Speaking about throwbacks to old wargames, GMT Games announced this week that Jim Day’s next entry in the Panzer (Second Edition) series, Panzer: North Africa, has “made the cut” in their P500 program. Longtime readers might recall that Panzer (Yaquinto Publishing, 1979) was my very first wargame. I eagerly bought up the entire original series; Panzer, ’88’and Armor, and they still own a prominent spot on my gaming shelves. I am glad that after 40 years a “new” edition of ’88’ is coming.
I am very interested in getting Wing Leader: Legends to the table as it includes the “Decision Over Kursk” campaign system. Some readers may recall several “My Kursk Kampaign” postings from earlier this spring where I dove in-depth into that battle. At the time I wanted to explore the air war more:
As I start this exploration, my copy of Wing Leader: Legends 1937-1945 (GMT Games, forthcoming in 2021) is “At the Printer” meaning it may deliver sometime in mid-2021. If it delivers in time I would certainly like to play the campaign system which focuses on the air battles supporting the Battle of Kursk. I really want to explore a point Glantz makes on page 63 in his book; “Red aircraft might be inferior to their German counterparts, but they were certainly sufficient in numbers to deny the Luftwaffe undisputed command of the air.”
Although you can’t see it in the photo of The Dark Summer, I am, frankly, a bit surprised the game shipped in a 1.5″ deep box. One can interpret this as a sign that the game is smaller, and with a single 22″x34″ map and two countersheets that appears true. I guess I thought a Normandy campaign game just “has to be” big but this one-mapper is already challenging my preconceptions.
Game of the Week
Now that I’m back to a pretty regular work schedule (office is basically 100% reconstituted) I need to work on getting back to a “regular” gaming schedule. Thus, I will be starting a “Game of the Week” approach to play. Basically, the Game of the Week approach gives me seven days to unbox, learn, play, and consider a game. I have a rough idea of how a week might progress:
Sunday – Unbox new game, start rules learning/review
Monday – Rules learning/review, set up first play
Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday – Play
Friday – (Skip Day)
Saturday – Considerations/Clean up (Family Game Night?)
I have a backlog of games on the “To Play” shelf that I need to get to over the next few weeks of summer before getting to Wing Leader: Legends and The Dark Summer: I’m trying to play games in the order of their arrival:
While playing games I also am also committed to reading more. When possible, I like to mix a book with the Game of the Week but that’s not always possible as I have other books on the “To Read” pile. I finished up Meade at Gettysburg: A Study in Command by Kent Masterson Brown (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2021) and it will be the subject of this coming week’s “Rocky Reads for Wargame” column. I am pretty sure that 2034: A Novel of the Next War by Eliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis will likely be read in conjunction with Indian Ocean Region when it is up for Game of the Week.
One of my favorite online sources for plastic models closed due to bankruptcy late in 2020. Thanks to a new owner, www. squadron.com is back. The reopening has not been the smoothest, but they are trying to work out the kinks. Given how few good plastic model retailers there are online I hope they make it!
The RockyMountainNavy family tried a new-to-us restaurant this week. The Capital Burger bills itself as purveyors of “luxe” burgers. They use a proprietary blend of beef to make their burgers; I never imagined it could make a difference—but it does. Their Kung Pao Brussel Sprouts are my new favorite and a great replacement for french fries. Oh yeah, it all pairs well with a good ale….
Although derided by many gamers as “Accountancy in Space,” SFB at it’s core is a resource management game for spaceships. Energy management is the key to maneuvering your ship and powering weapons.Managing the balance between the two is the real key to victory and is what makes the game enjoyable. Talon(GMT Games, 2016) is a true successor to SFBthat keeps the core energy management theme but implements it using a set of very playable game mechanics.
So this past Family Game Night found Talon on the table. With three players we made a scratch-built scenario with myself leading 2x Talon Battlecruisers (BC) against the two RMN Boys each controlling a Terran Light Cruiser (CL) and Destroyer (DD). With relatively balanced fleets we played a simple Meeting Engagement.
