Family #Boardgame Friday – The towering Spirit of Tiny Epic Samurai Defenders working together (@Funforge @Gamelyn_Games #cardgame #cooperative)

As a forever wargamer, I often find myself removed from the whole Eurogame-Ameritrash conflicts and instead find the fault-lines of my gaming collection falling along that of boardgame versus wargame. I mean, I understand the whole mechanism versus theme arguments, I just don’t really care. That is, until I see it up close and personal in my game collection.

I recently scored several new family boardgames. I wasn’t actively seeking out any of these games but they came along as a great bargain with the game I really wanted ( that one being Space Empires 4x by Jim Krohn from GMT Games, 2011). The seller offered a bargain on a handful of smaller family games so, thinking they might be useful as lighter filler or vacation-suitable travel games, I took them in. As I looked over and taught myself the games, I found two of them, Tiny Epic Defenders (Gamelyn Games, 2014) and Samurai Spirit (Funforge, 2014) actually quite similar in game mechanisms but themed much differently from each other.

Tiny Epic Defenders is another entry in the Tiny Epic series of games designed by Scott Almes. These game traditionally come in small boxes (7″x4.5″x1.5″) and are known for their small footprint but deep play. Tiny Epic Defenders is a cooperative game set in the world of a previous Tiny Epic game, Tiny Epic Kingdoms (Gamelyn Games, 2014 – and also part of the package deal). In Tiny Epic Defenders, 1-4 players must work together in a card-based game to defend the capital city against hordes of enemy attackers. Along the way you can use allies and ancient artifacts to help.

Tiny Epic Defenders set up

Samurai Spirit is also a cooperative game where between 1-7 players are samurai that must defend the village against raiders. In this card-based game, the samurai must choose between confronting raiders or defending against them while managing the barricades of the village and protecting the villagers. If you can’t already tell, Samurai Spirit is based on the movie Seven Samurai with the major difference being that in the game the samurai unleash a “beast mode” when wounded enough.

Samurai Spirit – note “beast mode” characters

Both Tiny Epic Defenders and Samurai Spirit are variants of a tower defense game. In both games the players are defending a territory against invaders. Another tower defense game, Castle Panic (Fireside Games, 2009), is a family favorite.

A game where the goal is to defend a player’s territories or possessions by obstructing the enemy attackers, usually achieved by placing defensive structures on or along their path of attack. This typically means building a variety of different structures that serve to automatically block, impede, attack or destroy enemies.

Source: BGG paraphrasing Wikipedia on Tower Defense video games

Both Tiny Epic Defenders and Samurai Spirit play loose with the definition of a “defensive structure.” In both of these games “defensive structures” are characters which, through game actions, act to block, impede, attack, or destroy enemies. That said, though both Samurai Spirit and Tiny Epic Defenders are tower defense games and both even use cards, they are not identical in the game mechanisms used in gameplay.

Given how closely related Tiny Epic Defenders and Samurai Spirit are mechanically, how do I separate them? That is where theme come in. This is a pure matter of personal preference. For me, the theme of Samurai Spirit, derived as it is from the movie Seven Samurai, is the hands-down winner. I realize that there are some players out there that love everything Scott Almes touches and therefore will faithfully play anything related to Tiny Epic, but I am not one of them.

While Samurai Spirit leans hard into the theme of Seven Samurai, it does so with a nice family twist. That twist is the beast mode which unlocks not only a nicely illustrated side of the character board, but also provides a game mechanism that simultaneously is used to “refresh” a player for later rounds as well as pace the game to face the major foe. I also realize the theme of Samurai Spirit is far more likely to appeal to the RockyMountainNavy Boys who, taking after their wargamer Dad, often use the theme of a boardgame to help them assess if a game should be played. This is not to say Tiny Epic Defenders will be left to collect dust in the collection or be sold off quickly. The small footprint and portability of a Tiny Epic game makes it a good choice to pack when going on vacation.

