This is Part Two of my report from the recent Megagame ‘Come to a King’. For more information please read Part One.

This is the longest part, so apologies in advance for the length.

Trouble in Wales & Afar

By this point, I think the Danish King who had taken the English crown from Athelred, had died somehow, which caused a lot of feuding in the south of England. At some point a massive mercenary army from Sweden also turned up and took London, but I never really spent much time around the two ‘England’ maps to really tell what was going on. I hear they switched sides because their leader – Thorkall the Tall – wasn’t being paid enough.

Ireland had pretty much sorted out its differences and decided to invade Wales, and there were also shenanigans taking place in Northumbria I think.

For me though, I only had one thought on my mind – revenge! No sooner had I started consolidating my control over Argyll that I glanced over at the Irish Sea map and saw someone invading the Southern Isles! Jarl Emachahachamach (not really his name) of Galloway, one of my listed enemies, had gotten bored and decided to take some land from the absentee Lord of the Isles. (I was busy, ok?)

Rushing back with my Huscarls and a local levy I’d raised from Argyll, I decided to land on Galloway to force the usurper off the islands, although at the time I didn’t realise he’d already seized them. Ecmach sailed back to Galloway as well, and we had a small skirmish on its windy shores, with neither party doing any damage. We were at a stalemate.

With the season coming to an end, our levies had to go home, and I retreated back to my old holdings on the Northern Isles. Meanwhile, Jarl Brodir of Mann (played by the excellent Matt Bambridge) had led an invasion into Gwynedd, with the view to make it his new seat of power and to form a new Kingdom that spanned North Wales and the Irish Sea.

He had succeeded in taking most of the Lands there, and was in the process of besieging the towns (of which there were two), but he was being opposed by the Prince of Powys. Holding his own council at the beginning of the next turn, he demanded both me and Echelech attend and make peace.

“I know what you both want” he said* (*I may be making this up, but the jist is true) “and I tell you now what you want is in Wales. I require your help, brothers, and there is glory and riches to be had in the mountains!”

Due to the nature of how the game worked, I was considering Argyll more and more my new seat of power, but being Lord of the Isles granted me certain bonuses, which I kept so long as I retained direct control over one of the two Island provinces. The Southern Isles were previously held by an NPC anyway, so as far as I was concerned there had simply been a change in ownership.

I recognised Ecclair’s strength and his right to the Southern Isles – the previous tenant had been feeble, and weak. But I drew a line in the sand with my sword:

“This foolishness stops here,” I said. “If you want the Southern Isles, have them! But if you try and take the rest I will return, and I will bring allies, and either you will be crushed, or I will die fighting you to the last. Let us not make this petty feud the thing we are remembered for.”

Emachelmore agreed. It was also at this point that we were informed of an extra rule/thing that wasn’t in the rulebook – Trading/Interacting with Foreign control.  James (playing Ecmachahaka) decided that there was probably more money to be made trading overseas, and so he spent much of the next year in Europe.

As for me, I agreed to help Brodir secure his place in Gwynedd. Raising the levy of the Northern Isles, I landed my forces in North Wales and together we faced the Prince of Powys on the field of battle. It was glorious! Being the more experienced commander, Brodir naturally led our armies, but I would dare say my troops made their ancestors proud. Our forces stormed their lines, burst through their shield wall, and even the Prince of Powys himself was mortally wounded in the fight. We didn’t see him die, but we heard he perished from his wounds whilst fleeing back into the mountains in the centre of Powys.

Sadly, our enemy wasn’t so numerous that we could all share in the fame, so my part in the conquest of North Wales remains largely unremembered, although I did get some loot out of it (Me and Matt got 1 Gold each, while Matt got the Fame from being the leader).

Meanwhile, the southern lords of Wales had united under one King of South Wales, and had destroyed the Irish invaders on the shores of Dyfed. We heard stories of that great slaughter, and I must say it even inflamed my Norse sensibilities. What a fight that would have been! I wouldn’t have even cared which side I was on either, but alas…

It was at this point that the story of Wales took a darker turn. With a power vacuum in Powys, and Gwynedd more or less secure (one of the towns was holding out I think), Brodir wanted to extend his dominion across the north and centre. The Lord of Dyfed, who supposedly tipped his head to the King In the South, came to us with a proposal – help him topple the King and he would recognise Norse dominion over the north, as well as formal recognition as the Lord of Gwynedd.

A noble of Gwynedd, who looked suspiciously like the recently deceased Prince of Powys (the guy had been given a new character), had risen to prominence during the Conquest, and had pledged his household troops to Brodir. He would be installed as the new Lord or Powys, giving fealty to the Lord of Mann. Since he was welsh himself it helped keep things in balance.

It was at this point that I departed the stage of the Irish Sea, never to return as it later turned out. My good friend Brodir was more secure in his new seat of power (sadly, he would never be formally recognised as the Lord of Gwynedd, which drove him to madness), and we made promises to go a-Viking soon, probably in England which was in turmoil.

I would need a time to consolidate, raise a war chest, and ready myself, so I returned north to Scotland.

A Grand Adventure

Much had changed while I was away campaigning in Wales. Prince Owen of Strathclyde ruled his province with an iron fist, becoming  the most powerful  of the Scottish lords (he was Welsh, technically), more powerful than the King of Alba himself.

Elsewhere, Ireland had become embroiled in a bloody civil war after the High King was slain in the failed invasion of Wales. Great armies clashed in the south of England as Danes and Saxons fought desperately for the throne of England. The fighting escalated to such a scale that England as a political entity collapsed at one point – undoing all the work of Alfred the Great and his grandson Athelstan decades before.

Hwicce, which bordered Wales, had declared independence first. Mercia also rose as an independent power for a time, and eventually Northumbria broke away to form its own Kingdom, with the support of the King of Alba. I never trusted the Northumbrians. The Danes of York were weak, and had spent too long under the yolk, and the Saxons were deceitful.

Despite having peace with Scotland, I never recognised their authority, nor their right to exist.

