There is no way to avoid it – I am in a slump. It started just before the Togtober mission started, but it has become really noticeable as I have tried to grind out those five qualifying wins a day. Often it is taking me 15-20 games, including one spell when I went something like 0-13 across two days. Not only have I been losing, but all too often I have been crashing out of games having barely contributed, doing pitiful amounts of damage or spotting.

It is one thing to lose when one is playing well, for no matter how irritating it is to see a really good performance not get that 50% boost to wins and experience that winning brings, nevertheless one does have the inner satisfaction of knowing one has made a decent fist of things – that even if there might have been decisions that could have done better, things still went pretty well. One sometimes also will get courageous resistance, which can lessen the sting even further, and if one is playing well then Battle Honours are more likely.

However, when one is generally playing poorly there is no such consolation. You stare the defeat screen in the face full in the knowledge that you were a deadweight to your team. Rather than getting irritated, even aggravated, by losing despite playing well, losing when playing poorly will just sap the energy. It becomes like a gaming equivalent of writers’ block. Generally, the entire experience one wishes to avoid if at all possible.

The most obvious way my slump has manifested for me is that my winrate has dropped by over 0.15% over the course of the last week. This may sound tiny, but since I am approaching 10k games it starts to become a more significant number. However, when I realised the above it did spark a couple of thoughts for me, that I have actually found quite encouraging.

Firstly, the way I am currently playing is probably still above average, compared to the World of Tanks general playerbase. I am still getting kills, still getting Fire for Effect awards, and various other things, so I am still doing things well. Also, I am not content. The mass of World of Tanks players whose win-rate hovers around 50% would probably get a little annoyed that I am obsessing over a small slump, which in all likelihood will reverse itself. For me a bad patch, though still with some good games, is probably akin to their normal experience. Essentially feeling sorry for myself is an indulgence.

Secondly, it is not all doom and gloom. Most nights I have had some great games along with all the rest, and all but one night I have played I have reached the necessary total. This means I basically should try to stop stressing about it and just get on and play and have fun. I have managed to get a Mark of Excellence in the VK3601H, and I have had some great games in the Centurion I (my grind to the Centurion 7/1 is about 25% done).

Time to launch the game and enjoy myself.

I had thought I was going to try and maintain my alliance with England for most of the rest of my game. How quickly things change. I really should have seen it coming however, and I think it probably underscores the problem of being in a tech group beneath that of one’s alliance partners.

I was all ready to have another war The Mamluks, when I realised two things. Firstly that when England made peace with them they must have forced The Mamluks to break the alliance with France. I had somehow missed that at the time, but The Mamluks were now not allied to France. Secondly they had formed an alliance with Khorasan. The great thing about this was that Khorasan was not yet part of the Coalition against me. So if I declared war on Khorasan it would probably bring The Mamluks in – but it would not bring in the rest of the Coalition. Then after I was ready I could declare war against another Coalition member, and have a second chew at The Mamluks.

It took me a little while to reposition my forces to better reflect my new plans, but war was declared fairly quickly. In truth this was a much easier war, mostly because I stuck to plan. Namely, hunt down the opposition armies, and keep chasing them to destroy them utterly, following up with some smaller forces to conduct the actual sieges. It still took a few years to build up a 99% warscore, which gave me a large haul of provinces. In particular I took a further province in Asia Minor, two provinces in Afghanistan from Khorasan, and then a number in the Levant, meaning the Judea is now a border province my next target. Immediately thereafter I got a message that The Mamluks were no longer a valid rival. Apparently this was just too much too quickly for The Mamluks to sustain their standing. While I suppose it is not impossible that they can regain some of their ability, given I intend several more rounds with the coalition I rather doubt it.

So then it came time to choose another rival, and I had two options – Sweden and Japan. Sweden was unexpected, having just reduced Denmark (in another war) to a two province nation. My earlier war appears to have only arrested their decline, which to be honest was probably the best I could hope for. Japan was something of a surprise, but perhaps it should not have been given they managed to hoover up most of Korea, and even take a couple of provinces from Ming China. After thinking it over I decided to take Japan on as the new rival. This was frankly because they would be an easier fight. Not only are they technologically my inferior, they also have no allies. I hope to be able to get an outlet to the China Sea from their recent conquests. I will probably avoid taking any provinces from the main island itself, if only to make it easier to keep track of rebels.

