Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I've been away from this blog for quite some time. Changing jobs and drastically altering your life as a result tends to do that to a person. It has taken me 3+ months to return to normalcy; albeit a new form of normalcy. Anyway, I'm back from the dead so to speak. I hope I can hang around for awhile this time.
My gaming life has been ultra quiet since mid-July. I've taken a hiatus from development of my Sword of Severnia fantasy miniatures wargame, but work on that is about to resume. The playtesting group and myself will be meeting tomorrow afternoon to reignite the SoS fires, and hopefully get things moving again. We've come so far on this marathon; I'm not about to quit on it 1-mile short of the finish line. I'm resigned to the fact that it will take longer to finish everything to my satisfaction now that I'm only able to spend about 1/10th of the time on it compared to when it was part of my daily work-week. C'est la vie. But I'm still excited about the game, and one way or the other, it WILL see the light of day.
On the miniatures front, I have made some recent eBay purchases over the past 6 weeks. I acquired a nicely painted set of 10 new Khorne Bloodthirster Demons. They look menacing and fill a previously empty niche in my sizeable fantasy-minis collection. I also got a cool looking Cyclops from Reaper. He has a professional, well-executed paint-job and I can't wait to let him see some battlefield action on the well-trod fields of Severnia.
I also purchased some reptilian dino-riders (GW figures) from a seller in Hong Kong. Overall, they're solidly painted, but I was disappointed with the lack of detailing on the faces of the lizardmen riders. When paying $100+ bucks for a set of painted minis, I expect eyes and teeth to be painted, no unpainted areas in "hard to reach places" and tiny details which separate an average mini from a top-notch one. I'm going to have to touch-these up myself, which I shouldn't have to do. I'm iffy as to whether I'll buy from that seller again. Live and learn.
I'm also hoping to get some well-painted Foundry Vikings in sometime soon. I'll post pictures when (IF?) I get them. I'm hoping to cobble together a Norse/Viking (barbarian) army for SoS, but also have enough troops that can serve double-duty in ancients/Dark Ages wargames.
On the boardgaming front, there's a hell of a lot to get excited about. It always seems like a slew of great games come out during the 2nd-half of the year, usually starting in August to coincide with GenCon and continuing into late-October when Essen Spiel takes place in Germany.
New games that have landed squarely on my radar include:
- Dice Town = a light, dice-rolling / poker style hybrid with a Wild West theme
- Chaos in the Old World = a 4-player conquest game where each player takes the role of a chaos-god and his minions in the Warhammer fantasy universe. Lotsa buzz on this.
- Richard III = the long-awaited block-wargame from Columbia Games that takes place during the Wars of the Roses period in England. I loved Hammer of the Scots, and this promises to be as-good or better.
- Space Hulk (3rd Edition) = limited-run of the new edition of this GW classic are hard to find, but the game oozes theme and features awesome Space Marines and Genestealer (aliens) minis.
- Dungeon Twister 2: Prison = DT is one of my favorite games, despite having not played it nearly as often as I'd like to. With new plastic minis and new rules including a solo variant, this is an absolute no-brainer MUST BUY for me.
- The Adventurers = an Indiana Jones style adventure game with promising minis and a fun, beer & pretzels play style. Lotsa room for expansions.
- Cyclades = an upcoming game about building cities to earn the favor of the Greek Gods, and featuring some awesome minis and great artwork. High on my Want-to-Buy list.
- Dungeon Lords = basically the boardgame version of the video-game Dungeon Keeper.
- Stronghold = a 2-player strategic, siege warfare game with a gorgeous looking board. Seems like an interesting mix of Euro and wargame mechanics. I'm intrigued.
- Dominion Intrigue = I'm behind the curve on the new "hotness" that is the Dominion craze. I was initially skeptical of how fun a deck-building game would be, but the opinions of several podcasters whose opinions I respect has me itching to try the game and its new expansion.
And last but not least, some game conventions are on the horizon. I'm still deciding on whether I'm heading to FALL IN 2009, the annual Fall miniatures wargaming convention of HMGS East. This year's convention is in Gettysburg (at the Eisenhower Convention Center) from 11/06 thru 11/08. I'm not sure that most of my wargaming buddies are able to make it, so it might be a "go solo or don't go at all" deal for me this year. We shall see....
There's also a local gaming convention in Lemoyne PA the following weekend (Nov 14-15) which is being run by the owner of That Game Store (Lemoyne), who took over the store from my friend Mayer Foner when he retired last year. The convention is Organized Kahnfusion 26, and offers local Central PA gamers a chance to get-together and play boardgames, RPGs, card games, and wargames. I think there's even a Johnny Reb minis game being held.
So that's the scoop on games. I hope they start becoming a regular part of my monthly schedule, now that fantasy baseball season is over and I've become more acclimated to my new work environment in Chocolatetown USA.
See you next time.... Have fun gaming!
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Summer's biggest miniature wargaming convention is right around the corner. Historicon 2009 is being held at the Lancaster Host hotel and resort from July 16th thru the 19th in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This is HMGS East's Silver Anniversary, so this show promises to be a great one. It's hard to believe that HMGS East has been kicking around for 25 years. Has it really been that long since I started going to wargaming shows at the old Penn Harris in Harrisburg, PA?
