#SundaySummary – #Wargame and #boardgame #crowdfunding with @ADragoons @TheGascon @gmtgames @Academy_Games @LederGames @stuarttonge @FoundationDietz

I made an (audio) appearance on Mentioned in Dispatches Season 8 Episode 12 “Crowdfunding” with Regimental Commander Brant and Napoleonic colorguard Jim. Please take a listen and leave your thoughts either at the Armchair Dragoons forums or here.

In the podcast I mentioned that I have 20 items either in Kickstarter, on GMT Games P500, or on preorder (mostly with Compass Games). Already in the short time since we recorded (just days before posting) there has been movement on more than a few items:

  • Red Storm: Baltic Approaches (GMT Games) – P500 since April 2020 (24 months); per April 19, 2022 newsletter, “At Sea – No Arrival Date Yet”
  • Reality Shift (Academy Games) – Kickstarter December 2020 with estimated delivery May 2021 (11 months delay); per April 21, 2022 update the games are on ship expected to arrive New York on May 17, 2022 with fulfillment to start immediately thereafter
  • Stuka Joe’s CDG Solo System(GMT Games) – P500 since January 2021 (15 months); per April 19, 2022 newsletter, “At Sea – No Arrival Date Yet”
  • Root: The Marauder Expansion / Root: The Clockwork Expansion 2 (Leder Games) – Kickstarter March 2021 with estimated Delivery January 2022 (3 month delay); per March 28, 2022 update on shipping, “Updated start date: first week of April / Updated end date: mid to late June” NO SHIPPING NOTICE RECEIVED TO DATE…
  • 2 Minutes to Midnight (Plague Island Games) – Kickstarter July 2021 with estimated delivery December 2021 (4 month delay); per April 22, 2022 update from designer Stuart Tonge:
    • “OK… US & Canadian backers – unfortunately, there is a delay.  I only found out yesterday night so this is fresh news but shipping is likely to be 6 weeks late. That would be early May for the games to ship, with an additional 2-3 weeks for Canadian deliveries on top of this. I will not make excuses for the responsible company – they’ve let me down. But I also won’t reveal them, as that would serve no purpose. Please accept my apologies for the delay.”

In the podcast I repeatedly mentioned that communications is the key to my happiness with a crowdfunding or pre-order campaign. Jim Dietz of The Dietz Foundation ran a most excellent Kickstarter campaign for Supercharged and 1979 Revolution in Iran. The major reason I am happy is that he always communicated—good or bad!

While I am an anxious to get 2 Minutes to Midnight into my hands, Stuart Tonge’s explanation is perfectly acceptable and very welcome. It also shows that a bit of humility and honesty are extremely valuable in a relationship. While I wait for my game, I do so with great respect for the efforts Stuart is making.


Feature image courtesy pexels free photos

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#SundaySummary – Give up #wargames and#boardgames for Lent? NEVER! (mentions of @gmtgames @SchilMil @Academy_Games @LederGames @Volko26 @DouglasBush @JoeStuka @stuarttonge)

Well, with my busy schedule it certainly feels like I have given up boardgaming for Lent! I don’t know about you, but I am (beyond) fully back to work at something like 120% in the office (including some weekends and after hours “events”). It really has put a crimp into my wargame and boardgame time. The Shelf of Shame is growing with little indication that it will be seriously worked off in the near future.

I need to work off some of this backlog because more games are inbound. In what seems to be a post-COVID rebound, the flow of games started in the COVID-era are finally making their way through the pipeline and some are getting closer to delivery. A few titles that may show up within the next 3 months include:

Even though my Shelf of Shame is starting to sag, new games are always welcome. That said, my “acquisition strategy” has been to slow down a bit this year (Mrs. RMN says, “About time!”). Here in late March my trend-line of gaming acquisitions is a bit under-slope from the last few years:

  • 2019 Gaming Acquisitions thru March: 12
  • 2020 Gaming Acquisitions thru March: 19 (+58%)
  • 2021 Gaming Acquisitions thru March: 20 (+5%)
  • 2022 Gaming Acquisitions thru March: 13 (-35%)
Gaming Acquisitions – Cumulative Monthly

I think many of us are going to look back at 2020 and 2021 and see that, even in the worst of the COVID lockdowns, our gaming was in something of a Golden Era. Sure, there was less face-to-face gaming for many, but here in the RMN house the RMN Boys and myself got in lots of good gaming. That “Golden-Horror” time has certainly come to an end, and now we struggle to keep our hobby life going.

