Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve 2008

Deb, the girls and myself spent New Year's Eve with an old friend of mine, Steven, and his family at their house. Steve's a buddy of mine that I met through roleplaying about 15 years ago, and he and his wife, Francine, have two little boys around the same ages as our two girls.

We arrived around midday and stayed until just after 11.00pm. Here are some photos.

Steve does some medieval reenacting so I had a chance to play with some of his gear.

Me with a replica 15th century battle axe

A replica 15th century longsword

All four kids played well together and were variously occupied by playing in the back yard, munching on snacks, watching TV or playing the Wii. Here's a photo of our girls with their matching shirts they got as gifts at Xmas.

Georgia's shirt says "I 'heart' my big sister" and Maddie's shirt says "I 'heart' my l'il sister"

Meanwhile Steve and I got down to the serious business of the evening - drinking. Steve had bought a couple of Hobgoblin gift packs of a bottle and glass.

Hobgoblin beer

Hobgoblin is brewed by Wychwood Brewery in the UK. According to the website 'Hobgoblin is strong in roasted malt with a moderate hoppy bitterness and slight fruity character that lasts through to the end. The ruby red coloured Hobgoblin is full-bodied and has a delicious chocolate toffee malt flavour balanced with a rounded moderate bitterness and an overall fruity character.'

It was a very nice tasting beer.

Steve behind his bar pouring us a couple of Hobgoblins

We then moved on to one of my favourite Belgian white beers - Hoegaarden. Steve has the large Hoegaarden glasses which hold two bottles (660ml).



Hoegaarden - one of my favourite beers!

With a few beers under our belts it was then time to play some table football or foosball.

The competition was intense

We played two games. I won the first 10 to 9 while Steve thrashed me 10 to 6 in the second game.

More drinking and then Steve prepared a lovely Greek-themed dinner of roast lamb, lemon potatoes, greek salad, saganaki, pita and tzatziki all washed down with a bottle of Retsina.

A Greek-themed feast

A great way to end 2008 with family, good friends, and fine food and drink.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

C&C Ancients - The Battle of Clusium 225BC

I went over to Friendless' house this morning for some more Commands & Colors: Ancients gaming.

We'd previously decided to play the Battle of Clusium 225BC from the C&C Ancients: Expansion Pack #2: Rome and the Barbarians and Friendless had the board already set up when I arrived. I happened to sit down on the side of the table that the Gauls were on and so the battle commenced.

The Battle of Clusium (225BC)

Historical Background (From the scenario booklet)

The Cisalpine Gauls (those living south of the Alps) had sacked Rome in 390 BC and fought intermittently with Rome for the next 150 years. After a series of defeats early in the Third century BC, the Gauls remained quiet for 50 years. Then in 232 the Romans began settling on captured Gallic lands. This roused the barbarians to prepare another invasion. This time, the Cisalpine Gauls were joined by their kinsmen from across the Alps, the fierce Gaesatae under their Kings Aneroestes and Concolitanus. In 225 BC a force of 70,000 Gauls descended on Etruria and overran the country looting and pillaging. When they reached Clusium, a city only three days’ journey from Rome, a Roman army led by a praetor appeared on their heels forcing them to turn back and confront it. The two armies camped for the night in close proximity. The Gauls kept their campfires burning, but withdrew their infantry, leaving only their cavalry behind. The horsemen had orders that when the enemy approached, they were to retire toward Faesulae and their infantry, which lay in ambush. At daybreak, the Romans, seeing the cavalry alone and thinking the Gauls had taken to flight, followed the cavalry with all speed. On their approach the Gauls sprang from ambush and attacked them. A stubborn conflict took place, but finally the numbers and courage of the Gauls prevailed. The surviving Romans retreated to a hill, while the Gauls set up a loose blockade. These fugitives would all have been lost, but the consul Aemilius Paullus arrived with a relief army that night. The Gallic kings chose to retreat with their booty rather than fight another battle. They broke camp before daybreak and retreated along the seacoast through Etruria.

The stage is set. The battle lines are drawn and you are in command. The rest is history.

War Council

Gallic Army
• Leader: Kings Aneroestes and Concolitanus
• 5 Command Cards
• Move First

Roman Army
• Leader: A Roman Praetor
• 5 Command Cards

6 Banners

Special Rules

  • When a Roman unit occupies a Gallic camp hex, it is removed at the Start of the Roman player’s turn. When all three camp hexes are removed, the Roman player gains one Victory Banner.
  • Barbarian Chariot rules are in effect.
  • Optional set-up. The Roman Army was still organized along pre-Marian guidelines. If the Roman player desires, he may use the gray Roman blocks from the basic game when placing his units.

Image from
Click for a larger image.

