Tuesday, 18 February 2020

AAR; Napoleonic (Lasalle); 16Feb2020

This was my first game of 2020, and I have not played an opposed game since mid-November. I have resolved this year to get some of my underused figures out of their boxes and on to the table. Therefore for this game I would use some of my extensive Napoleonic forces which comprise 25mm Minifigs from the mid-1970’s. I also wanted to try the Lasalle rules, with some new house rules I’ve worked on. These house rules cover terrain selection (similar to those found in Sword & Spear), plus a ‘recoil’ mechanism where disruptions are caused by enemy fire may force a retrograde movement (basically a Discipline test). The need for the ‘recoil’ rules were to allow for the possibility for defensive fire to halt attacking units, preventing contact. I hope this will make artillery less vulnerable to frontal attack, and reduce the certainty when attacking lines with multiple columns.
French turning the Russian left flank

We used forces from 1812. Ian was attacking with a French Infantry Division with an organic Light Cavalry Brigade. I was Russian, defending with an Infantry Division and a reserve Dragoon Brigade. Terrain selection resulted in a fairly open battlefield with an area of rough ground in front of my centre sector. I deployed first in a compact central position, with artillery on either side of the rough ground. Ian’s deployment was heavily weighed on his right flank, with a small covering force on the other half of the table. It was clear that my Russian left flank would be under pressure, but I was confident I could transfer sufficient units to hold on. This exactly what happened, but Ian moved faster and in a more determined manner than I had expected. Although I did move covering units, they were not able to deploy in an organised defensive line. More significantly, Ian’s rapid advance effectively denied me of a major part of my baseline on which I could deploy my reinforcements when they arrived. The gallant Russians on the left were ground down, whilst the Russian cavalry had to make a wide sweep around the right, only to run into massed French artillery protected by squares and cavalry! The highlight of the game must have been when one of my Russian squares was attacked by two French columns and a Chasseur unit; I rolled all hits whilst Ian rolled poorly, resulting in a French recoil! The square did not survive long though.
Russian dragoons swinging around the right, whilst the left collapses

The Russian break-point was reached on turn 13, but we held on until turn 18 when the Russian morale collapsed (a couple of turns more and I might have got a draw). Ian fully deserved the win. As for my house rules: The terrain selection worked but might need a little adjustment. The recoil rule worked well; simple to use, utilised an already established game mechanism, made attacking columns less predictable, allowed artillery a better option to hold and fire rather than just retiring. We both enjoyed the game which moved along at a rapid pace. It was interesting that my old Minifigs generated memories from other gamers at the club. I plan to have another game soon and try a different rule set; General d’Armee by David Brown.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Boardgame session; 15 February 2020

This was an outing for a couple of my charity shop ‘finds’, both of which have a strong ‘take that’ aspect.

Firstly we played Mexica, an old find of mine from a few years back that we have played before. This is a well regarded game that has subsequently been reprinted. The game play revolves around sub-dividing an island into districts of defined sizes, claiming those districts, and then building temples of differing heights to secure your domination of districts. The game is played over 2 phases, and as each phase develops the play becomes more cut-throat as you focus on blocking opponents in addition to building your own empire. This game works well if all players are fully aware of the aggressive play required. If you can laugh at your misfortunes and the undermining of your carefully laid plans, then you will enjoy this game.
Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India Cover Artwork
Next we played a new find, Maharaja (another Kiesling & Kramer game). Basically this game is a race to build your 7 temples first, and achieve area control in the cities the Maharaja is visiting on his journey around India (thereby earning money required for building). On each turn a player has 2 actions which he assigns at the start of a turn using an action disc, and has the ‘help’ of a character with special powers. The player interaction comes from the option to change/steal other characters, and the chance to alter the route to be taken by the Maharaja in upcoming turns. Money is tight in the game. It is amusing/frustrating to see the action options chosen at the start of the turn being profoundly impacted by the actions of a player ahead of you in turn order. The character you were depending on has been stolen; the costs you relied on are suddenly out of your reach; the Maharaja is heading in an unexpected direction etc. etc. A crucial element is to be aware of the number of temples built by opponents, you cannot fall behind in this department because the game is a race to build all 7. When the game nears its end is it vital to be able to finish you temples in the final turn and then it comes down to who has the most money remaining. I really enjoy the game and it works well with both 2- and 4-player counts (planning is more tricky with more players). I recently noticed on BGG that there are moves to get a reprint done for Maharaja, which it fully deserves. The putative publishers also suggested they would introduce a points based victory condition, as opposed to the race element in the original game. I can see why they might do this, but I think such a move may remove a major driving force behind the gameplay.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Boardgame Session; 19Jan2020

