Game diaries

Game diaries are not AARs (after action reports). AARs are boring and often tedious, because they're just about what happened in the game. You know, like when some dude is telling you about his D&D campaign. Instead, a game diary is about our ongoing experience with a game. They were Let's Plays before Let's Plays were even a thing! They're arguably just as much about us as whatever game we're writing about. If you're interested in contributing a game diary to this site, we'd love to work with you! Please send an email to [email protected]

Latest Game diaries

Kingdom Death: Monster: a lion in summer

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Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

This is what I say out loud. I’ll mutter things from time to time. But this I say. Out loud enough that the cat mewls because he thinks I’m talking to him.

Yes, I tell him.

The best peak moments are in games that also have the lowest bleak moments. Kingdom Death: Monster is nothing if not bleak. It will test your willingness to subject yourself to the ruthless whims of the random number gods. You will roll Blood Geysers, Exploding Heads, leprosy, and two 1’s when you only need one of them to be a 3 or higher, so your population drops because a woman just died in childbirth. It exists to kill you so that you’ll be elated during moments when it doesn’t.

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Kingdom Death: Monster: you can’t stop what’s coming

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After you get past gluing together teensy bits of plastic and then receiving your mauling at the claws of what should have been a tutorial, Kingdom Death: Monster finally shows you what it really is. Once you’re filling out the sheet for your settlement, you’ve arrived and now you can see clearly. Now you can see what the road ahead looks like. What’s that strange hulking shape up there? Is it getting closer?

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Ambush!: maybe I was wrong about this game…

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Well, now there’s this.

In order to win this mission, you have to satisfy several victory conditions. Among them is the following:

“At least one active US soldier is in any hex of the heights in the southeast corner of the map (defined by the elevation change running from Q-19 to Y-13) from which he can see all the road hexes on the map.”

After the jump, there’s just one little tiny problem. Continue reading →

Ambush!: moving parts

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I may or may not have been alive in 1983, and if I was, I was certainly far too young to play wargames. But it seems to me that Ambush! is an absolute masterpiece of game design for that era. Computer wargames were ugly and obtuse; board wargames needed to be played with an in-person friend equally as nerdy as you… and were also obtuse. Ambush! is played solo, and it’s incredibly streamlined. Every feature designers Eric Lee Smith and John Butterfield chose to include serves a purpose.

After the jump, let’s look at a few of those things. Continue reading →

Ambush!: steamy sex games

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For a while, I went through an “acquire solitaire board games” phase. This phase was motivated by the fear that, someday, an apocalypse might take out the electrical grid, and all my friends would die. Somehow, I alone would manage to survive in this nightmare world, along with my board game collection. That apocalypse may or may not come, but in the meantime, I’ve hoarded stacks of solitaire games, and I want to play them.

One of these is Ambush!, which I tried once, years ago, quickly realized I was Doing It Wrong, and flipped the table. By the way, did you know that you’re probably Doing It Wrong? Not just romantically and career-wise, but also when it comes to board games. Many years of my own personal research have determined that people simply can’t remember board game rules.

“But Tony!” you splutter. “I’m a hardcore nerd! My life’s passion is board games! I have a poster of Vlaada Chvatil taped to my bedroom ceiling!”

After the jump: A rude awakening. Continue reading →

Kingdom Death: Monster: some assembly required

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Jason and Ian are both like little devils on my shoulder. They’re not doing it right. Isn’t one of them supposed to be the angel? They’re telling me about this super expensive game that I had already heard of, but had zero interest in playing. Especially once I found out that you have to glue together the stupid miniatures yourself. Ugh. Who has the time? It’s not my job to put together a game the designer couldn’t be bothered to put together himself. Besides, I did my term of service gluing stuff together when I was 14 and getting gluey fingerprints all over Revell models of B-17s. But they’re each telling me things about the game that make me think there’s more to this thing than I knew. Ian has it and he’s clearly enamoured of it. Or at least invested in it. Jason doesn’t have it, but he wishes he did. He seems to admire it from afar.

They keep talking. Their words are cackles and pricking pitchforks and the lash of tiny barbed tails at the back of my neck. But I’m strong. They can’t do their work on me. It won’t work. It won’t work.

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Bomber Crew: mission 21

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Mission 21: Operation Chastise (critical mission). I’m really proud of fishpockets. He used his star-navigation skills perfectly, and got us to the target without ever having to go to low altitude. I’m also proud of RichVR. He got in the ventral turret once we got up high, and even though he was wearing plimsolls so that he could scoot around the plane faster as the engineer, he never complained, even as I’m sure his feet froze at that altitude. I sure am proud of Miguk: he had just gotten to level 6 and learned how to auto-tag fighters, which relieved us of the need to watch radar and track them manually when things got really hairy. I think he truly felt like a contributing part of the team, now. I can’t say enough about Juan_Raigada and MrCoffee, who kept the fighters off us so effectively that we could afford to make a run in with the experimental bomb without being bothered by anything worse than some paltry small arms fire.

