Rob Zacny

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About Rob Zacny

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    Host: Three Moves Ahead & Esports Today

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  1. Three Moves Ahead 406: Battlestar Galactica Deadlock Rob, Rowan, and Kotaku's Luke Plunkett pull up a space chair and talk about Battlestar Galactica Deadlock. In addition to the admirable lack of colons in the title, Deadlock manages to take a licensed IP and turn it into a faithful and satisfying gaming experience. If the term "broadsides in space" gets your solar sails at half mast, this may be an episode for you. Battlestar Galactica Deadlock Listen on the Episode Page Listen on Soundcloud Listen in iTunes
  2. Three Moves Ahead 405: Lords of Waterdeep This week's Three Moves Ahead stretches the boundaries of the podcast medium to bring you LIVE audio via recording. Rob, Rowan, Fraser, and Troy "always a bardsmaid, never a bard" Goodfellow share their thoughts on the Steam port of Lords of Waterdeep while playing a game together. Lords of Waterdeep started as a popular worker placement board game and eventually made its way to mobile platforms. It recently arrived on the PC via Steam and quickly found a place in Fraser's heart. It's not a good place, but it's firmly embedded there. Like a valve blockage. EXPLICIT CONTENT WARNING: many curse words are uttered, even more than usual. Lords of Waterdeep Listen on the Episode Page Listen on Soundcloud Listen in iTunes
  3. Three Moves Ahead 404: Total War: Warhammer Revisited It's episode 404hammer and Rob, Fraser, and T.J. Hafer revisit Total War: Warhammer. With the sequel fast approaching, Rob had the itch to play some morehammer and see how the series has evolved. Far from being a borehammer, the newest races and expansions seem to have expanded the gameplay and and embraced the lorehammer. Rob's enthusiasm is infectious and everyone on the panel feels the esprit de corpshammer as this game turns out to one of the finest Total War games in the lineup. Warhammer. Total War: Warhammer, Total War series Listen on the Episode Page Listen on Soundcloud Listen in iTunes
  4. Three Moves Ahead 403: Survival Strategy Survival: it's what separates people from animals. How far we've come from punching a tree until it explodes into logs that we can craft into workbenches. What began as humble topiary assault spread through time, Asia, and eventually into strategy games. This week, Rowan, Critical Distance's Zach Alexander, and Troy "Surely I can trade my encyclopedic knowledge of show tunes for food" Goodfellow get together to talk about survival strategy games. From half-RPGs to city builders, game devs like cramming a food clock into any game orifice they can find and the result are normal strategy games with the added fun of starvation and disease. Rimworld, Banished, Dwarf Fortress, Oxygen Not Included, Rogue, Nethack, Skyrim, FTL, Sunless Sea, Minecraft, Spelunky, S.O.S, Survival Kits, Jurassic Park: Trespasser, Rebuild, Atom Zombie Smasher, Impressions Games, SimCity, The Settlers, Children of the Nile, Majesty, Tropico, Aven Colony, The Sims, Baldur's Gate, Crusader Kings 2, Fallout Shelter Listen on the Episode Page Listen on Soundcloud Listen in iTunes
  5. Episode 402: Battle Brothers

    God I would love to see this article or a translation of it. Because this seems like an important point about modern strategy gaming. I mean, EUIV has a lot of mechanics that add up to ethnic cleansing (and a lot of incentives and disincentives for using them) and I do wonder the extent to which these games offer rationales for really awful stuff and normalize it for modern audiences. This isn't confined to games, of course. Most histories of modern China treat Mao's Great Leap Forward as a painful and ugly series of trade-offs: famine, mass death, but also the rise of heavy industry and modernization for large swathes of the country. Whereas the Cultural Revolution is often treated as the moment where Mao crosses over into actual evil, because there's no real rhyme or reason to it. But the idea is that if we can just find a reasonable outcome behind a monstrous policy, then we must somehow treat it as a considered trade-off. Easier to do from the point of the living, and not the people who died on collectives or in gulags.
  6. Episode 402: Battle Brothers

    I didn't forget that aspect of the discussion, I think we talked about that specific issue on the podcast and why that reasoning struck me as insufficient. If I build a house and spend all my money and material on the kitchen and garage, and then don't have anything left over for a decent bedrom, that I don't get to say, "Yeah, but I had to build a really fancy kitchen! It was resource intensive!" That was still a choice. It's the same thing in games: what you decide is acceptable to ignore in order to support other priorities is still an active choice, not something that "just happens". It's worth discussing. Also, that dynamic character art is cute but let's not overstate how impressive it really is. We're talking about the equivalent of a few decals. Nice decals, but not something that makes me sit back in wonder at the resources and care lavished on them. As for the question about what people choose to support or not... that's not for me to say. All of this is personal. Battle Brothers does some things I'm not comfortable with, but I don't find so off-putting that I cannot play the game. I totally think it's fair for another person to look at it and decide it's not for them, for those reasons. I love the Witcher series, but I'm not going to take issue with anyone choosing to pass on it because they feel excluded. People get to decide what offends them or what just turns them off, and make decisions based on that. They also get to discuss that stuff when it comes to critical reactions to the game.
  7. Episode 402: Battle Brothers

