An August-less #boardgame #wargame month

SUMMER IS NOT THE BEST TIME for boardgames or wargames in the RockyMountainNavy house. There are so many outdoor activities to be had and family events on the weekend that games get pushed to the back burner. So it was for August in the RockyMountainNavy home. I recorded a measly 13 plays of 9 different games…my worst month in almost two years of recording plays.

The month did blast off with Tranquility Base (Worthington Publishing, 2019) being the definite winner with four plays in the month. This included one play with the Soviet Moon Expansion.

Nights of Fire: Battle of Budapest (Mighty Boards, 2019) is a new game that found its way to my table. This “militarized Eurogame,” as co-designer Brian Train puts it, is most enjoyable.

The best family night game was a long overdue session of 1812: Invasion of Canada (Academy Games, 2012). With the beginning of the school year and a return to a somewhat normal cycle of weekend family games I am sure that the many Birth of America / Birth of Europe-series titles will land on the table regularly.

It finally released! Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel – Kursk 1943 3rd Edition (Academy Games, 2019) arrived. This is supposed to be our next weekend family night game. Spoiler Alert: I really like the Spent Die Mechanic and encourage all the naysayers to actually try it before they knock it.

I found myself at home on some days that Mrs. RMN’s summer daycare girl was here so we got a few children’s games in. Unicorn Glitterluck: Cloud Stacking (HABA, 2019) is a real winner!

On a recommendation at CONNECTIONS 2019 I picked up Cowboy Bebop: Boardgame Boogie (Jasco Games, 2019). I haven’t written up my thought yet but (spoiler alert…again) this tune is a bit flat to me.

I attended CONNECTIONS 2019, the professional wargaming conference in mid-August. I have yet to compose all my thoughts but I did get to see a bit of wargame history with Upton’s US Infantry Tactical Apparatus.

Looking ahead, designer John Gorkowski was kind enough to send me an e-kit to playtest with for the next game in South China Sea-series from Compass Games. Indian Ocean Region is already available for preorder and this is my chance to try and influence the game and make it better for everyone.

As mentioned before, the return to school means a return to a more regular schedule of gaming. I also still have several games in my 2019 CSR, Origins, and GameGeek Challenges to complete before the end of the year.

So..back to gaming!

Some #wargame #boardgame thoughts on 1812: Invasion of Canada (@Academy_Games, 2012)

THE ACADEMY GAMES BIRTH OF AMERICA series games are great “family wargames.” Lite in rules, yet deep in strategy, they also play up to four or five players. For the RockyMountainNavy family, their ability to play at 3-players is most welcome. Recently, 1812: Invasion of Canada (Academy Games, 2012) landed on the table. This gave us a chance to rediscover this under appreciated gem.

Like the game, The War of 1812 is also under appreciated. As the American Battlefield Trust puts it:

Sometimes referred to as the “Second War of Independence,” the War of 1812 was the first large scale test of the American republic on the world stage. With the British Navy impressing American sailors, and the British government aiding Native American tribes in their attacks on American citizens on the frontier, Congress, for the first time in our nation’s history, declared war on a foreign nation: Great Britain. Battles raged on the high seas. British soldiers invaded American soil, captured Washington D.C., and even burned the White House. In the end the Star-Spangled Banner waved “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

https://www.battlefields.org/learn/war-1812

Although 1812 can support up to five players, we played with three. The RockyMountainNavy Boys took the British Regulars, Canadian Militia, and Native Americans. I played both the American Regulars and American Militia. The game plays pretty much like every other Birth of America-series game with a few exceptions; the Native Americans are a full “fifth” faction with their own cards and dice, set locations for mustering troops (reinforcements), and combat resolution that has the side fighting in their home territory battle first (instead of the defender as in other games).

Courtesy Academy Games

Generally speaking, in the Birth of America series the RockyMountainNavy Boys prefer to play 1775: Rebellion for its simplicity whereas I prefer 1754: Conquest for its theme. Much like Americans and the War of 1812 we tend to “forget” this title.

Not any more.

The war played out in three phases. The first phase was an American invasion in the east that was stopped. The second phase was a British invasion through the central Great Lakes that was countered by American invasions to the far west. The third phase consisted of both sides retaking lost territory. By the time the Treaty of Ghent was signed the British were just barely ahead.

This game of 1812: Invasion of Canada played out much more balanced than many of our other Birth of America games. We all enjoyed the ups, and downs, of the campaign. Like other Birth of America games, the Flee results on the dice are the most remembered, like the time that one gritty little Canadian Militia stood tall while the British Regulars around it fled.

