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Quick Looks: Next War Taiwan

If there is a series for hex and counter hipsters at the moment it is Next War games by Mitch Land and Gene Billingsley. Kev Sharp's been blogging it 1, 3MA have been talking about it 2, these drunken reprobates have been playing it 3, two of my friends have picked up Next War India Pakistan 4, one of whom as his first hex and counter game. When I first saw the GMT Next War series with Next War Korea a few years back, I passed on it because it was pricey and I thought future wars were boring. I thought these things because I was a fool. I'm not entirely sure why the series has become popular, as speculative future wars seems like a hard sell but the continued releases (now three soon four) and the quality of the product seem to have carried it into the wargamer consciousness if not the popular.


Next War Taiwan depicts an invasion of Taiwan by mainland China sometime in the near future. I say sometime because the game has no fluff text paragraphs, opting instead to insert a few…

The Chosin Few, a Post Mortem

Pete and I ran our megagame on the Chosin campaign this weekend and things went well for the most part. Here are some post-mortem thoughts

 - we lost about 30% of our bookings in the week running up to the game. From our experiences across Pennine Megagames this year, this seams to be about par for the course. There is a good reason that many Megagames have reserve lists, unfortunately the Chosin Reservoir campaign in North Korea was not quite a big enough draw to warrant a reserve list.

- The game itself ran pretty smoothly, relatively simple mechanics, good game materials and a very experienced control team facilitated this.

- Having fewer players actually benefited the game, the UN players lost all but one of their executive officers (XOs) meaning that it was one player per Marine regimental team. This actually helped as the game was streamlined enough that two players were not really required to write 3 sets of orders. The Chinese Commissars had a bit more latitude but even this w…

6th Fleet: A quick look

I might be a Balkowski fan boi. There are things he does in his designs that just seem to work for me. I like good tables printed on the map, that are loaded with possibility, I like irregular turn sequences that don't use chit pulls, and I like the way he front loads his games with tense challenging decisions. He creates those smokey room nail brighter moments. 

In 6th fleet this is done with your airforce. At the start of each three turn day you have to decide how many planes to allocate to strategic air missions and to which air zones they will be sent. Both players do this in secret. It is a mental game of chicken, as you need those fighters for CAP (combat air patrol) over your carriers and airbases but you also want to clear the Black Sea so your recon planes don't get downed by MIGs, but your opponent only has limited interceptors too, what will he or she do?

It's a game about guessing and gambling and then watching the dice roll as a T16 bombers attempt to knock o…

The Chosin Few, a Mega-game

Pete and I (of https://spprojectblog.wordpress.com/) are putting on a Megagame in Leeds UK next month! 15th October at the Swathmore centre. So I haven't been posting much recently, busy with that, busy with work etc. Hope to post more soon though.



It is a double blind game, written to be accessible for non-military types whilst still having the depth for more experienced wargamers. 




Already we've learned a few lessons from prepping this game. Coming up with the idea, the design, the map and rules is all a lot easier than actually putting the game on. We are attracting a good number of players right now, but a month back we were really struggling. It seems the market for wargames is quite small compared with diplomacy/risk style games unfortunately, even if there is more game beneath the hood. 


COIN DOWN

A run down of the COIN games I have played

COIN (COunter INsurgency) is a series of games that GMT started publishing back in 2012 with Volko Runke's Andean Abyss. The first four games all focused on modern insurgency wars but in the past year the series has branched out into Republican Rome and the American Revolution.

I've played a fair bit of COIN at this stage and thought a run down of my experiences with the series so far might be informative.

First off, what of the series as a whole? Which one is should you buy? How hard are they to play? And other profound questions...



The main strength of the series is their ability to naturally bring out the murky alliances and the shifting nature of factional relationships in these conflicts. Each game has four factions, usually one represents the government, one or two armed insurgents, one criminal syndicate or trade based faction, and sometimes one or more foreign military powers.


Each player has an objective that is diametrically…

Jena Campaign - Debrief - Lessons learned.

On the last Saturday of this past June I enjoyed one of the best learning experiences I have had in wargaming to put a positive spin on it. The day did not start well in character as General von Ruchel I arrived to the field 3 hours late having boarded the wrong train. When I arrived I discovered that my colleagues had spread our forces in a long thin line between the Fulda gap and Gera with no reserve.




The Jena campaign megagame, designed by Rupert Clamp was devised as a double blind map game. Each side of 10-15 players wrote orders for each division ordering it about a large map of central Germany. When battle was joined a divisional commander collected his regimental level counters and played a simple face to face tactical game.


A step up the chain of command it was the army commanders (generals) role to devise the overall strategy for then the divisional/corps commanders and their chiefs of staff teams to implement.


Or if you were on the Prussian team being a general consisted of…

Wilderness War is probably the best CDG (review)

One attribute of a good war game is that it opens up rather than narrows down the more you play it. Each time you play you see there is more strategic depth than you thought there was. When I first started playing Wilderness War, a card driven wargame design (CDG) on the French Indian War by Volko Runke, I thought it was simply a case of the British building a large kill stack and marching it up the Hudson and the French trying to get enough victory points (vps) from raiding to win before the inevitable. The outcome would likely be decided by card play and who got the reinforcement cards when they needed them.



Four games later I have realised that this is not the case. Yes the British will sometimes win by marching a big army up the Hudson and sieging out Montreal, but a lot of the time things will play out quite differently. Maybe the French strike first, perhaps the British realise that going up the Hudson is going to be a slog try another route. Either way the players of both sides…

The Jena Campaign Huddersfield (UK) 25th June

More Megagaming! It's been a while since I've actually played having been on the control team for the last few games.

Rupert Clamp is running his game on the Jena campaign. It's a double blind campaign map game, a bit like a structured Kriegspiel but with his own system.