I'm planning a foray down to this wargamer's nirvana on Saturday, July 18. This is mainly a shopping excursion for me, unless I can convince my friend Kevin to hang around and join in an evening game at the Host (they have a few pretty neat fantasy/pulp style games running that night, although I'm always up for a Dark Age or Medieval battle as well).
I certainly don't need to buy any more unpainted metal soldiers. My paintbrush has yet to touch the minis that I purchased at the last two HMGS East cons. I've got Eureka frogs and a Beowulf warband, croc-men from Crocodile Games, Swiss Gnomes for Gnome Wars, barbarians from Bronze Age, and medieval knights and archers from Fronk Rank lined up in the painting queue. My New Year's Resolution to PAINT MORE OFTEN has failed miserably! But hey, there's still half-a-year left. It's never too late to get started on some new projects right?
I am, however, VERY tempted to look at the IRON WIND METALS booth this go around as they're supposed to be carrying figures from DragonBlood and Otherworld. Both of the manufacturers make absolutely spectacular models. Dragonblood has some really cool Lizardmen and Troglodytes, and a brand new Forest Troll. They don't have a bad figure in their whole range, and that's truly saying something. Otherworld is a UK based figure-maker, and they make a range of fantasy minis that will warm the cockles of any old-school D&D gamer's heart. These figures look like living incarnations of creatures from the 1st Edition Player's Handbook. Their pig-faced Orcs and Bugbears are amazing! I must have some....
My biggest focus will be on nicely painted figures and terrain. That means must-stops at Stan Johansen's, Evil Bob's, Toy Soldier Gallery, Acheson's Creations, and Albright's booths, a swing by David McBride's Splintered Light Minis stand, and lots of scouting for other cool stuff in both the vendor hall and flea market. Plus, I can damn-well guarantee that I'll pick up something at LITKO. They make the best bases and markers in the industry in my humble opinion.
So it should be a fun Saturday. Hope my wallet holds up!
SULTANS GAME DAY -- JULY 25
The next scheduled Game Day for the Sultans of Severnia wargaming group will be held on Saturday, July 25 at my house. We'll be fighting some more battles using the brand new Sword of Severnia fantasy mass-battle rules that I've been developing.
The wargame system is coming along quite nicely. Over the past 18 months, the game has undergone lots of tweaking and rules revisions as I've continually tried to streamline things to make the game easier to learn, less fiddly, faster playing, more strategic, and more fun. The wargame group is pretty darn happy with the way the game is working right now, and being my own harshest critic, I think I finally agree with them. It's certainly true that the sheer number of rules adjustments have slowed down to a tiny trickle. Aside from a few final tweaks, I would say the overall rules system is 98% finished.
The wargame, however, is still a fair bit away from final publication. I've still got to write the final, full-edition of the rulebook. Currently we're using a living, breathing playtest-version of the rulebook and some supplementary add-on booklets covering Special Abilities, Special Events, Scenarios, and so forth. All of that needs merged together, some fluff material and graphics added, and a nice index created for the whole thing.
Plus, the biggest thing is that I've still got the WarBuilder software to finish. This companion PC software comes with the Deluxe version of the game. It enables you to create your own custom regiments and characters, assemble them into an army, crunch their Point Values, and print out custom Stat-Cards / Stat-Sheets which are used as important reference materials during game play. It's been close to 6 months since I last stuck my paws into the PowerBuilder desktop environment and created database tables and wrote programming code. I'm hoping to get started with that again now that the game rules have stabilized.
Throwing a BIG monkey wrench into this whole process has been my move from a full-time, independent software developer running my own micro ISV, to working as an application design consultant for Hershey (yep, the chocolate folks). Right now, I'm on a 6-month contract. Whether it lasts longer than that is unknown at this point. It depends on whether they find me useful and have more projects to work on once 2010 rolls around, and whether I like it enough to stay there. The jury is still out on that one. Returning to work in the corporate environment after being a small business owner for almost 15 years is a MUCH BIGGER CHANGE than I ever imagined it would be.
PS: If anyone is looking to hire a full-time game designer / desktop software developer or small business partner, then please give me a holler. I'm keeping my options open.
Anyway... the next Sultans Game Day should be a blast. I'm really looking forward to it.
WORLD BOARDGAMING CHAMPIONSHIPS
This August, I'm finally planning on heading down to Lancaster, PA to check out the WBC (World Boardgaming Championships). My old friend Mayer and I are planning to day-trip down there sometime in the August 7th to 9th timeframe. I'm not sure if Mayer has ever been to the WBC, but being a former long-time game store owner I wouldn't be surprised if he had been. I've never been to the WBC, which is odd considering I only live 45 minutes outside of Lancaster and have been playing boardgames for many years of my life. Sometimes you overlook the things that are in your own backyard!
I like to WIN at games. Really, who doesn't? But I certainly don't consider myself to be a competitive tabletop gamer. That's really the domain of people who play boardgames to pretty much the exclusion of doing anything else for a good time. I'm more eclectic in my hobbies and don't have the time or desire to focus 100% on just one thing. To me, games are a chance to kick back with your good friends & family and enjoy a fun, social experience together. Sometimes that experience can be mentally challenging and thought-provoking, while other times it may simply be centered around laughs and beer & pretzels shenanigans.
