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Rome – A Shameful Display September 3, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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I was not sure we were actually going to get together and play last Friday evening.  It was a holiday weekend.  Nobody had set up a Google event.  And, honestly, I was wondering if the group might want a break after the grand finale of the Civilization V game.

But then, a little while before our usual 9pm start time, I noticed that Loghound had put up an “are we playing tonight?” message.  So I put down Pokemon for a bit and wandered over to my desk to see what was up.  There was a hangout up so I joined without issue, now that I have come to realize that some change was made at Google’s end and they now assume that you have a video source and will wait to acquire it before letting you in, so I just have to click the button to turn off video to get in.

It was Mattman, Loghound, and myself and it looked like we were going to play a game.  The game we had previously chosen, after some deliberation (which included a poll that told us we should play Borderlands 2) and a timely Steam sale, was Total War: Rome II.

SGRome

But that was back in June.

And while Steam tells me that we all jumped right in and did… something… with the game back then, I am pretty sure that we hadn’t done very much since.  I know that I played through the tutorial mission, ran about a bit, glanced briefly at the multiplayer interface, and then went back to my Loremaster quest in WoW.  Total time played: 92 minutes.  Two months later, it was time to see what I remembered.

We all got Steam going and launched the game.  Both Mattman and I tried to host while Loghound, still in a borrowed house and running Steam off of an external hard drive on a less than stellar system, waited for thing to load.  I dropped my game, discovering that the button with the arrow at the lower left corner doesn’t mean “go back” as one might intuit, but rather will dump you from the game.  So I relaunched and tried to get into the game Mattman was hosting.  But the game had been set for two players and Loghound had got in ahead of me.

We started fiddling with thing and Loghound tried to leave the game so it could be reset and discovered the same thing I had about that button on the lower left, which left room for me to get into the match.  Then there was some more fiddling around as Mattman made it a four player game, with the three of us an an AI involved.  Then, since that left a human imbalanced.  So the game got bumped up two a six player match, with three AI players versus the three of us.  Now it was time to figure out what was what.

More after the cut.

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Civilization – The Glorious People’s Victory over Imperialist Aggression! August 27, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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All good things must come to an end… and even the dentist will eventually decide he has gotten the last bit of plaque from your gum line with that iron hook and cease his infernal gouging and scraping… and so it was with our game of Civilization V, entering into its 14th week of play.   As I mentioned last time, a number of victory conditions were beginning to hove into view and become distinct possibilities.

Things picked up as they had left off the previous week.  Mattman, Potshot, and I were online and in the game, ready for turn 751 to commence.  We were expecting Loghound as well, but as the appointed hour rolled around he wasn’t online, so we pressed on.

I managed to hold on to Babylon for the first turn, thwarting Nebuchadnezzar’s feeble counter-attack, and went on to take Akkad, the next city in line.

Rolling over Babylon

Rolling over Babylon

Potshot managed to roll over another Babylonian city to the north at the same time, so it was starting to look like the end of their empire.  After the mountainous terrain past their former capital was an open plain, the perfect venue for my combined arms assault.  It looked like Nebuchadnezzar would be joining Harun al-Rashid of Arabia as a leader without any cities left to lead.

Arabia was still nominally in the game, as we had not tracked down his final units.  Choosing the option that kept empires alive so long as they still had units was such a mistake.

Meanwhile, Mattman and his Chinese empire were buying influence with city states again.  With the world leader election about 10 turns off, one of the victory conditions I mentioned, his ambition was transparent.  So I decided to liven things up with a little ploy of my own.

More after the cut as we work towards the end of the game.

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Civilization – The Fall of Babylon August 20, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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The more people smoke herb, the more Babylon fall.

-Bob Marley

Babylon falling was certainly one of the possible scenarios as we went into the 13th session of our game of Civilization V.

Did you hear about the Netherlands?

Babylon awaits

This time around Loghound was off at a family event, but Mattman was back from camping, so he joined Potshot and I in the resumption of our campaign to reach some sort of victory condition.  But first we had to have trouble with Google.

