Saturday, December 27, 2008

New Games for Christmas 2008

Santa left me two games under the Christmas tree this year and I tore into them on Christmas morning.
 

Manoeuvre is a quick playing low counter density game using a variable map and cards. There are eight nationalities in the game: France, Britain, Russia, Spain, Austria, Turkey, Prussia, and the US. Each nationality has their own deck of 60 cards tailored to the characteristics of that nations fighting style and leadership in the time period (Napoleonic Era) the game is based on.

 

Brood War is an expansion to StarCraft: the Board Game. I got Star Craft last Christmas. Brood War adds new unit types for all six factions in the base game.  The Terrans get two new unit types, Medics and Valkyries. The other factions each get three new types; the Protoss have Dark Templars, Dark Archons, and Corsairs; the Zerg receive Lurkers, Devourers, and Infested Terrans. Each faction gets 17 or 19 new combat and technology cards to add to the base game. The new combat cards provide attack values for the new units, while the technology cards provide new techs for the new units. Some of the new abilities include "Collateral Damage", "Recharge, and "Mind Control".

 
Brood War comes with 4 sheets of new goodies; Six more "planets", Installations that are placed on planets like Bases but provide new abilities to the faction that can build them, three new module types, a new "Defend" order, new Building tokens, Hero tokens, and more.
 
What I really find interesting and can't wait to try out are the new Leadership Cards. At the start of the game and at the start of each turn that begins a new stage players will select from their hand of Leadership cards one of them to play for that stage. Since there are three stages, players will get a chance to play 3 Leadership cards during the game. Each faction's Leadership cards are specific to that race and some of them seem to be pretty powerful and cool. No longer is a special victory condition automatic during stage 3 of the game. A player will have to select the Special Victory Condition Leadership card at the beginning of the game otherwise the only way a player can win is by the Conquest point method. There are three stage I Leadership cards for each player, one of which is its special victory condition. In addition, each stage I Leadership card has a different starting force mix. I'm looking forward to trying this out.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

TOMB - A Description and Mini-Review

TOMB: Recruit a Party. Kill the Monsters. Take their stuff!

Dana bought me TOMB for my birthday so I could play it with the kids. It was a fun game but, I don't see how it is possible to finish it in an hour, which is the playing time printed on the box! Claire, Cody, and I played it on Sunday; I think it went at least 2 hrs before we quit to go get something to eat. I had not read the rules before we started to play so that added to the play time but I think it could have went 3+ hours before we would have completed the game.

The game box says to "Recruit a party. Kill the Monsters. Take their stuff." And that is basically what you do in the game trying to collect the most experience points (XP) from killing monsters and taking their treasure by game end. The game ends once all of the crypts on the game board have been explored and cleared out.

SET UP: To setup the game you pick which dungeon map, of two, you are going to play on then each player draws three cards from the Crypt deck. Starting with player one, determined by die roll, and going clockwise each player places one of his/her drawn Crypt cards in one of the cypts on the board and then draws another card from the Crypt deck. This continues until all the crypts on the map are fill. Each crypt on the map has a size rating, the number of Crypt cards it takes to fill it, ranging from 1 to 5. A Crypt card is either a Treasure, a Monster, or a Trap. As there are 200 cards in the Crypt deck, way more than you will use in a single game session, each game will have different traps, monsters, and treasures on the board. As you can see, each player, depending on their memory, will have a little idea of what is in the crypts but not the full picture.

Once the map is populated you set up the Inn board which consists of shuffling the four decks that your party may draw from when they are at the Inn. The four decks are ITEM, TACTICS, PRAYER, and the SPELL deck with 25 cards in each deck. The ITEM deck consists of, as you guessed, items that you assign to a specific member of your party. Most of the items will fall into the categories of weapon, bow, helm, armor, glove, or shield. There are a couple of items such as the torch and caltrops that don't fall into any category. The rules state that a character can have only one item of each type attached to it. So your brave fighter will not be lugging around 3 swords, two bows, and two suits of armor; no overloading your characters which appears to be standard in other dungeon crawling type games.

TACTICS are cards that grant special abilities to your party. Some of the cards are "use once then discard" and others can be used over and over by your party until lost (by the character that it is assigned to dying). The Tactics effects can affect all aspects fo a player turn, combat, recruitment of new characters, movement, etc.

PRAYER and SPELL cards can be used by Cleric and Wizard characters or characters that have a non-zero value for Holiness (PRAYER) or Magic (SPELL). Each player then picks a party counter to represent their band and places it in the Inn. Each Prayer and Spell card describes what effect it has on the game, when it can be used, and if it is a one and done type of card or if it can be used repeatedly by a character it is assigned to.

Ok so how do I recruit my party? There are 84 possible character chits that you are able to recruit but only a small subset of these will be used during a game. The character chits are placed in a bag for random drawing during the course of the game. When a player's party is at the Inn, one of their available actions for a turn is to recruit a new party member from the available characters at the Inn. Now the game is ready to begin, but before we begin let me tell you about the dice.

THE DICE
The game provides three colors of 10 sided dice, green, blue, and red of which the faces are either blank or are imprinted with a axe symbol. Rolling a blank face is a failure or miss and rolling an axe is a hit or success. The green die has an axe on 3 of the 10 faces, the blue die has 5 axes, and the red die has 7 axes. Obviously you want to be rolling the red dice as much as possible. All game elements where success is not automatic require rolling a die or dice of a certain color or colors to determine the outcome. The color and number of dice rolled is dependent on the character attempting the roll and his or her ability that you are rolling against. Character abilities can be modified by the items/treasures it is equipped with and by Prayer, Magic, and Tactics cards that have been played.

THE CHARACTERS
There are 4 base character types in Tomb, Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, and Wizard. There are also characters who are a combination of the base type, Cleric/Fighter, Fighter/Wizard, Fighter/Rogue, Cleric/Rogue, Cleric/Wizard, and Cleric/Fighter/Wizard. Each character is rated for 4 abilities, Attack, Skill, Magic, and Holiness. Fighters tend to have better Attack abilities, Rogues better Skill abilities, Wizards are highly rated for Magic, and Holiness is the high ability for Clerics. Each of these abilities are rated with a number and color of dice that a character will roll when using that ability, for example a fighter may have an Attack rating of 3 red dice while a wizard may only rate 1 blue die for Attack. All characters have a hit point (HP) rating; this is the number of wounds needed to kill the character. Finally, each character will also have a special power listed on its card. These powers can be extra movement points while in the tomb, bonus hit points, bonus dice, bonus card draws, etc, etc.

A GAME TURN
Once the Inn is setup, the second player starts off by deciding what they will do, ie first player to place an item in the Crypts during setup goes last. On their first turn, a player pulls 5 characters from the character bag and chooses 1 of them to join their party. The other four go to the Inn where they can be recruited in later turns. Once this first turn of recruiting has taken place by all players a regular turn is started. Each player may do the following on their turn in order:
1. At the beginning of a turn, take as many Free Actions as one likes. Free actions include redistributing cards attached to their characters, healing all characters in your party of all wounds if they begin the turn at the Inn, and using React(ion) Cards.
2. Perform One Standard Action. Standard Actions are Act, Draw, Heal, Move, Pickpocket, Play a Card, Recruit, Return to Inn, and Raid.

ACT - A player may use a Turn Action on a Character card (chit),  other Card, or a Space on the Board with an associated "Turn" Action. Character Cards, Cards or Spaces may have a special ability associated with them. If that ability is labelled with the word "Turn" then that means it takes the whole turn to use that ability thus you may use one "Turn" action per player turn.

