Category Archives: computer wargames

Oh, Slitherine.. just take my money, you canny bastards. You had me at Pike & Shotte


A fairly recent development over at Slitherine Software, essentially the epicenter of turn based computer wargaming for multiple platforms, was the announcement and screenshots for their upcoming turn based game PIKE AND SHOT (P&S).  P&S will be using the Battle Academy engine, which is robust,  reasonably well tested and more importantly ALREADY PORTED TO TABLETS.  I balked at a 20 dollar Ipad game but something tells me I won’t balk at P&S if it comes in that high (though, realistically, if you’ve made the investment in the engine, I would anticipate that you gain some price efficiencies for reusing it, that’s how it works in other industries)>

The game is turn based and has a bunch of scenarios.  I don’t know much more than Slitherine’s product announcements and the basic look and feel from the screenshots.

(From product page, I’ve bolded the items that make me grin with anticipation)

  • Accurate simulation of battle in the 16th and 17th century Age of Pike and Shot.
  • Unique graphic style based on 17th century styles and battle paintings.
  • 10 full-sized historical battles in each campaign- The Thirty Years War, English Civil War (expansion) and 16th century Italian Wars (expansion).
  • Classic Turn-based, tile based gameplay.
  • Easy to use interface, hard to master gameplay.
  • Battalion-sized units.
  • Single player and multiplayer modes.
  • Stand-alone battle system allows unlimited “what-if” scenarios using historically realistic armies from carefully researched army lists, on realistic computer generated terrain maps.
  • Stand-alone scenarios are randomly generated and include open battle, attack on a defensive position, defence of a defensive position, awaiting reinforcements, enemy awaiting reinforcements, flank march.
  • In stand-alone games players can pick their armies from the army list or allow the computer to pick the army for them.
  • Effective AI makes sound tactical decisions. Historical battle AI customised to the historical tactical situation.
  • 5 difficulty levels allow the challenge to increase as you develop your battlefield skills.
  • 20 troop-types, 25 “capabilities” and numerous different unit organisations allow full representation of tactical differences and developments throughout the period.
  • Detailed model that accurately represents any substantial 16th or 17th century battle world-wide as scenarios are developed.
  • Mod friendly game system with built-in map editor.
  • Multiplayer mode allows historical scenarios and “what-if” scenarios to be played by two players using Slitherine’s easy to use PBEM server.

All great stuff, but a picture is worth a thousand words.  To wit:

Click to enlarge.

The game developers did their research and certainly appear to have the formations correct. I would have expected more linear groupings on a 30 years war battlefield but this wasn’t always the case, so I’ll give Slitherine a lot of slack.

I’m quite excited… dammit, just send me the pre-order information, Slitherine, you nailed this one. Official release date is “TBD” but the company forum says “Later this year“. NICE. After the rather disappointing “closest thing to a Pike and Shot game they make” from HPS Simulations (essentially Panzer Campaigns with Musket and Pike graphics– who thought an operational game would work for this subject matter, HPS?), I was very pleased to see a tactical engine that looks like it will do justice to the subject matter.  You know, with formations that matter, and facing, and troop differences.  Pike and Shot looks like a lot of fun.

GMT Games prioritizes tablet computing targets


Copyright BoardGameGeek 2010

Dominant Species

As you no doubt already know if you’re read this blog much, but I’ll restate anyway, I’m a bit of a tablet nut.  Especially a “wargames should be done for the tablet” nut.  I’ve posted about it enough, and for a large part, this idea has come to pass, with the releases from Shenandoah Studios, John Tiller game ports, and several onesie and twosie companies releasing indie projects in the wargaming realm.  Sadly the one player that should be invested in this technology but really isn’t is GMT GAMES.  There are many, many game designs published by GMT that would make excellent tablet games.  anything card driven and with area movement might be a good candidate (some more than others).  The Command and Colors block games are a natural.  The American Revolutionary War battles series.   Field of Fire, even.  The big kahuna, however, was always going to be the highest scoring (On BGG) game published by GMT ever, Twilight Struggle.  Until recently, GMT remained committed to a PC only Game conversion of Twilight Struggle.  This project was recently cancelled and an announcement that GMT was seeking out tablet programmers to convert it to an IoS version was released. GMT remains committed to tablet conversions of board games, as they have been saying since 2011 and earlier.   The one and only release from GMT for the IPad, the Dominant Species app, I purchased with some enthusiasm… which dried up immediately after going through the tutorial and trying to play just one game.  Granted, I have NO experience with the board game of Dominant Species, but it is rated somewhat highly on Boardgamegeek, there had to be some “there”, there, right?   Plus, I have a lot of experience with games and Ipad ports of board games, and have been around the block a little, so what’s not to like?  In a word, plenty.   I thought the Dominant Species app was wretched.  The tutorial did not engage me, graphics are dull, and game flow is confusing.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but there was no sense of narrative in the game app for me.  That’s just me, though, there are people out there who seem to like the app just fine and if you like Dominant Species (the board game) you will probably like the app.

