Sunday, July 31, 2011

Assemble one Economy

Now that we have our solar system more or less laid out, let's continue looking into the economy. Broadly speaking, the economy exists to transform time into spaceships with which to blast the enemy. Consequently, in broad strokes let's try and figure out what goes into spaceships.

There are only a few really vital characteristics to a warship. From my previous post, the interesting ones are:

How hard it hits
How many hits it can take
How accurately it fires
How fast it can move
How much it can carry

The question here is, how do you achieve those characteristics, and what materials do you need so to do?

How hard it hits:
Nuclear weapons. Your standard atom bomb has a hollow sphere of plutonium in the middle, surrounded by a soccer ball array of high explosives, which have some complicated electronic triggering mechanism. Then you stick it in a steel shell so it doesn't fall apart, and a rocket engine on the back to get it where you want it to go. (the bomb detonates by blowing the high explosives to crush the plutonium into a very small nugget, which then hits critical mass. It's bombarded by neutrons, and all hell breaks loose.)
So, in a materials checklist we have: Plutonium, High Explosives, Advanced Electronics, Steel, and a Rocket Engine.

What's in a rocket engine? Let's skip down to

How fast it can move

I'm thinking of these ships moving due to advanced fusion motors. What makes them advanced? My say so. Also, if you install a Langston Field into a heat engine you can get some interesting properties. If you stop over once again at the incontestably useful Project Rho, you learn that one of the main factors that affects the feasibility of engines is not letting your engine melt due to waste heat. If we run our fusion reactions inside an inverted Langston field, the energy from the reaction is absorbed and emitted only inwards; we can sustain all kinds of scary high energy reactions without damaging our ship or crew. Just leave a hole open in the back so that you can go rocketing along. (I haven't run the numbers proper just yet, but I expect I'll work off of this type of engine)

Anyways, an engine includes Fuel, Reaction Mass and a Langston Field generator. Since I mentioned the ability for spaceships to generate their own hydrogen supplies (again with that field. You see why I try to keep my miracle devices to a minimum?), I think we'll qualify both fuel and reaction mass as Hydrogen, allowing us to move on to

How many hits it can take

Which is entirely dependent on the properties of a Langston Field generator. So I guess I've got to 'fess up to what's actually in these things. You ready?

Exotic Materials.

No, I don't have any idea how one of those things ought to work either. Moving along;

How accurately it fires

Since we're pretty much entirely talking about missiles, we're asking what a missile needs to connect with it's target. It needs to find a potential target, identify as friend or foe, measure relative positions, velocities and accelerations and modify it's own vectors to collide with said target. It also needs something to tell it precisely when to detonate.

All that I'm going to sum up in my previous category of Advanced Electronics. Convenient. One last warship category:

How much it can carry

Seeing as cargo space is mostly empty volume, we can ignore this category. Or, in a move that saves me some rewriting on this post, we can talk about what the ship needs to carry some of it's more vital components; people.

People require some basic things to live. Food, water, air, access to the internet. At least those first three. In the context of our discussion, our spaceships have to be able to carry a basic livable habitat for the people. In resource terms, I'm going to shoehorn all of that into Organics; I'm looking to build game pieces not actual starships. Note though, that a troop transport ship will require a whole lot more life support than an ore freighter.

There are also considerations involving the ship itself; you need a steel framework to hold the various pieces together (you could go with titanium or some such, but with the Langston field providing the defense, you really only need enough structure to hold the thing together. Steel is still cheapest.) You need some vast, complicated bridge with a huge glass window and oddly shaped chairs and large computer banks with blinking lights on them. There are other features that are useful for maintenance, Medbays, Machine shops, the sergeant's illicit still, that sort of stuff. But broadly speaking, they fall under the same resource categories. To sum up:
Organics, Steel, Advanced Electronics

Let's list out those resource types for all the categories:
High Explosives
Advanced Electronics
Exotic Materials

