Tag Archives: gaming

Fishbreath Plays: Armored Brigade Review

As the annual treachery of daylight saving’s close casts its pall over Many Words HQ here in Western Pennsylvania, we turn our attention to another hilly part of the world of somewhat greater interest to wargamers and the broader defense affairs community: the Fulda Gap.

Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm is my current recommendation for the definitive Cold War armored combat command experience. Can Armored Brigade unseat it? Read on to find out!

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Parvusimperator Reviews: Resident Evil 2 (Remake)

Remaking movies is a terrible, terrible idea. Remaking video games can be a great idea, and Resident Evil 2 is a good example of a remake done right. The original was made in 1998 on the original playstation, featuring PSX graphics, fixed perspective cameras, and the sort of “tank controls”1 that only die hard purists and masochists enjoy.

Modernizing the game was done with the help of the engine from Resident Evil 7, giving modern controls and excellent modern graphics. Interestingly, and unlike Resident Evil 7, the remake of Resident Evil 2 has a third-person perspective. It’s a well done third person, and I’m ok with that.

Some of the structure of Resident Evil 2 remains intact. You can choose between one of two characters, Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield for your playthrough of the story, and then you can opt to play as the other character for a complimentary story. Leon and Claire have some different boss fights, different weapons, different collectibles, go through different areas, and even work with different NPC helpers. There’s plenty of replay value to be had here.

There’s more fun to be had in the extra modes. There’s The 4th Survivor, which changes the formula by giving you an inventory full of weapons and healing items, but has nothing for you to pick up to restock with. Then there are some DLC scenarios which add some new zombie types, lootable backpacks, explosive backpacks, and vending machines. The vending machines are a neat twist, with each one featuring three items, but you can only pick one of them.

If you’re a fan of survival horror, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up.


  1. Amusingly, while I love tanks almost as much as the Stavka, I do not enjoy classic Resident Evil “tank controls” at all. 

Parvusimperator Reviews: Ace Combat 7

My first flight gaming love was, like that of many youngsters, something very arcade-y. Namely: Rogue Squadron. Recently, I decided to return to my arcadey roots and pick up Ace Combat 7, the latest entry in a series that I had last played on the Playstation 2.

To repeat, this is an Arcade Flight Game (TM). Your plane carries over one hundred missiles, and you’ll have targets for all of them. If you’re expecting realism, go look up some DCS reviews.

Ace Combat 7 is set in the fun Namco-created world called “Strangereal” which was probably made by someone cutting an existing world map into pieces and then playing around with them. All the country names are fake and any resemblance to actual countries is purely coincidental by design. So we don’t have to argue about how many planes some country really has. Oh, and everybody gets to mix types, because engaging a flight of Tu-160s escorted by Mirage 2000-5s is awesome. You also have a big tree of unlockable aircraft and parts to buy with points earned from missions. Those missions are graded, of course.

The missions themselves are a pretty solid grab bag of types, though the escort ones are a hot mess. Par for the course, really: escort missions are always made of suck. Missions where you have lots of targets to destroy are a good time, as expected. There are also a few missions where you have to work on your target identification. You won’t know whether a target is hostile or not until you get close enough for positive identification. Shades of Vietnam there. And of course, there are ‘boss fights’ with either giant enemies with lots of sub-components or fancy plot armor. Again, nothing too fancy or out of the ordinary.

Overall, Ace Combat 7 is an excellent entry in a field that doesn’t have a lot of recent games. If you like lobbing lots of missiles at things, give this one a try. It’s loads of fun.

Uncharted Questions

A classic question for fans of the PS3 was “What’s your favorite Uncharted game?” Back then there were 3. Of course, we also have a PS Vita entry and the fantastic finale on the PS4. Today, I’ll look at the original questions. I love Uncharted 4 to death, but it has a huge leg up on the rest, being on a newer console with notably better graphics and an improved engine.

Of course, we have engine improvements in Uncharted 1, 2, and 3 as well, but they’re all on the same hardware, so it’s something we can adjust a little better for. Uncharted 3 has the nicest unarmed combat system, featuring attacks, blocks/counterattacks, and grabs. It also lets you throw grenades back. Of course, this ended up leading to a ton of grenade spam fights, and that’s honestly entirely too obnoxious. There are also a number of really frustrating encounters, moreso than in either Uncharted 1 or Uncharted 2. Uncharted 3 also loads up on the gimmicky characters that take away the efficacy of some of your toys. It has the highest number of fights that I found annoying.

From a story standpoint, Uncharted 3 also has story issues stemming from a rewrite necessitated by Graham McTavish, the voice actor for Charlie Cutter, getting a significant role in The Hobbit. This ended up pulling him out of the production of Uncharted 3, forcing a number of story changes. Part of the reason I play the Uncharted games is for the story, and this doesn’t help things.

