Sunday, January 29, 2012

TK - Fall '40 through Summer '41

Just a quick update on my VASSAL game of Axis Empires: Totaler Krieg! It's been a hard slog through Poland, but I finally took Warsaw in the middle of the summer. More like WW1 than WW2 in many ways. The good news is that Poland is now a conquered country and Eric no longer gets the benefit of those units. On the down side, I still need to garrison cities.

I chose not to go to Total War for a few reasons, but the main ones were a) bringing in the Americans, b) bringing in the Russian Emergency Mobilization units (a good choice as it turned out - Eric has maxed out his forces at long last, which I *think* is good). Plus a deteriorating Delay Box situation. So I went with Operation Marita for the summer, which was enough for me to take Warsaw. Now the question is whether I go for making the Poles an ally, or do I try to bring in Hungary or Rumania? A tough call. Occupation isn't that bad, especially as the Poles are not really able to come in in force right away anyway, but I'm still one hex away from the historical Nazi-Soviet Pact division line and it will take a while to push the Soviets out.

I brought in the Italians on the Axis side as well, right before Chuck attempted to Demand Cyrenaica. At the same time, he's got a pretty big army brewing down there, and one of the drawbacks of not being at Total War is I don't get the Afrika Korps units yet. At least I have two steps coming in per season with the Minors.

Of course, I am not someone who can let well enough alone. Hence Finland and Poland going Soviet early, which has been a bit of a problem. At the same time, I'm very interested to see what can happen in this game, so for my second Treaty attempt of the fall, I went for Greece. I got it, but also Bulgaria coming in for the Soviets. At least I have the Western Allied Strategic Hex in Athens with no German blood shed, and I'll be going to +4 on the strategic cities, with Minsk and Kiev in sight. Maybe. There are a lot of Russians squeezed into a very small front right now, but a lot of people don't have much in the way of card plays. Exciting.

As we stand, I have a plan for the coming year and it will be fun to see how it plays out.

As Eric has already said, "I love this game."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Totaler Krieg - The Campaign Begins

Eric, Chuck, and myself got together last Sunday to start playing our campaign game of the new edition of Totaler Krieg!. Eric and I had previously played the Fall of France scenario to help get the rules under our belts, and I'd gone through the "How To Learn This Game" steps in the Scenario Book.

Let me be clear - even if you're an experienced wargamer, unless you've played this game before you want to go through the process they describe. As I've said in earlier posts, the ruleset is very good for the most part, but there are some processes that span several sections of the rules and there is not always good cross-referencing. However, once you've learned the game they are *excellent* for a reference source.

I've also discussed why I like this game in an earlier post. I'll just say that playing the campaign game has not changed my thinking at all.

I took the Axis in this game, as everyone felt I had the most experience having tried running through the Pre-War period as a solitaire exercise to see what sorts of things happen and what options the different factions have. There is an Option Card Strategy Guide on the back of each player's play aid, but it's one thing to read a few sentences and another to go through the process. Chuck took the Western Allies (which I will call the Wallies, despite the fact that the designers aren't fond of that term), and Eric took the Soviets.

I started the game fairly historically, although my intent was to activate Poland as an Axis Minor country and head East First just to be different. I was very glad I'd run through the pre-war, as you make a few long-term decisions during this portion of the game, and there are some subtleties that you wont get any other way. I began by Supporting the Nationalists in Spain, which gives me a roll on the table of the option card. Things started going the Germans way immediately as I reduced a Republican Stronghold. We went with the historical option and just gave the Republican Control marker to the Soviets. However, the marker switched sides a couple of times, usually just as Eric or Chuck was about to play a Support Republicans card, and I was able to turn Spain Fascist within a year with no breakaway countries.

It was the first Wallie turn, however, that was the fun one. Chuck rolled on his option card table and it resulted in me getting to roll on the Minor Political Event table. For those of you that know this table, you know that it's kind of an Anything Can Happen Day. This particular day, Poland and the Baltics had a Border War, with Poland going to the Soviets. So much for my initial plan. And the Baltics! Hooray! They have one Res unit!

Things went pretty historically, at least for me, through 1938. Austria fell to the Anschluss, and rearmament and mobilization went along well too. Eric went with a more cooperative approach with his neighbors, partly because he already had Poland, and managed to get the Finns as well when I again rolled on that damned table. Because I wanted to see what would happen. I took the Czechs as well. He was hoping to get French-Russian Entente out, but I was ready with the Nazi-Soviet Pact.

I went for Demanding Switzerland at the beginning of 1939, since the Wallies hadn't made any Guarantees, so even when they resisted I was able to win a Military Victory. Only drawback - I couldn't get the free Influence on a country since no one was at War yet when all of the Outbreak of War conditional units came out because of the Mil Victory. It did make the Wallies a little nervous to have their Maginot Line flanked. I picked Switzerland because nothing else was legal or worthwhile (who cares about Denmark - you get that almost for free along with Norway), and it simply paid off.

I finally played 6a in early 1940 in order to get to Limited War with the Wallies. It was really the only chance I had. Guarantees had come too late to help them, and I was able to trigger Case Yellow in mid-1940, right on schedule. What wasn't on schedule was taking Denmark-Norway, which I did in the Autumn. The problem was that now that Finland was a Soviet Minor, Norway had a 50/50 shot at becoming anyone's Minor, and that country was the Soviets. Suddenly, with a ton of Soviets in Poland and me just getting my units back from France, I was at war with everyone. Wow.

