Tag Archives: Uncharted Seas

Insanely Great news and “Ehhh?” News from Spartan Games…


The INSANELY GREAT news is that if you ever wanted to take the plunge into the exciting hobby of giant fantasy miniature naval combat, NOW IS THE TIME.  Spartan Games is having an Uncharted Seas sale, and GIVING AWAY THEIR RULEBOOK AS A DOWNLOAD.   The “Ehhhh?”  news is that everything is 30% off, and the rulebook (which used to be about 30 simoleons) is FREE.  What message does that send you?  It tells ME that Spartan Games might be sending Uncharted Seas to the back of the rack for a long while.  I certainly hope not.  I’ve noticed a distinct lack of focus on the flagship game from Spartan in the last two years.  A victim of the success of Dystopian Wars, I suppose.   Still, now is indeed the time to invest if you’ve been on the fence.  The rulebook alone is a fantastic boondoggle and I’m going to take advantage of that so I can run games using my Ipad.  I’m in the process of rebuilding some seriously damaged fleets (Dragon Lords/Ralgard) so I might just take advantage of this at some level.  I’d be sad to see Uncharted Seas consigned to the dustbin of hobby history; I’ve had many hours of amusement from it over the years.

HERE’S THE LINK for the sale/download

The mighty Dwarf Fleet Musters for the Battle of Skull Island!

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Third Running: Uncharted Seas Battle of the Steam Plume at Game Camp Aug 2012


(note: I was far too busy with Events Entry for HMGS’ FALL IN to blog more than semi-sporadically for most of August and September, that’s life.  I did have a humdinger of a battle report in the works, and it doesn’t matter if I release it close to the events in question — Game Camp, or not).

UNCHARTED SEAS MEGA BATTLE

Every year at Gaming Camp the big Uncharted Seas battle is the centerpiece of the week; I should routinely schedule more than one day for this as I routinely drop the Thursday activity to extend Uncharted Seas over two days.  This Camp was no exception– I pulled the Battle of the Steam Plume out of the box, which I had run at the Williamsburg Muster and Cold Wars conventions this year.  For details of the scenario, go here, the description of the Williamsburg Muster battle is at the end.  In a thumbnail, you have a huge playing surface, lots of little islands, an active volcano, and fleets from several nations trying to impede mutual progress.

If you aren’t familiar with the Steam Plume battle, here are some basics.

LAYOUT:

General layout at start: important to note are the placements of islands (and LOS implications) and where the volcano is in the center.

This game is three tablecloths long so there is plenty of sea room to play around with. I did much the same layout as at Cold Wars and Williamsburg; a central volcano and many smaller islands dotting the waterscape around it. This was to prevent a barrage of long ranging shot which would have shortened the game considerably with a competent player!

FLEETS:

Iron Dwarf:

IRON DWARVES: basic starter fleet, plus an additional squadron of 2 Heavy Cruisers and 1 additional Zeppelin.

Human:

The Imperial Human Fleet appears large but really is just a starter fleet of one Battleship, three cruisers, six frigates, three martyr frigates and a single assault balloon (which was hidden aboard one of the cruisers). They are escorting a 5 ship convoy (acting as a single squadron) of relatively worthless transports.

Shroud Mages:

The Shroud Mages had a Core Set of 1 BB, 3 CR, and 6 FR plus 2 squadrons of 3 Destroyers (of two different types). The Shrouds are excellent ram ships and hopefully this ability will come into play.

Orc Raiders:

In every battle there’s going to be spots on the board where player’s aren’t engaged. This was a problem on the Southern end of this battle, where nominal allies Dwarves and Humans were dominating the battlefield. So I put together a small Orc Raider fleet to keep them engaged constantly through the game– this is a fleet for smashing and grabbing, with three large capital ships stuffed with extra boarding parties and forward-firing weapons. Not a fleet for subtlety or maneuver.  The Orcs will hide behind the islands and look for an opportunity to pounce on the unsuspecting, ponderous human fleet.

Thaniras Elves:

Elf fleet

The Elven fleet of Thaniras is not designed for slugging matches. This fleet has more hitting power than most, having some extra heavy cruisers. The ideal tactic for the Elves is to smash and grab, and keep on sailing no matter what you do. Will the Elves go toe to toe with their neighbors or sail onward?

The humans were somewhat isolated, with the dwarves, on the far side of the Volcano. I wanted to make them part of the game and not spend the entire time sailing somewhere. So I put a scratch Orc fleet on the table and sailed at them with a few boarding specialty vessels and a couple of frigates. We mixed it up pretty well, I didn’t try to ram home more than one time, and still managed to take out a Imperial cruiser. Not a bad swap, one frigate for a cruiser… He disengaged and tried to move onward.

The Humans felt pretty picked upon, and I can’t say as I blame them very much.

The Human Convoy

Because the Imperial Convoy gains or loses victory points per each cargo ship he gets past a certain point, the convoy is always a target.  The Orcs attacked it early in the game, then the Dwarves, and the Elves were getting into the act when the game was called at the end of the day.

The Iron Dwarves attack in line, taking out cruisers

Human Frigates Swarm the Ork Battlecruiser, two WarCrocs are in the back

Still, the Human managed to launch his balloon based Da-Vinci Gliders and actually captured a giant ship that way, so he put in a great showing.

The Balloon Attack from the Imperial Humans

Balloons landing and successfully boarding the Iron Dwarf Battleship!! WOOT!

The Iron Dwarves were handled very competently by their young Commodore, however, numbers tell and the Dwarves lost to attacks where they aren’t strong– they were swarmed by the Orcs and Human attacks of various flavors and they just lost manpower.

The Dwarf War Zeppelin was shot down early.

MEANWHILE, AT THE FAR END OF THE TABLE…

It was a remarkably peaceable battle.  I don’t know what it is about Uncharted Seas.  You get people playing it and the first thing they want to do is establish treaties and non-aggression zones.  After a while, the Undead Admiral shrugged and said “SOD THIS!” in his creaky voice and started attacking the Shroud Mages, run by Gar.

FIRE ON MY MARK! CATAPAULTS AWAY!

The Shroudies fought back, setting off a savage battle at the far end of the table.   So much for Peace Treaties!  There was a huge exchange of gunfire and the Shrouds got the worst of it, especially after the dreaded snake eyes critical hit, which wiped out a goodly portion of the Shroud Mage fleet!

No captain likes to see this combination pointed at him…

The Bone Gryffons unleash Hell

The “Dead Pile” at the Southern End.

We called it a day at the end of SOLID TWO DAY GAMING SESSION.  Yes, Uncharted Seas held their rapt attention for two days of Gaming Camp.  It was quite impressive.    In terms of a “win”, I’d give it to the Humans, who handled their difficult position with competence and dash.  I give honorable points to the Volcano, which took out 3 ships!

Here’s a slide show “Story” on Photobucket:

GCamp12

Where have I been for a week? Gaming Camp AAR


Introduction: In case those folks that know me are fearing I’ve dropped off the side of the planet, I spent last week running a Gaming Camp for a local school for a week.  This is a continuation of a project started by onetime HMGS President Del Stover, and the intent was to get children interested in “unplugged” gaming– something outside the realm of Internet, Xbox, PCs and Iphones.   I’ve been doing this for about five years off and on.  Game Camp is an activity that I really enjoy and it has influenced a few kids over the years, I’m reasonably certain.

I did not put on a camp last year; therefore, I was a little late getting into the catalog and that may have kept attendance low– I only had word of mouth and the website to spread the word with.  I only had six kids this year, as opposed to 14 to 20 in years past.  Even with small numbers, we had a great time and in many ways the camp was more efficient.  In fact, I daresay I had a better time than usual as they were very easy to manage, with the help of my son Gar.

