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Rome – Exiled to the AI Team October 10, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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We managed to get all four of us online and together again last Friday.  Mattman, Potshot, myself, and Loghound were all in the hangout, with Loghound telling us about his new Windows 8.1 64-bit install on his Mac, upgraded from an older 32-bit version, allowing him to take full advantage of his hardware.  A copy of Windows 7 64-bit wasn’t readily available, so he had to go with Microsoft’s “tablets are the future, even if you don’t have a touch screen!” UI.  The cost for him to play Total War: Rome II has now moved into triple digits.

SGRome

But he has that to fall back on now for the next game that claims to run on the Mac OS, but has some issues.  In the case of Rome II, it apparently supports multiplayer on the Mac OS, but you can only play with other Mac OS clients.

Life in the world of video games.

With an even number on, we were able to carry on with last week’s river crossing scenarios without a need to have an AI opponent.  After a couple of warmups with the AI while everybody loaded in, where I played as the Spartans, we picked sides.  The teams were Mattman and I versus Potshot and Loghound.  I returned to my usual practice, playing as Rome, along with Loghound, while Mattman went Macedonian and Potshot chose some barbarian horde from Gaul I think.

I am not going to say I am good at this game, because I am not.  But I am okay at taking advantage of the mistakes of others.  So when Mattman and I were given the task of attackers, we each built up our force at one of the two river crossings, hoping one of us could break through, cross the river, and come to the aid of the other.  Not the best plan, I will admit.  It does ignore that bit about concentration of forces.  On the other hand, it keeps and problems with divided command and coordination of effort away as well.

As for what Potshot and Loghound did, you will have to look after the cut.

(more…)

The View from the Last Pre-Draenor Darkmoon Faire October 9, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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I only just realized last night that it was Darkmoon Faire this week.  I asked my daughter why she did not remind me of this, to which she replied, “That’s not my job.”

Teenagers.

But it is true that I am usually the one reminding people that it is time once again for Darkmoon Faire.

I became quite the fan of Darkmoon Faire at some point around Cataclysm, when the fair settled down to a regular monthly schedule and location and beefed up its offerings.

Looking at Darkmoon Faire

Looking at Darkmoon Faire

Specifically, the profession quests hooked me.  Since the dark days of ennui after the Cataclysm launch, I have pushed a wide selection of my characters through those quests month in and month out.  This actually got me past some of the flat spots in leveling up some of those skills.  You only advance your profession by five points every month, but sometimes that is enough.  I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have a 600 skill leatherworker today if it were not for Darkmoon Faire.  Oh the pain.

So month in and month out a gaggle of my characters wander through the fair, skilling up their professions just a notch, getting a bit of experience and a wee bit of faction.  My main, Vikund, finally hid exalted with Darkmoon Faire just last month.  Given how long that took, I was a bit disappointed that there was no achievement for it.  Ah well.  And, of course, there are those Darkmoon Faire prize tickets slowly accumulating on all those characters.

But this month… well… October is turning into an odd month.

I’ve gone into something of a cool down in Azeroth, not wanting feel worn out on WoW in any way when the Warlords of Draenor expansion drops.  The instance group is still on its summer hiatus.  I got that last set of mounts I wanted out of The Burning Crusade content.  And I have put my Loremaster achievement ambitions aside in the Blade’s Edge Mountains for now.  But Darkmoon Faire, I could not let that pass.

Because by November I expect the world to be different.  We won’t get the Warlords of Draenor expansion until November 13, but I strongly suspect that we will get the WoW 6.0 patch by the end of this month.  And that patch contains all the underpinnings, all the changes and updates and evolutions, that are required for the expansion.  The great stat squish will be here soon.  Even Darkmoon Fair is getting some changes, though those sound like upgrades, unlike some of the things Blizzard is taking away.

And so I started logging in my list of characters last of night for their regular run through the faire.  I even remembered to buy the flour for the cooking quest with each character before going through the portal.  I have some more to log in before the fair wraps up on Saturday night, which is plenty of time.

After that though, the month will likely remain quiet for me in Azeroth, at least until the big pre-expansion patch drops.  Then it will be time to start figuring out the game yet again as we head towards Draenor.  November looms.

Addendum:  And the pre-expansion patch got a date, October 14.

