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Frostgrave! Apr. 11th, 2019 @ 11:50 am
So now that I can theoretically get back to things, I'm going to actually post - rather than just making a post about potentially posting.

So, Blindfury and I have been hitting Frostgrave hard, getting in 4 games recently, with plans to do more. The games have been phenomenal fun - tables jammed full of ruins, and this last game was real up close and personal. We are both consistently impressed with the game and the rules - they are very simple but also very tactically challenging, and running through the scenarios has added a nice twist. Both of our wizards and warbands are levelling nicely, and it's added another dimension to the game.

One of the things that I've really liked about the game is the focus on terrain. I've been fortunate enough to be able to print plenty of terrain for it, but honestly what that's done is make me yearn to print more. The close and dirty feel of the game is made by having tons of terrain, and it's actually a big difference compared to so many other minis games I've played, where terrain is usually limited to a half dozen sparsely placed pieces. I think we had something like 20 different pieces jammed on our last board. The one thing we have been missing though, is height. I have one very tall tower - 5 levels high I think - and a couple other bigger multi level pieces. But what I am missing is the ability to raise entire portions of the table, or the ability to create interlocking high points. The tall buildings I have are generally single objects, so it's climb up, climb down, with no ability to move across the table at height.

So, I did the only reasonable thing, and baked another kickstarter. This new one looks like it's really well suited for Frostgrave, in that it has several big pieces but they are all open enough to play on without having to remove roofs or levels, and there are several pieces which prominently feature terraces, overhangs and bridges. I'll be able to create multi level terrain that isn't limited to a single piece, so you'll be able to work along the board. It'll also be able to give us some reasons to pay attention to the rules for jumping - because what's the point of having high terrain if you can't jump from ledge to ledge?

So all I need to do now is finish fixing up the hot bed on my printer, and get to it!
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I've been blogging! Apr. 3rd, 2019 @ 03:14 pm
So I've been determined to get back to the blog. Between hobby stuff, gaming stuff, having a kid stuff and being queer stuff, there's been a lot of stuff worth writing. But, it seems that every time I have and idea, I'm either in the car or at work, and don't really have the gumption to sit down and do it. At work used to be a possibility when I had LJ access at lunch time, but now that the new job doesn't allow access to social media type sites, that avenue has been cut off.

I have still had the option of using my phone - that can still do LJ - but it then means trying to type out posts on that stupid little on screen keyboard, and with the tiny visible screen size that's just never worked for me. I've experimented with the built in voice to text, but that also didn't really work - I didn't want to just sit there and talk to myself at lunch, and I also go back to that issue of screen visibility - even when using the voice to text, I lose most of the screen.

So I ended up just not really blogging, and that wasn't an option. So I came up with another idea, one that I'm hoping will work. The other day I bought a cheapy bluetooth keyboard. It folds up and is generally portable, but gives me a mostly full size keyboard to type on. But the real thing is that it gives me the entirety of my screen to review what I'm typing. That makes it a lot easier or me to think things through. So hopefully this means that I'll be able to get back to regular blogging, rather than doing a lot of thinking but not a lot of documenting.

Posted via m.livejournal.com.

It's been a bit Dec. 5th, 2018 @ 10:06 pm
So I think it's been like two years since I've posted anything.

Okay, not really - it's only been a month - but considering I had this "post every week" idea thing I was going for, a month is still a long time. And if you don't count after battle reports, it's been since July. So yeah, it actually has been a bit.

The big thing has been work. I started the new job in July, so that last post was only a few weeks in and I was still getting my feet wet. I was just getting into the projects there, just settling in with the new routine, the new coworkers, and being out as Phoenix. But now that it's about 5 months in, everything feels really good.

work stuffCollapse )

Phoenix developsCollapse )

But anyhow, this post got a lot longer than I was expecting, and I didn't even touch on any gaming or hobby stuff yet. So I'm going to call it, and maybe come back shortly.

Commonwealth 0, Germans 1 Nov. 6th, 2018 @ 04:35 pm
So, to get to that first fight.