The RMN Boys quickly figured out that if they divided their forces and tried to take on one BC individually they could be overwhelmed. Instead they concentrated their forces against one BC at a time. After some initial “learning” about the difficulty of hitting at maximum range they quickly figured out how to use the Power Curve to their advantage (slowing down when needing to power weapons followed by slashing attacks when ready). They also paid real close attention to weapon arcs and were very successful in avoiding my most dangerous armaments. It seemed that whenever I was ready to use my Missiles (Speed 6, Range 4, 2 Damage) they were not in arc! Not that they avoided damage; by Round 6 when I lost my first BC (mostly because a Critical Hit prevented it from maneuvering and avoiding fire) the Terrans had lost a DD and all the other ships had at least one Critical Hit. But my BC was also hurting and in Round 7 my FTL was “spooled up” and if I could last to the end of the round I was going to jump away.
Not. So. Fast.
I was hurt and I knew it so I adjusted my Power Curve to get going as fast as I could. However, I had a fast Terran DD on my tail and it was not going to be denied. In literally the last Impulse of the turn the DD reached optimal weapons range for its Anti-Matter Torpedo(Hit on 2-6 at Range 2, 4 Damage) and blew past the lone shield reinforcement to destroy the last of the Hull boxes in my BC. GAME OVER…for now.
As I write this post, the RMN Boys are poring over the new ships in the expansion Talon 1000 (GMT Games, 2018). They want to play a larger fleet battle with fighters and bases. Both told me they really enjoy the meaningful decision challenge that comes from having to manage your energy and optimize your maneuver and firing actions. From a component perspective, they really are taken by the laminated counters and how easy it makes play.
Talon is probably going to get thrown into the gaming rotation in a fairly heavy way this summer. I’m certainly not complaining; Talonuses easy game mechanics to create agonizing, brain-burning decision points. And it’s fun!
If you have not listened to the boys from So Very Wrong About Gamesyou certainly need to. Like the title of their podcasts says, they relish in pointing out what they like, and especially what they don’t about boardgames. They are not shy about offering their opinion, which is what makes SVWAG a worthy listen. Be warned though; if you have your own opinions and cannot listen to your games taking criticism then you will not be happy. Further, if you are a wargamer, you could become agitated as one of the hosts, Mike Walker, is not a wargamer and openly (at least on the show) despises wargames. On the other hand, co-host Mark Bigney is a wargamer, and apparently an old-school wargamer at that.
Neither of them are right, and neither of them are wrong.
If you are looking for a manual videogame version of the Star Wars universe and enjoy competition play through buying ships, adding “power-ups,” and then throwing miniatures down on a mat then X-Wing is definitely your game. This is game Walker wants; Talonis not going to give it to him.
But…if you want another view of starship combat, one where managing resources (power) is interesting to you, then you may want to look at Talon. This is the game Bigney relishes; a game of tight resources and decision points.
For myself, I think I have made it clear before that Talon is more my preference. Sure, there is an element of “chits on the table” in Talon like Walker complains about but in this game it all fits thematically. In my more recent plays, I have also come to more deeply appreciate the ingenuity of the dry-erase ship markings and how they portray information that before was consigned to ship data sheets and the like. To me, Talon delivers an experience of starship combat through a game whereas X-Wingdelivers, well, just a game.
One problem with Talonmay be it’s age. Designer Jim Krohn has offered up a very modern interpretation of “I need more power, Scotty” science fiction battles. To us grognards, Talonis a refreshing look at an issue that was first tackled nearly 40 years ago in a little pocket folio game from Task Force Games. But what started out as as just over 100 counters and about a dozen ships blossomed into Master Rulebook of over 460 pages. Even with that you still need pages and pages (and binders and binders) more of ships and scenarios to play. Although the core game mechanic of energy allocation was reimplemented and much streamlined in Federation Commander, the fact remains that to play these games requires a major investment of money for materials and time to learn, and play, the games. Talon on the other hand returns to a much simpler implementation of the core mechanic using a different streamlined approach and mixes it with graphics right on the counters to help convey the information quickly and enable speedy play on the table. But how do you explain all this design beauty to a generation of gamers that grew up on Star Wars and barrel rolls in space and never had to fill out an Energy Allocation Form, or as some call it, Accountants in Space?
I doff my cap to the Boys at So Very Wrong About Games for talking about Taloneven though it was clearly “not in the wheelhouse” of one of the hosts. In the end though, Mike and Mark actually do science fiction boardgamers/wargamers a great service. The real take-away message from the podcast is that games come in many different forms. The only wrong message one could take away from their them is that there is not a game for you out there. On the contrary, So Very Wrong About Games shows us why the industry is so right; we are very lucky that we can have both X-Wingand Talon.