The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

On Cold Wars

| March 16, 2015

So, I went to Cold Wars last weekend (the 6-8, I mean, not the immediate last weekend), and, aside from the weather totally wrecking one of the games I wanted to play in and causing several vendors to not make it and delaying a lot of other things, but the one real standout there was Joey from World’s End Publishing and their This is Not a Test(TNT) rules. (The classes he taught were good too, but I’m not really going to talk much about them here aside from saying that he makes roads from shingles, with awesome results).

So, anyway, the game.

As most folks know, I like Post-Apocalyptic stuff, and Zed Or Alive(ZoA) was a recent find, using the Savage Worlds Showdown engine, which is basically an RPG light. They added some factions, and bolted on a campaign system, and made a skirmish campaign game for the zombie apocalypse. If you wanted a Walking Dead minis game, this is it.

Now, TNT is a skirmish campaign game, and, like most skirmish games, is also an “RPG Light” type system (your guy has different stats for shooting, fighting, strength, toughness, and then a general stat for “everything else”). In that way, the systems work kind of similarly, though ZoA uses your collection of RPG dice and TNT uses a D10. However, the initiative is a lot more streamlined and predictable than the Savage Worlds system, because the activating player picks a guy and rolls for initiative. If you pass, you get to do 2 actions (generally move and shoot) and if you fail you only get to do 1 (so move or shoot). Now, I don’t generally like “roll to activate” systems, but this one really works and doesn’t piss me off because you still get to do something. Anyway, if you succeeded in your activation, you roll to activate another guy and proceed on. If you fail, after this guy’s actions, the activation passes to your opponent. The turn ends once everyone has activated all of their models once.

The other major difference between TNT and ZoA is that where ZoA is focused on zombies TNT is more generic. Think more Fallout, Wasteland, Rage, or Deadlands: Hell on Earth. There are tribal guys, mutants, military guys, dudes in powered armor, and all your standard radiation storms, etc. The mood is whatever your table evokes – you can pull a more Mad Max aesthetic, or more of a 1950’s future, a-la fallout, which is what Joey did for the game in which I played, given the presence of all the 1950’s style cars rusting into oblivion.

TNT Game

TNT Game

In this scenario, half a dozen warbands were going after the old world lost tech McGuffin in the center of town, but the device had called the attention of a bunch of man-eating worms (but there was no sign of Kevin Bacon or Kyle McLachlan) with which we had to contend in order to seize the objective.

All in all, an excellent game, and I’m looking forward to the rules coming out. When I talked with him at Cold Wars, he was just getting the proofs back from layout, so I would expect them to be released in the next month or so. He says they’re going to be sold as PDFs via Wargame Vault, and that there is a miniatures line to follow shortly after via an online store at the main site. I’ve seen some of the miniatures he’s going to have up, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Anyway, that’s all, I have some airbrushing to do before bed. Night all.

Reflecting on my previous post….

| March 16, 2015

So, I was looking at raising the minimum wage all wrong. It’s freakin’ brilliant… Think about it..

First, you get a whole lot of people to like you for raising the minimum wage. In the case of Cuomo, who is angling for the White House, this gets you some serious political capital if you want to run on a populist ticket.

Then, once all these people are priced out of the market, not only do you take no blame (because you can always blame “technology” or “management” or “the one percent”), but you can ride in and save them with social programs that help them retrain or just flat out support them because, remember – they weren’t priced out of the marketplace by poor economic policies. No. they were let go because of evil bosses who replace workers with machines because, you know, they’re mean and hate people, or some other weird nutty crap.

And the hits just keep on coming

| March 4, 2015

So, the day after I post about crazy NY, the governor ups the ante and starts a program to raise the minimum wage. There’s even and handy fact sheet.

Now, because economics isn’t taught in US schools (I had to learn it from reading and podcasts in the last 5 years or so), let me explain some fundamentals that seem to be lost on our dear governor. I’ll do it as a story.

Alice and Bob work for BigBoxCorp, and they make the minimum wage of $8.75 an hour. Now, Alice is a rockstar, and generates $15 in value for the business, resulting in $6.25 in surplus. Bob is kind of average, and generates $10 in value, resulting in $1.25 in surplus. The minimum wage is raised to $10.50, which means that Alice’s surplus is now $4.50 in surplus, but Bob is now generating -$.50 in surplus. So, what happens? Bob gets laid off, and is replaced by either a better worker or a robot. So much for helping to raise folks out of poverty.

Meanwhile, the surplus Alice generates is reduced, which means that the company has less extra capital to use. One could naively assume this means “less profit”, but that would fail to realize that profit is what is left over after other expenses, such as (to name a couple of choice ones) research and expansion.

If a business has extra money they can expand into new markets, open up new branches, expand operations or otherwise get bigger, hiring more people and generating more jobs. Slow down their surplus, you slow down their growth.

Similarly, if they have extra money they can do more research, which means development of new products. Stuff like our computers, iPhones, etc. don’t come out of thin air, they come from research and development which is either funded by outside investment (which is surplus generated by one company which an investor takes and puts into another company) or by internal investment (surplus generated by a company’s existing products which are used to finance research in new products).

Now, if you assume that a company will not compromise their surplus (often called a “margin”), then they’ll have no choice to raise prices, which means that the extra $1.75 that Alice is now making suddenly doesn’t go as far because all of the things she’s going to by suddenly cost more!

The above is also true of people looking for jobs – if Carla and Dave are looking for jobs, and Carla is, say, a high school dropout and Dave is a high school graduate, and you have to pay them both the same, who are you going to hire? Based on the data given, most folks would pick Dave, due to his greater education. On the other hand, if Dave wants $10.50, but Carla will work for $9, then you may hire Carla, because you can pay her less and that compensates for her lesser education. Carla takes the job, goes to night school, gets her GED, and improves her lot in life. However, the minimum wage prices Carla out of the market, so now she’s unemployed and can’t improve her lot as she would have been able to do if she had the freedom to negotiate.

Going a bit big picture for a moment – prices and their cohort, wages, are a way for the market to signal what is of value – what is needed, where resources should be spent, etc. all wrapped up in this one thing. People command a low wage because their skills are generally either common (not specialized) or simply not in demand. You can be the world’s greatest performer of cartwheels, but if that is not a skill in demand, then it will not command a high wage. Similarly, you can be a great bagger of groceries, but so many people have that skill that you will also not command a high wage. Forcing companies to pay more than the market rate for these skills does not change this underlying reality, and eventually this will cause companies to investigate other options, such as automating those skills or eliminating them all together. Witness the proliferation of self checkout systems in grocery stores. Even though customers generally don’t like them, they’re still becoming more common, because grocery stores can’t afford to keep prices where they are while increasing their operating costs by $35/hour (assuming a $1.75 increase for a 10 lane supermarket with a checkout person and bagger on each lane) unless they have a corresponding increase in volume (which there’s nothing to suggest that they would). If you can eliminate 4 lanes by having them be a self checkout, with only 1 person watching over them, then you go from $70/hour ($8.75, the old minimum wage * 8 people (4 lanes, 2 people per lane)) to $10.50 an hour (the new minimum wage, for the attendant) + the additional overhead of the machines. As soon as that “additional overhead” is less than $59.25/hour, you get yourself some automated checkout machines and lay off 7 of your people.