Quotulatiousness

June 16, 2016

Silent Victory now available in wargame format

Filed under: Books, Gaming, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I’m currently reading this two-volume history of the US Navy’s submarines in the Pacific during WW2 by Clay Blair, Jr., so I was interested to see this review of a wargame covering this exact conflict:

Consim Press has published a fantastic solo player wargame in Silent Victory: U.S. Submarines in the Pacific, 1941-1945. With game design by Gregory M. Smith, Silent Victory offers a little bit of everything for someone looking for an immersive, historical naval wargame that is easy to play yet detailed enough to be fulfilling for an advanced gamer.

It covers one of the biggest problems American sub commanders faced for the first two years of the war:

For every torpedo you fire, you’ll roll a 1d6 dice for a dud. Roll a 1 or 2, well, you are out of luck. It might have hit, but it didn’t explode. Dud. This happened to me at least three times in two patrols. It was a fact — the U.S. Navy had a torpedo problem. Clay Blair Jr.’s magisterial book Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War against Japan made this clear:

    “…[T}he submarine force was hobbled by defective torpedoes. Developed in peacetime but never realistically tested against targets, the U.S. submarine torpedo was believed to be one of the most lethal weapons in the history of naval warfare. It had two exploders, a regular one that detonated it on contact with the side of an enemy ship and a very secret “magnetic exploder” that would detonate it beneath the keel of a ship without contact. After the war began, submariners discovered the hard way that the torpedo did not run steadily at the depth set into its controls and often went much deeper than designed, too deep for the magnetic exploder to work.”

Blair notes that not until late 1943 would the U.S. Navy fix the numerous torpedo problems.

Actually, the depth control issue was only the start of the problem. Once enough sub skippers had complained to their chain of command that the torpedoes were running too deep, and were able to get a few of them tested to prove it, then other problems became apparent. Even if the torpedo ran at the correct depth, the magnetic exploder would not reliably trigger the warhead when it passed under an enemy ship. The German and British submarine services had also developed similar exploders, but had abandoned them after wartime testing proved them to be ineffective. US Navy submarine admirals would not be convinced, so it took much longer for the sub captains to get permission to de-activate the magnetic exploders and use the contact exploders instead.

Unbelievably, it now became clear that there were also problems with the contact exploder as well, so even if it hit the side of the target it might not explode. American torpedoes had a significantly smaller warhead than those of other navies, because it had been expected that the magnetic exploder detonating below the keel of an enemy ship would be sufficient to break the back of the target and sink it. When used as ordinary torpedoes, it often took three or four hits to guarantee a sinking even on a merchant ship. Warships, having better compartmentalization, were even tougher to sink without lucky shots that hit fuel or ammunition compartments.

There are three reasons why this game succeeds.

First, historical accuracy. From the problems with torpedoes, to the detailed lists of Japanese merchant and capital ships, or to the specific weapons load out of each U.S. submarine in WWII, it is all there. The makers of this game did not cut any corners. They did their homework and tried, I think successfully, to incorporate significant historical facts into the gameplay.

Second, a risk/reward based gameplay experience. Every decision you make — from the torpedoes you use to deciding if you want to attack submerged and at close or long distance — incurs risk. There are numerous tradeoffs. For instance, you can attack from long distance submerged, but you suffer a roll modifier and risk not hitting your target. Or, you can be aggressive, and attack at close range, surfaced at night, which may increase your chance of hit but also increase your chance of detection. It just depends.

Finally, simple game rules. Complicated games are no fun to play. As a player, I don’t want to spend 10 minutes looking up rule after rule in a rulebook the size of a encyclopedia. In Silent Victory, the designers have done us a favor. The rules are clearly written and extensive, and after a single read through I referred to them occasionally. But more important, the combat mat has the dice roll encounter procedures printed on it, all within easy view. Also, the other mats all have reference numbers and clearly identify which dice should be rolled for what effects. It is all right there on the mats. This makes for a fun, smooth playing experience. And finally, if I were add another reason why this game is worth your money, it is the game’s replay value. You can conduct numerous patrols and no two patrols will ever be the same.