Blindfury and I have been diligently trying to get back to more gaming. It's been haphazard at best, and between jumping around between games it just hasn't been satisfying. So we've decided that going forward we'd pick a system and focus on it for awhile, like 6 months or something, and then move on. Our initial push was into Warmachine, but after realizing that neither of us were really invested in that system, we decided to make a switch to Flames of War. We both had plenty of miniatures, and we decided that we'd stick with the version 3 rules that we've played previously, rather than trying to switch up to version 4. So with that in mind I started transcribing everything into Google Docs, to refresh my brain and make everything more accessible to Blindfury.

Our first game was set to be played in an afternoon, prior to a role playing session. We decided to start with 1250 points, early war desert, his Commonwealth Indians against my Italians. I decided I would try and reorganize my fortified platoon into an infantry platoon, so that I wouldn't have to worry about the additional rules on fortifications just yet. But a cat-based accident meant that my Italians were in need of some repairs, so I opted to go with a German Panzerschutzen company, borrowing models from my early war infantry.

The Protagonists - German Panzerschutzen Company

Two Platoons of Panzerschutzen; 6 teams with anti-tank rifle and mortar, in half tracks
One Platoon of 3 Panzer 3s
Priority Stuka Air Support

The Beligerents - Commonwealth Indian Rifle Company

Four Platoons of Infantry; 6 teams with anti-tank rifle and mortar
One Platoon of 4 Heavy Machine Guns
One Platoon of Bofors anti-aircraft guns
One Platoon of 4 2 pounder anti-tank portees
Sporadic Hurricane Air Interception

The table was 4'x4', with a small village on one side, two large rock formations opposite, a pair of oasis in the middle, and some sporadic area terrain to slow things down.

The mission was 'Pincer', which saw Blindfury's infantry defending against my mechanized company. He needed half his army in Delayed Reserves, which left him with his Heavy Machine Guns in the village, his Bofors out front where they'd have good arcs of fire, and an infantry platoon defending the forward objective. I put my Panzer 3s on the right side of a rock formation and my halftracks on the left, with the plans to bum rush.

And rush bums I did. My Panzer 3s moved on the infantry, while my halftracks moved on the Bofors. The infantry couldn't really oppose my tanks, and with the oasis keeping my tanks hidden from the Bofors, they instead went after my halftracks. The armoured halftracks did nicely though, taking minimal losses.

Seeing that his troops and heavy machine guns couldn't stop my tanks, I decided to make an all out push to get the Bofors off the field, which would then allow my tanks to assault the infantry unopposed and take the objective. They pushed in easily, with the halftracks ready to follow suit. Game goes to the Germans.

In our initial reflections, what we saw was a mission that put Blindfury at a huge disadvantage. Over half his army was off the table in Delayed Reserves, and the game was over before they even had a chance to come in. Blindfury has also said that he made a couple troop choices that didn't account for the way point values affected army build.

We're both the "lots of troops" kind of players, which generally means that we'll max out our compulsory units, and then build an army around that based on a notion of what the army should look like. The problem is that there are certain factors that need to be taken into account, especially at a smaller point range like 1250. Blindfury took a ton of infantry, which should have fared better, but because of the lower point range he couldn't really get the support he needed. The end result was a deployed force that wasn't prepared to stop my army - there wasn't enough anti-tank to keep my Panzers at bay, and the infantry were easily pushed off the objective. A different build ratio may have been able to put more support down, which may have allowed more opportunity for reinforcements to arrive.
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Commonwealth 2, Italians 0 Nov. 6th, 2018 @ 03:03 pm
So in a weird bit of good fortune, Blindfury and I have managed to fit in several games of Flames of War lately. We played a 1250 point game of Germans vs Commonwealth Indians, which I'll revisit in a separate post, and then followed up with a pair of 1750 point games of his Commonwealth Indians against my Italians.

The Protagonists - Italian Poizone di Fucilleri

Two Fortified Platoons; 6 Teams with trenches, barbed wire and minefields
One Platoon of 81/14 mortars
One Platoon of 3 M13/40 tanks
One Platoon of 4 M11/39 tanks
One battery of 4 75/27 guns
One battery of 4 100/17 howitzers
One platoon of 2 20/65 anti-aircraft portees
Sporadic Falco support

The Belligerents - Commonwealth Indian Rifle Company

Three Rifle Platoons; 6 Teams with antitank rifle and mortar
One Platoon of 3 Valentines
One Platoon of 3x3 Universal Carrier Squads
One Platoon of 4 two pounder anti-tank portees
One Platoon of 4 Bofors anti-aircraft guns
Sporadic Hurricane support

The table was 4'x6', with a village on one of the short sides, a pair of oases in the middle of the table, several rock formations in the corners of a long side, and patches of rough terrain scattered throughout.