Seven types of resource. Can we pare that list down at all? Sure. For starters, let's just pretend the High Explosives don't exist. (Side note: this is not a winning legal defense.) Furthermore, Plutonium is only a component on the bomb side of things. If we upgrade to H-bombs, we still need a plutonium detonation to trigger the hydrogen explosion. I suppose I could just say "Future!" and hand wave that away. I think I'd rather shoehorn it into the Exotics category. One more; Hydrogen, while it's useful to remember it's there, can be safely ignored. That brings us down to four categories:


I'm going to add in one more category:


Or possibly Money. I'm less certain about this one than the others. While I don't want to get into all the details of financing (buy war bonds!) I want to provide a resource that can be expended to ease tension between other resource amounts. So, if you don't have enough Electronics one week you can expend a certain amount of Metals and Labor to turn it into Electronics. Or if you need more steel, you can expend labor to boost it up wholesale from Earth's gravity well. (Remember, the cheapest way to get steel in space is to start with steel that's already up there; thus the asteroid mining and so forth. You can stick some on a Saturn V rocket and send it up to the orbital factories, but that'll cost you.)

It also allows us to gather resources from locations that wouldn't have them normally, or produce the wrong type. There's a small settlement on Mars; not large enough to pull things out of the gravity well. So what good is it? It produces Labor.

As with most things at this stage of the game, these resources aren't set in stone. Except for the metals, which are probably an ore in some obscure asteroid right now. Next time I get back to this topic We'll go over a map of the solar system and discuss what gets produced where, and how much.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

'sploitable mechanics

Continuing on my theme from last night, we're talking about exploitable mechanics. Tonight I'm going to cover the difference in power of exploits.

Here's your classic example. In Super Mario Bros. you could jump on koopas against a wall in such a way to generate as many extra lives as you please. (So long as it's less than 99, that is.) By Mario 3 they realized that that's a feature, not a bug, so they implemented more loops to allow you to get lives. Broadly, these fall into two categories.

Coin loops; if you run around the same terrain twice coins don't regenerate but bricks do. If there's a Pow block in the area you can jump on it, turn the blocks into coins, go down a tube and repeat.

Life cycles: In a couple levels (1-2, for example) you can jump on regenerating enemies, and so long as you don't touch the ground you can generate extra lives like in Mario 1.

So what's the difference? Magnitude. 100 coins buy you one extra life. Even though you're sweeping up twenty or thirty coins in a particular coin loop, it takes significantly more effort to gain the lives than if you're jumping on the goombas. (Assuming you've got the mad skillz to pull of the goomba jumps. It ain't easy to keep it up for any length of time.)

Broadly speaking, if I want to bolster my life total, which exploit do I use? A life cycle; it takes me a lot less time. In general an exploit is more or less worthwhile depending on how much effort it takes to use it versus how much reward you can get.

Let's go with a classic Kingdom of Loathing example; Boozerbear's Salty Dogs.

Boozerbear, or so the story goes, found a bug in the code that let him turn any item in the game into a Salty Dog. This is a low output exploit; while it's always good to have booze on hand, salty dogs aren't that special of a drink. The real bonanza came when Pimonkey suggested that you could turn store items into Salty Dogs

Buy any amount of chewing gum on a string, for 24 meat each.
Convert into Salty Dogs.
Autosell Salty Dogs for 65 meat each

Gives you 42 meat profit per unit. Meat being the currency in the game. Infinite money is a whole lot better to have. While some of their hordes of booze and meat were nuked by the game admin they were still left very wealthy. Boozerbear's stores of salty dogs haven't run out yet.

He used to put salty dogs up for sale at 66 meat each; for a while he tried selling them at 33 meat each, but a player named Qrrbrbbrl (you'll excuse me if I misspell that) pulled the same stunt on him; buying the salty dogs, autoselling them and buying more. He's still got about 500,000 for sale at 130 meat per.

I'll go one simpler. There's an item in the game called a meat vortex. If you use it on yourself you lose your item and some meat. So you quickly learn not to do that. But someone figured out that if you had no meat, instead of going into the negatives you would roll over to the high end of the scale; about four billion meat. The secret got out, and the economy went up in smoke. Delicious grill smoke. (There was also an item duplication bug running rampant at the time, and no recent server backups that could be rolled back to. I gotta say, it was pretty entertaining.)

