Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Next Gen console wars: my short review on PS4 and the XB1

So after using the #XBoxOne  since tax returns were due I feel I have a grasp on the two consoles. Short review:

Disclosure: I do not have a camera for either one so I cannot judge the ability to stream. From what I have SEEN the PS4 handles streaming better from the console directly. The XB1 allows you to say Broadcast and then stream your content but I have not tried that. The ability to voice activate however would make a great addition for me on the XB1. 

The Xbox One is a great multimedia machine. So good that I tend to use it a lot more than my #PS4  right now mainly for watching Twitch and the other apps on the console which just work better and more logically (fast fowarding controls, the searches etc etc are more like a PC). 

HOWEVER. There is a noticeable lag on the Xbox One. Something I cannot put my finger on. It seems like its always a step behind in games and in the interface. Its barely noticeable to the layman I am sure but I can feel it. The #PS4  is snappy and reacts quickly. The system menu is easier to use also however it is more sparse. 

The Xbox One system menu is a bit clunky to get around at first but once you realize you can pin things to the home screen it basically becomes Windows 8 Metro. 

The PS4 apps need a lot of work. The Twitch app, which is non existent and called Live from Playstation, is basically worthless. It has horrible sorting, shows no PC content (i.e. your followers) and is horribly organized. The Netflix app has clunky operating but responds sharply. The MLB app is superior to the XBOX One version at this point mainly due to lag on the Xbox One. 

Still at night I use the #XboxOne  more at this point mainly because I can route my Comcast TV through the Xbox and minimize live TV into a window while I look at my home menu on the console. This can be buggy however at times as my TV loses the resolution and sometimes freaks out if I turn it on first without the console.

Some games are not as responsive on the XB1 as well. For example I noticed definite lag in Dragon Age compared to the PS4 version. 

Destiny plays about the same but I dont like the controller layout. I ended up missing that middle pad on the PS4 controller. Its just a great innovation. 

FIFA 15 has a few more graphical errors than the PS4, Madden is about the same and NHL Hockey on the XB1 is awful in its sluggishness but that game had a less than flattering next gen release.

Dying Light and Diablo 3 play great. Shadows of Mordor is a bit less responsive on the controller with an XB1. The PS4 version plays better

The PS4 store: horrible. Frequently lags out or does not launch.
The XB1 store: so so but annoying to navigate. The search is lame and its hard to narrow things down. Both of these consoles need work on their store apps. 

Memberships: I honestly cannot recommend a single game offered by the PS4 Plus program so far. Its all been indie title junk I dont play. I compare this to buying cheap Atari 2600 cartridges back on the day. Meanwhile PS3 Plus owners are getting kick ass games like Dishonored for free. Go figure

The XB1 Gold Member plan has frequent sales and about the same titles as the PS4. The sales make it worth it however you need it for some online games like Destiny etc. This is a toss up right now. I prefer the deals and the sales on the XB1 store right now but the titles are mediocre at best for the free stuff. Pool Nation was a laggy boring loadfest. 

Social functions: The PS4 share button is a thing of beauty and super responsive. Screenshots and videos are fast and responsive to make

On the XB1 its laggy and slow. You must press the XB1 button QUICKLY  twice while in game to bring up a sluggish menu where you can take a screenshot or tell it to record a clip. So you can figure out what could happen from there. Yes you tap it too slowly and it minimizes the game you are playing to a window and takes you to the XB1 home screen. Annoying

On the PS4 whenever you go to share a photo to Twitter or Facebook and you are in an online game it WILL disconnect you. On Xb1 this doesnt happen. However sharing RIGHT from the game does NOT exist. You must launch their sluggish Uploads program on the Xb1 to edit and share things.

The XB1 really needs to integrate gaming fast social media better as the PS4 beats it there. 

One nice thing the XB1 one will do is save clips when you do something great but I have only seen this happen in EA Sports games.

So in short for a multimedia machine the XB1 is great. Easily can replace Apple TV or a Roku on your main TV so you can move that to another room. 

