Friday, 22 September 2017

Off the Painting Table (Sept 2017)


I have not done any painting since June! Last weekend I visited the Colours show in Newbury and bought a few figures to augment some of my armies. From Pendraken I pre-ordered some 10mm figures, mainly infantry, to add to my existing WW2 desert forces, which were particularly low on foot sloggers.


There is nothing special about these figures; they paint up very quickly and look fine on the table. I did buy 3 Matilda tanks and tried my hand at the early camo pattern. They look OK but I’m not convinced that I have achieved the look I was hoping for.


Anyway, my British and German forces are now pretty much complete. I may add more Italian tanks at a future date. As an aside, I did buy a copy of Sam Mustafa’s new ‘Rommel’ rules. I did not intend to but I stayed at the show too long and gave in. I find I know when I have been at a show long enough when I make a purchase that I did not intend. When this happens I know it is time to leave.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Boardgaming in Toulouse


Elaine and I had a short, 8 day break based in Toulouse and stayed in a studio apartment near the

city centre. We have visited this area of France many times, exploring Cathar castles etc., but we had never spent time in Toulouse itself, just flying in and out of the airport. This time we did not hire a car, but instead opted to use the excellent public transport network. We naturally took with us a few games to play in the evenings. On our first day we explored the city and tried to get our

 bearings. Down near La Garonne we spotted a shop, ‘Sabretache’, selling wargame figures and various boardgames, so we went in for a look around. The wargame figures were nearly all 54mm and beautifully painted. We ended up talking boardgames with the owner in a mix of English and French (Elaine has very good French, I have none). Elaine asked if there was a boardgame cafe in Toulouse and it turned out there was one just around the corner.








That evening we visited the cafe, ‘Les Tricheurs’ (www.lestricheurs.com). The cafe had a reasonable selection of games (all with French rules) and we pondered what to play. It was still early so we chatted with the owner and she recommended the game ‘Lost Cities’ (or ‘Les Cites Perdues’). This is a 2-player game with simple rules, where players play cards in ascending order against 5 potential expeditions. You score the face values of the cards minus 20 for each expedition you undertake. In addition there are bonus cards (x2, x3, x4) for each expedition, which must be the first cards played against that expedition. The game is played over 3 rounds, and a round ends when the deck of cards is exhausted. A very simple mechanism, but hugely enjoyable and requiring a surprising degree of tactical thinking. After a couple of games, we decided to finish the evening with a game we know and love; ‘Sushi-Go’. We had a fun time and resolved to return latter in the holiday (which we did, playing more ‘Lost Cities’, plus games of ‘Hey, That’s my fish’ and ‘Carcassonne’; which was rather appropriate considering the region of France we were staying in.


It would appear that boardgaming is very popular in Toulouse and the surrounding area, because we found 2 more games shops in Toulouse itself, ‘Tire Lire’ and ‘C’est le Jeu!’, and were told of another gaming bar in a different part of the city. There was also a ‘Carcassonne’ tournament advertised taking place in Carcassonne itself. Whilst we were in Castelneudary, we noticed another boardgame convention being held there that weekend! So, all-in-all, the South West region of France is a hot-spot for anyone who enjoys boardgaming, in addition to being a beautiful region with wonderful food and wine. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The wargaming year 2016-17


The third year of my blog has now been completed and the number of hits continues to grow, up 76% on the previous 12 month period. The USA remains as the leading source of hits (32%), followed by the UK (19%), then France, Australia and Eire (4% each). There is a good worldwide distribution from many far flung places, and I still see bursts from Russia which accounts for 18% of the hits (I assume these are spurious ‘fishing’ hits). The most popular posts remain my reviews, with that for Pikeman’s Lament topping the list, followed by Battlegroup Kursk.

