, my reasoning was based on incomplete information. I have, since, actually played a game of COUP as a card game (loved it!), and

There’s a little chat button, top right, that has a lot of canned statements you can broadcast to other players. Included are statements such as “Play your card already!” and “I have a Captain Card!” or “I have the Duke!” This can play out in a lot of different ways– when you are playing an action associated with a card you don’t have (like drawing taxes as the Duke when you dont’ have that card), and actually SAY “I have the Duke card”.. that is.. actually LYING (read, bluffing), and even if it isn’t anything the other player should give credence to, if he’s smart, it’s still a nice touch. It certainly acts like a fantastic distraction to keep the other guy guessing.

In summary, I’m warming up to the game quickly and actually enjoy playing it. I’m only winning a third of the games I play so there’s a lot to learn.

First Draft (PEL v.) Guidebook for HISTORICON 2015 is ready for downloads.


Greetings, HISTORICON 2015 convention attendees!

As I do for all the HMGS Inc shows (and other conventions), I have created a Guidebook App for you to download and use as a sort of electronic program booklet for the duration of your stay at the convention.

If you are not familiar with HISTORICON and HMGS historical miniature goodness, I recommend visiting the HMGS Site to get up to speed about our biggest event of the year, HISTORICON.    H’con will be held at the Fredericksburg Convention Center, Carl. D. Silver parkway, just to the left of Interstate I-95 facing North.   The app will actually pop up Google Maps to give you an idea of where to go.

[Cautionary note.  You register,sign-up for events, and pay on the Historicon 2o15 site above, which looks like this.  You don’t register for Hcon with this guidebook app, even if it has some features described as “checking in”– that is mostly for attendees communicating with each other and has nothing to do with paying/registering for a show]

Each Guidebook App uses the guidebook app engine created by Guidebook, Inc.  The information is customized for every show.   Usually by me, as it happens.

So to make the Guidebook App work, you’ll need the core “engine app” from Guidebook, and the specialized convention module that I create for each show.  You download the guidebook app, FIRST, then using the search mechanism, search for the app for a specific show.  In this case, HISTORICON 2015.

You will find the pertinent links to how to download the core app and show app on Guidebook’s LANDING PAGE for Historicon 2015.

After you download the guidebook app first and convention app second, you can browse around and look at the schedule.

Front Splash Page, Featuring maps and address, show hours and policies

The menu as it stands currently (PEL release)

Note— these are Android Phone version screens– I usually post Ipad shots.  I changed it up because not everyone uses a tablet.

Note, as well — this release was concurrent with the official HMGS Historicon PEL.  It is ONLY that at the moment.. just the event listings that the events team has a record of at the current moment (5/12/2015).  The guidebook will change a great deal before game time– we will be adding Seminars, Maps, Tournaments, Hobby University events, Exhibitor Listings, Restaurants, and a Vendor Hall Layout.  The good news is that if you download it now, you will automatically update every time I publish an update.  Just open it connected to the Internet (somehow) and Guidebook will tell you that Historicon 2015 has been updated and do you want to update it?  Say yes.

Right now, this is just the first step/bare bones initial release.  Stand by and I will be posting major updates as I get them.  You can also view the preview web copy here.

Enjoy, and I’ll see you at HISTORICON 2015.  I’ll be the guy running the big post-apocalyptic Mad Max game.

Guidebook QR Codes:

For the guidebook app, the “engine”

For the Guide itself (if you already have Guidebook installed). The actual show bits.

Jon Southard’s CARRIER (VG) for IoS project of Mr. Cyril Jarnot


Carrier Box

Cover

Jon Southard’s CARRIER game was published by Victory Games in 1990.   Victory Games was a subsidiary group of the venerable Avalon Hill Game Company, comprised of ex SPI Staffers that were on the beach when SPI folded.  From the start, Victory Games were designed and marketed to the serious gamer crowd; their games were known for lengthy rule books chock full of detail, and games that took a lot of thought and time to commit to.  I owned several of them in my day, notably VIETNAM, AMBUSH, HELL’S HIGHWAY, 1809 and a couple of the Fleet series games.  One game I did NOT own was the subject of this post, CARRIER, a solitaire design by Jon Southard, an industry veteran.  Given how high this game is priced in the secondary and tertiary boardgame market, it’s unlikely I’ll acquire it at this juncture, which is regrettable.  I love good solitaire designs– and Carrier is definitely a game that fits that category.