The worst news was saved for last, however. I returned to find that my good friend Sigurd had died in his sleep, and chaos reigned over the Orkneys. Norse influence in Scotland was weakening, and if it wasn’t for my timely return we may have been done away with altogether, and my lands in Argyll could have been seized.

Tim, now playing Sigurd’s son, had a bit of a rough time of it. No sooner did he try and take possession of his father’s lands, than someone from Control turned up and contested his right to the Orkney Islands. There was a duel in which Sigurdsson AND the claimant killed each other, so Tim had been through two characters in the space of a couple of turns. The Lord of Moray meanwhile had convinced the King of Alba to give him control of Caithness (one of Sigurd’s holdings) after the great Lord’s death. It was at this point that I was thinking of taking the Orkney’s for myself.

Sigurd had been a great ally, and while I was debating whether to keep my allegiance to his son (whom I’d had no real dealings with), once he died too there was little staying my hand. Tim came up to me however and revealed that his new Character happened to be a Grandson of the King of Alba – and heir to the Scottish throne thanks to a decision made right at the beginning of the game. I think he was part Norse (and to be honest I was Norse/Irish, so it wasn’t really a question of blood), which would mean a considerable Norse influence in the Kingdom of Alba should the current King die, so I re-affirmed my loyalty to Jarl whoever-he-was (I never did learn the names of Tim’s other characters).

I spent most of this year preparing – with my position more or less safe again I decided to take my huscarls and go abroad to Foreign Control – first on a trading run to Flanders, taking Scottish timbre and wares, although I only broke even. During my visit though I learned that the Holy Roman Empire was embroiled in a revolt from the Saxons in Saxony, AND in a war with Poland. Instead of trading, I decided to take my crew of experienced warriors (heroes of the Conquest of North Wales you know) and spend a season fighting as mercenaries. According to Foreign Control we didn’t do that well, but I still came away with three gold and no tangible negative effects.

(For someone like me, 3 gold for one action was really, really good.)

Upon my return, I found that the situation had changed once again. The Irish Lords, having finally chosen a new High King, had decided to lead a grand invasion of Southern England through the South of Wales and into Bristol and Hwicce. That left Ireland more or less defenceless.

I could smell it in the air – now was the time to go Viking. Unfortunately allies were in short supply that year – Jarl Tim the Third was busy consolidating his hold over Orkney, and my good friend Brodir of Mann had become obsessed with his ventures in Wales, dragging Emachabon aong with him. That left my old rival, Prince Owen of Strathclyde.

We had never been friends (despite Tom being my best friend) – it was Norse raiders who brought about Strathclyde’s demise as a British power, and me being a belligerent and unruly Norse Pagan meant that we were wary neighbours at best. Still, I’d never attacked him, despite his attempts to undermine me. The Northumbrians had formed their own kingdom by this point, which included the province of Cumbria, a historical possession of the old Kings of Strathclyde. He didn’t trust his neighbours to the south any more than I did, and perhaps it was that mutual hatred that finally united us.

On a whim I paid the Prince a visit while he was staying at Strathclyde’s principal Harbour. I was blunt – It was the season for raiding, and I would have someone accompany me on a grand adventure, even him.

Owen was restless – he couldn’t reclaim Cumbria whilst Alba supported Northumbria, fearing the Scots wanted the Bretons gone from Scotland once and for all and only needed an excuse. Breaking the King’s peace would provide that. Still, he was restless, and he was as itching for a fight as I was. He agreed, and we both took our household troops and sailed for Ireland.

That was a strange trip, but ultimately a successful one. Somehow the Irish had caught wind of our raid, and when we landed in the North of the country our scouts reported that an army of levies had been raised to confront us. We slipped away that night and went further south, guided, I thought, by the Gods, although I never voiced my beliefs to Owen, who was devoutly Christian.

(What actually happened was that I left my map at the end of Turn 3, only to turn up at the Ireland map at the beginning of their Turn 3, due to individual maps handling the progress of the action phases differently. It gave the Irish players an un fair advantage, since Moving is always done last so they shouldn’t, in theory, have been able to react to our presence that phase. Talking it over with control, we were allowed to change our landing point at the end of the phase ready for Phase 4.)

Our sudden disappearance and reappearance must have frightened the Irish witless though. No sooner had we run ashore and spread out into the countryside than an emissary came from one of the Irish Queens and the head Christian Priest.

We later learned that their levy had been raised by the Churchmen in Ireland, who claimed to have seen a vision of our coming. However, their God didn’t tell them we moved south, and so were caught completely out of position. By the time a new levy could have been raised and/or the first one rushed south, we would have done our damage and would be long gone. It was also nearing harvest season and it would prove impossible to keep the levies together when that happened.

The Queen in Ireland (I was never sure if it was a Queen or THE Queen, although that question was to be answered soon enough), and the high Bishop knew that, so we proposed a deal – Pay us, and we shall go away.

(We were paid two gold each, which was more than we could have physically achieved on our own had we just attacked the land.)

A very strange, but a very successful trip.

End of Part Two | Read Part OneRead Part Three

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This is my report from the Come to a King Megagame that took place on Saturday, 14th November 2015. You may have read reports of mine from previous games – Watch the Skies 2 & Watch the Skies 3. This post will mainly focus on the narrative of my personal game, and so there will be a lot of context and wider elements missing.

Due to length, this will be split into three parts, with the final post finishing with some thoughts on the most salient points in terms of feedback.

Thanks once again to Andrew for putting on a great day, and thank you to Control and everyone else involved.

Come to a King was a very different prospect than WTS on many levels – it was smaller, for one thing, with no more than 50 – 70 people in attendance (I didn’t actually count so that’s entirely made up), and instead of teams representing nations, you played a specific character in 11th century England, a time that saw a lot of change and upheaval across the British Isles. It was down to you to make your own alliances and make your own mark in the world.