I really want to love Uncharted 2, because it has some of my favorite set pieces. But it also has a super obnoxious boss fight, and that is some bullshit. And then there’s this guy.

Jeff. Elena’s cameraman. His role in the story is to prove that Nate loves Elena, and then to get out of the way. By dying. After being shot but not before you have to endure an excruciatingly aggravating sequence where you have to carry Jeff through a running gun battle. Have fun trying to play a cover shooter when you can’t use cover. In the finest tradition of Galaxy Quest, we can see that Jeff’s only role is to die to prove that the situation Nate’s love for Elena is serious because he doesn’t have a last name.1 We know everyone else’s last name.

It’s also one of the less well done parts of the game, frankly. I get that Elena is Nate’s true love. And I get that they’re right for each other. Sure. But the way that gets presented in Uncharted 2 isn’t all that great. Honestly, Chloe seems like the better choice for most of that game. It would have been better to explore Elena’s character more. More time building that, less time carrying some idiot who’s going to die in the next scene.

Uncharted 1 has the least graphical polish, and the least nice fight mechanics, but the best story by far. Really the only annoyance is the sixaxis system, which is forced into it as an early PS3 title. While these are annoying, they’re not a huge deal, and it’s the one problem that gets completely rectified in the Uncharted HD Collection. Fixed grenade controls make Uncharted 1 a joy.

And of course, the other reason to leave out Uncharted 4 is that it’s really the best of the lot. Better controls, nice combat, stunning vistas, and a fun story.


  1. Apparently you can find one in the asset files if you dig around in the HD collection on PS4, but those are hardly called out in the narrative/dialog/anywhere you might actually notice. 

Parvusimperator Reviews: Marvel’s Spider-Man

I am sick to the back teeth of giant ensemble cast superhero movies, and I’ve played a ton of bad superhero games in my youth. For a game to stand out, it needs to be amazing. Spectacular, even. Insomniac Games has stepped up with their take on everyone’s favorite web-slinging hero in Marvel’s Spider-Man.

Things the game does right: damn near everything. First, pitfalls avoided. It’s not a rehash of the origin story, thank God and Stan Lee. We’ve got a somewhat-experienced Peter Parker here who doesn’t have to “learn how to be Spider-Man” for the millionth time. It’s not a redo of any other story either. They’ve gone and made their own story for you to enjoy.

Let’s talk about that story some more. It is brand new, but it checks all of the boxes that you would expect from a Spider-Man story. We’ve got complications. We’ve got good characters who are going to TURN BAD. We’ve got touching moments with MJ. We’ve got financial woes. We’ve got perpetual tardiness. We’ve got Spidey Quips. We’ve got famous villains that you know and love to hate. We’ve got J. Jonah Jameson (now with a radio show) calling you a MENACE and accusing you of being in cahoots with various evildoers. We even have a cameo appearance from the late Stan Lee himself. And there’s a brassy, awesome soundtrack that feels very ‘comic book movie’.

Being a Spider-Man game, this is set in New York City, and the devs at Insomniac did a great job of giving you a lovingly recreated Manhattan to play in. Thanks to modern processing power, you can web swing from Harlem to Wall Street without any loading screens. There are tons of recognizable New York City landmarks for you to see, plus a whole bunch of appropriate Marvel landmarks, like Avengers Tower. And you get around via web-swinging, which is the right mix of simple controls, dynamism, and just a bit of imprecision to be tremendous fun. It’s very easy to get the hang of, and it looks right out of a good Spider-Man movie.

On to combat! Combat feels like a somewhat more refined version of what we see in the Arkham games. More refined in the sense that Spidey’s gadgets are a lot better integrated into the fighting. It’s a lot easier to select gadgets, and they fit into your other attack and evasion work really nicely. Another nice feature is the combo bar. Fill it, and you get a finishing move, but you can also use it to replenish your health.

I would also like to praise the randomized minor crime mechanic. In each section of Manhattan, there are various factions who might do some crimes like try to hijack an armored truck. And, of course, you can go stop them. The timers are such that I never felt that I was overwhelmed by crime, or had somehow gone back to pre-Giuliani New York. Plus, after you stop a set number of crimes (five per faction, usually) those stop. Which is nice, because I get really sick when those become never-ending like the dragon encounters in Skyrim.

And now, things I don’t like. Happily, it’s a short list. First, there are sidequests that seem to require more precision in the web-swinging than the system is capable of delivering, which makes them a giant pain. Those quests were both frustrating and verisimilitude-breaking, as I felt like some sort of useless tetherball, not an amazing superhero. Happily, those quests are both few and number and entirely optional. The other annoying bits are the parts where you’re playing as Peter Parker (i.e. not costumed) and you have to walk around between cutscenes. With the exception of the bits in the lab, where there are plenty of things to mess around with, these felt entirely superfluous. Just work it into one cutscene, guys. It’s ok.