The WBC doesn't strike me as an event for the non-competitive gaming bunch. Perhaps it's the fact that it contains the word CHAMPIONSHIPS in its title. That evokes images of Chess masters poring over checkered boards, stroking their beards, and fretting over the movement of a single game piece. Although at the WBC, it's really wargamers pushing chits around on paper hex maps. Or at least that's how it has always SEEMED to me. And perhaps that's why I have never gone to this convention. I just don't feel like sitting around for 6 hours gaming with a bunch of tight asses. Hopefully, I'm DEAD WRONG about all of this.
I did hear that the WBC has open-gaming. I even hear that some non-competitive folks venture down to the WBC every year just to play for fun, rather than prizes and trophies. That has my curiosity piqued. Perhaps I've been missing out on some gaming fun? We shall see. Hopefully, I'm not up to my eyeballs in tight-asses. As Nacho Libre says, "sometimes, a man needs to put on his stretchy pants".
GAME ON BROTHERS and SISTERS!
Saturday, June 13, 2009
If you haven't taken a look at it yet, surf on over to BoardGameGeek and take a look at the 2009 Census Poll created by LankyEngineer. It's pretty interesting. Anyone who has been gaming for a long time or visiting BGG for years won't be the least bit surprised by certain outcomes (such as 95% of the respondents being Male, over 90% of the folks liking Euro games, 75% of the gamers being college educated, and the most popular beverage consumed while gaming being Beer at 41%).
But there were some really interesting results, at least in my view. Did you know that the prime age range for boardgamers was 31 to 40? I was shocked to see how few people under the age of 25 responded to the census. I grew up on boardgames, playing a LOT of them in my teen and college years. Perhaps today's youngsters focus on video games and RPGs to the exclusion of boardgames, and then discover them once they're more established in life? Or perhaps young people don't like Euro games, which is undoubtedly a strong focus of people who frequent the BGG website?
I also found it interesting to see the precipitous drop-off of boardgamers once you hit age 46 (which I'll be hitting next year!), and especially once you reach age 51. Obviously, lack of free time is an issue for everyone as they get older, especially for mid-lifers who are often juggling the demands of wife, kids, job, and general home tasks. Some of us have too many other competing hobbies (such as fantasy baseball, miniature wargaming, and painting for me). But still, why should you stop having fun just because your hair is turning gray?
It was also eye-opening to see the number of people who shared the same profession that I do. Almost 25% of respondents listed Computer Science (IT) as their profession.
There's probably 3 major reasons for this. First, computer folks are THINKERS and ANALYZERS by nature. Most boardgames (especially medium/heavy Euros, wargames, and meatier Ameritrash games) are "thinker" oriented activities. Secondly, computer people spend so much time on the computer, it's refreshing to get away from their machines and play non-digital games. It's our chance to be touchy feely and grab tangible game pieces instead of just pushing bytes around with our minds. Third, computer folks often work in semi-isolation. Sure, there are design meetings to participate in and think-sessions, but activities like programming are pretty much a solitary pursuit. Playing boardgames enables you to interact socially with your friends and share in group-based fun. So I guess when all is said and done, boardgames fulfill some very human needs that our computers don't!
Another surprising tidbit in the 2009 Census was that half of the respondents don't go to any game conventions during the year. These are serious gamer geeks, and half of them don't travel to those heavenly meccas of Geekdom? Shocking! I must admit that I don't really go to conventions to PLAY games all that much. I go to BUY STUFF and to GET INSPIRED by seeing all the cool stuff in one centralized place. You also meet some nice people along the way, which is a major bonus. So if you're one of those folks who has never attended a game convention, I strongly encourage you to try it, at least once. Check out the National Gamers Guild for a list of major conventions across the USA.
The 1st Quarter of every year is usually a "dead period" for me with regards to boardgames. I'm always crazy-busy with preseason fantasy baseball stuff, working on updates to my Rhino Baseball software, and organizing league events and prepping for my HARL baseball draft. Plus, I generally spend more of my time involved in miniature wargaming than boardgaming, so any free time for tabletop gaming during the early part of the year is allotted to my tiny tin men. I usually take a trip down to Lancaster PA for Cold Wars in March to get my early-year miniatures fix and spend some birthday money that's been quietly sitting around since January.
Once summer rolls around, I try to get my gamer friends to play some boardgames with me. Finding mutually agreeable weekend gaming dates for a bunch of 40-somethings, many of them with small kids, is often akin to herding cats. But I try to do my best.
Recently, I've acquired a bunch of new boardgames to add to my over-large collection. Truthfully, buying more new games is NOT a practical thing for me. I've already got more games on my closet shelves than I can possibly play over the next 4 years. But there's such an addictive quality to getting new games. Every once and awhile, you need a fix!
To support "my habit", I got the following new games and expansions over the past 2 months:
- Fire and Axe
- Age of Conan
- Shadows Over Camelot: Merlin's Company (expansion)
- Cutthroat Caverns: Relics & Ruins (expansion)
- Dragon's Gold
- Cave Troll
- Dungeon Twister: Forces of Darkness (expansion)
Hopefully, I can get many of these games to the table this summer. Plus, I have a bunch of unplayed Euro gems I want to play as well (Big City, El Grande, Aladdin's Dragons, Wallenstein). Wish me luck!
Culling My Collection
Despite my recent game purchasing spree, I've resigned myself to whittling down my boardgame collection to 40 or 50 or so great games. This summer I'm hoping to sell off games that I simply don't forsee playing anytime soon or perhaps ever again. Can you say eBay?