Sunday Summary – How’d it get to be so busy? #wargame #boardgame @gmtgames @compassgamesllc @stuarttonge @Zmangames_ @Gamelyn_Games @Funforge

Wow…no entries on this blog since last Sunday. Tangible proof that the post-COVID recovery is in full swing. Where I live all the COVID mask restrictions were (finally) lifted yesterday by the state dictatorship. Well, except for schools because the dictatorship has already crippled their learning in the past year so why stop now? I guess in future years gamers will look back on the Year of COVID as “happy times” with plenty of gaming. On a personal level, I’ve been back to work full time for a couple of months now and it’s cutting into my gaming time!

Huzzah!

Wargames/Books

I finished reading Most Secret and Confidential: Intelligence in the Age of Nelson (Stephen Maffeo, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2014) and pulled 1805: Sea of Glory (Phil Fry, GMT Games, 2009) out for some comparisons. I’ve got John Gorkowski’s Indian Ocean Region – South China Sea: Vol. II (Compass Games, 2020) ready for a deeper dive now that I’ve finished reading Eliot Ackerman and Admiral Jame Stavridis’ 2034: A Novel of the Next World War (New York: Penguin Press, 2021).

This week was also my birthday. The family really knows what I like, hence the arrival of Commands & Colors: Napoleonics (GMT Games) and Meade at Gettysburg: A Study in Command (Kent Masterson Brown, Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2021). This all-but-ensures my Fourth of July Gettysburg Memorial Wargame will be Eric Lee Smith’s Battle Hymn Vol. 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (Compass Games, 2018). Oh yes, and a new power drill to replace my old light duty one that wasn’t up to the demands of Mrs. RockyMountainNavy’s “Honey Do” list!

Boardgames

I worked on my first impressions piece of Stuart Tonge’s 2 Minutes to Midnight from his new Plague Island Games label (coming to Kickstarter next month). Spoiler Alert – It’s a big game that some might feel is unnecessary given the powerhouse Twilight Struggle (GMT Games, now in 8th printing) but it deserves a serious look as it builds a very compelling narrative in play.

I had an opportunity to pick up Space Empires 4x by Jim Krohn and GMT Games (2017 Third Edition). At the same time the seller had several smaller games he was looking to unload so a deal was struck. These are lighter games that I thought might be suitable for the family (or vacation travel) gaming table. Thus arrived:

I spent the past week looking through and learning each of the smaller games. Star Wars: Destiny will be turned over to the RockyMountainNavy boys as I know it’s not my thing but they are “modern” Star Wars fans so they can enjoy the characters. Samurai Spirit and Tiny Epic Defenders are actually quite similar cooperative tower defense-like games and either will make for a good family game night title—though I think the look of Samurai Spirit is more appealing. Tiny Epic Kingdoms will compete with Tiny Epic Galaxies (Gamelyn, 2015) which is already in the collection. Sylvion is actually more of a solo game and as such it will land on my table occasionally; if it has a drawback it’s because it’s more eurogame-like and therefore not my personally preferred gaming genre given it’s obvious preference for mechanism over theme (but the theme—what there is of it—is cute). Space Empires 4x is in the “wargame to play” pile…just behind Indian Ocean Region and Stalingrad ’42.

A Tiny Mayday -or- My #Boardgame Weekend Taking on the Galaxy in Tiny Epic Galaxies (@Gamelyn_Games, 2015) and Traveller: The Customizable Card Game (@TravellerCCG, 2017)

This weekends gaming selection at the RockyMountainNavy home was out of this world as two galactic titles landed on the gaming table. As far out as the game subjects were, they both did their job of making home an enjoyable place to be.

Tiny Epic Galaxies (Courtesy Gamelyn Games)

The RockyMountainNavy Boys wanted to play our traditional Saturday night boardgame but asked for something a bit shorter. So Tiny Epic Galaxies (Gamelyn Games, 2015) landed on the table. We had not played this game in nearly a year TWO YEARS (!) so it took a round to relearn the rules. That’s didn’t stop the RMN Boys; they both ended the game on the same turn with the needed 21 points. It fell to RMN Jr’s Secret Mission – Trader to give him two bonus points and the win. Awesome first play of 2020!