Here come the changes

Here come the changes

(In contrast to WoW I have been playing a lot more EVE Online this month, and EVE has a “big changes” expansion set to drop in November as well.  That, however, is mostly due to what looks like a last minute hurrah by some of our traditional foes looking to get in some action before Phoebe reduces their ability to roam New Eden at will.  Have you seen how far Nulli Secunda lives from us?)

Quote of the Day – Warning! Lark’s Vomit! October 8, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Quote of the Day.
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Well, I hardly think this is good enough. I think it would be more appropriate if the box bore a great red label “Warning! Lark’s Vomit!”

Inspector Praline of the Hygiene Squad, Crunchy Frog sketch

That isn’t actually the quote of the day, which has to do with ArcheAge and the way it installs (but does not uninstall) the ineffectual HackShield anti-cheating rootkit on your system.  That just sums up my reaction to the quote, which comes from a Massively exclusive… something.

I’m not sure what to call it.

It doesn’t look like an interview.  Certainly nobody from Trion is mentioned.  It looks more like Trion had a lawyer respond to some questions submitted by Massively.  For some reason the question revolved around the legality of installing HackShield.  Is the gist supposed to be that if a company can do something, they shouldn’t be called out for doing it?  Anyway, this was a bit of what was said:

Yes, the program is always installed completely legally and with permission of the user as goes everything else that comes as part of the “patch” that they choose to install in order to play the game. The Hackshield logo is also prominently displayed on-screen while the program is loading and users are fully aware that the program is installed, and is running upon launching ArcheAge.

As Inspector Praline put it, I hardly think this is good enough.  Telling me you’ve installed this sort of thing by prominently displaying the logo after the fact is a bullshit response.  When I installed ArcheAge, I would have mostly likely cancelled the install and went off to other things.  But I did not have that choice.  So I am going to suggest that Trion use this logo for ArchAge going forward:

AAWarningHackShield

And, should the user go forward, I would then have a warning come up with the installer BEFORE the install process has taken place.  Maybe something like this:

AAsurgeongeneralswarning

That would satisfy me, though maybe the Surgeon General isn’t the right go to person for network security.  Well that, and if the ArcheAge installer would actually uninstall HackShield, rather than leaving the service behind running on my system.

I can hear somebody out there asking why they should care.  Why shouldn’t Trion install this on their system?

Well, I might be more sympathetic to that point of view if they mentioned some tangible user benefit in installing HackShield. Does this, for example, enhance the security of my own account?  Or is this just a blanket admission that, again, the client is in the hands of the enemy and all users are presumed to be cheats.    Trion standing behind the software might buy some good will as well.  But Trion telling me they don’t like it, but changing it would have pushed out the ArcheAge release by 6+ months isn’t making me feel warm and fuzzy.

My personal beef starts with the fact that I did not sign up with HackSiheld’s creator, AhnLab, Inc., and have no standing or relationship with them, but Trion seems to be declining to take responsibility for anything AhnLab does, so where does that leave the end user?  SynCaine has been making SOE comparisons, but did SOE spent much time pointing fingers at the original developer when it came to games like Wizardry Online and Dragon’s Prophet?

Meanwhile ArcheAge seems to be experiencing more than its fair share of hacking these days.  This sort of thing happens to a certain extent with every online game, but if you control the anti-hacking aspect of the game, you can respond to this sort of thing quickly, before it destroys your economy.  That makes Trion’s statement that HackShield will stop the vast majority of hacking attempts ring a little hollow.  But how does one balance those two points of view?  Is Trion overselling HackShield (while still saying they don’t like it) or would ArcheAge be almost infinitely worse without it?  Or both?

And the software itself… I have a long dislike of this sort of thing, going all the way back to the early days of PunkBuster.  Letting a third party handle your anti-cheat protection adds up to abdicating control on that front, and while the claim is that false positives are rare, there isn’t much you can do when you are the one triggering such.  You can make comparisons to Blizzard and their Warden technology, but at least Blizzard owned Warden and could change it when they so desired. (And Warden would, you know, actually uninstall with WoW.)

Finally, there is the system security front, which I am a bit more paranoid about these days after my company had me take a few classes on that front.   Now I see attack vectors all over.  So just color me hyper-sensitive there.

