Let me tell you a tale of longships and woe – A #boardgame story from 878: Vikings – Invasions of England (@Academy_Games, 2017)

The ships. I remember the ships.

The first sign of the Invasion was when the longships filled with helmeted warriors sailed up to Winchester. After they came ashore it was barbaric as they pillaged the land. It was not long before most of the south of Wessex, including Exeter and Canterbury were to fall to the invading hordes.

We English tried to fight. We struck back where able. Led by Housecarl and stiffened by the Thegn we fought – and died. Many a Fryd-man suffered but it didn’t turn back the Norsemand tide.

London and Thetford and most of the Kingdom of Guthrie fell. There were few rebellions; most were brutally put down. Even attempts to turn the Vikings warriors from their pagan beliefs failed. Then another wave arrived and Manchester fell. Only English and Danish Merica held.

Desperately seeking a new leader, we raised an army for King Alfred. He fought well, but not well enough. When he fell in battle, it was clear to all that the Treaty of Wedmore was the only answer.


This past Saturday Night Game Night in the RockyMountainHouse saw a return of an old friend and the joining of a newer one. The new friend was Gavin, best buddy of RockyMountainNavy Jr., who joined us for Game Night. The old friend was 878: Vikings – Invasions of England, the very family-friendly, area control, team lite wargame from Academy Games (2017).

Being bestest buds, RMN Jr. and Gavin took the Norseman and Berserkers, respectively. RockyMountainNavy T and myself took the English with T playing Housecarl and myself playing Thegn.

Teaching 878 or any of the Birth of America/Europe series games is easy. The fact that a new player plays on a team makes it even easier with experienced teammates. Gavin had no problem learning the rules and the few questions he had during gameplay mostly related to understanding Event Cards and their unique effects. That, and the fact the Vikings started out with a very aggressive move that cost the English dearly from the beginning didn’t hurt them either.

The aggressive move was to play Card 12 – Viking Ships (Norseman) on the first turn. The card reads:

The Norsemen may play this Event during their Movement Phase to move an Army from one Coastal Shire to any other Shire located on the same sea coast if they have a Unit participating in the move. This sea move costs the Army or Leader one Move, the same as if it had moved into an adjacent Shire. The Army may continue moving if it has any moves remaining.

Norseman Card 12 – Viking Ships

Normally, the first Viking invaders must enter from the North Sea. RMN Jr. landed at Canterbury and then pointed to the fact the shire adjoins both the North Sea and English Channel. After easily defeating the defenders of Canterbury in the first Battle Round, the Viking proceeded to Winchester as their second move using the Viking Ships card. We debated the interpretation of the card but in an attempt not not derail the game out of the gate we ended up allowing it. The result was a very uphill game for the English who lost their best reinforcement cities right out of the gate. This made massing of forces difficult for defense of the realm.

[The next day I searched the BGG forums for any comments and noted a very similar move was played at the 2018 WBC tournament – so it appears legal.]

The Vikings actually played both Treaty of Wedmore cards in Round IV but we had to play through Round V and the arrival of King Alfred before the game end. Going into Round V the Vikings held 12 Shires (three more than necessary for the win). After back-to-back activations of Norseman and Berserkers to start Round V they held 14 Shires. The English used the arrival of King Alfred to take back two shires but it was not enough and he fell in the last battle of the game. With 12 shires held at the Treaty the Vikings won.

This was Gavin’s first “wargame” that he has played (“other than Risk“). He liked it and was curious about the other titles in the Birth of America series. As much as we want to play more wargames with him, RockyMountainNavy Jr. also realizes Gavin is more of a mass-market gamer. That said, he does have experience in some hobby games like Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004), Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2016) and Here to Slay (Unstable Games, 2020). With that thought in mind, Jr. asked that we consider other games, like maybe starting with the deck-builder Trains (AEG, 2012) for another game night.

Most importantly, we also reaffirmed in the RMN Home that Weekend Games Nights are ESSENTIAL. In the past six weeks we have let Game Night slide in a combination of apathy and depression from the social situations surrounding COVID-19. We all enjoyed Game Night and we realized it is an essential part of our mental happiness. We agreed that we MUST get back to regular play – and we will!


Feature image courtesy ancientpages.com

“All game, no history.” Really? Musings on why I play #wargames

Recently on Twitter, the following tweet was reupped for comments:

The Tactical Painter @PainterTactical ·

Goodbye #advancedsquadleader Won 2 Australian tournaments, played 100s of games but had a damascene moment designing scenarios when I realised ASL had actually taught me little about WWII and nor could it. Play the rules, not the period. All game, no history.