Traveller: The Customizable Card Game (Photo by RMN)

Afterwards, I pulled out my recently acquired Traveller: The Customizable Card Game Two-Player Starter Set (Horizon Games, 2017) and turned the rest of the evening into a learning session for myself. Generally speaking, over the decades I have stayed away from the collectible or living or customizable card genre of hobby gaming. Long ago the RMN Boys collected Pokemon cards, and RMN T still collects Magic: The Gathering cards, but we don’t play the games. So for myself, learning how to play a card game like Traveller: CCG is a whole new challenge.

Traveller: CCG also comes with a solo play mode. After stepping thru the rule book I set up a solo game and played it out. I took the classic Beowulf Free Trader and tried to make my way in the galaxy. The first contract I took, Bulk Hauling, ended up with a Buccaneer hazard attached. The call-back to the original Little Black Books of the Traveller RPG that I first got during Christmas 1979 with the iconic, “Mayday. Mayday” on the cover of the boxes set made me so giddy with joy I actually giggled out loud.

The original Traveller RPG Little Black Books box

I ended my first game of Traveller: CCG bankrupt (i.e. I lost), but gained much gameplay experience. Most importantly, I immediately wanted to play again.

Learning game…out in the black and in the red (Photo by RMN)

Much to my surprise, the Traveller: CCG feels incredibly thematic. I was just a little tramp freighter trying to make my way in the big galaxy, reaching for a job here and there, always living on the edge of losing it all. It was fun. I want to play it again. I want to get the expansion sets (I don’t think I’ll go for the play mats but instead use my Star Wars: X-Wing play mat).

My Star Wars: X-Wing Play Mat – At 3’x3′ it’s perfect for playing Traveller: CCG solo or with a second player (Photo by RMN)

It seems you can teach an old Grognard new tricks.


Feature image courtesy pexels

#Wargame #Boardgame #SocialDistancing in the time of #COVID-19

AS OF THIS MORNING (15 MARCH), my local county health department is reporting 10 ‘presumptive positive’ cases of COVID-19. The school district has already shut down thru 10 April and many events are cancelled to encourage ‘social distancing.’

In the RockyMountainNavy household, we have dealt with COVID-19 since Mrs. RMN returned from Korea right as the epidemic was breaking out there. She laid low for 14 days not because of self-isolation but because others avoided her (the worst ‘racists’ are often from one’s own race). Now there is panic in the wider community (why are people hoarding toilet paper?) and much is being cancelled. One aspect of social distancing we are practicing is to distance ourselves from social media. Frankly, its all doom and gloom with lots of disinformation. In a practical response this means that wargames and boardgames are hitting the gaming table more often.

For myself, I have played solitaire sessions of Steamroller: Tannenburg 1914 from Yaah! Magazine #10 (Flying Pig Games, 2017) and Less Than 60 Miles (Thin Red Line Games, 2019). I am able to get bigger and longer games to the table because I literally set up a table in the loft that allows me to put a game down and keep it there for a while.

From the family perspective we are using several different approaches to gaming. For our usual ‘longer’ weekend plays we are going back to finish our Scythe: The Rise of Fenris campaign (Stonemaier Games, 2018) while mixing in shorter family games at other times like Tiny Epic Galaxies (Gamelyn Games, 2015). I also am throwing in some 1v1 wargames like Hold the Line: The American Civil War (Worthington Publishing, 2019) to play against the one of the boys when they get tired of one another. In this time of crisis, we are also occasionally taking care of young children of family friends who are struggling with daycare and work. In those cases we pull out the family games for like Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2016) or even Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004). The list of games goes on and on as we (now fortunately) have a large gaming collection.

The RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself also have a ‘healthy’ collection of plastic models that need to be built. Today we will venture to the FLGS/Hobby store (Huzzah Hobbies) to lay in some supplies.

