Archive for Rolling bad dice in wargames since 1977
Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies and… Read the rulebook again.
New reports say that Voyager One has left the boundaries of the solar system and has crossed over into interstellar space. Since its launh 36 years ago, the instruments on board the craft appear to be functioning and are able to tell us (after a 17-hour delay for the transmission to reach Earth) what "noise" can be "heard" in the gulf between the stars. Listening to a report about the craft on the radio, the noise is a wraith-like howl.
Score one for director Ridley Scott, who used a prescient and eerie scream to convey the horror of the Alien in the trailer for the movie of the same name. ...Even though the famous tag for it was: "In space, no one can hear you scream." Well, not you, maybe, but apparently the howling of the stars drowns you out.
But now, somewhere amidst the busy the electrons of a server deep in the suburbs of Dallas, The Bad Dice Blog marks its momentary return...
High Frontier: Colonization
While on the topic of space, I might as well mention a purchase I made today: High Frontier Colonization. It's an upgraded expansion for Phil Eklund's game High Frontier. It features a new map that takes you past Saturn and out to Uranus, Neptune, and the Dwarf Binary Planet: Pluto.
In High Frontier, you're play the Chief of a Space Agency trying to make space exploration pay which in turn will usher humankind's nascent attempts at populating the system. With the expansions, your role becomes more complex and ambitious while you also worry about what other agencies are up to: their conquest of of space might mean throwing your efforts under the proverbial bus. That is, competition could heat up so much that you wreck fragile colonies with ray guns and missiles.
In the newest expansion, it's possible to harness a small comet and either hurl it at the earth to wreck it so that your faction can someday repopulate it with a "superior" race. Or you might instead direct it towards Venus to develop an ocean and terraform it. These are called "futures" and its one way to win the game. (By "winning the future" ...Get it?)
The normal, plodding way of winning is to develop hard-science-driven craft through various technologies and sending them out to suitable sites to set up factories. Reach a number of factories that are sending back goodies to Earth and you win.
High Frontier is almost more like a sandbox than a game. Half the fun is figuring out what you can make and what it does. But it's almost useless to try and pick a place and develop the technology to get there. Because the nature of the game is that technology doesn't develop in convenient, predictable ways to do that. One player may develop one piece of technology while you develop another part that fits with it to create a vehicle. It seems that the easiest way is to build something and then figure out where in the solar system it can go.
The economy of the game is built around water tokens. Water is they key to getting around and buying things. It represents of large volume of H20 that you boost into space, which the ships need for reaching their landing sites. All the while, you're prospecting various locations (planets, asteroids, etc.) and the ones that have frozen water on them are very valuable. It's a common state to be short on water tokens and you spend a chunk of time worrying about the "wet mass" and "dry mass" of your ship.
If you're a fan of the space exploration and thrill to the exploits of rovers on Mars (like I do) you'll like High Frontier. It really is more interesting and fun (when you can finally pull it together enough to do something) than I make it sound.
My continuing gripe with the game can probably be guessed from my rambling effort at describing it. The components are a byzantine mess of jargon and diagrams that usually have little to do with the play of the game. Players are constantly passing and using cards, which feature a diagram of a complex thingamjig, it's scale to a suited astronaut, a paragraph on what it is and does (none of it game-related), and some marginal information about its function in the game.
To me, that's totally bassakwards. The game, to aid people in playing it, should give the game info first and foremost so people can grasp at a glance what something is and how it can be used. The engineering lesson can go in the back of the rulebook.
Star Trek: Attack Wing
Star Trek: Attack Wing is my latest gaming obsession. For those that don't know, it's WizKids' effort to do with Star Trek what Fantasy Flight Games is doing with Star Wars. Right down to licensing the game mechanics and mirroring their approach to the core set and expansions.
The base set features three Star Trek: The Next Generation ships: The Federation's Galaxy-class Enterprise, the Romulan D'Derix, and Klingon Vor'Cha. The first wave of models features The Original Series Constitution-class Enterprise, Klingon D-7, Movie-era Reliant (Miranda-class), Klingon Negh'Var, and a handful of other Romulan and Dominion craft.
This game shares so much, play-wise, with Star Wars: X-Wing, that if you're well-versed in that game, you know right away what to expect in Star Trek: Attack Wing. The ships have a maneuver dials with a profile of available maneuvers, they share a come vocabulary of statistics (Primary Weapon, Agility, Hull, and Shields), and the sequence of play is almost identical.
Where the game differs is on its emphasis. In X-Wing, pilots are tied to craft. Attack Wing allows crewman to be assigned to different ships. In X-Wing, technology is typically tied to a faction. In Attack Wing, it can be shared with other factions, but at a cost. Both allow players to create forces using a point-build system, but where X-Wing is currently focused around tournament play, Attack Wing is centered around Mission (scenario) play.
