Friday, April 11, 2014

Old School Boardgaming: Supremacy

Long ago, in a life-stage far far away, I played Supremacy. Unfortunately, I was unable to buy the game and its several expansions before its publisher ended production.

A few years ago, I did end up purchasing a copy of the game via Ebay, but the expansions have thus far eluded either my wallet or my noticing their availability. Yet, my mates and I can still enjoy the base game.

Which we did, last night...

Of the four of us, only Evan and I had played previously, so it was an introduction for them and a refresher for us. Evan took on North America, Ron grabbed Europe, Brent nabbed China, and I got the Afrikaners.
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For those who have not played Supremacy, basically it is a souped up Risk, complete with economy and nukes...yes, nukes.

Each nation or conglomeration starts with five to six starting territories which are home to one army each and also one or more corporations that produce resources. The resources are oil, minerals, and grain, which are spent on convention weapons, strategic weapons, movement and combat. These, as well as nukes and L-stars (laser satellites) are tracked on a handy-dandy player card called a "Supply Center." The maximum of any one resource or strategic weapon is twelve.

Each turn there are seven stages, the first two of which everyone plays, and of the remainder a player can only play in three. In these latter stages, players secretly "bid" to play or not play the stage by hiding and then revealing a colored token (an army piece) in their hand. Then, of those who bid to play that stage, they roll off with the highest going first (which is VERY important at times) and the lowest roller going last.

Players then start each turn paying maintenance on their armies armies and navies, and then paying the salaries of each corporation they wish to keep in production. Next, the corporations produce their goods (from one to five of a single resource type) and these are added to the supply center for each player.

Stage 3 is where players can sell resources to the Market and/or each other. The market mechanism is nice as players can "play the market" and, if successful, pull off a victory, assuming they are not destroyed by another player.

Stage 4 is the attack stage, either conventional or strategic. This is where you must have one of each resource to spend for a conventional attack, or nukes/L-stars for strategic attacks. Airborne and amphibious assaults are supported in the rules. Combat is easily resolved by simple die rolls, with the attacker rolling 1 die, the defender, 2; one additional die goes to the side with the most units involved and another die to the side with the most L-stars. Every three pips rolled is one casualty to the enemy.

Stage 5 is for any non-combat moves, including embarking armies onto fleets.

Stage 6 is when player can build conventional and strategic weapons and then sell them to another player if they wish. Players may also conduct the necessary research to discover nuke and L-star technology, which are prerequisites to purchasing them directly.

Stage 7, the final stage, is when players can purchase resources from the market and, again, sell to another player. This market mechanism is very important as one soon runs out of cash unless one sells resources. Prices vary from $1 million to $1 billion and are tracked on the gameboard for each resource. As players make purchases or sell resources, the value of the good increases or decreases, which has a telling effect on players who weren't lucky enough to go first that stage. Any transaction between players is for whatever amount they happen to agree on.

This stage is also when players may elect to "prospect" for new resources in other territories, both neutral and also those nations are not being used that game (the game is for 2 to 6 players). You may open any corporation (buy spending $200 million) you find, as long as an opponent is not occupying the location of the resource, otherwise you just helped someone else as they get the corporation and its production.

Play continues until one player has conquered his opponents, more than 12 nukes have been used and a game ending die roll occurs, or you reach an agreed upon time limit. In the latter two cases, all assets and resources are tallied with the winner being the player with the most value.
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About five turns into the game, I have just nuked Europe as Ron had the audacity to land troops in Sahara. I intercepted all but one of his own nukes, but he only got one of my four. It was at this point Ron began his own "Book of Grudges" (which is a LONG running semi-serious joke as I certainly have one), putting me as the first entry! This makes me proud for some odd reason.

A few turns later, Ron's nation was all but wiped out as the rest of his home territories were each redecorated with fiery mushroom clouds of nuclear devastation, with his last territory in my possession (which caused him to be eliminated). However, in a moment of inattention, I started clearing the game before giving Brent the time to take a final picture.

