I’m a member of about a half dozen Meetup Groups that hold game meets here and there all over Northern Virginia. The Northern Virginia boardgamers meetup holds a meetup at the local Caribou Coffee place. I like this one because it’s close by and they serve coffee (important). Tonight’s event was rather crowded, as the local school was holding an impromptu concert:
MODERN NAVAL BATTLES
Gar and I brought MODERN NAVAL BATTLES (DVG), a recent present from my 2012 Wargaming Secret Santa from BoardGameGeek. Modern Naval Battles is a reboot of a three older games of Dan Verssen’s (also called Modern Naval Battles, I, II and III) dating back to the days of 3W. I didn’t play it back in the day but did enjoy the freebie COLD WAR NAVAL battles (Creative Commons license by Dan V, using the old artwork) which was circulating a while back. All of these share the same DNA as Avalon Hill‘s ancient NAVAL WAR as well as one of my favorites, ENEMY IN SIGHT. I have played Naval War and Enemy in Sight quite a bit in the past, and really enjoy these “line of battle” style games. Ships deploy in fleets, the fleets have a formation (linear in the case of Enemy in Sight, staggered in the case of Modern Naval Battles). Players take turns launching attacks of different flavors against each other’s fleets using Action cards. The action cards are defended against, either by shipboard systems or by sacrificing more action cards. If you roll badly on your defense, or don’t have an action card that can defend a flavor of attack, the attack hits. Attacks are cumulative and are represented by action cards under the ship card until the Hull Value is exceeded, and the ship sinks.
Garrett chose an American fleet consisting of the Enterprise, the Virginia, the W.H. Standley, the Cromelein, and the George Phillip. Garrett also brought in the New Jersey and Los Angeles, as reinforcements during the game.
I deployed a Soviet fleet of the Okrylenny, Slava, Marshall Shaposhnikov, A missile boat, the Carrier Kiev, and submarine U507 starting in passive mode.
Immediately I lost a missile boat to Garrett’s opening salvo, which I couldn’t counter. I took this in stride and responded with everything I could bear on the Enterprise. One air strike from the Kiev and two missile strikes actually did for the Enterprise in one turn.
I also spent some cards to bring the Kirov into the battle line, at range one to the other line. I might lose her, but she could really hammer the enemy fleet, too.
Gar’s response was to spend a lot of action cards on bringing in the New Jersey through reinforcement. A really heavy hitter but she is expensive– he barely had cards to do much after that. I took out another one of his ships, and he heavily damaged the Okrylenny. Then I figured it was all or nothing. Two missile attacks on the New Jersey and a bomber salvo. It proved to be more than enough to bring down the New Jersey. Garrett once again spent most of his action cards to bring in yet another expensive ship, this time the Los Angelese submarine. Having taken down the Enterprise and New Jersey, I was ahead on points (we were playing to 25 tonight), a fact I reminded Garrett about. I decided to spread the attacks around and put missile salvos on everything Gar had floating except the Los Angeles. This took out a couple of small fry and technically the game was won– but being a gentleman, I let him have a last turn. He did for the Kirov and the rest of the already damaged Okrylenny. My crews became heroes of the Soviet Union, and we emerged from the fray victors, 27 to 11 points, Soviet to American. This was our first time with Modern Naval Battles and we both really enjoyed it. Along the lines of constructive criticism, there were some vague areas in the rulebook, but common sense and experience with the ancestors of this game helped figure things out for me.
Here’s a slideshow of the evening’s games:
GAUNTLET OF FOOLS
(Indie Boards and Cards)
Our second game of the night was GAUNTLET OF FOOLS by Indie Publishers, the same folks who brought you THE
RESISTANCE. I had hopes for this one, as the designer, Donald Vaccarino, was the guy who brought us Dominion. This game is published as being for 2-6 players, but I would not recommend it for less than four for reasons I’ll get into. The game, in brief, is about running adventurers and boasting and bragging about their exploits. I was hoping the bragging part was going to be more colorful than it turned out to be, but that element was sadly formulaic and we hardly used it. Sad face. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen this ain’t. Essentially the players put out a row of cards representing adventurers, weapons, and encounters. The players select the adventurer card and weapon… and if any OTHER player wants that adventurer/weapon combo then has the option of bragging about that character to “trump” the previous player. As in “I’ll have the monk walk through this dungeon with one hand tied behind his back”, etc. You can trump that brag by adding another “brag” to the character and stealing him. Brags (there are effectively nine of them) work out as penalties to combat. Since there’s no rule that says you MUST brag, we didn’t bother to since we only had two players playing. We had zero incentive to use the best mechanic in the game! The game will work better with four players playing as there’s more reason to hamper the other guy and before he goes into encounters. After adventurers are selected, they go through a series of encounters and defeat them until they die trying. We only played until 20 gold or the first death. I easily managed to get the Gold Pieces threshold without taking a lot of damage. Garrett did pretty well, too, and only got wounded once. I like the general idea of this game but I wish the storytelling/bragging element was more intricate than just counters on a card, that really took away from the experience for me. I’d like that to be the main focus of the game, not just cards going on a dungeon crawl kind of game.
There are good ideas in this design and I’d like to play it again, but I didn’t think the two player variant that the rule suggest, which is essentially running two characters and having the characters alternate active turns, was very satisfying. GAUNTLET OF FOOLS is really designed for 4 players minimum.. you don’t get the nuances of the bragging without that many players at least. Without four players, I’m not seeing how the game has much to differentiate itself from other similar games of fantasy combat. I’ll try it again with four players next time and revist this post. I’ll be the first to say that due to time constraints, we were a little rushed, and I had to curtail a few actions I normally would have taken to figure out the rules I didnt’ get at first. The rule book is also a bit vague in spots, and even though it is relatively large for the game we’re playing, it had a lot of lists and not a lot of rule interpretation. Maybe that’s just me, some elements were confusing and perhaps I’m not playing it 100% as intended, but I know I got close.
I find myself agreeing with Tom Vasel’s review of Gauntlet of Fools, so I’ll include that here:
So that was our Caribou Coffee night out, we listened to some live music, drank some hot chocolate, enjoyed the, erm, cozy surroundings, and played two new games. Definitely not an evening wasted.