The first boardgame session of the new decade!
Dice Hospital Cover Artwork

Elaine and I have been keen to try ‘Dice Hospital’ for a long time, and our attempts to play at GamesExpo were frustrated by the queues. So now Val & Chris own the game and it was our chance to get it on the table. Dice Hospital did not disappoint. The rules and premise of the game are fairly basic; the dice represent patients and your hospital has to try and treat/discharge them, whilst avoiding death and bed-blocking. On each round (out of 8 total) you select your ambulance of patients, upgrade your hospital facility (either staff or departments), treat dice admitted, decline dice you failed to treat, and gain points for discharged dice. At the start bed occupancy is not a problem, but becomes more of an issue as the game progresses. The upgrades chosen can create cascades, and nice engines form; some players are better treating very ‘sick’ dice, whilst others focus on more ‘healthy’ dice. At the end, scores were tight (I think Chris won) and everyone would happily see this game return to the table. We did not use the hospital ‘administrators’, nor the variable events deck, both of which add greater variety to game play plus differing player options/powers.
Irish Gauge Cover Artwork

Next we tried ‘Irish Gauge’; a bidding shareholder game based on developing an Irish rail network. On the whole I’m not that keen on bidding games, I’m never sure about potential values and generally feel I’m bidding blind. I’m know with time I would get a better feel for such game play, but the mechanism holds little attraction for me. That is not to say that I did not enjoy this game, because it is fast and player interaction is good, it’s just that Irish Gauge would not be high on my list of games to replay.
Tiny Towns Cover Artwork

We rounded off the session with a quick game of ‘Tiny Towns’. I’ve discussed this game previously and still think it packs more of a puzzle than new players anticipate. The first few rounds of the game lull you into a false sense of security, the game play is easy. As the game progresses and your town begins to fill, the pressure mounts and it is so frustrating to find yourself boxed in! Hopefully Val and Chris will get the new expansion for Tiny Towns because more stuff will add to the challenges.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Boardgame session; 29Dec2019


The final boardgame session of the decade! Time to get out those Xmas gifts.
The Castles of Burgundy (20th Anniversary) Cover Artwork

First to hit the table was Castles of Burgundy; a classic now 20 years old (but new to my collection). The ‘new’ printing looks good (although the monasteries are still printed too small to recognise easily), and the inclusion of many small expansions is welcome. The game plays at a good pace, and presents interesting (and diminishing) choices as each round progresses. There appear to be many routes to victory, with none dominating at the expense of others. The game mechanisms are easy to understand (which makes teaching simple) but the possibilities available are large, which can lead to some AP if you are not careful. The final scores were tight but Chris was the winner. Elaine and I have played the 2-player version, and the game scales very well from 2-4 players. We played using many of the expansions, but have yet to use either the ‘trade routes’, ‘victory shields’, nor the ‘Inns’.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy Cover Artwork
Next we played ‘Ticket to Ride- Japan’. In this map variant you have fewer individual trains, but you contribute to joint ‘bullet train’ routes which can be shared to complete tickets. There is a huge potential end-game point shift depending on a players contribution to the ‘bullet train’ project. In the 4-player game there is a 30 point shift between the first and last contributors, which has a profound effect on the relative scores. When we tried the map as a 2-player experience; the ‘bullet train’ effect seemed as strong. It is therefore vital to monitor the number of bullet train markers as the game progresses. The map board is large and the geography of Japan takes some getting used to. On the reverse of the board is the Italy map, which we have yet to try.
Brass: Lancashire Cover Artwork Jaipur Cover Artwork

Christmas prezzie games yet to hit the table include ‘Brass – Lancashire’, ‘Jaipur’ and ‘Liar Dice’.

Friday, 27 December 2019

A painting year, 2019

The year of 2019 has come to an end and I can look back on what I have managed to paint. I am a ‘sad’ gamer who logs all the items painted, generally in chronological order, so here is my 2019 list:

Ancient Spanish
Lancashire Games
Ancient Italians
Lancashire Games
Ancient Gallic foot
Lancashire Games
2 Elephants & Generals
Lancashire Games
Sea Peoples
Lancashire Games
Wild West
Kolossal Games
Western Legends figures
Wild West civilians
Blue Moon
Han Chinese
Lancashire Games
Marlb. Infantry
For ‘pirate’ militia
Nap. Naval
Plastic sloops
WW2 coastal naval
Vosper MBTs
Modern naval
Coast Guard vessel
C19th figures


Actually, 2019 was a quiet year in terms of painting. I completed my Punic Wars armies (15mm) and added a couple of large Han Chinese armies (15mm), all thanks to Lancashire Games. My 10mm Pendraken C19th armies have increased and I hope to get these on the table in 2020. Otherwise it has been odds & sods. My lead pile is all most at zero! I need inspiration!!

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Impressions of Lasalle Napoleonic rules by Sam Mustafa

A few posts ago I mentioned that I had completed an inventory of my figures/armies, and that it was my intention to get some of the lesser used figures on the table. In the run up to Christmas my diary, and that of opponents, tends to get full and as a consequence the opportunities for competitive games dries up. I therefore turn to solo gaming and trials of different rule sets.