The first mission was 'Hold the Line', which would see my Italians defending a short half of the table. I set up in the village, with my fortified platoons up front, my two artillery batteries in the back, and the rest of my forces off the table in Delayed Reserves. Blindfury's entire army bunched up on my right flank, to make a push through my fortified platoon to the closest objective. He also took advantage of the Night Attack rule, which reduced effective ranges, and grounded my aircraft.

Blindfury had the first turn, and wasted no time in rushing my lead fortified platoon. His Valentines led the push, followed by his Universal Carriers loaded down with troops. My platoon unloaded every ounce of firepower it had and my 100/17 howitzers rained shells from above, trying to slow down the oncoming forces. I was able to take out several of the Carriers, and inflicted major casualties against one of the infantry platoons, but my guns were ineffective against the heavy armor of the Valentines. My minefields managed to stop two of them, but I couldn't prevent the last Valentine from rolling through my barbed wire, and pushing my infantry back off of the objective. Win one for the Commonwealth.

The second mission was 'Free For All', which saw my Italians spread along a long side, with a fortified platoon and artillery battery on each flank, my mortars positioned in the middle, and my tanks in the center in an attempt to provide a flexible reaction force. Blindfury's infantry were stretched along the table edge, with his Valentines and Universal Carriers bunched on my left flank to make a push through the village for the objective, and his Bofors and portees anchoring his infantry on my right side.

Again Blindfury had the first turn, and his Valentines and Universal Carriers made a push up my left flank. His Carriers started by trying to oust my 100/17 Howitzer battery, looking to remove my heaviest guns and neutralize the biggest threat to his Valentines. The howitzer battery, supported by the heavy machine guns and anti tank guns from the adjacent fortified platoon, were able to counter the Universal Carriers, but I still couldn't stop the Valentines. I dropped every shell and mortar round available on them, and my M13/40s moved around to try and slow them down while my M11/39s advanced left of center through the village to make my own push for one of his objectives. But in the end, I just couldn't slow the Valentines, and my own advance was too little and too late. Win two for the Commonwealth.

It's tempting to blame these two losses on the mission, or on the Italians as an army, but on further reflection a big part of these losses lie on my shoulders. I went into both battles thinking "how do I kill his Valentines", and with those blinders on I lost sight of what I needed to do to actually win. Both of these battles went the same way that our previous German vs Commonwealth battle did - infantry set to hold objective, tanks rush infantry, tanks take objective. And really, the fact that I expected it to go any differently falls into that whole "definition of insanity" trope. I know that infantry aren't effective at holding off tanks, and adding in some barbed wire and minefields and bunkers doesn't fundamentally change that. Bunkers can't contest objectives. Minefields can't contest objectives. And while infantry can contest objectives, they are easy to push back with a tank assault.

So I have some ideas on things I should have done differently. Taking both fortified platoons as full platoons was probably a mistake. They are basically static, which means that Blindfury could ignore one and effectively take it out of the battle. I also think that I overspent on barbed wire - even though it's cheap, I could have easily found another 40-50 points that would have been better spent elsewhere.

I also need to stop thinking of artillery as my anti-Valentines. Certainly, they are the beefiest anti-tank that I've brought to the table (although I do have an option of a platoon of 65/17s which are AT 8 - why haven't I taken those?), but they are still not that effective against the heavy Valentine armor - a bombardment only has a 1 in 6 chance of actually taking out a tank for the 100/17s, only 1 in 36 for the 75/27s; even my chances to bail out a tank just aren't that great. Direct fire is no better - AT 7 against front armor of 6 means that I only have a 1 in 6 chance of matching the armor value, so at best I might bail one out. And all this is based on the premise that I actually hit them in the first place. So really, artillery against tanks is mostly just an exercise in rolling dice, the end result is that I end up devoting a chunk of my points to beating my head against a wall.