As a Lord, you owned lands that you could tax & invest in, raise troops from, and there were a number of other actions you could do as well, but you were limited to four actions a turn. Wars could be fought, Lands seized and Towns besieged, but high level play revolved around the politics of Titles and Kingdoms. There were several Kingdoms in existence at the start of the game, and many that could be created either through politicking or by the sword. Kings and other prominent Lords held councils, and it was down to everyone else to decide who to show fealty to.

The scene: two Kings claimed ownership over the throne of England – Athelred the Ill-Counselled in exile in Normandy, with King Swegan of Denmark having just usurped his crown. There was discontent in the North, which had always been rebellious and independent minded. The Welsh were at each other’s throats, as usual, and a massive civil brewed in Ireland as High King Brian tried to keep the Irish Kingdoms in line. King Malcolm in Scotland was trying to keep his modest Scottish Kingdom together, surrounded as he was by unruly Norse neighbours ( namely me), disgruntled Britons in Strathclyde and ambitious Lords from within.

I played Jarl Gilli, a Norse/Irish Viking Lord located mainly in the Hebrides in the Irish Sea, just off the coast of Scotland. What did I want? I was a pagan, clinging to the edges of a Christian world hungry for power, glory and a good woman to call my own. I had friends. I had enemies.

I was a Viking, Lord of the Isles, and this is my story.

Lord of Land & Sea

All I knew prior to the game was that I was Lord of the ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern’ Isles (an abstraction of the Hebrides and other island bits just off the coast of Scotland), and that I would probably have some kind of relationship with Jarl Sigurd of the Orkney Islands, who was my nominal superior according to the one piece of text that references my character.

When I arrived, I found that I was indeed Lord of the Isles, although I only had direct control over the Northern Isles as an NPC held the Southern Isles. Still, since I held the ‘Title’, I got a bonus gold each turn. Sigurd was indeed my ally and sort-of overlord, and my enemies were the Lord of Galloway, and Owen of Strathclyde (who was played by my best-friend, which scuppered all the plans we’d made on the train ride up). I also owned some land in Argyll, on the Scottish mainland, which was a pleasant surprise, although it did tie my destiny more to Scotland than I had anticipated.

The ‘turn’ is split into two parts – a Council phase and then a four successive action phases. The turn is meant to represent a year. Going to a council means you’re showing fealty to whoever is holding the council, but it also means you can benefit from whatever policies the King/Great Lord wants to enact for the year and it’s the easiest way to get lands, titles etc…

I wasn’t sure where to go first turn –a vague plan to start land-grabbing in Scotland meant that I couldn’t attend the council there (otherwise I would be penalised by the game), and there was no council local to the Irish Sea, my official starting location. I decided to attend the Rebel Irish council just to feel out the situation there, and because Sigurd, my boss, historically helped the Rebel Irish and Danes fight the High King.

It was a bit bleak since I was only person to turn up, but we had a nice chat and I bid him good luck when all was done.

Back in Argyll, it turned out I shared the province with an NPC who owned the other bit of land. I wanted him to recognise me as his overlord and pay me dues, but a conversation with control determined that the only way to really make the most of this was to seize his lands for myself, which I did. This got some of the other lords of Alba (the primary Kingdom in Scotland) a little bit concerned; however Jarl Sigurd (who was tied to the King of Alba through marriage) managed to convince them that if they gave me what I wanted I wouldn’t cause any more trouble.

I cared not who sat on the throne of Alba – I was Viking! I took what I wanted, but I was also smart enough to jump through some hoops where necessary. Next turn I showed fealty to the King and swore to keep the peace, and in return he formally made me Jarl of all Argyll, something that had specific in-game benefits. There were grumblings from Strathclyde, who neighboured Argyll and was played by my friend. We were enemies, so he was playing up his role and trying to be a dissenting voice.

The Abbot for the Scotland map, whose name I forget, also objected since I was a Pagan, but I said I would let Christian Priests walk freely through my land. I wouldn’t convert myself, as my faith was my own, but I wouldn’t stop people choosing freely either.

It was handy having Jarl Sigurd as an ally in Scotland, and Tim was generally a really nice guy. It would be awkward when I came to betray him, as my briefing suggested I should eventually, but for the moment we were allies and we plotted the fate of Alba together while we prepared for the coming year.

End of Part One | Read Part TwoRead Part Three

Hey Sports-fans,

So last week I posted about my experiences in Watch the Skies 3, which was hella-fun. Now, having had some time to reflect, I’d like to talk about three key tweaks I’d like to make to the game.

This post might read a little weird as I’ve essentially pasted the email I sent to the admins, as they need the feedback too and I don’t want to re-write.

Thoughts are appreciated!

Press Interaction

Idea: To split the Paper (layout-wise) into two distinct halves – Regional News & Headlines. In the Regiona News section, Press have a quota of one story per continent with players. Headline half is the same as always.

Thinking: I don’t have a problem with the press game, and if this idea is rejected it’s not going to ruin anything for me, but I do believe it can be tweaked to make the… relationship between Teams and Press a little bit fairer for everyone involved.

I’ve already spoken to Becky about this idea for some feedback from her end of things, and she said she was on board with it.

Essentially, in a game with 300 people all collaborating and being smart and doing *things*, many, many teams are going to lose out in the press game. It’s just a fact – too much going on, not enough spaces in the paper.

That’s fine – but It’s one of those things where between Nations doing things and the presence of Aliens and talking whales, a lot can get lost in a game, and yet as human national (and corps) teams, we’re still told to court the press, to try and get good coverage to boost ourselves. But not all of us get to interact with the aliens and whales or do something crazy like blow up a Eurovision team. As a specific example to Nigeria:

  • We bribed FIFA to hold the 2030 World Cup in Nigeria. To be fair, Becky said she was going to print this but she forgot about it due to technical snafus, so that was bad luck.
  • Nigeria cleaned up the ocean several times. We were specifically told by local control to go to the press and tell them, but the press didn’t report on it so we didn’t get anything.
  • Nigeria bribed a whole American Old Tech Corps to their side. A reporter came over to ask a few questions, but nothing went in the paper.

