Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Boomer

Some great photos of a great kid.  I can't be there for Christmas, but I know he's having a great time with his mom and grandparents.

Sitting in the cab of a fire truck.  Thanks Mike and Fireman Bob!
Complained it was too cold to go outside, but had a great time playing when he did.

Taking care of his stuffed animals, who are "sick" and tucked under the covers.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Haunted Lands [BOOKS]

The Haunted Lands trilogy of Forgotten Realms novels are set in the far east land of Thay, home of the famous Red Wizards.  I decided to start reading them because the Realms campaign I ran for a long time had a storyline that took the PCs to Thay, and I wanted it to be as "authentic" as possible.  The trilogy is pretty good--definitely dark, and probably more of a Warhammer 3K vibe then traditional heroic fantasy.  The storyline across the books has to do with a civil war in Thay launched by the archmade Szass Tam.  There's a major time jump in between books (10 years between books 1 and 2, 100 years between books 2 and 3!), which is a bit startling at first, but actually ends up well.  The books are definitely good at showing how Thay is an interesting and memorable nation, and I'd recommend them.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Civilization IV [GAMES]

I'm a huge fan of the Civilization series of strategy games.  I remember playing the first Civilization years ago, and, while a Ph.D. student, spent endless hours on Civilization III.  This year, I downloaded and played several games of Civilization IV (I know, I'm always years behind the current version).  There's definitely some interesting aspects to this one from previous versions.  Every nation has a religion (which can change) which influences interactions with other nations; I honestly didn't play enough to figure out, for the most part, how much this mattered or how to take advantage of it.  But an interesting idea.  Similarly, each nation has to choose a method of government (democracy, etc.) that again affects relations with other countries.  One of the little things that irked me was that they made artillery far less useful; rather than simply bombarding a nearby square, artillery now functions much more like normal units and thus can be put at risk while attacking--made things less interesting.  Anyway, I played until I got a victory over the AI on the normal difficulty level (where the player and the computer are on a level playing field).  I really like the game, but I'm too busy to play it regularly without another obvious stopping point.

Game 1
Start Date: February 1, 2014
Tokugawa of Japan
Difficulty: Settler
Random Settings: Small world, arid climate, medium sea level.
Started off in NE corner of only continent, with icecaps to my back.  Very defensible.  Spread quickly.  Bad war with America lost me a city, but then conquered England with tech advantage.  I then crushed Saladin, with infantry going up against macemen & longbows!  I then had tanks going up against Ghandi's catapults and longbows.
Victory:  Domination (Score: 7656) in 7 hours, 34 minutes.

Game 2
Start Date:  February, 2014
Montezuma of the Aztecs
Difficulty: Chieftan
Random Settings:  Large world, rocky climate, low sea level.
Looks like two large continents, divided by ocean.  Lots of jungle!  Was able to build a huge number of cities.  Finally went to war and conquered Spain quickly with large tech advantage.  Followed up with Germany, and then Egypt and England.  Conquered home continent just as won space race.
Victory:  Space Race (Score: 8168) in 15 hours, 15 minutes.

Game 3
Start Date: February 16, 2014
George Washington of U.S.
Difficulty: Warlord
Random Settings: Huge world, cold climate, low sea level.
Start on what looks like a moderate island.  Rome attacks after a little while, but I hold off and counterattack with war elephants!  They're weakest of 10 rivals, and I defeat to secure continent.  Go across channel and eliminate Spain.  Get lazy, and end up in real space race with Mali!
Victory: Space Race (Score: 4775) in 11 hours, 41 minutes.

Game 4
State Date: February 23, 2014
Brennus of the Celts
Difficulty: Noble
Random Settings: Duel
In a duel with the Zulus, and I just could not keep up with their military tech!  Should have been nicer early.  Retired when it became clear I wasn't going to complete, though I was probably able to get more points if stayed longer.  Frustrating, but a good lesson.
Defeat: Retired (Score: 3784) in 2 hours, 56 minutes.

Game 5
Start Date: March, 2014
Mansa Musa of Mali
Difficulty: Noble
Random Settings:  Large world, rocky climate, low sea level.
Just got off to a slow start, and as I was finally climbing the score ladder, attacked by multiple foes, often inexplicably.  Frustrating!
Loss: Retired (Score: 1725)

Game 6
Start Date: March 14, 2014
Saladin of Arabia
Difficulty: Noble
Random Settings:  Small world.
The five of us started on one small continent, and remained relatively stable territories until end of game.  I finally mastered diplomacy, but was outscored by huge amount by Napoleon.  I built the U.N., but was never close to enough votes to win.
Loss: Time Expiration (Score: 2661) in 6 hours, 10 minutes.

Game 7
Start Date: March 23, 2014
Cyrus of the Persians
Difficulty: Noble
Random Settings: Duel, temperate climate, high sea level.
Duel world against Isabella.  Did well, but just gradually got further and further behind in score because I couldn't keep up with population.  Hatched cheap trick to invade with two turns left, and narrowed the gap (but still lost 5991 to 5256).
Defeat: Time Expiration (Score: 5256) in 3 hours, 26 minutes.

Game 8
Start Date: March 26, 2014
Asoka of India
Difficulty: Noble
Random Settings: Small size
Several small continents.  Did well peacefully as India, but stuck about 100-200 points behind Ramses II with about 80 turns left.  Decided to gear up for war and invade Aztecs, and acquisition of several cities in final decades gave me enough points for win!
Victory: Time Expiration (Score: 4188) in 7 hours, 44 minutes.