Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holiday gaming

After a long time of being snowed in, I finally got out and about as of Monday. The snow is still clumped in some areas around beautiful Lynnwood, although to the south, it's much clearer. I live in what's called the "Convergence Zone." This means that whenever the weather is crappy in the Pacific Northwest, it's even crappier in the CZ.

Monday was DANG (Dave's Annual Naval Game). Not me Dave, but the other Dave, Dave Schueler. Dave has been running DANG for several years now and I've made it to most of them. It's a biggish event with about six to eight players and a lavish spread of food. Most years it's been a kind of mini naval campaign that generates several actions. This year's event was a single modern naval action set hypothetically in disputed waters between Australia and Indonesia. We used the Harpoon naval rules. I played on the Aussie side and for several turns had the only viable RANS ship in the area. Fortunately, it was an Adelaide class FFG, HMAS Newcastle. The Adelaide is was Oz calls a Perry class frigate. It has a single missile launcher that is capable of dealing a lot of misery in a short time. Only four Harpoons, but a world of SM2s and smaller AA missiles. The Harpoons are the ship-killers, but I had the most effect with the SM2s firing in an anti-ship rôle. 

In the opening phase of the game, the Aussies had to evacuate crews for three oil rigs and get the evacuation force off the board. I'm not sure what the Indonesians needed to do, but they didn't do it in any case. All the crews were evacuated, though we lost a rig tender that had been attempting to evacuate the crew of one rig. The Newcastle shot up two Indonesian gunboats and an Indonesian frigate without loss to itself. It also survived a bombing pass by a flight of Indonesian F-5s taking down one of the attacking aircraft. From there, it proceeded to carry out mission orders to destroy all oil rigs in the area (ours and theirs) and shell a shore installation. At this point, its charmed life ran out--but not before a little more charm came its way.

By attacking the northernmost Indonesian rigs with gunfire, I strayed well out of support range of the three Adelaide class frigates that made up the Australian response force. The Indonesians had their own response force of gunboats and corvettes that popped onto our radar screens just before they started launching volleys of Harpoon and Exocet missiles. I lucked out for one turn when the Indonesian missiles locked onto my escort, the gunboat HMAS Bathurst, and a nearby oil rig that I was attacking with gunfire. Both were utterly destroyed without effect on the Newcastle. Then the shrimp hit the barbie. The next Indonesian salvo was 16 missiles. I managed to decoy or shoot down several, but the several others that got through finished me off with *boom* to spare.

The only thing that spared Newcastle from overwhelming overkill was the presence of my other ship, HMAS Sydney. I sailed north at full speed and caught a salvo from the other batch of Indonesian ships. I was able to get off an opportunity shot of four Harpoons and five SM2s at the Indonesians, but their hits on me were crippling. I managed to sink a corvette and damage another ship, but my sensors were knocked out, so my missiles were out of action. Another small salvo came in and I was sure it was curtains for the Sydney. However, the lovely Phalanx defense system has its own radar and came in to decoy and shoot down every missile in the salvo. That was the last shot for the Indonesians. Out of missiles and with two unscathed Adelaide class FFGs heading toward them, the Indonesians turned around and ran for home waters. The game was declared an Aussie win, but at the cost of one frigate lost and one heavily damaged.

Today, Dave came over and we indulged ourselves with some boardgames. I love boardgames, but I get little opportunity to play. I have several new ones that I was hoping to try.

Game 1 was Texas Glory from Columbia Games. I played the Texians and Dave was Santa Anna and his minions. It's a bit overwhelming to see a juggernaut of Mexicans coming on, but the key to Texian victory is to hold on--or get really lucky and catch "The Napoleon of the West" with his pants down. I lost the Alamo (thanks for tryin' Davey), but I held on at Goliad. The Mexicans were now storming into central Tejas with their bloodlust up, burning towns and committing depredations all the way. Texas Glory uses cards to determine what you can move each turn and some of the cards represent "events" such as the ability to launch a surprise attack or send Comanches at your opponent. I had Sam Houston and a force of good troops, including the New Orleans Grays and a strong unit of riflemen, at the town of Victoria and I had the "Deguello" card to play. The card let me fight to the finish. (Normally, a combat is ended after three rounds, the attacker having to retire if any defenders are left.) My hope was to strike out and eliminate one group of Mexicans. As luck would have it, his nibs the generalissimo/el presidente was there in person. After four rounds of combat, the Mexican force was eliminated and Santa Anna lost, an instant win for the Texians.

