Tuesday 19 May 2020

Getting Cheapass in Tabletop Simulator

My Monday night online board games night has been one of the triumvirate of touchstones that I build my week around over this quarantine period, along with the weekly staff meeting and the daily crossword-solving conference call. I haven't posted about it for the last few weeks because there hasn't been all that much to say, but I really can't overstate how much I look forward to it and will miss it when we all eventually go back to our normal lives.

This week we tried out in implementation of Veritas that I made a few weeks ago for Tabletop Simulator. Veritas was one of the games that Cheapass Games made when they came out of their hibernation at the start of the 2010's. It was made with the old-school Cheapass gimmick philosophy, that game pieces are pretty much all interchangeable so they're not going to ship them in the box, but came with a slightly higher production value than the earlier entries in the series (colour printing and all). Veritas is a neat little game and it's still available for tenbux at cheapass.com, but it's basically unknown (only just squeezing into the top 10000 games on BGG at the time of writing, and with five plays recorded in the last four years I'm the equal-second-most frequent player of the game that logs their games on the site). I think the reasons for this are that it came during a huge growth period in board games, when Cheapass just didn't have the reach or the brand recognition that they once did, and because the 'standard' pieces that it required were actually a little obscure, as it needed about 40 stackable 20-30mm diameter discs for each player. If the pieces had come in the box and they'd just charged a little more for it, maybe it would have done better. But then it wouldn't have been Cheapass enough, I guess.

A few years back I painted a set of British 2p coins to use as my truth tokens, and though they could do with another coat of paint and then a little varnish to seal them or something and the yellow went a very unappealing greenish colour when it dried, they fit the purpose very well (and make a very satisfying clunk when you drop them on the table). I was expecting to be able to link to the previous post that I've written about that set at this point, but it seems like I've never written a post about it before, just mentioned in passing back in 2016 that I should probably get around to it. Good work, there, Mr. Owl. 

Given the lack of popularity of the game, maybe it's not surprising that there's not already a Tabletop Simulator version of it. A dedicated soul has made TS versions of many of the older Cheapass games here, but since Veritas occupies the ambiguous middle ground between Freetown and Expensiveburg I guess it doesn't fit into that category. My implementation is a little quick and dirty at the moment, but I think I'll go ahead and fired off a request for permission to publish it just in case, and if James Ernest or who whoever owns the right to the game since Cheapass' acquisition by Greater Than Games last year is willing to give permission, spend a little time improving the art assets and as many quality of life changes as I can without having to learn how to do any actual programming before sticking it up on the Steam Workshop for others to hopefully discover and enjoy this unappreciated diamond in the rough.

It's my first attempt at making something for TS, and while it's pretty clear that I haven't quite gotten the physics to work right, I was pretty pleased about how it turned out. We were able to sit down with four players and play out a painless game via screen-share in a little less than an hour, which is a comparable time to playing it in person, the game hit all the usual high notes of a game of Veritas done right, and everyone (winners and abject losers like myself) had a good time, which is always a bit of a relief when I introduce something new to the group. I have a couple of little tweaks to get to after this playtest, but overall I was very pleased with how it turned out. 

Not pleased enough to consider learning lua to actually program some smarts into the implementation, but pleased nevertheless.

Sunday 17 May 2020

Long Live the Queen! Turns 131-140

In a piece of fortuitous timing, I got the ping in the discord channel letting me know that it was my turn in our communal succession game of Civ VI just as I was trying to work out what to do next this evening. If you're interested in the details of the last few millenia, check out Naithin's game page here

