Crusader ✟ Ping

Moult me tarde !

[FOLLOWUP] In the shadow of the cargoes (Hunting Hitler, 2015-2016) or possible might not be plausible — 6 December 2016

[FOLLOWUP] In the shadow of the cargoes (Hunting Hitler, 2015-2016) or possible might not be plausible

In 2014 I was stating that Modern Family was getting boring. Now it is official, Modern Family should be stopped, to the point you have to wonder if they changed the whole staff of writers, it went that bad. Almost a year ago, I was commenting Hunting Hitler first season from History Channel. Same here, what was wrong then is still wrong in the second season.

They actually improved how they show their search engine bizzle looks like, what they called NIAD. It is no longer all-eye-candy-no-information. But it is still unlikely that what they show is actually the supposed software output.

cap_Hunting.Hitler.S02E03.720p.HDTV.x264-W4F[eztv]_04.jpg

Apart from that, I wrote “I haven’t watched the whole series right now, only half: but I haven’t watched or heard one sure thing”. Still the same. Not one sure thing. Always the same process. They more or less demonstrate there was maybe a tunnel from Hitler’s bunker to Tiergarten, that it could have been possible to use Tiergarten as improvised airstrip, that it was possible to fly from there to Denmark, etc; and soon enough, they claim it was very likely since it made sense. Possible? Could be. But plausible? Likely? I begin to see a pattern, sure, though not about Hitler but about Hunting Hitler series.

So, nothing new to report? Well, at some point, allegedly their software mention Léon Degrelle, since he flew a plane from Denmark (not directly actually) to Spain. That is how they react:

If you have no interest in WWII history, that’s okay. If you are claim some expertise about it, that’s is quite different. Even one this blog, which is not often about History, Léon Degrelle was mentioned already. Because he founded and led Parti Rexiste, main collaborationist entity in Belgium. He is not central as Hitler or Mussolini, obviously, but you cannot seriously offer to look for Hitler whereabouts if you are that clueless about Léon Degrelle. Especially since the guy did not die then was quite noisy post-war. You cannot claim to provide insights and new views about WWII if you are that clueless.

cap_Hunting.Hitler.S02E03.720p.HDTV.x264-W4F[eztv]_07.jpg

And how do they present him? Simply with one of Degrelle’s claim that is actually considered highly questionable (Jean-Marie Frérotte, Léon Degrelle, le dernier fasciste, Bruxelles, Paul Legrain, 1987, p. 190) -Degrelle being considered to be quite mythomaniac even by people that likes him-  source being New York Time… in July 2016.

So, not only the whole deductive process is flawed by design; but their general knowledge on topic appears as much flawed. The only alternative explanation would be that the dialogs are that much scripted that they pretend not to know Degrelle beforehand only for show: but that would be even worse.

Advertisements
Mister Hyde ne disait rien (Witcher 3, 2015-2016 ; Gwent: the Witcher Card Game, 2016), Geralt trapped in Orcs Must Die!? — 15 November 2016

Mister Hyde ne disait rien (Witcher 3, 2015-2016 ; Gwent: the Witcher Card Game, 2016), Geralt trapped in Orcs Must Die!?

Gwent: The Witcher Card Game beta campaign is on:

tumblr_o99hb51fxc1rusn89o1_1280

I won’t describe at lenght what is Gwent. Even if I, almost, never posted any article about the Witcher series, I refered to it many times. I do like the Witcher. The video-game sure, the original books indeed, even maybe the movie. I recommend them all, in any order – maybe not the movie first, ahem.

The Witcher 3 got some awards for best game of the year. It is entirely deserved. From the base game to the extensions, gameplay, graphics, plots and story, ambiance and dialogs, it is excellent.

So if you do not know what Gwent is, I suggest you start playing the Witcher 3. You’ll get familiar with this card game Geralt plays in taverns. Because taverns are a cornerstone in any decent RPG and do matter much in Geralt heroic-fantasy world, a world well inspired and designed from historic perspective (you might wanna catch up with the thread Kingdoms and their real-life counterparts: cards are well shuffled!).

I do enjoy Gwent in the Witcher 3. It is probably a reason why I played as much as around 162 hours to the game. Any tavern, any hero or villain, they all do enjoy a Gwent game.

Ahem, yes, I also obtained real sets of Gwents cards. It looks like (not my pictures):

1

How is the Gwent real-life experience? Real-life deck selection part is a bit of a bore and might lead to very uneven games. Within the Witcher 3, it is not a concern since you improve your deck over time, so you keep within your deck best cards. But when provided with a full deck at once, you are flooded with both overkill and (useless) beginners cards. Beside that, during playthrough, some cards effects require to look in the deck during game, creating some bias. It is cool but far from being as enjoyable as within the game.

tumblr_nx0u7goctg1rusn89o1_1280

So how the Gwent: The Witcher Card Game beta compares? My first impressions were not so great:

  • Cards are harder to understand, to read:  they removed some mini-icons that made easy to find out cards effects without paying much attention to the card ;
  • Effects (double power, etc) made on a card by another stays on even if the said another is removed : that alters a lot the game flow, cards are less of a set once played ;
  • Effects made on the board by a card seems to have no effect on cards added to the board afterwards : odd, you have the rain/snow/fog affecting only some of the units in some row ;
  • The whole concept (ability to transform real money into cards) might lead to some terrible pay-to-win ;
  • Graphics and sound are aggressive, more like some Orcs must die! battleground than a dark tavern in Redania ; quite obviously, it reminds of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, precursor and likely competitor.

battlescreen_1-14

This official screenshot gives an idea: it flashes and bangs all the time.

I was disappointed. Mainly because it really differed from what I was used to. Because it is actually not bad:

  • Cards are hard to read? As any card game, it is a turn-based game. But when you play a real card game, time is never lost, during your opponent turn you actually look at his face, you pay attention to what he is paying attention to, etc. With original Witcher 3 gwent deck, players would not look at their cards often, so each would loose the benefit of seeing the mouse of the opponent moving around the board ; what looks like a defect in first place could actually be a nice well-thought gameplay component ;
  • Effects on a card stays on? That is probably due to the overall increase of cards having such effects, over the whole board. Many cards do +4, +2 +n or -4, -2, -n to whichever other(s) card(s) the player wants. It would be quite hard to remember which one gave or removed what, over a whole round ;
  • Graphics and sounds are aggressive? Sure, but nice to watch. As suggested before, it gives a Orcs must die! ambiance, which is not bad per se. Distracting? Could be, but, once again, distracting interface can also be a nice well-thought gameplay component.

To sum it, it is not bad, actually.

tumblr_o8c5b7pmwr1rusn89o1_1280

So what about the pay-to-win risk? I guess we’ll have to wait for an actual game release to check whether it really makes a difference. But I do not picture myself paying for a card. I’m fine paying to play a game but I’m concerned about paying to alter (improve) my gaming experience. Sounds lame, some weak sauce.

tumblr_nzc5f4gzyo1rusn89o1_1280

We’ll see how it develops. I liked Gwent within the Witcher 3. This new gwent could be fine. But will it be, at least, as good as in the Witcher 3?

As far I understand, Andrzej Sapkowski distanced himself from any Witcher-related productions, beside his books, after the The Hexer movie release.

The movie was not a public success, when asked to comment, Sapkowski said:

427px-andrzej_sapkowski_-_lucca_comics_and_games_2015_2“I can answer only with a single word, an obscene, albeit a short one.”

 

 “I am a Polish Catholic, it is Lent now; I cannot utter swear words.”

After making proper games that are no shame to original Geralt, now  CD Projekt is at risk of botching the followup of Gwent, their own legacy. Quite a challenge to face it’s own Geralt!

Update : good, the first patch makes sure “Monster faction ability no longer keeps Gold units on the battlefield” (not so fun to get Monster player always playing Geralt only starting first round forcing you to waste time beating him immediately or being forced to face him once again, or twice again even).
Could you help me’ police on my back (Mafia III, 2016; This Is the Police, 2016) or back to the 60’s segregated america — 6 November 2016

Could you help me’ police on my back (Mafia III, 2016; This Is the Police, 2016) or back to the 60’s segregated america

For once, here comes a cross-review of two almost different type of games I recently finished. The first one is a famous big budget GTA-style followup of Mafia II, the second an isometric low budget sim-type game, both finished in approximatively 30 hours.

Gameplay

Mafia III gameplay is not much different from previous Mafia game – or from any other GTA-like game. It (fighting, driving) is nicely done though not innovative. There is a “simulation” setup option for the driving experience but it will still be arcade nonetheless. Most cars really behave the same, no matter how different they appear to be, and laws of physics rarely applies. You can go off road at full speed, somehow you do not loose grip; you can hit vehicules repeatdly with not much damage to your car. Strangely enough, you can loose some parts of the car (trunk, for instance), you can scratch the paint, but the body panels are never bent, no matter how many times and how hard you hit obstacles.

20161106180111_1.jpg

Here you have the example of a car that just had a major frontal collision with another car, both at full speed. The trunk was lost but the rest is perfectly in shape. This is something strange from a game with graphics that precise to have a however completely irrealistic  damage setting. As a matter of fact, it is not worth it to try to drive any car properly since you can hit whatever wall at high speed with no effect. It is just much more efficient to drive on the limit all the time, which would, in real life, get you killed in half a hour. This makes the driving sequences quite unchallenging – boring, at some point.