My victory over The Mamluks did come at a considerable cost however – I became very over-extended, which means quite a bit of rebel activity. Inevitably this starts to take a toll on my armies, a cost I try to spread over several different armies if at all possible. I was a few months into this when a new war broke out. The Hansa declared war on Denmark, who had recently re-formed the alliance with England. The Hansa were allied to Sweden, France and Bohemia. England and Denmark had Aragon and a handful of German minors. I looked at the odds, and decided this was simply not a fight I wanted to get involved in. I was fairly sure I would be unable to defend my vassal Serbia, and I really didn’t want to have to deal with high-quality armies from the three major enemies marching into my borders, whilst also at the same time I was dealing with rebellions.

This was a very difficult decision, but eventually I just felt I had to say no. Being rather cold about it, I decided that England was basically going to be too much hassle for my aims. Or perhaps I should say my new aims, because some of my aims for the game have changed. You see, the new DLC Art of War has had its release date announced as 30th October. This DLC includes revising large portions of the map, which will make it save-game incompatible. Whilst Paradox do put older versions of the game out via the Steam Beta program I would prefer to avoid the hassle if I can. Constant European wars would slow down my playing time considerably.

Instead I am going to focus on my generally southward expansion. This means getting Judaea and Aleppo (and thus Antioch and Jerusalem), and also getting an outlet to the Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean, and ultimately seeing that the Ottomans, Timurids, and Oirat do not exist by game end. A little Oriental expansion against Japan as well, though probably not Ming China since I think they would make dealing with the coalition awkward. I also had an eye for expansion in South-East Asia, building on my colonial Empire.

My colonising phase is coming to an end. Almost all the places I might colonise are now being colonised, apart from a few provinces in Australia, which even if I do colonise them will revert to my Colonial nation. There remain possibilities for expansion however, and the first of these was Makassar, the one-province nation in the Celebes. I had already placed a claim on the province some decades earlier, but it had lapsed as I kept having other things to do. Whilst the war extension resolved itself I now re-claimed the province, and also two province of Brunei on Borneo. Brunei had just declared itself Defender of the Sunni Faith, so I hope they would come to Makassar’s defence.

They did. The war was quite easy. I had built up a 20k army that was more than capable of dealing with Makassar. My fleet, filled with new Threedeckers and Archipelago frigates, was superior to the Brunei fleet. They easily oversaw the transport of my army to Borneo – a campaign made easier by the fact Brunei had sent two small armies to Hokkaido. They were easily dealt with. I was able to bottle up the Brunei fleet in their capitol, which I proceeded to siege. At this point Brunei sent me a peace offer, willing to give up Makassar and both of their provinces I had claims to. I declined however until I took the capitol, forcing the Brunei fleet out to face my own. Not a single Brunei ship survived, and I figured this would make things easier for me down the road as I doubt that they would be able to rebuild any time soon.

After the war, both Brunei and Khorasan joined the Coalition against me. I am getting the impression that Sunni Muslims are feeling rather aggrieved. :) Certainly within a couple of years I hope to have another war with the Coalition. This one will really be a focus on just whittling down the Ottomans, Oirat, and Timurids so they become targets for vassalisation later. The year is 1727, I have just over 90 years left to play. Game on.

Another I have picked recently, again courtesy of a Steam sale, is Euro Truck Simulator 2. This is not the sort of game I would usually even consider, but whilst I was on holiday I watched a few streams on Twitch and thought it might be a relaxing change of pace to some of the other games I play, so I added it to my wishlist. It was always going to be a bit of a gamble, since apart from anything else I have plenty demands on my gaming time, but I hoped it would be something I would be able to play for a short period of time here and there.

Well it came on sale and I acquired it, and have been playing it on and off for the last week or so. On one level this has proven to be exactly the sort of game I was hoping for – a pleasant diversion very different from all my other options. However, I can also see why it is such a popular game and has sold so well. There is something very engaging about it. This should not be a surprise, since it is the same form of engagement that is central to the success of any Simulator game.

Well, I suppose it depends a little on what one means by simulator. In this I think ETS2 covers both the most common meaning of simulator very well. On the one hand this can clearly be a very detailed truck-driving simulator, as there are certainly options to set it up that way. On the other hand it is also a simulator in the building-sense, like the SimCity series, as there is very much the idea that one should build one’s own trucking company. By allowing more casual controls ETS2 is able to tap into and cater for a wide demographic.

