Saturday, 25 February 2017

A Nice Surprise

When I woke up today, I was a little disappointed with myself.

For a start it was the afternoon, and I had planned to be up no later than mid morning. That was on me for having an early night when I could do with an earlyish start; which I wanted so that I could have a game of no holds bared gaming. That was the plan, and I'd already cocked it up before the day had even begun.

It then became apparent I'd have to go out too else I'd be screwed for toiletries, when I had planned to spend the whole day in the house.. More time out of my planned gaming. Again, it was on me though. I wouldn't normally let supplies get so low; but with how crazy-busy things have been the past few weeks it completely slipped my attention.

I'm usually pretty good at planning my time, and there are few people I know who can match me in terms of organisation. So, hence the disappointment. I'm my own worst critic.

I'm also not one for letting the little things get to me. It needed to be done, so it was going to get done. There would still be plenty of time for gaming later after all, and as it had been a while since I did the rounds; I decided to pop into my local charity shops.

I've had some great success in them in the past, picking high ticket value boardgames such as The Last Night On Earth, Elder Sign, Ticket To Ride: Europe, The Key To The Kingdom, Lost Valley Of The Dinosaurs, Heroquest, and ZOMBIES!!! from them at greatly reduced prices. Always at a fair price mind, and often above their ticket price; as I'm not in the business of screwing over the needy.

Taking this more ethical approach also means that I have a good rapport with the staff, and they'll often hold stuff they think I may be interested in back. They also know that if I decide not to buy, I'll appraise it for them; so they can fetch a better price in their stores. It's a good working relationship, and I'm only more than happy to help.

Back to today however, and my nice surprise.

Doing my rounds, nothing was really standing out. There wasn't even a lot in the way of boardgames in a lot of the stores. It was nice to pop in and say hi; but there wasn't looking like much prospect of finding a diamond in the rough.. Then I spotted a box that looked rather familiar on the top shelf. It was a copy of Turbo.

Turbo is nothing special, but I have fancied picking up a copy ever since I saw Larry and Stuart running through it on YouTube. It was only a few quid, which seemed about right; and upon getting it home and checking it over, my copy doesn't seem in bad nick. There's only one piece missing, which is nothing critical to gameplay;  and the board itself is pristine.

Granted, it's not like I found the Zelda boardgame in a charity shop, but it is a nice little find; and I am perfectly happy with what I have received. I've wanted a copy for a few months, and now I have it!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Writing A New Solo: Thoughts And Practical Advice

It's been a long time since I even looked into writing a solo; but as I'm getting back into writing after taking an extended break, it seems both a fun and worthwhile outlet. Also, as with all my previous solitaire adventures; it'll be free.

In truth, I'm not sure how long it'll take till I have something to release, but my guesstimate is that 6-8 hours worth of work can produce something pretty good. Not a Fighting Fantasy novel by any stretch of the imagination, but something that will be enjoyable to play through certainly.

So far I have a plot (which I won't spoil by saying too much at this point), and a rough plan of the narrative flow. If it were just a short story, we'd be ready to start drafting at this point; but being interactive fiction there is need to throw a few divergent paths in there. Which is where things become tricky.

You still want the reader to have a coherent experience. Which means you need them to hit key paragraphs where the plot points of the story are, but you don't want to railroad them into always picking the same path; as that somewhat defeats the point of interactive fiction. So, it's a real juggling act in that respect.

You also need to be mindful that the divergent paths don't dilute the story. Spending several paragraphs fighting goblins for no real reason for example; when the adventure is about recovering an idol from a cult that has set up base in a disused temple. The goblins may well fit into the ecology of your dungeon (they could be slaves of the cultists or something similar), but if they only detract from the adventure itself; then do they really warrant being included?

Replayability is a big thing that I like to weave into my adventures, and I have a few ways of doing this; randomly generated paths and tables of random content included with the adventure for example.

Random tables are probably one of the most commonly employed tricks by writers who want their adventure to be good for more than one pass, but I do feel that random tables aren't always used to the best effect. Sometimes being poorly balanced, or overly random.

In some solitaire adventures for example, to generate a random monster or random loot; you roll 2D6. Which seems simple enough. What's often overlooked however when populating these tables is the weighting of the dice rolls. You're mathematically going to see a lot more 7's than you will 2's and 12's; so this should be reflected in the results generated by the table if this is the method you're going to use. It seems fairly obvious when it's laid out in such simple terms, but I have seen it overlooked.