We have even talked about reviving our Traveller RPG campaign (using Cepheus Engine rules) or our long set-aside Star Wars sessions using the Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Roleplaying Game rules.

With boardgames, wargames, RPGs, and models we are pretty set to hunker down for the next several weeks. Let’s hope that everybody stays safe and we get thru this crisis as best we can.


Feature image: Playing Nexus Ops (Avalon Hill, 2005)

#Snowday #wargame #boardgame w/ #RevolutionGames @Hollandspiele @compassgamesllc @StrongholdGames @Gamelyn_Games @gmtgames

It snowed here yesterday.

Not a YUGE snowstorm, but enough that the Federal and Local governments along with schools were closed. Road conditions looked pretty bad so the entire RockyMountainNavy family stayed in all day. Which means it’s GAMING time!

21Zs4bRKTyePYBBq8zpgGQThe first game played was actually the night before. Seeing that a day off was coming I pulled out Counter-Attack: The Battle of Arras, 1940 (Take Aim Designs/Revolution Games, 2019). I used the Historical Setup (again) but this game went nothing like my last. The Impulse part of the Area-Impulse mechanic ensured that the fortunes of war were fickle, especially for the German player. This time fate favored the Allies who won an Automatic Victory at the end of Turn 2.

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German victory….

For the snow day proper, the first wargame to hit the table was Brave Little Belgium (Hollandspiele, 2019). Again, the chit-pull mechanic made for a hard-fought battle. At first the Germans were neigh-unstoppable but in the mid-game the tide turned against them. However, in the late-game the End Turn chits came out before the Entente could counterattack effectively. The Germans won…just barely.

 

pacific-tide-front-coverPacific Tide: The United States versus Japan, 1941-45 (Compass Games, 2019) followed with me playing as the Japanese player against the US solitaire bot. Although the rules for this game are very easy I still struggle to execute good actions for the US side. Consequently, the bot was unable to stop me and I achieved an Automatic Victory at the end of 1942.

The RockyMountainNavy Boys interrupted my wargame marathon with a 3-player Tiny Epic Galaxies (Gamelyn Games, 2015). I was able to hold them off and win with the Orbiter Secret Mission.

519Going into the late afternoon and evening, I pulled out Cataclysm: A Second World War (GMT Games, 2018) and set up scenario C.7 Pour La Patrie. This is an alternate history scenario which posits that France is Fascist and allied with Germany while Italy is Democratic and allied with the United Kingdom. The scenario runs from 1937 to 1942 (three turns). I really liked this scenario as it allowed me to explore the core game mechanic without any subconscious pressure to follow a “historical” strategy.

With schools already calling for a 2-hour delay on the next day all three RockyMountainNavy Boys challenged me to a fun game of Survive: Escape from Atlantis (Stronghold Games, 2012). Sharks and Krakens and Whales, oh my! I never had a chance!


Feature image by self

Blah-day Gaming

Today was a Federal Holiday to honor former President H.W. Bush and although I didn’t have to go to work the Youngest RockyMountainNavy Boy was also home. He had come down with a case of the blahs and didn’t really look healthy enough to go to school. Instead, he stayed home and we both took advantage of the day for some father-son bonding using boardgames!

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BGG.com

The first game of the day we played was Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017). It was a good two-player contest with me emerging victorious 54-44. Today’s play also pushed Queendomino into my Dimes group of played games (at least 10 plays) for 2018.

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BGG.com

The second game of the day was Tiny Epic Galaxies (Gamelyn Games, 2015). My Secret Mission was Orbiter (all ships on home galaxy at game end, +2 VP) while Youngest RMN Boy was Conqueror (most planets, +3 VP). The Secret Mission 1 VP difference was the final scoring difference with Youngest RMN squeaking by with the 1VP win (24-23).

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Credit – Self

The third and last game of the day was Ticket to Ride: New York (Days of Wonder, 2018). This was another game that needed one more play to enter Dime -status for the year. Middle RMN Boy joined us for this game which in hindsight was a mistake as he totally swept us 38-31-25.

