Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be

Yesterday, I had the chance to play both Commands & Colors Napoleonics and the 150th Anniversary Edition of Battle Cry. After playing two games of C&CN (trying to make sure we got all the special +1 die firing/+1 die melee modifiers) followed by the First Manassas Battle Cry scenario, Battle Cry felt very simplistic and lightweight. I loved the game in its day, but perhaps I'm ready for a bit more meat in my ACW games. I'll probably work on retrofitting Battle Cry with C&CN rules, using light rifle infantry and light cavalry for ACW troops. Then again, for light ACW games, there's Yankees and Rebels from Gio Games.

My worthy opponent in both of these games was Richard Bliss of The Game Whisperer blog. Please check out Richard's blog--his is much better than mine. Hi Richard!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Memoir Online

I've just started playing the beta version of Memoir '44 Online. This is very nice. But boy is this going to be a time sink...

Friday, October 1, 2010

I'm Stuck on Westeros

I've resisted purchasing Fantasy Flight Games new "BattleLore" game Battles of Westeros, because it was priced high ($80), I already have BattleLore, and I didn't see that Westeros added much to the system. Well, I caved. Why? As usual, because my Friendly Local Game Store, Game Kastle, had a slightly damaged copy for 50% off!

So, I've been reading the rules, trying to grok the differences between BattleLore and Westeros. So far, the items of notes are:

- D8 instead of D6 for battle. dice have (3x light, 2x medium, 1x heavy, 1x all, 1x flag), so that heavy units are harder to damage
- Units in combat are engaged and retreating units have to endure "parting shots"
- Roll dice for a number of activations (single units) and card play for multiple units
- Players alternate activating units instead of iGo-uGo
- For units destroyed, light units count 1, medium units count 2, and heavy units count three

It remains to be seen whether these changes are for the better or not. Certainly it addresses many of the criticisms of the Commands & Colors system.

In the meantime, I've been assembling the figures. I've found that you really need superglue. Two hours and a small tube of superglue later, and I've managed to glue the Lannister faction and the leaders to their bases and tapping them in with the blunt end of a toothpick. Today, my fingers are sticky with dried superglue. But I must continue.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Another new game: Julius Caesar block game

Another game that my brother and I played during PacifiCon was Columbia Games new block game Julius Caesar. JC, as I'll call it, is very reminiscent of other recent Columbia Block games such as Hammer of the Scots and Crusader Rex in that you play a card each turn then move that many groups of blocks.

JC adds the extra mechanic that movement cards have both a number (Roman numeral in this case) showing how many groups you can move, and symbols for how many steps can be recruited after movement. These steps can be to rebuild damaged blocks or to recruit new blocks. The extra wrinkle in this game is that many blocks, such as Roman legions, can only be recruited at a particular city. So, leaders find themselves having to move a block to that city (fighting for it if necessary), then using one of their recruitment steps to "build" a new legion. The legion is built at strength 1, so it's still very fragile at first, and players may have to spend several turns improving it so that it's fit to fight.

In our first game, which only lasted a few turns, I found it confusing knowing where all these recruitable legions were located. I suggested that we place these recruitable legions on the board face down. It then became obvious what cities were important to both sides for recruitment purposes.

This is a good game. Block game fans should check it out.

New game played: Marcher Lords

My brother was able to come visit me for PacifiCon over Labor Day. One of the the new games that we tried was Fiery Dragon's game The Marcher Lords. It's a medieval game about a relatively rare subject: the Normal invasion of Wales during the 11th century. Our mother's maiden name is Bowen (Welsh "ab Owen"), originally from the Swansea area. As such, both of us were interested in a simple game involving the invasion of Wales.