Overly random tables is also a bit of a personal bugbear. Whether this be in terms of content, or the relative disparity of difficulty; I don't really like it when the range goes all the way from rats to T-Rex's, and said rats can kill the T-Rex's in a straight fight. There's no harm in mixing it up a little; that is what random tables are for, but just because it's a random table it doesn't mean that logic goes out the window. Yes, this may be a magical land full of wonder, but there is no surer way of severing your readers connection to your work and that place than by throwing something at them that is either unfair or completely out of touch with the expectations of that world.

Admittedly,  what I have planned so far is a bit mad cap when compared to traditional fantasy writing; but it does have its own internal logic. This is where Tunnels & Trolls really shines through (which will be the system that I am writing adventure for). It allows for both serious and farcical adventures.. The trick being to decide which you're writing ahead of time; and to stick within that framework.

My forthcoming adventure will be within the genre of the intentional B movie, but with a fantasy flavor. I've chosen this not just because I really enjoy those kind of movies (they're so bad, that they're good), but because the combination of genre and setting gives me a wide scope to work within. There is a passion here, and a crossover of styles that is largely unexplored.

Possibly for good reason, but we'll see. One thing is for sure though, and that's that Tunnels & Trolls is the perfect vehicle to traverse this new terrain; being as it is geared towards humor and outlandish adventures.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

More Free Zines.. 10 Of Them

So I finally got around to working my way through the extensive list of links that I found over at; and updating the "Free Zines" page.

The list below may seem like I cut a lot of the content from the original site, but there were reasons. One of the main ones being dead links. Whilst the list over at Grognard was extensive, a lot of the links were dead; which was a bit of a shame. Zines come from people's passions, so it's always kind of sad to see that dwindle away; or lost to internet archiving.

The other main reason for links not making the cut was that they weren't actually zines. There were blogs, podcasts, and websites in the mix; and that's not what the "Free Zines" page is about. No matter the merits or quality of the work on those sites.

Lastly, a few didn't make it because they weren't free.

All of that aside, the list did yield the following 10 zines; which can be accessed by the below links, or the "Free Zines" page:

Burke's Autoduel Magazine - A very dead zine dedicated to Car Wars and Autoduel. Seriously, not even the darkest technomancy is going to bring this back; being available now only through the wonder of the wayback machine. With Car Wars making a return in recent years however, it may be of some interest to someone.

Countermoves - A very professional quality wargame zine that reminds me greatly of the older hobby magazines. Very nice.

Diplodocus - A few issues of a very niche zine that focused largely on play-by-post games of Diplomacy. Quite the curiosity, that reads like almost like a number station!

Diplomacy World - A diplomacy zine that has been going since 1974, with back issues available all the way to their first publication.

Games Journal - A general interest gaming zine that ran between 2000 and 2005.

Gauntlet - A wargaming zine available as text pad files via

Phoenix - Another wargaming zine available as text pad files via

Relative Range - A gaming zine dedicated to Avalon Hill's Up Front, made available by the wayback machine. 7 Issues in all.

Simulations Online - Yet another wargaming zine available as text pad files via

Sweep of History - A short lived wargaming zine, that only appears to have run for three issues back in the mid noughties; which can still be downloaded as PDFs from the original site.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

The Joy Of Being Lister

There have been a lot of changes in my life over the past few months. Relationships, career, financial.. All of which has led me to really embrace the joy of being Lister.

But what is the joy of being Lister?

David Lister - Red DwarfI'm sure to a lot of people the name will be familiar, but for those of you who have no idea who Lister is, and why he's so joyful; I'll offer up a brief introduction.

In the long running British sitcom; Red Dwarf; Lister is the bunk mate of Arnold Rimmer. Where Arnold is a driven, and career orientated individual; Lister is the archetypal drifter. Rimmer makes revision timetables, Lister makes a mess of the front of his shirt whilst eating chocolate eclairs. They are chalk and cheese, that through a sheer twist of fate (nicely outlined early into "Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers", in a section that precludes the first televised episode), end up crossing paths and becoming roomies.

They're a typical odd couple, which provides an obvious source of comedy; but beneath the surface animosity there is a deeper message. This is where we find the joy of being Lister.