On the flip side you can get exploits that are too unwieldy to use properly. Take Project X. Project X was a Magic deck, a tournament deck from the Ravnica/Time Spiral standard season. Let me walk you through the combo.

Start with Saffi Eriksdotter in play.
Play Crypt Champion, without paying the red mana.
Since you didn't use any red mana, crypt champion hits play with a "sacrifice this creature" trigger on the stack.
Sacrifice Saffi, targeting crypt champion. Saffi goes to the graveyard.
Crypt champion's trigger resolves, sending it to the graveyard.
Saffi's ability goes off, returning Crypt Champion to play.
Crypt Champion's second ability goes off, returning Saffi to play as well.
Since you didn't spend the red mana (0r any mana) this time either Crypt champion has another sacrifice trigger. Sacrifice Saffi to save it again...

It's a stable loop of two creatures entering and leaving play. There are ways you can convert this to other useful resources; if you also have an Essence Warden in play you can gain an arbitrary amount of life. (Thus the name "Project X", since it allows you to gain X life.)

Now, if you're playing the game with physical cards, you can demonstrate the loop to your opponent and say "Ok, run this loop a million billion times." The rules allow for it, even the finicky tournament rules. It's a different story in the digital game.

On MTGO (Magic: the Gathering Online) there's no way to specify that a loop is happening. So you have to run through each cycle individually. Furthermore, you have to go through each trigger and priority pass individually to make sure that you've got them all correctly. So while it's still technically possible to play the game online it involves oh so many clicks and it's really just not worth it.

This produced an interesting disparity; there's a certain class of tournament players who use MTGO tournaments to predict the metagame for real life tournaments. But with a strong disincentive to play Project X online the data is necessarily warped. Since Project X was never really a dominant deck it didn't make that much of a difference.

There's another factor that makes one infinite exploit better than another; versitility.

Take the potion exploit from Morrowind I mentioned earlier. It's not the only infinite money bug in the game. Shopkeeper prices depend on your reputation with the shopkeeper. At least in some cases, you can max out your reputation by bribing them, to the point where they buy things at a higher price from you than they ask when they sell that same thing to you. So you can keep buying and selling it and make your money that way. But the potion bug is more interesting, since in addition to arbitrarily large sources of wealth it allows you to raise your stats to stupid heights. (It also requires less starting capital than the bribery exploit.)

Again, Magic provides plenty of examples. In a highly competitive game that encourages innovation, in a game with a bazillion interlocking pieces it should come as no surprise that many different combos exist. Furthermore, they can be generally ranked in terms of power level.

Infinite mana is good, but won't win you the game unless you also happen to have some way to use that mana.
Infinite life can sometimes just win you the game, but your opponent might be able to deck you, or just go even more infinite with something else.
Infinite creatures is good, but they usually take a turn to kill your opponent.
Infinite card draw will usually win you the game right there, since if you have your entire deck in your hand you presumably planned out this scenario and have some combination of cards that you can use to kill your opponent.
Infinite direct damage usually does the trick.

And of course there are other infinities (Project X is essentially infinite creatures coming into play. You need more pieces to turn that into a useful sort of infinity.)

At this point we could go into another constraint; the resources required to get your exploit going. But by and large, this doesn't come up in most contexts. Magic is directly competitive, you only have so much time and so many cards with which to win the game before you lose it. In terms of an infinite gold bug on WoW, or item duplication or some such, you aren't so directly competing against people, so it doesn't much matter if it takes too many resources to start it off. You can gather the resources at your leisure. While I like talking about magic, I think I've spoken on this topic enough for now.

Exploitable Mechanics

Today we're talking about infinite combos. In a game, you can sometimes find ways to shift your resources around so that you end up with more than you started with. At which point you can keep doing it, and keep doing it, and generate massive amounts of resources. In real life these examples are less common because almost inevitably you encounter negative feedback along the way. Here, let me give you an example.

