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

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  • 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

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  • 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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Mental Health: Depression and boardgames, an unlikely friendship

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Mental illness. Something that so many people deal with but something that is so scary to talk about. Statistics say that one in four, that’s right, one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. That’s huge.

I try to speak up about the issues that I face but often feel like people will think less of me if I am open and honest about my mental health. However this must change, it has to. I want to create a space where anybody can come and talk about how they are feeling with no judgement and I want to talk a little bit about the many ways in which boardgames help me cope with depression and anxiety on a regular basis.

Having dealt with depression and social anxiety for as long as I can remember and often being unable to talk about it, I would like that to change. I’ve built my own little space on the internet which has helped my wellbeing and mental health in so many ways so if I’m able reassure or support even one person, then my work here is done. 

Discovering boardgames and the boardgaming community has had such a positive impact on my life. 

People often ask me why I play the kind of games that I do, what attracts me to them. One of the most simple answers I can find is that they provide an escape. A few hours away from the ‘real world’, a few hours where I am so immersed in a game that I can’t  afford to think about anything else other than what I’m doing in that moment. Planning my next move, working on a strategy, finding solutions to problems, something I often find overwhelming and exhausting in real life. It reassures me that I am able to come up with solutions, and see a way out of problems that I may face.

My brain is constantly in overdrive from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep, consumed by negative thoughts, dread, worry, stress, over analysing every situation that happens throughout the day and pure exhaustion. Heavy games allow me to escape those feelings. A positive, healthy escape.

I had spent many years trying to find an escape and often found myself doing so in unhealthy toxic ways, that actually made the battle with depression much worse. Im sure it can be said for any hobby, but putting myself out there, enjoying something again, feeling motivated and feeling a sense of achievement is something that helped save my life. 

Discovering heavy games, and war-games has allowed me to learn and to be challenged which definitely has a massive effect on the way I feel. Not just in the rules of the games themselves but the topics of the games also, I have found myself becoming interested in all sorts of topics I had never really thought about before and being able to expand my knowledge on those topics. Military History, Geography, Farming, all stuff I had never really had an interest in before. (Maybe not farming so much)

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Boardgames have also given me the best tool when it comes to building and maintaining healthy relationships and friendships with people. I can be quite a confident person until the anxiety sets in, that’s when the self-doubt, worry and feeling of being inferior or undeserving of positive relationships begins. I spent a bit of time demoing games for Black box games and Esdevium games and the simple question “Would you like to play a game?” has created an easy way for me to start to connect with people. Even if the answer is no, it creates a conversation, an interest. An easy way for me to connect with people without too much pressure or stress which I have found immensely valuable. 

I am fortunate enough, that even on my dark days, I have loving friends and family including a lot of people in the boardgame community that help me get through whatever I need to get through. Most of the time, that is just playing a game and knowing that I don’t have to talk about anything I don’t want to talk about. Just being able to connect with someone with little or no pressure. 

The boardgame community has given me a new lease of life, a space where I am completely able to be myself on the good days, and the bad days with little to no judgement. A space to talk about the things that make me happy, to provide support and receive support. A place full of like-minded, creative, wonderful people.

Finding a hobby, that I enjoy and that I’m good at has been the best medicine for me.

Of course, there are still difficult days, weeks, months but boardgames make it all a bit more bearable. Boardgames have given me a voice at times when I felt like I didn’t have one or deserve one. 

Always know, that if you ever need someone to talk to, someone to just listen, or play a game with you, I’m here. It doesn’t have to be about boardgames, it can be about anything but it’s a good place to start.

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A Few First Impressions [Labyrinth: The War On Terror, 2001 – ?]

I really don’t know where to start with this one. My love for GMT and the games they publish is ever-growing and it’s pretty obvious to see why. I’m an enormous fan of card driven games and after one play, Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? seems to be no exception to the rule.  

I know wargaming isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t something I initially thought I would take a huge interest in but I really do enjoy the whole experience. Yes, you can say that about any kind of game however something about the whole combat aspect and becoming totally immersed in the theme has really drawn me in. 

I know that the subject matter is a bit of a sensitive subject for some people and I can completely understand why, if you feel like the theme may throw you off I suggest playing it before buying it if you can. The game was so much fun and so well put together that I could look past the theme and see the game for what it was – brilliant, clever, tense and very enjoyable. 