Rank, position, and power are all very important to Rimmer. Yet despite 15 years of long service at the point where we join the story; he has only achieved the rank of Second Technician. The second lowest rank on board the ship. This is not for the want of ambition on his part. Simply that his ambition far outweighs his ability. Not that this is ever going to stop him trying to reach for the stars, even if his own inability to achieve his goals is a primary source of his self-loathing and frustration.  

Then we have Lister. A lowly Third Technician, with the bad luck of having Arnold Judas Rimmer as both a room mate and a shift leader.. And not just any shift; Z shift. The least respected shift on-board whose only real responsibility is keeping the nozzles of the chicken soup dispensers clean. Despite his dire predicament, Lister is both cheery and optimistic.. Even when everything he knows is taken away from him in the radiation leak that wipes out the crew, and he finds himself marooned 3,000,000 years into deep space.

But why?

In life the things that Rimmer sought were largely material; where Lister saw that same value in interpersonal relationships. Whether that be with his drinking buddies, or in the bunk of Kochanski; his one true love (and his mother as it transpired).

With that all gone, Lister still doesn't lose heart. He goes on one hell of a bender admittedly, but several bottles of Whiskey later, and upon discovering he's not alone (Holly the ships A.I resurrects Rimmer as a hologram to keep Lister sane seeing how self-destructive he had become at the loss of the crew, and the bleak reality of staring down eternity alone. Together, they then discover Cat, a life form that evolved from Lister's pet cat Frankenstien); plucks up the resolve to follow the dream he had prior to the accident. Owning a farm on Fiji.

That's the joy of being Lister.

Not the owning of a farm on Fiji. That's immaterial. It's about your quality of life, and what you are doing to enrich it.

My new job doesn't leave me with a lot of money to play with, but they're a lovely bunch of people. Something that more than makes up for the drop in wage. I'm also only working part-time; which allows for a much better work / life balance. Another plus.

So for a Rimmer the loss of status, title and money would be a big body blow; but for a Lister every cloud has a silver lining.

Simply put, to be happy nothing has to change other than how you choose to view the situation.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Anthrax & Biscuits

As an aside to my previous post, I did receive a rather bizarre parcel this morning. Biscuits.

This is bizarre because, well, I didn't order any biscuits. I wasn't alone though. My neighbor got biscuits. My neighbors neighbor got biscuits. It seems everyone in the area received a small yellow box containing sealed packets of BelVita breakfast biscuits.

Which leaves me with a bit of a quandry. Do you eat food randomly left for you?

Normally the answer would be, "Hell no! Are you f*****g crazy!?"; but I did catch on the news this morning something about it being random acts of kindness week, or day. One of the two. So, if ever there was a day of the year to receive a suspicious package; and not be overly suspicious, it would be today.

However, given the choice; poisoning seems like a particularly unimpressive way to go. I make a similar assessment when crossing the road. If I get hit by a car, will it at least be a badass; because having an epitaph that reads, "Taken by a Smart Car" isn't the memorial I want! It's not that I mind dying. We all have to go sometime. It's just that I'm adverse to being taken out in a way that I'd be embarrassed by.. Not that I'll be worrying about it I suppose.

Anyhow, given that I'd sooner not be poisoned; I need a way of testing the mystery goods prior to consumption.. And would you believe it, I left my top secret lab in my other bunker!

So, no lab.. But I do have a few lab rats. If I leave it a few days, someone is bound to take a bite; and if something is off, I'm sure it'll make the news.. Hmmm, I may have missed the point of random acts of kindness week / day.

Not So Unemployed.. But The Job Centre Are Still Being A Pain!

Papers still need to be signed, I's dotted; and T's crossed, but it looks very much like I'll be in paid employment come Friday morning..

.. And how does the Job Centre react? They don't want me to sign off!

Yeah, even given the fragile economy of the welfare system, they still want me to continue attending the Job Centre once I've started my job, and to continue looking for employment. Not that they want to support me in this financially; but the disruption they're looking to cause is free!

Their reasoning behind this is that my new job is only part-time, and anything less than 35 hours a week leaves you with two choices:

You either A, close your claim, or B leave your claim open.. And the person I spoke to is actually advising B!

Personally, I'd much sooner go with A; but if I do that then they've told me that they won't pay me what they owe me, for the couple of weeks that I've been unemployed. It's not a lot of money granted (£10.60 a day), but it's the bloody principal of the matter.