I was added to the thread for my thoughts. Sorta hard to condense it into one short tweet but I tried:

Mountain Navy @Mountain_Navy · 
Thinking about what a #wargame means to me. Went to the tomes of Dunnigan, Perla, & Sabin as well as Zones of Control book for thoughts. My Answer: A wargame is an interactive model to explore conflict; it doesn’t define it. I use wargames for fun (to game) & inspire learning.

Complexity as Realism…or Not?

First, a disclaimer. I am not an active Advanced Squad Leader player. I played long ago but my ASL-like game was actually Star Fleet Battles (SFB). Like ASL, SFB is also accused of being overly complex. But when I was reading through Zones of Control: Perspectives on Wargaming (Edited by Pat Harrigan & Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, MIT Press, 2016) I was drawn to Chapter 10, “Design for Effect: The “Common Language” of Advanced Squad Leader” by J.R. Tracy. Tracy starts out by stating:

Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) (1985) holds a unique place in the wargaming hobby. Nearly thirty years old, it is still going strong, with a large, ardent fan base and a smaller, but no less ardent body of detractors. More a game system than a game, ASL is both respected and reviled as representing the best and worst aspects of wargaming. ASL itself is considered a benchmark of complexity and comprehensiveness, while its player possess a devotion bordering on fanaticism. Though its roots are firmly in the “design-for-effect” philosophy, it is viewed by many as the paragon of realism with respect to tactical World War II combat. This is born of a misguided equation of complexity and verisimilitude – ASL is at its heart more game than simulation, but it is a richly rewarding game, offering dramatic, cinematic narrative as well as competitive experience. (p. 113)

Mr. Tracy goes on to point out that Squad Leader designer John Hill was, “striving for an impressionistic depiction of combat…based on his interpretation of eyewitness accounts and recollections” (p. 113). He goes on to say, “For Hill, ‘Realism is in the stress and snap decisions of small unit combat’….” (p. 113).

“Realism is in the stress and snap decisions….” More than anything else that line captures for me why I play wargames. For the longest time I was caught up in that ASL-like versimiltude of equating complexity with realism. My favorite games were the likes of Harpoon, the Fighting Wings Series, or Panzer. Those games all bordered more on simulation than games.

Or so I thought.

Wargames as Insight

Years later I have acquired a more nuanced approach to gaming. These days I recognize that all games are models – and models are often imperfect. I now approach games more in line with the thinking of designer Mark Herman who tell us, “As a designer, I always strive to develop game systems that allow the players to compete in a plausible historical narrative that allows for the suspension of disbelief and offers insight into a period’s dynamics.” (ZoC, p. 133)

My undergraduate degree is in History and I always have viewed myself as an amateur historian. Starting in my youth, I used wargames to help me explore history. Robert M. Citrino, in his Zones of Control contribution “Lessons from the Hexagon: Wargames and the Military Historian,” gives us three ways wargames augment the study of history:

  • Wargames are a visual and tactile representation of the real-life event.
  • Wargames help illustrate the various levels of war: tactical, operational, and strategic.
  • Wargames are the ultimate “Jomini-Clausewitz conundrum.”
    • Wargames are Jominian at their core; they quantify, order, and prescribe military activity.
    • Wargames incorporate a Clausewitz artifact – the die as a randomizer

I find Citrino’s conclusion most powerful:

Beyond the informational content or fun quotient, however, wargames offer the operational military historian a means to interpret past events, to unpack the calculations that go into planning a campaign and then to analyze the reasons for success or failure. Wargames allow for compelling analysis of time, space, and force dilemmas; they clearly delineate the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war; and they allow the player to appreciate the truths inherent in both Jomini and Clausewitz, rather than choosing one and rejecting the other. In the end, war itself is a violent, bloody, and unpredictable game, with time-honored Jominian principles serving as the “rules” and Clausewitzian Zufall interfering as the randomizer. (ZoC, p. 445)

Games, Not Simulations

Remember when I said that I loved all those more “simulation games?” I didn’t really understand why I thought this, but Robert MacDougall and Lisa Faden in “Simulation Literacy: The Case for Wargames in the History Classroom” (Zones of Control, Chapter 37) helped me understand maybe why I feel this way.

