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Tuesday Screenshot – Wolfenstein: The New Order

Wolfenstein has been around for decades.  The newest one is the most beautiful.

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This isn’t quite how I remember the future past. Even so, if you enjoy a quality dieselpunk shooter with interesting level design, frightening enemies and some great weapons modeling, try out Wolfenstein: The New Order. Or don’t and be labeled a wimp…however you say it in German.

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GrogHeads Reviews Valiant Hearts: The Great War

A review by Lloyd Sabin, 20 July 2014

Published by Ubisoft Montpellier

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Emotions and War

I don’t typically wear my emotions on my sleeve. In the last 20 years I think I have shed tears three times in front of my own wife. But there are certain events and historical phenomenon that bring out the sensitive, skinny-jean-and-mesh-truck-cap wearing emo in me…and World War I is at that top of the list.

Why, specifically? I don’t know. Maybe I view World War I through too romantic a lens and I believe so much of what has been written about it: “lions led by donkeys,” the “death of innocence” and “good bye to all that.” Those terms and the emotions, places, and situations they describe really resonate with me in a way that no other historical era does.

Zeppelins are portrayed in Valiant Hearts and you'll have to learn how to take them down!

Zeppelins are portrayed in Valiant Hearts and you’ll have to learn how to take them down!

It’s strange because I had direct contact with World War II through my grandparents: its horrors and its triumphs – so much so that World War II became almost commonplace to me. Where and when I grew up, everyone had a father, or more likely a grandfather, who fought in it. World War I is murkier; I have never knowingly met anyone who was there, so I have constructed what it was like for combatants on all sides in my own head. And this has produced a war where vengeance and justice have been replaced with melancholy and the longing for “the way things were before.” By World War II the world collectively knew that there was no going back; during World War I this loss was still very new and very fresh. This hazy, general feeling of loss and grief is captured masterfully by Valiant Hearts: The Great War (VH:TGW).

Paris at night, before the Battle of the Marne.

Paris at night, before the Battle of the Marne.

Airship Dragoon – The Interview

Lloyd has a chat with Steve Acaster, the developer of Airship Dragoon – which can be found on Steam’s Greenlight program.

Airship Dragoon is clearly and proudly anchored in a steampunk universe. What are some steampunk influences that have inspired you and can be seen in the game?

Airships! But I guess that one is rather obvious. There is something majestic about dirigibles in a manner which winged aircraft do not possess. They seem to glide effortlessly and silently, moving with grace whilst aeroplanes are noise and can’t just turn around on a fixed point. They’re oceanliners of the sky.
I always imagine their interiors decked out in mahogany and sumptuous shag pile carpets. You don’t much more steampunk than airships … except maybe goggles. All the characters in the game wear different goggles, with the exception of the British who have their goggles hanging around their necks. I tried to design the goggles for each faction to be indicative of the nationality, so the British have very traditional goggles, the Dastardly Pirates have an eye patch, the Austro-Hungarians a monocle and the Americans have wrap around shades to symbolize their modernity.

The “evil genius” weapons are also a popular steampunk theme. As the game progresses and the player upgrades his troops equipment the hardware becomes a little wackier. There are railguns which can blast through objects, a laser type “lightning gun” and of course no steampunk arsenal would be complete without a good old fashion “death ray”. There’s a little joke about radiation poisoning on the information screen for the “Atomic Death Ray”.
Defence-wise I came up with the idea of having a harness which projects a moving image which dazzles the enemy and reduces their accuracy. The concept for that was based on the naval “dazzle camouflage” of The Great War. I really liked the striking designs and wanted to include them visually. The great thing about steampunk is that there are no hard and fast rules, nobody is going complain that it isn’t scientifically or historically accurate – it’s not supposed to be! Steampunk is a lot more fun and a lot less po-faced than many other genres.
Science fiction can be quite sterile and take itself far too seriously. Nobody thinks that a characterture of Dick Dastardly with a zeppelin and a death ray is sterile!

Sample screen from the new realism mod available for Airship Dragoon.

Sample screen from the new realism mod available for Airship Dragoon.

