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Thread: AARlander Edition 4

  1. #1
    The Article Beggar Derahan's Avatar
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    AARlander Edition 4

    Greetings to all you folks out there that might stumble upon and read this piece of work, mostly written by people other than me (except this itroduction). We're back again with the fourth edition of the new AARlander and i have to admitt that it is a week late and i apologies for that, it's all my fault and no one elses. Now i'm going to keep short as i don't have much to write befrore i launch this piece onto the boards. SO i would like to say thanks again to those who along Canonized ran the original AARlander and actully made this new one possible because of their work, secondly i would like to thank the moderators who helped me start this and who got the idea to continue the AARlander, most of all Qorten, Eber, Loki100 and Mr.Capitalist, Thirdly but not least i would like to give thanks to all contributors to this edition of the AARlander who put time to work on articles to fill the void!

    When you are done reading, please head over to the Feedback thread and tell us what you thought!

    So without much other to say, Let the fourth edition launch!

    Last edited by Derahan; 09-07-2012 at 19:57.

  2. #2
    The Article Beggar Derahan's Avatar
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    CK2:
    A Game of Throne Mod Spotlight
    By Saithis


    It stands to reason that, given the enormous hype GRRM's A Song of Ice and Fire's books and recent televised spin-off have received, we would go on to see a mod for it in Crusader Kings 2. CK2 seems virtually tailor-made for a world where alliances and interests shift nearly as quickly as one can keep up with them and I know of many who referred to the original Crusader Kings as “ASOIAF the Game” when trying to describe it for those unawares.

    Although I myself am admittedly not the largest fan of the series (although I acknowledge its quality), I downloaded the mod out of curiosity due to a friend's participation as part of the core development team. What I found was an extremely well-assembled piece of mod work, with a beautifully rendered continent and a large and complex world full of vast holdings true to Martin's world and imagination. The game itself starts well before the events of the books, during the War of the Usurper. I believe there is also a new scenario out by the name of the Crowned Stag, which allows you to start during the reign of Robert Baratheon and plans for future starting scenarios.

    The true hard work becomes clear, however, when you delve into the AAR itself and its possibilities. Countless new events, event chains and decisions expand the game so vastly that the original feels almost a shell of its former self. Paradox is well known for assembling well-constructed games that are easily accessible to large audiences while leaving the modding community to build something more specialist in its tastes. AGOT may be more specialist, but I cannot help but approve of the new mechanical additions.

    A reworked noble hierarchy sees one King reign over many many Lords and although the lands North of the Wall were not truly modelled yet, from what I have heard progress is well underway. There is a complex Megawar system that allows you to enter into conflicts that can only be described as truly enormous, seeing different nobles take different sides in the battle for the Iron Throne. To add to the complexity of Crusader Kings' extant politics, a new decision system for plotting assassinations has been painstakingly crafted, allowing any noble to bring others into a large, dangerous and complicated plan to kill even the most well-defended of men.

    The real jewel of this mod, however, is the seemingly unlimited capacity for storytelling and drama. To me, the greatest example of this is the duelling system. As two armies meet in battle, both may suddenly find themselves facing down an enemy noble on the field. With a variety of options and a well-designed system of duelling traits and modifiers, your lords can actually meet on the field of battle to slay one another, putting a swift end to your opponents once and for all. The lack of one on one combat was always something that stood out to me as strange in CK2 and AGOT's filling of this is a fantastic addition to an already great game.

    It shouldn't come as any surprise, then, that with all of this in store, many AARs popped up as soon as the mod was released, although sadly many of these have died and only one has registered themselves in the CK2 LibrAARy for documentation throughout the ages. Few have updated more than a few times, but there is still time to change that. I've taken the time to pick out a few of my favourites in the hopes of directing readers and writers alike to the vast potential this mod holds for AARland.

    The Lions of the Garden is the longest AGOT AAR on the forum and a fantastic tale of House Lannister. One of the oldest and most powerful houses in Westeros, the Lannister help Robert Baratheon seek the throne, but not without benefit for themselves. A complex and compelling story of excellent writing, this is almost certainly the best AGOT AAR out there and in my opinion a must-read for any fans of both the game and the series.

    The Scales of War is a relatively young one, but shows the War of the Usurper through the eyes of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen. Including an early demonstration of the duel mechanics and a first-hand display of some of the AAR's excellent events (including interactions with the Kingsguard), this is a lovely glimpse into an alternate history for Westeros.

    House Brax for Hornvale is a slightly simpler approach in terms of writing, and may appeal more to the kinds of readers who are not drawn to long-winded, complex narratives but are nonetheless interested in the setting and story, or who enjoy the tale of a small, unnoticeable family attempting to stand on their own.

