Sunday 31 August 2014

Home again, and Dungeon Saga.

'Well, I'm back,' he said.
No prizes for spotting the quote, as it's the last line of a book I'd be surprised to discover any of my followers haven't read (although not necessarily in English, I guess!)

A much needed week-and-a-bit off, to be honest. My prediction wasn't that inaccurate - not much German beer, but about ten hours over three days playing the Firefly board game, as well as excursions into Dominion and Legends of Andor. Other highspots were definitely a trip to see one of the world's largest model railways in Hamburg, which was inspiring in so many ways (and probably means some time off figure painting to build James' model railway!), and finally getting to meet someone I've known online for 17 years (which is remarkably weird).

Friday saw a 16 hour car journey home (with breaks, but still), which would have been even longer had we not been sensible enough to break the journey on Thursday night in Bielefeld (even though it doesn't exist), so I'm only just now about recovered enough to start catching up on the world.

Just in time really, as Mantic's Dungeon Saga Kickstarter, to which I am pledged, is about to finish today. It's gone off like the usual rocket, and is past $800k as I speak, and looks, to be honest, like a really fun investment if you want a sub-D&D dungeon crawl with RPG-lite elements (and I use that entire phrase in the nicest possible way - it does look to be perfect at what it aims to be, and I am, if nothing else, looking forward to using it to introduce my son to the genre). Closing date is tonight, midnight UK time.

Today sees one last stretch goal - they're aiming for about another $100k today, which is for another add-on scenario pack including a freakin' cool dragon, more doors, tiles, etc... That's an insane reach, in my book - I'll be very interested to see if they reach it - me, I'm pledged out, since I've added enough for all the scenario packs to date and enough, fortuitously for this one as well.

I've been watching online while on holiday, and it's very interesting, in an abstract way, to watch how Mantic run a Kickstarter. As I've said before, you don't have to like it, and you can argue that it's not, per se, in the spirit of how Kickstarters were meant to happen when the concept was invented. They could, I'm sure, produce all the stuff that they've had lined up (I'm equally sure that there's not a LOT of 'spontaneous' addition of stretch goals) without a Kickstarter, but by doing it with a Kickstarter a) they get funding up front, b) they generate masses of online advertising (look, here!), and c) they get to gauge demand and production run size ahead of having to make risky investments, and they can much better leverage economies of scale. Barring some dispatch and CS issues (mainly due to being short-staffed on responding to email, from what I gather) on previous Kickstarters, they have, at least, always delivered.

And sorry, Mantic - you're lovely people, but I don't buy "we had no idea where this campaign was going to finish." :D Certainly I bet you had it planned this far, just in case :D And do remember to take on enough people to handle the support load. :D :D

Tuesday 19 August 2014

We apologise....

&c &c...

So, Sunday consisted of driving to the Excel (familiar to many, no doubt), rehearsing our temporary chorus until 5.30pm, grabbing a bite to eat and then rigging band and lights until 11pm... then home, bed, picking up a LARGE coffee and our bassist at 7am, back to the Excel for 9.30am, sound-checking, hour break for food, full tech run through, half hour break, performance, de-rig, load out, home by 1am.

(And yes, it went really well, barring a glitch in the keys rig which forced us to restart the finale :D)

I love you all dearly, but blogging went rather out the window, not least because one of my laptops was wired into Anne's keyboards rig (check my other blog for the geeky details sometime in the next couple of weeks), the other MacBook was driving the auto cue, my iPad was being my music stand and my iPhone was turned off (3G 'warbles' through the PA, bad!)...

So. Official announcement. We are on vacation till Friday next week (in Germany). I may blog. I may not. Mostly, I need a holiday after the last couple of weeks run up to the performance of Before the Dawn :D While I have a few wargame-related things planned involving writing, a laptop and a comfy chair in a holiday chalet (as well as an update to the show's website), I may elect to drink German beer and play the Firefly board game a lot instead.

Regular blogging at the usual rate will resume around Sept 1.

Saturday 16 August 2014

Wish me luck :D

Last finishing touches to the score (or rather, a vain attempt to add enough crib notes our keyboard player won't forget things!) - wireless headsets are here, programmes folded and boxed.