Mission play is where I think Attack Wing has a big advantage over X-Wing. X-Wing comes with three missions in the base game. Attack Wing has a similar number, but each expansion model comes with a new mission that features the model. Wanna do the Kobuyashi Maru scenario? Fight Khan in the Mutara Nebula? Assassinate diplomats or steal dilithium on a new planet? Run a gauntlet of vessels with a weird Breen ship? You can do that and a lot more with Attack Wing.
Just the other day, BGG'er Darillian and I had a 100pt. knife fight with three Romulan (D'Derix, Science Ship, Valdor) vs. the Enterprise, Reliant, and one other Miranda-class ship. It was a near run thing. The Romulans first lost their little science ship. Enterpise fell next due to taking two critical hits that were both targeted against Captain Kirk: Communications failure and injuries that prevented him from using his purchased skills (Cheat Death and Cochrane Maneuver.) Then the Valdor fell leaving the two Mirandas against the Romulan leviathan. Miranda and finally Reliant fell after inflicting little damage on the D'Derix.
Before that, we introduced the game to a couple new players using a force composed of a Klingon "dreadnaught" (the Negh'Var) and two D7's versus a a Galaxy-Class Enterprise and the Reliant. Those were also hard-fought battles. And those went about an hour or so apiece.
What I loved was that we played three games in a six-hour stretch and every one was more interesting, exciting, and satisfying than any Star Fleet Battle, Starfleet: Armada, or Federation Commander game I ever played. Highly recommended to any 'Trek or X-Wing fan.
That's about it for now. I hope to post a new entry...soon.
Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies and… Read the rulebook again.
Out of the Fog, Into the Smog...
Jeez. Almost five months since my previous post. Glad I don't sell subscriptions. I thought I'd do this once a week... Oh, well.
So I'm back. In the meantime, I've played a lot of games—especially thanks to BGGcon. Way too numerous to mention all of them. Of all, Legends, an autoracing game about the Tour of Italy, caught my attention the most.
Part of my problem is I can never remember how to add posts to my dang blog. You'd think you could just log in, go to your blog(s), and right there there would be an "Add a Post" button. No. You have to search. Even now, in the short time I've been typing, I've forgotten how I got here!
For the folks that check in, thanks! Believe it or not, the replies I receive keep me thinking about it and I end my reveries with "I need to post to that thing."
Another part of my problem is that I'm constantly on the game pages and forum threads I like to haunt and daily post my two cents. Coming over to the blog, my mind draws a blank or I remind myself that folks have read and responded to my posts.
Well...on with the show.
It Never Snows
A gent named Kevin who goes by hipshot and produces video blog The Big Board hosted a marathon session of this Arnhem campaign recreation at his place some three weeks ago. We had five players in all. Pete (who ran all of XXX Corps), Kevin (who ran the Germans along XXX Corps' route), Cisco (who led II SS Panzer Korps), Aaron (as both the 101st and the 82d) and myself (1st Airborne Division and the Poles.)
The game started on a Friday night, resumed early Saturday and went on till 9pm that evening. Pete, who is an SCS system demon, quickly ran XXX Corps up Hell's Highway. New man Aaron acquitted himself as the 101st and the 82nd, securing several bridges and running interference for Pete. He was checked in Nijmegen, but not for long. Kevin had a thankless task in trying to stop an armored corps with lavish air support (the dice clearly favored Pete on that score). He did pretty well. Especially in Nijmegen.
As first airborne, I had an unsual drop. Despite a scatter diagram that almost ensured wide dispersal, about a quarter of my parachute units landed in the same hex. The others were scattered in clumps. Anything that landed on the road had another unit join them. That had repercussions, because it meant I couldn't do any road moves out of the DZ and into Arnhem. So I spent the turn untangling the division and trying to push the few Germans around away from the roads.
During the exploit phase, I ran the Jeep Squadron—the only exploit-capable unit in the division, into Arnhem and raced to the bridges. As I brought each bridge into my ZOC, Cisco decided to roll to blow the bridge. However you classify the luck, both bridges were blown. Good or keeping the bridges out the hands of the tiny Jeep Squadron. Not so good for sending reinforcements to stop XXX Corps.
And that was my chief contribution to the game! After that, I was a punching bag for the II SS Panzer until they could finally filter troops south via the ferries and a railroad bridge. Twice Cisco nearly overran "Dizzy Lizzy" (The division's DZ/LZ.) Only a ZOC by a lone unit blocked each attempt after a near-breakthrough.
Check out user hipshot and his video blog The Big Board for more details!
Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game
I've been having a great time with this one. Since my last post, I developed a scenario with a friend featuring the assault on the Death Star from Episode IV: A New Hope. (The original "Star wars" movie.) I call the scenario "Lock S-Foils in Attack Position."