Carrier is a solitaire simulation of both historical and hypothetical carrier battles in the Southwest Pacific Theater during 1942 and 1943.  The player plays the U.S. commander, maneuvering recon flights and task forces to located and destroy the enemy before he can locate and destroy the player’s forces.  Game mechanics governing the movement of the Japanese are not all that difficult to grasp.  One of the aspects of the simulation I like is the ability for the game to surprise you.  You will not know the Japanese are on top of you until they are flying bombing runs on your airfields.  Carrier, like a lot of older wargames, is also a tough, slow playing game with a lot of charts and detail.  Or so I thought.

Splash/Front Menu

Mr. Cyril Jarnot, an IoS developer of no small talents from France, has been slowly working on a conversion of the game from a series of charts and counters onto an Ipad virtual map.  I had opportunity to try out this conversion in playtesting phase and so am able to relay a few impressions.    Note Bene, all pictures reflect a playtest version, not far from final release but not final at time of their capture.

To begin with, all the chart-checking to simulate the movement of Japanese forces is still taking place, only the computer (Ipad) is now being doing all the dice rolling behind the scenes, which make the Japanese movements far more mysterious.

They could be any number of things… from a tuna boat to a task force.. but they are definitely Japanese contacts.

and closer up… details reveal themselves after you send reconnaissance planes out to check what’s under those counters…

Oh ho, see what lays in wait to bomb my airfield, eh?

When you DO bump into the Japanese, combat can be multi-stepped and sequential.  To commit planes to combat, the US Player has to move them to various ready areas on his display to simulate where they are in the process of confronting the Japanese over a combat area.

The sequence you follow to commit planes to combat… and there is a LOT of air combat in this game.

You can’t just “commit  everything I got to CAP and hope for the best”– you have to move groups to the ready state, in a sequence, as you see here (above).  Once combat does occur (The Japanese come to you, or you search out and find a Task Force or incoming flight of planes), you will see this sequence:

If there is a CAP force over the target, it would engage the incoming planes first. If not, then they attack the ships (or shore) immediately., subtracting losses for AA Defensive fire.

The game is quite challenging on the Ipod, I was very pleased at how aggressive and uncompromising the AI is.  For one thing, you are outnumbered in this time and place in the war, and that always works against you.

oh.. THAT Japanese Task force.. as opposed to those OTHER Japanese Task Forces…

The game teaches itself at a nice programmed pace, similar to the old SQUAD LEADER “programmed instruction” approach from Avalon Hill. This is just as well– the game (in paper version) is pretty complex and that’s a lot of meat to chew on in one bite. Mr. Jarnot has taken the approach of cutting your meat up for you and feeding it to you in delicate little bites, a bite at a time. So keep in mind (as of this writing) you will have to go through ALL of the tutorial modules before “free play” can happen with CARRIER for the IoS. This decision is in spirit of the old Victory Game rules and Jon Southard, apparently, approves.

Now, is it a straight port? Is it replicating every nuance of the old paper map and counters version published in 1990? I am not educated enough to say for sure. I never owned Carrier. It certainly plays in the spirit of the old VG games I played back then; lots of complexity under the surface, and thankfully (for playing time) it keeps a lot of the chart checking behind the scenes. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I have no idea what Mr. Jarnot’s plans are for this game or how to get a legal copy for yourself; I will steer you towards the CARRIER forums on Boardgamegeek, where he is easy to find. Direct any questions to him there. I sincerely hope the IOS app I helped test becomes a commercial product, I would gladly pay for the final version, and support Mr. Jarnot’s efforts.

SLIDE SHOW OF CARRIER on the IOS PICTURES

Wars and Battles: Review


Wars and Battles
Turned Based Strategy, multiple eras
Publisher: Kermorio (France)
SRP (as of writing) 6.99 base, 9.99 per IGC module
website: http://www.warsandbattles.com/

I was given the opportunity to play and review the recent game from the Battle Factory, called “Wars and Battles”.  The core of Wars and Battles is a hex based battle game with an old school look to it, set in a very narrowly defined battlefield in linked campaign.  Battles are launched from a standard interface that should be able to host future campaigns from other eras.