This year, I didn’t stress the format too much.  I design a new game (at least one) every year and this year was no exception– OLYMPICA 6mm debuted as a 6mm-ish miniatures game, and there are more details on it in this post.  I had a few arrangements fall through on me for this year so had to do some last minute scrambling to pick up supplies.

The format and structure of camp was similar to previous years in that I procured miniatures for the kids to paint (in this case, 3 boxes of Wargames Factory Storm troopers, 1 box of Warhammer Zombies and some leftovers and donated miniatures from Robert Peipenbrook, (for which they were very grateful).   I was flat out of things by Friday, and I just told them to take it all home with them, which led to an orgy of procurement.  I’m not a particularly gifted painter, but I can, kinda sorta, make things look like they should.  So I went over some fundamentals and they really took to it.  One person in particular, Gage, really did some nice work.

Day One: Really Big Gladiators versus the Undead Legion

I ran a quick game of OZ FLUXX during lunch, just to lighten spirits. It seemed to work!

Game idea: 54mm gladiators versus a seemingly endless wave of skeletal warriors, similar to Jason and the Argonauts (the good version)
Rules: Munera sine Milone
Minis: A mixture of Italieri, Pegasus, Marx, Alpha and a few other onesies and twosies.

I run Munera Sine Milone gladiator games using 54mm gladiator games on Monday, almost every year so far.  There’s a good reason for this.  It’s a great game that is phenomenally easy to pick up and kind of runs itself after a while.   It gets the kids into the spirit of the thing nicely.  This year, I added an undead horde of skeletons to vanquish, which they did rather handily, though I will make ’em tougher next time.

Gladiators versus the Skeleton Horde

Dwarf Gladiators get swarmed.

I got the vibe that they kind of dug it. This was our victor.


Day Two: OLYMPICA 6MM, The UN Attempts to defeat the Web of Compulsion on Mars

Game Idea: UN Raid on Nix Olympica Crater, targeting the “Web of Compulsion” generator and the near-hivemind cult of the “Webbies” on Mars.
Rules: Olympica6mm, written for the game.
Minis: almost 100% Mechwarrior Clickie miniatures from Whizkids, rebased, or kitbashed.  I also bought a radar station for the web generator from Iron Cow.

This activity is discussed in depth in an earlier post. Suffice to say that it looked great and the kids picked up on the game fast enough, but I don’t think they grasped a few concepts easily, so may have to rewrite these. Check the other post for a draft of the rules.

Olympica 6mm setup

Olympica 6mm main battlefield

Olympica 6mm Closeup

Another long view

In general the kids felt that the game was good but the UN players felt like they couldn’t win. Which is weird because I felt the opposite when I played the webbie player back when this was a boardgame. I’m going to make certain adjustments in hit points and movement rates. I did feel like the UN player wasn’t advancing nearly as fast as he could. It’s a work in progress.

While I was setting OLYMPICA up, Gar ran ROADKILL RALLY (this was his first day helping me, Tuesday, and he loved lending a hand). The kids definitely loved this one, and why not? It has everything a kid would love– cartoony violence and a smug sense of humor.

ROAD KILL RALLY by Z-Man Games

Day Three: Finish Olympica, Set up and Play Uncharted Seas, Battle of the Steam Plume

Game Idea: Multiple Fleets compete to establish foothold on rich island owned by the Dragon Lords.  Alas, there is a large active volcano blocking the harbor, which often erupts a little lava.
Rules: Uncharted Seas (commercial)
Minis: Uncharted Seas, various fleets (commercial)

Wednesday dawned and the kids wanted to finish OLYMPICA 6mm. I pulled another game out of the lineup, which was a rewrite of the old Lilliputtian game I had done several camps ago.

No muss, no fuss. We played OLYMPICA out to a Webbie victory, and then I got Gar to run my favorite boardgame of ALL time, COSMIC ENCOUNTERS (Fantasy Flight Version). Even running the short game with four planets, I was suprised how quickly the kids got through two games of CE.

Packing up Cosmic Encounters after two quick games

Oh well, they had fun and Gar does seem confident running this game. It’s a particular favorite of his.

Day Four: An entire day of Uncharted Seas, much to my surprise.

The setup for the Uncharted Seas game was a replay of The Battle of the Steam Plume, which I have run at Williamsburg Muster and Cold Wars.  I just love having the Volcano.

The rest of Wednesday and ALL of Thursday was taken up with an Epic UNCHARTED SEAS game, which may require an epic narration, so suffice to say, I will break that one out into another post shortly.   I was not surprised that the game went long, but was dumbfounded at how much they wanted to play after literally playing ALL DAY LONG on Thursday.   We did play through to a conclusion.   I ran a lackadaisical Orc fleet just to keep the far end of the board from stagnating, and it worked perfectly.  Gar ran his current favorite fleet, the Shroud Mages, and the Humans, the Elves, the Dwarves and the Undead were also on the table.  More on this later.

Undead and Shrouds get a horrendous critical hit in the last turn of the game…

A lesson in not counting your chickens before they are hatched. The tiny dwarf cruiser misses a ram, gets boarded, and in the ensuing fight to the death with Orc Boarders from the Pillager, manages to kill every last one of them to capture the prize.

The Humans try a Da Vinci boarding attack, from a balloon. It works admirably and they take a Dwarven battleship!

The Elves hold off attacking anyone until quite late.. earning the sobriquet, “The Pacifists” in this fight.

I promote Uncharted Seas as the centerpiece of the weak, and this game was no exception.. big, bright, colorful, with lovely big fantasy models that I have used for many sea fights. I love Uncharted Seas, and I made a fan out of some of the kids. One of them even went and ordered DYSTOPIAN WARS stuff from Miniatures Market based upon this game.

So Thursday’s stuff was packed up and Friday dawned as the last day of camp.

DAY 5: Hey, Hey, it’s Zombietown USA

Game idea: You’re running two SWAT team members in a group that just barely made it back to main camp, only to find it overrun by the undead.
Rules: Zombietown USA, written by camp members a few years ago but still great.
Minis: Mostly HorrorClix Zombies and SWAT team members.

I ran a game that was actually designed by my campers a few years ago and modded by me a little, HEY, HEY, IT’S ZOMBIETOWN USA. This is a dirt simple zombies versus a SWAT Team game, and it went really well.. for such a simple game, it may have been a favorite for many kids.

Zombie Mutants attack. All figures repurposed HORROR CLIX miniatures from Whizkids.

SWAT troopers shake off the zombie horde to run for it, not caring that running makes noise that attracts more zombies.

A hairy moment early in the game where the SWAT guys get surrounded.

Towards the end of the game, many silly things happened, including Garrett discovering a laser-wielding alien that nearly killed him, and Grenade thrown into the foundations of a very ricket building (FROM THE UPSTAIRS) and even more zombies showing up. Not quite a horde, but a lot.

We had to have a winner to close the game out, so we nominated Gage’s SWAT guy as a winner, zipping down the zip line to the helipad. SO long, Suckers! I’m outta here!

The Winner, mostly by decree as he had gotten the farthest to the chopper, was Gage.

And that was camp! We played a ton of games– Fluxx, Cosmic Encounter, The Resistance, and Roadkill Rally board and card games, and Miniatures games of Olympica 6mm, Really Big Gladiators, Uncharted Seas and Zombietown USA. Reaction to the camp was overwhelmingly positive. I had one kid say “This was hands down the best camp all Summer, PLEASE run it again next Summer”
That is very gratifying.

Couple of Paperless Gaming Notes: I didn’t print out Munera Sine Milone on Monday.  We just ran the game from my Ipad E-Reader, and that worked just fine!  Olympica, the same story.  I did work from a rulebook for Uncharted Seas (it’s too complex not to) and used paper.   I only worked from one printout to run Zombietown USA, but it was left over from last year.