How police reacts to you is quite odd too. Apparently it is fine to almost ran over cops at high speed. But if you just bump one of their cars at 7 mph, they’ll shoot to kill. Citizens also tend to report crimes by calling the police: you can kill them to prevent it but there no way just to dissuade them to. A bit odd.

This Is the Police gameplay is minimalistic. You are presented with an isometric view of a city and cards that represents the coppers available. Calls or missions come in an you have to send coppers accordingly.20161101144403_1.jpgThe game is not a sandbox but a story: missions are scripted, the same events will always occur on the same day, so the replay value of the game is relatively low. The game has been critized since some choices you do have no decisive impact on the game outcome. For instance, you cannot not work, even a little, with the mob, otherwise you get killed. It can be disappointing from a sandbox game perspective but, considering it as a story that unfold, it is fine by me.

20161103232757_1.jpg

I am actually a bit more concerned by the fact that coppers on the beat are managed as if they were ambulances or fire trucks: in real life, police patrols are patroling, not waiting for the next call at the station. In This Is the Police, coppers are either on a mission or waiting at the station. The game would make more sense if, on each shift, patrols were, at least, assigned a sector. Distance to cover would then matter when assigning missions.

There are also cases to solve: image puzzles. I must say that they are not all tremendously logical. But the concept is interesting.

Ambiance, dialogues, story – and the racial issue

tumblr_ogeyr3ytc71rusn89o1_1280

These are the strong points of both games. Tied by the genre, you won’t be surprised like hell by plots. But the dialogues are well written and well enacted.

20161106172347_1.jpg

In both, racial issue takes a central place. In Mafia II, you can hear to often racial slurs from NPCs, Kotatu summarized the debate that ensued. In This Is the Police, you are often presented by instructions as follows:

20161101234011_1.jpg

Maybe it is not entirely surprising to see games that focused on racial issues while, at the same time of release of these games, from USA to France, every day street coppers are killed because they are so and are, at the same time, accused of being hostiles to black or arabs, while these, in both countries, are overly dominant in street crime.

And, similarly, even though the racial issue take a central place in these game, it does not matters truly. The main character of Mafia III kills for his own revenge and profit, he made friend with an haitian gang, none mix, they are all opposing others for their own benefit. The major or the chief of police in This Is the Police do not care either. The race is just a color given to selfish greed-driven or powertrip-driven hostility. It is not the root of evil but definitely a taint.

After singing “Police on my back” in 1968, in 1970, The Equals were telling us about the kids in the future : “They ain’t got no country They ain’t got no creed People won’t be black or white The world will be half-breed. You see the Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys“. In 2016, they could not have been more wrong.

the Pentarch Protector of the Holy Places going Beyond the Indus to fulfill Saint Thomas’s Dream (Crusader Kings II 2.6.1.1) — 24 September 2016

the Pentarch Protector of the Holy Places going Beyond the Indus to fulfill Saint Thomas’s Dream (Crusader Kings II 2.6.1.1)

I20160913160610_1.jpgnterested in getting the Kingdom of David achievement (As a Jew, create the Kingdom of Israel), I had a few run a Semien (some duchy in Ethopia).

It was not a success: playing non-aggressive and slow expansion let you weak and, since you are of another religion, you get chomped quite fast as the easiest to grab territory in holy war; playing agressive allows to grow very fast but soon enough you are way too threatening and get attacked by coalitions of both opposing religions in the area (miaphysite and islam).

achievement-18

achievement-19

It made me, though, realize that Egypt could actually be a nice starting location for an orthodox game, since Tulunids muslim have opporunity to switch to christianity and having ethopia, if not allied, as safe border. That would make  Pentarch (as an Orthodox Christian, hold Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem) and Protector of the Holy Places (have Rome, Jerusalem, Mecca and Medina within your Realm) doable at once.

1. Christening Egypt

First step is to convert to christianity to be able to expand in Arabia through holy wars. That requires an united country, so I revoked my starting sultan’s sons duchies and, at the same time, managed to get my heir educated by some miaphysite character. In just on generation, the switch was over and most provinces were converted too.

20160913230024_1.jpg

The annoying thing, though, was that the change of religion also change inheritance law. As muslim, you start with said Open succession law: the most powerful descendant inherits. Since it is tied to muslim rulers specifics (cons and pros), I understand this kind of succession law is not kept to avoid otherwise gamey conversions. Still, once christian, I got Gavelking succession, which is strange, since it is quite unrelated to the previous one.

So the next urging step was also to change to another type of inheritance: seniority was readily available so I went for it.

2. War on islam

Next, I used holy war to expand in muslim territory. The fact that Egypt starts with cheap half-mercs Mamluks was a plus.

Being christian allowed also numerous wedding with orthodox. It made the switch to an orthodox ruler quite straight forward.

Along with a policy of creating arch-bishops vassal instead of dukes, the territory get consistantly converted.

20160916205252_1.jpg

Since it is all based on holy wars, where any previous ruler is removed, it is quite convenient to shape the kingdom so no vassal got a massive united block, beside yourself.

Aside from all my arch-bishops, I created some Republic town vassal, in order to have one vassal I could give many duchies (impossible to give more than one to bishops, you have to wait for them to usurp a title to get several; too annoying with a real duke that could, in a matter of generations, sprout into splitted multiples dukes all annoying to deal with).

This Doge was never really satisfied, always joining as soon as you can whatever faction (you name it: claimant support, change of succession law, more power to the council, etc) so it had to be kept as small as possible, giving him duchies with none of the lands it relates. I also almost always got my king to be focused on intrigue in order to get this convenient “threaten … to stay out of factions” action on my vassals. It works quite well, either he accept or you have valid cause to imprison him and revoke title. If one faction is actually threatening, it is best to cut it to pieces by imprisoning/fighting one of the main characters and waiting for the whole faction to pose its ultimatum.

Aside from that, I create a mercenary company and dissolved it. It does not provides that much cash but remove too much of your own levies – which is really annoying since it makes small factions feels bigger, since they evaluate their power by comparing levies size.

Soon enough, I was powerful enough to handle whatever all the united muslim sultans could throw. The extra > 10000 mamluk troops was a great bonus, plus it misled the computer when accessing my troops at the ready. Obviously, I kept lot of cash in treasury at all times, for the start of war when some additionnal expensive mercs were required.

So getting Mecca/Medina would not be a problem from now on.

3. War on christians

Next step was to get both Constantinople and Rome. It seemed to me I could easily get Elected Basileus of Byzantine Empire so I decided to swear fealty and join it. Also, Byzantines had foothold in Italy, so that could be helpful to get Rome.

20160917010518_1.jpg

Rome was still independant so I managed to get a claim and submit it. Byzantine was not an electived title at that time so I was not getting any of it. Worse, I lost a bit of territory due to some mismanaged inherintance. For instance, one vassal manage to get the title of King of Africa (titular title) and so was then just under the Basileus, having a title of the same rank as me.

20160918132643_1.jpg

For a while, I enjoyed belonging to this big empire so no catholic in Italy would challenge my belongings there, including Rome. But these inheritance issues made be go to war for independance as soon as possible – as soon as there was a big revolt in the Empire.

20160918133133_1.jpg

I had to deal with my sharing of revolts but where all manageable. Only twice I had to accept factions request (empowered council – that I shut off as soon as possible next by buying favors) because I was in the middle of another major war.

4. Expanding in Europe through weddings

Seniority succession makes it actually very easy to expand through weddings. Males easily get decent offers to mary female potential heirs (when they are not directly heirs on the day of the bethrotal). You can force heir with bad traits to go nun/monk.

Soon enough, I found many heirs that we’re already duke of something somewhere. Some died before inheritance but I managed to get several duchies or kingdom as far as Lithuania or Mercian or in the middle of Byzantium Empire.

Seniority inheritance means your average heir wont be living long. But you get no regencies and it no longer really matter whether the heir as overal good traits or not, since they are short lived. It matters only that they bring more titles within the realm.

One drawback, is that you change culture often: so any culture-related building on your holding get lost (if anything, you should loose the benefit of the building an allow you to pay to convert it, but not make it disappear in thin air). Also, you change sometimes of christian religion (catholic, etc), that gives you an annoying malus towards vassals, prevent you to renew your court chaplain to proper orthodox if you are not.

There is a fix for that: later in the game, when I got Empire of Arabia, in intrigue, it allowed me to switch ruler to egyptian culture and to orthodox religion. It was not the case earlier, not with custom Egypt Empire for instance. I do not know if it is intended like this and why it would be, if so.

5. Building number one world Empire

At some point,  I had multiple kingdom titles and was the biggest real on all accounts (gold, size, army). And enough prestige to create an Egyptian empire: that is not so easy with seniority and short lived rulers. If your ruler was not duke of sort before of the main title, it is unlikely he will reach the required 8000 prestige.

Getting Constantinople now was just a matter of striking at the best time. Problem is, all this expansion rose dangerously the threat level.

 

6. War on indians

Achievement-51.pngAchievement-58.pngAt the same time, I noticed I could easily grab an indian kingdom, getting  both Saint Thomas’s Dream  (rule an Indian Kingdom or Empire as a Christian and convert all its provinces) and Beyond the Indus (as a ruler of non-Indian culture, conquer a King or Emperor title in India) at once.

To be able to wage wars without getting world coalition, I released some far away useless duchies (Mercia, etc). I was about to attack Malwa but with > 90 % threat, France, Byzantines, HRE and Venice would all have went to war. Such coalition could not be handled.

