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Three Moves Ahead 33 — A Lecture from Dr. Geryk

October 6th, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 26 Comments · Podcast, Three Moves Ahead


Sometimes Bruce misses a show he really needs to be on – like the one where we pronounced the death of the Dominions 3 game. This week, Dr. Geryk won’t give up and he makes a compelling argument along the way. Bruce admits to a new way of thinking about games, we talk about reviving our board game blogging (but we need help!) and we talk about wargames we like and don’t like.

We both say mean things that we should take back.

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Our Twilight Struggle game
Republic of Rome
1805: Sea of Glory


26 Comments so far ↓

  • JoffrĂ©

    There was a point, just prior to discussing Republic of Rome, where Bruce made a off-hand comment about how he was never playing Diplomacy again. I’m pretty curious as to why that is? I’ve played a few PBEM games of Dip and always found it exciting and completely nerve-wracking and really not particularly broken, so I’d be really interested to know what Bruce’s gripes are with it.

  • spelk

    Wow, another one on one session, I hope its not the sign that TMA is losing momentum with its panel.

    Anyway, some interesting points made about there not being an abundance of good strategy titles made in the casual game timeframe. I think there are some that are attempting this, but admittedly a lot of them are Advanced Wars clones (Weewar.com, Battalion). Armor Games[1] have a number of casual strategy titles that might be worth a look-see if its something you just want to ‘veg out’ to. I particularly enjoy the Warfare titles (1917, 1944). I suppose its because you have two game styles tugging away at each other, deep and meaningful strategic play – that often requires a lot of time in understanding and making the right decisions – versus easy to pick up and play in a short burst casual style gaming. The balance is going to be tricky. Perhaps the answer lies in playing episodes or parts of a grander campaign, but in bite size chunks? So your session involves a 30 minute scenario, that adds to or affects some grander campaign? Perhaps, part of these smaller sessions could be arranging your troops for bitesize scenario play later on? I think possibly a combination of web based kingdom control, along with down and dirty tactical skirmishes could be the answer to bridge this gap between complexity and brevity. I know one or two games that have tried this approach, Dreamlords (an MMORTS!), Saga, Battleforge, Pox Nora etc. That’s probably the way forward for strategy titles that have casual length gameplay and online capabilities.

    I think if Bruce and Troy can’t cajole Tom into submitting his last turn, perhaps the Dominions 3 game could have a post mortem, and give a brief outline as to the strategies employed, and the decisions made. Perhaps the game didn’t stretch long enough to come to any meaningful conclusions, in terms of who won, or who lost, but it would be nice to put the game to rest with some sort of closure – even if it just outlined the sides, the geography and placement, and the progress made.

    /em Raises hand for participation in the Republic of Rome TMA PBEM game!!!

    I’m not familiar with the Republic of Rome game, but I am willing to sit down and spend some time attempting to learn it, and I will agree to playing out my turns via email with the TMA folks playing the game. It sounds an interesting prospect, and as you can see by my comments here on Flash of Steel, I’m not shy in writing up my experiences, so I’d try and help out with the communal input there, if I could.

    Troy, I think your link to the RoR ruleset isn’t valid because BoardGameGeek uses a Captcha method of protecting file downloads from their site, so the link you’ve posted up has expired. However you can get to the main game information page [2], and a subsequent working link to the download of the rules.

    [1] http://armorgames.com/category/strategy
    [2] http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/1513

  • Troy

    Thanks for the fix, Spelk. And no, this isn’t a sign of lost momentum. Just a combination of circumstances as we get into the busy season for Tom and Julian.

    We should have quorum next week.

  • Michael A.

    Bruce made an interesting point in his discussion of the Dominions game: the losing players have to keep playing. And there – in a nutshell – is the problem with most PBeM gaming (and a good deal of strategy multiplayer gaming): a really good strategy game of this type would not require that the losing player should keep playing; i.e., there should be mechanisms that would allow losing players to gracefully drop out, as well as mechanisms that would gracefully end the game when the last opponent gives up (I have no answers to the problem – just thoughts).

    On the topic of quick-play wargames, I rather agree with Bruce’s original sentiment. Not that I don’t like the large-scale, 200+ hour monsters as well, but I don’t see why there shouldn’t be a niche for smaller, fulfilling strategy games or why they can’t be built. And no – I’m not going to claim Imperium Mini is the answer to that particular equation. I do think the boardgaming community have shown ways and means by which the strategy gaming community can be grown which the games industry have completely ignored.

