I got a Hat

We gamers are all obsessed with hats, aren’t we? Maybe most of them, the TF2 people. But still, even in MMOs, hats reign supreme in the cosmetic category. Wilhelm loves them. Bhagpuss loves them. And those who went through the horrible grind to get the coveted Bloodsail Admiral’s hat wore it proudly (while they were busy grinding even more afterwards to repair their standing with Booty Bay).

I did some grinding for a very special hat, too. A hat like no other. Bespoke crafting, a one-of-a-kind. Behold.


For those not familiar with the tradition: around here, when someone finishes their PhD, their coworkers build them a hat roughly resembling a mortarboard that is decorated with bits and pieces that lampoon (in good humor) noteworthy events or personality quirks. Sadly, all pictures from the event itself with me and the hat have coworkers and friends on it that are not easily croppable, and I don’t want to put those online without their knowledge. So you get the hat sans me.

Some grinding it was. The last months were a bit intense. In summer, I got a job offer I couldn’t (or didn’t want to) refuse. But they wanted me fast, so I started working there earlier than I had planned. (My plan had been to just slowly start looking around for jobs, then one of the first applications already turned out to be this apparently great fit.) Too early to defend beforehand, which made for some packed months. Get up, go to work, get back, study, go to bed. On the weekends, drive back to the old place, 3 hours each direction, to finish the preparations for the event.

Now I just need to print the final versions and send them to the respective libraries. Oh right, and move out of this company-arranged temporary one-room apartment and get my stuff from my old place into a new, real one. Lots of packing and unpacking in the near future. But around Christmas, I might actually have time to play games again. And maybe I’ll even have Internet in the new place by then… if I’m lucky.

Maybe then I’ll even find time to write again, and have ideas what to write about. To be honest, my writing here has been extremely spotty the last… 18 months or so. So I’m not holding my breath. But I’m also not willing to give up quite yet.


I may start with trying to fix the fancy live-updating blogroll to the right, which seems to have broken some time ago…

Another Summer (Sale) Gone

You know, it doesn’t really feel like summer yet around here. I think we had fewer days at above 30°C here than below 15 in the last month… and a lot of clouds. Seriously, summer is only about to start, anyway.

Nevertheless, every year around this time, Steam has its summer sale. I never fully understood why they named it that. I guess the idea is that people buy games for cheap to tide them over the summer when it’s warm outside, and sunny, and you could sit on the porch or balcony reading, or drinking beer and having a barbecue, or going swimming, or any other of these horribly disgusting things. In short: to give them reasons to not leave the house when weather isn’t enough of a reason not to.


When I first got Steam, I spent a lot of money on my first few sales. But after a year or so, I petered out, and I don’t think I purchased anything at all last season. My backlog had increased to the point where it seemed silly to pile more games on top, and I felt like I had genuinely gotten everything on Steam that I wanted. My wishlist ended up containing the same few games that I apparently didn’t want that much, after all: even during sales, I wouldn’t pick them up.

Of course, things would not stay this way forever. New games get released all the time, and eventually, there would be new interesting sales. And the time was this summer, apparently. I held steadfast for the first couple of days. But then, the first game I wanted went on sale.

June 14: Grim Fandango Remastered + Soundtrack, €9.99 @ 50%

Grim Fandango and I have a history. It is one of my all time favorite games, but I lost access to it. I’m certain I owned the CDs at some point, but they got lost, probably during a move. Moves are the worst, there’s always some stuff that gets lost. When I heard that they would release a remastered version, I went back and forth on whether to get that one or find the original version. That topic (original vs. remastered re-release) is probably a blog post in itself… But when it was available at 50% discount, quite shortly after (re-)release, I had my first impulse buy of the summer season.

