Academy - 878 Vikings

Category Archives: Tracer Rounds

Tracer Rounds: The Best Damn Songwriting You Never Appreciated

Can we finally give Guns ‘n Roses their due ~

Brant, 19 September 2016

Things have been a little too heavy lately, and we need to talk about something completely different…  So can we just take a step back and spend a few minutes admiring what totally bad-ass, criminally-under-rated, and never-appreciated songwriters the guys from Guns’n Roses were?  Sure, we all know the ‘hits’ – Welcome to the Jungle, November Rain, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, You Could Be Mine, and Sweet Child o’ Mine – and the ‘scandal’ songs like Used to Love Her, or It’s So Easy.  But once you get beyond the radio tunes (or heck, even with the radio tunes) the quality of songwriting you get from the band so far exceeds their contemporaries that they’re not even in the same galaxy.tr-gnr

Back in the late-80s, the popular talk was comparing GnR to The Rolling Stones, under the premise that supposedly no other band had conquered the rock and roll world on their own terms to the degree that GnR did.  That was typical rock journalist hyperbole, of course.  But honestly, the depth of songwriting, quality of musicianship, and production was blowing most other acts at the time out of the water – even GnR’s supposed contemporaries.  Motley Crue didn’t figure out how to write a song until their 4th album; Poison never quite did.  Ratt’s riffs were impeccable, but aside from the one-off lyrical curiosity like Wanted Man, they didn’t keep up.  Great White?  Slaughter?  Bulletboys?  XYZ?  Rough Cutt?  Firehouse?  Please.  Don’t embarrass yourself suggesting them.

Tracer Rounds: When Positives Become Negatives

Possibly the most raw column I’ve ever written ~

Brant, 05 September 2016

Some of these columns are a lot easier to write than others.  Some days I feel like I’m forcing it.  Some days I honestly feel like I’m mailing it in (see the column about professional sports from last Spring).  Some days the column just flows and before I know it, I’m at 2800 words and feel like there’s a lot left to say.

Some days, there’s a lot I want to say, and just not sure how.  Many of those turn out to be kind of personal, like the column about the Imposter Syndrome.  Today is one of those days, and it’s going to be hard for make this as coherent as it deserves to be, particular since I’m not quite ready to name names and potentially ruin lives.  But I also said back when I first started this whole endeavor that I was going to do this without a net (i.e., no editor), so you’re getting an unfiltered look at the insanity that ping-pongs around my head as I write these things.

Tracer Rounds: The C2E2

Revisiting an older concept to reinvigorate the re-conversation ~

Brant, 29 August 2016

So, about 5-6 years ago, I started playing with an idea for a game/system.  The idea was a basic unified set of rules for current events conflicts, with regularly-released updates that would provide unit information and updated map details for the current world situation.  This would allow any player to just grab the current update, and “play forward” from there, to see how the various conflicts might shape up over the next few months or years.  When the next update rolled around, the players would have the option to either reset to the current world situation, or adapt the update to their own ongoing conflicts and continue an “alternate future” using the update components.

It’s not like I was breaking any really new ground with the idea, but I had a pretty high-minded concept for how I wanted it to happen, but got quite bogged down in the actual execution of it all.

What I’d like to do here is reopen the discussion and attempt to reinvigorate the participation in the development of the rules and current updates, in the hopes that many minds are smarter than mine, and we can collaboratively move forward on an open-source set of rules and initial process for putting these kinds of tools in the hands of gamers with an interest in current events.

Tracer Rounds: I Know What I Did Last Summer

Game Camp, for the win! ~

Brant, 22 August 2016

GameCamp-65_n-cropThis past summer, I spent a week at a local game store (shout out to The Gamer’s Armory in Cary, NC) running a one week day camp for gamers.  This was not a GrogHeads-sponsored event, just Brant renting out some space from a local game store for a week of summer camp for kids, in an air conditioned and weatherproof environment.  The focus was on playing games – as many as they could in the week they were there – with an intent of trying a lot of new stuff.

We got a late start advertising the camp, in large part because we got a late start even deciding that we were going to do the camp.  For future summers, assuming I’m not working a day job somewhere, the plan is to start advertising for the camp much, much earlier.  Like March.  Seriously.  Parents around here get their kids scheduled out for the summer by the time the kids are on Spring Break, so that they can arrange family trips, parent vacation requests, etc well before Memorial Day hits.

Tracer Rounds: Wargaming the Soft Factors

What aren’t we training, and why not? ~

Brant, 23 May 2016

The US military has a wargaming problem.  Well, honestly, they’ve got a bunch, but we’re only going to focus on one specific problem in this column.  And I have no idea if other militaries suffer from a similar problem, so I’ll let our international readers (both of you!) chime in with your thoughts if you’ve got some inside information.TR-sim-map

The core of the issue is this:  US military games don’t account for soft factors, like morale, training, esprit de corps, technical competence of the commander, or simple soldier skills, among literally dozens of others.

