Reaper – Spirit of the Forest

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This is the BONES version of Reaper’s Spirit of the Forest. Like the Large Earth Elemental, it is another example of the ideal BONES miniature, being a large chunk of a mini that doesn’t have a ton of fine details that risk being softened in plastic. Interestingly, these miniatures were offered together as a stretch goal during the first BONES kickstarter, although I did not acquire them at that time. Once again, the price advantage that BONES offers versus metal miniatures is readily apparent: $6.99 for the BONES version, $27.49 for metal.

This was a fun mini to paint; lots of fun details, but nothing terribly demanding. For gaming it can be used as an elemental, possibly earth or another type, or as a treant. He’d also have no problem finding a spot in a warband for Fightin’ Fungi from Ganesha Games.

One of my favorite parts of this mini is the basing material that I used, “Dead Fall Forest Debris” from Scenic Express. More than just another shade of ground-up foam or sawdust, this is a blend of a variety of materials (including flock, of course) representing leaves, twigs, foliage, and everything else you’d expect to find strewn over the ground in an old forest. My favorite ingredient is the pieces of rubber mulch that represent large chunks of wood. They look great! Other than a little drybrushing on the mulch to bring out the texture, I used this blend exactly as it was. I was especially happy with how well the colors of the blend match the paint job on the miniature. This is purely a happy coincidence, as I actually painted the mini several months before even finding this basing material! I can’t wait to use this blend on other minis and terrain pieces.

Lulzbot Taz Mini Review for N00bs

I’ve had a great experience thus far printing pieces from Fat Dragon Games’ Dragonlock line of modular dungeon pieces, due to the quality of the 3D models, but also due in no small part to my Lulzbot Taz Mini. It’s the third printer I’ve owned and the one that’s proven to be the most reliable by far, even beating out a more well-known, much more expensive printer that I own which has a strong (and I’m beginning to suspect, undeserved) reputation for quality. In fairness, that other printer does produce very high-quality prints when it works properly; but under-extrusion is far too common, and God help you if ever need to change out its hot end…

Out of the box, Lulzbot nails the user-friendly experience, guiding you through setup, your first print, and getting you ready to move on to experimenting on your own. Other 3D printer manufacturers, take note: this is how it’s done. The user manual and setup guide are printed on thick, high-quality paper, an unnecessary luxury to be sure, but one that subtly conveys the feeling that you’re working with a product made by people who are really good at what they do. Experienced users will likely have no need for much of the information that’s presented, but new users will appreciate how clearly and methodically everything is spelled out in the instructions. Also included is about a meter of filament, just enough to complete your very first print.

20151111_221316

Everyone’s favorite cephalopod mascot: the rocktopus. Rock on!

For those who are not 3D printer enthusiasts (or who, like me, desire to be but lack the mechanical aptitude), the Taz Mini is the closest thing to a consumer-level, plug-and-play printer on the market at this point. It has a self-cleaning nozzle, and a heated, auto-leveling bed (practically worth the price of admission alone!), covered in a PEI sheet. The PEI sheet has remarkable properties that create strong bed adhesion once it gets up to temperature, eliminating the need for glue, Kapton tape, or hair spray, but allows finished pieces to practically slide off once it’s cooled down.

Another strong point in the Taz Mini’s favor is that from everything I’ve heard and from my own experience, Aleph Objects (the folks behind Lulzbot) seems like an awesome company, providing excellent customer service and utilizing open-source technology as much as possible. Their service reps are helpful and enthusiastic over the phone, and they even went as far as replacing my ruined hot end at no cost to me except for shipping them the defective part. Bonus points for coolness: many of the parts on their printers are 3D-printed themselves, and they have a farm of their machines constantly at work printing out more, essentially replicating themselves. We’ll be fine provided they never become sentient.

The two biggest drawbacks to the Taz Mini are that it needs to be tethered to a computer for the duration of the print and its relatively small print size of 152mm x 152mm x 158mm (6in x6in x 6.2in). The price is in the mid-range for consumer-level printers, so these are probably concessions that had to be made in order to help keep the cost down. The Taz 5, which I have not personally used but which has great reviews, has a much bigger print bed and is a stand-alone. Of course, these benefits are reflected in the price. Furthermore, it lacks the auto-leveling and self-cleaning features of the Mini, which I strongly suspect that the Taz 6 will add. It’s also worth mentioning that even for a 3D printer, the Taz Mini runs a little loud. Not so much as to drown out nearby conversation, but enough that it can be difficult for the sounds it makes to just fade into background noise.

