We all “know” the Golden Geek Awards sponsored by BoardGameGeek are a popularity contest. Although I recognize it as such, I still follow along, if for no other reason than to try to understand why certain games are popular. The 2020 winners represent a mixed bag for me.
I am very happy to see that David Thompson andUndaunted: North Africa (Osprey Games) won the Best 2-Player Game category. To see a “wargame” gain this wide an acceptance is happiness for this Grognard of 40+ years. On the other hand, I ruefully shake my head at the winners in the Wargame category. At the risk of reigniting the never-ending debate on “What is a wargame” I‘ll just make the observation that the defintion of a strategy conflict game seems very loosely applied here.
While some Grognards may be tempted to dismiss the Golden Geeks, I hope instead that everybody recognizes that the hobby boardgame space for wargames is alive and well. Let’s get past the tired old “what is a wargame” arguments and simply focus on good games that we can all share together.
Innovative: Haven’t played any of the 10 nominees. I tried to nominated Atlantic Chase (GMT Games)but it likely didn’t get enough buzz because though is listed as a 2020 game by the publisher though it did not ship until early-mid 2021..
Light Game of the Year (GotY): Again, none of the 10 played. I note that this is a perfect category for Children’s games but they seem to be slighted in this category (and every other).
Medium GotY: Of the 10 I only played Fort, which I hardly call a medium-weight game.
Heavy GotY: None of the 10 nominees played.
Print & Play: None of the nominees played.
Solo Game: None of the nominees played.
Thematic Game: None of the nominees played (are you sensing a theme here?). Too bad that Moonrakers (IV Games) didn’t make it through the nomination process….
Wargame: Finally, a category in which I played at least a few games. Here I played Atlantic Chase (GMT Games 2020 but not released until 2021 – strange), The Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle Games), and Undaunted: North Africa (Osprey Games). I at least recognize all the other nominees!
Zoomable Game: Huh? None of the 10 nominees played.
Best Podcast: I regularly listen to So Very Wrong About Games and occasionally Five Games for Doomsday.
Best Board Game App: For digital implementation of a board game that totally ignores Vassal or TableTop Simulator. Of the 12 nominees I only playedRoot (Dire Wolf).
So, what does this list of nominees tell me? First, I guess I’m not part of the “in” crowd because I missed so many apparently awesome games. Second, I guess I need to take Fort to game gatherings because it is cute art in a medium-weight card game. Third, if I want to introduce hobby boardgamers to 2-player conflict strategy (aka “wargames”) then The Shores of Tripoli or Undaunted: North Africa is a good bet. Lastly, I apparently don’t play the right “popular” wargames any way.
It’s the end of the year so it’s that time for the inevitable “of the Year” lists. Although I play boardgames and wargames, I am a wargamer at heart. Since Christmas 1979 when I got my first wargame, the holidays and wargaming have been forever linked in my heart.
To be eligible for this category, the item must be a wargame as I define it. It must also have been released in the 2020 calendar year AND IN MY POSSESSION as of Dec 31, 2020. I know for a fact that at least one wargame I have on pre-order has a 2020 publication date but, since I don’t have it in hand it’s not eligible for this list. For a near-complete listing of all the wargames I acquired in 2020 (including many titles not eligible for this annual list) please see my GeekList 2020 RockyMountainNavy Gaming Acquisitions and look for entries labeled “WARGAME”
Brief Border Wars brings back the classic “quad” packaging with four games using the same basic war engine but with each having its own identity.
Dawn of Empire : The Spanish American Naval War in the Atlantic, 1898 shows the classic War at Sea/Victory in the Pacific war engine can still be leveraged and new challenges created.
French & Indian War 1757-1759 is a very pleasurable block wargame that is simple to learn and thematic enough to keep it interesting yet playable in a short evening.
Fury at Midway is a bit of a hidden gem testing several competing theories of what actually happened at Midway. Hint: It doesn’t end well for the Americans as often as one would expect given “history.”
Harpoon V is the return of the “serious” wargame.
Iron Curtain: Central Europe, 1945-1989 is a ‘managable monster’ with lots of replay potential in a relatively small package.
Philadelphia 1777 is another block game using Worthington’s proven war engine but this time depicting a kind of “tower defense” campaign.
The Shores of Tripoli is the Kickstarter remake of a solid game now given a very professional look.
Undaunted: North Africa shows once again that wargames can use non-traditional mechanics; who woulda thunk that Deck Building can make a good wargame?
Waterloo Campaign, 1815 shows that you don’t need a monster game to depict one of histories greatest battles.
White Eagle Defiant takes the Brave Little Belgium war engine to the next level yet still is easy to learn and fairly quick to play.
…and the winner is…
With such a strong field of contenders I actually picked a Runner-Up and a Winner.