Game 1: In our first game I commanded the Gauls (green blocks), while Friendless commanded the Romans (grey blocks). After assessing the battlefield I quickly realised that the Romans were stronger in the centre than my Gauls. The Romans had a strong line of Medium Infantry capably commanded by two generals in the centre, while my Gauls had only one general commanding a mixture of Warriors, Auxilia and Light Infantry. There was no way I would win a stand up fight against the Romans in the centre. Realising this I looked to the wings of my Gallic army. On my left flank I had a nice little command of a general (King Concolitanus) commanding a Warrior unit, an Auxilia unit and a Light Infantry unit. On my right flank I had a similar mix of units but no general. The interesting thing was the placement of my three Medium Cavalry units holding the three fortified camps in the centre. What was I going to do with these? Mounted units received no benefits from defending camps and I didn't want them to sit there waiting to be attacked by the juggernaut that was the Roman centre.

My plan was to delay in the centre whilst attacking on both flanks where the weaker Roman troops were located. I initiated my attack by advancing King Concolitanus and his force on my left flank. The Romans countered by advancing opposite me on their right flank, with one of their Light Infantry units moving forward to claim the small wood.

I next ordered two of my Medium Cavalry units from the fortified camps to attack the Romans on my right flank. They charged into the Roman Light Infantry and Auxilia and caused some severe casualties. The third Medium Cavalry unit stayed put in the rear camp. I then moved King Aneroestes forward from his position at the rear of the battlefield to attach himself to the Medium Cavalry in the fortified camp.

The Romans moved slowly forward. On my left flank I moved King Concolitanus and his force forward to attack the Romans in the woods and hills. King Concolitanus and his brave Warriors forced the Light Infantry from the woods and then went on to destroy a whole unit of Roman Medium Cavalry in a momentum advance attack (I rolled 4 blue triangles!).

The Romans did move on to my vacated camps but I was able to launch a counter attack and force them off with a quick charge by King Aneroestes and his Medium Cavalry with support from some Warriors. Remember, if the Romans took the three camps they would receive a victory banner.

The Romans advanced again in the centre and forced King Aneroestes and his troops to retreat. Not long after that the Romans had taken the camps and received their victory banner. Meanwhile, on my right flank I had succeeded in destroying most of the Roman light troops. On my left, King Concolitanus and his Warrior band were chasing down a lone Roman Light Infantry unit which refused to die (but eventually did).

The Roman Medium Infantry in the centre was finally able to reach my troops who had been slowly retreating to the rear. One of the Roman generals and his Medium Infantry did destroy King Aneroestes' Medium Cavalry unit. King Aneroestes was forced to evade off the rear of the board.

However, by that time my Gauls had claimed their sixth banner and victory was mine!

Final score was me with 6 banners for the win against Friendless with 3 banners.

The placement of forces at the end of the battle. Viewed from the Gallic side.

Game 2: We swapped armies so I now commanded the Romans (grey blocks) and Friendless commanded the Gauls (green blocks). My plan as commander of the Romans was to attack with my greatest strength which was my infantry in the centre. One of my goals was also to get my lone Heavy Infantry unit forward into action. It was too valuable a unit to be left behind. So my plan was to keep pushing forwards in the centre while denying the enemy on my flanks. With a long line of Roman troops in the centre I was desperately hoping I would get the Line Advance card in my initial hand. No such luck.

Friendless' Gauls went first. Their first move was to advance their three Medium Cavalry units from where they had been holding the fortified camps in the centre to attack my light troops on my left flank. I think in their first devastating attack they destroyed an Auxilia unit and severely wounded two Light Infantry units which only barely evaded to safety. I responded by moving my Heavy Infantry unit up to protect the flank of my Medium Infantry line. The second charge of the Gallic Medium Cavalry on my left flank was equally disastrous for me. I lost a unit of Medium Cavalry, had another of my Light Infantry units almost wiped out and lost a block from my Heavy Infantry unit. Suddenly I was two units down and the battle had hardly commenced!

Although panic started to grip my heart I held steady to my plan. Keep moving the centre forward. I was able to use a Rally card to replace one block from my Heavy Infantry unit and one block from one of my wounded Light Infantry units.

I was very worried about the Gallic Medium Cavalry on my left flank. Whenever they attacked my Light Infantry I always chose to evade. This is what skirmishers did in ancient battles when they were faced by cavalry or heavier infantry and C&C Ancients elegantly reproduces this tactic by having the attacking unit only hit an evading unit with dice rolled of a matching colour. I closely watched the die rolls and noticed that had I not evaded, my units would have been eliminated on several occasions. Luckily, I was able to get my Heavy Infantry into action against one of the Medium Cavalry units and also my Light Infantry was able to block the retreat of another cavalry unit and before I knew it I had destroyed them all. Cavalry can be big hitters but are also vulnerable with only three blocks per unit.

With my left flank now relatively secure I continued to advance my centre. My plan was working. At one stage I was able to use a Counter Attack card to copy a Line Advance card that Friendless had just played. I was able to take the Gallic fortified camps and then advance further into the centre. I was soon able to get my Medium and Heavy Infantry units into action against the Gallic Warrior and Auxilia units. The result was as I expected it would be. The better training of the Roman troops soon saw the Gauls either destroyed or put to flight.

Final scores were me with 6 banners for the win and Friendless with 2 banners.