Off tomorrow for a day of practice, and then the performance on Monday at 4.30pm at the Excel, just after the Loncon 3 (World SF convention) closing ceremony. I hope to manage to blog on both days, but I reserve the right to be terse :D

It will have been worth it :D

Friday 15 August 2014

Badges, posters, stickers, t-shirts... quote an obscure Dire Straits B-side :D

It's quite surprisingly how easy it is to get decent promotional material these days, for whatever it is you're doing, be it your company, your show, your band or your club. So far this week, I've done t-shirts, posters, show programmes and flyers...

The key thing is to get a decent unifying look and feel - for this, grab the services of someone with a flair for graphic design (yourself, even!) and get them to spend a little time working on a logo, a colour scheme. Have them work out a simply style guide - your body text is always in such and such a font, your logo is this font, this colour, etc., and then stick to it.

I can't overstress this - I'm sure anyone who's been to one of our club WAB tournaments will agree that the unifying design on all the campaign documents really adds to the look, for example.

Check out the image above - that's the basic logo for the show I've been working on: the tower/hill silhouette and red to blue gradient are a constant in everything I've had done, as is is the shade of yellow and the Papyrus font for the logo. That can be stretched both ways - I have a web banner that extends the hill silhouette and background horizontally, and for an A4-proportioned portrait flyer, programme cover and poster the black area extends downwards to provide an area for other text.

The next important step is to work big. What looks good on your screen (at 72 dpi or 'dots per inch') will print with a bad case of the jaggies, so make sure all your images are at a bare minimum 150 dpi. This means (for example) that a 12" wide t-shirt logo needs to be at least 1800 pixels wide.

Back in the '90s, when I was producing CD inlays for various projects and amateur operatic theatre programmes, the printers tended to be massively picky about the quality and format of the source files, and if you couldn't scare up a copy of Adobe Illustrator or Quark Xpress, you were likely to incur extra charges in making your work printable. These days, there are any number of companies who will take a PDF or PNG and work from that, for ridiculously low rates. 1000 colour, single-sided A5 flyers from any number of online companies will set you back well under £50, for example. I've just sourced 50 t-shirts from Clothes2Order for a bit over a fiver a shirt, and companies like Vistaprint will basically put your logo on bulk quantities of any promotional material that takes your fancy.

Someone like Staples will do short run on-demand printing for large (A3 or A2) posters at a few quid a throw, or you can, like me, blow £100 on a photo-quality inkjet that'll do A3. My Brother MFCJ5910DW takes third-party cartridges at something ridiculous like £1 each, and Amazon do some decent glossy A3 paper at 25 sheets for £4 (as part of a bigger order). If you have the patience, it's a great way of doing short runs of posters. And then there's banners...


Here's an offer. If you can wait till I'm back off holiday at the beginning of September, and your club would like a hand with some graphic design, drop me a reply, and I'll see what I can do.

Thursday 14 August 2014

Audio book review - John Julius Norwich, "Shakespeare's Kings"

Or, to give it its full title, Shakespeare's Kings: the Great Plays and the History of England in the Middle Ages: 1337-1485.

I'm loving this - it is, pretty much, what the title says: a review of history from Edward III through to Richard III, and a comparison between history and Shakespeare's retelling of it. "Edward III?" you say. Yes, I was surprised too, but it appears that recent textual analysis suggests that it was at least partly written by Shakespeare (the wide range of opinions on the whole authorship question of his plays aside!).

As usual, I'm listening to it slightly fragmentarily on my commute, which has been aided by a few weekend round trips to Ely for rehearsals. The approach Norwich takes is to cover the historical period of one of the plays, look at the actual history, with reference to contemporary sources, predominantly Hollinshed, and then step back and compare what we know against what Shakespeare wrote. It's a fun and interesting approach, and in addition to being a good history lesson, leaves me wanting to grab a copy of the Complete BBC Shakespeare, the Branagh Henry V and the BBC's new "Hollow Crown" series.

My one gripe: the reader has a slightly forced delivery, and a tendency to pause before... complicated words, or words in... Français. As it were. Other than that? really enjoying it.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

I may shed a tear...

The BBMF and Canadian Lancs. Together.

