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Let Us Play SMAC PBEM

Discussion in 'Codex Playground' started by jeroendstout, Jan 22, 2016.

  1. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    I am currently doing some video series of Let's Play Alpha Centauri PBEM!

    Essentially it is the whole PBEM game from my side, with the turns cut to fit together into tidy videos. It is a little bit experimental (and production values will increase as it goes on), so feel free to comment on any part of it. Just be advised that for most videos I will have recorded and edited everything before uploading, so there is no real way for me to change my play or act on your advice until new series. I still want to hear your advice, I am quite probably not a world-class SMAC player, but willing to learn :)

    These are all 'real' MP series, so sometimes they may be violent and exciting, sometimes it is a lot of building and second-guessing. I also let play (or read out) all the quotes so random YouTube passer-by's get some of that beautiful Brian Reynolds writing.

    Of course I have a channel.

    Series 1—Part 1 (this one is a bit rough, be advised)



    Series 1—Part 2

     
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  2. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    Crossing over from Nevill's thread of our 1v1 (which is very probably my series 3):

    That actually is a really good point, I tend to err very far on the safe side. I once lost my HQ city to random mindworms so I am overly paranoid about it. It is one of the things I have to very specifically remember to avoid doing, which admittedly is tough in MP.

    Blind research is a default choice for the game, so I always played with it. I think some will disagree but I rather like it.

    The way I think about it is that the game is already random with starting locations, battle odds and events, and that random research forces you to do the best with unexpected limited means. That is part of the SMAC spirit for me; that you can play perfectly and still lose. That means winning is not as 'fair', but the stories coming out of the game (getting AAA just in time; or getting crawlers far earlier than you thought) are more interesting. To wit; certainly, in a game a good player can win if he can control the conditions, but you have to be better to do well with what unexpected means you get.
     
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  3. Dayyālu Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Dayyālu
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    Guess I'm one of the few (and that's rather common for Youtube channels) that finds cams (particularly from a guy who's creepingly similar to me in RL :lol: ) unsettling.


    Good luck with the videos. I'll try to follow them, as I find SMAC MP at the same time alluring and mind-breakingly difficult. And I play Dominions! Too many things, too many exploits, too many variables..... and everything snowballs so fast.

    I wish you a ton of luck in playing against Nevill . He pretty much destroyed the local 'Dex opposition, as far as I understood. Slavs and TB, man. Marriage done in Heaven.
     
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  4. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    Errr, well, at least it's better to have the cam right there from the start than only later to realise what someone looks like. :)

    My faction had -1 MORALE from the moment I saw the Cyrillic script in my e-mail! In all honesty I think being utterly defeated may be good for my investment in managing future games ;)
     
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  5. sqeecoo Arcane

    sqeecoo
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    As I said in the other thread, I just watched these videos and they are very good. Recommended! I am also flattered that you used my Codex avatar.

    I see your point on the blind research, although it takes away some of the strats and skill. But I like having to adapt on the fly. Still, it can be punishing sometimes, like if you don't get Formers or crawlers for ages.

    I'm very happy you'll be playing the Believers and the Morganites. I love those factions but could never really play them well. With the Believers I get crippled by slow research - 25% attack is not great if you don't have weapons, and better probe teams does not help if you haven't researched them :) Believers are especially hurt by blind research, I'd say.
    And with the Morganites I just get crippled by the supply malus. Can't have even a semblance of an army before crawlers for extra minerals, so it's basically just praying I don't get attacked.

    You know, all this has me fired up to finally achieve my lifelong dream of playing SMAC in MP. Maybe we should do a big, SLOW, Codex game?
     
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  6. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    Yes! They are strong once they get over their initial 'hump'. So is Hive, though, with its complete lack of initial energy.

    I think as Morganites you can actually get a long way running a police state, if you build a crèche here and there. The +2 support, +2 police is great, and the -2 efficiency can be offset with the crèches and your gigantic income. You can even get one unit across your borders without a drone, so sea exploration is not impossible. I have not played Morganites too much but I really like the faction for its strange play-style.