In an attempt to avoid the problem last time, where Google seemed disinclined to let me join the event hangout, I went ahead and created the even for this week, stealing that job from Loghound.  However, while I created an event, I somehow did not attach a hangout to it and so… it was just an event.  I am not sure what good an event is in Google+ without a hangout.  It is more than a meeting reminder, since you can check in and such.

So Mattman, spotting my error, created a hangout and invited Potshot and I and, of course, Google wouldn’t let me join.  No idea why still.  Eventually I created a hangout and invited the other two, at which point we were joined together in all the audio/video splendor that this digital age allows.  Basically, three middle-aged guys on the a video conference call.

Finally we were able to get started, which meant letting the first turn drag out for a while as Mattman came to grips with how the AI had been handling his empire while he was away.  The phrase, “Deep, cleansing breaths” was muttered a number of times between sounds of exasperation.  But eventually he was able to reign in the AI’s deficit spending and “600 ship navy” plan so we could move on with the game.

More after the cut.

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Steam Mistake? Tropico 4 Collectors Bundle for 39 Cents [mistake fixed] August 16, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games.
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9 comments

The Tropico 4 Collector’s Bundle for 39 cents… um… I’m in.

99% off

99% off

You could literally sell a couple of trading cards to pick up this bundle.

I heard Alikchi spotted this and the word has spread.

Addendum: As noted in the comments, somebody at Steam noticed their mistake and the price has been changed.  It was climbing rapidly up the daily best seller list, so it seems like a lot of people got a bargain today.

Civilization – The Battle for Yaroslavl August 13, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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We returned for our twelfth round of this game of Civilization V, which started back in early May.  Joining me this week was Potshot and Loghound, it being Mattman’s turn for a week away.

I had a very simple goal for this round.  I wanted to knock out two, or maybe three if we were lucky, of the AI civilizations.  I figured that the fewer AIs gumming up the works, the more responsive the game would be.  And we had two very likely candidates.  Morocco, which had been hanging around without actually possessing a city since week 8, was first on the list.  Last week I had spotted what I had hoped were his last few units and I was ready to dispatch them as soon as we got going.

See you in hell Morocco!

See you in hell Morocco!

And then there was Russia, which had been reduced to a single city on a two hex island, hemmed in by Loghound and his Celts, and just waiting for the dagger to be driven home.

Yaroslavl Under Siege

Yaroslavl Under Siege

The potential third empire headed for destruction was that of Montezuma and the Aztecs.  With Potshot back it looked like we could renew our joint offensive and drive the Aztecs to the brink of destruction.

But first we had to start the game already.  More after the cut.

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Civilization – We Have Met The Enemy, And It Is The Game Itself August 6, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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We managed to assemble a group for the second week running, which isn’t as impressive as it sounds since we have already shown we will play if only two of us show up, letting the AI wreck havoc with the empires of those who fail to attend.  This time it started off with Mattman and I, Loghound having let us know that he was running behind but would join as soon as he could.

Potshot, however, was feeling under the weather… the weather being an oppressive hundred degrees Fahrenheit is his part of the state, so much misery… and would not be able to make it.

This was going to make the game “interesting” for me.  If Mattman or Loghound fail to show, it has very little impact on me.  Most of the time I barely know what they are up to on their side of the world, aside from fighting barbarians and Russians.  Potshot and I, however, have been cooperating allies in a war of conquest against the Aztecs.  We left off last match stuck into the enemy, hostilities still on and with the Babylonians throwing in against us.

Lunge into Montezuma's territory

Our lunge into Montezuma’s territory

The AI is very, very bad at cooperation.  And it isn’t just a matter of heightened self-interest.  The team working for Sid Meier managed to capture the petulant selfishness of a grumpy five year old for the diplomatic relations aspect of the AI.  So, when you look at why the AI civs are mad at you, it is things like, “You’re trying to be friends with Zurich, and they are MY friend! Go Away!” and “You have a city that I want!” and “You’re friends with China and I hate China, so now I hate you too!” along with “I won’t take this mutually beneficial trade deal because you were being mean to somebody else on the playground!”  Plus there is the whole, “You have ideological cooties!” thing.

