A bit delayed! But relevant regardless!
MINIATURES-BASED TABLETOP GAMES
First and foremost, I’ve been like a kid on Christmas morning about Dystopian Wars. This is a new product line from Spartan Games. The setting is an alternative world in a universe inspired by Victorian Science Fiction– on a grand scale. I have played around with Victorian Science Fiction games in the past, even designed one, but they have all focused on very small scale actions on the extremely tactical side. Dystopian Wars ratchets the scale up a notch to create a system for playing on land, in the air, and (especially) on the sea. It’s no secret I’m quite fond of Spartan Games and especially Uncharted Seas, which recreated the fantasy naval gaming genre years after Man O’ War. Uncharted Seas is still great fun for me, and likely will continue to be for several years. So it’s well worth the money and time I’ve put into it. Dystopian Wars appears to have the same addictive appeal, with the added dimension of more combat in more battlefields… sea, air and land. The rules don’t appear to be vastly different from the core rules presented in Uncharted Seas and Firestorm Armada.
The exploding dice concept is really the root of everything in Spartan designs:
- Determine what can fire (modifying for LoS, range, and aspect to target)
- Roll that number in dice
- Look for a certain number to be hits (usually fives or sixes)
- On any six result, roll that particular dice again and apply the result to this roll. Continue until you stop hitting sixes.
- Count all the hits and see if that goes over the defensive threshold. If you go over, deduct a damage point from the number of ‘hits” the hull can take.
- If you go over by twice the threshold, roll on the critical hit table to see if some really bad stuff happens.
Dystopian Wars doesn’t dispense with this core; instead, it enhances it with modifiers for more refined definition of combat that was treated as exceptions in Uncharted Seas– namely flying and diving models. The setting of DW is such that the Great Powers are advanced technologically roughly 70 years ahead of our real world timeline in the year 1870. So a setting that accepts Armored Zeppelins (iconic as they might be, these weren’t around in OUR 1870s.. sorry, Steampunk fans), Steampowered Landships, Submarines and Aeroplanes will have to make some changes to accomodate them in the mostly naval-centric Spartan Core Rule set. Fortunately, the changes are not drastic and radical.
And the models.. hoooo boy, the models.
I have purchased the American FSA fleet, with 2 Saratoga class carriers and an additional Independence class Battleship. Why the extra ships? Because I have in mind where I want to go with Dystopian Wars: The first scenario I want to build and paint for will be a Midway style conflict over a desert island in the Pacific. My plan is to get our gaming group to play the search functions like the old Midway game, off-board and via email (possibly using Cyberboard) to set up where the invading Blazing Sun fleet will be located on the game table when we start playing. I want to have an asymmetric force involved, so my build list for the first scenario will be:
- 2 Flying Carriers
- 1 Battleship
- 5 Cruisers
- 6 Frigates
- two bombers
- 20 planes
- 2 carriers, starting about 20 inches apart
- 3 bombers, based on Midway
- 2 Battleships, 1 with each Carrier
- 5 Cruisers
- 6 Frigates
- 15 planes
- 1 Spotting Blimp
The Map will be gridded off in Cyberboard or just in a spreadsheet.
The Blimp will move around the battle area from the direction of Midway in the likely direction of the approaching Blazing Sun fleet. It can report a certain number of grid squares a turn. When it establishes a sighting of the Blazing Sun fleet, we will mark the grid coordinate and start the miniatures game.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to this one… I’m loving the look and the simple rules of Dystopian Wars. This is going to be on the gaming table in 2011.
I’m dusting off my old Fast Shuffle Combat Chariots design to run it at Chuck Turnitsa’s WILLIAMSBURG MUSTER convention. I’m still not satisfied with the game’s flow, I’ll probably tinker with it a little before running it. As it is, I’m currently feverishly building 20mm (1/72) Chariots from various manufacturers to add some variety to the chariot selection. Currently I have several painted up chariots of the Atlantic Egyptian variety– defined as a basic Light chariot in the rules. I am adding three Indian Chariots (probably a Medium in terms of build points), three Sumerian Chariots (Heavy), and three Gallic Chariots (probably a light with enough build points for a warrior/rider). I also have a package of Atlantic’s Greek Chariots, which should be Medium under the rules. That should be enough for a little more variety.
I also will run LAND OF THE GIANTS, which was a cute little game of chariot racing and giant-killing that I premiered at Game Camp last August. Not a bad game for what it is– I have some feedback from the kids about the game that I will incorporate before running this one at the Muster.
So I have some work to do before running both of these, but I’m looking forward to it.
I’ll be at COLD WARS and HISTORICON; very likely I will run games at both of these. It’s been far too long and I’m looking forward to GMing again.. but I’m not sure what to run. Suggestions are welcomed.