  3. #3
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    Europa Universalis III AAR Review
    by Gela1212


    So, what exactly are the basic elements of a gameplay AAR? I think we can all agree that they're usually lighthearted, focus heavily on what's going through the player's minds as they play, and generally speaking have more pictures than text (unless it's a guide or tutorial or whatever). Seems like a fairly basic formula, but yet, good gameplay works are elusive.

    Instead of doing my review like I did for Victoria 2 in the past, I think I want this to be more of a spotlight. Sure, I could review PrawnStar's current AAR, The Historic Inevitability of Epic Failure, but since just about everyone already knows and loves PrawnStar, that doesn't exactly feel right. So I decided to give a bit of attention to a just-starting work by tamius23, The Story of Styria.

    What exactly draws me to it? I'm not sure. Maybe it's the fact that this piece avoids the plague that bites most gameplay pieces: fatigue. The pace is kept up, and tamius doesn't spend all of his time showcasing every little detail. The simplicity of his writing, the very subtle but very present humor, and the way he manages to keep his writing fresh throughout the updates that he has posted so far are all incredible.

    If you're looking for a meaty work, or something side-splitting along the lines of Glory for Ulm, I can't say that this is the AAR for you. The text in between pictures is never very long, and none of the jokes are obvious or extremely clever. Instead, a light and subtle voice is used to convey all the events that happen in the game, both good and bad. Perhaps one could even say this simple way of writing is reflected in the title, which doesn't have any obscure reference or combination of ominous words. Nope, just The Story of Styria.

    However, if you just need something to read that will keep you engaged, entertained, and intrigued, then by all means, click on the link I provided above and dig in. It won't take you long, but if you like the style, I think you'll fall in love. Normally I like to read the beginning of an AAR, write a bit about that, then continue reading the rest, but I just wasn't able to stop. Before I knew it, I was at the most recent update and twenty-five minutes had been added to the clock. That's sort of the magic of this piece, it just makes you lose track of everything until you've absorbed all of it.

  4. #4
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    Standing Out - Breaking HOI3's Moulds and Finishing Touches
    By Saithis


    Far too often, AARs on the forum have appeared in a flurry of activity, only to vanish within days, often with few or no comments to their name. Tragically, many of those writers who often have good ideas or good stories to tell will become dissuaded without immediate results and quickly drop out. This is a shame and while you cannot force people to comment, there are certainly things you can do in order to draw people into commenting.

    The first step to realizing your AAR's potential is understanding that the very first thing that draws people to you is not anything about your game, but something far, far simpler: your AAR's title. Many AAR readers are short on time and can spare little more than a minute to flick through the front pages of their favourite sub-fora until they see a title that stands out to them. Short, nondescript and unexciting AAR titles such as “My germany aar” or “WW2: UK Perspective” might be descriptive, but they won't pique anyone's interest. When you sit down to make an AAR, put some thought into it; come up with a snappy title and think hard about who you are going to play, why they are interesting to read about and how you want to play them.

    Consider the following chart momentarily:

    HOI3 AARs:
    23 Germany AARs (22.3%)
    9 Japan AARs (8.7%)
    9 USA AARs (8.7%)
    6 UK AARs (5.8%)
    6 France AARs (5.8%)
    5 USSR AARs (4.8%)
    4 Italy AARs (3.8%)
    28 Minor Country AARs (27.1%)
    10 Multiplayer AARs (9.7%)
    3 “Other” AARs (2.9%)
    103 total AARs

    This is a tally of all of the AARs for roughly the past three months on the HOI3 forum. Major powers and multiplayer AARs (which are chiefly major powers) account for roughly 70% of the forum's AARs. Just 27% of these AARs are run on the minor countries, and the vast majority of those are powerful minors such as Spain, the Chinese Warlords, Brazil, etc. Germany alone accounts for nearly as many AARs as the minor countries.

    Now, before you jump to start your new AAR where you conquer lots of stuff as your favourite Major Power, stop and think: is this actually going to be interesting to read? Contrary to popular opinion, the most entertaining AARs are not the ones where the reader is virtually guaranteed victory due to his Major status. Most people like to see the reader win, but never if that win was an easy one – people tend to like underdogs, REAL underdogs. If you're really going to play a Major, find a way to make your conquest stand out from the rest as a unique and difficult experience. Either make a twist such as Fascist Britain or Communist America, or deliberately hamper yourself and your ability to build up for the war until it starts, giving you a much tougher starting position. Allow yourself to face challenge and write it accordingly to increase the tension for the readers and make them wonder how you're going to get out of whatever predicament you're in. Consider playing Minors and using them to craft Empires the world has never seen before or even imagined and that alone will make your AAR stand out.

