#SundaySummary – A War Chest from Japan to Cambrai to Angola while going Tongues Out with the reading Marines & watching for incoming. @alderac @trevormbenjamin @djackthompson @MultiManPub @ADragoons @BlueOrangeGames @MC_UPress #Wargames #Boardgames #MilitaryBooks

Good week; bad week.

The Good

Wargames

RockyMountainNavy Game Night featured War Chest by Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson from Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG, 2018). We hadn’t played for a while so we took our time and really enjoyed the trash and tactics table talk. Alas, RockyMountainNavy T continues his win streak against Dad and handed me yet another defeat. Sounds bad but really it was good to play an awesome wargame that makes you think and agonize over almost every move. Also hard to beat the clicking of those hefty coins in your hand…

He’s a mighty young king… (Photo by RMN)

In happier news I took advantage of the Multi-Man Publishing Fall Sale to acquire a few new-to-me games at nice discounts.

Warriors of Japan: A Country Aflame 1333-1339 (regular $48 sale $15) is a low-complexity, high solitaire suitability game. Hmm… Breakthrough: Cambrai (regular $44 sale $15) is a Michael Rinella area-movement, impulse mechanics game. I like similar Rinella games (Patton’s Vanguard: The Battle of Arracourt, 1944 from Revolution Games comes to mind) so I have high hopes for this title. Angola! (regular $83 sale $30) is a four-player game that I may have a hard time finding enough players to get a full game in but as much as I want to play I also just want to tear it apart and see how the game mechanisms work. Regardless, Regimental Commander Brant at Armchair Dragoons pointed out that I have plenty of #Unboxing Day materials for the next few months…

Speaking of the Armchair Dragoons, I am scheduled to record a podcast this coming week on “Accessories.” Look for that episode of Mentioned in Dispatches to be out later this month.

Boardgames

Although my own boys are older, I am always looking out for good children’s games for Mrs. RockyMountainNavy to use with her elementary-age students—or her favorite nephew’s daughter in Korea. Thus, Tongues Out released this year from Blue Orange Games arrived. For some reason I don’t think Brant is looking for an unboxing of this one.

Let loose the dogs of…fun?

Books

If you don’t already know, Marine Corps University Press offers books for free. As their website states, “As a federal government publisher, our works are free of charge, but please help us be good stewards of federal dollars and request only the books or journals you need most.” Admittedly, I already have a few of these in digits but I’m a bit old-fashioned in some ways so picked up dead-tree versions. I find physical books easier to thumb through quickly when I’m looking for a particular section.

From Marine Corps University Press (Photo by RMN)

INCOMING!

After who-knows-how-long Compass Games put Carrier Battle: Philippine Sea by Jon Southard up on Kickstarter which means it is getting close to print. The 2022 Holiday Catalog carried it as “Early 2023” so that may actually be accurate.

Speaking of naval games (and I wouldn’t be RockyMountainNAVY if I didn’t), I also bit the bullet on Task Force – Carrier Battles in the Pacific from VUCA Simulations. This game appears to be a major update of the 1982 edition. The preorder discount is in effect and the publisher reports, “This game is now at the printer and will be shipped in early 2023.”

“At Sea: No arrival date yet” is how GMT Games describes Next War: Supplement #3. As the website states: “Effectively, this supplement is an upgrade kit for Next War: Poland, 1st Edition to the 2nd Edition, but, of course, it also includes goodies such as the additional counters, the ROK OoB, [Next War: Korea] new Cyber Warfare rules, and assorted other optional rules.” My gut feeling is that this game supplement could arrive before Christmas…maybe.

A game that may be closer to arrival is SUM8 by Turnup Games. They updated Kickstarter backers with this positive message on November 01, “We wanted to give you an update on where the SUM8 Classic Edition shipping is at. The boat arrived in port on Friday October 21st. We are now patiently waiting for it to clear customs and be on its way. ARC Global, our Logistics partner is in constant contact with us, and do not believe it should be held much longer. As soon as it is released and moving again we will let you know!”

I also have several books inbound from Helion Publishing on a historical topic that is a personal favorite of mine. The ones I ordered where on enough of a sale that even with shipping from the UK thrown in they were still better priced than going through Amazon. I hope that once they arrive I will have the basis for a “History to Wargame” blog series going into next year.