Overall though, it’s a great game. Highly recommended.

Fishbreath Plays: Sengoku Jidai: Shadow of the Shogun

The clunkily-named Sengoku Jidai: Shadow of the Shogun is, at its core, a turn-based tactical wargame set on the battlefields of Asia during the Sengoku period, developed by Byzantine Games and published by Slitherine.

That sells it short, though.

The Sengoku period is a fascinating time in Japanese history, familiar to anyone who’s played a Total War game with ‘Shogun’ in the title. Competing daimyo fought for the title of shogun, de facto ruler of Japan. Usefully, at least for wargame designers, it was a century or so of near-constant war.

Sengoku Jidai has a number of expansions which extend it well beyond Japan in the 16th century, to China and Korea in the same era, all the way back to Japan in the 12th and 13th centuries. With the exception of gunpowder, warfare in those eras was broadly similar, so I won’t make too much of the differences. (Also, my interest in the era mainly runs toward the Sengoku period, and that’s what I’ve played extensively, so I’ll stick with talking about it.)

Gameplay

I can’t find a solid source to confirm or deny that the battlefield rules in Sengoku Jidai are based on a tabletop wargaming system, but it feels like they could be. They’re clean and simple.

Movement is on a square grid. Combat is pretty mathy, but comes down to Points of Advantage which affect the result, and which are gained or lost based on many of your typical wargame conditions. (Think spears against horses, rough terrain and disorder, morale, and so on.) Turning units is hard, as is shifting them long distances; they’re fairly slow, and 45-degree turns are about as much as you can manage without running out of action points. Units outside of their generals’ command range are even less mobile, an unusual but sensible design choice. Rather than stack up more combat modifiers, generals simply yield a more flexible, better-coordinated force. Works for me.

When units get into melee combat, they usually stay there for a few turns, wearing each other down and slowly inflicting losses until someone breaks. Once units get into close combat, you lose control over them, and even if your unit routs its opponent, you may not get control back—units automatically pursue routers, and may charge enemies in their paths.

There are good tutorials, both in the sense of tutorial missions and in the sense of tutorial popups explaining events as they happen, and between those and the elegance of the rules, it’s easy to get to grips with the system and start with the generalship.

Finally, for the cost of entry, you get a random map generator, a random battle generator, some historical scenarios, and some dynamic campaigns (simple ones, but enough to contextualize battles). Even the base game gets you the Sengoku Jidai campaigns and the Imjin War, I believe. If you enjoy the gunpowder- and artillery-heavy armies of the latter, I’d recommend picking up the Mandate of Heaven DLC, too, which buys you expanded Chinese factions and four more dynamic campaigns.

Presentation

I don’t have a lot to say here. The sounds are competent but uninspired, though the music is pleasantly atmospheric. The unit graphics are little groups of men and horses, more in the vein of counters than anything else. The landscapes are quite pretty, to the extent that they can be given the square grid they have to fit, and have a whiff of Japanese landscape painting about them in color palette and design.

One notable trouble spot is the lack of anti-aliasing, which is a bother for a game featuring spearmen aplenty. Another is that units don’t shrink as you batter them. A 1500-man unit of yari ashigaru looks the same at full strength as it does after losing 600 men, the only difference being a more tattered flag. As far as I’m aware, there’s no game mechanic which requires easy knowledge of a unit’s original size, so I count this as a flaw.

Verisimilitude

If you’ve read any of my previous wargame reviews, you’ll probably remember that verisimilitude is just about my favorite word in this kind of article. The point of a wargame is not to simulate every arrow and every man down to the smallest wound. The point of a wargame is to evoke a sense of place.

So, what is evocative about Sengoku Jidai’s gameplay? What puts me in the mindset of a field commander in 16th-century Asia?

First: deployment is crucial. On the scale of a battlefield, infantry is slow. Even cavalry takes a while to get where you want it. If you deploy your main body poorly, you can easily lose a battle you should have won. If you deploy your main body well, taking advantage of the terrain and the strengths of your units, you can win battles you might otherwise have lost.

Second: loss of control is rapid. Once the lines crash together, the outcome is largely out of your hands, except insofar as you contribute to key points with flanking maneuvers. As the general in command of an army, your responsibility is to deploy your forces well and, on the approach, meet weak points in the enemy’s deployment with strength. That seems accurate to me.

Like all the best wargames, when I get into the groove, it doesn’t feel like a game, in spite of the tabletop feeling of the rules. I give it my recommendation.

Miscellaneous

It’s available on Steam, but doesn’t work with Steam Play/Proton/Wine on my Mint 19.1 system, and as far as I know, doesn’t have high-DPI support.