The placement of forces at the end of the battle. Viewed from the Roman side.

The final total score of both games was me with 12 banners to Friendless' 5 banners. When Friendless and I next meet we will play the first scenario of Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #3: The Roman Civil Wars - Colline Gate 82BC.

Here's a link to Friendless' account of the battle.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 84

My mother (AKA Grandma) came over to our house for her weekly Saturday gaming session this morning. While I was fixing us some drinks we were joined by my seven year old daughter (AKA Maddie) who started rummaging around our game cabinet and pulled out Enchanted Forest for us to play.

Enchanted Forest is a roll-and-move memory game where the object is to be the first to locate three special items to claim the kingdom. A deck of cards representing the objects is shuffled and placed on the castle space. The top card is turned face up and this is the object everyone is looking for.

Under each plastic tree is a picture of one of the special items. You roll two six-sided dice and move using each die separately. For example, if you roll a six and a four you can move six forward and four backwards or combine the scores to move a longer way in one direction. As you are moving around forest trails with lots of junctions, being able to split movement like this is very helpful. Once you land in the space adjacent to a tree you may look under the tree to see what item is hidden beneath it without letting the other players see.

If you roll doubles on the dice you get to use magic. Options for magic include changing the top card on the deck, moving closer to the castle, or moving to any unoccupied tree space. Once you have located the item that matches the face-up card you move to the castle to make your guess of where the item is. If you guess correctly you get to keep the item card and a new item card is turned over. If you guess incorrectly you are sent back to the starting village space on the other side of the board.

My strategy was to move around the board until I'd located about half of the available items and then race to the castle. At that point I didn't know where the item on the card was but hoped that either Maddie or Grandma would use magic at some point to change the top card to hinder me. Luckily for me they did, and the new card was one which I knew where it was located.

I was able to stay at the castle for two turns and chose successfully twice. After that I had to head back into the forest for more exploring. I did go on to win the game with 3 cards, Grandma came 2nd with 1 card and Maddie came third with 0 cards. This is a great game with fun elements of memory and bluff.

Next up I chose Poison. This is a card game where players are dealt hands of cards of three differently coloured potions of varying strength (red, blue and purple in values of 1, 2, 4, 5 & 7) and poison potions (green of value 4). Three large cauldron boards are placed in the middle and it is on to these boards the cards are played one at a time in clockwise order. Once a coloured card is played on to a board no other colours may be played on that particular cauldron board. However, poison cards may be played on any board. As soon as a card is played that takes the value of the cards on the cauldron over 13 then the player who played the card takes all the cards on the cauldron, leaving the card they played as the sole remaining card on the cauldron.

The game is played over as many rounds as there are players. At the end of a round the cards you have taken are scored. Now, the aim of the game is the be the person with the least points. If you have the most cards of all players in a particular colour then that colour is not scored against you. Otherwise you score one point for every card you have. Poison cards are worth two points. I quite enjoy this game and it's sad that this is the only play so far this year. Grandma took the win with 9 points, I came 2nd with 11 points, and Maddie (who took a while to understand the strategy) came 3rd with 25 points.

Maddie then decided to do something else so that left Grandma and I looking for a two-player game. I chose The Downfall of Pompeii. This is a game which has as its theme the destruction of the Roman city of Pompeii in AD79. The game is played in two phases. In the first phase players populate the city with their people which are represented by little coloured wooded columns. I was black and Grandma was red. The second half of the game is triggered by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and is where players then try to exit their people to safety through one of the many city gates. You score one point for every one of your pieces which exits the city.

The city has been populated. I'm black and Grandma is red.

The strategy of the first phase is obviously to try to get your people in the prime real estate close to the city gates. Being able to do this is determined by what cards you are dealt. Each card represents a building and you have four cards in your hand at any one time. Play a card and place one of your people into that building then redraw back to four cards.

The deck of cards is specially constructed at the start of the game and is randomly seeded with Omen cards and two AD79 cards. The way the deck is constructed the Omen and AD79 cards will appear at roughly certain times. The Omen cards allow you choose an opponent's piece and throw it into the 3D volcano on the board. The AD79 cards trigger the phases in the game.

The final game. Hot ash and lava has engulfed the city as the lucky survivors flee to safety.

Anyway, the second phase is probably the more interesting phase. This is when the lava starts to flow and you get to place lava tiles on parts of the city. What's really amusing is when you have the opportunity to place a lava tile on a space that is filled with your opponent's pieces. Into the volcano they go! It's also fun to block off city gates that your opponent's people are trying to exit from. As with any good European game your actions are limited and although you want to move all of your people each turn you may only choose two. You can almost hear the screams of fear and panic from your little wooden pieces as they flee through the city to the various gates while ash falls from the sky. Fun times :) . I went on to take the win with 15 points while Grandma came 2nd with 9 points.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 83

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and 7 year-old daughter (AKA Maddie).

Maddie had been rummaging through her toy/games cupboard and had found three of her games that she wanted to play.

