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Floor Games (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 02 October 2016 00:00

can only imagine what being H.G. Well's kid must have been like. Sure, his dad was a bit out there, with Free Love and his divorce and such. Who knows what that would have been like, at the tale end of the oh-so-proper Victorian Age.

But then again, it must have been fun, too. I mean, wow, your dad was writing about Martians striding about in fighting machines, blasting crowds of people. He wasn't, say, a chemist. He was an early pioneer of writing. Imagine the bedtime stories.

Or the play sessions.

This one came out in 1911 (and predated his more detailed work, Little Wars (which it mentions) by two years. It is not much of a read - I did it over a couple of work breaks. But it shows the sort of imagination he had, the sort he'd pass onto his children.

In this book, he talks about the games they would play. There were ones where boards on the floor represented islands. Another held twin cities, constructed of blocks and various left-over toys. In both, he describes (through a child's eyes (and the eyes of the great imagineer)) the world they'd constructed. He takes us around on a tour, telling the names of the citizens and the creatures encountered in the most charming fashion. It was just enjoyable to lose myself in this strange little world of wind-up trains, of soldiers missing legs, and of toys lost from their original use and repurposed into more imaginative pursuits.

Like I said, it reminded me of my own childhood, of our playroom above the garage in Southern California, of bent Hot Wheel cars, of army men, of card houses, and of play in a world that needed no rules and had no end. And also of my sister and I making our muddy "zoo" on the side yard, with every toy animal we could collect (how heartbroken I was when the plaster squirrel lost most of his coat in the rain).

Really, that's all this book is, an idle recording by Wells of the game he and his children played, one that will bring back memories, not only his, but your own. You can get it free HERE, and it's worth the quarter hour or so you'll put into reading it. A delight!

>>>AND IF CHILDHOOD MEMORIES AREN'T YOUR THINK, PERHAPS ANCIENT EMPIRES ARE. MY BOOKS FOR SALE HERE!<<<

Last Updated on Sunday, 18 September 2016 15:42
 
Ready Player One (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 25 September 2016 00:00

eady Player One is, in a nutshell, a geeky love-affair with the eighties, the era's games, its movies and media. And just like some of my girlfreinds from that time, I think I remember them more fondly than they actually deserved (no, not you. If you read this and are mad about it, this isn't about you wink )

Like the console games of that time - which were simple and fun - this pretty much discribes this book.

So, the setup - Wade is a poor kid (in the future, pretty much everybody is poor) living in stacked trailers in Oklahoma City. For the last five years since the death of the architect of the modern web interface (which turned everything into a first-person game), he's been working on the puzzle of the ages. See, this fellow who built all this, this eighties nerd who was a huge hanger door to Bill Gates (lousy analogy, I know), died unloved and fabulaously wealthy. Thus, all his billions, even control of the computer network, all that, it all has been incorporated into a puzzle game. Solve it and it's all yours.

And, of course, our pauper Wade has figured the first step of it out, reasoning through the puzzle and realizing that the first prize is right under his nose.

This starts off a rush as Wade and his best buddy, as well as the girl Wade secretly adores, all go after the gates. In a nice touch, a huge rotten-to-the-core corporation (are there any other types in novels) has devoded an entire operaitonal unit into solving this. With their resources, is there anything they won't do to win? (non-spoiler answer - nope).

And so it's a race, one that travels through the games of our childhoods (mine, anyway), brining in Defender, Joust, Adventure (from Atari - God, those ducky dragons take me back) and many others. Seamlessly we travel through movies and TV shows, where reality, at least as defined in this web, is nothing save imagry from America's so-called golden age (hey, I remember playing Pacman at the bowling alley - didn't feel like an epoch to me at the time).

And yes, it's fun, in a nostalgic way. It does get a little geekish after a while with references being thrown out about everything; Firefly, Cowboy Bebop, Zork, Wargames. Really, it's hard to imagine that Wade and his companions could contain quite that amount of trivia, being dead-on perfect on every line of dialog and every twist of plot in every movie and sitcom from the era. Really, I had to ask myself, where did they get all that time. Sure, I played Defender and Star Raiders, but in all my time playing games, I think I only mastered the latter.

And sadly, I'll note that my own games I'd written and released in that era, Eagles and Cybertank, neither got a single mention. Pity.

But yes, like the kiddy pool, it's fun and not very deep, just a crazy mix-n-mash of a glorified era that most of us got over some time back and hardly think about now. But that's the past - sometimes it means something to certain people.

>>>LIKE ANCIENT TYRE! NOW THERE WAS A GLORIOUS PAST TO GEEK OVER. AND I DO, IN TWO BOOKS. YOU CAN GET THEM FOR NEXT TO NOTHING RIGHT HERE!<<<

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 25 September 2016 09:13
 
Little Wars (Audio Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 18 September 2016 08:48

grew up with war games. From our early Avalon Hill games, from playing Jutland with my dad in a living room with all furniture removed, from summer games with my friends: Africa Corps, Midway, Panzerblitz. I owned probably a hundred games and played them all. But I fondly remember my father, before going on a nine-month cruise to Vietnam, purchasing two Napoleonic armies made of lead figures, one English (for me) and one French (for him). And during this time, we painted them up.