The game has some interesting asymmetric features:

- All reinforcements are random draws. The Welsh get infantry and bows, while the Normans get infantry, knights, and crossbows. The Normans have better fighters, including Knights, but the Welsh have more bows which get to fire first in combat. The Welsh do have some cavalry, but they appear at the start and can't leave their home kingdom. The first Norman reinforcement into a newly conquered area is a castle, which then shores up the defense of forces in that area. Often, the Welsh must try to reconquer an area quickly before the Normans can build their castle.
- The Normans can invade wherever and whenever they like, but any Welsh kingdoms adjacent to conquered areas become mobilized so that they begin receiving reinforcement. Welsh kingdoms not adjacent to conquered areas just sit there, as the Norman's aren't this kingdom's problem (yet!). So the Normans may want to invade only some areas so that the Welsh don't get as many reinforcements.
- To invade, the Norman force must be in supply. The more units they attack a Welsh kingdom with and the farther this kingdom is from the home Earldom, the harder it is to be able to commit resources. The Welsh only roll for supply when attacking a home Earldom.
- There are random events that come into play. At one point, the Vikings attacked the Normans, conquering one of their castles forcing the Normans to deal with them.

It was a pleasant game, finishing in a couple of hours. We were pretty pleased with the game; I'd rate it about a 6.5. It has some nice features, and might also make a nice game for a miniatures campaign.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Commands & Colors: Ancients Features on "View from the Veranda" Podcast

I really enjoy the podcast Meeples and Miniatures, but especially, the View from the Veranda episodes, which are extended conversations between Neil Schuck, the host, and Henry Hyde from Battlegames Magazine. In episode 5 of View from the Veranda, they talk about Commands & Colors: Ancients in some detail. As miniatures people, they admire the quick playing of C&CA, yet enjoy the satisfying feel of the games.

I talked with Richard Borg at KublaCon at some length. He said that his goal of the Commands & Colors games is not to simulate the battle, but rather to simulate how descriptions of battles read in print. Look at this depiction of the battle of Zama from Wikipedia, which has a lot of "the center does this" or "the flanks troops do this other thing". It's easy to see this battle being played out with C&CA.

"At the outset of the battle, Hannibal unleashed his elephants and skirmishers against the Roman troops in order to break the cohesion of their lines and exploit the breaches that could be opened. The attack was confronted by the Roman skirmishers. In addition to this Scipio ordered the cavalry to blow loud horns to frighten the beasts which partly succeeded and several rampaging elephants turned towards the Carthaginian left wing and disordered it completely. Seizing this opportunity Masinissa led his Numidian cavalry and charged at the Carthaginian left wing, also composed of Numidian cavalry, and was unknowingly lured off the field. Meanwhile the rest of the elephants were carefully lured through the lanes and taken to the rear of the Roman army where they were dealt with. The plan of Scipio of neutralizing the threat of the elephants had worked. Scipio's troops then fell back into traditional Roman battle formation. Laelius, the commander of Roman left wing, charged against the Carthaginian right. The Carthaginian cavalry, acting on the instructions of Hannibal, allowed the Roman cavalry to chase them so as to lure them away from the battlefield so that they wouldn't attack the Carthaginian armies in the rear.

Scipio now marched with his center towards the Carthaginian center which was under the direct command of Hannibal. Hannibal moved forward with only two lines and the third line of veterans was kept in reserve. After a close contest the first line of Hannibal was pushed back by the Roman hastati. Hannibal ordered his second line to allow the first line in their ranks. The bulk of them managed to escape and to position themselves on the wings of the second line on Hannibal's instructions. Hannibal now charged with his second line. A furious struggle ensued and the Roman hastati were pushed back with heavy losses. Scipio reinforced the hastati with the second line principes."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Love Child: Hold the Line and Black Power

I like the American Revolution game Hold the Line (previously published as "Clash for a Continent") by Worthington Games. In the game, each player rolls a D3 (3 sided die) plus a fixed number depending on the scenario for action points. Each action point allows one unit to move or fire or, with 2 action points, perform a close assault. I've not been entirely satisfied with this scheme: it would be nice if units far from the commanders were harder to control (e.g., costs more action points) and if groups of units could be giving similar orders for the same action point (in effect a "discount" for having multiple units perform the same action).