At five players, 1812: Invasion of Canada is a good candidate for the Neighborhood Gaming Gang. With the school year starting and the end of summer, the NGG will be looking for titles to play on weekends when the weather is poor. 1812 may be another perfect fit!


Feature image Academy Games

Old Lore – #BattleLore (Days of Wonder, 2006)

The RockyMountainNavy Family Game Night game this week was BattleLore (Days of Wonder, 2006). This is the first edition of the game and not the more recent Fantasy Flight Games second edition. Our game this week was generally good although I made a few errors during the evening. Playing BattleLore has rekindled my interest in the game and it deserves more table time.

In the RMN family, we usually end up playing a 3-player event. This makes it harder than it should to find a good game because many games are either 2-player or a multiple thereof (i.e. 4-players, etc.).  The Birth of America-series from Academy Games (1754 -Conquest: The French & Indian War, 1775 – Rebellion: The American Revolution, 1812: The Invasion of America) work well because they are 4-player games that also work at 2-players or – best for us – 3-players.

I own BattleLore: Epic BattleLore (DoW, 2007) that I thought would give me a scenario using the multiple boards that is suitable for 3-players. Using the extra board, it is possible to make a layout that is six-sectors wide that allows multiple commanders to play one side. But when I looked for an adventure (scenario) that used this map configuration there was none in the booklet. As the RMN Boys were already at the table and itching to play, I went ahead and laid out an adventure from the booklet that used a single army and an epic-scale 3-sector map. I asked the Boys to share command and they (reluctantly) agreed.

Wrong choice on my part.

Asking the Boys to “share” command of a single army spread over three sectors did not work. I thought about using a variation of the 4-player Reluctant Allies in Epic BattleLore but decided it would be unfair in a 3-player set-up. The Boys ended up bickering a fair bit (more than their usual friendly banter) and I could see the frustration growing in Middle RMN as his younger brother outright refused at times to work together. The Boys ended up winning, 7 banners to 5, but it was not a really fun game.

I apologized to Middle RMN about my choices going into the game and he was a good sport. I think he and I are OK but I don’t want to be his brother on the other side of a future battle because I sense there will be no mercy given!

All that said, the game night was not a total disaster. Having not played BattleLore in a long time (my last previously recorded play was in 2010!) and putting aside the command issues we enjoyed it. The addition of Lore and Creatures and the Goblin or Dwarf units – each with advantages and disadvantages – makes for an interesting game. The game is not without its challenges; soft sculpts and lack of good player aids detract a bit, but should not be showstoppers to enjoyment. I also think that the Boys are much more able to handle all that BattleLore brings to the table now that they are more experienced gamers. The last time we played Youngest RMN was a wee 6-years old and Middle RMN, my Austism Spectrum hero, was 12.

In addition to the core set and the previously mentioned Epic BattleLore expansion, I also own Call to Arms, the Dwarven Battalion Specialist Pack, and the Goblin Skirmishers Specialist Pack. Between all these expansions I “should” be able to come up with good adventures for 3-players, especially using the Call to Arms system. Although fantasy is not my go-to genre for gaming, I sense that BattleLore may actually fit many of our Family Game Night needs. BattleLore will find itself on the gaming table again, but not before I thoroughly reread the rules and make considered decisions on adventure design and balance.

January Gaming – Just Kidding!

January 2018 was a usual, and unusual, month of gaming in the RockyMountainNavy domicile. In total, I played 16 different games a total of 47 (!) times. That’s almost 4 plays of each game!

fullsizeoutput_57bOf course, that is not what happened. January was very usual in that I got my usual weekend family game night (1754: Conquest – The French and Indian War, 1812: The Invasion of Canada, 878 Vikings – Invasions of England, and The Expanse Board Game). I also got a few extra games in, usually solo, and I even started looking at a new rules set (Lock ‘n Load Tactical: Starter Kit). Together these accounted for 11 games and 16 plays.

The unusual part of the month was the many kids games. You see, Mrs. RockyMountainNavy is teaching/tutoring young kids and she incorporates gaming into her time with them. Actually, she incorporates gaming into MY time with them, as she is usually talking with the parents while the RMN Boys and myself play games with the kids. She has two students right now, a kindergarten and 4th grader. This is why games like Animal Upon Animal or Ice Cool and even Math Dice Jr. appear on the play list.  All told, there were 4 games I played with the kids for a total of 23 plays – that’s basically half of the plays this month. The kids gaming has also changed my buying habits; right now we are usually searching for the best deal on various games and buying them for the parents. Mrs. RMN also wants to take several to Korea when she visits family later this year and see’s her brother-in-law who is fading fast from Alzheimers. She figures the “kids” games will be good for him too.

