January 04, 2005

Things that pleased me, 2004 edition

If you, as I did, spent much of the early- to mid-80s playing board wargames and pen-and-paper RPGs, you've got to be pleased by the last couple years in computer gaming, with computer games that match if not surpass our cardboard-based pleasures coming out in nearly every genre. My passions in no particular order, were D&D, Squad Leader, Starfleet Battles and Wooden Ships and Iron Men... the first three have all been excellently digitally rendered in the form of Neverwinter Nights, Combat Mission, and Starfleet Command respectively... true-to-the-spirit homages without being fossilized (Peter Jackson style recreations, if you will). I can't ever seriously imagine playing the paper versions again. Late last year came the fourth and last in my personal set: the unfortunately named Age of Sail 2: Privateer's Bounty, by Russia's Akella Games, now in a remainder bin near you.

At $10 Cdn. and dropping, it might be hard to imagine, but this game is at least an order of magnitude better than any previous wooden sailing sim (and I've tried them all). The name is misleading, and the campaign games are silly... but underneath is a remarkably tight and realistic recreation of naval battles 1775-1815. Every major fleet or single-ship action of the period is included as a scenario, with good multiplayer support and strong AI for single-player, and a wonderfully flexible scenario and campaign editor (not to mention an easily moddable set of ship files, if the starter set database of 2,000 period ships of all sizes isn't working for you) allows you to alter or add nearly anything you could think of. Over Christmas I sketched out on paper a neat little 20-scenario multi-branched campaign covering the Lake Ontario skirmishes of the War of 1812. Everything I mapped out would have been totally doable in the built-in editor, my time allowing, and exportable to others in a zip file as a game mod. It's been a while since I did the whole computer game modding thing (it's sort of why I started keeping a personal website in the first place), but this would be a really fun next project, time permitting. Unfortunately, it doesn't for now.

Oh, and the spar-decked frigate model (ie, USS Constitution) looks like crap, unlike all the other ship models. Must have been an afterthought: I'd love to know if someone out there was quietly working on modding up a better one.

Still, I really do recommend picking this up, if only for the remarkable historical value. Neat little game.

Posted by BruceR at 11:01 PM

New insurgency size estimate from Iraq

TNR has a link to the latest quasi-official estimate of the actual size of the insurgency from pro-government sources: 40,000 active fighters (not counting the Shia side of the equation). It would be interesting to have the American intelligence chief's estimate instead, but it still might be worthwhile comparing to previous U.S. estimates:

Nov/03: 5,000 active fighters
Oct/04: 12,000 active fighters

The addition of 28,000 new active fighters... two divisions worth, in only three months... would be remarkable, if true: far outstripping the death rate due to American actions. But even if the Iraqi intelligence chief is overstating by a factor of two, and it's hard to see how he could be off by much more, we're seeing a remarkable growth rate. The figure of 200,000, including enablers, sounds large, but remember that would still only be 2-3% of all Sunnis. There's still a lot of room for further growth.

Posted by BruceR at 07:10 PM