So we'll see. I have a couple plans brewing in my head on how to minimize the Valentines and take the win, and I'm printing out some models to fill in holes in my army list. It remains to be seen how my ideas will work out, but I think that the next time the Italians take the field, I may not lose as badly.
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Other entries
» So it's been awhile
So apparently my latest "I need to blog more" push didn't go quite as planned. I know that a large part of it is that I can't reach LJ at work - and that's something I need to figure a way around. There's been too much that's happened, too much that I'd like to get down on paper, and it'll slip my brain if I don't get it down sooner rather than later.

I'm not going to go into too much, but there has been a lot going on of late - the new job is awesome, but not without it's flaws; the presentation of Phoenix has evolved; and I've actually managed to get some gaming in too. All of which need some attention in their own posts - not just blurbs in a generic "oh it's been awhile" bit.

But, the plan is to get back to it. I need to figure out how to post from my phone, or maybe if there is a better mobile device that I should look into getting to post from. I have that cheapo little tablet, or maybe a bluetooth keyboard is what I need. The big thing for me is that trying to do a full blown blog post on a screen the size of a phone is frustrating, especially when the virtual keyboard eats up about 40% of the screen size.

So, with any luck and motivation, I should be posting more and soon.
» Starting new
So the new job didn't actually start when it was supposed to - just a few days before I was supposed to start I got a phone call, a "yeah, some things still aren't worked out yet, so would you be able to start next Monday instead?" Part of me was freaked - was this in response to my questions to HR about being gender fluid? But the non-paranoid side of me figured this was just a matter of large corporations figuring out details, and that that sort of thing just doesn't happen quickly. So I tried to look on the bright side of a bonus week off (unpaid, mind you), and get some stuff done around the house, figuring everything was going to be okay. And it turned out the non-paranoid side of me was right, it was just a matter of sorting out the details of how I was going to be employed, since this was through a recruiter. So once the recruiter people and the new job people had their ducks in a row, I started on Monday.

I will come back and talk about the new job - because holy smokes it's turning into everything I wanted - but the big thing I wanted to hit on was about how Phoenix was going to fit into things.

Talking to HRCollapse )

Phoenix at WorkCollapse )

Getting ReadyCollapse )

First day of PhoenixCollapse )

So, one day down of Phoenix at work, and likely many more to come.
» The new gig
So after what seems like forever, I'm finally found a new position, and am moving on from my current firm. This Friday represents my last day at the old place, and I start on Tuesday. I'm obviously nervous moving on - the devil you know vs the devil you don't and all that - but I'm extremely excited too.

Out with the oldCollapse )

In with the newCollapse )

And so it goes - one chapter closes, another opens. Here's hoping this one is all it's cracked up to be.
» WarMachine, revisited
In what can only be described as a strange turn of events, Blindfury and I finally managed some gaming time the other day. He had a Saturday work day and got out mid afternoon, and we all had plans for dinner, so it left us with a convenient couple hours in between.

Knowing that we had a short window, we decided to break out the WarMachine again. My Magnus battle box hadn't seen much play time, and BF has been looking to freshen up on the rules, originally out of interest in some hopeful game time at our friendly local game shop. We also opted for a quick setup on a card table with a spattering of buildings, as my 4'x4' table downstairs was currently occupied with my trains. The card table was really smaller than either of us would have liked, something like 32" square, but in the grand scheme of things it would work. The point here was to get back into the swing of playing and my relearning the rules, so any loss in tactics from starting closer together was irrelevant.

I'm not going to get into the gritty details of the game, but it was definitely a close one. BF's Khador battlegroup lacks in numbers but not in beef - his two heavy 'jacks bring a lot of armor to bear - and my Magnus battlegroup brings some interesting quirks. I tried an "overwhelming force" tactic of knocking down jacks and taking advantage but it didn't really work - that Khador armor was hard to pierce and I couldn't seal the deal. My jacks took a lot of punishment before backing off, and it was by drawing out BF's caster and getting a couple lucky die rolls I was able to squeak a win.

A couple takeaways from the game:

I really like the 'jack system. It's kind of a minimal Battletech, in that you can lose parts and systems without losing the whole jack. It makes for an interesting and drawn out game - I always like a game where vehicles can take hits but keep on chugging along, rather than an all-or-nothing kill system.