I’ve resolved to bring a few older projects to the light of day this year– I have a 15mm fantasy design called BIG DANGED BOATS that has a lot of painted and unpainted ships to finish before I put this out on the table. To be honest, it went on the far back burner when Uncharted Seas came out, and I havent’ revisted it. Still there’s a lot of work put in on this one and I don’t want to relegate all those 15mm ships and fantasy crews to the “Never Was” pile. So, somehow, this will see the light of day this year. Somehow.
Likewise, I have a bunch of 15mm fantasy painted up that is doing nothing. I need something to do with all this stuff, I’m not sure where to go with it.
CARDBOARD BOARD WARGAMES & OTHER FORMS OF CONFLICT SIMULATION IN PAPER & CARDBOARD FORMATS…
I’m not buying or playing as many board wargames as I used to in the days of GMT’s deep discount program, but I keep my hand in. GMT has a bunch of titles in the pipeline that appeal to me enough to P500 them. The near term games i’m anxious to acquire are COMMAND AND COLORS: NAPOLEONICs (yeah, we can do this with plastics, guys.. I think the hobby has us covered) and SPANISH CIVIL WAR. Two favorite history topics of mine, I can’t resist. A little farther down the line, there’s another game in the Men of Iron series, which may be my favorite Richard Berg design.. if I were the type of guy to assign favorites. This is “INFIDEL” and it appears to cover the Crusades. Deal me in. Other P500s I’ve signed up for are BLOODY APRIL: THE AIR WAR OVER ARRAS (I like WWI airplanes), SEKIGAHARA (block game of the Unification of Japan in the Sengoku period), COMBAT COMMANDER: RESISTANCE! (partisans come to CC), 1989 (Revolutions in Cold War Europe by the Twilight Struggle people) and possibly SPACE EMPIRES: 4X (I’m going to need to know more before I commit my cold hard cash on this one).
Z-Man is reprinting one of my favorite family games of yore, KINGS AND THINGS. I’m hoping they enhance the basic Tom Wham design like they did with the old CHINATOWN. I’ll see if I want to get this. I always thought this was one of the first so-called Eurogames, only done American style. it could do with a facelift, yet retaining the goofy original Tom Wham artwork, which makes the game for me.
Zev is broadening the appeal of his product line quite a bit; at least he is as far as I’m concerned. In the upcoming year, I’m certainly interested in THE EARTH REBORN, DUEL OF THE GIANTS, ROAD KILL RALLY (I played CAR WARS when it was new, kids) , MERCHANTS AND MARAUDERS, BATTLE BEYOND SPACE and THE ARES PROJECT. Yes, I realize that some of these have 2010 publishing dates. But I haven’t seen them in any store near me, nor seen them demoed or heard bupkus about any of these titles on any podcast, either… so they are ALL new to me.
Lock and Load publishing seems to be broadening their product line as well. Their newfound dedication to zombies is impressive, they put out ALL THINGS ZOMBIE as a board game this year and the first print run ran out. In their upcoming year, I hope to pick up STEAM AND STEEL from them, plus (maybe) their next Zombie game, which is eluding me at the moment.
I’ve noticed my former fan-boy obsession with all things FANTASY FLIGHT has died down a great deal. Mostly this is because I don’t have 6 hours of free time to play one of their big box games. Recent smaller format purchases have been very hit and miss with me as well. None of the recent big box games (Runewars, Horus Heresy, etc.) have appealed to me in the slightest, despite some decent reviews here and there (curse you, D6G podcast! You almost had me!). Still, FFG continues to support the games that ARE a big hit with me; namely ARKHAM HORROR, DESCENT, and COSMIC ENCOUNTER (and to a much lesser extent, FURY OF DRACULA, WARRIOR KNIGHTS and BRITANNIA). So I’ll probably pick up the odd fast playing Silver Line game and expansion here and there, but unless something really, really floors me.. I’m not going to be buying a giant long-playing really expensive game from FFG again. They just don’t get played enough.
OTHER PUBLISHERS with some fun recent or future titles that I may want to get or at least play are DVG, who are busy reprinting Dan Verssen’s early solitaire modern “Leader” games from GMT in a larger, more colorful format (as well as redoing DOWN IN FLAMES from the ground up). WORTHINGTON GAMES has released some really interesting titles lately, namely RED POPPIES: WWI INFANTRY TACTICS (despite the very lame counter art work), CAESAR’S GALLIC WAR, RED BARON, PIRATES: AGE OF THE SWORD, GUNS OF AUGUST, BLOCKADE RUNNERS and CHAINMAIL. This may be an example of another traditional wargame publisher broadening his line for entry players, I don’t know.