Silent Victory is a fun naval wargame that will appeal to the novice or expert gamer – and maybe you’ll learn something along the way.

May 27, 2016

AI Only Battles, TSL Games, and Nukes in Civ 6 | Civilization 6 Interview!

Filed under: Gaming — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 25 May 2016

Civ 6 Interview discussing canal cities, graphics, happiness, and more!

Description of Civilization 6 from the Official Website:
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is the next entry in the award-winning Civilization franchise, which has sold in nearly 33 million units worldwide, including more than 8 million units of Civilization V.
Originally created by legendary game designer Sid Meier, Civilization is a turn-based strategy game in which you attempt to build an empire to stand the test of time. Become Ruler of the World by establishing and leading a civilization from the Stone Age to the Information Age. Wage war, conduct diplomacy, advance your culture, and go head-to-head with history’s greatest leaders as you attempt to build the greatest civilization the world has ever known.
Civilization VI offers new ways to engage with your world: cities now physically expand across the map, active research in technology and culture unlocks new potential, and competing leaders will pursue their own agendas based on their historical traits as you race for one of five ways to achieve victory in the game.

FEATURES

EXPANSIVE EMPIRES: See the marvels of your empire spread across the map like never before. Each city spans multiple tiles so you can custom build your cities to take full advantage of the local terrain.

ACTIVE RESEARCH: Unlock boosts that speed your civilization’s progress through history. To advance more quickly, use your units to actively explore, develop your environment, and discover new cultures.

DYNAMIC DIPLOMACY: Interactions with other civilizations change over the course of the game, from primitive first interactions where conflict is a fact of life, to late game alliances and negotiations.

COMBINED ARMS: Expanding on the “one unit per tile” design, support units can now be embedded with other units, like anti-tank support with infantry, or a warrior with settlers. Similar units can also be combined to form powerful “Corps” units.

ENHANCED MULTIPLAYER: In addition to traditional multiplayer modes, cooperate and compete with your friends in a wide variety of situations all designed to be easily completed in a single session.

A CIV FOR ALL PLAYERS: Civilization VI provides veteran players new ways to build and tune their civilization for the greatest chance of success. New tutorial systems introduce new players to the underlying concepts so they can easily get started.”

May 14, 2016

Battlefield 1 Historical Trailer Analysis I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Gaming, History, Military — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 13 May 2016

SORRY FOR THE SOUND QUALITY, WE WERE IMPROVISING A BIT.

Thousands of people decided to watch our show since the Battlefield 1 trailer made its debut last week, so we decided to welcome all the new fans with a trailer analysis.

May 12, 2016

Civilization VI to be released in October

Filed under: Gaming — Tags: — Nicholas @ 08:50

Firaxis has announced the release date of the next version of Civilization, along with a number of changes to the game that may increase the challenge level (and disrupt the current “meta”):

Civilization VI

In many ways, Civilization 6 takes its predecessors and iterates on the systems that have come before. There are changes being made to trade, research, religion and more. Based on the limited amount of information so far released, these changes seem to be incremental.

But there is also a big change coming. In previous Civ games, city improvements were mere statistical boosts or manufacturing gateways, rendered prettily with a slightly different artistic representation. You built a wall and your defenses improved and your city, quite clearly, became encircled by a wall. They lived within the city, outside your control.

Civilization 6 is not the same. It demands that you place your city improvements in geographic locations in hexes around the city, which best take advantage of that building’s boosts and functions.

This means that your city upgrade path is no longer a rote event. It is a matter of geographic practicality.

In Civ 5, combat changed significantly. But combat is merely a system, albeit an important one. In Civ 6, it’s the city itself — the throbbing organ of all Civ games — that is being altered.

The improvements you build in your cities will now actually need to be placed in the tiles surrounding your city and can derive benefits from the terrain if built in better or worse locations. This will probably place an even greater emphasis on finding the best possible spot to found a city, as the long-term growth and development will hinge to a much greater degree on the city’s hinterland than in earlier Civ games.

While I’ve certainly enjoyed the most recent game, I found myself very often following an informal “script” or template when playing Civ V, which Firaxis developers think they’re addressing in the new game:

Why has Firaxis decided to make this change to how cities are structured, to merge the building elements of the city with its surrounding geography?