I have recently been looking at the miniatures rules Black Powder, a 17th and 18th century version of the Warmaster rules. I think there's enough synergism that one could play Hold the Line scenarios using an hex-grid adaptation of Black Powder. I need to play some games, if only solo, to see how this plays out.

Friday, June 11, 2010

BattleLore Reinforcements

I purchased a bunch of BattleLore expansions (Scottish Wars, Dwarven Battalion, Goblin Marauders, and 2 Goblin Skirmishers) on a 20% off sale with the thought that I would sell them on eBay. In the end, since they are out of print, I decided that I would keep them and use them for scenarios.

I like to paint green, blue, or red stripes around the base of my BattleLore to aid in the recognition of light, medium and heavy troops. Because the bases are grey, green or brown, the colors don't come through very well at times. However, I've discovered paint pens. First, I paint the side of the base with a white paint pen, then use a green, blue, or red "Sharpie" marker to paint the sides of the bases. Here's an example of my older efforts. The color isn't bad, but you can see that the green color is a bit dull:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Game Table Online Works with Safari 5!

I enjoy playing Battle Cry at Game Table Online, but it's always been a bit flaky with Macs, my preferred OS. I've recently had success using GTO with Firefox even on Macs. Apple recently released Safari 5, which seems to work great with GTO. I was able to play a solo game of Battle Cry with no problems. Yeah!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Imperium 2nd Edition

I'm a big fan of GDW's space game Imperium. Imperium came out in 1977 about the same time as Star Wars. Gavin, a friend of mine from college, and I played this all the time. I just recently found out that you could get a PDF copy of the 2nd (GDW) edition from Drive Through RPG. (The illustration that they use is from the 1st flatbox edition, which I have, but the rules are from a later edition.) One significant change is that the Imperial player has to pay 2 Glory Points for appeals to the Emperor rather than 1, so that it's harder for the Imperial player to gain the resources he needs to fight the war.

Yet More Panzer Grenadier

I picked up a copy of Panzer Grenadier: Fall of France plus Kokoda Trail and the Elsenborn winter boards from an artist who did work for Avalanche Press.

He mentioned that he hadn't yet been paid for his work for Avalanche Press and had received a bunch of games instead, so he was selling them on eBay. Very said.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What I Did During KublaCon

KublaCon is over. I ran two events, neither of which were terribly successful in terms of number of participants.

On Sunday morning, I ran a "Learning Panzer Grenadier" event. Only one person showed up, but he seemed to enjoy himself. We played a 12 turn nighttime urban assault of Battles of the Bulge. Because it was a nighttime scenario, I decided to use my new counter sleds to hide what units of both sides were in each stack. Units were revealed only when they came within sighting range, which in a nighttime scenario is only one hex.

On Monday morning, I ran a "Commands & Colors Fest", which involved bringing all 4 of the current C&C games: Battle Cry, Memoir '44, BattleLore, and Commands & Colors: Ancients. Four people participated. Two people decided to play a game of Memoir '44 with the new Memoir '44 Breakthrough boards. I played games of Commands & Colors: Ancients with two other players. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. I was disappointed that no one was interested in playing BattleLore. I'm starting to work on some feudal era scenarios for BattleLore, such as the Viking scenarios Clontarf and Brunanburh.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Counter Sleds

I finally decided to pick up some counter sleds from Rdoxx.

For those that haven't seen them, they are L-shaped pieces of wood that are big enough to hold a small number of counters vertically, with the counters facing the player and hidden from the opponent. In essence, this allows you to make any hex and counter wargame into a block game. The sleds come in a number of sizes: 0.5" square, 5/8" square, 3/4 wide x 1/2" tall, 1" wide x 1/2" tall, or 1" wide. I decided to order a set of 100 of the 5/8" square size ($12.95 for sets of 25). At this quantity, Rdoxx gave me a 10% discount.