The surprise winner was Evan as he had an economic victory. He'd done well with market manipulation and had over $19 billion in assets where Brent had $16 billion and I a measly $7.625 billion.

I am on the lookout for the several expansions that came with the game. If you know of anyone who happens to own one or more expansions and they are interested in getting rid of them, please let me know. I cannot pay top dollar, but I can guarantee I will get a LOT of gaming use out of them!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Beneath the Lily Banners: Ottomans vs Swedes

Whilst researching for my M.A., I wrote a significant paper on John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. Previously, I had heard of the famed general, but had not spent a lot of time or effort on getting to know his campaigns, battles, and personal life. However, throughout the course of my research, including reading many of his letters (those in French and English, but not yet the ones in Dutch), I came to like the man and appreciate his military accomplishments.

Of course, being a wargamer, I also decided to collect an army of the period and then later decided to run a miniature campaign (which has yet to start, but the starting is imminent!) after putting on a game of the above pictured rules for my local club. I've umpired several games, for various members, but we never played with the optional rules nor any of the armies outside Marlborough's historical friends and foes.

However, as we begin the ramp up towards the campaign start, two players have elected to base their imagi-nations on the Ottomans (Ron) and the Swedes (Evan). Having never used their special rules, we decided to give them a go, a week ago Tuesday.

Read on...

The rules are fairly straightforward and if you have not had the opportunity to play, that is really unfortunate. I like how these work and they do not easily enable players who are min/max types.
I was the umpire, ably assisted by Brent who wants to learn the rules better for the campaign. Ron fielded his Ottoman-ish army, and Evan borrowed some Austrians from Ron as proxies for his Swede-ish troops. I use the "-ish" because the imagi-nation armies are made up of Western European peoples, but the players are allowed to choose a single nation whose military organization, structures, and tactics serve as a foundation for their own. The players must write their own histories on how this came about, and to what extent their nations have adopted these foreign traditions, but this is all meant to create atmosphere and interest for the campaign.
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The umpire is at the top of the picture (looks like he needs to lose a few pounds), with Evan on the right and Ron the left. Brent is behind the camera. 

The Swedes had two brigades of infantry, each of four battalions of foot; a single brigade of horse, of three squadrons; one light gun. The infantry battalions were, Guard x2, Elite x4, and Drilled x2. The horse were Guard, and Elite x2. I gave the Swedes a morale advantage as he was outnumbered and the two player's armies were based on the campaign organization established in the rules. With the Ottomans having a heavy gun, Raw or even mainly Drilled troops for the Swedes would have made for a short game.
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 Don't blame me for the blurry pic, it's all Brent's fault!

The Ottomans had a positional gun, a light gun, two brigades of infantry and three brigades of horse. Half of the infantry was tribal and Raw, the other half was regulars with a Guard, Elite, and two drilled. The cavalry had a single brigade of Guards in two squadrons, and two brigades of single stand irregulars who were each Raw. In the campaign, I am allowing Ron to "buy" his new squadrons of horse as irregular cavalry at half the cost that everyone else is paying for their regulars. Thus, we wanted to see how that would work out on the tabletop.
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I tried to warn Ron about this stacked deployment, but he chose to go with it. If he was happy with the result, I don't know, but he got to choose this set up. Of course, it does look like a dangerous horde...

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A few turns into the game. The best Swedish troops are advancing on the Ottomans, while the less experienced infantry is defending a stone wall. The Swedish cavalry has been ordered to shift from the left flank to the right. The first brigade of Ottoman irregular cavalry is opposite the leading Swedes and already pouring in harassing fire. This was actually more telling than I anticipated.
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The Swedes have now lost a stand of Guard quality Foot, with the Ottomans losing a stand of Raw irregular cavalry. An expensive trade off! The Ottoman's positional gun is on a low hill to the left, out of frame, and it is firing as quickly as the gunners can load. It does dish out about 8 figures of damage, five on one battalion and three on another, as the Swedes advance, but is forced to shift fire to the cavalry, where it only manages to kill another figure before they, too, gain the cover of the trees. Notice the Ottoman regular cavalry advancing on the far right.
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Ron tried to be sneaky, but Evan noticed in enough time to form two battalions facing his left flank. Had he not done this in time, Ron's cavalry would have rolled up the second Swedish brigade of Foot. The Swedish cavalry at the top of the frame is under fire by the Ottoman positional gun.
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Evan is subtly ensuring that he gets his mug in the shot.