When I initially signed on, I was told that I'd be being paid monthly; but that benefit was accrued daily. Now however I'm being told that if I close my claim, I get nothing as I've been unemployed less than a month (so no payments have been made to me as of yet); something that I would have thought was a positive.

I can't help but feel they're trying to screw me though. There is no way I can attend the meetings they want me to, and they know this. I have explained this to them. Whilst I'll only be working part-time, it's an hour an half there, the same back; and it's spread over 5 days. The same 5 days that they're open. There is physically no way that I can attend their meetings, one of which is in a weeks time.

Not to take on a sense of entitlement, but I have worked damn hard to get myself into work; clocking up anything between 7.5 and 9.5 hours a day looking for work, 7 days a week! But it seems the more you put in, the less you get out.

It's not been easy, and I have jumped through every damn hoop with both grace and finesse. So, to get such a rebuttal feels like quite the kick in the nards. If they stick to their guns it means I could have taken things much easier. Easier would have been good! If they stick to their guns it means I spent a lot of time ticking their boxes when I need not have; and time is my most precious resource, not to be squandered on folly and bureaucracy..

If they stick to their guns, it's one hell of a dick move!

They should show more damn respect for their clients, and their efforts. They should make good on their debts.

Nothing is ever that straightforward when you're dealing with the Department of Work and Pensions though.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

10 x 10 Challenge #9: 100 Swords - Games #2 And #3

100 Swords - The Red Dragon's DungeonOne good thing to come out of yesterday's kerfuffle and letdown, was suddenly finding that I had some free
time on my hands. Quite a rarity at the moment with how hard I've been pushing to get myself back into work these past couple of weeks.

Being quite the scarcity, there was no way I was wasting it; and given that I had been hankering to do some gaming for days, I knew exactly how to unwind. I also saw it as a prime opportunity to tick a couple of more games off of my 10 x 10 Challenge.

Up this time was a return to The Red Dragon's Dungeon, but the dragon wasn't home. Instead the Glowing Plasmapede & Magic Computer had taken up residence; bringing their pals to the party. These were games that I had been looking forward to playing since I took on the challenge, as whilst I had played a few games of The Red Dragon's Dungeon prior; I hadn't yet  introduced any of the Dungeon Builder Sets.

First up, The Red Dragon's Dungeon combined with The Glowing Plasmapede's Dungeon Builder Set.

The introduction of this Dungeon Builder Set (DBS), didn't seem to change the flow of the game; but it was interesting to see some new cards in the dungeon. Something that was a first however, was the Awkward Sword actually being useful; giving me just the boost I needed to take down a Torch Skeleton.

I was also able to make good use of the Sleepy Potion to manipulate the Space Guardian, and therefore the dungeon to ensure that the A.I didn't get the best of the loot.The fungus at the front door issue that I encountered in the last game (which screwed me over royally), happened again; but learning from the experience I took the initiative and killed it the very turn after it wound up there.

The session ended with me facing down the Glowing Plasmapede, which I had no difficulty in taking down thanks to a favorable draw. That said, I had drawn pretty well all game; which meant I had a whole deck full of pretty impressive swords.

One thing that I did find a little weird about this setup was the boss itself. It has a strength identical to that of the Red Dragon, with some additional requirements to defeat it; but is worth less Gold (VP). Not that it really mattered in this particular game, as I beat the A.I on Gold, 55 to 43.

Next up was The Red Dragon's Dungeon, combined with The Magic Computer's Dungeon Builder Set.

This one changed the tempo of the game considerably. One of the cards in this set provides you with additional energy, when you use it for energy; whilst another discounts all of your future energy expenditure during your turn, making items easier to retrieve. Unlike the previous two configurations, the Magic Computer is both a boss and an item.

So the emphasis in this DBS is all about recovering as many items from the dungeon as possible, and it gives you the perfect tools to do just that.

Another new feature added by this DBS is the introduction of cards worth negative points. This didn't really impact my game, as the item that introduces this effect (the same item which discounts all energy expenditure during the turn in which it is played) came out within the first couple of turns; so I easily offset its penalty. In fact, thanks to it the dungeon was completely cleared at the end of one of the turns. Something extremely rare to see in my experience.

The game ended with the A.I taking out the boss, and me winning 55 Gold to 46. Remarkably close to the score of the previous game; which suggests to me that the two sets are incredibly well balanced.