DRAW - If a player starts their turn at the Inn they may draw a total of two cards from the four draw decks on the Inn board. Weapons and Item cards must be assigned (attached) to characters in your party when drawn. If a weapon or item can't be legally assigned to a party member then it is discarded. All other card types drawn go in to your hand, which has no hand size limit, until played at which point they will either be discarded once resolved(one time use cards) or attached to one of your party members (cards that can be used again and again until lost).

HEAL - Parties that are in the tomb area, ie not at the Inn, and have at least one Cleric in their party may perform a Heal Action to attempt to remove wounds from characters in their party. Roll dice of each color equal to the total of all Holiness of all characters in your party. Each success (axe) rolled allows the removal of one wound from a character. The player may spread the healing love around in his party as they wish.

MOVE - All parties start with a base movement point(MP) allowance of 10 MP. The base can be adjusted up or down by character special abilites, treasure, or other items in the game. Each MP allows a party to move one space horizontally or vertically on the tomb map; there is no diagonal movement allowed. In order to enter a crypt a party must stop on the tomb door square at the end of a turn. On the players next turn the party may then enter the crypt.

PICKPOCKET - A party must have a Rogue, and be in the tomb area. There is no pickpocketing allowed in the Inn. The player chooses one of the Rogues in his party and a target item or treasure from another player's party. The targetted item/treasure must be in another party in the tomb and be within the movement limit of the Rogues party in the tomb. The targetted party player then choses one of his characters in the party to attempt to "catch" the Rogue in the act. Both players then roll the number and color of dice from their Skill ability with the targetted player winning ties. If the Rogue wins, he steals the targetted item/treasure and must assign it to the Rogue. If this is not possible the item/treasure is discarded. If the targetted player wins then the character gets one free attack roll against the Rogue. The Rogue suffers any wounds from this attack and may be killed. If the Rogue survives he/she is returned to your party. 

PLAY A CARD - Some Prayer, Spell, and Tactics cards are marked as a Turn Action. These cards may be played in the Inn or Tomb (but not when resolving a Raid) and counts as the player's action for the whole turn. Some cards are marked as Battle Actions. These cards can only be played during combat and counts as the characters action for that combat turn. Cards marked at React Actions can be used in addition to any Standard Turn Action.

RECRUIT - While at the Inn, a party may spend its whole turn recruiting a new member to its party. A party is limited to a maximum size of 5 characters unless some special ability/item/treasure allows differently. New characters are recruited from the available characters in the Inn; if there are no characters in the Inn then you are out of luck. Newly recruited Clerics and Wizards allow drawing one card from the Prayer or Spell deck respectively. If a character has both Magic and Holiness then they allow drawing a card from each of the Prayer and Magic decks.

RETURN TO INN - If a party is in the tomb it may use its whole turn to return to the Inn. This can also be done during combat, as a character's battle action, if the battle is not going well for its party. Once at the Inn the player may choose to bank any attached treasure cards.

RAID - At the start of your turn, if your party is on a crypt door, it may enter the crypt to attempt to kill monsters and take their treasure. Crypt encounters are resolved in the following order, Traps, Monsters, and Treasures. Each crypt is labelled with either an L or an R at the entrance. When a player enters the crypt the player to the L(eft) or R(ight) of that player takes up all the tomb cards in the crypt and becomes the Crypt Master (CM) for this encounter. The CM decides the order of how Traps are resolved and once all traps are cleared the combat decisions for all the Monsters in the crypt. If all Traps and Monsters are defeated the Treasure is awarded to the raiding player. At this instant, the raiding player must either bank a treasure or attach it to one of his characters in the party. Only banked treasures and treasures attached to surviving party members at game end cound for XP at the end of the game. Once a treasure is banked it can't be stolen or attached to a party member. The downside is that some treasures have great special abilities but if banked can't be used. If you attach a treasure to a party member you can use the special abilities of the treasure but the treasure can be stolen (pickpocket) or lost if the character holding it dies. The CM then controls the resolution of the raid starting with any Traps.

TRAPS - When resolving Traps, the CM reveals how many characters can attempt to defeat the trap and what attribute is used, that's it. The raiding player doesn't know what the effect is for failing or what the target number (TN) is for success. The raiding player then rolls the number of dice allowed by his/her character abilities. The CM then determines of the trap is defeated or not. If the attempt failed the raiding party suffers the effects of failure listed on the card and if successful the CM reveals the effects of success. Whether the party fails or succeeds, the raiding player must decide if they will continue resolving any further encounters or retreat back to the crypt entrace space. If the party retreats the encounter is over, the CM replaces all cards back into the crypt space, and the next player takes their turn. If the raiding player continues and all traps have been resolved then the CM continues the encounter by revealing all Monsters in the crypt.

MONSTERS - All monsters in a crypt are revealed after any trap encounters have been resolved. A monster encounter is resolved started with the CM chosing a single monster to act. The raiding player then choses one of his party members to act and this continues until all monsters and party members have had a chance to act; this is one combat round. If there are any survivors on both sides a new combat round it started. Combat rounds continue until on side it defeated or the raiding party decides to retreat back to the Inn. The normal sequence of a combat round can be altered by character special abilities or played cards during the monster encounter. A monster may either perform a normal Attack or perform a Battle Action using Inn cards assigned to it or use its special ability. Characters may either Attack, perform a Battle Action, or Flee back to the Inn. If the raiding party manages to defeat all the monsters in the crypt they are finally awarded any Treasure cards that are in the crypt.

TREASURE - Treasure always has an experience point value (XP) and may have special abilities associated with it. All treasure awarded must either be banked for XP or assigned to a party member. Once the raiding player has decided what he/she will do with each piece of awarded treasure their turn is complete.

This completes the description of all things you can do in a turn. Now I will go over the combat system in a little more detail.

COMBAT
Each monster and character has an Attack rating on their respective card or chit. This rating lists the number and color of each die that a character or monster will roll in an attack. For example, Squire Orban, a fighter, has an Attack rating of 2 Blue dice while a monster, such as Skrit Yscar has an Attack rating of 2 Green, 1 Blue, and 1 Red die. In addition, each character or monster may have a special ability that aids it during combat. Skrit Yscar's special ablility allows it to attack each party member in a combat round. This a a pretty good ability as normally one may only attack one monster/character in a combat round. For each success (axe) rolled in an attack one wound is inflicted on the target monster or character. If the number of wounds equals or exceeds the monster's or character's hit points (HP) that monster or character is dead. Killed monsters are awarded as XP to the player; killed characters are placed in the dead pile and the player losses all items and treasure attached to the killed character. When a monster attacks, the attacked player gets to choose the target of the attack but when a player attacks a monster the player gets to pick the target of the attack. Presumably the player's party has more coordination in the defense and attack during a combat round.

Now after playing it only once, what do I think about it? Overall, I would give the game another shot. My kids enjoyed playing it so it will probably make it back to the family gaming table. 

LIKES
1. The great variety of characters, monsters, traps, and treasures.
2. What is novel in this game is that each player has a chance to play the Crypt Master(CM) in this game unlike in other games, such as Descent.

DISLIKES
1. The rulebook - there is already a long FAQ for this game. It appears the game had a poor quality control in the editing - The Map board and some cards use terms that were changed at the last minute in the rulebook, Bar and Blacksmith cards instead of Tactics and Items cards.
2. There can be some long down time for the other players while one player is resolving their turn.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday, Dec 14th 2008 - Kingsburg

This morning three of the kids and I played Kingsburg for the first time. I bought the game the day before on advice of Nevin and read the rules last night.

Cody - Red Lion
John - Black Hawk
Claire - Green Dragon
Christine - Yellow Stag

Description from Boardgamegeek:
In Kingsburg, players are Lords sent from the King to administer frontier territories.