The light horse has been driven off, but the Swedish infantry in the center has taken more casualties than it has caused. Cavalry can be very difficult to get rid of without killing off the stand. The Ottoman Foot ignore the fleeing cavalry and press on to attack. Note: that light gun in center left of frame does very little during the game. Ron would have been better served to have it just in front of his positional gun, getting in long range shots, and also making an assault on the guns more problematic.

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Now we get down to it. A melee ensues in the center of the field. I must admit that I did make an error here, in that I added additional bonuses for reinforcing units, but really, it had little bearing on the eventual outcome as the Ottoman unit was Raw and the Swedish were Guard.
 photo IMG_20140401_200502307_zps678b912b.jpg Another melee, and Ottoman leaders join the fray. This melee lasted six bounds as each primary opponent was Guard quality and after two tied rounds, the Ottomans lost four in a row, causing the survivors to rout. The Swedish leaders escaped unscathed, but two Ottoman leaders were wounded, with the lucky result adding +1 to their morale and the leader surviving. Note: Ron's imagi-nation is a theocracy and he wanted to include a fanatic bodyguard unit of a single stand. I allowed this and gave that stand a chance to void a leader casualty result for the CinC (4-6 on a d6). It failed once and succeeded once, the success causing it to be removed.
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The aftermath of the melee in the center. The Ottomans involved in the melee have routed, but all other Ottoman Foot pass their morale tests. Lucky break for Ron! Unfortunately, we did not get a better shot of the action on the Ottoman right, where their regular cavalry ended up charging and defeating Drilled Swedish Foot.

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One unit of the Ottoman cavalry was shot down, with the survivors driven off, but the other squadron was able to beat and drive back the one battalion of Foot. The subsequent pursuit saw the Ottoman cavalry smash into the flank of a second battalion of Foot, also of Drilled morale quality.

It was Ron's bad luck that we ran out of time, as I would have loved to see what his regular cavalry would have accomplished. By the same token, the Swedes were advancing, steadily, in the center, and may have routed the rest of the Ottoman Foot in another turn or two.

Initial placement of troops has a very real impact on the game, especially concerning the artillery. Evan's single gun got off one shot (a miss) the entire battle. Ron's stacked deployment cost him time and options, whereas Evan's smaller force seemed to be well suited for the space he had available to him.

One thing, I might change the tactical rules slightly, in that the long melee delayed the game considerably, partly as we had two new players and partly as I had not umpired either army before and was therefore unfamiliar with all of their abilities and bonuses. Yet, six (may have been seven) bounds of melee was really too much and I would have liked to see more action than that. I will talk to my players and see what they think about setting an arbitrary limit of say 4 bounds per turn (with the results carrying over to the next turn, of course) or perhaps rolling a d4+2 to give a variable melee length during a turn.

In the end, each of the players and also Brent as an umpire in training, had a good time and we learned a lot about how these new armies would fight in the campaign. I certainly don't want to fight either army without some amount of special preparation, namely buying more artillery!

A final note: I must mention that Ron was especially generous in that he gifted me the vast majority of the Austrian troops we used as Swedish proxies. I did not expect it and his kindness allows me to further test some rules on my own, as my army is not yet ready for the table.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Saga: Normans vs Anglo-Danes

Several months ago, the club starting to seriously get involved in playing Saga. Many members, not including myself, purchased and painted 6-12 points worth of troops. Others, including me, happily used troops "loaned" from the first group to play some games.

After about six battles, I am hooked on the playing part, not yet on the buying, assembling, and painting part. I lack time, money, and space, at the moment. Yet, when offered a chance to play, I take it.