Now – I’m not upset by any of this. We had a great game without the press boosts. Like I said: someone always has to lose out because it’s a competition for the news slots.

My only concern is that as a nation it’s hard to just make something up that’s newsworthy, as that’s not in the spirit of the game. It’s not something you can force, or engineer – either something interesting enough happens or it doesn’t, depending on how your game unfolds. Random chance and ‘reasons’ also don’t help a nation’s odds of getting featured, and then it’s really easy to lose out to an exotic story. This tweak allows nations to compete in two ways – on the regional level for a ‘local’ story, and then if their game is particularly interesting then there’s the global headline stage as well.

My resoning for wanting to make this fairer is BECAUSE it’s something we’re told to interact with, and get rewarded for. I’d like to think I’m not fundementally changing how the press works, just that they give more consideration to regional stories as well as their headlines. Boring stories will always be ignored, but interesting stories that arn’t quite as interesting as aliens or whales stand a better chance of featuring.

To use real-world precedent – many global news services have regional sections that fill up news from a specific international area, separate from the headlines. There’s always something going on so these sections can always get filled, and even if nothing interesting happens that turn in a region… well, welcome to real life. You ever read a local newspaper? They still have to report news, even if that news is just a cat getting stuck in a drainpipe. Besides, there are enough wonderfully creative people in a region that something is bound to happen, so it just means the regional reporter has to try a little bit harder to find out what it is.

Permit Cards

Idea: Expand Permit Cards to other areas of the game that rely heavily on controlled interaction or specific pre-requisities. Save Control a lot of work.

Thinking: The talking language permit cards worked wonderfully well. Helped keep the player base honest I think and focused a lot of interaction around seeking out one of these cards.

I personally think this should be expanded to other concepts – such as travelling up into Space. I know you had to stop people going upstairs who didn’t have a spaceship, so perhaps this could also be controlled by cards.

So to go up to the alien balcony, you’d need either:

  • An alien player with you.
  • A ‘Travel to Space’ permit card, (Or a ‘Spaceship’ card) which you get when you collect some pre-requisite techs or something. Or be with someone who has that card.

I think it’ll help keep the player-base honest again, save you from having to act as a bouncer, and again prove a focal point for interactions.

Terror Track

Idea: Evauate Terror Track’s purpose, influences, and how that fits in with how the game is evolving from an ‘Enemy Unknown’ to a ‘Enemy Known’ situation.

Thinking: Again, I don’t really have a problem with the terror track. I wonder if it needs evaluating though for WTS4?

Basically – the Aliens are known about in WTS3. In our region, a few nations even actively encouraged them to come down, do stuff on the operational map… and yet the terror track still went up. The operational game almost goads you into shooting down UFO’s because if you do you get Good Stuff(TM), if you don’t your regional terror goes up and then Bad Stuff™ happens. But you don’t really want to shoot them down as you want to have a dialogue. Which requires them to come down to Earth. Which puts the terror track up.

It’s possible I missed something important behind the scenes, but from where I was sitting there seemed to be a genuine disconnect between the Operational and Diplomatic/Politica portion of the game in this regard. Our own national policy was to not shoot down UFOs, something all Africa agreed on and many African nations had working Alien relations. Yet turn after turn I had to watch the regional terror track go up every-time a UFO turned up, and I found myself wondering why that was happening and what I could really do about it.

The terror track was perfect for WTS1 & 2 – aliens were unknown, strange events kept happening, and people naturally freaked the hell out. Nations had to balance between trying to open a dialogue with these visitors, and keeping their skies clear and their people happy.

In the WTS3 and I imagine even more so in WTS4, the game has changed, evolved. The Aliens aren’t an unknown force anymore, so what does the Terror Track represent now? What factors influence it’s rise and fall? Depending on what WTS4 is going to be about (it’s called Global Apocalypse?), I can see a terror track being needed, but does it need to evolve as the game is evolving? Do you need to make players more aware as to it’s changing nature and what influences it? Otherwise a team’s default policy might as well be “Shoot Everything” and know your public will love you for it, because terror is an Important Thing(TM).

So, you may remember back in March I went and took part in a MegaGame called Watch the Skies 2. It was an all-day experience where 300 people pretended to be nations and companies of the world in 2025, where Aliens were very much a real thing. It was flawed, but fantastic.

This weekend just gone, I took part in the sequel – Watch the Skies 3: Global Conspiracy.  This time it was simply a fantastic experience. Sure, I can objectively look at certain points and say “This could probably be better”, but I came away with so many more positive feelings.

Here is an account of that day.

Poo Wars

As the ‘Giant of Africa’, Nigeria was in a pretty sweet position. We had an ok Army, decent income, a fair bit of a political clout… even a scientist! There were a lot less scientists in this game. Fifteen in total I think, and the African region itself only had two of those.

Watch the Skies 3 was a de-facto sequel to Watch the Skies 2, so the timeline had advanced by a couple years, key events of the past game stuck through to this game (such as Tokyo being bombed out of existence, for example) the presence of sentient whales in the form of the Atlantic and Pacific Cetacean Conclaves, and of course Aliens. Everyone knew aliens existed in this game, so the dynamic had shifted more towards “what do they want?”.

Nigeria got of a hilarious, if cautious start. A stroke of genius on the way up lead to one of our Senior Ambassadors coming up with a proposal to bribe FIFA into hosting the 2030 World Cup in Nigeria, which was a great success. The funniest thing about it is that we paid about 1 – 3 million up front (pocket change, as far as the game is concerned), and that we promised to pay “The Rest” (I don’t know how much) when the World Cup actually happened in 2030. The game only lasts until 2027. Score!

That was only Turn 1. Our early turns were fairly occupied with dealing with the two big challenges our local controllers had set us. The first one was famine in Uganda, and then there was a long-term challenge of dealing with rising pollution in our ocean. The Glorious Nigerian Grand Navy was on the scene instantly, methodically and carefully clearing up the waste as best it could. It was a costly process, as it costs 2 Million to deploy a fleet, and then three million per box of sewage we clean. What we didn’t realise until Turn 2 is that pollution was so bad that one block of sewage goes on every turn. FFS.