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Family #Boardgame Night winner with 1st & Roll (R&R Games, 2018)

The tabletop boardgaming life of the RockyMountainNavy hacienda has been in a bit of a funk this past year. Between myself going back to work something like 120%, full-time employment for Middle RMN Boy, and high school senior year and part-time work for Youngest RMN Boy, there is very little time for family boardgaming in the house. Further, the flavor of gaming has changed with even less three-player opportunities. Sensing this, I started looking at more two-player boardgames. One that I recently brought into the collection is 1st & Roll from R&R Games (2018). It’s been a winner!

1st & Roll from R&R Games (2018)

Sporting Games

Although I have a few sports games in my collection, finding one that feels “real” is tough. We have had moderate success in auto racing games with Pitch Car (very light and fun) to Formula D (love the different gear dice!) to Supercharged (card-based simple flavor and fun). The RMN Boys are football fans at heart, and finding a good football game was tougher. We have a well used copy of Battleball which is more toy than sport.

A “Real” Football Game

What impresses me the most about 1st & Roll is just how “real” it plays. The game starts with a Kickoff using the Kick Die. Then, the offensive player picks either a pass, run, or pass/run play (each is a different color die) and the defensive player picks a defense (pass, pass/run, run). The die are compared and if the colors are different the offensive die is rolled and the ball advanced. If they are the same color there is a dice-off. Then a Clock die is thrown which moves the clock or can lead to a Turnover. There are breakaway plays and extra yardage. There is a chance of penalties. You can punt or do an onsides kick or a long bomb or a Hail Mary or kick a Field Goal or even fumble the ball. In other words, it plays not so different from a real football game, but on a small board and with just a few dice.

Equipment Manager

Another element of 1st & Roll that I like is the game components. In particular, I’m talking about the magnetic board. Yup, the board has a thin metal layer inside and the football and down marker and clock are magnetic. Other markers are small magnets. This makes the game not-so-safe for little kids, but then again, they should be playing flag football at that younger age anyway, right?

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

2022 #Wargame #Boardgame @Kickstarter Update w/mentions of @gmtgames @compassgamesllc @AcademyGames @LederGames @SchilMil

With 2021 “in the books” I surveyed my outstanding preorders and Kickstarter list. At one point in 2021 this list reached maybe close to 30 titles; today it stands at 20. That’s not so much a testimony to late deliveries but more an accounting of how I cancelled out of more than a few.

P500

GMT Games is the top publisher in the wargame space. Last year I “acquired” 14 GMT Games products, almost as many as the next three publishers combined. Every month Gene sends his GMT Update with the status of the business. The monthly newsletter often (always?) includes at least one—often more—new games for the P500. For a while there I jumped in on whatever caught my fancy. After all, it’s “pledge now, pay later” so it don’t matter, right?

One of the products I acquired this past year was Panzer Expansion #1: The Shape of Battle – The Eastern Front, 2nd Printing. I pledged for this product sometime back in 2017, meaning it took nearly 4 years to fulfill, and then only because somebody decided that the entire Panzer line deserved a reprint regardless of the P500 pledge numbers (which Expansion Nr. 1 never had enough of to “Make the Cut”).

When the reprinting was announced I looked hard at what I had on order and that was when I started making cuts. The entire issue forced me to reconsider my entire approach to P500, preorders, and Kickstarter.

I recently paid close attention to the December 2021 GMT Games P500 GeekList on BGG. What shocked me is how long so many games have been on the list. Like five (5) years in some cases! There is actually one expansion that has been listed for almost 10 YEARS. Hey look, I love that P500 helps gets game published but the timeline is getting ridiculous.