It is like the devs got in there and said, “Realpolitik? Screw you, Ludwig von Rochau! We’re going with Kinderpolitik!”

So that programming was going to be driving my close ally with whom I share a border and a whole series of open border and mutual defense agreements, not to mention the whole coordination of the war thing.  I was clearly pessimistic as to how that would turn out.

More after the cut.

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Civilization – From the Halls of Montezuma July 29, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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You don’t look like you’re having fun.

-My wife, watching me play Civilization V

As I said in a previous post, this is no longer about fun.  This is a grudge match now to prove that we can stick it out and finish our epic game of Civilization V in spite of some poor choices made early on.  Can we see this through until one of us achieves one of the possible victory conditions?

After nearly a month’s hiatus that had us on a variety of real world activities that kept even two of us, the minimum needed to advance this multiplayer match, from meeting up on a Friday night, it was time for a game.  We were back at last.

Or at least three of us were.  Myself, Potshot, and Mattman were able to get on last Friday to continue the struggle.  Loghound was otherwise occupied, so the AI took over for him as the leader of the Celts again.  However, this time around the AI seemed to keep to his past agenda of sticking it to the Russians.

R2Wk10CeltsCarryOn

So there was that going on.

Meanwhile, the rest of us spent quite a bit of the first couple of turns trying to remember what was going on nearly a month back.

Mattman was still trying to make his populace unhappy so that he could change ideologies.  Still smarting from rashly declaring war on Loghound early on in the game, the scientific victory seemed like his best bet.

And Potshot and I were assessing our foothold on the Aztec lands.

Springboard to Victory!

Springboard to Victory!

We got that in our smash and grab campaign last time, after which we got Montezuma to accept a peace proposal.  But it was a bloody fight and we both needed some time to build up forces for our next strike.

More after the cut

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Civilization – Obama, Autocracy, and Expansion July 2, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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Am I trolling too hard with that headline?

Anyway, everybody was back in town and ready to go last week.  Mattman even had a few a few pictures to share in an attempt to convince us he had actually been in Hawaii, and which gave me the in for my choice of titles.

The utility president

The utility president, it’s all Ku

Mattman claims that the hotel in the background is some place near Waikiki, though staring at it long enough I have half convinced myself that the former U.S. embassy in Saigon is visible.  Still, probably nicer than East Timor.  And I don’t think I have seen the President looking that happy in quite some time.

So we were online, logged into Steam, and in Civ V for our first turn, and it was an epic first turn.  But I expected that it might be.  Both Loghound and Mattman had to figure out what the AI had done to their empires.

For Loghound, who had only missed a week,  it was not too big of an effort to get his empire turned around.  He was a bit miffed that the AI had basically put down a mine on every hill it could find, turning great swathes of his countryside into an industrialize mess.

Mining blight in the golden hills

Mining blight in the golden hills

But otherwise he was able to get things back on track.

Mattman though… Mattman had been gone for three weeks, giving the AI plenty of time to work its magic.

More after the cut.

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Looking to the Steam Summer Sale for the Next Game June 25, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, polls, Strategy Group.
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Our game of Civilization V goes on.  I just posted the Week 8 update yesterday.  Things are going well enough and we remain interested, amazed, and enthusiastic to complete the epic journey to victory that this has become.  I am going to guess that we have a good four more weeks of play left in the game (not counting July 4th, which will probably be an off week for all of us) before somebody gets a corner on a peaceful victory condition and either wins or unleashes a nuclear holocaust that eventually ushers in a domination victory over a radioactive landscape.

Chuck Hestonia nuked and open

Remember Chuck Hestonia!