The next few turns on that matter saw an epic whip-round from our diplomats on raising money to help fight the pollution, and we were knocking the blocks down like the cleaning-heroes we were.

I’m not sure if we had much effect on the Ugandan thing, but our strategy was allying with countries around us and asking them to let in refugees. That was solved relatively quickly, and then a new crises emerged – Zimbabwe was building nukes.

In the meantime, Alien Saucers were coming and going but we weren’t really in a position to do anything about it, with only one interceptor. None of the saucers went near us or our allies, although they visited Angola and Egypt a ton, as well as mining resources in other places.

Poo Wars 2: Poo Strikes Back

Since our Alien game had fallen behind and we weren’t really sure what to do about it, we decided to take a different track. We’d given our science-guy a mandate to be really good at One ThingTm and he chose Fish. For some reason. On the way, he managed to get access to the ‘Speak to Cetaceans’ card, something which we realised no one had, or was even close to getting. With that in mind, we decided to talk to the Cetaceans instead, and by the sounds of things (at least as far as the Atlantic Conclave is concerned) we were one of maybe a handful of entities that could. Before getting the tech, we actually spoke through intermediaries in the ‘Ordinary Humans’ group (who later turned out to be the ‘Deep Ones’ – a team previously known only as The Others), but I think the Cetaceans had a bit of a rough game. In a setting where you have aliens and wondrous being visiting you from above with shiny tech, why would you bother putting the time in to talk to Whales?

We only did it because we fell into it, but I’m glad we did, as it gave them someone to talk to and we got some stuff out of it.

Meanwhile, I sent in my Spy to blow up Zimbabwe. The country was in state of turmoil and this nuclear thing was getting everyone on edge. Us, South Africa and Britain all went in first with spies, but because there were three of us we tripped over each other and didn’t find out anything other than there were suspicious facilities about.

I managed to get GB and South Africa to stand down, and they even paid for the spy’s upkeep next turn. I also got budget from the Government for the spy, so I pocketed the extra money to fund my private army upgrade. The next turn frustrated me a little – the UN wanted hard evidence, but my spy couldn’t find anything, so the UN wouldn’t budge on sending us hep. So I blew up the suspicious facilities, and my diplomats spent the next few turns calming the political situation down.

That one I’m pretty sure was all down to us – after I spread the information that the nuclear program was taken care off, everyone kind of forgot about the other half of the problem, so it was just my diplomats taking care of things there. Turns out the nuclear technology came from China – who knew?

Meanwhile, Ian, our other diplomat, made a herculean effort and managed to raises a whopping 9 million in donations to clear up the last of the poo. Unfortunately, the Poo was fighting back.

Turns out that the reason it was going up one a turn, was that everyone was polluting too much. In game terms, this meant that all of the nations of Africa had to agree to cap their PR at 6. At the time, as far as I remember, Angola was the only one above 6, and naturally they wouldn’t budge because they felt ‘victimised’. I left it to the diplomatic team to sort out, and braced myself for the next crises to emerge – Boko Haram.

This was nice because I actually had a fight on my hands – the insurgents had carved out a new nation for themselves which encompassed the northern part of Nigeria. Using some bribery and some overwhelming force, I rolled over them within a couple of turns, re-securing our borders. There was a military unit in Niger, which Algeria and Egypt took care of, and then there was the insurgency in Chad. I would have gone in and sorted it out myself however the UN had already sent peace keepers in and were basically just fannying about, so I didn’t deploy into that region for fear of ticking off the UN. The crisis was prolonged a turn or two more than it needed to be though, because of this. The Americans eventually went in and I believe struck the final blow. Whether they did or not isn’t important, but I want to mention now because it gets better later.

With my part over though, I was keeping an eye out for the next challenge, which came from a most unexpected source – The United Nations.

Poo Wars 3: The UN Are Dicks (And Seriously Angola Sort Your Shit Out)

So, the UN ended up sanctioning the entire African Continent because we were polluting too much. Never mind that Nigeria had single-handedly reduced an entire pollution block down to zero (thanks to some donations), and never mind that the money we gave to the UN for the global effort was actually spent on everywhere BUT Africa. They sanctioned us anyway.

Remember that PR Cap I mentioned? Turns our Angola wouldn’t budge. At this point everyone was hovering on 5 or 6, with Angola on 7, and they felt they were being singled out because their nation was poorer. I was getting cross at this point because the Glorious Nigerian Navy had spent six whole turns clearing up poo. SIX TURNS. I’d even stopped our PR going up to 7 (we’d had a good news round somehow) just so we weren’t violating the pollution rule.

It got to a point where I asked control if I could use my Navy to seize the Angolan coast-line to forcibly stop them polluting the ocean. I didn’t go through with it though. (They said yes I could, but It would mean War, obviously).

Angola however said that they were using their alien friends (they made friends with the aliens really early) to come up with a solution. I THEN heard from my scientist that they were building a Hell Laser. Something that’s used on a Space Battleship and has nothing to do with pollution solving.

I snapped.

Going over to the operation map, I sent my Spy into Angola. I then told control I wanted to find their Hell Laser project and blow it up. This involved a dice roll…

** Rolls a 1 **
Control: Ok, you see some large infrastructure buildings.
Me: I blow it up
Control: It’s blown up

**Some Time Later **
Me: What did I blow up?
Control: An Angolan Power Station. There were civilian casualties and major black outs. That Hell Laser thing didn’t actually exist.

Oops. The next turn, Angola announced they’ve solved the pollution crises. True to form, the pollution blocks disappear. I felt kind of bad, but I was really getting tired of cleaning up their shit. Literally. And I got their PR down to 6, which made me happy.

As the game was coming to its twilight stages, a weird lull fell about the game for me. A new crises in the form of a Zombie Virus outbreak emerged near to us, but we traded in some Red Mercury to some aliens who sorted it out the next turn. No new challenges emerged.