Thus, a week ago Tuesday, several of us got together at the local FLGS and played a multi-player scenario, designed and run by Brent.

Ron, Evan, and myself took on the mantle of the stalwart defenders of Northern Britain/Scotland, who faced the evil usurpers of the crown, the Normans. The gits (players) commanding the wholly broken army that is the Norman list for Saga were, Alex, Manny, and Brent (pulling double-duty as umpire).

The heroic defenders were tasked to protect a village and pallisade, whilst the despicable Normans were intent on laying waste to the peaceful and innocent inhabitants of the area. Game length was 10 turns and the Normans were given first move.

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Here, Alex and Manny are at top and left of the frame, whereas Evan and author are at top right and middle right of frame We are already a few turns into the game. Notice the line of archers/crossbowmen in the center left.

Manny chose to mass his missile troops in the center, while Alex and Brent pressed on the flanks. Luckily, this freed my Saga dice to support my allies as I had very little movement to do throughout the game. On the other hand, I did take numerous casualties to missle fire, but not as many as I would have had I not passed so many armour saves.

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My left flank, vikings commanded by Ron, who are facing Brent's turn-coat Anglo-Danes. Ron gave nearly as good as he got, but was giving ground. You can see, in the top of the frame, a little of my action.

On my right, Alex's cavalry slowly, but progressively, advanced to Evan's flank and charged in. The contest was indeed bloody, which also included my using Saga dice to kill some Norman knights, with Evan losing two units of warriors, for killing off one unit of knights and hurting the second.
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Evan makes an offering to the dice gawds, prior to receiving cavalry charges.

We had to call the game due to time, but the Anglo-Dane defenders barely held the invaders off.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why I wargame

Why do I wargame?

Well, that is a question a wife and a couple of former girlfriends have asked me, but never a bloke. I would like to say it is because such attractive young ladies as pictured above are thrilled to play such games themselves but, more importantly, they also like to hang around aging, slightly pudgy, graying, gentlemen, but I can't. Instead, read below for the more mundane answer the question

The answer is both simple and complex. Simple, in that I enjoy the collecting miniature "armies", I love the history (even science fiction and fantasy wargaming have some sort of history as fluff), the banter between players is amusing, and it brings together folks who might otherwise pass by each other on the street without so much as a "good day."

On the other hand, my answer is also very complex. The nuances of game design serve to "push my buttons" so to speak, depending upon the game. I like games which are strategy > twitch, decisions > luck of the dice/cards, and those which especially put me into a critical decision loop without having to be shot at in real life. The span of history is rich with social and political developments which were rooted in military achievements and outcomes. It is this interaction with real human history that inflames my passion for historical gaming, but also provides a foundation for my keen interest in science fiction and fantasy gaming as well.

Games which inspire the imagination really get to me. So much so that I have small notebooks, loose papers, and binders full of game ideas and designs from nearly thirty years ago to the present. In fact, I am currently in the process of developing rules for a miniature game, a boardgame, a card game, and an online miniature wargame campaign. Aside from the latter, I may not actually publish these embryonic designs, but it is the process of design, the critical thinking evolving into a logical play experience, which provides further fuel for my passion of gaming.

Like many of my generation, the original Dungeons & Dragons certainly filled the niche of which I am apart. Not the same niche as that of this group of freaks below (admittedly, the elfin chick in the back row, second from left, would not be kicked out of my bed for eating crackers, but her friends need to be institutionalized).
But more like this:
My parents were very much against D&D, almost from the start, as they heard anecdote after anecdote of how "satanic" and "deviant" the game was. Most all of those stories, both published and not, were pure hogwash. However, as game design progressed and meshed more and more with the use of miniatures, my own love of gaming fully embraced miniatures of the non-historical genres, in addition to the tried and true Napoleonics and WWII wargaming I was then starting to participate in.

Such games as Warhammer Quest, Battletech, GURPS, Traveller, and Twilight 2000 saw me playing as a bold adventurer, either deep within the lairs of sinister necromancers, as a pilot of a 20 meter tall warmachine, or even as a post-apocalyptic survivor trying to find enough food to last me the winter while evading the encroaching communist soldiers.