    There's a few other things that are important, and they're all to do with polish and presentation. It doesn't matter how interesting your AAR game is if the presentation is weak. If you plan to use screenshots, try not to go too screenshot heavy or too text heavy – a balanced AAR will refresh the reader's eyes and make it easier to get through your updates. When you are ready to post your AAR, take your screenshots and crop out relevant parts in Paint.NET, GIMP or Photoshop. For a quick way to add attractiveness, use the canvas size or selection tool in conjunction with the paint bucket tool to add a simple black border around your screenshots. If you cut together different screenshots so that they overlap but leave empty space, make them a .png file with a transparent background and keep the border only around the bits of screenshot themselves – this will ensure your AAR looks clean, tidy and professional and impress readers while adding relatively little extra effort to your update process.

    Lastly, before you do post, take the time to load your update in OpenOffice Writer or Microsoft Word and run a Spelling & Grammar check, either manually or using the Tools provided by the program. The last thing anyone wants is a poorly written mess mucking up the works, and a couple minutes on your part can do a world of good in terms of impressing readers and other writers. The little touches can be the difference between an AAR no one has heard of, or an AAR that wins AwAARds and receive regular comments.

  5. #5
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    VICTORIA II
    V2 vs PoN
    By Kaisersohaib



    Victoria II impressive as PoN is, its design accurately reflects that it's AGEOD's first attempt to apply their detailed military engine to a project of this scope and scale. However, it implements some great ideas that I hope will someday be combined with Vicky II's architecture to make a superior game overall.

    First, let's talk about the length: it is almost impossible to complete the Grand Campaign in PoN. Turn generation alone would take 80 hours. Add time to actually play the game on top of that and you are talking about treating PoN as a full-time job for an entire month.Victoria II is itself an almost absurdly long game, but it runs faster, efforts were made to reduce micromanagement to the degree possible, and the game system is busy processing as the player is playing. PoN multiplayer is PBEM, which sounds reasonable, except that to actually finish any decent number of turns you'd need to get everyone together at the same time and play in bursts of very rapid turn generation, which defeats the purpose - if you tried to play, say, a turn a day, you would be playing for almost five years. And since the game's log doesn't show history past the previous turn, you can't easily miss a turn or two and come back, where as with Vicky you can make a sandwich at a slow period and catch up easily afterwards.

    PoN's interface is bewildering, particularly for economics and trade, whereas Vicky II benefits from the experience of its predecessor and has on balance a pretty decent interface design. In terms of game mechanics, both PoN and Vicky II are quite opaque and hard to understand; in my mind PoN has a narrow edge, because the nits of the military system is well documented by fans via wikis of earlier games, and the economic system is greatly simplified.

    But about that: Vicky II's economic simulation is superior, even if it is buggy and hard to balance. It does a better job of modeling private enterprise (even though, as someone who studied IPE in school, I think it has a long way to go.) I like PoE's more detailed taxation system (which also has a long way to go) and the development decisions you can make, but overall Vicky II is a better experience. In particular, inVicky II there is a marked difference in play between a country with a free economy and a country with a top-down economy; in PoN there is not.

    In terms of the flexibility of the simulation, Vicky II is far more capable and durable than PoN. PoN seems to use events to model any change of note, especially with Japan and Russia, and when those event chains go wrong due to a bug or to deliberate action on the part of a player, they seem like they will break immediately with no "back-up plan". I'm not sure PoN's event system in general is even flexible enough to handle a time span like the one covered in the game. PoN gets huge points for reducing the incentive and ability for players to do ridiculous things like invade and annex Korea from America, but it's so rigid and brittle that in real-world play conditions it seems like it would fall apart.

    PoN really shines in its attention to military matters. Vicky II's military system is hopelessly generic; each country plays almost identically with identical units, the jerky and jolting technological improvements are unrealistic and unbalancing, and really it's just a matter of stacking your units and clicking on the other army. PoN builds on a proud tradition of excellent AGEOD military simulations, and I have nothing but respect for AGEOD's experience in this sector.

    Two other points in PoN's favor are the more realistic and organic technology system, and the more gameplay-heavy colonial system. I think that both of them need polish -- the technology system needs more attention to gameplay and more transparency on how the features of your nation are affecting your technological improvement, and the colonial system needs balancing and tweaking and some gameplay attention as well -- but in general they are full of good ideas. The "crisis" system in particular is genius, and for all it needs tweaking (and I wish it was stretched out over multiple turns so players could negotiate with and react to one another), it's the best attempt at a model of diplomacy I've ever seen in a grand strategy sim.

