Tag Archives: App

Guidebook App for Cold Wars 2017

Cold Wars 17: It’s a Good Day to Die

Herewith is the scoop on the 15th Guidebook I’ve made for HMGS Conventions, Cold Wars 2017.  First of all thanks to Dan Murawski (events), Heather Blush (Hobby U) and Scott Landis (Vendors) for supplying 98 % of the data needed to make this guidebook.  It is a pleasure working with these people.

Anything new with Guidebook?  Not this time.  Most of the large scale changes with the Guidebook interface happened around the time of Fall IN last year, so if you learned Guidebook with that app, it’s the same thing this time.  I’m just going to hit the high points here as MOST of the people using Guidebook should be familiar with it by now (one can only hope, right?).

Features (these pictures were taken on a Lenovo laptop and an Ipad Air– screen geometry will be more condensed with a smartphone)

Main page isn’t any different.. you’ll note the spiffy visual tie in with the convention theme in the headline there.

Main page is where you’ll find the hotel street address and phone number, the theme information and a brief overview of the guide.

Schedule Page is roughly the same as always. Use the date links above to switch days. Select your event by double clicking, then it will bring up details on the event, including table number and room, duration, scale, GM, historical period, rules and the narrative of the game.

One note– you can ADD games to your personal schedule on the APP ITSELF.. this is NOT the same thing as actually registering for events. So don’t confuse them.

Map Pages:
show individual room maps and table layouts. Look at the table designation and then the corresponding table map. If you can’t figure out the acronyms in the schedule I added a graphic to use as a key.

Exhibitors Listing is the same as always. Take a moment to read the descriptions along with the Table Location. This list tracks the following data: Name of the Vendor, Table Number, a short description of the vendor’s products and the website for the vendor (if they have one).

I added some social media hooks (the free ones anyway). The Facebook link allows you to post directly to the Facebook page for HMGS directly from the guidebook app:

I think the Twitter app will post to twitter (you’ll have to log in the first time) with a hashtag of #ColdWars17 (if memory serves).

So there are the highlights for this convention. You can get the guidebook at the same locations as usual.

The Landing Page is here:

Just click the picture to go there. Scroll down from the spiffy visual reference to the COLD WARS 17 theme, and you’ll see links to the Guidebook Downloads for IOS, Android, and on the Web via a windows or smartphone.

And here’s the direct QR code:

So there you have it, Guidebook for COLD WARS 2017.  The only thing not included is Tournaments, which I will add in the next few days.  I may do a few happy to glad fixes right up to the convention itself.. If I do, Guidebook will tell you to update it when you open the app up.  Just open the app connected to the internet and it will download the changes I made itself.

Enjoy the convention and I will see you there.


EDIT 3/2: Fixed the problem with adding events to your personal schedule.  Had to turn CHECK IN back on as an option.


GUIDEBOOK App for FALL-IN 2016, published

I have just received notification that the Guidebook app I’ve been working on for HMGS’s Fall convention, FALL-IN! has passed publication review and now can be downloaded.

I don’t intend to write up how to actually use Guidebook in one of these posts for every convention; the interface doesn’t change that quickly. I wrote a decent overview for COLD WARS 2016, check that post for an overview of features.

Quick Snap of the Events Schedule

I have (as of today) got the schedule and room layouts done, that’s the big job. I’ll be entering Hobby University, Speakers and Tournaments as soon as I get that information. It is downloadable right NOW, I advise you to run and get it as soon as possible.

Here’s the download page:


and here’s the guide online for viewing:


Please help yourself!

Notes: I got the events kind of in two discrete chunks that weren’t formatted for export the same and it took a little while to get that sorted out.. I apologize for the delay.

The one big new feature is the checking in function, which is (sigh) a paid function, so you won’t see it, because we’re kind of cheap and use the free, dumbed down version. It does have potential, though.. it appears you can now set a limit of gamers to your event (say, 8) and keep track of the people as they show up, AND maintain a waiting list of players. Cool stuff! Of course, I had to back that all out when they asked me to pay to upgrade.. sigh.

Update: as of 10/15, I have everything but the Hobby University and Seminars stuff done.  It will automatically update for you when you open it in the app.

Other than that, the basic “trade show” template that I use for miniature conventions is working just fine and doesn’t have other new features.

A sample Floor Layout page.

And here’s the QR code!

Guidebook Fall-IN! 2015, some new features, some have changed so pay attention…

That’s right.. we do. And I’m not going to say “GOING” Mobile since we’ve been serving up electronic Guidebook apps for 10 conventions now!

So I’ll deliver the bottom line up front. The First Draft of the Fall-IN! 2015 Guidebook app is published, ready for download. You may download it on the landing page here.


Whoah, Red Ryder!  

One thing I haven’t done is go through the feature list in long time (since Cold Wars 2012, in fact) so I’ll point out the new features and decremented features now.

Between HISTORICON 2015 and now, Guidebook, Inc, made some changes to the basic builder module, and a lot of features have changed.  Most of the changes are minor in scope.  one or two impact the look and feel some, so I’ll go through it from top to bottom to explain what is where.


This looks pretty much as it did before Historicon.  They have streamlined the presentation a little bit (no longer do we get the tiny icon inside the big banner effect, which I personally miss).   The front page is where you see the top level for the convention– the address, the director’s blurb, etc.  Call it the “Main Menu”.


Simply put, the Master Schedule is where everything is, and this has changed.  We used to be able to define tracks and color code them.  I liked this feature– and it defined my color scheme nicely.  Red for game events, Blue for Tournaments, etc. etc.  Unfortunately, even defining tracks (and not making it a menu item) costs us extra money that we aren’t willing to spend, so no more color coding, which I think sucks.  Still, it’s FREE, and everything still works, it’s just not as easy on the eye as before.

So if you want to find something in the schedule, look in the cleverly named “Master Schedule”  Here’s some event detail.


This is what you’ll see when you click on an event.  There’s information here, pointing at the room, time, event, scale, GM and rules, plus even description.  All of this was pulled from the registration system by your humble narrator.

If you want to build your PERSONAL list of events to plan your convention– see that “Add to My Schedule” button at the bottom of the event detail and it will build a list for you.  As you can see, I’ve already started mine (below):


PLEASE NOTE THIS, and NOTE IT WELL:  Guidebook is NOT the registration system, or a replacement for a pegboard.  It is a substitute for having a program book with you all the time.. you will NOT be registering for ANY game or event when you build “MY SCHEDULE” in Guidebook.. this is your internal reminder of when your games are going to be held, and you can get it to send you an alarm as well!  So… yeah.  You’ll have to do the same thing to get into a game you always have.