    Thank you again! Actually it is a bit odd seeing Miriam here because I keep thinking it is my post :P

    Is that not the true test of a general, though :) to win against unfair odds? Sometimes it deals out an unfair win, but very often it can make things challenging and requiring thought.
     
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  7. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    Starting now with Series 2. Morganites (myself) vs Gaians (Eadee).

    This one has been completely recorded (unlike series 1) and I will post a new update every Monday.

    Series 2 — Part 1

     
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  8. sqeecoo Arcane

    sqeecoo
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    Great vid! But now I have to wait a full week for a sequel :(

    Small nitpick: listening to the amazing tech quotes is great, but reading out the secondary texts in both LPs, eeeh, that gets into boring territory for me personally. As does reading out all the AI diplomacy messages. Not a terrible problem, but I hope you consider skipping that stuff at least in future LPs.

    I'll also try to offer some strategic criticism as it is still early game and I can sorta understand what's happening, before midgame rolls in and I break down and cry because I'm never gonna be able to handle all that shit in MP.

    Wouldn't it be better to buy Formers before those Colony Pods? You would be leveraging Morgan's +100 starting energy nicely, and a Former can easily double the output of a square. Over the 10-15 or so turns your Formers are lagging compared with buying them before the pods that would translate into a lot.

    Also, after all that amazing trading with the AI I'd probably select only Build on the research direction and pray for Supply Crawlers - Morgan really starts to shine when you get those up, in my SP experience.

    Yeah, as far as I understood it Morgan's advantage is not really the +1 Economy for the extra bit of money that gets you in base squares. Instead it's the ability to get +2 Econ without Free Market or an extra boost with Free Market, allowing you to run Social Engineering settings that would hurt other factions, as you say.

    Quick question on something I don't think you mentioned: what version are you playing? No expansion pack? Thoughts on it? I've heard on the Codex that it imbalanced the game heavily. But can Morgan still pop-boom with golden ages in the original or was this only in the expansion?

    And Miriam, man. Love the character. From the quotes, she starts as a not-entirely-unreasonable fundy (with for instance the quote you said you liked on how it's not technology that is evil, but the hearts of men), but evolves into the last real voice for humanity in a futuristic world transforming, for better or worse, into a terrifying fusion between man, machine, and aliens. Her "WE MUST DISSENT" really tickled my punk rock fancy back when I joined the forum too, and still does now :D
     
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  9. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    I'll admit that by posting them every week my channel has weekly updates ;) if I post them all at once I'll have months of downtime and that does not get new viewers. I should have episode 3 of series 1 later this week, in any case.

    I'll think about the messages. I think almost everybody but me will find them tedious in the long run but to me they add so much to the world because they explain why, say, they don't just dig up fossil fuels. Also, unfortunately at this moment series 1 & 2 are at the same point in the game, so you are hearing the same messages in a row now. Once series 2 overtakes 1 by a hundred years that problem is solved. Diplomacy I usually read the first time, so later videos also won't have that problem :)

    As to the formers... formers give an advantage to single tiles, but cities cannot use that many tiles in the early game. So I would get, say, +1 energy, +2 minerals. Another city means (in not too many turns) getting another two tiles, plus the homebase, plus population to turn into pods. I cannot say I have done the math on it, but I usually expand early (and then use my expansions to expand), then turn it into terraforming, then turn it into military/building things. Especially right at the start, before tanks and with clamped nutrients, cities rarely become very large so their tile use is limited. And formers terraforming unused tiles are wasted effort (unless it is some super-smart investment). Actually, even when I have fast-growing cities (by using bonuses) I usually turn them into pod cities.

    (I should say at this point I have not written the bible on this game, and I try to play the game at a reasonable pace, so I don't always do what is right. When editing the video I sometimes shake my head at what I am saying.)

    The version I am playing in both of these is SMAC (not X) with Kyrub 444. SMAX just does not feel right to me... It does not feel to me like anything it adds really improves the game to make its odder ideas (cloudbase, the writing on the new factions) worth it. To be fair I have not played too much SMAX, somehow it just leaves me a bit cold. Kyrub's patch, on the other hand, is great. The terraforming it does is indistinguishable of a low-level human player. In a game accidentally I played with Kyrub and the opponent did not; and the AIs calculated on my computer were far superior to the one on his.