Dominant Species App Menu

I swear; I’m not going to give up on this thing. I spent my five bucks and I want a game out of it.  So I’ll keep giving it a try.  Sometimes a game has to win me over; I know that Puerto Rico for the Ipad did after a few tries; I still have high hopes for Agricola and Caylus for the Ipad as well.    The sad fact is I don’t often grock why some games are so danged popular and rated so highly on BGG.  I think it’s a problem of opportunity.  The games just mentioned, Agricola, Caylus and Puerto Rico, looked pretty dull as a subject for a game when I see them set up to play, yet they have their strong adherents.  I respect that.  People don’t have to like what I like, either.  I just need a while to cozy up to the concept of planting crops and building buildings as being “fun”..  it took the games  of Stone Age, San Juan, and to a lesser extent Kingdom Builder to get me to come round about the  subject.

Dominant Species Tutorial in action…

GMT, though, they are a natural for me, being kind of wargame-y, kind of historical, kind of a lover of so-called “Ameritrash” as I am.   They publish one of the top games on BGG for a couple years, Twilight Struggle (a great game).  They have spoken openly about porting specific titles (many of whom are terrific, some of whom are just okay) to a digital format.  Their decision to port Twilight Struggle to a PC game puzzled me, as I don’t see the PC being the platform of choice for boardgame conversions any more.  Still, I would have bought it.. I don’t buy everything GMT puts out, but they can’t say I haven’t been a loyal customer over the years.

Twilight Struggle, GMT Games.  Copyright Boardgamegeek 2005The recent statement cancelling Twilight Struggle for the PC was illuminating.  They appear to not be satisfied with progress or the current version of the PC game.  Their statement (read here) indicates that there will be, eventually, a tablet version of Twilight Struggle.  I have to give them a cautious holllahh!  for this decision.  If they have been trying to produce something for two years and it still isn’t up to their standards, it’s time to fish or cut bait.  Frankly the tablet idea is a better one.  The tablet market (and note, I’m not saying “Just Ipads”, I’m saying tablet.. inclusive of Androids) really is taking off for board game ports.  I’m not going to say anything hokey about ‘the future of board gaming” here, as it isn’t.. not really.  But it is growing, that much is clear.  So, good decision, GMT!!  You would have had my coin either way you went with this, but I’m hoping to see a renewed investment in tablet style games from you now.

With all that fustion being delivered in grand old style, where is my Command and Colors on the Ipad?

Storm Eagle Software: a company that would have made George Orwell proud


IF this is the new paradigm for software distribution, it leaves a lot to be desired.  (written in 2012, not posted until now)

Note from the year 2013: I wrote this a year ago, and sort of let it lay in the draft hopper out of apathy.  It’s still all true, but I would add a small epilogue: I did finally get the software installed after two weeks of effort and lots of repeated system admin tasks…. and it sucked!  The game interface is moronic, you have very little control over individual ships beyond steering them and hoping for the best, and it’s a bit of a yawner.  Not really worth giving an in-depth review too.  Kind of anti-climatic after all that work, no?  I have to stress that Storm Eagle, cited here, did not create the software I’m trying to install in this transaction, so I can’t fault them directly for that, that’s all on Totem Software’s head. In the end, I wasted my money, and went through a lot of stress, to boot.  I’m posting this a year later, really because it amuses me more than it angers me.  The so-called customer service rep’s replies become blander and less officious as the exchange continues, and in the end I wondered if he could type that drivel with a straight face.

There are days when I feel like a relic, and the last four days have certainly made me feel that way. I have always had an interest in games with a military history element to them; that much might be obvious from casual reading of this blog. So when I was idly responding to an advert banner ad about Dreadnoughts at the Storm Eagle Software site, I noticed this boffo new-ish product:

Totem Games Victorian Admirals

They are having a sail on Totem Games’ VICTORIAN ADMIRALS collection for roughly 30 bucks. This is just ducky for a guy like me who’s nuts for the pre-dreadnought Age of Steam naval conflict era– I have reservations about the Totem Games interface– it’s a little clunky and not exactly inspirational, but the art is lovely and the history is obscure.

So I did a mental version of “Yipppeee!” and ordered it.

