Please hold…

The elephant in the room…

It’s official, the world is broken.

I don’t want to focus much on everything that’s going on (since there’s PLENTY of places doing that and things are changing so fast I can’t keep re-editing) but, let’s be honest, you can’t ignore it.

You can’t ignore it

To say that it would have been hard to imagine what’s happening across the world at the moment, even just 3 or 4 weeks ago, is like saying it’s a bit tricky to roll 4 natural crits.

It’s hard to get your head around.

Apparently the contestants on Big Brother in Germany were gathered together and told what’s happening. I bet they thought it was a prank. With no previous knowledge of what’s happening, I think I would.

Personally, my family and I are now self-isolating. My kids have finished school, my wife is fully working from home home. And me? Well, due to being a Type 1 Diabetic, I’m classed as ‘vulnerable’ and ‘high risk’. My job as a mobile IT engineer means I can’t work remotely and it seems that, depending on where you check, I might actually be classed as a key worker which is interesting. Initially my work have signed off on 2 weeks at home (but doing training. ZZZZzzzzzz……) and will review from there but I’ve recently seen various articles, links and other things suggesting that I may or may not be among those who should stay at home for 12 weeks. That is crazy. I actually can’t even begin to get my head around it.

What I do sincerely believe is that it’ll be ok. I don’t know when it’ll end and I don’t know what we’ll see in the mean time but I know it’ll end. Hopefully by that time we will have seen just how great the world is and how amazing the people are that live on it.

EDIT – talk about things changing quickly! The UK is now effectively in lock down. I guess a LOT more people are now ‘self-isolating’. Please stay safe and only go outside when ABSOLUTELY necessary. Boris is watching!

‘Sandra from number 27 just went to get her highlights done. Bring her in, lads’


Ah yes, of course, X-Wing. Right.

So, what do I write about? Well, that’s a great question. I have a couple of blog ideas floating around in my head but haven’t fleshed them out enough with actual proper content to be happy to put them out (I know, I LOL’d a little at myself using the word ‘content’ with regards to my blog!).

Well I’ve actually left things rather late to get a ‘full size’ blog out and I’m a little mad at myself for that. I know with everything going on I’ve got a perfectly valid reason but still, having posted a blog every week since June last year (with the exception of being on holiday) I feel like it isn’t right.

And so here I am, thinking about what to write. Well, that’s not quite true, I do sort of have an idea.

You see this game that we love so much is built around connection and community. The best way to play is against another person, whether an old friend or a total stranger, and pit your wits against theirs while (hopefully) chatting about the game or the weather or just life in general. I am blessed to have someone else in the house that plays and so over the next few weeks I will be able to get some games in. Not everyone is in that position.

I have seen the online community rally and begin to organise online tournaments. I have so far stayed away from playing online. There’s no really significant reason for this other than, at first glance, Vassal looks rather involved and like it’s going to take some brain work and time to get into. During normal life neither of those things are in huge abundance and so it’s something that I’ve always put off for ‘some other time’.

This is not normal life though.

Last week I was invited to a group/event started by Steve Boulton of Vagabond Squadron. The idea was to play 7 games (one a week) and use a different faction in each game.

I will freely admit – at time of signing up I didn’t know how to use Vassal. I don’t have TTS (Table Top Simulator, which you can buy through Steam) either but I still signed up. Maybe this was the push I needed.

The beauty is it allows me to connect with new people and get to know them while also getting my X-Wing fix and keeping my (limited) skills from getting rusty(er than they already are).

So here’s my ‘setup’ for next week’S blog. I had a test game last night on Vassal against one of the local guys who knows it well – Dan ‘Eggs’. There’s no time today to write about it (properly anyway) before my normal posting time (yes, I know it’s self imposed and I could break it if I wanted!) but here’s the general gist of it.

2 screens is better than 1. Especially for Vassal

A few days ago I asked Dan if he would help me get to grips with Vassal. I already know that he plays and it’s his preferred online platform to play the game and that he knows it well. We agreed a time and I got some prep work done.

I already had Vassal installed but my module was out of date. So I downloaded the newest one and then ran it (to let it set up) and then ran the content checker to make sure I was ready to go.

I gather that most people use the app’s chat box to communicate but, since I know Dan and wanted to be able to ask questions and respond quickly, we connected via Discord and were able to use voice chat which worked really well.

Dan explained how to set up a game, import a list, which windows to open and how things worked. I stumbled my way through the first few turns as I rotated my dials incorrectly and forgot to flip s-foils (no change there!) but by the time we got to the end of the game our turns were running smoothly and quickly and I felt like I had the hang of it.

It’s face off time!

Sure, compared with Fly Casual it’s a fair amount of work. You have to know your triggers and effects and how many dice to roll but you have to know all that to play in person. It’s a little clunky by comparison but the ability to play against a real person is one that’s impossible for AI to simulate. I even commented at the end that it was strange not being able to shake hands once the game finished.

The X-Wing Vassal website has lots of guides (including videos) on how to play, what to download and where things are that you need. If in doubt about any of it there will almost certainly be many people who will offer to help if you ask for it.

So with both of the tournaments that I was signed up for (and a potential third) cancelled/postponed I do now have the opportunity to get some organised games in. Yes it’s a bit unconventional. Yes, there’s something new I have to learn. Yes I’d rather be playing in person. But honestly, being able to play (when the other option is to miss out) is worth the effort.

So please let me encourage you. If you have a PC or laptop, chances are you can run Vassal. If you have a Steam account then TTS is just £15 and the X-Wing module/plug-in/whatever-its-called is free. If you have a local play group why not set up a league? Or maybe invite those from further afield? Why not see who you can connect with to play against? The tools are there for us to keep playing, to have a little distraction from the doom and gloom that’s circulating, even if only for a little while. Let’s grasp it with both hands.

Connection is the key. It’s more important now than ever. Let’s stay connected.

If you’re looking to buy some gaming ‘stuff’ and don’t have a local gaming store, you can use my affiliate link for Firestorm games. They’re great!