My idea is to initially use them for Panzer Grenadier. Having played some PG night scenarios (where the sighting range is just a hex or two), it's way to easy to maneuver your forces towards enemies you really shouldn't be aware of. I thought with sleds you could simulate the uncertainty of war by giving extra sleds to each side so that players could maneuver dummy as well as real stacks. And of course, you wouldn't know what was in those stacks until they fire. Having bought 100 of them, I'm sure I'll have enough to use in other games. I've seen people paint their Sleds, but I thought it would be best to keep them in natural wood so that you didn't have to decide how many of each color.

The other product that Rdoxx makes is 2.1" wide hexes, which can be used for hills for the Commands & Colors games. I thought about these, but decided to make them out of brown 6mm "foamie" material at craft stores. For under $2 one of these sheets will make lots of hexes.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Boulder Games Continues to Take My Money

Boulder Games, my "go to" source for online Euros and especially wargames, is quitting business. Unfortunately, they are selling off games at extra low prices, and I can't resist a sale.

I purchased a bunch of Avalanche Press's Panzer Grenadier stuff. I also decided that I would give their Great War at Sea series a try by picking up a copy of Avalanche's Great War at Sea: Mediterranean. For some reason, I find the big ships with big guns of WWI more interesting than the carrier actions of WWII. (I feel the same way about "Star Trek" vs. "BattleStar Galactica".) That was order #1.

I noticed the other day that they were selling off GMT games at special prices. I managed to hold myself back from picking up a bunch of stuff, but I posted a note on BoardgameGeek on their "Hot Deals" forum. Apparently, some people referenced my post when they bought their stuff, because Jim, the owner of Boulder Games, sent me a $10 gift certificate. So, I decided to take the plunge and pick up a copy of GMT's War Galley. I've been thinking about doing some ancient naval stuff and thought this might be worth it. Perhaps it will keep me from buying a couple of fleets of 1/1200 scale ancient naval miniatures. Of course, if they're on sale...

Review of Gio Games War to Axis Posted

To go along with my review of Yankees and Rebels, I've now posted a review of Gio Games War to Axis. I plan to complete the "trilogy" by doing a review of their newly-updated release Advanced Vive l'Empereur.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Review of Gio Games Yankees & Rebels

I've posted a review of Yankees and Rebels, a Euro/Wargame hybrid American Civil War game on BoardgameGeek. If you've played Battle Cry and like it (even if you liked the simplicity but didn't like some of the mechanics), you should check out this game.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

First Play of Washington's War

Yesterday, I got to play my first game of Washington's War, the reissue Avalon Hill's We the People (the original Card-Driven Wargame which spawned an entire genre). It took us about 2.5 hours for our first game. I hadn't reviewed the rules beforehand, but I remembered enough We the People mechanics that I could stumble through it. I had a great time and want to play it again.

The game could really use some better charts. The combat system is well described, but the rules for placing and flipping PC markers could be better summarized. Sounds like a project...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New Version of Tattered Flags

This week I received a new version of the Tattered Flags (now renamed "Gettysburg: The Wheatfield") board/miniature game for playtesting. It seems to be a minor revision--just cleaning up the rules a bit. I want to get another game in this weekend. I hope it will be more than a solo game.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

KublaCon Games

For me, the nearest game convention is KublaCon, which is held in Burlingame, CA over the extended Memorial Day weekend (Friday afternoon through Monday morning). I try to run a few games each year, since volunteers get their admission fee refunded. This year I've signed up to run:

- Commands & Colors Fest: I ran this event at Conquest SF last year over the Labor Day holiday. It's an open gaming format. I bring multiple copies of all 4 Commands & Colors games (Battle Cry, Memoir '44, BattleLore, and Commands & Colors: Ancients), let people choose their own scenario, set up and play whatever they like. Players can come and go as they like while I can hover around to teach the rules, answer questions, or leave people alone as they prefer. This event worked really well when I ran it at Conquest on Monday morning, the convention's final day. The last day of a convention, in my experience, is always difficult for events, as people are packing up and getting ready to leave. Yet, many people may be in for a short game of some kind. The Commands & Colors games work well for this difficult time slot because they're easy to teach, play fast, and each game only requires 2 players.