In the game Morrowind you can practice alchemy. Take ingredients A and B, mix them together, and make a potion. Pretty much the standard fare for modern fantasy games. The trouble comes with the way stores work. If you sell your frost salts to an armorsmith you'll never see them again. If you sell them to an alchemist who already has one in stock, his stock will permanently go up by one. So buy both salts back from him; then close and reopen his window; he'll have two more salts for you to buy. As many times as you like. Or keep selling them back to build up a real proper inventory. It's a real easy way to get otherwise hard to acquire reagents.

If you take two foodstuffs and mix them together, you get a potion of restore fatigue. Not terribly useful, except that it sells for significantly more than the ingredients cost. But if you use the store exploit I mentioned above, you can keep buying reagents, keep selling potions, and get essentially infinite money and stockpiles of powerful potions and rare reagents.

Understandably this does bad things for game balance. On the other hand, Morrowind is a strictly single player game, so that's less important.

I'm going to define some terms quick.

Bug: A bug is anytime when a game does something it wasn't designed to do. This just indicates that the game isn't working properly. For example, in Diablo II if you stood in the bottom corner of Atma's tavern and dropped an item, it would land outside the wall even if you were inside. Usually bugs occur in a computer game, but not always. They've printed Magic cards that play havoc with the rules before. (You used to be able to give judges headaches with Opalescence and Humility. They've since worked it out.)

Exploit: An exploit is anytime you can use a convocation of mechanics or a bug for personal gain. That Atma's tavern bug? I remember it because people could use it to scam people in trades (we each drop an item, then we run around to pick up the other persons. Go stand in the corner so you'll be sure I can't get to yours before you get to mine.) When it's just an oddity in the game, it's a bug. When you can do something with it, like scam other players or make infinite potions, it's an exploit.

Hack: A hack is essentially a way of cheating at the game. Wallhack in counterstrike or loaded dice in back alley craps. What differentiates a hack from an exploit is that in an exploit you're using the rules of the game as they're laid out, with a hack you're changing those rules. To continue the craps example, on your basic come/don't come bet you've got about a 1.4% advantage betting on don't come. If you strictly bet that way you'll do slightly better than otherwise. That's an exploit, not a hack.

There are a couple different phenomena I'd like to discuss concerning exploits, but for now, I'll just talk about the effect on gameplay. For the first consideration, is this a multiplayer game? Ruining the Morrowind economy is one thing; scamming people in Diablo II is another. Generally speaking, if you're screwing over other players it's not a nice thing to do. If you're just making infinite gold that's less troublesome. But that sort of bug tends to get patched relatively quickly.

For example, early on in WoW you could easily script a fishing bot that would sit around in Stormwind and fish. Leave it running, you get stacks and stacks of fish, which you can sell to vendors. That was how the early gold farmers got their stock. They fixed the problem relatively quickly by making the fish you catch almost worthless. Not an ideal solution, but I don't know how you could better solve it. Err; how better it could have been solved.

If you're playing a single player game, do you use the exploit? The question you have to answer is how does that affect your enjoyment of the game? Take the potion example from above. Sure, you feel clever when you discover the exploit, but being able to make completely overpowered potions (yeah, that's another part of it. If you have a higher intelligence you make better potions. You can make potions of intelligence. With infinite potions you can make insanely powerful potions as well) obviates a lot of the exploring old ruins and discovering treasures that makes the game interesting. On the other hand, in Evil Genius there's a short time at the start of the game where you can steal from the world but the world can't fight back. So if you stop completing the objectives at that point and just loot you can get effectively infinite gold (just leave the game running overnight). But since the acquisition of money mechanic in the game is essentially another timesink I don't mind bypassing it. (I've already complained about the timesinks here.)

To think of it another way, if I'm playing through the Starcraft campaign there's not much point if I use the invulnerability cheat. (Power Overwhelming in the original. Don't know about Starcraft II). On the other hand, if I've already tried this stupid battle three times and I'm losing again and I don't like playing the zerg anyway and I just want to see how this story continues already and... and... yeah, then I don't mind using it to get to the next mission already.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Assemble one Solar System

December 25th, 2155

That's the day the aliens will invade. Mark your calendars, it'll be here before you realize.