The games I have played this year are listed below:

 
Period
Rules
Type
Scale
2
Ancient
Sword & Spear (Hung v Turk)
Sword & Spear (Greek Hoplites)
Opposed (Lost)
Opposed (Lost)
15mm
15mm
2
Ancient
Basic Impetus 2 (Athns v Thrace)
                        (Sparta v Thessaly)
Opposed (Lost)
Opposed (Lost)
15mm
15mm
2
Dark Ages
SAGA
Opposed (lost; Draw)
28mm
1
Medieval
Lion Rampant (Teutonics)
Solo*
28mm
2
WoR
Bloody Barons
Solo
15mm
1
2
SYW
Maurice
Reveries on the Art of War
Solo
Solo
15mm
2
Napoleonic
Sharp Practice
Solo
28mm
2
Napoleonic
General d’Armee
Solo
28mm
3
ACW
Longstreet
Opposed (Draw)
Opposed (Win)
Opposed (Lost)
15mm
3
WW1
Square Bashing
Solo
15mm
1
RCW
Red Actions
Solo
15mm
14 est.
WW2
Bolt Action
Solo
20mm
2
WW2
Flames of War
Opposed (2x Win)
15mm
1
WW2
Battlegroup - Tobruk
Solo
10mm
2
WW2
Blitzkrieg Commander v3
Solo (France 1940)
Opposed (N.Africa)
6mm
10mm
2
WW2
Blitzkrieg Commander v2
Solo (N.Africa)
10mm
1
Modern Air
CY6 JA
Solo
6mm
2
Vietnam
MCB 2nd edition
Solo trials
20mm
47

 

I have played more games compared to last year (47 compared to 30) and have only played 12 opposed games. My win ratio is OK (4/12) but I have lost more (6/12). My best and most unexpected wins were against Graham using Flames of War, and I will constantly remind him of these victories for many years to come! Meanwhile, Ian and I managed to complete our protracted Longstreet ACW campaign. Very enjoyable (and not just because I won) but, strangely, I don’t think Longstreet will see much more tabletop action; I feel the rules fit well in a mini-campaign setting but are not suitable to one-off, pick-up games. Most of my gaming continues to be solo which is disappointing and is due to an overly packed social diary preventing me from attending club meetings. This was compounded by my regular opponent, Ian, taking a 6 month sabbatical in Kenya.

The game rules that stand out for me this year must be Bolt Action. I know they have been around for ages but I missed out on the earlier enthusiasm, only playing a couple of club games. With the release of the new version I decided to give the system a go. I like the simple streamlined mechanisms which produce a good WW2 game; not as ‘realistic’ as other rules but fast and enjoyable. I can see Bolt Action remaining as my go-to, light WW2 rules for solo play.
I really like the 2nd edition of Men of Company B Vietnam rules and I can see future games occurring next year. The big rules disappointment was Blitzkrieg Commander version 3; a publishing disaster by Pendraken, but to give them their due, they are doing all they can to rectify the situation. A new set of rules I like are General d’Armee and they may provide the solution to my never-ending search for a good set of tactical Napoleonic rules. My judgement is pending because I have yet to play any opposed games using them.
Overall, 2016-17 has been an OK wargame year for me. I really must do better at arranging opposed games. Next year I hope to play some Napoleonics and find out whether General d’Armee lives up to its promise. I am dithering over whether to get the new Sam Mustafa release, ‘Rommel’. I really like Sam’s productions and the clear mechanisms he uses, but I’m not sure I want the high level simulation these rules appear to address. Another potential project for me next year will be getting my pirates on the table (again). The problem revolves around suitable rules. Donnybrook came tantalisingly close to providing the answer, but not quite, I therefore plan to write my own rule set to cover the period and ‘feel’ that I am seeking. I have a few ideas about mechanisms etc., so this might provide a focus and challenge for the year ahead.

The boardgaming year 2016-17


Review of  boardgaming year 3 on this blog (2016-17):

A collated list of games we have played is tabulated below. The list is primarily aimed at providing me with a detailed record of my boardgaming activity, so that I can spot and understand trends and favourites. It also sparks my enthusiasm for games I overlooked and want to play more of.

No Games played
Boardgame
5
Dominion
4
Patchwork x10
3
Tsuro
Carcassonne x8
Carcassonne – Hunters & Gatherers
2
Ticket to Ride, Europe
Parade x6
Hey, that’s my Fish!
Quadropolis
Sushi Go! x5
Glory to Rome
Costa Rica
Burgle Bros
King of New York/Tokyo
1
Blueprints
Sheriff of Nottingham
Galaxy Trucker
Barking up the Wrong Tree
Mr Jack
Colt Express
Death Angel (solo) x2
Pandemic
Crossing
Welcome to the Dungeon x2
San Juan
Key to the City – London
Quatro x3
Lords of Vegas
Fresco
Legacy
Metro
Roll for the Galaxy
Five Tribes
Chinatown
(1)
Imperial Settlers
Munchkin (Cthulhu)

Some games tend to be played numerous times within a single session, these I have shown as sessions with the number of actual games played as a superscript number.