I also tried to  simplify vassal management by giving some king title to some vassal. My arch-bishop were too strong to be easily managed so it was convenient to give them some king (Syria was de jure liege for their title) as canon fodder. This policy worked for a while but, still, the said king was growing in power and could have been a problem in a game with no time limit.

Nonetheless, I managed to get foothold in India and ultimately convert Sindh to orthodox.

7. Last steps

Once done, it was quite impossible to wage any war due to threat levels. Any expansion was now tied to weddings and the dynasty sprouting over Europe. I was counting on getting the massive Bulgar kingdom but timing was wrong, even with a very active management of the inheritance (useless heirs made monks, commiting depressed ruler suicide)

So, starting in 867, by 1453, I reached 622175 score, and growing fast (you can see the inheritance next: next Kaiser of HRE and King of Bulgaria).

I think that is my best score in this game but usually I start from lower rank (count, duke).

He counted long, he counted loud, he waited for the shock (Stellaris, 2016; Hearts of Iron IV, 2016) on sandbox, purpose and gameplay vs else — 14 June 2016

He counted long, he counted loud, he waited for the shock (Stellaris, 2016; Hearts of Iron IV, 2016) on sandbox, purpose and gameplay vs else

So Paradox released not one but two strategy games, using their Clausewitz engine, at the same time. Hearts of Iron IV was expected since a long time, Stellaris much less.

Stellaris came out of nowhere. It seemed at first glance like some sort of Star Trek Deep Space Nine in game and reminded me of a game I played in the nineties I cannot remember the name. Maybe it was Master of Orion but I’m not entirely sure.

20160510232605_1

After 15 hours of gameplay, I found Stellaris interface to be ok, the gameplay to be fine. I clearly benefits from Crusader Kings/Europa Universalis experience. But I got bored. Diplomacy there is a bit dull, that may be part of the problem. I guess it is mainly tied to the fact that the space does not relate to anything we know. With sandbox type of game, you need to need to set your own goals. And there, what could be set, beside from beating another entity that is just a visual blob on screen? It is not like in Europa Universalis making a small minor country conquer half of Europe or like in Crusader Kings rank up from count to emperor. The frontiers are vague, the world is just random – it’s space ! And it seems that since the begin, you are more or less surrounded, so it is not really like exploration game. Unlike in Star Trek world, you do not feel in deep space. You are not boldly going anywhere no one were before, the space looks like busy suburbs of any major european town. The space look crowded as a frontier/front line between South and North Korea.

Same engine, completely different setup: I must say I never really played previous Hearts of Iron games. Unlike Europa Universalis or Crusader Kings, you do not have the opportunity to start with a small country and grow progressively. In this series, you are thrown into World War II and that is all the game is about. There is no rest, no way out this all-out-war, so it is quite dauting. Too much to handle with aD-Day: The Beginning of the End big country, nothing to do with a smaller,  an interface sometimes confusing, that is I remember of my few attempts to play Hearts of Iron III. I had better times playing D-Day: The Beginning of the End in the nineties (yeah, it looks like this topics bring us back in time). Good news, Hearts of Iron IV interface is ok regarding basic major features (like production lines). I guess that’ll make some veteran of this game unhappy, because when you master something you tend not to see any point to make it simpler, but that’s fine by me. I’ll just comment a few things I found odd :

  • Regarding army management, you can either set armies with unlimited number of divison led by field marshal or smaller armies with 24 division max led by a general. You can promote a general to field marshal but then he loose all his specific bonus abilities. Why? No clues. Some people suggests that when you lead unlimited amount of division, you cannot follow them as finely, so you cannot assists them and give to all of them bonuses like this. Some people suggests that abilities share among to many troops would be bad for gameplay. The answer is two fold. From a logical standpoint, if a general cannot lead properly, without suffering the effect of a20160611154152_1 lobotomy, more than 24 divisions while you still need to make an army bigger, you would, in your sane mind, create an army group, led by a field marshal,  topping 24 division armies efficiently led by a general; no brainer. From a gameplay standpoint, there is nothing really specifically fun to promote to field marshal only mediocre and unexperienced generals from day one. So not only it makes no sense but it neither  serves any real game purpose.
  • Naval invasions UI is a mess. Not only the interface forget to cleverly inform you, for instance that you can only move 10 divisions at once (unless you research technology to move more) for a naval landing, but it fails to give you any proper feedback, especially on failure. Best it does is to put an exclamation mark saying the troops have no orders. But you can select troops and click thousand of times assign order to the landing to no effect, the interface never tells you what is wrong or that something is wrong. And when it is properly set, there is a timer (days of preparation) before you can actually lauch the landing: you cannot set it to start as soon as possible and there is nothing to tell you when it is ready. You just have to check it frequently to manually start it. Every possible user interface design mistakes are there.
  • Airplanes are assigned to a zone to carry missions. In some regards, it is a clickfest. Worse, you cannot actually make your planes focus on a specific objective, for instance on where you intend your troops to break through the front line. And the zones are half geographical/half whatever, so while your planes effective range depend on their fuel autonomy, their zone of activity is restricted in the most arbitrary way. So any coverage of some area is not really consistent and would requires tons of clicks to be.
  • The interface shows night and day. Ok, pretty for two minutes then it is just visual noise, especially at high speed. But I did not noticed winter/summer effects.
  • The world tension system actually sense to focus the game on ending to an all out war. Some people noticed inconsistencies with it  but I think important no to consider it as a clone of the bad boy/infamy system from others Clausewitz games. World tension is not necessarily bad. It is the way it goes. Some factions grow, that leads to confrontation with the others. And world tension is needed to achievement some goals or even just to be allowed to start wars.

Aside from these specific aspects, I noticed that in many discussions about Hearts of Irons IV features, the most generic reply is to state that “gameplay > historical accuracy”, even when it has nothing to do with history at all. While I do agree to poetic license –Dominion is a fine read-, while I do agree that if the game is exactly balanced as it should, the playthrough is bound to have often an unhistorical outcome (mainly because we all know that France and UK really started on the wrong foot – and when you know the war is inevitable, your are set to make better choices than they did historically, for instance strike earlier when you are actually stronger), still, any game that is so tied to a historic context cannot afford to explains all the shortcomings in the name of gameplay. Part of the game, part of the interest, is that the world you are in makes sense historically, something that lacks in Stellaris. You can simplify things in the name of gameplay. For instance, all far right regimes are described in the game as fascist. Anyone with decent background in History will tell you that fascism is specific to Italy – at least that using fascism so liberally is questioned. Some other countries harbored similar political entities but, for most of them, qualifying them fascist just blur the picture instead of explaining it – the series Nazis Collaborators already mentioned here is quite insightful about the heterogeneity of said collaborators. Nazis were not fascists per se, Japanese even less. Even if there were sort of fascists in France, Vichy regime does not fit the bill. It is not just a matter of choice words. Fascism designate a very specific mix of politics that does not relate conclusively to many other far right extremes of that period. However, in a broad, non academic definition, you can accept to use the word fascist, because there are probably no ultimate alternative. For the game purpose, which works because it reduces political systems to Democracy/Non Aligned/Communism/Fascism that could fine. They could have thought of something else, like Totalitarism/not, but that would be a different game. So ok, here, gameplay actually makes this historical inaccuracy acceptable. But it does not makes it a general rules. Otherwise, why not even having UK as Axis member, in the name of a funny gameplay?

So, what the conclusion? I doubtful about Stellaris ability to keep my attention captive, despite the game is well done. Hearts of Irons IV have half-baked areas -but that was to be expected considering its scope and size- but that could surely be fixed, with proper support. That is the problem with usual proprietary software development, you cannot expect to be satisfied on day one. He thought about the medic corps, and wondered what they’d find.

Hungary run: Take that, von Habsburgs!, hungary being world military #1 (Europa Universalis IV 1.16) — 14 May 2016

Hungary run: Take that, von Habsburgs!, hungary being world military #1 (Europa Universalis IV 1.16)

I tried a failed a few games with minor balkanik states. I dont get how to handle Ottomans properly. Getting to war against it is a lost cause, not getting to war against it mean it just grows indefinitely until it actually attacks. Being orthodox makes it even harder to maintain proper alliance. So I tried to get some playthrough with Hungary.

Take_that,_von_Habsburgs!

There is an achievement to get with Hungary, Take that, von Habsburgs!: as Hungary, own all of Austria as core provinces. It is marked as hard was created with 1.12. There is an playthrough stating that one logically simple method for owning all Austrian core provinces, would be to form a personal union over Austria Austria and then inherit or integrating them. Thanks but no. Seems boring and lazy.

No, I decided to go the hard way. Hungary playthrough would be easy allying Austria but I decided not to, in order to get it weak enough to be able to grab its territory. It means getting other possibly strong allies. Lengyel, magyar – két jó barát, együtt harcol, s issza borát, Poland only come as natural, since it is strong and allows not to care about north frontier or eastern threats like Russia. The rest is more circumstancial: best is to ally Poland allies to make sure the ally is still worth it.

First moves were getting as much of balkans before Ottomans. So I conquered Wallachia, Bosnia, split and vassalized Serbia.

I thought smart to also ally Venice, since it is an obvious strong enemy to both Austria and Ottomans. That was quite dumb, in retrospect: a war broke out and we got punished by Ottomans. Even when the number were in our favor, which were not most of the time, we got destroyed. I only manage not to loose anything but soon spending energy just to make sure that no territory corable by Ottoman was occupied, instead of doing any real fighting.