Aka, the dealer’s area vendor list and table layout.  The list of vendors and their table locations are in “Exhibitors”.  The table layout is in “Maps.”

I had a picture of the list part, but I just got a huge update from Scott Landis and the picture isn’t accurate any more.

Maps are about the same as they ever were, only I found them easier to upload and size in the current builder.  That’s an improvement.   If you want to find where the tables are in a room, go to MAPS (see below).


There are tons of maps for this convention in this guidebook.  You change them by clicking “Right” on the direction arrow top of the screen.

I broke Distelfink into three maps– one big one showing everything, one smaller one for the front, and a similar one for the back.  I was going to do this for the Lampter, but hey, what’s the point.. all you really need to show there is the relative locations of touraments and flea market, and the current size does this.  I also uploaded the vendor hall map as is.. if its unreadable, GET IN TOUCH WITH ME and Ill break it up into a front and back view.


Guidebook is going whole-hawg into social media with this release, and made the previously charged-for menu items for social media stuff free.  We did this a little bit at HISTORICON.  Anyway, here are some of them..


This is set to automatically go to the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society page on Facebook.  Why?  Well, Fall IN! doesn’t have a page, and I’m not sure it needs one.  Yet.  So if you want to post what’s going on in your convention and post pictures to the FB page, here’s how.

I don’t have a better idea for Facebook, but this seems to fit.


We actually do have a Twitter account for Fall-IN!, I created it, it’s @FALLINCON.  However, what this menu item does is facilitate that “live tweeting” thing that goes on during a convention.  Our official #hashtag for the show is #FALLIN15.  Some soccer competition is using it but let’s hope that’s done by November.  It will also recognize #HMGS and @FallINCon.

Not much being tweeted at the moment (as you can see) but this really started going up last HISTORICON the closer to the show we got.  I like this idea.


We can also have a menu item for a YOUTUBE Channel for show videos, presuming people post to Youtube about miniature conventions.  Right now I have it pointing to Teri Litorco’s miniature wargaming show on Geek and Sundry.  Why?  Well, it’s a fun show (a little Warhmmery but still fun) `and there aren’t any ‘sanctioned’ Youtube shows for miniature gaming (as there seems to be in boardgaming, but that’s another story).  If you can come up with a better idea, I’m all ears.   Now, IDEALLY, this would be pointing to a HMGS youtube channel where GMs would have the ability to load SHOW VIDEOS to a single “Fall IN” or “H’con” channel and everyone could see our fun events… almost as they happen.  This hasn’t happened yet.  Want to work with me on it?  Contact me.

There’s some other Social Media stuff we can consider.  I’d personally love to have a team Periscoping miniature events (the big, fun ones anyway) as they happen so people can see what we do.  (for the oldsters out there, this is what Periscope is).   I added in a news feed to the TMP page, but this is just a nice-t0-have because it’s free feature.  If you have an RSS feed we SHOULD put in there, let me know.

Other stuff

Inbox, My To-Do List, and Attendees are not new items, but a few reminders.  “Attendees” is not a registration system.  It’s a way of announcing to Guidebook users that “Hey! I made it and I’m here!  Find me!”  Inbox is how you receive email FROM me (or convention management).  We can send you a message from a computer and it will show up on all your Guidebook apps.  I usually just use messaging for guidebook updates.  The to-do list is nothing special..  I use it to list my convention volunteer schedule and shopping list for the dealer’s hall.

That’s about it.  It’s about finished now.  There will be some updates in Events (i have yet to add banners, but I will) and Dan owes me about ten new events.  Also, there will likely be some new vendors in those “TBD” Slots before show time.

Quadriga by Slitherine: Not your Daddy’s Circvs Maximvs.

SRP: $9.99
Released: Jun 15, 2014
Version: 1.0
Size: 302 MB
Language: English
Seller: Slitherine Software UK Ltd.

I love Chariot Games and have for a long time.  Avalon Hill’s CIRCUS MAXIMUS was a fortuitous purchase early on in my gaming existence; I have played it many times.  I play chariot games at conventions.  I set up a PBeM Site for Circus Maximus and Minimus back in the day.  Dare I say it, I even designed a slightly less than serious chariot game myself, now free in epub.  So I have an opinion or two about what I’m looking for in a chariot racing game.    A chariot racing game should have the players assume the roll of the aurigae, or charioteer.  There should be a defined command set that restricts movements in and out of lane.  Horse endurance HAS to factor in.  Also the durability of the Chariot, the skill of the driver, even the health of the driver.   Plus lots of happy to glad little rules like driving over wrecks, whipping your team, whipping the other driver, ramming chariots, and other situations that a charioteer would realistically find him or herself in in an actual race.  There are some great chariot racing games out there; my favorite is the classic Circvs Maximvs from Avalon Hill, and they all handle simulating the requirements of a decent race game in similar fashions.

Click Quadriga to go to product page

When Matrix/Slitherine announced Quadriga for the PC just a few months ago, I jumped on it and bought the download edition.   I played it a few times; and to be brutally honest, it wasn’t floating my boat.. Maybe it’s the different graphics being offered by the PC Game, or seeing it on my (old) laptop screen that wasn’t blowing me away.   So I wasn’t playing it much.  I may re-install Quadriga on my new laptop and see if it plays better now.    However, when I heard the announcement that Slitherine had done it again, and ported a PC semi-wargame to the Ipad, I jumped on that one too, even at the rather dear price of 9.99.  I took a chance that it might play better on the Ipad and I liked the idea of having a game I could resolve a chariot race with during half a lunch break.   I’m glad I did!   I’m not sure why I’m reacting this way; perhaps the touch control  is more satisfying than the mouse, or maybe it was the crappy processor on my older laptop that made the PC version less satisfying, but I find myself playing the Ipad version much more than the PC.

That’s the interface; the design is very good indeed.

Selecting a faction. Factions in Quadriga follow their real historical precedents, and provide the chariot team with certain benefits in either constitution (heart), skill (star), speed (arrow), size (lightning), endurance (blood drop) and quality (hammer). I think, anyway..

It’s clear the design team had someone that’s cracked open a history book at some point in their lives. The historical elements are rock solid– color factions that provide teams with certain benefits is kind of a must if you’re trying to simulate the historical chariot racing that happened in Rome.  The next step in the game is to customize your team, which seem to be a direct lift from the board game Circvs Maximvs:

An Aurigae gets four points to spend in addition to the benefits from your faction. Here, I spent 1 extra on Rugged chariot, an extra two health and an extra Speed on the team.

After a team is put together, the next step is the race itself.. this is another element of the design that satisfies some of the elements that are a must for a good chariot game– an easy to understand command set that will regulate movement in and out of lanes, whipping, braking and various other driving tasks.