June 16: Baldur’s Gate 2 Enhanced Edition, €6.79 @ 66%
June 16: Deus Ex, Game of the Year Edition, €1.39 @ 80%

It looks obvious: After I got the first remastered edition of a classic game, I fell prey and got another one right away. The truth is more complicated. Again, I went back and forth. I’ve actually never played Baldur’s Gate, neither of the two. Shocking, I admit. The reason I bought this one is that it was actually cheaper than the original version on GoG. Now I can play Baldur’s Gate… maybe… eventually. This probably wasn’t the best spent money. Though The Deus Ex impulse buy was probably worse: to be honest, I only got it because it was so cheap, which I know is a horrible reason, but I’ll invoke “I’m not good with money” as an excuse. At least I’m not good with money when it’s about wasting small amounts.

June 18: Broken Sword 5: the Serpent’s Curse, €4.59 @ 80%
June 18: Shadowrun: Dragonfall (Director’s Cut), €4.49 @ 70%

Two more games on the pile of “playing vicariously”. Broken Sword is a game series I heard good things about, and I intend to play that one… eventually. Shadowrun is a bit of an embarrassing story. I actually backed the original Shadowrun Returns kickstarter (though just with the minimal amount you needed to get the game). They even delivered, and I played the resulting game… not at all. This makes buying Dragonfall really silly. But I feel like I would like to play the game, I just never get around to it. I think this is precisely how Steam makes money.

June 19: Pillars of Eternity, Champion Edition, €36.84 @ 33%

Now we’re getting into the whaling area. This is by far the most I have spent on a game this year. I heard really, really good things about it. I absolutely intend to play it. I just hope I actually get around to it. Which, by the way, will mean that Baldur’s Gate, a 3-days-old purchase at that point, will definitely have to wait much longer.

June 19: Icewind Dale, Enhanced Edition €6.79 @ 66%

As will Icewind Dale. To be honest, that buy doesn’t make any sense at all. I’m just great with my buying decisions!

June 20: Europa Universalis IV, El Dorado Content Pack, €1.49 @ 75%
June 20: For The Glory, €1.99 @ 80%

June 20: XCOM: Enemy Unknown + The Bureau: XCOM Declassified €6.79 @ 83%

Those first two buys make sense, actually. I love Europa Universalis and have some trust in Paradox Studio. Though I’m not hugely interested in their content packs (which are generally just new models for armies and things like that), I generally put them on my wishlist and buy them when they go on large discount. My reasoning is that I’m not willing to pay the full price, but I am willing to pay a little bit, basically as funding for a company that so far hasn’t disappointed me much. For the Glory follows the same reasoning: it’s an older Paradox game, and it means supporting them with a small amount of money, plus rounding off my Paradox collection, satisfying my collector and completionist drive. The last one though? I have no idea. I would love to be able to claim I was drunk, but all I was drunk on probably was spending and discounts. I liked the XCOM games when they came out in the 90ies, but that’s about all I know about those two new games, which is, let’s face it, as bad as nothing or even worse.

All right, let’s tally up.

Money spent: €81.15
Average discount: 62% (down from €215.89)

Overall, a mixed bag, but I don’t feel like Steam stole my money. That would be a silly notion, anyway, because they didn’t make me spend the money, after all. 3 of 8 (or €48.32 of 81.15) I would’ve definitely gotten sooner or later. A few more were on my shortlist of stuff to pick up at a discount. I stuck to my unofficial rule of “never buy anything on Steam at less than 50% discount”, except for Pillars of Eternity, which I actually really want to try, and which is still quite new, so I figured even a 33% discount was a tolerable option.

Will I play all those games I bought this sale season? Certainly not! But I have hope that at least some of them, I will, potentially even before winter. And in that respect, I can live with that outcome.

Europa Universalis IV on Steam Sale

A prolonged work trip prevented me from updating my EU IV Spain Campaign AAR. I’ll get back to it again soon(tm).

In the meantime, if you think the game sounds interesting, or if you have any interest in grand strategy games, take a look at Steam today. EU IV is available for 75% off, both as stand-alone and as collection, which includes the first three expansions. (It sadly doesn’t include the Art of War expansion, which is really, really good). The collection is probably the better deal, but it’s up to you.