The Bad

Not really that bad, but…challenging. With the arrival of two sisters-in-law for an extended stay, RockyMountainNavy Jr. coming home for the holidays, and two business trips in the next months, I have for the most part “lost” my gaming space (and lots gaming time) for the next 90 days. When I do get a chance to play if it’s not Game Night then I am forced to use a collapsible 4×5 low table that I can’t keep set up all the time. However, with RMN Jr. back we should get some more family gaming in so that’s not really bad…


Feature image courtesy of self

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Sunday Summary – The No #Wargame Vacation Edition but New Arrivals Upon Return

Last week was vacation. We took along a few boardgames but the reality was we did so much together as a family during the day that evenings were down times and little gaming. The RockyMountainNavy Boys did get a very competitive game of Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004) in with a good family friend that I sat out.

New Arrivals

While I was gone a few new arrivals were delivered. The first was two trades that I arranged before traveling. I scored a (game only) copy of Drive on Frankfurt by designer Jon Southard that was published in Counter Attack Issue #1 back in 1987. I also scored a copy of a very old game, Hitler’s Last Gamble: The Battle of the Bulge, designed by Dave Isby in 1975 for Rand Game Associates. Look for first impressions of both of these in the future—maybe even another Armchair Dragoons #TBT entry like I did with TACTICS II.

The next item delivered was Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible. Written by John Treadaway and John Lambshead, this book bills itself as the “Ultimate, all-in-one rules system for tabletop gaming plus technical specifications, vehicle designs, timeline & background material for the Slammer’s Universe.” After reading David Drake’s early July newsletter I got worried that the curtain may be close to falling on the Slammers and wanted to get my copy before I couldn’t any longer.

Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible

Game of the Week – or – Visiting Neptune’s Inferno with Tokyo Express: The Guadalcanal Naval Campaign, 1942 (Victory Games, 1988)

For most of the campaign, Guadalcanal was a contest of equals, perhaps the only major battle in the Pacific where the United States and Japan fought from positions of parity. Its outcome was often in doubt. – James D. Hornfischer, Neptune’s Inferno, Prologue.

pic360048From the perspective of game mechanics, Tokyo Express: The Guadalcanal Naval Campaign, 1942 (Victory Games, 1988) can be a real chore. This solitaire game leverages a heavy workload on the player to not only make decisions for their own side, but also to run the opposing AI. However, once you make it past the initial (steep?) learning curve, the game opens up a narrative battle experience unlike so many others.

In a way it is unfair to call Tokyo Express a historical game. Yes, there are scenarios that replicate the starting conditions of many battles, but the real power of Tokyo Express is how it make the unknown a part of the game and forces the player to deal with it. What may be the two most important rules in Tokyo Express are not what many grognards would think. Rule 6.0 Detection and 7.0 Japanese Hidden Forces are the parts of the game that make the narrative come alive.

Before you can open fire, you must see the target. That is the crux of 6.0 Detection. Be it visually or by radar, the importance of detecting the enemy first is a core game mechanic in Tokyo Express. When taken in combination with 7.0 Hidden Japanese Forces, the game creates it own unique narrative of battle ensuring that no two games are ever alike. The Design Note for 7.0 actually frames the entire game and brings the drama of the battle to the forefront:

The game begins with you patrolling Ironbottom Sound, looking for the Japanese who are somewhere off in the darkness. The Japanese appear initially as blips on your long-range search radar. Hidden forces represent anything your radar operator thinks might be a Japanese force. Sometimes it will indeed be warships; other times it will just be a “radar ghost.” You find out by detecting it.

In Tokyo Express, game designer Jon Southard captures the most important elements of the naval battle around Guadalcanal. In his Design Notes he makes no excuses for the difficulty of the game. In some ways Mr. Southard was ahead of his time when he designed Tokyo Express to be an “experience” and not a “simulation.” He especially makes no excuse for the difficulty of winning:

In your initial encounters with Tokyo Express, you will, I hope, feel some of the frustration and awe the American admirals did. The objective throughout the design process was to give you their bridge-eye view. You may be defeated at first, but you should find your own solutions, as the US admirals finally did.

8575701By making its core design feature “find your own solutions,” Tokyo Express takes what many wargames do, challenging players to find a path to victory, and elevates it to the highest levels of the hobby. It is a testimony to the power of his design that 30 years after its initial publication the title is worthy of a reprint. Pairing this game with James D. Hornfischer’s Neptune’s Inferno: The US Navy at Guadalcanal (Bantam Books, 2011) allows one to not only read the history, but then take the same human drama Hornfischer relates and make it come alive.

Featured image courtesy BoardGameGeek.