Wargame Christmas Wishlist – 2017 Edition

Wargame Christmas Wishlist 2017

Christmas is the most magical time of year, celebrating with family and friends, eating an obscene amount of mince pies, carol singing, way too many glasses of mulled wine, awaiting that visit from Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and of course, WARGAMES.

Really though, I remember that excitement I would get as a child, unable to sleep, eagerly awaiting to open up my gifts on Christmas morning, hoping that I was well behaved enough to get what I’d wished for. Being an adult, something that gives me that same kind of excitement are wargames. Yes, if you know me, or know my blog, or follow me on any sort of social media, you’ll know that over the past year, I have developed a huge love for wargames and the wargaming hobby and there are just so many I would love to see under my tree this year. 

So Santa if you’re reading this, because I know you secretly love wargames, here is my 2017 wargame wishlist. 

 

1. Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain – Designed by Marc Gouyon – Rety & Published by GMT Games

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  • 1–4 players
  • 60 – 360 minute playing time
  • Area movement, Area control, Dice rolling

Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain is the latest game in the COIN Series and definitely at the top of my list. First of all,  I am massive fan of the COIN series anyway, so I’m always excited when a new COIN game is released, however there is just something about Pendragon that drew me in straight away and it’s one I’ve been thinking about a lot. The theme is something that interests me, I’m not sure if that’s just because I’m British or because it’s something I know quite a lot about but I would love to see how Marc Gouyon – Rety has translated this time in history into what looks like, the perfect boardgame.

Volume VIII in GMT’s COIN Series transports us into the 4th and 5th Centuries A.D. and to the embattled Isle of Britannia. Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain covers a century of history from the first large-scale raids of Irish, Pict, and Saxon raiders, to the establishment of successor kingdoms, both Celtic and Germanic. This sumptuous volume adapts the celebrated asymmetrical COIN engine to depict the political, military, religious, and economic struggles of Dark Ages Britain.

With factions including: The Dux which represent the original Roman Army in Britannia, The Civitates representing the Romanized aristocracy ruling the ancient Celtic tribes from lavish villas and prosperous Roman towns. You also have The Saxons that represent various Germanic groups including Angles, Jutes, Frisians, and Franks who harried, settled, and eventually took over swaths of Britain and last, but certainly not least, The Scotti, named for the marauding groups of Irish raiders, also represent those Celts native to the island of Britain who differed from the romanized Civitates by remaining true (or reverting back) to the old ways. Often, the boundary between the two groups was porous…

…this game is certainly one I wouldn’t be disappointed to find under the tree.

2. Bitskrieg – Designed by Scott Muldoon & Miles Muldoon & Published by Hollandspiele 

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  • 1 – 2 players
  • 30 minutes playing time
  • Grid movement, Dice rolling

Bitskrieg makes the list for a few reasons, the first reason being that my nephew has recently taken an interest in boardgames and wargames. He sees what I’m playing and writing about and it excites him and I would love, love, love to share a bit of excitement with him. Bitskrieg also makes the list because Hollandspiele are a publisher that I have a lot of respect for. I’ve only played a few of their games but they are incredible and every single game on their website is one I could happily own and play. 

Bitskrieg was designed by Scott Muldoon, as he wanted a wargame he could play with his five-year-old son, Miles. He wanted to create a game that was simple and compelling enough that a child could play it, but also crunchy enough that a grown-up wouldn’t be bored of it and I love that.

It’s a tank battle game, where you and your opponent secretly and simultaneously pick five tanks from four different types, picking the ones you think will be best-suited to a unique map as well as what you think your opponent might be thinking. This game seems to be full of tricky tactical moves and subtle strategic decisions leaving even the most experienced wargamers satisfied and it why it definitely deserves a place in my collection.

3. Old School Tactical: Volume 1 Eastern front 1941/42 – Designed by Shayne Logan & Published by Flying Pig Games

oldschool

  • 2 players
  • 60 minutes
  • Hex & Counter, Dice Rolling

Flying Pig Games have made some pretty great titles and this is one I have wanted for a while, after seeing The Player’s Aid blog talk about it on a recent gift guide, I knew it was the right decision to include it and I knew I definitely wanted it in my collection. 