The Spain Campaign, Part 2: Not all according to plan

Last time, we set up colony in Cape Verde as penal colony. After firing up the game again, the first few years are uneventful. Austria calls me into a war against Hungary, and I accept so they won’t be annoyed at me, but I then just ignore it. The battles are at the other end of Europe, and setting up colonies costs money during the settlement phase; I can’t afford losing armies at the moment, and Austria is well capable of fighting this war on its own.

In the meantime, I set sail from Cape Verde and go south-westwards. Just a few weeks later, my explorer and his fleet set sight on the first land (I first mistyped and wrote “lad”, which is actually just as true and somewhat funnier. “Hey lad, is this the New World?”) in the New World, at the westernmost tip of South America. Being the first nation to find the new continent comes with a large prestige bonus.

Again, more after the cut because many pictures…

The Spain Campaign, Part 1: Getting Started

After all that introduction in the last post, it’s now time to get started in earnest. As a reminder, this is the political situation at the start of the game:


Now, there are a few strategic decisions to make first, because they shape the at least the next few decades. To finish the reconquista is a given. However, what about Aragon and Burgundy?

More, with many pictures, after this cut…

The Spain Campaign

One of my best buys in the last year or so is Europa Universalis IV. It’s a grand strategy game from the grand strategy experts at Paradox Studios. For some reason, I hadn’t heard of the series until Europa Universalis III was on one of those ridiculous sales on Steam, and I bought it for probably 5 Euros or something like that. The problem, as often is the case with those sales, is that I ended up with several games, and EU III fell off the radar again, not the least because is already was quite old at the time and the graphics were… well. Not quite up to par any more. Also it looked complicated, which, I guess, is the whole idea of grand strategy games, but I never got around to wrap my head around its intricacies.

Enter EU IV, which was on sale a few months ago. Even though my last 9 months were very deprived of game time (writing my dissertation and silly things like that), I managed to rack up quite a large amount of hours. In fact, just last week, it managed to dethrone the previous king of play time, GTA IV (plus expansions)… which really surprised me back when I noticed, because I never felt I had played that much GTA… oh well.

In honor of the occasion, I’ll try, for the first time, to write a more detailed description of what I do in a game, with a plan to do so over several installments. It will be some sort of AAR (After Action Report), and I’ll try to make it understandable to people who have no idea about the game. The reason is threefold: First, I want to have a chance to have something to write about regularly, if I can’t think of anything else. Second, I hope it’ll entertain my readers, and maybe make some of them interested in the game. Finally, I hope it will remind me to take more screenshots while I’m playing. I noticed that one of my largest problems is that I want to write about something, but I need visuals to show what I mean. But I generally forgot to take screenshots while I’m playing, and later on regret it. So for this series, I’ll try to take screenshots until I’m blue in the face.

Despite the fact that I’m now beyond 200 hours played, I still don’t feel like I have an in-depth understanding of all the mechanics in the game. My games so far were mostly land expansion based: I played France, a suggested choice for first-timers, because their armies have strong bonuses and make it easy to conquer and defend. I then played Poland, reforming into Commonwealth. Next, I played the Palatinate, and went expanding within the Holy Roman Empire. Finally, my last game was with the Ottomans, going for one of their special nation goals, “Unify Islam”, which basically required you to expand the Ottomans, a small regional power in 1444, into pretty much the borders of the Umayyad Caliphate (plus Anatolia and Greece). And because a post talking so much about taking more screenshots should at least have one, here’s the end of the campaign, when I reached that goal:


For this new campaign, I want to try out something else. Whereas before I mostly did land-based expansion, this time I want to build a world-wide colonial empire, with dominance on the seas, powerful trade steering, and colonial viceroyalties. At the same time, I don’t want to ignore Europe completely, but rather try to expand there by alliances, marriages and personal unions instead of the sheer power of armies. Thus, I chose Spain for this game. Only, there’s no Spain in 1444, so I’ll go with Castile.