Wargames I Would Play: Civil War Operational Logistics

As regular readers may remember, I’m slowly slogging my way through Shelby Foote’s Civil War, and I’m struck by how little most Civil War wargames resemble the battles recounted therein, in two different ways.

First: movements in the field were often dictated by logistical concerns: I’m at the end of a tenuous supply line, and Jeb Stuart just cut it; Vicksburg is supplied over the railroad from Jackson, and Grant just captured Jackson. Wargames usually abstract supply to ‘in supply’ or ‘out of supply’, without regard to combat and noncombat supplies. It was entirely possible for an army to have plenty of food but no ammunition or vice versa, and in fact it was frequently thus. Wagons, horses and mules, forage for same, and rations or foraging for the soldiers were daily concerns.

Nor do the Civil War wargames I’ve played fully emphasize the crucial importance of railroads and river control. A torn-up railroad in your backfield wasn’t a minor inconvenience, it was a critical problem which could derail (ha) an entire offensive. Supply dumps were important, but so were the routes by which those supplies reached the front. See also Grant’s first few moves at Chattanooga.

Second: an army commander’s interactions with his troops were almost entirely through his corps commanders. He might shuffle a division from place to place, detaching it from one corps to reinforce another, but he generally wouldn’t dictate exactly how each division was supposed to be arrayed. His communications with his corps commanders would also often be over insecure or unreliable channels—letters entrusted to couriers, telegraph lines, or runners on the battlefield. His corps commanders might misapprehend his instructions, or those instructions might be rendered irrelevant or impossible to follow by changing circumstances or bad maps.

So, could a wargame simulate some of these snags? I think so, with some combination of the following features. I might work on this some myself, or leave it as an exercise for the enterprising reader. Either way, I lay no claim to any of the ideas here.

Grant’s campaign against Vicksburg is the obvious grand campaign for a game with a logistics focus: it lasted longer than any other in the war while taking place along one of the most interesting theaters in history, the Mississippi River.

Unreliable Maps

Unreliable maps are so common in war, and such a linchpin for the other features implied by the above and laid out below, that it’s surprising that no wargame I’m aware of has done them.

The primary kind of unreliability in the Civil War is missing features: maps which don’t show certain roads or certain impassable terrain features. Ultimately, this is just a different kind of fog of war, eliminated not by simply moving into it, but by dedicated scouting and mapping. It also seems to require different levels of fog of war, to represent easy or difficult features to uncover.

In the Mississippi campaign, Grant wasted a bunch of time on various canal-digging and river-diverting projects, in large part because his maps were no substitute for detailed local knowledge. Only by attempting those projects and failing at them did he eventually come to some workable solutions.

Detailed Terrain and River Systems

In the Mississippi campaign, high-resolution elevation data and a river level simulation are all but requirements, and probably the hardest part of doing a good wargame of this sort.

In the 1860s, the Father of Waters rose and fell with the rains and the seasons. A canal dug in November might overflow its banks when the spring flood comes, as the surrounding countryside floods too. A river passable by ironclad in late April might be entirely unnavigable by steamboats in late August. The ever-shifting terrain of the Mississippi basin makes for a fascinating battlefield, and one that isn’t ordinarily well-represented by wargames.

Detailed Supply

The wargame I picture is driven much less by combat than by supply. You can get away, then, with abstracting combat pretty heavily. (See below.) I don’t think you can get away with abstracting supply as much as usual. At the same time, you don’t want to get too deeply into the weeds. Some items you probably want to track separately:

  • Food: either bring it with you in your train, or forage from the countryside around you. The latter option requires constant motion, or else you run out.
  • Forage: distinct from food for the troops, forage is food for your army’s beasts of burden. It comes up a lot in Foote’s history. If you don’t have forage, you have trouble moving your train as well as your artillery.
  • Ammunition (small arms and artillery): you probably don’t need to track ammunition with more granularity than the foregoing parenthetical.
  • Environmental supplies: winter coats and boots, tents, and the like. Less a problem for the Union. More a problem for the Confederates.

You probably also should track things like pontoon bridges separately—their lateness to the battle was what torpedoed Burnside’s crack at Lee. (Well, that and Burnside’s decision to go ahead with an attack after it was no longer a surprise.)

Weak Command

An army commander’s experience in the field was generally limited to watching from a headquarters, receiving reports from the field, and hearing (or failing to hear) subordinates engaging in battle.

The extent of his command, too, was limited: ensuring subordinates are in the right place, ordering attacks at a given time, and shuffling divisions around.

I think the Command Ops approach is a reasonable one for a game of this sort, though likely with even greater obstacles between the commands you give and their execution by the troops. Your runners might be captured or killed, and in most cases your orders will move at the speed of horse. If a corps of yours gets into action elsewhere on the field, you may not even know about it before you get reports saying they’ve retreated. Certainly you’ll have a hard time exercising much direct command in battle.