Full disclosure: I just ordered it. This is TOTALLY my fault for jumping and not looking.  Don’t even bother lecturing me or shaking your head.  I didn’t think about reading the damned fine print. I did zero research. I saw something about digital delivery, but so what? I’ve ordered games from Matrix Games with a digital delivery option, I just got a download code, downloaded the thing and that was it. I’ve even ordered from GOG.com in the past, and though it was slow, I downloaded their version of digital delivery. So what could possibly go wrong?

There was a link on the Storm Eagle website that informed me that they were selling the software as an affiliate for SES.  Yeah, yeah, so…

Without reading much more than that, I paid by paypal, and was then told I had to download the STORMPOWERED application which is the way they were going to send me VICTORIAN ADMIRALS.  I should have had alarm bells going off at that stage, but I complied, downloaded their “STORMPOWERED” client application, which is somehow beneficial to the software delivery process.   Digital Delivery, as my hipster younger friends tell me, is the way of the future for computer programs.  That’s progress.

FOUR DAYS LATER, after frequent attempts to download the product I PAID FOR, with NO CHANCE OF A REFUND, I realized that A) I was foolish and should have read the fine print, and B) this ain’t no way to run a railroad.  Because we’re in the age of “Digital Distribution”, Storm Eagle Software has essentially adopted policies that preclude the customer getting a refund if he or she is dissatisfied, with no redress whatsoever.  There are no reasonable alternatives offered if the client doesn’t work– I can’t get a CD download (hell, I’d even pay extra for it now).  I can’t access the software from a secure FTP site, like I can with Matrix Games.  Throughout the process of dealing with Storm Eagle Software’s so-called customer service agents, I have been told that this is essentially my fault.  I have followed their instructions.  I’ve tried to download this at home and at work.  The STORMPOWERED client, essentially, is defective.  It will apparently work if I add exceptions to my anti-virus software and log in as an administrator to install and run it.  I have done so, and it still doesn’t work.   So, apparently, I’m also supposed to do all these extra system administrator tasks to download a file.   I rapidly got fed up with the defective software, requested a refund, and was told that no refunds are granted.  I asked for a CD delivery, and was told they don’t supply software that way.  I asked for a FTP download and was told they wouldn’t make an exception for me.  During the four days of increasingly fruitless “customer service” emails from  the while, every message ended with a cheerful variant of “We’re committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure you get your product”.   Except, of course, CD Delivery, FTP delivery, or any other reasonable option to satisfy a very disgruntled customer.

Do you think I’m over stating this?  Maybe, being a bit of a drama queen?  Read on by clicking below.

But wait, there’s more!

Leviathans (not THOSE Leviathans) coming soon to a portable device near you


LEVIATHAN: WARSHIPS from Paradox Interactive (not to be confused with the flying battleship Leviathans from Catalyst Game Labs) was announced earlier this year and has a launch date of 30 April this year. Leviathan Warhsips appears to be a semi-real time naval combat game set in a kinda-sorta Edwardian universe. This doesn’t appear to be a very deep game, but there are elements I’m liking from the limited information that has been released so far. The fleets are customizable, if somewhat cartoony and corny looking.

Fire! Fire! Fire!

Engage! Engage! Engage!

Secondly, this isn’t just an arcade game, though it might look like one at first glance. Everything I’m seeing appears to indicate that there IS a combat system at work here, and it makes consistent and logical sense. For instance, check out the damage display:

Damage boxes, eh? Reminds you of.. oh, I dunno, pretty much any naval wargame I’ve ever played with miniatures?

That’s not a “my ship took ten hit points, therefore it sinks” kind of damage model. It’s still fairly simple-looking, but there’s some thought beind shown here. I’m intrigued.

Best of all, There appears to be some thought put into the firing model. Shots get fired and don’t hit. Ships fire and the shot gets blocked by terrain or they fall short. Ships can’t seem to fire at what they can’t see. Check out the following two Youtube videos displaying the review version of the software.

and

The ships in these examples aren’t violating basic physics. They aren’t zipping around like hydrofoils.. they are big lumbering beasts who actually have to maneuver to bring guns to bear. That’s pretty hopeful. I still see the AI doing a few stupid things, but the overall game appears to be somewhat on target with how naval gunfire from the early 20th century ought to look like.

So, yeah, I’m intrigued. I here this will be a cross-platform release, and it might be out for the Ipad at the same time as everything else, including Windows. I hope there’s some form of online play or sequential PBeM play being developed.

I’ll know more when on April 30th!