I’ll also play Ironman, which is one of the coolest features of the game. In Ironman mode, your save game is saved in the (Steam) cloud. You cannot save and load manually, and the game is automatically saved almost constantly. This means that save scumming is almost impossible. I have a tendency to get onto the slippery slope of save scumming in my games. It generally starts with innocent curiosity: “I wonder how the game behaves if I do A. It might be catastrophic, though, so good thing I can roll back!”. It progresses to “I don’t think I can take this nation, especially if its allies join. Let’s see if they do if I declare war!”, and ends up in depravity with “I bet I can win a war against this far more powerful nation if I just get lucky and win this 1:3 odds battle between the main forces. I bet it won’t take more than a dozen reloads until it ends in my favor!”. Ironman mode is probably the killer feature that made me play this game so much (as opposed to Civ V, for example, which I paid more for, and which I played a lot less): it protects myself from my save-scumming tendencies, and keeps the tension: a bad decision might actually cost me dearly, with no way to undo it. It also makes me more risk-averse, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

So. Castile. Ironman mode. The date is November 11, 1444. For reference, this is the state of Europe: (Like always, click for larger version)

euiv_europe_startmapNote how France is fractured, though many of those minor states are its vassals. The Hundred Years’ War is still trucking. The Emirate of Granada still controls southern Spain. Germany and Italy are divided between many powers (no surprise there, they’ll still be 400 years later in “vanilla” history). The king of Castile is a simpleton:

starting_king_castile(For reference, those numbers go from 0 to 6). Though at least his Moorish adversary isn’t any better:

starting_king_granadaNext time, I’ll start in earnest, writing about the first few years into the campaign. Who to ally? Who to rival? Expand where and how? And the most important: when will the next major patch roll around, and will it mess with old save games like 1.9 last year, which put Brazil into Russia and unexplored colonial provinces into Sweden (I hope not!)?

Small Game Saturday: Touch Pianist

Now, hold your horses. The title might make it seem like it’s going to be a regular series. We both know that this isn’t going to happen with my erratic posting schedule. I’m also generally not a huge fan of “casual games”, or what passes for that. However, it’s Saturday, and a nice small game was brought to my attention, so, at least this Saturday is Small Game Saturday!

The game in question is called “Touch Pianist“, runs in your Browser, and is like Guitar Hero. But it’s for the piano instead of the guitar (duh), and it uses just one button. What sounds like a pretty dull idea is actually quite fun. I’m not sure it still passes as a game, per se, but it’s good for an afternoon of entertainment and potentially even some education.

If you turn your screen by 90 degrees (or alternatively, your head), you can see where my comparison with Guitar Hero comes from.

If you turn your screen by 90 degrees (or alternatively, your head), you can see where my comparison with Guitar Hero comes from.

I played the piano for many years, and as halfway decent at that, without trying to sound immodest. Most of the stuff available in Touch Pianist I could play on a real piano back then (except for fugues; fuck fugues…). However, I stopped almost completely 15 years ago when I moved out and couldn’t take the piano with me. These days, I’m missing the practice to properly sight-read most stuff, so Touch Pianist is quite fun. It reminds me a bit of my very first driving lesson, where my teacher told me to steer, and he’d take care of the pedals and the shifting. Touch Pianist takes care of the notes, and all you have to do is the rhythm.

Which is easier to say than to do. Some pieces, like the “tutorial” moonlight sonata, are slow and have regular arpeggios that basically just require you to hit a key as regularly as possible. But once you get to pieces with trills and cadenzas, and switching meters, it becomes a different animal. On the other hand, these are more interesting to play: especially the Chopin pieces allow you to create a genuine interpretation of the piece, even though all you do is control the rhythm.

Rachmaninov's hammering chords are clearly visible in his Prelude op. 23 no. 5.