It'll be interesting to see if the last two Dungeon Builder Sets are as balanced, and just how they change the flow of the game. The Glowing Plasmapede's Dungeon Builder Set did very little to the core gameplay, whilst the Magic Computer shifted the emphasis towards items over monsters.

Oh I wonder what wonders await us.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Lots More Free Zines!

I'm still quite intent on adding as many new (and free) zines to "Free Zines" page that I have added to the top of the blog; which has meant a fair bit of digging.. And I think I have struck proverbial gold with this site, that has a long list of online zines buried within it.

The catch however is that they're not all free. So I'll need to sift..

This could take a while!


I went to bed last night (well early this morning),thinking I had an interview this morning; but woke up to a call shifting it to early next week.

This wasn't exactly unexpected, as the interview had already been moved once; and the sector it is for is notoriously flaky based upon my personal experiences. I've worked in it for the better part of two years, and meetings being moved around is almost a given.. And what's an interview, but a meeting. So, not unexpected; but as you can imagine, it didn't exactly impress upon me their professionalism.

Some people reading that may think, "So" or, "Well, you want the job don't you?". Something to that effect. Something basically along the lines of suck it up.

I get that. I do.

However, my experience of the job market is a little different than that other people may have. I have people coming to me, asking if I'll work for them. Effectively, jobs apply to me!

Now I'm not going to say that happens all the time, but it has happened in the past, recently, and is happening now. I have a telephone interview lined up early next week, for a job where the employer came to me; and asked if I would be interested!

So, yes. I do want to apply for this job; but I'm not relying on it, and it's as much about the employer convincing me that I want to work for them, as vice versa. My CV grabs attention, gets me offers and all told I have three other irons in the fire at the moment.

I work hard, I work smart; and I can demonstrate this to people.

Now, a lot of this post stems from my annoyance at the general lack of professionalism and organisation that people seem only all too willing to put on display. Granted my griping at it, isn't exactly professional either; but I think that a lot of folks can relate to this kind of frustration.

So I guess the take-away point here would be that if this kind of behavior annoys you  (and it pisses me off royally), be the change you want to see. In everything you do, set out out to be as organised and professional as you can.

Nobody likes the guy who is always late, or always cancels last minute because they have a thing. Don't be that guy!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Being Unemployed - It's A Full Time Job!

I know it's a cliche, but it's so damn true.

I had been planning to play a few more games towards my 10 x10 Challenge over the past few days, and blog about how it was all going; but a combination of the great job hunt, and a pretty severe sprain / strain / trapped nerve took me out of commission.

Sitting around and doing nothing is really not my thing, but thanks to whatever that mystery injury was, my body gave me very little choice in the matter. Who would have thought that a pang of pain every time you move your neck, or put weight on your left-shoulder could stop you doing so much!?

Well I  soon realised gaming was out of the question. Looking down to see what's in your hand, or on the board? Nu-uh, that's way too much neck movement. Shuffling? I'll need my left arm for that. It's crazy to think just how much I animate my body to do something as simple as playing a card game. Something that I consider to be quite a leisurely pursuit.

Then there is the great job hunt; which today managed to take on a life of its own!

Having mostly recovered in the neck and shoulder department, I had hoped to get a little gaming in today. I had the day planned out using the time frames that the local Job Centre had given me, which prescribes approximately 5 hours a day looking for work..

7 hours into my job search and I was still going! Now in all fairness, I always expect myself to go above and beyond my responsibilities; seeing the 5 hour benchmark as the minimum standard (and then embellishing that with the very high standards I set for myself); but 5 hours a day isn't going to get anyone, anywhere.

The Job Centre is nice enough to provide all of its clients with a checklist of what they expect you to do, and roughly how long they expect you to do it for.. And it does add up to roughly 5 hours a day. So on paper, it works.

However, the only ways that I can see anyone completing those tasks in 5 hours is either:

A: Half arsing your way through it, so that nothing is up to standard; and the net result is that you come across as largely unemployable in your applications.

B: Working smart. Build templates, doohickeys and, McGuffin's to do all the "heavy lifting" for you.

My guess, for most people it's A; because B isn't an option.

Personally, I've made a lot of headway with B today. I've got a schedule for my job searches set up in my PDA, built a spreadsheet to help me manage my workload, and have written up a few generic cover letters that will offer up the impression that they have been tailored to the role; whilst being nondescript enough to be fully recyclable.