Now most of that is just my personal subjective baggage.  I didn’t like HackShield after I read up on it, so I uninstalled ArcheAge and then used Google to help me figure out how to get HackShield off of my system.  Job done.  You are free to make your choice on that subject, balancing your own paranoia (or lack thereof) against your desire to play the game.  I will admit that I might be more forgiving if I was invested in playing the game.  It is easy to uninstall the game that didn’t interest you all that much in the first place.  It is likewise easy to overlook the flaws of a game in which you are completely invested.  (Day one EverQuest springs to mind.)

But I still feel that Trion claiming, because I agreed to something in their EULA which said they could do whatever they wanted, that they should be immune to criticism for not bothering to tell me that HackShield was being installed until after the fact, thus depriving me of the ability to make an informed choice until it was too late, is, as I noted above, a bullshit response.

Your lark’s vomit?  Do not want!

(insert your favorite do not want picture from the internet here)

Another Null Sec Achievement! October 8, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec.
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There we were.  The ping had gone out.  Nulli Secunda was running around Deklein.  They were in YA0-XJ, our staging system, when I logged on.  all 54 of them.

A fleet was formed.

We piled into Tengu fleet doctrine ships to fight them.  We undocked, but our scouts reported they were running.

Reagalan, our FC secured us a titan.  We could cut them off.  All we had to do was get bridge to a system a couple jumps out to cut them off.  We had eyes on them, we knew where they were headed.

We hit the staging POS first, then Reagalan had us warp to him on the titan.  We all bunched up there, looking straight into the face of the giant Amarr titan, the Avatar.  Reagalan asked the titan pilot to bridge us to the beacon in the cut-off system.  We started intently at the titan, waiting for the visual effect that would indicate that the bridge was up.

The tension mounts...

The tension mounts…

Nothing happened.  Reagalan nudged the titan pilot again.

Suddenly the Avatar, this giant visage right before us, transforms itself into a red ball of energy and disappears as a streak into the distance.

Poof!  Gone!

There was a moment of silence as we processed what happened, and then fleet chat broke out in hilarity.

The pilot selected “jump to” instead of “bridge to” and sent himself off to the cut-off system, while we were all left to run there the hard way.

Fortunately Nulli Secunda was too busy heading out of our space to see the titan.  Not that they could have made much of an issue of it, as we were very quickly burning through gates as fast as we could to catch up.  Reagalan got himself popped racing ahead, but otherwise everything was okay.

So we headed back to YA0-XJ, catching a hostile on the way.

I have heard about titan pilots mixing up “jump” and “bridge” before.  It was how the battle of Asakai happened.  But to see it happen was quite a thing.  I feel steeped in just that much more of the null sec experience.  I can now mark that off of my list of things to experience.  And, some day, should I fly a titan, I will try to follow the simple guide.

Picture source: unknown

Picture source: unknown

All the more so because once Phoebe drops in about a month, there will be the heart ache of jump fatigue to deal with.  Then again, a titan won’t be able to get very far away after Phoebe either. Fun stuff.

 

SWTOR and a New Twist on Insta Levels October 7, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
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Star Wars: The Old Republic continues trucking along, successful by all reasonable measures save comparisons to the Azerothian behemoth.  It is arguably more successful than Star Wars Galaxies ever was.   Somebody likes EA’s fourth pillar.

Yes, SWTOR has to walk the free to play path, the reality of the current market, while trying to coax people back into subscribing lest they have to purchase their hot bars a la carte.  But it is still moving along some of the more traditional paths, to the point of some still counting it as a subscription MMO.  It has had expansions and increases to the level cap and what not.

And so it is just part of the normal MMO cycle that they have a new expansion (or new DLC according to some… what is the border between the two?), Shadow of Revan, coming out December 9th.

Revan, sans shadow...

Revan, sans shadow…

I suppose we should be thankful that they decided not to drop in November like all those other MMOs.

But 2014 is shaping up to be the year of insta levels.  The growing trend is to give your players a way to vault past a lot of early and middle content in your game in order to line them up to be able to experience the new hotness that is your latest expansion.  As Tom Chilton said:

By building expansions, you are effectively building up barriers to people coming back. But by including the level 90 character with this expansion, it gives people the opportunity to jump right into the new content.

Of course, Blizzard wasn’t the first to market with that idea.  SOE was out there ahead of them with a level 85 boost in EverQuest II before the Warlords of Draenor announcement.  But the World of Warcraft insta-90 boost made the bigger splash, and sells for the bigger bucks, weighing in with a $60 toll to get to 90.