- Learn Panzer Grenadier: I've been enjoying the Panzer Grenadier line of tactical WWII games. Unlike many tactical WWII games, PG units are platoons rather than a squads or individuals, so the game makes some abstractions that make the game easier to play (e.g., there is no concept of unit facing). In addition, the rules are only 16 pages in length, and there is a huge wealth of scenarios available. My goal in this event is to identify some low-counter-density scenarios that only last 8-12 turns or so that can be used for teaching and let people play them.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Battle Cry Online!

I'm a big fan of the "Commands and Colors" games by Richard Borg. For those of you who don't have (or can't find an opponent for) his ACW game Battle Cry, the Game Table Online site allows you to play against other players or against an AI.

Now this isn't particularly new; Battle Cry has been on Game Table Online for quite some time. What is new, at least for me, is that I've been able to play this game on my Mac. In the past, Game Table Online has only really supported Windows; the Java applications have not run well on Macs. Now however, I've played several solo and opponent games on my Mac (using the Firewfox browser) with nary a glitch. This is really good news.

If you haven't tried GTO, give them a visit. They have quite a few games online including Axis & Allies, Tigris & Euphrates, etc.

By the way, if you don't have the rules for Battle Cry, you can download it from Wizards of the Coast.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

In Summary, I'll Summarize...

Over the last few weeks, I've been doing a number of game summaries, including the playtests for Tattered Flags, and Bitter Angels. What I try to do with summaries is to organize all the important game rules and list them in a compact bullet form. Having these summaries makes it easier to review and teach the mechanics of games, because you have all the important rules in one place so you won't forget little bits of things. I usually achieve about 4:1 compression, meaning that a game with 8 pages of rules will result in a summary of about 2 pages.

I've posted over 100 summaries for a wide variety of games from Euros, to board wargames, to miniatures rules. You can see a list of them on this BGG Geeklist:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tactical, Operational, Strategic

I've seen a few posts about the differences between these terms. Often, I hear people saying "units are battalions, so it's not tactical" or "units are divisions, so it must be strategic". My thoughts are that the scales are differentiated by mechanics rather than the size of the units involved:

strategic: the game system involves both supply for maintaining units and production for building new units.
operational: the game system involves supply but not production. That is, the time scale is too brief for new units to be produced. You may be able to bring on re-inforcements, but you're not truly building new units.
tactical: Involves neither supply nor production. You may have ammunition limits and, again, you may have reinforcements, but at this level, the battle has been joined and fresh supply won't affect the unit's status until the battle is over.

I've also seen the terms "grand tactical" or occasionally "grand strategic". These are harder to define. To me, grand tactical is about an entire battle, whereas tactical is a section of that battle. So, for example, refighting "Gettysburg" is grand tactical, but refighting "Devil's Den", "Little Round Top", or "Pickett's Charge" (parts of the Gettysburg battle, for those of you not "into" the American Civil War) are tactical. Strategic vs. grand strategic is even less clear to me, but I would think both scales should involve production. Perhaps grand strategic might refer to all of World War II in Europe (or even all of WWII) whereas strategic might refer to an extended campaign such as the Eastern or Western fronts.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Free game day at local store

My local game store, Gator Games was holding a free game giveaway yesterday. I own a few RPG (mostly out of fond memories--I don't currently play them), so I picked up a few things of interest:

- Starsiege introductory book
- Field of Daisies Harn starter adventure
- Dart Wars game. My work buddies are going to love this one!

I had a frustrating experience with Gator Games during a "20% off Wargames" day. I was looking for some Panzer Grenadier material, and found that their PG material was scattered in 3 places: in the boardgame section near the PG boxed sets (where it belongs), in the miniatures section, and in the back of the store in the white "where games go to die" shelves.

