Tuesday, January 27, 2015

John Tiller's Panzer Battles Kursk Southern Flank

If you haven't read the designer notes on this game there is some fascinating detail on what the Tiller crew puts into a wargame. The documents can be found on the actual site here:


Below is a sample of some of the things (especially for those of you claiming its a rehashed Panzer Campaigns).

"The second area worked on was the unit art. There are more community mods for unit art than anything else. Many of these use line drawings taken from published works that cannot be included officially in a commercial release due to copyright issues.

After working through a range of iterations, Joe sent some colorized black and white photos of soldiers. Once we saw the end result we could never go back. It quickly became apparent that with the right photo, coloured and cropped, high quality artwork was only a step away."

"All in all we have included 60 scenarios in Battles of Kursk - The Southern Flank. Of the 60 scenarios, 48 are unique with a further 12 AI ‘variants’ specifically tailored for play against the computer. The game has scenarios for every day starting with the preliminary attacks on July 4th right through to the final battle at Prokhorovka on July 12th. In addition, there are a huge number of scenarios that could be created from the included maps and OB and the design team may look to provide more scenarios in the future if there is enough community interest."

Monday, January 26, 2015

5 player Warfighter

This weekend I took part in a 5 player game of Warfighter. Warfighter is a card game for 1 to 6 players. Command the world's best Special Forces operators and complete vital assault missions around the world and work together to take on a common task. 

The 5 of us gathered Saturday morning and picked a mission (going deep) and had 113 resource points to spend on a 5 man squad. I took a 9 point trooper and then kitted him out as a sniper. I had the marksman skill and a sniper rifle and a couple of grenades as well as a suppressor. 

Also in our team was a short ranged expert, a grenade launcher and two men skilled in movement and medium to short range. 

I had never won a game of Warfighter. The game can get a bit unwieldy when playing solo due to all the record keeping if you take full blown soldiers so usually I only play with 2 troopers. As this game progressed however we found out just how important team work is in this game. 

There was a question as we played as to how many "Combined Fire" cards we could stack but the rulebook states there is no limit to the action cards you can play and Combined Fire lasts the entire turn. We took good use of this as we went on. 

The first location we entered was pretty clear, but that third one spawned so many hostiles I thought for sure we were doomed. The objective we had, clear the enemy HQ, had us going NINE locations deep on this mission. Luckily I bought a GPS and that added two turns to our amount of time and also one other player later played the shortcut card. Although we suffered few wounds and none of us really go into danger we finished the game with 3 turns to spare. 3 turns we would NOT have had if not for the gear and the shortcut. This game is rough no doubt about it. 

5 hours later we had shot, stabbed and sniped our way to the enemy HQ and we had made it just barely. We had an angry mob behind us and several hostiles in front of us. With the user of sniper support, mortar calls and grenade launchers we cleared over 11 hostiles off the last location and won the game with just enough time to spare. 

We had some squabbles as some special forces teams might. For example at one stage in the game we had to make the choice to retain sniper support with our XP or take a supply drop. As we got further into the mission we were really low on ammo and we needed a supply drop badly. I think that paid off as the grenades we got in that drop allowed us to use the grenade launcher later. 

The game has the ability to really paint a great story as well. For example:
  • I was able to let my teammates take out any screening terrorists which then allowed me to snipe the leaders that would be spawned. One shot, one kill. 
  • One time a suicide bomber reached our location but our teammate pulled out his knife and silently took him down before he could detonate his explosives.
  • Several times our short ranged weapon expert would use snapshot and get free short ranged attacks. He would then bust down door and go into buildings clearing out entire locations for us before we moved in.
  • Working as a team we had to trade ammo, gear, decide which targets to take and how to move forward. In short the game really FELT like a squad of special forces troopers deep in enemy territory with a mission to do. 

