#Boardgame Education – 2020 #COVID Back to (Virtual) School Special Edition featuring @BlueOrangeGames, @FlyingMeeple, @playrooment, @Academy_Games, @SJGames

The local school district here chose online (virtual) school for this year. I’m not going to go into the absolute disaster the superintendent and school board have wrought upon our youth, but instead try to find something positive to say using boardgames and wargames. I will try my best to keep political rants out of here but, oh boy, things here are so screwed up it’s hard!

Mrs. RockyMountainNavy, who is an Early Childhood educator, strongly believes that learning comes from doing. Unfortunately, as we observe our own high schooler (11th Grade), a friends middle schooler (6th Grade), and another friends elementary schooler (1st Grade) in their online classrooms we are disappointed in the amount of actual learning taking place. In response, we have looked for games to support learning.

Mrs. RMN and I strongly believe that games help educate in many different ways. First, there is the social aspect. I am proud to say that my kids actually look at your face when they talk to you not down at a phone screen. In great part we believe this is because we always push the most important social aspect of gaming; playing with others. Just the other day, Miss A, the 1st grader, lost a game of Dragomino (Blue Orange Games, 2020). She immediately declared she didn’t like the game AT ALL. We reminded her that she actually won the previous three games, and asked her to remember those. She sheepishly smiled and challenged us to another game (which she won).

Mrs. RMN believes that when learning is made tangible it means so much more. We are fortunate to live in the Washington D.C. area so we take advantage of the many museums and historical sites to help teach. In these COVID times and online schooling, finding the tangible is so much harder. We see the younger grades losing the most as they are unable to really learn from passively watching a checkerboard of faces on a small screen for hours on end. To learn they need more than listen; learning from an interactive experience is often the strongest way to imprint something in the brain.

With the first grader suffering the most, we try to find games that challenge her to think logically. She is an emergent reader right now and pretty good at math, but ‘putting it all together’ is a bit harder. Recently, we introduced her to Dragomino (already mentioned) and Dig Dog Dig (Flying Meeples, 2019). She likes both, but Mrs. RMN wanted to gift her a copy of Dig Dog Dig because it is one of the rare games that really engages a 5 or 6 year old child. When the game arrived, we sat down to teach her mother how to play so they could play at home. We need’t have worried because Miss A quickly took control and taught the game to her mother! Sure, her teach was not perfect but she got all the gross mechanics correct. This was all the more impressive given she had played the game with us maybe a half-dozen times. Most importantly, it showed she engaged with the game and internalized it. She ‘learned’ how to learn, and teach, the game.

Dig Dog Dig (Flying Meeples, 2019)

The sixth grader is much more challenging. Miss C came to us because she was falling far behind in math. RockyMountainNavy Jr. actually tutored her as his summer job since she had so many negative experiences with older tutors that she was rebelling. With a focus on math we tried some math games we had around, like Math Dice (ThinkFun, 2003), but it is too ‘school-like’ and she refused it. Digging deeper into the drawers of the gaming collection, we found a copy of Top Dogs (Playroom Entertainment, 2005). When we first brought the game out, she was immediately taken by the cute artwork. For us, the fact you need to do three-factor multiplication meant it hit exactly at a weakpoint of her learning. When we played the game she enjoyed it, even though she was a bit slower at calculating than others. Unlike Math Dice, she continued to play Top Dogs because she saw it more as a game and less as a lesson.

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Top Dogs (Playroom Entertainment, 2005)

More recently, we discovered that Miss C actually is very weak at quickly adding and subtracting numbers. We tried increasing her speed by using flash cards but, again, she rebelled because that feels too much like school. Digging through our shelves (again) I came across Sumoku (Blue Orange Games, 2010). This game hit several needs for Miss C; she needs to know factors of certain numbers and she needs to add groups of numbers. More importantly, she likes to play the game, especially against RockyMountainNavy Jr. (I admit there is a certain degree of ‘puppy love’ in play here too).

Sumoko (Blue Orange Games, 2010)

Speaking of RockyMountainNavy Jr., boardgames and wargames fully support his learning environment. He first real learning of American geography came from Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004) to Air Force (Battleline, 1976) where he learned the very basic of flight. This school year his US/Virginia history class started with an online quiz of the 13 colonies. The teacher challenged the class to beat his time of 14 seconds. RockyMountainNavy T quickly clocked times of 13 and 12 seconds. He also freely admitted that the reason he knows his colonies so well is the many times we played 1775: Rebellion (Academy Games, 2013).