I then decided I'd better strike while the iron was hot when it came to drafting this, because with other people waiting just letting this post sit for weeks in the drafts folder like everything else I've written in the last fortnight seemed a little rude. 
Since I last laid eyes of realm (a couple of weeks ago for me, a decade short of two thousand years for the English), it's grown from two small cities hugging the Southern Ocean to a sprawling Empire on which the sun never sets, with six settlements spanning the continent. We've gone from being about to discover the secrets of Bronze Working to being on the brink of discovering Gunpowder (though we don't seem to have worked out how to mine Iron just yet). 
Unfortunately, some of these new cities are looking a little bleak. I've never been to the real-world Bradford, but looking at this little collection of hovels squatting in the ice doesn't make me particularly keen to check it out. Since both the growth and production in this sad little place are essentially nothing, I go ahead and purchase a builder to try and get a little industry going, and switch the production into building a Dockyard. This is not so much to service our Navy, which I've now disbanded since it turns our that we're landlocked and not likely to get a lot of use out of it, but to boost the production of our fleet of fishing boats a little. Maybe somewhere down the track Bradfordians can look forward to some more crab in their diet.
Stoke-Upon-Trent, on the other hand, is in such a good location that the Sumerians have decided to try and build a city right on the doorstep. Gilgamesh seems like a nice guy, but extending the hand of friendship doesn't extend to giving up the natural resources that are the birthright of the British people, so I spend all our gold planting the Union Jack on the wonder tile and trying to secure the incense before Ur grows too much. Unfortunately I'm a little too poor after investing in that builder last turn (another thing to lay at the feet of the poor beleaguered people of Bradford, I suppose), but hopefully I'll be able to scratch together the gold to finish the job somewhere in the next few turns. The campus here just finished, and I set the city to working building a military encampment, since Stoke is a bit of a frontier city and that seems like a good place to build up our military might in case anyone starts spoiling for a fight.
Growth has slowed to a crawl in both London and Birmingham. It looks like London just can't produce enough food, while Birmingham is producing a huge surplus, but has completely run out of room to house people. I'm going to bring that builder over from London to try and put down a few farms and plantations to put roofs over a few more heads in the hope that things start to pick up. Ideally I'd get a little more production here too, but we're going to need a lot of builders to get that done, and gold is kinda in short supply around here at the moment.
In the southeast, the skirmishing with the barbarian hordes has gone relatively well. We did lose a unit of archers that got caught out of position, but with three units down here now and the enemy trapped on poor terrain things are looking good for our ranged units to make short work of it. Unfortunately this leaves a good portion of our army well out of defensive range of our cities, but with the French and Brazilians cowed for now, good relationships with America and Babylonia, and quite a few military units wandering around without anything to do, I'm not terribly worried.
We've gotten a trade route, so to mend fences I decide to send a caravan to Curitiba. Hopefully this will make Pedro like us a little more and be a little less trigger happy, and it also brings in a nice little haul of science and culture. We're leading the world with our scientific nous at the moment, but our cultural game leaves a little to be desired.
To the west of Stoke,our valiant spearment holds to ford against the barbarian swordsmen (how did the barbarians work out how to mine iron when the greatest minds in Britain still haven't been able to put the theory into practice?), while our warriors try to capture that poor lost worker unit. We can always use more workers, after all. There's a lot to do around here!
Teddy wants access to our bountiful sugar plantations in exchange for open borders and a small pile of gold. I feel like he's less likely to attack us if he's happy to loosen tourist visas, so I'm keen to agree to this, especially since the French denounced us again last turn. Teddy won't agree to be my friend just yet, but if we can get an alliance with him somewhere down the track maybe he'll help dissuade people from going to war with us again. We really don't want any more wars, they're bad for business.
Bristol, the first of our new antipodean colonies, has just finished building city walls, which means we can now fire a few salvos from the battlements to scare off all these barbarian fleets that keep bothering us up here. I'm setting the city to build a granary in the hopes of keeping growth here high for a while, as it would be good to pump out a couple of settlers to expand our holdings in the north. That could be a little bit of a challenge given the limited prospects for production in this city, but it might be worth a shot.
Leeds has growth problems as well, and though I have the newly-produced builder on hand, there's no good tiles to develop to help with the  critical housing shortage. Since I still can't afford to buy any more agricultural land, I set the city to constructing a theater square; having a higher cultural output is apparently what helps push the borders out further in this game, which is what we'll need if Leeds is going to grow at all. There's not any fresh water anywhere around here, so we can't just build an aqueduct and be done with it. 
The Galloping Arrows and their new crossbowmen friends have made short work of the barbarians. Crossbowmen are really an order of magnitude better than anything else that we can field at the moment, so getting our experienced archers back to the homeland to get new equipment will result in a big power gain when we finally finish shooting all these scouts and warriors down here.
With the bounty from that barbarian camp I've finally got the resources to buy the incense from under Gilgamesh's nose. I'd like to be able to spend to money to get either the ivory or the horses here, since those tiles are both better to work than the incense, but securing the luxury resource that could be nabbed any moment is the priority, and hopefully that new builder we just stole will be able to work it pretty soon to provide amenities to produce happiness across the empire and help spur on a little more of a population boom.
Since we've reached halfway to Feudalism, I decide to switch it out in favour of investigating Civil Service, since I figure we can probably trigger the Eureka moment for it pretty soon anyway and save ourselves a few years of painstakingly puzzling out exactly how to get armour on our horses. Unfortunately we only have three farms instead of the six that we'll need to get that boost, but since farms are a big priority on the agenda at the moment anyway that doesn't feel like such an impossible task. In what has become a familiar story lately, growth has completely stalled in London, so I decide to pause what it was working on and focus on getting another settler to try and relieve a little pressure by encouraging some emigration.
Eeek! Sumeria has just founded a religion, which leaves just one available for us to grab and a three-way race to found it with us only slightly ahead against our fellow heathen nations. Since we've already got really strong faith generation it would be a real shame not to be able to spend it on anything, so I've set the people of London the task of concentrating their efforts on praying with all their might for the advent of a Great Prophet. Hopefully we prove to be better at praying than the French or the Egyptians. I guess that Settler will have to wait.