MacDougall and Faden make the case that simulations are often used to model social phenomenon. “They try to distinguish between dependent and independent variables, to make generalizations that will be applicable in many places and times, and ultimately, to uncover the laws of human behavior” (ZoC, p. 450). Games, however, are different, especially with respect to decisions:

Game designer Sid Meier once defined a game as “a series of interesting decisions.” In a historical simulation game, the players take on the roles of those who made interesting decisions. The rules of the game define the structure that constrained those decisions. “Play can be defined as the tension between the rules of the game and the freedom to act within those rules,” writes Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown (2011, 18). Play, in other words, explores the boundaries of agency and structure – and the “ability to make interesting decisions” is about as succinct a definition of historical agency as we are likely to find.

…But Fun

Wargames make for interesting decisions. When I started wargaming, I thought for th elongest time that complexity led to more intereting decisions. These days, I find that it is often the simplest games, with less decisions, that are the most fun. Games like Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing), 878 Vikings (Academy Games), or Command & Colors Tricorne: The American Revolution (Compass Games) will never be held up as detailed models of conflict, but each is fun and offer up interesting decision spaces. They do teach, at least in broad strokes of history, and that is part of what makes them interesting too. But in the end, I play most wargames these days for fun.

I still play the more complex games, but my approach to them has changed. While I still use them to explore conflict, I also try to enjoy it. My attitude these days is one of wanting to game a conflict, not simulate it. I think many designers and publishers get this. This is why the new Harpoon V from Admiralty Trilogy Games is more player-friendly. It’s why Buffalo Wings 2 (Against the Odds) is having a successful Kickstarter. And yes, it’s why even Advanced Squad Leader is still a money-maker for Multi-Man Publishing (especially when one looks at the face-to-face tournament play aspect).

All of which is to say I play wargames for the fun of learning and making interesting decisions. They don’t teach me history, but they offer a pathway to further insight.

“All game, no history.” Not true for me.


Feature image courtesy BoardGameGeek.

#Coronapocalypse #Wargame Month-in-Review (March 15 – April 15, 2020)

HERE IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA the DECLARATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY DUE TO NOVEL CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) was issued on March 12, 2020. For me the real Coronapocalypse started on March 15, the day before I started my new job. The onboarding was surreal; rushed to get people out soonest, walking into a deserted office, then being told to go home and telework when I don’t even have an office account. Although the teleworking eventually worked out, I still found myself at home more than expected. Looking to fill my time, gaming has been a part of my therapy to avoid going stir-crazy.

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In the first 30 days of my Coronapocalypse, I played 19 different games a total of 38 times. Looking at the list, I think many will be surprised to see Elena of Avalor: Flight of the Jaquins (Wonder Forge, 2017) as one of the top-played games. This of course is because we were helping our friends with taking care of their kids while they were working. Fortunately, it is not a bad game – for kids – and was an unexpected discovery (especially given that we purchased our copy for less than $5).

I am very happy that I got in multiple plays of Red Storm: The Air War Over Central Germany, 1987 (GMT Games, 2019). Getting time to do multiple plays allowed me to get deeper into the design and enjoyment. The same can be said about Enemy Coast Ahead: The Doolittle Raid (GMT Games, 2017) which had the bonus of being a dedicated solitaire design that was perfect for Coronapocalypse gaming. This multi-play approach also enabled me to rediscover Squadron Strike: Traveller (Ad Astra, 2018), a game which I had under-appreciated.

Given I am stuck working at home, I tried to find ways to mix my wargaming into “professional training.” So it came to be that Next War: Korea 2nd Editions (GMT Games, 2019) landed on the table. I also ordered a copy of the game poster from C3i Ops Center for my new office but, alas, the California shutdown stopped it from being sent just after the label was created.

As disruptive as the Coronapocalypse is, here in the RockyMountainNavy home we tried to keep some semblance of order. This included our Saturday Boardgaming Night with Azul: Summer Pavilion (Next Move Games, 2019), 878 Vikings (Academy Games, 2017), Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017), and Firefly: The Game (Gale Force Nine, 2013).

This month I also explored a few more solitaire gaming titles in my collection. I continue to insist that AuZtralia (Stronghold Games, 2018) is one of the best ‘waro’ games out there. I also got Mrs. Thatcher’s War: The Falklands, 1982 (White Dog Games, 2017) to the table right around the time the historical conflict started. Late in the month, my copy of Amerika Bomber: Evil Queen of the Skies (Compass Games, 2020) arrived. First impressions will be forthcoming.