    So with this we finish and the results are: Vicky wins PoN

  6. #6
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    AGEOD
    By Loki100


    For this AARlander, I'd like to present an interview with one of the forum's most active writers – Bornego. He has a long interest with the AGEOD game systems and so far he has written/is writing 4 AARs all based on RUS and on the different scenarios and factions available in that game. Like many of us, he has come to all this from an interest in both history and playing history based strategy games.

    His AARs are:

    Once Upon a Time ... the Revolution, using the long (grand campaign) scenario from the perspective of the Bolshevik faction;
    Who put the stranded Admiral in charge, using the shorter (it starts with both sides fully mobilised) scenario from the perspective of the White faction that starts in Siberia;
    The Swans head north, again with the short scenario, this time from the perspective of the White faction that starts in the Caucasus;
    Death will stand grieving in that field of war using the epic Drang Nach Osten campaign. This starts with the premise of a German victory in WW1 leading to a showdown with the nascent Soviet Republic in 1921.

    This impressive output has all been generated in seven months and has been well received with the award of Writer of the Week (9 April 2012) and 2 Weekly Showcase awards (20 January and 22 May 2012).

    So to the questions:

    a) Why did you start writing AARs on the Paradox forum?

    Everybody who has tried AGEOD games in multiplayer mode probably knows how addictive it can get. It can be quite the rush when you get new turn files and just can't wait to see how that offensive you had planned so carefully has turned out or whether your desperately patched position has held off another attack. Each time a campaign, got particular ly awesome, I thought to myself – you really should write an AAR about this one. But for a long time I never did. That changed last November when I started my first Revolution under Siege AAR.

    The choice of the Paradox forum was pretty obvious; AGEOD had just become Paradox France and it seemed the perfect place to help introduce the bigger Paradox community to one of my all-time favorite games.

    b) Your AARs explore both the mechanics of RUS and your own strategies in detail. Are you a little bit afraid that any potential opponent will know what to expect when they play against you?

    “Afraid” might be too strong a word. But it can certainly be a disadvantage – at least against new opponents. My AARs provide a lot of material to study my strategies and tricks. As a result, the opening turns of a new game can be tough. But it doesn't last long since I will start to get a feeling for the way my opponent thinks as well. On the other hand, this initial disadvantage can lead to creative solutions; it's the tight spots where new ideas are born.

    Besides, most opponents have their own bag of tricks and I will shamelessly adopt the ones I like.

    c) So far you have concentrated on doing AARs based on RUS, do you feel tempted to branch out to other AGEOD titles, or indeed to a Paradox based game?

    Definitively, I had an epic Rise of Prussia PBEM a year ago and still regret not writing an AAR about it. But I also look at what kind of AARs already exist on this forum since one of my goals is to help establish a collection of AARs that covers the full width of AGEOD titles while explaining their mechanics. RoP and Wars in America are extremely well covered in that respect by Narwhal's and loki100's AARs.

    My next AAR will most likely follow a Pride of Nations PBEM; not the insanely long Grand Campaign but a shorter battle-scenario. Also Alea Jacta Est is on the horizon and I believe a lot of players will fall in love with that game.

    d)What do you think is the main challenge to writing an AAR based on a multi-player game?

    When it comes to writing an AAR, the difference between a multiplayer and a singleplayer game is minimal with AGEOD games. But of course, multiplayer games tend to provide even more exciting gameplay and are therefore great material for an AAR.

    On the other hand, it is quite a different feat to write a multiplayer AAR for realtime strategy games like the Hearts of Iron or Europa Universalis series. I have enormous respect for the writers. They have to grab their screenshots in the heat of battle and remember the rest. With a turn based game, writing an AAR is a lot more relaxed

    e) In a relatively short period, you've acquired a number of the AARland awards and attracted comments from across the AARland community. Why do you think that someone who is used to the Paradox/Clauswitz game model should be interested to read an AAR based on the AGEOD/Athena game model?

    I would hope old Paradox players read AGEOD AARs for the same reasons I play these games: thrilling gameplay, interesting and rarely covered historic periods as well as beautiful graphics. At least that should be the case, if I do my part well.

    Another reason could be that Paradox and AGEOD games have a lot in common: historical accuracy, depth of the simulation, interesting what ifs, ... For my part, I like the games of both companies - some more some less. In particular, HoI 2 and lately CK II are Paradox games that I will fondly remember for a long time.

