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Category Archives: Tracer Rounds

Tracer Rounds: What Do You Buy, Read, or Play?

Rapid fire thoughts about your game acquisitions ~

Brant Guillory, 11 October 2017

Plenty of us have a stack of wargames that we haven’t played yet. And quite frankly, there’s a not-insignificant portion of that stack that is, in all honesty, unlikely to ever get played. Occasionally, we’re just holding onto something in unpunched condition (ie, “investing”). Sometimes we got it, read thru it a bit, and decided we weren’t going to play it after all. But how many of us bought something with the express purpose of studying the game more than playing it?

What do you buy? What do you read or study? And what do you actually play?

That brings up a very interesting three-part question: What do you buy? What do you read or study? And what do you actually play?

In my case, I buy a lot of games from designers and companies I like to support (that said, I’m a bad comparison for “what do you buy?” because as the editor at GrogHeads and a regular reviewer of games, I don’t spend nearly as much on games as it might appear). But the games that I study and the games that I play do tend to diverge quite a bit.

Tracer Rounds: The Nostalgia of Mystara

A photographic journey through an adventurous youth ~

Brant Guillory, 10 July 2017

Most images enlarge when you click them

This started as a set of pics for a personal inventory of the RPG collection.  It turned into about half of the collection – this isn’t even all the TSR stuff! – but I wanted to at least get a some of the collection archived.  Once I had the pics, though, I figured it was time to bring back at least one random episode of Tracer Rounds, and share some pics and commentary on the Mystara collection.

As an aside, for folks who are really interested in Mystara, you should check out the Bruce Heard episode of the GrogCast, wherein we ask about his background with Mystara, and get a few good inside stories from the glory days of TSR.

Mystara, for those that don’t know, was the expansion of the game world that was first introduced in the X1 module that accompanied the expert-level set of the original no-prefix D&D, starting around 1981.  As the rules grew from basic to expert to companion and beyond, the rules series became known as the BECMI series.

How many of us started our adventures here?

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.