Coronapocalypse also gave me the chance to play more one-on-one with the RockyMountainNavy Boys. RockyMountainNavy T continued his punishing win streak by besting me, again, in two plays of Hold the Line: The American Civil War (Worthington Publishing, 2019).

The game of the month was actually the last one I played. I pulled Patchwork (Mayfair Games, 2014) out to play with one of Mrs. RockyMountainNavy’s students. The box was still on the table later that night and I asked Mrs. RMN if she wanted to play. She said yes. You have to understand that Mrs. RMN is a strong advocate of gaming but she rarely plays herself. So we set up an played. She beat me handily (I actually had a negative score). I hope this is a harbinger of future gaming, especially with a title like Azul: Summer Pavilion.

How has your Coronapocalypse lock-down gaming gone?


Feature image courtesy laughingsquid.com

My @BoardGameGeek Challenge for 2019 – Golden Geek Edition

This is the time of the year that many in the boardgame community start their “challenges” for the coming year. The classic is the 10 x 10 – pick 10 different games and play each ten times during the year.

But I want something a bit different.

The other night I was messing around with the Advanced Search function of BoardGameGeek and sorting my collection in different ways. As I was browsing and sorting, I noticed that some of the games I own were winners the BoardGameGeek Golden Geek Award.

I have written before about the award and my mixed feelings towards it. However, after looking at my collection, I see that I own 15 Golden Geek winners. Sounds like a good challenge; play each Golden Geek winner at least once in 2019.

Thus, my 2019 Golden Geek Challenge games are:

  1. Commands & Colors: Ancients – 2007 Best 2-Player (tie)
  2. BattleLore – 2007 Best 2-Player (tie)
  3. Zooloretto – 2007 Best Family Game / Best Children’s Game
  4. Pandemic – 2009 Best Family Game
  5. Washington’s War – 2010 Best 2-Player / Best Wargame
  6. Forbidden Island – 2010 Best Children’s Game
  7. King of Tokyo – 2012 Best Family Game / Best Party Game /  Best Children’s Game
  8. Love Letter – 2013 Best Family Game / Best party Game / Best Card Game / Most Innovative Game
  9. Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures – 2013 Best 2-Player
  10. 1775: Rebellion – 2013 Best Wargame (PLAYED Sat 05 Jan)
  11. Patchwork – 2014 Best Abstract Game
  12. Codenames – 2015 Best Family Game / Best Party Game
  13. Tiny Epic Galaxies – 2015 Best Solo Game
  14. Scythe – 2016 Game of the Year / Best Strategy Game / Best Thematic / Best Artwork/Presentation / Best Solo Game
  15. 878: Vikings – Invasions of England – 2017 Best Wargame

I will keep this blog and a GeekList over on BoardGameGeek updated with my progress throughout the year.

I am running this challenge in parallel to my 2019 CSR Awards Wargame Challenge. Between the 20 games there and the 15 here I should have a fun year. Not to mention all the new games I’m sure to get this year….

So, what’s your 2019 Boardgame Challenge? 


Feature image courtesy BoardGameGeek

The COO Viking – Raiders of the North Sea (English 2nd Edition, Graphill/Renegade Game Studios, 2017)

Or – a wargaming family’s journey into a true Eurogame.

The RockyMountainNavy Boys love Vikings. Not long ago we were in our local FLGS, Huzzah Hobbies, and my youngest saw Raiders of the North Sea (English 2nd Edition, Graphill/Renegade Game Studios, 2017) and it caught his attention. I eventually ordered it and the game arrived on Halloween and we slotted it for play on Saturday night. However, the Boys got done with all their homework and chores early enough on Thursday that they asked to learn the game.

According to BoardGameGeek rankings, Raiders of the North Sea is a very strong game with an average rating of 7.8. At the time of this post it was ranked 104th overall and 73rd in the strategy category. The publisher’s blurb certainly makes Raiders of the North Sea sound interesting:

Raiders of the North Sea is set in the central years of the Viking Age. As Viking warriors, players seek to impress the Chieftain by raiding unsuspecting settlements. Players will need to assemble a crew, collect provisions and journey north to plunder gold, iron and livestock. There is glory to be found in battle, even at the hands of the Valkyrie. So gather your warriors, it’s raiding season!

