Author: Taschi

Role-Play Gamer (Dresden Files RPG for the win!), Pokémon fanboy and Advanced Squad Leader fanboy. Hobby programmer, trainspotter and only slightly mad.

My Games of the Year 2016

With only 5 hours to go, it’s my last chance to tell y’all which games of 2016 I liked best, which is apparently a thing many people do. So, let’s go. They’re not ranked, I like all games on this list equally.

Overwatch

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Me, about to get fragged

Not including Blizzard’s newest franchise on a GotY list is apparently a game crime, so let’s get it out of the way first. It’s good. The characters are diverse, colorful and likeable (except for Reaper, who’s kind of a dipshit). Gameplay is extremely well-paced, fast-flowing and deep yet intuitive. But you probably knew that already.

Pocket Card Jockey

Continuing with something a bit more obscure, Game Freak’s most recent project outside the Pokémon franchise was so engrossing I spent like five hours with the demo alone. This brilliant mix of Solitaire and horse racing may at first seem a bit silly, but then you realize how well all the different mechanics tie in together to create an experience defined by strategic risk/reward choices, challenging timed puzzles and just enough randomness to keep you from thinking about them too much. I highly recommend you check it out.

War Thunder

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My favourite Berlin landmarks are the Reichstag and the huge watery pit.

Truth be told, I first played Gaijin’s WWII-themed vehicle shooter several years ago, but considering the game’s official release not even two weeks ago, it definitely deserves a spot on this list. I’ve been a fan of this kind of game ever since my first World of Tanks match in 2012, and I’ve been following several games in the genre for a while now. War Thunder, with its brutal, unforgiving and incredibly dynamic action-focused tank battles, is a hot contender for the spot of my personal favourite – it’s not quite there yet, but I’m excited what the future will bring.

Pokémon Sun

(I guess Moon is also probably good.)

It’s a Pokémon game.

What, you expected me to say more? Oh, okay then. With Game Freak’s new-found willingness to slaughter sacred cows, this was the first Pokémon game I was hyped for in a long while, and it fully delivered. The trials are so much fun! True, the difficulty curve in this game is all over the place, to an even worse degree than in previous games (yes, I’m looking at you, Emolga). But the series has never been a place for those seeking a fair and well-balanced challenge, and the sense of wonder that drove me through Generation I and II in my childhood is back in full force with this one. I truly hope Game Freak will continue to experiment with new design ideas in future Pokémon games.

Ladykiller in a Bind

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Aside from everything else, the UI looks really good!

I’m a bit hesitant to include it on this list, because it is, y’know, kind of… um… erotica (and therefor not even on Steam). But Christine Love’s latest visual novel was my most anticipated game of this year, and… yeah, it delivered. I did like most of Love’s earlier work, including the brilliant gut punch that was Analogue: A Hate Story, and at this point she could write a VN about watching paint dry and I’d still buy it.

LKIAB is not about watching paint dry. It’s about a lesbian crossdressing as her brother on a school trip (which just happens to be a cruise as well), having lots of kinky sex, making some awful Metal Gear Solid references and getting caught up in a slightly Danganronpa-esque, but significantly less violent game of treachery and social manipulation, as well as in a weird kidnapping scheme by a shady group of definitely-not-bad-guys. The game is funny, sexy, occasionally challenging and intriguing. It also has some of the more interesting gameplay I’ve seen in a VN, and as most of Love’s work is highly nonlinear and interactive – something I often miss in other VNs.

Honorable Mentions

  • I loved Danganronpa, which finally got ported to the PC this year. Monokuma is a great villain who elevates the game from solid murder-mystery into the realm of awesome, truly WTF surrealness. Surreality? Eh, who cares.
  • Shenzhen IO by Zachtronics is a good game. Full stop. But a) it’s still in Early Access, and b) it doesn’t quite live up to the creator’s previous TIS-100, which has a similar premise but is a lot more focused in its puzzle design. Maybe next year, though?
  • Fire Emblem: Fates didn’t quite make the cut because it’s too much of “more of the same”, and the “one game for the price of two” principle of marketing can go die in a sewer for all I care. Also, the game is focused on your choice of either siding with a bunch of decent people, or with an insane, power-hungry maniac, and the writing seems to entirely gloss over to ethic iffiness of the second alternative because, uuuuh… they’re both flawed, I guess? Who wrote this game – CNN?