The scenario features six of the X-wings of Red Sqaudron and four of the Y-wings of Gold Squadron. Against them are an ever-increading number of TIE fighters (the Empire starts with 8 and they replace nearly every loss) along with Vader's iconic TIE Advanced and his two wing men. The Rebels have to to dodge laser towers and enemy fighters to finally reach the Trench and make their tricky and fateful run.
Except for Vader, none of the craft have named pilots (you have to really know your Star Wars for that—or recognize the stats and special abilities on the cards. So Rebel pilots go by names like Red Four and Gold Two. The TIEs are part of the constant Patrol Squadron with reinforcing elements from Black Squadron.
Since the game can handle a LOT of players, I've done some time-saving measures to get players up to speed, the game flowing, and avoid confusion. For example, I use enlarged (~5.5"x8.5") custom cards for each craft. If the pilots have special abilities or droids or weapons, they're noted on the card. I use colored paper clips to denote shields and proton torpedos carried. As the ships take hits, the shields are removed and orange clips added. If the ship takes a crit, it gets a card with a clip which goes on the card. Icons denote the special actions a pilot can perform along with some new ones: I use custom "Stay on Target" and "Droid" icons, along with a couple others.
The custom cards, models, and dials all have little stickers and tokens that have the same number on them. So if a player has TIE labeled Patrol 4, his TIE has the 4 icon, the card has name and the number 4 on it, and the dial has a little green sticker with the number 4 on it as well. This way, you always know which dial and card refer to which ship on the table. If a dial or card gets away...look at the number on it.
The Trench is handled a bit differently for movement. Rebel Players take a special "Stay on Target" action that advances them down the Trench and makes their try at the Exhaust Port a bit more accurate. The longer they "Stay on Target" in the Trench, the better their chance of delivering a critical hit with a Torpedo. Advancing along the Trench basically means toeing a "Stay on Target" phase line. (The Trench is too narrow for maneuvering with the gauges.)
Imperial craft can do a "Pursuit" action to advance along through the Trench, too, and take shots at the Rebels ahead. Shots which hit the hull of the target bounce the ship out of the Trench. Then they have to circle back around.
The game can handle about a dozen players. I've run the game with as few as four and as many as ten. So far, it's been great fun. I'm running two games this weekend! Photos of the Death Star set-up are in the galleries.
Until Next Time...
Sorry for the short report this time. I'll try to have more to talk about next time. And before too many months pass!
Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies and… Read the rulebook again.
Has it been a month since my last entry already? Some of my favorite bloggers have full lives and still manage to find time to write insightful articles twice or more times a week. I can barely muster effort to do one a month! So thanks again for looking in!
Leviathans and X-wing:
I had the chance to play two new "aerospace" combat games in the last couple weeks: Leviathans and Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game. I'm undecided as to the overall desire to put these in my collection, but I am willing to share some thoughts after a play or two of each.
Leviathans is another game in the genre of "flying battleships." These are a bit different from genuine space games in that "altitude" is still a part of the combat environment. Aeronef, Dystopian Wars, and Sky Galleons of Mars are other examples of the sort. And in this case, it's exactly the sort of well-produced big-box extravaganza that I'm a sucker for.
The game contains eight beautifully modeled and pre-painted Victorian/Edwardian-era skyships. A mix of destroyers, cruisers, and battleships. There's also a rules-and-fluff bundle that sets the tone and rules of the game. Plenty of game aids in the form of stat cards, a couple double-sided hex mats, counters, and a clutch of custom d12s.
Being open to alternate history settings in games, I'm already reaching for this. But I'm not as willing to gamble on this sort of things as I once was, so a couple friends and I played a couple scenarios pitting a french battleship and destroyer against a British Cruiser and a couple destroyers.
The short of the long is that you won't find anything unusual in Leviathans if you're already familiar with naval games from the dreadnaught-era. And that's what it felt like: WWI ships slugging it out on a hex map with everyone checking off boxes until one side or the other won. Strategy consisted of stripping away the light ships or bringing all force on the largest ship immediately. Tactics were maneuvering to bring all force to bear on one side of a target ship.
The handling of torpedos was the most interesting part of the game. Basically, the launching ship put down a marker at the launch point and then a matching one at a point 18 hexes away. Following movement, lines are drawn between the points and any ship crosses a line is rolled for. Potentially devastating, players would do anything to avoid them. This forced players to make decisions and do things they didn't want to do in a very clean manner. Cool!
And that's where the interest and innovation ended for me. It was pretty humdrum—even cumbersome—after that. Check the arcs. Bracket or Saturation? Roll to hit. Roll location. Did it get through? Did it punch through a hole already made? Check a box. Roll a crit. Roll to repair. Over and over and over.
I'm still kinda interested in this. But really only for the models.
Next up was X-Wing. Another lavish, pre-painted models game. This one in the Star Wars universe. X-Wings vs. TIEs. Luke and Vader in a fur-ball over the Death Star. My friend who purchased Leviathans is already a dyed-in-the-wool Star Wars fan. No way he was passing this up.