Rachmaninov’s hammering chords are clearly visible in his Prelude op. 23 no. 5.

For me, the hardest part is not having the score in front of me. With pieces I don’t know, I have to guess the rhythm by the distance between the dots, instead of looking at the notation. Also, if the rhythm or meter changes suddenly, I regularly run over and only realize when it starts to sounds wrong. Nevertheless, it’s very addicting for such a simple game. I played with it for about an hour straight before I had to stop: the constant scrolling of the dots and the background gave me motion sickness. Something that could be fixed in the next version, maybe?

Give it a try! It’s fun for a lazy weekend afternoon. You can find it at http://touchpianist.com/.

An Epic Cycle

I currently would really like to write more regularly, but I have a bit of a writer’s block. I can’t think of topics that would lend themselves to posts, and even the “this is what I’m playing” ones aren’t really coming together as I would like them to. So I went through my backlog of half-finished posts and looked for something I could transform into something vaguely interesting. Thus, I present you: my impressions of the EVE Online epic arcs.

The epic arcs are long chains of storyline missions. Each of the four Empire factions (Amarr, Caldari, Gallente, Minmatar) has one. They are level-4 missions, so they’re what constitutes “single player PvE endgame” in EVE. Their stories add some additional insight into how each faction ticks. You also have one or several branch points in each epic arc, which allow you to steer the story as it develops, and sometimes influence the rewards at the end of each arc. Speaking of which, those are quite nice: typically rare items you can sell on the market or use yourself if you’re so inclined, and, at least as important, lots and lots of faction standing. There is also the introductory arc in EVE by the Sisters of Eve, and two pirate faction arcs, and while I’ve also run two out of those three recently, I want to focus on my impressions on the empire arcs here. You need reasonably high standings with either the corresponding empire or the corporation that starts the arc, and you can only run them every 3 months. Anyway, primarily for future reference, I collected some short remarks on each one.

Amarr Empire: Right to Rule

amarrThis was the first epic arc I did, especially since I vaguely remembered doing it once before without too much trouble. It starts with an agent from the Ministry of Internal Order. Along the arc, you are introduced to the way of Amarrian politics. Them being a techno-feudal society, you learn of powerful and less powerful houses, fiefdoms and political intrigue. Of all faction, The Amarr Empire reminds me most of Frank Herbert’s Dune, which can only be a plus. You initially get hired to investigate the disappearance of another investigator, and quickly learn that one house is fast to hire pirates to prey on other houses. The Ministry not being to hot on pirates roaming around sends you after them, naturally, but at the same time sends you to figure out who might have hired the pirates, while making it look like somebody else did, to discredit whoever they in turn might have siphoned money off.

When you finally catch the pirate commander, you have to make your choice: tell the authorities to “extract” information about his contractors from him, or suggest he be executed immediately. Because, you see, he’s actually a capsuleer, too, so the second the blade cuts off his head (or whatever technique they might use in the Amarr Empire), he’ll wake up at another point of the galaxy in a clone. Definitely better than being exposed to advanced interrogation techniques. I figured that sounded like a nice turn of events (plus I had decided to have a peek at the final rewards for each choice). The pirate commander is quite happy with me, and him being such an expert on clones, he manages to procure one of an Amarrian house leader, which we manage to “install” via a well-timed ambush on him, which he “miraculously” survives due to my “valiant” defense at the last second. The Empire is happy, the Sansha pirates are happy, so who’s to complain?

Mechanics-wise, the arc wasn’t very special. Most missions were comparable to standard level 4 missions. The only special part came at the end, when the Sansha pirate choice led me to low-sec. Since it didn’t seem very prudent to go to lowsec in a slow battleship, and since I had a Taranis in a system close to that lowsec pocket, I decided to use that one. That, in retrospect, wasn’t the brightest idea, because it took me a long time to kill the ship in the final lowsec mission, mostly because the guy liked to neut me. So I ended up pulsing my guns whenever I had capacitor; I had to overload them in the end to break his tank. Next time I will bring an assault frigate instead.