Pre-Release Rainbow Aggro-Control

Hooray, Dragons of Tarkir is almost there! And because I chose Kolaghanbased on rushing the opponents with Dash, my sleeves were oddly fitting. Screamreach Brawler and Reckless Imp really pulled their weight, while Scion of Ugin didn’t do player damage even once. Grumble. Dragons are overrated.

Oddities at Zürich

Recently, I did a couple of trips to Zürich for a job application (it didn’t work out). This also meant I had a couple of hours for some photographing each time. Yay!

The first thing of note is the Sihltal-Zürich-Uetlibergbahn (SZU). They operate two lines, the Sihltalbahn (with 15 kV 16.7 Hz AC) and the Uetlibergbahn (with 1250 V DC). Funnily enough, both lines share the tracks on the last kilometer or so before reaching the central station, so somehow they need two separate power lines on those tracks. How did they do that? Easy!

DeckenstromschienenCentered above the rail is a catenary for 15kV AC – that’s the right one in this image. The other catenary, which is off to the side, is filled with delicious 1250V DC for the Uetlibergbahn trains. When looking towards the Zürich main station, it’s off to the left. Along with the catenary, the pantograph is also set to the left side looking towards Zürich (trains can’t turn in the SZU network). The new dual-current trains have both centered pantographs (for AC) and offset pantographs (for DC). Note the different sizes of the isolators in the photograph.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the trains, but you can find plenty of those on the interwobz.

Then, there’s the Forchbahn. They operate a suburban train line on narrow gauge that suddenly joins the tram tracks of the local transport authority (VBZ) between Realp and the Stadelhofen station.

Signale der Forchbahn (Rehalp)And then, of course, there is a lot of regular railway stuff. Like the new S-Bahn station at the central station, opened only last year along with the S-Bahn tunnel from there to Zürich-Oerlikon. From time to time, it’s also used by long-distance trains.

IR im S-Bahn-Tunnel

One of the more iconic features of this station are the elevators: They are all slightly slanted, because the platforms in the tunnel are a bit offset against the platforms above. Note that the yellow tint is due to my incompetence when operating a camera.

Aufzug in Zürich HB

There’s even a nice zen garden!

Zen-Garten

And, of course, there’s a bunch of cool trains and vehices, like this Ee 3/3, built in 1943 and still working.

Ee 3/3 bei nicht mehr ganz optimalem Licht...

Or the RBe 540, which still hasn’t been entirely taken out of service and is drafted for shunting services or for replacing broken engines from time to time.

RBe 540 vor InterCity

Or, of course, the Ee 922, which runs 80kph, has 600kW of continuous power and 120kN of starting tractive effort and is also available with a handy little diesel engine for those non-electrified sidings. It’s way more awesome than a shunting engine should be allowed to be.

Kleine Lok ganz groß

There are a lot more and better photos on my Flickr account – these here are just those I wanted to say something about. So, if you found this interesting and want to see more, feel free to head over there and follow me.

ASL: The 90-Minute Game

Today’s ASL match went really fast. Really, really, really fast. As usual, that means I got my ass handed.

We played Shin 5 “Sparks Fly”, from a free scenario pack published by View from the Trenches and downloadable here. As the name implies, it’s about Operation Shingle, the US landing at Anzio. Some of the scenarios in there are really weird in a very interesting way. Ever wanted to see three Shermans brawling with two Tigers and six PzKpfw IV Ausf. H? This set got you covered. Unfortunately, according to the almighty scenario database, it sees very little play. Our chosen scenario, for example, got zero entries – which is sad, because it’s a blast. It has a Tiger in it. If that doesn’t convince you to play it, I don’t know what else will.