The PS4 however is still a beefier gaming machine. Its sharp and responsive and sometimes I just feel the XB1 is slightly behind in response time

Both consoles have titles that are worth getting at least to me. The PS4 wins though in terms of titles only for their console. On the XB1 State of Decay is great, Neverwinter is fun but on the PS4 you have MMO's like DCUO and Final Fantasy. Last of Us on the PS4 and Bloodborne are huge right now and the XB1 hasn't really matched that degree of hype except with the HALO Master Set which had some launch issues. 

So for the TLDR: it is as we expected. The PS4 is a pure gaming machine with just enough apps and things like that to satisfy the media crowd that is not too fixated on that.

The XB1 is a great family multi media device that tries to do a little of everything but could use a slight speed overhaul. If I had to go 10 years on the next gen consoles I would put my money on the PS4 which is what I did originally. Then however the nerd side got the better of me and I gave in and got the XB1 just to see how the other half was living. 

Ah well. It never hurts to have the best of all the gaming worlds. PC, XB1, and the PS4. Now I just need to work on getting a VITA

Monday, February 23, 2015

Down in Flames DVG version

Managed to play Down in Flames the WW2 aerial combat card game this weekend

We played the DVG version of the game. GMT also makes one but it is very in depth and not as light as the one from Dan Veersen. 

We started a 1944 bombing of Germany campaign. The first battle went well for the Luftwaffe (played by myself). While I lost an Ace the American bombers only damaged the target and they finished with -17 points.

The second mission went horrible though as all American bombers got through however flak took one out. The last bomber dropped 36 bombs on target and destroyed it. This swung the campaign back to 50 some points positive which puts it at the historical level. I lost another Ace and all my planes in that mission.

It is a fun game with fast card play and a ton of decisions to make. The GMT version adds a lot of chrome like fuel drop tanks, flak that can miss and tons of other features. However we were not in the mood for all that I was just learning so we went with the easier version. Fun game overall. Captures dog fighting real well.

Monday, February 2, 2015

La Bataille de la Moscowa storing counters

Getting the hang of La Bataille and a COA gripe

Clash of Arms has quite a thing with their La Bataille system for Napoleonic battles. For those not familiar the Moscowa game is a simulation, on the regimental/battalion level of the Battle of Borodino, fought between Napoleon`s Grand Armée and the Russian First and Second West Armies under Prince Kutusow on September 7, 1812. The game provides six short scenarios and a grand battle game.

The Moscowa game is part of a long running family of Napoleonic titles dating back to 1979. Many of the titles have been re released or updated as the years have gone by. The Moscow game is the latest in the series (2011) so the the main reason I wanted it was the updated ruleset and charts and counters. 

When I first wanted to get into the series I originally bought the Regulations rulebook for $9.99 off of the Clash of Arms site. Needless to say after MORE research I was in for a big surprise. 

Turns out the entire ruleset is FREE online at the sister site located here:

There are TWO versions. Marie-Louise....a simpler ruleset...and Le Règlement 11. Whatever you NOT buy the $9.99 ruleset on the Clash of Arms site. Like much of their website these rules are OUT OF DATE and not the most updated set. In fact these rules represent version 22...while they are actually on version 30. However Clash of Arms does not tell you this on their site here:

In fact I would say they go out of their way to never mention it and fleece you of 10 bucks. While the $9.99 rulebook is "ok" in its presentation it is a waste of money. The entire Clash of Arms website needs a lot of work. For what they charge for some of their titles you have no idea what you are getting. No images, no proper descriptions...the website is a very vague way to sell games. If it weren't for 3rd party sites like BoardGame Geek I would have no clue what half their titles look like.

Now on to the next interesting surprise. The 100 dollars that I paid for Moscowa comes with ONLY the Marie-Louise ruleset. The SIMPLER ruleset. So it is almost like the company wants to force these rules on people. So regardless if you want to play the full game you need to download the PDF from the website of the XXX series rules. Confusing isn't it? Also even in the PDF's a lot of the rules, charts and tables are woefully undescriptive. It wasn't until I got the Moscow title that things were further explained by charts and tables that are NOT downloadable off of the secondary website. 