The Taz Mini has proven to be a reliable machine that produces excellent-quality prints. Its features and ease-of-use make it a great choice for a first step into the world of 3D printing, or for more experienced users who are more interested in simply printing rather than tinkering with the machine itself. It should be noted that its accessibility does not mean that it will limit you as you become more proficient with 3D printing. Lulzbot has developed their own version of Cura which has simplified print settings for beginners as well as advanced settings that allow you to really get under the hood.

Aleph Objects recommends using HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene, aka, plastic) with this printer. The problem I had with the ruined hot end only happened when I attempted to use cheap PLA (Polylactic acid, an organic-based filament) that I had gotten from an eBay seller. I had used HIPS before that with no problems and have had no problems since getting the replacement hot end and switching back to HIPS – which was, incidentally, also purchased at a cheap price from an eBay seller. So, it’s unclear if the problem I had was due to defective filament, error on my part, or some other factor. I may attempt to use PLA again or some other filament in the future, but for now, I think I’ll play it safe and print out more Dragonlock pieces in plain old white HIPS.

***UPDATE 5/24/16***
Since posting this, I’ve added two additional Minis to my print farm, with continued excellent performance and reliability. More importantly, I tempted fate and attempted to once again print using cheap PLA purchased from eBay. I’m happy to report that I’ve had excellent results. I’m not exactly sure what happened that caused the first print head to jam, but I’ve been using PLA for over a month and haven’t had any problems with it.

HIPS is still a good choice, but PLA has several advantages that make it my material of choice. The price point is about the same as HIPS, plus there are many more choices for colors available. More significantly, the print head and bed temperatures are lower than with HIPS, which means it takes less time for the printer to get up to temperature and start printing. Adhesion to the PEI sheet is even better than with HIPS. Because the Mini is not enclosed, I would often experience corners of larger pieces lifting off of the bed, which wasn’t really a problem for the things I normally applications (terrain pieces). However, this is something that rarely occurs using PLA.

Actually, the adhesion almost seems too good sometimes. Whereas the pieces printed in HIPS would literally detach themselves from the bed once it cooled down a little bit, the PLA pieces stay firmly in place until the bed cools down to at least 29 degrees C, and sometimes even lower. However, I’ll take this “problem” over failed or warped prints any day. Bottom line, I love the Mini more and more the longer I use it!

Some Thoughts on the “Rogue Cut”

I rarely do any shopping on Black Friday anymore, with one exception: movies. I’ll typically head out to Best Buy and then Target late-morning after the crowds have mostly subsided, searching for a few specific titles that were in their ads, but also eager to find out what hidden treasures lie in wait on the shelves. Mad Max: Fury Road on blu-ray for eight bucks?!? Yes, please!

Last week, I added seven new movies to my collection, most of them costing eight dollars or less: five movies I wanted to see, plus one each for the wife and the kid for Christmas. That probably sounds more selfish than it actually is; my wife and I typically enjoy the same types of movies, so even when I buy one I’m interested in seeing, we will almost invariably watch it together. The other two movies are ones that we’ll watch as a family, but they’re not ones that I have any personal interest in seeing.

The most recent one my wife and I watched from my Black Friday excursion is the “Rogue Cut” of X-Men: Days of Future Past. I’m assuming that if you’re reading my thoughts on a re-cut of a movie that’s already been available to own for over a year, there’s not much left to spoil for you, so I’m going to speak freely.

I don’t usually don’t get terribly excited about director’s cuts of films, but I like DOFP so much that I thought it would be worth it for the Black Friday price. “Rogue Cut” turns out to be quite a clever play on words. Rogue does have more screen time in this version, appearing in the dystopian future, not just in the redeemed future at the end. But there are several other features that make this a “rogue” version of the theatrical release. For example, there are tweaks and changes to many scenes, oftentimes several seconds of additional footage where the scene previously ended, and a few instances where brief snippets of dialogue were seamlessly spliced into the middle of already existing dialogue.

Most of the time, it was clear why the additional footage was originally cut; there was only one instance where I felt that any of it enhanced the scene (although I can’t recall it at the moment, so maybe the improvement wasn’t that significant). None of the extra footage was bad, per se, but it almost always felt unnecessary, slowing the pace and dulling the crispness of the scenes as presented in their theatrical version. And what’s with the lingering shot of the World Trade Center? We already know that Wolverine went back to 1973; showing the towers doesn’t do anything to reinforce that knowledge or have anything to do with the plot or characters and only serves to focus the viewer’s attention on something unrelated to the movie.