Raiders of the North Sea is a Eurogame using a worker placement mechanism. Every turn players use their worker (err…Viking) to Work or Raid. Workers Vikings come in three colors and not every action space is accessible by all colors. Players start with the black Viking which is the most common color. A white Viking is is most powerful with access to the best spaces. There is also a gray Viking that is more versatile than the black Viking but cannot access the better spaces like the white one. Each turn players get two actions; the first uses the Viking in their hand which is placed on the board and the second is from another Viking taken from the board into their hand.

Like so many Eurogames there is little actual player interaction. A few cards have a “take that” effect on another player but it usually is limited to taking a few items, trading cards Townfolk, or at worst swapping a worker Viking on the board.

Raiders of the North Sea is rated at 60-90 minutes. In our first game, which took nearly 2 hours as we learned, we quickly discovered the game can drag. The turns may be quick but the game is not. I think this is because there is a limit to the number of cards, coins, and Townfolk/Hired Crew you can have in your hand or on the table. This means your “game engine” has a governor on it. It takes a few rounds to assemble your team Hired Crew and gather Provisions to make a Raid. That assumes you get the right color worker in your hand at the right time….

After playing the game and considering it, I have two major problems with Raiders of the Lost Sea. One is the game, the other is me.

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Courtesy BGG.com

First, Raiders of the North Sea appears to hit the Viking theme to a T. The artwork is highly evocative of the theme (even if it is a little cartoonish). However, the use of the worker placement game mechanic doesn’t fit what I expected in a Viking game. Sure, the reality is that Vikings needed to do more than just raid and plunder (i.e Work) but I want to Raid!  In the end, the Viking worker placement mechanic actually doesn’t support the theme. The players are nothing more than a Chief Operating Officer (COO) of a unit trying to organize their workers Vikings by Working in the town and occasionally getting out of the office Raiding. Indeed, the players are not really in charge as they need to make offerings to the CEO Chieftain!

Secondly, Raiders of the North Sea shows me that the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself are more waro-gamer than Eurogamer. Truth be told, I am a wargamer first and a waro-gamer second. There are a many thematic Eurogames we like such as Ticket to Ride, Scythe, Firefly: The Game, or Battlestar Galactica: The Boardgame. Given our druthers playing a good waro is the most satisfying. Unlike 878: Vikings – Invasions of England (Academy Games, 2017) the core game mechanic in Raiders of the North Sea fails to create a compelling gaming narrative of Viking raids that we can immerse ourselves into and enjoy.

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Courtesy auztralia.net

Now, I am not ready to trade away Raiders of the North Sea just yet. I think it has a place in our collection, just not the prominent role that I was expecting given the ratings and hype around the game. Our reaction to this game does make me worry about another game I have on pre-order, AuZtralia (Stonghold Games, 2018). There is alot of buzz about that Martin Wallace title and I jumped at it because it was described as a waro. I certainly hope it is.

 

 

Expanding the Game with 878 Vikings – Invasions of England: Viking Age Expansion (@Academy_Games, 2017)

The Viking Age expansion for 878 Vikings – Invasion of England (Academy Games, 2017) is actually nine (9) expansions. At first look this can be a bit overwhelming. Which one do you choose? All? Just a few? After looking at the forums on BoardGameGeek.com I took some advice and for the first RockyMountainNavy expanded game we used just a few. I am happy to report the results were, “Most Excellent.”

In our weekend Game Night play we used:

  • Expansion 7 – Epic Battle Events: This adds event cards to the Fyrd Deck (the Fyrd being peasants that join battles to defend their homes for the English)
  • Expansion 8 – Viking Ships: Adds Viking ships to increase mobility along the coasts
  • Expansion 9.2 – Legertha: Legertha is a Viking Leader that can be added to another invasion; she adds an “extra” invasion but divides the forces.

I played the Vikings against the RockyMountainNavy Boys who divided the English. My Viking hordes quickly conquered northern England. I was doing great until my third invasion which encountered the Traitor event card in the Fyrd Deck. In the Traitor event:

The attackers choose one of theirFactions to fight for the defenders asTraitors. The defenders roll the Traitor Faction’s dice and make decisions for the Traitor Faction’s Units during this Battle. Surviving Traitor Units are placed in the Fled Units Area. (Viking Age, p.9)

As this was the initial invasion for this leader the army was large and it was painful to have to “give away” a major portion of the army. Elsewhere, I got a bit too ambitious and ended up with both of my other leaders killed in battle. Of course, the next Round I drew a Reinforcement card and not another invasion which stopped any chance of seizing more shires. Desperately trying to end the game, I played both Treaty of Wedmore cards to trigger the end game conditions. Alas, in Round V I tried to use Legertha to add a second invasion leader but all I really ended up doing was diving my force. It also didn’t help that the English Ships event card made an appearance and severely limited my choice for landing locations. With the arrival of King Alfred I ended up losing my ninth Shire and failing watched helplessly as victory slipped away.