Conclusion

The question, then, is would a game like this be enjoyable to play? It’s hard to say. Command Ops manages to make order delays fun, but I’m not so sure that they would stay fun when your duties are primarily ordering people to capture, repair, or tear up railroads, and you rarely have very much direct control over the course of a battle.

Like I said, I don’t have the time to make this a reality, not even at the prototype stage, so history may never know the answer to the question above. Still, I think it would make for a fresh and interesting take on simulations of the Civil War.

Parvusimperator Reviews Yakuza 6

I picked this up mostly because I heard from a couple friends that this series was great. I only found out after the fact that it might have made more sense to start with the prequel Yakuza 0. No matter. I have Yakuza 6 and that’s where I started the series. So what do I think?

I love Yakuza 6.

There, that’s out of the way. Now, let’s get down to the why. Yakuza 6 is one part soap opera about criminals, one part fantastic beat-’em-up, and one part sort-of-open-world game. Let’s look at each of those.

The story is very much dramatic soap opera. I don’t speak Japanese, so I’m doing a lot of reading of subtitles. I don’t really mind. I think the story is loads of fun, mostly because it’s so different. It does have a bit of an anime feel to it in the ‘awesome drama trumps some realism’ department, but that’s ok. If you want to skip the cutscenes, you can. You’re missing out on some great story though. Just because it’s a little stylistically different doesn’t mean it isn’t well written. And fun. It’s lots of fun.

I also want to take a moment to commend Yakuza 6 for doing a great job of bringing someone totally new to the series up to speed with a minimum of fuss. And I didn’t feel like I was being lectured to. That’s rare.

Combat is pretty fantastic. There are some combos, but they’re pretty simple. It doesn’t feel like an old-school fighting game with giant lists of button press sequences to memorize. What sets Yakuza 6 apart from say, the Arkham games, is that the environment is full of weapons for you to use. There’s a lot of fun in picking up random things and beating your foes with them. Plus, there’s a “Heat Mode” which lets you power up, punch with awesome blue flames, and use larger blunt objects to smash people in the face. Things like mopeds.

There are also a good number of cool unlockable moves. Not so much that it ever felt grindy, but you can definitely unlock some fun extras.

Yakuza 6 has some open world elements in that there are a lot of optional sidequests and minigames that you can do. Some of these can get annoying, so it’s good to space them out. However, I never found them to be anything but fun. I think my favorite was running around trying to befriend stray cats by feeding them. Or perhaps the spearfishing rail-shooter minigame. In any case, these are all nicely optional.

Overall, there’s a good, fun story, an excellent combat system, and a solid grab bag of minigames. I give it a thumbs up. Definitely worth the asking price.

The Opinionated Bastards: Tukayyid (Oct. 8, 3052)

Introduction

Well, it’s a week or two late, but we’re back.

The Action of September 28, 3052

Scouts indicate that a rebel force is moving in the direction of Bear’s Bruisers, who have been bearing the brunt of the fighting so far. The Bruisers move slightly toward Second Lance to take up defensive positions amidst some hilly scrubland, and position themselves so that the rebels will come across their positions in darkness. A snowstorm blows in as they wait.

Second Lance is on the march, but won’t arrive for eight rounds.

Deployment

The rebel force appears to the north, looking battered already. The length of this campaign is wearing them down pretty seriously, especially given their lack of logistical support compared to us.

The Bruisers deploy in the middle of the battlefield, in formation. The darkness means it’s going to be difficult to shoot at long range.

Round 1

The two forces move closer together, but remain well outside of effective weapons range.

Round 2

round2

A solitary Wasp is now quite close to our forces, but impossible to hit based on its movement, the falling snow, and the darkness.

Round 3

round3

Teddy Bear and Wizard both stand still this turn, hoping to get good shots off at the Wasp or perhaps one of the vehicles. Severe moves closer. Her Koshi’s weapons are best at short range. Euchre follows her.

As it turns out, only Wizard‘s large laser and Severe‘s ER medium lasers are sufficient. They both take shots best described as speculative at the Galleon tank.

Predictably, everyone misses.

Round 4

The rebels continue to pull back as the Bruisers advance, staying just out of medium laser range. Wizard takes a shot and misses.

Round 5

round5

The rebels seem to commit to an attack as the Bruisers continue to push forward. The Wasp dead ahead is the primary target, but if shots at the vehicles are more plausible hit chances, we’ll take those instead.

Even at this relatively close range, hits are unlikely on a moving target, as our mech pilots try to put their sights over a very slightly darker moving shape in the darkness of the night. Teddy Bear‘s medium laser bites deep into the Wasp’s torso armor. Everyone else misses.