    I think it is rather sad, because you see within boardgames how the industry revitalizes itself and tries to tread new paths, while computer strategy games to a very large extent trade on the nostalgia effect. Most attempts to make something new, IMO, seem to eventually turn up a dead end.

    I might be up for a game of PBM Republic, anyway, so feel free to drop me a line if you lack players.

    @Troy: please update my blog link when you have time; it has moved to http://blog.micabyte.com

  • Mike R.

    Was the two-hour Bulge game you were thinking of “One-Page Bulge” (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/4215) by Steve Jackson Games?

  • Josemas

    1) I was really looking forward to Dominions 3 discussion and was sad to see it die. There’s a whole bunch of us on QT3 who have finally picked up the game becuase of your discussions of the game, the manual, etc. Any chance of getting a sub player for Tom so the others of you can continue on with it?

    2) If you are time constrained and looking for quick strategy games, I love Uniwar on iphone. Asynchronous (take a turn every 24 hour turns generally, that take less then 5 minutes each, with very seamless multiplayer implentation), assymetric (3 races that bear resemblance to starcraft races) scifi turn based hex war game with few units and simple maps. Multiplayer advance wars with spiders.

    3) I loved Republic of Rome and like Bruce I have rarely played a full game of it but I love the idea of it. If you are looking for outsiders count me in, you dont know me but I do respond to public mockery.

    4) I am looking forward to the EndWar discussion, and it was a good call waiting for Tom since he and his cat are the only people in the fan club. I bought the game on his recommendation in crispy gamer (before he acknowledged that it was bloodless on the podcast :)) enjoyed it and keep wanting to spend more time with it.

  • Mike

    I really enjoyed the one on one with Dr. Geryk. I read a lot of Troy, Tom, and Julian’s work on various sites, FoS, Fidgit, GWJ, etc. But the Doctor doesn’t have an outlet that I know of, for me it’s just pre-mature nostalgia of Tom vs. Bruce.

    It was awesome to get an insight into what makes the good Doctor tick, thanks for the show Troy and Bruce!

  • Bruce

    ONE-PAGE BULGE!! Great call, Mike R. That’s exactly the game I was thinking of.

    @Joffre: I have simply played so much Diplomacy that I don’t feel there is anything left for me with that game. I’ve played it since 1984 or so, and I’m done now.

    I am totally excited about possibly getting a Republic of Rome game going.

  • Primemover

    Awesome inclusion/expansion of board game talk into TMA. I find the concept of PBEM a great idea, as one could assume it goes as far back as chess moves via good old-fashion mail. Having not played a game by mail/e-mail, does the mechanics of the game dictate whether it is a viable option to play remotely? Specifically in games that have dice rolls, how do you handle that? Is it the honor system or are these types of games not workable in this method of play? Keeping with the chess example, it is simple to state “piece X to square X” and wait for an eventual and expected reply. I assume in a game with dice rolls or a “random” result possibilities, the issue of integrity and honesty have to cross a player’s mind. Just curious about what others thought.

  • Scott R. Krol

    There are dice rolling websites where you can enter everyone’s email and it will spit out the results. Of course a lot depends on the game itself, as some games just don’t lend themselves to PBEM.

  • Primemover

    Regarding RoR, and this may not be news to some, but the original Avalon Hill game is out of print (used copies are available online). Interestingly, a company called Valley Games is suppossed to relesase a “new” version in November.

  • nullspace

    Are strategy games unique in the way that losing players must keep playing? In games that are decided by score, even if you are way behind and winning is hopeless, it isn’t any harder to score than it was at the beginning of the game. But in a strategy game, the loser is at a disadvantage to his opponent. The game is no fun because he is pretty much powerless to do anything but die.

    4X free-for-all games like Dominions have an additional problem, too. A war of conquest is supposed to be one possible profitable strategy, but that strategy needs one player to be a victim. Getting attacked seriously hurts your chances of winning, especially if your aggressor could have attacked another player instead. And the game balance typically depends on the victim fighting to the death rather than handing over his lands.

    Are there any games that avoid these problems? It looks like Solium Infernum will do this by deciding the winner based on “prestige”. Prestige is basically the player’s score, so being in the lead doesn’t make you stronger than other players. Plus, the diplomatic system looks like it will reward players more for fighting limited wars against strong players than for wiping out weak players.

