I tried to catch the Kingstowne Strategy Brigades‘ monthly meetup at the Kingstown Center for Active Adults in Alexandria, VA. The Kingstown Center is a pretty nice setup, with several large round tables and a few smaller square ones designed to play games on. Someone in the Northern Virginia Boardgames Meetup is a member there so makes the community center available once a month.
Having arrived mid-day, The gaming groups were pretty deeply involved in what they were playing when I got there– playing HERE I STAND and the most recent AXIS AND ALLIES.
The Kingstown bunch seems to be a pretty intense group– they weren’t stopping to acknowledge anything but the game. All players were committed to playing Axis and Allies and Here I Stand, and didn’t even look up. That’s what you get for showing up late, I guess. So I shrugged and went over to a table and set up RED POPPIES for a solitaire play, then RED BARON after that.
Both games are published by Worthington. Red Poppies is new to me, though it was published in 2010. It was on my radar screen when it was first published, but I held off on buying it until a recent fortuitous Ebay purchase sent it my way. Red Baron is very new, having been released as a sort of freebie add-on to the recent release of GUNS OF AUGUST as part of the pre-order deal. Guns of August looks promising, so I preordered it and both games just showed up last week.
These are both low-complexity wargames, more or less. I prefer lower level tactical games, and World War One over World War Two. When I read that Red Poppies was a game of Regimental Level conflict with company sized maneuver elements, I wanted to get a copy of it. My last WWI game experience playing close to this scale was Clash of Arms LANDSHIPS, which I enjoyed. Component wise, the bits are lovely– far better than my first take from pictures on Boardgamegeek. The maps are all single foldouts on heavy cardboard, with cardboard charts, scenario cards and large chunky counters. One generally doesn’t associate a modular tactical wargame along the lines of SQUAD LEADER in World War One– one usually thinks of WWI as trench warfare, static lines, grand strategy games like the original GUNS OF AUGUST. Red Poppies is a game of companies and platoons. Scenarios include German, French, Belgian, and British forces, with battles spanning the entire conflict on the western front. I ran the introductory scenario from the game and played about three turns.
The rules are pretty short, and one might find that to be a good thing in a tactical game. Still, I found the rulebook pretty confusing. The rules lacked critical examples, particular in the basic fire combat sequence, how to move into a hex and engage in melee (and the defensive fire sequence). The game sequence is essentially Initiative, Command Couplets, then Administration. Initiative is a simple dice roll off, with the difference between the two being the amound of command couplets done per turn. My GUESS, is that a command couplet works like this– “the side with the most initiative performs an action, then the next guy, for as many times as the difference between initiative rolls”. I’m guessing because I couldn’t find any definition of what the command couplet is or exactly what is supposed to happen. Still, I muddled through, bombarding the British trenches as the Germans and pulverizing, then storming the German trenches as the British. I managed to dislodge some Germans and achieve at least a partial victory by occupying victory hexes. Then I packed it up and tried RED BARON.
Red Baron a game that is simple and clear, and almost abstract. The game moves generic fighters, bombers and balloons around based on a set of maneuver cards. These are kind of like WINGS OF WAR maneuver cards, only far more linear (it’s a square grid after all). Each card has a different maneuver for Fighter, Bomber and Balloon. The result is a sort of abstracted minuet of air combat and maneuvering. Combat is simple.. chit drawing combat chits from a cup randomly for the most part. The game resolves quickly and is quite simple to grasp. A very good game to introduce to non-gamers or kids.
So, in the end the Meetup was not time wasted for me– I got to solitaire some games and try out some recent purchases.