Category Archives: Tracer Rounds

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: Attack of the Killer Poetry

What do you do with a backlog of reviews? ~

Brant, 04 April 2016

We get all kinds of games sent to us, along with the ones we pick up one our own.  Some good, some bad, some gorgeous, some not so much.  We try – we really do try – to get to all of them for review purposes, but it doesn’t always happen.  There’s a reason I’ve got a weekly blurb here called “What I’m doing this week when I should be playing games”.  Moreover, when I play a game for review, I want to play it multiple times to ensure that the review I’m writing is accurate based on how the game is balanced, and how it plays over time – especially if replayability is one of the key factors we want to discuss.haiku

Among the reasons I’ve made it a point to start republishing a bunch of the ‘classic reviews’ are that I don’t want my reviews to be dependent on someone else’s site continuing to exist, as well as wanting folks to be able to find opinions on older games that they may want to take for a spin.  Additionally, many of those older reviews (some of which I’m going to get to soon) were longer borderline-investigative-journalism pieces that really dug into the games through repeated plays.  That was a lot easier when I was in grad school.  Working 3 different teaching jobs, plus being the editorial director here, makes all that a lot tougher.

So, this episode of Tracer Rounds is designed to catch up on those reviews – with a twist.