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Crimson Skies and the Heavy Gear Funk

(Editor's Note 10 Oct 03: "Crimson Skies and the Heavy Gear Funk" - sounds like a glam soul band!)

Afternoon everyone! A late morning for us both today; apparently I was so wired after playing Crimson Skies with Gav last night that I was keeping Vickie awake. I even got out of bed twice and looked out of the bedroom window. I don't even remember any of it, except for the (allegedly) second time I looked out the window. Vickie asked me what I was doing, and I said something about wanting to know where we were. I think I was having some sort of weird dream, and was half-expecting to look out the window of our bedroom and see something other than brick wall.

Yes, odd, very. I can't explain it either.

Anyway (ahem) - yes, Crimson Skies. I've been playing a bit more of it lately, on Wednesday night with the Slack Bugger (aka Boots) and, as previously implied, last night with Gav. It's been an interesting experience all around; we're still trying to get used to the rules and how they ought to be interpreted, checking the official Crimson Skies FAQ and message boards. Unfortunately, if there's one shortcoming to the CS rules as printed, it's that they're not always clearly written, which is a shame, as they only really take up about three pages. I think WizKids is going to have to release a revised rules set which resolves the ambiguities, includes the omissions (there are some, especially regarding Campaign play) and clarifies the things that (I think) the writers didn't think needed clarifying. (As the rules pack is only $16 Australian, frankly I wouldn't complain about buying another one.) It's stuff that we probably wouldn't have noticed if we didn't have a three-player game Friday week ago - and while it could be argued that Crimson Skies is meant to be a two-player game, the way the rules are written alternates between a for-two-players style and a three-plus-players style. (Terms like "the player to the winner's left" that wouldn't be necessary in a two-players-only game.) It's also annoying when an element of play - specifically, players alternating shots during combat - isn't clear in the main rules, but gets clarified in the quick-start leaflet. That's a big whoopsie.

Back to last night's games. Gav and I managed to squeeze two in. For the first time in at least a couple of years, one of my miniatures gaming boards (two 3' by 4' thin wood boards, painted green on one side and gray on the other) got use. Both of the battles felt like close things; even when one side had the advantage, you still had the sensation that the battle could go either way. WizKids deserve credit for that; I think it's a tricky balance to achieve, and it says a lot for the quality of the game when you're kept involved as a player and competitor throughout each entire match. I managed to win both games; Gav conceded the first when, although we both still had three battered planes on the board, two of his were Shaken (meaning they couldn't shoot); the second was tougher, but I managed to win with two planes (both near-crippled) remaining on the board. If there was one thing that characterised both matches, it was that I had a tendency to cause collisions, so much so, in fact, that Gav started calling me Captain Collision (editor's note 10 Oct 03: You think that's bad? You should hear what Boots was calling our three-way collisions...), which, being the slight Americanophile I am, changed to the catchier Cap'n Crunch. They weren't intentional; it was just that the manoeuvre I needed to make to get my plane pointed at his took my plane right into his. As he had a tendency to fail Pilot rolls, I managed to rack up a fair few clicks of damage that way.

Gav went away saying that he had a fair bit to learn about the game, but I'd disagree; I think they were both good fights, and there were several points where I felt like I was going to lose; it was just a few unlucky rolls that cost him. If there's one thing I'd suggest he do, it's do his homework. I spent my lunchtime and a slow spot in the afternoon yesterday on the Crimson Skies web page, where WizKids have put the complete information on every plane's dials, and put together a summary of his squadron, with pertinent info on weapons and special abilities and how hard (or easy) it would be to rob him of them through damage. By comparing that information with that on my own squadron, I was able to come up with a few tactical approaches that I was able to use during the game. I have a crib sheet for both his and Boots' squadron, so the next match-up with the Bootsmeister should be interesting.

I had a thought earlier on - when I originally mentioned my gaming boards to Gav and Boots, it was in the context of being able to put them together for a four-sided match, but I just thought of something this morning - why not just keep them separate and have two simultaneous games? It'd mean we'd need another table to put them on, but I could always drag the garden table in form outside, like I usually do for an evening of Heavy Gear. Getting four CS players here at once is suddenly much more do-able (although Vickie would probably kill me).

I've made mention of the Crimson Skies Tournament being held at this year's NecronomiCon. I think I've also previously mentioned that Newtown is getting to be a bit too far to go for a convention nowadays, but I was thinking that, as this would just be a single tournament and not me playing in or running a while slew of games, it mightn't be so bad. Still, I'm equally un fond of either leaving Vickie behind while I go gaming or dragging her along to a convention where she'll not be interested in what's on, so I asked her whether she'd mind if I entered.

Vickie immediately reminded me that it's her birthday that weekend. The same day as Prizegiving, in fact. "I knew you'd forget," she said laughingly. She just assured me she wouldn't mind, as long as she had something to do (she even suggested taking along a book to read), but as far as I'm concerned, Vickie sitting around reading a book or wandering Newtown by herself looking for something of interest is not fucking good enough for her birthday.