Old School Tactical involves small unit engagements are fought on the Eastern Front during 1941-42. Players contest each scenario using counters representing the soldiers, guns and vehicles that fought these battles. The unique Impulse system varies the number of actions each side can take in a turn, creating intense firefights. Play moves back and forth between players and the dynamics of the battle can ‘turn on a dime’.

Old School Tactical feels like it would be a really great game to play with people that are maybe new to the hobby and that’s something I’m all about. I love introducing people to the amazing world of war-games and feel this is perfect for that!

4. Commands & Colors: Napoleonics designed by Richard Borg & Published by GMT Games

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  • 2 players
  • 120 minute playing time
  • Hex and Counter, Dice rolling, Hand management

It’s probably no surprise to see Commands and Colors: Napoleonics on here, I have been playing a lot of Commands and Colors: Ancients and I am very fond of it, I love the hand management and strategy involved. I am a believer that you can never have enough Card Driven Games in your collection and you can definitely never have enough GMT Games in your collection so this one is definitely a winner.

 

5. Nemos War – Designed by Chris Taylor and Published by Victory Point Games

nemoswar

  • 1 – 4 players
  • 60 – 120 minute playing time
  • Area Control, Area movement, Solitaire gaming

Now, I don’t know if this is technically a wargame but I’m calling it one anyway. Nemo’s War has been on my radar for a long time. First of all, can we just talk about that artwork? Ian O’Toole is a genius and I am a massive fan of his artwork which is what initially attracted me to this game, well that paired with the interesting theme and solitaire compatibility. Set in year 1870, players set sail in this amazing electric-powered submarine, assuming the role and motive of Captain Nemo as you travel across the seas on missions of science, exploration, anti-imperialism, and war!

I don’t own anything like this in my boardgame collection at the moment, it’s different, eye catching and would make the perfect gift for anybody I think. I would be genuinely so happy if Santa left this in my stocking. 

6. Leuthen: Frederick’s Greatest Victory – Designed by Paul Dangel & Published by Clash of Arms Games

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  • 1 -2 players
  • 360 minutes playing time
  • Hex and counter, Solitaire gaming

On to some serious Hex and Counter gaming, Leuthen: Frederick’s Greatest Victory is one of those games I feel like I might never get to the table but seriously need any way. It’s quite a heavy wargame, and a classic to some. 

On a frigid December 5th, in a season when armies usually sought the comfort of winter quarters, the opposing forces met on the snow covered fields surrounding the Silesian village of Leuthen. After deftly maneuvering around Prince Charles’ flank Frederick’s Prussians attacked with unprecedented fury collapsing the enemy line. However, despite this initial crushing blow the Austrians were able to reorganize their front and fight the Prussians to a standstill leaving the battle’s final outcome still in doubt. Only after a climactic cavalry charge did the Habsburg army finally break and retreat to Breslau. Two weeks later the city capitulated and the Austrians evacuated Silesia. Although the war would continue for another six years Frederick would never again attain the level of success he did at Leuthen, his greatest victory.

Leuthen presents both gamers with a colorful and meticulously detailed simulation with which to explore the actual events and possibilities of this definitive battle. Included is an historical commentary written especially for the game by the period’s leading authority, Prof. Christopher Duffy. This narrative contains many previously unpublished aspects of the battle and includes maps, diagrams, statistics and his analysis of the 1757 campaign in Silesia.

 

Some honourable mentions

 

 

 

 

 

So there you have it. A few, well quite a lot of games that I really want to find under my tree on Christmas morning.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a great Christmas and please let me know if you have played any of these and your opinions on the games in the comments section. 

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ROOT: a Game of Woodland Might and Right, a wonderful first impression

Let’s face it, there are a lot of great games being produced right now, by a lot of different designers and that’s a wonderful thing, but there aren’t many games that have got me as excited as I am about Root. A beautiful combination of elegant wargame style mechanics and an ingenious theme, Root has ticked all the boxes and then some. 