When you have over 150 games, you start to get irrationally attached to them. I played countless games of Strat-O-Matic Hockey and Sports Illustrated Baseball when I was growing up, and I'm pretty sure I'll never play them again. But due to the fondness I have for those games, it's difficult to part with them. Sentimentality is often a hard thing to break.
I was enamored by the cool bits of Doom and Tide of Iron, and the good reviews many people had of them, but they remain in their shrink-wrap, unplayed. Sometimes, games just don't scratch enough of your personal itch. I'll usually always choose a fantasy game over a sci-fi title. Dragons, orcs, and wizards trump space marines and aliens for me. Thus, Doom has languished despite the fact that it was one of my top-3 favorite video games of all time and I loved the theme. Tide of Iron has remain unplayed because I'm more interested in ancient and medieval warfare provided by games such as Hammer of the Scots or Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage.
There are plenty of games in my collection like that; interesting, well-designed games, but games that haven't lit my personal passion enough to get them to the gaming-table ahead of other more enticing titles.
Game length is also a factor. I sold off Arkham Horror awhile ago after it languished on my shelf for 3 years. Sacrilege! Maybe. I was VERY enamored with the theme. Who doesn't enjoy running away from tentacled monstrosities and trying to avoid getting their brains turned into mint jelly? But getting that type of game (complex rules with 4+ hour playing time) to the table with my particular game group proved to be highly daunting.
So I'm going to have to make some tough decisions. Sticking with only 40 or 50 games seems like a prudent and practical idea. But can I really break my addiction? That will be the true test.
Just a couple of quick shout-outs to some new gaming related blogs, podcasts, and news that I've come across recently...
For some informative video reviews of boardgames, including the weirdly captivating time-lapse game session videos, check out Josh Jenkins's blog called the Non-Stop Tabletop.
If you're a game addict but want to try and save money, check out A Year of Frugal Gaming blog. It's especially useful for miniatures enthusiasts. Some recent articles of keen interest were one on stripping paint off of plastic minis, and a nice article on scratch terrain building.
For those of you into JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth, bookmark this page which points to Fantasy Flight Games upcoming release of their massive Middle Earth Quest boardgame. It sounds pretty neat. I'm curious just how well a LOTR game that doesn't feature Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Gollum will really do. Removing the key characters that we all know and love from the world of Middle Earth would seem to suck a huge part of life out of that storybook world. We shall see...
I'm a huge podcast listener. I've got over 400 shows loaded into iTunes. For a long-time, my top-3 favorite game-related podcasts have been The Dice Tower (with Tom Vasel), The Spiel (with Stephen Conway & Dave Coleson), and Meeples & Miniatures (with Neil Schuck).
There are several other excellent podcasts, but none that have consistently measured up to the stellar quality of these 3 shows....until now.
One of my new favorites is the terrific podcast put out by Cody Jones and John Richard entitled Game On! with Cody and John. These guys bring a hefty enthusiasm to gaming, do some excellent in-depth reviews, aren't afraid to share their honest opinions, and are the type of gamers who don't take themselves too seriously (my kind of guys!). Plus, they love baseball! How friggin cool is that! Give them a listen today!
Another fantastic podcast is The D6 Generation (with Russ Wakelin, Craig Gallant, and Raef Granger). Perhaps the funniest podcast of the bunch and the most Ameritrash focused (as these guys truly love fantasy/sci-fi games, miniatures, and beer & pretzels boardgames). Nobody goes as in-depth on a single game as these guys do. If you can't make a decision on whether to buy or pass on a particular new game after hearing this trio talk about it, then you've probably had your brain eaten by zombies. The only negative about the show is that it's too damn long, often running over 3 hours. It's not something you can listen to in one, or even two sittings unless you have lots of free time on your hands. But hey, it's their show and they can do whatever they think is best! Still, it comes highly recommended.
And lastly... give the Noisemaker miniatures podcast a listen. Bert is the type of enthusiastic old-school minis gamer that gives the hobby a good name. This isn't a flashy show with high production values. Rather, it's just good, honest CONTENT with a focus on FUN. I find the podcast to be a source of inspiring ideas and useful opinions. Check it out.
Until next time.... SEVY out!
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The call came from the mystical chocolatier, Mr. Goodbar, who lived high upon a hill in his shining factory. The brown-eyed man sat down for a pow-wow with the chocolatier and they chatted about manufacturing candy bars, building software, and appeasing the Oracle. It was a good meeting.
Days passed. The brown-man spent the time watching the Steel Magnolias grow, and engaging his friends in mythical warfare with scores of tiny tin troops who battled across a killing field made of fake grass. He celebrated his wedding anniversary, taking the girl he loved to a land where tasty Italian dishes were served in countless numbers to patrons of all shapes and sizes.
He met with the chocolatier again. They seemed to hit it off. The brown-eyed man was intrigued. Perhaps his future was in the candy making business? Time would tell.
The brown-eyed man traveled to the far reaches of Virginia to contemplate his future. He walked the fields of Fredericksburg, consulting with the ghosts of long-dead Civil War soldiers. He chatted with Martha Washington at Mount Vernon, who told him there was no dishonor in working for a chocolatier. Even the men at the Game Parlor in the duchy of Woodbridge agreed, but then they would probably say anything nice just to ensure that the brown-eyed man paid for his $100+ boxes of board games and tin soldiers and went out the door wide-eyed and happy, not knowing what damage he just did to his now appreciably lighter wallet.