It also has a face to face battle system, that takes place during campaign time, so a legitimate strategy is to tie an opposing division or corps down on a battle map whilst your allies march to the sound of the guns.


In my view these are the best megagames. The more pure political megagames can go 'I do what I want because I say roleplaying'. By facing the players with the unknown of a hidden map and the harsh consequences of war people start to do something incredible, they think. You can pull of gambits that never work in open map games, and the chain of command and inter-team rivalry creates a whole lot of political fiasco on the side.

The game starts fairly early in the campaign (French still …

Quick Looks April II: Dien Bien Phu, The Final Gamble

This is a game for people who value narrative content over anything else in a wargame and will pay any price to get it. I can best illustrate this with a comparison between the French supply systems in this game against the supply system in the Operational Combat Series from Multiman publishing.

To determine the amount of generic supply counters you get in in an OCS game you roll 2 dice and consult a chart and put that many tokens on the map at your supply point hex. These counters are then used to pay for ammo, artillery shells, aircraft refueling and sometimes food. They are generic abstracted supply, the detail is in how they are moved around the map.

In Dien Bien Phu artillery ammo, food, fuel and medicine are all recorded on separate tracks. You spend meds to heal injured units and to keep malaria at bay, you spend ammo for each arty strike you carry out, you loose 4 food a turn or suffer for it, and if you run out of fuel you cannot do much in the way of strategic movement. Half…

Quick looks April / May 2016 - Legion Games part I: Quatre Batailles en Espagne

Personally I think the term 'review' should only really be used if you have played a game through several times, ideally opposed, and feel qualified to make some comment on the games balance. Most games that don't work for me are never going to get played multiple times. In fact I probably won't play them right through even once if they are a lot of work. Over the past couple of weeks I have been playing two titles from Legion Games, Dien Bien Phu the Final Gamble and Quatre Batailles en Espagne. I really like Quatre Batailles but I didn't really get in to Dien Bien Phu.

I going to start doing this new quick looks format for games I have only spent a few hours with and only played once. It allows me to give a general impression to the read of what the game is trying to do but falls short of a full review.


Quatre Batailles en Espagne


I played the Salamnque battle and it took me about 3-4 hours with just the base ruleset. The system plays a lot like La Bataille light …

1776 The American Revolution review

The American Revolution (rebellion!) isn't really covered by the curriculum over here in o'l blighty, in fact I've never seen a documentary on it, nor a book on the shelf of a local library. In some respects this isn't unusual as you don't hear a lot about things that aren't Waterloo, World War 1&2, Henry the 8th's wives or the Romans in the UK. But it is  a significant piece of world history and a major blind spot for me, so when I saw a copy of 1776 going cheap on the geek I picked it up.


Sometimes the notion gets kicked around that modern games are great, and old games are rather bad and best left to the collectors shelves. 1776 tells me that War game design was as good in back in 1974 as it is today.


The pitch is roughly thus; The rebel scum need to be put down, every few turns for the first year you will get a fresh skill stack of troops landing along the coast. You must engage the enemy where you find him and spread out your forces to occupy at le…

Eastfront vs Blocks in the East

This is sort of similar to Shark vs Tornado or Batman vs Superman but with board wargames...


Having played both Blocks in the East (BITE) and Eastfront, i thought I'd give a very brief comparison:

> I love Eastfront, I did not like BITE.

> Eastfront is design for effect game. It limits its rule complexity and trims down the number of components by rolling air power and supply all into HQ strength steps and brings out the severity of the conflict through its weather rules and map design.

> BITE on the other hand goes the other way and has a more is more philosophy with more smaller hexes, probably three times the number of blocks and both air power and supply represented explicitly

> The base rules for Eastfront are marginally more complex however in practice its much easier to play than BITE. BITES core rules could be mistaken for an Axis and Allies evolution but it layers on a tonne of chrome and lots of resource management with the advanced rules. The final effect is…

Eastfront AAR: "From the Desk of the Man of Steel"

It’s EastFront a 1991 Craig Besinque block game about the war on the EastFront and this is the winter of 1941. My friend Pete of https://spprojectblog.wordpress.com/ played the role of Uncle Joe, and my friend James of https://twitter.com/ConsimsSheffied  turned into Hitler. I played STAVKA and OKH interpreting their orders and soloing the game. Every few turns I sent both a photo and awaited strategic direction.


Turn 1
From Der Fuhrer “Guten morgen from the Fuhrer's headquarter.

The Fuhrer is satisfied to hear that the invasion is going to plan and congratulates you on your progress so far.

Your objectives are simple: Moswcow and Leningrad must fall. You will divert a portion of your forces to push towards Tula from the south to draw the Soviets away from the main thrust of the attack, which will come from the north. Do not waste the Fuhrer's best units on this diversionary attack - once the Fuhrer's armour is seen on the streets of Moscow the USSR will surely collapse.

Remembe…

Mega-Game Mapping: 1 Map Size

This blog has been pretty dry for the past few months. A new job with long hours and a lot of mega-game mapping. So lets talk shop mega-game mapping.

I've started doing maps for the Pennine Mega-gamers, a group formed last year that intends to run about 5 mega-gamers a year. You can find us here http://www.penninemegagames.co.uk/.

I've done one map for Sengoku;

I am currently just rounding off the map for a Very British Civil War, and I am working on map for the Jena Campaign and will soon start work on an update to the Urban Nightmare game map. I have also more or less completed the map for a Chosin Reservoir campaign game Pete and I will run later on this year. Starting with this one I'm going to throw together a couple of posts of the things I have learned from doing these maps.


1. Size

Mega-games are mega. The maps have to be pretty big, bigger than I expected in fact. I, despite being a geographer, am not very good seeing size in my minds eye. That Sengoku map in the …