1775: Rebellion (Academy Games, 2013)

Just the other night RockyMountainNavy Jr. was talking to me about learning vectors in his Physics class. Not only was he learning about vectors in Physics, but Miss C had asked him a question about her science homework earlier in the day (the question concerned movement is space). As he talked to me, I calmly walked to the game shelves and returned with a copy of Triplanetary: The Classic Game of Space Combat – Third Edition (Steve Jackson Games, 2018). I proceeded to pull out the contents and we sketched a few vectors about. He instantly grasped the basics of 2d vectors (and asked that we add Triplanetary to the Saturday Game Night rotation).

Triplanetary – Third Edition (Steve Jackson Games, 2018)

As much as we play games for learning, we also play games for relaxation. With great number of hours the kids are spending online during the day it becomes important for them to have offscreen activities. Here is where boardgames and wargames really shine. We are of course a gaming family, but we have also brought games to others (especially younger families) and are always on the lookout to share good games for families. Recent hits in the RockyMountainNavy home include Here to Slay (Unstable Games, 2020) and Fort (Leder Games, 2020).

In several ways COVID has ruined dreams plans I had for introducing boardgames into history classes at RockyMountainNavy Jr’s high school. Last year, right as the plandemic pandemic hit I was in contact with Jr’s history teacher about introducing 1775: Rebellion into the classroom. In particular, we were looking at some sort of implementation of the based on the Teaching the American Revolution through Play – 1775 Teacher’s Manual available through Academy Games.

1775: Rebellion Teachers Manual

In these COVID times boardgames and wargames serve as a very helpful coping mechanism not only for the immediate RockyMountainNavy family but also for our ‘extended’ family of students and friends. I don’t see that ever stopping.


Feature image Plan Orange: Pacific War 1930-1032 (C3iMagazine Nr. 29, 2016) and related reading.

September #Wargame #Boardgame Forecast – It’s Raining Games!

In late June I made a bold forecast that as any as nine (9) of 27 games I had on preorder or Kickstarter could deliver by the end of July. Alas, it didn’t quite turn out that way.

August looked much better. Let’s see what happened this month and look a bit ahead to September….

Delivered

  1. Undaunted: North Africa (Osprey Games, 2020)Preorder Waro. DELIVERED. Good game slightly marred by the printing errors….
  2. Fort (Leder Games, 2020): Publisher-direct Preorder. DELIVERED. Who are your friends? Only the ones you play with!
  3. Quartermaster General: The Cold War (PSC Games, 2018)Online Retailer Purchase. Strategy Wargame? – DELIVERED. BGG lists this as a wargame. Not so fast….
  4. Scythe Complete Rulebook (Stonemaier Games, 2020): Publisher-direct Preorder. DELIVERED. Having recently started replaying Scythe and nearing completion of our The Rise of Fenris campaign its good to get all the rules in one organized place. Email Update 28 Aug“To-date we have not found a single instance of a rules error impacting gameplay in the 136-page document. Except in one section. The Automa rules need some work. I apologize for this and we take full responsibility. We believe these errors are large enough to justify a reprint. The good news is that many of you don’t play using the Automa (solo mode), and may never reference this section of the rulebook. But if you use the Automa or plan to in the future, we will send you a new spiralbound Scythe Complete Rulebook for free.” Here’s what we’ll do. Simply fill out this form and we’ll send you another Scythe Complete Rulebook when it’s reprinted in a few months using the mailing address from your previous order.”
  5. Dragomino (Blue Orange Games, 2020): Bonus Purchase – DELIVERED. Billed as “My First Kingdomino” I was a bit dubious as to how they could accomplish this. After all, Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017) is already a very simple game. Ordered as part of the Gen Con Online specials. SO HAPPY! Mrs. RMN introduced this game to all her students; all love it. Even RMN Jr (Mr. Kingdomino in the RMN House) likes to play!
  6. Dig Dog Dig (Flying Meeple, 2019): Bonus Purchase – DELIVERED. Another game bought to support the younger students of Mrs. RMN. This title is criminally under-appreciated. At heart a memory game, the toy factor and play makes this perfect for the early reader or younger gamers in your family.