I was amazed at how fast the week went. Things went off without a hitch. It was mostly a positive pleasant experience, with a touch of drama here and there. Boys will be boys. I’m glad I threw this this year and I hope I can do it again in 2013.

Farewell! Until Next Year!


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Thumbs down!


Image

H.L. Mencken says: “Bite Me.”

As part of my Williamsburg convention experience for the February muster, Gar and I put on a test game called THE BATTLE OF THE STEAM PLUME, which features an Uncharted Seas game taking place near a live volcano that was shooting dollops of lava into the ocean from time to time.  If you read this blog regular-like, you’ll know that I indulge in a little bloviation and narration of conventions I attend, under the heading of AARs (After Action Reports).  I wrote one up for the Uncharted Seas game and was very fortunate to get several great photos from Dewey LaRochelle that I included in as a slideshow and as a video (of still images) which I posted to my Youtube account.

Yesterday, I get this response from “battlemind77”:

Sorry man – badly painted models, an ugly table and no narration or story. I have to give this a thumbs down.

I was a bit floored by this discourtesy.  I don’t live or die by Youtube ratings and it doesn’t bother me at all that this chimp dislikes something I do.  But the comment.. to accentuate being nasty about it, seemed over the top.   People put their heart and soul into games.  I know I certainly do.  And some of us are awful painters. I don’t think the scenery was that bad, and we were playing for fun.  I certainly think the players had a good time, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

I tried to come up with a witty rejoinder worthy of a latter-day Twain, Bierce or Mencken, and I think I hit upon exactly the right tone:

jeez, what an asshole.

I know, that may be too esoteric for my readership, and for that, I apologize.  I try to keep a polite tone in these posts.  (grinning)

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Cold Wars 2012 Guidebook Highlights


COLD WARS 2012 Guidebook App

Here we go again with another Guidebook App for a HMGS convention.  Namely, for Cold Wars 2012.  The interface hasn’t changed overmuch; this post is a quick rundown of the guidebook, what’s what, and how to navigate it.

This presumes you’ve done the necessary steps to get a guidebook on your phone, ipad, ipod touch, etc.  Just reference the previous post for the particulars.

When you open up a guidebook, it will look like this, give or take a few items:

The Main Page

Since HMGS isn’t popping for a Deluxe account, we use the bare bones functionality, and that’s what you see here.

Information page

This is the INFORMATION PAGE. It contains the basic meta-information you need to know about the convention itself– location, address, website, The Host’s website, hours of the convention, any relevant policies, and this year I added some high level information about the Hobby University and Tournaments, since I didn’t have anywhere else to put them.

Maps

Map Page, one of many

This is one of the MAP PAGES. I have added a map page for every game room being used in the convention (the Heritage Room is show here), plus the Exhibitor table layout, and the hotel’s own map graphics.

This is how Exhibitor Listings work

Exhibitor Listing

It’s just a straight table, but if vendor provided a website or some other way of contacting him or her on the internet, that is provided by clicking on the vendor name.

Vendor's online information

AND! if there is a wireless, 3G or 4G connection present, click on it and you can take a look at the vendor’s website real quick-like to look something up.

Website link clicked...

Now let’s examine the Events Schedule, which is probably the most important part of the whole thing.

Main Screen

This is the main interface to the Guidebook Schedule. Note the colored bars on the left hand side. This is a graphic indication of a schedule track, which is a grouping of similar events on the schedule– Green for MHU (miniature hobby university), Blue for Gaming Events, Orange for TR (tournaments), and Red for Seminars.

More Scheduled Events

HMGS can’t afford the full up package yet, but tracks can be collected in their own main menu item.. say a collection of tournaments, a collection of MHU, etc.

I added a little graphical coding up top. The classic cliche Dice for a game event, an artist brush for MHU, a lecture for a Seminar, etc. If a well known game system has more than two events on the schedule, I tried to implement something that would be recognizable up top where I could.

A Lecture Event

A Model Hobby University Event

tournament

A Tournament Event

A Game Event

The last picture above is an example of a miniatures game event, coincidentally one I will be running at CW 2012. Since there’s a few Uncharted Seas events and the game system is recognizable, I added the logo up top instead of dice.

If you want to create a personal schedule, click the “Add to my events” button on the bottom there. This will bring up the reminder alarm setting:

Setting the alarm for your scheduled event.

You can set this to coincide with your event tickets or pre-registered events at your leisure.

This is where you build your schedule

Well, that’s about it for features in the basic version of Guidebook we use. I hope you can find it useful. There will only be 200 downloads this convention. Guidebook.com has dropped the number of downloads from 300 to 200, so we have to be frugal with them.

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The Battle of the Steam Plume


A little easier to make out, as a Youtube video

Enjoy!

Williamsburg Muster Weekend 2012


Gar and I pointed the van southward last Saturday for a visit to the Williamsburg Muster, a great little convention that we’ve become fans of in recent years.  The Muster is a mixed format gaming convention, with heavy representation among boardgamers, roleplayers, and miniature hobbyists.  Unlike HMGS conventions the ODMS (Old Dominion Military Society) doesn’t ostensibly limit the content of cons, so the subjects are all over the place.  The Muster (and the ODMS summer convention, Guns of August) takes place at the Holiday Inn Patriot Center, an aging Holiday Inn on the outskirts of downtown Williamsburg.  The Muster takes up three large rooms, space wise, and about a dozen vendors attend from a variety of areas– mostly game stores, but also some publishers and manufacturers like Lock and Load Games and Thoroughbred Figures.

We arrived around noon of Saturday, experiencing no traffic on the way down.  We had reservations at the local Day’s Inn but didn’t bother checking in immediately.  Instead we went directly to the muster and said hi to some people, and then sleezed our way into a game of SPACE:1889.  Man, I was glad I did!

My Command

My Command, a Wooden Pirate “Kite”

This was a game of SKY GALLEONS OF MARS, done in 25mm using a mix of miniatures and lightweight ships made out of some rigid styrofoam material (apparently) and covered with veneer to look like wood.  Very lightweight and durable stuff.

Russians

Garrett’s Russian Ironclad

I played a disreputable pirate, Garrett played a small Ironclad steamer.  Another chap played a Japanese patrol frigate, and young Lindsey and her beau, whom I’ve worked staff with at HMGS conventions, played the roles of A British Aphid class patrol frigate and a slightly more up-gunned Privateer.

The Privateer (left) and the British Aphid (right) with Lindsey to the right

my Pirate Kite in foreground and Gar

I love Frank Chadwick‘s Space: 1889 universe and was an avid player back in the day.  I’ve wanted to play the 25mm scaled Sky Galleons games that I often see on the PEL at HMGS cons but they are never at a good time for me.  I was very pleased to get a slot and thankful that the GM put it on.

The battle was fast and resolved well.  Gar and I signaled a little diplomacy at the outset, which is allowed (and it gives the signalman something to do).  I suggested that Gar fire his machine guns at my kite so that the other players would think we were not allies.  Predictably it did nothing.  Gar fired at the Privateer with some long ranged shots and scored some hits, but didn’t unship the guns or kill a lot of crew.  I took a long ranged shot at the British kite and blew up the biggest gun they had.  This earned me a hard stare from Miss Lindsey.

Sorry, Lindsey. I was just looking for something to do.

Hey, I’m a pirate, not a diplomat, right? So we fired at each other long distance and Gar did the same with the Privateer AND the British. I took an unlucky hull hit which caused me to lose some liftwood, and it dropped me a level. Now I couldn’t shoot UP, and the guys above me had a hard time shooting DOWN. I bided my time and soon enough the Aphid dropped down to my level, as did the Russian. While Gar kept her distracted with brisk fire, I managed to get some grappling lines on that held.

Approaching..

Borders AWAY!!

Sadly, those Jolly Jack Tars were made of stern stuff. And there were more of them after my Marines manfully got shot up on the approach. So the first boarding was repulsed. We went in for another try, all or nothing… and..