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Designed by Cole Wehrle, somebody that I admire greatly, with a number of his games currently on my wish list and published by the imaginative Leder games, there was no surprise that Root was going to turn out so beautifully and my first impressions are nothing but postive for what’s to come. 

Taken from boardgame geek, we can see that Root is a game of adventure and war in which players battle for control of a vast wilderness. 

The nefarious Marquise de Cat has seized the great woodland, intent on harvesting its riches. Under her rule, the many creatures of the forest have been banded together. This Alliance will seek to strengthen its resources and subvert the rule of Cats. In this effort, the Alliance may enlist the help of the wandering Vagabonds who are able to move through the more dangerous woodland paths. Though some may sympathize with the Alliance’s hopes and dreams, these wanderers are old enough to remember the great birds of prey who once controlled the woods.

Meanwhile, at the edge of the region, the proud, squabbling Eyrie have found a new commander who they hope will lead their faction to resume their ancient birthright. The stage is set for a contest that will decide the fate of the great woodland. It is up to the players to decide which group will ultimately take root.

Now imagine that theme paired with the concept of the COIN series, that makes for some very clever game design. Of course ROOT isn’t a direct translation of the COIN series but it lends the idea of some of its seamless mechanics.

If you aren’t aware, the COIN series features Volko Ruhnke’s game system, a series designed very cleverly which means Counter-Insurgency and is specific to a type of warfare, the system includes a central “government” faction with 3 competing but different “rebellion” factions. The factions in Root definitely share some similarities to some of the COIN series. A series that can often seem overwhelming to most has been transformed into an enticing game filled with action and adventure. It’s easy to see which faction would take on which role. 

Cole describes his reasoning for these similarities and so much more in his carefully constructed designer diaries on Boardgamegeek, which can be found here: Designer Diary – Some helpful symmetry and provide thoughtful insight and explanation into the games design and the whys. 

Something that stuck out for me was the map, and behind that beautiful artwork, lays a cleverly designed wargame. Cole explains in these diaries that Root’s map is a pretty typical point-to-point wargame map. You have movement zones (called clearings) and paths that connect one clearing to another.

Early on I knew that the map should be claustrophobic-—a sort of anti-Twilight Imperium. I wanted the great forest of the game to be a dense, crowded space. To do that I needed a core movement system that would allow lots of different players to occupy the same clearing. At the same time, I didn’t want to woods to be overly porous. Players should be able to trap one another.

The map, combined with the different factions and single use cards, makes for a very interesting game. The game uses a single deck of mutli purpose cards, each player will use those cards in a very different way. This made for a very tense game, swapping cards, potentially knowing what card your opponent has, only wishing that it was yours. Being able to use those cards properly adds another layer of excitement to an already tense game. 

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Then there are factions, the thing that initally drew me towards Root. There’s something so fascinating about taking a game concept that I’m fairly familiar with and turning it into something magical. 

The factions are so thoughtfully put together, down to the minor details, making for an immersive game. A game of clever cats, courageous hawks, the fierce woodland alliance and a vagabond that will do whatever it takes to get what he needs throughout the game. 

 

Root is so much more than just it’s wonderful and creative cute characters, Root is a tense and somewhat cut throat story unfolding before your eyes as you fall deeper and deeper into a game of conspiracy and war, but not as we know it. A game that I can see no fault with, a wargame clevery disgused even though I don’t think that many can shy away from or will want to. 

Although the game I played was a prototype and Root is still evolving, it’s definitely a solid game. Something I haven’t seen a lot of before and something I’m eager to play again and again. Such an accessible game, with all of the wargame qualities that I love but somehow offering so much more. Something new, something exciting and something that has given a whole new perspective to the way I percieve wargames. 