All too soon, my short reign comes to an end. I researched no technology, made no cultural advances and fought no wars, but a nation is built by the leaders that quietly contribute to industry and the economy as well, so I hope our people will look on me with kindness when it's time to write the history of the English Empire. Time to hand the reins to the Rambling Redshirt and sit back and enjoy the show.

Friday 1 May 2020

My Blapril Is Over

We did it! We've reached the end of Blapril 2020! (Well, due to a technicality it actually runs to May 9th, but just to keep things consistent year by year I'm calling this the end for me.)

Within the month I posted twenty times  (if I count a few extra warm-up days on the start), and I even like quite a few of the things I wrote, so we're counting the whole thing as a resounding success. I've spent a lot of this month thinking about what to write about and looking forward to writing, and while that has mostly resulted in an over-large ideas folder rather than a whole bunch of posts, that also bodes well for the possibility of continuing to write into May and potentially on into the future (even if my track-record of keeping the place running outside of blog festivals leaves a little to be desired...come back in a week and see how that turns out?).

As we complete the month and the posts of appreciation, relief, and thanks roll in, it has left our noble leader Belghast pondering about the value of the challenge aspect of our little annual blogging festival; whether driving ourselves past our comfort zone to post more than we would normally in order to get special shinies to hang on our blogs is really worth the sense of burn-out that so often follows. I didn't think I really had a horse in this race, as I don't think I've ever displayed one of the Blaugust badges that I've won over the years. I am enough of a geek to appreciate gamifying any and every aspect of life that you can, but I take part for the sense of community and encouragement, not for the prizes. 

But perhaps that's the point, because it's clear that despite never going in for the shinies, Blaugust is undoubtedly the thing that gets me back to blogging. Let's take a look at the numbers:

2011: posted 38 times, 27 of them were in Blaugust, with the rest spread throughout the year.
2012: posted 29 times, 24 of them in Blarch, Blaugust and Blogtober.
2013: posted 3 times, all in Blaugust.
2014: posted 40 times, 34 in Blaugust, 1 in prep in July, 4 immediately afterwards in September.
2015: posted 35 times, 31 in Blaugust, 1 in prep in July, 3 immediately afterwards in September.
2016: posted 44 times, 40 in Blarch and Blaugust.
2017: posted 14 times, 3 in the lead-up in July, and 9 times in Blaugust.
2018: posted 18 times, 15 were Blaugust, with another 1 directly before and after
2019: posted 24 times, 18 were Blaugust, with another 1 directly before and after
2020: posted 24 times so far (if I count this one), and 20 of them are for Blapril.