Upon his return, the brown-eyed man got a phone call. It was from a representative of the chocolatier. The candy-maker wanted him to come work for his company. Heath Bars, Peppermint Patties, and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups were calling. A few were even eaten in celebration, and there was much rejoicing.
And then it was JUNE...
Yes, it was a crazy month for me (the brown eyed man), one filled with lots of excitement and anticipation. I landed a new consulting job as an Application Design Analyst working at Hershey (the candy folks). I'm optimistic that it will work out well. But it's scary. After running my own small company for 14+ years, the thought of working for someone else is a very strange feeling to be sure. I hope I like it, and I hope they like me. Wish me luck!
Monday, April 27, 2009
Next up are some Goblin Archers. They're also quite neat. I especially love the guys with the pointed helmets, and they're worthy of gracing the front-rank of any Archer unit. I got enough of these little shooty buggers to form 3 or 4 regiments of Heavy Archers for use in my Sword of Severnia wargame.
...looking to shoot down some fat Dwarves and pansy-livered Elves....
And last but not least is a warband of Goblin Swordsmen. These fellas come in 2 varieties. The ones shown here (helmeted) are the best of the two sculpts and fit in really well with the archers and spearmen character-wise. There are also some non-helmeted gobbos (not shown). They're okay and remind me a little of the goblins from the old BattleMasters game from Milton Bradley, but they seem smaller and less fierce than the other gobbos.
So there you have it. A quick look at some of the troops that will be joining the Trolls, Redcaps, and Giants in the goblinoid army of Zidda Zobba.
Mmm.... roasted dwarf chops! Nuthin like 'em!
Monday, April 20, 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
My interests run the gamut from things like playing fantasy baseball to watching American Idol with my wife to developing software to painting miniatures to reading books & blogs to designing tabletop games and playing them to spending time with my family to playing the drums to chasing my 2 cats to finding a great new restaurant to eat at to whatever else excites me at the moment. I'm exhausted just thinking about it all.
Maybe you're like me. Maybe you've come to the frustrating conclusion that there are just so many things to spend your time on that you're an ideal candidate for cloning. I mean how else are you going to find the time to do all that stuff? There needs to be 5 or 6 of you.
Let's set aside one Sevy for work and business. He can develop great software and bring home the cash. Hell, you know that the rest of us clones don't want to work for the man anyway.
Clone #2 can serve as the Font of All Knowledge. His job is to voraciously read everything and soak up every worthwhile scrap of knowledge that he comes across. The group will go to him when it needs guidance and answers to difficult questions. Better get him a Kindle, because we're not gonna have enough bookshelves to store all those books he'll be reading.
Clone #3 can be the Socialite. He'll happily flit back and forth amongst family and friends, spreading love and joy, lending an ear to the troubled, offering a hand where needed, and making sure the bonds of blood and friendship remain strong.
Clone #4 can be the Uber Geek. He'll organize boardgame nights, run the local rotisserie baseball league, serve as gamemaster and secretary of the ongoing miniatures wargaming campaign, organize outings to game conventions, spend countless hours reading BoardGameGeek and The Miniatures Page, and listen to 20+ podcasts from the geek community at large.
Clone #5 will be the Artist (or artiste for you French buggers). He'll paint. He'll draw. He'll pick out cool patterns for his wife to cross-stitch. He'll select the color of frame and matte used for all the pictures the family decides to hang on the wall. He'll stroke his imaginary beard at the art show and discuss impressionism, cubism, pointillism, art-deco, and whether Frank Frazetta was a greater artist than Boris or Larry Elmore. He'll leave Frank Lloyd Wright and I.M. Pei architectural books on his coffee-table.
And on it goes.... Clones will be generated and sent off to focus on a specific area of expertise. They'll convene once a week in the great Clone Convocation, probably in my living room. Each will be required to bring a covered dish. It gets expensive feeding all those clones every week. After hours of swapping stories, they'll retire to their separate bedrooms on the 2nd Floor, for as we all know too well, my clone sleeps alone.
And maybe, just maybe, I will finally achieve peace and happiness. I will have mastered and learned everything there is to learn; at least the stuff that I give a rat's ass about. I will finally be satisfied. Until I uncover the next cool thing...
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Although this software was initially released in 1998 (as Rhino Scout) and has been around ever since, not enough fantasy players really know enough about it. Ultra conservative marketing is somewhat to blame, as is the complexity of the program -- it contains so much stuff that casual users and inexperienced fantasy baseball enthusiasts are quite intimidated by it. There are also a host of other reasons why I've never gotten rich off the darn thing, although it has done well enough that it has been continually enhanced and sold for 12 years now.
I really love this baseball software (I'm a little biased!) and have been using it to run my fantasy league for 13 years (since the 1st beta version) and to prepare for my rotisserie auctions for many years now. I've also used the live draft tracking / management tools since they became available in 2005, and have had great success with them. Since 2000, I've finished in-the-money (top 4) every year in our HARL league and have captured 4 HARL championships. I owe much of that success to the fantastic draft prep and stats analysis of Rhino Baseball.