Melee

Boarding gone awry.

… we got repulsed with heavy casualties. Oh dear. We beat feet to get back on board the Kite at a fortuitous moment. The Japanese were finally in the game and were taking long ranged shots at everyone, which had started a double sized fire on the Aphid. Time to break off and run for it!

“He who fights and runs away…”

Runnnnn Awaaay! We were down to 2 guys, on a shot up kite, but we lived and weren’t captured. Somedays, all you can do is all you can do in the pirate trade.

FOR A SLIDESHOW OF THE ACTION, visit my Photobucket Account. I don’t want to make this AAR too crowded..

The game called at about 3 PM. We did a walk around and poked our noses into some other events, but we needed to get our UNCHARTED SEAS: BATTLE OF THE STEAM PLUME game ready so couldn’t sit down for even a quick game. We went out for some chicken and got the sheets ready. We had planned to go with a laminated card and dry erase approach, but some of the sheets didn’t get printed. So I used the tried and true method of Spartan Games’ fleet composition sheets. I had to hand it to the lady working the front desk, Molli. She believes in customer service. I went online with my Ipad, found the downloadable from the Spartan Games site, downloaded to my Ipad, forwarded to her personal email, and she printed them out on her fax machine. A Gadget enabled happy ending!

There were tons of great games in both big rooms during Saturday. I liked the 1:600 Ironclads CSS Virginia vs. the USS Monitor scenario being run in the main room, but a fellow can’t be in two places at once. It looked fun!

Monitor vs Virginia

Other standouts were constant demonstrations being put on for ADVANCED SQUAD LEADER (Avalon Hill/Multiman Publishing), BATTLE OF WESTEROS (Days of Wonder), Most LOCK AND LOAD games and other fun activities.

The DYSTOPIAN WARS game was very tempting, but naturally it didn’t synch with my schedule, and it went very long..

One of the vendors was running a mix of Battletech game and FIRESTORM ARMADA Demos, and they had some sharp looking stuff out.

Again, tons of fun things to do, not enough time to do ALL of them…

Mark Walker

Mark Walker from Lock and Load Games

Saturday Night, we got our sheets filled out and got back an hour ahead of our start time for the UNCHARTED SEAS game we were throwing for the convention. The scenario was a tad more complex than normal, as I was working with strict alliances (firm between Dragon Lords and Shroud Mages, loosely allied between Iron Dwarves and Men). That meant that there wouldn’t be a lot of chaos and deal brokering. This game would also have more fliers than past games, as the Elves now had an Elder Dragon, the Humans had Da Vinci glider assault launchers, the Dragon Lords had their Naugras, and the Dwarves had their Zeppelin. We made a big effort to pay attention to the DEFENSIVE FIRE, AERIAL ATTACK and DIVING Rules for this game, as everyone had a “death from above” weapon. To further complicate matters, I added a live volcano that randomly spouted a gout of lava, which had the potential for wreaking havoc with the fleets sailing around it.

The map looked roughly like this, not to scale of course.

The Battle of The Steam Plume

THE BATTLE OF THE STEAM PLUME AFTER ACTION REPORT

A Strong coalition of Allied nations approached the Demon’s Forge Archipelago to force passage for the Colonization fleet moving into the Darnak Cluster.  The Imperials were anxious to set up a strongly defended trading post in the vicinity as the islands had proven to have high concentrations of iron, nickel and sulfur.  Unfortunately, local volcanic activity is high and the straits approaching the proposed landfall are dominated by an active volcano… which should makes things lively for any fleet venturing through the area.

The Battle of the Steam Plumes began with fleets from the Elves, Orcs, Bone Griffons, Dragon Lords, Shroud Mages, Humans and Dwarves on the table, but we quickly pulled the Orcs out (for balance) and then the Bone Griffons and Elves.  The Elves fit in the scenario better than the Bone Griffons, but we didn’t have enough players.  I played the Imperial Human fleet with 1 battleship, 3 cruisers, 6 regular frigates, 4 martyr frigates, and 5 cargo ships whose function was really just as victory points.  In addition, I had two assault glider launcher balloons at my disposal, which were hidden on a cruiser and one of the cargo ships.  The Iron Dwarves were run by my rather loose “Ally” Dewey LaRochelle, who had a Battleship, 3 cruisers, 2 heavy cruisers, 2 submarines, 6 frigates and a zeppelin.  The Dragon Lords (run by a player named Derek)  were more firmly allied with a client fleet, the Shroud Mages (run by Garrett), and they had a battleship, 3 cruisers, 2 Celestial Heavy cruisers, 1 Dragon carrier (that launches two flights of Naugra dragons), and 6 frigates.  The Shroud Mages have a hodgepodge of units, including a battleship, three cruisers, 3 infiltrator destroyers, 6 frigates, and 3 other destroyers.   Of the two opposing fleets, the Shroud Mages hit harder but the Dragon Lords are more versatile.  As you can see in the graphic above the Humans encountered the Mages and the Dwarves encountered the Dragon Lords.  I had the Eagle battleship out in the Van of the attack to bring its devastating broadside to bear.  In no time whatsoever, The Eagle destroyed a Shroud Mage Cruiser and two frigates.  Similarly, the Iron Dwarves conducted a massive frigate attack with combined fire on the Cruiser van of the Dragon Lord fleet, and they started loosing ships immediately.  The Shroud Mages lost another cruiser to gunfire but the Eagle got into a bad spot where she couldn’t retreat to a distance and use her amazing broadside, and she caught a lot of fire.  The Humans lost a cruiser in the counterattack and some frigates.  The Humans brought up the Martyr frigates and they sailed in to another Shroud mage Cruiser squadron.  The explosion did for the cruiser and two frigates, to much rejoicing.  Alas, the Shroud battleship maneuvered into a position to take the stricken Eagle under fire and sank her.  Meanwhile the Dragon Lord Celestials had gone down and the Dwarven Zeppelin was poised to bomb the Dragon Lord Battleship.  The Dragon lords launched the Naugra dragons at the Zeppelin and it went down hard, ripped to shreads by repeated clawing and ripping attacks by the tiny dragons.    That was not enough to stem the tide of victory on the Dwarf side, but it did slow him down a bit.  Meanwhile the Humans tried the best trick in their arsenal, secretly launching one Da Vinci assault wing from  the balloon platform.  The Assault group was 16 crew strong and descended on to the banged up Shroud Mage battleship, wiping out the crew inside.  A substantial prize!

CHAOS! On the Uncharted Seas!

The Dragon Lord fleet was now decimated, but so was the Human fleet, being down to just a cruiser, a few frigates and a collection of valuable cargo ships. The Dwarf fleet steamed (slowly) to support the humans, who captured another cruiser to glider assault. At this point we called it, as an obvious Allied (Human/Dwarf) victory, with an individual victory by Dewey LaRochelle on points.

Things that went well: The Balloon Assault ships. Dwarven Frigates attacking combined. Naugra Dragons. The Shroud Mages have a great Destroyer in the Infiltrator, which is essentially a giant pointed ram. Ramming was the big tactic of the Shroudies, and it worked well. The Humans had to rely on gimmicks, like the Martyrs and the Da Vinci glider assault. Hey, it worked great. The Dwarves had their enormous firepower and armor but lacked speed. This was the game that the Shroud Mages came into their own, and even the Humans impressed me if I do say so, with using their assets wisely– the Battleship pounded from a distance (until it couldn’t maneuver). The cruisers held off and fired from the edges. The Dragon Lords were recently beefed up with some heavy cruisers and I am hoping it will give that fleet greater legs in a long fight. The Volcano surprise was fairly wimpy and didn’t go as planned. We will remedy that for the next time I run it, which will be Cold Wars 2012.

Garrett can be seen in this video example of gunnery combat
, tending to the demise of the Imperial Human Battleship, the Eagle.