My runner-up Wargame of the Year for 2020 is Iron Curtain: Central Europe 1945-1989 from Multi-Man Publishing. This game might be the most ‘old school’ or the closest to a classic hex & counter game of all the candidates this year but that is actually a major reason why it places so high. It’s not that I dislike the ‘new age’ mechanics in some of the new games; rather, Iron Curtain, an entry in the Standard Combat Series, showed me the joy of a ‘manageable monster’ wargame. Iron Curtain is multiple games in one with different eras and options for the Soviets or NATO to be that attacker. Add to that the Run Up to War pre-game and you have package that is easy to learn (uses the Standard Combat System) yet it will never serve up the same game twice no matter how often its played. I also really appreciate that it is fits on a moderate-sized table and yet it still can be both set up and played in just a few hours.
However, as somebody once said, “There can be only one.” My Wargame of the Year for 2020 is The Shores of Tripoli from Fort Circle Games. Yes, I know it is the professional publication of a print-‘n-play title that predates 2020 but designer Kevin Bertram’s attention to detail and hard work has taken this little gem of a game to another level. From the moment you look at the box (awesome) to laying out all the components on the table (luxurious) you can see his attention to detail. Gameplay has, dare I say, improved over the original PnP with the benefit of more development and playtesting. The Shores of Tripoli is almost as polar opposite of a wargame design from my runner-up, Iron Curtain: Central Europe 1945-1989 by MMP that you can get. That is a great part of it’s strength in my mind; The Shores of Tripoli is an excellent example of the “new wave” of designers and wargames titles that aren’t afraid to break from “convention” and assemble a set of mechanics into an interesting, challenging, and dare I say very “playable” wargame.
It’s the end of the year so it’s that time for the inevitable “of the Year” lists. In this year of COVID, boardgames formed an important part of the “coping” mechanism in the RockyMountainNavy family. As you will see, the boardgame hobby brought ALL of us closer together. So without further ado, here is my 2020 Boardgame of the Year.
To be eligible for this category, the item must be a boardgame (not a wargame). It must also have been released in the 2020 calendar year. For a near-complete listing of all the boardgames I acquired in 2020 (including many items not eligible for this list) please see my GeekList 2020 RockyMountainNavy Gaming Acquisitions and look for entries labeled “BOARDGAME”
*Very unfair since i picked this one up the day before this post. It’s legally a contender but I have not actually evaluated it yet. That said, I don’t think it’s going to knock out my winner so it stays on the list with this little asterisk.
The Best of 2020…in a moment
Before we get to my 2020 Boardgame winner, I’d like to take a few moments and tell you about the favorite boardgames I acquired this year from the perspective of the Mrs. RockyMountainNavy and the RockyMountainNavy Boys.
This year had a watershed moment for the boardgame hobby within the RockyMountainNavy home. Mrs. RMN has long tolerated my gaming hobby and never discouraged me to bring the RMN Boys into gaming; indeed, she always encourages our Saturday Night Game Nights. She even used games to teach her students. But even after all that she was ‘reluctant’ to play against myself or the boys. I think it’s because she sees herself as a slow gamer prone to analysis paralysis. I personally don’t think she is a slow gamer, just a careful one. This year, however, we took in two games that changed her outlook on gaming:
NMBR 9 (AbbucusSpiele, 2017) – I knew she liked Tetris-like games but she had tried (and afterwards avoided) Patchwork. For some reason, NMBR 9 resonates with her and is a real hit that she will play against the boys or me. She even plays solo at times!
Layers (Happy Baobab, 2018) – I bought this one on a Black Friday fire sale because I thought it was good for her students. I was right but didn’t expect that she would be so taken by the game. She often sits at the table doing the puzzles solo. She is still not the fastest but she gets great joy out of it every time she plays.
If the RockyMountainNavy Boys had a vote, they would tell you that Here to Slay (Unstable Games, 2020) as their Game of the Year. I backed the Kickstarter on a sort of whim and I’m glad I did. The RMN Boys enjoy the card play and art. They enjoy sharing this game with their friends. It is the most-played game in the RMN family collection this year by far.
But my 2020 winner is…
Four Gardens from Korea Boardgame company. I love how the game looks on the table. I love the simple, yet deep gameplay. I love that I can use this title as a ‘second game’ when introducing others to the hobby. When Four Gardens reaches wider distribution I am sure it will be a real hit.
It’s the end of the year so it’s that time for the inevitable “of the Year” lists. Here is my 2020 Gaming Expansion of the Year.