Now, before all the rabid GMT Games fanboys get uppity (Harold, I’m watching YOU!) I realize it is not always GMT’s fault. For example, designer Brian Train of China’ War, 1937-1941 admitted in his end-of-the-year roundup:

China’s War 1937-41: Development screeched to a halt when I lost my gaming space to renos in summer 2020. In the fall of 2021 I developed a 1938 scenario for the game. I recently heard from the GMT developer who also got sidetracked on things, and work will begin again in early 2022. We hope to finish testing and development by the end of summer. Over 1,500 pre-orders now.

https://brtrain.wordpress.com

Of my 20 games on P500/Preorder/Kickstarter eight (8) are P500. Two might deliver in early 2022 and maybe one or two more by year’s end but all seven? No chance…

  • China’s War, 1937-1941 – My P500 since October 2019. Made the Cut – In Art and Final Development
  • Next War Supplement #3 – My P500 since February 2020. Made the Cut – In Art and Final Development
  • Red Storm: Baltic Approaches – My P500 since April 2020. At the Printer
  • Red Dust Rebellion – My P500 since October 2020. Made the Cut – In Art and Final Development
  • Stuka Joe’s CDG Solo – My P500 since January 2021. At the Printer
  • Next War: Taiwan – My P500 since February 2021. Not There Yet
  • Panzer North Africa – My P500 since July 2021. Made the Cut – In Art and Final Development
  • Flashpoint: South China Sea – Had been on my P500 when first announced how many years ago? Put back on in Dec 2021 but if something needs to fall off this is the best candidate.

Now, I get the “desire” of GMT and the P500—Gene and company (and don’t forget, it is a COMPANY) are looking at where to invest their capital. My disappointment is that the P500 has become the “preorder fanboy cult” as many new games are quick to “make the cut” followed by no real commitment as to follow-on timelines.

Preorders

I presently have five (5) games on preorder all with Compass Games. Four of the five supposedly have a chance at releasing in 2022:

  • Blue Water Navy: World War III – The Pacific. Since September 2020. Now “late 2022”
  • Carrier Battles: Philippine Sea – Since September 2020. Now “mid -2022”
  • Eastern Front: Operational Battles – Since February 2021. No date scheduled
  • 2040: American Insurgency – Since February 2021. Now “late 2022”
  • Air & Armor: Operational Armored Warfare in Europe – Designer’s Signature Edition – Since February 2021. Now “late 2022”

Like GMT’s P500, Compass Games use preorders to measure interest. I (stupidly) hit the wrong button on a few and preordered—not pre-pledged—which means my money is paid. Now Compass has my money and I wait for my “interest” to be paid back in the form a game. Maybe Compass is better off going the Kickstarter route and taking my money just before production. Speaking for myself I certainly feel my money is being used better that way.

Kickstarter

There appears to be some major churn over just what Kickstarter’s NFT-related announcement really means. I can’t tell you because I can’t make sense out of it. The best explanations I have heard talk about a using blockchain not for monetary transactions but as some sort of new IT backbone. Practically speaking, I already feel I have too much Kickstarter exposure and am reluctant to back new projects. Exceptions will likely be with known publishers that use Kickstarter as their preorder mechanism (like Worthington Games and increasingly more Compass Games).

  • Reality Shift (Academy Games) – Funded December 2020 with a projected May 2021 delivery. Maybe mid-February 2022 according to Nov 2021 update…
  • Root: The Marauder Expansion + Root: The Clockwork Expansion 2 (Leder Games)- Funded March 2021 with a projected January 2022 delivery. Per December 2021 update – “Right now there are a number of scenarios with delivery dates ranging from late Q1 to mid Q2. We won’t have more specific guesses for at least another month.”
  • AuZtralia: TaZmania + AuZtralia: Revenge of the Old Ones (SchilMil Games) – Funded April 2021 with a projected November 2021 delivery. Per December 2021 update – “Shipments have not yet been booked/confirmed, so I am waiting to hear an expected ETA for port arrivals”.
  • 2 Minutes to Midnight (Plague Island Games) – Funded July 2021 with a projected December 2021 delivery. Per December 2021 update – “Currently the game is in the production queue.”
  • Imperial Campaigns Series 1: The Boer War (Canvas Temple Publishing) – Funded September 2021 with a projected August 2022 delivery. Per November 2021 update Jon Compton has urgent family issues he must handle and will return to production as soon as possible.

