Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Saturday Tune: Cosmic Love

Am I really the last person on earth to discover Florence and the Machine? Oh, well, no matter. I make up for in trendiness with great taste in most things. In an age where 'musicians' are often sculpted, and where 'talent' is based on looks it's nice to know there are genuine artists who can actually (gasp) sing. Imagine. What a concept, huh? I always felt the test of any artist/band was how they performed live. Not the dancing and all that bullshit, but how they sounded. It's easy to spot the true talent. Like this intimate session from Florence and the Machine.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Civ V: The Suleiman Strategy- Zerg Em.

I wondered, in my last post, how long it would take to win a domination victory if I focused on using (abusing) the changes to the naval warfare system coupled with the Ottoman ability to capture defeated ships. The answer, to that, my friends, is 173, or at least it was in this case. I tweaked the game options and played on a tiny island map, with four civs on difficulty level five, and in order to save a bit of time skipped the ancient portion of the technology race and started on turn 50.

The result was much as I expected but I did discover an interesting way to get ships, culture, and some much needed extra gold. Maybe I've been playing MMO's too long but I found a way to 'farm' barbarians. I selected raging barbarians in the set-up, and then took the Social Policies which provide both culture for kills, and the 33% bonus for fighting barbarians. I was lucky enough to come across the barbarian encampment on a small island just off my territory. The encampment, cleared so I could use the nearby iron resource, spawned 1-2 ships every other turn.... which I dutifully captured. Each one provided 7 culture, and any that couldn't fit into my zerg navy were sold for 3-7 gold each. Huzzah!

The Barbarian Ship/Culture/Gold Farm
My strategy then, was to use the horde of captured triremes to batter down the defences of the port cities of my opponents with the help of a few ranged melee naval ships some of which I constructed, and others I captured as the barbarian encampment eventually spawns better ships. I took Japan with nothing but triremes and a single ranged ship. Spain proved harder as they had built a wall and the trireme strategy failed miserably here. I had to wait until I had a couple ranged ships as support, but the poor AI made my task too easy. No matter that the ranged ships are the real danger, the AI consistently targets whatever is put in front of them- even if it's a worthless trireme. This happened across the board with all my opponents.

Also, frustratingly, the AI would do extremely stupid things like embark land units into the middle of my (hostile) fleet. At one stage Spain built a new city while we at war, and with my entire fleet sitting off their coast. It was a great gift for me as it served as a fine staging area for taking their capital.

Another example of the poor decisions of the AI
By the time I maneuvered to the far side of the map to take the last remaining civilization I had Frigates in tow. I used three of them, from rage, screened with the suicide Triremes, and it only took two turns of off-shore battery to ninja their capital and win the game.

Three Frigates and a handful of crappy suicide ships is all it takes

I am enjoying these games, despite my criticism of the AI. Maybe I should look at it another way and think of it as my superior intellect, and that of all humans, ensuring we will never be enslaved by machines. In any case, I have noticed that the Egyptians start with a 15% bonus to wonder construction, and there are two separate in-game bonuses that supply the same. I'm off to see how quickly I can get a cultural victory with a 45% bonus to wonder-construction!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Civ V God and Kings: Enter The Navy, Exit the AI

I have been playing the crap out of the Gods and Kings expansion and like many others who have played and reviewed it (not linking due to laziness) I like it quite a bit. The most talked about features- religion and espionage- aren't game-altering, but do add a nice extra layer of depth. What has been overlooked, and not talked about in the few articles I've looked at, is the change to naval warfare. The new naval warfare system allows melee-based ships to capture cities and for ships to protect land units who are embarking. A small change but one that has some really drastic consequences to game-play.

In my history of Civ gaming I've had a few Domination victories. I remember the old days where you had to wipe every last civ off the earth to claim that crown. Now you simply need to capture and hold all the capital cities. In the per-expansion days of Civ V I found that to be quite difficult and won most of my victories on the space race. It was getting rather dull (knowing that was the quick way to victory) so I started to remove that as an option.

And along came the Gods and Kings expansion. I dutifully started a new game with the Celts to check out the religious features of the game. I was plodding along happily when I finally noticed the change in the naval combat system. I also noted the remaining capital cities were on the coast so I put two and two together and..... Yoink!

Take that everyone!

One of the game modes, or earth types, rather, I have tried without much success in the past is the archipelago set-up. I found it quite challenging because if you get stuck on a bad island, or the resources aren't nearby, you're pretty much screwed. I wondered, however, with the new naval combat if an island-based game was feasible. The Ottoman Empire only pays 1/3 the cost of naval upkeep, and start with an ability to capture enemy melee ships. I thought it was a good opportunity to try an extreme strategy. All navy, all the time! 

It's not looking good for the Arabs who, coincidentally enough, had most of the oil in the game which I needed to keep my Battleship-based Empire afloat.

Or the Japanese. How ironic: a surprise naval strike wipes them out.

Hmmm...looking as familiar as the space race victory was previously.
The result was ridiculously predictable. I set my tech path to Battleship and never looked back.I had very, very few land units but a very, very strong navy and I absolutely crushed the AI. Whenever I'd take one of their cities I'd wait with my Frigates, and later Battleships, and pound them as they tried to re-take the city. Find the next target, rinse, and repeat.