I chose this date in particular not just because it's a conveniently far flung future date, but also because the stars are in alignment. Specifically, if you go to an online orrey and put in the date, the planets will be in position.The game has an expected real world time of about a year. That is, I intend to update the game in real time and the positions of the planets in real time once a week for a year when we actually play the game. That means the board will change dynamically each update. Over the course of a year mercury will go around twice, Venus once and a half, Earth will return to it's starting place (...ok, that one's obvious), and Mars will end up about opposite where it is now. Jupiter will shift slightly.

But that's just the planets. There are a whole bunch of other things out there. Earth has a moon, Mars has two, Jupiter has several, bordering on many. But the handy thing about moons is that they'll tend to follow the planets along. There's a wide belt of orbital facilities around Earth, which also follow along. I expect there will be scattered habitation modules that won't be following anything, but I think those are fine to leave off for now.

The real question is "where do I put the asteroids?" If I go to NASA's planetary fact sheet it gives me some basic orbital parameters. If I check on that orrey I linked earlier it'll let me plot asteroids, but only if I do it in the correct format, for which they've helpfully declined to state the names of their variables. While I'm sure I could find another resource on the internet that will let me plot the proper positions of the larger asteroids, I'm equally sure it'll be a long and arduous task.

So I'm going to fake it. The width of the board is about the diameter of Mars' orbit. The asteroids spend approximately 1/4th of their time in that section. Rolling an eight sided die to figure out where to put them, we get Ceres and Pallas in our zone of interest. They both have an orbital peroid of about 4.6 years, which means they'll go about a quarter circle around the sun in our game time. Pallas starts towards the left and will be rotating out, while Ceres starts off the board on the right and will rotate in sometime in the game.

There are a couple other things on the board, but by and large we've got the layout down. Next we'll do some work on the economy.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sequels done right

Seeing as my compatriot has poked his head in to write a post or two it bears upon me to push him down off the main page. Or at least suggest that you slog through my posting before you get that far down. My impression of Europa Universalis III is well, it seems like I'd have to spend entirely too much time adjusting sliders and divining mechanics and not nearly as much breaking things. I figure it'd go down something like this. Inasmuch as I don't actually know my friends are plotting against me, I hold them in general suspicion only.

But as long as I'm linking to Penny Arcade, I should probably get along and write that bit about sequels. The thing about sequels is that they're never as good as the original. The thing about that statement though, is it's not strictly true. At one point I suggested we have a "Disappointing Sequel Movie Night". It was (correctly) pointed out to me that that's a horrible idea. So I spent some time considering the converse question, how many sequels didn't suck, and are there enough to fill up a movie night? Right now, I can only name two off the top of my head; Terminator II and The Road Warrior.

Actually, the greatest sequel ever has to be Paint the Line 2. It has all the right elements, and it doesn't burden you down with any more plot than is actually necessary.

It's a little bit different in games. The movie experience is pretty well laid out, you passively participate in the medium. In a game, you have to interact with the medium, and there are ways to make the interactions easier. Let me give you a couple examples.

Fallout and Fallout II basically have the same plot; get the MacGuffin or everyone you know and love will die. And then save the world, or they'll die anyway. And they have the same basic interface. But in between games they smoothed it out a bit. The inventory in both games is arranged in a vertical stack of icons, about six fitting on your screen at once. In the original, if you get a new item, it goes to the bottom of the stack. So let's say you loot a leather jacket (conveniently with only one sleeve). You want to equip it right away, so you go into your inventory, scroll past your backup gun, ammo, your caps, and the various drugs you've been saving to barter with (no weight, high value, good looting), and finally get to equip your new jacket. In the second game, the item automatically goes to the top of your inventory, so you just click into the inventory and equip it without all the needless scrolling. Or again, in the first game you could only select stacks of items up to 999 units. If you're trying to sell high level weapons to the gun runners you're selling for a couple thousand caps at a time, so you've got to move multiple units of 999 caps over. In Fallout II they moved the number up to 99999, so I've never had the issue come up. In Fallout Tactics they took it a step further, and allowed you a keypad so you could just type the number in.