So in short. If you want to play this series:

1) Buy a title
2) Go here and download easy or advanced rules:
3) Download the charts and tables:

Do NOT buy any rules books off of the Clash of Arms website:

Don't get me wrong. The game is gorgeous and trove of history and a labor of love. To me however if Clash of Arms Games wants to succeed in this current modern day of business they really need to get on that website and update the information they put out there. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

John Tiller's Panzer Battles Kursk Southern Flank

If you haven't read the designer notes on this game there is some fascinating detail on what the Tiller crew puts into a wargame. The documents can be found on the actual site here:

Below is a sample of some of the things (especially for those of you claiming its a rehashed Panzer Campaigns).

"The second area worked on was the unit art. There are more community mods for unit art than anything else. Many of these use line drawings taken from published works that cannot be included officially in a commercial release due to copyright issues.

After working through a range of iterations, Joe sent some colorized black and white photos of soldiers. Once we saw the end result we could never go back. It quickly became apparent that with the right photo, coloured and cropped, high quality artwork was only a step away."

"All in all we have included 60 scenarios in Battles of Kursk - The Southern Flank. Of the 60 scenarios, 48 are unique with a further 12 AI ‘variants’ specifically tailored for play against the computer. The game has scenarios for every day starting with the preliminary attacks on July 4th right through to the final battle at Prokhorovka on July 12th. In addition, there are a huge number of scenarios that could be created from the included maps and OB and the design team may look to provide more scenarios in the future if there is enough community interest."

Monday, January 26, 2015

5 player Warfighter

This weekend I took part in a 5 player game of Warfighter. Warfighter is a card game for 1 to 6 players. Command the world's best Special Forces operators and complete vital assault missions around the world and work together to take on a common task. 

The 5 of us gathered Saturday morning and picked a mission (going deep) and had 113 resource points to spend on a 5 man squad. I took a 9 point trooper and then kitted him out as a sniper. I had the marksman skill and a sniper rifle and a couple of grenades as well as a suppressor. 

Also in our team was a short ranged expert, a grenade launcher and two men skilled in movement and medium to short range. 

I had never won a game of Warfighter. The game can get a bit unwieldy when playing solo due to all the record keeping if you take full blown soldiers so usually I only play with 2 troopers. As this game progressed however we found out just how important team work is in this game. 

There was a question as we played as to how many "Combined Fire" cards we could stack but the rulebook states there is no limit to the action cards you can play and Combined Fire lasts the entire turn. We took good use of this as we went on. 

The first location we entered was pretty clear, but that third one spawned so many hostiles I thought for sure we were doomed. The objective we had, clear the enemy HQ, had us going NINE locations deep on this mission. Luckily I bought a GPS and that added two turns to our amount of time and also one other player later played the shortcut card. Although we suffered few wounds and none of us really go into danger we finished the game with 3 turns to spare. 3 turns we would NOT have had if not for the gear and the shortcut. This game is rough no doubt about it. 

5 hours later we had shot, stabbed and sniped our way to the enemy HQ and we had made it just barely. We had an angry mob behind us and several hostiles in front of us. With the user of sniper support, mortar calls and grenade launchers we cleared over 11 hostiles off the last location and won the game with just enough time to spare. 

We had some squabbles as some special forces teams might. For example at one stage in the game we had to make the choice to retain sniper support with our XP or take a supply drop. As we got further into the mission we were really low on ammo and we needed a supply drop badly. I think that paid off as the grenades we got in that drop allowed us to use the grenade launcher later. 

The game has the ability to really paint a great story as well. For example:
  • I was able to let my teammates take out any screening terrorists which then allowed me to snipe the leaders that would be spawned. One shot, one kill. 
  • One time a suicide bomber reached our location but our teammate pulled out his knife and silently took him down before he could detonate his explosives.
  • Several times our short ranged weapon expert would use snapshot and get free short ranged attacks. He would then bust down door and go into buildings clearing out entire locations for us before we moved in.
  • Working as a team we had to trade ammo, gear, decide which targets to take and how to move forward. In short the game really FELT like a squad of special forces troopers deep in enemy territory with a mission to do. 