The first of her games was Bratz Genie Magic: As You Wish. In this roll-and-move game players are trying to gather wish points to then spend on certain magic items. There is some minor conflict when more than one player attempts a wish contest to see who has the most wish points to claim a magic item. Maddie won with 3 magic items, Grandma had 1 and I had none.

The second game was Madeline's House. This is another roll-and-move children's game where the object is to be the first to reach the attic of Madeline's house. A die with coloured dots determines how far you move. Maddie won.

The third game of the morning was Madeline. This is a memory game where players are moving around Paris in search of missing puppies. Maddie found 3 of the 5 puppies to win the game.

I suggested our last game which was Risk Express. I'd wanted to buy this game ever since playing it last month with Friendless. I'd visited all the game shops in the city but couldn't find it. Thankfully Friendless tracked it down at Target at Chermside and got a copy for me.

Grandma and Maddie both enjoyed this game. Maddie did quite well and claimed all of Asia which gave her a guaranteed 10 points. Meanwhile, Grandma and I were squabbling over Europe and Africa. Maddie then took Australia and looked to have the game in the bag. Grandma and I had left it too late to start taking areas away from Maddie. Final scores were Maddie 15, Grandma 11 and me 9.

Maddie was quite chuffed that she won all four of our games this morning.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Marathon Battle

I went over to Friendless' house this afternoon for some more Commands & Colors: Ancients gaming.

We'd previously decided to play the Battle of Marathon 490BC from the Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #1: Greece & Eastern Kingdoms and Friendless had the board already set up when I arrived. We randomly assigned sides and the battle commenced.

The Battle of Marathon (490BC)

Historical Background (From the scenario booklet)

King Darius I of Persia sent an expedition against Athens in reprisal for the burning of Sardes in 498 BC during the failed Ionian Revolt. The Persian fleet under the joint command of Datis and Artaphernes landed near Marathon bay, which offered a perfect battleground for their troops. The Athenians marched out to face the enemy in the field, with 1000 allied soldiers from Plataea supplementing the Athenian force of 9000. The Persians outnumbered the Greeks, but to counter the disparity, Callimachus extended the Greek line to match the enemy, thinning the center while keeping both wings at full strength. The Persian army, with its best troops in the center, was taken by surprise when the Athenians attacked. Historians suggest that the some of the Persian cavalry was in the process of embarking back onto the ships when the attack started. In the battle the Persian center got the best of the weak Greek center and broke through, but this success was more than countered by the defeat of their two wings.
The victorious Athenians then swung inwards and the Persian force was routed back to their ships. Concerned that the defeated Persians might still sail around to threaten Athens, Pheidippides ran the 26 miles back to Athens with news of the victory, running first Marathon race. Greece was safe, for now.

The stage is set. The battle lines are drawn and you are in command. The rest is history.

War Council

Greek Army
• Leader: Callimachus
• 6 Command Cards
• Move First

Persian Army (Use Eastern Kingdom blocks)
• Leader: Datis
• 5 Command Cards

6 Banners

Special Rules
Stream is fordable.
Sea hexes and hills are impassable.

Image from
Click for a larger image.

Game 1: In our first game I commanded the Greeks (light blue blocks), while Friendless commanded the Persians (tan blocks). I got off to a great start by moving my entire army forward by the use of a Line Advance card. This allowed my Auxilia units in the centre of the line to move forward and pepper the Persian centre with javelins. Meanwhile, on my left and right flanks my heavier troops moved forward in line to within striking distance of the Persians.

I attacked with the forces on my left flank and went on to defeat and push back the Persian forces on that side of the battlefield. At one stage I was winning 4 banners to 1 banner against the Persians. Then the heavier Persian forces in the centre, including two units of Medium Cavalry, started to counter-attack. Friendless made a brilliant play of a First Strike card at one stage of the battle to totally destroy one of my Heavy Infantry units before it got to attack. In fact, the Persians did so well that they were able to equalise the score at 5 banners each. However, I did hold on by taking the 6th banner to claim a close victory. Final score was me with 6 banners for the win against Friendless with 5 banners. One mistake we did make was to let the Persian Medium Cavalry roll 4 dice instead of their normal 3. To be fair we decided that we would allow the Persians to continue to roll 4 dice in the second game.

The placement of forces at the end of the battle. Viewed from the Greek side.

Oh yeah, one funny thing in this game was that one of my Greek generals, Miltiades, had a total of three units he was attached to destroyed before he himself succumbed to the Greek spears. We joked after the first two of his attached units were destroyed that the third unit he attached himself two would have been worried that they were stuck with a cursed general. Sure enough they died to a man as well!

Game 2: We swapped armies so I now commanded the Persians (tan blocks) and Friendless commanded the Greeks (light blue blocks). With a long line of Persian troops with missile weapons I was desperately hoping I would get the Darken the Sky card in my initial hand. No such luck.

Friendless used a Line Advance card on his first turn. I watched as the Greek line rumbled towards me. Javelins thrown by his Auxilia had little effect on my Persians. I used my first command to move my Medium Cavalry units up to the fordable stream. I was then horrified to see Friendless play another (!) Line Advance card on his second turn. This allowed his entire line of Greek foot to advance into contact with my Persians with deadly effect.