The alleged price of level 90

The reality in Azeroth

Anyway, insta levels have become a thing and you can get them by one means or another in EverQuest, EverQuest II, World of Warcraft, Rift, and Lord of the Rings Online if the moon is in the right house and you think getting to level 50 in a 100 level game is a worthwhile purchase.  And EA needs to live in the ecosystem.

Which brings us to the Shadow of Revan expansion.  People more knowledgeable than I are talking about the expansion in general and features like dumping talent trees.  You can find some of that at:

While I played a bit of SWTOR this year, it wasn’t enough for me to feel that I know squat about the game or how important a new expansion and five more levels might be.  But I am interested in one pre-order aspect of the whole expansion.

Revan12xBoost

In case you cannot read the fine print, EA is offering subscribers who pre-order a 12x boost to experience earned by class story quests. (Some details on what that means.)  While that isn’t handing out levels, it is making them much less difficult to obtain, though that might not be enough for some.

The interesting/awkward bit is that this is a limited time offer, and the boost expires on December 1st.  That is definitely pushing people to subscribe and buy the expansion sooner rather than later in order to take advantage of the boost.  And if you do roll with this you will no doubt know more about your character and class and the storyline of the game, even having played through at high speed, than you would have if they had just given you a level 55 boost.  The problem comes on December 2nd, when the talent tree system you just spent all those quick levels getting acquainted with goes away, to be replaced by the new discipline system.  That seems like kind of a misstep, but maybe most people don’t have as much problem re-learning how to play a character as I do.

Now, up to this point, you can make a strong argument that this 12x boost doesn’t belong in the same bucket as the other insta level schemes I mentioned.  While there is the whole “but you have to play those levels, even if they are fast” aspect, I think that is much weaker than the limited time nature of the boost.

But if down the road a ways EA puts that 12x boost to level 55 in the cash shop, I am going to say it pretty much falls in the same category, being clearly intended as a way for the player to pay not to play as much of the game as you otherwise might have to, as opposed to the garden flavor of xp boosts most free to play games offer, which I cannot recall ever exceeding 2.5x.

What do you think?

We Pay Black Legion a Visit October 6, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec.
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We are suddenly living in interesting times in New Eden.  Change is coming.  A lot of people think they know how things will play out, but when CCP is telling people that they cannot predict the results, it can be hard to tell which pundit has some deep insight versus just some wishful thinking.

In addition to my own minor predictions, I am going to guess that, over the next few weeks, we will be witnessing the last hurrah of easy jump drive and jump bridge travel.  The Phoebe expansion and its huge travel changes, expected to drop in early November, looms and all good pilots in New Eden are at least making contingency plans.  The wise are making sure all their jump clone related skills are up to snuff.  The traders are stockpiling goods, the industrialists materials.  Those needing to have stuff shipped are doing it now rather than later, as shipping charges are expected to jump.  And I am willing to bet that alliances with supercapital heavy doctrines will be looking to get in some last-minute cross-region hot drops.

And those of us who have been flying subcaps back and forth across half the galaxy in order to defend the empire… we’ll be eager to do a few last farewell flings across space as well.

So it was Saturday when Reagalan put out a ping on Jabber that he would be doing something hilarious and that he had a fleet up, but that the doctrine was as yet undecided.

Once nearly 200 people showed up and piled in on that promise, it was time to pick ships.  Reagalan wanted to go with the new Hawk fleet doctrine which he has been championing, however logistics held us back.  There just weren’t any Hawks up on contract.  Some of us had them, but most of the fleet did not.  So the doctrine was changed to Harpy fleet, while asking some people to stay with Hawks to give us some more tacklers.  I opted for a Harpy because I happened to have three in the station, so I figured I might as well lose something I already had backup on.  Besides which, as I found out with Sunday’s fight, the Hawk fleet configuration changed a bit and my Hawk needed to be refit to be brought up to date.

The act of nearly 200 of us swapping ships brought up TiDi in the system.  CCP is going to have to put some more CPU power behind our new home, what with fleet assemblies and Black Legion coming to visit.

Once shipped, it was time to undock and head out to… wherever it was we were going.

Most dramatic undock screen shot yet

Most dramatic undock screen shot yet

That was some more TiDi, as was the move through the first few gates.  Other ops were likely in progress.