The game takes place over five years, a total of 20 turns. In every year, there are 3 production seasons for collecting resources, building structures, and training troops. Every fourth turn is the winter, in which all the players must fight an invading army. Each player must face the invaders, so this is not a cooperative game.

The resources to build structures and train troops are collected by influencing the advisers in the King's Council. Players place their influence dice on members of the Council. The player with the lowest influence dice sum will be the first one to choose where to spend his/her influence; this acts as a way of balancing poor dice rolling. Even with a very unlucky roll, a clever player can still come out from the Council with a good number of resources and/or soldiers.

Each adviser on the King's Council will award different resources or allocate soldiers, victory points, and other advantages to the player who was able to influence him/her for the current turn.

At the end of five years, the player who best developed his assigned territory and most pleased the King through the Council is the winner.

Many alternate strategies are possible to win: will you go for the military way, disregarding economic and prestige buildings, or will you aim to complete the big Cathedral to please the King? Will you use the Merchant's Guild to gain more influence in the Council, or will you go for balanced development?


At the end of each year, during the Winter phase, a random invader will attack the kingdom. In the first 4 turns the invaders did not do any damage to any of the players. On the final game turn, a strength 8 Demon hoard attacked. Only Cody managed to defeat them (I rolled a '1' for King's Troops) with Claire tying them and Christine and I being defeated losing a Cathedral and Town Hall in the process. After the adjustments to the Victory points, Cody won by a large margin.

Cody - 40 points.
John - 26 points
Claire - 23 points
Christine - 20 points

The kids said they enjoyed the game so it will be played more at the Boone House.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday, Dec 13th - Senji and Citadels

The day started off with a trip to Madness Comics and Games down in Plano. They are having a buy 2 get one free sale so I met Mervyn Dejecacion and Nevin Ball down there. Since we always usually play each other we coordinated our purchases so as not to get duplicates. I bought Kingsburg, having never played it but Nevin said it is good, Mervyn got Android, and Nevin picked up Neuroshima Hex!. Merv and Nevin then followed me back to my house where we waited on Mark Simonitch to arrive to play a 4-player game of Senji.

Mervyn and I had played a three player game with Mick Mickelsen at BGG Con 2008 and decided it would play better with more people. BGG Con was our first time playing it so we played a couple things wrong but still were willing to give the game another go. After today I can say that it does definitely play better with more people. A random draw of the factions resulted in Mark being Purple, Nevin being Black, Mervyn Red and I Green.

The object of the game is to be designated the daimyo by the emperor at the end of the game. The daimyo is the person with the most honor at game end which ends once someone achieves or exceeds 60 honor points. Mark started off with an 8 honor Samurai so had first crack of hosting the emperor. In Senji, the player hosting the emperor decides the turn order of many phases so it is a powerful position and the rules even state "you must not let a player host the emperor several times in a row or he will soon be victorious. You have been warned!"

Mark soon added on to his lead and was able to host the emperor for 3 turns. I had tied him for honor at the end of turn 2 but the hosting family gets to decide the tie breaker. Around turn 3, one could see how the players were going to try to achieve their goals. Mark and Mervyn were heavy into collecting Hanafuda cards which are basically the resources in the game. Nevin was pursuing a balanced strategy of collecting resources and building up to attack, and I was going for a military strategy forgetting about collecting resources. In the first turn, I lost one of my initial provinces and being sandwiched between the other three players on the map I had to build up my forces, forced into forgoing collecting resources.

At the end of turn 3, I had claimed the right to host the emperor and I kept it until the end of the game. By this time I had honor somewhere in the forties with the other players in the twenties and lower. My fear was that Mark or Mervyn would make a big jump in the end with their Hanafuda card resource strategy if I couldn't end the game quickly by military victories. As the game went on my forces were slowly depleted and Mervyn moved up to a close second place with Mark and Nevin taking 3rd and 4th, 25-30+ honor points behind.

On the final turn, I was at 57 points but did not seen any good attacking prospects. Merv made a last ditch attack on Mark and closed in to around 53 points. During the Autumn phase Mark made his move turning in resources (Hanafuda cards)worth 26 points and some family members for another 6 or 7 points to jump to 69 honor points. Mervyn could only turn in a set worth 4 honor, ending up with 57 honor, and I could only muster up 4 honor with family members to end at 61 honor. I believe Nevin ended up somewhere in the forty range.

It was a great game and a nice come from behind win by Mark. I definitely want to play this one again.

As Nevin had only and hour left to kill, we played Citadels to end the evening. I completed my 8 buildings first and managed to score enough for the win with Mark a close second.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Saturday, Nov 29th: FAB Bulge

 

Claire and I went over to Nevin's house on the 29th of November. Claire played with Jessica while Nevin and I played the tournament scenario for Fast Action Battles: the Bulge. It wasn't very fast; it took us 7 hrs to play the 5 turns in the scenario. On the last turn I managed to put some of Nevin's German units out of supply to turn a German victory into a margin allied victory. The picture is of the end of the scenario with all the units turned up.
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Boardgamegeek Con 2008

Nov 20-23rd was the 4th year of Boardgamegeek Con. I've attended, since it is here in the DFW area, for all 4yrs and it keeps getting bigger and better every year. This year it seemed that the number of wargames played took a large leap from the previous years past, which is a good thing in my opinion.

I like to play the longer games at the con and try to make a geeklist after the con every year. Here is this years BGG Con 2008 geeklist and links to the past 3 years geeklists too, 2007 (Kuhrusty took up the mantle that year),2006, and 2005.

Mark Woodson, a local in our game group, created a geeklist this year too, BGG.CON@WAR geeklist.

The other two non-wargames I played at the con were Ghost Stories and Dominion. Both seemed to be popular games at the con. I liked Dominion but did not like Ghost Stories; it seemed boring to me.

I was so busy playing games that I didn't browse the vendor boths until Saturday afternoon. I bought, Senji, Formula D, Caledea, and a used copy of Mustangs in the Saturday morning flea market.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Galactic Emperor - Saturday 11/15/08

Played Galactic Emperor (GE) at Mark Bausman's house today with Mark Bausman, Mark Simonitch, Mark Woodson, and Robert(Bob) Woodson. Mark had hosted GE before but this was the first time I was able to make it to his house.

Galactic Emperor is a space exploration and conquest game from CrossCut Games and their first foray into boardgames. I give their first attempt two thumbs up.

On first playing, it reminds me of Twilight Imperium III (TI3) "light". This isn't a bad thing in my opinion as is seemed to play faster and I don't think the turtling that seemed to be more apt in TI3 is present. I have not played TI3 with the Shattered Empire expansion, but I heard it fixes some of the problems with turtling in TI3.

Being the newbie to the game I consistently came in last in the scoring rounds through most of the middle game so lucked out by not being a threat. In the turn before last I was able to score 3 points for destroying 3 Empire tokens and then scored 9 more VPs in the final turn scoring round to come in second, 1 point behind Bob's 39VPs.

Half way through the game, it appeared to me that having a good supply of Food producing planets is a good idea as Bob was never strapped for money. In the end this was the margin of victory as the player with the most money at the end of the game is awarded 2VPs.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

RISK again on Saturday - with Cody, Claire, and Catherine

The kids wanted to play Risk again today. Dad was almost knocked out early after my victory Friday but managed to stay in the game. We called it after Catherine knocked off Claire in her last redoubt in Australia. After taking Claire's cards Catherine was entitled to place 95 armies!

Early on in the game, Claire managed to take Australia, while Cody grabbed South America. Catherine was Queen of Asia for a turn and I took North America for a couple of turns. North and South America changed hands quite a few times before Catherine finally took control of Africa and South America at the end before knocking off Claire.