These are not the imaginings of a sedentary and disinterested proto-male, but rather the temporary realities of an escapist who ventured forth, for brief moments of time, into other realms and dimensions. Such adventures continue, if not with the same frequency as that of my youth, while I get in the odd miniature wargame once or so a month, alongside the weekly boardgame at the local game store. Still, these excursions are not the limit of my current gaming experiences. On the contrary, my mind is often occupied by unwritten stories of daring-do, political options plotted on a matrix of stimuli and outcomes, or just what color would "go best" for facings and socks on my War of the Spanish Succession miniatures.

Were time not a valuable and perishable commodity, I would continue to write on, but alas, I must needs get back to work. Pray tell, why do YOU play wargames?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Friedrich: A boardgame review

In addition to miniature wargames, the odd computer game, and non-collectible cardgames, I am an avid player of boardgames. My personal preferences tend to higher level thinking games, where I must not only master the rules of the game, but also attempt to out think my opponent(s). Or at least, I attempt to predict the likely outcomes of choices they are presented and then plan accordingly. Friedrich is just such a game.

As my education background relies heavily upon 17th and 18th century Europe (England and France primarily), the Seven Years War figures largely within my area of interest. Since the period 1740-1763 saw Prussia emerge as a major player in European affairs, Frederick the Great's campaigns are not only intriguing, but also illuminating. At least, to one who has a keen interest in early modern warfare and also geopolitical maneuverings.

With all that stated and out of the way, let's get to the actual game, shall we?

To start, this game is not checkers. It is more of a cross between chess and poker, with a serious grounding in the Seven Years War. It is like chess because the rules are easy to learn (less than 6 page), but difficult to master. It is like poker because much of the game is spent bluffing and calling bluffs, due to the mechanisms surrounding combat resolution.

The game uses no dice. None. Instead, cards are used to recruit replacement troops and supply convoys, and they are also used to resolve the individual battles between opposing armies. Simply, the cards represent your potential for sustained warfare in a game of maneuver and attrition.

The map depicts Hanover, on the left to East Prussia on the right, with the Baltic being just off the map at the top, and Bohemia bordering the bottom. It is a four-player game; Prussia (with Hanover), Russia (with Sweden), Austria (with the Imperial Army), and France.
The colored regions matter, a lot. They represent the ownership of the territory, which is very important for defending objectives, as well as who gains supply from them. Objective cities are marked on the map and may only be defending by the owner of the location. For example, Prussia has an enclave in western Hanover, which cannot be protected by Hanoverian armies, but only by a Prussian army. Armies protect objectives as long as they are withing three movement "dots" and they are of the same ownership. If an enemy is protecting an objective you want to take, you must either maneuver them away or fight (and win) a battle to get them to retreat.

Players begin the game by choosing sides (with the most masochistic or experienced gamer taking on the role of Prussia your first go around). They then secretly allocate the strength of each of their starting armies on the player cards.  You only reveal the strength of your armies when they are directly involved in a battle. After that, your opponents must do their best to remember what your army strength is, if they forget, too bad. Also, no tabletalk concerning strategy, army strength, and cards is allowed. This is a gentleman's game, and one must fight with honor!

Meanwhile, starting with the end of the 6th turn (after France has moved), one Fate card is drawn from the top of the Fate Deck, resolved, and then placed face down at the bottom of the same deck. There are 6 cards which represent major (game changing) events, and 12 minor cards that add a bit of unpredictability. Russia is eliminated from the game when the death of Empress Elizabeth is announced via such a fate card. As this can happen as early as the end of the 6th turn (which happened in the first game I played), Russia is under some pressure.

Essentially, the game ends when ONE of the "allied" players achieves his conditions (captured all of his nation's objectives). Prussia wins if he can prevent that from happening, whether due to Russia, Sweden, and France being eliminated by the fate cards or by running out of time (tournament play is timed using chess clocks, otherwise, if you have 2 hours to play and don't beat Prussia within it, you lose.