We started down a route I had not previously been aware of, and Reagalan had been very quiet about our actual destination, no doubt in the name of operational security.  But eventually he had to tell us where we were headed.  We ended up joining the old convoy route to Fountain, and by the time we got to J5A he had put NOL-M9 in as a destination for fleet.  We were headed to Delve.

Which was something of a pisser.  I have a jump clone and the correct doctrine ship down in Delve.  I could have just landed down there and waited for everybody else to take the jump bridge highway from Deklein.

Looking at another jump bridge array...

Looking at another jump bridge array…

That is the problem with op sec.  You can’t just ping that you want people for form up in YA0 and then add in the bit about jump cloning to Delve if you’re trying to keep the hostiles from being totally aware that you are coming.  So my jump clone sat unused, still saved for a rainy day, or Phoebe, whichever comes first.  I suppose I did get to update some jump bridge bookmarks.  The Oceanus expansion last week changed the rules a bit on where jump bridges could be anchored, so some of them had to move, obsoleting some bookmarks.

We were headed to Delve to support our southern cousins in the CFC.  FA had a fleet coming from Fountain, while the LAWN gnomes were forming up along with The Initiative to defend their turf.   A tower in NPC null had been put in reinforce so there was going to be a timer fight and Black Legion, also crossing the galaxy for a fight, was expected to be there.  Time for a bit of pay back for our losses at YA0 Thursday evening.  We had to fart about a bit camping a gate to see if we could grab anybody headed to the fight, but eventually we jumped into G-TT5V, warped to the tower in question, and found a fight in progress.

Landing at the tower

Landing at the tower

We were a little far off from the fight, so Reagalan warped us off and then back on top of Black Legion where we anchored up and started in.  Bubbles went up around the fight.  The numbers were in our favor, so the key to things was to pin them down, kill off their logistics, and then chop them up one by one.

Ball of Tengus in the bubbles

Ball of Tengus in the bubbles

As a percentage of their force, their logistics was not as prevalent as they were at YA0 two days before, and they did not seem to be as well coordinated.  This may have been due to there being different fleets calling different targets, thus spreading the Scimitar reps more thinly.  Whatever it was, we were able to start breaking the tanks on their Scimitars, and pretty soon they were going down as quickly as we could lock them up and start shooting.  With support down, our path to juicier targets was clear.

Black Legion Chimeras

Black Legion Chimeras

Black Legion had three Chimera carriers on the field, which we proceeded to target and turn to scrap one by one.

A Chimera wreck, and a soon to be wreck

A Chimera wreck, and a soon to be wreck

Three carriers down and the battle was really going our way.  Without logistics to support them, bubbled up and unable to flee, the Tengus were meat before us, waiting to be consumed.

And then, as we were laying down another round of  bubbles on Black Legion, some allied stealth bombers dropped on the Tengus and bombed them.  This was unfortunate, as they did not have nearly the firepower to do more than scratch the Black Legion fleet, but they had more than enough blast to clear away the bubbles.  The Tengus, already burning to get out of the bubbles, was clear to warp away.

There was some chasing about.  We managed to drop on and tackle one hostile in an asteroid belt.

Harpies unleash

Harpies unleash

But Black Legion had freedom of action and was able to dock up in the Blood Raiders station in system to avoid further loss.

We kept the station under guard while the other fleets finished up their business and withdrew.  The most expendable fleet gets to fly cover while the more expensive assets pull out.

Sitting on the Blood Raiders station

Why does every Amarr structure look like it was made out of Apoc parts?

We sat outside and made chicken sounds and attempted to goad Black Legion into undocking, but Elo Knight merely responded in local that sticks and stones might break his Tengus, but words would never hurt him.  At least I think that is when he uttered those words.  That might have happened on Sunday when we had him holed up in the station at 5ZXX-K.  I forget which.

Once everybody was clear, we were able to withdraw and get on the jump bridge highway back to the north.  Our movements may be hampered come November, but it is still October.  Black Legion also headed north.  As noted in the previous post, we ended up facing them along with Nulli Secunda in Pure Blind just a day later, and then again later that night up in Deklein.  They were not able to repeat their performance at YA0 and the Sunday night brawl devolved into us chasing their Ishtars all over 2R-CRW in Hawks while they tried to escape.

But the fight at G-TT5V at least got a little payment back for YA0, with the ISK war tilted in our favor this time according to the battle report.