That last update is important; family first. Yes, I want my game and, yes, it can’t get here soon enough but, yes, FAMILY FIRST.


RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

2021 #Boardgame of the Year – or – No Motherland Without Supercharged 1979 Kingdomino: Origins with @FoundationDietz @BlueOrangeGames @compassgamesllc @Bublublock @msiggins

As my 2021 “By the Numbers” show, I really backed off on acquiring boardgames this year. While my overall acquisition rate was down 13% (and down nearly 52% for boardgames) compared to 2020, it would be worst if I did not do a trade for a collection of smaller games. That said, of the 18 core or standalone boardgames I acquired in 2021, only 4 were newly published in the year. Thus, my candidates for 2021 Boardgame of the Year are:

Well, I guess you can call 2021 the “Year of Dan Bullock” or the “Year of The Dietz Foundation” because both are in two of the four games eligible.

Dan Bullock amazed me this year with his “Axis of Evil” series. Well, that’s what I call his games on Iran and North Korea. Associating his games with the “Axis of Evil” meme is actually a bit of a disservice to his outstanding designs. No Motherland Without pits the North Korean player trying to build infrastructure and improve the North’s standard of living against a West that is trying to hinder that progress and bring about the Kim Dynasty’s collapse. 1979: Revolution in Iran actually covers Iranian history post-World War II and pits politicians against oil. Both are deep political games, but done in a way that avoids being in-your-face regarding a certain position.

Jim Dietz at The Dietz Foundation is the only non-profit boardgame publisher I know of. He has a mission of delivering games for learning. 1979 is highly educational and Supercharged is a great family game that encourages gamers of all ages coming together for easy fun with just a touch of history thrown in.

Supercharged fun!

All of which makes the my choice for my 2021 Boardgame of the Year quite difficult. So here goes…

…and the winner is…

I can’t decide!

For a FAMILY game, both Kingdomino: Origins and Supercharged are awesome. For a STRATEGY game I like both No Motherland Without and 1979 (though I have to give No Motherland Without a slight edge given the solo module).

Oh, boy…must pick one…[Squints eyes]…

Supercharged!

Supercharged from The Dietz Foundation

Visually, Supercharged is nothing special. Mechanically, it’s quite simple—just keep flipping cards. The history is there but a bit thin. Most importantly, the RockyMountainNavy Boys whole-heartedly embraced the game. Since it plays in about an hour, it is an easy after-dinner filler game to follow chores. They love playing using the financial scoring; while one expects an A-class team to win the top positions, the middle finishers become the real contest, especially if your C-class team (the slowest) can drive smart (lucky?) and finish in the top 6.

Supercharged is so easy to learn and play it can be a gateway game. Youngest RMN Boy already asked for a second copy to take to college. Then there is the non-profit Dietz Foundation reminding you that games exist for fun and learning. At the end of the day the game is a winner because everything comes together to make an excellent family game.


Notable Not Mentioned

While I limited my 2021 Boardgame of the Year to games published in 2021, there were two other “new to me” games this year that, though published outside the eligibility window, deserve to be talked about.

Tapestry by Jamie Stegmaier from Stonemaier Games (2019) is a game I see oft-criticized on BGG and really don’t understand why. It’s a perfectly fine civilization game. I wish I had acquired it earlier.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms from Gamelyn Games (2014) is another simple Tiny Epic-series game that is great for families. Again, I wish I had acquired this one earlier.


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2021 “By the Numbers” and random musings on #wargame #boardgame #roleplayinggame

[22 Dec 2021 – DANG IT! I accidentally published this early. So expect to see updates through the end of the year.]

Here is my annual wargaming, boardgaming, and roleplaying games “By the Numbers” for calendar year 2021 along with some random musings. Have a Happy New Year!

Acquisition Totals (Wargame + Boardgame)

  • Total Gaming Items Acquired: 72
    • vs. 2020: 82 (DOWN 11%)
  • Total Wargame Items Acquired: 45
    • vs. 2020: 36 (UP 25%)
  • Total Boardgame Items Acquired: 20
    • vs. 2020: 39 (DOWN 52%)
  • Total Gaming Accessory Items Acquired: 7
    • vs. 2020: 7 (EQUAL)

I slowed down buying boardgames this year. In part this may have been because of supply chain issues, but I also think that as more RockyMountainNavy Boys leave the nest that family gaming will change and I’m already getting ready. This year, one of three left for the military and next year another leaves for college. This (sadly) means the end of regular 3- or 4-player family game nights and a shift to more 2-player gaming (with the occasional 3-player if the right game is there for Mrs. RMN).