This is the order set for Quadriga, which pretty much encapsulates most of the maneuvers you would expect in a Chariot Game: moving in, moving out, whipping, braking, accelerating, etc. If you’ve played Circvs Maximvs, you recognize this already.

The order menu is a big plus for me; it probably is the reason why I like the Ipad version better than the PC version, even if it’s only a subtle difference at best.  During a race, time is broken into standard small segments.  At the start of the segments, the menu flashes up on top of your chariot.  You choose an option, and it executes.  The AIs select and execute their moves simultaneously, and all chariots move ahead and we see what happens.  It’s the same game engine on the PC and Ipad, but it’s just.. I don’t know, more handy on the Ipad.

An example of the pop up order menu in action, Ipad verison.

As is the case with many of Slitherine’s latest releases, there is no PBeM play capability built into the game. So you’re playing against a pack of AIs that are making a movement decision based on the current conditions and executing it, just like you. That makes it pretty hard for the AI’s to cheat, and actually, not a bad contest. I suspect the AI is making the best choices available to it going into a turn, and as a result, will perhaps be less aggressive in the “crash your chariot into your opponent out of spite” mode. Most games I have played so far, *I* am the reckless and aggressive player, not the AI. I crash more often, make stupider decisions, and often end up being dragged behind a team of horses for my pains. It’s a tough life in the Circus Maximus.

Let’s take a second to look at my gallery of pain.

Yes, that’s MY chariot to the left there. Lesson 1: Corner Strain.

The game handles a lot of elements of chariot racing that are rolled for in boardgames like circus maximus; but just happen “under the hood” in Quadriga. For example Corner Strain, which is a critical design element for a chariot race, just happens.. somehow, in this game, and if your chariot hits the limit, it flips. It’s actually probably more severe a procedure than the boardgame.

Ha ha! Can’t catch me! I can’t help but win now.. unless, of course, I do the stupid and whip going into a turn, right? I mean, who DOES that??

Making another lucky guess with the lane change.

In this game, it’s important to visualize where you end up at the END of your movement as much as where you are now. Collisions are frequent as the AIs are doing what you’re doing, making a guess and hitting the “go” button.

As mentioned, CORNERING is a major source of ass pain in QUADRIGA. This appears to be a threshold feature, rather than a die roll: in Circus Maximus, you roll to “not flip” if your chariot is going over a certain safe limit. In Quadriga, if you are over a threshold, you just crash, that’s the long and short of it.

Win by watching your speed and taking some risks. Your little green menu track will turn RED for almost impossible risks and AMBER for moderate risk in turns. That’s about as much feedback as you get in Quadriga. If you see red going into a curve, you might be screwed unless you can haul back on the reins.

Sooner or later, you’ll be dragged behind a chariot. If you have ENOUGH endurance, you might still win if you have enough of a lead. Chances are, though…

… you’ll end up DEAD!!

So that’s about all I can say about actual gameplay.. it meets my personal threshold of what a Chariot Game ought to be — fast enough, involves a certain amount of plotting, then executing, has an easy set of commands that are even easier with icons, and most importantly allows you to screw over other teams. That’s the Circus Maximus experience in a nutshell.

And it’s fun! Lots of fun!

Summary: There’s some more to go over. Quadriga does have two modes of play, a single race and a campaign module that I haven’t explored in depth. Basically, Quadriga comes out of the box with many different courses. If you race a single race you could run on almost any one of them. During a campaign game you race on many of them sequentially. I can see where this would be a draw and help to personalize the game narrative. I’m having fun playing the single races out of the box right now.

So to sum it all up, it sure ain’t your dad’s Circus Maximus, but it has everything Circus Maximus did plus more besides. I’m shocked, I’ve had nothing but good things to say about Slitherine games for three reviews in a row. I promise to be more curmudgeonly in the near future.

Historicon 12 June 14 Guidebook Update: Baselined

FIXED!  Missing Table Numbers.  ADDED! New events and 1 seminar

FIXED! Missing Table Numbers. ADDED! New events and 1 seminar

After quite a bit of work, I have reconciled the first posting of Guidebook, fixing the missing table numbers (one by one by one.. sigh). That had to be done. I’ve added NEW events from that update to now. I’ve added one new seminar.

What’s missing:

Exhibitor Hall layout (need from Mr. Dudley Garidel)
Hobby University Events (need from Ms. Heather Blush)

Everything else should be there.

Landing page: https://guidebook.com/guide/18908/

Update Notes: as always, IF YOU HAVE GB ALREADY, just open up guidebook and it will update for you.

If you need to install guidebook and the directory, go to the landing page.

Hey! New Features!

Guidebook.com added a few neat features since last time.  INBOX, ATTENDEES and NOTEPAD.

Inbox is an easy way to message all users who are using the current guidebook (see picture below).  Right now there’s just a couple of Guidebook related messages in there but DURING THE CONVENTION it can go out to anyone attending using guidebook.  That’s handy!!

Attendees seems to be a way of “checking in” for attendees.  Remember, this isn’t connected to our registration system.. it’s not the same thing.

Notepad is pretty much what you think it is, a little notepad app to keep notes about thing during the convention.

New features.. including inbox

New features.. including inbox

Mutant Future Big Sky Campaign #3: Nazi Pigs, Nazi Pigs, F__k off!*

* Paraphrasing from the Dead Kennedys

Last night was another great remote session of Goblinoid Games’ MUTANT FUTURE role-playing game using Roll20 as the map and die roller, and Google Hangouts carried the load for audio and visual.  We had about 9 players.  I couldn’t make session 2, being out of town at the time, but I didn’t miss a huge amount except experience.  That mysterious building from Session 1 turned out to be a bottling plant.  Why a bottling plant required armed security bots went unexplained.  Anyway, we got some bottles from the plant to carry fluids in, and some ball bearings, and a shotgun, I think.  Session3 started in the village of Mick Owster (see map)

Mik Owster and its relationship to the Mountain complex. We adventured soley in 33, 22, just soutwest of there.

In Session 2, many adventure threads opened up, including running an errand for the shaman to pick up “Sweet Water”, water from a well that had curative powers, and looking for the Suidoid, and “doing something” about the Pig Men, mysterious armed invaders evolved from Pigs.  We chose fetching some sweet water, since it sounded like something we could accomplish in a one night session.  Well, we were right, kind of.  We managed to find the Well where this water comes from with no difficulty.  Unfortunately a pack of giant carnivorous flies were nearby, stripping the corpse of some unfortunate to the bone.   Our big plan was to use me to mentally communicate with the flies, but I had to get closer to do that.  On the way there, I failed my surprise roll and got jumped by a gigantic mutated trapdoor spider.  The spider didn’t waste time, he just dragged me down into his spider hole and jumped up to try and get more of us.