Plug in a decent pair of speakers, and turn them up.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

RIP: Robin Williams

Saddened to note the passing of one of the true legends of comedy - Robin Williams - whose rapid fire delivery and wit graced any number of movies and other events, and who had, according to his publicist, been battling severe depression. One of the rare, genuinely funny comics who didn't have to base his act entirely on the modern trend for getting laughs out of a character's embarrassment or discomfort.

There are two things I'd like to note:

First, and most important - depression is a real issue. Jason Manford, in response to Robin Williams' death, posted this, from which I quote:
"If depression can (allegedly) kill Robin Williams, one of the world's greatest funny men, well it can get any of us at any time.
"If the Genie from Aladdin can suffer and the DJ in Good Morning Vietnam can be affected by it, then so can you, or your child or friend or work colleague,"
"Please. Ask for help. If you have no one or if you don't want to to tell them yet, then ring Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 for someone to talk to, or talk to your GP.
"The world needs you even if you don't think it does. I promise, we need you here, now."
Secondly, and on a lighter note (and why I'm posting this, at least in part)...

I never knew Robin Williams was a wargamer! Apparently he was both a 40K player and a Civil War/Napoleonic gamer.

Monday 11 August 2014

Chain of Command supplements are coming thick and fast this week!

So, remember when I said if you want to scale up a war-game to cater for more players and a bigger sense of epic, take careful note of the rule scale as it pertains to what size of unit it's'optimised for?

Turns out I was wrong. At least in one case.

Herewith, from the folks at TFL, the free "Big CoC" (yes, you may all snigger now) supplement.

It's a free, 12 page download which covers rules and notes to add to Chain of Command to allow you to play big multiplayer games, with each player controlling a platoon sized force.

Sunday 10 August 2014

Another madly busy weekend...

However, on the good side, for those of you who were waiting for the Chain of Command Stalingrad scenarios - they're out. Twenty-two scenarios, seven quid, and written by the fabulous Richard (Monty), who is the official answerer of questions on TFL lists and fora when RichC is madly busy (i.e. most of the time). What's not to like, if you're into WW2 Eastern Front?

And, for entertainment, a shot of the 'office' (in dress rehearsal at the local church) for the show next week. In the unlikely event any of my readers are SF fans and going to Loncon next week, we're on at 4.30 pm on Monday 18th in Capital Room 1.

Wife behind keyboards, son behind drum screen, 
empty chair is mine :D And you may note the serious
abuse of iPads as music stands.

Saturday 9 August 2014

Cricketers in Wartime - WW1 - Trent Bridge

Not only are Sky picking up on the WW1 connection, the BBC have a whole pile of pieces on sport and WW1 in their 'Home Front' series...

Friday 8 August 2014

I love graphs!

Hands up who can spot when Mantic retweeted yesterday's post!

This bit of whimsy brought you by an evening spend reprogramming MIDI pedalboards...

Thursday 7 August 2014

Kickstarter watch: Mantic - Dungeon Saga: The Dwarf King's Quest

Say what you like about whether its the way the Kickstarter team originally designed Kickstarter to be used; Mantic do seem to have pretty much nailed it as a presales and promotion system. That said, I do know some people have had a few issues with delivery etc with previous Kickstarters, and have decided to wait until things hit the shops.

Their latest kicked off on Monday - you do pretty much have to have been living under a rock to miss it, but just in case, the bare bones:
  • 2-5 players - one plays the monsters, the rest the adventurers
  • classic dungeon crawl
  • comes with a set of 'advanced' rules that cover role-play as well
  • Ronnie from Mantic talks about it here.
  • And of course, it's a Jake Thornton designed game, so the first cut at the rules is already up here  (allegedly, but that link's 404ing for me - to quote Jake: "At least, they were briefly, then the demand crashed the servers". Whoops. Guys? Rent some Amazon S3 storage and stick it up there, huh? [Guess what, they did. See the comments to Jake's link above]). 
  • I'll confidently expect, being a fan of Jake's designs, that this will include some elegantly simple mechanics and Just Work.
In short? Looks like a great introduction to RPGs for my son - so I've signed up, as for my money the lack of hassle beats the occasional issues.