When all is said and done, we probable spent more prep time than play time on this - we probably only played a dozen or so games (I can still remember one our our last games where my infantry pressed him on his right, his cavalry attempted to cross along his front to relieve, and I slaughtered then with well-placed artillery (that also, on a bounce, removed one of this guns from play). (and perhaps, I suspect, that's why it was the last game - I never beat the old man at much, but I did beat him here and once in Panzerblitz and we never played either again).

I also remember, as a kid, reading a Believe it or not column that said something like "H.G. Wells, famed writer, actually played with toy soldiers". Even then I loved H.G. - War of the Worlds was one of my favorite books of all times. So what was that about?

I managed to find out sometime later when I found the remarkable Little Wars, a book that explains (in 1913) how to play wargames on a nursery room floor with toy soldiers and little rifled cannons. It seems that H.G. and his acquaintance found these articles and began playing. As the story proceeds, you can sense the games that take place, how the rules develop as they resolve unsatisfactory conclusions until, finally, they have a game worthy of play. H.G. is unabashedly boastful here, even transforming himself (humorously) from ink-stained writer to be-scarred warrior, to explain in detail the Battle of Hooks Farm (which, of course, he won handily). The original work even comes with photographs to follow the action as his opponent blunders and H.G. slaughters him on the slope below the hill.

Of course, I've long noted how fabulously H.G. wrote, and Little Wars was no exception. You could hear his enthusiasm for his creation, sense he and his fellows setting aside straw hats and laying across the floor to better sight a gun on a rival regiment. It's nothing short of a pure delight. Well worth the read!

And in this case, I didn't have to read it. During a slow eyeball-audit at work (just scanning long lines of columns) I listened to the Gutenberg version. It was a very enjoyable listen, produced by Mark Smith whose solid voice carried it quite capably across the finish line, He captured the cadence of the piece perfectly, nether mocking nor over-stating it, just reading with a small smile the lead-solder battles from a century ago.

Anyway, every enjoyable. You can get the audio version HERE, in a number of formats. And, for you folks who'd rather read it, you'll find it HERE. Either way, its a short and very enjoyable look at a man and the hobby he develops.

>>>WHO KNOWS, MAYBE ONE OF THESE BLOGS WILL RESULT IN A WHOLE NEW HOBBY BEING DEVELOPED. GET IN ON THE GROUND FLOOR. BUY ONE OF MY BOOKS!<<<

Post-review note - I forgot to add this. It was interesting to follow Well's account of some of their rules developments, how they found it unsatisfactory where solders could hide behind encyclopedias (which originally served as hills) and hide from fire, and how their battles would quickly become stalemates. Of course, I listened to this with a pang of sadness, knowing that what he despised in the game was about to begin (a year later) when the Great War erupted. They might as well have played this version of trench warfare with every man and gun secured behind redoubts of books, not a piece to be seen, and the calvary left in its box.

I wonder if they ever did play this scenario in later years. Just to see...

Last Updated on Sunday, 18 September 2016 09:45
 
Go Fundamentals (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 11 September 2016 00:00

o here's that picture again...

Anyway, yes, I like Go. I like it better than Chess. It's a fun game of placement and encirclement and a little time with a simulator (and getting literally dissected on a small-board game at work) showed me I needed to learn more about it.

Go Fundamentals is a pretty good effort on this. The author goes over the history of the game (mentioning Hikaru No Go, so points for that). He also explains the critical elements of the game, how to surround stones and claim territory. All very good to know, since it might help you.

Where I really bogged down was in the problem/solution area. Now the interesting thing is that, as he presents these with a layout of the pieces, he proceeds to show the sequence of play while flipping it two or three times across his explanation. You'd see a couple of moves, then in the next continuing illustration he'd flip it. And then reverse it. Initially I found this very irritating but as I continued to look at it, I realized that Go is about pattern recognition and that, in flipping and reversing the possible stone relationships, the instructor was getting you to see the various patterns in all their forms. And that was good (I guess) even through I only see many of these outcomes after he explains them. A couple of them resulted in me setting them up at the board and work and playing them through to get it.

While the flipping and such was a necessary evil, a couple of times I found where continuing illustrations actually had omissions of pieces. This didn't work so well as it made it difficult to see just how the play worked out while trying to imagine a missing stone being in place. It didn't happen often but it was frustrating when it did.

Overall, though, I really did find the book interesting. At least I'm aware now of a few mistakes I've been making. And occasionally the gasp-moments of Hikaru No Go make a little more sense. So, yes, if you'd like to get a starting baseline for playing Go, this book can get you in the door. But just get ready to lose a lot - I sure am!

>>>I THINK I'LL STICK WITH WRITING (WHICH I AM GOOD AT) AND KEEP GO A HOBBY (SINCE I SUCK AT IT). BUT IF YOU WANT TO TEST THIS, BUY ONE OF MY BOOKS HERE (FOLLOW THIS LINK) AND THEN WE'LL PLAY A GAME. TELL ME WHAT I'M WORSE AT smiley<<<

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 September 2016 15:07
 
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