Logical conclusion: Ottoman will need to be defeated not only but numbers but also by quality, which mean I need some technological edge. So, by 1528, the country succesfully westernized.

I followed polish alliance with Swedes, which was actually good to handle eastern enemies, especially since Poland ties to Lithuania were severed (no commonwealth!). I noticed that with current version, Papal State is over dominant in Italy, so I allied it also, since I need strong ally with ties to the mare nostrum. This was convenient to make a strong alliance to dwarf Austria, even though there was some failure, especially against France allied to Bohemia.

Since Ottomans and Muscovy were involved in christian leagues, I did not get involved. I kept my focus on developing my area and also conquered Raguse as soon as it was not tied to too strong allies.

Attacking Ottomans seemed premature. But Austria was getting weaker due to internal HRE wars, including religious war.  Instead, I went against Bohemia that was getting way to strong. As the same time, I tried to get a military technological edge paying a lot to advisors.

By 1600, I had some personal union with Tyrol (dont know how, except that I forced Austria to free Tyrol as state), Serbia as southern balkan march, Poland, Swedes, Papal States, Bavaria and Venice as ally. The question was: should I or should I not attack Ottomans?

More war against Austria, more victories. Our alliance in Europe is probably the strongest worlwide, as shown there, it is quite hard to resist a 200k stack led by swedes. I keep my allies happy by giving them the territories they expect while I feed Tyrol that I intend to integrate later.

Finally, AI stopped the final countdown: Ottoman declared war on Poland. I was then called to war. First battles were tight. After that, it was just a matter of properly handling Constantinople choke point. Clearly, the technological military advanced helped.

This war Ottomans’s Stalingrad: we split with Poland territory. It was smarter for me to take only half of the balkan and have my main ally also involved in the same territory. I picked territory depending on trade zone (and set priorities with the new diplomacy thing). After that, once against we pounded Austria. In the meantime, Ottomans was still world #1 military wise. Once done, once again on Ottomans. We gradually grabbed massive amount. And reach the point that our armies (with Poland and Scandinivia) were all among the world top 6, which means that, combined, they would be invicible.

20160426133210_1

So now, even France or Great Britain would not be a concern and Ottomans are definitely now some minor country up for grabs:

I also have a strong religious conversion policy, useful to deal with muslim territories. By 1762 (yeah, late), I got all of Austria. Or I think so, but still no achievement: Istria is required!

To sum up, you need:

28 Kärnten Austria.png Austria 6 6 5 Catholic.png Catholic Austrian Iron.png
132 Steiermark Austria.png Austria 5 5 3 Catholic.png Catholic Austrian Grain.png
1863 Graz Austria.png Austria 5 5 3 Catholic.png Catholic Austrian Grain.png
133 Linz Austria.png Austria 5 5 4 Catholic.png Catholic Austrian Grain.png
134 Wien Austria.png Austria 7 7 7 Catholic.png Catholic Austrian Wine.png
1770 Ostmarch Austria.png Austria 5 5 6 Catholic.png Catholic Austrian Wine.png
129 Krain Austria.png Austria 7 7 2 Catholic.png Catholic Austrian Grain.png
130 Istria Venice.png Venice 2 3 3 Catholic.png Catholic Croatian Salt.png
1769 Görz Austria.png Austria 5 5 2 Catholic.png Catholic Austrian Iron.png
73 Tirol Austria.png Austria 4 4 2 Catholic.png Catholic Austrian Gold.png
110 Trent Austria.png Austria 4 4 1 Catholic.png Catholic Austrian Iron.png
1768 Lienz Austria.png Austria 4 4 2 Catholic.png Catholic Austrian Iron.png
20160426201840_1.jpg
Considering the large amount of troop I’m using, I started using the template system. It is fine. My base army (usually join in pair, an split when there is no enemy to fight but just territory to grab) is now:
  • 8 infantry, including 6 mercenaries
  • 2 calvary
  • 10 artillery

(artillery only since we already reached advanced technology)

Finally, in 1778, it is done, Istria is cored and the achievement obtained:20160426213638_1

What next?

I reached the point to have the biggest army and strongest worldwide. But, that late, starting big conquest would not make that much sense. I continued, then, grabbing territory in africain.

So reach the end date. Not my best score. I guess, with such army, and being allied to next major powers, I could have played more aggressively. Still, for once I properly dealth with Ottomans. Fine by me.

Nista se vise ne vidi u tami (Line of Duty 2012-2016) or said miasma of cynicism around the processes of law enforcement — 5 May 2016

Nista se vise ne vidi u tami (Line of Duty 2012-2016) or said miasma of cynicism around the processes of law enforcement

While I was looking forward return of GoT, I was took by surprise, after one year of no show, of Line of Duty, to the point I had to rewatch the two first seasons.

shot0001.png

Usually, in average random police related show, some guys are villains, some are heroes. In some other cases, heroes are kind of villain in some regards – think Vic Mackey of The Shield. In Line of Duty, while there are some 100% villains, most important characters are both, depending on where the case lead. Sometimes, they are villains because they are stuck and have no other option: and really don’t, because they are never stupid, they make most of them a lot of sense. Sometimes, they are villains because they are so self-righteous that they could not envision themselves being wrong. Producer Jed Mercurio pinpointed  exactly what a show about police of police, aka Anti-Corruption AC-12, should be about, as he stated: “I believe our police officers are generally honest and effective. Line of Duty isn’t a police-bashing show. All police characters in the drama know right from wrong and strive to do the former. But I wanted to explore how these decent people, who generally enter public service for idealistic reasons, can somehow slip off track. In many cases it results from a miasma of cynicism around the processes of law enforcement. Many dedicated officers now regard policing as an impossible job. What’s caused this cynicism?”

For instance, I would tend not to like DC Kate AC-12 character. She’s often way of the line in her way to treat and (de)consider fellow officers while her own behavior is not beyond reproach. But they paid attention to make her smart enough to perfectly understand and know the very limits of her own work: being undercover in police station, she often makes anti-AC statements that reveals that she’s familiar with how the very activity of AC, to which she belongs, can be critized. They also made her somehow efficient enough to go as far as being able to be undercover for a while in some armed response unit; but all the while, they showed that she was actually not able to properly perform in stress situation, as she would have probably killed, due to stress, a child bystander during some raid, which is quite something to apprehend, when your activity is to question activities of supposedly trigger-happy cops. Superintendant Hastings is interesting too. He always plays it like he has very high standards about policing. Nonetheless, on several occasion, he downplay serious offences made by influential people while he stomps over with no remorse the little cop. And it is obvious that he probably do not even realize how his high standards fluctuate.

cap_Line.of.Duty.S03E02.HDTV.x264-ORGANiC[ettv]_02

To top how interesting are characters, comedians are good, credible, and dialogs looks authentic. It is no surprise that Mercurio, ibidem, states “we were able to secure advice from retired officers, plus covert input from some serving officers, as well as mining the rich vein of information contained in blogs”.

I recommend that you put Line of Duty on top of your list. Yeah, even while GoT just started back! Verujem ne verujem?

Empressive on English neck a Norman yoke (Crusader Kings II 2.5) — 19 April 2016

Empressive on English neck a Norman yoke (Crusader Kings II 2.5)

Ever read Maurice Druon’s Les Rois maudits? If not, you ought to fix that. If you did, you certainly understand the whole point of playing some more Crusader King II: even though the period covered isn’t right, the whole vassal-suzerain, dynasties and murder plots are in.

Achievement-10

In that spirit, best starting date is the bookmark the Stamford Bridge, with Guillaume de Normandie conquest of England, since the chain of events that drives Les Rois maudits is bound to the specific link between France and England.

Considering you start with a fat 1000 cash, it is not really an achievement to win this war over the two other opponents and then get said on English Neck a Norman Yoke achievement. By 1076 it is over:

20160414180057_1

the broken vassal link:

And then, back to reality: ahem, Crusader King II mishandle the notion of vassal link:

  • there is the Emperor/King/Duc/Count/Baron hierarchy
  • you can rightly be Emperor of some Empire X and Baron of some barony Z

So far, it is right. But the problem follows: Crusader Kings II does not tie title/territory to vassal links. It is assumed that you hold on your own any title less important than your main title, for instance it is assumed that you hold barony Z as part of your kingdom. You can have only one suzerain, so even if you got two titles from diverging origins.

Confused?

Let’s explain and, if you read Les Rois maudits you’ll understand that the whole book serie should be trashed to the toilets if abiding by Crusader Kings II rules: horay, Guillaume de Normandie won English kingdom. What should be next? Well, Guillaume is autonomous King of England and vassal to France for Normandie. And what happens in Crusader Kings: Guillaume not only is autonomous King of England but keep Normandie as well, and no longer pay hommage to France for it.

Odd.

It gives a casus belli to France to get Normandie back. Ok. That how the game cope with this situation. But it is not the same. At all. As a matter of fact, Crusader Kings II deprives the player from the opportunity to continue paying hommage and force him to either go to war or drop the title. It also put the player in the situation in which he must go to war against a vassal that got elsewhere an equivalent title to his, even if it matches his interest, or loose the vassal altogether, no matter if the title gained by the vassal is nothing more than vanity.