The game took us most of the day but was well worth it. There was never a time when we had boring downtime or were able to let down our guard. We had to constantly be thinking and narrowly avoided some disastrous moments. Also stealth attacks were huge in this game as they allowed me to snipe and ignore cover on that first attack. Our short ranged expert also had stealth on his gun and this allowed him to take out RPG teams that may have hurt us bad. 

It was a great time and a great game. I have not played a wargame recently that promoted such teamwork. I am glad I Kickstarted that second wave too. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

GMT's the Dark Valley

What started as an innocent get together to look at the Dark Valley game turned into a "lets sort the counters and play the 1941 scenario" and before we knew it we were sorting, organizing and getting the sides set up for a massive campaign. 

I will be playing the Germans and my gaming opponent will be of course the Russians. We are setting up per the 1941 rules but I have a feeling this will escalate fast and see us playing out the entire war. Luckily his basement allows us to keep it setup over a long amount of time.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Battle of Tewkesbury Blood and Roses

Tuesday on my birthday I played some Blood and Roses. We got a couple of rules wrong namely the "add +1 to the die roll on next activation roll" but man this game was a slog fest. I deployed my artillery BEFORE the hedgerow and from the way I read the rules once deployed artillery does not move again (due to the static nature of the guns in the time period). We caught the +1 die roll mistake about half way in. The manor in particular was the site of many a brutal clash of armor. It changed hands at least 3 times.

So really all my shots were terrible. With the +1 modifier for shooting through the hedgerow I missed...a lot. Also as my luck would have it two of my batteries blew up and self destructed when I rolled 0's. I like that there is now a very SPQR'ish weapons matrix in the game as well now it really adds extra flavor. Great game if not a little slow at times. 

My opponent was slow to come at me and forced me to do all the work since I played the side with the time limit. I noticed that there was a distinct lack of eliminations in this game. It is certainly hard to cause casualties as even leaders come back at a reduced value. By the end of the game my forces were pretty well decimated but so were his. I finally started learning the game near the end and was inflicting a good amount of damage on his straggled flanks when he left people exposed. As the game went on however his long bowmen and their aim improved and mine got worse...stunting and charges I had. 

We had to call it a draw but the point total (or FLIGHT POINTS) were pretty close. It was a see saw affair back and forth and involving many flanking attempts around that damn hedgerow in the middle of the board. 

Probably not the most exciting scenario to pick for a first time play through. I managed to kill a couple of his leaders and pushed through toward the back of his lines but my failure to seize initiative and continue the momentum cost me in the end and I had to protect my flanks and fall back...right to the hedgerow. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What does board wargaming do a PC wargame cannot?

That is a good question. People often ask me why I bother playing these huge board wargames when I can just play almost the same thing with a Matrix Games PC title or a John Tiller game

There are a few differences however. Also a few reasons why my library blew up to triple its size over the past few weeks.

Wargaming on a board forces me to concentrate and to learn the mechanics of a game instead of just skimming a manual and letting the PC do all the work. My major gripe, no matter how great War in the East or the Panzer Campaigns are, is that I really do not KNOW what is happening beneath the engine nor do I care. I simply learn some basic rules then click and move. 

In some post analyzation after my 5 hour session with War in the East I actually felt less knowledgeable after I was done than before I started it. I was simply clicking and pointing units around the screen after a while not even paying attention to supply or reinforcements. This made the game quite tedious. Do not get me wrong it is an excellent simulation of the Eastern Front, the finest in the PC world no doubt, yet afterwards I still found myself seeking a board game on the same topic and as deep.

The other aspect is the sheer tactile feel of the counters, moving things, handling the book and reading to learn the game and know its mechanics. Sure the board games can be complicated but in the end you feel better knowing you have learned the system and can now dig in and recreate history. I cannot remember the last time I actually read and entire PDF of a PC wargame manual other than Europa Universalis or maybe Conquest of the Aegean. Others may feel the opposite. 