We’d had pretty much no contact with the Aliens all game. This didn’t bother me, as we were having a fantastic time over all. The closest we got was that we stole some resources (including the afore-mentioned Red Mercury) from some aliens trying to mine our resources. They never came back to our region of Africa after that.

Meanwhile our Cetacean relations were stagnating. We were on extremely good termss with them, and we were harvesting a lot of fish to trade with them, but they were running out of things to trade back. Meanwhile we were representing them at the UN as much as we good, and cleaning up the waters for them – but their… usefulness kind of ended there.

Lots of people tried to get our Cetacean Language ability off of us, but we get it a closely guarded national secret. In hind-sight we should have charged, but there you go. A UN representative even came up to me and was like “we’d like to trade for your Whale Tech”. Given we were still under sanctions, I told him in no uncertain terms that we’re not even talking with them until those are lifted.

Egypt built a space port, which was blown up by the same aliens who built it, and Angola nearly went to war over Egypt at one point over a saucer they wanted to shoot down, but things seemed to be almost winding down for us. I’d managed to privately fund an army upgrade so that we ended up with One Modern Tech, One Old Tech and a Militia, having started with 2 Militia and an Old Tech.

Corruption was given more of an emphasis this game, although with no way of tracking it (and it not *really* meaning much), the degree in which our team interacted with it differed. I engaged in ‘practical’ corruption, in which I lied, cheated, begged an borrowed money where I could, but I ploughed it into the military to get a shinier army. Jamie, one of our ambassadors, took a 10 million bribe in a bit of Last Turn Madness, because he hadn’t done anything all game. God knows how much our leader pocketed, but I don’t think it was that much, ultimately.

Anyway, I eventually noticed something peculiar – a US Old Tech Unit still in Chad. I remembered that the American had deployed to sort out the insurgency, but that was a few turns ago and they must have forgotten about it, so it was just sitting there. Crucially, the upkeep on it wasn’t being paid. This lead to the greatest thing I did all day (in my view):

Me: See that Army Unit.
Control: Yes
Me: It’s been sitting there a few turns now. The US never came back for it, and the Upkeep isn’t being paid.
Control: … Yes?
Me: Can the Nigerian Military take control of it? It’s clearly been abandoned.
Control: … !?

It’s worth pointing out a couple of things. One, Control was grinning ear to ear as I explained this, and two, it’s impossible to grow your conventional armed forces in the time-frame of the game. By the end of that turn I expanded our forces by 33%. I achieved the impossible.

After checking with various control members, they let me make a roll, and pay 5 Million in bribes. I like to think I made a convincing case – control was positing that the US wouldn’t just leave all the tanks there, but I stuck fast to the line that if the US hadn’t informed Control what they were doing, then you can’t assume that. Upkeep wasn’t being paid, which means the soldiers weren’t being paid. I proposed that many had abandoned the army and gone home. Regardless, the unit was technically illegally placed, so it didn’t matter, it shouldn’t still be there.

After my successful gambit, I took one of our “Allied to Nigeria” stickers – usually used for marking NPC Nations – and stuck it firmly over the US army unit, then moved it within Nigerian borders. The rest of my team cracked up laughing. I’d won the game. Time to go home.

I then sent an email to the US Armed Forces saying “Thanks for the Tanks!”.

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This is a very narrow view of how the day went, and focuses stuff I was directly involved in, I’ve already forgotten so much of what happened that day, and there’s so much that went on I wasn’t even aware of.

The team I was part of tough was amazing, and did far better work than I did – Darren was a great leader, and gave me enough freedom to try and get away with whatever I could, and used the resources I gave him to excellent effect.

Tom, as always, was the master diplomat, and represented us extremely well at the UN.

Ian and Jamie were amazing Ambassadors, keeping everyone in the loop, pushing our local agenda, and helping me on the operational map when I needed them. A lot of the stuff I did was thanks to them paving the way – especially the getting the pollution donations.

Best props goes to Alex, our Scientist, who despite being seconded into the role that morning (our original person fell Ill, leaving us a man down), he bossed science, making us the Cetacean’s best friends, the masters of fishing AND winning the ultimate science award.

Super-Special mentions go to:

Matthew and Keith, our Control Team in Africa, who were an absolute pleasure to work with and really responded well to all Nigeria’s crazy ideas. I’d like to think we were their favourite.

Brad, Defence mogul of Angola, who is my personal hero. The amount of private funding and wheeler dealing he did puts my efforts to shame. By the end of the game he was sitting on a fully modern army, SIX Interceptors, and a metric ton of other back-hand cash. Legend.

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My next post will do with some of the objective critiques I have on the game, as well as some suggestions, which I will also email to Jim in due course.

Hello!

This article will be the first in a series regarding Warhammer 40,000 Conquest: The (Living) Card Game. I’m doing a number of overview for a friend who runs his own online board game store – Dicing on the Cake!

You can read more about it here: https://www.facebook.com/DicingOnTheCake

Now that we’re one chapter pack into the game with a deluxe expansion on the way – let’s take a look at some Factions and their Warlords.

First up – Astra Militarum!

Or ‘Imperial Guard’ to those of you not worried about the fact that you can’t trademark something called ‘Imperial Guard’.

In the table-top game, The Guard quite often could be seen using mass-numbers as a tactic over specialised units, however in the card game this is dialled down somewhat. With units spanning a range of cost bands, Imperial Guard seem to favour a Combined Arms approach, utilising key Army units that span across troops, and vehicles, with a high number of support options and some supporting mechanics in the form of deck search and sacrificing units.

They are also one of the four factions that currently have access to token units – the other three being Dark Eldar, Orks and Chaos. When the Tyranid-themed ‘Great Devourer’ expansion comes out next month (we think?), the new faction will also have their own set of Token Units – Termagants.

Unfortunately, unlike factions like the Dark Eldar and Orks, the Imperial Guard token units are fairly underutilised at the moment. There are no cards outside of Warlord signature cards that can summon tokens to the field. Coteaz, the newest Warlord, has a single signature Support card that allows you to draw tokens, while Straken has a Support card and four signature Army Units that can get tokens into play. They are a great asset for the smattering of sacrifice mechanics you see in the Guard line-up, but it’s a shame they are not catered too more.