Crusader Kings II tries to counterbalance the whole by the notion of de jure territory. If territory is not de jure your, laws that applies within depend from the relevant de jure entity. That would mimic, for instance, law of France applying in Normandie, or have Duchy of Normandie vote in France if France was an Elective monarchy. It is, as a matter of fact, a poor band aid. Why would France allow Normandie any say in Election, if it was deemed independant? Why would specific rules of France (papal investiture of bishops) applies to territories that are entirely under English control. Instead of actually fixing the issue, it leads to random troubles about which the player is powerless.

To sum up: the player cannot decide to pay or not to pay hommage to his liege for a territory; the player cannot change the laws of this territory even if he is the sole ruler.

That is really disappointing. Each titles should always being either own as liege or with hommage. And rules that applies should be the ones of the liege. This logic is unbeatable and would rule any other, works both ways (for instance, France does not have to get involved in war that only relates to English territory, even if England is vassal; but may do so as ally or friendly).

It is not only that it deprives the player from a choice here and there: it actually limits each character to what happen in one kingdom, it cut off the player from the internal politics of kingdoms he would have interest in.

Anyway.

the abused de jure non-electors

After the conquest, the problem is to keep England. First France will attack you (as said, because CKII does not give France any alternative). Who cares, maybe it would be best to forget about Normandie?

20160414191125_1

Well, no. It is important to beat France to be able to handle internal politics: England is an elective monarchy, no matter how your vassals likes you, it is massively unpredictable, even though it gives you the quite interesting benefit to allow you to hand pick heir.

The best option is to have only one vassal able to vote, one that you can sway towards you. Two vassals is too much. They might both just vote for somehow of one other dynasty and game over you.

Achievement-03For that purpose, prince-bishop are convenient: as they cannot be king, no matter how powerful they are, they’ll never try to take your place. You just have to make sure they favor you.

So I set up shop in Duchy of York and Lancaster (it is always important to have a compact demesne, the ability to regroup levies fast matters) and made a prince-bishop giving him a county just up north my territory, give him Kent as duchy. I fed him a few counts in order for him to be able to, in turn, appropriate further prince-bishopric (you cannot give him more than one duchy rank title: but he can usurp/create them for himself).  I made him antipope, so he definitely likes me – since there was already one, I got the achievement All Three Popes.

The logic is as follow: only this guy will ever get duchies in de jure England. Only one voter, only a guy that cannot be elected. That’s convenient.

Obviously, you cannot have only one vassal in the game. He would be too powerful and, if not, you’d have many counts too powerful, all wanting to siege in council. No, I created other duchies: within de jure France.

20160415224233_1

Sometimes, some small count within England created for himself a duchy like Hwicce: I immediately revoked it and made sure it could not be re-obtained, or only by my Pope. At some point, I also got Anjou being long enough within England to be also de jure. The same: revoked. I paid attention not to get Normandie fully so it’ll stay forever de jure France.

the Cathar catharsis

I made Normandie a vassal Republic to get cash, since it is supposedly profitable, thinking it’ll be as handy as my pope.

It proved unbearable. Over generations, the doge was almost always opposing me – so probably not giving much. I dont think you can have both theocracies and republic in your pocket.

I found very convenient to seize the opportunity to convert to cathar so I could remove easily this now heretic doge from title within de jure England. During that period, I reorganized a lot my territory.

20160416134708_1

(see, even there, one guy opposing: the damned doge)

And I was glad my king died, with catholic heir, when multiple holy war against me arised – not to mention my prince-arbishop could no longer a be a nice pope.

the broken vice-royautés

Achievement-15 This cathar experience made me fear the wrath of a crusaders: and I decided it was a good time to do some on my own. Soon enough, there was a crusade on the way and, with my massive monthly cash income, I could play a decise role. Decisive so I was granted, after victory, the kingdom of Jerusalem and, so, the Crusader King achievement.

There is now a system where you can land Crusader orders when you get Jerusalem. I did so. Obviously, considering the fragile position of Jerusalem, I gave the lands to new vassals. Most notably, I gave Jerusalem as vice-royauté.

I was surprised to find, a few years later, that one duchy of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, was now autonomous, with territory within de jure England. That must be a bug, there was no war I was called about it. Could be tied to how CK II works (back to step 1: Normandy getting out of England).

The territory was not lost from long. Still, last time I played with vice-royauté, I noticed similar issues. In the end, even though vice-royautés are nice in principle, it is then best to give a up a real title: at least I understand how it works.

killing the Kingdom in the name of the Empire

Achievement-09Next, I was contemplating the notion of creating Britannia Empire. So it led me to consider the United the Kingdoms achievement.

Nonetheless, it was much more convenient to use now the intrigue function create empire of England instead of having Britannia later. So I did that, which I soon set to primogeniture – and on the way, I actually destroyed the kingdom not to bother for the time being about elective monarchy.

20160418140352_1

That being done, I then focused on Britannia. At the same time, Muslim decided to severely attack Jerusalem.

Even though I sent massive amount of troops, I got not much help from other christian leaders and could not handle as much as 75000 troops at once. It was clearly time to focus back to Europe, where the Normandie dynastie was quite something:

20160418223608_1

the pogrom

At that moment, I was quite happy to get Poland for free. Almost. My heir was king. Thing is: he was also of judaism. And, after a regency where I tutored him and try to get him to be proper English catholic, as soon as he was ointed, endless holy wars started. The whole Europe decided to grab her part of the Kingdom:

I was hoping he’d convert or died fast. He died after loosing at least a third of his kingdom.

Achievement-47Achievement-86During the same period, in actually got a few female emperor (Empressive: play as three consecutive generations of empresses) and some wolf blood (Run With the Wolf: Play as a character with Wolf’s Blood).  Not much to comment on that, since it is contextual. The wolf blood was an unexpected perk of having some altaic bloodline, having a cheremisa duchy.

20160419113847_1

So I finally focused back on the United Kingdom. After getting all relevant territories, I found out I need to hold in my own hands each king title. I used the very convenient “Spy On” feature giving by intrigue high skill and focus to revoke the title of the King of Wales resisting arrest.

Later, it is already the endgame. By far not my best score, fun game nonetheles.

203770_screenshots_20160419130537_1

Aragon run: become the Emperor or Trade Hegemon, with No Pirates or a Grand Armada (Europa Universalis IV 1.15) — 18 March 2016

Aragon run: become the Emperor or Trade Hegemon, with No Pirates or a Grand Armada (Europa Universalis IV 1.15)

otSpain_is_the_EmperorI was contemplating the notion of doing the Spain is the Emperor achievement (Become the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire as Spain, added in 1.1 classified hard). Except I already had both a Castillian and Portuguese run already. So I went for Aragon, with has the perk of starting in personal union with Milan, not so far from the Holy Roman Empire.

20160316213552_1Starting Aragon strategy is determined by attitude toward France: ally or oppose fast. You need either a strong ally to defeat Castille or a weakened french rival for him not to be able to destroy you. At that moment, I thought possible to progress towards the Empire through Italy.

For that I needed a strong France focused on beating Austria. So I allied France and destroyed Castille pieces by pieces, expanding in Maghreb otherwise to get confortable on Genoa trade node by having Tunis. I also stole Provence (the county) during a french-joint war against Provence (the duchy), considering it has a lot of trade power on Genoa trade node also. I also moved my capital up north also to get bigger trade power but the result was trivial. My massive conversion of Maghreb to christianism provided me with lots of papal influence which I turned into mercantilism increase systematically.

Trade_HegemonBy 1512 I was earning 22 zł/month by trade. By 1558 I had the world highest trade income and second highest total income. At the same time, I was still allied to France and Austria and had no clue as how to actually keep such strong allies and getting the vote of any Holy Roman Empire prince. Plus Ottomans were not attended to, growing massively, which could be a problem in Maghreb. That actually made me consider focusing on Trade Hegemon instead (Conquer and have cores on Aden, Hormoz and Malacca with any Western European, added in 1.2, classified hard), which implies getting to these location fast, especially in Hormoz before Ottomans. Side note: the name of the provinces varies depending on the owner (Adan, Melaka, Hormuz, etc).

I usually got benefits from the Protestant/Catholic league. So I tend to easily join them. In this game, since Ottoman joined the Protestant league along with Great Britain, Sweden, Bohemia, Brandebourg, Muscowy, Venice, I thought smart to make sure to keep my alliance with France and Austria, along in the Catholic league. Not so smart.

Yeah, the Catholic league got utterly destroyed, my French strong ally not so strong anymore, etc. The only thing that saved is that I was far away from the front line, so my territory was not up from grab in peace treaties. And now, the notion of getting elected seemeed even less plausible, as Empire center moved to the Protestant east.

No_Pirates_in_my_Caribbean So I changed my focus and made some protectorates in Africa while grabbing colonies built by Portugal or Castille. No one was in Carribeans: it looked still possible to get the No Pirates in my Caribbean (own or have a subject own the entire Caribbean, added in 1.1, medium difficulty).

In 1623, I still had the world highest trade income and second highest total income.

20160317171517_1French, dwarfed by the Protestant league war, turned on me, made me a rival, since it could not expand anywhere else now. Ottomans were growing and going towards Hormuz. Then, for some reason, Hormuz got independant as one province country: I attacked it on the spot and conquered it due to my ships preventing any enemy to do anything. I made it a vassal, since annexing was not an option since I had neither possibility to core it neither relevant casus belli. I got a massive expansive aggression and stability hit from attacking with no casus but that was worth it.