Now I'm not gonna go crying about how the naval warfare is 'OP', or 'EZ mode'. This is a single-player game, after all, and I can decide what type of game to play, and how I play it. The new naval combat system makes it ridiculously easy to conquer your opponents, however (as long as are on the coast, of course). Why would I want to make numerous land units to attack/defend when I can pretty much devastate and entire opponent with 3 Battleships and a Destroyer (and a Carrier with three bombers is a very nice addition, along with a couple submarines to control the seas)? I can crank up the difficulty (its on the normal, default one atm) but I think (based on past games) it just lets the AI get things quicker. It doesn't let them play smarter.

In the end, I had a lot of fun with my Island experiment. I'm not looking for a massive challenge in Civ so I won't be paying on Hardcore difficult mode, nor will I be trying multiplayer. I'm quite happy finding new ways to win, and doing so in my own time. It is a shame, however, that you can simply ninja the capitals and claim victory. My next test might be to see just how fast I can do this as I don't think the AI can handle the new naval-based system in any meaningful way.

Two for Two with the new expansion.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Salem MMO. Better Late Than Never...?

I finally received a beta invite to Salem, the perma-death sandbox which calls itself The Crafting MMO. Now is about the worst time to try and play as a perma-death MMO is not the place you want to be while only having one hand free, now is it? Other than 'roll' my toon (Gankalicious of course) and run about in the starting square, I've not seen much of it.

Thanks to She Who Will Be Named Later insisting that life should resume to something resembling normalcy, I had a couple hours to myself this afternoon when she left the house (I know, crazy, I have no idea why anyone ever leaves their house) to log into World Of Tanks.... only to find that 7.4 has released and thus had to spend precious time patching. In the end I only managed three battles before I had to log. Grrrr. Poxy baby.

Civ V: Gods and Kings has almost literally been running on my system 24 hours a day as I never know when I'll have to sit and rock New Mouth To Feed for an hour or so (which I do in front of the computer). Conversely I'll often be playing when she nods odd and I'll flop over to the sofa behind me for a bit of a kip while leaving the game on. I'm gonna have to turn the hex-feature off the main map as I'm starting to see hexes on my own lawn when I take the dogs out for fresh-air breaks!

And you thought I was kidding.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fortuitious Friday: One Handed Gaming

Yes I do know it's not Friday but time has lost all meaning for me at the moment. I'm breaking from my Friday tradition of talking about my real life by sticking to the topic of gaming. If you read me regularly, you won't have been lately as I've not had the energy to post. If you know what Baby Colic is, you'll forgive me. If not, pray you never do and if you are without children I urge you to get sterilized. Immediately. It's a living hell.

In my effort to find things I can do with one hand (use your imagination as to why) I have returned to Civ V which I purchased a while ago in a steam sale. I have actively spoken out against this installment as I felt it was a step back from the series which I feel peaked at Civ III. Turn-based games are a rarity now-a-days and I really and truly do need something I can play one-handed for hours at a time (while rocking a screaming baby). I decided I would put aside all my previous reservations about the game, ignore the previous versions and just play it as it was.

The result, I am happy to say, has been positive. I find it addicting and challenging. It certainly helps it is one of the only turn-based strategy games on the market (that's not outdated) and the fact I am sleep-deprived and unable to explore anything else may also be a factor. I am looking forward to the upcoming expansion and it will become one of the few non-mmo games not on sale that I will be spending some money on in quite some time. I'm not sure I'll keep at it for 10 years, but for now it's just what I need (thanks to Bronte for pointing that one out).

World Of Tanks has had some major announcements recently with the addition of Tier 10 medium tanks and tank destroyers. It could be quite interesting for the end-game, but as I'm not really into Clan Wars and rarely use my end-game tanks, it's a bit of a 'meh' for me. I dislike the top-tier tank economy and as it stands so adding yet another cash-sucking tier doesn't hold much appeal. I have, in fact, sold my E50 (German top tier medium) as I rarely play it, and when I do, rarely have fun with it. I've not played in over a week for both the reasons of practicality, and the fact I am quite into Civ V. It's been a nice break, over all, but I do get that feeling that I should be playing. Every day for over a year and now, cold turkey! Ahhh, gaming. Both a passion and an addiction.

Happy whatever day it is everyone!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fortuitious Friday: WTB- Sleep and/or Silence

Just a quick post to let my (probable) legions of fans and virtual friends know that I am not dead. Tired, yes, but not dead. Due to the fact that I was not born with the right kind of equipment for feeding babies I am getting more sleep than She Who Will Be Named Later  but there is still a noticeable deficieny. The Mother In Law is nearing the end of a three-week visit that has presented its own unique, tiring challenges in addition to the New Mouth To Feed.

It's times like these, when I'm surrounded by family and inlaws, and basking in the glow of familial love, acceptance, and understanding that remind me why I didn't marry until I was 36 and put off having children until I was 42. It's a lot of work for a hardcore introvert, and much like the general chat window of an MMO there are a lot of stupid questions, pointless observations, meaningless babble, and handfulls of out-dated advice. Unlike the genearl chat window, however, I can't minimize it, nor can I put a sticky-note over it. People get so upset when you try to tape their mouths while they are talking :)

Happy Friday Everyone!