The main screen

Kermorio is gambling on a standard interface approach, somewhat modular with unit icons OR 2D pieces being the default view.  These are played on a standard 22 hex map with variable terrain features whose cumulative effect is usually reduction of movement or influencing combat or line of sight.

In game touch tip and tutorial help is very good, as you can see above.

A Campaign is essentially a linked progression of battle scenarios played out on these 22 hex battle maps.  Campaigns are in game purchases, with the base game being 6.99, and at time of writing, the Normandy Campaign in WW2 is available for additional charge beyond the default basic game.

Having played through the Normandie (sic) campaign, I would recommend this IGP.  Historical material is very well done and it’s clear research went into this game– each unit has a background piece and it’s more than a drag and click interface.  The historical campaign follows Normandy closely and I had no complaints based on what I know about the campaign from a historical viewpoint, which is a decent familiarity.    Campaign missions follow a progression from Easy to Very Hard, and you are debriefed for success or failure at the end of each one.

Mission Debrief, end of every scenario

I’m not sure if the map sizes will expand beyond the 22 hex per screen standard or the approach will be to stay modular.   I can see the benefits of a modular system when

More Normandy Fun

More of the Wars and Battles in tutorial mode

Artificial Intelligence in this game is decent to moderate and the decisions being made were okay, though predictable at times.   I found it to be overly defensive and not as aggressive as it could have been, but if you factor in that Normandy actually is a defensive campaign for the Germans I guess that makes sense.  The campaign structure is logical and sensible.  Players will accrue experience over time and replacement units to fill in for casualties.  In this respect I was reminded, strongly, of several other games I’ve played in the last year that use a similar progressive campaign structure– in particular and variation of Panzer General or its various incarnations over time, or near-knockoffs.  That’s neither here nor there– a campaign really needs some form of structure or it is difficult to execute, and the PG template works as well as anything.

The modular “game engine” approach is somewhat new for wargames on the IOS.  Kermorio has high hopes of porting the same approach to many different battles, including Napoleonic or ACW era battles.  I remain unconvinced the scales of those two eras will work in this engine, but I’d be willing to give them a try.

In Summary, Kermorio has had a very decent first outing with WARS AND BATTLES– which is a mix of old and new ideas that will appeal to hard core wargamers and newcomers alike.  For 6.99 plus a pittance for the IGPs, I certainly think there is plenty of value for the retail price.

Digital Rules: TANK DUEL, a fun team game by Jim Wallman!


After reading LITTLE LAMBENT METEORS last month, I was intrigued enough by the designs of Jim Wallman.  Mr. Wallman is a talented guy, with a sense of whimsy that I really enjoy.  He designs games about most historic eras and scales and on a number of obscure topics (like street riots!).  I like what he does.  You might, as well.  Check out his website. Next on the agenda for an epub conversion is TANK DUEL by Jim Wallman.  This is a fascinating approach to a double blind miniatures game that I really would like to try at my Summer Gaming camp for kids.  Basically, you assign a team of four (or more, or less) players to a single tank model– the Commander, The Gunner, the Driver and the Loader.  Each role has something very specific to do.  Combine that with double-blind sighting mechanics and an emphasis on running the game at breakneck speed.. well, this could be batshit crazy when it gets on the table.  Count me in! Tank Duel is available on Jim’s website for free download as a PDF.  I converted it to epub for about a 50 per cent size reduction.  You can find it on the Digital Rules page in the standard place.  Just click on the cover below. There is also a one sheet reference that outlines what the roles in the game do.  I’ve made this available HERE. copyright-td

Cold Wars 2015 Guidebook App is available for download


Hello, Convention attendees!  Guess, what, it’s that time of year, Cold Wars 2015 is literally around the corner for most of us.   I have, finally, completed a decent first draft of the CW 15 Guidebook App for your convention attending pleasure.  I apologize for being late– I like to have it out at least a month ahead, or close to the PEL release if possible.  I received the loader data and did not notice that every single one of the GAME events loaded in as happening in May 2015.  So I just finished scrubbing the dates on each and every one.  That can slow things down a little.

What’s new?  

Not a lot really.  If you are Guidebook user from shows past the same color scheme holds– blue for tournaments, red for game events, green for seminars, purple for Hobby University.. if I ever get that data.  There’s a much longer and definitive KID FRIENDLY GAME LIST which has it’s own “track” in the schedule.  Look for ORANGE items.

Master Schedule screen with a few newish items added.