Losses - Team 1: CFC, Team 2: Black Legion

Losses – Team 1: CFC, Team 2: Black Legion

A lot of our losses were wrapped up in a Naglfar that The Initiative threw into the brawl to hit the Black Legion carriers.  Being fixated on my own little corner of the battle, I completely missed the dreads dropping in to assist.

For a wider view of the battle, what it was about, who did what, and so on, there is a post up over at TMC by Arrendis, who was also our anchor for the main part of the fight.

I expect, with Black Legion, Nulli Secunda, and a few other groups now in the north to take advantage of the last few weeks of easy travel in null sec, that we will have more fights on our hands .  The final days before Phoebe will be bloody because nobody is really sure what we will be doing once the travel changes clamp down.  So we will take our fun while we can get it.

There is Blobbing, and then there is Blobbing October 5, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec.
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5 comments

It was Sunday afternoon/evening and elements of the N3 coalition along with Black Legion came calling in force, taking advantage of easy travel while it still exists.  There was a call up for fleets, a tower to be saved, and all of the usual elements.  But the surprising bit was catching the Tengu fleet on the gate in R6XN-9 and having first capital ships and then supercaps drop in on the fight.

Titans on grid did not bring out PL, so there was no B-R or Asakai style escalation.  Not ready to have a supercap pyre just yet I guess.

Meanwhile, DBRB and his bombers were taking care of a hostile Abaddon fleet in one pass.

Addendum: Reports on the bombing run at TMC and EN24.

 

EverQuest Next Lore in a Minute October 5, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest Next, YouTube.
2 comments

Because we’re on a roll… plus I have totally ignored any EverQuest Next lore discussions up until now.

(Direct Link)

Though they also have the EverQuest Next franchise lore in a minute as well.

Black Legion Pays Us a Visit October 3, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec.
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8 comments

I managed to sit down at the computer last night just in time to have a Jabber alert pop up calling for a fleet.  Black Legion was in our new Deklein staging system at YA0-XJ.  I guess those change of address cards worked.

The alert said that more than 100 ships were in YA0 looking for a fight, so I logged right in.  I was in my high sec training clone, so I jumped back to my clone in YA0,  got into my Baltec Apocalypse, and got onto voice coms to listen to the usual operetta of a fleet form up.  The fleet commander, the tenor, must sing his sad tale of not having enough logistics (and too many interceptors) and how we won’t even undock if we do not get enough.  I sit in my Apoc and rationalize by saying to myself that it is a new month so I need a couple of kill mails, and in any case I am in my Apoc clone, the one with the EG-603 implant, which is required to fly our fit, so if I am going to get podded and lose it I am damn well going to do it in the ship that requires it.  I’ll fly logistics next time, I swear.

Eventually Red Crown cajoled enough people to swap so that we meet the minimum doctrine requirements.  The logistics theme is not done yet though.  That motif will continue through the fight.  But we are able to start undocking, which turns on the time dilation.

Undocking in YA0

Undocking in YA0

Red Crown had us align to the 2R-CRW gate in YA0, where Black Legion was reported to be lingering.  That is when we started to prove again that we can be very bad at EVE Online.  On of the squad commanders warped his squad to the gate rather than aligning, sending most of his squad to a quick and early death.  On person was able to cancel warp, the rest were blown up on landing, being served up for Black Legion like hors d’oeuvres.  The rest of us managed to align without warping to a fiery death.

Once we had a safe warp in, Red Crown warped the fleet and we landed on grid with Black Legion and the shooting could begin.  Black Legion was out in Tengus with a fleet of over 120 ships, a quarter of which were logistics.  As has been discussed elsewhere, logistics is a very powerful aspect of fleet composition.  This is why the FC is always shouting for more logi.  Black Legion was going to be a tough nut to crack with all that support.

The first thing on the agenda was to clear off a Mobile Cynosural Inhibitor that was on grid, so that we could bring in some more firepower in the form of some carriers and their sentry drones.  This led to a moment of comedy where everybody locked up the inhibitor, shot it into structure, then moved on to the next target.  When you are shooting ships, and you see one out of shields, out of armor, and taking damage to its hull, it is time to think about moving onto the next target.  But with structures, the hull actually makes up the bulk of the hit points.  The inhibitor only has 20K hit points armor and shields combined, but 150K in the hull.

So everybody shot it into hull and moved on, leaving it still alive.  So the FC had to get us all to go back and finish it off so some carriers could land on grid with us and add their fire to the mix.