“We want players to adapt to the map every time they play the game,” says lead designer Ed Beach. “We want people to think on their feet, to respond to being put in different types of terrain, to being put in situations while playing different leaders.”

He says that the “number one” problem the team has identified about Civ 5 is that players often settle on certain strategic paths, and they play the same way every time. For example, when I build cities, I’m almost always looking at Monument, Shrine, Granary, Library, Walls, Coliseum. I rarely change this formula, nor others theirs.

This is why Civ 6‘s cities are different. “It’s as big a change for the economic side of the game as unstacking the armies was with Civ 5,” says Beach. “We want to throw different things at the player at different times and make them have to adapt.”

April 28, 2016

Wargaming at the Marine Corps War College

Filed under: Gaming, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Professor James Lacey explains why he introduced commercial wargames into his curriculum for USMC officers at the war college:

As every team plotted their strategic “ends,” students soon realized that neither side had the resources — “means” — to do everything they wanted. Strategic decisions quickly became a matter of tradeoffs, as the competitors struggled to find the “ways” to secure sufficient “means” to achieve their objectives (“ends”). For the first time, students were able to examine the strategic options of the Peloponnesian War within the strictures that limited the actual participants in that struggle.

Remarkably, four of the five Athenian teams actually attacked Syracuse on Sicily’s east coast! As they were all aware that such a course had led to an Athenian disaster 2,500 years before, I queried them about their decision. Their replies were the same: Each had noted that the Persians were stirring, which meant there was a growing threat to Athens’ supply of wheat from the Black Sea. As there was an abundance of wheat near Syracuse, each Athenian team decided to secure it as a second food source (and simultaneously deny it to Sparta and its allies) in the event the wheat from the Black Sea was lost to them. Along the way, two of the teams secured Pylos so as to raise helot revolts that would damage the Spartan breadbasket. Two of the teams also ended revolts in Corcyra, which secured that island’s fleet for Athenian purposes, and had the practical effect of blockading Corinth. So, it turns out there were a number of good strategic reasons for Athens to attack Syracuse. Who knew? Certainly not any War College graduate over the past few decades.

All of these courses of action were thoroughly discussed by each team, as were Spartan counter moves. For the first time in my six years at the Marine Corps War College, I was convinced that the students actually understood the range of strategies and options Thucydides wrote about. In the following days, I was stopped dozens of times by students who wanted discuss other options they might have employed, and, even better, to compare their decisions to what actually happened. A number of students told me they were still thinking about various options and decisions weeks later. I assure you that no one even spent even a car ride home thinking about my Thucydides lectures.

[…]

At the end of each wargame, students walked away with a new appreciation of the historical circumstances of the period and the events they had read about and discussed in class. And even though all wargames are an abstract of actual events, I am sure that no student exposed to historical gaming will ever again read about the Peloponnesian War without thinking about Sicily’s wheat, the crucial importance of holding the Isthmus of Corinth, or what could have been done with a bit more Persian silver in the coffers of one side or the other’s treasury. Similarly, the next time one of this year’s students reads about Lee and Grant in 1864, they will also be thinking about how the truly decisive actions took place out west. For, as it was during the actual conflict, in every game the students played, Grant’s role was to pin down the Army of Northern Virginia, while the western armies ripped out the economic heart of the Confederacy.

In fact, I was astounded at the number of students who approached me after the Civil War exercise to mention that despite having studied the Civil War before, this was the first time they realized that the war was won in the west. I could go on for another few thousand words discussing other revelations students experienced through gaming and simulations, but the key point is that these experiential learning experiences linger in students’ minds for a very long time. I once asked my seminars how many of them had discussed the games and their results with their spouses. Every hand went up. I am quite sure that very few of them ever discussed one of my lectures with their spouses.

April 14, 2016

World of Warships – HMS Campbeltown

Filed under: Britain, Gaming, History, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 12 Apr 2016

After numerous delays I’m finally able to show you HMS Campbeltown, the premium tier 3 Destroyer that led the raid on Saint Nazaire and sealed the fate of the Tirpitz.