Root is currently on Kickstarter, off to a flying start and I definitely recommend you take a look at this one. Truly a game not to be missed.  You can find the kickstarter page here > Root: A Game of Woodland Might and Right on Kickstarter

Thank you for reading my initial thoughts, I’ll be back with an update once I’ve had a few more plays but I needed to come on and tell you what I initially thought of the game. 

Thanks for reading,

Katie. 

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[Solitaire Review] Churchill: Big Three Struggle For Peace

Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt in a room together. What’s the worst that could happen?

 

 

 

Churchill: Big Three Struggle for Peace is a game of political conflict, cooperation and competition. The players in the game take on the roles of Churchill, Roosevelt, or Stalin as they maneuver against each other over the course of different Conferences that determine who will lead the Allied forces, where those forces will be deployed, and how the Axis will be defeated. The player whose forces collectively have greater control over the surrendered Axis powers will win the peace and the game.

From first glance at the board and how much stuff was in the box, I was pretty overwhelmed and imagined the game being a lot more complicated, but the idea of Churchill is really straight forward – three players each taking turns discussing different issues relating to World War 2 and how the war should be prosecuted, as well as planning for the post-war world. Sounds so complicated and of course the game is difficult to master but, actually being able pick up the rules and play the game was pretty simple. That’s coming from somebody that’s played a lot of GMT games, but also as somebody that has played a lot of a euro games. 

RULES

Overview

The game is divided into ten rounds, or conferences just like the real-life conferences and after playing the game for the first time, I started doing a bit of research into the conferences and if you’re like me and don’t know an awful lot about these kinds of things because you’re still learning and discovering then you’ll probably find it pretty interesting. Here’s a link to some of them! List of Allied World War II conferences

I’ve played the Training Scenario a couple of times, which is only three conferences but this enabled me to get a clear idea of how the game was going to play and how to use the bots effectively. The conferences included in the training scenario begin with Conference 8: Tolstoy and end with Conference 10: Terminal.

Design Note from Mark Herman that can be found in the rulebook: Across all of the conferences there were a number of global issues that spoke directly to the structure of the post-war world and were debated and discussed from the dark days of Axis expansion right up through the final Conference. Churchill’s ‘naughty document’ was an agreement between Churchill and Stalin to create de facto spheres to influence in Europe that infuriated the Americans and undermined the post-war peace.

CONFERENCE

Once all the actions have been implemented on the conference card (pictured below) each player then deals seven cards from either the US, UK or USSR staff cards depending which leader they choose. You’ll do this for all three if you’re using bots of course. Then the players choose a single card to try and ‘win the agenda.’ The highest scoring card wins and then chooses a single issue to place on the board. There are lots of different issues including A-bomb research, production allocations, Global issues and so on.

ISSUES

Once the single issue has been placed on the board, the other players then place two further issues each onto the board. There will always be 7 issues on the table. Playing clockwise, players use a card to advance an issue towards their side of the table, whilst the other two may ‘debate’ this to move that issue a little closer to their side of the table. Cards have a value of 1-7, with the leaders being the highest value and representing their stature. The higher the card used, which may be affected by special abilities, the further the issue moves. Nice and easy. Once everyone has exhausted their deck, the game moves into the post-conference where the winner of that meeting is decided which is basically decided based on the number of issues that they won. 

That’s the Conference Display in a kind of nutshell for you. 

MAP

Then the game moves on to the Military Display or the post-conference phase as some may call it, where leaders implement the issues that they now control. These actions impact three game functions: clandestine operations, political activity, and military offensives. Clandestine operations see players try to establish political networks in conquered countries and colonies. Using a very simple mechanic of placing a network or removing an opponent’s network, the historical ferment that occurred in Yugoslavia, France and across the world is simply simulated. A country or colony can only have one dominant side’s network at any given time, and during political activity players can emplace friendly governments in exile that can be subsequently undermined and replaced if the supporting networks are later neutralized by one of your allies.

After that, we all go home and have a nice cup of tea….

Not really.