I've been watching the development of this for some time. I'd really like to jump into a Star Wars game and this sure seems like one I wouldn't hesitate over. Pre-painted. No blind blisters. Popular, evocative setting. For gamers who are familiar with the Nexus/Ares Wings of War/Glory game, you already have a leg up on how it plays.
All great things. Once again, I balk at the price. Three craft and bits for $40? $15 for a fighter after that? I'm already up to my neck in two games like that!
So four of us give it a shot. Our game starts with a pair of TIEs and an Advanced TIE streaking towards Rebel Space to snatch-and-grab a pair of reconnaissance satellites. Wedge Antilles in an X-Wing and Special Guest Star in a Y-Wing intercept...
Then there follows a Wings-of-Glory-like experience that does things a good deal better than the World War II game. And almost as good as the World War I game.
The pros: no cumbersome mats littered with cards and counters. No pre-plotted series of moves. Interesting maneuvers (like barrel rolls) can shake a pursuer and/or put you in a firing position. Pilots can have rules-bending traits that are listed on cards (no need to memorize a symbol). Critical damage effect are given on the damage card. (Again, eliminating the need to memorize a symbol.)
The cons: Despite the low overhead, the board can get cluttered with the turning gages and "boom sticks." Rebel ships ships have shields—which require keeping track of with counters. Droids are a part of the mix, too. And, for me, price. Do I need another game like this?
Mixed: Maneuvers are plotted on a little wheel for each craft and are executed one craft at a time. This can be cumbersome in a large game, since people have to share maneuver arcs (there are no cards) but it also keeps people honest and sets up who occupies a space in the event craft overlap. It is smoother than either Wings' game in that regard.
Overall: I like this better than Ares' WWII game, by far. It's comparable to their WWI game, but I give the edge to Ares on that one.
In an earlier blog, I wrote about my growing interest in Sherlock Holmes. Specifically, shows and films that cover the detective. This was kicked off after I purchased a DVD collection of a series featuring Ronald Howard and H Marion Crawford along with some films featuring Basil Rathbone, Arthur Wontner, and Reginald Owen.
Since then, I have watched a pair of BBC series that ran in the mid-60's featuring Douglas Wilmer and Peter Cushing as Holmes with the support of Nigel Stock in both as Watson. I also purchased the Granada Television series featuring Jeremy Brett.
It's difficult to judge amongst all them, since each has something to offer. The Ronald Howard series is just plain fun and there is a great rapport between Howard and Crawford. The sets are cheap, true, and the supporting players run the gamut, but I'm very glad to have this set.
In the mid-60's Wilmer and Cushing were both excellent as Holmes—though very different. Cushing comes across as an older version of the Holmes that Howard played. Wilmer presages the kind of personality Brett displayed and even expanded upon.
As productions, the Wilmer series is better in every regard to the one featuring Cushing. The music and cues are more restrained and effective. The sets and transitions between film and video more consistent. The writing was much better. Stock's role was larger and more nuanced. There are more episodes, too, but that is not a fair comparison—neither series survived the decades intact. But we should be thankful that more of the Wilmer series survived than the Cushing.
With the Granada series, all the stops are pulled. There is no video. It's all on film. All the players—even the supporting ones are excellent. David Burke and Edward Hardwicke both made outstanding Watsons, though I give the edge to Hardwicke. Brett was a mesmerizing Holmes. For about two-thirds of the series and the first three films, Brett is top form. Afterwards, his illness took a toll that is hard to ignore. With the Mazarin Stone, I wished that Hardwicke and Charles Gray (as Mycroft Holmes) as the Consulting Detective had completed remaining canon stories together in a new series.
Of all the Holmes and Watsons, Brett and Hardwicke are my favorites together. However, the team of Wilmer and Stock would have given them a run for their money if they had the resources that Granada lavished behind them, too. In fact, there are several Wilmer episodes that I put ahead of Brett/Hardwicke. These would be: The Speckled Band, The Illustrious Client, The Devil's Foot, The Six Napoleons, and The Man with The Twisted Lip.
I have the Soviet series of Holmes and Watson movies on order. I hope to have them in hand by the end of the week.
Over the weekend my FLGS (Great Hall Games of Austin, Texas) had games auction. I picked up a copy of BattleLore for $20 that was basically unwrapped and never looked at again. Also the out-of-print For the People and the fizzled Halls of Montezuema.
I've sold some games at BGG.con and have done alright there, though that's really a buyer's market. I sold some others at Great Hall last year and that was also a bit hit-and-miss. What I haven't done is Ebay or Geek-Bay. What are folks opinions of those?
Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies and… Read the rulebook again.