I kept trying to evade with my light troops whenever they were attacked as very few of them were at full strength after the initial clash of arms. My main goal at this stage was to get my Medium Cavalry forward into the centre to support my Medium Infantry. After a few turns the Greeks were winning by 4 banners to my 1 banner and things were looking bad. Friendless again used a First Strike card to good effect enabling him to destroy one of my Persian units before it attacked his Greeks.

The placement of forces at the end of the battle. Viewed from the Persian side.

I loved the back and forth action of this battle. Even though I was losing it was still so exciting trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with clever play and lucky dice rolls. Unfortunately for me the Greeks went on to win the battle. Final scores were Friendless with 6 banners for the win and myself with 4 banners.

The final total score of both games was Friendless with 11 banners to my 10 banners. The more I play C&C: Ancients the more I enjoy it. This is one game I feel definitely deserves my rating of a 10 on BGG. When Friendless and I next meet we will play the first scenario of C&C Ancients: Expansion Pack #2: Rome and the Barbarians - Clusium 225BC.

Friendless' son, Harley22, joined us for our next game, Escape from Atlantis. Friendless has the 1986 Waddington's version and it's quite pretty to look at. In this game you are trying to move your people from the sinking island of Atlantis to the safety of any of the four distant islands in the corners of the board. On your turn you have three movement actions (e.g. move 1 person 3 spaces or 3 people 1 space, etc), you then remove a land tile and replace it with whatever symbol it has underneath (e.g. shark, giant octopus, sea monster, boat, dolphin or whirlpool), and finally you spin the spinner and then move one of the corresponding sea creatures on the board to either help yourself or hinder the other players.

The board after my first turn. I happened to turn up a whirlpool which destroyed a large chunk of Atlantis.

This is a fun game and one that I've had my eye on for quite some time. It's very hard to find here in Australia so I'd always wanted to make my own version of the game. It was great to actually play the game for the first time. I was lucky to win the game. Final scores were me with 6, Friendless with 5 and Harley22 with 4.

It was at this point that I noticed Friendless' shirt which he'd bought from Uberbadger. Check it out.

Let me just point out that Harley22 totally ignores this when playing with his dad! :)

I only had about half an hour before I had to go so we looked for a quick game that neither of us had played this year. Friendless selected a game we both rate very highly, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (we'd last played this game together almost two years ago on 7 January 2007!). We randomly assigned sides. I played the Dark forces of Mordor while Friendless played the Light forces of the Fellowship.

This is a Stratego-like game themed around The Lord of the Rings. Players each control a force of nine characters (Light versus Dark) whose identities are hidden from their opponent at the beginning of the game. Combat is resolved by playing special cards.

The board as it looked after a few turns.

The victory condition for the forces of Light is to get Frodo into Mordor. The forces of Dark win by either killing Frodo or by moving three Dark characters into the Shire. This is such a tense game and I always feel that the games are very well balanced. I realised towards the end of the game that Frodo would win the race to Mordor before I got three of my characters into the Shire. My only option was to try to take out Frodo. It really came down to my only character who was in a position of being able to attack Frodo. My Wargs were able to attack and defeat poor Frodo and with that the forces of Dark prevailed. This game never disappoints and I'm glad I was able to get a play of it before the calendar year ended.

Another great afternoon of gaming.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Battle Cry Online

For those of you who don't already know, the Commands & Colors system designed by Richard Borg is my favourite wargaming system for two players. The first wargame to use this system was the American Civil War-themed Battle Cry which was published by Avalon Hill (Hasbro) in 2000. I bought Battle Cry and had a lot of fun with it. Then along came other versions of the C&C system such as Memoir '44 (WWII), C&C: Ancients (Ancients) and BattleLore (Fantasy) and sadly Battle Cry didn't get played much by me any more.

Interestingly, of the four current Commands & Colors games, I would probably rate Battle Cry the lowest. The reason for this is that the C&C system has evolved over time and there are certain parts of the Battle Cry rules which could do with updating. Anyway, having said that, I still believe Battle Cry is a fantastic game.

I was very excited to recently find out that Battle Cry can now be played online at Gametable Online. Last week I created an account and played a few games against the computer opponents, trouncing the AI in two games in quick succession. This afternoon I played my first online game of Battle Cry against a human opponent in real time and it was a different story.

The game I created was the battle of First Bull Run. I played the Confederates. It was a tense, nail-bitingly close battle but I'm very pleased to say that I went on to win the game 6 flags to 5 flags. It was a historical result as well with the Confederates defeating the Union.

I found the game commands simple to operate and it played very fast. It was also very exciting playing against a human opponent. I think Battle Cry might soon join Blue Max as one of my online games of choice.

Oh, by the way, did I mention it's free?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Last Day of Spring

Moments of beauty can be fleeting. I just had to take a photo of the sunset early this evening on the last day of November. The view is from my back yard looking south-west past my neighbour's house.

A crescent moon hangs lonely in the sky as the sun sets on the last day of spring.