Kid Friendly events have this banner:

I’ve also added a local eatery button in the main menu– this is just a list of what I could find using YELP and the Host location with a five mile radius.  It is not definitive, but I hope to make it grow, and who knows, if we can get local restaurants interested in handing out discounts or coupons, maybe we can add those in too.

What’s missing??

The map I got for the Lampeter room has no tables on it.  That’s not the end of the world as the Lampeter holds tournaments and the Flea Market, and nobody really uses that map anyway.  I did not include it to prevent confusion.  If I get a fixed one before the show, look for an update.

I have not received the Dealer Hall layout and listing from Scott Landis yet.  It should be close to final so look for an update with this information before the show.

I have not received a Hobby University update from Heather Blush yet.  Look for an update before the show.

Updates.. how do those happen?

Simple.  Make sure you have Guidebook open and you are connected to the Internet somehow, usually a wireless signal.  The App will check for updates on the server.  If there is one, it will tell you and ask for permission to download.

So where do I get this thing?

HERE is the Cold Wars 2015 Landing page.  The page will have hyperlinks and bar codes to download the Android and IoS versions of Guidebook (the app) and the specific COLD WARS 2015 schedule which I have prepared for you.
HERE is a preview in browser link, so you can see what’s in the schedule.

QR Codes:

For the APP (only)

This will link to the download for Guidebook, the app

For THE COLD WARS GUIDEBOOK

This is the QR code that finds the guidebook schedule for COLD WARS 2015.

Enjoy your app, I hope it’s helpful and I’ll see you at the show.

If I have anything to communicate during the show I’ll use THE INBOX FEATURE on the app itself.

V/R

Walt

Click me to go to the landing page!

Cosmic Connector on Kickstarter…. cancelled


Update: (No need to write another post) In a surprise move, Future Pastimes, aka, the Cosmic Encounter design team, cancelled this project two days after I funded it, on 25 October 2014.  Well, that was fast.

I’ve often thought how great it would be to play Cosmic Encounter, my favorite game ever, on the Ipad.  It would seem like a daunting task, so many of the Alien card powers would need to interact with each other seamlessly– I couldn’t see an artificial intelligence Cosmic Encounter player as being an easy task to program.

What might be possible, I’m guessing, would be a program to facilitate a “game in real time” app for remote games, or a helper app for asynchronous play.  Sort of like a VASSAL for only Cosmic. It would appear some level of this wish is in the process of being granted (with some help from a lot of Kickstarter backers). Or might be. I’m an eternal optimist.

Cosmic Connector is, in the words of Peter Olotka, a ‘connector app’ that he would like to get financed.  It will connect remote players of the game Cosmic Encounter:

“Our vision for the Connector App

Think of this project as building a collaboration tool for social board game players. The goal of this project isn’t to build a game app in the classic sense of an online or mobile interpretation of a board game. The goal of the Cosmic Encounter Connector Project is to create an environment where you can hear other players clearly and play Cosmic Encounter.

We want to replicate the social experience and fun of playing a physical board game in a digital game environment optimized first for mobile touchscreen devices and then for desktops. This is different from a digital version of a board game focused on game mechanics and special effects. The Connector is focused on you as a player and on enhancing your experience of interacting with other players. Everybody will be able to talk to each other and have everything they need to play Cosmic Encounter, right at their fingertips. Connect, talk and play!”  — from the Kickstarter Page

Now, that’s market-speak to be sure, but what I’m seeing in the mockups and in the video is a real time or asynchronous PBeM game app, and that might be worth my hard earned dollars.

I like the notion of being able to play CE online in RT or asynchronously.  I’m not AS crazy about their pricing scheme, which appears to be– “big hunk of aliens possible at lowest level, then about 1/4 of that more at the next level.. then 1/4 more at the next level, and if you donate 1000 dollars you’ll get the whole shooting match”  If it’s an in-game purchase to get more aliens later, then say that up front in so many words.   I’m a little confused on how this is going to work.  I do know my pledge level will give me enough aliens to play with for a long time.  What’s going to happen when I encounter a player with deeper pockets than me, who wants to start a game with an alien I don’t have?  I wish that was spelled out a little bit.

Oh well, it’s Cosmic Encounter, I know the game well enough to know I’m going to have a good time with this thing.  If you’re interested, see the Kickstarter Page here. One of my fantasy matchups would be to play Tom Vasel some day in Cosmic Encounter– its’ our mutual favorite game. Perhaps .. who knows.. it will now be possible?