The good news is that Gator Games is reworking their store: Jean, the owner, was telling me that RPG's aren't selling well, so she is going to move wargames into the RPG section. Now if only they would move the YuGiOh and Magic players to the back of the store so that you wouldn't have to crawl over them when you're looking for boardgames.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

An Actual Catalog

Yesterday, I received "Dispatches from Decision" #18, an actual 20 page newsprint paper catalog. I had no idea that people did these anymore.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bitter Angels (ACW Grand Armée) playtest

I've applied to become a playtester for "Bitter Angels", an attempt to adapt the Napoleonic grand-tactical miniatures rules Grand Armée (GA) to the American Civil War. I've never played GA, but I have played quite a bit of Volley & Bayonet (V&B), an earlier set of grand-tactical black powder rules. Some people that I've gamed with have complained that V&B needs a command and control system, which GA provides. So, it seems reasonable to check out how Bitter Angels works with big ACW battles.

GA uses the same basing as V&B: 1" = 100 yards, and bases are infantry and cavalry brigades each 3" square. V&B was designed so that you can play with figures as large as 54mm (though you have problems fitting 54mm artillery on the 3"x1.5" artillery bases). I prefer to game with smaller scale figures, either 6mm or even 2mm. Many people who play V&B with smaller scale figures opt to increase the ground scale and thus shrink the size of stands and the overall table size. Those gaming with 15mm figures often use 2/3 scale bases (1" = 150 yds.), while those who game with 6mm or 2mm figures opt to use 1/2 scale (1" = 200 yds.) or even centimeter scale (substitute centimeters for inches, so that bases are 3cm square, which gives a ground scale of 1" = 250 yds). Keith McNelly in NZ hosts the V&B web site, and use 1/2 scale 6mm figures.

Typical V&B battles use 6'x8' tables. With half-scale figures, you can run Gettysburg on 3'x4' tables; with centimeter scale, the table becomes 72cm x 96cm or just over 2'x3'.

I've had a long stalled project to re-work my 6mm Heroics and Ros ACW figures. What I've decided to do is to rebase my 6mm figures onto more typical 1" or 3/4" stands and use 2mm figures based in centimeter scale for V&B and similarly based rules. That will allow me to play a variety of ACW games on a variety of scales.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

GMT's Washington's War Shipping Soon

The oldest, and my still-favorite of the "card driven game" (CDG) genre is We the People, a long out of print strategic American Revolutionary War game from Avalon Hill. For me, it was just at the right level of complexity, with games that could be finished in about 3 hours or so. I've played some other CDG such as Wilderness War, but I found them too long and too involved.

Now, at long last, GMT is about to ship Washington's War, an update of We the People by its designer, Mark Herman. I pre-ordered it, and they just emailed me that my credit card was being charged and that the game would soon ship.

I'm going to make a confession that is going to surprise and/or annoy some people: while GMT is a very well respected game company, I tend to dislike their games because I find them over-long and over-complex. Even Commands & Colors: Ancients, one of my favorite games, wasn't a game I liked right away; I found that so many special rules had been tacked onto the Commands & Colors system that it was tough to get used to. After quite a few plays and doing some very thorough summary charts, I found I really liked the game, but it certainly wasn't love at first sight. So, in general, I tend to view GMT games with suspicion.

So, when I heard that We the People was being reworked, my first thought was "ugh, they're probably going to stick all sorts of chrome on the game so that it becomes a long ponderous thing". But, I was re-assured by the designer's remarks:

"Washington’s War is not just a re-tread of my earlier design on the same subject, but a true re-design that is keeping the basic feel while simplifying and speeding up what was already a fast paced game."

Ooo, "simplifying" and "speeding up". Two phrases that the Casual Wargamer wants to hear. I hate to use the overly-used phrase "elegant" used in Euro games, but "elegant" is what we want.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Rules for 'Tattered Flags' Boardgame/Miniatures Hybrid

One of the biggest impediments to miniatures is the painting themselves. Victory Point Games is working on a new American Civil War game called Tattered Flags, a miniatures/boardgame hybrid. That is, there is a board with terrain, but there are no squares or hexes to regulate movement; units move in freeform mode just as they would on a miniatures table.