The new Warlord coming with the second Warpack cycle however shows some promise in this area.

Warlords

Colonel Straken was the Warlord that came with the Core Set. He’s a fairly simple Warlord to use – his ability allows every Soldier or Warrior card to get +1 to Attack. Simples. You don’t have to do any complex manoeuvring or plays to get his ability to work, so from a deck-building perspective just make sure you throw in a lot of keyword-matching cards. Orks are a good ally for Straken, since they have a lot of Warriors and Soldiers amongst their non-loyal pool, and many of them are quite cheap as well.

Straken’s not very useful when it comes to the Guard’s most powerful plays though. The Infantry Conscripts – which relies on having a lot of supports on the field – only has the ‘Conscript’ keyword, and while not as powerful as the Space Marines, the Guard does have some pretty awesome vehicles as well, such as the Assault Valkyrie, Lemon Russ Tank and the Steel Legion Chimera. None of these benefit from Straken’s ability however.

By comparison, Torquemada Coteaz is a far more engaging prospect to lead your Guard forces into battle. His combat action is all about sacrificing units to boost his attack –so you’ll want to go with a deck that’s largely filed with disposable 1 cost or 2 cost units. Personally, I like to beef up the mid-cost range with some Chimeras and a couple of Tanks or Valkyries, but with cards like Staging Grounds, you’ll want to keep the majority of your units cheap. Again, Orks are a great ally here, as they have some pretty good cards that are 2-cost, and even an event called Made Ta Fight which, when you read it, sounds more suited to a Guard deck than an Ork deck anyway. It’s a shame they don’t do more with ‘Inquisitor’ as a keyword, but it’s still early days yet.

You have to be careful with Coteaz though, as sacrificing units means you have less attacks per round, even if the +3 usually makes Coteaz better than the card you’re sacrificing. Catachan Outposts and Staging Grounds are essential in a Coteaz Deck, as is To Arms! Which is a good ‘support’ Event for Supports.

Hope you enjoyed today’s post – we’ll go through all the factions, posting surface thoughts and ‘drive-by’ analysis of the various decks, to give you a brief overview as to what you can expect. More in-depth analysis may come later!

Don’t forget to check out www.dicingonthecake.com, or message them over Facebook regarding stock. It’s not too late to join the fight for the Traxis Sector!

So, at the weekend I played a Megagame. What’s a megagame? Go look it up, it’s amazing. Shut Up & Sit Down have a fantastic video about the Alien Invasion Megagame they played last year, called Watch the Skies. What I played was the sequel – Watch the Skies 2: Global Conspiracy.

I’m writing this blog post because I want to get some thoughts down about it before I forget, and obviously I want to leave some open feedback for the developers. Me and my team have already discussed this all to death, but it’ll be good to share.

First off, let me pre-face by saying that it was one of the most amazing, unique experiences I’ve ever had. I’d happily do it again, and in fact me and my friends have already signed up for ‘Come to a King’, a Megagame set in 11th Century England. I’m hoping to be a Saxon Warlord.

Anyway, back to Saturday…

A lot of things broke that day.

Scaling a game that originally had like, 50 people? To one that has to accommodate 300 was never going to work 100%. The fact that it went as well as it did is a testament to all of the hard work put in by the various control teams, and the players themselves for trying to adapt and engage with the tools given to them.

I’m not going to talk about it too much as it wasn’t my department, but it sounded like the Science element needs a major overhaul. I know my science guy struggled with a control team that kept changing the rules, struggled with a tech tree he barely had time to get to grips with, struggled with  … the fact that he did as well as he did is amazing, but even the rest of us thought he had the short end of the stick.

For my part, I had my own struggle with rule systems that kept changing. There were a few things mentioned explicitly in the handbook that I found had been changed on the day. Corps upgrades, SIF upgrades, mobilisation rules… I did feel like I spent perhaps too much time talking to control about rule-clarifications.

** Just to be clear, my local control team was amazing, especially the lady I kept talking to. She was really helpful and I feel bad for badgering her so often. **

But there were also a few instances where my team were told conflicting information, like how spies worked in the different phases.

I think generally there was a conflict between the systems that had rules, and the systems that didn’t.

I kept given money to corporations for deals I had going on, only for someone else to come around a phase or two later to ask for the money I’d already given them. Seems they’d decided to collect the money for everything in different phases, and hadn’t told any of their actual customers, so that was confusing (but we sorted it out and I was very happy with what I got from them – a shiny new Modern Army, + 1 PR, and some epic regional terror deduction. Boss).

Had zero contact with Humanity first, The Papacy, or in fact members from other world regions who didn’t specifically come to the EU zone.

I won’t go on, but in summary: Many bits buckled, some bits broke, but the game ran as well as it could have done.

Blessed are the Greeks

Our local problem in the EU region to keep us busy before the Aliens turned up was Greece. Some rebel military organisation had seized the oilfields there, and Turkey and the rest of the central region close to Greece weren’t happy.

Turkey etc… threatened to invade, the Americans were butting their noses in… and yet as a region I’m not entirely sure we handled things very well. Really, for the first couple of turns we were all struggling to get to grips with the game, so that’s why nothing really happened. I think from my side at least It took me a while to see it as a problem we actually had to interact with. I’d gone in to the game too excited about the Alien element, and I guess I was just waiting for them to show up.

Greece proved to be a problem that would never be solved, and I’m not so sure it isn’t just as much the game’s fault as it was our own. Here is a breakdown of how I saw things. Again, not being directly involved, I have a narrow view of things:

  • Not really being able to mobilise and send in troops, there was nothing we could do from that perspective.
  • The UN mandated economic sanctions against Greece, so I assumed that meant they didn’t want to send in troops initially either.
  • That left political influence. First couple of turns everyone was rebuffed, but then my Minister and the Italians managed to get a foothold. The plan was to get the Greek rebels to back down, while getting the Turkish to back off and give them some money to keep them happy.
  • The problem is, even when my minister rolled 6’s, and influenced the holy f**k out of Greece, all we got back was “We’ll think about it”. And then another turn would pass.