With that finally accomplished, we started trying to whittle down the enemy logistics, which were on the far side of the battle from us.  Baltec fleet in general, and Apocs in particular, are good and picking off ships at range. With the right crystals loaded, I can engage targets out past 150km.  So the FC began calling Scimitars as targets.  We even managed to pop the first one, but then the hostiles were alerted and each subsequent target got reps before we could get it into armor.

BL Scimitar taking heat

BL Scimitar taking heat

On our side though, casualties began to mount.  We had half as much in the way of logistics, and a third of it was being flown my one guy who was multi-boxing.  Add in the fact that armor reps apply at the end of the module cycle, as opposed to the beginning of the cycle with shield reps, and there was a lot less margin for error on our side.  Even TiDi, which usually makes logistics easier, as your reaction time remains the same while the world around you slows down, wasn’t enough to help us out.

BLYTiDi

We swapped to other target types, and managed to knock down a couple, but once the hostile logi was wise to our plan, reps thwarted further kills.

At some point Red Crown went down and Reagalan took over the FC slot.  He aligned us away from the hostiles so we could engage at range and then tried a few tricks to see if we could alpha ships before reps kicked in.  He would have us all hold fire until we were ready to go, then give us a target to lock up and shoot.  When this worked, it worked quickly, but for the most part Black Legion seemed to be on the ball and calling for reps as soon as we started locking somebody up.  Anybody who was slow died, the rest got reps in time to thwart our damage.

There were a couple calls to get more logistics in our fleet and a small Celestis fleet went up to try and damp the hostile logistics, though they were targeted and destroyed in pretty short order.  After a while of mounting losses for little gain, we left the field and headed back to the station.  Black Legion won the day, with more kills and more ISK destroyed.

Team 1: CFC, Team 2: BL

Team 1: CFC, Team 2: BL

The battle report from which that graph was drawn is available here.

Some screen shots from the fight.  There are a couple of shots where you can, thanks to colors, spot people using the wrong crystals for their lasers.

Rome – A River Runs Through It October 2, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night. But ah my foes, and oh my friends – it gives a lovely light

Norman, from A River Runs Through It

Not that either the book or the film have any relationship to our attempts to play Total War: Rome II, I just like that quote and the game does seem in danger of burning out on us in a rather short time.

And there was a river.  But we’ll get to that.

Friday evening I found Mattman already online and playing the game as the appointed time approached.  He was putting in some effort to learn the game by playing the intro campaign, though he seemed to be having issues with a city assault.  I was no help.  I couldn’t see what he was doing and I could only vaguely remember the city assault part of the campaign, as I ran the tutorial back in June.

Potshot had not responded to the event, so was not expected, but Loghound had replied in the affirmative.  I left Mattman to his solo mission in case Loghound showed up, but as the minutes ticked by, I grew restless and began hinting, then bluntly saying, that perhaps we could have some multi-player gaming.  Mattman gave up his city assault and we formed up for another skirmish match.

Unfortunately, skirmishes look to be the extent of game play we can expect to have for the four of us.  There is a multiplayer campaign mode, but in this case “multiplayer” is defined as two people, so isn’t really an option for a larger group.

I already had the hosted game up, which put me in the drivers seat as to what we would be doing for the evening.  After the somewhat chaotic events last time, I had formulated a plan.  Rather than an open battle with troops wandering all over an open map, I chose river crossing battles as the theme for the night.  See, a river.  Several rivers actually.

I also went for a small budget… you get points to spend on your troops, so a smaller budget means less troops… with the idea that we could focus on controlling a few units so as to get better at the nuts and bolts before moving back to grand armies again.

So I formed up teams, with Mattman and I on one side and a pair of AIs playing as the Carthaginians on the other.  I was inspired by the Extra Credits YouTube series on the first and second Punic Wars, which was paid for by the people who made Total War: Rome II. In fact, the other quote I was considering using at the top was “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.”

I also made us the defenders.  All we had to do was hold the river crossing and let the Carthaginians come to us.  They would have a few more troops, but we would be able to focus on a simple objective.

Actually, it turned out to be two river crossings on each map.  But that was okay, as it let us each have our own position to work with.  And we did pretty well on the first run.