Now that may not seem like much, but given that a cover letter can take up to 10 minutes to write, and I'm applying for about 15 - 20 jobs a day; that represents a saving of about two and a half hours every single day! That almost brings me back to the 5 hour mark (where I'd like to be), without a drop in quality; and the work management spreadsheet should do the rest.

I'm still on the look out for other ways that I can optimise the way that I work though. One thing I'm trialing is combining the scope of my covering letters; so that each cover letter ticks off two of the items on my checklist (applying for jobs, and contacting employment agencies), by registering my interest to register with the agency on the cover letter itself; whilst I have their attention with the application.

The success of this does depend on whether agencies take me up on my offer or not, but as there's nothing to lose other than another "to do" item on my checklist; why not give it a try I figure? It'll easily save me another 30 minutes a week at the very least if it works!

The last thing on my agenda was to take the whole covering letters thing to the next level (semi-automated construction from a database of recyclable content); but as that is likely to take far longer to implement than I'll see in a return on the time invested, I'll likely give it a miss.

Working smart isn't just about automation, big ideas, and fancy tools after all. It's about knowing the value of your efforts BEFORE you commit to them.

Friday, 3 February 2017

From Sleeping Beauty To Prince Charming

Okay, sleeping beauty might be a bit strong; but I am still impressed with how quickly I can flip from asleep
to the king of customer service.

Drifting gently to the dulcet tones of Morpheus, somewhere in the magical land of Far Far Away; deep in the region of nod early on a Friday morn, a sudden bolt of electric filled the sky.. Electric guitar! It was my phone ringing, and I'd been Thunderstruck.

Stirring quickly  from my slumber, I forced my eyes open, rolled over, and reached for the phone; all in one deft motion. "Private Number". "Hmmm", I thought "It must be job related".

I was right! And from that moment I was only seconds away from being interviewed over the phone. Unexpected, unrehearsed, and having only 10 seconds earlier been fast asleep!.. And i nailed it!

Really, going from unconscious to positively witty and warm is a talent I didn't know I had the first time this happened.. And this is not the first time!

Personally, I am quite impressed with myself. Mostly because it may lead to paid employment, but also to no lesser degree that I still manage to amaze myself with what I'm capable of.

Going Solo #1: Fluxx

FluxxGoing solo was originally a feature over at my previous blog, where I took games not intended for solo play;
and attempted to re-purpose them for the solitaire gamer. This was more than just creating another game, using the same components however; and calling it a "solo variant".

This was about recreating the gameplay of the original, whilst preferably adding as few components as possible, if any.

As you can imagine, it's not the easiest thing to accomplish. Make the artificial player(s) too complicated, and you can really bog down the game. Not complicated enough, and they simply don't work. That said, it is definitely best to start simple when setting about such a task.

Keep it simple. See what works, and tweak what doesn't.

Keeping it really simple, I decided to make my first venture into solitaire design this time around; Fluxx. The rules of the game literally start out at "Draw 1, Play 1". Something that is very easy to work with from a design point of view.. And that's where I left it initially today.

I didn't even deal the artificial player a hand of cards to start off with. I just drew a card and played it. This overcame one of the prohibiting factors in making this game solitaire (the hidden information on the cards held by a player), but exaggerated the other (the order in which you play cards).

As the artificial player was just playing whatever they got, they ultimately ended up playing a Goal for which I had already met the requirements. A smart player (or any player that's playing attention for that matter) wouldn't do that.

It was time to go back to the drawing board.

The next idea I had involved only the introduction of a D6, and a few simple rules to make the A.I a little smarter, without it being a chore to run.

The simple rules were:
  • Whenever the A.I is dealt a card (including its initial hand), deal those cards out into a 3 x 2 grid (face down).
  • If the grid is full and the A.I is dealt a card, place it into a personal supply pile for the A.I.
  • If there is a space in the grid, and there are cards in the supply pile; refill the grid by dealing cards from the supply pile into the grid.
  • The A.I attempts to follow every rule; starting with Draw and Play Rules, and then each subsequent rule in the order that they were played.
  • For each Play, roll the dice and count that many spaces from the top-left of the grid to randomly to determine the card the A.I attempts to play.
  • If the card revealed is a Goal that another player has met one or more of the requirements of, ignore the roll, and roll again (unless the A.I has no choice but to play it).
  • If the A.I has to pick a target, or make a choice based upon the text of card it selects the last legal target played that it does not control.
This still needs more play testing, but so far it seems to work pretty well. It could also use a little refining as the  A.I currently has no way of using the powers on the Keepers it has collected.