To be eligible for this category, the item must be an expansion to an existing boardgame or wargame that is unplayable without the base game. It must also have been released in the 2020 calendar year. For a near-complete listing of all game expansions I acquired in 2020 (including some items not eligible for this list) please see my GeekList 2020 RockyMountainNavy Gaming Acquisitions and look for entries labeled “EXPANSION”
Wing Leader: Origins1936-42 from GMT Games. It continues to amaze me how the abstract model used by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood for his Wing Leader series shows the relative capabilities of different aircraft. The system really shines with early World War II aircraft. This made every play of Origins a ‘flight of discovery’ because although the reputation of many of these aircraft was poor (to put it charitably), when placed into the Wing Leader system those same poor capabilities became challenges to be dealt with. The play absolutely enhanced my understanding of aerial combat at the start of WW2 and showed the rapid advancements in aircraft performance.
It’s the end of the year so it’s that time for the inevitable “of the Year” lists. Here is my 2020 Gaming Accessory of the Year.
To be eligible for this category, the item must be an accessory to a boardgame or wargame meaning it is not mechanically necessary for play but which somehow enhances the play experience. It must also have been released in the 2020 calendar year. For a near-complete listing of all the gaming accessories I acquired in 2020 (including some items not eligible for this list) please see my GeekList 2020 RockyMountainNavy Gaming Acquisitions and look for entries labeled “ACCESSORY.”
Aircraft Data Cards for Downtown, Elusive Victory, and Red Storm. Not essential for play but having them makes play go so much faster with the right data at your fingertips with little need to cross-reference or otherwise search for what you are looking for. I deeply appreciate GMT Games allowing these cards to be published through Game Crafters using game art.
I’m not a data scientist, but in this year of COVID we all have (hopefully) become a bit more savvy when it comes to numbers and statistics. So here is my look at my 2020 gaming year “by the numbers.”
Important note as you read below; although I consider Root (Leder Games, 2018) a wargame, for the purposes of this post it is counted as a boardgame.
2020 Gaming Acquisitions
Total Gaming Items Acquired in 2020 – 82
Accessory – 8 (5 Boardgame, 3 Wargame)
Boardgames – 38 (Includes 30 base games & 8 expansions)
Wargames – 36 (Includes 31 base games & 5 expansions)
Comment: Did I really buy more boardgames this year than wargames? This is a major blow to my wargaming cred!
Total Wargame Items – 39 (48% of total)
Base Games – 31 (79% of all wargame items)
Expansions – 5 (13% of all wargame items)
Accessory – 3 (8% of all wargame items)
Published in 2020 – 17 (44% of wargames)
Comment: A good mix of old and new with a fair amount of expansions thrown in too.
Wargame Items by Era
Pre World War II Era – 9
20th Century 1925-1945 (World War II Era) – 18*
Modern Era (1945 to Near Future) – 9
Future or Sci-Fi – 1
Multi-Era – 2
* Includes Amerika Bomber: Evil Queen of the Skies (Compass Games, 2020) since it is really an alternate-ending WWII game.
Comment: Shows that World War II remains far and away my most popular era although Modern Era games are also strong. Whatever happened to sci-fi? (Answer – They went to boardgames).
Wargame Items by Publisher (Base Game-Expansion-Accessory)
Admiralty Trilogy Games – 3 (1-0-2)
Command Magazine – 1 (1-0-0)
Compass Games – 3 (3-0-0)
Counterfact Magazine – 1 (1-0-0)
Fort Circle Games – 1 (1-0-0)
Game Crafters – 1 (0-0-1)
GDW – 2 (2-0-0)
GMT Games – 5 (3-0-2)
Hollandspiele – 3 (2-1-0)
Lock ‘n Load Publishing – 4 (2-2-0)
Multi-Man Publishing – 4 (4-0-0)
PSC – 1 (1-0-0)
Osprey Publishing – 1 (1-0-0)
RBM Studio (C3i Ops Magazine) – 1 (1-0-0)
Revolution Games – 4 (4-0-0)
US Naval War College (via History of Wargaming Project) – 2 (2-0-0)
Worthington Publishing – 2 (2-0-0)
Comment: I’m pleased with the diversity of publishers that I purchased from this year. Although I bought more individual items from GMT, I actually bought more base games from two other publishers (Multi-Man Publishing & Revolution Games).
Total Boardgame Items – 43 (52% of total)
Base Games – 30 (66% of all boardgame items)
Expansions – 8 (20% of all boardgame items)
Accessory – 5 (12% of all boardgame items)
Published in 2020 – 18 (42% of boardgames)
Comment: Seeing how 42% of all boardgame items were published in 2020 should I be looking for a Cult of the New (CotN) or Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) vaccine? Not really; 10 of the 17 items were accessories or expansions leaving ‘only’ 7 new games from 2020 – 16% of all boardgames.
Boardgames by Domain* – Base Games Only
Abstract – 5
Card – 3
Children’s – 6.5
Family – 4.5
Strategy – 6
Thematic – 5
*Using the BoardGameGeek classification where able.
Comment: Was a bit surprised that Children’s games were at the top here. Then again, I should not be surprised as Mrs. RockyMountainNavy and myself made a concerted effort to buy new children’s games this year for her to use in teaching.