April 1, 2016

April Fool!

Filed under: Gaming, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:59

Published on 1 Apr 2016

April 1st used to be the time of year when games devs would try to prank their players, but lately it’s mostly just been an excuse to throw cool new game modes into their latest titles. Not that I’m complaining of course, I’d rather be able to PLAY a TOG II Warship than be teased by a screenshot of one. Here’s a selection of what’s on offer this year.

February 20, 2016

JOURNEYQUEST IS RENEWED!

Filed under: Gaming, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:46

Published on 19 Feb 2016

Thanks to over 5000 backers on Kickstarter, with mere hours to go, JourneyQuest has been renewed for a third season! Congratulations, thank you, and ONWAAAAAARD!

January 23, 2016

World of Warships – How To Not Suck

Filed under: Gaming, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 20 Jun 2015

If I said to you “What’s Port?” and your answer is “A fortified wine from Portugal served by the Wardroom Steward at Mess Dinners” you’re either a Royal Naval Officer or someone who could probably benefit from watching this video. There’s no cure for being a Royal Naval Officer, but the cure for sucking at World of Warships is just one click away.

January 19, 2016

JourneyQuest Season 3 Kickstarter Begins

Filed under: Gaming, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 18 Jan 2016

JourneyQuest 3 is funding on Kickstarter now! Click here to renew the show for a third season: http://vid.io/xqEB
Now on Kickstarter! Renew JourneyQuest for an epic third season, featuring the ongoing adventures of Perf, a dyslexic wizard with a quest problem.

Watch the first two seasons here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list…

December 5, 2015

The Terrible Mr. G

Filed under: Gaming, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Uploaded on 26 Apr 2006

Guy playing CounterStrike gets recorded and remixed by someone at insoc.org.

Then I transcribed it, and a few years later, decided to make this subtitle video!

October 27, 2015

A dispatch from the new (Guild Wars 2) front

Filed under: Gaming, Humour — Tags: — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns expansion was announced early in January 2015, but only released this month. The Orrator has a unique viewpoint of the new front opened up in the war against the dragons:

The Orrator - HoT battle report

September 27, 2015

World of Warships – The Tirpitz!

Filed under: Europe, Gaming, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 27 Aug 2015

What’s the matter, Tommy… are ze Germans coming? Actually yes, they are and they’re in dirty great Battleships! I think we’re going to need bigger guns…

August 17, 2015

“#Gamergate summarized in one impossibly perfect tweet”

Filed under: Gaming, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

It’s always awkward when you see (and publicize) something that seems to perfectly encapsulate your opponent’s position turns out to be nothing of the sort:

This afternoon multiple bomb threats were called in to a Society of Professional Journalists debate about GamerGate. I’ve been passed the remarks my fellow panellist, AEI scholar and feminist academic Christina Hoff Sommers, was planning to make.

A video game journalist from Vancouver recently took to Twitter to draw attention to a Tweet sent by a gamer: The gamer had tweeted: “I fucking swear — they get rid of Huge Boobs, I’m gone.” For this journalist those 11 words captured the essence of the gamer crusade. The hypermasculine dudebro attitude –— the crude objectification of women. It’s all there. Or so it seemed to him. As he put it: “#Gamergate summarized in one impossibly perfect tweet.”

But as is often the case with media accounts of GamerGate – the facts don’t really fit the narrative. First of all, the author was not talking about video games, but rather efforts to censor images of buxom ladies on Reddit. But more importantly — the author of the tweet is a young woman named Alison. Alison is a lesbian gamer who apparently enjoys gazing at images of busty women. For me, it is the game journalist’s tweet, not Alison’s, that is emblematic. It is an impossibly perfect illustration of a serious flaw in contemporary journalism: the narrative matters more than truth. The Rolling Stone’s apocryphal story about a gang rape at UVA is frequently cited as the classic example of narrative over-reach. But the press literature on GamerGate is strikingly similar.