Uncharted Seas Combat example, Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Dewey LaRochelle took many pictures, all of which can be seen in this slideshow.

Sunday dawned with no major stress. We were out of our hotel (Days Inn downtown) in no time and popped in to the convention again for the morning. We HAD planned to run Ironclads on Sunday but the crowd was minimal and we had been strongly encouraged (let’s say) to get home for some Super Bowl party action. We did have enough to time to sit in on a remake of Circus Maximus (Avalon Hill boardgame) as a large scale miniatures game.

This was a lot of fun– the GM, Cliff Creech, had streamlined the old Circus Maximus game to a one page set of rules. Presentation was excellent and Cliff is a good and patient GM. Sadly, I took a light chariot to see if I could break out of the pack to win in a sprint, and my own son Garrett rammed me to cause wheel damage. The inevitable happened– I risked it, I failed, I flipped. Fortunately I had revenge two turns later when Garrett ALSO risked it, failed and flipped! Bwa ha ha ha haaaaa! For a look at this game, see the smallish slide show on Photobucket.

We hung around and did some last minute shopping before heading North again, and played a few light games, notably my new Pyramids game from Looney Labs and Martian Invaders.

Martian Invaders is a big hit, the way Zombie Dice was a big hit. We played it all weekend long.

So, in conclusion, we both had a wonderful time this year. Thank you, Old Dominion Military Society, for running this great small scale Mid-Atlantic convention. We always have a grand old time at the ODMS cons and we find their philosophy of “no politics, no stress, just fun” to be very agreeable. Definitely a gamer’s convention!!

Related:  Hobby Game Recce: Williamsburg Muster

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Uncharted Seas: Pre-Game Treaty Round & Diplomacy House rules


Uncharted Seas Banner

From casual perusal of the download section on each faction on the Spartan Games website, there’s been some work done on the fantasy background fluff to Uncharted Seas.  I haven’t really checked it out until recently. Sadly, I think a lot of what has been written to add more story detail has also added needless complexity to a simple, fun, and wonderful fantasy naval skirmishing game, but that’s the direction Spartan Games seems to want to go with the mythic arc of this world, so one needs must shrug and move onward.

I’ve been running Uncharted Seas games since the game was first published. One element that would characterize most of the games that I have run has been multi-faction naval engagements, and  the players’ habit of negotiate alliances in a multi-sided engagement game.  It’s only human nature, and I don’t have a problem with it, per se. Players will seek to establish relationships (albeit temporary ones) to protect their flanks and even to the point of providing mutual support when entering combat. When I first ran Uncharted Seas back at my 2009 Fantasy Gaming camp, I told the children present: “Remember two things. 1) This is NOT the Warhammer universe. Your assumptions must NOT be driven by Warhammer histories. and 2) Stop making treaties in advance. Everyone is equal. You’re all at war with each other”  Neither one of these assumptions really easy to enforce– and it took a lot of effort to get them to stop “making bargains” based on a “Warhammer-centric” view o f the world before entering combat. They all wanted to make a deal with the guy to either side and then take on the alleged ancestral enemy across the table from them. I’ve noticed this mindset taking hold of even adult players.

I really don’t mind deal brokering, but I insist on two things.  It can’t happen during the game turns, as a battle has been joined and boats are in the water duking it out.  Therefore, all potential deals need to be brokered before the first combat result is rolled, in something I call the Treaty Round.  Secondly, I’m sorry, the diplomacy has to make sense.  I refuse to believe that a Shroud Mage fleet would assist an Iron Dwarf fleet, because I’ve read the background, and I know the antipathy between the two factions runs deep.  At this stage, I think it is better to not fight the game diplomats, and instead, channel the inclination into a series of guidelines for a little pre-game diplomacy.

After a long slog through the background fluff pieces in the downloads available on the Spartan Games Uncharted Seas website (and a mighty long slog it was!), I have created the following set of relationships based on hints, assumptions and statements in each faction’s background material:

Uncharted Seas Treaty Chart Predispositons

Predispositions between Races

This chart reflects how the races view each other between battles, how they are per-disposed towards each other.   HATRED is reserved for races that appear to be hereditary enemies from the fluff material.  One example of my reasoning: The First Edition rules hinted that the Dragon Lords and Thaniras Elves might be related to each other, though now it appears that language has been mitigated to something more neutral.  I choose to interpret this as a dysfunctional family relation– the Dragon Lords are disdainful of the notion they are related to the Elves and the Elves loathe the notion that they are related to the Dragon Lords.  Likewise, some races traditionally have worked together or worked for the same boss, and are CORDIAL with each other.  Others have had little prior contact with each other before the Old World races entered into the Uncharted Seas, and are INDIFFERENT.  Some have hired each other as mercenaries in the past and can work together if needed, but aren’t exactly friendly.  These are WARY.  Some have fought in the past and are encroaching on each others territory, and thus DISLIKE each other.  Some races, particularly Orcs and Pirates, may be motivated by sheer CHAOS and don’t really form lasting antipathy or cordiality to other races.

Ranking

These diplomacy predispositions are in an descending order.  Except Chaos, which isn’t structured.

  1. Cordial
  2. Indifferent
  3. Wary
  4. Dislike
  5. Hatred
  • (Chaos is outside the ranking order)

What this means for Combat

These assumptions hold BEFORE A TREATY IS AGREED TO: If two forces are on the table with a HATRED condition between them, they will seek each other out as preferred enemies, disdaining other combats.  If two forces are on the table with a DISLIKE condition between them, they will seek each other out but would not avoid other combats.   If two forces are WARY with each other, it is left to the circumstances and predilections of the players present, and the same response holds for INDIFFERENCE.  If two players are CORDIAL to each other they will support each other in a multi faction battle as allies.  CHAOTIC factions will attack anyone they have a chaotic relationship with, as conditions dictate.

Pre-Game Treaty Round

At the onset of a game, and ONLY THEN, the players may attempt a treaty round.  This the one opportunity to influence these pre-disposition relationships in the game by making an agreement (a Treaty) that can alter these relationships for the duration of the game.

The Treaty must be a simple language, binding agreement between two sides and only two sides.  It must reference either attacking or supporting two parties, and have only one conditional clause.  Examples: “I won’t attack you if you don’t attack me, for the rest of the game”  “I’ll help you in all attacks versus the Dragon Lords if you do the same for me when I’m fighting the Bone Griffons”.

A treaty round is only five minutes long.  The treaty must be proposed and concluded in the space of five minutes.

Treaties are concluded with dice rolls.  Players start with a Diplomacy score of 10.  One player rolls 2D6, consults the table above and adjusts the dice roll:

  • The roll automatically fails if either race HATES each other.  No deal possible.
  • The roll adjusts -5 for DISLIKE on either or both sides.
  • The roll adjusts -2 for WARY on either or both sides
  • The roll doesn’t adjust at all for INDIFFERENCE.
  • The roll adjusts +5 for CORDIALITY on either or both sides.
  • In the case of CHAOS (mostly for the orc raiders and pirates) a third dice is rolled, if is high (4-6), then the roll adjusts +3.  If it is low (1-3), then the roll adjusts -3.

Scoring:

If the adjusted roll is 15 or higher, then a deal is possible and is binding throughout the battle.

If the adjusted roll is 5 or lower, then the predisposition between races decreases one point (example: DISLIKE becomes HATRED).

Only one treaty round may be intitated per player per game.  It can’t be renegotiated once the game starts.  Treaties represents pre-combat agreements that are binding BEFORE fleets sail into battle, and cannot be changed in the midst of battle.

A player may opt to have no treaty rounds with anyone, and just sail into combat.  That is his option, but the dictates of pre-dispositions (see table and combat) still hold force.

Good luck with this, and please contact me with feedback about how you like the idea.

