Saturday, September 23, 2017

Gaming By Tweet: A Social Media Experiment

Back in July I posted a review here about Target for Today, a solitaire game by Legion Wargames, about the US daylight bombing campaign in WW2.   For now it suits my gaming lifestyle, which has largely had to adapt itself to my primary role as my wife’s caregiver.

In the last few months, a social media project has taken on a life of its own as I have been “live tweeting” missions using my Twitter account (@madpadre1).   It started by putting my Twitter friends into crew positions on “Foxtrot”, our fictitious B17, and seeing if they would survive each mission.   A few folks (Tweeps) seem to quite enjoy the experience, which I have gradually thickened by adding GIFs and period photos to illustrate various phases of the mission.    The cumulative effect is a kind of storytelling by gaming, but it has also fuelled my desire to learn more about the US 8th Air Force in Britain and the daylight precision bombing campaign in general.

This particular project is set in the fall of 1942, following one of the first operational USAAF bombardment groups in England.  It is the same period depicted in the film Twelve OClock High, when the daylight campaign was still very experimental.

I have started collecting the various tweets for each mission into narratives using the online tool Storify.   You can see the results for Missions Five, Six, and Seven if you like.   Now the interesting thing abut the project is to see if Foxtrot can make it through the war, which is no small thing given the high casualty rates among Allied bomber crews.   Already we have had two crew members set home to the States with serious, war-ending wounds, and on our last mission the Bombardier, who had flown six missions already, was killed by a cannon shell from an ME 110.  

In this respect the project has started to incorporate elements of role-playing, and a strong emotional investment from some of the regular players in their fates.  There is also a lot of humour and joking, so it is not a terribly serious venture, but serious enough in its own way.

After our last mission there was some talk on Twitter about adapting the Target For Today game engine to the night campaign of Bomber Command.    Such a project could be done easily enough, but the game would have a different feel, more cat and mouse as opposed to the stoic endurance of waves of fighters by the B17s, which is more like a British square facing repeated attacks in Napoleonic or colonial warfare.   It might be done using some existing titles, such as GMT’s Nightfighter

There are also possibilities for using social media platforms such as Twitter in other games, such as putting people into various roles in a skirmish miniatures game and illustrating the action with photos to explain the action as the game goes along.  This would not be a true gaming experience online, such as tools like VASSAL allow, but rather a type of storytelling.

At any rate, Foxtrot is scheduled to fly more missions, and you are welcome to follow me on Twitter and even fly along.  I look forward to hearing about your own experiments with gaming via social media.

Blessings to your die rolls and watch your arcs!


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"Zulus, Mr. Rico! Zillions of 'em!" : A Quick Review of Zulus on the Ramparts by Victory Point Games



“Men of Harlech, stand you …  AAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!” 

Don’t let this happen to you.

If I’m a little bleary eyed this morning, it’s because I was up past my bedtime playing Zulus on the Ramparts, a solitaire game about the Battle of Rorke’s Drift from Victory Point Games’ States of Siege series, designed by veteran grognard Joe Miranda.  In the few times I had played it already I had gotten a quick and unpleasant result, as the Zulu imps almost effortlessly overran my defences and the rifles fell silent.    This game was a different result.  Miraculously the Zulus held off until the defences were reinforced, giving me time to get all my heroes, Bromhead, Chard, Colour Sgt. Bourne, Hook, Hitch, and Ammunition Smith the Padre among others all on the firing line.  When they came on, we let them have it, and while they got close to our final redoubt, it was Steady Lads Steady and Men of Harlech and we dropped them as they came.   All through the night we held, and then the last impi came on like a black thundercloud,  and we were down to our last cartridges, but we held, by God.  It was a Martini Henry miracle with a bayonet and some guts behind it.

Well, as you can see, I enjoy this simple game.  If you’ve played other VPG solitaire games, like Dawn of the Zeds, you’ll recognize the basic idea.   The bad guys (four Zulus impis of various strengths) each start on their own track and their progress is chit driven.  If any one reaches the centre of the board, you lose.   You can help your cause by building two sets of barricades, if you have time, to buy yourself some more space and time to defend. As the Zulus advance, you are drawing cards which allow you to bring various heroes and personalities into play (like Dick, the Surgeon’s dog) and Pvt. Hook, or any of the various volley cards which allows you to engage the Zulus from various ranges.    Each turn you have to chose an action - do you fire a volley, work on extra barricades, pass out more ammo, or get one of your personalities into the battle to use their various abilities?  You have a lot of heroes (all those VCs, after all) which help, but never enough time.

There is a day phase, and a night phase, which is worse because it’s harder to hit the Zulus at night unless buildings catch fire, which they can do.  There are also some random event cards, and some what ifs, like Company G actually showing up and helping the garrison.  If you want pics and more comments, you can find the ZotR page here on BGG.  At $40 it’s at a midrange price for a boardgame, and the components have the usual VPG high quality of treatment - a hard mounted board, professional cards, and thick MDF laser cut playing pieces, so to my mind that’s a good game at a fair price.  While this is a solitaire game, it would be fun to take to the pub/club and play a few times.  A quick defeat can take twenty minutes, but an epic stand might take an hour.  My record so far is one out of three wins, so it’s a challenging game.

 I have this week off, so I’ll probably watch Zulu for more inspiration.

Blessings to your die rolls!




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