Publishers

  • Publishers Purchased from: 36
  • Most Items from a Single Publisher: 14 (GMT Games)

GMT Games continues to be the powerhouse publisher for my gaming needs. After GMT Games, I purchased at least three gaming items from six other different publishers (Academy Games, Admiralty Trilogy Group, Compass Games, Decision Games, Multi-Man Publishing, and RBM Studios).

Wargames

  • Total Items: 45
  • Standalone/Core Games: 36 (80%)
  • Expansions: 9
  • Magazine/Folio Games: 12
  • By Era: Pre 19th C 2 / 19th C 3 / World War I 1 / Interwar 1 / World War II 24 / Vietnam 1 / Cold War 4 / Modern 5 / Sci Fi 2 / Multiple Eras 2

If my wargaming in 2021 had a theme is probably was, “Retro.” This year I took in six wargames, or almost 10% of all games acquired, that were published before 1990. This includes the granddaddy of wargames, Charles S. Roberts’ TACTICS II from Avalon Hill in 1958 (though mine is admittedly the 1973 edition) as well as Battle of the Bulge from Avalon Hill in 1965.

Boardgames

  • Total Items: 20
  • Standalone/Core Game: 18 (90%)
  • Expansions: 2
  • Digital Games: 2
  • BGG Subdomain: Abstract 1 / Children’s 2 / Customizable 1 / Family 2 / Strategy 10 / Thematic 1

Accessory

  • Total Items: 7
  • Boardgame Design: 1
  • Dice Sets: 2
  • Game Play Aids: 2
  • Puzzles: 2

I’m trying to redefine this category to capture item used to support gaming but are not necessarily related to a single game. I need to do a better job of tracking items like new dice sets that I acquire.

Preorder & Kickstarter

  • Total Items: 20 (As of 12/31/2021)
  • GMT Games P500: 8
  • Other Publisher Preorder: 5
  • Kickstarter: 7
  • Oldest Unfulfilled: October 2019 (China’s War, GMT Games P500)

This category will get a deep dive at at the start of the new year so I’m not going deep here. I don’t know for certain, but at one point this year my Preorder/Kickstarter list was nearly 30 items. A major reason for the backlog was the slow-down in publishing and shipping due to COVID and supply chain issues. I am very happy that Panzer Expansion Nr. 1 from GMT Games that languished on the P500 list for something like four years was finally reprinted and arrived.


Role Playing Games (Major Update 12/24/21)

I didn’t do a good job tracking my role playing game acquisitions through the year but I “think” I can reconstruct some numbers.

  • Total RPG Items Acquired: 20
  • Core Books: 6 (30%)
    • By System: AGE 1 / Cepheus Engine 3 / Mongoose Traveller 1 / Year Zero 1
  • Supplements: 14 (70%)
    • By Setting: The Clement Sector 6 / HOSTILE 3 / T2000 1 / Traveller 1 / Other 3

Core games acquired this year include:

Traveller and it’s modern successor, Cepheus Engine, continue to be my favorite rules set to play with.


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#SundaySummary – Holiday organizing the @Mountain_Navy #wargame and #boardgame collection and resetting Foundation (@LeeBWood @gmtgames @Hobiecat18 @MultiManPub @BlueOrangeGames #Foundation #TravellerRPG)

Not much actual gaming this week but plenty of organization.

Wargame

I recently acquired designer Lee Brimmicombe-Wood’s Wing Leader: Supremacy 1943-1945 2nd Edition Upgrade Kit (GMT Games, 2021) and spent part of the week integrating the new components.

I also recently acquired Mike Bertucelli’s Tank Duel Expansion Nr. 1: North Africa and Tank Duel: Tank Pack #1 (both GMT Games, 2021) and spent some time integrating the new components and reviewing the rules. I played one solo game to help relearn the system. It’s still a great game!