In Fallout I you had a "Tell me about" option, that would let you type in a subject for an NPC to discourse upon. This had all the fun of a text adventure game and frustratedly thinking up synonyms in an attempt to get the one the game developer put in. Generally you'd get a "sorry, no clue" answer even when asking about subjects the NPC might know about; surely this guy in the cathedral has an opinion about the Hub, but no, nothing. Mercifully, in latter games, they cut out the mechanic entirely.

In Fallouts I and II ammo came in clumps of 2o or 24 rounds, with each clump weighing one pound, rounded up. Your weapon unloaded weighs a pound less than your weapon loaded. So if you take out a bunch of raiders and you're carrying a dozen of their hunting rifles, you want to go into your inventory and empty each individual clip; the ammo will form into clumps and you'll gain a couple pounds of carry weight just like that. It also makes for easier trading later on. When they made Tactics, though, they had guns unload automatically as soon as they hit your inventory. Much more convenient that way; the unloading process was sort of unweildy. They also split ammo down to a single cartridge per unit, so you could move it around on a bullet by bullet basis. Again, with the keypad arrangement there too to simplify matters.

Fallouts III and New Vegas also unload weapons as soon as they hit the inventory. But the main point, and the reason I'm posting this now, is that in upgrading to the sequel, they also polished the game. Most notably, in Fallout III you would get skill or attribute checks that allow you different dialogue options. They'd only show up if you met the criteria. In New Vegas, they show you that there's a check to be made even if you don't meet the criteria; that is, you can take a dialogue option along those ways but you'll end up putting your foot in your mouth. This interacts well with the temporary skill boost books they implemented in that game, but more importantly it lets you know what to do to get the most out of the game. "I should come back here later, after a level or two." Or "Ooh, I should play through as a high explosives character to see what happens when I say something here..."

You know what? Why am I blogging here when I could be finding out the answer to that question?

How to Min/Max Your Nation

I finally finished my first playthrough of Europa Universalis III. According to Steam, it took 329 hours, although having left it open overnight a couple times probably assisted in that total. Anyway, I of course have some things to say about the game. I'd organize them in some fashion, but I really don't want to. So you've been warned.

EUIII is a nation simulator which happens to take place between the years 1399-1821. You take the part of the leader of a nation, and I mean any nation. You have your various European duchies, counties, prince-bishoprics and the like, some of which you can attempt to build into the nations we have now, you have the various hordes of the Central Asian steppes, you have your various Eastern empires, and last, and possibly least, you can also choose to be several Native American tribes or one of the nations of mysterious Africa. So having loaded it up and checked out a couple of these tribes after the first play (I chose Novgorod, somehow never got around to turning it into Russia) it seems that they've weighted it against being able to have African tribal musketeers waiting for the conquistadores. Which is somewhat strange, given that it's not entirely given over to historical accuracy, but I suppose makes a certain amount of sense.

So let's talk about historical accuracy for a bit. They try to work in a certain amount of accuracy, such as their tech research. Putting a lot of cash into any one branch of research (gov't, production, trade, naval, or land) will result in getting to higher levels faster, however at a certain point it will make those higher levels more expensive to ensure you don't reach them too soon. In addition, the larger the empire you have, the more the tech is supposed to cost; even so with the largest empire I had the highest levels in government and land research. I suspect this is an inadvertent offshoot of having picked a Russian country myself. It probably also had something to do with the sliders, but I can't speak to that for certain, because I haven't gone through the manual.

Speaking of which, the PDF version weighs in at 148 pages, truly an example of tl;dr if ever there was one. I mainly used it as a reference guide when I remembered it was there to reference. One of the things I found in there that I did like was their position on doing things that they knew weren't technically or historically correct in order to make the gameplay better, a position that we here at Awesome Games wholeheartedly support. And make use of, more often than not. I do believe it helps to actually know said history, and I'm pretty certain these guys do.