I'm still mixed on the focus system. It definitely adds a tactical level to play, and I clearly haven't worked into the rhythm of Magnus. BF and I were talking afterwards, and there were a couple things I probably should have done differently. I'm not sure if it would have had much impact on overall game play, but it's still a lesson in optimizing abilities. I'm also torn on the boost system for attacks. In one sense, I like it - I really needed the boost to be able to effectively combat the Khador armor - but in other ways I'm not 100% sold. I think it's partially due to the fact that I really needed to boost my attacks, I didn't get a good feel for exactly what options I have.

I also still really like Magnus. The one shot rocket of my Renegade is kind of annoying, but I really like the Talon and his stun spear. Magnus' battle group has a lot of stun and knock down potential, and frankly that's just kind of fun.

I'm not sure how well WarMachine will grow for me though. I really like the small battlegroup size fights, and I really like the jacks. But looking into what's involved with playing with bigger armies, and it seems that the bigger the battle, the smaller part your warcaster and 'jacks have. There's lots of neat infantry options, but in the same sense the infantry don't have the mechanic of the 'jacks that is what I really like about WarMachine.

So we'll see. BF and I are determined to get more WarMachine in, and I'd like to get practiced enough to feel comfortable with the mechanics. Maybe then we'll play around with the idea of larger battles, and seeing what else WarMachine has to offer.
» It's been awhile
Looking back, it's been awhile since I've posted anything. So that leaves me with a lot I want to get down, but in an attempt to avoid a brain dump post, I'm going to focus on what's probably been the biggest thing lately.

Where my brain has beenCollapse )

So we'll see. I definitely feel like things are moving in a positive direction. Time will tell if it keeps up.
» In a funk
So I seem to be in a bit of a funk lately. It seems to be happening with some frequency, and I don't like it. The gist of it is that I feel kind of stuck, and stuck in a place that I'm just not really thrilled with. A big part of it is career and gender identity related, but some of it is family too.

Job stuffCollapse )

Phoenix stuffCollapse )

Family stuffCollapse )

And don't even get me started on politics.

So, fuck. All I know is that I really just want to check out for a bit. Unfortunately, being an adult means that's not really feasible.
» Random thoughts and stuff
When I called this blog "Mental Diarrhea", the idea was that I tend to just expel my thoughts onto the page. And I don't know what it is, but that's just the way things go for me - no matter how many times I think I'm going to sit and write something focused, it always comes down to a post full of random crap.

I think part of it is that there's maybe a half dozen things kind of running simultaneously in my brain, so when I decide to sit down and type, it's always those same half dozen things that float forward into the "this is stuff I want to write about". But anyhow, at the risk of being repetitive, here goes:

Phoenix and the job huntCollapse )

The hobby stuffsCollapse )

Hm. And just as it begins, it ends. My brain has reached a point where it's typed out, and honestly I should probably get back to work.
» Things go on
More of the same, plus some different.

The job huntCollapse )

More trainsCollapse )

PidgeCollapse )

Warmachine and gamingCollapse )

So yeah, another bunch of stuff brain dump. It seems to be the way things go lately, I guess that's just a function of how much stuff there is that seems to be going on.
» Stuff and stuff
So it's been just over a week since last posting - some things change, others stay the same.

Job huntingCollapse )

Choo choo!Collapse )

Little dudeCollapse )

But, as it goes, life carries on.
» Ramblings
As tends to happen, it seems that I end up logging in and thinking "I have things I want to say, but the thoughts are only loosely organized, so while I feel like I should address each topic as a post, I'm just going to brain dump". There's a reason I titled this blog "Mental Diarrhea". :-)

GunsCollapse )

TrainsCollapse )

PhoenixCollapse )

So yeah. Brain dump!
» Some thoughts

So, I had to come and brain dump a little.  I've been feeling kind of off, and I'm stuck at work where I can't really discuss it with anyone, but I can't just sit here and stew.

So as mentioned earlier, I've decided to start job hunting as Phoenix.  The idea started almost as a side comment with Ceri, but especially after talking with her, and with my therapist, and just thinking about it more, it's become apparent that I'd be happier with the ability to be Phoenix at work.  So before I could talk myself out of it, I updated my resume, made it public on a couple job sites, and started looking.

It's only been a couple days, but I've already been contacted by a handful of recruiters.  No surprise there — they are set up for that — but I've already talked to a couple, being very open about my desire to pursue the next stage of my career with Phoenix.  The recruiters have all been supportive and positive, although I suppose that is their job.