So here's hoping they have another tournament at MacquarieCon!

We asked Gav to bring his new digital camera over last night, although we forgot to tell him that we wanted to take some photos of Vickie's jewellery, so he forgot the manual and USB cable (which we'd need to download photos to our PC). The idea also occurred to me yesterday that we could take photos of the match, but you really need a third person for that: both to take photos of both players in one shot and also to say, "Stop! That looks good, let me get a photo", as Gav and I completely forgot about the camera during the games.

I must confess, I've been avoiding work on the next Heavy Gear session. It's one of those things where I'm not quite sure what to present to the players, and am not really fond of the ideas I've had so far. There's also the thought that I want to get some more minis before the next Gear battle, simulated or real (and there's going to have to be one soon) - but I'm also thinking that maybe I don't need miniatures after all. Movement of opponents always gets me during combat; because RPG combats are so busy, I usually forget that enemies can and will move around, especially the faster units like hovertanks. It's what got me during the last session, when the players staged an implausible and unexpected breakout from captivity which logically should have got some, if not all of them killed, and I was too caught off guard and trying to keep their characters alive to run things properly. Still, every game's a learning experience, and I think I have enough notes on the opposition and how they ought to move to run combats, especially mechanised ones, better and without need for miniatures or hex-maps. The problem is that I've already convinced my players to fork out for miniatures of their players' Gears, so I think I should either follow through on my end or pay them back for the miniatures they already bought (which, God knows, might just be cheaper).

Some Blue Booking has started between Dan and I; his first e-mail has been sitting in my in box for about a week, and I've yet to respond to it.

There's still the problem of what to do in the next session. Although it's logical and a good way to get my players comfortable with their characters, the system and each other, it just... feels dull. Even the "opposition" characters - other trainees, base staff, etcetera - seem to be missing something, and I don't know what or whether it's worth trying to find it and give it to them. I'm not sure whether I can put it into words, but it feels like there's no real "point" to the whole thing, that all the really exciting stuff is going to happen after they complete their training. From the GM's perspective, this phase of the campaign just feels stodgy, gluey and unpleasant.

I don't know, maybe this is all just pissing and moaning to cover the fact that I'm shirking actually having to sit down and do some hard thinking about the situation and how to resolve it. The excuse I've been using to avoid doing Heavy Gear - development on Vickie's website - hasn't really panned out either. My attempts to re-install the Perl-enabled version of Apache that I downloaded from perl.apache.org keep failing. It's galling that the program, unlike the "straight" version of Apache, doesn't come with any clean un install tools. I'm thinking of talking to Marcus about setting some trial web space up so I can test Movable Type out and try to get Vickie's website working and looking the way we want it to.

Okay. Moving on. The eBay stuff has all been sold, but I'm still a little strapped right now. I've paid a couple of bills, and I'm waiting for eBay to deduct its fees from my account, so I have just enough to cover the next rent payment on Friday. I get paid on Monday week. Ergo, it's probably good that TRON 2.0 isn't out yet. It's odd, though - the only date that EB has for the game is the US release date, which is August the 26th. I've sent an e-mail off to David Arnspiger of Buena Vista Interactive, who usually frequents the tron-sector.com message boards; he was good enough to reply and let me know he was checking up for me. This was a very nice and unexpected gesture; usually, if you send something off to a company with a question, you get an automated "Thank you for your e-mail" reply (if you're lucky). It's very rare someone actually comes back to you with a personal "we're looking into it and will let you know as soon as we have more info" response.

On Monday, we're receiving a guest from the US - well, from Perth, actually; she's been staying there for the past while on her West Coast leg of a visit to Australia. Her name's Melissa, and she's a friend of Vickie and fellow poet. She's also a talented painter. We're picking her up from the airport on Monday night. I'll have Tuesday Off, so I won't have to worry about dragging my carcass into work the next day if Melissa's plane is delayed. Vickie's taking the week off, and the two will probably be off around town, taking in the sights and the art galleries. We're also planning on taking Melissa to Castle Hill Markets on Saturday. She heads off on Monday week.

So this weekend is going to be a Big Clean and Tidy Weekend, in preparation for Melissa's visit. I'll be mowing the lawn tomorrow morning, and we'll be evicting the several families of dust bunnies that have no doubt flourished since the last time we seriously went over the place with a broom.

And tomorrow afternoon, I'll be off to Mum and Dad's for Dad's Day, which will take some more time out of the cleanup.

Finally in the news this afternoon, I downloaded a demo of the upcoming Homeworld2. It looks positively gorgeous, but I'm not really sure whether that's enough to sell me on it. I don't think there's enough "newness" between it and the original Homeworld to get me to spend $80-90 on it.

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