Still Waiting

  1. One Small Step (Academy Games, 2020)Kickstarter Boardgame. UPDATE from August 7– “The container ship Seaspan Raptor is currently off the coast of Mexico and will arrive at the Panama Canal today. It is expect it to arrive in Florida August 10th! Your games will be shipped to you by Quartermaster Logistics, located in Orlando, FL hopefully by the end of next week.” NOTHING SEEN/HEARD SINCE.
  2. The Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle Games, 2020)Kickstarter Waro. August 10 Update: “I also have some bad news. The shipping date from China has been pushed back further – to September 7. Just as you all have shown patience with me, I know I have to show patience with the folks manufacturing the game. But it is still extremely frustrating. And, unfortunately, airmailing the games here is truly cost-prohibitive – sink the company, never to be seen again level of cost-prohibitive. So this means it won’t be in anyone’s hands until October.”
  3. French & Indian War 1757-1759 (Worthington Publishing): Kickstarter Wargame. From a July 29 Update “The ship carrying both CRUSADER KINGDOMS and FRENCH & INDIAN WAR will hit the port in New York August 13.  We should expect for us to receive the games within 2 weeks of that barring a customs snag. Thats means it is possible we may be shipping the last week of August, and if not then the first week of September!!!”
  4. Flying Colors 3rd Edition Update Kit (GMT Games): P500. Charged 05 August. To ship shortly thereafter. Enroute!

New Orders

  1. Empire of the Sun, 4th Edition (GMT Games, 202?): New to the P500 this month. Could. Not. Resist.
  2. Supercharged (The Dietz Foundation, 2021?): Kickstarter. Looks like a good racing game. As the husband of a mother that uses boardgames to teach I also like what the Dietz Foundation stands for. Here he talks about how to use racing games (like Supercharged) for learning. At the time of this post, it sits just under 80% funded with about 20 days to go. HEY, RACING FANS! LEt’s get behind this!

“Friends come in and out of your [#boardgame] life like busboys in a restaurant.” Or like cards in Fort (@LederGames, 2020) [Bonus – No Wil Wheaton!]

“Build the most awesome fort while making friends and eating pizza.” – BGG description

This month the card game Fort (Leder Games, 2020) joined my collection and the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself had a chance to try it several times during our week-long summer vacation. We enjoy the game, in no small part to the excellent marriage of theme and game mechanics.

Deck Building games are not my usual game mechanic-of-choice. Indeed, according to BoardGameGeek, I actually own only four games using the mechanic with two of them joining the collection in August 2020. I don’t consciously avoid deck builders; two others in my collection are Quarriors (Wiz Kids, 2011) and Trains (AEG, 2013). The RockyMountainNavy Boys really enjoy Quarriors (so much so they bought several expansions on their own) and Trains is usually a good time when it hits the table.

In Fort, players are the leader of a neighborhood club of kids. Your club starts with two best friends and eight other friends. The objective of the game is to ‘play’ with your friends to collect ‘stuff’ to build a fort and earn victory points.

The integration of theme and game play in Fort makes the entire play experience most fun. Every turn (day?) you start by gathering friends you didn’t play with but are in your Yard and move them to your Discard (telephone friends?) pile. Then you get to ‘play’ one friend from your Hand (your club can have as many as five friends in your hand). Each friend has two actions; a Public action and a Private action. You can do one, or both, actions as long as at least one of the actions is fully completed. You can also add other friends of the same ‘suit’ to play to increase the action. So if you play Patch (Add one Toy to Stuff for each Book) and add in Bones (both Book Suit) you get two toys. Regardless of if you played the Public or Private action, other players have the option of discarding a friend in their club/hand of the same suit and ‘following’ the Public action. Your club of friends may have been the first, but you are being mimicked by others! The actions you take will often lead to increasing the Stuff you have (Toys and Pizza) or can be used to build a bigger fort. Building a fort takes Stuff; the larger the fort the more Stuff needed. Larger forts also have more room for keeping Stuff in your Pack and more space for Look Outs (friends always available in your fort) that add cards to actions based on their suit. Sometimes that action might call for you to let a friend go because just like in real life sometimes that friend just isn’t right for you (or your game engine).