As I type, we are finishing up 1940. I have made a little headway into Poland, but it's tough without air or Blitz markers. As Chuck was planning to Demand Cyrenaica, I brought in the Italians with Treaty (and with a +1, next up is Hungary who also has a +1 Influence marker). Posen and Krakow have fallen, and Warsaw is sitting waiting for my next turn or two to fall. Once that happens, and if Hungary comes in, Russia may need to fall back to it's historical boundaries and I have to decide if I want Poland to become a Puppet Government or not after it falls. The only drawback is that I have to consider whether or not Occupation will be an issue, as I don't have the benefit of having multi-step units in a friendly minor, at least not without a serious cost, and why bother bringing in Poland if I can't just drive through it when I want to? The other option is aggressive Treaties and thinking about the rest of the Balkans. Yugoslavia is only useful if I really want Italy in the game in Russia, and the only thing worth considering besides it is Athens. Crete is too far away from anything to be a threat. Of course, a certain amount of peace means that I can start to build up if the Italian War Economy kicks into gear. I already have the +1 for Axis Minors.

Perhaps it will be time to try to steal land from the Russians through the Anti-Comintern Pact, which looks interesting. We are so far away from history at this point that I can't say what will happen at all, but it's sure been a fun ride so far.

I will continue to give updates, probably on an annual basis, but perhaps seasonal. I'll throw in some screen shots as well from time to time, probably should have done that here, although only Poland is really interesting at all right now.

I'll say one thing - this game is everything I was hoping it would be. A somewhat variable start position, combined with some major wackiness on the diplomacy front, and a real feel that you are in control of pretty much your country and not a lot else, at least for the Axis. My only disappointment is that we have shifted to VASSAL after a great 7 hour starting session, and I am making lots of noob errors (like how I set up in Libya, which I was fortunate to figure out before Chuck took his turn - things like you don't have an Open Port in a port in a dependent unless it's got a friendly unit there). That said, there's a lot to think about, and it's nice to be able to take my time to do that. I sure hope Chuck and Eric are enjoying the game as much as I am.

On to 1941. Will I invoke Barbarossa in the summer? Mwahaha...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

WoW. Done.

Yup, I'm done. After something like six years of paying a monthly fee, I've finally quit playing WoW.

In truth, I more or less stopped playing not long after Cataclysm came out, mostly because the game suddenly seemed very easy but partly because the novelty of the quest system had worn off. When you don't take the time to read quest details that you've never been on before, you know it's a grind.

I actually stopped the credit card payments back in October, right after we needed to make some financial concessions to the economy, but I stopped payment on the 22nd and the three-month payment had gone through on the 19th.

Today is January 19th, three months later.

I'm sorry to say I did not quite get my first character, Leonadril, my Assassination Rogue Gnome, to level 85. He's at the Twilight Highlands, hovering in the air in his Turbo-Charged Helicopter Thingie, trapped about 2/3rds of the way to the final level. He has about 4000 gold, but I'm a terrible entrepreneur and never did learn to work the farming/auction house part of the game to my benefit. '

The only other character I really spent significant time on is Amahiah, a female Feral Druid Tauren. She's at level 80, and to be honest I'm not quite sure where she's at. I never got her to any of the new areas.

In the course of the last six years, I think I tried every race and every class, although nowhere near every combination. At one point in the early days, I think I had four alts going at once to better allow my characters to rest. At the end, I don't think I *ever* rested with Leonadril, and he was getting 200% for critters the whole time. Maybe I'd saved up several months worth when he was inactive.

I played with guilds for a short time. The first one was fine, but there were a couple of people that just wouldn't shut up. When we moved down to Wilsonville and spent almost all of our free time trying to fix things in the house, I didn't play for a month and that guild kicked me out. I did not try to get back in, as they didn't ask me what I was up to and if everything was OK.

The other guild(s) I played in were a cross-faction guild that had an Alliance and a Horde side. The Alliance side broke off, and kicked me out after I'd stopped playing for a while when my mother had so much trouble 18 months ago. They were nice enough, but wanted to do heroic raids and I wasn't geared for it. I did contribute more than I took from the bank, and even contributed 200 gold (which was a lot for me at the time, saving up as I was for a cycle, which I eventually got) toward one of the leaders for a birthday present. Again, no notification, which kind of annoyed me, especially as they knew I went back and for with two different characters for long periods of time.

I had more luck with the Horde side, going on three or four dungeon runs with them. Unfortunately, at the time I had an extension in my system for DivX that was making ventrilo useless, at least for me talking, and dungeons are no fun if you can't make jokes that people can hear. I suspect that Amahiah is still part of that guild as we speak, but I haven't touched that alt for nearly a year.

There was a time early on when WoW absorbed much of my life. I originally started playing to have an avenue of communication with my daughter, who I ended up playing with for one session. When I said that I'd been waiting for that moment for some time and was very happy, she freaked out and we were never on at the same time again. Kind of sums up my experiences with my daughter, I'm afraid.

In the end, I was good for about two hours. I love exploration games where you go on to the next thing and see what's there and kill it, but there was so little differentiation between critters in the end (at least in terms of how I went about killing them) that every quest became a grind. When I heard that the next expansion was going to feature a new race of Kung Fu Pandas, I knew that the time had come, and it didn't take much for me to pull the plug.

At this point, I've had no luck in my handful of attempts to find a replacement MMORPG, and I really have no interest in doing so, even when my discretionary budget rises again at some point. The iPad has introduced me to micro-gaming with games like Ascension, and the ability to play a game within 10 or 15 minutes to completion is more in line with my mindset these days. WoW was a big part of my life for a few years, arguably too big a part of my life, but like all things it has run it's course. I suspect at some point I'll get a little nostalgic and pay for a month to get Leonadril out of Airline Hell and finish his storyline off, but it will be a while.

I'm just glad WoW wasn't around when I was in college. I would never have graduated, like many others of that age who got into it. I don't even want to think of what I'd have run into  That said, as addictions go this one was an awful lot of fun.