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Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? is a 1 – 2 player game, taking players inside the Islamist jihad and the global war on terror. With broad scope, ease of play, and a never-ending variety of event combinations similar to  Twilight Struggle, Labyrinth portrays not only the US efforts to counter extremists’ use of terrorist tactics but the wider ideological struggle — guerrilla warfare, regime change, democratization, and much more.

This well designed game really surprised me, I had heard many good things and a few not so good things about the game and really wanted to try it out. I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t know it was going to be THIS good after only one play.

Volko did an incredible job of accurately capturing the real world struggle between the western world and extreme jihadism and even though the theme may be sensitive to some as mention earlier, it was definitely treated with caution and I thought it was integrated well within the game. It definitely has a more abstract feel with no real casualties resulting from the terrorists actions.

I found the game to be of medium complexity, that’s a pretty subjective opinion and differs for everybody but generally it was pretty straight forward. Even for my first play I was able to see a clear (ish) strategy and how I was going to play throughout the game.  I did however find the rulebook to be slightly confusing, I understood the rules but couldn’t always understand the why. I’m hoping with a couple more plays that this will become more apparent.

Gameplay

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The course of the game is straightforward and simple. Players take turns playing cards, which they were given at the beginning of the game – always two per turn. When they run out of cards in their hand, the round ends. With round ending are some specific actions, such as reducing funding Jihad and U.S. prestige. The allied player may keep the last card for the next round, play it, or throw it away.

Each card can be played as an event or for operation points. But if you play the role of the United States and play a Jihadist card for points, the event still would happen and the other way around too. You can avoid only your own cards, which is needed for strategic reasons. Some events and their effects persist until end of turn, or even longer, which is easily marked with available tokens. Operation points can be accumulated to prepare a large attack and mark on reserve track.

I’m not going to go into rules as such as there are far better sources for that but here is a link to the rulebook on BGG – Rulebook

A lot of people compare the game to Twilight Struggle, and they are both similar in the way you play cards but I will leave it at that. All I will say, if you do enjoy TS then DEFINITELY give this game a go! 

Final thoughts

Component quality of the game is once again, absolutely stunning. You have heard me say this time and time again but GMT games really are always produced to the highest quality. 

A gorgeous mounted game board, high quality cards and components which definitely add to the whole playing experience.  There are a lot of cubes to be moving around the board though, so if that’s something you’re not really into that then be warned. 

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Replay value is strong, even though I’ve only played Labyrinth once, I get the feeling it has a very high replay value. Similar to many CDGs, there are many options and the cards provide multiple uses meaning that the game will be different every time with various strategies and variations of the game. 

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To finish off, Labyrinth: The War On Terror, 2001 – ? is a perfect school night game for me. It lasted roughly around the two-hour mark, maybe a little bit more which is the perfect ‘quick game after work’ timescale. Alright, not quick but you know what I mean. It’s a nice, meaty CDG with a bit of dice rolling involved that definitely influences the game slightly. The game is mainly strategy based with the odd bit of luck due to the dice rolling and luck of the draw but not so much that it will throw you off. 

I’m really looking forward to giving the solo game a try within the next couple of weeks and hoping for a similar gaming experience. 

Overall I was really impressed with Labyrinth and I’m excited to play again and introduce others to the game.

Thank you for reading.

Katie. 

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A Few First Impressions [Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection]

Here are my initial thoughts on Liberty or Death; The American Insurrection, part of the COIN series published by GMT GAMES. I had very high hopes for this game and so far, it has definitely delivered. 

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Photo by Katie Aidley.

Let me start off by saying, I have only played this game once so these truly are my first impressions but I couldn’t hold off on talking about it as it still so fresh in my mind and I really, really enjoyed the game. Liberty or Death had been on my radar for a while and within a couple of days of receiving it, it hit the table (literally within a COUPLE of days). I couldn’t wait to play and I was rather impressed.

Now the rules might seem pretty hefty from a first glance, however if you are an experienced COIN player or have played a few COIN games before then you should pick up the rules without too much hesitation. 

There has been so much talk about this game, and even from that initial play I can see why. The gameplay is absolutely stunning and it’s nice to see the COIN system being used for pre-modern themed warfare, it definitely works.

I’m going to start off talking about the aesthetic and components of the game…

 

If you follow my blog or know me well, you will know that I am generally not one for theme or usually that bothered about the game I’m playing looking all that pretty. However, when it comes to wargames, the more I can immerse myself in the theme during the game and the nicer the game looks, I am probably going to enjoy it more. GMT games are always of a very high quality, gameplay and component wise from my experience and Liberty or Death is no different.