Each nation draws a certain number of cards a turn, Prussia starting with the most drawn at seven a turn (which eventually becomes four if the wrong fate cards show up). These cards are critically important to the game.

Looking at the image above, notice the suit markings in blue, on the map? Those determine which card suit you are to play when your army is in battle. You can be playing one suit while your opponent is playing the same or different suit, depending on where their army is located.

One reason why this adds a lot to the game is that you are often in a position of having few or no cards of a suit you really need. Usually, like when I am playing as Prussia, this means Prussia is low on spades (for defending Silesia) or hearts (to defend Magdeburg). Hence, you want to bluff your opponents, by careful maneuver, into thinking you are stronger in a particular suit than you really are. At the same time, the allied players are best served by forcing Prussia to continually fight in one or two suits at most, thus running Prussia out of cards and severely weakening Prussia militarily.

Allies. This means that each of these nations are attacking Prussia, for their own ends. But overt cooperation between players is strongly discouraged. Overt means prior planning or discussion of any kind. In general, the players should learn the game and then play it to win a victory for their nation. Not for Austria to help France win, but to secure a win for Austria alone.

Combat. When opposing armies end up adjacent (not in the same location, but adjacent - new players often get this wrong), they MUST fight a battle. Each player announces the strength of his army (or stacked armies) and the player with the fewer number must either accept defeat or play a card. As successive cards are played, the players attempt to end the battle with a positive value. If you run out of cards and are at a negative value, you lose. For each point of difference, you lose one strength point and are retreated one dot on the map. So, if you lose by four, you lose four strength and your opponent  retreats your army four dots. Yes, your opponent gets to retreat your armies.

An example of combat is: Prussia, with one army of 8 strength, faces off against a stack of three Austrian armies with a total strength of 15. Prussia starts at -7 (the difference between army strengths). Prussia may then either concede defeat (not a good idea) and lose seven strength and be retreated seven dots (which can be REALLY REALLY bad) or play a card (cards are played one at a time and as long as your value is negative, you have the right to play another card). In this case, Prussia plays a 12 of clubs, putting the score of Austria at -5. Now, Austria plays an 11 of spades (look at the image above to see why), placing Prussia at -6. Prussia does not wish to spend any more cards, and since a retreat of one is safe (in the image above), he plays a 5 of clubs, losing one army and is also retreated one space.

There are Reserve cards, which are trumps. They can be played in any suit of a value 1 to 10. The player decides the value, often making the mistake of continuing the battle when he should cut his losses.

Another interesting aspect of this mechanic is "playing to zero." When a player plays a card, bringing the total score to zero, his opponent MUST play a card in suit, if he has it. Otherwise, the battle ends with no losses or retreat for either side. This is a way to force your opponent to play more cards in suit than they might have intended. It is advisable to do this if you feel your opponent is weaker in suit than you are, otherwise, you may play more cards yourself, to your own detriment.

Anyhow. I have played this game eight times, four as Prussia. While I have not yet lost as Prussia, I have come very close to losing three times. I made the beginner mistake of playing too many of my cards in early battle, when I should have taken a -1 result. Oh, losses are replaced by spending 6 points of cards for each strength point of troops. If you only have a 7 point card, you lose the extra point. Also, there is an army maximum for each nation and you can never have more total points on the board than that maximum.

I highly recommend this game. I cannot say enough positive about it. While it does require 2.5-3 hours to play (for experienced players) it is a game you must play at least once. The pressure that Prussia is under, to remember enemy army strength, cards played, but also to maneuver your own forces with skill, is not matched in any other game I have played. By the same token, playing as an ally (I have won twice as Austria) comes with its own set of frustrations. See below:

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Here is the game from this past Thursday. I was playing as Russia, Ron as Austria, Brent as France, and Evan as Prussia. I came on strong early, but Austria bid its time, taking advantage of the Prussians turning to face me. France, meanwhile, crept up, putting pressure on Hanover, and won the game. Here, you see France needing one last objective and Brent takes it immediately after this picture was taken. Gaaaah!