My large collection of 25mm Minifig Napoleonic armies are some of the oldest I possessing dating back to the mid-1970’s! The sculpts are poor by modern standards, but I find the old school style attractive. I have never considered the need to update any of the armies and the larger 28mm figures do not mix well. These armies have seen considerable action over their lifetime but have not come out of their boxes in recent years. I decided to rectify this and re-visit a set of rules I enjoyed when they were first released; ‘Lasalle’ by Sam Mustafa.

I have played four games covering all four theatres of operations (Conquest, Empire, Liberation and Peninsular) using French versus Austrian, Russian, Prussian and British forces. Each game revolved around the basic ‘Line’ Division, plus one additional brigade as outlined in the force selection part of the rules. I was pleasantly surprised how smoothly the games flowed, and appreciated how the game end victory conditions worked. The key rules design feature is a simple re-ordering of the standard player turn; instead of the normal move/fire/melee sequence, Lasalle changes this to fire(react)/melee/move. This basic change, at a stroke, removes all those ‘what if’ situations and out of sequence reactions found in almost all other rules. It introduces clarity and order, makes players choices clear, and allows greatly improved structure and order in the rule writing. The QRS is sufficient for most of the game, but when a point needs to be looked up, it can be quickly found in the relevant section of the rule book. Sam Mustafa’s writing is concise and thoughtfully illustrated with examples where needed, and the rules are beautifully produced. I used the advanced/optional rules because they are not complex and do add to the experience.

I think Lasalle represents one of the best sets of rules (of any period) that I own. They give a great game experience, and are an exemplar of how a set of rules should be written and published. They are not perfect, no rules are! I feel the terrain selection rules do not work well, the set up choices are limited and too often the defender will place a long stone wall across his frontline. This problem is easily rectified by substituting whatever terrain method a player prefers. I also feel it is too easy to charge artillery head on; the gunners really have no choice but to retire out of harms’ way rather than delivering a devastating blast of canister and stopping the attack in its tracks. I have a few minor ‘house’ rules I will introduce to my games, none of which drastically alter the nature of the game. I can see more Napoleonic games using Lasalle in the near future.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Boardgame Session 1Dec2019

‘Brass’ is a boardgame that I have been interested in playing for a while due to its reputation. This Sunday we finally got to play ‘Brass – Birmingham’ with Val and Chris. There is a lot going on in the game and many possible paths to riches and victory. The range of actions open to a player is both limited and straight forward, but the options available is much wider and frequently depends on what others have done and the positions on the map. Which of the three manufacturing industries do you wish to invest in? Will you concentrate on building a good network? Do you put your money into coal or steel, or beer? When do you get a loan so you can invest in your empire? Do you trash lower status factories to enable you to invest in possible better facilities later? Do you build early before another player snatches towns away from you? Decision making in this game is tough, and players who suffer from analysis paralysis will struggle and slow the game down! The game also splits nicely into to two, with the canal era being followed by the rail era. The board is partially re-set, and the parameters for establishing a network change so that coal is a more important resource. In our game beer was the limiting factor in the canal era, and for me, the beer mechanism seemed a bit strange thematically although I can see that it is necessary for game play. The card play is good and provides a time/clock mechanism for the game, and you only have a few turns to accomplish what you want to do.
Brass: Birmingham Cover Artwork

Our game took ~3 hours to complete, which seems like a long time but game play is reasonably fast and you become so absorbed that time passes un-noticed. I had a healthy lead in terms of victory points at the end on the canal era, but my income was low and I had ignored building potteries (which can yield large victory points). I therefore entered the rail era with some trepidation! In the second half of the game Chris came storming forward, upgrading his potteries and utilising his coal production to good effect to construct a good rail network. Val and Elaine both had good income streams, and I felt I was struggling financially. Elaine and I had to leave before the final scores were calculated, and I was sure I had come last. It turned out that Chris won with 123 points, I was only just behind on 120 points, Elaine was third with 100 points and Val came in last.

On reflection, I can see why Chris won but am not sure why/how I managed second place. I felt both Elaine and Val had played better than me in the second era, and I don’t think my success early on would result in a high score at the end.
Both Elaine and I really enjoyed the game. It makes you think and you are constantly interested in the actions of the other players. As a result I am thinking of buying my own copy of Brass. I think I might buy the ‘Lancashire’ version, which has some differences in rules and geography, but still has the same core mechanics. The ‘Birmingham’ version appears to be rated by gamers as the better of the two, but I would prefer not to duplicate Chris’s game collection. My only negative criticisms of the game are (i) the dark artwork, but I suppose this is to convey the black, satanic mills of the industrial revolution Black Country, and (ii) the ‘night’ board on the reverse of the ‘day’ board. I can’t see the point of this, surely the publishers would have been better advised to use a different area of the country, or maybe, simply combine the two games (‘Birmingham’ and ‘Lancashire’).