Friday, November 7, 2008

RISK - With Cody and Claire

Claire wanted to play Risk last night so we pulled out Cody's copy and had a 3-player slugfest. My Red Army came out victorious launching their attacks from South America and Australia.
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Thursday, October 30, 2008

No Gaming Just a Bit of Reading

Since our last outing with Descent at Mervyn's house when we finished clearing out the dungeon we started in my last post I haven't done any gaming, other than with the kids. I have been reading a bit of R.A. Salvatore's Forgotten Realms novels.
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Where We Left Off Last Time

Not knowing better we stopped playing in the middle of a dungeon level.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

New Podcast - The Noise Before Defeat.

There is a new wargaming podcast, The Noise Before Defeat. Wow that brings the boardwargaming podcasts that I know about up to 4.

New Campaign Started - Descent: the Road to Legend

This past Sunday, Nevin and Mervyn came over and we started a Descent campaign along with Cody my son. Mervyn will be the Overlord and he chose the Great Wyrm? as his Avatar. We saved the game at the second level of our first Dungeon. The first level leader just would not die; he respawned at least twice before we finally dispatched him.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

More Summer Reading

Nothing too heavy at the moment.
Sci-Fi:
I started 1634: The Galileo Affair by Eric Flint and Andrew Dennis. I'm about 1/3 of the way through with it but it has not grabbed me as much as his first two novels of the series. I may not finish it.

WWII Historical Fiction:
I picked up Jeff Shaara's The Steel Wave from Sams Club about a week ago. I have not read his first book in the series The Rising Tide . I seen it in paperback at Walmart the other night but did not buy it as I'm not sure if I like his style of writing yet. His father's Killer Angels was one of my favorites though.

History:
Cannae 216 BC by Mark Healy from the Praeger Illustrated Military History Series. Finished this one last week after buying it at Half-Price Books along with a few other titles.

Rome's Northern Frontier AD 70-235, Nic Fields, Osprey Fortress Series. Half way through this one.

Troy c. 1700-1250 BC, Nic Fields, Osprey Fortress Series. Not started yet.

These last two I just bought today from Half-Price Books.

Rome and Her Enemies: An Empire created and Destroyed by War, Jane Penrose editor, Osprey

Hannibal: Enemy of Rome, Leonard Cottrell. Just started this one tonight.
7/19/08: I finished this one last week. I found it fascinating that Hannibal spent some 15 years in Italy and all that time he fought only 3 major battles.

Seth Owen's Pawnderings Blog

I added a new link to Seth Owen's blog Pawnderings. He writes more about gaming than I probably ever would and I like reading his stuff. Go check it out.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Saturday, June 15, 2008: Successors III Playtest and a little bit of Fury of Dracula

Mark Simonitch has been putting the final touches on Successors III which is expected to come out this summer (July according to Mark, I think). I hosted the final playtest at my house on Saturday. To feed the brave army commanders, Nevin Ball, Mervyn Dejecacion, Mark Simonitch, and myself we had a Chick-fil-A chicken wrap platter, a chicken nugget platter, M&Ms, Chips, Pretzels, bottled water, sodas, tea, and beer.

We played the first two turns taking notes as this would be the example of play in the Successors III rulebook. Nevin provided some great combat examples illustrating how one's fortune can turn with the roll of a die and the play of an event card in two separate battles! Way to go Nevin!

We then played a few turns of Fury of Dracula. Since I and Mervyn had not played it in a while and Nevin and Mark had not played it at all we stumbled through the turns and decided to quit while we were ahead. I did manage, as Dracula, to move such that I had no legal move at one point! I thought we had broke the game, but later found out, after re-reading the rules, that there is a rule that covers that, the "cheating rule".

What is this cheating rule you ask? In the rulebook on page 13:

Crossing His Own Trail
In the unlikely event that
Dracula maneuvers himself into a position
where he has no legal move, he is punished as
though he were caught cheating (see
“Cheating,” on page 25) and then takes his
turn as normal (assuming he didn’t lose the
game).
And then the cheating rule itself on page 25:

Cheating
Hopefully, the Dracula player will never cheat
on purpose. But if he makes a move and later
finds out that he accidentally moved along a
rail route or made a similarly illegal move, it’s
important to undo the damage and get the
game underway again. However, Dracula also
needs to suffer a penalty to make up for the
Hunters’ lost time. We suggest the following
penalty for a Dracula player who catches himself
(or is caught) cheating. Although it may
seem severe, the hope is that the Dracula player
will quickly learn to be more careful in the
future.
• Dracula immediately clears his Trail down
to one card and reveals his current location.
• Additionally, Dracula loses Blood as
though he had just suffered a “Killed”
result in combat. However, if this would
reduce him to 0 Blood, it only reduces
him to 1 Blood instead.
I would still like to give this game another go in the future.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Antike

Back in April I briefly mentioned we had played a couple of games of Antike. And as always here is my late list of things we played wrong during the game.

It appears that we did not play the movement and combat portion of Antike correctly after reading the rules and looking at some conquest combat examples on BGG. Some of the things I caught:
1. There are two phases to a Maneuver on the Rondel, a Movement Action and a Conquest Action. Each one requires a movement "point" to conduct. During Movement Actions you can move units but then you may also battle enemy units (Legions and Galleys) in the region you just moved into. These movement/battles are not simultaneous so you could clear a region of enemy units first to allow further movement through that region with other units in the same Maneuver action. Secondly you may conduct a Conquest Action following the Movement Action. This is how you convert enemy cities. This is important as in the beginning, before anyone has purchased Wheel, Roads, Sailing, and Navigation, it would take you two Maneuvers to convert an enemy city; the first one to move into it and battle any enemy units and then the second maneuver to conquer the city itself provided you had any survivors and sufficient strength! This makes researching the bonus movement type Know-Hows very important!

2. When not trying to Conquer an enemy city (during the Conquest Action of the Maneuver), ie battles after Movement - Legions only eliminate Legions and Galleys only eliminate Galleys. This is another important subtle distinction especially for coastal cities. For example, if an enemy city is occupied by both Legions and Galleys (only possible in coastal regions) and you move a fleet of Galleys into the region the subsequent battle will only eliminate enemy Galleys and leave all Legions unaffected. Provided you had any Galleys remaining from the battle and suffcient strength you could then conquer the city during a later Maneuver or during this Maneuver provided you had movement points left over for your surviving Galleys. When doing a Conquest Action, the restriction of "Galleys eliminate Galleys" and "Legions eliminate Legions" doesn't apply.

3. I don't think we violated this one but it could have come up. Legions may not be built in regions that are completly bordered in blue, ie Islands. At first thought one may think I would never do that since they would not be able to leave the island (Galleys don't transport Legions in the game) but you may do it to add more defenders to an island especially if all your Galleys have been built and are on the map elsewhere.

That's about it but these little rules discoveries just made the Maneuver portion of the game a little bit more interesting.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Vikings and Germans and Brits, Oh my!

Nevin came over on Sunday, 5/18, and we played his copy of Fire and Axe: A Viking Saga. Something is just not right with a Viking game when the winner, Nevin, is the Viking player who does more settling and trading than raiding! And you call yourself a Viking!

Nevin came in first with 200+ something points; I squeaked by Cody for second place by 1 point with 184 points to his 183. Both Nevin and Cody did more of the trading/settling actions while I concentrated on trading and raiding. I really thought Cody was doing well as he was the king of completing Sagas. Mid-game it looked like he had 6-7 Sagas to my 2 and Nevin's 2-3. I successfully raided 9 of the 12? towns on the map including both Paris(8VP) and Constantinople(12VP) but Nevin cashed in on Rome for 20VP with a Rune card that doubled its VPs. As far as settling, my son, Cody concentrated on the North West part of the map while Nevin controlled the North East map section. I had a toe hold in South Britain but Nevin eventually stole two of my settlements in England through Rune card play. At game end, I had a mere 3 settlements. In the end, it just didn't seem like it was worth pursuing a raiding heavy strategy but I had fun. Aand it was in true Viking spirit!