  • Tom Chick

    Just to clarify to everyone, including Troy and Bruce, the issue on the Dom3 game is not my turn. The issue is that certain people have taken in excess of two weeks to submit a turn, so I tried gracefully to let the game die before one of the people who takes two weeks to submit his turn kills it. My attempt has obviously failed and I’m a bit irked that you guys have somehow managed to spin this as “Tom didn’t turn in his turn, so the game died”.

    Furthermore, although Troy has been pretty good at hosting the game, I didn’t feel the need to call him out for occasional mistakes. However, in this case, I have no choice but to to explain that I’ll gladly submit my turn as soon as I receive it.

  • spelk

    It only serves to highlight that your presence on the show Tom is required, so as to counter any sharp accusations from Bruce. I took it as Bruce’s usual dry humour at your expense, but perhaps you were done a disservice. Still, it will be nice to hear how the game progresses now that the TMA ‘gloves’ are off. :)

    Space Hulk was mentioned during the ‘cast, and I forgot to mention the newly unvieled Alien Assault[1] game (that isn’t actually Space Hulk) but is clearly very inspired by Space Hulk. Its moddable, so expect Space Hulk variants showing up.

    [1] http://www.teardown.se/

  • Dectilon

    If you have SA-accounts I can recommend checking out this Let’s Play of Risk.


    As for losing in Dominions 3, keep in mind that it’s more often than not in the interest of at least someone that you survive and act as a counterbalance, so if you’re beset, ask for help from your neighbors and see who bites. If it’s just a four-player game this might not work I guess, but in most Dom3 games you can often find ways to cling to power, and sometimes even come back and win.

  • Michael A.

    Strategy games on the PC have a tendency to not only require that the losing player keeps playing; they also often require that the winning player must keep playing (a recent example is the Empire: Total War campaign). It’s a matter of poor game design, rather than a specific feature of strategy games.

  • Kynes

    Excellent show as always, but one thing this time around is really bothering me.

    What game is Bruce talking about that he’s played his 738th game of? Sounds like Thirnan Taxes, but I can’t tell what he’s saying.

  • Bruce

    The game in question is Thurn & Taxis, which was the German “Boardgame of the Year” in 2006. In person, you can probably play a 2-player game in an hour. Online, it takes under 10 minutes.

  • Quinten

    I was just watching Board Games with Scott and realized that, if only Bruce had the time and money to do a podcast called “War Games with Dr. Bruce,” we would all be much happier.

  • Kevin

    You guys should get someone in the Dominions thread on QT3 to host your game. It makes taking the turns just a little more effortless, and more importantly, you can stick a 100 hours timer on there.

    The best thing that if you go last you can take turn turns in a row, since the turn crunches immediately after you submit your turn when you are last. This is great for players who want to make the most of a block of free time.

  • Solomani

    One of my favourite board games is Republic of Rome. I sucked most of my friends and there girlfriends into playing it some years back. So we had these massive 8 player games going on all the time.

    We finished lots of games – they can be over pretty fast with so many players. One story I still brag about is winning the game on turn 2.

    Early republic, I had the Ceaser card. We had both Punic wars active. I convinced everyone to spend all their money on legions to fight the wars – logic being I had the best general and the wars would destroy Rome if we did nothing.

    Went and defeated the wars, rebelled and declared myself emperor. Half the legions stayed with me (in terms of strength points). Defending general for the republic was my wife. She could only lose if she rolled a 2 (and I only win)… she rolled a 2.

    Game over. I made everyone say “Hail Ceaser!” before starting a new game.

    I *highly* recommend Republic of Rome. Its a great board game.

  • Michael A.

    Not to spoil a good memory but:
    – RoR at most takes 6 players under standard rules.
    – Caesar is not available in the early Republic under standard rules (only if you play without periods)
    – The players roll three dice in combat, which makes rolling 2 quite a feat… ;-)

  • Solomani

    Been a while since I played. It was the Ceaser family I believe and it was only 1 roll on the table that allowed victory for me.

    We added players so we had 7+ sometimes in one game. House rule.

  • Michael A.

    I guessed as much. The Julius card is nice; 3 oratory and 4 military, IIRC; always nice to get them early.

    Sounds like a fun game you had. :-D

  • Solomani

    Yeah, I cant recommend this game enough. Its up there with my personal greats like Conquistador and World in Flames.

  • Michael A.

    Seeing as how it’s one of only two games I’ve rated 10 on BGG (the other being Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage), I pretty much agree with you.