Gallente Federation: Syndication

gallenteIf the Amarr Empire is basically Frank Herbert’s Dune, then the Gallente Federation is western dystopia. Over the course of this arc, you will meet actors who got their first set of plastic surgeries at 14 to better appeal to the pre-teen girl audience, child sweatshops and brothels (and at least hints at child brothels) which recruit their workforce from Amarrian slave traders or impoverished parents, and a lot of “Freedom!”-thumping over mass media to gloss over that. You get recruited for a holoreel (EVE’s version of 3D movies, I presume) company to escort their teen star (the aforementioned “improved” one), which promptly goes sour and ends in an abduction. Your job is to find out who captured the boy. Preferably also why, but in the end, like in a film noir, it often turns out it’s better not to know, or at least not to say.

I liked this epic arc because of all factions, the Gallente Federation is often portrayed as maybe the most relatable to us. The epic arc spotlights the extreme sides of their world view, and the ugly, dark corners that come with it. It was also relatively easy for me to follow the story, a point that will come up again in a bit.

This arc is definitely the most brutal in pure damage output (fitting for the Gallente, who seem to have the nastiest weapons of all factions… if you manage to apply their on-paper damage…). There were two missions in which I had to warp out because my Raven could not tank the damage. And while part of that might be because my DPS is somewhat anemic, the tank comprised several Pith C-Type shield hardeners and a shield booster of the same quality. The last mission was bad enough that, even with a micro jump drive, I was barely able to kill one of the extremely nasty Veteran Battleships each time before I had to warp out again to recover; the first round, with everything alive, naturally was the most brutal, and got me low into armor and almost into structure while I waited for the warp alignment to finally finish. Tense seconds.

Minmatar Republic: Wildfire

minmatarThe Minmatar Republic has always been the odd one out for me. I don’t like their preferred weapon system’s concept (projectile weapons? How quaint in a universe that has lasers!), and most of their ships look like garbage. Besides, they have this weird tribal thing going, which reminds me of Mad Max. Or at least of what I think Mad Max is about, I never actually watched it… born a few years too late for that.

What is cool about the arc is the focus on Archaelogy. Not so much the in-game skill (though there is a bit of that, too), but in the story. You are sent to recover artifacts, ambushed, sent around to recover them again, find out they were broken up and need to be reunited (yay gaming tropes!), and generally try to figure out who is interested in these old items for what reasons. It seems to have something to do with the fact that the Minmatar only broke away from the Amarr empire relatively recently, and now try to find historic proof of their history and culture before their time of enslavement. Well, in the end, it turns out that these specific historic artifacts show that there were Minmatar groups that were pretty happy with the state of affairs under Amarr rule. Whether that was because their feudal ruler was benevolent, or whether they had a bit of Uncle-Tom-ism going… who knows.

Mechanics-wise, this was my least favorite arc. It was probably the easiest of the four, even easier than the Amarr one. All missions are exclusively highsec, and most felt somewhat repetitive. On top of that, you have to be very carefuly not to collect ugly standing hits with the Amarr while doing this arc. I resorted to eve-survival to check whether there were specific ships that I could skip killing in the missions to keep the standing loss manageable. The arc’s only saving grace is that the choice in the final mission felt “more right” than any other one in all the arcs. The artifacts belong in a museum, after all!

Caldari State: Penumbra

caldariThis was the last arc I completed, and for some time, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do it at all. I had cheated and looked up some information about it, and it seemed like it could be very annoying. I’m glad I decided to do it: it was worth it.