Finally, I spent the week integrating the components of Jim Day’s Panzer: Game Expansion Set, Nr 1 – The Shape of Battle on the Eastern Front 1943-45 (GMT Games, Second Printing 2021) into my set. I now own all the published GMT Games Panzer series and am very eagerly awaiting Panzer: North Africa (currently on P500 and has “Made the Cut”).

After getting an older credit card straightened out my preorder for the Standard Combat Series game North Africa: Afrika Korps vs Desert Rats, 1940-42 from Multi-Man Publishing should be shipping this week. Merry Christmas to me!

Boardgame

Bruno Cathalla’s Kingdomino: Origins (Blue Orange Games, 2021) continues to be a great family hit. Several more plays and we all relish the simple new strategy challenges of the different game modes.

Role Playing Games

Unlike my wargames and boardgames, I’m kinda poor at tracking my RPG collection. So this week I worked on organizing what I took in this year.

Television

I finished watching the Apple TV series Foundation this week. Yes, I know Season 1 ended a few weeks ago but I needed to reset my approach to the show. I initially started watching the series expecting a story close to the books. When that wasn’t there I was a bit confused and, frankly, unaccepting. So I laid off watching for a few weeks and recalibrated my thinking. I decided I was going to watch Foundation “as-is” and try to set all my preconceived notions aside. It also helped that with all the episodes out now I could binge-watch the season. Much better this go around…am looking forward to Season 2. While I still think Foundation and the Traveller Role Playing Game are closely related, I am glad to see the Genetic Dynasty from Foundation which is very different from Traveller’s Third Imperium.

#SundaySummary – Turkey Day 2021 with @ADragoons @hexsides @hollandspiele @HuzzahHobbies #CepheusEngine #TravellerRPG @USNIBooks @compassgamesllc @Toadkillerdog @gmtgames

Happy Thanksgiving!

The week was a bit slow in Casa RockyMountainNavy. This is the first holiday we celebrated in our “new” nuclear family configuration since Eldest RMN Boy is in Tech School for the U.S. Air Farce. It also follows three months with the Mother-in-Law in town and a simultaneous major health challenge for Mrs. RMN (not COVID…but while the vaccine might of protected it appears it brought on other health issues). So we have much to be thankful for. For my part, much of the Christmas shopping is also complete, at least as the major presents for each RMN Boy and especially Mrs. RMN go.

Wargaming

I took some down time this week to work on a First Impressions piece on The Battle of the Bulge (Avalon Hill, 1965). If I get the photos together you’ll see that later this week. I also was inspired by D-Day at Omaha Beach from Decision Games (Fourth Printing, 2020) to look at wargame maps and data. I need to work up some photos and run it by Brant at Armchair Dragoons to see if it meets his standards. Finally, I owe designer Brad Smith a deep apology since I volunteered to playtest Warsaw Pact Air Commander (coming in the future from Hollandspiele) but am very delinquent in sending him anything. I made an effort this week to change that.

Boardgaming

Huzzah Hobbies, my FLGS, had a 50% off sale this weekend. I didn’t make it up there but the RMN Boys did and sent me a photo of the shelves and asked for suggestions. We’ll see if anything shows up under the tree this Christmas.

Role Playing Games

I messed around a bit with Cepheus Deluxe, the latest version of Cepheus Engine from Stellagama Publishing and the modern take on the Traveller RPG.

Books

A long-forgotten backorder from Naval Institute Press arrived this week. Fighting the Fleet: Operational Art and Modern Fleet Combat argues that naval concepts are often diluted or lost when too much jointness is introduced. It also talks about the use of Operations Research, which I see as adjacent to wargaming. I need to finish this book and then use it to consider wargames like John Gorkowski’s South China Sea and Indian Ocean Region from Compass Games as well as the naval modules for any of Mitchell Land’s Next War series from GMT Games.