Defending the Crossing

Defending the Crossing

I took the bridge and Mattman took the ford.  As it turned out, the hostiles seemed to consider the bridge to be their favored crossing and so massed most of their troops opposite me.  Mattman was able to drive off or defeat the forces facing him and come around to strike them on the flank and read while I held them at the foot of the bridge, drawing them out so that they had to face three ways or be taken on a flank.

Mattman across the river and coming to the rescue

Mattman across the river and coming to the rescue

That worked out quite well.  The enemy was crushed, his demoralized troops driven from the field.

This gave us the courage to change sides and we did a run with us as the attackers.  That gave us a bit more budget to spend… worth about a single additional quality unit, or a couple of cheap ones… and made us push across the river to take the fight to the enemy.  We managed to win on that round as well.

As we were finishing that Loghound showed up to join the game.  I set up a new match, adding a slot for him on our side and another AI to face us, while he tried to get himself sorted.  He had downloaded the new Mac OS client for Total War: Rome II, so would be playing native in a 64-bit OS that could access all his RAM rather than in the 32-bit Windows partition he had been booting up to play previously.

However, there were issues.  The Total War: Rome II client for Mac OS either didn’t support multiplayer or was having problems trying to get hooked into multiplayer… it wasn’t clear which… so that eventually Loghound gave up and went back to Windows.  While he did that Mattman and I ran another two player against two AI battle and won.  We were looking good.

So when Loghound got online again and into the game, I decided to give us a bit of a challenge.  As we had been defeating two AI attackers quite handily, and would now have three of us playing, I boosted the odds for the Carthaginians a bit by adding in another AI player for them.  There would be 4 AI players against the three of us.

This did not work out quite as well.

With even numbers, the AI wasn’t able to mass forces against one of us without being weak against the other, and the AI’s modus operandi up to this point had been to weigh their attack heavily against one of the crossings.  But that weight was such that one of us had always been able to hang on until the other defeated their smaller foe and could came to the rescue to finish the battle.  With four AIs against three of us, the Carthaginians were able to put a big enough holding force together to keep that rescue plan from happening.

Compounding that was our setup.  I planned to hold one crossing while Mattman and Loghound tried to force the other.  As it turned out, the AI put the holding force on their side and the break-through force on my side.  And then I bungled my lineup, leaving a gap that allowed two units of Carthaginian cavalry to slip past me.  They proceeded to route my archers, who ran off to hide in the woods, and then started to charge my lines from behind.  As my infantry was barely holding, this caused my whole side of the battle to come unglued.  Units started to turn and run only to be destroyed.

My crossing uncovered, the mass of Carthaginians headed around to take Mattman and Loghound from the exposed flank.  The battle came down to a desperate stand by Mattman’s troops at the ford.

Rally at the banners

Rally at the banners

The field was littered with the dead and none of our units were able to escape, aside from a couple of my archers who had run literally to the furthest corner of the map before exiting.

Adding in an extra AI looked to be a boundary we were not quite ready to cross.  So we gave it another try.  Same plan, but with a three on three scenario.  As before, the AI chose my side… I opted to defend the bridge as opposed to the ford, and the AI just has a thing for bridges I guess… to mount the main weight of its attack.  Things nearly came unglued again.

Fortunately, Mattman and Loghound were able to break through at the ford and march to my support, as the battle at the foot of the bridge became a desperate fight.  I managed to keep anybody from slipping through, but the weight of the attack was falling most on a single unit and my attempts to reform my lines to relieve pressure only let the Carthaginians bring more troops to bear.  I was holding on by a thin margin, using my cavalry to drive on any unit that looked to be ready to break out… and popping off the morale boosts that my general provided to keep the troops in the line… when reinforcements started to show up.

Holding the foot of the bridge

Holding the foot of the bridge

There was a mountain of bodies at the foot of the bridge and my cavalry was spent, but as Mattman and Loghound came across the bridge, the enemy melted and was destroyed.

Victory was ours, but yet again it was a narrow victory.

So we got a bit more experience under our belts.  However, fighting against the AI is always a bit unsatisfying.  If you lose, then the computer beat you and if you win, well, it was just an AI.  We will see if this round makes us sharper when we next go head to head.  The river crossing scenarios certainly got us to focus, but once those get old I wonder which scenario to pursue next.  I tried a naval battle.  That was… different.   I also played historical harbor and city assaults.  We might be better suited to the open terrain battles where maneuver and position play more into things.

Anyway, we will see where we stand next time.