So, do yourself and your mates a favor and buy (then play) this game.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

No more crickets...maybe

Yeah, so it's been a few months since my last post.

Well, the time away was not at all planned. My laptop began getting the dreaded BSOD (and still does) at the same time it started to overheat (can cook eggs on the left side of my laptop if I try to start up a game). My usual relationship with electronic devices thus continues to be the bane of my existence.

On a brighter note, I have been teaching in a long-term substitute position for over a month now, teaching seventh grade science. While stressful (it is like trying to keep a pack of lions at bay), it is a job I love to do. The school admin are great, the majority of other teachers are welcoming (probably glad they do not have to teach my classes), and I have a few stand out students who are future movers and shakers in the world. However, the physical and mental exhaustion at the end of the day do require that I take naps more often that I would like.

Yet, I still am able to get in some boardgaming on Thursday nights at the local shop, plus my monthly game club gaming, which is always a miniature wargame.

I do have some game reports I would like to post, but I am currently without a camera and if I had one, my laptop overheating issues would still cause me problems with manipulating images.

I do hope my blogmates are all doing well. I haven't been able to keep up with my reading of their blogs, but promise to do better in the near future.

Rest assured, I have been putting this offline time to use, as I continue to edit and expand the campaign rules for my 1708 imagi-nations campaign, plus continued design work on a few different games.

As a final note, I do wish to state that regardless of our individual political affiliations and nation-state allegiances, my appreciation for your being a gamer still welcomes you as a boon companion and beau adventurer. The current situation in the Ukraine has many on edge and some highly contentious, but you will find none of that here.

Until the next time, Cheers!

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Well, hello again, all!

I have been fortunate indeed to have worked as a substitute teacher far more than usual, this past month. On the down side, I have been exhausted and fairly ill at the same time, meaning I had little energy or mental calm to set aside for posting here. There has been a nasty chest and sinus bug going around the schools and I must have picked it up, unintentionally, whilst covering for another ill teacher.

After three weeks, I am starting to get better, but I need to invest in large boxes of Airborne to fend off future occurances.

So, beyond the occasional mid-week game, and the monthly club meeting, I have been too drained to do much of anything.

On the other hand, I do have a report on the last club game to post, as well as an update to the siege by dice rules I have been working in. Additionally, I have been streamlining some of the campaign rules for the still pending 1708 campaign.

Hopefully, I can be awake and aware enough to go back and catch up on all the blogs I have missed out on reading.

My intent is to post the report on the club game tomorrow, complete with pics, as the game was quite a lot of fun.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Siege by Dice: Draft

Well, it has been a tiresome month or so since my last post. With my desktop still down, for over a year, my laptop decided to follow suit with a serious corruption of my registry files. Luckily, this was not due to some virus or a defective harddrive, but rather some glitch that occurred in the shutdown process. This prevented me from even logging in to my own computer, but I was able to at least turn the thing on and work at trying to fix it.

Now, presumably, this is behind me as I am using said laptop to type this.

I have been steadily working on a set of rules to be used for resolving sieges without fighting a tabletop battle. This is a very necessary tool for my pending 1708 campaign as siege games can be tedious, require much player time and travel, and we are likely to have several during each campaign turn.

So, I now present to you the draft version of these rules, for your review and comment. I do need to add some examples, as well as tidy up some of the wording, but the main bits are there and hopefully easily understood by the reader.

Please download and read the rules, then comment here as to your thoughts. I am very much open to suggestions, especially for some of the terms I used, but also as to what you think of the processes described therein.

Here is the link:
Siege By Dice

Monday, September 23, 2013

Concept: Siege Resolution Via Dice - Morale

Well, "morale" may not be the exact word, but it works for my purposes. It may be better to combine the meaning of "will" to it for what I wish to represent as far as sieges go.

Morale can be a tricky thing to model, but the focus is the end result of the siege and not the actual dynamics of the interactions between psychological stimuli. Instead, the willingness of the garrison to hold out or for the besieger to keep at it is what I am most concerned with.

