My life has changed a lot since I last took a look at wargaming; as a school kid I had plenty of time for painting, list building and playing, even around lessons and sport after school and on weekends (it helped that almost all of my gaming buddies were in the same football team!). I even think that time moves slower the younger you are, perhaps something to do with the distance you are from the ground and the effect of gravity. This theory is probably easily disproved given that I'm still the 5'6" I was 10 years ago!
Fast-forward to 2011 and I have an 8-5 job (with roughly 40mins commuting each day), two football trainings a week for about 8 months of the year, a football game each Saturday afternoon (generally requiring from midday to 6pm) and a trip up to Auckland to spend time with my much better half. With football and late nights, and an hour and a half drive back from Auckland on Monday mornings before work, I'm often too tired even within my time constraints to devote much time to painting or the idea of wargaming.
Thankfully, my HTC Desire HD smart phone has come to the rescue! Having a smart phone has really changed the way in which I interact with technology, though I confess with both positive and negative consequences. I do practically all of my web-browsing on my phone now, from anywhere I go.
|The HTC Desire HD for Android: a bit of a beast!|
My computer at home is a desktop PC that I built for myself about 6 years ago. While it's lasted the distance very well (it runs recent games such as Shogun 2 Total War just fine), I've been thinking about replacing it for quite some time now. The first thought was to buy a laptop given that I'm far more mobile these days and it would be useful to be able to take my computer with me when I go places. The other reasoning behind it was that I'm into computer gaming much less than I used to be, so I'm a little less concerned with the better price/performance ratio you can obtain with building a desktop PC. If it wasn't already clear, my smart phone has turned all of this on its head.
I use my phone for pretty much every purpose that I might have used a laptop for while travelling. I don't really play enough games now to feel the need to play them when I go away, so the things that I might have needed a laptop for - browsing, communications, music, audiobooks, ebooks, even movies/tv shows in .avi format - I can now do on my phone. Hell, if it wasn't for my 24/7 internet access, I certainly wouldn't have got into blogging. The Google Reader app means that posts on all of the blogs I follow are delivered straight to the home screen of my phone in a low-data format. Google Listen provides the same functionality for podcasts. I even draft blog posts using the Blogger app, and monitor traffic using DroidAnalytics.
The flipside is that all of this functionality isn't great for my wargames addiction or my habit of digressing. I have the maelstromgames.co.uk and waylandgames.co.uk websites available at my fingertips, as well as product reviews and the adventures of other bloggers introducing me to new products and ideas all of the time. I probably wouldn't have it any other way, but I sure have had to work on my self control (this also isn't very good for garth, as I send him links daily with new and interesting wargames info that I know he won't be able to resist!).
But to get down to the real subject of this blog post - what the smart phone has done for me in wargaming. As well as having all of the above functionality available wherever I go, the smart phone has definitely provided options for me in respect of wargaming. I now have access to online resources such as forums and rules wikis (in particular the excellent InfinityWiki) as well as up to the minute news information for the diverse rule sets I'm interested in.
The thing I'm most in love with, though, is online army generators. These are nothing new; I used Army Builder a lot back in the early 00s. It seems that since then the concept has really taken off with many systems supported. While its probably not too good for my productivity, I can now theory-craft and tinker with my wargames interests wherever I go. Since discovering these resources I've actually spent much more time looking at lists than I was before hand, largely due to my inability to sit down and look through rulebooks for any length of time at the moment. I'm finding them a great aid to my re-entrance into wargaming, and they're certainly helping to keep my enthusiasm up. I'll discuss the programs I'm using at the moment below!
As I've gushed about at length in an earlier post, Corvus Belli have produced an official army builder program for use with Infinity. Infinity Army is a very slick program with great production values and aesthetics very much in keeping with the Infinity setting. They've also made it available as a downloadable application for PC in addition to the browser version. This is a good thing as the load time on the browser can be excruciating.
A bit of digression: the thing that impresses me the most about it is the fact that the games company has produced this product as a player aid, an act made possible by the fact that they make the Infinity rules and army lists available for free on the internet. Its a different business model to the one I'm used to from my teen wargaming days (Games Workshop), and it looks to me like it is quite successful. It means that entry into the system is essentially effortless and they let the quality of their products do the real work in selling their miniatures. Its nice to have the feeling that the games company isn't working against you, as is so often my impression with the business models and policies of other gaming companies (a not so veiled reference to an outdated business model (in my opinion) with consequently high pricing and an international sales embargo).
Unfortunately, the program doesn't appear to be fully functional with the Android operating system on my phone just yet. I understand that this might have something to do with Adobe Air. However, all is not lost! A webpage army builder has been made by the folks at Infinity Pool for use with Infinity. This army builder does work on my phone, and I've had quite a lot of use out of it. It is slightly more cumbersome than Infinity Army, given that the page loads each time a change is made, but the interface is relatively straight forward and its pretty functional without being too clunky.
I've also found army builder programs to be useful for my other tangible wargaming interest of the moment, Flames of War. This is another browser based army builder, available at easyarmy.com. While it isn't particularly pretty to begin with, persevere with it. The layout is detailed and very functional; in my opinion it gives a clearer indication of how the lists work than the rule books do! Easyarmy provides quite an extensive collection of the flames of war lists for the periods and combatants, though I don't know that it's exhaustive. Some of the newer lists are available after a "donation" of $1US is made to the website. Personally I didn't have a problem with this as it's spare change and the advantage you gain from having all of the lists available online is huge. I do wonder about the legality of such a site though, and whether there are copyright implications there. I imagine that if there are they'll be caught up with eventually. Until then, I think it's $1US well spent!
|Easyarmy: I think I've spent more time creating lists from this|
than I have from the hard copy books! Procrastination probably.
Now, all of the above said, I do think there is still a place for rulebooks. Firstly, I find reading things in print to be much, much more enjoyable than reading things on a computer or smart phone screen. There is also the satisfaction of possessing a beautifully produced and bound book and being able to flick through it and enjoy it tangibly. I love books far too much to ever really consider doing without them, and I think its important to purchase rulebooks from games companies even while these resources are available online. They've produced a product and they deserve to be paid for it, after all. For this reason I intend only to use Easyarmy (and any other army builder programs I might use in the future) for lists for which I actually own the print copy. I think this is fair, and I don't think I'll have a problem with sticking to this rule given the quality products that many companies are producing these days.
If anyone has any suggestions for other army building programs, whether application or browser based, I'd be very interested to hear about them. I'd be particularly interested in dedicated applications for use on the Android operating system. While its great to have browser-based resources available, they do use data and I'd much prefer to be able to use them offline.