I expect February to be pretty similar. Actually, I hope to get a bit more family gaming or some 2-player games in too.

The Simplicity of #1812TheInvasionofCanada (@Academy_Games, 2012)

This weekend the RockyMountainNavy Game Night featured 1812: The Invasion of Canada (Academy Games, 2012). This title is actually the first in the Birth of America-series but was the last to land on the RMN gaming table. 1812 is probably the simplest, least refined game of the series but that same simplicity creates a fast-playing, easy-to-learn gaming experience that delivers a wonderful historical feel that immerses players in the game.

The core mechanics of 1812 are the same as all Birth of America-series games. The usual Reinforcements – Movement – Battle – Draw Cards sequence is there. In 1812, Reinforcements enter at designated Muster Points. This limitation immediately forces players to consider how to flow forces into battles. Movement is done with the usual Movement Cards of which some are movement, some are Events, and of course one is the Treaty Card (combination movement/event). Battles have a subtle asymmetric character about them through the use of special Battle Dice that have different results depending upon the type of unit fighting. In one difference from the usual game series rules, the first “attack” rolls depend upon where the battle takes place with the Home Territory owner getting the first roll. In terms of rules complexity, I consider 1812the least complicated of the series. This makes it very easy to learn and quick-to-play.

Victory in 1812 is through simple majority area control. The game ends at the end of Round 8 or at the end of any round when one side has played all their Treaty Cards.

Unlike other Birth of America titles, 1812 can be played with up to five players (rather than the standard four). The “fifth” faction in this title is the Native Americans. As much as I appreciate the designers stretching the title for five players, in this case I doubt the real enjoyment the Native American player would get in a full game with (very) limited reinforcements and small forces. Native Americans appear in 1775: Rebellion (as a “neutral” faction that can be controlled by either side) and in 1754: The Conquest of America where they are represented again as a “neutral” faction that can be allied with and (using the Native American Expansion) as a source of asymmetric powers and alternate victory conditions.  In 1812, the Native Americans are a sort of “special forces” but are definitely an adjunct force but not a major power.

A major source of enjoyment when playing 1812 is simply looking at the game. The beautiful box art is supported by a map that is evocative of the era and card art that is exceptionally detailed. Just looking at the game immerses the players in the period and helps with the narrative experience.

U%u3KDqDRQKzsGLnzbhsmQOur first game ended in a tie after Round 4 when the Americans had played all their Treaty Cards. Both sides controlled one enemy Homeland Territory. In very typical fashion, the game came down to the last battle roll in the final battle. In this case, the British Regulars were able to defeat a mixed American Regular-Militia army and take the one territory they needed to tie the game. Total playing time for our first game was a very fast 55 minutes. This is partially because all four players (myself and all three RockyMountainNavy Boys) are familiar with the rules.

1812: The Invasion of Canada may be the “simplest” of the Birth of America-series but that does not mean it will end up not getting played. Rather, the many positive attributes of the game (familiar rules, beautiful artwork, thematic play) means it will land on the gaming table often.

Feature image courtesy Academy Games.

Thoughts on Native Alliances in #1754Conquest from @Academy_Games

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Courtesy AcademyGames.com

In my first impression of 1754 Conquest – The French and Indian War (Academy Games, 2017) I touched on how much the game is like the others in the Birth of America/Birth of Europe-series. I discussed how 1754 Conquest adds new rules for reinforcements (Harbors and Muster Areas) and Forts. There are two other different rules that help set 1754 Conquest apart from other games in the series. The rules are Native Americans and the optional Native Alliance Expansion which we played with.

In all the Birth of America/Europe-series, there are four factions each of which draw their Turn Cube during a Round. In 1754 Conquest, there is a fifth “faction;” Native Americans. When the Native American Turn Cube is drawn, reinforcements are placed on the board. There is a clever mechanic using the spot on the Turn Order Track that helps determine which Native American area gets the reinforcements. Rules are included for when Native American are allied with a faction and how they act in battle.

1754nativeallianceexpansion
Courtesy AcademyGames.com

The 1754 Conquest Native Alliance Expansion is a deck of 15 cards. During Setup, each faction draws a single card. The card will either have an Native American area that, if controlled at game end, scores extra Victory Points or a special Native American ability that the faction can use. For instance, in the image above if the Algonquin Alliance card is drawn, when the game ends with the faction in control of those Native American home areas gains extra Victory Points. Other cards are special abilities for the factions, such as the Mingo Alliance card (pictured above) that negates the Fort Die if present.