I am not now a huge computer gamer.. and will not likely become one. I received Civilization V for Christmas, and am enjoying that now, but I’ve noticed that it doesn’t grab me like the oldest version, CIV 1, did back in the day. It’s fun, but not earth shaking fun. I’ve also picked up the Ironclads Group Deal from Totem Software, which is a lot of fun in a sort of aimless way– the game needs some serious work on feedback to the player. Other than that I don’t do a huge amount of conflict simulation gaming on my laptop any more. Gar and Anne got the Xbox Connect for Christmas, and I am looking forward to playing BLOOD BOWL on that platform, as well as a few other select (older) titles. I may even get XBox Live, who knows. I’d like to take someone on in SHADOWRUN or CIVILIZATION REVOLUTIONS one of these days.
The biggest thing I’m gaming with electronically these days are boardgame ports to the IOS family (Ipad, Iphone, etc). I’m really enjoying the fact that many big publishers have jumped on this bandwagon to give old and new titles a different marketing channel. I think I’ve played CARCASSONE for the IOS maybe 50 times so far, and counting. Other great games of recent vintage have been ROLL THROUGH THE AGES, BANG!, RA, TICHU, and BATTLE LINE. One of these days, I’ll probably end up with an Ipad.. this may be the next iteration of boardgames. I certainly hope companies like GMT are noticing this and thinking about converting wargames to tablets. It could be the next big thing. I’ll continue to be picking these up during 2011, of course.
Sometimes, I knock myself for being an avowed pacifist and so very much into military history, carnage, and fictional death on a tabletop. Isn’t this being a bit hypocritical? I say to myself. “Nah, self, not to worry” I reply.. but I could digress into another blog post if I started ranting about the ethics of fictional mayhem. What I’d like to be more involved with (depending on having the right audience) is a new sort of game that I’ve been noticing more and more these days with the advent of Print and Play publishers like RPGNOW. RPGs and (for lack of a better word) “Performance Games” seem to have found their niche at last. Some get printed into real durable cardboard and booklet form, others reside in electronic form only, to be printed when needed. These are games that are NOT about war, but about odd situations that test OTHER talents in a group of gamers– improvisation, creativity, a sense of fun. Here are just a few that I’ve been personally intrigued by:
AYE, DARK OVERLORD: a game of being a minion or lackey of an invincible dark overlord. The game’s components are slender, being a deck of cards that enhance, rather than determine, play. The whole point of the game is to shift the blame and approbation of the Dark Overlord from YOU to the next poor hapless shlub.
THE RESISTANCE: The Resistance is a social deduction game for 5-10 players that has several unique features not often found in the genre. While game play may share some similarities with Werewolf or Mafia, The Resistance offers innovations such as no player elimination, no need for a moderator, and a much faster play time.
THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN: By James Wallis. A game of lying, boasting, and deceit.. as told by Baron Munchausen. Players compete for the greatest fanciful tale, all done in the style of Munchausen.
THE GENTLEMAN’S ETYMOLOGY CLUB: The Gentlemen’s Entomology Club is a roleplaying game of wine-drinking, boasting, beetles and some incidental rationalist philosophy. You take the role of an aging eighteenth century entomologist attempting to impress his peers with tales of adventures seeking bizarre insects in far-flung corners of the world. Your objective is to tell the most diverting stories of the evening.
MY LIFE WITH MASTER: a roleplaying game of villainy, self-loathing, and unrequited love. Players take on the role of being yet another flunkie to a mad scientist this time.
Sure they don’t involve a battle, or for the most part, neither lead nor cardboard. But all of these seem to deliver a good time. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
LASTLY: CONVERTING BAD HABITS TO GOOD HABITS
Looking back on 2010, I can see I’ve become more of a pack rat than a gamer. I have a perfectly great local gaming group that meets on Thursday nights. Why the heck don’t I go to more of these? The start time? I work enough hours to get off work early on Thursdays. The fact is, i don’t have a good enough reason. I’m a procrastinator and it hurts my chances of gaming more regularly. I’m going to do more about this bad habit this year. I want to play more and whine less.
Also, I want to get off my dead ass and paint some more miniatures and design more. I enjoy this hobby but can’t seem to finish anything– there’s always that extra thing that needs doing or rule that needs tinkering. I would like to finish more things and see them through to conclusion. There’s a ton of half done projects that were a great idea years ago, and still are a great idea.
On a related note I’ve been very much in a FALL-IN/COLD WARS/HISTORICON rut ONLY for several years. I’m resolved to give a new convention a chance now and then. I’m going to Williamsburg Muster this year and will try to support CHARCON, The WarStore Weekend, BARRAGE, TempleCon, and who knows? (in a hushed whisper).. maybe even ORIGINS or GENCON!! This is all money and time depending, but I keep saying I’ll do it and it never happens.. I hope to change that. What the heck, I might even give PREZCON another try some day.
And lastly, I want to make this blog more active in gaming across a number of mediums. You’ll have noticed I’m doing more audio recordings lately– I’d like to add more audio and video elements to 3POS for the new year. Not a vidcast or podcast, per se, but a multimedia approach.
And that’s what I’m looking forward to in 2011!