But with all of this, it's definitely put me in a weird head space.  Really, it's kind of a one-two punch of major life changes, something I've never been really good at dealing with.  I've hated every job hunt before this, and while I'm extremely excited about the idea of being more Phoenix, I'm also scared to death of some of the implications.

Read more...Collapse )

» Birthdays
I just passed my birthday, although in a way it was two birthdays. Aside from turning 42, it was also two years ago at my 40th birthday party that Phoenix "came out" to the friends group. If you had asked me two years ago what life would have looked like now, I honestly don't think I would have foreseen this. Phoenix has become a much larger, a more normal part of my life - in ways that both excite and scare me.

I know that Phoenix has always been there, but I grew up so used to hiding her that I never thought she'd be much more than a little bedroom secret. So to be where I'm at, looking back at a weekend where I spent two out of three days in full Phoenix mode, it's a lot. Ceri and I have been working hard to make her a normal part of life for us and Pidge, and I feel like we've been very good with that, but that doesn't change the fact that sometimes I look back in awe.

Birthday time!Collapse )

The stuff we noticeCollapse )

A next step?Collapse )

And on a side note - the nails came off okay. It took a lot of time and prying - maybe a solid hour all said and done, but you'd never know I had them done. It certainly gives me food for thought about getting them done again. It's a little pricy to have them for only a weekend, but it's good to know that if there's something special occasion that I don't have to worry about not being able to get them off.

So yeah, I don't know. A lot of really good Phoenix stuff going on, but it's also pushing my life in directions I wouldn't have thought possible just a few years ago. It's a lot to grok.
» Grumpy old man
So I was trying to come up with a title for this post, and as I was typing out different thoughts, I couldn't help but think I sounded like some grumpy old man.

Anyhow, the source of today's grumpy-ism is new rules releases for games, specifically miniatures games, but games as a whole. It started this morning, as I was browsing the web while I was waking up. I popped over to the Flames of War website, and saw they were releasing a new campaign book — Italy in Mid-War Africa. Seeing as I have a fair amount of Italians, I thought — "great! a book tailored to my army!" Except that was quickly dashed by a "except that this is for the latest rules version, which I'm not familiar with". And it actually tied back in to a conversation I had with Blindfury last night — about how I hate the version changes with games, and that I'm more likely to play an old version of a game than the most current set.

In all honesty, this is nothing new. For me it mostly dates back to my 40K games - starting with Rogue Trader, and moving on through the various iterations of Warhammer 40K. The transition from Rogue Trader to 2nd Edition was actually a good one - they simplified a lot of the game, and introduced a lot of army organization that made the game easier to get into and play. The original Rogue Trader was a very generic set - there was a lot of flexibility but very little structure. There wasn't much predefined - no army org charts, or anything like that, and the vehicle rules were extremely cumbersome. So when Games Workshop trimmed and revised into 2nd and 3rd edition, they were mostly welcome changes. But as the 40K rules progressed, they started to do things that I felt were "too far". They'd make changes that had drastic effects on existing armies, completely nullifying certain tactics or army builds, and sometimes even making certain miniatures not usable. The rule changes moved from welcome changes to a frustrating destruction of prior practice. I got out of 40K when I first started college, and when I got back into it - 40K was no longer a game I recognized. So I pushed it aside.

Years later, Blindfury and I got into Flames of War. At the time it was a good fit - a nice World War 2 setting, but a light and fluffy enough game to be playable. It was often referred to as a "historical 40K", because the game play was similarly simple. But that comparison to 40K ended up going further, in that it shifted into rules versioning hell. When we first started it was the tail end of version 2, and moved over to version 3. But now they are pushing into version 4, and we find ourselves asking the question - for as rarely as we play, is it worth relearning the new ruleset? Or do we cut and run, and let Flames of War fall into the list of "games we used to play"?

I hate to do that, as I love the minis, and we have the time and money invested in armies and terrain. I already have boxes of 40K miniatures that will likely never see the light of day, and I'm not inclined to do the same with my Flames of War stuff. But lately we've been into Frostgrave, and potentially Company of Iron, so I don't know that I see much room for it either. Frostgrave has been our go to as the rules are quick and the scope of armies is small, tow things that Flames of War just doesn't have. Part of me thinks that maybe we need to refocus our idea of Flames of War - smaller armies, and maybe some extra legwork into quick access reference sheets that could streamline the game into something we play more often, but then I wonder if I'm putting effort into a lost cause.