As always, after a first playing I like to go through the rulebook and see what we played wrong. Unfortunately, the rulebook is not available for download so I had to settle for the various rules summaries available on Boardgamegeek. Some of the items I noticed are as follows:
1. When you return to the Wintering space, your ship can only keep 1 crewman. All other crewman and goods must be removed from the ship.
2. I'm thinking you may only play Runes during your turn.
3. Plus, Runes may not be played while your ship is in one of the home ports.
4. The Difficult Sailing penalties must be assessed at the end of each days movement, not at the end of the total move.
5. A player may not settle a port in a region until the town in that region has been successfully raided.


On Saturday, 5/17, Mervyn and I played "A Veritable Bloodbath" scenario from Combat Commander: Mediterranean. My Brits were on the attack against Mervyn's Germans (conscripts and Volksgrenadiers with wire and trenches defending a few buildings) It came down to whether or not Merv could make the the Sudden Death die roll, end the scenario and win by VPs. He had two chances (he had the initiative card) but missed both rolls and on my first card play of the next turn my British advanced into melee against a lone German squad and eliminated him for the Surrender win. The only thing that kept me in the game was the damage I was doing with my Heavy Machine Gun on my left flank. I believe it accounted for 5 of the 6 casualties I needed for the Surrender win.

We then played a quick game of Wings of War: Dawn of War. This is the WWII version, with a German and Italian plane (me) against Merv's Spitfire and Hurricane. The Spitfire, especially the naval version can put out some firepower. I decided I was going to keep my planes together and gang up on one of Merv's planes. Merv had the same idea but his formation split after the first pass so I was able to concentrate both planes firepower on one if his and shot it down with 22 damage points.

Unplayed Games - the Short List

Mervyn had posted on Consimworld the question of how many unplayed games do you have in your collection? Most of the responses were quite a lot some over 100 games. I looked at my games I have registered on Boardgamegeek and my list, not counting old Strategy & Tactics/Ares Magazine games was 30 games. After removing the ones I probably would never play I came up with the short list of ten games I may play separated by how long I've owned them.

Recent to 2yrs:
FAB:Bulge
Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal
Federation Commander: Romulan Border
Sword of Rome: 5th player expansion

2-8yrs:
Savannah(GMT)
Age of Napoleon(Phalanx)
Grant Takes Command(MMP)
Breakout Normandy(AH)
Monty's Gamble: Market Garden(MMP)

8+ yrs:
the Civil War(VG)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Happenings for the past 3 months

Not much gaming going on lately, other than some light games with the family. The last face to face wargame I played was a 3-player playtest of Successors III with Nevin Ball and Mark Simonitch back on March 15th. Mark said we would do it again once he has his new map and counters ready. Mark has been posting his map and counter work recently on consimword and it is looking very nice. Prior to that we did a 5-player game of Age of Empires III at Mark Bausman's house,on March 1st, but that is about it for face to face. Oh we did get in two back to back games of Antike back on February 17th. The first one was 5-player and the second 4-player. I enjoyed the game and ended up picking up a copy but haven't played it since.

I did finish off the last novel of the main series of David Weber's Honorverse, At All Costs about a month ago. I didn't know if I wanted to start reading his sub-series works but decided to pickup one of his newer novels, Off Armageddon Reef, the first book in his Safehold series. The next book in the series isn't due out till later this year; I'm looking forward to it.

I then read 1632 by Eric Flint and Von Neumann's War by John Ringo and Travis S. Taylor.

Since I didn't have a chance to get to the bookstore my wife brought me a couple of books from her workout place; I guess they have some sort of paperback loan library. I ended up reading one of them, Deep Fire Rising, by Jack Du Brul. I enjoyed it and may look for more of his books in the future but for now I just picked up 1633, the second book in Eric Flint's Ring of Fire series.

Bonaparte at Marengo: Ladder Round 9, 4/21/2008

In Round 9 of the BaM Ladder Nick Avtges accepted my bid for the French at Morale 16. I have played as the Austrians 5 times before on the Ladder but this would be only my third play as the French. The game ended at the end of the French turn 14 with the Austrians resigning after thinking there was not enough time left to either capture two victory locations or demoralize the French.

French At Start:
Ladder Game 9 had me with the French this time at 16 morale. The initial French deployment had two of the French cavalry camped out in the rear areas in locales 23 and 64. The third cavalry unit was in Marengo.



French 6 AM End:
The Austrians need to push hard from the very beginning in order to have a chance to win. Seeing that I had only 1 French cavalry unit up front I figured it would be best to try to delay the Austrian push so I could start moving my other cavalry units forward by attacking into locale 2 with my lone cavalry unit in Marengo.



French 8 AM Start - Pretty Horsies All In a Row:
I didn't delay them much and my straggler cavalry units are still sound asleep. Nick pushed forward with 5 calvary units all along the Fontanone. This was the first time I had seen this and the French were worried about a quick Austrian breakout.



French 9 AM - the Battle of Marengo:
The French pulled back from the Fontanone except in locale 9, while the straggling cavalry began to move forward. The Austrians advanced across the river with 4 of their cavalry units with two going into Marengo. I believe this was one of the most important turns as the French infantry unit cleared the Austrian cavalry from Marengo with an assault. The lone French infantry would hold Marengo for quite some time afterwards.



French Noon Start - Austrian Bulge:
The French cavalry have finally made it to the front lines, or is it that the front lines finally made it to the cavalry. It looks like the cowboys (French cav) are herding the cows (Austrians) down the middle. I like the fact the Austrians are pushing down the middle as it takes up a lot of command points but I don't like the fact that there are only single units forming the line for the French. The saving grace is that they are cavalry.
ps. The Austrian guns have not fired in the game yet.



French 1 PM End - Expanding the Bulge:
I finally had a couple of spare commands to pull the infantry back into reserve in locale 9. Hopefully they can catch up with their bretheren. French fall back slowly, what else can they do?



French 4 PM Start - The Final French Fade Begins:
Up to this point I was trying to hold as much as possible and the line had stabilized by 4 PM. At this time, with reinforcements coming in the next two hours, I think it is time for the French to head for the hills.



French 5 PM Start - Austrian Cavalry Machine:
Down south Nick has set up his Cavalry Steam Roller. In the remaining turns all I can do is block, fallback, and retreat with my cavalry unit down south. I looks like I'll be giving up a blue start location. Hopefully I can hold the other two. It has been quiet up on the North road so far but I can see an end around coming up if I don't get more troops up there. At this point I'm unsure about where I want to send my artillery unit so he camps out in locale 63.



French 6 PM End:
I decide to give up the south end of the map and send all my 3 strength infantry units up North to help cover the green and red stars.



French 7 PM End: - the Austrians Resign:
At this point, Nick resigns seeing that he doesn't have enough commands and time left.



Another enjoyable game for me. As always different from all the other games I've played. The 5 cavalry line was quite a surprise and shock and I look forward to using it myself in the future.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Shifting Sands - Sonnenblume Scenario

Greg Denysenko decided to resign after my first card play of turn 8 in our Shifting Sands, Sonnenblume Scenario cyberboard game. Rommel flank attacked (automatically successful do to the event card) a reduced Common Wealth division and battle group from El Agheila completely eliminating both units and then advanced into an empty Tobruk. Greg then resigned as he didn't think his hand would support gaining enough VPs by the turn end for an Allied victory. Never did I feel, as the Axis, that victory was a sure thing as I felt the Allies had plenty of units to cause grief for the Axis every where. I almost didn't open up the Middle East but was too tempted by the VPs available there and I thought that the Italians would not survive long in East Africa.
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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

More Reading

It was back in August of last year when I started reading the Honor Harrington series of novels by David Weber. Good books if you like military sci-fi. Right now I started reading War of Honor after starting back at the first of the series and reading On Basilisk Station, The Honor of the Queen, The Short Victorious War, Field of Dishonor, Flag in Exile, Honor Among Enemies, In Enemy Hands, Echoes of Honor, Ashes of Victory, and Worlds of Honor (three short stories based in the Honorverse).

