Friday, November 27, 2009

Let Us Give Thanks, for Board Games

Wow, am I on a roll. On Wednesday my family had an early Thanksgiving meal (to allow my brother, Christopher, to have Thanksgiving on the actual day with his in-laws), so I was over at my parents' place most of the day. So what did I do there? Since it was a Thorne family gathering, we played games, of course. On that first day I played Commands & Colors: Ancients, Attika, Carcassonne, and Strat-O-Matic baseball. The next day, Thanksgiving, I actually was at home in the morning doing chores and writing a couple reviews for that anime website I am an editor for, but then I went to my parents' house at lunch, and some more Commands & Colors was played, as well as Eurorails. Then today I headed over in the morning after I got out of the gym and we played a lot of Shadows over Camelot, capped off with another game of Commands & Colors. I'm actually feeling a little gamed out, but tomorrow my wargaming club has a meeting, so I will be there in the afternoon, and then I am going to a friend's house to play some Arkham Horror, and maybe some Battlestar Galactica if we have time. It's all a bit much, I agree, but I love it!!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Rumors of my Death are Greatly Exaggerated

To allay the fears of anyone who thought that I was in my death throes yesterday, I am alive and (somewhat) well. While my current project has certainly tried to kill me, it has failed. So far, anyway.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wiped Out

So, on Monday I had written that I was coming down with a cold. Well, if this is a cold it is a really severe one, as with colds I usually don't run a fever and have fever chills so bad I can barely stand up straight. Of course, since I'm on the road traveling for work, there is no calling in because you're sick. I mean, where would I go? I can't stay home because home is ~350 miles away. So I went to work anyway and did what I could. Not fun.

Not a Normal Fortune Cookie for an Auditor to Get

"You have a heart of gold."
- P.F. Chang's, Franklin, TN

Monday, November 16, 2009

Back in the Music City

I'm back in Nashville again, probably for the last time on my current project. I'm staying in a different hotel again, because the place I stayed last time was garbage. I just can't seem to find a place that satisfies me, because I insist that things work right. I'm irrational like that.

Speaking of irrational, as of today I have been employed by PricewaterhouseCoopers for a full six years. That is kind of a long time. When I hit my five year anniversary I had a fancy dinner at a steakhouse in Reno, NV. Tonight I went to P.F. Chang's and got a vegetarian stir-fry dinner, because I think I'm coming down with a cold. I chased my herbal tea with some drugs, so hopefully I sleep pretty well tonight. Such is the exciting life of a traveling internal auditor in 2009.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

St. Louis Has a Men's Soccer Team

According to the St. Louis Business Journal, St. Louis is going to have a new men's soccer team real soon. I know that Mr. Cooper is miffed about getting shut out of the MLS, but forming your own league? That seems a bit extreme. Why not just try to get a USL team, instead? I am also surprised at some of the teams joining the new league, as the Montreal Impact are front-runners to make the jump from USL division I to MLS in a year or two. Very interesting development. We'll just have to see what happens.

The City of Brother Love

Greetings from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania! I'm here doing work for a logistics company that has its offices in the Naval Yard. It is interesting driving to work every morning past very large military warships mothballed in the yard. Oh, and as we pull into the parking lot there is a huge cruise ship parked right next door, as well.

My team and I are staying downtown at the Ritz-Carlton, and it is pretty nice. The bathroom even has an electric motor for the window blinds, so you can move them up and down using a switch by the door. I thought that was pretty cool. Another cool thing is the view from said window:

Yes, my camera phone takes lousy pictures, but you can get the idea. Supposedly the Liberty Bell is right by the hotel, as well, but I haven't seen it yet.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Paths of Glory

Paths of Glory is one of the finest wargames I have in my collection. I first bought the game back in '99 or 2000 when my younger brother got it, and immediately contacted me and said I HAD TO GET IT!!! The intention was that we would play it against each other via email, but that has yet to actually happen. Even though its original purpose has not yet been fulfilled, I am still glad I own this game.

Paths of Glory is a strategic/operational level game of World War I, with one player taking the Allied Powers (United Kingdom, France, Russia), and the other player taking the Central Powers (Austria/Hungary, Germany, Ottoman Empire). The playing counters represent either armies or corps, which the players maneuver around the map trying to bring the most force to bear against their opponent. The game itself uses a mechanic known as "CDG," which stands for Card-Driven Game. It is called this because each player starts each turn with a hand of cards. Each card can be used for four different things: action points (which let you move and fight with your armies), reinforcement points (which let you rebuild damaged armies and corps), strategic redeployment points (which let you move armies and corps long-distance across the board), and a specific action of some type, which represents an actual historic occurrence. The brilliance of this mechanic is in teh fact that the best events (like, say, bringing in another nation on your side of the war) are on cards that also provide the most action, reinforcement, and redeployment points. And for most non-combat events, once a card is played for the event, the card is removed from the game entirely. So if you use it for that great event, then that high value card is gone forever. Thus, each time you have a play to make, you agonize over exactly the best way to use your cards. You never have enough cards to do everything you want, either. You are always struggling against whether to move armies, or save reinforcement points to re-build damaged ones, or to take that action that gives you victory points.

All of that would be well and good, but the dual-front nature of the gameplay really makes the game shine. Most readers of this post will be passingly familiar with the trench warfare of the western front, where armies lined up and faced each other in relatively restricted areas. Not so on the eastern front, where Russia fights against Austria/Hungary and Germany. On the eastern front there are a lot of maneuver possibilities, and the first two turns can have a significant impact on the game if either Russia or Austria/Hungary gets a breakthrough. There is even a standard opening move for the Allied player known as the "Dance of Death." And remember how you only get one card play a turn? Not only do you have to decide what aspect of the card to use, but whether you want to use it on the western or eastern front. And you can't just ignore one of them, because you run the risk of the other player completely over-running your defenders as they stand still. The back-and-forth tension of the game can be pretty brutal on the nerves, actually.

The game has gone through three printings, I think, and a fourth one is currently being planned. However, one little extra was put out for the game in 2001 that makes a wonderful addition to play, the Paths of Glory Player's Guide. This was essentially a special issue of the publisher's magazine, but all of the articles focused on Paths of Glory. New game setups were introduced, as well as new play cards, counters, and play aids. There were also a number of articles discussing the game's strategy. Seriously, some people ponder this game the way that others ponder chess. There are standard opening moves, standard counters to the openings, and so on and so forth. Very neat stuff. Too bad it is out of print. I personally consider the revised setup in the Player's Guide to be the best way to setup the game. It minimizes some of the initial Russian advantage in the East while giving Italy a bit of a boost when they enter the game. An excellent addition to an excellent game. Hey, you can't be the 2nd highest ranked wargame on the Geek by accident, you know.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

So Far Off Base, This Can't Be My Fortune Cookie

You are very expressive and positive in word, act and

- Fulin's Asian Cuisine, Brentwood, TN

Head Em Up, Move Em Out

Back in Nashville, TN this week. I had originally thought I was going to be here all week, but I found out this afternoon that I am actually heading back to STL tomorrow. I'm not going to complain too loudly about that. I had also originally thought that I would be able to work an Andrew Peterson concert into the week's activities, but then I learned that his appearance in Nashville was actually at a chapel service for a local private school, and having some random dude from out of town show up at their 8AM chapel service would likely make the local news, and not in a good way. So I passed on that.