I dunno. I love the army building, and I love the company level management - there's something about having infantry and vehicles and artillery that you just can't recreate in a skirmish level game with 10 guys. But with that comes a certain level of complexity that makes it hard to have a quick and flowing game, and more complex rules are just going to have more grey areas. In all honesty, I really just wish we played more often. I think that alone would make a huge difference - when you are playing a game once every couple months, you tend to go with what works and what's quick, as you don't want to spend time on a game experience that isn't satisfying. You also don't get the speed of game that comes with familiarity with the rules - I think if we were playing Flames every other week, we'd have the rules down well enough to make the games faster.

But as I said - I dunno. I think at this point I'm going to try and refocus my hobby efforts - try and get stuff painted and assembled and organized - and just try and keep my options open.
» Pidge and race
So obviously this is something that's been a long time coming. There was absolutely no way we were going to get away from race, and the fact that Pidge is black and Ceri and I are white. But even with that, and knowing it was coming, it's hit me in ways that I'm just not ready for.

Once Pidge hit school age, we knew that race was going to start to become something he'd notice. Once outside of the very small circle of contact that was family and day care, things were going to come up. He'd occasionally make comments, and we'd be very open and honest with him, and for the most part his kid brain just accepted things. We were different colors and that was no big deal. But this year, now that he's in first grade, he's much smarter and more savvy, and his brain is reaching deeper. He's noticing things, and asking more pointed questions. And moreso, he's hearing things from kids at school, and bringing them home as questions to us. For the most part it's been stuff that has been easy to handle - questioning things like Santa and God - but last night he brought up Martin Luther King.

I know a big part of it was naivety on my side. I'm not fool enough to think that the election of a black president was "the end of racism", or that there aren't any scars that remain of our racist past. But most of that has been national, or higher level news stuff that was beyond Pidge's awareness, so they were questions he didn't ask. But since schools are closed for MLK day, and school is very much in Pidge's level of thought, it was only natural that he would ask us who MLK was, and why he got the day off of school. And there's obviously no way to discuss MLK without discussing America's problem with racism.

It's actually been a weird thought point for us. Ceri and I are very aware of the fact that the history of black America isn't specifically Pidge's history - while he is black, his history is in Ethiopia. But to the person that sees him from the outside, he is a black American, and so that history is his. He's going to be perceived and judged as a young black American, with all of the extras that are associated with that. And frankly, it's a part of American history - a nasty part - but a part nonetheless, and we'd be doing him a disservice by pretending otherwise. Fortunately Ceri was on top of this - she's had an eye out for kid level stories about prominent black Americans since before Pidge came home - so when he asked about MLK, we had a book on the shelf ready to read. So we read it last night, and listening to Ceri read the book to Pidge, and all of his questions - it's really hard. Part of it is just hard to believe that it was ever acceptable to enslave people, or segregate and discriminate based on color. There just isn't a good answer when he looks at you and says "why?" And it's made even harder by knowing that these people still exist, and not in the "old dinosaur" type of people. Racism isn't just an old Archie Bunker episode, or some angry old white man - it's their kids, and their kids' kids, and it's going to be their kids' kids' kids.

I've also started reading "We Were Eight Years In Power" by Ta-nehisi Coates, which is a reflection on the Obama presidency, as told by a black American. I'm not going to try and pretend to be some sort of enlightened person on the issue of race, but reading his perspective on things - all of this is coming together in a way that has my head reeling. I find myself becoming more aware of the white washing of so much that I grew up with, and then I look and see how many people *aren't* aware of it - people that just aren't aware of the bigotry that lies at the heart of so much of what they know. I think the perfect example is the retelling of the Civil War - a war that was literally fought over slavery (the Articles of Secession some of the states wrote explicitly say as much), but that fact is literally not taught to large parts of the country - they are taught that the war was fought over state rights, and an overreaching federal government - and the whole issue of slavery is glossed over, not a big deal, not pertinent to the story. Some politicians have even gone on to say that the whole war could have been avoided if "the North knew how to compromise". And then I think about so many of the racist and bigoted things I hear people say (because as a white guy people assume I agree with them or something), and the things they spew as 'facts' that mean they aren't actually racist, again completely ignoring the systemic racism that set up black America to fail. Because they were never taught about that. They were never taught about redlining, or the policies that pushed black Americans into the slums of the city, and the policies that crippled their access to jobs and education and health. And I know they were never taught this, because I was never taught this. Growing up, I was never taught that racism was a thing. Slavery and segregation and Jim Crowe - those were just blips of bad decisions in an otherwise Great American History. We were certainly never taught that they still existed.