One major feature of Rhino Baseball that non-users don't know anything about are the Draft Planning tools in Rhino Baseball; in particular the Draft Assistant, Draft Plan Analyzer, and Draft Advisor. They're definitely unique to this software program; I haven't seen anything else like them in any other software package. So just what is a draft plan?
Many inexperienced rotisserie GM's make the mistake of grabbing a set of player projections, crunching player dollar values off of those projected stats, printing out player rankings (sorted by dollar value), and then thinking they're done with their draft prep. Unless you're in a league full of newbies, you haven't gone far enough in your draft preparation. Dollar Values and player rankings are great, but they must live and die within the context of two major things: Your Fantasy Team Budget and the Statistical Goals you need to reach in order to win. The simple facts are: (1) you cannot afford to fill out your roster solely with superstars, and (2) just because a given player has a high projected dollar value doesn't mean he's the perfect fit for your team at a given point during the auction.
Here's where Rhino Baseball comes to the rescue. Rhino Baseball includes a really neat function called the Draft Assistant. It lets you search through the available players for your draft, and build a POSSIBLE ROSTER of players for your fantasy team. Each player's DRAFT PRICE is based on his projected dollar value, although you can tweak it as necessary (e.g. perhaps you think you can get a player for his Optimal Bid price, generally 70% to 85% of his projected value).
Building these draft rosters or DRAFT PLANS is an eye opening experience, not to mention a hell of a lot of fun. You quickly realize that you've got many tough choices to make. You cannot afford all the studs. So do you spend the money on 1B Lance Berkman to get his great OBA and top-notch run production, or do you grab 2B Brandon Phillips who offers a nice power/speed blend at a position which lacks depth after the top 3 or 4 guys are drafted? Can you afford to pay for a stud Closer and 3 excellent Starting Pitchers? How many dirt cheap $1 guys (one bid unit) must you draft to compensate for all that money you're spending on studs? These are the kinds of choices that the Draft Assistant alerts you to. It helps you build a great team that's WITHIN YOUR BUDGET.
The really neat thing about Draft Assistant is that you can create MULTIPLE draft plans (budgets). I often build 6 or 7 of them. Once I've spent the time to do that, I open the Draft Plan Analyzer function to evaluate which of my plans is gives me the best chance to win. Here's how that works.
In the Draft Plan Analyzer, you enter your STAT GOALS into a popup window for all the stat categories your fantasy league uses. For instance, if you play in a 5x5 league that uses Batting Average, Runs Scored, RBI, Home Runs, Stolen Bases, Wins, Saves, ERA, Strikeouts, and WHIP, you enter a target value for each of those stat categories. This is the stat level that you want your team to reach. Generally, it's going to be the stats level you'll need to reach in order to finish 3rd in each category (or perhaps 4th in a large league with 13 or more teams). I usually look at the last few years of our HARL fantasy league stats to derive realistic stat goals for my team.
Once you've entered your goals, you click a button and the Draft Plan Analyzer does the heavy lifting. It computes the projected stats for each of your selected draft plans (you can select all 7 at once if you like), compares those projections against your given Stat Goals, and calculates a Plus/Minus Factor for each plan. The plan with the largest plus-factor gives you the best shot to achieve your goals and garner enough points in your league standings to win. That's the draft plan that becomes my PRIMARY draft plan to follow on Draft Day. The 2nd best draft plan serves as my fallback option or SECONDARY plan.
Armed with these draft plans, I use them during my live rotisserie auction using the program's Draft Advisor tool. Rhino Baseball and its associated SQL database can be loaded right onto your laptop and you can take it with you to your annual draft. There are several "Live Draft" related functions, but I won't delve into them now. Most of them are for tracking which players are still available (ranked by best-to-worst value), adjusting player prices due to draft inflation/deflation, checking Drafted Rosters for all the teams, looking at Projected Fantasy Team Stats at any point of the draft, and so forth. But the coolest and most helpful tool in my opinion is the Draft Advisor function.
The Draft Advisor function lets you look at a selected draft plan (usually your Primary plan, unless you've gone to your fallback plan). You can see which players you've drafted (highlighted in green), which are still available (not highlighted), and which players (highlighted in red) your fellow owners have drafted out from under your nose (bastards!!!). For players who have been poached by someone else, you can click on a player then click the Recommended Replacements button to find suitable available players whose stats-production and player-values are similar to that player who was in your original plan. This is a huge help, and let's you quickly adjust your Draft Plan on the fly. It also keeps you on track Budget-wise, so you know when you've got extra money to spend (time to pounce!) and when you need to cool your jets and sit back.
On the right-side of the Draft Advisor screen, you can also see how the team you've drafted so far are stacking up against your Stat Goals. How short are you on Home Runs or Stolen Bases? Can I stop worring about ERA and Saves? It gives you a good idea of where your strengths and weaknesses are, so you can draft accordingly. If you're solid in power but are severely lacking in speed, you'll need to pay, pay, pay for the best available Stolen Base guys.
Drafting based on pure dollar values is a recipe for disaster. The Draft Advisor takes the core data (projections, dollar values, available players, frozen players, statistical goals), and helps you FOCUS your attention on what you need to do to win. Plans do change in mid-draft -- often a lot. But in order to succeed and win, my strong belief is that you need to "work your plan during the draft". It's hard to be successful if you just wing it and go entirely on gut instinct.