Days Gone By: SSI Computer Ambush


Strategic Simulations Inc. was a great company and a great innovator in the area of computer gaming, starting in the early 80s and lasting until it was acquired by Mindscape in the 1990s.   They were also a very liberal borrower of ideas from existing boardgames.  Back in the days of Genie Online, I read a post by one exasperated ex-SPI employee referring  to SSI as something more actionable than “borrower”, but I don’t want to cause a ruckus by naming names.  One of their better tactical games was COMPUTER AMBUSH (1982 and 1984) aka CA.   CA was a game set in France late in World War 2, where an American squad meets a German squad somewhere in a French village.  There were some… critics.. that said this game was an unlicensed computer version of VG/AH’s AMBUSH! series, but that doesn’t hold water as this game was published before Ambush.  Still, I can see the resemblance.. A pre generated squad of canned Yanks and Germans from central casting moving through territory they don’t know and confronting the bad guys when they become detectable.

Screenshot-ambush

Computer Ambush was made in an era where graphics were, frankly, crap, computer speed and computational power sketchy and media fragile and difficult to work with. One should not look back on those days and equate “Old” with “bad”, however. Computer Ambush is a profoundly interesting game, using the best influences from Squad Leader and Sniper!, being a semi-RPG situation where you are managing a squad of soldiers on a mission and inserted in an element of variability and excitement by providing computer opponents that moved in total fog of war until detected.

Screen shot of game in progress.  Orders are being entered at the bottom of the screen.  More on that late.

Screen shot of game in progress. Orders are being entered at the bottom of the screen. More on that late.

The playing experience was long, involved and required concentration and commitment from the player.   Computer controls in the early 80s were very limited, and the mouse had yet to make a splash on computing.  So doing simple things with your units required a lot of typing.  The graphics being so rudimentary (basically text on an ASCII text grid), the player had to provide a lot of the visuals with his own imagination. In essence, we do the same thing when we play any boardgame, since we’re just manipulating a piece that represents something in our heads, just CA really required a leap of faith with the user to grasp what he was doing– the game doesn’t resemble street fighting in a French village unless you squinted.

SSI helped you visualize that village by including a durable, laminated chart of the village, with helpful grid notation on it for plotting moves.

SSI helped you visualize that village by including a durable, laminated chart of the village, with helpful grid notation on it for plotting moves.

Where computer graphics technology failed, print technology supplemented nicely. Computer Ambush was published in an era where lavish detail was spent on documentation, packaging and media. There was none of this “game docs provided as PDFs on the CD” stuff back then. You got a staple bound, fully printed manual with a color cover (usually), some charts, and the latest in media, replete with labels and sometimes even loading instructions printed on the sleeve.

I don’t believe the game was produced for anything but the C-64, Apple II, and possibly the IBM computers that were the progenitors of today’s Window systems.  I think a version might have been published for the early Macintosh, or so the rumor went.  I never saw it, and word is it was very buggy.

Most games shipped in media like this.. the familiar 5.25 floppy of yesteryear.

Most games shipped in media like this.. the familiar 5.25 floppy of yesteryear.

Computer Ambush really couldn’t be played without the documentation, unless the player possessed eidetic memory.  This wasn’t a copyright thing.. you really needed the documentation to enter in the somewhat complex movement and combat codes.  In CA, rounds were sliced into seconds and you gave strings of commands to your soldiers using the notation described in the rules booklet.  Usually they were a Move order or a Combat order of some sort, so “Run thirty feet to behind that fence” became “MR (move running) 1224 (grid reference on map).   Orders were issued in advance, then executed simultaneously with the enemy’s orders – and it shouldn’t be surprising that  things didn’t always go as planned.  This rule writing feature always reminded me strongly of SPI’s SNIPER more than Avalon Hill’s AMBUSH.  For all this micromanaging, it had some interesting features.. such as holding fire until an opponent broke cover.. performing overwatch of sorts.

pic1131810 pic1131808

Just the charts that came with Computer Ambush

Just the charts that came with Computer Ambush

This is, in many ways, more sophisticated than many games we have today. I remember people making a huge fuss over X-Com when it came out, yet, this humble little text-only game had the same dynamic and tension and did simultaneous hidden movement much better.  The only historical wargame with a similar scale and feel that comes to mind is Squad Battles by HPS, though I’m sure there a lot more– I don’t play a lot of computer wargames any more.


This Youtube video demonstrates a game of Computer Ambush.

SUMMARY: Computer Ambush required a huge amount of micromanaging and data entry to play, which wouldn’t appeal to today’s point and click gamers, but it had some amazing elements that provided and early 80s gamer with a lot of excitement.  This game may have featured crude graphics, but the game behind the graphics was anything BUT crude.  Read the RULEBOOK sometime to get a feel for the complexity and skill that went into creating it.  You can even play the actual game, still, using a Flash based APPLE II emulator, here.  This may require a browser plugin and you WILL have to read the documentation or at least the charts I pictured above to move your soldiers around.  Fortunately, I have supplied the rules so you have all you need to play.

