Grapeshot [greyp-shot] noun: in artillery, grapeshot is a type of shot that is not one solid element, but a mass of small metal balls or slugs packed tightly into a canvas bag. [Wikipedia]

Dice Service Migration Status

The migration of the old KenWare dice service to the Brick Mill Games site continues apace. It is not a simple migration of code and data, however. There were bugs and usage issues with the old code, issues that I knew about but didn’t have real time to address. Well, truth be told, professional obligations (aka: my day job) had risen to a point where I had to focus on new responsibilities and I figured I’d let the old beast die on the vine and fade away. Ten years later and people were still using the tool, especially the on-line Britannia folks.

So, instead of letting it fade away, I’m fixing the usage issues and moving the architecture from an archaic (in relative Internet terms) page-based architecture to a dynamic service-based architecture. I’m essentially writing the tool I wanted to write ten years ago, but didn’t have the time, nor software platform solutions, available then.

So, that said, where are we with the migration?  The quick roll variant works completely.  Random numbers are being generated, logs/reports are being stored in a database and can be accessed. The original, full, e-mail-aware dice roller is next on the list. Following that, the Britannia Battle Resolver (BBR). There is still some user-interface tweaking, including a full-on theme overhaul, in the works, but I’m focusing on the functionality right now. Once it’s all put together, I’m going to remigrate the random number pipeline from KenWare and suspend dice rolling operations there. The log files, which are not in the same format anymore, will still be accessible from the KenWare site for 30 days after suspension of service.

I am posting status updates at the dice roller site as I make progress.

Steel & Steam

Development has slowed a bit as other irons enter the fire. Version 6 is ready for one more alpha playtest; I just need to print out some components and make the time. After one or two playings, it’ll be ready for the move to the beta playtest phase, where I send out components to outside game groups. I’ve already contacted one of my Band of Gamers peeps and he is interested. I just have to get off my duff and print and cut out more components.

Tactical Operations Command System (TOCS)

Playtesting with Paul, the chief design partner behind TOCS, continues since our reset at the Yankee ASL Nor’easter XXII tournament in early April. I must say, at the risk of self-aggrandizement, that this double-blind game system is spoiling me for wargaming. Playing defense with Luftwaffe field units and fallschirmjäger training units against a full US infantry division with attached tank and tank destroyer assets and, oh my gosh!, the metric f-ton of artillery that goes with a force that large, is actually fun to play. In an over-the-board, God’s eye-view game, he would simply line up and thrash me. Instead, he’s had to deal with finding hidden minefields and entrenchments and husbanding his units as they arrive from off-board. On the other hand, I’ve had to try to organize an overnight retreat under fire and pressure and he caught me mid-maneuver in a surprise thrust from a direction I suspected, but didn’t pay enough heed to.

If you’ve ever read the US Army official history, aka the Green Books, you’ll know how this game plays. Lining up units and counting factors doesn’t work, mostly because you don’t know specifically where the enemy is. You must conduct reconnaissance and probes to find the enemy and then pin them in place before applying appropriate force. It’s more difficult, but when you run a platoon of Shermans through a gap in the enemy line and wreak havoc, it’s quite satisfying.

This system, however, is going to be a magnum opus of design and implementation. The infrastructure alone, never mind the amount of R&D that must be applied to the rules and modules the form the actual game, is going to require a lot of thought, design and development. As I’ve been giving extensive thought to how something like this could work for over two decades, the amount of work is not daunting.  It’s quite exciting.

Ten Days in August

Now that winter is over, it’s vacation time. My wife and I are heading to Belgium for a driving tour through the Ardennes coupled with a stay in Spa and the thermal springs there. In addition to driving around and visiting numerous points of interest, during our drive from Spa to Leuven, I’ll be reconnoitering the area in and around Liège to get a sense of the lay of the land and the locations of the WWI fortresses. While the primary focus of TOCS design and development was grounded in WWII, Ten Days in August will bring TOCS into the WWI era.

Also on the itinerary for that day, we’ll be visiting the Museum Slag der Zilveren Helmen in Halen. I am bringing an old scrap book of historical documents for their review with an eye toward donating them to the museum. The primary document is a curfew leaflet that was posted in Leuven in the days prior to the devastating fire that occurred there in 1914.

Running 8

I’ve begun mulling the mechanics behind a train-based card game that I’m currently calling Running 8. Running 8 will be a fast-playing card game where players build their rail empires and/or try to sabotage their opponent’s ventures. I’m experimenting with borrowing the 7 Wonders game mechanic of hand-swapping. The difference will be a common board where card play can not only affect your capabilities and acquisitions, but can also affect other player’s, either directly or indirectly. There will be four eras, or rounds: 1830-1870, 1870-1900, 1900-1930, 1930-1955, although I may forego with the 1830 round.

I’ve started collecting game-specific data, but haven’t progressed much beyond that.

Business Operations

As I stated in my last post, Brick Mill Games, LLC is now officially up and running. While exciting, there are now business-oriented tasks in the queue that need to be addressed.  Additionally, I need to clean up the home page. We still don’t have anything sellable, but that’s no excuse for shoddy presentation.