Those draft plan and advisor tools are really what makes Rhino Baseball Deluxe and Draft Magic (the draft-only version) great from a draft prep and management perspective. I wish more people knew about it and learned to use it to their advantage. I know there are a few guys in my HARL league who have used other software packages for their draft prep and tracking. They continually fail to beat me. I wonder why?
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
So apologies to all those blog readers who were about to give up on me because I've been practically AWOL the past few months. I'm still kicking.
Anyway... Enough personal crap. What's been going on in my gaming life?
Sword of Severnia
I've briefly mentioned this before, but I'm currently developing a fantasy miniatures wargame called Sword of Severnia. I've been working on this game for just over 3 years; pretty much full-time the past 2 years. Things are coming along quite nicely, especially over the past six-to-eight months, and I'm finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. With persistence and one final big push of work, I'm hopeful that I'll get this darn game published in the later-half of 2009. Join me in crossing your fingers and toes!
Late last-year, my miniatures wargaming group and chief playtesters (known as the Sultans of Severnia) began joining me in a monthly Sultans Game Day held at my house. We've enjoyed several really fun get-togethers and have been playing Sword of Severnia (SoS) exclusively these past few months. Over that time, a menagerie of fantasy races and cultures have been battling it out for tabletop supremacy and we've really gotten to dive down deep into the underlying SoS game system. After numerous rule changes and system tweaks, I'm finally starting to feel satisfied with the wargame design. The game is certainly fun and challenging, encourages the use of smart tactics, includes some neat elements of surprise and tension, and is tremendously customizable and replayable. And I'm finally starting to get the typical playtime pared down to my goal of 3 hours.
The Sultans meet this Sunday for our next set of battles, and I'll keep you posted on how that goes. I'm hoping that we finally hit the point of saying "okay, the rules are looking tight, it's time for Sevy to start hammering away at the WarBuilder software."
WarBuilder is a desktop software application for the PC that works hand-in-hand with the Sword of Severnia tabletop wargame system. It enables wargamers to create customized regiments (units) and characters (leaders, heroes, magicians, specialists), generate army point and victory point values for them, and print stat-cards listing the critical game statistics and special rules for your troops. In essence, there's no need to buy supplemental "army books" for this wargame or build rosters by hand; all your army building and organization is done via the WarBuilder software. It will even create printed cheatsheets that include the specific spells and special abilities that apply to your army, so you won't have to constantly reference the rulebook during play.
I've already designed a good chunk of the WarBuilder database and have programmed one major function, so at least that's a good start. Once the rules stabilize to a safe point, I'll resume design/programming on the core Troop Builder and Character Builder program functions.
This weekend is the Cold Wars miniature wargaming convention in Lancaster, PA. With the terrible economic situation which has hit many folks in America quite hard (including my family), I almost decided to skip this year's convention. But it looks like I'll be heading down to the con on Friday with one of my buddies for a day of wargaming fun. It's always a blast.
I'm certainly going to curtail my spending this time, to about 1/3 to 1/4 of my usual amount -- sorry vendors! Unfortunately, paying the bills is more important than buying hordes of model soldiers right now. Plus, I haven't painted a single figure since my last model shopping spree in November at Fall In. So my new Eureka frog warriors, Beowulf barbarians, West Wind mummies, WarGods gator-men, and Front Rank foot knights remain the shiny color of tin. Not to mention I've got a whole slew of Gnome Wars arquebusiers and halberdiers to paint, and need to get off my butt and finish the paint-jobs on some trolls I started awhile ago.
My goal was to paint a LOT more this year, and so far, I've failed miserably on that accord. Once April rolls around and the crazy preseason baseball crush is over, my "fun schedule" frees up somewhat and provides me with more time to paint. And now that we've got regular games of Sword of Severnia going on, I'm more eager than ever to get some new troops to the table. So Hopefully-Maybe-Perhaps.....
My buying focus at this Cold Wars will be painted figures. Since my budget is quite limited, I probably won't end up with all that much stuff. I refuse to buy complete crap, and nicely painted minis usually aren't cheap, so I need to be very particular with my purchases. Here's hoping for some great finds in the Flea Market!
I'm kinda torn of just what to buy. A typical Sword of Severnia army is around 60-75 figures (12 units plus characters), so that's small enough to build several armies. I've already got enough figs to field about 4 or 5 different armies (goblins/trolls, arthurian-style knights, undead, elves, and dwarves/gnomes). I'm also trying to round out a decent swamp-army (reptilians, gator-men, dinosaurs, frog-men), a Krone barbarian force (vikings, valkyries, ice trolls, yeti, giants), and a mythic Jartan force (hoplites, centaurs, minotaurs, greek monsters). I'm also keen on building up a Broog army (beastmen, dogmen, deermen, anubis warriors, wulfen). And more than anything, I'd like to beef up my cavalry in just about every force. I guess my problem is that I love everything, and just can't choose 1 or 2 favorite armies. They're all good!
Anyway... maybe Kev and I will snap some good pictures at Cold Wars and be able to share them with the blog readers sometime soon. Stay tuned.
Board Game Roundup
It has been a fairly quiet few months for me in the boardgame world. My good friend Wally and I got to play a game of Wizard Kings in late-December. It was great fun and truth be told, I'm itching to play it again.