First up is Angola, which is a game about the Angolan civil war. The time is sometime in the mid-seventies. The opposing forces are the MPLA/FPLA coalition vs. UNITA and the FNLA. The former alliance is sponsored by the Soviet Union, the latter by South Africa and the United States. (Forgive me if I present that cavalierly.) So it's essentially a contest between two 2-man teams.
Without going into great detail, the game reminds me most of Junta though the two games really have nothing in common, rules. What they do have in common is that they are both tense contests between two dueling factions where swings of fortune can be quite wild but are due primarily to the decisions of the players. Randomness is present, but it is not the deciding factor. Both require some gutsy decisions—some without the knowledge of if your co-conspirator(s)!
Units range in size from companies to brigades and are as varied as internally raised volunteers/conscripts to foreign mercenaries and nationals. They are organized (or not) into columns, which players order to move through the use of a deck of Command Cards. Some columns are more active than others and some factions are less motivated than others. The cards are carefully sequenced and revealed one at a time through player rotation. This means that coordinating columns could interrupted or eliminated before their joint acts are culminated. A long way of saying "wild ride."
Like RISK, starting forces are concrete but their initial placement is not, so no two games will ever develop quite the same way. Opportunities also exist for receiving covert foreign aid. Rely too much upon it, however, and you will find yourself coming across as a stooge for imperialist powers and the populace will turn on you, granting your opponents a leg-up in in winning the game.
There's no diplomacy, but you have to remember that you win or lose as a team, so getting along with your partner and rendering timely assistance is important. The game encourages activity so camping on chokepoints and strategic objectives will only get you so far.
I've played two games with Pete A., BGGer hipshot, and Cisco S. All have been harrowing contests where either side could have won, though our first saw a stunning reversal of fortunes that carried the UNITA/FNLA faction to a narrow win. Angola! is published by MMP but was initially designed by the Ragnar Brothers—of Fire & Axe: A Viking Saga fame.
Last Friday night I returned to an old dungeon-crawling favorite in a new edition: FFG's new edition of DungeonQuest (third edition). This is what I call "the game of vicarious suicide." Players enter DragonFire dungeon with the hope of stealing a piece of the evil Wizard's treasure. This won't be easy to do, because the dungeon is stocked with lots of terrible creatures (the Dragon just being one of them) and horrible traps. All these things have your character's demise as their sole purpose. All are exceedingly entertaining to watch whether they succeed in their effort or not.
But that's not all. As the players attempt to navigate the maze and avoid the perils and pitfalls, they are also racing against time. For the doors to the Dungeon are only open during daylight hours. When the sun slips beneath the horizon then the doors slam shut, secured by great locks and spells, and then the populations too timid to meet you by day swarm out to overpower you by night.
Much of the game is a losing, solitary struggle against the game. Player interaction is mostly confined to playing the opposing monsters that the characters meet. If you encounter a monster, one of your cheerful playmates will drive his actions in any ensuing battle. It's fun to watch the faces of new players when they ask what their reward is for defeating, say, a Troll. "Oh, you won back your character's life! You get to continue to play!"
If things are going your way, you'll reach the Dragon's lair holding the Wizard's horde with only mild damage just before noon. Once inside, don't wake Daddy. In the meantime, take all the loot you want. Just don't wake Daddy! Daddy has very bad breath.
I've done poor job of describing what a riotous time it is. The swinging blade that halves your character. The Shade that can stalk you and ruin your day. The Catacombs where only the most desperate or naive tread. The pit that can open under your feet and spill you into infinity. Great fun! Good times...
Ah, but winning!... Whether you step in to take 10 gold pieces and hustle right back out or you press on to rob the Dragon and emerge with time to spare laden with riches beyond imaging, cheating that filthy Wizard of anything and everything is truly the crowning glory. But you'll be happy enough with just getting out alive!
Anyway, I played with six other players using the 6-player rules that I posted in the entry's Files section a year or so ago. Lindel the Elf won—again—with some 2300 GP's worth of loot. He doesn't always win, but he's had more than his share, for sure!
Battle For Baghdad
If you are fan of the old Avalon Hill classic Dune or it's most recent incarnation in Rex: Final Days of an Empire, you may be interested in Battle for Baghdad. This is game which is set during the the insurgency in Iraq, specifically in and around Baghdad. For six players, they can be the U.S. Army, the Iraqi Provisional Government, the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the Sunni's, Shi'ites, and Foreign Jihadis.
The satellite map of Baghdad is broken up into various neighborhoods and locations. Players maneuver their Infrastructure and Security forces through these neighborhoods, securing specific objectives for their faction. Like Dune, their are "blows" in the form of "prestige/political" points that players move to recover and then spend on increasing their presence on the board or recovering disabled command structures.
Diplomacy is encouraged to ensure that no player runs away with the game. Thus alliances are made and readily broken as they try to keep the ball in the air. If one player can secure their faction's objectives, they win. My last game was with Vince G., BGGer Darillian, Paul M., and Nate L. We managed to keep the ball in the air for over 5 hours, the game ending in a mutually-agreed draw.