Next, you get the chance to ask new friends to join your club. Each turn you can recruit one new friend, chosen from either the Park or from another players Yard. This is the real deck-building aspect of Fort as you try to build a group of friends that power your ‘game engine’ strategy to victory.

After recruiting a new friend, you have to ‘go in’ for the day. Your Best Friends go to your Discard pile for they will never leave you except if you choose to Trash them like they moved away. Any other friends in your hand go into your Yard because you didn’t ‘play’ with them. Remember, friends in the Yard can be recruited away during other players turns! Finally, you replenish your hand from your Draw deck; these are the friends that will be with you as the other clubs execute their actions. These friends are going to be the ones allowing you to ‘follow the leader’ during other player’s turns and (hopefully) advance your scoring. End-game scoring is triggered when one player reaches Fort Level 5 or when their score passes 25 on the Victory Track.

I really enjoy the fact that the theme in Fort and game play build a natural narrative. We often find that in playing, we drop into using non-game terms for actions, like “Choose a new friend” instead of ‘recruit’ or “Send the friends you didn’t play with outside” instead of ‘discard.’ The use of toys and pizza for Stuff is brilliant. Indeed, the entire game builds upon the narrative of friends at play in a very natural way that makes playing Fort feel as if we’ve been playing it since we were little kids.

If there is a drawback to Fort, I have to say it’s grokking the iconography in your first play. It’s not hard, it just takes a bit getting used to it. Just like joining a new group of friends they already have their own ‘language’ and you need to catch up – which you will do quickly. The first play (or two) of Fort also can go on far longer than the 20-40 minute playtime on the box. That’s because all your friends are unique, and figuring out how to play with them takes a bit of time as you get to know them and see how they can help your club.

Finally, you can have fun in Fort by trying to pick which friend you are. Personally I feel like Bones. His Public Action of “Trash a card in your hand or discard pile Then Score VP times the number of Books” is like the friend who forms a study group that eventually helps you get better grades (VP?) but takes friends away from play. I can also see myself as Einstein (Public Action – Add a Pizza or Toy to your Stuff) but his Private Action (Score VP times number of Books Then Trash this card) seems a bit harsh. Then again, it sorta fits the nerd stereotype of the friend everybody wants to have in class but doesn’t really want to play with around the neighborhood (or maybe they can’t play with because he’s too busy studying).


Title quote (slightly modified!) from the movie Stand by Me.

#Boardgame Vacation 2020 featuring @BlueOrangeGames @days_of_wonder @UnstbleUnicrns & @LederGames

My family was fortunate enough to escape away for a bit. We went to a location a long days drive from home. As an added bonus, Gavin, the best friend of RockyMountainNavy Jr., and his family also vacationed in the same area. Our two families got together quite a bit and a good deal of boardgame play ensued.

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games

Gavin’s family plays boardgames, but they are much more familiar with the mass market segment of the gaming market. That said, earlier this year RMN Jr. introduced Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017) to them* and they added it to their game collection. Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004) was already part of their gaming shelf along with Qwirkle (Mindware, 2006)

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games

Since they already played Kingdomino, we introduced them to Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017). It was a restrained hit; they really like the speed and simplicity of Kingdomino and the added ‘gamer’ elements of Queendomino did not totally attract their attention.

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Courtesy Unstable Unicorns

The next game we introduced them to was Here to Slay (Unstable Unicorns, 2020). This title was THE HIT of our 2020 vacation gaming! The RMN Boys and brothers Gavin & Skyler played my Kickstarter Exclusive Edition of this game too many times for me to keep track of. Skyler in particular was taken with game and is seeking a retail copy as soon as it is available.

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Photo by RMN

The RMN Boys also took along Ticket to Ride: New York (Days of Wonder, 2018). Given that all the boys were already familiar with Ticket to Ride learning the ‘new’ game was easy. Once again, it was Skyler who was the most excited; he likes Ticket to Ride but feels that sometimes the game is too long. The quick-play Ticket to Ride: New York fits his need for a simple, quick game that friends can play once as a filler or as a short series. 

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Photo by RMN

The newly released game Fort by Leder Games arrived the day before we traveled and made the trip. The RMN Boys and myself played the game twice. The initial play was a bit slow as we all learned the iconography. Our second play was much better as now, understanding the iconography, we could start developing strategies for play. Thematically the game is pitch-perfect and will surely regularly find a place on our gaming table.