Tuesday Screenshot: From Shogun 2 – Fall of the Samurai

This Tuesday, Shogun 2 strikes fear into the eyes of the enemy.

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See the look in the eyes of those two soldiers in the center of the shot? Clearly its fear…fear of my mounted troops mowing them down like weeds, like the men on the right side of the image. Maybe they’re also thinking that they may have picked the wrong side in this war. Or maybe they’re thinking of their wives. We’ll never know because shortly after this image was taken, every member of that unit was killed. We talk a lot about not prioritizing graphics, but this screen shot shows how well emotions like fear can be expressed with a good graphics engine.

Image & Caption Lloyd Sabin

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Tuesday Screenshot – Rome 2 Total War

The Tuesday Screenshot is goes back in time to Ancient Rome

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Playing as a barbarian tribe, there is little better in Rome 2: Total War than taking the capital of the known world. About 200 turns in (with some seasonal and turns-per-year mods running) I almost feel like I can call the campaign a victory by taking Rome. But Sparta and Athens remain...as well as some consolidation in Gaul. A city-burning marauder's work is never done!

Playing as a barbarian tribe, there is little better in Rome 2: Total War than taking the capital of the known world. About 200 turns in (with some seasonal and turns-per-year mods running) I almost feel like I can call the campaign a victory by taking Rome. But Sparta and Athens remain…as well as some consolidation in Gaul. A city-burning marauder’s work is never done!


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Celtic War Chariots – A Primer

Lloyd Sabin, 14 February 2014

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Celtic chariot pulled by a team of two

Beginnings and Basics
I wish I could have met the guy who invented the spoked wheel. It’s one of the most vital inventions in the history of mankind. Invented about 4000 years ago, it immediately made all human pursuits easier, from travel to commerce to war. And once the spoked wheel took off, it led directly to the development of the war chariot.

The earliest vehicles built for war and considered chariots were built by the Sumerians, Hittites, and Persians, around 2500 BC. Looking back, we today would probably just call them ‘wagons carrying a spearman’…because that’s exactly what they were. Heavy and cumbersome, with solid wheels, they were not very fast and made for easy targets until the Sumerians developed a more modern two-wheeled version, with the brand new spoked wheels. Speed gave the Sumerians battlefield dominance, and the modern technology of the spoked wheel began to spread.

Simultaneously, wheeled, chariot-like vehicles were being developed all over the world at the time. In the 2000 years before 1AD, examples of chariots appeared, often in a military role, in Chinese, Indian, northern and central European civilizations. The domestication of the horse helped with the advance of chariot technology, especially in European warfare.


A spearman mounted on a chariot, doing what he does best.

Perfecting the War Chariot, Inspiring Fear
Of all European cultures of the ancient world, the Celts are probably the best known charioteers, with some of the most feared wheeled vehicles of the ancient era. Not content just scaring the crap out of their opponents with tattoos, woad and war cries, the Celts also tricked out their combat rides with a host of nasty countermeasures that left their opponents reeling. This included scythed wheels, extra noise to spook opposing horses, and skill to jump from the chariot, fight on foot, and jump back on the chariot again to move along without their opponent able to catch up to engage…hit and run tactics at their best.

Companion Reading for Rome 2 – Total War

Looking for some more history in your gaming?  Want to get the backstory on all those pixels you’re pushing around?

Lloyd Sabin – February 10, 2014

Since I was a kid, I have always coupled my gaming with my reading. I think a lot of people do this, but as I have gotten older, it is rare that I read anything that isn’t directly or indirectly tied to what I am currently playing on the PC. Finally, after years of trying to combat this clear OCD-like behavior, I have given up and am going to attempt to do something productive with this quirk.

This first installment is focused on Rome 2: Total War and what I have read, and will be reading, while playing through my Iceni campaign. The Iceni are one of the stronger tribes located in Britannia and the British Isles. In my current campaign I currently hold all of Great Britain, including Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and have made significant progress in northwest Europe, particularly in Gaul. When not attempting to advance on the front and boost Iceni technological and military prowess, I have read the following title, with a few more on deck.

