#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

RockyMountainNavy 2019 Most played #wargame & #boardgames

IMG_D6BDC9FE37F4-12019 was a pretty good year for gaming in the RockyMountainNavy household. This year, I played 119 games a total of 221 times. Compared to 2018, this was fewer plays (221 vs 357) but more actual games (119 vs 105). This year I only had two ‘Dimes’ (played 10 or more times) and three ‘Nickels’ (played 5-9 times).

Dimes & Nickels

  1. Quarriors! (WizKids, 2011) – 21 Plays
  2. Hold the Line: The American Civil War (Worthington Publishing, 2019) – 10 Plays
  3. The Mind (Pandasaurus Games, 2018) – 7 Plays
  4. Scythe (Stonemaier Games, 2016) – 6 Plays (including the first three episodes of the Rise of Fenris Campaign).
  5. Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs (GMT Games, 2019) – 5 Plays

Eight (8) other games sat at four plays during the year and another seven (7) were played three times. Basically these top 20 most -played games account for around half of the game plays during the year.

What comes in 2020?

In an upcoming blog post I’m going to dig deeper into the numbers for 2019 but suffice it to say for now that it was a good year.

How was your year? What games are you looking forward to playing next year? For myself, I have a few new Gaming Challenges I am going to reveal just after the new year.

 

History to #Wargames – Fighting First Bull Run (July 21, 1861) in Hold the Line: The American Civil War (@worth2004, 2019)

It was Homecoming for Youngest RockyMountainNavy Boy this weekend so Middle RMN Boy and myself squared off for a rare 2-player wargame. Wanting to keep it simple we chose Hold the Line: The American Civil War from Worthington Publishing (2018). This was Middle RMN’s first play; considering (spoiler alert) he won I’m sure it won’t be his last.

We set up the first scenario in the book , First Bull Run. Middle RMN took the Confederates and I took the Union. After a short rules explanation (the rules are very simple) we kicked off.

Like the historical battle, I pushed hard across the Stone Bridge at Sudley Ford. Unfortunately, two batteries of Confederate artillery proved most devastating and all four Union infantry units at the bridge were quickly (and I mean quickly) blown away. Considering the Confederates only need 6VP to win this put them far ahead. However, to the north the Confederates ceded Matthews Hill to the Union without a fight.

Comment: I was very surprised by this move by Middle RMN but I didn’t say much for I needed all the help I could get after losing the entire flanking attack at the Stone Bridge.

With the Confederates falling back to the Stone House and Henry Hill, the path was wide open for the Union to swing the Confederate flank and reach the two VP markers at the southern edge of the board. When the Union took the Stone House in a Close Combat without loses it started looking like the battle could swing.

However, as the Union was pushing from the Stone House past Henry Hill, it became obvious that the Confederate’s were in a good position to keep sniping away at the Union troops as they moved past. Even units using the woods to the west of Henry Hill had to come out eventually. I had two choices – keep losing units as they try to get past Henry Hill or assault the hill and eject the Confederates to secure my approach route.

Oh yeah, did I mention the Confederate reinforcements had arrived by now? Worse yet, the Confederates had better leadership. In Hold the Line each side gets a certain number of Action Points (AP) to reflect their Command & Control capacity on the battlefield. In this battle, the Union started out with 1x Leader and 4AP. The Confederates start with 1x Leader and 3AP but…when the reinforcing troops of General Johnson arrive the Confederates get a second Leader and their AP increased by 2 for a total of 5AP each turn. To further hurt, Middle RMN was rolling hot during the AP Determination Phase and consistently gaining 2 or 3 extra AP each turn whereas my dice were cold and I was only occasionally getting 2 extra AP and often only one.

Comment: Thematically, I imagined a lethargic Union command staff not reacting quickly to the situation while the Confederates kept on the hop. Thus, the Confederates were able to move quickly about the battlefield while the Union slowly plodded along. A simple rule but great impact on play.

In the end, the Union could not turn the Confederate flank and push to the VP hexes. Even taking Henry Hill didn’t help. With only one Union Leader to Rally units I was unable to keep enough strong units in front. As it was, two units, on the opposite end of the line from where McDowell was, suffered and were in the process of pulling back when the lone Confederate artillery battery hurled canisters of death upon them. The death of those two units pushed the Confederates to 6VP and the win.

Comment: The Confederates reaching 6VP while the Union had only 3VP does a great job of representing the rout of the Union troops as they see their lines crumble. A nice marriage of Victory Conditions and historical theming.

Post game, Middle RMN Boy expressed a real like for Hold the Line: The American Civil War. We talked bout how it is like the Commands & Colors-series (GMT Games) but without the cards. Middle RMN marveled at how quick the game plays. Our battle, which went to 11 of 18 possible turns, took about 60 minute to setup, learn, and fight. Middle RMN looked at the 14 different scenarios in the box and wants to play more against either me or his brother.