Round 6

round6

Now this we can work with. Severe took the unusual step of not moving. Her Koshi has very good alpha strike damage, which we’re going to try to exploit by giving her the best chance to hit we can.

Finally, some results! Teddy Bear hits the Wasp again, though only with his flamer. Wizard puts five of her six SRMs into the side of the Galleon tank, the explosions ripping through its armor, cutting cooling lines in its engine, and exposing its turret-mounted small laser. Severe hits the Locust, cutting off its right arm and nearly blowing its right torso out its back armor, and Euchre‘s medium laser severs its left arm.

Teddy Bear kicks the Wasp’s left leg out from under it to close the round.

Round 7

round7

The Wasp falls after taking Teddy Bear‘s kick, and fails to stand this round, so Teddy Bear turns his torso on the Locust and plans to kick the Wasp again. Wizard likes her chances shooting at the Locust, so lets her sights settle on it while Euchre and Severe take aim at the nearby Galleon.

Wizard and Teddy Bear combine to knock out the Locust’s right torso, while Euchre notches the kill on the Galleon with a medium laser shot that punches right through the battered front armor and into the crew compartment.

For reasons unclear to me, Wizard doesn’t get the option to make a physical attack. Teddy Bear kicks the through the prone Wasp’s right torso, while Severe turns her Koshi’s fists on the Locust, hitting twice. (The Koshi’s weapons are all torso-mounted, which means Severe can attack with all of them and still punch.)

Cleanup

The two mech pilots eject, leaving only a Vedette on the field. Wizard and Euchre pause to pick up the ejected enemy mechwarriors, while Severe and Teddy Bear advance to finish off the Vedette. Severe gets the kill with a devastating punch, cracking the tank’s side armor with an uppercut which flips it onto its back.

Damage, Injuries, Salvage

salvage

It was very nearly a perfect mission. Teddy Bear and Euchre took some hits, but only from machine guns.

For salvage, we take the Wasp and the two burned-out vehicles. We’ll strip the armor and weapons and sell the chassis.

Special Mission: Star League Cache

On October 1, Rook‘s Stalker finishes its refit, now kitted out with Artemis-capable LRM-15 launchers along with ER Large Lasers and sufficient heat sinks to fire everything. She takes it out for a little shakedown run in a peaceful area of the Bastards’ AOR, only to see a big blip on her sensors.

It’s an Emperor EMP-6A, a Star League-era mech packed with advanced Inner Sphere technology. It’s not entirely clear where the rebels got it, but it’s on Rook to knock it down, hopefully in such a way that we can salvage it and add a third assault mech to the Bastards’ roster.

Deployment

Rook starts on the north edge of the battlefield, her view of the Emperor blocked by buildings in a small outlying town.

Round 1

She moves south. The Emperor stays out of range, keeping behind the buildings.

Round 2

round2

See round 1.

Round 3

Rook tries to get around the east side of town to get a shot on the Emperor, but can’t quite manage.

Round 4

round4

The Emperor moves into range. Rook lets him have it with everything she can bring to bear.

Her alpha strike costs 43 heat, but deals a whopping 35 damage, knocking the Emperor prone. In return, an LBX-10 burst clatters against her right arm.

Round 5

round5

Rook has to be a bit more circumspect with her weapons fire this round, sticking with her LRMs and the ER Large Lasers. She doesn’t want to get too close—the Emperor’s weapons fit is deadly at short range.

Her goal for the next few rounds is to sneak around further to the east, whereupon she can collapse the building on which the Emperor is standing out from under it.

This round, Rook’s weapons deal 43 damage, as 27 of the 30 missiles she fired find their marks.

Round 6

round6

One more hex, I think, and then Rook can knock down the building. Moving more slowly, she finds the shot on the Emperor even easier this time.

Unfortunately, the Emperor’s shot against her is easier, too. A bit rusty at driving the Stalker, she puts a foot wrong as autocannon fire slams into her armor and tips over.

Round 7

round7

That was the opening the Emperor’s pilot was looking for. The enemy mech uses its jump jets to descend to the ground, closing inside Rook‘s missile range. That’s fine by Rook, though; she has medium lasers to spare, and in lieu of firing her LRMs, switches to those.

Round 8

It’s an old-fashioned slugging match now. Rook is a better gunner, but seems to have a little bit less damage on tap than the rebel pilot. Thanks to her efforts at longer range, however, she’s still ahead on the damage race.

Round 9

round9

Rook backs up as the Emperor jump-jets closer to her. She’s finding the Stalker’s performance most agreeable. Thanks to its combat computer, she can fire either her large lasers and missile launchers, or her large lasers and medium lasers, without worrying about her mech’s heat. That’s a major improvement over her previous ride.