So I don't know. As someone that grew up in white bread Kentucky and Connecticut, I'm feeling kind of overwhelmed. I'm realizing that there is a large part of our history that I need to make sure Eli knows, but that before I can help him understand it, I need to understand it first.
» Holidays are done - back to normal
Now that we're into January, I've been meaning to get back to the ol' LJ and put some thoughts down.

PhoenixCollapse )

So I feel like there's a bunch of other stuff I should go on about, but I'm kinda brain dead too. Ceri is in Saudi for her final trip over there, so as single Dad for a week I'm a little drained. I can't even blame it on being single Dad - Pidge is fairly good to take care of, even if he gets a bit intense with his jibber jabber - but I also do dumb stuff like staying up until 2 playing video games with my brother. I justify it in my brain by doing a bunch of around the house stuff - cleaning and laundry and such - but all it means is that I get stuff done and stay up too late, so I'm accomplished and tired. Then again, a little accomplishment is needed sometimes. The house was still a bit overrun with holidays - lots of boxes for recycling, laundry that piles up because no one wants to do it on vacation, that kind of stuff - so clearing some of that away helps. I find that I start to get into a funk when I feel like the house is too cluttered, so clearing that out lifts me up a bit, and tends to put me in a better mood.

There's also some real practical reason behind wanting to do some major cleaning around the house - and that is that the Man Shed is on it's last legs. The exterior sheathing is starting to rot on one side, and it's become clear that I'm going to need to do something about it within a year or so. Ceri and I started talking about it, and the conclusion we came to is that it's probably best to just tear it down, and put up something smaller. When we bought the house I had this idea of using that as my man cave - it's where stuff like my tools and model railroad could go - but after 10 years in the house that never really materialized. And with getting the addition a few years ago, it's meant that we don't need to use the basement as living space - so it's possible that some of what was meant for the shed can happen inside. Some stuff still won't work - I'm not going to run major power tools (or clean up after them) in the house, but frankly that's the sort of thing that I can store the tools indoors, and just temporarily set them up outside to use them. If I'm honest about it I rarely use them anyway, so I don't exactly need a giant shed for them. So while repair is still an option, the truth is that the shed is too big for the yard, and never filled it's promise as a place for my stuff, and honestly never will. Even though I started fixing it up inside, it doesn't have A/C or real heat, so it's never going to be a permanent home for anything. It may have made great gaming space in the fall, but I'm not going to want to leave anything out there all year if I'm only willing to go out for a couple months during the year.

So I've been thinking of brining my railroad in first - Pidge has wanted to play with it anyway, and I've been kinda hankering to see it moving myself. If I clean all the clutter off the gaming table I can bring it in and set it up there, which will give me a place to clean it up and get it running again. That will mean that I'll need to find a home for my railroad to actually game on the table, but the layout is still just a 3'x4'and relatively portable. I'm also a little excited to get back to it, because I think there are things that were holding me up that I can now fix with the printer. I'll be able to print background buildings, and stuff like retaining walls and bridges. The resolution isn't quite there for a up-front n scale building, but it'll let me fill out my rail yard with odds and ends. I'll also be able to print out a control console, so I'll be able to create a nice panel with all my switches and controls in one place, and I'll be able to do it far more precisely than I would have been able to if I was trying to use wood. Even just writing about it is getting me psyched. My one big concern though, is the electronics. Everything has been sitting idle for 10 years, so there's no telling what shape it'll be in. The switch motors may not work, my wiring may need to be repaired, my locomotives may not run - and that'd be a huge amount of work and disappointment. And unfortunately, I won't know the answer to that until I actually bring it in and power everything up. But then again - bringing everything in and trying means that I may actually do something with it, rather than leaving it to eventually rot in the shed.

So, as seems to always be the case though - so much to do and not enough time to do it. I guess life carries on as usual.
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