I’m not revisiting these games out of a sense of nostalgia.  I like modern computers and the Internet just fine.. I do think that there were elements of gaming design that were great for their day and the technology of the era, and Computer Ambush is a great example of what I mean by that.   Gone, but not forgotten!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Matrix Games Annual Sale


Matrix Games is holding an annual sale right now, which is a pretty good deal. I blow kind of hot and cold with standalone computer wargames these days, because I guess I haven’t seen much to compare to the old glory days of John Tiller games and Talonsoft. Still, Matrix Games hangs in there and cranks out turn based wargames for the PC, and if I’m going to play a computer game (not internet based) that’s the kind I want to play– so I give them some hard earned coin once in a while. Without a doubt, their record has been spotty in recent years. I’m not the fan I once was after EMPIRES IN ARMS came out, though I set that one up with my own expectations. Regardless, they still make some great games. I picked up REVOLUTION UNDER SIEGE earlier in the year, which is pretty good, although it plays like a lot of Ageod games.

There’s no coupon code involved, but here’s the prices and discount levels.

Product Name Normal Price Sale Price You Save Discount
Across the Dnepr Second Edition $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
AI War Alien Bundle $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
American Civil War – The Blue and the Gray $19.99 $13.99 $6.00 30%
Armada 2526 $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
Armada 2526 Supernova $14.99 $10.99 $4.00 27%
Battle Academy $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
Battle Academy – Blitzkrieg France $14.99 $10.99 $4.00 27%
Battle of Britain II – Wings of Victory $19.99 $13.99 $6.00 30%
Battlefront $49.99 $33.99 $16.00 32%
Battles In Italy $49.99 $33.99 $16.00 32%
Battles in Normandy $49.99 $33.99 $16.00 32%
Birth of America $14.99 $10.99 $4.00 27%
Birth of America 2: Wars in America $19.99 $13.99 $6.00 30%
Campaigns on the Danube 1805 + 1809 $19.99 $13.99 $6.00 30%
Carriers at War $49.99 $33.99 $16.00 32%
Chariots of War $19.99 $13.99 $6.00 30%
Close Combat: Cross of Iron $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%

Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%

Close Combat: Modern Tactics $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
Close Combat: The Longest Day $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
Close Combat: Wacht am Rhein $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
Combat Command: The Matrix Edition $34.99 $23.99 $11.00 31%
Command Ops: Battles from the Bulge $59.99 $40.99 $19.00 32%
Commander – Europe At War Gold $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
Commander – Napoleon At War $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
Conquest Of The Aegean $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
Conquest! Medieval Realms $19.99 $6.99 $13.00 65%
Crown of Glory: Emperors Edition $49.99 $33.99 $16.00 32%
Decisive Campaigns: The Blitzkrieg from Warsaw to Paris $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
Distant Worlds $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
Distant Worlds – Return of the Shakturi $24.99 $16.99 $8.00 32%
Empires In Arms $59.99 $40.99 $19.00 32%
Field of Glory $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
Field of Glory – Eternal Empire $24.99 $16.99 $8.00 32%
Field of Glory – Immortal Fire $24.99 $16.99 $8.00 32%
Field of Glory – Legions Triumphant $24.99 $16.99 $8.00 32%
Field of Glory – Rise of Rome $24.99 $16.99 $8.00 32%
Field of Glory – Storm of Arrows $24.99 $16.99 $8.00 32%
Field of Glory – Swords and Scimitars $24.99 $16.99 $8.00 32%
Flashpoint Germany $34.99 $23.99 $11.00 31%
For Liberty! $34.99 $23.99 $11.00 31%
Forge of Freedom $49.99 $33.99 $16.00 32%
Frozen Synapse $24.99 $16.99 $8.00 32%
Gary Grigsbys Eagle Day to Bombing of the Reich $49.99 $33.99 $16.00 32%
Gary Grigsbys War Between The States $49.99 $33.99 $16.00 32%
Gary Grigsbys War in the East $79.99 $53.99 $26.00 33%
Gary Grigsbys World at War: A World Divided $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
Gates Of Troy $19.99 $13.99 $6.00 30%
Great Invasions $19.99 $13.99 $6.00 30%
Guns of August 1914-1918 $34.99 $23.99 $11.00 31%
Hannibal: Rome and Carthage $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
Harpoon Ultimate Edition $59.99 $40.99 $19.00 32%
Highway to the Reich $19.99 $13.99 $6.00 30%
Highway to the Reich Strategy Guide $14.99 $10.99 $4.00 27%
Hired Guns: The Jagged Edge $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
HISTORY Great Battles Medieval $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
Hornet Leader PC $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
Horse and Musket: Volume I $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
John Tillers Battleground Civil War $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
John Tillers Battleground Napoleonic Wars $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
John Tillers Campaign Series $34.99 $23.99 $11.00 31%
Kharkov: Disaster on the Donets $49.99 $33.99 $16.00 32%
Korsun Pocket $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
Legion Arena Gold $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
Legion Gold $19.99 $13.99 $6.00 30%
Making History II: The War of the World $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
Maximum Football v2 $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
Napoleon in Italy $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
Norm Kogers The Operational Art of War III $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
Officers – The Matrix Edition $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
Operation Barbarossa – The Struggle for Russia $34.99 $23.99 $11.00 31%
Panzer Command: Ostfront $34.99 $23.99 $11.00 31%
Panzer Corps: Wehrmacht $39.99 $19.99 $20.00 50%
Revolution Under Siege $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
Smugglers IV – Doomsday $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
Spartan $19.99 $13.99 $6.00 30%
Star Sentinel Tactics $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
Starships Unlimited v3 $24.99 $16.99 $8.00 32%
Steel Panthers: World at War – Generals Edition $69.99 $46.99 $23.00 33%
Storm over the Pacific $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
Tin Soldiers: Julius Caesar $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
Uncommon Valor $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%
War In The Pacific $59.99 $40.99 $19.00 32%
War in the Pacific – Admirals Edition $79.99 $53.99 $26.00 33%
War Plan Orange: Dreadnoughts in the Pacific 1922 – 1930 $44.99 $30.99 $14.00 31%
World War II: General Commander $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
World War One Gold $39.99 $26.99 $13.00 33%
WW2: Time of Wrath $29.99 $20.99 $9.00 30%