By 1660, I was earning 117 zł/month by trade in Genoa with 993 trade power in the node. Next in line in this node was Papal State, earning 5,74 with 70 trade power.

Afterwards, the Papal State, now my ally along with Austria, attacked Venice allied to France. Now hateful France got cut even more.

In 1685, I still had the world highest trade income and had now also highest total income – along with the largest navy, the second largest army, 3rd most provinces and 3rd highest provinces value.

20160318000005_1Later, I got a casus belli and started a war against a small entity allied to Hejaz that owned Aden. Hejaz had decent army stack with a decent army level. And, by experience of my wars in Europe, I knew that my troops were numerous but shit, often destroyed by much smaller stacks. I let Hejaz get to Hormuz and and blocked the stack in Hormuz. Note that in current version of the game (1.15), troops are blocked by straits only if they dont hold both sides of the said strait (which totally makes sense). So the trick was to jump to conquier the Qwasim.  That allowed my to get Aden without too much effort – and clearly the situation in Europe was dire, loosing a massive amount of troops would have caused my rivals (notably Great Britain and Ottomans) to attack me on the spot.

20160318001621_1So if France was not going to be an ally, I tried to ally Great Britain. And after a while, it worked, it stopped consider me as rival.

But for that result, I had to join a war against France, on which occasion I noticed that, no matter how big, my troops could never defeat the French. Too stacks of 40k joined were unable to defeat 50k french. Not glorious, I had to let my allies do the work, hiding being castles.

I had a much better time in the straits of Johor, 20160318011156_1getting Melacca, fighting against primitive troops.

There, I was fine and got the Trade Hegemon achievement.

Well, it was already 1728!

So what next? Getting Emperor was out of scope. Plus I already formed Spain as Castille and fancied staying Aragon until the end.

So I focused on the Carribean. I went to war against Scandinavia, which was not much an issue since Lithuania utterly destroyed it, and got very cheap a colony it made in Carribean. To avoid further issue, I started to colonize every little carribean island at once: the price of such approach seems to go exponentially. So I devoted all my income to that effect. Only to discover at some point that I missed Bermuda, part of the Carribean region, but further north and already part of the Thirteen Colonies – yes, my ally, Great Britain, colony.

The_Grand_ArmadaI noticed that Great Britain was not having as many troops as my other allies and me – and a smaller navy. At that time I was contemplating the idea of doing also the The Grand Armada (Have 500 heavy ships and no loans, added 1.6 marked as hard) achievement, so I had tons of heavy ships. I later dropped the whole notion when I reached around 250 heavy ship and noticed that I would have to stop any development in any way to continue building these useless ships: useless since the exact same amount of cash spent in light ships would not only be a invicible war party plus would bring benefits in trade, beside war.  The achievement might be hard to get: it is mainly boring.  Anyway, Great Britain looked weak and so I dropped it and went to war against.

It was not possible to set foot in England: my allies where only sending small parties and my big stacks were not able to overcome the only big stack Great Britain had. But I ruled the sea and made Great Britain leave Bermuda to me. And that was it: No Pirates there!

20160318115233_1

A bit later, I got the Market Control achievement (Be trade leader of seven different goods, added in 1.1, medium difficulty).

I did not do anything toward this goal but, eh, trade profit was getting nicely.

20160318115326_1

Next, I started a war against Ottoman, along with Austria, Papal State and Lithuania as allies. The alliance was much stronger in any regards so it was the perfect opportunity to strike. 20160318120858_1

FactionalismLater, I got the Factionalism achievement: have 3 different estates in your country with at least 70% influence each (added in 1.14, very easy). It is really not an achievement, it is more mismanagement reward, since you actually don’t want this situation, since if any of the estates reach 80%, they’ll stage a coup against your regime. Anyway, the estate mechanism introduced in the Cossacks is quite smart.

By 1821, I got a bit distanced by Ming. To improve technologically,  I was using +3 level advisors so I did not maintain troop up to my landlimit. And there was no easy target for war anyway. So I end ed with only the 3rd highest income (though still 1st in trade), 5th largest army (though still the biggest navy), 4th most provinces and 4th highest province value. It is nonetheless my best score (19728) as far as I remember. No colonial power beside Aragon were not dwarfed. Ottoman was broken but still big, Ming and Lithania were massive, Austria, Teutonic Order and USA major.

To sum up:

  • seems to be that to be Holy Roman Emperor as Spain would require to get involved earlier in the Empire. The way through Naples is non existant due to Papal State (which in all my recent games -1.14/1.15- became the most dangerous player in Italy);
  • there is something broken with the notion of the Grand Armada achievement: it does not seems to have much historical ground; it is no fun;
  • Bermuda is easy to forget for the Carribean achievement.
Terra Mariana run: liberty desire is not to be trifled with (Europa Universalis IV 1.15) — 15 March 2016

Terra Mariana run: liberty desire is not to be trifled with (Europa Universalis IV 1.15)

Terra_MarianaI noticed a new achievement was added with Europa Universalis IV’s Cossack extension: as Riga, own and core all provinces in the Baltic region.

Quite a fun area this Baltic Area… In my (failed) Baltic Crusader run, I had the opportunity to get a taste of the Swedes wrath. So I allied them. And kept this alliance until the end of the game. By keeping it, I mean most of the time keeping a diplomat assigned to maintains relations, unless the guy was really needed elsewhere. Only once, Scandinavia (what became of the Swedes) made a separate peace. And this alliance kept at bay Muscowy and Poland/Lithuania, until they got weakened so we could actually beat them. Great!

20160314225305_1Soon enough, I got enough in advance technologically that it made sense to use “Policies”, which I never used before, instead of overpaying technological progress (maybe not even possible, with -190%), which I used to favor trade.

And with trade, I made a massive amount of cash. By 1619, I was earning 21.75 monthly from the Baltic Sea, collecting there and forwarding with a merchant in Krakow, Kiev, Crimea, and Novgorod (each merchant from related note provides +10% to the collecting node). By 1740, it was up to 53,34, with an additional merchant in Kazan, with a trade power of 1122,5 in Baltic Sea.

For long, Papal States prevented me to attack Lithuania or Poland that still owned 4 20160315094541_1provinces needed for the achievement, having more than 78000 troops at the ready and defending them as good christian leader – since I went Protestant as soon as Scandinavia did. I finally attacked when even Hungary was joining me. It went good since Ottomans find it was a good time to strike on Austria and Papal States. By 1777, I got the Terra Mariana cored. Well, I’d mention that I only survived this war due to cash: I was up to the max of mercernaries at all time and was consolidating obliterated stacks and producing new mercenaries continously. Only this allowed me to actually defeat the powerful 178000 troops from Austria/Papal State and the weaker ~ 100000 troops of Poland (Scandinavia having ~63000 good troops at that time).

20160315110018_1

Then Riga became Kurland. And then I learned, really deep, about the mecanism of liberty desire of vassals. I had a very good and strong march, bordering Bohemia and Hungary, a client state named Neumark. When destroying Lithuania, I made it release Polotsk that I later vassalized and overfed. Yeah, overfed. Troops of Neumark and Polotsk got big enough20160315143739_1 for them to never ever have liberty desire below 50%. So annexing Polotsk goes impossible. Worse, the interface led me to think I’d decrease liberty desire of Potosk by giving it a province big enough. So I gave it Pskov. And I only made it stronger and even more impossible to handle. I tried to make Neumark weaker by removing its March status: the only resultat that now Neumark hated me. At some point, Neumark and Polotsk gone together to war for independance, with Papal States as ally, and I did not get white peace willy-nilly. Interestingly enough, Papal States was only interested, when asked for peace conditions, into canceling my alliance with Scandinavia.

This whole issue with vassal seriously slowed down the end game.

Not a surprise, Kurland in 1821 get the worldwide highest trade income.

Too sum up, notes:

  • policies are actually useful: it makes perfect sense not to waste monarch points when you are too far in advance so you’d pay technology way too much, instead of getting something like +25 % trade steering for instance ;
  • for this Baltic game, Scandinavia was a perfectly alliance, since it focused for conquest on further away (Russia or Denmark) but was readily available with big stack of decent quality ;
  • if cash allows, continuous production of mercenaries is a valid option to overcome low manpower – for most of the game, only canons and cavalries where regular non-mercs;
  • marches are useful but growing one to have a noticeable army makes it very hard to deal with big vassals later – clearly diplo-annexing is not as easy as it was (and that’s good, but habits need to be changed) ;
  • forts are actually much more useful than I thought – for instance, a stack of at least 30000 is necessary to even attempt to capture in years a level 8 fort ;
  • good approach to deal with an enemy that takes a lot of allies to prevent you to attack him is actually to remove his alliances separately, in war against only a few of the allies.

XCOM2 memos — 7 March 2016

XCOM2 memos

So far, I played XCOM 2 around 80 hours. I’m not about to write a review about it: the editor Firaxis followed the recipe that worked for the previous one.

I pointed out that, in XCOM Enemy Unknown/Within, one problem was that the difficulty was decreasing. I finished it in normal difficulty and I’m about to finish it in commander difficulty and I’d say, so far, it is no longer entirely the case,  last mission can be quite difficult even with hardened soldiers.

Instead of a review, I’ll put here just some memos.