If you are looking for a lite-wargame then you really can’t go wrong with Hold the Line: The American Civil War from Worthington Publishing. Even an old grognard like myself finds it simple to learn but delivering a deeply thematic experience. The game is a winner and will surely get to the gaming table again and again.

Humming Along with Battle Hymn Vol 1 – Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (@compassgamesllc, 2018)

A new game arrived this week. Battle Hymn Vol 1 – Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (Compass Games, 2018). The game spent a very short time on my preorder list and now is hitting the table. Both Battle Hymn and a previous game of the week, Thunder at the Crossroads (second edition) (The Gamers, 1993), are brigade-level combat games in the American Civil War. Both titles include the iconic Battle of Gettysburg allowing in some fashion a straight-up comparison.

Thunder at the Crossroad

Battle Hymn Vol 1

Complexity

Medium

Medium

Playing Time

18 hrs plus

45 min – 8 hrs

Solitaire Suitability

Medium

High

Unit Scale

Brigades

Brigades

Turn Length

30 minutes

60-90 minutes

Hex Scale

200 yards

300 yards

Maps

2x 22’x34”

2x 39”x25”

Counters

560

528

Rules

Series/Game

Series/Game

In simple terms, the games look virtually identical. Whereas Thunder at the Crossroads uses it’s Command System as its distinctive game mechanic, Battle Hymn uses a chit-pull system and an “innovative” combat system to distinguish itself. As the publisher’s blurb puts it:

Battle Hymn is a new brigade-level game system that simulates the chaos of the America Civil War using a simple activation system combined with a detailed combat system. The system’s designer, Eric Lee Smith, originated the “chit-pull” activation system in his game “Panzer Command” and later used it in “Across Five Aprils,” Battle Hymn’s forerunner, both published by Victory Games. Units are organized by command, usually divisions, and activate for movement when the command’s activation market is picked from the cup. The system uses traditional mechanics for movement, with units differentiated by type, but adds a level of detail to combat that feels almost miniatures like. In fact, the system is designed for easy conversion to miniatures. When one side has the initiative they decide when their combat phase occurs, without it, you don’t know when it will happen.

In my first read-thru of the rules it appears to me that although both Thunder at the Crossroads and Battle Hymn are rated “Medium” complexity, Battle Hymn is a much simpler game than Thunder at the Crossroads.

Command System: This is the heart of Thunder at the Crossroads. In Battle Hymn there is no need for written orders. More “realism” in Thunder at the Crossroads at the cost of more complexity.

Movement: Units in Battle Hymn don’t change formation or extend lines or the like as found in Thunder in the Crossroads. Again, more “realism” in Thunder at the Crossroads but again, an increased cost in complexity.

Combat: Battle Hymn claims the innovative combat system “elevates realism” and is “based on recent historical research and the best practices used in miniatures games.” I will need to play more to judge for myself but from a simple game mechanics-perspective the combat system in Battle Hymn is much more intuitive to me. I was constantly stumbling during play of Thunder at the Crossroads with the A, AB, B, etc. Firepower levels.

I also have to say the map for Battle Hymn is one of the most gorgeous maps I have ever seen in a wargame. Done in “period style” it is extremely pretty. I am very tempted to reach out to Compass Games and see if they will sell one unfolded and shipped in a roll container so I can frame it and hang it on the wall of my gaming room.

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Gettysburg Map (courtesy Compass Games)

I also like the scenarios in Battle Hymn. Ranging from 45 minutes to 8 hours I think I will be able to play the shorter ones first to learn the game system and then go for the longer engagements/campaigns:

  • Gettysburg
    • Pickett’s Charge – 3 turns, 45 minutes
    • The Best Three Hours (Devil’s Den) – 3 turns, 1 hour
    • The Accidental Battle (Day One) – 11 turns, 3 hours
    • Longstreet’s March (Day Two) – 9 turns, 3 hours
    • The Tide Turns (Day Three) – 7 turns, 3 hours
    • The Battle of Gettysburg (campaign) – 31 turns, 8 hours
  • Pea Ridge
    • The Surprise Attack (Day One) – 9 turns, 2 hours
    • Missouri Redeemed! (Day Two) – 5 turns, 1.5 hours
    • The Battle of Pea Ridge (campaign) – 15 turns, 5 hours

I am very happy that I pulled the trigger and stepped out of my gaming comfort zone to purchase Battle Hymn. To be honest, it was actually very easy given the videos @PastorJoelT posts on Twitter. Thanks Joel!

Featured image courtesy Compass Games.