Uncharted Seas

Image by tim ellis via Flickr

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Games Workshop’s DREADFLEET, many years after Man O’ War…


Yes, those jerks finally found a chink in my armor. Alas, it was a Galleon sized chink in my armor.. a boxed fantasy naval warfare game, years after Man o’ War, the one Games Workshop game that I lusted after back in the glory days– only to find out it was out in the American market for all of six weeks or something like that. So, yes, indeed.. Games Workshop has produced something that has kinda sorta made me go back on my self-imposed boycott of their pricey products. Sorry, can’t help it. It’s a fantasy naval combat game. With cool bits. and great looking ships.. all in a huge scale not too dissimilar to my extensive Uncharted Seas fleets. I was hooked! In my defense, I didn’t give GW the money directly, I went through a reseller– knowing that like all secondary or limited edition games, it was buy now or buy never.

Box, copyright Games Workshop 2011

So my spine isn’t entirely made of jello. Right? Right?

To business: The game is DREADFLEET. It appears to be similar to old Man o’ War, but the focus and scope of the older game has shifted dramatically– the ships are much larger and individualized, not fleets. The focus of the mechanics appears to be single ship engagements, as in one to one pirate ship battles. They could easily work in the 1:600 Uncharted Seas Scale. Like many Games Workshop products, they are lovely, gothic, imposing and weird. I did stop by a group playing a game of it tonight and the mechanics seem a lot simpler than Man O War was, but frankly that was back in the 90s and I can’t remember how the game played, to be honest. I can’t really comment on the mechanics as the players were trying to figure it all out and going very slow.

Description: Dreadfleet is a boxed game for two (or more) players that includes everything you need to make war on the turbulent seas of the Warhammer world. At your command are two fleets of ships – the Dreadfleet led by the Vampire Count Noctilus, aboard his gargantuan sea-hulk the Bloody Reaver; and the Grand Alliance commanded by the Pirate Captain Jaego Roth, who recently stole the Heldenhammer – the pride of the Imperial Fleet, and one of the largest galleons to ever sail the high seas.

As your ships engage in furious battle, it’s down to you, the fleet captain, to make important split-second decisions. Do you bring all guns to bear on the closest enemy warship, or do you sail into position for a furious broadside? What happens when the warship catches fire, or worse, the powder kegs ignite? Exactly how much punishment can your warship take before it sinks without a trace? Are those Undead seagulls or flying piranha fish? And, when all else fails, do you have the courage to ram your foe, board their ship, and engage them in a duel to the death? — GW Dreadfleet website”

Here’s some visuals:

Dreadfleet

Dreadfleet

Dreadfkeet

Dreadfleet

Dreadfleet

Dreadfleet

Dreadfleet

Dreadfleet

Games Workshop is claiming they didn’t rush this to market to compete with Uncharted Seas and that (furthermore) they don’t much care what Spartan Games gets up to. I think otherwise. I think this is designed to compete directly with Uncharted Seas by eating into their market share with a release of a reprise of the grandaddy of fantasy naval games. It’s all about name recognition, right?

Cosmic Encounter: A Thorough Drubbing


The HATE

Me playing as the Purple HATERS...

We had a chance to play one of my favorite games in the omniverse, Cosmic Encounter, at Steve’s house for his annual OMG it’s the weekend before GENCON frenetic Paint n’ Pack fest on Sunday. I brought my own painting projects, which I managed to complete:

Ironclads 1/600 Scale, mostly Thoroughbred Figures except for the Spartan Games models:

  • Detail work on the RalGard Heavy Cruiser
  • Water giant for Uncharted Seas
From Instant Upload
From Instant Upload
From Instant Upload

After we finished up painting and Steve’s frenetic last minute prep for selling a bunch of stuff at GENCON, we took a look at the giant FEZ BOX Steve and family made for NOVAG’s games at GENCON. Painted NOVAG fez green, with tassel included.

The Fez Box

The Fez Box!!

After that we pulled out Cosmic Encounters, playing the basic game plus a few encounter cards from the first expansion– no flares, lucre, moons or other silliness– just Encounters, Artifacts, Kickers and Morphs.

We selected aliens randomly, just like the good old days.  Here’s the spread:

Steve Gibson: The Chosen (yellow) Can Draw Extra Challenge Cards from the Deck & use them
Chris Gibson: The Vulch (green) Harvests Artifacts.
Jeff Molman: The Mutant (red) Can draw cards up to 8 if he is under.
Me: The Hate (Purple) Can force people to discard a card TYPE of his choice, and if the other players don’t have that card type, they lose three ships.

I had been in games with the Mutant and The Vulch before– they are reasonably balanced.  The Chosen was new to me and I found him a bit overwhelming. I used the Hate power judiciously as it didn’t win many friends– I still think it was no match for the Chosen.  But that’s life.

The Chosen

The Chosen: Yes, we ARE holier than thou.

The game started out in a series of defeats for THE HATE.  Purple was chosen two times in a row in the destiny pile and solicited Allies from the Vulch and the Mutant as depicted HERE. and THE CHOSEN’s  power to draw the first three cards from the encounter deck proved very difficult to counter in any meaningful way.  And nobody wants to ally against someone who could pick the top three cards of the draw deck, decide to add one of all of them to the final outcome  and there you go– you’ve been outnumbered.  In most cases, the power worked in the Chosen’s favor, and Steve played it aggressively.  He was only Cosmic Zapped once, and decisively.   Jeff played the Mutant as well as he could but the Mutant role is not as aggressive in this mix as the Chosen or Vulch proved to be.  THE VULCH was particularly effective, picking up artifacts every round.  Soon he had a hand to be feared, as most of us knew what was in it.

The Hate

Hatin' is for Haters

As the Cone passed to THE HATE, I drew THE VULCH in the Destiny Deck.     THE HATE drew in THE MUTANT to his attack, but the Vulch pulled a 30 attack card, and that was all she wrote.  Thus ended the great Hate offensive for the first time around the circle– and the Cosmic Cone passed to the Vulch.  The Vulch had a strong attack with all those artifact cards and understood the need to attack aggressively, but he vacillated in his turn, making a sweet arrangement with the Chosen as depicted HERE, and then moved on to attack the Mutant in half-hearted fashion, as depicted HERE.  The

Vulch.. doin' his vulchin thing... stripping the battlefield of artifacts.

Vulch’s assault stalled in the face of stiff resistance from the Mutant (with help from allies Hate and Chosen, who were happy to get a bunch of ships back from the Warp.  As his challenge failed,  so did the Cosmic Cone move on to the Mutant, not by nature a very aggressive player or perhaps he is just unlucky?  Who knows?      The Mutant proved he could prevail over the Chosen steamroller, and as he had stood by the Hate in the earlier round, Hate would stand with him now.

Numbers were finally playing in the favor of the anti-Chosen coalition– the higher cards had been played and the Chosen’s defenses were thin in his galaxy.   It was a gamble that payed off, Hey, you muties!  Get out of my cabbages!and the Hate jumped in with both feet.  Finally, no longer a Galactic loser!!!  The Cone passed on to the Chosen, who managed to encounter a stiff resistance from non other than the Hate (last Destiny card drawn). And then it was Hate’s turn once more.. one more time to try to turn the tide of fortunes around.  I had been keeping a weather eye on the Chosen all game long, as he seized an early lead and held on to it all game long.  However, I should have been paying closer attention to the Score wheel.  I had not noticed that the Vulch was now up to four victories after our last alliance, and when I invited him the last turn, naturally I didn’t count it.  Here I am rueing the day… and handing the victory to the Vulch!!  Oh well, losing track of who is the lead in a game of CE is also part of the game as a whole.   Even a solid loss in Cosmic Encounter is a fun time, and I think I can say a good time was had by all without fear of contradiction.  A fun day!