The game took us most of the day but was well worth it. There was never a time when we had boring downtime or were able to let down our guard. We had to constantly be thinking and narrowly avoided some disastrous moments. Also stealth attacks were huge in this game as they allowed me to snipe and ignore cover on that first attack. Our short ranged expert also had stealth on his gun and this allowed him to take out RPG teams that may have hurt us bad. 

It was a great time and a great game. I have not played a wargame recently that promoted such teamwork. I am glad I Kickstarted that second wave too. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

GMT's the Dark Valley

What started as an innocent get together to look at the Dark Valley game turned into a "lets sort the counters and play the 1941 scenario" and before we knew it we were sorting, organizing and getting the sides set up for a massive campaign. 

I will be playing the Germans and my gaming opponent will be of course the Russians. We are setting up per the 1941 rules but I have a feeling this will escalate fast and see us playing out the entire war. Luckily his basement allows us to keep it setup over a long amount of time.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Battle of Tewkesbury Blood and Roses

Tuesday on my birthday I played some Blood and Roses. We got a couple of rules wrong namely the "add +1 to the die roll on next activation roll" but man this game was a slog fest. I deployed my artillery BEFORE the hedgerow and from the way I read the rules once deployed artillery does not move again (due to the static nature of the guns in the time period). We caught the +1 die roll mistake about half way in. The manor in particular was the site of many a brutal clash of armor. It changed hands at least 3 times.

So really all my shots were terrible. With the +1 modifier for shooting through the hedgerow I missed...a lot. Also as my luck would have it two of my batteries blew up and self destructed when I rolled 0's. I like that there is now a very SPQR'ish weapons matrix in the game as well now it really adds extra flavor. Great game if not a little slow at times. 

My opponent was slow to come at me and forced me to do all the work since I played the side with the time limit. I noticed that there was a distinct lack of eliminations in this game. It is certainly hard to cause casualties as even leaders come back at a reduced value. By the end of the game my forces were pretty well decimated but so were his. I finally started learning the game near the end and was inflicting a good amount of damage on his straggled flanks when he left people exposed. As the game went on however his long bowmen and their aim improved and mine got worse...stunting and charges I had. 

We had to call it a draw but the point total (or FLIGHT POINTS) were pretty close. It was a see saw affair back and forth and involving many flanking attempts around that damn hedgerow in the middle of the board. 

Probably not the most exciting scenario to pick for a first time play through. I managed to kill a couple of his leaders and pushed through toward the back of his lines but my failure to seize initiative and continue the momentum cost me in the end and I had to protect my flanks and fall back...right to the hedgerow. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What does board wargaming do a PC wargame cannot?

That is a good question. People often ask me why I bother playing these huge board wargames when I can just play almost the same thing with a Matrix Games PC title or a John Tiller game

There are a few differences however. Also a few reasons why my library blew up to triple its size over the past few weeks.

Wargaming on a board forces me to concentrate and to learn the mechanics of a game instead of just skimming a manual and letting the PC do all the work. My major gripe, no matter how great War in the East or the Panzer Campaigns are, is that I really do not KNOW what is happening beneath the engine nor do I care. I simply learn some basic rules then click and move. 

In some post analyzation after my 5 hour session with War in the East I actually felt less knowledgeable after I was done than before I started it. I was simply clicking and pointing units around the screen after a while not even paying attention to supply or reinforcements. This made the game quite tedious. Do not get me wrong it is an excellent simulation of the Eastern Front, the finest in the PC world no doubt, yet afterwards I still found myself seeking a board game on the same topic and as deep.

The other aspect is the sheer tactile feel of the counters, moving things, handling the book and reading to learn the game and know its mechanics. Sure the board games can be complicated but in the end you feel better knowing you have learned the system and can now dig in and recreate history. I cannot remember the last time I actually read and entire PDF of a PC wargame manual other than Europa Universalis or maybe Conquest of the Aegean. Others may feel the opposite. 