But I’m really most proud of…

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Bomber Crew: missions 19 and 20

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Mission 19: Bouncing Bomb Test Run. We’re out of special bonuses, so we decide it’s time for the test mission. There shouldn’t be any enemy fighters over Cornwall, but because we have a protocol in place, the gunners without ammo feeds still got up just after takeoff and grabbed an extra ammo box each. This turned out to be a great move when Forgetful Biggins routed us to some splashed-down fighter pilots in the Channel. We just had to spot them, which wasn’t too hard, since their fancy pants were so shiny and all. Then we took a detour and photographed some recon sites, because we were feeling a bit fancy, ourselves.

The good news I guess is that the experimental bomb works. The bad news is that it means they’re almost certainly gonna make us use it.

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Bomber Crew: missions 16-18

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Mission 16: Ammo Dump at Bruges: I have been told that in the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war. I suspect this is a small taste of that, since we are going to bomb Bruges again when we just did it not too long ago. Practice must make perfect, though, because it is the smoothest flight we’ve had in days. We even manage to pick up two recon opportunities. That’ll come in handy for our plane upgrades! I suspect the “enemy armor down” and “enemy flak down” that are both in effect for this mission have something to do with this. We also earn an “enemy damage down,” so our next mission will have both enemy armor and damage reduced. It would be great to have these both up for the critical mission, which is Operation Chastise against the Ruhr dams, but I can’t fly that until I fly the test mission to see if the bomb works. Since I have two awesome bonuses in effect, I think we should go for another tough mission. The crew is not of the same opinion, but I’m the boss.

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Bomber Crew: missions 12-15

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Mission 12: Operation Hydra (the second critical mission) is the second outright failure of the campaign. We knew something was up when Biggins walked into the briefing hut with a stern look on his face, even though we hadn’t done anything wrong recently. We figured he might cut us some slack for a little longer since we had, you know, just shot down an ace, but all he said was, “Operation Hydra is a critical mission. We need you to knock out these oil farms deep in enemy territory. The enemy is Germany, in case you were confused by the oblique game references to nationalities. Anything else?” We, of course, had nothing else. Turns out we should have been the ones asking him if he had anything else, because halfway into the mission, he comes on the radio and tells us to intercept a V2 rocket while it is taking off, and shoot it down, before continuing with our mission. Of course, that’s impossible, so we don’t do it, and then we try to get fancy and bomb the oil farms from medium altitude to stay above all the flak, but get confused by the cloud cover and hit one out of three. After confirming on all our fingers that “one” is not the same as “three,” we bolt for high altitude and scoot back over the clouds, with some nice dead reckoning by fishpockets getting us most of the way home. We get no money, but do keep our 4500 XP that we got for shooting down a lot of fighters.

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Bomber Crew: missions 8-11

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Mission 8: Doodlebug Blitz brings us our first outright failure. The mission, as stated by Wing Commander Biggins, was to bomb five V1 rocket launch sites before eight V1 rockets had been launched. He even counted the objectives out on his fingers so we’d get it. Unfortunately, Left_Empty didn’t get it, because he kind of spazzed out as we passed over the second site and dropped a rack of bombs on the AA emplacement just before the launch pad passed into his bombsight. To his credit, he quickly selected another rack and dispatched the launch site anyway, but when he took off his glove to count his fingers, he realized he still had three sites to bomb, but there were only two racks of bombs left. Boy, was Biggins going to let him have it back at the base! He sheepishly turned to Pilot Officer Brooski and told him the bad news, staying off the intercom so that RichVR, who was becoming known on board as kind of the wiseacre of the crew, didn’t make up some awful play on words involving his name. “I guess you sure left that bomb bay empty, eh Left_Empty!” He could at least wait until they got back to the barracks to hear it.

The only thing we got out of this mission was 2000 experience points, which was enough to level RichVR up on his pilot secondary skill and teach him how to Corkscrew. He’ll probably be bragging about that back at the barracks as well.
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Bomber Crew: missions 1-7

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Mission 1: Motor Factory at Zeebrugge. This almost ends in disaster as both the electrical and hydraulic systems go out pretty much on takeoff, then I get so absorbed in fixing them that I tag the first wave of fighters late, and then I compound it by not getting Left_Empty into the bombardier’s station fast enough to open the bomb bay doors in time to hit the target on the first pass. Plus, the port outboard engine gets set on fire. Fortunately, I get things together fast enough to swing back and hit the target, and RichVR does stellar work fixing the engine once the fire dies down and makes the engine kaput (shown). But we don’t get the optional recon photo, which I think is essential to building up your bomber quickly. I satisfy myself with woolen gloves and leather boots for everybody. I also protect everyone by buying Armored Fuselage 1 for the whole plane, because I’m a mensch.

One trick is to select each gunner (tail gunner, mid-upper turret, and nose gunner) and hit “R” right as you are taking off from England, as this will immediately send them to the ammo bay to get an extra ammo box while you’re still over Wessex. Er, Sussex? Whatevs. Continue reading →