Another of my personal favorites is the Histogram classic Friedrich. This game combines elegant rules, a couple dozen pieces, a dense point-to-point map of northern Europe, and four packs of playing cards to recreate the ebb-and-flow of the Seven Years War.
In my last game, I had the honor of playing Prussia, Darillian took Austria, Nate took Russia, and novice Evan took France. I decided that time to go for the optional Prussian victory conditions in taking Prussian objectives within Austria.
Prussia mostly plays a waiting game in Friedrich. They block routes to objectives that the foreign powers are trying to reach. By forcing battles but quickly escaping, the Prussians maintain strength and give ground only grudgingly. For their part, the foreign powers are trying to maneuver around the Prussian armies and forcing them into costly battles whenever possible.
Only the best players go for the advanced Prussian victory conditions. I turned out not be one of those lofty players. Prussia succumbed after only 8 turns of play. But in the meantime, they dealt stunning defeats on the Russians and did an end-run around the French armies and snatched an early victory away from them by recovering objectives near the French border. Only Austria had the strength to overmatch Prussia. This they did by taking their needed objectives.
Not Painting Miniatures
I'm in the middle of painting and army for Samurai Battles, but I have stalled. Mainly for lack of suitable uniform guides and a desire not to slavishly follow the patterns on the game box.
Painting miniatures can be great fun, but I'm easily distracted from it. Some folks are binge drinkers. I am a binge painter. But the fit is not in me now.
I'll try to post pictures of preogress next time!
Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies and… Read the rulebook again.
Ever since playing and picking up the new edition of Washington's War, I have been sporadically picking up CDGs of that sort: Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?, Unhappy King Charles!, Clash of Monarchs, etc.
One reason I like them—even the supposed bad ones—is that the cards at least inform the players what were the principle events and personalities of the period covered and what "effect" they imparted in the conflict.
Such games also further pique my interest to learn more about the period. I've picked up a few books on the Napoleonic, Revolutionary, and Seven Years Wars based having and playing the games.
Knowing what to expect from such games in terms of how they are played certainly helps, too. And I realize that a CDG is not necessarily the best way to model particular conflicts.
Unfortunately, they are arriving faster than I can collect them. I suppose once the vogue of CDGs of the sort I describe passes, I can catch up on getting them.
Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees
I used to play a lot Johnny Reb in college. Particularly the second edition of rules. Those days were not long after I left the Army in 1987 so the hours of slogging through wait-a-minute vines were still fairly fresh in my memory.
Those memories were not far from my mind as we assembled the terrain for our battles. I always wanted to put out more terrain—especially for battles in the Western Theater. The folks playing the games were much more used to tables with open terrain and so would set them up that way. Artillery never had difficulty in finding commanding positions. But neither did infantry face much delay in maneuvering across the table.
I would grouse quite a bit about that. And even more when we played Frank Chadwick's other darling of the times: Command Decision II. Tanks had no trouble with maneuvering either down roads or across country. It seemed tanks never had a rough time unless we were playing a 'Bulge scenario. Of all the games I had played till then, only Western Front Tank Leader the other titles from that series seem to handle terrain in a way that felt both suitably playable and realistic.
The point being: the miniatures games and scenarios I played never featured enough terrain. Folks didn't seem to be too bothered by that. I'm not talking about being shot at (and I've never been), but just the effort of getting into position to the job you set out to do could be hampered by an expansive tangle of naturally-occurring brush and gully. Especially at night. On a schedule.
It wasn't until a friend and I visited battle fields like Shiloh and Murfreesboro—where the National Park Service tries to maintain the fields in their original state, that I could make my impressions felt. We would leave the paved roads and trails and try to take a "short cut" through a cedar break or cornfield. Difficult enough for a couple young men. How much harder for a formed regiment? At least the first one.
"Frank says we can cross this field in 15 minutes and see 60 yards into it. What do you think?"
"Not until the first regiment breaks through it and knocks it down."
But even talking with a few re-enactors I knew, I could see that that they "got it." They certainly recognized the difficulty of breaking trail while maintaining a cohesive front. Some appreciated that WWII-infantry could remain concealed at almost any distance unless poor discipline or chance gave them away.
I think now more games are introducing the effects of terrain. No doubt, a lot of personal experience from the last decade is making its way into games. I think the designers publishers of games like Flames of War: The World War II Miniatures Game and Force on Force make a point of making sure that tables have plenty terrain.
Wheeling and Dealing
As I said, I did a fair amount of miniatures gaming in college. I still do play miniatures games, but less and less the older I get. It seems that no matter which club I play in, there are always players that fudge and skeeve on movement, line-of-sight checks, and what exactly "is" and "is not" in or out of terrain.