I have found it very relaxing, to fire up the game, and select a quick-job, and just drive from (a) to (b). I have my own little internal rule that I try to start my next journey from the same location as I have just finished, which is generally quite easy. I have not yet actually purchased my own truck, still just doing Quick Jobs to build up that initial nest egg. I am no hurry to get my own truck either, though I will probably do so relatively soon.

There have been one or two interesting moments, like the time I literally had to stop playing as I could feel myself falling asleep – at the keyboard as it were! Hang on, you say, you like this game yet I makes you fall to sleep! How can this be? Well, I suppose because it does mimic the soporific effect that driving has in real life, so I find it an amusing little parallel. Also, I was frankly fairly exhausted when it happened. I have also had to remember to drive on the wrong side of the road when I am in the Continent, which just feels weird. Clearly I need to start a world crusade for everyone to drive on the left – I am sure that is the natural way to drive! :D .

I am also fairly poor at parking the lorries, though I hope I am slowly getting better. Practice, practice, and more practice, as they say. I also need to cause fewer accidents, though in truth I do seem to be crashing less often than I used to. Mind you, I did see a very interesting crash in my side-mirror once when a car tried to over-take me and ended up in another car. There are lots of little details in the world I am discovering, which I find entrancing.

Obviously we will see for how long I actively play it, but given I picked it up at a very competitive price so far it feels like money well spent.

The EU World of Tanks portal has today confirmed a set of missions for the rest of the month (starting tomorrow) which allow one the chance of getting a free TOG II*. For those who read For the Record, the possibility of this mission was leaked several weeks ago. However, while FTR leaks are generally good information, plans can change so I was cautious about getting too excited. However, now the word is official, and there is a free TOG in the offing.

I actually already own a TOG – I bought it on special offer not all that long ago. I haven’t had a chance to take it out yet, as I have been concentrating on my British medium grind. In particular I haven’t had the spare credits to kit it out with proper equipment (probably going to go for Vents, Rammer, and possibly an EGLD or Binocs), and I don’t want to take it out without the equipment. However, this mission still is of interest to me since if I manage to successfully complete it I will be credited with the TOG’s gold price, a very tidy 3500 gold.

The setup is quite simple – a daily mission which has to be completed fifteen times from 0710 tomorrow and 0700 on 1st November. This means there are twenty-four possible days to complete, which means one can “miss” nine days and still be in with a chance. The mission itself is to win five Tier V+ matches, being in the top 10 in base experience. That should be quite achievable. Each successfully completed daily also earns a Large Repair Kit and Automatic Fire Extinguisher (apparently Large First Aid Kits are not in as much demand or something), which will be nice enough, though I so far only equip those on my lone Tier X.

All in all I think we will be seeing quite a lot of TOGs when this is all over, since the requirements do appear to be rather easy (somewhat easier than the two sets of missions about to come to a close).

It also makes me wonder if they are going to do something like the IS-6 series of missions that happened last Christmas. I would be very much interested were that to be the case, and am busily working towards getting at least one Tier VI tank in each nation just in case. Just in case. It never hurts to be prepared.

One of the challenges of maintaining alliances in Europa Universalis IV is that allies can and will drag you into their wars. Some years ago I basically broke my alliance with Ukraine because they kept picking fights with Poland, and later Bohemia, at times that were rarely convenient. Eventually I decided it was not worth the hassle. The scenario with England is rather different – England is very much an ally I want to keep. So England launches another war on Scotland. England is allied with Denmark, Aragon, Mali, and myself (and, of course, it colonial nations). Scotland immediately calls France into the war, and France brings in The Hansa and The Mamluks (and its own colonial nations as well). I should mention that in this game Aragon is basically an Italian power, maintaining only two provinces in Iberia, but controlling almost all of Italy apart from some of the northernmost states, and a fair bit of the Adriatic coast in what we used to call Yugoslavia. I kind of imagine that the two major Iberian colonial powers – Portugal and Castille – and rather amused, and generally benefiting from a very prolonged period of peace.

This war quickly broke down into a number of separate theatres. In the New World English Mexico slowly became over-run from French Mexico and Colombia – something that seems to happen with some regularity. On the other hand the French colonial national Nouvelle-Flandre (essentially French USA) itself was over-run – again a somewhat frequent occurrence. Meanwhile in Britain itself Scotland folded to English pressure, and therefore the warscore started to build. I concentrated on fighting The Mamluks, and France concentrated on dealing with first Denmark, and then Aragon.