Of these choices, I’d recommend War Plan Orange, Uncommon Valor, the Pacific War, Hannibal Rome and Carthage, Grigsby’s War in the East, Flashpoint Germany and Panzer Corps. Worth picking up.

I took advantage of the sale by purchasing FIELD OF GLORY, which is Slitherine’s adaption of Osprey Publishing successful ancient miniatures rules system. I may review this in depth at some point after playing it for a while. My initial impressions are that it is pretty impressive in terms of scenarios and interface but it isn’t the smartest game in the world. I’ve won every battle I’ve tried with it so far, even in situations where I’ve taken a substantially weakened position.

Field of Glory Screen Shot

Me kicking Carthaginian Butt. Just ignore that elephant.

I picked up the base game and the RISE OF ROME expansion. I am not disappointed, they are very entertaining, if not exactly the same thing as miniature wargames on my computer (which is what I was hoping for).

If you like turn based wargames you’ll probably feel sick if you miss this one. These are good deals.

I try out World of Tanks


And keep getting killed!

“World of Tanks” bills itself as a Massively Multiplayer Online game, and I suppose it is, at that.  The installation disks for this game were flying all over HISTORICON 2010 but I never got around to installing it.  Recently I saw an ad for it again and I downloaded it on a whim.   After about half an hour’s experience, I can say definitively that:

A) it is multiplayer and online (with a European server and a North American servver).

B) I wouldn’t say it was that Massive, but it is good clean mindless fun.

Essentially you start off playing the role of a very junior tanker in the armies of Germany, America and the Soviet Union early in some fictitious “other” World War II.  You drive around and go on missions to kill other tanks, earning points to make a bigger, sexier and more lethal tank yourself.  That’s about it!

Like any noob jumping in to a game knowing nothing about it, I found myself mercilessly slaughtered right off the bat time and time again.  I’m getting the hang of it though, Run and hide as soon as a battle starts.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and get a lucky angle on someone.

I’m enjoying it so far, it looks good and runs well on my Vaio.  Not sure what the staying power of this game will be.. yet.  Until then I’m misternizz on World of Tanks, should you desire to toss some cordite and steel my way.

World of Tanks

The Sorry End to my "T-1 Cunningham" five minutes into World of Tanks

World of Tanks Beta:

http://game.worldoftanks.com/

Game requires a client to play.

Feeling Retro with Steel Panthers 3 and DOSBox


Apparently, I shouldn’t consign some of those great old DOS games of yore to the round file just yet.