A knockdown battle ensued, with the Spider being sufficiently scary to keep the flies at bay. I had been injected by the “bad poision” according to the GM, so I could only project mental telepathy at the Spider, which did nothing but add a little comic relief to the game.

The Spider was dispatched, but it was close. The healing water did very little for me, but the medkit did a lot. With one use, I was within one hit point of being totally healed. Sadly, it also used up the medkit! Damned shaman!

In the midst of the fight with the resurgent carnivorous flies.

The Spider being dead, the flies weren’t as timid any more. They came rushing back but we dealt with them with Crossbow bolts.

The body the flies had been consuming yielded some coin and a working .357 magnum pistol. We had some working knowledge of it, but Cookie proved to be a genius at guns, so he’s holding on to the pistol for now.

Got back to the town, gave the bottles to the surprisingly ungrateful shaman. We made some inquiries and apparently there is a much larger town to the North of Mac Owster. We have tentative plans to go there, but dossed down for the night with watches kept. In the middle of the night, the village came under attack from the horrible pig men.

Mutant Future Pigmen

Mutant Future Pigmen

Pigmen are a group of animal mutants descended from Pigs. In this universe, they clearly worship the Third Reich, as they were all wearing Grey Uniforms, Jackboots and Steel helmets. They had rifles. We went to the assistance of the Town Sheriff. Who was holding one end of a bridge against the pigs. Immediately, I saw where I could help out. My mutant, Larc Killstrike, is not a very sociable guy, and part of that is the mutations.. he generates a hostility field. His most powerful mutation is vampiric energy drain, which doesn’t help his friends much. Here was a situation where it could come in handy.

Larc and two others in the party slipped into the stream that ran under the bridge, and quietly waded across to the other bank. The sheriff and the other party members kept up the noise, firing from hiding, and shouting, keeping their attention. I crept to where I was the closest I could be to drain the pigs, my buddies keeping back out of range but covering me as best they could. From the cover of the river’s edge, I turned on the Vampiric Drain. Immediately, it worked. There was only ONE pig in the South building covering the bridge. That seemed odd. He started to wail as he lost energy and shouted something in pig language, then came bounding out to dive down the bank of the stream, where Cliff’s character shot him dead. Phew!

I moved on to the next building, and set up where they were guaranteed not to see me, lurking under the bridge. I blasted them with the vampiric drain again, and this time also detected just one pig. This wasn’t right. I knew this was a diversion.. a setup. Meanwhile, the pigmen attacked into the village with some form of Gas Attack, and killed two families and took some into slavery. The villagers were grateful that we pitched in, and were impressed that we killed one.. Pigmen are tough! However, the real attack did a lot of damage, and we couldn’t prevent it. Not sure where we’ll be with this next session, but we know a few things now. 1) Pigmen are a threat, not just to Mac Owster, but to the Mountain Complex. 2) Pigmen are TOUGH and 3) Pigmen have GUNS. So we may be encountering them sooner rather than later!

A great session, one that I really enjoyed. Mutant Future is a retro-blast from the past.

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?

Cold Wars 2014: There’s an APP for that!

I’m starting the “last minute” updates for COLD WARS 2014 Guidebook App.  I just added all schedule additions SINCE January 10 (the PEL update).  I also added Room Layouts and Tournaments.  I have YET to add Exhibitor Lists.   I have no idea who is a vendor at Cold Wars 2014 at the moment, so it will have to wait until the Convention leadership sends me more information.

I really don’t need to post another “This is how Guidebook works and how you use it” post, there’s about 7 on this blog already and the method doesn’t change much, just the data.  Go to the HISTORICON 2013 post on this subject if you need help.

Yessir, there’s an app for that. CLICK ON THIS POSTER to go to the Cold Wars 2014 Landing Page, to download YOUR copy.

Mongoose Publishing, you are SO cheeky!

There’s some vague hints of an Ipad app coming soon from no less than Mongoose Publishing, the folks who did Starship Troopers and Judge Dredd Miniatures games. I like them for a robust set of naval rules they publish called Victory at Sea. VaS is a very straightforward set of naval rules that models WWII naval combat in all theaters (with a separately published WWI variant).

Well, it had to happen.. they just released a statement about an impending Kickstarter for Victory at Sea for the Ipad. The developer is going to be a company I haven’t heard of called iEvilGames. iEvilGames is a UK company whose output so far appears to be cutesy Anime style games, a resume that should fill a hardcore naval gamer with dread. Still, one must hope. There’s not much written anywhere about what the app will look like or is supposed to do. Will it play an arcade version of WWII Naval combat? Will it be a helper app for the Miniatures game. Will it be some bastardized arcade version of Naval Combat that entered into a pact with the folks at Mongoose to use their miniature game’s name? It’s hard to say at this point in the process. We’ll see more once the Kickstarter Kicks Off.

The iEvilGames website isn’t revealing much:

What is Victory at Sea?

VICTORY AT SEA is a naval combat game for iOS and Android where players take command of fleets in a desperate attempt to win the overall victory in World War 2.

Navigate your fleets around the Atlantic, Pacific and the Mediterranean theatres of war and engage in real time epic naval combat. Victory at Sea combines a simple touch control system with a large and detailed campaign that contains vast numbers of historically accurate ship variants, the likes of which have never been seen before on a mobile device. Victory at Sea will be easy to play but difficult to master and will be one of the largest and most engaging war combat games ever.

Our team here at Evil Twin Artworks have been developing games for mobile devices since the beginning of the app store. We are gamers with a penchant for strategic games and are disappointed with the current lack of in depth games in this genre on mobile devices. We want Victory at Sea to become the massive, immersive combat game all mobile devices deserve, taking full advantage of it’s intuitive touch control system.

Victory at Sea is a highly successful table top game made by Mongoose Publishing, the company behind the Judge Dredd Miniatures Game, A Call to Arms: Star Fleet and Babylon 5: A Call to Arms games. The mobile game will encapsulate the vast amounts of information behind the table top game which will create a massive video game. The iOS / Android versions will also inherit the fast flowing rules that allows novices and veteran gamers alike to enjoy recreating the epic struggles between the mighty fleets of the era.

Couple things jump out here. Real Time. Massive and Immersive. That hints at real time play on a massive scale. Hard to say. If I can see more about what their intentions are, I’ll know if I want to fund it or not. It could be the second miniatures game helper app to get published (after Ironclads). That’s an exciting idea.

So far, the graphics are not wowing me.

I am intrigued enough to check back. Victory at Sea is my favorite game from Mongoose.