First the by now obligatory background: the Caldari State is for the most part run by a number of powerful megacorps which form uneasy alliances against each other. There’s lots of scheming, intrigue, and infighting. Cyberpunk in space, basically. Story-wise, this arc is probably the deepest, or the most convoluted, whichever way you want to look at it. You have several chances to betray you employer and switch allegiances, and the way through the arc and the missions you get offered depend on these choices. I wish I could say more about the story, but I’ll admit that I got lost halfway through. There was at least one too many ruptures in the storytelling; add to that the fact that EVE often isn’t doing a very good job of telling stories through their missions. I often feel like half the story is missing, and wonder whether there is some secret extra mission text that I don’t know about that makes everything clearer.

Anyway, you are a mercenary for… some corp, doing… something. Or maybe the other thing. Well, it involves blowing up spaceships, which I’m all for, as long as it isn’t mine. And thankfully it wasn’t.

Where the Caldari arc really shines is when it comes to its mission. No other arc has such a large number of different mission types. Sure, it has its fair share of typical level-4 missions: lots of battleships and smaller coming at you. Whip out your battleship and kill them all in a slow, drawn-out battle. But there are also hauling missions (transport bulk cargo from A to B), courier missions (get a small item from A to B, where either A or B is typically in dangerous space), exploration missions (scan down an anomaly and hack into the found structure), and the infamous final mission, “Across the Line”. You can have detours into low-sec and even null-sec, if you’re inclined to.  I think I used about half a dozen different ships and fits (not counting the standard “adapt your tanking modules to the expected damage” shuffling) on this arc. I really loved that, because it meant the arc had some well-deserved variety, especially if you compare it to the other arcs. I ended up using interceptors, industrial haulers, and covert ops frigates in addition to my trusty Raven.

One more thing…

One more word about “Across the Line”. The mission is known to have the strongest jamming you’ll see in any mission. Ridiculously high, at that. High enough that typically, you cannot target anything at all, and will just throw your hands up in disgust.You’ll have worked through the long, long epic arc, only to be kept from your juicy rewards by the final mission. Probably some of the pathological ECM haters (“nerf ECM in PvP! Nerf it TO THE GROUND BABY!”, to borrow a phrase from WoW) were born in this mission.

Now here’s the thing: I like ECM. I really enjoyed flying blackbirds back in the day as Uni newbie. It’s a terrific force multiplier. So I decided I wanted to show all those whiners that there’s nothing bad about it if you prepare well:

[Raven, caldari epic anti-jam]

Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Drone Damage Amplifier II
Gravimetric Backup Array II

ECCM – Gravimetric II
ECCM – Gravimetric II
ECCM – Gravimetric II
Pith C-Type Kinetic Deflection Field
Pith C-Type Thermic Dissipation Field
Sensor Booster II, Targeting Range Script
Large Micro Jump Drive

‘Arbalest’ Cruise Launcher I, Scourge Cruise Missile
‘Arbalest’ Cruise Launcher I, Scourge Cruise Missile
‘Arbalest’ Cruise Launcher I, Scourge Cruise Missile
‘Arbalest’ Cruise Launcher I, Scourge Cruise Missile
‘Arbalest’ Cruise Launcher I, Scourge Cruise Missile
‘Arbalest’ Cruise Launcher I, Scourge Cruise Missile
Drone Link Augmentor II

Large Warhead Rigor Catalyst I
Large Warhead Rigor Catalyst I
Large Warhead Flare Catalyst I

Yes, ladies and gents, that is a very non-blingy raven with the ridiculous sensor strength of 167. To put that into relation, without those ECCMs and Backup Arrays, the Raven’s sensor strength is 26.4. And since, generally speaking, those sensor strength modules are utter crap, you can get them on the market for practically nothing (less than 1 million ISK per pop).

Now, the thing is… people weren’t joking about the ridiculous jamming power of those Nugoeihuvu Elite Cruisers. I still got jammed. Which really surprised me, because, seriously? But they only managed to successfully jam me twice. Which gave me more than enough time to target those jamming monsters between jam cycles and rip them to shreds. After which I went back to the station, replaced the ECCMs with something more sensible, and went medieval on those battleships. Done. If you ever think of running the Caldari Epic arc, don’t be afraid of choosing the Hyasyoda path. Gimmick-fit your ship, be happy, and never whine about ECM again.