In addition to the new and altered sequences involving Rogue (more on this later), another significant change in the action involves Mystique’s return to the mansion. Rather than breaking in, this time she knocks on the front door, seemingly having taken Charles’ words to heart and deciding not to go through with killing Trask after all. She takes some time to reconnect with and seduce Beast before proceeding to sabotage Cerebro. Extending this sequence adds little to the story except to make it feel clumsier and more bloated than the theatrical cut which managed to keep things moving here at a brisk pace with a few lines of dialogue instead.

Rogue’s increased presence (if it can honestly be called “presence” and not merely “screen time”) in the film unfortunately carries about the same amount of weight as the added footage involving Mystique. It’s fun to see Rogue in the future (even a dystopian one) alongside the futuristic versions of the other characters, but does her presence actually contribute anything meaningful to the story? Plotwise, she was rescued in order to stand in for Kitty Pryde by absorbing her time-traveling/projecting powers after Wolverine accidentally wounded Kitty. But it all seems shoehorned and shallow, as if the true purpose of including her was for the sake of her having a larger role in the story, not because the story needed her.

As with “presence,” it is probably generous to describe her as having a “role” in the story due to how passive she was; she exists more as a plot device than as a character. To top it off, Bobby’s (Iceman’s) death during her rescue seemed more of a means of ticking boxes on the storytelling checklist than a moment that evoked much pathos. (“The stakes are too high and this mission is too dangerous to have the heroes escape without paying some sort of price; we have to kill at least one of them to make it believable!”)

The juxtaposition of Magneto breaking into the mansion to rescue Rogue with the scene set in the past where he breaks into the facility to retrieve his helmet is well-executed on a technical level, but this does not alleviate the fact that Rogue’s presence doesn’t add much to the story. It was a wise decision to forego her inclusion in the theatrical release, having a wounded Kitty endure instead. The one possible improvement this sequence makes to the movie is that it shows how the sentinels were able to locate the mutants’ hideout. However, it didn’t seem like they ever had any problems finding them before, so again, unnecessary.

Additionally, introducing a future-Rogue who still has her powers raises a question about the continuity from the first films to DOFP: why does Rogue have her powers in the future when she chose to receive the mutation vaccine at the end of X3? Of course, one could argue that there are other questions about continuity that exist (even in the theatrical version), the most obvious one being what Professor X and Magneto are doing in the future, alive and with their powers at full strength, again, given the events of X3. A possible counterargument is that the post-denouement in that film suggests that even some of the most – ahem—, shattering events that took place in that movie could be undone. However, the real explanation might simply be that Brian Singer and company decided to undo the worst parts of X3, which is accomplished quite nicely by the rapturous ending of DOFP.

Releasing another version of a movie allows the creators another shot at making their film even better. A studio can certainly use it as nothing more than as a callous means to double-dip from their fans’ wallets; but if done right, it can be worth the double-dipping – or worth the wait if you’re like me and don’t buy the first release of a movie if you know there’s an extended edition coming. The extended editions of the Lord of the Rings films remain the gold standard by which to measure extended editions/director’s cuts of movies. Very little of the additional footage was superfluous, a great deal of it enhanced the story, and it wasn’t until the extended edition of Return of the King that any of the new material noticeably detracted from their quality – and these editions added about a half hour running time each to films that were already pushing three hours or more! Sadly, in the case of the “Rogue Cut,” more does not equate with better.

So, is the “Rogue Cut” is worth owning? Well, the blu-ray package includes both versions of the film, not to mention a director’s commentary which the original release lacks. So, if you don’t own DOFP yet, there’s no reason to opt for the original over the “Rogue Cut”. If you already have the original, it would be hard to justify an additional purchase, especially since the theatrical version is superior. Maybe if you’re a real die-hard X-Men fan and want to see everything there is, or if you really, really, like commentaries (as I do). As for myself, seeing DOFP in the theater was the tipping point for me finally getting a blu-ray player (yeah, I tend to lag a few years behind with technology). I thought the “Rogue Cut” sounded interesting when I first heard about it, but as much as I like DOFP, I had not intended on buying a copy of the “Rogue Cut” until the moment I found it on a store shelf at a bargain price on Black Friday.