  7. #7
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    Special
    Brotherly Love
    Or: A Cold Wind from the North
    by Mr. Capiatlist



    Winter 1341

    "So, you have it. What now?" the prisoner asked, certainly giving no heed to the great difference in rank between him and the man he spoke to. Of course, it was understandable given that the previous day he had been many times that man's superior and now did not even outrank a house maid. There was nowhere else to go but the grave so he thought it prudent to speed up the process. And thus his voice took a provocative and even outright hostile tone. The man he spoke to was, of course, his younger brother. It was often the mindset of the eldest son that all his siblings, regardless of status, ranked under himself. The tattered remains of the Kingly regalia still hung around his neck, proof of what he once was.

    Here, in many ways, sat two opposites. The elder clean shaven and blonde, his rank rightfully inherited from his father who rightfully inherited from his father, who came about it in a way that was not so honorable. The younger dark haired and bearded; his throne was his because he had taken it by right of force. One was tall and handsome, loved by many of the fairer sex and envied by their husbands. He was an extroverted man who loved the company of others, thrived in the spotlight and upon his ascension caught the eye of many other nobles in Europe. The other: a quiet and soft-spoken man of few words. No princesses pined for him and many a Duke had once asked him to stand next to him when telling tales of bravado to the daughters of rivals.

    "I don't believe I have to tell you, brother." The free man grabbed the goblet from its marked spot and filled it with wine from a pitcher. After handing it to his brother he filled his own from the same pitcher.

    "O, afraid I might run away with the answer and tell the French on you? You have me in chains and six guards stand between me and the door out of this room. God knows how many more between there and the exit. What is the plan? You are King. You have the throne. It is all yours. I refuse to believe you took the throne with no idea what you'd do with it."

    The dark haired brother paced the room. His nerves were showing and they were unimpressive.

    "I don't believe you need to know," he repeated.

    "God in heaven save us all. He has no fucking clue what he is doing. I am sorry brother; did they not let you in on the meetings? Did they sit you at the kiddie table while the adults talked about politics?"

    "I don't know what you are talking about," came the terrible and inevitable lie.

    "Osric! Really? You have no clue why you are sitting on that throne, do you? You are a place holder. A mouth from which the Lancastrians will speak." Suddenly the blonde brother grew silent. His sudden outburst brought up something he had never thought of before. "That's all we've ever been. Isn't it?"

    "What?" Osric asked. He walked over to his brother and put a hand on his shoulder, "What do you mean 'all we've ever been'?"

    "Grandfather. Grandfather overthrew his uncle with the support of the Lancastrians. It was before they managed to take a hold of Hereford and only just came into control of York. What did you promise them? Or more likely, what did they say you'd promise them in exchange for you getting the throne?"

    Osric turned red. Not the red of anger, the pale red of having been emasculated. "I don't really remember the agreement well. They gave me free reign of their liquor cabinet. I think it might have been the right to invade Ireland or maybe Scotland."

    "You traded our throne for a liquor cabinet. Dammit Osric, if you wanted to get liquored up you should have just told me! I was the King of England. Do you not think I have access to a bit of alcohol?!"

    "The Lancastrians have more. They have more of everything."

    "Of course they have more! They have more soldiers - as I have recently found out - they have more gold, and more wine, and more horses, and more women, and more prestige and more England for that matter. Is there any room left for the children of Harold Ironsides? We'll be gone soon. Replaced, hung out to dry; maybe we can be given a nice cottage in Cornwall to waste the days away until our family is all but died out. And what will history think of us? Osric and Edwin: the brothers who lost England."

    "We have no idea when the Lancastrians will move. We can find allies and repel them. What of Alba? They are still seething from the loss of Galloway. France owes you for our support of their war to gain Barcelona."

    "You are right: France owes me for my support. That's why they sat there and did FUCK ALL while I was over thrown and begged them for help. Money talks louder than actions, the Lancastrians had already paid them off. The French just turned their backs on me. And the Gaels? The Gaels cannot do shit. They lost Lothian to the Lancastrians before they controlled York and Hereford. Now they even control Galloway... do you think that Alba has any chance? The Lancastrians could easily take the throne of Alba if it was worth anything to them."

    "A throne is a throne to a Duke."

    "No, Osric, not all thrones are the same. If they were, I'd be King of a rump England and you'd be some drunkard in an Alba that stretched from Shetland to Oxford!" Edwin pounded his chained fists on the table. His usually calm demeanor completely shattered and his neat hair tossed about over his eyes. Anger boiled deep within him. His brother's stupidity had cost the family the Kingdom. History would remember him as the King who got overthrown to make room for the place holder. "Their lands are now mere leagues away from London. Lancashire isn't supposed to stretch to London!"