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The US player gets three Shermans, two Bazookas and a MMG, and the German player (me) has to fight back with a Tiger and four Pz IV Ausf. H. The VCs mean the whole game is just a no-holds-barred beatdown. And, as you can see, within the first three player turns, three of mine and two of my opponent’s tanks had already been destroyed. It’s that kind of scenario. There’s a lot of open ground, barely any hard cover, and no room for evasion.  Unfortunately, the US Infantry with their friggin’ laser rifles and Bazookas were still unharmed, except for those guys in H1 who took a hit by my sniper.

My tanks at B4 and C4 were utterly incapable at doing anything to the infantry in E6 and F5, only pinning them with a NMC by 8,8cm HE shell and a 1MC thanks to the MGs. The Pz IV met his end when it got hit by a Bazooka. These things should be banned. Seriously. They’re dangerous.

Meanwhile, the loader on the Tiger thought that maybe, if he loaded a 88mm shell into the CMG, he could fire two 88mm shells per game turn! Obviously, that didn’t work and the CMG broke. Also, my opponent decided to run away with his last remaining Sherman to deny me some CVPs.

Map-turn2b-ambush

Obviously, my Tiger couldn’t just rush down there to kill the Sherman, because those two Bazookas are still a bit of an annoyance. So instead he tried to take out the infantry in E6 and F5. Of course, my streak of bad luck kept up and I didn’t hit anything, but my opponent decided to move his stack at E6 out of the battle and let it join the Sherman.

My last turn began, and Cpt Jenkins on the Tiger decided to take the battle to the Sherman. At this point, I had to take out the Sherman and at least two squads if I even wanted to get a draw. Also, note how the sniper hit the MMG squad again. That guy sure knows how to hold a grudge. (And, without him, I had already lost the game at that point because the squad would have been worth 4VP if they had left the board.)

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Of course, the Bazooka squad in F6 didn’t let my Tiger through. Hit, Kill, game lost.

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Over all, it’s a highly entertaining, small and fast scenario that has a unique vibe – it almost feels like a BattleTech scenario with the generic VCs and highly dominant tanks. I most certainly can recommend giving this a try.

Our next game will be BoF 11 “Second Thoughts” – Waffen-SS with a captured M8 vs a lot of surprised Americans.

Funny DMUs and stuff

This sunday, I tagged along with a friend for some trainspotting in the Allgäu. Thanks to a burnt down diesel engine, some ALEX trains near Immenstadt are currently operated with NE81 DMUs that are not indigenous to the region.

While waiting for our mark, we tried some motifs with other trains on the quite busy route from Immenstadt to Obersdorf, like this InterCity:

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Olympia Station, Munich

In 1972, Munich was host to the Olympic Games, and the region got a nice new regional train (S-Bahn) system for this event. The stadium area was connected to the rail network by a new-built station, which was closed down after the games because it wasn’t needed anymore. The subway (U-Bahn) now connects this area to the city center, with Olympia-Einkaufszentrum being the nearest stop to the former station.

I wanted to take some pictures of this ruin for a while now, but never actually went there, mostly because I was told it was a bit hard to find and there’s not much to see anyway. Yesterday, I spontaneously decided to just go there for a couple of photos in the snow. That turned out to be a rather bad idea, because it was hard to make out anything in this weather, and I’ll definitely go back there in the summer.

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This is the view across the old station, with the station building barely visible through the falling snow. The rails, catenary poles and platforms are all that remains.

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Same location, other direction – the point area has been dismanteled even more.

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In addition to the four passenger tracks, there are also some rails that do not connect to any platform and seem to pass the station building. No clue what they were used for back in the day.

As a bonus, I also spotted my first Velaro D (aka “New ICE 3”).

Velaro D