    Miriam is very special, the longer I have played the game, the more "we must dissent" means to me. I mean, she is not a good person, and perhaps she dislikes the advancement of science for the wrong reasons, but nobody else seems to stop and think about the horrors of the self-thinking colony. Zakharov at one point starts talking about gods, and how 'decent folk' don't think about naked singularities. Miriam is the part of us that really fears the moment progress starts leading society, rather than the other way around. And horrifically, when the moment comes, she sends people through the 'psi gate' into 'heaven'. Heh.

    Thanks for your elaborate replies, by the way :) knowing the videos are watched that attentively means a lot.
     
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  10. sqeecoo Arcane

    sqeecoo
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    True, the early secondary text on the quotes is pretty interesting, although I feel later on they just stopped trying: "combining tech X with tech Y, we get tech Z".

    Still it's probably important to strike a good balance between speed and skill in these LPs. Your speed is otherwise excellent, but I found myself skipping the quotes in series 2. But that may be my personal preference talking.

    Fair point on the formers as well. I haven't done the math either nor could I, and bases may well be the better deal, even if you factor in more intangible benefits like early roads from the formers. But not using Morgans extra starting energy on them (just an extra turn or two needed to get optimal energy buyout) seems like a bit of a waste... all my real knowledge of the game is based on this guide which I'm sure you've read, http://www.weplayciv.com/forums/showthread.php?48-Vel-s-SMAX-Guide, and it actually recommends going for rush buying tanks with Morgan, so that's were I'm getting this. But your argument is solid :)

    I think the official backstory taking place back on the Unity starship really paints a nice picture of Miriam, too. She even trounces Zakharov in a mini-debate, rhetorically at least. But I disagree somewhat with the quoted bit: she starts out representing fear of progress, yes, but her fears become more and more objectively terrifying as the game goes on. Which is not to say I'd necessarily agree with her even then, but I do feel like she becomes the lone voice of humanity as we know it as the game goes on.

    I recently found this you may find interesting, an attempt to reconstruct the cannon story of SMAC from the in-game quotes: http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=397392



    I've always had a soft spot for SMAC and remember the quotes and the stuff even after years and years of not playing the game, so it's a treat to see someone doing a quality MP LP. I recently remembered SMAC when this excellent completely unrelated psychology blog (http://slatestarcodex.com/) suddenly, completely out of the blue, said:

     
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  11. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    I guess the later secondary were getting less interesting, also because they were describing abstract things. This reminds me, though, it's so nice how the Doctrine research is not about better lasers or engines, it is about changing society into something. The secondary text on those also reveals a sort of fascistic, honour-oriented society with hero soldiers risking it all for modest gains.

    Great thing about YouTube (as opposed to Twitch), though is that you can skip :) so everybody can see what they want to see. I am sure some of my base sprawling will be skipped by some... If it didn't require so much work I would add 'skip quote' buttons to the screen.

    I do think bases are the better deal. Roads are nice, but they are mostly nice if you require moving your units a lot between bases, which if you are safe is hardly ever the case. Even when attacked, having roads means your opponent can just rover-rush your cities via roads, so defensive advantage increases with fewer roads. You're right (viewing back) that I barely touch Morgan's energy reserves, and I think that's because I came from Miriam's game when I had so little energy. If I played again I would rush pods, and if not having population, a former. I start spending money more as the game goes on, though, realising Morgan's strength.

    I didn't really see the guide you posted, though there are a lot of guides and I saw a lot of them :D. I rush buy tanks with Morgan more (a tank pays itself in fewer turns than it costs EC!), later on.

    I should really read the backstory, I think I just haven't because I am afraid it is not as good as I imagine it. I had better load it onto the e-reader since you mention it ;)

    I did see that canon post. It's really interesting, seeing this, the quotes, but also reading the books which inspired SMAC (The Jesus Incident, The Mote in God's Eye, A Fire Upon the Deep) creates such a deep world. Any story in SMAC (even deviating from the norm) is slightly sad, as a friend pointed out to me; you usually end up with only one ideology surviving.

