Tuesday, April 2, 2013


I like trying new things. Food, drink, games, anything that adds a breath of unexpected novelty to life is something to be treasured. The only thing better than trying something new is introducing others to that experience. The best parts of life should be shared. At our last friends gathering I had the pleasure of trying ascension, a board game that splits the difference between dominion and magic. I’ve heard mixed reviews where ascension is concerned. Some love it while others find its brand of Twinkie strategy annoying. I most definitely fall into the former category. Ascension keeps dominion’s deck recycling mechanic while extending the play out long enough that slower strategies become viable. Players can buy new cards or attack monsters for loot. There are some staple cards that may be bought or attacked. These cards are supplemented by 6 randomly drawn objectives which vary in value and acquisition requirements. When one of the 6 is removed, a random replacement is drawn. The game ends when all the honor tokens are taken. The winner is the person with the highest combined total of honor tokens and honor valued cards in their deck. I’ve only played one game of ascension and I already like it more than dominion. Dominion’s biggest benefit is that it’s relatively quick and self-contained. That speed and simplicity comes at the cost of strategic variance though. Dominion makes the most of that exchange, making it one of my favorite party/small gathering distractions. Ascension offers a more leisurely experience, one where the game is intentionally scaled and paced to the number of players. The result is a game that rewards both strategic and tactical play. As we were slaying monsters and collecting honor, some of our friends were playing artimus. Artimus is a star trek simulation game tweaked to avoid copyright infringements. Players network laptops and other portable media devices to simulate the stations on a starship’s bridge (Captain, helm, coms, engineering, weapons, and science.) It’s a serious game with multiple levels for different ships, missions, and battles. Or I think it’s supposed to be serious. In reality, it was hard to focus on my own game when I kept hearing things like: “Helm, are we in reverse?” “Not any more.” And then there was the abortive ill-fated first mission: “Captain, aren’t those mines?” “We’ll blow right through them.” --Game over--- Or the first battle: “I’m asking them to surrender.” “You can do that?” “Yeh…” Boom! “We destroyed them…so that’s what auto beams do.” It was like someone had crossed galaxy quest with the guild. Sadly, it’s not blind friendly; but I can live with heckling. Saturday we attended a friends’ baby shower. It was nice to be able to see friends, but even more to offer up our support. I don’t like events where 300 people show up and you watch others open presents and play games. It’s very impersonal. This wasn’t one of those times. The family had been trying to adopt for a few years, and finally, after herculean effort, obtained the prize. It was a trial that most there had shared in some way or another. In many ways it felt like we were all celebrating a communal victory of spirit—as if it wasn’t just their child who would be coming home soon, but our child too. Ever since our friends brought their son into the world, I’ve looked at kids differently. They aren’t kids, they’re future gamers. They’re people who I can show the great experiences life has given me. Through their eyes I can see the world again as fresh and new, without politics and bills. Being more than a little bit of a kid myself, I always joke that it’s nice to have someone to play with. I can share in their triumphs, their joys, and their sorrows. I can show them the good things in life that it took me far too long to experience. And if maybe they don’t love those treasures of my childhood as much as I do, well that’s ok too. Sunday we cased out a new LGS called titan Games. Ever since I made the break with GW, I haven’t spent a lot of time in a real honest-to-god game store. Alternate worlds is nice, but they’re a small venue that makes room for in-store gaming even though their retail space isn’t ideally set up for it. Titan Games is a game store that wants you to sit down and forget your troubles while you roll dice, paint, sling cardboard, take on other personas, and hopefully spend a few bucks. The first thing you notice as you walk in is that it’s big. The main floor is warehouse sized, with more than 20 mixed miniature and card tables in an echoing high-roofed space. The walls are lined with product, supplies, the register, and even a selection of snacks. Wife quickly established the presence of a cold case full of soda, another case with good humor ice-cream, assorted candy bars, and even coffee. We walked around examining table after table of perfectly arranged terrain for all manner of miniature systems, even a FOW board. That was about when I started to like the place. You can tell that the owners like their miniature gaming. They made room for plenty of other game-related experiences as well. There’s a premium RPG room in the back, with an entertainment system, microwave, white-board, miniature display setup, and a closable door to shut out background noise. At $10 an hour the Champaign room of RPGs is a bit pricy for my taste; but then I have my own apartment filled with games, snacks, and cocktails. I like Titan. I really wish it was more in walking distance, but it’s a nice spot. They run the kind of place I enjoy turning into a home away from home. The following Thursday I took a few friends to the range. Two of them were new shooters, while the other two knew the ropes. I set up the experienced pair on a station with my newly configured 1911 and then got down to introducing two more folks to the fun of responsible shooting. Having already had the safety conversation, I brought out my colt diamondback in .22lr. This model is a 4 inch blued revolver with a butter-smooth trigger and badger custom rosewood grips. Experience has taught me that a .22 revolver is the way to bring newbies into the fold. Simple, no recoil, relatively quiet, very few controls, and most important of all it’s not very intimidating. I showed them how the gun worked, going over the action multiple times. Then I shot it myself so they could see (especially compared to the 1911) that it was a pussycat. Finally I coached each of them through their first shots with particular emphasis on fun and confidence building. The hardest part of teaching new shooters is instilling an absolute dedication to safety while simultaneously getting them to relax and enjoy the experience. You’re not going to shoot well if you’re keyed up and worried about what the mystical bullet thrower you’re holding is likely to do next. To that end, I use repetition of the basics to show new shooters what needs to be done and why. That gets supplemented with as much trigger time as they can handle. After an hour they were having fun and good to go on their own. That left me free to pull out the marlin 1895 in 45-70. There is something very satisfying about working the action on a major cartridge rifle. The solid chunk-chunk of the bolt chambering, the precise sense of each gear and spring engaging, the positive feel of the round sliding home with the chiming of the ejected case still echoing in your ears, all combine with the solid feel of the wood and steel of the 1895 to create a deeply rewarding experience. I liken it to the one time I was privileged enough to ride in a Portia. You could simply feel the precision of the car’s engineering. Every turn felt like the car was on a set of rails. Even as a passenger you could feel that the engine would give the driver everything he asked of it with no lost time or energy. That said, the real fun of shooting an 1895 is taming the crash and thunder of the 300 grain bullet as it trails a tongue of smoke and fire down range. Oh baby, it’s a sweet gun. The other 2 more experienced friends gave the big girl a try. They couldn’t stop smiling, even when they didn’t hold it tight enough into the shoulder and got thumped for their trouble. I wish I had the time and money to shoot it more often. A great week (more to follow re-food, drink, and Easter.)