Spring officially ends today in the southern hemisphere. Tomorrow summer arrives. I have a feeling it's going to be a long, hot summer.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 82

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and 7-year-old elder daughter (AKA Maddie). 2.5-year-old younger daughter (AKA Georgia) played close by and occasionally hopped onto my lap to watch. My wife was at work.

Our first game of the morning, Old Maid, was chosen by Maddie. This traditional children's game is certainly not one of my favourites but I was prepared to put up with it because Maddie wanted to play it. One thing I noticed during the game was that Maddie always chose a card from the middle of my fanned out hand of cards. On the occasions I did have the Old Maid I always put her in the centre of my hand knowing that Maddie would always choose a card in the middle. It was quite amusing watching her face when she selected it. She tried to keep a poker face but would then quickly glance at me and see me grinning evilly at her. This then caused her to giggle. This happened a couple of times during the game. The interesting thing about the victory condition for this game is that there is no winner - only a loser. Even with all my evil tricks it ended up that I was the loser left with the Old Maid. Boo hoo!

Heh heh! She took the Old Maid - again!

Our second game of the morning was also chosen by Maddie. It was Go Fish. I feel the same about Go Fish as I do Old Maid. Our deck was actually a fish-themed deck with pictures which reminded me of the sort of sea creatures you would find living on the Great Barrier Reef which lies off the east coast of our state of Queensland. As for Go Fish, it couldn't have ended soon enough for me, but I did go on to win the game.

Is that Nemo on my number 2 card?

After that I requested a different game. Maddie looked through our dining room game cabinet and selected Hive. Now this is a game I enjoy. We decided to play three games. It would be me against Maddie (with a little help from Grandma). I was black in all the games.

Game 1 - I win while Maddie has only two surrounding my Queen.

Game 2 - I win again but Maddie was only one behind me.

Game 3 - I win for the third time. I think Maddie was getting a bit tired by this time 'cause I won convincingly.

Maddie chose The aMAZEing Labyrinth for our next game. This is an old family favourite that we all enjoy playing. We gave Maddie a handicap of allowing her to look at her top two cards while the adults only looked at our top card. I think this was a good handicap because it turned out to be a very close game. I won with 8, Maddie and Grandma came 2nd with 7 each.

The ever-shifting maze of The aMAZEing Labyrinth.

After that Maddie chose another game - Blokus Duo. This is the 2-player version of the well-known Blokus. The object is to try to place as many of your tiles on the board while at the same time preventing your opponent from doing the same. I won with 71 and Maddie had 60.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of how the game looked at the end. Here's a photo of the box.

Maddie then decided to take a break from playing games so that left Grandma and I to look for a two-player game for us to play. Grandma suggested Battle Line. This is a great little card game. We decided to play two games.

Game 1 - I win with a 'breakthrough' (three adjacent flags). 3 to 0 vs Grandma.

Game 2 - I win with an 'envelopment' (five flags in total). 5 to 3 vs Grandma.

At that point we had about 40 minutes before Grandma had to leave. I looked through the game cabinet and spotted Cartagena. This is a game we both enjoy playing as a two-player game. We've played this many times and I always remind Grandma not to let her pirates fall behind as it's then too hard for them to catch up. I was green and she was yellow. I ended up winning with all six of my pirates in the boat while Grandma was only able to get two of hers on board.

Grandma's two yellow pirates look nervously at the six scary green pirates who are about to row off leaving the four remaining yellow pirates to their fate. Arrrr!!!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Red Triangle Slug

Last week, shortly after the storms , I noticed a large slug on the road. It was about 10 cm (4 inches) in length and had a bright orange-coloured triangle on its back. As I had never seen a local slug of this length and type before I just had to take a couple of photos. All photos can be clicked on for a larger image.

It's quite beautiful in its own way.

Through a quick Internet search I was able to find that this is a Red Triangle Slug (Triboniophorus graeffei). It is Australia's largest native land slug and grows to a size of up to 14 cm. The distinctive red triangle on its back contains the breathing pore.

The Red Triangle Slug is found along the east-coast of Australia and is most commonly found in heath, woodlands, forests and urban areas. It's diet consists of microscopic algae growing on the surface of smooth-barked eucalypt trees. Apparently, if given the chance, it will also remove bathroom mould. Imagine that. An environmentally safe way of keeping your shower clean - just adopt a Red Triangle Slug as a pet!

In this photo you can clearly see the open breathing pore in the red triangle.

I understand that Red Triangle Slugs come in a variety of colours depending on the location of their habitat. They can also range in colour from pink to bright red to a beautiful mango-yellow colour.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Board Games Evening

Friendless and I had arranged to play some games at his house on Friday evening. The last time I'd gamed with Friendless was back on 9 April 2008. I can't believe it's been over seven months since I've played games with people other than my immediate family. Friendless has been my only opponent for Commands & Colors: Ancients so I was certainly looking forward to replaying some ancient battles with him.