It was also very fun to talk to Gavin’s family about the hobby boardgame segment of the boardgame market. They had a bit of some insight, but really have had only a peek. We resolved to invite Gavin on occasion over to play with us in our Saturday Family Game Night which will make us an even four-players; thus opening up many more titles to play beyond our usual (and sometimes a bit awkward) three-players. It’s a bit unfortunate (but ultimately for the best) that Skyler is leaving for tech school shortly for he is the more ‘gamer’ of the two brothers. Nonetheless, I am sure the RMN Boys and Gavin & Skyler will be gaming buddies for a long time to come.

Which brings me to a moment of sadness, and joy. Sadness because the RMN Boys have found a gaming group that does not include me. Joy because I passed along to them a love of gaming that they are spreading to their friends.

Is that not what we play games for?


*RMN Jr. considers himself some kind of a superior Kingdomino player as he is usually the winner in our house. It drives him crazy that Gavin’s mom not only regularly beats him, but beats him handily!

Feature photo by RMN

UPDATED July #Wargame #Boardgame Forecast – HOT to NOT!

In late June I made a bold forecast that as any as nine (9) of 27 games I had on preorder or Kickstarter could deliver by the end of July.

Not so fast.

It looks like the boardgame/wargame publishing industry is coming back, but at a bit of a slower pace. Let’s look at my forecast and then discuss the reality.

  1. One Small Step (Academy Games, 2020)Kickstarter Boardgame. An update from mid-May stated that shipping in July was expected. I have not seen an update since. Academy Games does not have the best track record for keeping to timelines but that negative is more than compensated by the top-quality game that usually ends up being delivered. UPDATE from July 8 – “August 11, 2020 Arrival Date: Jacksonville, FL, USA. Note, that shipping to Florida takes 10 days longer than to our normal shipping destination in Cleveland. To Cleveland, the product is shipped to Seattle, WA and then transported by rail to Cleveland. Whereas to Florida, the ship needs to steam to Panama, cross through the Panama Canal, and them make its way up to Florida. USA and Canadian pledges will be shipped from Quartermaster Logistics, which is based in Orlando, FL.”
  2. Wing Leader: Origins 1936-1942 (GMT Games, 2020)P500 Preorder Wargame. This one is a lock as I already have my UPS tracking number with delivery scheduled for 1 July. UPDATE: DELIVERED July 3.
  3. Philadelphia 1777 (Worthington Games, 2020)Kickstarter Wargame. A late June update reported the game is arriving at the freight-forwarder and Worthington expects to take possession early in July and start shipping immediately. UPDATE: Delivered July 17.
  4. The Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle Games, 2020)Kickstarter Waro. Coronavirus delays have pushed this one back from April, but it looks like July is seriously in play. UPDATE from July 21 – “My post-pandemic expectation was that our print run would be ready to ship from China in early July. Because of a bottleneck at one of the factories (our manufacturer, Panda, uses three different factories for our game – one for the dice, one for the wood pieces and one for the printing and final assembly), the games will not be ready to ship from China until mid-August. The slow boat from China takes five to six weeks, so I am looking at alternatives – mainly, having enough copies airmailed to our distribution points (we are using Quartermaster Logistics and their overseas partners) so we can ship to all of our backers before the end of August. If it is not cost-prohibitive, that is the plan. But if it is cost-prohibitive, then we are looking at delivery in late September. Ugh, I do not even want to contemplate that. As I know more, I will keep all of you updated.”
  5. Here to Slay (Unstable Games, 2020)Kickstarter Card Game. Late June update reported game is out of production and on way to publisher for fulfillment. DELIVERED July 25.
  6. Undaunted: North Africa (Osprey Games, 2020)Preorder Waro. All looks to be on track for an early July release. UPDATE: Bought through a 3rd Party seller who expects it to their location “late-July.”
  7. Heights of Courage: The Battle for the Golan Heights, October 1973 (MMP, 2013)Sale Wargame. Bought as part of an amazing MMP sale in June. Having never ordered before from MMP I don’t know how fast they usually fulfill orders and realize coronavirus restrictions may be slowing them down. I had hoped to have these games in hand before July but it looks like they will not arrive until after the new month starts. DELIVERED JUNE 30.
  8. Panzer Battles: 11th Panzer on the Chir River (MMP, 2016)Sale Wargame. Like Heights of Courage above, this is another Standard Combat Series game. I have little experience with MMP so these two games will serve as my introduction to SCS. DELIVERED JUNE 30.
  9. Operation Mercury: The Invasion of Crete (MMP, 2017)Sale Wargame. On sale for an incredible $40 versus the usual $172. Will be my first foray into the MMP Grand Tactical Series (GTS) of games. DELIVERED JUNE 30.