Sycamore Bark Terrain – Part 1: Prepping the bark

Part 1: Prepping the bark
Part 2: Building the terrain
Part 3: Painting & Finishing

[NOTE: Yes, I’m talking about summer in December. I actually did write this over the summer, but for various reasons, I didn’t post it until now. But at least now you have something to look forward to when it gets warm again.

Also, a shout out to 3-T Studios whose work inspired some of the techniques shown in this tutorial. Their tutorial doesn’t seem to be up on their website anymore, but you can still find them on Patreon.]

Required materials:

  • Sycamore bark
  • bleach
  • detergent
  • large tub
  • large container for drying

Ah, summertime, with its bright sun and warm breeze. What better activity for this time of year than heading indoors, into the basement to work on terrain? Summer is actually a great time to work on terrain if only for one reason: a large part of terrain-making involves turning wet things into dry things. As most of these wet things (mainly glue and cheap craft or house paint) obtain their characteristic wetness by having water as one of their constituents, one way to expedite the wet-to-dry process is through the application of heat. And, as any aspiring astrophysicist can tell you, in a given hemisphere, summer is the time of year when the earth’s orbit brings it into a position where the sun’s rays hit it a steeper angle, thus increasing the amount of solar energy that is absorbed by the earth in the form of heat, resulting in dramatically increased temperatures.

Another terrain-related activity that summer is great for is harvesting natural materials to use for terrain. One material that has much potential for terrain-making is sycamore bark. Pine bark mulch (or “pine nuggets” as some packaging refers to it) has gotten a decent amount of play in the miniature gaming world because it looks like rock, is easy to work with, and can be found at some DIY home improvement stores. (I say “some” and not “all” because in my area, for some reason, Home Depot doesn’t carry it, but Lowe’s does. Go figure.) But another common and easily-obtained bark is that of the sycamore tree.

A significant difference is that sycamore bark is chunkier and not as flat as pine bark, and much less prone to having layers that split apart. The durability alone is a huge plus; when I buy a bag of pine bark, the first thing I do is spend an hour or two sorting out the usable pieces from the stuff that will break apart when you try to work with it. I end up using that stuff for other things… usually mulch. In the end, I find that only about half the bag is usable, maybe less. Besides being more durable, the chunkier texture causes it to lay differently when stacking and gluing, thus producing a different overall appearance in the terrain.

…..

Ok, after a quick Wikipedia search so I could sound smart by including something intelligent here, it turns out that sycamore bark may be even easier to obtain than I had realized because there’s a crap-ton of different types of sycamores out there! So, rather than trying to figure out which particular sycamore I’m referring to in the veritable sycamore cornucopia that exists, here’s a picture instead:

bark

Find something that looks approximately like this, and you’re golden. (Incidentally, this is also the point where someone can shoot me a note telling me that this isn’t even bark from a sycamore in the first place, but some rare tree that’s on a list of protected flora and that I’ve admitted to violating about 17 different international laws.

 

Step 1: Gather the bark

Regardless of the species of tree, shrub, plant, or animal it comes from, I’ve never seen big bags of sycamore bark sold at a home-improvement store. Hence, we’ll have to gather our own. The first step of course is to find a tree, whether it be at a national park, neighbor’s yard, or your own. (Note: I do not actually advocate getting caught while harvesting bark at a national park.) It’s possible that harvesting too much bark will make the tree more diseases and suffer an untimely death. This is a bonus, because those stupid sycamore trees in my back yard re are constantly shedding all sorts of branches. Seriously, it makes mowing the lawn go from being a twenty-minute job to an hour because of all the branches that have to be picked up first. I mean, it would, if I actually picked up the branches instead of just mowing over them.

So, first get a large tub and gather up a bunch of bark. I recommend getting several pounds’ worth as the next step (cleaning) isn’t really any more difficult with a larger amount of bark than it is with a smaller amount, so may as well do the work once and get enough for several projects. In any case, a few pounds of bark will last you a while, unless you’re planning on making an entire mountain range.

 

Step 2: Clean the bark

As you gather your bark, you may notice that you’re collecting all sorts of spider webs, bugs and other unsavory things in addition to the bark. This is where cleaning it comes in. You can skip this step if you want, but if you do, you’re probably the kind of disgusting, filthy person who hangs out in their basement making terrain on a beautiful summer day, a living embodiment of the worst gamer stereotypes! I take it back; do us all a favor and just clean the bark!