Actually I was quite impressed with the French basic strategy. Relatively secure in their own homeland they first concentrated on Denmark, successfully knocking it out of the war relatively early on. They then concentrated on Aragon, flooding Italy with troops. It took a little longer, but Aragon basically had no chance by itself and suffered defeat, being forced to release Sicily. This left England, Russia, and Mali in the war.

The situation with The Mamluks at the start of the war was a little more complicated, as The Mamluks were already in a war against the Timurids and Ottomans, in which they were allied with Oman and their new vassal Baluchistan. Therefore a strange two-way war started to take place, where myself and my vassals Khazakh and Serbia could fight The Mamluks and Baluchistan, and The Mamluks, Baluchistan, and Oman could fight the Ottomans and the Timurids. Unfortunately the Ottomans and Timurids were already on the back foot, and soon it was mostly a matter of waiting for sieges to end. Meanwhile I managed to push out The Mamluk armies out of Asia Minor with some hard-fought battles – but Oman continued to prosecute the Ottoman war. My way quickly devolved into three areas of action. Firstly there was Asia Minor, which was mostly a matter of sieges using mercenaries. Then there was Syria and Iran.

About this time The Mamluks made peace with the Ottomans and the Timurids, and took a number provinces from both. Meanwhile I was expecting The Mamluk armies to return to Syria to tackle my armies there, but I made a miscalculation – they went instead to Iran where my forces were substantially fewer. A hard-fought battle at Basra ended up with a defeat, but in the end it did not matter. I gave up most of the Syrian sieges and redeployed the armies eastward, and eventually defeated and destroyed most of the Mamlukian armies. Then mostly it was back to sieging, though with two armies I made a thrust to Cairo to keep my opponents armies dispersed. About this time I noticed that Mali had managed to get some forces into the other end of The Mamluk Empire in Tunisia and Libya.

I had allowed England to exchange my provinces in the war, and now that came to my benefit when England made a peace with The Mamluks, giving me four of their provinces in the peace, including an outlet to the Mediterranean.  This means there is now The Mamluks have several provinces in Asia Minor without a land connection to Cairo. Hopefully they should be easy to acquire in due course. It also got me slightly closer to me ultimate aim of Jerusalem.

Now the war looked to be in a but of an impasse. England controlled all of Scotland, the war in the North America was probably about all square when all things were considered, and no one was near anyone else. The war score stood at 27% in our favour – and that was sort of that. It looked like The Hansa were trying to make an expedition to Mali, but with Mali’s armies returning they were going to have a tough time. Meanwhile I had no viable way to get my armies to either France or The Hansa – and vice versa. I did consider a moment trying to get some troops from my colonial ventures in the Pacific to the French holdings in the Indian ocean (Gujarat, the Maldives, and the Andamans) but I just didn’t have the necessary fleet. I did start supporting some rebels in Gujarat, but that was more from lack of anything else immediate to do.

I got the premonition this is probably the future of my rivalry with France for quite a while – an inability of either of us to do anything about each other. In this particular case France had started to suffer from some war exhaustion, and a peace was declared after another 18 months or so with England taking all but one of Scotland’s remaining provinces. I imagine we will have a final round in this fight in another 15-20 years’ time.

Meanwhile I was left cooling my heels for a while as my King had died leaving me with a regency – meaning I could not declare war. On the whole though I am very happy the way things have turned out. Now I just need to somehow try to get England to have a province next to me, so I can benefit from Western Arms Trade. Precisely how I intend to go about that I am not yet sure, but a solution will probably present itself. Meanwhile I am readying for another round against what I think of the Southern Coalition – Ottomans, The Mamluks, Timurids, and Oirat. Then I intend to have a go at Khorasan, who are the power to have benefited the most from the constant beatings myself and The Mamluks have delivered to the Timurids. I am also almost ready to start rolling up some of the minor powers left in Indonesia, like Makassar and Brunei. I might also soon decide to had a go at Bohemia. Lots of possibilities.

So the latest of the “fun” modes has started in World of Tanks. To the best of my memory the Chaffee race is the third fun mode in the game, following the success of KARL and the Football mode. Just like the previous two I am unlikely in the extreme ever to play the Chaffee race, for what may be the simplest of reasons: I just don’t get it.

