Saturday, 21 December 2013

Friday night firefight...

Now I've moved house (back to the Somerset, where I grew up) and have settled in, I've been hoping to get some RPG stuff up and running as quite a few of my old RPG gang are still in the area. As a sort of prelude to organising it all, I decided to try playing Car Wars (CW) with one of that gang, my cousin Marc. I say 'try' as neither of us has played CW since 1983 and were therefore a little rusty about how it worked...

Anyway, to start off with we made sure that we had everything we needed:

This obviously includes all of the important things - track, counters, dice, rulebooks, a turning key, and booze. We were using bits of the 1st and 2nd edition rules, but I'll get back to that point a little later on...

To start with we both chose the same vehicle, a Stinger sub-compact with default loadouts - small amounts of armour, two linked MGs up front, that's it. We laid out a strip of track and started at either end going 30 mph:

My car is the one closest to the camera
We soon close the gap without making any drastic manoeuvres, and as we both come into range the guns start blazing. We score hits on each other. Marc's first shot chews 9 points out of my Stinger's 10 points of frontal armour. Ouch. My MGs reply by gouging 6 points out of his nose.

Takka takka takka...!
As we draw even closer, we both start shooting again. This time Marc takes out my last point of front armour, wipes out both of my MGs and does 1 point of damage to my powerplant. Debris flies off my car. Oops. I try to keep in a straight line so that my nose isn't facing Marc's MGs. Marc does a hard turn...

 ...but then slightly misjudges the distance and ends up ramming me, doing 4 damage to my 8 point rear armour. Oh bugger. As I try to get away, Marc fires again, knocks out the remaining rear armour and my poor driver dies after being riddled with bullets.

So, after that little skirmish, we decide to start a new duel and pick some heftier vehicles. Marc chooses a 'Vlad The Impala' (2 linked autocannons in the front, recoiless rifle and flaming oil jet at the back) and I choose a Ventura pick-up (autocannon in the front, Vulcan MG in a top turret). Both vehicles have quite a lot of armour, so in theory this game should last longer:

It doesn't. Well, not by much. After closing again, Marc's first autocannon burst knocks large chunks out of my front armour. My autocannon doesn't do much in reply, but the Vulcan gets good hits. We then get in a pretty slow turning fight and both of us also end up having to stop and reverse to get our guns trained on each other. The damn track is too narrow! Luckily my Vulcan keeps up the pressure but Marc uses the flaming oil jet to narrow my manoeuvring options.

After lots more low-speed turning, I manage to get away from him but at the expense of losing all of the armour (30 points) on my left side. My Vulcan knocks chunks out of Marc's Impala but nothing that it can't handle. However, I misjudge a turn, end up stopping and my unprotected left side waves hello at Marc as he accelerates towards me:

I'm the guy in the green car...
My driver obviously doesn't survive the hail of autocannon rounds. Game over!

So, all in all it was good fun. But it did remind us why we didn't really get into Car Wars straight away. It also reminded me of the reason why my 14 year-old self decided to try designing a simpler car combat game back in '83 (as I've outlined in this previous blog post). Put simply, it's not really what I'd call a user-friendly game from the get-go. There was some headscratching about the rules in 1983, and the same was the case in 2013. I think this might be because the game doesn't give an example of play for different situations. Having to keep track of various different things at once can also be a bit fiddly until you get used to it.

However, it's still a great game. Maybe I'll get the most up to date version. Things seemed a little clearer in the 2nd edition rules than was the case for the first edition. I'm sure with more practice we'll (a) remember more and (b) get the hang of it...

Friday, 13 December 2013

H.P. Lovecraft: Fear Of The Unknown

'H.P. Lovecraft: Fear Of The Unknown' is a documentary made in 2008. It traces the path of Lovecraft's life and work, about how each influenced the other, and the legacy that was created from that. It's also interesting because of the various people who add to this discussion - Ramsey Campbell, Neil Gaiman, and Guillermo del Toro, amongst others. Worth a look!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Cthulhu is not an octopus... Part 2

Further to the post that I wrote yesterday, here's an updated scribble of Cthulhu:

This rectifies some of the details in my previous scribble, but I think it needs more work. For example, Cthulhu needs to be more rotund, his thighs need to be longer, and I think his biceps need to be flabbier...

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Cthulhu is not an octopus...

Many if not all depictions of Cthulhu tend to show him as an octopus stuck on top of a man's body. Sometimes that body also seems a tad too muscly and superhero-ish, for reasons I can't quite fathom. I've never been all that sure that such depictions are Lovecraftian enough. By that I mean that they tend to be a tad too normal, for want of a better word. 

The great thing about the various creatures created and described by Lovecraft is that they are never run of the mill. Put simply, they're odd. They're a weird amalgam of things, none of which seem particularly human-like (aside perhaps from Deep Ones, but they're cross-breeds). Certain themes tend to flow through Lovecraft's monsters, some of which tend to revolve around an apparent unease with anything fish-related. Other than that, there are tentacles or odd appendages, and hints of mollusc and wings - and that's when Lovecraft isn't completely going off on his own tangent. There isn't anything overtly described as being exactly like any of these things, however. There's just hints and scrabbling by the narrator in order to make some sense of what they're seeing.

Cthulhu is not some sort of buff guy with an octopus for a head. If anything, that tends to sell the description short. One also has to bear in mind that there are drawings of Cthulhu made by Lovecraft himself, such as this one:

Derived from the Wikipedia entry on Cthulhu

The above tends to tally more closely, of course, with Lovecraft's written description. But it also adds more flesh to the idea - in more ways than one. Rather than being a muscled super guy, the surprising thing to me is that Cthulhu is a fat blob of a thing. He has multiple eyes, of a somewhat fishy nature. The legs are almost chicken-like. There are suggestions of things that one can vaguely recognise, but as a whole it's an ugly mass that reminds the viewer of certain shapes but then goes off at a typically Lovecraftian angle. He's only octopid in a very, very vague way and he certainly doesn't have the physique of a Greek god. Okay, you might say that Lovecraft wasn't a great draftsman. I'd say that works in favour of his drawing. He's boiled things down to basic shapes and the basic gist of his mental image seems to be there.

So, taking that as my cue, I decided to rustle up a quick scribble of how this all blends together in my mind:

If anything, with more refinements and redraws I think I can make it all look much more odd in a sense that lines up more with Lovecraft's sketch. My version probably needs to be fatter and more bloated, and the mass of tentacles needs to be longer. But either way it seems that by trying to match that drawing, Cthulhu ends up looking distinctly weird.

He's odd, but he's not an octopus...

Click here for Part Two