According to dozens of media stories, #Gamergate is a nightmarish cabal of right wing males who will stop at nothing to keep women out of gaming. Comparisons with hate groups, lynch mobs and terrorists are not uncommon. In reality Gamergate has support from hundreds of thousands of rank and file video game enthusiasts from all over the world and across the political spectrum. Gamers identify with GamerGate for different reasons. A recurrent theme is consumerist – gamer journals are toadies for the game companies and need to be replaced by authentic critics, they say. Another — and the one that drew me into the world of gamers — is impatience with cultural scolds who evaluate games through the lens of political correctness. Are there some bullies and lunatics on the fringes of GamerGate? Yes there are. It’s the internet.

Media stories have focused on the female critics who have received hateful messages and even death threats. Those messages and threats are deplorable, but what the journalists typically fail to mention is that no one knows who sent them. Furthermore, those who defend Gamergate (males and females) have received hate mail and death threats as well. Too many in the media are addicted to a simplistic damsel in distress storyline — but inconveniently there are distressed damsels on both sides of the GamerGate controversy. The best data we have on on-line threats, a 2012 Pew Study for example, suggest that men, not women, are the primary targets.

Update, 10 December: It’s no wonder that outsiders to this fight (like me) get confused about who is who … I got a link from @Nezumi_Youjo asking me if I was going to post a retraction “now that it’s come out that Alison was a sockpuppet?” and provided me with a link to this article by Natalie Walschots:

Gamergate is good at perpetuating this fiction; otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten the time, attention, and platforms they have managed. But every once in a while, the facade falters, a crack appears, and we get a glimpse of the monster-cum-wizard behind the curtain.

The most immediate and chilling example? The recent tale of Alison Prime.

[…]

Steven Polk’s reluctance to accept help may have stemmed from the fact that he had another extensive community from which to draw support, once much larger and more nebulous than his next-door neighbors and Joe’s high school friends could offer, access or even understand. Reaching out to this network, however, was a much more complicated, and potentially dangerous, prospect.

On November 5, Steve Polk gave an extraordinary interview with Another Castle, a gaming site that purportedly caters to “all things nerd”: since 2009, and actively since September 2014, Steve had constructed and maintained an elaborately constructed online identity, that of a young woman called Alison Prime.

July 12, 2015

Gaming journalism

Filed under: Business, Gaming — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I really haven’t been following the uproar over the gaming journalism narrative … so this story may be completely off-base (but it does at least match some of what I’ve heard from folks who are invested in the argument):

Video game journalists: those guys who use phrases like “high octane,” “balls-to-the-wall” and “artistic integrity“; the sadomasochists who label factions of their own community xenophobes and fascists, for daring to express an ironic sense of humor; the enlightened few, who described fans as whiny and “entitled” for voicing their displeasure over the conclusion to a beloved franchise.

These past few years have not been kind to the gaming community. To put it mildly, of late, video game journalists have not been too generous to the gaming community.

“Give us your clicks, your Facebook shares, your unfaltering loyalty,” they say, all doe-eyed and loving. “Oh, and please don’t enable AdBlock!” Video game journalists excitedly invite their readership to view their news articles, reviews and opinion pieces, only to kick them to the curb when they’ve siphoned up the ad money. If that’s not how the state of play is, that’s certainly how it feels.

It’s like a depressing, unfulfilling booty call, where, ultimately, everyone comes out a little crustier and disease-ridden. The games journalists may earn some clicks for cash, but they lose little pieces of their souls, their innocence, their Bambi-like demeanor. Meanwhile, angry gamers hop about social networks, gnashing their teeth and venting their disdain for the press. The fans’ incredulity over the behavior of these journalists, in turn, makes the journalists just as incredulous. The fans feel downtrodden and used, the journalists feel violated and misunderstood, and a toxic cycle of hate ensues.

A number of culture critics and social crusaders have helped foster an atmosphere of tension and animosity, striking a war between gamers and members of the games press. However, while these individuals struck the match of the debate, the journalists hurriedly gathered the canisters of gasoline. In fact, little did the community realize, these self-interested people had not been on “their side” for quite some time.

H/T to Perry de Havilland for the link, and the rather eye-catching GIF:

Mass-Effect-3-IGN-review-score

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