The principle attraction of miniatures games seems to be the spectacle of it. The pay-off of seeing so many hours devoted to create, assemble, and paint all the vehicles, figures, terrain, and detritus is game day. Too often I've seen games break down in the "argument phase" and the subsequent parsing of the rules. Usually, we'd bypass the trouble by rolling a die and hashing it out over beer and pizza later.
That's more friction than I care to handle and why I prefer hex-based systems. The rules for such games with regards to terrain, movement, and line-of-sight are usually very cut and dried. If all I'm doing is counting hexes or stringing between dots, that's a whole lot easier than trying to figure out whether we're executing wheels correctly or figuring out what fraction of the regiment can see what.
Napoleon at War does do something pretty ingenious with regards to movement. A regiment/battalion that begins and ends its movement beyond a certain distance from the enemy may end its move in any formation it wishes. Players simply move the headquarters stand a permissible distance and then reform the rest of the unit around it in any way the owner wishes.
I have a copy of the rules and friends report that much of the tedious of play is eliminated by that one simple rule.
Is it me, or are there a lot more disqualifications in these Olympics than in previous ones?
Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies and… Read the rulebook again.
Well, I knew it. A week has gone by and no new blog post until this evening...er, this morning. Did I have nothing to write about? I didn't think so. I'm not sure I do now! But, I'll endeavor to try and be a more regular correspondent. We'll see...
Eastern Front Games Experiment
BGGer Darillian proposed that we and a mutual friend or two conduct a kind of experiment about East Front wargames, using this blog as an outlet for our findings. The games under consideration for our experiment are GMT's No Retreat! The Russian Front, GMT's Stalin's War, and Columbia's EastFront II. Each if us will "champion" a particular game. I will champion No Retreat!, mutual gaming friend E.S. will champion Stalin's War, and Darillian will champion EastFront II. (As a champion, it simply means that's the game we know best and will be the one to teach it the others and will write about it.
The purpose of the experiment is to compare the games against one another. Is one easier to learn? Easier to teach? Fast- or slow-playing? A better model of "history?" Each of us has a half-dozen or more plays of our choice title under our belts. By comparison, we have only a few plays—if any—of the other games. We will be both teaching a game we know and learning a game we don't.
We have no schedule for performing the experiment, so plays may be fleeting or furious depending on our level of interest and commitment.
All three games seem to be pretty different from one another, so I'm rather looking foreward to it. I'll be certain to let folks know how it all goes.
I had a had a chance to play A.S. in four rounds of the Salamanca: Attack on the French Left scenario of Commands & Colors: Napoleonics this evening. I took the first match, 12 banners to 9. A.S. took the second, 11 banners to 9.
As we played and swapped games, we each made mental note of the best opening attacking and defensive plays for the both the British and French sides. It appears to be finely balanced, but the British won three games out of four.
As the French, I tried to get the artillery into position early to begin banging away at the British and Portuguese infantry. I also tried bringing up the cavalry as early as possible and to hold the infantry group on the left flank in a defensive triskelion until I felt confident to move forward.
As the British, I also tried to bring up my cavalry and artillery as quickly as possible, though the French overmatches them. A strange ace-in-the-hole for the Brits are their Rifle Light infantry. If they can get them on the outcrop along the ridge of their own left flank, they can command the likely approaches and positions for the French Infantry and Artillery. But if the French are in position first (and it's not hard for them to do) then they will have to remain well behind the crest of the ridge to sweep them when the French finally come pouring over.
As the Brits, I was a sucker for getting the Rifle Lights into that sweet spot to cover the French guns. One time it worked: I was able to plink the battery away eventually. The other time, it didn't: the French brought up cavalry and artillery into a combined arms assault that eventually forced them away in a badly weakened condition.
The last game of our series was especially close: Playing the Brits, I nearly lost the game when my Rifle Lights were chased away and my regular Light infantry mauled to death by cavalry and infantry on my left flank. This enemy swarmed into my rear area and threatened ruination. I was lucky to draw both First Strikes one after the other and so was able to blunt the French advance and eventually throw it back.
But the game saver was a an epic Cavalry sweep performed by the Portuguese heavy cavalry. They managed to press into the French line and pin three units into square. Careful moves with British Light cavalry to maintain the pressure eventually found the cavalry rolling up weakened French infantry, pushing the enemy artillery back over the hill (where they were of no further use, and running amok in the the French back row.
There was certainly much bad dice rolling, by both sides: a five-die cavalry charge that missed on every face. A seven-die combined arms attack against a two-block unit that only inflicted one hit. An attack on a weakened infantry unit that rolled all artillery faces. We each had the game winning move before us, and each found ways to piss away our advantages. It was a great relief to finally win, as either one of us could have at any time.
I finished the 1965 BBC Sherlock Holmes series from 1965 that featured Douglas Wilmer. 11 sterling episodes. I enjoyed each and every one of them. Wilmer is a great Holmes. Nigel Stock as Watson was also played extremely well.