Monday, June 4, 2012

World of Tanks 7.4 Test. Be Careful What You Wish For

I will admit I'm not very excited about this patch- despite whining for quite some time about wanting new game modes. French tanks don't interest me much and the new game modes are turning out to be a bit of a cluster.....well, you get the idea.

Picture 15 random people of differing skills, with differing tanks, without the means to verbally communicate, plan, or organize, and add the fact many of them do not understand the goals of the new game mode. Pit them against 15 similar individuals with similar problems. Turn them loose and guess what happens. Chaos. Absolute chaos.

 I'm sure, given time, people will figure it out but holy crap it's a bit crazy at the moment. The goals aren't really made clear during the beginning of the matches and at times I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be defending the base, or capturing it and judging by the results, nor was anyone else. I so wanted new game modes but now I'm having second thoughts. Thinking of the 'assault base or destroy all enemy' I can see some potential for griefing here. Maybe it's the way my brain thinks, but if your team tanks badly (hehe, pun intended) and you, as the attacker, decide to just hide out somewhere the other team is screwed unless they find you or wait out the timer. Or maybe I have that wrong and the defender can win by capping their own base. I'm really not sure, and to be honest, too lazy to read up on it in the forums.

I also tried the new IS6 and it sucks. Badly. Prices are subject to change, of course, but at 11,500 gold it is one to avoid. It's not even a 'watered down IS3' which some people are claiming. I love the IS3 and this tank is nothing like it. It doesn't have the pike nose for starters, and the armor is worse than the KV-13 which is a tier below it, and a medium to boot. It is sluggish, slow, and the gun shoots plastic bullets (or so it seems). I'm sure a buff is coming in the next test patch but as it stands it's a leaver. The credit income didn't seem so great (I earn more in my Type 59) so what's the point? By all accounts the new premium Jag sucks as well. Poor camo value, large profile, no speed, and a gun that can't pen anything tier 9+. Hooray.


I jumped into the French TD line at tier 7 and so far it's okay. I mean, it's a TD.... what can I say? They all play basically the same way so the subtle differences are in the eye of the beholder. I like that they are quick-ish with decent armor, and they can traverse well. The guns are very accurate. No auto-loaders (drums), thank god.

Just another TD...that's all folks.

The French arty is a fucking joke at the moment (damn, wanted to try this post without swearing) and not in the usual 'OMG arty is OP' kind of moaning that dominates the arty-complaint threads. I've been griefed by the Bat Chat arty (top French arty) several times. They can reach 61 kph so a lot of guys are running around derping the shit out of whoever they can. It is kind of funny to see arty out-running T-50's but ultimately the jokes on the game as any sense of tactics and realism is getting thrown out in favor of fast, 'exciting' play. I really believe the French tanks are ruining the game so I'm trying lately to stick to Tank Companies where the French are not used and proper tactics with solid tanks are still the order of the day.

It's essentially a fast moving, slow firing TD. Note the accuracy. Did I mention it has a turret?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fortuitious Friday: A New Mouth To Feed

I suppose I should tell you how happy and joyful I am as a new parent and how thrilled I am that there is a new life to care and nurture, but instead I'm going to tell you the truth: Holy Fuck I'm Glad That's Over. And yes, the capital letters on each word are intentional. Never have I been witness to such a horrible, anxiety producing, emotional situation as the birth of my daughter and I've seen a bloody hell of a lot of things, let me tell you.

Forty (40) hours of labor and almost every possible medical intervention imaginable shattered what we expected to be a run-of-the-mill natural (ish) birth. I'm going to spare you all the details (they are, after all, quite private) but let me just say if they would have had a walk-in-vasectomy clinic beside the labor ward I would have pushed my new baby aside to have rushed in for the procedure. Really. Everyone is saying, oh just wait you'll see, you'll want more, etc, etc, but I can say, with the greatest of confidences to them: balls to that. I was there, and they were not. Watching She Who Will Be Named Later endure that long, hellish ordeal, and then watching the heartbeat of New Mouth To Feed drop lower, and lower.... well I know my limits, and for children, it's one. Definitely one.

Both mother and baby are fine: healthy and happy. Sleep is starting to come in 3-hour bursts and the emotional and physical exhaustion is beginning to ebb. I've even managed to sneak some gaming in and am rather enjoying staying up late watching movies on the BBC. I've impressed upon New Mouth To Feed that Wales has an excellent Rugby team and by her lack of argument to the contrary, she seems to agree. I am now off work, and thanks to Canada's generous parental leave laws, I don't have to return until February, 2013. Yea, that's right, work is for suckers. Just imagine all the gaming I'll be able to, I mean parenting of course. It shouldn't be long before she's big enough for one of those cool back-packs which will allow me to keep her happy (and asleep) while I continue to blast noobs in World Of Tanks. That will make the all-night sessions more than bearable!

Happy Friday Everyone!