Sunday, May 21, 2006

I went to Rick Steeves' in Durham for his monthly game night, and was lucky enough to find players much of the night for Law and Chaos (TM). This included several four player games, which I had not tried before--not entirely good, as I anticipated, as the game can go on much longer owing to the ability of three to gang up on one. Testing confirmed that it really is a natural three player game, one of the rarities of gaming.

Someone--a lawyer, I think--told a story of playing a game with someone who, unbeknownst to him, was the designer of the game. The story-teller kept challenging rule interpretations until the designer finally revealed who he was. The story-teller continued to challenge rulings, and the designer finally said something like "that's not how I meant it". Amusing, but it does point out that even a designer has to go by what the published rules say, or get an official errata distributed. This is one reason why I told people, once I'd come back into the hobby, that I couldn't provide rule interpretations for Brit 1, that they'd have to go by what was written.

One of the advantages of a Web page and blog is that I can indeed get errata distributed, if necessary, though it's quite clear that most game players do not look on the Web for additional information.

I am trying to get Sweep of History Game Magazine #2 finished and distributed before a vacation. Here's a minor part of it:

Book review:
Gwyn Jones, A History of the Vikings (second edition 1984), Oxford University Press, paperback, over 500 pages.

This is one of the standard histories of the Vikings. Jones wrote in an era when the savagery of the Vikings was being downplayed--"oh, they were mainly merchants"--though he does not seem to have been entirely of that party. He does, however, buy the notion that the "Great Army" was only 500-1,000 men, a notion I find quite ludicrous given what that army did in both England and France. But it's inconvenient, if you believe the Vikings were mainly traders, to account for armies of 5,000-10,000, which is the size you'd judge both from the capabilities of the Great Army and from the number of ships reported by the chronicles. (The typical trick here is to believe the chronicles when they report small numbers of ships, and simply disbelieve when they report large numbers.)

Jones says at many points that Scandinavians in general and Vikings in particular (Vikings being those who roved overseas) were motivated by (had a goal of) "land, wealth, and fame". Anyone who designs a Viking game but does not account for this is leaving something out--of course, designers are always leaving things out.

Jones writes with a dry British wit combined with a poetic turn of phrase that is quite enjoyable. There is a LOT of detail, much of it not military in any way.

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