MAP 2

Once this has all been done, the military portion of the game keeps the score. There’s a separate display that abstractly represents the major theaters of war, Western, Eastern, Mediterranean, Arctic (Murmansk convoys and Scandinavia), CBI, SW Pacific, Central Pacific, and Far East.

Each of these tracks has an Allied front and using a very simple combat mechanic, each front tries to advance with Axis reserves deploying to oppose the various fronts. Naval operations are simply handled by requiring a defined level of support to advance into an amphibious entry space such as France (D-Day). When a front enters Germany, Italy or Japan they surrender, shutting down military operations, although clandestine and political activity continues until the end of the game. In the background is the development of the A-bomb and Soviet efforts to steal its secrets. If the A-bomb is available Japan can be forced to surrender sans a direct invasion.

Solitaire play

BIG THREE

Moving on to a little bit about solitaire play of the game and my experiences of it, first of all let me say that most of my experiences of this game have been playing with bots. I have played one, maybe two three player games but that’s it, and I’ve got to say I feel like the solitaire game has definitely given me an advantage when playing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have only played a few games solitaire so far but I feel like I have learned a lot about the game and strategy by playing it this way.

What have I learned? Well, I’ve been able to quickly delve deep into the minds of each leader, discovering their motives and personalities as they really do, struggle for peace, quickly and efficiently. There’s no time to hesitate, only time to dig in and try to really understand the motives of each leader and what they are trying to do throughout the game.

Of course, that human interaction and being able to play against OR with each other is great and really makes a game enjoyable but it is essential to have the mindset of the country and leader that you are playing, and I found that I got a grasp of each leader a lot more quickly playing all three at a time, than I would playing only one leader a game. 

Yes, you have the wonderful bots to help you along the way but like in any game, to play a good game and enjoy the experience, I have to fully immerse myself in the experience, and that can be challenging when you’re playing everybody around the table, and that is where the true complexity of the game comes in. Formulating a strategy for each leader can be tough but rewarding and this added tension to the game, as well as really making it feel like I was sat at that big round table discussing these actual issues, and making crucial decisions that could indeed affect the world. 

The bots themselves are very easy to follow and very straight forward, which is definitely a bonus when playing Churchill, it can sometimes feel like there is a lot going on when you’re playing solo because you’re moving around more pieces, dealing with more cards and making a lot more decisions, so being able to quickly reference a clear, concise flowchart is amazing and a massive bonus. 

This isn’t the whole flow chart but just an example to show you how straightforward it really is. I’ll be honest, before my first solo game, I hadn’t even looked at the flowchart before actually playing and still managed to get along with the game just fine. Although I do recommend doing so as it might just help things flow a little better right from the very start.

BOT

Churchill almost feels like a bidding game, bidding on issues and shaping the way the post-war world affairs will go. Again, very interesting when it’s all going on inside your own brain and a really nice use of this kind of mechanic.

I do really respect Mark Herman for what he’s done here, he’s managed to take a game idea that in my opinion could be seen as complex and turn it into a tense yet enjoyable and elegant game. I know elegant is a word used often in these types of games but it really is, the way the game flows perfectly, not too fast nor too slow, something about it just feels right, like a series of actions and tough decisions all rolled perfectly into one. 

MAP 3

Now as Herman states, this is not a wargame but it definitely has a wargame feel, I don’t know if it’s the counters or the cubes or the combat or the theme but something about it is war like which I enjoy because it feels familiar yet different at the same time and I love how abstract the game can be.

I can honestly say that I have not played a game like this before, Churchill almost feels like a group of games, or a series of mini games rolled into one. You’ve got the conferences, the politics, the combat and resources. So many decisions to make but they don’t seem overwhelming in the slightest. 

In reading some of the strategy articles, I am only just beginning to see the true potential that this game has and I’m really excited for more, from the potential deaths of Roosevelt and other key staff, Churchill’s looming heart attack, and Stalin’s ingrained paranoia, there is so much more to explore and I can’t wait for my next game.

Thank you for reading, I’d love to hear in the comments if you’ve played the game and what you think of it.

Katie. 

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