I just received version 0.1 of the rules this morning. The playtest kit should arrive sometime soon. Here's what the initial version looks like:

Currently, there's no page on BGG; VPG has a policy of creating pages only when the game is "ready", but you can read about the status on VPG's "That Was the Week that Was" column. According to VPG, there is going to be an in-depth preview published soon in Battles Magazine.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tale of Two Trays

There are two readily-available counter tray vendors. The dimensions given are the top of each compartments; the bottoms of each compartment are slightly smaller.

- Chessex makes trays with 16 compartments each with dimensions approximately 2.5" x 1.5". This tray is hinged. It will lay flat with some bending, but you might want to consider cutting the hinge apart. The overall dimensions are 7.75" by just under 11". There is room for two 5/8" side by side. I'd suggest using Chessex trays with 5/8" counters; about 6 will fit per layer at the bottom of each compartment.

- GMT makes trays with 20 compartments each with dimensions approximately 1 3/8" x 2.25". The entire tray is 8.5"x11". This tray has no hinge. There is room for two 1/2" counters side by side, but not enough for two 5/8" counters. (The bottom of the trays are just over 1" wide, so two 5/8" counters don't fit.) The GMT tray is also a great solution for the 1" counters from Conflict of Heroes--two 1" counters fit longways.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Boring Wargames Tasks

Is I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of Avalanche Press's World War II game, Panzer Grenadier. At the time of this writing, I own 7 of their full-sized games: Battle of the Bulge, Beyond Normandy, Afrika Korps, Desert Rats, Elsenborn Ridge, Road to Berlin, and East Front Deluxe.

Now to the boring part: rather than storing the games in an endless series of boxes, I'm attempting to combine them all. So, far, I've been able to store all the maps, rules, and scenarios in one large box, and I'm working on storing the counters in another large box. For counter storage, I'm using Chessex's 16 compartment counter trays. For some days now, I've been sorting through all my PG counters and combining them into trays by nationality.

I still have some more to do, but eventually, I should have a well organized PG set which is easy to carry and set up. See, told you it was boring...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Talk to Gio (Games That Is)

For those of you interested in lighter wargames, I want to point you to a source that you may not have heard of: Gio Games in Italy. They currently offer three games, all of which I'd categorize as Euro/Wargame hybrids in the style of Memoir '44 or BattleCry:

- War to Axis, a WWII in Normandy game. Units are infantry battalions, and armor and support companies. If you're looking for a game similar in difficulty to Memoir '44 but a little more realistic, this game may be for you.
- Yankees & Rebels, an American Civil War game. Units are divisions. Gettysburg is the primary battle covered, but they provide units and terrain tiles to do other battles. Only 2 pages of rules.
- Vive l'Empereur, a Napoleonic game. Just recently back in print. Only 4 pages of rules.

The rules, in either Italian or English, are online at the Gio Games web site, so you can check them out and see if they suit.

In the past, I've bought my Gio Games from Boulder Games online store. However, they recently told me that they weren't going to be stocking the newly reissued Vive l'Empereur. However, Noble Knight Games is stocking it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Haiti Benefit from RPGNow

RPGNow is holding a "Gamers Help Haiti" fund drive, giving money to the Doctors Without Borders organization to help with earthquake relief efforts. As a thank you gift for a $20 donation, they let you download about $1500 worth of RPG PDFs. There is a mix of things in the bundle: full RPG's (including the Serenity RPG), modules, character development supplements, world settings, the works. Even if you don't play RPGs, there are some "dungeon crawl" and starship deckplans which could be used for skirmish RPG systems. All together, the files add up to just under 3 GB of size! That's a lot for $20 and it goes to a good cause.

Note: as you might expect, there's been a tremendous response to this appeal. The rpgnow servers are straining under the load at times. So, if you donate, please be patient downloading your stuff.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Where are the Vikings? and Samurai?

I play a lot of Commands & Colors: Ancients. It's very addicting: games are fast, and the gameplay is very tense as you decide what cards to play. However, the game needs to progress out of the classical era; C&CA Expansion 4 was about Imperial Rome, giving us a third Roman army. I personally think the two we already had (Grey and Red) were fine; a third one in Purple was completely unnecessary. But maybe GMT will at last get Rome out of their system.

