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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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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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The Passing of Another Steam Summer Sale July 1, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment.
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Another Steam Summer Sale has come and gone.

As others have noted, its regularity… and the fact that we get a Holiday sale in December… has taken some of the edge off of the whole thing.  Seeing a whole pile of games marked down was a huge deal the first couple of times we saw it.  Now, however, we have come to expect it.

Oh look, games on sale... yawn...

Oh look, games on sale… yawn…

Such sales have changed my behavior some.  If there is a game I have to have right away, I still buy it right there and then… unless the sale is around the corner.  Steam screwed me on that last year.  I bought the Brave New World expansion for Civilization V the day it launched, despite the summer sale coming up.  And then two days later the Summer Sale launched and the expansion was marked down, a gaffe that even Steam realized might have been a discount too soon.

Steam tries to make up

Steam tries to make up

So maybe I won’t pre-order anything that will launch close to the sales zones any more, but otherwise my behavior on must-haves has not changed.

But for things I am not sure about, games that are not “must have” but merely nice to have… the Steam sales process has changed my behavior quite a bit.  My wish list is now filled with things that I “sorta” want, if the price is right, and I am in a good mood.  The impulse buy aspect of Steam sales has been replaced by watching my wish list.  I look at what is on sale that day, then look at my wish list, ponder if anything is “must have” at their current price, and then move on, generally without buying anything.

This year I did end up buying a couple of games.  One was for the strategy group “next game” plan that I wrote about last week, and which makes a good example of how Steam has influenced me.

While we had a list of potential games, Total War: Rome II was the primary contender, backed by Loghound. (I had other suggestions, but I wasn’t sold on any of them.)  A not-too-old release, it still has a list price of $59.99, the current benchmark price for AAA games from major studios.  As the summer sale was already in progress, it was marked down to half off.  $29.98 wasn’t a bad price.  There is a whole lot of game there.

But Steam has taught me to always wait until the REAL DEAL has been offered.  So while Rome II was the prime candidate, nobody moved to purchase it until Friday, because it wasn’t until Friday that the REAL DEAL kicked in and the price dropped to $20.37.  At that price it was an easy purchase and all of us picked up a copy.  So that is the tentative next game for the group, once we finish up our Civ V game (at some point in August by my guess) and if it turns out to be suitable.  A quick look shows a battle style that gives you a budget to buy units in advance, so I suspect this could mean long lead times before we actually play.  But the single player campaign looks to be worth the investment, so even if we don’t play it much, it was probably worth the money with the deep discount.

So there it is.  Our next game has been chosen.

I did have two impulse purchases, one of which was Europa Universalis IVas it had been marked down to $9.99.  It has been on my wish list since it launched, so I am not sure if it is really an “impulse” buy, but I grabbed it.  It is one of those games… like its predecessors… that I really want to like, but which is so complicated and so deep that I can never get into it and actually play.  I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to do simple things, which quickly becomes frustrating.  I have no reason to suspect that this will be any different.

The other was Ticket to Ride, which I already own on the iPad.  I should have just stuck with that.  The iPad version is the game as it should be played and as it should look and perform.  The Windows version is slow, graphically inferior, and prone to buffering mouse clicks as you wait for it to catch up, leading to many a mis-played moment.  I regret this purchase and I could not recommend this on Steam even at its very low sale price.

And, in a sale related matter that isn’t really about Valve or Steam, I was just a tiny bit annoyed to see Planetary Annihilation early access up on the list of things on sale… or even available at all.  I backed their kickstarter, but not at a level high enough to get early access yet.  I get a finished copy and that is all, but I actually paid more for that than the early access sale, which also gets you a full copy.  And Uber Entertainment, the studio behind the title, hasn’t been the best about communication when it comes to actual progress towards release, they are a year late at this point, and  they are out there hawking early access at retail.  I realize early access is basically a retail pre-order, but it still makes me think, “Dude, remember me? I gave you money nearly two years ago?”  Just the nature of Kickstarter projects I guess.

And then there was the contest.