For those of you not familiar with the game, Wizard Kings is a strategic level fantasy wargame played on geomorphic maps which can be assembled in a wide variety of ways. Like most of the wargames designed by Columbia Games, your troops are represented by wooden blocks with colored stickers attached to one side which show the type of unit and it's corresponding attack, movement, and strength stats. These blocks are nice & chunky, visually appealing, easy to use, and simulate fog-of-war superbly.
What sets Wizard Kings apart from most of the other block wargames is it's interesting variety of troops and maps, which provide for truly awesome replayability. Many people describe this game as a "kit style" wargame, where you can customize your armies to some degree, build a huge variety of battle-maps to fight on, and design your own wargame scenarios. I absolutely love games like that (I'm a miniature wargamer after all, where creativity is king). As much as I really like a historical wargame like Hammer of the Scots, it's not a game I can see playing 30 times without getting bored with it. Conversely, with 7 different armies, a nice variety of maps with interesting terrain effects, support for multi-player games as well as 2-player, and the ability to design your own battle scenarios, Wizard Kings is a game with lots of staying power.
Other than WK, I haven't been playing any boardgames of late. Hopefully, we'll start up some regular weekend boardgame sessions this Spring. This always seems to be the time when people free up and shake-off the winter doldrums. There are definitely some great games in my collection that I'm eager to revisit, and some new-to-me games that I'm hoping will hit the table soon (such as El Grande, Aladdin's Dragons, Prophecy, Wallenstein, Last Night on Earth, Downfall of Pompeii, Hannibal, and Big City). I've also got my eyes on a few new or upcoming releases that are must-buys: Age of Conan, Small World, and the new edition of Cosmic Encounter by FFG.
So that's the scoop for now. Hopefully-Maybe-Perhaps... I can start blogging more frequently! Perhaps I just need more encouragement? Or maybe a swift kick in the nads? Option #1 sure sounds better!
Peace and pray for Spring to arrive soon!
Sunday, February 22, 2009
I wanted to post this link from one of our blog readers (Kelly Sonora) because I thought it was interesting...
70+ Open Courseware Links for Game Designers and Developers
Caution. It's VERY "mathy". Hope that you'll find it educational. Peace!
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Fortunately, I've held off the saliva-dripping hounds gnawing at my ankles and have escaped with my dignity and my tootsies intact. Well, at least my tootsies. Reclaiming my dignity may take some time. You see, I've made one of those major life-altering decisions to leave my current full-time job as a micro ISV owner (not entirely, as my tiny software development company will live on as a part-time gig), and return to working full-time in Corporate America.
There are several reasons why I'm making this move, but the overriding consideration is a purely financial one. Despite pouring lots of time, money, creativity, software development skill, patience, and hard work into my micro business, it has never become the money-maker that I had originally hoped it would become. Developing a great product and providing top-notch customer support for it isn't nearly enough to succeed. You've got to out-market and out-sell a large portion of your competitors. That's extremely difficult to do when your biggest competition can spend $1,000 for every $1 that you spend to promote your product. Eventually, you have to confront reality and admit that you're not going to win every fight.
There have been successes and accomplishments to be extremely proud of, and many new friends made along the way, but in the end the reality is that except for a few very fortunate software entrepreneurs, working for someone else pays a helluva lot better.
So I'm in the midst of re-assimilating into the world of "working for somebody else". On one hand, it really sucks. I will sorely miss the benefit of choosing my own projects to work on; projects that I'm intensely passionate about. I'll miss picking my own development tools to use, and implementing my own personal procedures and methodologies. I'll miss setting my own work-schedule. But I won't miss being underpaid, working mostly in isolation and anonymity, working lots of nights & weekends, and frequently feeling completely overwhelmed by the sheer variety of tasks that need to be done to keep a micro ISV running to even a mild degree of success. I've "worked for the man" before. Let me say that it is a much easier job and usually less-stressful than running your own business.
What's hardest for me to deal with right now is the loss of dignity that comes with moving from full-time self-employment to hunting for a position working for somebody else. Most of the people who you'll interview with have absolutely no concept of what it takes to run a small software development business or all the things you do to make it happen. They don't realize all the hats you've had to wear and all the things you've had to learn entirely on your own.
The simple truth is that you come from a totally different world than they do and they don't really value it like they should. If they want a VB.Net developer and you've been using PowerBuilder or Java for years, they scoff and kick you to the curb. If it's NOT EXACTLY what they want, they move on. It doesn't matter whether you've designed software for 20 years and can probably run circles around them as an analyst & developer, or can learn the language well enough to be teaching it to new programming recruits by next year. Nope. They want what they want; who cares if you actually ran your own company or not? I'm slowly learning to swallow my pride, like it or not.
Working for someone else will probably always be "just a job" to me. It helps pay the bills, but it's unlikely to become something that I'm completely passionate about. Who knows, maybe I'll catch lightning in a bottle? But I kinda doubt it. Most people just aren't that lucky.
That's why I'm keeping my business around as a part-time hobby gig. That will be one way to satisfy my personal desires, to work on stuff that I truly love. I can dabble in what I enjoy and will no longer need to worry about whether it's a big financial success or not.
I'll see how it all works out. Until then, I'm taking a detour into a New World; one with bosses, co-workers, time-sheets, business attire, rush-hour traffic, meetings, and office politics, but most of all, one with health benefits, regular vacation, and a steady paycheck. Wish me luck!