In many ways, this is just a Blaugust site. 88% of my posts are a direct result of Blaugust! I return here every year to write and to rejoin the community, and then I disappear again to hibernate for the winter. I guess you could look at those numbers and say that blogging festivals obviously burn me out, and that if I didn't try to sprint I could jog for longer, but I think it's pretty clear that it's the exact opposite, every year the festival helps relight the spark. Perhaps Blaugust hasn't worked for me to develop a regular blogging habit as I continue to vainly hope, but the mere fact that for a month a year I am encouraged to come out of my shell and doff my writing cap again is a big deal. Thanks to this blog, I have a record, in my own words, of my life over the last decade that I just wouldn't have otherwise. Sure, it's mostly about the videogame bits, but it's a darn sight better than nothing.

So this time I'm going to celebrate the fabulous Blaugust shinies that I've gained over the years, and look forward to adding a third silver one for this year to my collection somewhere down the track.

PS. In the 2018 version of this post, I mentioned that going forward I was going to try to add more pictures of me wearing ties. Everything has changed so much since the start of the blog, ties aren't a part of my daily life any more, and haven't been for years. Heck, I haven't worn one since my friend's wedding back in August last year, but here's a good old fashioned blurry tiepic, just for the old time's sake.

Long Live the Queen! Turns 51-60

What's This?

I'm taking part in a collaborative game of vanilla Civilization VI with some of the other Blaugustines. The eight of us (so far) are taking turns playing 10 turns each of a fledgling Britain under the guidance of good Queen Victoria, doing the best we can to not burn the whole thing down, and then passing the game on to the next player. 

The Story So Far…

Turns 01-10: Naithin Gets Us Started
Turns 11-20: Rakuno Does Some Exploring
Turns 21-30: Paeroka Has an Eye Towards Expansion
Turns 31-40: Tessa Founds Leeds
Turns 41-50: Krikket Builds a Boat

Let's Do It!