In order to spice things up… and get people to spend more money… Valve put everybody on teams and set us against each other for the possibility of getting something for nothing… assuming you didn’t buy anything for this gimmick.  Clockwork over at Out of Beta covers the whole thing better than I, I just want to grouse about the level of exclusion.

Summer Adventure Gimmick

Summer Adventure Gimmick

Anybody who wanted to participate got dropped onto one of the five color teams.  However, to actually do anything to help your team, you had to be level 10, at least as far as I could tell.  So despite years of Steam usage and owning over 100 games, I wasn’t able to play because I was only level 7.

Level as of July 1, 2014

Level as of July 1, 2014

While that was up from where I stood last year, it still wasn’t enough.

The problem is… well one of the problems I suppose… is that I purchased most of my library before they got into the whole levels thing.  And one of the prime ways you earn points to level up is based on how much money you spend, so most of my purchases didn’t count.  The other problem is that I am not inclined to spend money just to level myself up on Steam.  But that probably excluded me from the Summer Adventure thing anyway, as Clockwork pegs the whole thing as a pay to win affair.

And, on the annoying front, one of the ways I could have earned a few badges and points was by voting on the content of upcoming sales.  Only you must be level 8 to earn anything by voting, so once again Steam failed to engage me by imposing what looks to be an arbitrary level limit on rewards.  Bleh.

So, the score for the event.

  • Purchases at the lowest possible price as Steam has trained us: 1
  • Impulse purchases: 2
  • Engagement in sale related events: 0
  • Games on Steam I haven’t even played yet: too many

Maybe I will be the “right” level for whatever event Steam has planned by the time the Holiday Sale comes around.

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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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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Civilization – Operation Torch and the Russian Front June 18, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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There were only three of us online and in the Google hangout last week.  Mattman either decided to enjoy his vacation or he read last week’s post and took it the wrong way.  Hrmm…

But for those of us online, the game started getting more interesting.  After much laying of groundwork last time, all of us seemed ready to get stuck into things.

Potshot and I left off wondering where our first expeditionary force ought to land.  As we started off, Potshot declared for “Operation Torch,” a reference to the 1942 allied landings in North Africa, which included Casablanca amongst its rather dispersed objectives.  In the game, Morocco was to the southwest of us and I had already started forming up the beginnings of a landing force with Casablanca as a target.

Landing north of Casablanca

Landing north of Casablanca

I actually had to fight my way against yet more barbarian hordes in order to grab a foothold on the island that Morocco occupied, so in initially I was probably helping Morocco out.  Then I planted a city on his island to act as a forward redoubt in case things did not go well.

I think my intentions here are clear

I think my intentions here are clear

More after the cut.

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Civilization – The Slow March of Time June 11, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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I was going to be late last time around.  My wife and I were watching the pilot for The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency on HBO, which it turns out runs two hours.  That was going to push me about 15 minutes passed the planned game start time.

But I figured that would be okay.  I could let the AI run my empire for a while.  Last time around Potshot and I had evicted our only continental neighbor, so aside from just bankrupting me again and selling off city improvements, I would probably be okay.  So we finished up watching the show before I meandered over to my computer to see how things were going.  Last week we finished up at turn 430.  We try to stop at a round number and always finish that turn, so in this case, when we started the game up again, it would be the start of turn 431.  Given our usual rate of advancement, I thought we might be somewhere between turn 440 and 450.

However, when I joined the game, it seemed that things had not been moving forward at all.

R2Wk6WilConnects

When things finally loaded up for me, we were still at turn 431.  I had not missed a thing.

Well, I had missed something.

It seems that up to that point Mattman and his antique coal fired Ye Olde ThinkePayde portable difference engine had been trying to get into the game via the WiFi connection at the Dili Beach Hotel in East Timor.  However, after a couple attempts at getting into the game even as an observer failed, the idea was dropped.  Just because we were playing a world spanning game that featured 19th century technology did not mean that such things were going to integrate smoothly over Steam. Charles Babbage wept.

And that is when I showed up.  Just in time!

More after the cut.

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