Board Game Stats (Plays)
Total Game Plays – 257 (223 in 2019 = Up just over 15%)
Different Games Played – 123 (119 in 2019 = Up ~3%)
Percentage of Game Collection Played in 2020 = 14%
Players – 27 [Mr. Solo – 30%, RMN T & RMN Jr. 22% each]
Locations – 3 (Up 50% over 2019)
Days of the Week – Sun 22%, Mon 10%, Tue 7%, Wed 9%, Thu 10%, Fri 20%, Sat 22%
H-Factor =6(Six games played at least 6 times)
Game Quarters (at least 25 Plays) = 0
Game Dimes (at least 10 Plays) = 1
Game Nickels (at least 5 plays) = 10
Most Played Games
Here to Slay (Unstable Games, 2020) = 10
Brief Border Wars (Compass Games, 2020) = 9
Dragomino (Blue Orange Games, 2020) = 8
Iron Curtain: Central Front 1945-1989 (Multi Man Publishing, 2020) = 7
Tri Pack: Battles of the American Revolution – Guilford, Saratoga, Brandywine (GMT Games, 2017) = 7
Red Storm: The Air War Over Central Germany, 1987 (GMT Games, 2019) = 6
Elena of Avalor: Flight of the Jaquins (Wonder Forge, 2017) = 5
Comment: Roughly same number of games played this year but more plays of those games. Reflects the fact that because of COVID I got a slightly larger gaming table which allowed me to keep games setup longer. This resulted in multiple plays of more games.
Comment: Hmm. Average age (or time on list) is a bit over 11 months. And that’s i the year of COVID which slowed down manufacturing. If this time shrinks appreciably in 2021, could it be a barometer of recovery?
The 2021 RockyMountainNavy Game Collection
According to my BGG Profile…
Boardgames Owned (Boardgames + Wargames): 782
Expansions Owned: 247
Accessories Owned: 7 (Obviously this is not correct as I acquired eight this year)
Average BGG Boardgames Rating: 6.55
Average BGG Expansions Rating: 6.71
Top Rated Game: 9.25 Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel, Kursk – 1943 3rd Edition (Academy Games, 2019)
Army Training Publication (ATP) 7-100.2 describes North Korean tactics for use in Army training, professional education, and leader development. This document is part of the ATP 7-100 series that addresses a nation-state’s military doctrine with a focus on army ground forces and tactical operations in offense, defense, and related mission sets. Other foundational topics include task organization, capabilities, and limitations related to military mission and support functions. ATP 7-100.2 serves as a foundation for understanding how North Korean ground forces think and act in tactical operations. This publication presents multiple examples of functional tactics in dynamic operational environment conditions. The tactics in this ATP are descriptive, and provide an orientation to tactics gathered from North Korean doctrine, translated literature, and observations from recent historical events.
The principal audience for ATP 7-100.2 is all members of the profession of arms. Commanders and staffs of Army headquarters serving as joint task force or multinational headquarters should also refer to applicable joint or multinational doctrine concerning the range of military operations and joint or multinational forces. Trainers and educators throughout the Army will also use this publication.
What’s in this manual. Much more than you expect!
ATP 7-100.2 addresses the tactics, organization, and activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ground forces. Part one of this document focuses on the strategic and operational levels, and includes North Korea’s military structure, organizational philosophy, and an introduction to functional tactics. Part two focuses on the tactical level, and describes Korean People’s Army Ground Forces (KPAGF) offensive and defensive tactics in detail. Several appendixes provide additional information on specific military functions and their use in tactical actions.
There is alot to unpack here. Even if you are not playing a modern Korean War game there is still much that can be learned from studying this potential adversary.
Feature image “North Korean military conducts a ‘strike drill’ for multiple launchers and tactical guided weapon into the East Sea during a military drill in North Korea.” (Reuters/KCNA pic).
This year’s report highlights the links between China’s national strategy and developments within China’s armed forces.
Under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the strategy calls for “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049, including the transformation of the People’s Liberation Army into a “world-class” military.
The report comes at a time when the world is witnessing the aggressive assertion of that strategy in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, where China continues to undermine the international rules-based order to advance their own interests.
This report accounts for the PRC’s national strategy and the drivers of China’s security behavior and military strategy, covers key developments in China’s military modernization and reform, and provides new insights into China’s strategic ambitions in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
The report also discusses China’s views of strategic competition, the broader purposes of its Military-Civil Fusion Development Strategy, and its ambitions for the PLA as a political entity of the party.
Although there are some order-of-battle type numbers in here, this is not really suitable for development of tactical scenarios. That said, if you are looking to frame an operational or strategic-level game then it is very likely you will find something of value within these pages.
Feature image “Chinese Cops Trained in Posture by Pins and Crosses” courtesy chinauncensored.tv