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.