    "Like it is just my fault! What about you? You were more than happy to kiss the asses of those bitches when they were supplying you with taxes and troops." Osric's temper grew, he was done being second fiddle to this prisoner, "I distinctly remember a day outside Barcelona when it was just you and the Duke of Lancaster chatting with the King of France. And the King asked you questions and the Duke would answer them all in his stupid Scots accent. And you sat there and you did NOTHING. You couldn't even command the soldiers because they all fucking spoke Scots like a bunch of inbred barbarians. Of course now the stereotype is that of the rich Scots man now, eh? With all that hanseatic gold flooding into their ports while we sit here in squalor?"

    "I tried to get the Hansa to found a house in London but no, why bother when York and Tyneside were already so busy? No need for a third port. Poor old London rots away to progress I guess. Who needs to be crowned a King when it is apparently so much cheaper to buy one instead?"

    "What of the Great Revolt?"

    "What about it?" Edwin asked trying to act as if he knew nothing of the point.

    "The old Duke of Hereford, the Duke of Cornwall, the Duchess of Kent, the Duke of Norfolk. They all saw it. Didn't they? They wouldn't admit it, but they knew you had been bought too; like grandfather. They knew Edwin, third of his name, was a Lancastrian pawn and tried to overthrow you. They found that little brat, the scion of the Elder House of Wessex, the spawn of some uncle or nephew who had been squirted out by the bastard Æthelwine, the one grandfather overthrew. They tried to put him on the throne. They even got the Welsh to agree to support their cause. The Welsh! The same people who barely put up a fight to defend themselves saw you as the same spineless bastard you accuse me of being."

    "The Lancastrians ensured I kept the throne," Edwin admitted.

    "I know. We all knew, Edwin. All of us. Me, our sisters, our brothers, all the good little members of the House of Wessex knew. And not just us, but every Duke and Duchess and King and Queen in the entirety of Christendom knows who rules England. It isn't House Wessex, it isn't House Hwicce, it isn't the Bamburghs. It is the House of Kendal, the little Scots bastards who three hundred years ago controlled naught but a little castle next to a little church next to a little river in Cumberland. They played us all."

    "I thought I could hold them off. I was trying to break free... trying to get outside support."

    "From who?"

    "That must have been it... they must have intercepted the letters. Who knows... was I getting fakes the whole time? Or were they just reading them and then forging my seal?"

    "Who were you going to get the support of? Who, brother?!"

    "Albrecht, King of the Romans... I arranged a marriage between myself and his eldest daughter."

    "The Germans? You got the Germans to agree to such terms? What was the cost? Were we to be reduced to some 'King' like that in Prague or Brussels? A toy for the Emperor?"

    "No, it was generally really fair. I had spent months, if not years, buttering up the old German. sending him falcons and letters. Giving him promises of my support if any challenge would come to his reign and I promised that I would not use the union to push the claims of my children. It was going so well... then there was a silence before the war. I was supposed to already be wed, Osric... we were so close. It would have taken one war to get rid of those greedy bastards. But I sold out to keep a throne that was already mine. You sold out to steal one out from under your own brother." Edwin looked out the window as snow gracefully fell around the castle. He rested his face in his hands and began to weep. Over Westminster flew the flag of the Lancastrians: a terrible banner of a white eagle over a field of red and black. Smoke rose in the distance as the Scots enforced the disarmament of loyal Saxon soldiers.

    "I didn't give them any right to do these things. I don't even think I really wanted the crown. I am nothing but a plaything to greater powers. What will the monks write of me, Edwin? What is my worst trait that all will remember me by? That I was a drunk? That I was spineless?"

    "No, brother, it will be that you have no honor and no sense of loyalty," Edwin said frankly, tears still running down his face. He turned and faced the window once again, looking into his own eyes reflected on the dark night. "You will be remembered for having backstabbed your own brother for a throne you'd never really get to occupy." And with that Edwin threw his weight against the window, the locks gave and as the window opened the body fell to the ground below.

    Osric stood stunned. Either by the words that would haunt his ears forever or for the last vision he'd have of his brother: eyes filled with water, soul brimming with hate.

    It seemed like an impossibly long time before there was a muffled thud from outside, the sounds of guards running to the scene. Outside, in the hall way he could hear some of them approaching.

    He sat down at the table and looked at his brother's goblet, still filled. The drink had gotten him here, no reason why it couldn't take him away? He downed the whole cup and waited.

    ***

    "Poor bile balance," the doctor said. It had been a month since Edwin had launched himself from a window, though many believed it was the work of Osric. Lord Regent Nicholas III, Duke of Lancaster sat sternly.