#SundaySummary – Missed Charlie but going from Bulge to D-Day with a deluxe serving of #CepheusEngine (@ADragoons @HBuchanan2 #wargame #ConSim #boardgame #TravellerRPG)

For the few wargamers out there that care, the 2020 Charles S. Roberts Awards (aka “The Charlies”) were awarded this week. The link is to the website that is yet to be updated; the awards announcement was via Dan Picaldi’s No Enemies Here YouTube Channel. It’s no secret that I am not impressed with the Charlies even in a year when I was nominated in a category. I’d wish all “better luck next year” but with the award process so unknown I honestly don’t care if there is a next year. For more reactions make sure you check out Brant and the gang over at the Mentioned in Dispatches podcast from Armchair Dragoons.

Wargames

New Arrival: Battle of the Bulge (Avalon Hill, 1965). Picked up through a local auction for $5. Box is in poor condition (every corner blown) but the contents are generally good.

On the Table: D-Day at Omaha Beach (Decision Games 4th Edition, 2019). Working my way through this solitaire system that at first looks a bit formidable but once you get it to the table and step through a few rounds it makes easy sense.

ConSim

Harold Buchanan hosted SDHistCon 2021 over this holiday weekend. I was unable to attend any of the events as I had family commitments or work. I’ll have to check out the various recordings later. For those same reasons I missed out on Historicon too. [Late edit…this weekend was the Compass Games Expo too.]

Boardgames

Office-al” Game: Iron Curtain (Ultra Pro/Jolly Roger Games, 2017). Not necessarily a solo game but having to walk away between hands helps one to forget what is there making “two-handed solitaire” doable. Small game also got some big attention from office mates.

Roleplaying Games

New Arrival: Cepheus Deluxe by Omer Golan Joel and team at Stellagama Publishing. Omer’s latest version of Cepheus Engine looks to take the Classic Traveller RPG into the 21st century with updated mechanics and more player agency while retaining the essence of the 2d6 Original Science Fiction RPG rules.

My “office-al” #boardgame play of NO MOTHERLAND WITHOUT: NORTH KOREA IN CRISIS AND WAR by @Bublublock fm @compassgamesllc

Recently, I tested the tolerance of my bosses and took my copy of No Motherland Without: North Korea in Crisis and Cold War by designer Dan Bullock from Compass Games to the office. My job is tangentially related to the game topic, so I figured I could come up with a good cover story to explain why I had it laid out on my desk. During the week I played the solitaire scenario during my lunch times. By the end of the week the game was finished and I had rediscovered the interesting insights No Motherland Without delivers while also showing my office the power of “serious gaming.”

No Motherland Without contents (courtesy Armchair Dragoons)

No Motherland Without…another player

While No Motherland Without is technically a two-player game with one side playing North Korea and the other the West, designer Dan Bullock also includes a solitaire scenario. Here, the player plays the North Korean regime and the “solo bot” plays the West. Technically, I’m not sure you can actually call it a “bot” as the solitaire scenario rules lay out some exceptions and a decision flowchart for how to execute the West card play. Fortunately, the rules changes for the solitaire version are not too numerous and are both easy to learn and implement. All told my play of a complete 7-turn solitaire game took about two hours of lunch times.

The solitaire decision flowchart in No Motherland Without very clearly focuses the West on three priorities; place Outages to hinder infrastructure building, placement and movement of Defector Routes and Defectors, and Investment of Action Points for future use. It is a good guide to strategy for West players.

In my solo game of No Motherland Without the single most important event was not a Missile Test (though there were two—both successful) but the event “Thailand Tightens Its Borders.” This card is an Enduring Event meaning it goes on the three-card track and stays in play until three other Enduring Events are played and it gets “pushed” into the discard pile. The game effect is the removal the Defector Routes in Thailand and a prohibition for the West to use Activities to rebuild the route. This forces defectors to use the route through Mongolia which, although shorter than the Thailand route, has a 2-in-3 chance of the defector dying in the desert. In my game “Thailand Tightens Its Borders” came out early in the fifth turn and didn’t get pushed off the Enduring Events track until the last turn. This meant all defector attempts in turns 5-7 had to use the risky Mongolia route (in the last turn by rule all defectors must use the Mongolia route). By the end of the game a majority of the Final Turn (Kim Jong Un-era) generation was dead. Although the West had supported many defectors, through the Enduring Event card North Korea was able to gain favorable treatment from Thailand and it was enough to stem the flow of defectors—and the accumulation of Victory Points–to ensure a North Korean victory even without a final successful Missile Test to raise Prestige.