Games 2 and 3 were Conflict of Heroes by Academy Games. This is a sort of Eurogame meets Squad Leader. The system is very interesting. It lacks the detail--the excruciating detail--of Advanced Squad Leader, but the play is challenging and focuses a lot more on how you use command resources. You start each turn with a set number of command points and for each unit you activate you get seven unit action points. You use any combination of action points and/or command points to do things with units like fire, move, and rally. That's the simple description. Dave and I both liked the game, so I hope to have more opportunities to play. We played the first two scenarios. I played Russians in scenario one and lost, Dave played Russians in scenario two and lost. I'm not sure if that's a theme that's developing.

Game 4 was Command & Colors: Ancients by GMT Games. We played the Gaugamela scenario from expansion 1 and I was the Macedonians (Alexander) by random choice. I was a little worried about the horde of Persians facing me. However, they were mostly light troops and I had Al and his Companion cavalry on my side. Dave played aggressively and ran his heavier troops out in front of his light troops. This gave me a big advantage in ranged fire with my light troops. He succeeded in eliminating one of my units, but I had a lot of good rolls and was able to do a lot of damage. I think he may have eliminated another unit, so the game ended 7-2 in my favor. We played a few games of Command & Colors earlier and I've come to like the system a lot. It's simple and has enough flavor to be interesting as often as you play it. I have all the expansions now, so I've got around 80 scenarios to play.

This coming Saturday is Drumbeat III. This is a newish event hosted by a long-term NHMGS member (and many-times president) Dick Larsen. It's a one-day miniature gaming event in Seattle. As the "III" might suggest, it's the third year Dick has hosted this. I'll be running a Field of Glory game and, I hope, playing in a General Quarters III naval game in the Morning. So, I still have more holiday gaming ahead.

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's the Snowpocalypse!

So, I've been snowed in since Thursday afternoon when the latest episode of our snowstorm hit. Here in the Puget Sound area, it just doesn't snow on a regular basis. In the 17 years that I've lived here, most winters go by without a single day of snow and the years when it does snow, it's usually just a light frosting that melts by midday.

It's quite a shock to be dealing with this for more than a week. The region isn't equipped to deal with heavy and long-term snowfall, so everything just stops, except for the few crazies on the road who think their Subaru is an Arctic tractor. The snow hit last Saturday evening and has been falling intermittently ever since. Monday through Wednesday were three days of slight warming that gave way to a snowfall starting Thursday afternoon that remained pretty steady through Sunday.

I am snowbound. Like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. That turned out well.

Evil snowy buildup on the back veranda and hummingbird feeder

My beloved Nissan 350z is a total wanker in the snow. I see my neighbors hopefully digging out their SUVs and AWD vehicles only to have them slip and spin uphill out of the townhome complex wherein Stately Chez Dave is located. The Z couldn't even make it out of the garage.

Digging out the family car--NOT a tradition in Lynnwood

I took advantage of barely drivable conditions earlier in the week to stock up on food, so I don't have to contend with my cats over which of us will eat the other. I am, however, jonesing for a latté and the nearest Starbuck's is too far to walk to. Which is ironic because in the mail that arrived sometime on Friday or Saturday (which I didn't bother going out to pick up until Sunday), I got a Starbuck's gift card that sits here taunting me.

Weather conditions look iffy for the next week. I worked at home all last week and continue so today and tomorrow. Starting Wednesday, I'm off until Jan 5. At this point I don't know when I'll be able to leave the house. I'm almost down to surviving on canned soups and chili. Of course, I have Fritos to go with the chili, so it's not that dismal...

The cats are holding up well. They're indoors all the time anyway, so having me snowbound just gives them more opportunity to pester and annoy me as they demand my obedience to their every whim.

"I don't care if it's snowing, Dave. Go out and get the freakin' marshmallows before the fire dies down!"

I have plans for the holidays--some already dashed, others doubtful. I can stay at home and read or paint. Mostly I post on Facebook about how much I hate the snow.