Look, we know that not all units are created equal and that not all leaders are equally competent.  But There’s never a platoon of morons in a JANUS exercise, and at BCBST, you’re never allowed to stick C CO in the rear of the march column because if they were out front they’d be the most likely to get lost en route.  Well, you’re allowed to stick them in the rear, but if the evaluators ask you why, you’d better not give that answer, because how dare you accurately assess a weakness of a subordinate unit and then develop a plan to minimize the exposure to that weakness (and isn’t that a real piece of risk management?).

Tracer Rounds: How Screwed Up Are American Sports?

Yep, we’re talking sports… ~

Brant, 9 May 2016

Since last Monday, Leicester City have won the Premier League title and Newcastle have all but consigned themselves to being relegated.  And right there, I just lost 2/3 of my usual audience, so what the hell, who cares what I say next, right?  I mean, seriously, just fuck wargaming and why bother and who cares and lets turn GrogHeads into a sports blog!  Still with me?  OK, cool.

The Leicester City story is the one that’s resonating more around the world, because it’s the upstart underdogs sticking around and kicking the tails off the big boys all year.  It’s also remarkable because this isn’t a flash-in-the-pan run through an end-of-year tournament that we call the “playoffs” here in the US.  This is a season-long sustainment of excellence in the face of some pretty daunting odds, not UConn getting hot and winning the six games they needed to win the NCAA title.

Here in the US, we’re used to talking about “who can get into the playoffs” and “who gets hot at the right time” and we even devote endless hours of argument at the end of the college football season to “who is playing best right now?” as though September never happened.  We focus so much on the 3 rounds of playoffs, or 3 games of playoffs in football, that we lose sight of the sustained excellence over 4-6 months of continual games.  

Tracer Rounds: The Local Game Store – Guild Hall, Saloon, and Crack Dealer, all in one

Your FLGS probably deserves more respect that you’re giving it ~

Brant, 02 May 2016

I had to take a few weeks off.  Sorry.  The fallout from the last Tracer Rounds column cost me a good friend who thought I was (indirectly) taking shots at him and I hope that in time, we can reconcile our differences and become friends again.  But while I’m sticking by everything that I said, the last 2-3 weeks have really reconfirmed why I was so reluctant to wade into the topic in the first place.  tr-flgs

There was another discussion that popped up on my online radar that wanted to explore, though, and it involved the role of the FLGS in our hobby.  The genesis of the discussion was a new policy by some companies to release certain games through brick-and-mortar stores before making them available to online retailers, or setting certain pricing minimums for online stores, to keep them from undercutting the physical stores too much and driving them out of business.

For those of us where the brick-and-mortar stores serve a vital social role in our hobby, this is a Good Thing™ to help keep the community cranking along.  It’s somewhere that gamers can discover new games, meet new gamers, casually watch games being played to gauge their own interest, and generally socialize with those that share the same hobby.  It also gives us a local business to support that’s almost always run by fellow gamers.

Tracer Rounds: Don’t Be An Ass

The root of the word “harassment” is “ass” ~

Brant, 11 April 2016

As an aside: In case it’s never been clear, let me be perfectly transparent here – these are my thoughts.  This is not the official policy of GrogHeads and I’m not going to put words in the mouth of the rest of the management and staff.

I wasn’t going to write about this topic.  I really wasn’t.  There’s been so many online firestorms over it already that I kept telling myself “don’t get involved, don’t get involved, don’t get involved…” when I finally realized that not getting involved was, quite frankly, contributing to the problem.  And yes, there’s a whole litany of problems. TR-har

A few weeks back, Rex Brynen over at PaxSims (and occasional contributor to our forums and a guest on the GrogCast) did some investigating about the participation of women in the wargaming hobby.  Rex’s focus was rather particular, and at least a little self-motivated, since he teaches these things at the university level.  Additionally, Rex has access to the national-government-level professionals that make policy decisions based on wargaming insights, and the compositions of those audiences are way beyond the concern of the local Wednesday night game group.  Nevertheless, with a rather well-informed and even-handed set of questions wondering why there aren’t more women involved in wargaming, shields instantly went up across the gaming world (including here at GrogHeads) and we started seeing derisive comments about forced gaming and gender quotas and every other over-the-top reaction imaginable.  It was borderline embarrassing, especially when Rex’s follow-up article leaned heavily on negative reactions from here, and one or two other places, and he’s continued to discuss the issue.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, one of the reasons the GrogHeads readership has such sensitive “bullshit antennae” is that at least twice they’ve had to deal with men masquerading as female gamers.  One was doing it specifically to circumvent a ban in an online forum (which took about 8 seconds to unmask), and the other was doing it as a desperate cry for self-serving attention, given the other similar behaviors he’s exhibited around the web in his never-ending quest for ‘thou-shalt-cower-before-me’ personal glory and recognition (which continues even today).  Given the idiotic behaviors of those two individuals coloring the perceptions of many of our forumites, it’s not a surprise that any individual woman registering on our site might experience some out-of-the-box negativity.  It’s not fair, but it is reality (which – this just in! – isn’t particularly fair, either).  And while that was at least partly what happened, the wider pattern of dismissing the concerns of an entire hobby were what bothered me the most.