    "Argh, he looks like a dried up raisin." The Lord Regent turned away from the withered corpse that had once been King Osric. "You were checking his food, right? Who was his cup bearer? I want him found and brought before me. This branch of the Godwinson line is dead; it'll look all too convenient to the others." The man turned to leave. "The others will come soon enough."

    "Why not just take it, finally?" asked a younger man. He looked like the elder Nicholas in many ways - except the nose, which he got from his mother. "I mean, we have the support of the Hansa and now the King of the Germans. Who is going to stop us? Alba?"

    Nicholas III turned to his son, also named Nicholas as were many of their House. It had been the name of the founder of the dynasty and the name of his grandson who had elevated them to Dukehood during the bloody war between Alba and England. "And would you have me hand you the throne?"

    "You handed it to Osric, might as well hand it to someone of your own blood. England will still be yours whether or not one of us sits on the throne. People obey gold more than blood."

    "That is what I taught you."

    Fin
    Last edited by Mr. Capiatlist; 09-07-2012 at 21:22.

  8. #8
    The Article Beggar Derahan's Avatar
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    General Piece
    Realism, Impressionism and the Abstract in an AAR
    By Loki100


    In the last Aarlander, Mr Capiatlist made an impressive case for what I would call the abstract school of AAR writing. In essence, the idea is that you base the AAR very loosely on the game, but the goal is to write a compelling narrative that is set in a complete world. This world is structured within the narrative and shows little or no relevance to the actions carried out in the original game. This style has a long and venerable tradition in Aarland, great examples include his own Bastions/Homelands.

    Now I have no complaint about a good piece of sustained writing that matches his approach. I'm equally happy with the mildly less abstract approach of say Tufto's Red Mexican or Devil's Darkness.

    However, I'd disagree that this is either the 'best' or the preferred way to write an AAR. So this article makes a case for two other styles, which I'll call impressionism and realism.

    The idea of impressionism is it emphasises key elements in a picture or story. Now to me, in an AAR context that means taking a recognisably played game and embellishing it. The end goal is to produce something that is more than a direct rendition from game to text, and equally seeks to emphasise key elements of the game. I'd argue that most of the better 'History Book' treatments on these forums work this way, as do some narrative such as the Director's sublime A Special Providence. Where this works is when the in-game events are related to real world events, but in a manner that emphasises the game.

    Mayorqw does this well in Baghdad in the Sky with Diamonds. He uses words and events from our time line (such as the military, economic and philosophical struggles of the early modern era) to enrich the narrative built off the game he is reporting. An interesting version of this is to take a single in game message or pop-up and weave a compelling narrative around that, something that Chilango2 is currently doing in So Far from God.

    The final game style, I'll call realism. This is the opposite of Mr C's preference, where there is no pretence of anything except that the player is playing and reporting on a game. Regular contributors such as Prawnstar, Naggy, Renslaer and Bornego all produce great AARs in this style. At its best, this goes well beyond the early style of AARs that simply described actions to offer a rationale, an insight into the game, and indeed a compelling narrative in itself. It can also be the basis for some very funny AARs.

    Now I think the difference between abstract, impressionist and realist AARs quite maps onto the traditional categories of Narrative vs History Book vs Gameplay. To me it seems more a case of the authors intent. How much of the game are they prepared to show and how much is the AAR going to be a sustained act of narrative invention. I can think of good and bad AARs in each of the categories above so, to me, its about how interesting is the AAR not the style its written in.

  9. #9
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    Taking The Leap
    By GELA


    Boom! Flashback time. It's the beginning of 2008, and young Gela has just bought Europa Universalis: Rome. Going on the forums, he sees a section with a strange acronym, one mysterious and whose meaning is elusive. This acronym was “AAR”, something which he would almost immediately learn stood for “After Action Report”.

    That was the moment I connected with Paradox's AAR community. A single instant that changed my life, though at the moment I thought it was just a passing interest. An interesting thing found, then discarded. I think to understand where I'm going with my story here, you need to understand a bit of the context. A lot of people don't understand just how attached I am to my home state, Florida. When I came across Paradox Plaza, my family was living in Texas, and I had been suffering from some depression from being away from the place I loved the most. I refused to let myself get attached to our new home and make friends, so I was alone. That made me even more depressed. I played games, and that was literally one of the few things that made me feel okay. I don't know what it was, but something just drew me to gaming more fervently than I ever had when I was in my darkest hour.

    When I learned of this whole “writing about a game” idea, I thought it was one of the coolest things I had ever heard of. After absorbing several pieces of work, I started a terribly written AAR about Macedonia in May, creating my account so that I could post it. Looking back on it now, I know my prose was more purple than a Crayola crayon of the.. er.. purple variety. But all I got were compliments, the only suggestions were put in a friendly manner, “Hey, bro, you might want to be a bit less wordy.” “Can I ask for some more screenshots? I'm having a hard time visualizing.”