Recent Additons to Uncharted Seas fleets


A few select purchases from THE WAR STORE convention booth at HISTORICON. These are supplemental to fleets that I already have. The only one incomplete is the RalGard, which I just started. Otherwise, I have one fleet for every faction I know of.

The Shroud Mages Infiltrator cruiser, in my distinctive paint scheme, almost done.

Infiltrator Destroyers for the Shroud Mage fleet.  They are designed to rocket into their foes and ram them.

The Steampunky Shroud Mages, down in my own Brown Grime paint scheme.

The entire Shroud Mage Fleet

The Orc Raider Heavy Cruiser, with the rock lobbing trolls on deck, needing another going over with some grime.

The New Orc Raider Heavy Cruiser, with giant troll rock lobbers!

The colorful RalGard Heavy Cruiser, still in work

The colorful RalGard Heavy Cruiser, with distinctive particoloured sails and giant ram beak. It’s the only Orc Ship with side firing broadsides.

The very Spikey And Grimey Orc raider fleet

The Entire Orc Fleet. Pretty savage firing in a forward direction, not much good firing sideways.

The painting is coming along nicely, and I hope to be done this weekend.

DYSTOPIAN WARS first glance


PRUSSIAN SKY CARRIER

PRUSSIAN SKY CARRIER, DYSTOPIAN WARS

I went to the Eagle and Empire Hobby Shop in Franconia VA on Sunday for a promised DYSTOPIAN WARS demo. At first it looked like the morning was a total bust because the fellows who promised to run it never showed. Fortunately some local players with models in various stages of completion DID show up, and staged an impromptu replacement battle.  Keeping in mind that watching two other guys fumbling through the rules is not quite the same thing as playing it yourself, my impressions were that the air rules are a bit dodgy but I can pick them up. Other than that it should be a lot like Uncharted Seas.

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A very geeky Christmas ’twas had by all


It’s a rare event indeed where your humble narrator gets anything for Christmas other than an old biscuit, a lump of coloured clay, or a couple of castoff buttons.  Therefore, I was delighted to find a series of oblong, parti-coloured boxes with YHN’s name inscribed upon them on Christmas Day.   Even more interesting was that many of these boxes were boxed board and miniature games.  Even MORE fortuitous was the fact that we promptly had a White Christmas and got snowed in– so we had nothing to do but play board games and Xbox for three days in a row.  Herein follows my Holiday Gift Boodle list… which is impressive by my standards if not yours.  I’m also throwing in some mentions from Gar’s Christmas boodle (unless pressed for time) and my Secret Santa pressies.

1. NINJA BURGER (2005)
Steve Jackson Games

I was ready to think this was going to be too silly even for me, but I am glad we broke this one out and played it first.

Ninja Burger

Ninja Burger, Steve Jackson Games

Players are Ninjas, working at the Ninja Burger hamburger stand.  Missions are hamburger deliveries made to a series of unlikely spots via card draw.  Player Ninjas must roll against their character traits to make a successful delivery and therefore garner honor points for their corporation.

The artwork is silly and Foglio-like, the parts and bits very well done.  The rules have a logic hole here and there but we improvised.  Great fun!

2. SPACE HULK: DEATH ANGEL the card game (2010)
Fantasy Flight Games

Death Angel

Death Angel

This game was on my short list after hearing an enthusiastic review on a certain podcast of my acquaintance.   Getting it sorted out and set up was a bit of a chore.   Why?  Because artists painting in the Warhammer: 40K milieu can’t stand making illustrations that are anything other than dark, moody and reeking with proper atmosphere.  Unfortunately that makes older chaps like myself blink with confusion and frustration, as the cards so rarely seem as clear as the chap writing the instructions booklet.  Anyway, I got it all sorted and played it three times solo.   I found myself liking the game quite a bit.   It plays in a fashion similar to SPACE HULK (the board/miniatures game) but not as three dimensional (obviously..) and somewhat more constricted and claustrophobic feeling due to the card format.

The card play is pretty straightforward once you figure out which card does what and what they mean when they say terrain card and location card.   I strongly recommend the casual player check out this player video of the setup procedure, it explains much and overcomes what I consider to be a major weakness in both the rules and the card art– murkiness and a lack of clarity.

Once you get started, however, I think you might enjoy this game– it’s FAST, FEROCIOUS and UNFORGIVING.  I have lost every game so far (solitaire!!!).  I’m not saying it’s impossible to win, but it sure seems damned hard against the system itself.

3. Dice Town (2009) (Secret Santa pressie)
Asmodee

A total stranger, somewhere, sent me this low-complexity, high-on-fun dice roller with a Western theme.  Theme is important to the mechanics, which is pretty unusual for a family/euro game these days.  Players role special poker dice to achieve winning combinations that further the player’s position on the game board representing a Western “Dice” Town.

This is almost a no-brainer for me.  The kids like it, the theme is easy and the mechanics are unique and asymmetrical.   I strongly recommend Dice Town.

4. Ticket to Ride Card Game (2008)
Days of Wonder

This is another card game that I put on the short list simply because of an enthusiastic review on a podcast.  I don’t have the parent game Ticket to Ride and I have never played it, but I liked Railroad Tycoon, the old Microprose game, so I figured how different could it be, right?  Right.

Ticket to Ride, the Card Version plays somewhat differently.  It’s a cards-ONLY game– the parent game did use cards but the mechanics are quite different from what I can see.

I liked the components at once, just a giant group of cards divided into a train deck and a destination deck.  The language of the setup was once again, vague as to the mechanics of playing and scoring– I got set up easily enough but wasn’t really clear on what to do next until a couple of experimental solitaire games.  The rules also reference the parent board game in passing, with sentences like “card draw is accomplished much like the board game“.  Uhhhhh?

Ticket to Ride Card Game

Ticket to Ride Card Game

Still, I got it sorted and it turns out to be somewhat fast and easy once you get the hang of card combinations.  I was reminded strongly of Mayfair’s STATION MASTER or FREIGHT TRAIN. Not very surprising, as Alan Moon designed Freight Train.

5. Warhammer: Chaos in the Old World (2009) (Secret Santa Present)
Fantasy Flight Games

I admit right up front, I haven’t played it yet.  Another recommendation from a gang of enthusiastic podcasters.  I like the look of it and look forward to playing this semi-wargame of conflict between the Gods of Chaos in the Warhammer Fantasy world.

Chaos in the Old World

Chaos in the Old World (FFG)

It also came with a small pocket game of Pocket Battles: Celts versus Romans, but I’ve said plenty of good things about that system elsewhere.

6. Wings of War: Flight of the Giants (2010)
Fantasy Flight Games/Nexus

Zeppelin Staaken from WoW:FotG

Zeppelin Staaken from WoW:FotG

This is the expansion box for the wildly successful World War One airplane game, WINGS OF WAR, covering the giant bombers of World War One.  All, that is, except for my personal favorite, the Russian Ilya Mouremetz, but who’s picky?  Not me!

The Caproni, The Handley Page, the Gotha, the Zeppelin Staaken, they ARE in the box, and aside from the fact that all of the large bombers have multiple gun positions, each of them is unique in a certain way that replicates the historical performance of the aircraft.  There are several scenarios included in the box.. some of which seem to be optimized for the Wings of War battlefield mat that I’ve been seeing in stores in the last couple of years.  I hope Nexus makes miniatures for these planes– I’d certainly buy some.

Unfortunately, the game out of the box requires the player to have one of the other games in the series to play– it is NOT a standalone game.  So I haven’t played it yet.  A perusal of the rules looks very hopeful.  They haven’t changed much, just added restricted fields of fire based on the machine gun layout on the large monster planes.  I only wish they had added Zeppelins, but I imagine it would be difficult to create a zeppelin in scale and use the same mechanics.