First memo : general XCOM tips still valid for XCOM2

  • in general, don’t fire with not a least 55% chance to hit (and even that is extreme), failure to hit is always worse than overwatch;
  • never do the two moves at once, especially in unknown territory, split the movement;
  • don’t play each character one after the other but play all of them simultaneously: ie don’t use all the actions of one character, then of a second, then, while moving the third, to find an enemy that would been best defeated if the it was still an option to actually play the final action of the firsts. Whenever you uncover enemies/territory, it is best to have the other characters still able to use their abilities;
  • same principle: it is nice to ambush the enemy with overwatch (putting all the troops in overwatch and provoke the enemy with the latest soldier). Sometimes it is efficient, for instance when the enemy is grouped in the open, so the overwatch will act before the units find cover. But in many cases it is still best to use soldiers abilities;
  • each soldier gets a random extra ability. In the end, that is likely to determine your best heroes;

Second memo : gears/items in XCOM2

  • non-generic armors are overrated (as of today) as they remove the ability to carry one extra item: spider/wraith armors are convenient for the improved mobility, you need at least one (at least for a sniper, to get to high ground to easily kill). The heavy is not really worth it, the extra weapon that comes along is likely to be less powerful and versatile than grenades;
  • the mimic beacon is a game changer. One is necessary. Two is good. Three is worth it, still. It allows you to seriously distract the enemy from your troops;
  • EMP grenades / bombs are great when facing heavy machinery with still underdeveloped soldiers. After that, a mix of grenades is good: one incendiary, one acid, two emp and some plasma, to be thrown by grenadiers;
  • bluescreen/emp round (more effect on machines and reduce their resistance to hack) and talon round (critical hit bonus) are worth it;

Third memo: soldiers abilities in XCOM2

2016-03-05_00006

Here, we’ll reuse data already on the web: in red the one that I favor; it is obviously a matter of playing style and this reflect what I found effective for now for my playing style. Note also that in this approach, I’m considering that I have one soldier of each class. It could be interesting to actually have two but completly at odds of the same class

As general principle, I tend to prefer the offensive abilities and rather the one based on one firing attempt than multiple (in my demented mind, 3 times chance to hit 65% is not equal to chance to hit 65%, for example).

Ranger:

SCOUT ASSAULT
Ability Description Comment Ability Description
Phantom When the squad is revealed, this soldier remains concealed. Not contextual, hence better Blademaster Deal +2 extra damage on all sword attacks.
Shadowstrike When concealed, gain +25 bonus Aim and +25 bonus critical hit chance when attacking enemies. Massive benefit Shadowstep This soldier does not trigger overwatch or reaction fire.
Conceal Immediately enter concealment once per mission. Overly necessary, as  in previous XCOM Run and Gun Take an action after dashing. 3 turn cooldown.
Implacable If you score one or more kills on your turn, you are granted a single bonus move. Can be used on purpose while getting on the path of enemies and provides very good defense against melee troops Bladestorm Free sword attacks on enemies that enter or attack from melee range.
Deep Cover If you did not attack this turn, hunker down automatically. Can be used on purpose, very useful Untouchable If you score a kill during your turn, the next attack against you during the enemy turn will miss.
Rapid Fire Fire twice in a row at an enemy. Each shot suffers an Aim penalty of -15. There is no cooldown on this ability. Undecided yet. Reapers seems good to clean and remove already injured enmies : but I found, in this situation, that the ranger was often usually still needed to pick off greater threat Reaper A devastating chain melee attack where the first melee attack cannot miss. Each melee kill in Reaper mode grants an extra action, but further melee attacks deal reduced damage. 4 turn cooldown.

 

 Grenadier:

DEMOLITIONS EXPERT HEAVY GUNNER
Ability Description Comment Ability Description
Blast Padding Your gear includes layers of extra padding and blast plates, granting a bonus point of Armor and 66% less damage from explosive attacks. Extra padding could be nice on occasion but destroying enemy armor is always necessary, easy pick Shredder Your cannon attacks shred armor.

Higher rank weapons shred more points of armor. The shredding effect applies before damage.

Demolition Unleash a volley of bullets at your target’s cover, significantly damaging or destroying it. Deals no damage to your target.Uses 2 ammo. 3-turn cooldown. A bit annoying to use ammunition not to do damage, especially with the grenadier that always throw grenades for that effect, with damage being done at the same time… So suppression it is. Suppression Fire a barrage that pins down your target, granting reaction fire against it if it moves, and imposing a -50 penalty to the target’s aim. Suppression is cancelled if the Grenadier takes damage. Suppression penalties stack. Uses 2 ammo. No cooldown.
Heavy Ordnance The grenade in your grenade-only slot gains a bonus use. Affects support grenades, not just offensive ones. Hard pick. One support the specific benefit of the grenadier (firing grenades), the second give benefit each times if fires. Undecided yet. Holo Targeting Any directed cannon shot, hit or miss, will mark the target, increasing your squad’s aim by +15 against this target. Applies to standard attacks and single-target abilities, including suppression.
Volatile Mix Grenades gain +1 tile to their radius and deal +2 damage. Does not increase environment damage. Undecided. Volatile mix is good in general. Chain shot can help destroy massive units. Chain Shot Fires a shot with a penalty of 15 to aim. If it hits, immediately fire another shot at the target. Uses 2 ammo. 3-turn cooldown.
Salvo Using the grenade launcher or a heavy weapon as your first action does not end the turn Firing twice? Can’t be beat. Hail of Bullets Fire a shot that is guaranteed to hit. Uses 3 ammo. 5 turn cool down.
Saturation Fire Fire a hail of bullets in a cone damaging every enemy and all cover within. Uses 3 ammo, 5 turn cool down. Rupture is massively efficient to destroy massive units. Required. Rupture Fires a shot that deals critical damage. The target, if hit, will also take 3 additional damage from all sources. Uses 3 ammo. 3-turn cooldown.

Specialist:

BATTLE MEDIC COMBAT HACKER
Ability Description Comment Ability Description
Medical Protocol The GREMLIN can perform healing actions remotely: GREMLIN Heal and GREMLIN Stabilize. The GREMLIN has a single charge. If a medkit is equipped, the GREMLIN will gain an additional charge. Required. There are not many ways to heal. Combat Protocol Send the GREMLIN to an enemy to jolt them, dealing guaranteed damage, which is increased against robotic enemies. Twice per mission.
Revival Protocol Send the GREMLIN to an ally to remove any negative mental status effects. Disoriented, Stunned, Panicked, or Unconscious. Best to attack instead of dealing with failure. Haywire Protocol You may target robotic and mechanical enemies with your GREMLIN, attempting to hack them and seize control.
Field Medic Equipped medikits have 2 extra charges. Required, not to many ways to heal. Scanning Protocol The GREMLIN can trigger an instant scan of the area, increasing the Specialist’s sight radius substantially for one turn and revealing any hidden enemies.
Covering Fire Overwatch shots can now be triggered by enemy actions, not just movement. Undecided. Both are good. Threat assement can be used to have a troop attack and get overwatch. Threat Assessment Aid Protocol now grants the target a Covering Fire Overwatch shot, but the Aid Protocol cooldown is increased by 1 turn.
Ever Vigilant If you spend all of your actions on moves, you are granted an automatic overwatch shot at the end of the turn. This is massive. Often result it 3 or more overwatch shot, making the specialist a killer. Could even be best with Covering Fire. Guardian Grants 50% chance during Overwatch to perform an additional shot if the previous Overwatch shot hits. There’s no limit as to how many times Guardian can trigger.
Restoration The GREMLIN flies to each squad member, healing or reviving them as needed. Once per mission. Best to attack instead of dealing with failure. Capacitor Discharge Send the GREMLIN to a location where it emits a substantial electric discharge, damaging and potentially stunning all nearby units. Robotic units take more damage. Once per mission.

Sharpshooter:

SNIPER GUNSLINGER
Ability Description Comment Ability Description
Long Watch Allow Overwatch to trigger with Squadsight. Otherwise it is no sniper at all. Return Fire When targeted by enemy fire, automatically fire back with your pistol once per turn.
Deadeye Take a shot with a small aim penalty for a significant damage boost. 2 turn cooldown. First, I was using deadeye. The aim penalty is often a problem tough, while lightning hands allows to often tenderize the meat of pick of an injured enemy. Lightning Hands Fire your pistol at a target. This attack does not cost an action. 3 turn cooldown.
Death From Above Killing an enemy at a lower elevation with your sniper rifle costs only a single action and does not end your turn. Not entitely sure. I was using Death From Above but found it is actually not that often used. Sniper making big damage, it is generally used on enemies with lot of health, the kill not being obvious. Undecided. Quickdraw Firing your pistol with your first action no longer ends your turn.
Kill Zone Take a reaction shot against any enemy that moves or attacks within a cone of fire. 3 turn cooldown. Kill Zone seemed great. I found that actually it very often miss to hit in this cone. Faceoff, on the other hand, allows to empty the area of already injured enemies like a charm. Faceoff Fire once at every visible enemy with your pistol. 3 turn cooldown.
Steady Hands If you didn’t move last turn, gain +10 aim and +10 critical chance. No real opinion. Tend to go with Steady Hands, since I’m not often using Hunker Down. Aim Hunker Down now confers +20 aim to the first shot on the following turn.
Serial Each kill made with your sniper rifle completely restores your actions. With each consecutive kill you get a critical chance penalty.4 turn cooldown. Still to be determined. Fan Fire Fire the pistol 3 consecutive times at a single target. 3 turn cooldown

 

Fourth memo: useful mods

2016-03-07_00001

Many mods are already available. You can install the following without second thoughts:

  • ShowMeTheSkills (show units abilities when selecting them before missions, as on screenshot above);
  • Always Show Shot Breakdowns (give all relevant date before firing, as on screenshots above);
  • XCom International Voices Pack (it should have been included in the game, since it was there in the previous XCOM);
  • Evac All (it should have been included in the game);
  • More Maps Pack;

 

I also use the following but they might be not for everyone:

  • Revised Ranks for Immersion;
  • Nicknames Extended;
  • New Countries;
  • Numeric Health Display (more readable with big numbers);
  • Uniforms Manager (perfect to set uniforms/colors per class, overly convenient to identify units deployed);

That’s all.