Some people don't want to deal with reading all the superfluous garbage they want to get right in and have the AI handle the math. While I do like that aspect I want to know what is happening and WHY. Ageod PC games are notorious for really not telling the player behind the keyboard what the hell is going on. You just accept the combat results screen and move on to the next combat pop up. Personally I hate that. It leads to the inability to analyze the battle and see what went wrong other than hovering a mouse over a bunch of symbols. I may see that some of my people ran during a fight but WHY? What factors went into deciding that? I have never been sure to be honest. 

One aspect of course that board wargaming gives us is the social one. Social for truly grognardy nerd of course usually equates to a basement and one other person but believe it or not we DO meet and make friends through the hobby. I myself have made at least 3-4 friends through the process of finding opponents. This in turn leads to stimulating conversation and the fact that you may learn something.

Speaking of learning something this is one thing that PC wargaming and board wargaming do share in common. I do think that board wargaming does it better however. The numerous playbooks and history asides included in your average boxed wargame far outweigh what comes in a PDF download of even the bulkiest PC wargame. There are some exceptions yes but for the most part the PC crowd is left to look up the battle details themselves.

Then we get to the expansions aspect. Lately PC wargaming expansions have been better and plentiful. So too have board wargames as they have been since the dawn of the hobby. Are all of them as inexpensive as a PC wargame expansion? No certainly not. While some PC wargames enter low price ranges we generally pay exorbitant amounts for board wargames and their expansions which can turn some off of that genre of the hobby. For the most part however the board game expansions that we do pay for are hefty and full of material. A typical PC expansion may sometimes feel tacked on and effortless...a few battles for quick consumption with very little thought put into them.

The next aspect I like about board wargaming is watching the battle unfold over a period of days (playing solitaire and taking my time) without having to scroll a screen or zoom out to impossible angles. Even if you crank out a quick two player game with someone it still shows better than a play by email or LAN game you may play. Unless you take a lot of screenshots you just will not get the flavor of the battle.

That leads me to the next aspect. That is convenience. Board wargaming loses the edge here as it is very difficult to break into a local group or find that one person that can play or will play your taste in warfronts or military time periods. Plus of course PC gaming has the extra added "modern" dimension of play by email and VASSAL play among other methods. If you play solo you need room and a lot of it. This can lead to other complications arising from pets, spouses, kids and in general clutter.

When you can sit down and study or learn the aspects of a battle or WHY history turned out the way it did that makes board wargaming very superior to our PC counterpart titles. However PC titles have really improved and I think that last year was a banner year for PC wargames. The games themselves are looking better and getting smarter harnessing the full power of 3D graphics and processing capability. While I do not want to ever write off PC wargaming it is becoming less and less my go to format. I still keep games going but I always look longingly to my shelf for the next board wargame I want to play with someone or setup solo. At that point the only exercise in frustration comes in learning the rules and which companies you prefer for board gaming fun. That is another post entirely. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

First post of 2015

Nothing monumental just a recap of the past week or so. This weekend I managed to play Fading Glory which is the GMT collection of Napoleonic 20 games. We played the Waterloo 20 series twice, and each time I failed terribly. My morale really sank fast in game and twice I was at zero via doing some risky things with the French before I knew it.

Battles around Ligny cost me the game in most respects and I still need to learn Cavalry properly in the system. I seem to have issues with keeping the Prussians at bay in that scenario. 

After the Waterloo 20 we re-learned Combat Commander where I did horribly once more. We played Fat Lipki the first scenario and man Combat Commander seemed to take FOREVER. The first scenario is so boring. 

Snipers changed the game as my right side Coporal (Winkler) cowered under sniper fire and never recovered. That coupled with poor card draw meant I never was able to rally him. 

I also have ordered Hoplite. The new Hoplite changes in Great Battles of History and the chit draw give me hope that I can solo this game and learn the rules at last. We will see.For my birthday I got an early gift: Hells Gate by Victory Poin games. 

At the same time I am prepping Blood and Roses for Tuesday

Pics follow.