I've inherited a pretty healthy looking realm from my predecessors here. Plenty of military close by to defend the homeland with no obvious threats that we're not already set up to face, so it's time to set London to building another settler unit. Meanwhile we'll send our armies out to take care of these bandit camps; the archers and scouts will head west and our slingers will try to take out the nest to the south-east of Leeds. This new builder could have done good work here in London setting up another fishing fleet, but I'm sending it over over to Leeds instead to try and give our new city a bit of an early boost. Unfortunately we've just been informed that someone has just finished Stonehenge, so that puts a bit of a dampener on any hopes we might have entertained of getting off to a good start for a religious victory. That's quick work, we haven't even researched Mysticism yet. 
It's turn 52 and we're going to pick up the Irrigation technology. Usually I'd be reluctant to grab something that we hadn't hit the eureka moment for yet, but I'm about to build a rice paddy in Leeds that will trigger this one, which should then set us up nicely to build a sugar plantation for another much-needed luxury good. Potentially down the track the Hanging Gardens might make for a good first wonder, too. In the west a barbarian scout has wandered within range of our archers, so that should make for some easy experience points.
We have a visitor, and it's the Americans, bearing hot apple pies. I wonder if they're the ones who built Stonehenge?  Teddy Roosevelt seems like the sort of outdoorsy bloke who really enjoys a good stone circle every now and then with the guys.
Hot on his heels, Cleo pops by to borrow a cup of sugar and to let us know that she likes the cut of our jib, which  I'm not inclined to take to heart all that much considering that she was rude to Tessa just a few turns ago. No idea what we did to trigger this, perhaps she just likes it when folks beat up the barbarians?
It's now turn 54, and our slinger-cum-archers have headed further south and discovered a natural wonder just outside our borders. Handy! I prefer the cartoony style of the strategy view for almost everything in this game, but for discovering wonders if leaves a lot to be desired in comparison to the default view's flying camera and fancy lighting effects.
Our newly-acquired fleet has also found that there's not much of a future to be found in sailing east, though they did find this friendly village down by the South Pole. Hopefully we'll able to get some soldiers down here to claim it for the Empire eventually, but for now all that the pride of the Royal Navy can do is sail back home and hope that there's a clear path out to the open ocean somewhere out west.
Speaking of the west, the spearmen tasked with defending the barbarian camp that's been disturbing the sleep of all of London has foolishly decided to march out to attack our archers, allowing the scout to sneak in, ransack the camp and stab them in the back, and resulting in promotions for both of our units. I hadn't realised that the archer/scout combination force was so very powerful, but these two are really synergising over here.
Our southeastern archers have a bit of a job ahead of them clearing out this barbarian camp, but if they can manage it, the space around the wonder here is starting to look like a half-decent place for another city. All that tundra means that it's not great, but there's a lot of food around as long as the citizens like fish, and with the extra bonuses from the wonder it could turn out to be a real powerhouse. After we complete Irrigation, I set te boffins to look into Bronze Working, as the discovery of iron could help us plan our future growth and because one of the near-by city states wants us to build a unit of spearmen and it's always a good policy to make friends with the smaller nations.
This is looking hopeful. As our super-barbarian-countering force heads further west, they find the border with another continent just over this river. Since Victoria gets a free units in any new cities built on other continents (and another for building harbours there), expanding this way could be a great way to build our army up quickly without compromising on fast growth back home. If we can just find some luxury resources out here things are looking good for a rapid expansion west. Unlimited access to a tea supply would make us a true British Empire, after all.
It's the French, bearing champagne and cheese and a lot of eye shadow! Catherine is one of my favourite Civ VI leaders even if I always end up fighting her in the end, because she's just so darn smug. Thankfully it looks like their capital is a decent distance away to the North, so we don't need to worry about her for a while. 
With all these potential spots to build new cities out west, I've gone ahead and shelled out gold to build another new settler unit in Leeds. If our western exploration doesn't turn out enough good spots I guess they can settle here on this rice field, giving us access to a good looking spot with high production and access to gypsum, another new luxury resource to feed our people's insatiable need for exotic goods. I'm figuring expanding in this direction seems to be a priority, since that's where the other countries mostly seem to be, and that we can head back and grab the wonder in the southeast at our leisure later. The final place that either of our new settlers end up won't be up to me, though, as my reign is quickly coming to an end. I wonder if I'll even recognise the place when I see it again at 80 (or more turns down the track)? 
Having completed our exploration into Early Empire, the next thing that we look into will be a State Workforce. This will give us a boost to early-game Wonders if we decide to work on any, and should be pretty fast to complete, giving my successor a chance to change my dogma choices if they want to. I've also gone for the option of increased production across the empire instead of our previous God King choice, as we have multiple cities to get the benefit now, and more on the way soon.
Excellent news! There's a sea or a lake or something out here to the west. Hopefully it joins up to the Southern Ocean which will give out fleet something to do, but even if it doesn't it provides an even better chance to build new cities with harbours out here in order to flood the place with British colonial troops. There's also some furs, so that will help on the luxury front too. I am more and more convinced that this is an excellent location for our new expansion, so I'm sending the scouts south-west to look for perfect city sites and keeping the archers close to the Egyptian border to ensure that Cleo doesn't try to expand in this direction before our settlers get a chance to get over here.

All in all, a short but sweet reign, building on the foundations of my predecessors but not doing anything world-shaking. All good things must come to an end, though, so now I'll pass the reigns over to the Rambling Redshirt, who is presumably a Rambling Redcoat for this one. May your people bathe in luxuries and your armies meet with no-one in particular! 

The game file can be found here.

This is my nineteenth post for Blapril 2020, the latest incarnation of the annual Blaugust blogging festival that the Leaflocker has been a proud member of the last few years (when I started this post it was still April somewhere in the world, so it counts...). Shoutouts to The Ancient Gaming Noob, who has been blogging about games seemingly forever and whose in-depth AAR and analysis posts constantly make me, possibly the person least suited to EVE:Online in the universe, want to install EVE:Online.