I’m above average and get an ugly card back

Oh look, there’s a lot of dust in the corners…

Ahem. Anyway. You know how, when you spend a long time working all the time, and then the work is suddenly over? You end up just sitting there, wondering what to do with your time again. Because you forgot how to leisure. Staring at the walls, idly surfing the web, wondering at the end of the evening what you’ve actually done all night. Feeling unable to cope with your free time. Feeling bored. The last one shocked me most. I never felt bored with my free time in my life before, ever! Well, except that one time I was stuck at an airport for 40 hours without anything to read, but I’d hardly qualify that as free time in the original sense…

I’m slowly getting back to the point where I know how to waste my free time in style. The first game I pulled from the proverbial shelf was Europa Universalis IV. Pretty nice game, and great if you’re trying to come down from a long strange trip of wrecking your mind over a dissertation. It’s complicated enough to at first trick you into thinking it’s not a game at all. If there’s any interest, I’ll write something about my games. The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth whose western borders eerily mirrored the Iron Curtain. The Palatinate which owned half of Germany, plus Denmark and Sweden. And the Ottoman Empire that is working hard to restore the medieval Caliphate (work in progress; The French–Aragonese Kingdom is giving me a hard time). I think I spent about 150 hours on those games. EUIV is about to take the crown of time investment from Skyrim.

But since variatio delectat, and I seem to not be able to focus on games for extremely long stretches as it used to be back when I played WoW, I got meself a side game.

Enter Hearthstone. Which is probably a horrible idea, because starting such a game over a year late means that I have to play with only basic cards against people who spent a year grinding their deck full of epic and legendary cards, which are simply flat out better. It’s also a weird choice for me, because it’s a PVP game at its core. Sure, there are some PVE portions (and I actually spent €22 on the game for the Naxxramas single-player adventure), but they’re really more an afterthought. You play cards against people, first and foremost.

Color me surprised, then, that after less than two weeks, I ended the current season of April in the top half of all players:

Tauren Warrior Stomp!

Tauren Warrior Stomp!

Well, yes, just barely. And it probably tells you more about people who only played an evening the whole month, and people who are flat out horrible at clicking things on computer screens, than about my proficiency with the game. Although I guess I could’ve progressed further up the latter if I had cared about it enough. Which I don’t, I basically just play games at the moment to get F2P currency from the daily quests, and that’s it.

Oh, I also missed the supposedly very important message in fiery decal in the background, because it disappeared first when I clicked the screen. So I might never know what extremely important message it wanted to convey. (edit: By the power of reddit, I learned that it was merely an ad that the last wing of the Blackrock Mountain solo adventure had opened.)

As a present for being so incredibly awesome, I got a present. Well, in fact, it would have sufficed to reach rank 20 for that, and you can’t lose rank 20 once you attained it, so you get that reward for just playing enough during a season. And like all “participation prizes”, it’s appropriately ugly:

But won't that make the cards sticky?

But won’t that make the cards sticky?

Seriously? A cupcake? OK, I admit that the previous season designs were very much a hit-and-miss, but they didn’t have a freaking cupcake on them! I feel a bit cheated for not starting the game earlier. On top of not having awesome cards. Rubbing it in, Blizzard, eh?

We’ll see how long my infatuation with Hearthstone will last. Potentially long enough for Blizzard to siphon another €22 off me for the Blackrock Mountain Adventure Packet (by the way, it’s really annoying how you cannot buy these in other shops where they, by rule of thumb, would cost much less). It’s a nice game to spend 30 minutes on every now and then, I guess. Though it can be very aggravating if you’re unlucky with card draws and just sitting there watching your enemy pull out Emperor Thaurissan or Majordomo Executus or… Hogger – to add insult to injury – and wreck your face with it. But then again, there’s nothing better than beating someone with those cards if they end up with rotten luck of the draw. Schadenfreude!