Guidebook App returning for COLD WARS 2013

1900 Hrs. Update: The Cold Wars 2013 Update has been published by Guidebook.com, and is available for download.  Help yourselves!

The Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS) is holding our annual Spring convention, Cold Wars 2013, on 7-10 March 2013.  You can get in a big chunk of gaming, and the Guidebook can help.

Just like before every con I make one of these for, this post is a short introduction to Guidebook, how to get it and how to use it for YOUR convention.

The screens are a little different on my Ipad, but the basic functions are the same no matter what platform you are using.

Front Page of the Ipad layout. The Menu is up the left side.  This is the “General Info” page, with the director’s blurb, address, etc.

First of, what is GUIDEBOOK?  This is an application, or “App” in modern parlance, that resides on a multitude of mobile devices (Ipad, Ipod, Iphone, Android smartphones, Android Tablets, and there’s even a version for browser enabled phones that can access the web).  GUIDEBOOK maintains a master schedule of every thing going on at a convention, Maps where everything is, general information about the convention,  plus maintaining a custom version of your own schedule that keeps a list of all the things you want to do when you go to a convention.. and reminds you when you when it’s time to do it.  Think of it as your, extremely personalized version of the paper program guide that can store on a handy device, beeps you when it’s time to go to the next item on your schedule and keeps a to-do list for you.

This is the Main Schedule page. Note the little color bars on the left hand side of the events? They’re color coded– RED for GAMES, BLUE for Tournaments, GREEN for Seminars, PURPLE for Hobby University, and Black/No Color for Operations

Guidebook is an application for supporting conventions, trade shows and other events by hosting a version of their event schedules, layouts, maps, and special data lists on a variety of portable platforms– notably the Apple IoS products Iphone, Ipod Touch, Ipad, any Android phone, and any internet enabled phone that can web-browse.  In essence, Guidebook takes the important stuff out of the paper program book you all know and love and puts it on a device you may carry around with you on a regular basis.

Each event on the schedule has a banner associated with it.  This will display on the top of the item you are looking at and everyone can see it.  These individual banners fall in the general groupings of GAMES (run by GMs), TOURNAMENTS, HOBBY UNIVERSITY, SEMINARS (programs) and OPERATIONS (general situational awareness stuff about hours of operations).  Individual look like this:

(A selection of event banners)

HERE’S MY OFFER: You’re a GM who wants to show off your game in a unique way to make it stand out from the crowd of banners above.  You’re a vendor running a demo and want to have some game art in your event banner.  You’re a tournament GM who wants to display the art of the rules you will be using… whatever scenario you can think of…  If YOU want a unique banner for your event, I’ll be happy to include it into this package.  Even though the Guidebook for 2013 has been sent in for publishing review, I can change it right up to and DURING the Cold Wars 2013 convention.  So all you have to do is this–  Design and implement a graphic sized 640 x 400 pixels, reasonably Hi-Res, and send it to me at misternizz@gmail.com.  The Subject Line must read: “Please use this banner for event number ____” (and add the number of your event).  Got that?  I’m easy to work with but don’t have time to do your art for you.  But I can help promote the game or whatever it is.

Directions on how to get and use GUIDEBOOK

The various links associated with these instructions are located on Guidebook’s GET THE APP webpage

Maps Page. Scroll right and left in the blue bar. Every room in the Host is here, laid out for the convention.

Here’s some screenshots of individual event listings in each category

A GAME event

Selecting an event to put on your personal schedule, and the length of the alarm notification

If you have an Ipod Touch, Iphone, or Ipad 1 or 2, visit the Itunes App Store, for the Guidebook app.  Download it. Install it.  It’s free.  Then “Search for events” and located COLD WARS 2013.  Download that guide.   There you go, that’s all you need to do.  Start browsing and bookmarking events you want to go to.

If you have an ANDROID phone, go to the Google Play store or some other outlet for Android OS apps.  Look up GUIDEBOOK. Download the app.  It’s free. Then “Search for events” and located COLD WARS 2013.  Download that guide, and browse away.

Vendor list in the new layout

This is our vendor listing. It’s pretty simple.

If you have an INTERNET CAPABLE, but not Android or IoS phone, you can point your phone’s browser to this web link: http://m.guidebook.com  You will see a less graphical interface but it will contain the same amount of information as the other two platforms (IoS and Android).  Even nicer, when you use a web browser phone, it doesn’t count against our download limit.

I published the guide yesterday, and it is currently being proofread by the Guidebook technical folks for final release and download.

THIS IS OUR OFFICIAL LANDING PAGE ON GUIDEBOOK, You can follow links there to get Guidebook, too.


  1. Open it.  Do a “Search for Guidebooks”
  2. Find: COLD WARS 2013.  (they list them chronologically)
  3. Select COLD WARS 2013 for download.  This should take about 5 minutes.
  4. Then open it up.  And enjoy Guidebook Goodness.

Anyway, that should contain everything you want to know for Cold Wars 2013– Gaming Events with maps and table numbers, show hours, location, Exhibitors with table numbers, Tournaments, the works.

IF THE INFORMATION CHANGES, up to and DURING the convention, that will be communicated to me by Bob Van Der Kamp, or some other events person, and I will make the changes on the server, which will be communicated to the users as an update to the Guidebook ready for download.  You don’t have to do anything but hit “yes”.

Have fun, and I hope this is useful for you.  I’ll see you at Cold Wars 2013!


I did not program the actual app GUIDEBOOK, just prepared the Cold Wars 2013 data module for free use.  I’m not an employee of Guidebook.com and don’t get paid to endorse them.  Use at your own risk.

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For the Win, an App by Tasty Minstrel Games. Reviewed

Price: $0.99 as of this writing
Version: 1.1
Size: 36.0 MB
Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games, LLC
ITUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/for-the-win/id571086500?mt=8

Up front disclaimers: I’ve never played the board game FOR THE WIN and had no experience with it, nor do I have any prior relationship with Tasty Minstrel Games (that’s for Brad).

FOR THE WIN is a game of tile placement were the tiles have powers to affect game play. There are five tile types– Monkeys, Zombies, Pirates, Aliens, and Ninjas. Victory is gained by connecting five (or more) tiles, including at least one of each type together, sides OR corners. The game has a unique twist in that the special powers of the tiles affect the tile location on the board, which can lead to surprises and turnarounds.

Alien – tractor beam pulls any tile adjacent to it.
Monkey – flips all tiles over that are adjacent to it.
Ninja – can move from current place to any spot on the grid
Pirate – moves pieces to any unoccupied space on the grid
Zombie – infects any adjacent tile. The infected tile is removed from the grid and replaced with a Zombie tile that has not yet been added to the grid.

I like the game design a lot.. it’s simple to play and learn but has many interesting quirks. The grid movement and piece properties gives it an abstract flavor like Chess, building the line formation reminds me a little of Reversi.

The app recently released by Tasty Minstrel Games is very well done. The interface is bright and cheerful looking and the buttons large and easy to figure out.

Title Screen.  Just to give you an idea of the bright and easy to see color scheme.  The graphic artist used bright red and yellow palates, which I heartily approve of.

FTW also has a very good tutorial that explains the game clearly and a rulebook in addition to that.  I have seen the tutorial criticized on BGG and I disagree with that user’s conclusions.  I would have preferred to have had the game take me through a sample play but I had zero problem following how to play with the information provided– the game isn’t that hard to pick up, really.  There is also contextual help, which is an unusual feature in ANY IOS game.

Tile placement is handled pretty easily via the interface. The game will indicate a legal or illegal move which helps when you are learning how to place the tiles.

I have played several games so far (all against the AI, sadly, there is no network play option). The game interface perfectly executes the game design on an IOS device. I was pretty happy with the effort made on user interface design. It showed that the folks at Tasty Minstrel Games understand the nuances of IOS interface very well.

The AI opponents I played were not bad at all.   I’m not another Clausewitz, but I’m also not a dope, and they routinely kick my butt. As the game can only be played hotseat or versus AIs, you will appreciate the AI Strong setting, it can put up a fight.   For variety, change out the game personality settings.

The AI doesn’t use the special powers as often as a Human player might, but it can still mess up the strategy of the FTW game.

As a player, I was delighted with this game at .99 cents a pop. It’s a real steal of a price and that’s a lot of game for a pittance. I felt the lack of network play keenly, however. It’s as if something crucial has been left undone, and it’s a shame. I think network play really should be considered a minimal requirement from now on, no matter how hard it is to program.

Summary: I’m going to give this one a 4 out of 5. It’s a tightly designed implementation that perfectly realizes the design and intent of the parent game. My big disappointment was with the lack of network play, but let’s hope Tasty Minstrel’s programmers add that in in a later patch. Recommended.

Bad Robot Interactive’s ACTION MOVIE FX app

The oddest series of events have been transpiring lately.  I was in Kohls doing a little Christmas shopping and the front foyer of the store got hit by a MIRV strike, obliterating it in smoke and wreckage.  I took the family to Krispee Kremes after the Christmas play and suddenly the giant doughnut vat overflowed with a virtual flood of hot boiling oil!  And then there were these two puzzling events:

A killer robot at the Christmas party!!

An alien invasion at the Sea Scouts holiday party!!

Are we experiencing the end of times? Nope, not really. J.J. Adams’ production company, Bad Robot, has released a very whimsical little app that I’ve grown addicted to lately: ACTION MOVIE FX. Essentially this is a series of digital overlays for shot footage that a budding Irwin Allen can use to add a bizarre element to home footage. You simply point your Ipad camera at something, shoot about 10 seconds of foundation footage, try to hold the camera steady while you switch to Action Movie, and then record a minimum of five seconds of effects shot to hopefully blend over the foundation shot. Splice the two together in IMOVIE and the effect is pretty awesome, even if your foundation and effects shot don’t blend that seamlessly. After all, something awful is about to happen, like an alien attack, or laser bombardment, or a firefight.. wouldn’t the camera shake a little bit?

Title Screen

ACTION MOVIE itself is free, and comes with a bunch of effect overlays that came from video games (apparently). Additional effects (which come in two packs) cost .99 cents. That’s a pretty cheap price for endless entertainment.

Effects modules

FLUXX as an app. Reviewed

programmed by:
Playdek Inc.
price: $2.99 as of this writing
App Store Link

FLUXX is one of those games that either gets no love because it is so random, or it gets a lot of love because it’s a great, ever-changing card game where you get to change the outcome of the game with a play of a card.  Me, I’m in the camp that likes FLUXX just fine.  It has “Nomic” properties– where playing the game includes changing the rules of the game.   If you’re unfamiliar with how Fluxx is played (somehow) it is a card game that starts out simple and changes constantly as players play Keepers (objects that cause a winning condition), Actions (that change game play that turn), Goals (that change how to win) and Rules (that change how the game is played).   At some point, the winning combination of Keepers, Rules and Goals transpires and somebody wins the game.  On a parenthetical note, I recently saw FLUXX for sale (as a card game) at Target, and that development will probably have more impact on this game than the app ever will.  Congratulations, Looney Labs, you’ve made the big time.


Playdek, rapidly becoming a market leader in board and card game conversions (especially card games), was tapped to bring Fluxx to the tablet screen by Looney Labs.  The resulting effort hit the app store two days ago, and I have played it several times since then– online, solo versus AI opponents and pass-around.


You can see some rules in play above, and the goal…

Interface: this is very good.  It might actually play better as an app than a physical card game.. cards slide all over the place, but rules, goals, draw deck and discard deck are always in the same place, and you always know exactly what rule(s) and goal are in effect at that moment.  Fluxx isn’t exactly a game to give anyone wrinkles but sometimes there’s a little confusion over timing and trying to remember which card got played when  and if a rule is still in effect.  There’s NONE of that with this app.

Setting up a four player online game. That I won of course.

Online Play: Playdek appears to be maintaining the server for this game somewhere, and they adjudicate online play.  I’ve signed up for several games, and my only complaint was that the connection stalled out many times and sometimes I’m listed as “forfeiting” when I didn’t intend anything of the sort.  It’s getting better, however, I have had no dropouts in recent games.


Games play quickly and reach a definitive conclusion with just enough victory animation to not be obnoxious.    My overall reaction to the FLUXX app was positive.  I can’t think of a better port of an existing game since Carcassone.   This app is a great bargain at 2.99, if you like the original game.  It probably will get a little repetitive for you if you don’t enjoy FLUXX– just keep in mind that if you think this is just a random-fest, you’re only half right.  There’s definitely strategy to FLUXX, and it lies in the information that is public (cards played) and the information that is private (cards that are in your hand).   The FLUXX app supports the a winning strategy very well and is worth a try.

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Dominion for IoS: get it while you CAN get it.