Wow, I didn't realize how many I've read since August until I wrote them down.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

February 2, 2008: 4-player Starcraft: The Boardgame

This saturday, Mark Bausman hosted a 4-player game of StarCraft: The Boardgame from Fantasy Flight Games. A random draw allotted the factions and turn order thus.

Queen of Blades (Zerg) : Tarsonis : Mark Woodson
Arcturus Mengsk (Terran): Antiga Prime : John Boone
Jim Raynor (Terran) : Bhekor Ro : Mervyn Dejecacion
Tassadar (Protoss) : Dylar IV : Mark Bausman

Antiga Prime, Home world of the Terran Arcturus Mengsk Faction:
[Admiral, Naval Intelligence, (ANI)]"What will we do my Lord? The latest intel briefing confirm the Tassadar are on Dylar IV in strength."

Arcturus Mengsk sat in his personal booth at his favorite restaurant. He had finished his meal when the ANI joined him and had just finished reading the fortune in his cookie - You will obtain your goal if you maintain your course. How appropriate Arcturus Mengsk thought but then he realized these things were always written generic enough to apply to anyone and a brief smile crossed his lips at the Admiral's question.

[Arcturus Mengsk, (AM)] "What we have always done - survived. We will prepare our defenses and defend our home world as we always have. What is the latest intel on the Zerg on Tarsonis?"
[ANI] "My Lord, the latest intel confirms the Queen of Blades is expanding toward Helios. Raynor is also on Helios."

[AM] "Raynor! Has that been confirmed?"

[ANI] "Yes my Lord."

[AM] "Good. That may be to our advantage. Let them fight each other for a change. Does the Committee agree with my view of staying out of Helios?"

[ANI] "The Joint Chiefs do but the Production Ministry says we need to expand. If the Tassadar are on Dylar, and it seems that they are, we will need to expand our production for defense but we are limited by the cystal resources we currently have. Gas will not be a problem until we start ramping up production on our heavy units."

[AM] "I realize that but sticking our noses in Helios is asking for too much trouble. I don't want the Zerg and Raynor on our backs along with the Protoss. No, I want to stay out of Helios for now. Besides if Raynor and the Queen of Blades are both on Helios we should be able to go into Braken unopposed."

[ANI] "Yes my Lord, but Helios would definitely help out with our resource shortages and allow us access to Bhekar Ro, Pride Water, and eventually Abaddon."

[AM] "A true statement and the benefits are tempting but just don't outweigh the risks right now. Have patience Admiral. Once Raynor and the Queen have depleted each other's forces on Helios we can "liberate" the system. Besides Tassadar may clean up Helios for us and if he does Dylar IV may open up for our "liberation" forces. I've made my decision. I'll tell the Committee we stay out of Helios - For now. I'll inform the Production Ministry to start transitioning to a war status at the next Committee meeting. I want our Marine and Firebat forces as close to 100% operational as soon as possible."

[ANI] "As you wish my Lord."

Antiga Prime, Palace of the Capital, Committe Meeting Room (Mid-Game):
[AM] "Status of the Fleet deployments?"

[Admiral, Joint Chief of Fleets (JCF)] "My Lord, we have not opened any transport routes to Tarsonis, Helios, or Dylar IV and the enemy has not been detected in any of the routes between those planets and Antiga Prime or Braken for that matter. Fleet transports have been reinforcing Braken routinely and we have enough reserve capacity to bring back ground forces from Braken to the the Capital if the need arises."

[AM] "Secretary of Production, what about our manpower and equipment levels?"

[Secretary of Production, Production Ministry (SPM)] "My Lord, our factories are at 80% production levels but we are limited by our work force and crystal resources. Even so our isolationist policy has given us time to attain and maintain light ground forces readiness levels at 100%. Wraith levels are now at 66% readiness."

[AM] "And status of heavy ground forces?"

[SPM] "With our crystal shortage we are at our limit just keeping the light ground forces at 100%. As you know we still have only one Ghost Battalion. Work on converting the civilian factories to military use has been delayed and the starport is still only able to produce Wraiths. Landing on Dylar would help out a great.."

[AM] "That is enough Production Minister! We are not landing on Dylar! You will have to do the best you can with what we have on Braken and Antiga Prime!

[ANI] "But Lord Mengsk, the latest intel reports confirm the Protoss have only two battalions of Zealots on Dylar IV now. If you strike now the JCF assures us of a victory!"

[AM] "And did they forget about Helios? Didn't the JCF predict Raynor and the Zerg would annihilate each other on Helios 6 months ago? Tell me Admiral the latest intel on Helios?"

[ANI] "Regrettably my Lord the Queen of Blades and Raynor seem to be happy to share the planet. There were a few skirmishes at first but they are both in force on the planet now and seem happy to maintain the status quo. Raynor is also reported to have landed on Pridewater but the initial reports have not yet been confirmed. If he is there then Raynor's economy would be very strong."

[AM] "Isn't Tassadar on Pridewater?" What does this guy have on the Queen and Tassadar that they let him run wild all over this sector? The Zergs and the Protoss should be eating him for lunch!"

[JCF] "It seems he has been very good at the negotiating table my Lord. There have been a few battles between Raynor and the Zerg and Raynor and Protoss but not any full scale war. Regretable indeed my Lord."

At this time the Queen of Blades is leading Arcturus Mengsk by 1VP with Tassadar third and Raynor last. The Zerg have satisfied their special victory conditions as have Arcturus Mengsk. Raynor needs one more territory and the Tassadar are far from satisfying their special conditions.

Antiga Prime, Palace of the Capital, Committe Meeting Room (Near End-Game):
[ANI] "The Zerg and Protoss are fighting on Abaddon and there were reports of fighting on Pridewater but the current troop deployments are uncertain. Raynor has finally been confirmed to be on Dylar IV and I'm afraid that suggests they have some type of alliance. Additionally, space sensor command confirm enemy activity on the space routes from both Helios and Dylar IV"

[AM] "Very well. I hope someone here has good news."

[JCF] "If I may interrupt the ANI, I do have some good news my Lord. The final tests were completed last week and the Admiralty and I both concur that the space defense system is ready to be activated for full operational status."

[AM] "That is good news. I don't like the fact Raynor is still on Helios in force and now on Dylar with the Protoss. Something is cooking and I don't like the smell of it."

[SPM] "My Lord, the Wraith fleet is also at 100% operational status but one of your Wraith battalions is on Braken."

[AM] "JCF I want to be able to recall that Wraith battalion immediately if need be and I want to open up the transport routes to both Helios and Dylar IV just in case we see an opening for attack into those systems."

[JCF] "Yes my Lord."

The End Game
Both Jim Raynor and the Tassadar stacked orders (presumably mobilize) on Antiga Prime so I placed two mobilize and a research order on Antiga Prime waiting for the inevitable attack. Jim Raynor did attack Antiga Prime destroying a Marine and Firebat (with ground splash damage) but the Wraith survived. I had a mobilize order on Antiga Prime but decided to pass and draw an Event card trying to get to the Third Stage and was successful. Tassadar had a mobilize order on Antiga Prime but only two Zealots that could land on the planet so would be unable to defeat my Wraiths. Arcturus Mengsk won the game by completing his special victory conditions at the third stage. The Queen of Blades lost her third VP space during the fighting on Abaddon and Jim Raynor lost resources earlier on Pridewater.