    Some time ago I actually wrote an essay on "Playing Frankenstein", referring to the moment in SMAC when your tech starts outrunning your plans and you just start going along with it. This point where you build improvements because they 'help you' but you allow yourself to forget the moral implication (Punishment Sphere is the largest one of these, a truly horrific base enhancement). It's here, if you are interested: http://jeroendstout.tumblr.com/post/111508526942/on-the-theory-of-games-essay-the-second-playing
     
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  12. sqeecoo Arcane

    sqeecoo
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    Never read those books so thanks for recommending them, and I'll definitely read your essay. That guide is really really good though, going pretty deep into some stuff that can easily be applied to other situations as well.

    Playing SMAC as a young philosophy/literature student I was fascinated that the quotes used from Plato or Kant in game were not the most well known ones, but more obscure stuff that really fitted the theme. Someone really knew their stuff. And the Punishment Sphere is truly the most chilling out of the bunch, and references Bentham's Panopticon a bit too, I think.

    I don't give compliments to art lightly, but I think the SMAC quotes are a masterpiece in worldbuilding through minimal information and hints that convincingly create a "full" world. Not an expert, but I've only found the same style done equally well in some of Philip K. Dick's novels, really. Great stuff.
     
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  13. sqeecoo Arcane

    sqeecoo
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    Also, Dayyalu, you look a lot like jeroendstout in RL? Jesus chrits, that explains a lot.
     
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  14. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    I must admit I thought The Jesus Incident was one of the worst books I have read. Filled with great ideas, which went on to be greater in SMAC, but it just did not work for me. The other two are truly great, though. Filled with great ideas and the sort of word-usage that makes SMAC so smart. A lot of terms from SMAC come from the books, like Network Node, Perimeter Defence. Brian Reynolds truly knew his stuff, not just philosophy (he actually read it instead of quoting it) but also the sci-fi at the time. No game ever really managed to get someone with that level of knowledge and expression :)

    I never had a formal philosophy/literature study (I studied game design), but in ordering books I made sure to order what Reynolds quoted or referred to. You are right in that SMAC gets quotes from Plato (but also Charles Dickens!) in a way which feels he knew it. It made for interesting reading, especially the point where the book got to the quote from SMAC, putting it in perspective.

    The Punishment Sphere quote also is from a (fictional) text called "The Harmony of the Spheres", which is what makes my skin crawl. Not only is it the ultimate civilian terror device, it is even compared to Plato's ideals of things being in their proper form and place. The Sphere is not just torture, according to the quote, but is considered a proper way of life.

    I hope you'll understand I have some investment in wishing to understand what exactly that explains :|
     
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  15. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    (Then... suddenly!)

    Series 1 — Part 3

     
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  16. sqeecoo Arcane

    sqeecoo
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    New video! Cool! Dat cliffhanger tho :negative:

    I read your article, liked it a lot. You wear that literary criticism style well I must say, even though I normally dislike it. No flowery bullshitting, excellent flow, very clean and beautiful sentences, almost... too perfect :D

    I like your point on the Frankenstein effect of getting immersed in minmaxing the mechanics of the game and then recoiling in horror at the monstrosity you've created, and thinking back I may have had such a



    moment at least twice in games. Once in Shadowrun: Dragonfall where I was merrily going along what I thought were standard good RPG choices with maximum exp reward only to genuinely facepalm at my stupidity seeing what I had unleashed.

    And the second time in Dominions 4, when I summoned this guy:

    [​IMG]

    I asked myself, "Is summoning the Sun of the Inferno into the world in the form of a burning goat's head with five revolving legs truly ethically justifiable?". The answer of course was yes, yes it was, since my opponents were enchanting the world to make everyone age rapidly, summoning hordes of vampires through blood sacrifice, and repeatedly casting the all powerful Wish spell and wishing for Armageddon. But it did make me wonder for a second there.
     