Still, not bad for a second draft.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

10 x 10 Challenge #8: 100 Swords - Game #1 - Part #2

Following on from my last 100 Swords post for the 10 x 10 Challenge; we pick up the action with a mushroom blocking the entrance to a dungeon literally littered with loot.

100 Swords - The Red Dragon's Dungeon
Knowing that I needed to get rid of the Mushroom at the entrance sooner rather than later, I hoped for a good draw.. I did not get it. Instead I got a Crappy Sword, the Awkward Sword (which is so much worse than a Crappy Sword), 2 pairs of Boots, and the Wither Sword. The problem here is again much as it was in the previous turn. In order to take out that pain in the ass fungus, I am going to have to expend several cards (1 to move to it, and 2 to slay it), which will leave me with very little in the way of resources to do anything else this turn. So I took the slightly more economical (but less permanent) of renting out the potion again and giving the Mushroom 40 winks. Using the remaining Boots and the Crappy Sword in my hand, I moved into the second chamber; and claimed the Fine Sword. Much better! I then used the Wither Sword to move further into the dungeon and to retire a Crappy Sword from my discard, before revealing.. Another bloody Mushroom! This one was getting it though, and was swiftly cut down by my new and shiny Fine Sword. "Ha ha, vengance is mine!". Victory was short lived however as the A.I revealed the entrance Mushroom (again), and a torch; taking the latter. It'll go nicely with their Torch Skeleton from the last round I guess.

100 Swords - The Red Dragon's Dungeon
The beginning of the next turn, and I'm hoping for a favorable draw.. Nope. A Crappy Sword, an Awkward Sword, the Wither Sword, a pair of Quick Boots, and a pair of regular Boots. Again nothing with enough punch to take out the Mushroom at the entrance, unless I am willing to burn through a few cards. Which given that the hand I drew is otherwise pretty good, I am not. So I opt for another nap time for the Mushroom, this time burning a Crappy Sword for the privilege; before using a regular pair of Boots to move into the second chamber chamber, and using my Wither Sword and Awkward Sword for the energy required to take the Cursed Sword. I then used the Quick Boots to move another two chambers into the dungeon, drawing another Crappy Sword into my hand with their special ability; and revealing a Wooden Door. Nuts! Running into an impassible obstacle that requires a key is very bad news at this point, as the amount of cards I would need to burn to dispose of it and possibly passify the Mushroom at the entrance next turn, would render that turn moot. Fortune favors the bold however, and as luck would have it this door can be kicked in by spending three point of movement.. Which the cards in my hand can generate. Exactly! So rather than another annoying road block, the Wooden Door becomes a trophy. Points not problems, that's exactly what I need! It was then the turn of the A.I to rain on my parade, revealing the Mushroom (again again), but taking the Thunder Sword at the end of the dungeon.. I could have really used that sword. *sigh*.

100 Swords - The Red Dragon's Dungeon
Turn 8, and my hand finally allows for the fungicide that I have been contemplating, and even willing for turns. This turn I drew 3 x Crappy Swords, a pair of Boots, and the card that would crucially break the deadlock; the Lullaby Sword. Typical isn't it, that the one turn I don't need to flip the Mushroom, I draw a card that will do just that. Never the less, time to press my advantage. I used a Crappy Sword to move into the first chamber, and the Lullaby Sword to put the Mushroom there into a very permanent slumber. All hail Tom, the mighty mushroom slayer. After a brief fist pump into the air, I used my Boots to move into the third chamber; revealing the Treasure Chest. Bugger! No key.. Again. However, on the plus side, given it's location in the dungeon, I know that the A.I can't possibly take it at the end of the turn (as the last thing I want to do is hand it 5 Gold / victory points. Using another Crappy Sword from my hand, I venture into the next chamber, revealing a Cave Wizard who uses their magic to conceal the chest. The A.I acts, revealing a Scary Door near the entrance to the dungeon and another pair of Quick Boots in the final chamber. Being helpful for once, the A.I takes the Scary Door as a trophy.