It's a Mantic Kickstarter., so you should know what to expect. Reached its target ($50K) in 4 minutes,  already over $250K, add-ons a-go-go. There are now two pledge levels - one for the whole shebang at $100 (you're WAY too late for the $95 earlybird!) and a $1 if you just want to use the Kickstarter as a shopping cart for the add-ons.

And as for the add ons... to save my typing, here's how it stands...

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Chain of Command scenarios - coming soon

From those lovely chaps at TFL:

Sadly, all we have to go on is 'soon'. Is that better than 'Easter'? :D

(Just finished That Rehearsal. The one just before the dress rehearsal where you go 'Dear Lord, we suck SO much'. It'll be all right on the night. I hope.)

Tuesday 5 August 2014

The beginning of the war

I lit a candle last night, and was profoundly moved by the service at Westminster Abbey, especially the performance of Vaughan Williams' "Lark Ascending", which I thought was absolutely stunning, played by (BBC Young Musician of the Year 2002) Jennifer Pike.

Anne and I were talking about the World War 1 poets we'd covered at our respective schools... I was surprised to discover that, despite being sure I'd read some of Seigfried Sassoon, I couldn't remember any... so I spent a fair chunk of the rest of the evening reading some.

So herewith, to rectify that:
Trench Duty 
Shaken from sleep, and numbed and scarce awake,
Out in the trench with three hours' watch to take,
I blunder through the splashing mirk; and then
Hear the gruff muttering voices of the men
Crouching in cabins candle-chinked with light.
Hark! There's the big bombardment on our right
Rumbling and bumping; and the dark's a glare
Of flickering horror in the sectors where
We raid the Boche; men waiting, stiff and chilled,
Or crawling on their bellies through the wire.
What? Stretcher-bearers wanted? Some one killed?"
Five minutes ago I heard a sniper fire:
Why did he do it?... Starlight overhead —
Blank stars. I'm wide-awake; and some chap's dead.

Monday 4 August 2014

Reviews and Mantic - a statement

In line with my statement on book reviews a while back (which reminds me, there's a couple of Pen and Sword reviews coming up :D), herewith another.

Being a fan of a number of the Mantic games, I have signed up to their bloggers' mailing list. And I quote:
"We are looking to build an exclusive list of podcasters, bloggers, communities and forums to share the best content with your readers.  It can be as low key as sharing our competitions, right up to our press releases.  We’ll also tailor content where we can to your sites, but for now we’re just looking for those who are interested."
 As before, I will continue to be impartial, and to be honest to my readers. So:
  • Should I ever get to review a book, rule set, supplement, whatever, that Mantic send me, I will make it explicitly clear that it's a review copy and who the source is. 
  • The fact that I was asked to review it will not affect what I think or say about it, be that here, on Twitter, Facebook or Google+, or on the Meeples podcast. I have (I trust and hope) a reputation for being honest and direct in my reviews on here, and I don't intend for that to change. 
  • I won't regurgitate Mantic's copy verbatim without making it clear I'm doing so.

Sunday 3 August 2014

Villiers-Bocage Chain of Command campaign

For those looking for ready made Chain of Command campaigns, the folk at the Playing the Odds blog have put up a very nice one for download featuring the Panzer Lehr's actions around Villiers-Bocage on June 13 1944. It even includes a beautifully put together campaign PDF in the CoC house style with maps and diagrams.

As well as battle reports on the Playing the Odds, Benito from MyLardiesGames has been playing the campaign as well.

Saturday 2 August 2014

Inventories of War - 1066-2014

A really very nice image gallery from the Telegraph, covering soldiers' kit from the Battle of Hastings through to the present day, touching on Agincourt, the War of the Roses, the ECW...

Very much worth a look. It's amusing how the essential purpose of individual bits of kit don't change, but how that's achieved does. All except for the spoon :D

Friday 1 August 2014

Sword and Spear

Busy weekend ahead - busy converting 80+ pages of words and chords to a custom ChordPro format for the band's iPads for the weekend's run through...

If you missed Neil raving about Sword and Spear on the last Meeples podcast, do yourself a favour and go listen. I've picked a copy up on PDF for a disgustingly reasonable £6, and will be reviewing them properly next week after a play test at the club on Monday. At a first glance? They look very interesting.
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