Standing desk does not have to be complicated (ie expensive) — 13 January 2016

Standing desk does not have to be complicated (ie expensive)

I started using standing desk since more than a year now, a few month after reading an article about it.

I wanted to give it try: which meant I was not prepared to spend cash to get a specific desk that might be useless soon enough.

Moreover, why would I need something complicate? I’m using computers since decades and found, over years, what matter most are:

  • the position of the screen by comparison to the head: alignment of the top 1/3 of the screen to the eye level ;
  • the position of the elbow to some sort of 90° angle that allow hands to rest on the desk while typing/moving the mouse.

This does not require specific hardware, just the ability to set the height of planks as desired.

Now, a new article on the site I got the idea from promotes some circa $1000 standing desk.

IMG_20160113_124825

Here’s mine, less than 100 €, simple kit shelves based along with a proper mat. It is not adjustable on the fly but my height is quite stable since around 20 years so I manage ok. The foam roller in a bonus to relax the foot on the fly.

(the picture is blurry/ugly but I considered it was ok privacy-wise)

With this simple cheap set, I can follow the magic principles (eyes/screen height, elbow angle and resting hands) with no effort. And I enjoy the desk which I use somedays for a considerable amount of hours.

In the shadow of the cargoes (Hunting Hitler, 2015) or possible might not be plausible — 12 January 2016

In the shadow of the cargoes (Hunting Hitler, 2015) or possible might not be plausible

Earlier, I was pointing out how hard it is actually to bring something new to the table when producing a documentary about WWII. Well, History Channel proposes now some Hunting Hitler series, titled season 1 (how long could it go?).

Where does that even come from? Apparently, it started with recently declassified US Intelligence reports of Hitler being exiled in Argentina, instead of being dead in a bunker in Berlin. We remember that the Red Army entered Berlin so we can assume we don’t know anything for sure. And now we’re shown some official documents about Hitler being spotted somewhere in south america or about how he could have escaped.

It studies what is possible, what was of obvious interest for Intelligence services, and then it concludes it’s plausible, which is a bit too much.

cap_Hunting.Hitler.Series.1.4of8.The.Tunnel.720p.x264.HDTV[eztv]_02

If you remove this bit too much, I guess you dont have enough to make a full series, you’be just adding hypothesis one after the other. I haven’t watched the whole series right now, only half: but I haven’t watched or heard one sure thing.

Worse, these wild hypothesis sometimes are backed by flawed deductions. For instance, they state there is no tracks of the death of Hitler in the bunker (only DNA sample available is not his, etc) and that would be a proof that he is not dead. If we admit this (lack of proofs) as true, I can nonetheless think of a dozen of possibilities as to why there would be none. For years, Hitler was made into a cult, how does it not make sense, if he were to die for sure, and definitely not in some glorious way, to intentionally cast some shadow, nacht und nebel, around it?

Beside from the declassified reports, we are also told that revolutionary new software contributes to new leads. How? We are for instance presented this “NIAD Nazi Interrogation Archiv Datenbank. It’s my understanding that it slurps massive amount of data, archives/declassified documents, and suggests some connections otherwise missed.

cap_Hunting.Hitler.Series.1.4of8.The.Tunnel.720p.x264.HDTV[eztv]_03

The interface of this software is all eye-candy, with no practical use or meaning. So maybe they devoted time -money- in software development to get a shiny modern eye-candy useless graphical layout; maybe they made the layout up just for the benefit of the show, which would be confusing for a show supposed to shed some light on History. Both options are kind of lame.

Deep down, their software must be an optical character recognition tool, storing sensible strings in database, then being able to do some smart grep in this database. None of this makes for an eye-candy user interface, the concern should  be about how to scan the data and how to pick and select sensible strings. If you want to get something out of all of it, you have to discriminate data, heavily so you limit the number of results.

But from what we watch  here, they can just type two words and get less than ten documents selected out of hundred or thousands. This is clearly unlikely – for once, it is not a matter of being plausible, that is not even possible. So I’d be really curious to see what is actually this NIAD.

I’m not saying that it is all horseshit. There might be such software. It is just not what we have on screen. And I don’t get the point of pretending to document History while making it obscure to make it more sexy.

To sum up, this series is worth being checked if you are curious about post-war nazis exiles, about how CIA documents such topics,  about seeing a bunch of guys travelling around asking question to old people or testing fancy gadget to find maybe some uncovered ruins. That is about all. A policeman shines a light upon my shoulder

Around the World in 49 Days with £24500 balance (80 Days) — 6 December 2015

Around the World in 49 Days with £24500 balance (80 Days)

In my sixth attempt, I went down to 52 days, I improved in the seventh by going down to 49 days, not by taking more direct routes but by making a few lucrative extra steps to avoid being stuck due to low cash.

Untitled

DAY 49 — “Arrived in London at 2:00 PM”

DAY 47 — “Departed for London”

DAY 46 — “Trombone, sold for £3100/0d!”

DAY 46 — “Arrived in New York at 9:00 PM”

DAY 46 — “Smith and Wesson, sold for £570/0d!”

DAY 46 — “Arrived in Washington at 8:00 AM”

DAY 44 — “Departed for New York”

DAY 43 — “Sugarcane, sold for £510/0d!”

DAY 43 — “Arrived in New Orleans at 3:00 PM”

DAY 41 — “Departed for New Orleans”

DAY 41 — “Harmonica, sold for £550/0d!”

DAY 41 — “Accordion, sold for £850/0d!”

DAY 41 — “Arrived in Acapulco”

DAY 39 — “Departed for Acapulco”

DAY 38 — “Arrived in Honolulu”

DAY 38 — “A murderer brought to justice!”

DAY 32 — “Departed for Honolulu”

DAY 31 — “Hand Mirror, sold for £500/0d!”

DAY 31 — “Arrived in Yokohama at 3:00 PM”

DAY 28 — “Departed for Yokohama”

DAY 26 — “Arrived in Hong Kong”

DAY 26 — “Departed for Hong Kong”

DAY 25 — “Arrived in Canton at 4:00 PM”

DAY 23 — “Lost all my luggage!”

DAY 23 — “Departed for Canton”

DAY 21 — “Arrived in Pangsau Pass at 4:00 PM”

DAY 21 — “Departed for Pangsau Pass”

DAY 20 — “Handwoven Carpet, sold for £7400/0d!”

DAY 20 — “Arrived in Rangoon at 9:00 PM”

DAY 20 — “Departed for Rangoon”

DAY 19 — “Arrived in Yadanabon at 5:00 PM”

DAY 19 — “Departed for Yadanabon”

DAY 19 — “Saved a British soldier’s life!”

DAY 18 — “Arrived in Chittagong”

DAY 18 — “Departed for Chittagong”

DAY 17 — “China Tea Set, sold for £620/0d!”

DAY 17 — “Arrived in Calcutta”

DAY 14 — “Departed for Calcutta”

DAY 14 — “Arrived in Agra at 2:00 PM”

DAY 13 — “Departed for Agra”

DAY 12 — “Hand Mirror, sold for £570/0d!”

DAY 12 — “Arrived in Kabul”

DAY 10 — “Departed for Kabul”

DAY 9 — “Arrived in Tehran at 11:00 AM”

DAY 6 — “Departed for Tehran”

DAY 5 — “Arrived in Istanbul”

DAY 3 — “Departed for Istanbul”

Have you ever been alone, enough to know it (Detectorists, 2014-2015) or when Sons of Anarchy gets real — 5 December 2015

Have you ever been alone, enough to know it (Detectorists, 2014-2015) or when Sons of Anarchy gets real

Did you watch Sons of Anarchy and felt that it was bit too much or not enough? Criminals that said all their crimes over the phone, that carried phones on every place they committed crime and still were never properly convicted of anything by simple phone taps and such?

shot0002shot0003

Well, the real deal is on. DMDC. Aka Danebury Metal Detecting Club.

All is there, the power struggles, the competition with rival gangs like the Dirt Sharks, the attempt to make the club run lawful businesses and exit crime, deceits, etc.

shot0004shot0005

Members of the DMDC has to live by a code, their life is centered over Metal Detecting. So when it goes to shambles, due to deceits and all, what’s left for them in life?

shot0007shot0008

It’s made by the BBC. Second season is on, 6 episodes of 22 minutes each. Differences from Sons of Anarchy and Detectorists, that is the name of the show featuring the dreadful DMDC, are a bit like between the Office UK and the Office US. The Detectorists are without gloss, without make up, that is the real hardcore deal. Will Paul James “Mackenzie” Crook (Gareth Keenan in The Office, Orell in the HBO series Game of Thrones) attempt to exit the club as Jax TellerTell me where are you gonna run this time!