Round 10

Alarms begin to flash in Rook‘s cockpit, indicating that her armor has been blasted away over her mech’s left arm. In return, however, her sensors indicate that she’s broken through the Emperor’s armor in multiple places.

Round 11

round11
The Emperor jumps up onto a ridgeline, so Rook moves into a hull-down position at its edge.

Round 12

Rook backs up slightly, hoping to stay out of melee range, but the Emperor is able to jump into position on the ridge above her, where it can kick down at her mech’s head.

She consults her cockpit displays quickly. With a worrying lack of armor on her left side, right where the Emperor is, she decides to try a risky close-range shot with her long-range missiles, hoping to knock him down before he’s able to bring a leg to bear.

She pulls her triggers, and weapons fire flashes back and forth between the two mechs. Alarms blare loudly in her cockpit as an LBX-10 shell impacts her mech’s left arm. With a sound of shearing metal, it breaks free.

Her missiles strike true, arcing out of their launch bays and arming just in time to pockmark the Emperor’s right torso. Her lasers, too, carve deep into it, and just as they finish their bursts, she sees the telltale signs of internal explosions. The force directed outward, the blossoming fireball nevertheless bends back a panel on the Emperor’s center torso armor. With her last large laser, Rook steadies her aim and squeezes the trigger. The large laser strikes true, slicing in behind the damaged armor to penetrate the Emperor’s engine. It staggers back, then falls to the ground, raising a vast cloud of dust as it hits.

Damage, Injuries, and Salvage

It takes some doing, but Drake manages to talk our ComStar liaison into letting us keep the Emperor in exchange for October’s paycheck.

The bad news is that the Stalker is pretty badly beaten up. The good news is that it won’t take all that long to fix, especially now that Rook‘s tech Edina Cameron is familiar with the design and can direct the repairs. Rook herself is unharmed, and permits herself a rare grin as the rest of the Bastards congratulate her on her victory in a most unexpected combat.

Kill Board(s)

In addition to the pictured kills, Rook notches one by taking down the Emperor.

On the strength of her Koshi, Severe is really rising up the board.

Last Battle

killboard

All-Time Leaders

  1. “Rook” Ishikawa (28, 9 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  2. “Drake” Halit (14, 6 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  3. “Woad” Kohler (14, 5 mechs, 1 Clan kill)
  4. “Carcer” Ngo (11, 5 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  5. “Wizard” Que (7, 6 mechs, 6 Clan kills)
  6. “Teddy Bear” Jamil (7, 4 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  7. “Severe” Payne (6, 5 mechs)
  8. “Double Dog” Dare (5, 2 mechs, 1 Clan kill)
  9. “Hanzoku” Yuksel (5, 4 mechs, 2 Clan kill)
  10. “Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
  11. “Milspec” Ortega (4, 1 mech, 1 Clan kill)
  12. “Ker-Ker” Ec (3, 2 mechs)
  13. “Euchre” Kojic (3, 2 mechs)
  14. “Blinky” Stirzacre (2)
  15. “Kicks” Hernandez (1, 1 mech, 1 Clan kill)
  16. Simona (1, 1 mech, 1 Clan kill)
  17. “Wojtek” Frajtov (1, 1 mech)

Status

It is now October 8, 3052. I really wanted to get a full month in, but there’s yet another battle pending.

Finances

We have 69.736 million C-bills in the bank.

Repairs and Refits

The techs managed to get Rook‘s Stalker turned around. The Emperor is under repair, pending arrival of a few parts.

Mechwarrior Claims and Assignments

  • For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
    • Captain Huri “Drake” Halit (Mephansteras) – Awesome Custom (refitting)
    • Lt. SG George “Linebuster” Atkinson (Hasek10) – Lancelot LNC25-02
    • Lt. SG Mariamu “Rook” Ishikawa (Culise) – Stalker STK-3Fb
    • Lt. JG Sung-min “Double Dog” Dare (a1s) – Thunderbolt TDR-5S-T
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega (milspec) – Crab CRB-20
    • Sgt. Tedros “Teddy Bear” Jamil (Knave) – Vulcan VL-5T
    • Cpl. Damayanti “Carcer” Ngo (Dorsidwarf) – Flashman FLS-7K
    • Cpl. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler (A Thing) – Grasshopper GHR-5H
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic (EuchreJack) – Trebuchet TBT-5S
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne (Burnt Pies) – Koshi Custom
    • Pvt. E-Shei “Ker-Ker” Ec (Kanil) – Lancelot LNC25-02
    • Pvt. Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (Hanzoku) – Guillotine GLT-4L
    • Pvt. Ik-jun “Wojtek” Frajtov (Blaze) – Trebuchet TBT-5N
    • Pvt. Xue-Min “Wizard” Que (Rince Wind) – Guillotine GLT-4P
    • Pvt. Abdul-Hafiz “Pepper” Popalzi (mrkilla22) – Archer ARC-2K
    • Pvt. Kevin “Blinky” Stirzacre (moghopper) – Ostroc OSR-2C
    • Pvt. Gwenael “Kicks” Hernandez (Sheyra) – Phoenix Hawk PXH-1K
    • Pvt. Elroy “Faceplant” Farooqi (NickAragua) – Dragon DRG-5N
  • The following mechwarriors are available.
    • Rec. Simona – Ryoken/Stormcrow B (missing lasers)