I think, like the earlier series with Ronald Howard, this particular show had a cast of players where the extras played one or two other roles throughout the series. It bothers some people when shows do that, I know, but I actually enjoy it.
I'm very sorry Wilmer felt at the time it was better to leave the show than to continue with the second season that was offered to him. I understand he balked at trimming the rehearsal schedule and that's when Peter Cushing was offered the part. I'm going to track down the second series and give that a shot.
Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies and… Read the rulebook again.
Welcome to my blog! Please, remain seated.
Fellow BGGer Darillian has pestered me for awhile to start a blog. I was reluctant. Not that I don't have opinions or am reluctant to share them, but a blog is like a pet: it needs attending to. So I didn't want to commit to a blog until now. Why now? A chance to say whatever is on my mind at the time to folks who might be interested, I'll say.
Besides, I spend enough time as it is on BGG injecting by .02 at almost every turn. So much so that I'm sure folks are good and sick of it on any of the pages covering Richard Borg's series of Commands & Colors Game. And plenty of other forums, subdomains, and game pages that have attracted my attention.
So...thanks for dropping by. I'll try to have something to say each day, if I can manage it. At least once a week, more realistically. If only to ease my presence in other areas of this site!
My latest object of obsession is Zvezda's new Samurai Battles game. It's a game that recreates battles from the Sengoku period of Japanese history. This is a rather unusual title. First, it's from a Russian hobby manufacturer that specializes in plastic models. They also publish games, but that seems secondary to making and distributing models. And second, it features rules from two different authors: Commands & Colors, by Richard Borg, and Art of Tactic, by Konstantin Krivenko.
I'm certainly a Commands & Colors hound and have been for at least a decade. I also own Zvezda's other game in Krivenko's Art of Tactic series. That would be Operation Barbarossa 1941. It's a tactical WWII wargame covering Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union. As soon as I was aware that Krivenko and Richard Borg were collaborating on a game—and especially one covering the conflicts of the Sengoku period—I knew it would be a must-have for me.
I won't dwell too much on the nuts and bolts of the respective rules other than to say that the C&C set places a lot of emphasis on playability first while also imparting a strong sense of historical flavor. The Art of Tactics rules are more complex, but offers players the opportunity for simultaneous play. Both sets are quite different but also complement one another. A gamer looking for either a simple or complex treatment using the same set of models and materials won't be disappointed.
I've already posted quite a bit of thought and opinion on Samurai Battles over on the page for that game, so I'll let folks read it there. Happy to answer questions here about it, too.
I've fallen into a habit over the last couple of months. I gave up watching television around 2000—but not watching DVDs on my computer. (Or surfing the internet for hours at a stretch, too. So it's probably more accurate to say that I've displaced television!) And what I've been doing is to give over one hour of each day to watching a Sherlock Holmes show or movie.
It began back in early June. I picked up a set of DVDs that encompass the Sidney Reynolds' production of the Sherlock Holmes television show, starring Ronald Howard and H. Marian Crawford, and eight other films. Four feature Basil Rathbone's iconic turn, three with Arthur Wontner, and one with Reginald Owen. All for five bucks!
Previously, I'd only read the collected works of Doyle's detective. And of course I've seen the recent Robert Downey, Jr. films. I've heard Firesign Theater's "Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra." I even picked up a copy of the original Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases in 1981! But the Holme's I remember most was Georce C. Scott's in the film "They Might Be Giants."
To date, I've finished the Mill Creek DVDs with Ronald Howard and the others and have picked up the BBC2 Sherlock Holmes series that appeared in 1965 with Douglas Wilmer and Nigel Stock. Once that set is complete, I'll likely track down the follow-up series that starred Peter Cushing as Holmes once Wilmer left the cast. I'll certainly pick up what nearly everyone says is the definitive Holmes: the four series produced by Granada Television with Jeremy Brett.
So far, I've enjoyed everything I've watched. It's fun to see what each actor brings to the roles of Holmes and Watson. Of all that I've seen, Nigel Bruce's Watson in the Basil Rathbone movies is the most unfortunate. I see he was played for humor, but it completely sublimates a mind that once practiced medicine—such a man can't be a fool, can he? I don't fault Nigel Bruce and I still enjoyed the shows, but I couldn't help but wonder how much better they would have been if Watson had been written better.
The series with Ronald Howard was also played more for wide appeal. Very few of the stories in the half-hour episodes are based on canon, but nearly all are very entertaining none the less. Holmes is a much more gregarious person in the show and Watson has flashes of insight. Both actors are able to convey gravity and humor as the story dictates. I'm very glad I picked the set up and was sorry that further episodes with the Howard/Crawford team never followed, despite the seeming popularity of the show.
Still, a lot to look forward to with Cushing, Brett, and even a well-regarded Russian series starring Vasily Livanov!