Charge Pikes! (2005) now in Digital Rules Library


Go to the DIGITAL RULES library (top of this page) to download

Back in 2005, Wesly Rogers offered us a set of English Civil War/Musket and Pike rules as a free download from his Angelfire page (now sadly gone). Through some diligent searching I found the original rules in PDF, though not the playsheets.  Charge Pikes! is a very decent set of Musket and Pike era rules, reasonably well written, although I did break up some of the excessively long sections into separate smaller sections for ease of conversion into EPUB format.  This was an easy conversion, as the PDF was printed from a Word Document, but there are a lot of tables I screen captured and added in.   I was GOING to color each section’s tables a different color, but that got tedious.  So we’ll live with it as is.  The cover looks like old WRG style books, I retained that out of a sense of nostalgia.

I have no idea how to get in touch with Wesly Rogers but  I presume as this was freely available on Freewargamerules at some point, he has no problem with converting a PDF to an EPUB.  He can contact me if there’s a problem.

As usual, this can be found on the DIGITAL RULES page (tab is up top).  This is NOT found in “Commercial, Out of Print” section.  It’s in the Non-Commercial Wargame Rules (Local Files) section.

Deathmaze (SPI) has been added to Digital Rules


Deathmaze Cover (Click for BGG Listing)

I have added an old favorite of mine from the old SPI days, DEATHMAZE, to the Digital Rules page.  This was a very old tile laying, build a dungeon as you go design presented as a FOLIO style game by SPI (there were four in the Fantasy and SF series, see the Microgames page (above) for more history on that).

Note that this is a conversion of the original games rules text, which can be found online as a somewhat sketchy PDF.  I should know, I believe I created the original a very long time ago when I built a Cyberboard gamebox to play Deathmaze via PBeM.  See the link to BGG (above, click the picture) to download that file if you have an interest in playing via cyberboard.

Note, as well, that I added a “Chapter 11” in SPI Case format, which includes all the information and tables published in the MOVES 51 advanced rules for Deathmaze variant.  I know there’s an old ARES article on Deathmaze out there somewhere, and if it includes new material and I can get it OCR’d somehow, I may add that material to this epub in the future.  (late edit: I tracked that down.  It was a review, not a variant).  For now, it’s fairly complete as is.

Note that the “Section 12” Deathmaze Charts 1 and 2 are a Snapshot of an old excel file I created way back in the 90s to replicate the game charts.  I think it’s reasonably clear but you may need to zoom in.

Original counter scan included.. just for reference. Counters in Epubs are a bit of a waste of time.

To actually play the game using this epub file, you’ll need to print out some Dungeon Tiles  on a color printer somewhere, or have the original set handy.  No need to reinvent the wheel here.  There are some nice sets available on the Boardgamegeek page for Deathmaze.  Click the picture above to visit that page.  You might also need to print out counters for the monsters (or use 10mm or 6mm miniatures from various vendors) to represent the monsters and party of adventurers.  There are new counters on Boardgamegeek, click the cover graphic above.

If you don’t feel like printing anything, you can try playing it with Cyberboard.  I made that module years ago and I can tell you it uses the original SPI images, somewhat modified.  So take it with a grain of salt.

I favor these, since you can print them sized to have a tiny miniature dungeon party to explore in them:

FILES: as always, find the EPUB file in the DIGITAL RULES page, under Commercial Game, Out of Print.

Enjoy.

Ram Speed, now available as an Epub


One of my favorite old Metagaming Microhistory games by far is RAM SPEED. Ram Speed was a dirt-simple galley warfare board game designed to play with galley counters on a hex grid.  With not much work or brain power expended, the game mechanics of Ram Speed converted easily to miniatures game play.

I’ve run games of Ram Speed with multiple NAVWAR 1:1200 galleys in play and it worked just fine.  Of course, it would be optimal on a hexmap, if you have one, but converting hexes to inches always worked for me.