It got to a point where I didn’t really know what we could do from a game perspective to ‘sort Greece out’. And then Greece erupted into civil war instead so we got the UN to send in peacekeepers. After that, I didn’t really see what else we could do because the UN was directly involved.

I’ve read several comments already on how ‘frustrated’ the US and the central powers were about Greece not getting sorted out, but all I can say is that we felt we did all the game allowed us to do, and once the UN went in it was out of our hands.

Highlights

 As I mentioned above, the day was amazing. Here is a few of the reasons why:

  • We were insanely rich. At one point my General alleged that, when we’d just hit maximum PR, we were the richest nation on the planet (he’d gone for a wonder). Generally PR and money were NEVER a problem thanks to some good deals made on my part, some good science on the part of my Scientist, and generally keeping on top of the PR score.
  • Telling the Americans that their nuke was safe and that, no, they couldn’t base troops in Germany, only for the aliens to then land on Germany and leave a card behind for everyone to see. God damn it. I still don’t even know what that fecking thing was about.
  • Rallying to a call to mobilise interceptors to Antarctica. Only two alien saucers turned up, and each had about four SIFs on it, and none of us managed to shoot the buggers down. I learned much later that me (and about 7 other nations) had massively breached international law by doing that (although there were no consequences, which there probably should have been). Oops. I also decided not to waste my time with such a deployment again.
  • Rallying the EU leaders into firming up the EuroUnion to resist outside meddling from Russia and the US. Europeans will solve European problems… although I’m not sure how effectively we managed that in the end, given what I said above.
  • My foreign minister telling me that he had the Greece situation sorted. The next turn he told me that he’d accidentally caused a civil war.
  • Thinking for a few minutes that the abduction of the UNSC was due to the fact that my General had shot down an interceptor that turn. The alien player maintains the saucer was over Geneva to pick up the delegation, but my general says it was in German airspace, so I support him. Another saucer managed to land that WAS firmly in Swiss airspace, which we ignored, which then abducted the UNSC.
  • Learning that the Aliens were fighting some kind of interstellar war amongst themselves and using Earth as some last-ditch, back-water refuelling post. This was a highlight only in the sense that it made me really cross, hah.
  • Another thing that got me a little cross is that, whenever a UFO appeared over Germany (we didn’t get that many), EVERYONE bum rushed their interceptors into our air-space. Sure, it’s ok, just come right in. It’s not like we have sovereign rights or anything. I kind of blame the game for that one though.
  • Fighting Russia to a standstill in the Ukraine. I’m still not entirely sure about how easily we got dragged in to that 11th hour conflict, but when civil war broke out in the Ukraine I let my General mobilise, and he sent an army unit to the Polish/Ukraine border, to ensure the conflict didn’t spill over. Next thing I knew the Polish army AND ours had joined one half of Ukraine and was squaring up against the other half, along with Russia. He exchanged fire and it was a draw (epic rolling on his part), but then that meant the whole of NATO was then at war with Russia.
  • My Foreign Minister then had his finest hour and first of all got the Russian to back down, and then went to the Americans and got them to not send in the troops. I’d like to think I helped a little with that.

The ultimate icing on the cake though was a plan me and the French leader were discussing to try and rescue the UN delegation. Operation ‘Trojan Horse’ – my scientist had researched the tech for a sub-orbital civilian transport, and the French had (somehow) managed to research Interstellar Marines. Together, we were going to attempt to mount a rescue (I don’t even know if it would have worked, given it was only a sub-orbital ship. Maybe we could have captured a saucer and ridden that to the Moon or something). Due to some frankly beardy rulings by the science control team, we lost a turn or two trying to get everything in place, but then we were ready. On Turn 10, we were going to mount our operation. There was no Turn 10.

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My final thought is one that I’m not particularly proud of, but something I’d like to share anyway. This will probably make me sound jealous and slightly childish. Here goes anyway:

I felt a little left out.

My expectations going into the game was that it would be some grand Alien incursion onto the globe for reasons beyond our understanding. There were six alien teams – conveniently one of every region, so I expected every region to be heavy with alien activity due to some master-plan involving all of humanity.

Really, it was just about the Japanese and their Whaling. And something about the aliens needing to mine minerals to fight a war they were losing, neither of which meant that Europe was particularly bothered by extra-terrestrials. From what I gather, every region had varying degrees of alien interaction, with East Asia getting perhaps the most (hell, Tokyo was destroyed), and it felt like Europe the least.

I think what bugs me the most is with a storyline like that driving a lot of the alien interaction, we didn’t really need to be there – whether the European nations were played or not, Africa would have still lost its kittens, Japan would still have had to deal with sentient Whales and then been bombarded from orbit… It was an interesting story, an amusing story, and a story worth telling. It was just one that didn’t seem to need me or my team. That made me a little sad.

Hell, If it wasn’t for the fact that we were wrestling with a crisis in Greece all game, we’d have had very little to do. Looking back, the game me and team ended up playing had nothing to do with Aliens. It was an incredibly fun game, full of political tension, high-level negotiations, rebels, and sure the odd UFO to shoot down. Every now and then I’d have a meeting to discuss the Alien problem that was only really a problem to other people.

Ultimately, it wasn’t the game we were expecting to play. Dare I say, it wasn’t the game we paid to play.

If I were to sum up this last point, it would be that I feel  my team worked amazingly hard, did a really good job at the EU regional table, and at the end of the day it felt like none of it really mattered because control had come up with this wonderful plot for the aliens that seemed to revolve around a handful of specific nations that weren’t us. I gather we missed out a lot of the ‘Real Deal’ talks in the pub afterwards (we were knackered and decided to go drink back in Kent), but it would have been nice to have had more of ‘big picture’ debrief at the end.

Other than that, it was the best day of my life. Probably.