Try DOSBox, an opensource program that emulated DOS on faster operating systems. Here’s STEEL PANTHERS THREE: BRIGADE COMMAND on my Windows 7 Vaio:

Steelpanthers 3

Bad Luck for the French at the Meuse. I love a challenge.

DOMINION, online or solo, via computer


In case you’ve been living under a rock, or maybe just don’t keep abreast of hobby game developments, you should know that “Deck Construction” games are one of the Big New Things in board-gaming.  Deck Construction games  are games where players pick cards from a common pool to assemble hands of cards that are used to meet objectives within the game.  In the case of many games released in late ’09 or ’10, the objective is a form of kingdom building or kingdom expansion– the setting might change but the mechanics pretty much the same.   Deck Construction games are different from the older Collectible Card Game (e.g., Magic: the Gathering) mechanic because the player builds decks from in-game common pools rather than an external deck he builds beforehand.

The pioneer of this the Deck Construction “wave” was DOMINION, published by Rio Grande Games in the United States in 2008 and already has become such a phenomenon that Rio has published multiple expansions that add to the existing pool of cards to construct decks from.  Other game designs have (if you’ll excuse the pun) followed suit, but Dominion remains the best seller.

Your humble narrator has played it from time to time and enjoys it quite a bit, but since Mr. Stephen Gibson lives so close by and owns every product with the word Dominion stamped on it ever published (twice), there has been no reason to purchase Dominion so far.  Besides, I stink at Dominion, much as I like it.

Recent developments have revealed the existence of two methods of improving my Dominion skills: a downloadable computer version with AI opponents, and an online client to play against live opponents with.

I have not downloaded the standalone pc application yet, but I hear good things on BGG about both the AI and interface.  There was a bit of a dispute on BGG between the developer of the standalone client and the designer of the original Dominion game as to the rights of the developer, especially over artwork.   The designer dutifully withdrew the artwork and rereleased the game.  During the course of that thread, it was revealed that Rio Grande has an official, purchasable computer game of Dominion in the works.  So, with the caveat that the artwork will have changed and the developer may get a cease and desist from Jay Tummelson of Rio Grande at any second here is what the PC version looks like:

Dominion Standalone Computer game

fan-built Dominion Standalone Computer game

The art may be drastically different by the time you download it, from THIS LOCATION.

One thing I did try was ONLINE DOMINION, which is a server based dominion interface that plays as fast as lightning and can accommodate solitaire play.   Graphics are at a minimum and the response is excellent.  This could be a factor of a low number of people using the site simultaneously.  I was quite impressed with this implementation, but it did drive home the fact that I need to read the rules of Dominion (or have them handy) as most of the times I have played in the past I’ve been hand-held through the entire game.   Here’s a screeshot..

Online Dominion from isotropic

ONLINE DOMINION from isotropic.

I recommend ONLINE DOMINION enthusiastically.  It boasts a simple, clean and efficient interface.  Most people who were online were pretty helpful about teaching how to play– I suspect that they want another opponent to come online quickly.

I have not been THAT avid of a Dominion player.. mostly because I never really buy into the Big New Thing.  However, I love community efforts like the two described here.  They extend the life and playability of a game tremendously and create a community buzz that is ideal in our Social Media climate these days.  Bravo.

Ironclads: Chincha Islands War


Ship to Ship

Ironclad Steamship combat, via Totem Games

I’ve always liked the potential of games from the modest Russian software game company Totem Games. They have firmly stayed within the purview of one of my favorite historical periods ever, naval simulation in the age of Iron and Steam. Their first release was on the American Civil War. I purchased it– and to be honest was a little disappointed with the interface. I have not looked back at Totem Games since the first effort. They have been busy!

Fresh from Totem Games comes Ironclads Chincha Islands War! which was a small clash between Spain and her rebellious former colonies of Peru and Chile, taking place in 1866. I love the idea that Totem continues to investigate this time period, and I hope my next experiences with them will be more positive.  Here are a few items in their current catalog:

Totem Games Website

Ironclads Schleswig War 1864

Ironclads Schleswig War

14.99 retail

Anglo Russian War Screenshot

Another conquer the world game from Canopian.


It reminds me of an old QQP computer game.

Play Strategy Games Online

The Blending of the Real and Virtual: 19th century ironclad ships


I rather like the Russian wargame company TOTEM GAMES.  They run a lean operation from the looks of their website, but deliver on the gameplay.  TOTEM designs standalone, turn-based wargame simulations.  Specifically, on NAVAL subjects (a favorite) and even more specifically, on the 19th CENTURY (even more near and dear to my heart).   As part of their “gallery” on their one page website, they present pictures of nineteenth century naval vessels superimposed over a real photographic (water) background.  The effect is startling and very real looking.