Conversion notes:

I scanned and OCR’d the best of my copies of the original, but this is a game that is over 30 years old now so I had to work at fixing the many typos that cropped up from OCRing old, faded and wrinkled paper rules.  If you find something I missed, be kind and let me know.  The original text wasn’t exactly one of Metagaming’s best efforts, having been typset on an IBM Selectra typewriter.   I also created a new cover for the EPUB version.  The one that is on the historical pocket cardboard box that was the final product has messed up color separation and has always been challenging to read.  My version is in the spirit of the original and is perhaps a tad more easy to read.  Finally, I added a consolidated combat chart from a fan entry on BGG.  I’m also providing links to a re-creating of the game charts from BGG as well, they are much clearer and attractive than the originals.

Downloading the Epub

You can find the Ram Speed Epub (only) on the Digital Rules page. download link is fixed.

BoardgameGeek User Submitted Content (highly recommended):

(you will need a BGG account to view these)

  1. Play Summary  1 (Word)
  2. Play Summary 2 (Word) – Combat Tables
  3. Cutout Semi-3D minis, White   and Black Minis, too.  Instructions for both
  4.  Printable Ship Record Sheets (better than the original by far)

HISTORICON 2014: Another big Guidebook App Update


What’s this? Another Guidebook Update?  Of course!  

Here’s what’s been done: Bill Rutherford, events guy extraordinaire, took the time to review my last update.   He found some unintentional duplicates, which have been fixed, and added another 12 or so events.  I also added all 60-ish Hobby University events (thank you, Heather).

The only things that are left are a Vendor Listing, a Vendor Map (from Dudley) and any additional new events (from Bill)

Updating instructions: Just open up Guidebook on your phone, Ipad, Android device etc. and click “Okay” for the download notice.

Getting a new Guidebook and Downloading the Historicon 2014 guidebook: Go to the Historicon 2014 Landing Page.  Follow instructions.

To preview online, visit this page.

That’s all for now.  See you at HISTORICON!

Quadriga by Slitherine: Not your Daddy’s Circvs Maximvs.


ITUNES 
SRP: $9.99
Released: Jun 15, 2014
Version: 1.0
Size: 302 MB
Language: English
Seller: Slitherine Software UK Ltd.

I love Chariot Games and have for a long time.  Avalon Hill’s CIRCUS MAXIMUS was a fortuitous purchase early on in my gaming existence; I have played it many times.  I play chariot games at conventions.  I set up a PBeM Site for Circus Maximus and Minimus back in the day.  Dare I say it, I even designed a slightly less than serious chariot game myself, now free in epub.  So I have an opinion or two about what I’m looking for in a chariot racing game.    A chariot racing game should have the players assume the roll of the aurigae, or charioteer.  There should be a defined command set that restricts movements in and out of lane.  Horse endurance HAS to factor in.  Also the durability of the Chariot, the skill of the driver, even the health of the driver.   Plus lots of happy to glad little rules like driving over wrecks, whipping your team, whipping the other driver, ramming chariots, and other situations that a charioteer would realistically find him or herself in in an actual race.  There are some great chariot racing games out there; my favorite is the classic Circvs Maximvs from Avalon Hill, and they all handle simulating the requirements of a decent race game in similar fashions.

Click Quadriga to go to product page

When Matrix/Slitherine announced Quadriga for the PC just a few months ago, I jumped on it and bought the download edition.   I played it a few times; and to be brutally honest, it wasn’t floating my boat.. Maybe it’s the different graphics being offered by the PC Game, or seeing it on my (old) laptop screen that wasn’t blowing me away.   So I wasn’t playing it much.  I may re-install Quadriga on my new laptop and see if it plays better now.    However, when I heard the announcement that Slitherine had done it again, and ported a PC semi-wargame to the Ipad, I jumped on that one too, even at the rather dear price of 9.99.  I took a chance that it might play better on the Ipad and I liked the idea of having a game I could resolve a chariot race with during half a lunch break.   I’m glad I did!   I’m not sure why I’m reacting this way; perhaps the touch control  is more satisfying than the mouse, or maybe it was the crappy processor on my older laptop that made the PC version less satisfying, but I find myself playing the Ipad version much more than the PC.

That’s the interface; the design is very good indeed.

Selecting a faction. Factions in Quadriga follow their real historical precedents, and provide the chariot team with certain benefits in either constitution (heart), skill (star), speed (arrow), size (lightning), endurance (blood drop) and quality (hammer). I think, anyway..