Imperial Governor – The Great Novel of Boudicca’s Revolt by George Shipway

Imperial Governor is the first title I cracked open for companion reading during my Iceni campaign. The title character, Paulinus, is instantly believable as he describes in detail his work in building up Britannia from a backward, swampy outpost to an integral part of the growing Roman Empire. He is a military man through and through, with little patience for insubordination and even less patience for treachery.

Imperial Governor has some great descriptive writing and paints mental imagery of a dark, foreboding, dangerous Britannia, crawling with hostile tribes. Boudicca herself does make a memorable entrance, but because Paulinus does not view her as anything more than scum most details are left out. This book is focused mainly on the Roman response and does it well, guiding the reader through a dense series of battles as well as providing a good order of battle on both sides, including the Celtic tribes aligned with the Iceni and the Roman legions and auxiliaries involved. There are also vivid descriptions of Roman military equipment, architecture and even food, producing a rich historical backdrop for the conflict.

A good part of Imperial Governor also covers Paulinus’ responsibility to both Rome and Britannia once he has put the revolt down, with little mercy. With almost all of Britannia destroyed, it is up to Paulinus to repair the damage, eliminate any remaining threat to Roman power in Britain, and also protect himself and his career from the subsequent fallout. Also keep an eye out for several historical characters with whom you may be familiar, especially if you enjoy Roman history.

Imperial Governor is a blunt and realistic title that doesn’t mince words, just like Paulinus himself. With a cunning, highly intelligent protagonist, some great descriptive writing and excellent battle scenes, George Shipway’s classic proved to be a great companion piece to my Rome 2 Iceni campaign. If interested, the author’s own life makes for some pretty good reading as well. Imperial Governor was his first novel.

Some other titles that I have on the night stand ready to go for more local color include:

TANKSgiving 2013 – Early Tanks

GrogHeads TANKSgiving

Author: Lloyd Sabin, November 26, 2013

Very Early Armored Vehicles

It’s the most wonderful time of year! When else do we get to discuss the benefits of century old armored oddities? Probably all the time if you’re a grog, but this is more special because we say it is.

Early motorized vehicles are fascinating enough…apply an inch of armor plate and a gun turret and it’s a real party. The below vehicles are some of my new found favorites…each has that certain something and they all look to have stormed straight out of a steampunk imagination. So put on your goggles, put a rag over your face and let’s see what all the kids are screaming about when they discuss very early armored vehicles. At least my kids, anyway.

Romfell Armored Car

romfell_5The Romfell was built in Austria-Hungary around 1915. That gives it a slightly exotic air. In 1915 and 1916, only two existed, but they both survived the harsh conditions and combat in the Balkans against the Serbian Army, and went on to engage the Italians and Russians. That gives it a tough reputation. In 1917 dozens more were built and deployed, its successful combat record making it somewhat of a legend.

Each Romfell armored car had a crew of four, was powered by a Mercedes transmission and was armed with a Schwarloze machine gun that could be used against both air and ground targets.  Reliable and fast for the era with a 26mph top speed, the Romfell is a popular vehicle for modelers.

It’s hard not to be intrigued by the Romfell. It’s very modern look, pedigree and durability guarantee that historians or car aficionados will quickly fall in love.

Fowler B5 Armored Locomotive

Fowler B5Armored cars are one thing…armored trains are another.

Now don’t get the wrong idea, the Fowler B5 armored locomotive did not go into combat during the Boer War at high speed with guns blazing. It did, however, deliver heavy guns and supplies for the British Army against the Boers starting roughly towards the end of 1899.

To tow these guns, the Fowler factory in Leeds, UK, produced a handful of B5s with close to 125 horsepower! With that much strength, heavy slab armor was applied to the engines to protect them and their drivers from attacks by Boer raiders. Three or four of these heavy armored locomotives were used by the British during the Boer War, some with armored railroad cars as well.

Prototypes of gun carrying armored Fowler B5s were developed but as far as I could research, none were ever deployed in a combat role. It would have been quite the scene if they had been – there’s no telling how effective they would have been at fighting. For protecting and delivering heavy equipment and guns, though, they were very successful.