The added expansions were easy to incorporate into the game with no real additional rules overhead or extra play time added. They did add some major fun as the RockyMountainBoys were all high-5’s and the like when the Traitor card showed up. They also took great pleasure in burning my Viking Ships.

Between the Advanced Setup rules in the base game which allows players to customize their Event Card Deck and these expansions, 878 Vikings has shot to the top of my list for enjoyable family Game Night products. Although there are many games in the RockyMountainNavy collection, I fully expect this one to get to the table often because it has proven it can deliver great fun every time.

Featured image courtesy Academy Games.

Advanced #878Vikings from @Academy_Games

The RockyMountainNavy Game Night this week featured 878 Vikings: Invasion of England from Academy Games (2017). This was the first game we played using the Advanced Setup Rules found on page 2 of the Rule Book. This rule allows players to “customize” their deck by choosing which five (5) event cards of cards 08-19 they want to add to deck. Players still use a 12-card deck, but in this Advanced Setup version cards 01-07 are “fixed” and the last five cards are “customizable.” The resulting game was very fun!

The Youngest RMN Boy took the Vikings against Middle RMN Boy (Thegn) and myself (Housecarl). The first Viking invasion stabbed through the middle of England but eventually culminated with around seven shires taken. The Second Viking Invasion was stopped with its leader killed. A Third Invasion didn’t expand much. Alfred the Great eventually arrived for the English but the first attempt to push back the Vikings ended in near-total disaster.

In Round 6 the Vikings were forced to play their second Treaty of Wedmore card which ends the game after that turn. The Vikings held seven shires going into the Round and to win needed to take two more.

Middle RMN Boy played an Advanced Training Thegn Battle Card that converts all Thegn Fled results to Hits. Unfortunately, neither of us realized just how much this changes the die roll odds in favor of the Thegn and instead of removing Housecarl on Viking hits removed too many Thegn too early, thus missing a chance to attrite the Vikings a bit more. As it was, the game came down to a nail-biting conclusion where a lone Fryd (English peasants called up to defend their homes) stood against a single Norseman on the last battle of the last turn. The Fryd missed while the Norseman hit, delivering Youngest RMN Boy his ninth shire and (barely) making his victory condition.

The Advanced Rules Setup adds some simple player-driven variability to the game. This feature is not found in games of the Birth of America-series (at least the base games). I really like this rule as it has the potential to make each game different and allows exploration of subtly different strategies. Yet another example of how “lite wargames” from Academy Games actually deliver a deeper strategic challenge.

A Little Rebellion – #GameNight 1775 Rebellion – The American Revolution (@Academy_Games, 2013)

After playing Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017) the past few weeks, the Youngest RockyMountainNavy Boy picked an older but highly enjoyable title for this week’s Game Night. So it was that 1775 Rebellion – The American Revolution (Academy Games, 2013) landed on the table. We once again played a three-player version, with the very typical RockyMountainNavy Boys teaming up against Dad. The Youngest played the Loyalists while the Middle RMN Boy took the British Regulars.

Battle Forth

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End of Round 1 – 1775 Rebellion by Academy Games

Knowing that the Boys are tough opponents, I struck hard and fast. The Continentals were able to eject the British from Boston while an early Benjamin Franklin allowed me to land French troops in Savannah. Dangerously, the Patriots Militia had to play the Treaty of Paris Card as it was the only movement card in the first hand! Meanwhile, the Loyalist were recruiting a large Indian army in New York. At the end of Round 1 the Americans led 4 (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, & Georgia) to 3 (Quebec, Nova Scotia, & Delaware).

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End of Round 2 in 1775 Rebellion by Academy Games

Round 2 was more a war of movement as both sides postured for advantage. As the Americans I pursued a Southern Strategy and was able to bring Maryland to The Cause but was worried as the British were obviously looking to drive through New York from Canada and split the northern colonies.