It’s clear the design team had someone that’s cracked open a history book at some point in their lives. The historical elements are rock solid– color factions that provide teams with certain benefits is kind of a must if you’re trying to simulate the historical chariot racing that happened in Rome.  The next step in the game is to customize your team, which seem to be a direct lift from the board game Circvs Maximvs:

An Aurigae gets four points to spend in addition to the benefits from your faction. Here, I spent 1 extra on Rugged chariot, an extra two health and an extra Speed on the team.

After a team is put together, the next step is the race itself.. this is another element of the design that satisfies some of the elements that are a must for a good chariot game– an easy to understand command set that will regulate movement in and out of lanes, whipping, braking and various other driving tasks.

This is the order set for Quadriga, which pretty much encapsulates most of the maneuvers you would expect in a Chariot Game: moving in, moving out, whipping, braking, accelerating, etc. If you’ve played Circvs Maximvs, you recognize this already.

The order menu is a big plus for me; it probably is the reason why I like the Ipad version better than the PC version, even if it’s only a subtle difference at best.  During a race, time is broken into standard small segments.  At the start of the segments, the menu flashes up on top of your chariot.  You choose an option, and it executes.  The AIs select and execute their moves simultaneously, and all chariots move ahead and we see what happens.  It’s the same game engine on the PC and Ipad, but it’s just.. I don’t know, more handy on the Ipad.

An example of the pop up order menu in action, Ipad verison.

As is the case with many of Slitherine’s latest releases, there is no PBeM play capability built into the game. So you’re playing against a pack of AIs that are making a movement decision based on the current conditions and executing it, just like you. That makes it pretty hard for the AI’s to cheat, and actually, not a bad contest. I suspect the AI is making the best choices available to it going into a turn, and as a result, will perhaps be less aggressive in the “crash your chariot into your opponent out of spite” mode. Most games I have played so far, *I* am the reckless and aggressive player, not the AI. I crash more often, make stupider decisions, and often end up being dragged behind a team of horses for my pains. It’s a tough life in the Circus Maximus.

Let’s take a second to look at my gallery of pain.

Yes, that’s MY chariot to the left there. Lesson 1: Corner Strain.

The game handles a lot of elements of chariot racing that are rolled for in boardgames like circus maximus; but just happen “under the hood” in Quadriga. For example Corner Strain, which is a critical design element for a chariot race, just happens.. somehow, in this game, and if your chariot hits the limit, it flips. It’s actually probably more severe a procedure than the boardgame.

Ha ha! Can’t catch me! I can’t help but win now.. unless, of course, I do the stupid and whip going into a turn, right? I mean, who DOES that??

Making another lucky guess with the lane change.

In this game, it’s important to visualize where you end up at the END of your movement as much as where you are now. Collisions are frequent as the AIs are doing what you’re doing, making a guess and hitting the “go” button.

As mentioned, CORNERING is a major source of ass pain in QUADRIGA. This appears to be a threshold feature, rather than a die roll: in Circus Maximus, you roll to “not flip” if your chariot is going over a certain safe limit. In Quadriga, if you are over a threshold, you just crash, that’s the long and short of it.

Win by watching your speed and taking some risks. Your little green menu track will turn RED for almost impossible risks and AMBER for moderate risk in turns. That’s about as much feedback as you get in Quadriga. If you see red going into a curve, you might be screwed unless you can haul back on the reins.

Sooner or later, you’ll be dragged behind a chariot. If you have ENOUGH endurance, you might still win if you have enough of a lead. Chances are, though…

… you’ll end up DEAD!!

So that’s about all I can say about actual gameplay.. it meets my personal threshold of what a Chariot Game ought to be — fast enough, involves a certain amount of plotting, then executing, has an easy set of commands that are even easier with icons, and most importantly allows you to screw over other teams. That’s the Circus Maximus experience in a nutshell.

And it’s fun! Lots of fun!

Summary: There’s some more to go over. Quadriga does have two modes of play, a single race and a campaign module that I haven’t explored in depth. Basically, Quadriga comes out of the box with many different courses. If you race a single race you could run on almost any one of them. During a campaign game you race on many of them sequentially. I can see where this would be a draw and help to personalize the game narrative. I’m having fun playing the single races out of the box right now.

So to sum it all up, it sure ain’t your dad’s Circus Maximus, but it has everything Circus Maximus did plus more besides. I’m shocked, I’ve had nothing but good things to say about Slitherine games for three reviews in a row. I promise to be more curmudgeonly in the near future.