The top game was Dominion, an ever popular classic, closely followed by Patchwork, a game that Elaine enjoys beating me at. Carcassonne remains near the top, and if combined with the Hunters and Gatherers variant, would be the top game of the year in terms of play. I really enjoyed getting Glory to Rome back on the table. Two games at the bottom of the list, Imperial Settlers and Munchkin, were games that we abandoned and failed to complete.

The games that have really stood out this year for me include Sushi-Go, Quadropolis and Roll for the Galaxy; I want to play these more often. Key to the City was also good, but took longer than expected, there is hidden depth to the game that needs further exploration. My birthday prezzie game, Burgle Bros, was also a nice surprise (a tough co-op is always welcome). I am pleased to have acquired Parade, and would love to get a copy of Chinatown. I am surprised we have not played any Dungeon Petz, one of my all-time favourites.

All-in-all a busy boardgaming year. A lot of variety, and a nice mix of old and new games played. One of the best features of the gamers I play with is that no-one dominates too much; we all win/lose on a fairly even basis. I believe this to be an essential factor in a happy gaming group. I would like to introduce some new blood to the group and maybe this will happen in the coming year.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Boardgame session 3Sept17


We went to Oxford to have lunch with Gill, Paul and Erin, to celebrate Erin’s 16th Birthday. After a very nice meal we went to Thirsty Meeples to play some boardgames.
Elaine asked if they had ‘Chinatown’, a game we thoroughly enjoyed at UKGE at couple of years ago and now sadly out of print. A copy was available, so settled down to play. Essentially the game revolves around economic area control, but the key feature is the negotiating phase where deals in any form can be made. With 5 players this can be complex and fun. Everyone can see what each player has and wants, but their cash reserves (i.e. victory ‘points’) remain hidden. The first couple of rounds are fairly restrained, which allowed Gill et al. to get a feel of the game and appreciate the tactics required. By the end, I felt that Paul had a good lead, and think most others agreed. We tallied up the final scores and surprisingly Gill was the winner (order: Gill, Paul, Erin, myself, Elaine). On reflection, Gill made a lot of small but highly profitable deals, compared to Paul’s larger, more spectacular efforts.

Next we played ‘King of Tokyo’ because I wanted to compare it to our recent game of ‘King of New York’. Whereas a New York has more options for players outside the city, Tokyo is more of a take-that type of game. Both are good fun, with Tokyo easier to teach and understand. I was the first player eliminated when Paul bought a power which inflicted 3 hits to all monsters. Elaine was next out, closely followed by Erin, who stayed in Tokyo too long (but she had acquired a lot of victory points). So it boiled down to a battle between Paul and Gill, with Gill emerging as the victor. So, Gill won both games, Paul came second and Erin third. A really enjoyable afternoon in Thirsty Meeples, a venue that has a lively, friendly atmosphere and a place to play favourite games that are out of print. I would love to acquire a copy of Chinatown, and I will continue to scour B&B stalls on the off chance of finding a copy (or, ZMan could reprint - hint).

Monday, 28 August 2017

Boardgame session 27Aug17


As promised we tried my new game, ‘Burgle Bros’ (by Tim Fowers). The game is a co-op, themed around a Hollywood-style heist (think Ocean’s Eleven, or Mission Impossible). Essentially, your team of burglars work their way around the target building, finding and cracking safes, before exiting with the loot via the roof. A variety of rooms are represented by face-down tiles in a 4x4 grid with some intervening walls. There is a patrolling guard on each floor, who you try to avoid, and whose movement is a clever mix of predicable and random elements. The rooms themselves contain a mix of alarms (which you may wish to avoid or trigger) and ‘traps’, and the key tiles you need to search for are the safe and the stairs up to the next level.