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  17. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    That is how I am feeling every day! I really am quite grim about my chances in that game, too. I think I may have a chance for survival if I can rapidly expand in the jungle, find AIs to get tech from, find my opponent and prevent him from amassing a fleet, can yield my combat bonus well enough to get a war of attrition and hold him back to catch up and get enough tech to even build basic stuff... if any of that fails he could destroy me in less than 50 turns. (When he finds me.)

    Thank you very much indeed! I do think it is a fascinating thing, also probably because playing games is quite unique in giving you that moment and SMAC is quit reliable.

    Also... a Goat Sun. And global rapid ageing spells. That's... this game sounds pretty involved :D does the game always go to this sort of cataclysm?
     
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  18. sqeecoo Arcane

    sqeecoo
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    Yeah, that's what I dislike about Miriam in-game. She is so inflexible - if she starts on an island without anyone to conquer she is in trouble. With a bit of help she is not even horrible at the Builder style with all the support helping her churn out formers and pods with impunity, but she needs some energy edge in the form of some resources or planet sites for her research to stay merely bad, and thus competitive.

    Dominions 4 is very weird. It starts out as a normal Civ-style 4x game with the interesting addition of battles, where you can't control your troops directly but have to script them in advance with somewhat limited options but a huge amount of subtlety possible. But by lategame you have otherworldy horrors eating gods, blood magic corrupting the very fabric of reality, liches summoning ghost riders from the sky, devils eating people in their dreams, demons and horrifying monstrosities galore. One game I had a random event where one of my mages got eaten by a "Thing That Must Not Be", I kid you not. It's a proper unit with stats and everything. He was dabbling in summoning creatures from the Astral Void, so I guess he was asking for it.

    And the craziest bit is that the game was made by two guys, professors of theology and of history. Every unit and god and abomination has some basis in myth, religion, history, or literature. You get Atlantis, Aztecs, Romans, Hebrew giants, Nifelheim and Nordic elves, Russian fairies, Egyptian undead, Japanese Oni, Irish elves, medieval German and Arthurian knights, cave-dwelling one-eyed "pale ones", Chinese ancestral magic, Catholic inquisitors, Lovecraftian horrors, and much much more.

    The game is fairly intuitive, but the sheer amount of stuff can be daunting. A good introduction that convinced me to try it out is this LP: http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/lets-see-the-world-die-dominions-4.95509/

    Well worth reading even if you don't intend to play it, and actually showcases the global rapid ageing spell. And if you do try it out you'll be very welcome at one of the Codex games that crop up every now and then. Just expect to be utterly demolished by the veteran players :D
     
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  19. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    I'm going to read up on Diminions 4 when I get the chance :) it sounds like a very strange game. The odd thing is I had not heard of it before, despite how it sounds so involved.

    I have to say that having played against Nevill, now my series 2 (and early series 1) feels painfully naive. I am definitely increasing the quality of my play-style :)

    Series 2 — Part 2

     
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  20. Dayyālu Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Dayyālu
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    As sqeecoo said, it's pretty much the work of two Swedes that liked WHFB and Earthdawn and made a series of games with zero marketing. Some kind of abomination for the contemporary gaming industry, I guess (it helps the guys working on it are doing so in their free time, and have a real job outside of it, so they can afford to gift us nice, unbalanced as heck patches with awesome new stuff to lose sleep with). They also make Conquest of Elysium, a more casual and relaxed SP focused game.

    That said, it's not surprising you don't know it: NO marketing (and when they try, it's hilarious). I would have ignored Dominions if not for the crazy reviews some guy did of Dom2 in a local gaming magazine.

    Still remember when, at the old age of 14, I went to my local game store and asked for "THE GAME IN THIS REVIEW".

    The face of the guy behind the counter was priceless.


    Keep on the videos :salute:, maybe I'll get to understand something of SMAC at the end!
     
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  21. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    Series 2 — Part 3

     
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  22. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    Getting a bit delayed because I have been announcing my own game ;)

    Will have a new part of Series 1, soon, which has been having some interesting things!

    Series 2 - Part 4


     
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  23. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    Series 2 - Part 5

     
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  24. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    Finally the continuation of series 1!

    Series 1 - Part 4

     
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  25. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    Series 2 - Part 6

     
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