100 Swords - The Red Dragon's Dungeon
Turn 9, and I have a very definite plan. I want the Treasure Chest, which thanks to the actions of the actions of the A.I in the last turn is now conveniently located at the entrance. So I need a key, and my hand  this turn (an Awkward Sword, an Okay Sword, a Fine Sword, a pair of Boots, and the Wither Sword) gives me just the throw away card to acquire it with. Using the Awkward Sword (surprise surprise) to rent the All Purpose Key and, my Boots to enter the first chamber I claim the Treasure Chest. I then used the Wither Sword for its movement value and slew the Cave Wizard in the next chamber with the Fine Sword. On something of a roll I used the Okay Sword to move another two chambers, revealing the dungeon boss. The Red Dragon! It was now time for the A.I to act, who upon revealing a pair of Combo Gauntlets at the end of the dungeon left me with something of a dilemma. The A.I could take either of these cards (as they were of equal Gold value), and the choice would be mine. On the one hand, if I opted for them to take the Quick Boots, the dragon would find itself at the entrance. An ideal opportunity for me to take it out next turn, but should I fail; I'd be handing it to the A.I. It would all come down to a hand of cards that I could not vouch for. On the other hand however, if I opted that the A.I would take the Combo Gauntlets I would buy myself a turn; but little else. It would be unlikely that I could muster the cards to slay the dragon next turn if I made this choice, and at best I would net myself a pair of Quick Boots. As these would offer no immediate benefit in slaying the dragon, and delaying the inevitable would only result in the A.I gaining an additional trophy, I opted that the A.I take the boots. The next turn would be the last turn.

100 Swords - The Red Dragon's Dungeon
Balls, balls, balls, BALLS! 4 x Crappy Sword and a pair of Quick Boots was not the hand that I wanted to see! Still, when life gives you lemons, make lemonades.. And when a game gives you boots, make a run for it. Knowing that I couldn't possibly defeat the dragon this turn, and that I was going to hand it to the A.I for 8 Gold at the end of the turn; I decided to try and offset the loss by scoring as many points this turn as I could. Using a Crappy Sword, I rented out the potion to send the Red Dragon off to the land of nod. I then used Quick Boots to move into the second chamber, and the last of my cards to take the Combo Gauntlets.. Which would now drive me on using their special ability. Only one chamber however, where I revealed the Monster Bane Sword! Not that I could actually take it. Still, it was nice to get close. All out of options, the A.I acted and took the dragon; and ended the game.

But what were the final scores?

100 Swords - The Red Dragon's Dungeon
A.I: 39 Points
100 Swords - The Red Dragon's Dungeon
Me: 32 Points

As you can see, it was a very close run thing; and had I slain the Red Dragon at the end of the game it would have made all the difference. Close games are not uncommon with 100 Swords from my personal experience however, which I believe speaks of a really well balanced game.

How true that holds when I add a dungeon builder set to the deck, or play with the other deck remains to be seen of course; but so far, so good.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Critical Miss: A New Zine Has Been Added To The Collection

A new zine, Critical Miss has been added to the "Free Zines" page for your viewing pleasure.

I've given the latest issue a quick glance prior to posting up the link, and there seems to be a lot going on. Truly something for almost every gamer, as long as you aren't offended by strong language.

Word is unfortunately that this zine is no longer in production, but there all 11 back issues are available from the link above.

Officially Unemployed!

The title says it all. As of today, I am once again officially unemployed.

It's not through any ill means. My contract simply ran out, and my job no longer exists. That doesn't make the situation any less dire though. Especially having completed my monthly budget to find out that I have only £10 a week for food!

It's not that I can't get by on that pittance, and I do get that resorting to the welfare system is not supposed to be comfortable (so as to discourage it as a "lifestyle choice"); but £10 is not a lot. It means I'll have to make some particularly poor diet choices.

How ironic that a low income should lead to food of questionable nutritional value. The literal definition of a poor diet.

There is the suggestion of course, that I could tighten my belt. I am however expecting the effect of the foods of dubious content to be quite the opposite; and that I'll gain a few pounds! Not exactly a look I was going for, but never the less, something that is almost inevitable.

This is because I'll have to rely on high carb, "bulking" foods to make the budget stretch as far as it needs to. So stuff like bread, pasta, potatoes etc. These are foods that I would normally now avoid however, as I know how much trouble the human body has breaking these down.. And what it can't break down; largely becomes fat.

So, I need to develop a plan of action unless I want to become another casualty of the obesity crisis. Which looks like stepping up the amount of exercise I engage in every day (as exercise is free!), whilst monitoring the food that I am buying very closely; so as to make the best of a bad situation.

Nil desperandum!