    They do that for everyone. It's not just because my username is amazing and cool. The community here won't do anything but support you and try to help you improve. Almost none of them are jerks, and if they are, the positive tidal wave outweighs their little splash. You might attract few readers, and if you don't write, you might only feel a slight connection to a small community, having only seen a few people a few times. That's okay. The majority of people don't leave the popular works. I remember when one of my pieces hit 5,000 views, then suddenly went to 10,000 in about a third of the time it took to get that first five thousand.

    After my first attempt at narrative died, I tried my hand at a Ming AAR, this time a gameplay piece, in which I covered the first fifty years of my exploits in EU3, a game which I had just recently purchased. Once again, nothing but compliments and advice. I think I learned a lot on how to play from the comments section of that than I ever have anywhere else. It died as I lost my inspiration for gameplay, it felt shallow to me. So I started another narrative, once again in Rome, once again with Macedonia.

    It was a bit better, I didn't try so hard to sound like a proper English gentleman from the 1500s. I had a consistent plot line that was pretty safe from a drastic game change. I developed characters, though poorly, and gave them personalities, though flat. It was at this point that I decided writing was something I wanted to do, and I worked towards that goal. Having a purpose slowly pulled me out of my depression, as I pushed through work after work. In August 2008, I moved back to Florida, and although I was still a bit alone, I felt a connection to these people I knew online. I didn't have friendships with any of them, but just being a part of that community made me feel loved and welcomed. I don't care how ridiculous and/or sappy that sounds, it's true.

    The first step to jumping into the pool is to just take an action. I've seen so many people have an idea for an AAR, or a good game, or something, but they don't ever begin. As such, I'm here to admonish you! START IT. If you've ever wanted to write an AAR, sit your butt down, play the game, take screenshots, then write. If it's bad, keep going, it takes awhile to get the hang of it. Even if you don't want to write, just take the leap into commenting actively! Get involved with the scene, and get to know the people who write. The best part is, you're constantly being entertained, since you're reading so much high quality content!

    When I started my first good AAR, “The Sea Will Pass Away”, it was incredible to feel the wave of comments that showed up for me, to know that my work was truly appreciated. I watched the view counter climbing, topping out at just under 5,000. I knew that my work wasn't the best, and I knew there were better writers. I never got any awards, and I didn't really have any fans, I just had people that liked to read on occasion. Did that matter? No! I felt so much joy finally just knowing that something I had done was good enough to measure up to some people's standards. Even then, I got criticism, I got suggestions. It was still friendly though, and I never felt that someone was looking down on me or trying to get me to stop creating.

    That's where the title comes in. That's the moment that I “took the leap”. I dedicated myself to writing fully, I did exercises, short fiction, everything that people normally do to improve their skill. I left the AAR community for awhile, glad it had honed my now-chosen craft, but thinking it was simply too small a medium to truly improve or gauge my success. I was wrong. Oh, I was SO wrong. Two months later I came running back. I hadn't found anything more delightful than the people I had come to know and love on the Plaza, or anything more efficient at improving my writing than the AAR community. I started my greatest narrative, The Republic of the Blue Lion, something that is probably the last story of fiction that I will contribute.


    I regret never finishing it. Sometimes, I actually become very sad knowing that I never can, as the game is lost forever. I regret never finishing a single AAR. At the end of the day, it's important to know that commitment is hard. Not everyone can finish something as epic as a Grand Campaign, especially when you're writing it every step of the way. I've only finished a single game of EU3 from 1399 to 1821. I've felt like I could finish others, especially the game I played as Athens (which I held back on to not get too ahead of the story) but that's all I was able to do. Does that matter? No. I'm aware of the fact that, sure, I'll never win an OscAAR, I never completed anything, and my career here is pretty much over now. But that's not what matters.

    The rewards are incredible to be in this community, this wonderful work of art that the hands of hundreds have built. When I won WritAAR of the Week, I literally cried. You wouldn't know how happy I was unless it happened to you too. I've won a lot of things, speech contests, local game tournaments, stuff I worked hard on. But nothing comes close to how proud I was at that moment. Finally, three years of hard work, creating effort upon effort, watching each thing I produced slowly improve, and slowly investing more and more to what I did, it all paid off. From that first Macedonia AAR to Republic of the Blue Lion, I managed to make an incredible journey as both a writer and a person, all thanks to the community, all thanks to the wonderful people here, on Paradox Plaza.


    That, my friends, is the real reason you should be with us, the WritAARs.

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