 

Photos by Katie Aidley.

The artwork is beautiful, the map is definitely the prettiest map in the COIN series so far in my opinion and even though the game is so bright and colourful, it doesn’t lose the feel of the time period at all. 18th Century North America has never looked so attractive.

Gameplay

Designer: Harold Buchanan
Series developer: Mike Bertucelli
Solitare system developer: Orjan Ariander
Map Art: Terry Leeds
Counter Art: Charles Kibler, Terry Leeds, and Mark Simonitch

Time Scale: One year per Campaign between Winter Quarters
Map Scale: Area movement
Players: 1 to 4

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Photo by Katie Aidley.

Each faction in Liberty or Death brings new capabilities and challenges:

As the British, you have to deal with an Insurrection across a massive region. With control of the seas (at least until the French arrive), you have extreme flexibility and can move across the coast and cities at will. You will muster Tories to support your efforts. They will march with you to battle, but they need your cover. You can control any space you choose, but you cannot answer every threat on the map. The Indians will work with you but, like the Tories, will need you to coordinate and protect them when the Patriots become aggressive. With the leadership of Gage, Howe, and then Clinton, you will be able to strike a potentially decisive Brilliant Stroke if the stars align. Each leader brings something new to the war effort. If you can strike the decisive blow and Win the Day you will be able to build Support and reduce Opposition in short order. If the option to Battle the French in the Colonies presents itself, it will be hard to pass up!

As the Patriots, you initially aren’t powerful enough to counteract the British Army. You will need to pick your battles and initially spread the Militia to key areas. Over time you can train a force of Continentals to take on the British Regulars. Until then, Rabble-rouse and work with the French to challenge British dominance. Skirmish with the British in small numbers to make their stay expensive. Will the French be there when you need them? Persuade the local population to give you resources to keep the heat up. Watch the Indians on the Frontier because if they develop their forces unanswered you won’t be able to win the game regardless of what happens with the British.

As the Indian player, you have selected the lesser of two evils in aligning with the British. You will work with them to lower Opposition using Raids but you will be developing your footprint by Gathering forces and building villages. The British can help you to protect them from the Patriots and in return you can assist the British in controlling the region. War Chief Joseph Brant and later War Chief Cornplanter give you the ability to mount a decisive attack with your War Parties but will it be worth exposing your villages to Patriot attack?

As the French, you have the ability to be the thorn in the side of the British in North America. With the Hortalez Rodrigue et Cie Company, formed to feed the Patriots resources, you can fund the Insurrection. Your agents can rally assistance in and around Quebec and you can facilitate privateers to steal resources from the British. When you sign the Treaty of Alliance with the Patriots, you can bring French Regulars to America to March and Battle. You can also increase French Naval Intervention, Blockade Cities, move Regulars by sea and Skirmish with the British.

As with earlier COIN Series volumes, players of Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection will face difficult strategic decisions with each card. The innovative game system smoothly integrates political, cultural, and economic affairs with military and other violent and non-violent Commands and capabilities. Rabble-rousing, Indian Raids, Persuasion, Naval Pressure, Letter of Marque, Looting, Trading, Skirmishing, and Foraging and more options are available. Flow charts are at hand to run any faction short a player—solitaire, 2-player, 3-player, or 4-player experiences are equally supported.

Source [Liberty or Death on BoardGameGeek]

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Photo by Katie Aidley.

I’m not going to talk too much about the rules as such as you can find those yourself but I do want to talk a little bit about the conflict in the game and the battle system. Now, remember I have only played this game once but I found that there were not many battles going on within the game. I quite liked that aspect though, in some wargames there are so many battles that they tend to lose their importance or impact within the game however this Liberty or Death was historically accurate and felt as though it fit in with the era, it also drove me to try and come up with some different strategies during the game instead of just relying on winning conflicts. There’s a lot to think about and it will probably take a while to get used to the commands which are somewhat unique from the predecessor COIN games, fitting in with the different time period. 

I’ll admit, I haven’t fully figured out what my strategy is so far and I feel like that will probably take a few plays to master but I did feel confident in the gameplay and the rules by the end of the first game which is always a good sign.

Once I’ve played a few times, I will come back and do another post but I needed to tell you my initial thoughts on the game.

A clear winner in my opinion, even from one play it was obvious to see why it was a 2016 Golden Geek Best Wargame nominee and I’m eager to get this to the table again very soon.

Thank you for reading,

Katie.  

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