On arriving, I found that Friendless, his fiancee Scrabblette, and his son Harley22 (AKA The Kid) had kindly set up some stacks of games from which I could choose our first game. I chose Aquaretto as I'd never played it before. This game is designed by Michael Schacht who is the designer of Coloretto and the 2007 Spiel des Jahres winner Zooloretto.

Aquaretto is a set collection and tile placement game where the objective is to gain victory points by successfully managing a SeaWorld-style water zoo. This was a first time play for me and I could see the similarity to Coloretto which I've played before. Aquaretto had lovely components and was an enjoyable game. Final scores were Friendless 1st with 38, me 2nd with 30 and Scrabblette and Harley22 sharing 3rd on 18 points each.

My aquatic zoo in Aquaretto.

Friendless and I then sat down to play Commands & Colors: Ancients. We would play the first scenario of the base game, the Battle of Akragas (406BC), and then swap sides. In this way we would get the opportunity to experience the challenges of commanding both forces in the same battle. It's also a fair way of determining overall victory by comparing the totals of banners (victory points) won in both games.

The Battle of Akragas (406BC)

Historical Background (From the C&C Ancients scenario book)
It is a time of violent competition between the Syracusan Tyrants (military dictators) and Carthage for control of Sicily. The Carthaginians under Himilco have besieged Akragas, a city allied with Syracuse, prompting Daphnaeus and his army to march to its aid. The Carthaginians split their army into an observation force in front of Akragas, and a blocking force sent to oppose Daphnaeus. The Carthaginian army was almost totally mercenary, while Daphnaeus’s contained veteran heavy infantry that proved invincible when committed to the battle. The survivor’s of Himilco’s badly beaten army fled to the coastal fort sheltering Mago’s observation force. There was no pursuit and no further battle. Daphnaeus’s force was spent, and the forces in Akragas did not sortie. Before another assault could be made on the Carthaginians, their navy managed to interdict the Greek supply line, forcing Daphnaeus to withdraw. Akragas fell eight months later without a fight.

The stage is set. The battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. Can you change history?

War Council

Carthagian Army
• Leader: Himilco
• 5 Command Cards

Syracusan Army
• Use Roman blocks
• Leader: Daphnaeus
• 6 Command Cards
• Move First

5 Banners
Special Rules

Image from
Click for a larger image.

GAME 1: In our first game I commanded the Carthaginians (brown blocks - the historical losers of this battle), while Friendless commanded the Syracusans (grey blocks). I was aware that my Carthaginians were outclassed four to one in Heavy Infantry by the Syracusans. There was no way I was going to advance my weaker infantry towards the meat-grinder that was the Syracusan centre.

My aim in this game was to wait for the Syracusans to advance towards me and pepper them with missiles to hopefully break their line and reduce their morale (i.e. knock out blocks from the units). I had received the card Darken the Sky (which allows missile troops to fire twice when ordered) in my first hand so I was looking forward to using that.

The Syracusan general Dionysius advanced on my left flank with his Medium Cavalry, Auxilia and Light Infantry. Having a greater movement range, Dionysius and his Medium Cavalry units were a tempting target sitting out in front of my troops all alone. Whether it was a ruse or not, I found the temptation too great and rather impetuously charged my Heavy Chariot and Light Cavalry forward to engage the sole Dionysius and his sole unit of Medium Cavalry.

My attacks were ineffective (I think I only killed one block) and Dionysius' battle back killed a block of my Heavy Chariot unit (leaving only one). The next turns saw Dionysius and his Medium Cavalry attack and wipe out my Heavy Chariot and Light Cavalry units. Friendless was ahead two banners (victory points) already.

Dionysius was soon overextended and I managed to finally wipe out his Medium Cavalry with a unit of Auxilia and send the general fleeing back the the safety of his rear.

Meanwhile in the centre my missile troops (Light Infantry and Auxilia) were slowly wearing down the Syracusan centre which was still lumbering slowly forward.

Photo taken about halfway through the game.

I soon managed to even the score to 2 banners all. The Syracusan's then advanced over on my right. I sent my Heavy Chariot unit on my right flank into action and it managed to do some damage before dying. As the Syracusan Heavy Infantry came closer in the centre I decided to charge a Warrior unit forward with good effect. All along our battle line we traded kills until we were 4 banners each. For a turn or two it was quite tense until the Syracusans were able to finish off one of my remaining units to win the game. Final score was Friendless (Syracusan) with 5 banners and me (Carthaginian) with 4 banners.

It was only as we were finishing the game that we realised we'd forgotten to put a Syracusan Light Bow unit on the board. We also noticed that I'd mistakenly used my Carthaginian Medium Infantry units as Warrior units (how embarrassing!). That's what comes from having seven months between C&C Ancients games and not re-reading the scenarios notes before we started playing! To be fair we left the Syracusan Light Bow unit off the board for the second game and also allowed the Carthaginians to use the Medium Infantry units as Warrior units.

GAME 2: I commanded the Syracusans (grey blocks) and Friendless commanded the Carthaginians (brown blocks). I was dealt a Line Advance card in my initial hand so spent the first turn getting my units into a straight line so that I could use the card in a later turn.