Scoring the Infrastructure…in People

Last March I wrote an article for Armchair Dragoons where I discussed the “humanity” of No Motherland Without. In that article I explored the dichotomy of building infrastructure and defectors in the game. I concluded by saying:

If one had any thoughts that No Motherland Without may provide some background as to why Korea has been an intractable problem for as long as it has this game offers no real policy insight. That said, No Motherland Without sets itself apart by showing the interrelation of many historical events from a very human perspective as the plight of defectors is prominently showcased. It’s an important perspective, just not very mainstream.

After my recent solo play of No Motherland Without I reconsidered my statement. The core conflict of the game, North Korea building infrastructure versus the West supporting defectors, is a policy statement. While North Korea gets plenty of worldwide attention for its missile and nuclear programs, it still must build a society for its people. On the other side, though support for defectors is usually the realm of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) rather than governments, it still can be a government policy (like is was in South Korea for a long time). This last year-plus of COVID, with it’s closed borders, has limited the flow of defectors. At the same time, North Korea, like many other countries, is trying to build better infrastructure for its populace (look at all the apartment building projects). Although they seemingly are disconnected now, once borders reopen we will see how “happy” the North Korean people are if Kim Jong Un can complete all those buildings, or if they will become his 21st century Ryugyong Hotel that sat unfinished for decades.

Serious Gaming

During the week my play of No Motherland Without got some attention in the office. At one end of the response spectrum, and by far the largest in number, were those who scoffed at somebody “playing a game” at the office. I responded to these folks by pointing out the history lessons in the game and the interesting perspective of the designer. Generally they seemed to accept my points, but often visibly remained doubtful. This group was also the ones to most often try to compare No Motherland Without to Risk or Monopoly (sigh).

A second smaller group of coworkers was able to look past the “game” of No Motherland Without and see the learning value. Some of these folks would casually flip through the cards and then look at the historical notes. While they learned, several were quick to point out that the randomness of the cards meant events could occur out of historical order, thereby making the game “incorrect.” To that criticism I responded by pointing out it was not the specific events but the situation in many cases that the cards capture, and while the events may happen “out of order” they still capture the essence of the flow of history vice a specific timeline. This group had a few gamers amongst its members, but it quickly became apparent that their preferred gaming was online and not very complex; indeed, more than one marveled at the “obvious” complexity of No Motherland Without.

One last, very small, group of my coworkers understood what No Motherland Without was trying to communicate. For one of them, when I explained the core conflict of infrastructure versus defectors you could see the “eureka” moment as they blinked and said, “Of course!.” With these few I had very serious conversations as to how an Event Card could be played or how the different Activities paid for in Action Points could be spent. One coworker wanted to take the game to their office to play and show their coworkers the insights from the game. Another who is well connected to several NGOs and the North Korean defector community really was interested in the game, although they pointed out that the ability to only play North Korea in the solo game may be “upsetting” to some. This small group was able to see the “serious gaming” potential of No Motherland Without as the designer’s core message is shown through game play.

Next – A Revolutionary Game…of waiting

Overall, I feel my “office-al” gaming was a success. I was planning to take designer Dan Bullock’s latest game, 1979: Revolution in Iran (The Dietz Foundation, 2021), into the office next and play that one. Belatedly I realized it does not have a solo mode! During the Kickstarter campaign Dan was asked about a solo module stretch goal to which he responded:

No Motherland Without features a solitaire scenario in addition to the two-player game. The solitaire scenario only allows you to play the role of the DPRK, but the West opponent is easy to control and challenging. Unfortunately, the event card draft makes 1979 difficult to adapt a solo bot. I tested a short solo scenario leading up to the Islamic Revolution, but ultimately scrapped it because it didn’t feel robust enough.

BGG Forum “Solo Request”

So, Dan, do y’all think you could share that scenario and let us see how it works? Maybe somebody out there can make it work better, or develop something else that does. Please? I need another title to play during lunch in the office…

1979: Revolution in Iran (The Dietz Foundation, 2021)

The opinions and views expressed in this blog are those of the author alone and are presented in a personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of any government or private agency or employer.