So, my working mechanic for this aspect of siege resolution is to require either side to pass morale tests based on the results of their activities during each of the successive phases.

Each such test would be an opposed roll, with each player rolling a number of d6s equal to the current morale of his force. For example, say the garrison has a morale of 8 and the besieging force a morale of 12, the defender rolls 8 dice and the attacker 12. Both players are looking to achieve a "success" by rolling a 4 or greater on each die. The resulting number of successes are tallied and compared. Losing the test drops morale by 1, winning increases morale by 1. However, if one side scores 3 times more successes than the other, the losing side capitulates or lifts the siege, depending which side they were on.

Now, there are modifiers to the base morale, but not to the actual die rolls. So, a particularly gifted commander may increase the base more of his troops by 2 die or the failure to advance to the next phase may cause the besieging force to lose 1 die. Other modifiers would include the presence of a siege train, whether the garrison is on half rations, the length of the siege, proximity of a relief force, etc.

In my view, this method allows for the chance of an unlikely result, with the siege lifting very early or the garrison surrendering at the end of Phase 0, but the actual results of player actions will play a part in the chances of such extremes occurring.

While it is true that players may be rolling a fair amount of dice, it is still preferable to requiring players who live over 40 miles apart to get together to resolve the siege. Again, it can be done remotely via Skype or by phone, using an internet based die rolling program (the one I am thinking of actually records the results so they may be verified).

True, it is not the same as pushing miniatures around a table, but reality does not always allow for what is ideal.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Concept: Siege Resolution via Dice - Phases

As I wrote in the previous post, I believe I am satisfied with the number and objectives of each phase of this method to resolve sieges for my campaign. Based on Vauban's own timetable, I compacted events slightly in some areas, and expanded them in others, to better the flow of what a player is trying to accomplish during a campaign turn.

Here is Vauban's published time table:
To invest the fortress, collect stores and construct the lines of circumvallation and contravallation - 9 days
To open the trenches and to reach the covered way - 9 days
To capture the covered way - 4 days
To cross the ditch to reach the demi-lune - 3 days
To create a breach by battery or mining - 4 days
To capture the demi-lune - 3 days
To cross the main ditch - 4 days
To site forward batteries and breach the main defences - 4 days
To capture the breach and flanking positions - 2 days
To accept the capitulation of the garrison - 2 days
To allow for unexpected delays - 4 days

Total time allowed = 48 days

Of course, I am sure this was not a "set in stone" factor, but more of a general guideline of expectations. Also, this assumes a certain amount of defenses present at a given location, namely one or more demi-lunes (ravelin), but makes no mention of the well defended citadel that many fortified cities possessed.

In my campaign, the most well defended locations do have a citadel, and thus my phases below account for that. In fact, the below listing would be for the two most well defended fortress types (out of five) that are in the campaign. Each player has one of the best, and may have a couple of forts of the type slightly less defended, with a preponderance of poorly fortified locations.

Siege Phases for Campaign
0: Gather supplies and construct lines of circumvallation and contravallation.
1: Complete the 2nd parallel.
2: Complete the 3rd Parallel
3: Breach the demi-lune
4: Capture demi-lune and site the forward batteries.
5: Breach main defenses.
6: Breach flanking positions.
7a: Receive surrender of garrison.
7b: Site batteries to bombard citadel.
8: Breach Citadel.
9: Receive surrender of citadel garrison.
(note: I am likely going to add another phase "breach hornworks/outerworks" to this list, between phases 4 and 5 as lesser fortresses did not have these extensively)

These phases are not strictly limited to single week (campaign turn) durations, but may span more than one week or, due to felicitous events for the besieger,  more than one phase may be accomplished in a single turn.

Lesser fortifications will have fewer phases for the besieger to fulfill, specifically with the smallest fortress lacking not only a citadel but also the demi-lunes, for example.

More to come, of course. Also, I am open to questions, comments, and criticisms, so feel free to comment below.