None of the games played today were “heavy” by any stretch of the imagination. In many ways playing the “lighter” games was right because the play emphasized family together time instead of being a “brain-burner.”

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Credit – Self

As excited as Little RMN was to play with Dad on this Holiday/Sick Day, he got more excited when a certain box arrived. Pandemic: Fall of Rome (Z-Man Games, 2018) is now in the house and will almost certainly land on the gaming table this weekend for a 4-player session. Given the theme, even the Oldest RMN Boy wants to play. Which goes again to show how gaming can bring family and friends together and make even a dreary day so much better.

Featured image courtesy Z-Man Games.

July Gaming Festivities – or – A Good Month of #Wargaming but Better to Have Family Back After Travel

This past July should not have been a good gaming month.

My “regular gaming group” (aka the RockyMountainNavy Boys) were on international travel the entire month. Before they left, we played one game, Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017) together.We didn’t play another game together until they got back and Tiny Epic Galaxies (Gamelyn Games, 2015) launched.

Yet somehow in between I played 23 other games. Better yet, 20 plays were of WARGAMES! Yet even better, and uncounted in my BGG Played log, the RockyMountainNavy Boys shared games with the family in Korea and made some lasting memories along the way.

fullsizeoutput_609The top played wargame of the month was Cataclysm: A Second World War (GMT Games, 2018). I call Cataclysm a wargame though I actually see it as a strategy game of politics. When I tried to play Cataclysm as a wargame it was disappointing; as a strategy game I love it!

Another notable play of the month was the first full scenario run of Battle Hymn Vol. 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (Compass Games, 2018). The chit-pull activation mechanic makes this game very interesting by showing the friction of war. Additionally, it can’t be the Fourth of July without Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection (GMT Games, 2016) making a rebellious appearance on the table. GMT Games also offered a Fourth of July Holiday Sale where I picked up Washington’s War (GMT Games, 2015 reprint). I am lucky I did so because it is now out-of-stock.

It was on travel this month that I picked up Tiny Epic Galaxies. Played it solo a few times in the hotel. As much fun as it is in the solo mode I enjoy it even more when playing against the RockyMountainNavy Boys.

Alas, July 2018 was also a month of wargaming disappointments. I was supposed to go to the CONNECTIONS 2018 wargaming conference but was pulled off at the last minute by work. I was supposed to go to the World Boardgaming Championships (WBC) but waved off after traveling on official business and getting home late the night before I was supposed to drive. I sorta owe an apology to Alexander and Grant of The Player’s Aid (@playersaidblog on Twitter) because I had planned to meet them. From the looks of it they certainly didn’t miss me as they tweeted and blogged about all the great talks and games at WBC!

When the RockyMountainNavy Boys returned home they brought lots of good stories about playing games with the family in Korea. They took along (and left behind) copies of:

  • Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017) – Very popular with cousins
  • Quartto Mini (Gigamic Edition, 2017) – Good brain game for older family and especially an Uncle who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Chicken Cha Cha Cha (Rio Grande Games Edition, 2011) – Mrs. RockyMountainNavy wanted to get this great game for her nephew’s daughter; she is a bit too young right now but the game will be there when she is ready!
  • Rhino Hero (Haba, 2011) – What is marketed as a kid’s game was the most popular game amongst the adults; so popular the RockyMountainNavy Boys surrendered their copy to their cousin so she could take it to play with her friends (all mid-late 20’s)
  • Happy Salmon (North Star Games, 2016) – I keep hearing stories of an epic night there all the adults stood around and played a game of Happy Salmon; the youngest RMN Boy tells me everyone – players and observers alike – were laughing so hard he couldn’t even record the game.

Though I was able to get alot of good wargaming in by myself this past month, I really and glad the RockyMountainNavy Boys are back. They want to play a game every day in August until school starts.

I like that idea; will keep you posted!