But, as Potshot noted the other night, as cool as this experiment with a multi-month game of Civ V has been, when we get to the eventual end point of the game, our immediate reaction is likely not going to be, “Let’s do this again!”  A certain amount of pig-headed stubbornness is carrying us along at this point, making us determined to see this through.  But when we are done, we will likely be ready for something new.

We have started the discussion about the next thing at what seems quite the opportune time, as we are in the midst of the Steam Summer Sale.  While some are down on the whole thing this year… and I admit that once you have been through one or two, the excitement of things being on sale does wear a bit thin… there is certainly no reason not to take advantage of period of favorable pricing.  So a list of possible candidates has started to coalesce, which I am going to trot out here.  Comments on the games so listed are welcome, especially any insight on how the game might play in a four person multiplayer situation.  And, of course, you can offer up alternatives as well.

But, before you comment to promote your favorite game of the moment, I want to bring up some parameters that will likely apply to the choice.

First, this is not the MMO group.  MMORPGs are probably not going to fly here, so piping in with WildStar isn’t going to make for a useful comment. (Given that I haven’t even used the 7 day key that Liore gave me a couple weeks back, “WildStar” probably isn’t a useful comment on any post here at the moment.)

The game should also be substantially playable in a single evening.  Clearly the Civ V experiment shows that we can play a game over several weeks, I am just not sure we want to jump back into that right away.

And I am going to come out generally against turn based games, as some of us become quite absorbed in the decision making process with others are not very patient.  Turn based isn’t a deal breaker in the right situation, but any scenario where three of us end up waiting on the fourth to make his move will either need to be a game that is generally fast in pace or a game that includes a turn clock.  So while Eador: Masters of the Broken World sounds interesting when SynCaine writes about it, I am not sure we can handle its depth and keep a game running.

With that in mind, here is what has been proposed so far. (Mostly by me.)

Total War: Rome II

SGRome

Loghound put out Total War: Rome II as an option.  I know people who like the game.  Gaff has played through it.  I have played a couple of the past games in the series.  If this is like its predecessors, the tactical game is very much in the detailed RTS vein, so no turns or anything.  I am just not sure how multiplayer works or if it is suitable for a group of four.  Also, there are some minor concerns about how much processing power the game might take.  But after Civ V, we ought to be okay if we stick to machines from this decade.

Possible alternatives: Any of the Total War series, I think I bought them all in a past Steam sale

Company of Heroes 2

SGCompanyOfHeroes2

I tossed Company of Heroes 2 on the list as a more modern alternative to Total War: Rome II.  I actually own this via a past Steam sale and have played through the tutorial, but not much else.  As with Rome II, I am not sure how suitable it is to four player for a multiplayer match.  Also struck me as a bit “arcade-ish” in the tutorial, though that might just be the tutorial, and if it isn’t, it still might not necessarily be a bad thing.  And Gaff likes it.

Possible alternatives: The original Company of Heroes, the second Combat Mission series.

Driver: San Francisco

SGDriver

Driver: San Francisco was my suggestion in order to shake things up and try something that did not involve us throwing armies at each other.  Instead, we could throw moving vehicles at each other.  The game got good reviews, is pretty reasonably priced for the summer sale, the multiplayer options sound interesting, and it involves driving around San Francisco, an area we all know well enough to at least know when we’re lost or not.  Against all of that, I do not know anybody who has actually played it.

Possible alternatives: Need for Speed: World, a billion other driving games

Boarderlands 2

SGBorderlands2

Borderlands 2 is well reviewed, very popular, and has a four player co-op mode that I understand works very well.  Another game I already own thanks to a sale at Amazon for a Steam key.  And another game I haven’t played very much of as I stink.  But are we ready for a shooter?  And, more importantly, are we ready for a shooter where we don’t get to shoot each other?

Possible alternatives: Call of Duty series, or any other co-op shooter, some of which even include zombies.

Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator

SGArtemis

No, not the card game… though that might be an idea… Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator is basically the game vehicle for playing out your Star Trek bridge fantasies.  This is a long shot, but I bring it up because a friend (and occasional reader BlueLineBasher) gave me a copy and I haven’t done anything with it.  This might be good for a single Friday lark, but we would have to pick somebody to be captain who would take it at least semi-seriously.  Alcohol might be required.

Possible alternatives: Urmm… are there any?

Ticket to Ride

SGTicketToRide

I didn’t even know Ticket to Ride was available on the PC until I saw it on the Steam Summer Sale list.  This is one of those awesome board game conversions that keeps all the great bits of the original game while removing the bad bits… like placing all those little train counters and then picking them up again when the cat attacks the game board.  It is one of my favorite games on the iPad.  But the game is easy enough that my past experience doesn’t give me any real advantage.  While it it turn based, it does tend to be fast paced, and against real people it can be a rage-inducing cut-throat experience.  So it has that going for it.  But are we up for board games?

Possible alternatives: Other digital version of board games such as Settlers of Catan or some Carcassonne variant.

StarCraft II

SGStarCraft2

As an alternative, we could just forget Steam and go for the update to the original perfectly balanced rock, paper, scissors RTS, StarCraft II.  While it did not make as big a splash as the original, that was in part because Blizzard tried very hard not to mess it up, so it ended up being mostly StarCraft brought forward to the current decade… which is a good thing.  It isn’t on sale, but Blizzard is in its own summer doldrums right now, so it is possible they might cut us a break before our Civ V game wraps up.

Possible alternatives: The original StarCraft, something from the Command & Conquer series

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation

Potshot actually brought up Total Annihilation, my all-time favorite RTS, and I am using that as an excuse to list it.  The physic in it is great, the variety of units almost boggles the mind, it still looks damn good for a game from 1997, it is available for cheap (and DRM free) over at GoG.com, and because of its age it now runs great on just about anything… which probably includes Mattman’s antique coal fired Ye Olde ThinkePayde portable difference engine.  And, of course, it has simple victory conditions (kill the commander) and nuclear weapons.  The Achilles’ heel is that I love the game and my knowledge of it will give me an unfair advantage.

Possible alternatives: Speak not to me about Supreme Commander, it is but a pale shadow of Total Annihilation… but maybe Planetary Annihilation when it ships.

Summing Up

So those are the choices that come to my mind.  I would certainly be interested in hearing about multiplayer experiences with any of these games, especially involving four players.

And, because I haven’t had a poll in a while, I will put one up so you can indicate your favorite pick without having to much around with the whole comment thing.

 

 

Civilization – Autocracy and the Pursuit of Happiness June 24, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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6 comments

We had something of a small turnout for our game last Friday.  It was just Potshot and I, with Mattman still on vacation and Loghound busy until late that evening.  Still, part of the idea behind this epic length game was that people could drop out from one week to another and have the AI take over for them so the game could continue to progress.  And, if it had to be two players on, then Potshot and I were probably a good pair, as we had been working together on our continent, unlike Loghound and Mattman, who went to war about as early as they possibly could, leaving at least Mattman somewhat weak in a neighborhood of hostile AI players.

We started off the game, wondering what might happen now that both Loghound’s Celts and Mattman’s Chinese empires were being run by AI players.  The AI players tend to be somewhat bizarro world in their behavior, and the AI did not waste any time getting straight to it.

The Celts, with whom Loghound had been mercilessly hounding Russia last week, taking city after city, launched almost immediately into a public denunciation of the Chinese because… I don’t know… eff Mattman?  The Russians then forms a mutual admiration society with the Chinese…

R2Wk8RussiaChina

and then with the Assyrians…

R2Wk8RussiaAssyria

and then… I don’t know.  They all sat around and glared at each other I guess.  China advanced far enough to choose an ideology and went with Freedom… and then the people of China overthrew the Freedom ideology and demanded Autocracy, or so reported the People’s Daily.

R2Wk8ChinaRises

Freedom just isn’t in the cards for everybody I gather.

More after the cut.

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