Tall Ships – Age of Sail by Mantid Interactive


Mantid Interactive, aka, Barry Geipel, is a one-man band putting together some fun little military history themed games for the Ipod Touch and now, the Ipad.   My personal favorite (and the only product he has out right now) is Tall Ships – Age of Sail. This is a sort of first person Wooden Ships and Heart of Oak sailing battle game.  The point of view is somewhat distanced from your ship– about fifty feet behind or to one side, depending on the maneuver.

Tall Ships Main screen

Tall Ships - Age of Sail on the Itouch: click to visit Mantid Interactive

I’ve only played single ship actions, and their appears to be a sort of campaign where the naval officer fights more ships and gets promoted into larger vessels for later fights.    Stylistically, it reminds me strongly of Avalon Hill’s last efforts at creating a version of their Wooden Ships and Iron Men game for the IBM platform, although not remotely that complex.  Tall Ships takes advantage of the Ipod’s feedback and touch screen technology to greatly simplify ship and combat maneuvers.  Cannons are autoloaded.  Want to change the view?  Tilt the Ipod to the left or right.  Want to fire?  Touch the screen.  It’s a lot of fun to play, although a bit frustrating on the Apple Itouch I was using (3rd Generation).  I found that it’s way too easy to overcompensate turning the view around and I kept losing the picture of the action.. so it takes some getting used to.

Still, Tall Ships is well worth all of the, what, two dollars?  I paid for it at the Apple ITunes App store.  I wish there were more ITouch games like this.

a 100% generic search and destroy an abandoned hulk in space game, yessir.


For those of you who don’t wish to play SPACE HULK online for whatever reason, there exists a 100% generic game that’s has a similar theme and mechanics you may wish to investigate.  It wouldn’t do for me to comment on how similar the theme and mechanics might be, but rumor has it that Games Workshop dropped an injunction on these lads in point-blimfark when they tried releasing it as SPACE HULK DESKTOP APP.  or something like that.

So feast your eyes on… ALIEN ASSAULT!  available at the TEARDOWN website.  Yep, that’s totally different… how could they possibly mistake that for an attempt on Space Hulk?  I mean, honestly…

Alien Assault Screen Shot

Screen Shot Alien Assault (touch to go to website)

I downloaded it, and being a fan of games such as Space Hulk, Space Crusade and Legions of Steel, I rather enjoyed it for what it was.  It’s top down two dimensional and not specifically set in the Warhammer universe, so it only obliquely shares ideas with the Big-Shoulder-Pad crowd.

Download it and have a good ol’ time.  I find it a certainly reflects aspects of the board game experience, but not down to the last detail.  Alien Assault is fun for a while… I prefer the board game though.

Related:

Gratuitious Space Battles


With a title like that, I expected something tongue in cheek! My perception matched reality, as we will see. I’ve always enjoyed that “next step back” when it came to space combat games– I’m not much interested in joystick enabled single ship combats, and the “explore/colonize/exploit/develop/research” model of most space combat games seems done to death any more. I always liked the big fleet battle part.. where lines of ships (many of which you have designed) face off with other lines of ships and an epic melee takes place. Cliff Harris – the lone developer at Positech Games, apparently feels the same way. Positech Games latest offering, GRATUITOUS SPACE BATTLES (GSB), pretty much distills the experience down to key elements:

1) Design ships
2) Fight Battles
3) Win them for more honor points
4) Design better ships
5) repeat from step 2.

Design is simple and fast– you have a range of hull types with slots for Attack, Defense and “Other” modules. The actual battle sequence is truly visually awe-inspiring. It reminds me of nothing so much as those giant sprawling Cylon/Human fights from the Remake of the Battlestar Galactica remake. There’s a campaign system that VERY loosely ties things together.

A Gratuitious Space Battle

A Gratuitious Space Battle. It should be moving to appreciate it.

Tactical choices are pretty limited– you have a fleet of ships depicted in 2D overhead view, you line up the ships pretty much across from the enemy fleet and hit the “Fight” button. What happens then is pretty much setting up a set piece engagement over which the admiral (you) seems to have little additional control. I didn’t find that all that much of a setback, as what transpires next is a gorgeously epic-scaled battle sequence that would do justice to the imagination of any SF geek. The sense of fun and creativity that went into GSB is palpable.

This game isn’t going to give any armchair general pause to wrinkle his forehead, but it is very good for what it promises, and the cost is extremely affordable at about 30 dollars. I’m still playing the Demo, downloaded HERE, and having a blast.

In the meantime, check out the game trailer here to get an idea of the tactical scale, visuals and general sense of fun of GSB: