Tag Archives: GMT Games

First look at WING LEADER Supremacy 1943-1945 by GMT Games


I’m terribly sorry about the vertical inclination.  I was snowed in and bored, and the box from GMT arrived last night (Oh joy!) so I thought I’d record a first look kind of post with an Ipad.  Pointed the wrong way of course!

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Why I’m all in for GMT’s TWILIGHT STRUGGLE (Digital Edition)



GMT’s Twilight Struggle boardgame is a great design from GMT Games.  Twilight Struggle focuses on the growth of Superpowers in the wake of the Second World War, and the emergence of modern geopolitical doctrine.  It is an event-driven game, and probably the least warlike war-game I know.  Meaning, yah, it’s a conflict simulation, but the conflict isn’t on a hexagon with a cardboard counter sitting on it.  This has been a favorite for a very long time and a consistently high placing game on the Boardgamegeek top 100.  For years, it was THE top game in the “Hotness”, or the most liked games in the top 100.

GMT was going to make a PC game out of this design and had an outfit gainfully employed working on it for almost two years.  That effort collapsed, as I have posted on elsewhere.  Bravo Zulu to GMT for recognizing they weren’t backing a winner and starting over.

Today, GMT announced a Tablet (Android and IoS) version of Twilight Struggle is in the works.  They are partnering with Playdek, who have brought us some off the best boardgame conversions for the Ipad and Android ever, but they need some seed money.  About 50K.  They are already halfway there, so I have every confidence this project will crowdfund nicely.  Still, if you are interested in supporting the effort and kickstartin’ for your share, here’s the relevant information.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/559431060/twilight-struggle-digital-edition  (it went up 10K while I was typing this.  True fact).

Click on JFK to see the video.

CLICK ME TO SEE VIDEO (WordPress doesn’t like the embed tag)

I’m in for a modest amount.  I hope you might consider supporting this, If you like boardgames, you won’t regret it.

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?

Command and Colors Napoleonics Scenario: The Bridge at Almarez


What, another free Command and Colors: Napoleonics Scenario so soon?

In honor of discovering http://www.ccnapoleonics.net, I dusted off a Command and Colors: Napoleonics  scenario I had tested a while back and took another look at it.  This was not created using the Vassal tool that is used on the CCNapoleonics portal, instead it was created entirely with other open source tools: Hexographer, using their free online Java version of their map builder, and Open Office for the text.  This scenario was based upon an article from The Napoleon Series.

The Bridge at Almaraz is a good old fashioned raid with a deadline.  The British start on the map on one side of it and have to negotiate the terrain and hostile French forces that could delay them in their rear at Castle Mirabete.  Their task is to clear Forts Ragusa and Napoleon to blow a bridge across the Tagus.  If they can accomplish this, the two French armies in Portugal will face serious delay in combining against Wellington.

Map for "The Bridge at Almaraz"

GMT Games has created a fun game with a lot of tinkering potential in Command and Colors: Napoleonics. I hope you enjoy this tinkering.

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2011, a year in games as viewed as a downhill motor race*…


*Apologies to Mr. J.G. Ballard for lifting his best short story title ever for this post, but this is the time of year where we are subjected to a bazillion blog posts with the same “Year in Gaming” in the title, so I thought I’d add some starch to mine.  Note bene: this is not my survey of the “Year in Gaming” as an industry, just my own observations about what the year meant to me personally, what I did, and how trends affected me.

So, yes, a year in gaming, where to begin.  I think I’ll start with the stand-out theme of board game acquisition.  As noted in a previous post, we witnessed Z-Man’s mass dumping of older titles on Tanga.com earlier this year, preparatory to  the company being sold.  The Z-Man cash grab on Tanga.com was providential for me– I ended up purchasing4 Z-Man games at bargain basement prices, 1 additional Z-Man game at regular price, and I got another two for Christmas.  I bought two games directly from GMT on P500 and two on one of their periodic sales.  I bought two from Worthington in a bundle deal and another Worthington game from a Boardgamegeek marketplace sale at reduced price.  I bought a bundled two magazine game deal from Against the Odds at a convention, and had some fortuitous finds on various flea market tables– Summoner Wars and Titan: the Arena.   Of course there was the occasional Ebay onesie or twosies but  I’ve noticed that I rarely buy boardgames from Ebay any more, I’d rather deal directly with the publisher if I can, or a reseller if I can’t.

I got these boardgames in 2011:

Yeah. Seeing it all written down like that, you  know what?  I’m cutting back.  I’m cutting waaaaaaaay back.  Not so many acquisitions in 2012.  31 games?  In one year?  That’s ridiculous.  I made a good faith effort to play everything I purchased or was gifted, but I’m going to be at it a while.  There’s just not enough time in the day to devote to it all.   Examining the common themes of my purchases, I see many older titles that are being sold by publishers at bargain prices to either clear inventory for new games.  Not counting Christmas presents, I wouldn’t classify many of those titles as particularly “timely” except maybe the Command and Colors: Napoleonics, Sekigahara, Guns of August and maybe one of the Leader reprints (can a reprint be considered “timely”?).   The result is I’m dipping into last year’s publisher’s backlist at a cut rate.  What’s amazing to me is that these backlist title deals are possible at all.  Publishing is either getting more affordable or else there are some companies publishing at a loss out there.  I saw many, many great titles from just one year ago up for sale on Tanga.com this year.. it got to the point where I just stopped looking, or I’d end up penniless.

The flip side to all this price slashing and dumping was the explosion of publishing that went on in 2011.  This is a subject that has been covered in depth on many podcasts and blogs by the typical board game prognosticators.  I’ve been meaning to get round to writing something about the Great Gaming Glut of 2011, but it’s not going to be included here.  Certainly, the effect of Kickstarter.com on the gaming industry has been pronounced, and I applaud the democratization of publishing, it really is revolutionary.  However, let’s be honest, there’s going to be a downside to this and we’re probably going to see it sooner rather than later.  A lot of games of marginal interest and quality are getting just enough funding to get published and they are going to be added to the EVEN BIGGER GLUT OF 2012 that we are going to all be writing about in January of 2013.  I’ve been noticing games that didn’t generate enough interest to make the publisher’s version of P500 showing up on Kickstarter lately.  Essentially this is a great way for an established publisher to move the risk of publishing a marginal title from the publisher to the potential consumer, so we’re going to see more and more of that in 2012, mark my words.   I’m not a critic of that trend, since some titles that intrigue me are certainly in that category.

I wonder if the Mayans predicted us being inundated in a dark tide of marginally produced boardgames in 2012?

Observations: When it comes to boardgames, I have little or no buyer’s remorse.  I acquired some great boardgames in 2011, and if you’ve been reading along with me over the course of the year, you’ll note that I have made a decided effort to play everything.  I haven’t played each and every one yet, but I have played a ton of them, and will get them all in eventually.  I am especially jonesing to play Quarriors and Merchants and Marauders, which I still haven’t gotten round to yet.  Give me a break, they were Christmas presents.

Writing: So I’m blogging more, and reviewing more, which is a good trend.  I wrote more reviews in 2011 than in 2010, most of them here, some were good, some were pro forma.  I’m not Tom Vasel or anything, I’m just doing it for fun.  I enjoy writing about games and that is a trend that will continue.

Playing: I’m actually playing a lot more than previously.  As far as it applies to me, the other great trend of 2011 (other than acquistion) was 2011 being the year of Meetup.com.  Meetup.com features several incredibly diverse groups in the Northern Virginia area where I live.  Many long established gaming clubs around here (such as NOVAG.com) have taken to Meetup.com like a duck to water, and are experiencing renewed interest as more people are exposed to their activities.  Indeed, I can see a lot of traditional methods of communicating to members such as static websites and newsletters taking a backseat to social media driven resources like Meetup.  And it works!  It’s not like I don’t have choices of where to play and who to play with– I have tons of them, now!  Time is another thing altogether.  Still, it’s an encouraging trend that my son Garrett is getting to an age where he likes to accompany me on a lot of my gaming jaunts.  So I can combine family time with games, and that’s win-win.

Socializing: I went to five conventions and several meetups and two mini-game days in 2011.   I’ve noticed that I am favoring smaller conventions these days over the big mega-cons that are more than I can afford anyway.   I plan on going to Cold Wars, the Williamsburg Muster, Historicon, Fall In, and “The Weekend” this year.  Five is about as much as I can manage in one year.

It’s not all boardgames:  I continued with acquiring Uncharted Seas units and painting them up, and am in the midst of polishing off the Ralgard fleet, as well as making a pirate fleet out of extra imperial humans and some airships.  I’m going to run it at a few cons this year.  I got the Ironclads bug pretty bad this year, too.  I have a pretty decent fleet of ACW ships built up in 1:600 scale at the moment.  I picked up Beer and Pretzels Ironclads (mentioned) and Hammerin Iron II (reviewed) and have played both of them. I haven’t (yet) found the perfect Ironclad rules set, but both of the ones mentioned are pretty good for convention games.  I picked up a few SF rulesets, because I have in mind to jump into 15mm science fiction at one point, which I’ll revisit in 2012.  I also picked up the Fields of Glory Renaissance rule set.  I went against my own embargo of Games Workshop, and picked up Dreadfleet, but in my own defense, before you get haughty with me, I did pick it up from a brick and mortar store not affiliated with GW, and the owner is a friend of mine, Baxter Key.  So there.   I’m still daunted by the models at this stage.  (I am not counting Dreadfleet as a boardgame, or really even as a hybrid.  It’s not either of those, it’s a miniature game).

Tablet Games: One element of gaming that has been on the upswing for me is acquiring and playing boardgames that have been ported to IOS games.  This is the third great theme for 2011 as it applies to me personally.  It was The Year of the Ipad game.  I have hesitated to list or outline what games I liked and didn’t like in a year end review, because I’m frankly embarrassed about how knee-jerk I was in purchasing a bunch of them last year– they are so affordable, it’s like tasty gaming crack cocaine.  I picked up an Ipad 2 about midyear and I’m very happy with it.  I had been considering getting a regular Android tablet instead, but in the interests of full disclosure, it was the fact that so many boardgames are being converted to the Ipad over the Android that sealed the deal for me.  I’m not sure if purists could consider this the same thing as acquiring the games themselves, but I did pick up games that I did not have in paper format, or had never played in paper format, and played them in electronic form.   That’s an interesting trend, don’t you think?  I’m quite taken with this trend, and have played and reviewed a few Ipad boardgame conversions– this will probably be another post entirely if I get round to it.  I reviewed Loot and Scoot (recently) and several others over the course of the year.   That’s a trend that will certainly continue.  I consider the Ipad and Android tablets to be an important element in the future of boardgaming.  I wish we could start seeing miniature wargaming utilities and game assists for the Ipad and Android, this is an area that has been sadly neglected.

In summary, what’s up for the new year: More small intimate conventions.  Avoiding getting sucked into the Great Mayan Gaming Glut Apocalypse of 2012.  More Ipad based games that can play other people over the internet.  More Meetup events.  More painting of miniatures.  I plan on enjoying myself, and spreading the word as best I can.  I’ll see you round the table in 2012.

GourmetGaming, Battle Line and Asynchronous Play across platforms


Battleline, copyright GourmetGaming 2010

Battleline, image copyright GourmetGaming 2010

At the end of my December 2010 review of the Battle Line IOS app, I mentioned in my typical offhand way:

In summary, kudos to Gourmet Gaming for making this thing. It seems to function well, though some folks are complaining about crashes and odd game results. I’d give this one a solid B. Good effort, it replicates the interface nicely. However, the lack of internet play or ladder results knocks you down a grade level

I’m happy to say that the GourmetGaming people seem to have addressed this deficiency. I was alerted to this by a request on my Ipad 2 via the IoS Gaming Center to play Battle Line with with my friend Todd Goff. GourmetGaming, if you don’t recall, are the authors of the Battle Line game app, a very decent port of the Reiner Knizia game of Schotten Totten that was re-themed for GMT boardgame publishers as Battle Line. There’s no need to get into the card play mechanics of the game in this post; I’ve already covered it in earlier material. Suffice to say you are playing yet another Knizia game of cards, colors, sets and sequences, with a pleasant military history theme (in the case of Battle Line– Schotten Totten is about Scotsmen capturing rocks). The app from GourmetGaming was and is fun to play solo, but I found it somewhat easy to beat, and only really playable at the advanced level– so my Battle Line play has tapered off. Todd Goff, however, is NOT easy to beat, being a good player with a good mind for strategy, so I was somewhat intrigued by this development.

GourmetGaming has been working on a form of server based asynchronous play across platforms for a while now. They have set up a game server that integrates their games (as of this writing, Battle Line and Lines of Gold by Knizia, on deck they have something called Reels and Deals from Agman games and two more Knizia games, Ra (a game I’m trying to love as much as everyone else does, but find it kind of tedious) and Lost Cities (a fantastic two player math-based game). From what I’m reading on the GG site, they will be charging a fee for the server service, to be spent as gaming credits.

From the website: “All of the titles on the Gourmet Gaming platform are available to play for a one time cost. Games that are in Beta are available to play for free, and new users may play any games for an introductory period of one week after they first join. Credits cost $1 (USD) for 100 GourmetGaming Credits or GG’s, known also by this symbol : GourmetGaming Credits Buying a game on GourmetGaming provides the owner with a digital copy of that game, which that user may then play as many times as they wish on GourmetGaming for as long as we are able to host the game. GourmetGaming Credits will also be used for entry to tournaments and special events. To get more GG’s, launch the game software by clicking Play Now, and browse to a game you do not own, and click “Get more GG’s”.”

I’m not sure how this plays out for people who already own Battle Line, such as myself (and Todd Goff), but I’ll amend this post after I find out.  The price is pretty negligible in my opinion.

Setting up a game is pretty simple.

Screen 1

Setting up a game: inviting Todd to play

Screen 2: Hitting PLAY

Screen 2: Hitting PLAY NOW

(this will launch the game on your IOS device)

Screen 3: Status 1

Screen 3: Status 1

Screen 4: Status 2 (detailed look)

Screen 4: Status 2 (detailed look)

I’ve already started two asynchronous BATTLE LINE games with JWHITE and BOARDGAMER07 (Todd). With the remote play options enabled, the player places the card, touches the screen, and the turn appears to be ready to synch with the remote player, Play by Email style. I have high hopes for this method, and I home that the IOS Game center adapts it as a standard, along with the ability to log plays of games registered at BoardGameGeek via the Game Center interface. Outstanding effort, Gourmet Gaming, your grade got raised to an A through all that extra credit work you’ve been doing after school. I look forward to trying out the true cross-platform element of GourmetGaming’s promises. Imagine being able to play the same game on either a PC, an IOS platform or an Android platform.

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Fuentes de Oñoro: A Scenario for Command and Colors: Napoleonics


Fuentes de Oñoro

Fuentes de Oñoro: From the British Perspective

Following the winter of 1810 which Marshal Massena’s Army of Portugal spent before the lines of Torres Vedras, the French retreated into Spain leaving a garrison in the Portuguese border fortress of Almeida. Wellington followed up with his British Portuguese army and laid siege to Almeida, which had to be taken before he continued his advance into Spain. He was joined there by Spanish guerrillas.

In April 1811 Massena advanced from Ciudad Rodrigo to relieve Almeida, the move Wellington hoped Massena would make, although earlier than he had expected. Wellington took position on the ridge above Fuentes de Oñoro, ready to fight the form of defensive battle he fought so effectively on many occasions.

This scenario is a bit of a compromise using the C&C system– one has to throttle back the OOB substantially for larger battles and so I had to reduce the and combine forces on both sides, keeping the very general lay of the land intact, plus key elements like the impetus being on the French to attack and the British to hold, the unusual French cavalry (for Spain), Craufurds’ Light Division and the extra goals to put the French on the offensive. I think this is going to be a harder victory than it looks for either side. The Ground certainly favors the British. The French have an extra artillery and good cavalry on the right flank. We’ll see how it plays out.

Scenario PDF File on Box.Net:
Fuentes de Oñoro Scenario for Command and Colors Napoleonics.pdf

For a short time only, a 50% off coupon from GMT Games.. that is, if you can figure it out.


GMT Games 50% OFF!

GMT Games 50% OFFFF!

Click here for your audio clue for the coupon code

Ain’t I a stinker? Good luck, and study your code books!

GMT Games, major wargames publisher, to start creating Ipad and tablet style games


A very interesting news item in the recent (22 March 2011) blurb on the GMT website.   Apparently they have some tablet games in development right now at GMT, as well as a computer version of Twilight Struggle, one of their biggest selling non-series games.  From what I can gather from the news blurb, the first two games to be ported are MANOEUVRE, which I own, and DOMINANT SPECIES, which I do not (but might if I end up liking the game!).    Here’s what Gene (I suspect) had to say about tablet games:

“Electronic Products

Last Fall, I let you guys know about our Twilight Struggle computer game project. That’s still ongoing, but I wanted to use a bit of space here to update you on several additional projects we have begun recently, as well as to let you know the direction we’re heading with Computer and I-Pad games.

First off, on the computer game front, we have one additional project that we have agreed to. This one is a computer version of Barbarossa: Army Group South, and hopefully eventually all of the Barbarossa series.
We’ve also begun our first two I-Pad game projects – one for Manoeuvre and one for Dominant Species.

I guess the biggest piece of news that I want to relate here, though, is that we’ve decided to expand our computer and especially our I-Pad offerings and are actively interested in working with our customers to get more of our games available as I-Pad titles. Note that I said “our customers.” We spent a while talking off and on with medium and large size development houses and at the end of the day just didn’t find a “fit” that we were comfortable with.
So basically, we decided to start looking a bit more closely at the offers to create or port our games that we’ve been getting by the dozens over the past several years. In the past, we usually said “no” or “not now” to these inquiries, but we’ve decided that ultimately, since we have nowhere near the time needed to create these products, that we would WAY rather partner with talented, creative, experienced programmers who already like our games and share revenues with them that work with a large development house that we don’t know and for whom we would typically be a small and not-very-important project.

We’re not absolutely closing the door to working with bigger companies in the future, if we happen to find the right fit, but for now we’re going to explore some of the proposals our customers have made and get more aggressive with saying “yes” to more projects so that we can get more of our line available electronically, especially on the I-Pad side of things, where a dedicated and skilled programmer really can create a quality app without having to work with a large team.

So here is the open invitation. If you are an experienced programmer, especially if you have created previous I-Pad apps, or if you work with a small programming team with such expertise, and you’d like to create I-Pad apps for some of our games, please contact me at gmtgames@aol.com and we’ll be happy to discuss what you have in mind. I look forward to starting some new projects and  forging more mutually profitable relationships as we move forward with our electronic game line.”

I am delighted to read this, and certainly approve of the choice of MANOEVRE, which hits all the marks for a good candidate: simple rules, simple moving and fighting, a lot of variability, lots of color, a nice military subject that could easily adapt to server host-pbem style play or hot seat.   This is great news!
I don’t know enough about DOMINANT SPECIES to even sound like I know what I’m talking about, but it looks like it might be a good crossover title and it surely is a big hit with the Euro-Family game set.
Any aspiring wargame table program designer should get in touch with GMT games, stat!

Well done, GMT Games.  You’ll get me to get an Ipad yet!

Twilight Struggle Reviewed


I just discovered GMT’s new YouTube Channel, and rather liked this review of TWILIGHT STRUGGLE, one of the games I nominated for a GAMES 100 a few years back.

Battleline App from Gourmet Gaming


Reiner Knizia is certainly making a splash in the hand-held and tablet gaming market. No less than a dozen (and probably more as of this writing) of his board and card game designs are currently ported or in the process of porting from the physical world to the digital world, and there’s no signs of it stopping while he still has games in print. One can easily see why this is so– Knizia often just licenses an older out of print title and reaps the benefits of having a game that was out of print suddenly come back into the public’s eye again.  One of the problems with being the most prolific and published game designers of the 21st century so far is that with fecundity comes a hint of repetition. Many of Knizia’s game designs utilize common themes or mechanics that frequently repeat themselves– set collection using colors and numbers being a prime example of a theme Knizia goes back to the well for time and time again.

BL3

Battleline App Main Screen

Battle Line, by GMT

Battle Line, the physical game

A recent app purchase, BATTLELINE, is the Ipod/Iphone/Ipad  version of GMT’s excellent re-themed version of an even earlier game, SCHOTTEN-TOTTEN. Battleline was published by GMT Games and proved popular enough to be reprinted.  Of the two card games, I prefer Battle Line hands down over Schotten Totten, because I like the tactics cards.  They add an asynchronous element to the basic linear set-collecting game that Knizia has produced many times with many variations.  I have played Battle Line many times as a card game– it’s excellent filler, plays in a small space, easy to pick up and easy to teach, but there’s nothing simple about the game itself.

Battleline by the Gourmet Gaming company, is, at best, a faithful reproduction of the game mechanics of the original GMT game.  The card colors and numbers and suits go where they are supposed to and interact in the way they are supposed to.  If you don’t know how to play Battline, or Schotten Totten, or other Knizia games like this, the basic concept is simple.  You are collecting sets– sets of numbers, colors, symbols, whatever.  You play cards on either side of a boundary line in order to claim that position (e.g., collect the set) if it is higher in rank than the set on the other side of the line.

BL2

BattleLine Main Screen

Collections are in strict ranking order.. from just a sum of cards played (the lowest rank) to a Knizia version of a straight flush– three cards in the same suit in a numerical order.  The higher the suit, the higher chance of claiming that space.  As the cards are dealt out randomly in a Play, then Draw from the draw pile sequence, the fun part of the game lies with trying to second guess your opponent about his hand, where he’s going to place a card next, wondering what “formation” the opponent is trying to fill, etc.   That’s the basic game in a nutshell, which is amusing enough.  Battleline (physical and digital) can also add the random element of Tactics cards that do all kinds of interesting things to either side of the battle line.  The tactics cards are only available in the advanced game part of the app.

BL1

Battleline in Action

The Battleline app offers only two forms of play, single versus an AI and passalong two player. This is a giant letdown after the bar was raised so high by the apps for Carcassone and Samurai and the great way they handled internet play. There are two levels of AI for single player games, Basic and Advanced. I have lost to the Advanced a fair number of times, to the Basic AI only the first time I was playing the game. The presentation is very good, but the card graphics are very generic (likely due to some licensing issues with GMT Games). I’m glad they retained the ancient warfare theme which I think is perfect for Battle Line. However, the card graphics look more like stick figures than they do any recognizable military unit. Still, it plays the basic game faithfully, that’s a plus.

KOC

Knights of Charlemagne screen. Look familiar at all?

In the ten plays so far, I’ve enjoyed Battle line. However, not so much that I would give it a glowing recommendation– it’s an awful lot like an earlier app release of an out of print Knizia game, KNIGHTS OF CHARLEMAGNE— a game that features, guess what? Collecting colored sets of suits on either side of a line of demarcation. I think that’s a danger in porting every design you’ve done to a gaming app medium– in real life, I wouldn’t buy each and every Knizia game published– I’d go broke. In the app universe, I can afford to do so pretty easily– most of them are under five bucks. So it’s a lot easier to discover the similarities in game mechanics when you start getting duplicates.  This game is similar to Knights, as well as Vampires, an older card game of collecting vampires on Vampire hunts.  Probably a few other set collection games by Knizia, too.

I’m hoping that the folks at Gourmet Gaming institute a way of keeping track of tournament play, as well providing a means of transmitting turns via internet.   Really, the best way to turn an app release into a monster epic win is to create a community buzz about the game, usually with so social media outlet buzz, as well as well publicized internet play.  I can’t see this happening with Battle Line in its current incarnation.  It’s too hard to spread the love when you can only play it on one device.   Still, they chose a good game to design.. and I hope they make more.  I can certainly think of another title at GMT that would be a great app release (hint hint).

In summary, kudos to Gourmet Gaming for making this thing.  It seems to function well, though some folks are complaining about crashes and odd game results.  I’d give this one a solid B.  Good effort, it replicates the interface nicely.  However, the lack of internet play or ladder results knocks you down a grade level.

A Small, but Significant, Battle of Britain Game Collection


 

Tally Ho

The arrival of THE BURNING BLUE (publisher GMT, designer Lee Brimmicombe-Wood) reminded me of just how many games I have in my collection specifically on the subject of the Battle of Brtain in 1940. There must be something about that particular air battle I like; it was a desperate time where a handful of men on both sides fought to the last full measure of their strength. I guess I like the battle because of the high stakes involved.

Here’s a small survey of what I have on hand:

1) THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN (publisher Gamescience, designer Lou Zocchi, year 1968)

Back in the heyday of Gamescience, Lou Zocchi’s one man band wargame company, he used to put out some decent games. The Battle of Britain is one of his better ones. This is a classic hex and counter game (although it’s really a square and counter game, but essentially the same thing) with a very limited and straightforward operational concept.

You maneuver small units of airplanes around on patrol (as the RAF) or on raids (as the Luftwaffe). You try, in a limited way, to outguess your opponent’s unit placements. Combat is fairly innocuous but it IS fast moving for the simpler scenarios. Battle of Britain is extremely dated by today’s standards (graphically and in terms of design) but it did deliver on fast and easily understood game play.

In terms of both look and feel and design concepts, I have always related LUFTWAFFE (Avalon Hill, published a few years later) to this game. Very similar, right down the round counters.

2) RAF (publisher West End Games, Designer John Butterfield Year 1986)

RAF is a solitaire effort, and one of the best wargames published by West End (and that’s saying a lot). I was always pretty impressed with WEG’s output. West End was a true garage company (or more accurately, a one-side-of-the shoe star company) with a talent for finding good designers. One of the better guys to work for WEG was John Butterfield, designer of RAF, Freedom in the Galaxy, Ambush and another game on this list.

The action takes place on a smallish restricted focus map of England, the channel and a little bit of France. The human (solitaire) player sets up his patrols and then consults the true AI of the game, which are three decks of cards: Enemy Forces, Events, and Targets.

RAF plays fast and furious, and even though the engine is card driven, I have rarely felt it to be repititious. I suspect RAF is the game on this survey I’ve played the most.

3) LONDON’S BURNING (Avalon Hill, Designer Ben Knight, Year 1995)

London’s Burning is yet another solitaire game of the Battle of Britain. I guess game designers think that the Luftwaffe side must be dull or something! I like playing this game quite a bit. The mechanics are fairly straighttforward and chart driven, but far more detailed than RAF.

Between this and RAF I probably like RAF somewhat better, because it plays faster. However, LONDON’S BURNING has many interesting features, notably the pilot focus, which is semi-RPG like, and the ability to play the game with another human playing in a collaborative role.

4) BATTLE OVER BRITAIN (TSR/SPI, Designer John Butterfield, Year 1983)

The merger (Borging) of SPI by TSR did generate a few great games. Battle of The Ardennes is one. Battle over Britain is another. Again, John Butterfield was the designer. This is the grand battle at operational level. This game has a very involved German position as raid planning is very important. The Brits are far more reactive in this system.

Interception and air to air combat is fairly complex. The model of squadron management is quite good; you can shuttle squadrons around to your heart’s content as the tempo of battle changes.

Ultimately, this can be a very complex game that is very rewarding to a patient player.

Which brings us to:

5) THE BURNING BLUE (GMT games, Designer Lee Brimmicombe Wood, year 2006)


I’m pretty enthused by my latest addition. Burning Blue is no light wargame. I like the occassional detailed game that makes me think on a different level. I suspect this might be the definitive word on the subject just from looking at it so far.

The first scenario will pretty much tell me what I want to know. The system appears to be quite detailed and both the dedication of the research and love of the subject matter shine forth. It’s clear that Brimmicombe Wood used first person reports as much as possible from both his website and the historical notes. Let’s hope the game lives up to the buzz….

This is by no means a complete list. TSR put out BATTLE OF BRITAIN which I’m still looking for (I hear it’s quite good!). There is also a game by Attactix that I can’t remember that would probably fit. RISE OF THE LUFTWAFFE and ACHTUNG, SPITFIRE might work but I consider them primarily general games about air to air combat and not really at the same level as the previously named games.

In any event, these are the Battle of Britain games I enjoy.