This was the second time in a row Arcturus Mengsk won with its special victory conditions. If the other players are not careful I think this faction has the easiest chance of victory in a multi-player game. I had the rather boring, military wise, strategy of arquiring one more planet adjacent to my starting planet then building up on both of them and not going anywhere else. The last three turns my four orders were a build order and a mobilization order on both connected planets. That allowed me to build then counter attack if one of my planets was invaded.

Incidentally the fortune cookie was real. Mark Woodson was eating Chinese food when I arrived and he gave me his cookie. That was the fortune inside it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Saturday, Jan 19, 2008 - Battles of the Third Age, Rohan Battle

Before Meryvn came over for our Conquest of Paradise game Nevin and I played the Rohan Battle scenario from War of the Ring: Battles of the Third Age. Nevin took command of Saruman's forces and I took Rohan. The game went to position 12 or 13 of the Fate Track when Saruman cried uncle after his forces attempting to take Helm's Deep were decimated by the Ents storming out of Derndingle (Fangorn) and then regrouping in the Deeping Coomb forming a defensive barrier to future Shadow attacks. Before the Ent attack the Shadow forces were making good progress first eliminating Eomer and his forces on their way to Helm's Deep and overrunning the forces in the Fords of Isen and the East Fords. Theoden appeared in Edoras and Aragorn in the East Entwade both prepared to march to relieve the siege of Helm's Deep before the Ents appeared.

Posts on Boardgamegeek say that the Rohan player has little chance if the Saruman player chooses the third position exclusively, The Pits, on Shadow Box after the first few turns. I'd like to play this one again to test this out.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Saturday, Jan 19, 2008 - Conquest of Paradise

We were supposed to go out of town this weekend but our plans changed Friday. I gave Nevin and Mervyn a last minute invite for some gaming on Saturday and they both accepted. We decided to play Nevin's recent game acquisition, Conquest of Paradise (GMT Games.

Conquest of Paradise (CoP) is a game of Polynesian empire building around 500 AD in the central Pacific Ocean for 2-4 players. Each player represents one of four starting Home Island Groups, the Tonga, Samoa, Hiva, and Raiatea and attempt to expand their empires by exploration, colonization of island groups, and cultural advancements represented by the purchase of the Arts and Culture cards.

How to Win
Victory is measured by the accumulation of victory points by controlling Villages, Island Groups, and Cultural advancements at the end of each game turn which represent a span about 5 years. The game ends once a player or players meet or exceed the victory point goal for the game. In a three player game the victory point goal is 25 victory points.

The Map and Player Home Islands
In our game, Mervyn controlled Hiva, Nevin controlled Tonga, and I ruled Samoa. The map is divided up in hexes that represent ~600 nautical miles of the Pacific Ocean with some already known island groups printed on the map and the remaining hexes where explorations are possible marked with a light blue squares. The map location of the starting home island for each player marked on the map. Samoa and Tonga start adjacent to each other with Hiva 5 hexes (3000 nm) East. In addition to the players starting home islands, the map is printed with known pre-existing Independent Polynesian empires. These island group empires may be conquered by the players. All of these known independent island groups are West of the players; the closest one being Fiji which is adjacent to both Samoa and Tonga.

The Turn Sequence
A turn in CoP represents the passage of 5 years and consists of the following steps.
1. Turn Order Step
During the Turn Order Step the player with the lowest Victory Point score becomes the first player. The rest of the turn's steps are then resolved starting with the first player and rotating clockwise. [OOPs] Looks like we did this wrong. The player with the lowest VP score gets to do the following: (1) Chose who will be the first player this turn and (2) what direction the turn order rotates, clockwise or counter-clockwise. [/OOPs]

2. Exploration Step
During the exploration step, in turn order, and if the player's Explorer canoe was not lost last turn, a player can explore the ocean to discover new islands to colonize using their Explorer canoe. The explorer canoe can pre-move to any one of the player's controlled island groups. From that island group the explorer may move into an unknown hex, draw a Discovery marker randomly and place it in the hex with the Knot side up. If the tile drawn is an Off Course marker then the player to your left picks an adjacent, unknown hex, where the actual exploration takes place. The player then draws a new Discovery marker. If the cumulative knot total is 1-4 then the player may move into another unexplored hex. If the total is 5 then the exploration is over and the players Explorer canoe is placed in front of the player off map. If the total is 6 or more then the exploration is over, and the Explorer canoe is placed in the Lost Box. Lost explorer canoes are not recovered until the end of the next Exploration Step so you effectively will not be able to do exploration the turn after you are lost. After the player has finished exploring the tiles are flipped to reveal what they were, Open Ocean or an Island. [OOPs] We did this wrong too. If the player drew an island Discovery marker they immediately draw from the Island Group pool, look at the island and decide if they will place it face up or face down, then place the Discovery marker, knot side up, on top of the island tile. [TIP] There is a bit of strategy here deciding whether or not to reveal an island group immediately after discovery or to keep it hidden. If it is left on its hidden side, where it is still Unknow to players who don't have their Discovery Marker on it, a player can't not move his Transport or War Canoes on to or through that hex so it is effectively a barrier to their movement.[/TIP]If an Off Course marker was picked, after the new hex is determined the Off Course marker is removed from play to allow the player to try to explore that hex again if they wish.[/OOPs]

3. Movement and Battle Step
In turn order, each player may move their units on the map. There are two types of movement in this step, Transits and Movement. A Transit is a pre-move of units within the sphere of a player's empire connected by Transport Canoes. What are Transport Canoes you ask? Regular canoes can be used in two modes. If used as part of the Transport Canoe Chain is it turned face up in the island group hex it occupies. In this mode it represents the transportation infrastructure of your empire. All of your island groups connected within the Transport Canoe Chain can be moved to during the Transit pre-move portion of the Movement & Battle Step. Canoes part of the Transport Canoe Chain can not themselves move in the Movement & Battle Step. Any of your unit types, Colonies, Warrrior Bands, Transport Canoes (not part of the Transport Canoe chain), War Canoes, and Rumors can be moved using Transit. [OOPs] I don't know if Mervyn or Nevin did this wrong but I did. I thought I needed Transport/War canoes to move my Colony and War Band units during the Transit move.[/OOPs] After the Transit pre-move regular Movement takes place. Regular Movement is used to move units beyond the boundaries of your empire. In Movement only Transport canoes, War Canoes, and Rumors can move by themselves; Colonies and Warrior Bands are required to be carried by a canoe. A canoe can transport one unit. A Transport canoe can carry a single Colony or War Band while a War Canoe can carry a single War Band.

Ok now to the important part for us wargamers, how do you attack? Transport canoes, with or without a War Band can not enter another players Island Group hex or a hex containing another players War Canoe; they must be escorted by at least one War Canoe to enter. So after all your Movement is complete and you have at least one War Canoe in a hex with another players units or Island Group hex a battle takes place. Yes! Battles are really simple although we managed to do the first one incorrectly. 8^) Basically the attacker rolls a D6 and looks up the result on a table. The result is either an Attacker retreat or eliminated or a Defender retreat or eliminated. The attacker keeps rolling until one side has no more front line units; that side loses and the other side wins the battle. If the attacker loses he retreats from the hex otherwise the defender retreats his forces from the hex and the attacker remains in the island group. In addition the attacker has an option of either eliminating all the defender's villages from the island group or eliminating all but one village by eliminating one of his surviving front line fighting units. This village then becomes his and the island group is then controlled by him.