I recently posted a poll on BoardGameGeek on what era people would like to see next in the CCA series (not that I have any control over what Richard Borg and GMT do). Some of the most popular periods in this poll were Vikings and Samurai. Now, how many grand-tactical games do you know of in these periods? For Vikings, almost none that I can think of. There are a couple of battles in the Ancient Battles Deluxe series from Victory Point games, e.g., Ashdown, and of course, there's the old SPI PRESTAGS game Viking, but that's about it. The same with Samurai. Besides the Great Battles of History games Samurai and Ran, there aren't very many battle level games available in this era either. There are a few magazine games covering Samurai battles that are long out of print, but again, there's a big shortage in what should be a popular period.

But, there's a new kid on the block: Kawanakajima 1561 from Hexasim games, the first game in their "Sengoku Jidai" series, covering the epic battle on the Kawanakajima plains between the Uesugi and Takeda clans. I've resisted buying game up to now because there was no US distributor and Hexasim wanted 24 Euros for it. Now, GMT has started importing it; they're selling it for $25 US. So, I immediately snatched up a copy.

The game looks really interesting. Counter density is small (each clan is only a couple of counters), and it looks like you could play the game in 2-3 hours. The rules are online at the Hexasim website. They actually attempt to implement the various exotic Samurai battle plans like "Birds in Flight", "Keyhole", "Arrowhead", etc. Basically, the general can invest some of his command points attempting to activate his battle plan. When activated, he gains additional capabilities for his army. The combat system is very odd: many games have CRTs with column shifts for benefits and penalties, but this game has both columns and lines each with their own modifiers and random rolls. Eventually, I may do a review of the game for BGG.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Panzer Grenadier Project

Panzer Grenadier is currently my favorite WWII game. As opposed to Squad Leader, the rules are only 16 pages in length and each counter is a platoon rather than a squad, which makes the game less fiddly. Still, I find the longer scenarios (24 turns or so) to drag on a bit. My wargame buddy Craig and I have been testing out the Laskas Rock-n-Roll variant, which speeds the game up a lot by reducing the number of rolls. So far, the thing I like best about this variant is that it halves the number of game turns and doubles unit movement, and does away with the intermediate "demoralized" unit state.

I think the game models leadership very well. A unit can't advance into "harm's way" without being activated by a leader, and in addition, each activation is limited to a single hex, or a leader and all adjacent hexes. If the adjacent hexes contain a subordinate leader, that leader and his adjacent units can also activate. So, you can do assaults, but you really have to set them up.

Anyway, there is a project underway called PG-HQ which attempts to enter into a database all the scenarios in all the modules: how many counters, how many turns, what units, what maps, etc. I volunteered to help out. I've been assigned the West Wall and Siegfried Line "print and play" modules. I've managed to finish 4 of the West Wall scenarios. We'll see how long it takes me to get the rest done.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Putting on my editing hat

A few years ago, I did some editing for the miniature wargaming system (Division Commander). I recently got asked to proofread the new edition of Arcane Warfare Excel, a set of big-battle ancient/medieval period rules from "Jerboa" in Portugal. I sent him one set of edits already, and he's just today sent a new version for me to check out. Seize the Red Pen.

My first experience with Jerboa's games was Ancient Battle Composer, a set of miniatures rules which I'd label "rationalized DBA"--that is, De Bellis Antiquitatis but with lots of examples of play and much easier to read rules. For those who don't follow miniature wargaming, the author Phil Barker is known for terse sentences that are often referred to as "Barkerese". I remember some tournament players decades ago who were literally arguing over the placement of a comma in his 7th Edition ancients warfare rules and how that affected the situation. Sigh.

Here's a quote from Jerboa's website. How's this for a quote from a casual wargamer:

"We seek for fast play,
We seek for historical verisimilitude,
We seek for technical perfection,
That's Arcane Warfare."