Over on my right flank I sent forward Dionysius with his Medium Cavalry supported by some Auxilia and Light Infantry. Just like in the previous game Dionysius was able to take out the opposing Carthaginian Heavy Chariot and Light Cavalry units.

However, unlike the previous game, the Syracusan Heavy Infantry led by Daphnaeus in the centre were able to make contact with the Carthaginian forces. I kept pushing my Syracusan Heavy Infantry forward with every chance I had (Line Advance and Double Time cards came in handy) and it soon turned into a bloodbath.

The battlefield at the end of the game. You can see Daphnaeus and his Heavy Infantry (grey blocks) have penetrated deep into the Carthaginian centre.

The Carthaginians did manage to kill a Heavy Infantry unit in my centre. However, it turned out to be a major Syracusan victory. Final scores were me (Syracusan) 5 banners to Friendless' (Carthaginian) 1 banner.

The final total score of both games was me with 9 banners to Friendless' 6 banners. When we next meet we will play the first scenario of C&C Ancients: Expansion Pack #1: Greece & Eastern Kingdoms - Marathon (490BC).

After those two intense battles we decided to join Harley22 for a game of Dominion. Dominion was only recently released and has already shot into the Top 10 games at BoardGameGeek. It is basically a game of deck-building and includes 500 cards. I won't go into the rules too much here but if you're interested in a review then click on the game link above. This was my first play of Dominion and suffice to say that initially I was bewildered but after a few turns I caught on. We played the 'First Game' set up. I enjoyed Dominion and can see what the hype was about. I actually went on to win the game with 35 points, Harley22 came 2nd with 31 points and Friendless came 3rd with 24 points.

My starting hand.

As it was getting late we decided we'd have enough time for a final quick game. This turned out to be Risk Express (on loan from CyberKev63). The original Risk was one of the first boardgames that I enjoyed in my youth. I really enjoyed the conflict, the secret victory conditions and the dice-rolling. However, I didn't necessarily enjoy the ganging-up, player elimination and game length of the original. Risk Express condenses the fun parts of Risk and makes for a very light, enjoyable and tense short game. Essentially you roll dice (with images of infantry, artillery, cavalry and generals) to match corresponding symbols on 14 card discs representing regions of the world. At the start of the game no player owns any of the 14 discs. On your turn you roll your dice and then decide, based on what you roll, onto which disc you will place matching symbol types. You then roll the remaining dice to try to match the remaining symbols on the disc. If you cannot match any of the required lines of symbols you remove one die and roll the remaining dice. You keep rolling until you either match the remaining symbols on the disc which allows you to claim it, or you run out of dice and play passes to the player on your left. Each disc is worth a certain amount of victory points.

The Risk Express box is actually a plastic dice rolling tray.

Discs are coloured and each colour represents a continent. Obviously Europe and Africa have more discs than say South America or Australia. If you claim all the discs of a continent you can turn them over and they are then worth a victory point total which is worth more than the individual discs combined. The other advantage is that when they are turned over your discs cannot be attacked and claimed by other players. To claim a disc owned by another player you must fulfill all the required dice combinations as well as roll a further general symbol.

I shot to an early lead and looked to have the game in the bag. Friendless and Harley22 then attacked me and took over some of my regions. It was then anyone's game and came down to Friendless taking a last disc with the required roll of a symbol on his last die roll (before it would then have been my turn with a chance to snatch the win). It was a tense couple of last turns and Friendless' winning roll caused us all to cheer. I find that luck, so often disparaged by many, can be an important and fun part of games. This was my first play of Risk Express and I found it to be an elegant and enjoyable game. It was only after I came home and was logging my plays on BoardGameGeek that I found that it was designed by Reiner Knizia!

Final scores were Friendless taking the win with 15 points, myself 2nd with 13 points and Harley22 3rd with 7 points.

And after an evening of great company and fun games and with midnight fast approaching I took my leave.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

More Severe Weather

Another storm hit Brisbane late Wednesday night. Some areas received up to 250 mm (10 inches) of rain causing extensive flooding. There has been widespread commuter chaos, more homes damaged and sadly another death (an 85-year-old woman who died when a car was carried away by raging floodwaters west of Brisbane). Thankfully we're all safe and suffered no further damage to our house.

Here are some photos I took early this morning of Kedron Brook where it passes under a bridge along Dawson Parade at Arana Hills in Brisbane's northwest. Normally the stream in this location is about 1.5 m (5 feet) wide with a depth of about 30 cm (1 foot).

Note the pathway which is totally under water.

It's plain to see that the water level had been at least a metre higher at its peak.

What was once a stream I could have jumped across is now a swollen river.

More storms are predicted to hit this evening.

UPDATE: Another storm did hit this evening. However, in our area it was just some rain which soon stopped but there was a lot of thunder and lighting. The power was again knocked out so we had no electricity from 7.00 pm to 10.30 pm.

Here's a couple of photos of the approaching storm.

The weather bureau has predicted further storms over the weekend.