Step 2a: Bleach

Fill the tub you used to gather your bark with water and bleach (hopefully it doesn’t have any holes at the bottom, like the first one that I used did) and leave it to soak for a day or three. How much bleach? About a quarter to  half cup per gallon of water should be good. Don’t worry too much about the exact ratio, we’re just trying to clean the bark up a little; too little or too much really won’t pose any problems.

After a day or two, the water will turn a delightful shade of, um, iced tea brown. Yeah, iced tea, that’s the ticket.

20150808_162925

Yummay!

 

After sufficient time has passed (again, this is more of a “what feels right” measurement than some hard rule; three days at most is plenty, and probably overkill), drain the bleach-water, preferably over a bed of weeds or some other plants that you don’t care about.

Step 2b: Detergent

Same step, different chemicals. Fill the tub with water, adding a generous amount of laundry detergent this time. Again, the exact amount isn’t vital. One or two capfuls in your tub should do it.

Allow the bark to soak again for another 1-3 days, then drain the water. It may turn brown again as more dirt comes off. If a little residual dirt still remains after the entire cleaning regimen, it won’t be enough to make your hands or work area dirty from handling.

20150802_143216 - brightened

Bonus! The detergent is clear in the bottle, but turns purple when sunlight hits it!

Step 2c: Rinse

The step is the most tedious. (Yeah, I know. After spending so much time just sitting back and waiting for stuff to happen, now we actually have to do some work.) After draining the water, give each piece of bark a good blast from your garden hose and set it aside on a large, flat surface or container to dry in the sun.

20150808_163048

I know I didn’t need to include a picture of this step, but I thought it looked cool!

You may have realized that the process of cleaning bark is nearly identical to that of washing white cotton clothes. You now know that sycamore bark comes from a tree. But did you know that cotton also comes from a tree?  Think about it.

The next step in this process will allow you plenty of time to ponder this cosmic mystery.

 

Step 3: Dry the bark

The next step in this extremely passive activity is to let the bark sit for a few days to dry. Lay it all out on a flat surface or container (which you already did in the last step, right?) As much as possible, try to keep it one layer thick; the more spread out it is, the faster it’ll dry. Hopefully, you are in fact doing this during the summer, preferably a genuinely hot, sunny summer day and not one of those lame rainy ones. It will likely take at least three days for the bark to dry thoroughly. You can tell that it’s ready when it no longer feels damp or cool to the touch.

20150808_164343

I should’ve put a ruler in this picture for scale; there’s a lot more bark in there than it looks like. That sandbox lid is almost four feet in diameter. Seriously. No joke, snark, or otherwise fun comment to be found in this caption.

 

Epilogue

We’ve come to the end of this section… but we’re only just getting started. Now that the bark is ready to go, we can actually build something with it!

Part 2: Building the terrain
Part 3: Painting & Finishing

Meaningful Choice in Game Design

I still haven’t played Frostgrave yet because I’ve been more of a poser than an actual gamer lately, trying to keep abreast of what’s happening in the industry, putting in time on this blog, but not getting to actually play many games. (In fairness, I’m also spending as much time as I can on a gaming-related side project… coming SOON). Frostgrave is definitely near the top of the list of new games I want to try.

I’ve read the rules, and they seem pretty solid, and I definitely dig the D&D vibe it has going on. One thing that raises a flag in my mind, however, is allowing apprentices to be optional. The rules pretty much say that taking an apprentice is always the optimal choice over spending an equivalent amount of gold on soldiers. Given that the optimal choice clear, it seems pointless to make it a choice at all. However, since I haven’t actually played the game yet, I’ll refrain from taking a definitive stance on this point, but it does lead to a broader topic.

 

Meaningful Choice in Game Design

Choices are what makes a game a game. This is such a defining feature that games such as Candyland, “War” (that silly card game we all played as kids), and BINGO are not really games at all; rather they are programmed systems that you run to find out what the outcome is. In all three examples, the programming is the order that that the cards end up in after shuffling or the order that the BINGO numbers are called. Ask yourself: is there anything that the player can do in any of these games that will have an effect on the outcome? (I suppose if you introduce the element of gambling into BINGO, then it qualifies as a game since you have to decide how much to wager or how many boards to play, but, not being a blue-haired old lady, my experience of playing BINGO competitively is nonexistent. Also, I don’t intend to diminish the value of Candyland for teaching kids some of the basic structures of games and preparing them for better games down the road.)