Moving on, I'm going to talk about the post title for a bit. This game is really all about the min max. You have sliders that represent more or less every policy you can have, sliders that represent your budget, numbers that represent your relationships with other countries, and probably many more that I don't want to look for right now. It's not hard to go into information overload, or on the opposite end start making spreadsheets and databases to play this game. On the other hand, at certain points I could use a bit more information, usually when I'm attempting to form an alliance or secure trade rights. When you go to do diplomacy, you'll get a blurb that gives the likelihood of any of your diplomatic requests succeeding, from Very Likely to Impossible. What I want to know is why I get said rating, and how can I change it? When I offer an alliance to a nation in the same region as me, with the same religion, with whom I have max positive relation, I'd think they'd be amenable to it, but no. Is it my alliance with someone else, government style, what? (Sidenote: You have several different governmental styles available, dependent of course on your government tech level. I probably should have switched at some point, but the Merchant Republic I started with allowed me to form Trade Leagues. I'm not sure what, if anything, those did for me, but I really liked the idea and thus stayed with it.)

So of course, what else am I left to do but go to war with them. As much as I hate to admit it, this game makes you think before you go to war, which is generally a good thing. Failing that, it makes you need to set it up so you can constantly be at war without taking too many penalties. I was usually pretty good at that. Some of the things EUIII makes you consider before you go to war are: your stability score, which is more or less how happy your nation is, and will go down precipitously if you go to war with no reason, or against a nation with which you have good relations; who the nation is allied with, if anyone, your Casus Belli, assuming you have one (you don't need one, but it helps) and of course, the military strength of the nation. (that one's not in there, but you need to do it anyway) Which reminds me, in one of the many charts available in game, you can find that out. About any nation, not just the ones you know about, which seems somewhat strange to me. They have fog of war, but you still know how many troops are out there?

Assuming you win, you have to be careful here, too, as you generally can't just annex the nation into your empire. Again, there's a dizzying array of options available, but it generally comes down to Infamy, which if raised above a certain level will basically give every nation a free swing at you. This is generally raised fastest by annexing nations or taking big chunks of their territory, except for certain cases such as border disputes. It goes back down over time, but usually not fast enough to suit me.

At any rate, I figure I must be getting close to how much I can type here, plus I think that this is enough for now. If you enjoy moving sliders and filling bars while engaging in diplomacy and fighting wars, you'll probably enjoy EUIII. If not, don't say I didn't warn you.

Monday, July 4, 2011

10-4, good buddy

Griping about Axis and Allies, part II of an unknown set

Seeing as how a) it was perhaps expected that I do the Axis and Allies ranting from the aforesaid live blog, b) it hadn't happened yet because I'm lazy, and c) the first topic has already been brought up and I forget the rest of them, today I'm gonna complain about convoys.

Axis and Allies 1940, as well as the original Europe and possibly Japan as well, which I haven't played, utilize 'convoy zones' in the ocean to represent the movement of men and materiel from the US to other nations, and probably from other nations to other nations. In the 1940 edition, you can station ships (or subs, I'm given to understand that subs are referred to as boats. I've no idea why) on them to deny income to the enemy. Subs remove 2 IPCs of income to normal ships' 1 IPC, and you may only reduce income up to the total generated by any territories adjacent to the convoy zone. For example, Great Britain (the island, not the nation) produces 6 IPCs, so their income could only be reduced by that much for ships in position around it.

And now (finally!) we get to the complaint: the fact that when Axis powers capture Allied convoy zones, they are subject to income reductions when Allied ships are sitting on them. Normandy, Southern France, Egypt, and Greece are all examples that have had Allied ships sitting on their convoy zones, reducing Axis incomes. Granted, it's possible that should the Axis take Egypt they might be using that convoy route, but they have their own on Italy, and there's even less reason for others. To where is Germany shipping from France? Anywhere they might need, they can get it there on land.

I'm also willing to grant that I'm making this complaint largely because, having played the Axis for the larger portion of the games I've played, I'm always alert to moments of seeming unfairness towards them in the rules. (As opposed to real life, where they deserve all they get. In general.) At any rate, I feel the larger point stands in respecting the letter of the rules as opposed to the spirit of the rules: if it is logical for a side to be using a resource, then they should pay any prices for doing so. If there's no reason, then there should be no price to pay.