I tend to follow news of IoS boardgame conversions, if you read this blog more than fitfully you have already picked up on that concept. So when I read in the the little IoS gaming news blurb on Boardgamegeek that there was an unofficial port of DOMINION, the game that started the deck-building trend in boardgaming, I jumped on it. I had a recollection of an older game by an outfit called Puffin Software called VIKING LORDS, which featured a version of Battlelore by Fantasy Flight Publishing. They weren’t amused and ruthlessly (and quite legally) suppressed the Battlelore knock off. This is all well and good and absolutely within a publisher’s rights to protect their investment and intellectual property, but still, it would have been fun to have Battlelore on the old Ipad. Oh well, sad face. The version of Dominon I picked up is entitled “Donald X. Vaccarino‘s Dominon”, and it apparently does not have the official sanction of the publisher, Rio Grande. In the past, this usually leads to an app being removed from the App store in point blimfark, but surprisingly, it’s still there as of this writing. Even more surprisingly, Rio Grande appears to be looking the other way on this app release, as they have their own, officially sanctioned Dominion app ready to land in (quote) a few weeks (/quote). This evolution has left me scratching my gob and saying “Whaaaaah?” If there was a situation that maybe required a publisher to step in with the iron jackboot of authority in order to quash an unauthorized interloper on intellectual property, it would be in this exact situation, erm, wouldn’t it? It’s not the Viking Lords fiasco all over again. Fantasy Flight didn’t have a Battlelore app on deck, ready to go in a (quote) a few weeks (/quote). If it existed at all, it was vaporware. In the case of Dominion, we have a publisher who states they have the real deal ready to go in short order– so why would they allow a knock-off right when they were poised to exploit a new revenue stream? Oh well, over my head..

The App, itself

Now this was the surprise. I’ll admit something here that’s going to make me look like a heretic showing up at the Christmas Party. I’m just not a huge fan of the deck-building mechanic. It’s clever, yes, I admit that. But it never grabbed me, it never really caught me up in the enfolding narrative of the game itself. To me, it’s just putting down cards and hoping for a good combination, and I can do that with other card games. So I really haven’t pursued owning Dominion as a real physical card game. Why should I? My friend Steve Gibson owns every expansion ever made, and if I want to play Dominion, I’ll drop by and he’ll pull it out and set up a game. But I haven’t had the jones to play Dominion in a while. The Dominion bug never bit me like it bit Steve. And that brings me to this app. I played it. I remembered how to play Dominion readily enough, but I was rusty. I played a game versus AI opponents and was soundly thrashed. Interesting. Then again. And a similar result. And again.. and again.. and suddenly I noticed something. This Dominion app is a good time! I was enjoying myself! It was doing something that the real, flesh and blood game failed to do.. allowing me to enjoy the game experience itself. I’m not a fanatic or anything but the app, at least, is a very worthwhile investment, even if I consider the purchase of seven or eight boxes of cards not to be. Are we on to a new paradigm here?

Opening Screen

Opening Screen

Artificial Intelligence opponents

Artificial Intelligence opponents. I have played the game solo so far, more because not many people own it than desire to play AIs. However, the AI is decent enough for beginners. I was challenged against two players, and definitely am getting the better of them now after about five games, though I have yet to win a game.

Game Interface

The Game Interface is economical, elegant and consistent with real life gaming experience… a game table is represented in miniature here. The screen is a little crowded and I’ve already read a good post about how to economize on screen space on BGG, but that is a piddly little gripe. The app has several iterations or sets of cards to choose from at the onset of a game. I have only used “Random” so far, but I imagine these correspond to the many published expansion sets put out for Dominion.

In game help

In-game Help Functions (in the case of the picture above, the tutorial) are sparse and economical, and perhaps not as descriptive as possible. I had a little previous game experience to draw from, so I wasn’t really confused at any point, but I could see a rank newbie to the Dominion game asking.. “yeah, but what’s the point of all this stuff I’m doing?” Which isn’t really answered well.

More Tutorial
More of the Tutorial in action.

Playing with Internet Players

I found this a little puzzling. You can HOST or JOIN an online game. Hosting seems easy enough, just hit the Host button. And the status bar, at that point, says “Mister Nizz is hosting…” however, nobody jumped in and played a game, though there were other people out there apparently looking for a game, from what I could pick up from the status screen. And when THEY were hosting, I tried to jump into THEIR games, and I really didn’t know how. Since Game Center support is incorporated, I tried writing down the player’s handle, going to the Game Center, and friending them, since the only way I could initiate a game with a specific individual, that I could see, was via the Gaming Center. Observe:

Asking for a game

Me requesting a game from the always reliable Todd Goff, whom you may have seen mentioned on this blog before.


Auto-Match, via the Game Center, yielded absolutely nothing. This means nothing, though.. maybe nobody was on or not a lot of people have picked up the app, yet. Yet, according to the little status screen, there were people online, at that moment, looking for a live game. So what gives?

Status Screen

And here is that Online games status screen I was describing. Lots of people online at that moment, none of whom could I communicate with in any fashion. I hope this gets fixed.

Conclusions When I say “Run, don’t walk, to get this Dominion app..” I’m not engaging in hyperbole. This is good design– elegant, functional, and it conveys the game experience wonderfully. Add to this the fact that due to Rio Grande coming out with an official product in almost no time whatsoever (so they say, anyway) I predict it won’t be on the market for long. So jump, froggy! I was going to make this a Lightning Review, but I’m glad I gave it a longer look (mostly because there’s really not a lot of screens to capture to make a LR review with, but anywaaay).. Dominion for the Ipad made me realize that here’s a gaming experience for which I have very little paper and cardboard experience, and I’m enjoying it more than I enjoyed the physical game. I had a similar response to the Puerto Rico app for the Ipad. That’s something new in my experience.

Look for Dominion for IOS at the Itunes App store. You may have to search for the string ” Donald X. Vaccarino’s Dominon” to find it.

Dominion (card game)

Image via Wikipedia

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It has been a while since I posted an app review, but since I’m not seeing these covered anywhere I thought I’d post my impressions on two recent app purchases for my shiny new Ipad 2.

First of all, general impressions: there’s much more stuff coming out for the Ipad than the Ipod/Iphone or Android platform right now, but I can see why– the distribution is locked and centrally controlled, and the IOS app market still seems to lead in market share.. That’s changing.  I’m certainly seeing some interesting stuff coming out in support of board and card games on the Android lately, and I intend to do a review on a few of them in the not so distant future.  For one thing, I’m seeing fan versions of games like Androminion and Thunderstone, and generic (non-GW) miniature army builders on Android but not Ipad.  Why is that? Anyway, to business:

Mantid Interactive, programmed by Barry Geipel
3.99 as of this date, Ipad only


Flash/Intro screen.

I’m predisposed to like stuff from Mantid after buying their excellent Tall Ships: Age of Sail for the Ipod Touch, which I really like.  Red Rover, however, is proving to be a challenge.  The Specifics:

Play type:  Option 1 (above) Head to Head real time (using the same device– Red Rover is designed to be played this way), or via Option 2 (above) on the Internet real time.  In the interests of full disclosure I have tried to play an Internet game but not had any luck finding players, so I will not comment on Internet play.  There is no AI player included, which is really too bad– I could see this becoming a fun time-waster game solitaire.