Some people don't want to deal with reading all the superfluous garbage they want to get right in and have the AI handle the math. While I do like that aspect I want to know what is happening and WHY. Ageod PC games are notorious for really not telling the player behind the keyboard what the hell is going on. You just accept the combat results screen and move on to the next combat pop up. Personally I hate that. It leads to the inability to analyze the battle and see what went wrong other than hovering a mouse over a bunch of symbols. I may see that some of my people ran during a fight but WHY? What factors went into deciding that? I have never been sure to be honest. 

One aspect of course that board wargaming gives us is the social one. Social for truly grognardy nerd of course usually equates to a basement and one other person but believe it or not we DO meet and make friends through the hobby. I myself have made at least 3-4 friends through the process of finding opponents. This in turn leads to stimulating conversation and the fact that you may learn something.

Speaking of learning something this is one thing that PC wargaming and board wargaming do share in common. I do think that board wargaming does it better however. The numerous playbooks and history asides included in your average boxed wargame far outweigh what comes in a PDF download of even the bulkiest PC wargame. There are some exceptions yes but for the most part the PC crowd is left to look up the battle details themselves.

Then we get to the expansions aspect. Lately PC wargaming expansions have been better and plentiful. So too have board wargames as they have been since the dawn of the hobby. Are all of them as inexpensive as a PC wargame expansion? No certainly not. While some PC wargames enter low price ranges we generally pay exorbitant amounts for board wargames and their expansions which can turn some off of that genre of the hobby. For the most part however the board game expansions that we do pay for are hefty and full of material. A typical PC expansion may sometimes feel tacked on and effortless...a few battles for quick consumption with very little thought put into them.

The next aspect I like about board wargaming is watching the battle unfold over a period of days (playing solitaire and taking my time) without having to scroll a screen or zoom out to impossible angles. Even if you crank out a quick two player game with someone it still shows better than a play by email or LAN game you may play. Unless you take a lot of screenshots you just will not get the flavor of the battle.

That leads me to the next aspect. That is convenience. Board wargaming loses the edge here as it is very difficult to break into a local group or find that one person that can play or will play your taste in warfronts or military time periods. Plus of course PC gaming has the extra added "modern" dimension of play by email and VASSAL play among other methods. If you play solo you need room and a lot of it. This can lead to other complications arising from pets, spouses, kids and in general clutter.

When you can sit down and study or learn the aspects of a battle or WHY history turned out the way it did that makes board wargaming very superior to our PC counterpart titles. However PC titles have really improved and I think that last year was a banner year for PC wargames. The games themselves are looking better and getting smarter harnessing the full power of 3D graphics and processing capability. While I do not want to ever write off PC wargaming it is becoming less and less my go to format. I still keep games going but I always look longingly to my shelf for the next board wargame I want to play with someone or setup solo. At that point the only exercise in frustration comes in learning the rules and which companies you prefer for board gaming fun. That is another post entirely. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

First post of 2015

Nothing monumental just a recap of the past week or so. This weekend I managed to play Fading Glory which is the GMT collection of Napoleonic 20 games. We played the Waterloo 20 series twice, and each time I failed terribly. My morale really sank fast in game and twice I was at zero via doing some risky things with the French before I knew it.

Battles around Ligny cost me the game in most respects and I still need to learn Cavalry properly in the system. I seem to have issues with keeping the Prussians at bay in that scenario. 

After the Waterloo 20 we re-learned Combat Commander where I did horribly once more. We played Fat Lipki the first scenario and man Combat Commander seemed to take FOREVER. The first scenario is so boring. 

Snipers changed the game as my right side Coporal (Winkler) cowered under sniper fire and never recovered. That coupled with poor card draw meant I never was able to rally him. 

I also have ordered Hoplite. The new Hoplite changes in Great Battles of History and the chit draw give me hope that I can solo this game and learn the rules at last. We will see.For my birthday I got an early gift: Hells Gate by Victory Poin games. 

At the same time I am prepping Blood and Roses for Tuesday

Pics follow.