Action Items

It’s time for another assault mech organization question. We now have three of them. We could combine them with a heavy mech to make a proper assault lance, or we could continue to split them out among the other lances to make top-of-the-line heavy lances.

Also, we have to decide who gets to drive the Emperor. Linebuster is a prime candidate, being one of our better pilots in general and specializing in ballistic weapons, of which the Emperor has several. That would also free up his Lancelot for someone else to drive.

If we do build three heavy lances around our three assault mechs, I think it would make sense to reorganize Bear’s Bruisers a bit, moving Simona and the Ryoken in, and probably Hanzoku and Severe out to the heavier lances.

Parvusimperator Reviews: Rise of the Tomb Raider

A video game review! Yes, from me! I know, I don’t usually do these.

I picked up Rise of the Tomb Raider (20th Anniversary Edition) during a labor day weekend sale. I got it for my PS4, mostly on a lark. I figured that with all the DLC, and having a bunch of patches, I could probably get the $15 of enjoyment out of it.

I was skeptical because I am not a fan of the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot by Square Enix. I hated the fact that it’s an origin story, because I loathe origin stories, and I hated the QTEs. I can’t stand QTEs. They’re one of the worst parts of modern gaming, and I wish they would die1. Give me agency or make it a cutscene, game developers. It’s not that hard. There’s nothing wrong with cutscenes. Also, in addition to being a stupid, unnecessary origin story2, the 2013 game was populated with a bunch of other characters whose job is to die to prove the situation is serious and torment Lara.3

So, with all that in mind, what did I think of the sequel? It’s great. In fact, it seemed like they fixed a lot of gripes that I had with the first one. Good on you, Square Enix. Let’s do a deeper dive.

Are there QTEs? Yes, but they’re fewer in number, more spaced out, and the “windows” for button presses seem more forgiving. Also, a lot of them come up in the dodge-and-then-melee combat bits, but many of these are easily bypassed by those of us who can pull off a good headshot. So that’s a big plus.

Combat is much improved this time around too, with more weapons and a bunch of craftable ammo options. I will say that as a guy who has played shooters for a long time, I would have liked to have seen more difficult combat that wasn’t also tied to the survival mechanisms. Mostly because I want auto-heal on for all those times that I screw up the platforming and faceplant on a rock. I found combat satisfying overall. I thought some of the ‘boss fights’ could have been tougher.4 Or maybe that’s just because I like firepower, picked up the “easy button” and got on with life.

The story is better this time too. Lara is still “developing” as a tomb raider/adventurer/badass, but she’s got some skills and drive this time around. And there’s only one friend that hangs around the story. He’s a pretty ok guy, and we get to know him a bit. More time getting to know him would have been better, but this wasn’t awful. Lara is fundamentally a loner, and it’s nice to see us getting back to that.

I think the platforming was a little better in this one compared to the last, but it’s still not as good as Uncharted. One of the things I really liked in Uncharted 4 is that Nate will reach for ledges if and only if he can jump to them. I thought this was a great subtle hint as to what I shouldn’t waste time/restarts from checkpoints trying to reach. Alas, Rise of the Tomb Raider doesn’t do this, and I really missed the feature. I did like that as Rise of the Tomb Raider progresses, you get some toys to let you zoom around the environment more, and that was fun. Any game that lets me make my own ziplines is welcome.

Graphicswise, we’re long past the era when games would try to blow their competition away in terms of prettiness. The game looks good. There are plenty of spectacular scenic vistas, as befits an adventuring game. And I’m not much of a sound connoisseur, so I’ll merely state that the sound was never a problem. Not noticing it seems about the highest compliment I can pay, since my noticing it usually means it’s awful. Music was also good, though it lacked a kickass theme to really stick with me.

Overall, go for it. You’ll enjoy it.


  1. While I would love to see this be an agonizingly painful death, I am not a Bond villain, and am not choosy when it comes to the manner of termination with extreme prejudice. 
  2. Highly redundant, I know. 
  3. God forbid we reduce the number of characters and build attachments to them so the player gives a shit when they die because this situation is SRS BIZNIZ. /sarcasm 
  4. Protip: Grenade launchers are your friend.