Visuals: Red Rover is historically themed; the graphics and interface represent a battlefield of World War One from the top down.  One player is a German player, one an English player.

Roles: Players play … well, not Generals per se, but maybe Colonels— committing troops, support weapons, tanks and other assets into an ongoing battle on the Western Front.

Game Setup

Setup screen, not many controls

Design and Interface: the software interface is designed for two players sitting down at a single Ipad, each commanding his or her side of the Ipad.  There’s really only four screens to this game– the initial flash screen, the setup, the battle and the victory.

Setup is somewhat meaningless as the battle is customizable in real time– that means pulling units from categories such as Infantry, Artillery, Air Support, Armor, and obstructions for armor and infantry. You CAN change the lethality of the game somewhat by increasing the randomness level of attacking in Setup; this is recommended for reasons I will expand on.

battle in progress showing Supply depots (circled) and aeroplanes (arrows)

Battle in Progress, showing supply depots (circled) and airplanes (pointed)

Units are tied very closely to SUPPLY DEPOTS (circled, in the graphic above).  These are little clusters of boxes and such that are on the edge of the map.  Supply depots provide supply points to replace units with as they get annihilated on the battlefield (which happens quite a bit).  Supply depots have to be defended at all costs, because once they are gone, the game is essentially over and just a matter of who lost a supply center last.   Units on the ground have a high degree of interactivity, meaning that each one has strengths and weaknesses that dovetail with other units’ strengths and weaknesses.   As the game’s help screens say, the real strategy of the game, such as it is, is in choosing units.  For instance, you can put down wire which impedes the infantry quite a bit.  You can put down artillery which can shoot over things and hit units far away (like supply centers).  You can put down armor which is slow but is impeded by tank traps.   Mantid gets high marks for that approach, but it does expose a weakness in the design of the game– airplanes.

Airplanes can fly over everything in the game and attack supply centers (or really, anything else) on the far end of the field.  That’s fun eye candy but is a serious flaw in the balance of the game– planes are tough enough to fly to the edge of the field without getting massacred– since everything in this game only fires straight ahead a plane only has to worry about what the enemy places in front of it.  Through the simple expedient of ignore history and just sending swarms of fighter aircraft on strafing runs over supply depots, you can quickly overwhelm the defender’s resources if he commits to a broad defense.  My 13 year old son discovered this and after we played about ten games, pronounced RED ROVER as being “broke”.  I don’t think it’s quite that bad but it is easy to figure out and the only variable I can find to throw in to stop the trend is to increase the damage variability, and that is a slender reed.

End Game

End Game and Victory

In summary, after about 13 games or so, I found Red Rover to be a bit disappointing as a military game– it certainly isn’t a wargame by my measurement, but it is a decent military themed arcade game. I think if units were allowed to fire sideways (at least the artillery and infantry) that might helped increase the tactical feel of Red Rover. Also, giving SOME unit a better check against airplane attacks would be highly recommended. I’d give it a strong C or C+ for the graphics, interaction between units and what I perceived to be a lack of balance and lack of AI player. Not a bad effort, but not up to the standard set by Mantid’s Tall Ships game.

In the interest of fairness, Barry Geipel (Mr. Mantid) points out that supply centers can be rebuilt– a crucial point to surviving. I have found myself overwhelmed by the aircraft swarm using a tactic that was costly to a wargamer, but maybe not to a 13 year old boy (my son, in fact). Rebuilding supply centers does alleviate this, as well as building trenches to attack aircraft.

Red Rover is available on Itunes

by Centaur Studios
3.99 at Itunes as of this date


Title/Flash Screen

En Garde is an old Knizia game that I have been eager to see ported to the Ipad or Ipod touch.  For those of you who have no experience with it, En Garde is a very loose simulation of fencing using 23 squares to represent a fencing piste, and a set of cards to move up and down the piste in movements that simulate attack and defense, advance and retreat, just like in a fencing match.  The rules for the board game are located here.  Players start at each end of the “piste” and are dealt a series of cards with numbers ranging from 1 to 5.  There are a limited number of these cards in the deck (five total, I believe) and the numbers indicate the number of spaces your marker (fencer) will move.  When you land on a square inhabited by an opponent, that is an attack, which can be defended or retreated from.  Again, I’m predisposed to like this app; En Garde is in my top three Knizia games of all time and is a great candidate for an app game.

Opponent Selection

Opponent Selection.

En Garde is a game I have played many times, most recently as a ported game into the Virtual World of Second Life, an experience that is somewhat different in terms of game play than the source board game, but retains the critical elements of your hand, the piste space and the fencing theme.
The big difference between virtual EN GARDE and the boardgame (and boardgame app) is a relatively minor quibble, the levels of play. In Knizia’s original Abacus Spiele game, the board was introduced in a series of programmed levels, Basic, Standard and Advanced.. Basic was the simplest version of En Garde ever.. if you had exactly the number card needed to land on the enemy space, the attack goes home. Standard level adds defense, and advance level adds the capability of combined move&attack. In the version I have played several times in Second Life, “Advanced” is basically “just En Garde” so that is what I am used to. The App En Garde follows the published rules to the letter, and has a Basic, Standard and Advance level, all of which must be endured to UNLOCK more advanced features (See picture above). Maybe it’s just me, but I loathe that element of some game designs. Why should I unlock features in a game I have ALREADY PAID FOR? A player should have a way to bypass this.


Fencing Portion of the Game, much like the board game

As you can see, the fencing portion of the game plays in a fashion faithful to the boardgame, after a fashion. I was confused to why I could not manage a combined attack until I went to the developer’s website and read a little about their design philosophy. That is a site worth a visit. I consider myself a fairly experienced EG player, yet I have consistently been beaten by the AI opponent, who is either lucky or just plain good.

Games are Single versus AI or multiplayer on a site called YOURTURNMYTURN, which I have never used before and cannot comment upon. I am encouraged to read (again, on the website, not the in game help) that the Master level is supported via internet multiplayer level play on Yourturnmyturn– in other words, you can turn off the rather stupid “locking” restrictions for single players. In all other respects the App is faithful to the board game.

In summary, I’m not as thrilled with this app as I thought I’d might be, but I am relatively pleased with it– I think the locked levels idea is a bad design element that detracts from play. Otherwise, I like En Garde and am glad I purchased it. A solid B to B+ for interface design and porting the essence of the ORIGINAL (fencing themed) game to app form, marked down somewhat for silly restrictions that make no sense.

En Garde is available at the App Store