Non Boardgame pressies were:

7. The RALGARD FLEET from Uncharted Seas (2010)
Spartan Games

Ralgards

The Ralgards

Not much I can say here.. if you have read any portion of this blog over the last year and a half you know of the author’s UNCHARTED SEAS fixation.   It was only a matter of time before I picked up the most current fleet, and I love the Chinese Junk look of the Ralgard ships– very different visually than anything else on the board.  I haven’t looked at the ship stats yet but it would seem that their hulls are hard hitters compared to the existing fleets– I don’t know for certain, they just are showing more cannon.

I also received the new Dystopian Wars miniatures rulebook from Spartan Games*, the new steampunk land-sea-air game from the same folks that brought you Uncharted Seas.  It’s steampunky, it’s naval, the models are lovely.  I couldn’t pass it up.  So far, the rules look not a great deal different from Uncharted seas.  They just seem to make allowances for attacking and defending in other theaters of war, like in the air and on the land.  It still looks to be primarily a naval game and that suits me just fine.  I also picked up my first fleet independently of Christmas, the Federated States of America fleet (USA analogue).

FSA Fleet

FSA Fleet

Gar also received a number of small LEGO boardgames*: Magikus, Robo Champ, and Race 3000.  We  played Magikus and Race 3000 whilst snowbound– we had a great time, but both of us preferred Magikus.

And that was my Geekly Christmas!!

* We hope to revisit both Dystopian Wars and the new LEGO games in a future posting.

Dystopian Wars by Spartan Games


Spartan Games has not failed to produce products and games that are a big hit with your humble narrator. My support for the Uncharted Seas series should be fairly evident for anyone who bothers to read this blog on a regular basis. I admit, I like the fantasy game, Uncharted Seas, quite a bit. I like the big chunky scale and the amount of depth the designers put into the “fluff”, or the backstory, to the game. Uncharted Seas is fun and easy to teach to youngsters, which makes it a big win in my book. When the science fiction game, Firestorm Armada, was released, I initially had the knee-jerk response of “Oh boy, oh joy!  Uncharted Seas in space!  I’m all over this thing like stank on a pig!” I rushed out and purchased the “Dindrenzi Fleet” starter pack.   Sadly, this game never gelled with me.  Nobody I knew was investing in the ships, as most of the people I game with in the Thursday Night Gaming Group already have a sizable collection of Silent Death space ships.  There was some interest in playing the FA game rules with Silent Death ships, but I never bought anything else in the series– it’s too much like stuff I have already played, too much like Uncharted Seas in space, too large a scale for me to get all that excited about it.

I guess I blame my FA knee-jerk response on the enthusiastic reporting from the D6 Generation Podcast on FA.  Those guys are like the ancient Greek Sirens for new game systems (go ahead, try Malfaux, you knowwwww you’ll loooove it).   I blame my Uncharted Seas addiction on them, too, come to think of it.  Maybe I’ll think it through next time, before dropping a big dime on a starter set.

Hey, whaddya know, the next time is here!

It turns out the folks at Spartan Games have not been idle.   They have been toiling away unseen on their new combined land and sea steampunk combat system, Dystopian Wars.   This is a steampunk setting for the “exploding D6” game system popularized in Uncharted Seas and Firestorm Armada.  Needless to say, if you’ve been reading along, I love this setting.  I cut my miniatures gaming eyeteeth on Victorian Science Fiction gaming (Le Grand Cirque and the like) and love the older games of this genre, Castle Falkenstein, Space 1889, even GASLIGHT.  So I am more than willing to give this system a try.  I think they had me at “hello” here.

From the webpage:

The proprietors of this wonderful tabletop game – SPARTAN GAMES – are, they inform me, most jubilant to announce the launch of Dystopian Wars, which is the company’s third major game to be based around its easy to master Exploding D6 rules system. The game embraces the exciting idea of Victorian Science Fiction and the established genre of Steampunk to create a visually impactful game setting, and will be packaged in the company’s now established format of a boxed Battle Group which can be easily expanded upon using blisters containing upgrade models.

The news about the rules being of the same lineage as Uncharted Seas and Firestorm Armada is good.. the learning curve will be somewhat insignificant, then.  Even better are the early pictures of the fleets (and ARMIES) from this system.  Like their other two games, Dystopian Wars favors the “big chunky” scale of somewhere near 1:900.  Fine by me!  I might be mixing and matching with the Uncharted Seas stuff anyway!

A few preliminary release pictures:

From “The Federated States of America”

FSA Battle Group

FSA Battle Group, Dystopian Wars

“The Kingdom of Britannia”

BR Battle Group

BR Battle Group, Dystopian Wars

“The Prussian Empire”

PR Battlegroup

PR Battlegroup, Dystopian Wars

Finally, “the Empire of the Blazing Sun”

EBS Battegroup

EBS Battlegroup for Dystopian Wars

And that’s not all. There’s a land element as well, which is likely not remotely going to be in scale, consisting of armored steam tanks. I’m liking this notion quite a bit.

Concept art, EBS land forces

Concept art, EBS land forces

Firestorm may have been a miss with me, but I don’t think Dystopian Wars will be. If Spartan Games supports this line as thoroughly as they have with the Uncharted Seas, I suspect I will have TWO fantastic naval addictions at some point in the near future.

Spartan Games releases The RALGARD FLEET (and destroyers, nogra) for Uncharted Seas


It’s odd how verisimilitude works.. As I was painting up some holdout fleets for a recent Uncharted Seas game at HISTORICON, I got to thinking what I would add to the Uncharted Seas universe, if I were king of the world– and the answer was, no kidding, “War Junks.. Chinese style gigantic war junks.. with an oriental flair and visual style“. The week of HISTORICON, Spartan announced the release of THE RALGARD FLEET. Wouldn’t you know it?

Ralgard Battleship

Ralgard Battleship class War Junk

“The Ralgard are an elite warrior caste that hail from the Island Province of Tragorria, a luscious jungle land that harbours untold dangers, and is feared by all races that inhabit the lands around it. Legends of the brutal and savage nature of these warriors are widely known throughout their homeland. Sightings of the first Ralgard ships were reported to the south of Ganesh heading towards Sorylia by the crew of a lone merchant vessel. “

(source: Spartan Games Website, verbiage and images copyright Spartan Games 2010)
Ralgard Fleet

The First Release of the standard US Ralgard Fleet

Alas, my favorite source, the War Store, did not have Ralgard ships in stock for HISTORICON. They should be shipping next week according to the Spartan Games website. I am very eager to get these– it’s clear the first release will be the standard combination for a starter fleet in Uncharted Seas– one Battleship, three Cruisers, six Frigates. I am curious what their “special” ships might look like.. the flagship, heavy cruiser, destroyers (more on that below), and “flavor” hull. Kudos to Spartan Games for adding these– I can already tell that these models will require a much better attention to detail than I have given ships in the past.

Just hitting the streets NOW are the DESTROYER class hulls for all existing fleets in the Uncharted Seas universe. Coming in at somewhere between the Frigate and the Cruiser in hitting power, the destroyer still looks to pack a punch when in a group where it could combine fire with more destroyers and a couple of frigates. I’m liking the look of these models, but I have to wonder if this means.. YET ANOTHER ITERATION OF THE UNCHARTED SEAS RULEBOOK??? I certainly hope not, but I know the stats for all these new ships are not in the current rulebook. Sigh!

Destroyers for all Seven Fleets so far

Destroyers for all fleets save the Ralgard

Last, but not least.. those annoying Nogra Dragons that are the “fighters” launched from the Dragonlords DRAGON CARRIER model (I’ve been using generic green tokens, myself) now have actual models. Yeah, of course I’m going to buy them.

Nogra

The Nogra Dragons at long last!

Fortunately Spartan Games isn’t going to screw the people who already bought the dragon carrier model when it was released (like, ahem, myself) and will offer the dragons as a separate item.