    I don't think I'd agree that 3MA necessarily attracts reactionary sentiment, nor that its audience leans that way. I do think strategy games get treated as an apolitical space (in part because the subject matter is often SO charged) that it can catch people off guard when the discussion raises contemporary political topics. Thumbs has a bigger community that's always been in dialogue with the critical conversations across gaming, but in strategy land a lot of those conversations have passed us by. So it might feel like we're breaking an unspoken rule when we tackle this stuff but the truth is just there aren't a ton of games that really engage with modern political debate. Two things I think are changing that: one is the context has changed of late. The politics of 1930s Europe and Asia seemed more like a settled and closed discussion when we started doing this show, but obviously there are a lot of overtones to those subjects nowadays. Second, our own standards and expectations are shifting. I'm not sure Battle Brothers inclusiveness would have felt as obvious to me a few years ago, but now I regularly have those conversations about how games shape the idea of "the default" or "normal:. Also, I'm playing this alongside Darkest Dungeon where similarly simple character art is made to encompass a wide variety of skin tones. When a game omits that inclusivity, and then kind of tips its hand about other iffy positions and perspectives, it's way harder to ignore now. We both want it done better, and there are a lot of games that do. But that's a change and an evolution in how we approach that space, and that's going to seem discordant at times. But I don't think it says too much about 3MA.
  8. Episode 402: Battle Brothers

    In retrospect I think I'd probably recommend the game less forcefully, because my reservations are only getting more pointed. Where women appear in story text, it's often as sex objects. Then when Battle Brothers opens its mouth about marginalized groups, it's often to say something dumb and mean-spirited. It's a great tactics game and does so many things right, but where it's coming from is alternately oblivious or just stupidly cruel in the lazy way that Grimdark for Dumbasses often comes across. Also, any game making a specific comment about refugees in the last couple years is absolutely making a statement about current events. Contrast this with The Witcher series. For all that representational critiques, the Witcher and especially the Witcher 3 is generally very aware of how awful the things it depicts really are. It depicts a war-torn land full of refugees, but never smirks about refugees' plight or what it says about them. It depicts gendered and racial violence, but largely also makes clear that the game's eyes are open to what that violence reflects (though not in all cases, and there are definitely places where the Witcher drops the ball). Also a podcast is not a review, it's a discussion that examines a subject from several different angles. This was one of them. Hopefully this clarifies.
  9. Three Moves Ahead 402: Battle Brothers This week Rob, Rowan, Obsidian's Josh Sawyer, and Troy "I told you, these leeches are medicinal" Goodfellow discuss Overhype Studios' Battle Brothers. It's been a while since the panel has been smitten with a game, but Battle Brothers seems to win everyone over with its smart tactical turn based combat. Taking a break from elaborate spells, this low-fantasy setting has your archers are melee combatants slugging it out in the mud and snow against brigands orcs. Battle Brothers Listen on the Episode Page Listen on Soundcloud Listen in iTunes
  10. Three Moves Ahead 401: Kingdoms and Castles Troy returns from vacation just as Fraser prepares to sail the wine-dark Aegean. But they pause long enough to talk about Kingdoms and Castles with Rob, a fun little medieval tower-defnse-city-builder that everyone wishes were just a little bit... deeper. But can Kingdoms and Castles' appeal be separated from its simplicity and shallowness? Kingdoms and Castles, Anno Games, Stronghold, Listen on the Episode Page Listen on Soundcloud Listen in iTunes
  11. Three Moves Ahead 400: Dream Daddy Civil War Forgive us. The title was Rowan's fault. Rob and Rowan have been playing Ultimate General: Civil War and Gettysburg: The Tide Turns, and those games have got them thinking about what they really, truly want from a Civil War wargame. Rowan talks about how he wants to feel like a commander in the field, dealing with the same uncertainty and dynamics that Civil War generals faced. Rob agrees, but also wants a game that feels roughly true to the historical record, yet also wants the capacity to be surprised. In other words, we want it all. Rowan also proposes that Sid Meier's Gettysburg, at this point, casts too long a shadow and its influence is stifling other approaches to tactical wargame design. Gettysburg: The Tide Turns, Ultimate General: Civil War, John Tiller's Battleground Civil War, Take Command, Scourge of War, Sid Meier's Gettysburg Listen on the Episode Page Listen on Soundcloud Listen in iTunes
  12. Three Moves Ahead 399: Air Combat Bruce sits down with James Crate, a former naval aviator, and discusses various efforts at designing and playing games about air combat. Crate discusses how a lot of Cold War era wargames reflected US military doctrine, but not necessarily air engagements as pilots would experience them in the field. How did the lessons learned from actual air combat match the expectations reflected in wargames? Also, prepare to learn that air-to-air missiles don't work like you think they do. Tac Air, Flight Leader, Air Superiority, Check Your Six, Bag the Hun Listen on the Episode Page Listen on Soundcloud Listen in iTunes
  13. Idle Weekend July 2, 2017: Bleacher Bums Rob and Danielle meet for an overdue weekend after a Rob's cross-country move. Rob's been getting re-acclimated by playing a lot of MLB The Show 17 and discovers it's like watching baseball with a cool, knowledgeable friend. But a discussion of sports leads to a discussion of Boston sports and their deserved reputation for racism. But somehow, Xander Cage makes it all okay. MLB The Show 17, Animal Crossing, Boston sports Listen on the Episode Page Listen on Soundcloud Listen in iTunes
  14. Three Moves Ahead 398: Taking the L Rowan, Sean, and Rob discuss what goes into a "satisfying" setback as opposed to something that sends one running to the quickload button. Rowan possibly solves game design. Crusader Kings, Steel Division, Patrician, EUIV, Darkest Dungeon Listen on the Episode Page Listen on Soundcloud Listen in iTunes
  15. Three Moves Ahead 397: Meta Campaigns Rob, Fraser, and Rowan look at the game outside the game. What are the ways that strategy and tactics games contextualize our actions and decisions, and which approaches do we tend to prefer. The conversation runs long but takes an exciting turn as the crew realize they've likely solved strategy games. XCOM, Jagged Alliance 2, Total War, Endless Legend, Company of Heroes Listen on the Episode Page Listen on Soundcloud Listen in iTunes