Really. I scratch my head and cannot work out why people want to play them. Well that is not entirely true, I can appreciate on a very intellectual level that other people do indeed find these game modes diverting, a bit of a laugh, and generally a nice break from the usual grind. However, whenever I try to advance from that intellectual supposition to something approaching actual understanding my brain doesn’t make the leap.

One clear reason for my lack of comprehension is that if I want to do something a bit different than the daily tank grind I will … go and do something different. My Steam and GoG.com libraries are hardly as extensive as many, but there are a sufficiently wide range of diverting games to cover most of my modes, and if I don’t want to game I have plenty of other avenues of entertainment as well.

Ultimately I think this is a minor example of a challenge I do face, in life in general, and not just in gaming. It is a feature of my Asperger’s that makes it very difficult at times to understand other people except at a very superficial intellectual level, which really is no understanding at all. The thing is – that’s ok. I don’t have to understand the motivations of other people for something like this. It is there, and I am sure lots of people will enjoy the experience, and I am happy that they will. In return however I do want people to understand that these things hold no interest – but sometimes people don’t. They seem surprised, and it is not always easy to explain to people for whom English is not their first language the reason why.

That said I have not yet encountered any actual insults as a consequence of this, not even stretching the meaning of the term. The QSF community is generally pretty chilled. The world turns, but it turns slowly, but it does turn.

There is a war in the North. The highly trained and disciplined Swedish army, proud of its tradition of victory, marches through the lands of western Russia, seeking out the foe. Until one morning out of the fog comes the spectre of three separate Russian armies, each one the same size as the Swedish one. The Swedish soldiers, brave and capable, are trapped. Superior though they are to their Russian counterparts there is no overcoming the sheer numbers of the Russian horde. By the end of the battle tens of thousands are dead, but the army of Sweden is no more, either slain on the field or surrendered. It is the turning point in the war, and nothing now can prevent the Russian behemoth from over-running the North.

Okay, a little dramatic, but in broad strokes the above describes both the historical campaign that led to the Battle of Poltava, and the next stage in my game as Russia. I had not intended to tackle Sweden quite so early, but Sweden itself wished to further beat up on Denmark. Denmark has become a minor power, having lost Skåne, Bornholm, and most of Jylland. Now Sweden had laid claim to Fyn. Denmark turned to their English allies, and England asked for aid from my Russia. Deciding I had to keep my English alliance with an eye to further showdowns with France I accepted the call, and was made the alliance leader. For their own part Sweden called in The Hansa (a regional power in northern Germany) and The Huron (who are now westernised and becoming a regional power in eastern North America).

The war began without me really having any aims – I had no claims over Swedish lands. As it happened though within a few months of the beginning I had a random event which gave me a claim to one of Sweden’s provinces in Estonia. Meanwhile I was slowly gathering my forces. I only had one army in the vicinity, which I was to invade defenceless Estonia, and I began to send two further armies to the border, plus recruiting a bunch of mercenaries. I did get an initial scare when the 45k Swedish stack looked like it was going to march through Neva to defend Estonia, but in the event they turned back into Finland, and across to destroy the Danish army. At sea the Swedish fleet was also initially victorious against my allies, and The Huron were having some successes in America.

I cautiously began an invasion of Finland and northern Norway, and then that Swedish army appeared in my back yard. Clearly it had marched across Bohemia. It was too late however, I had managed to gather my armies, and I now smashed the sole hope of Sweden on the banks of the Narva. After this victory in a sense the war became somewhat boring – it was mostly a case of building up a significant warscore to achieve the desired peace. Whilst there were further battles Sweden never managed to amass a significant enough army to cause any trouble, and The Hansa stayed mostly out of it.

In the peace treaty I took Reval, I gave the Orkneys to England, and returned Jylland and Bornholm to Denmark. Indeed the value of the peace treaty was rather higher than the warscore – I can only think the AI desperately wanted out of the war.

This war feels very significant. There was never really any significant chance of losing the war – my manpower advantage was simply too huge – but it is my first proper full-scale war directly with a western power, and I think probably marks the start of a time when I am likely to be more active in Europe again. For a very long time my western frontier has mostly been dormant – ever since the duo of Poland and Lithuania was broken in the late 1500s. That is going to change.

All in all though I couldn’t but smile at the way my game was echoing real life history and the Battle of Poltava during the Great Northern War.

 

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