These simple changes and expansion make 1754 Conquest extremely thematic. Not only are the major contested areas the Native American lands (as was historically the case) but the importance of alliances with the Native Americans cannot be understated both in history and the game. Academy Games (rightly) boosts that, “This expansion exemplifies the impact that the Six Nations had on the French and Indian War!” For the full experience of 1754 Conquest, the expansion is essential. Adding this expansion should be a no-brainer as there is little-to-no rules overhead and seamless integration with the existing game system.

In our first game, two of the factions (British & French Regulars) drew Area Alliance cards. The British Colonials drew the Ojibwa Alliance power (ability to cross the Great Lakes) while the French-Canadiens had the Mingo Alliance power (nullifies Forts). In the end game scoring, neither side gained extra points (failure to have Native American units in the areas). During the game, the Colonials were able to use the Ojibwa Alliance to cross the Great Lakes and take some French territory (although the “invasion” was later turned back). The French-Canadian faction should of used the Mingo Alliance in one battle but we all forgot (to our later disgruntlement as it may have made the difference in the battle and possibly even the final scoring). On balance the Native Alliance cards added an interesting element of gameplay with little rules overhead but with great thematic impact.

In many ways the Native Americans in 1754 Conquest exemplify what I love about the entire Birth of America-series and 878 Vikings. The games are great for 3-4 players, feature easy-to-learn and easy-to-play rules, and hit so many thematic elements that they teach without being preachy. 1754 Conquest, and it close cousins 1775 Rebellion, 1812 Invasion, and 878 Vikings are the epitome of family wargames that are fun to play and educational.

#FirstImpressions – #1754Conquest by @Academy_Games

On the table for this weekend’s RockyMountainNavy Family Game Night was a full 4-player game of 1754 Conquest: The French and Indian War (Academy Games, 2017). I usually do a “first impressions” post after playing a game for the first time and I guess this posting is no real exception. Well, except that since 1754 Conquest is part of the Birth of America-series and we have previously played 1775 Rebellion and 878 Vikings, we actually have a great familiarity with the basic game system. So this is more of a “ongoing thoughts” after the first play of another game in the series. Bottom Line: 1754 Conquest is a great family wargame and beautiful on the table.

Like other games in the Birth of America/Europe-series, 1754 Conquest is team-play, strategic-level of conflict, lite-rules wargame. The core gameplay is the same; Reinforcements, Movement/Event Card play, Battles, and End Turn. 1754 Conquest introduces several advanced rules (that are changes from 1775 Rebellion and 1812 Invasion) including Strategic Forts, Muster Areas, and Harbors. The later two determine where reinforcements arrive (British and French Regulars enter at Harbors, British Colonials and French-Canadiens enter at Muster Points). The Fort Rule thematically captures the important roll of forts in this war.

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Courtesy AcademyGames.com

Beyond the familiar gameplay, another part of 1754 Conquest that captures my attention (literally) is the fantastic art. I recently listened to a podcast (can’t find it now) that talked to Steve Paschal, the artist who did the cover of 1754 Conquest. Mr. Paschal has done lots of work for Academy Games, and his work is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. The cover of 1754 Conquest is by far my favorite because I think it captures so much of the spirit of the game. Not only is the cover nice, but all the components nicely compliment each other and make the game extremely beautiful to lay out on the table and adds immensely to the joy of play.

Playing games, and especially wargames, has an important role in the education of the RockyMountainNavy Boys. When playing 878 Vikings, I discovered just how much the Oldest RMN Boy loved Viking history, and how much the Youngest RMN wants to learn. Personally, I have a love of early American colonial history and the French & Indian War and American Revolution are amongst my favorite periods of history to study. So this time we did something a bit different and I read aloud from the Historical Notes at the back of the rulebook. The Boys were fascinated learning about George Washington’s role in the war, and were awed when they realized that their mother’s favorite movie, The Last of the Mohicans, is on the board (Fort William Henry). When I got to the section labeled The French Plan, Youngest RMN Boy stopped me and suggested we not read further until after the game so they could explore the situation for themselves. To say I was proud is an understatement!

The game ended after Round 4 with the British having played both their Treaty Cards. The result was a very narrow victory for the British, 6-5. Total playtime was a very short 70 minutes, which is very fast for us in a first-play of a new game. Again, 1754 Conquest is not a truly “new” game to us, and the fact we have familiarity with the core game mechanics meant the introduction of the new rules did not slow down our learning of the game.

1754 Conquest is less complex than 878 Vikings due to the absence of Invasion and Leader rules. It is more complex than 1775 Rebellion given the different reinforcement rules and forts. But in no way can I say that 1754 Conquest is better than or lesser than either of those other games. 1754 Conquest is superior in what it delivers; an easy to learn, simple to play, team wargame that captures the feel of the French & Indian War period. Additionally, it is a beautiful game!