End of Round 2 score:

  • Americans 5 (MA, CT, RI, GA, MD)
  • British 3 (Quebec, Nova Scotia, DE)

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In Round 3 the Americans took South Carolina and moved into North Carolina. In the North, French troops arrived in Newport to bolster the defenses there. This was especially welcome given the relentless British march through New York, The British also used their Indian allies to take Pennsylvania. Of note, the Loyalists’ played their own Treaty of Paris card. The next Treaty Card played would end the game.

End of Round 3 score:

  • Americans 7 (MA, CT, RI, GA, MD, SC, NC)
  • British 4 (Quebec, Nova Scotia, DE, PA)

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End of Round 4 – 1775 Rebellion by Academy Games

The first turn went to the Continental Army that hunkered down building forces. The second Turn was the British Regulars who used Warship Movement to land a force in Savannah – negating American control of the colony. The British also took control of New York by defeating a mixed Continental/Militia force in the area between New York City and Albany. The game was turning in favor the the British who now were tied 6-6. However, it would the be Patriot Militia who played the spoiler. During Turn 3 the Militia played the second Treaty of Paris card meaning the game would end after this Round. The Militia was able to move a force into New York City defeating a Loyalist-heavy force making New York an uncontrolled colony. Another small Militia force with Indian allies entered Western Pennsylvania which also took control of the colony away from the British. In Turn 4 the Loyalist player had too little too late and was unable to reverse a single colony falling. At the end of Round 4 (and game end) the Americans took the narrow victory with a 6-4 final score.

After Thoughts

1775 Rebellion has the least special rules of the Birth of America-series and is in many ways the easiest to play. The game can also end early like ours did tonight with both Treaty of Paris cards out for the Americans by the end of Round 4. Total game time was a short 60 minutes. Though the game was short by our game night standards (2-3 hours being acceptable) it was nonetheless very fun. I get a feeling that this month will be an Academy Games month as the Birth of America-series and 878 Vikings – Invasions of England come out for play!

 

#FirstImpressions – Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing LLC, 2017)

Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing LLC, 2017) is a rules-lite, family-friendly, area control wargame. Well, sort of area control. Maybe too rules lite. Regardless, Enemies of Rome is a simple wargame that looks to be a fun shorter game that engages the entire family.

I missed out on the Kickstarter campaign in early 2017 that raised $17,000 against a $10,000 goal. The game is now reaching retail distribution where I got it. My interest comes thanks to a series of videos that @PastorJoelT posted on Twitter.

Components

The map has a very theme-appropriate presentation. The back of the Event/Action cards are a bit cartoonish as compared to the map but remain loyal to the theme. The card faces are easy to read and understand. The many cubes look overwhelming at first but once separated into color groups and matched with the few cardboard tokens they also support immersion into the theme.

Rules-Lite

The rulebook for Enemies of Rome is eight (8) pages. Actually, it is seven pages as page 8 is a simplified map. The mechanics of the game is very straight-forward; place reinforcements, play “Intrigue Talents” (special bonuses earned during play), play either an Event or Action card to move and maybe battle, then draw your hand back up to two cards. Victory points, called Glory Points here, are earned by conquering a territory and lost if you lose a battle against another player. Total play time is rated at 120 minutes, but even our first game was over in 90.

As simple as the rules are, the rulebook could of used a bit more work. Looking at the names of the designers and play testers, Enemies of Rome looks to be mostly a family affair. That is not bad, but I feel that if an outsider or a professional technical editor had looked at these rules they could be much clearer. Having grown up as a grognard with rigid SPI rules formatting (1. / 1.1/ 1.11, etc.) I find it helpful in breaking down a rule and making them easy to follow or cross-reference. I totally understand that this “rules lawyer” format is not popular with some, especially those who want to read a more “natural language” text.

Who are the “Enemies of Rome”

Enemies of Rome is for 2-5 players, making it high suitable for group or family gaming. What makes this game work is the presence in every game of a non-player, the “Enemies of Rome.” Enemies occupy every territory the players do not. During a players turn, some Event and Action cards allow the player to move the Enemies. This simple mechanic introduces a subtle element of strategy that quickly becomes a focus of all players – do I move my own Legions or do I move the Enemies? This makes for interesting dilemma’s – how do I move/battle the Enemies to my advantage?

Area Control – Sorta

On the surface, Enemies of Rome appears to be an area control game. Indeed, at game end the players with the most territories gains a Glory Point bonus. However, a closer look at the rules reveals that Glory Points are won/lost in battle. If at the end of a battle the player is in sole possession of a territory, a Glory Point is won. If the player battles another player (not the Enemies) and loses, Glory Points are lost. The subtlety of this rule can be lost on beginners. In the RockyMountainNavy family first game, as Red I had the least territories but fought a number of good-odds battles towards the end and tied Blue who had the most Legions and territories. In the tie-breaker I lost to the more numerous Blue Legions. The RockyMountainNavy Boys were a bit confused at first until they realized its the battles won, not the number of territories, that count for Glory Points. A quick glance through the forums at BoardgameGeek seemingly indicate this is not a popular way of determining victory with several alternate VP conditions being bantered about.

Similarities

What struck me after the first play was the similarity of Enemies of Rome to the very popular Academy Games Birth of America-series. This especially applies to the first game in the series, 1775 Rebellion: The American Revolution. The RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself have many plays of the Birth of America series and the similar 878 Vikings: Invasions of England which are team-play, area control games. Indeed, @PastorJoelT mentioned in one of his videos that he saw Enemies of Rome and 1775 Rebellion as similar games. His comment is actually what triggered me to buy the game!

In my opinion, although superficially similar to Enemies of Rome, there are enough differences with the Enemies of Rome and the Glory Point scoring mechanics that these games are just that – superficially similar. I view Enemies of Rome as the simpler game of the two.

Collection Worthy?

Although Enemies of Rome is a simple game with a scoring mechanic that is a bit opaque, that does not mean it is not good enough for a gaming collection. If you look closely at the featured image of this post, you will see several Rick Riordan books in the upper right corner of the image. The RockyMountainNavy Boys pulled these out because the geography in the books was also found in Enemies of Rome. The Boys also found my copy of Decision Games’ Strategy & Tactics Quarterly #1 – Caesar. The Boys are making what Mrs. RockyMountainNavy refers to as “connections.” They are studying the map, reading the history on the Event cards, and learning.

Enemies of Rome promotes learning while having fun at the same time. That’s a winning combination in the RockyMountainNavy stronghold. Even if you are not into learning, the simplistic nature of the game, combined with subtle strategy, make Enemies of Rome a good group game, especially when introducing new gamers to wargames.

Personal Quick Take – 2018 Origins Awards Nominees

As found on the ICv2 website:

The Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design (AAGAD) released the list of games nominated for 2018 Origins Awards. The Awards will be presented during the annual Origins Awards Ceremony, held on Saturday, June 16.  The Academy added a category to the seven from 2017, Roleplaying Supplement, bringing the total to eight.  The nominees were selected by the Academy; the winners will be selected by a jury of professionals.  Origins Game Fair attendees will vote for Fan Favorite winners at the show.

As a wargamer, I understand the the Origins Awards are not really my cuppa tea. For the longest time the Charles S. Roberts Award was all I cared about, but those ended in 2012. Since then, the Golden Geek Awards on BGG.com have been what I watch, but its really hard for me to get behind that award given that the demographic playing “war games” on the BGG sub-domain is quite different than players on ConsimWorld. Consequently, there are no “war games” of interest to me amongst the nominees.

All that said, I am kinda interested in the Origins Awards from a family gaming perspective. I regret to say that I have not played a single one of the 12 Board Game nominees. Card and Collectible games are not my thing so it is not surprising that I have not played any of those 20 games. I like miniatures but shy away from the cost, meaning the four games in that category are more unknowns to me. I guess this means I failed to qualify as a card-carrying COTN (Cult of the New) member or suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

I admit my roleplaying interests are narrow (usually sci-fi) and I am not surprised that my favorite Cepheus Engine publishers are not recognized. Shamefully, I see Mongoose Publishing somehow got their money-grabbing Traveller Starter Set on the list. I am heartened though by the diversity of other titles and publishers on the Roleplaying Game and Roleplaying Supplement lists.

Gaming Accessories? Looks like the Academy still has to decide what really goes into this category. I see everything from box inserts to game expansions. A firm definition of “gaming accessory” appears to be lacking.

Of course, who am I kidding? These days game awards are less professional recognition and more fan service. Look no further than the fact Gloomhavenwon six of 13 categories in the 2017 Golden Geek Awards. I consider it lucky that 878 Vikings – Invasion of England (Academy Games, 2017) was the 2017 Golden Geek Best Wargame Winner.

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Courtesy Academy Games