An essential feature of good game design is meaningful choices. Choices are what makes a game, but interesting choices that have a meaningful impact on the outcome of the game are part of what makes a good game. One obscure example that stands out to me (and here, I will draw on my experience of a game that I have actually played to make my point!) was a piece of equipment from an early version of Reaper’s tabletop miniatures game, Warlord. Whether or not you’ve ever heard of this game isn’t really important – but props to you if you have heard of it, and more still if you’ve ever played this fun game which never became as popular as it deserved to be!

In Warlord, there was a 10-point piece of equipment known as “Divine Favor.” To give you a sense of what 10 points in this game means, 1,000  – 1,500 points were the most common game sizes during this time (meaning that Divine Favor would account for 1% of your army’s value, at most). There was a spell called “Bandage” which also cost 10 points. Using Divine Favor or Bandage resulted in similar outcomes, which on the surface made their identical point costs seem to make sense, but here are a few other facts:

  • Divine Favor was a one-shot item that automatically negated (negated, not healed) the first point of damage the model equipped with it took, after which it was used up.
  • Bandage would heal a point of damage to one friendly unit, but required a spellcaster to successfully make a casting roll. This also incurred the opportunity cost of using an action to cast it.
  • Divine Favor could be equipped on any model, chosen before the game started.
  • Bandage could be cast on any model, as long as it was within range of the spellcaster.
  • Divine Favor was unique (only one per army).
  • Multiple copies of Bandage could be purchased by the same army.

The details for successfully casting a Bandage spell made it an interesting part of army-building – a meaningful choice about how to spend your points. Perhaps those points you’re thinking of spending on casters and Bandage spells would be better spent on making your units harder to damage rather than healing them afterwards, or on offensive capabilities so they have a better chance of killing enemy units before being damaged themselves?

Rather than buying a Bandage spell, you could spend the same amount of points on an item that would accomplish the same thing, only better –no action or casting roll required! Divine Favor was clearly the optimal choice for your first 10 points, and a decision where the optimal choice is clear is not a meaningful one.

The only question was on which model to equip Divine Favor, but it would invariably be an important, powerful model; 10 points spent on making your warlord or hero that much tougher to kill was a much better use than giving it to a lowly foot soldier. For example, an average Warlord might cost 160 points and be able to take four points of damage before being killed, which works out to 40 points per damage track (Warlord’s term for “hit points,” basically). Why would you not spend 10 points to essentially add another DT to one of your most important units? One fairly unique aspect of Warlord that makes those 10 points even more valuable is that models’ stats degrade as they take damage; so keeping a model damage-free a little bit longer, as Divine Favor does, is much more valuable than merely keeping it alive but with lots of damage.

In order for the question of whether or not to take Divine Favor to be a meaningful choice, it should probably have cost somewhere between 25-35 points – more than Bandage, but still cheap enough to always be tempting; probably a worthwhile choice in most situations, but not clearly the optimal one. Alternatively, another solution would have been to make it a “free” piece of equipment that everyone got, skipping the first no-brainer decision and going right to determining how best to use it. I think the best solution is what Reaper ultimately decided to do, which was to remove Divine Favor from later editions of Warlord.

One of my favorite examples of tightening of game design based on the elimination of sub-optimal choices is from Warcraft 2. In the early release of the game, most custom scenarios for online matches started you with a set amount of gold and a single peasant with which to construct your base. Given that a town hall was required in order to recruit more peasants to collect more gold to ultimately build the rest of your town and recruit your army, the town hall was the optimal choice for the first building constructed. This meant that the first two minutes of every match were spent sitting around waiting for your town hall to finish building. It appears that Blizzard realized this, as in later releases of the game , you would start online matches with your town hall already built. This was standard procedure by the time Warcraft 3 was released, and in that game, every race started with their version of the town hall and five workers. (Undead were the exception, starting with three cultists and a ghoul. This resulted both from and in other interesting game mechanics, but that’s going too far down the rabbit hole for this post.)

To reference an oft-used quote from Antoione de Saint-Exupéry: “Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.” Meaningful choices make games fun; forcing a player to make a “choice” where the optimal decision is clear is tedious and unnecessary – a chore, not something fun. A great game must have interesting, meaningful choices at the core of its mechanics, and paring down unnecessary decisions certainly helps towards this end.  But there is more to creating a great game than solid, streamlined mechanics.