Elaine and I first tried a 2-player ‘beginner’ game and succeeded in completing the mission. I felt we were very lucky in the location of the safes and stairs, which were closely placed on both floors, and this made the mission much easier. I suspected that an increased separation of these tiles would up the difficulty, and increasing the player count would also up the difficulty. So when Val and Chris came round we replayed the ‘beginner’ game. Another success but much closer; 2 of the team had no ‘lives’ left when we escaped! We all enjoyed this challenging game, it could have gone either way, and we agreed that the addition of a third floor (i.e. the standard version) would make the game very difficult indeed. So, I am very pleased to have received ‘Burgle Bros’ (thanks Gill et al. for an inspired prezzie!) and I look forward to many more outings.

Next we played a game of ‘King of New York’; I am keen to play a few more ‘old’ games rather than just trying new purchases. I had forgotten how good a game this is! The simple ‘yatzee’ dice mechanism works so well, and the strong ‘take that’ style of play suits the light-hearted theme. I was the first player eliminated; my monster was set up for ‘celebrity’ and I just could not roll stars! Next down was Elaine, who stayed too long in Manhatten, and Val quickly emerged as the winner by taking down Chris in a devastating attack (5 claws!). This a game that deserves more plays; it is quick enough to make the player elimination aspect to work well because you know you won’t be kicking your heels for long. I personally like the additions/options in the ‘New York’ version, but I would still enjoy playing the basic ‘Tokyo’ game.




We finished the session with another ‘old’ game that had not had an outing recently, ‘Five Tribes’. The mancala-style mechanism and the range of options available, make this game a real brain-burner. Analysis paralysis (AP) can be an issue, but we are lucky that none of us take too long and can make a decision without worrying about whether it was the most optimal. If AP was a problem, then I would introduce a timer element (e.g. set at 60 seconds) to ensure the game progresses. Elaine does not particularly like the turn order bidding aspect and I tend to agree, especially when playing the 2-player version. Interestingly I do have the expansion with a 6th tribe and additional tiles, but I have never felt the need to try it because the base game works fine and requires no added complexity. I won the game (beating Val by a single point!), and the scores were fairly close between all players.

Friday, 18 August 2017

AAR; Greek Hoplites (Basic Impetus 2)


This is a brief report on a couple of games with Ian’s 15mm Greek Hoplites using the new version of Basic Impetus (Dadi e Piombo, 2017). Ian has just returned to the UK following a sabbatical in Kenya. Unfortunately he contracted Malaria out there. He is now on the mend, but not yet fit enough to get about, so I visited him at home. Although we are both familiar with the standard Impetus rules, this would be the first attempt with Basic Impetus 2. I forgot my camera, so the photo simply shows my own Greek Hoplite forces.


The first game pitted me, using Athenians, against Ian’s Thracians. Surprisingly my sole cavalry unit got the jump on the Thracian cavalry, destroying both Thracian light cavalry units, before succumbing to a counter-attack by Thracian Nobles. Still, the flanking move by the mobile Thracians had been blunted. Meanwhile my hoplite line trudged across the whole width of the table to strike the Thracian peltasts. When I made contact everything seemed to go well, and both of us thought an Athenian victory was in the bag. Big mistake! The Thracian Noble cavalry finally made it back from the flank and hit my hoplites from the rear. Athenians were falling in numbers and the losses passed 50%, so a narrow Thracian win resulted. If I had Just one more turn before this disaster then I believe the Athenians would have emerged on top.
Note the Pittsburgh Steeler fan in the centre of the photo!


For the next game Sparta (me) was matched against Thessaly (Ian). I thought I had a strong position with both flanks of my hoplite line anchored on woods. I did send some hoplites on a flank move (mistake, too slow), but Ian decided to match up against my hoplites whilst moving his cavalry through the flanking woods (!). I did manage to hold up the cavalry but I must have really upset the ‘Dice Gods’ because the Spartan hoplites went down to the mixed bag of Thessalian hoplites and peltasts. I don’t think my forces could have been ‘real’ Spartans, they were just imposters!


So, two defeats but it was an enjoyable afternoon of wargaming. It is great to see Ian back and I hope these victories will help him to get better more quickly. Regarding the rules; the mechanics will be familiar to any who have used the Impetus rules family. We really like the new elements e.g. the charge/pursuit move bonus, the variable retreat move, and the reduced shooting effectiveness. All worked well. I hope these additions are included in the next version of Impetus, which I believe is due to be released at the end of the year.