4. Building Step
During the Building Step, all players simultaneously purchase new units, using the Build Points (BPs) they have for the turn, and place them on their island groups that paid for them. They may also purchace one Arts and Culture card (two BPs) which may grant them additional VPs, when revealed, a special benefit either one time or for the whole game, or both.[OOPs]We were reading the text to determine if the benefit was one time or lasting but we should have been looking at the color of the VP bonus text. If it is blue it is a one time bonus and if it is red it is an effect that lasts for the remainder of the game.[/OOPs] Each island group you own generates one BP for each village on that island group. If an island group is connected to another island group(s), via your Transport Canoe chain, the player can pool the build points from the islands to build units on one island group or more connected island groups. Oh there is one important fact I have yet to mention; there is a Fog of War element in the game in that all player's units are placed on the map with their back side facing up so the other players don't know what they are until revealed.

5. Victory Step
At the end of the turn, each player adjusts their victory point marker to indicate the victory points they currently have; note that VPs are not cummulative. Victory points are gained for controlled island groups, villages, atolls in your transport canoe chain, and revealed Arts and Culture cards that award VPs. If one or more persons has reached the VP goal for the game the game ends if not a new turn is started at step 1.

Our Game
Since Nevin and I were practically on top of each other at start I decided to build War Bands in my home island when ever possible to dissuade Nevin from attacking and I imagine Nevin's large stack was composed similarly. Nevin was the first to go on the war path attacking Mervyn with two War Canoes carrying a War Band apiece. Mervyn repelled the Nevin's invaders with no losses to either side and a few turns of peaceful expansion followed. [OOPs] It seems we interpreted the combat explanation incorrectly as Nevin had only two units in his front line instead of four.[/OOPs] Each of us started off exploring towards each player's side of the board so as not to intrude into enemy territory early on and both Nevin and I avoided going East towards the independent island groups. Toward middle game Mervyn's luck with the exploration tile draw gave him a slight lead in VPs with me in second and Nevin third. To prevent us from gaining more VPs Nevin played Severe Deforestation on us removing the village counter on the brown box of both Mervyn and my home island group. [OOPs] Severe Deforestation doesn't also remove the Improved Agriculture marker. In fact, no event can remove Improved Agriculture from a space once it has been purchased. [/OOPs]

As mentioned earlier, Mervyn was very lucky during his exploration and by game end he had constructed a contiguous island group of ~11 islands (no atolls) and Nevin added another 2 islands to that group in his exploration! While the game progressed Nevin remarked that the Hiva lived on Pangea. And so came to be the founding of the great Pangean Empire.

Nevin's exploration eventually forced him to explore towards Mervyn's Hiva Pangean Empire leading to two or three more battles between them. Fortunately for me I managed to stayed away from Pangea for most of the game and decided to expand Westward, late in the game when I could go no where else, into the Independent Island Groups first conquering Kiribati and then Pohnpei via Nauru (last turn of game). Mervyn looked like he may expansionist ideas toward my Samoan Empire so I stuck a War Canoe in the closest approach between him and I as a sort of destroyer picket while I headed East [TIP]This is another tactic to be aware of since War Canoes must stop when entering a hex with enemy War Canoes you can place them in enemy avenues of approach to your empire to give you at least an extra turn to prepare for the attack.[/TIP]. I had kept the majority of my Arts and Culture cards unrevealed so I figured I could end and win the game when I conquered Pohnpei but after the tally Mervyn's Hiva Pangean Empire claimed victory by 1 VP at 29VPs. Incidentally even if we had tied Mervyn would have still won the tie breaker by the large overwhelming number of island groups he controlled.

A lot of comments, on Boardgamegeek, have been made about the component quality of the game but as a wargamer the game is of typical good GMT wargame quality. I enjoyed the game and would like to play it again.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Combat Commander: Battle Pack 1, Paratrooper, Sunday 1/6/2008

My son and I tried out one of the scenarios from Battle Pack 1: Paratroopers the first scenario pack for Combat Commander: Europe. By the title of the scenario pack you can correctly assume all scenarios have paratroopers on at least one side and some have them on both sides. The pack includes two new double sided maps and 11 new scenarios.

I forget which scenario number it was but its title was "We Go!". It pitted the American 102nd airborne vs the Germans at St. Mere Eglise, France, 6 June 1944. The German forces set up first protecting three victory point objectives on the map. Two objectives were fairly close together, a single-hex (3VPs) and a double-hex building (4VPs) in the middle of the map and then a forest hex (5VPs) that sat along side a road intersection leading into the town. Once the Germans were set up the Americans parachute onto random hexes on the map. If they landed on, adjacent, or within line of sight of any Germans they landed on their broken side. Since the scenarios starts at night both sides were limited to two orders per turn. On time 3 the Americans get to increase their orders/turn to 3. On time 2 the Germans get reinforcements consisting of one squad, a leader, and a light machine gun (LMG). Additionally, at the beginning of the scenario, time 0, the Germans can not move until time 1.

Cody's airborne troops landed all over the map with three squads and a leader landing broken but were rallied on his first turn.

What's all this time 0, time 1, etc stuff? Combat Commander(CC) keeps track of time in a different manner than other tactical wargames or most wargames in general. Usually time is divided up into discrete turns such that one turn representing a discrete interval of time passing in the game world. A turn can be either one side completing its actions or both sides completing their actions according to the sequence of play. In CC the amount of time that has passed between activities (orders/actions) is variable and is controlled by the "Fate" card decks of both players. If a player draws all the cards in his Fate Deck a Time Event occurs. One of the things that happens is the time marker is advanced one space on the Time Track, ie from time 0 to time 1. There are also Time Events associated with some of the Fate Cards. If one of those Fate Cards is drawn while resolving a die roll a Time Event occurs. Each scenario will list when the scenario may end, when and if reinforcements come into play, etc according to the Time Track, ie the Allies get reinforcements on time 3.

Back to the action.
Cody had the first turn and a Recover Order in his hand so all his elite units that landed adjacent to the Germans rallied easily and all were flipped back over to their good order side. Rats! no easy pickings for me on my first turn. In CC units must be effectively broken twice before they are eliminated under normal fire attacks so it requires at least two Fire Orders to eliminate a unit. Cody's best leader Lt Wray was activated for movement and headed in the general direction of building 2J8, map 2 hex J8, in the area where most of his squads had dropped. Cody's other leader was all by himself in the fields of 2B10; he would not activate him for movement until a few turns later. In my first turn the squad/LMG and leader in building 2D3 fired on the squad in 2E4 for no effect. The Time Marker stayed on time 0 for quite a few turns so all the Germans could do was conduct Fire Orders on the Americans, when it was possible, while Cody slowly organized his dispersed squads around Lt Wray.

Once Lt Wray organized his forces the Americans became unstoppable. The US units have great morale even when broken. I ambushed one of Cody's squads and he still managed to kill my guys in Melee. I had one squad left when the Germans finally lost do to reaching their surrender level. The Germans managed to kill three US squads but two of them came back on the board do to the "Walking Wounded" event coming up twice for Cody. The US forces managed to take all of the VP spaces and the lone German took back the Woods VP space before they surrendered.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Six-Player Starcraft, Saturday 1, 2008

We had six people show up for Starcraft: the Board Game on Saturday. A random draw assigned the factions.
1. Queen of Blades (Zerg) - Troy Adlington
2. The Overmind (Zerg) - John Boone
3. Tassadar (Protoss) - Mark Bausman
4. Aldaris (Protoss) - Mervyn Dejecacion
5. Jim Raynor (Terran) - Mark Simonitch
6. Arcturus Mengsk (Terran) - Nevin Ball

Once the Third Stage deck showed up Nevin had satisfied his faction's special victory condition, controlled every area on two planets, for the win.