It appears to me that shipping, not actual production of games, is a new long pole in the tent. Not surprising given the lack of air transportation worldwide. I know that many games are not airshipped, but the maritime shipping, rail, and truck industries are picking up other cargoes that air shipping used to handle leading in turn to a general slow down of those transportation modes. If you look close even Amazon Prime is sometimes backordered.

How about the look ahead to August? Here are what games may be in play (pun fully intended).

First, my Preorder & Kickstarter GeekList sits at 23 games. Of the three carry-overs from July (One Small Step, Shores of Tripoli, and Undaunted: North Africa) there is a good chance that all but Shores of Tripoli will deliver in August. Of the remaining 20 games:

  1. French & Indian War 1757-1759 (Worthington Publishing): Kickstarter Wargame. From a July 29 Update – “The ship carrying both CRUSADER KINGDOMS and FRENCH & INDIAN WAR will hit the port in New York Auugust 13.  We should expect for us to receive the games within 2 weeks of that barring a customs snag.  Thats means it is possible we may be shipping the last week of August, and if not then the first week of September!!!”
  2. Flying Colors 3rd Edition Update Kit (GMT Games): P500. Per July 23 Newsletter – “Charging August 5. Shipping roughly mid-August.”
  3. The Battle of Rhode Island (GMT Games): P500. Scheduled delivery 31 JULY.
  4. Fort (Leder Games): Publisher-direct Preorder. Scheduled for August release.

Of note, these are the three games I added this month:

  1. Buffalo Wings 2nd Edition (Against the Odds): Kickstarter Wargame. As the economy tanked I backed out of Wings of the Motherland from Clash of Arms. Mistake. Need to get that one too.
  2. Fort (Leder Games): Publisher-direct Preorder. After reading Dan Thurot’s review on Space-Biff this became a must-buy.
  3. Wing Leader Supremacy 2nd Edition Upgrade Kit (GMT Games): P500. I am a sucker for the Wing Leader Series. I have barely gotten Wing Leader: Origins to the table and Wing Leader: Legends is not quite to 500 orders. But. Must. Buy.

Looking ahead to the end of the year, it is possible that as many as eight or nine of the games on my current Preorder & Kickstarter GeekList could deliver. Like I said before, that would not only be good for me, but more importantly good for the gaming industry.


Feature image “United fleet grounded in Washington Dulles” James Dingell Photography

Growing Root (@LederGames, 2018) – My #Boardgame Root Solo Randomizer

LETS ADDRESS THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM – ROOT IS A GREAT GAME THAT WARGAMERS and boardgamers alike can both play. It is not a straight Eurogame or Ameritrash, nor is it a straight wargame, but a very well done hybrid that I call a ‘waro.” Part of the reason I so like the game goes beyond the game mechanics. The multitude of play combinations means the game never feels repeated. The base game alone comes with four factions and two mapboards (Fall & Winter) for several combinations of play. Since first published in 2018 by Leder Games, the Root series has added three boxed expansions (The Riverfolk Company, The Clockwork Expansion, The Underworld Expansion), an Upgrade Kit, and two smaller expansions (Exiles & Partisans Deck , The Vagabond Expansion) as well as customized playing pieces (Resin Clearing Markers). This weekend I pulled out my entire Root collection to play. In doing so I created a Root Solo Randomizer to help myself play as many different combinations as possible.

Variant Setup (based on The Law of Root Appendix C)

Step C0 (RSR Variant): Choose Solo Play Faction

Roll 2d6 to determine which faction you will play:

  • 2= Lizard Cult (Riverfolk Expansion)
  • 3= Woodland Alliance (Base Game)
  • 4-5= Eyrie Dynasties (Base Game)
  • 6-7= Marquise de Cat (Base Game)
  • 8-9= Underground Duchy (Underworld Expansion)
  • 10= Vagabond (Base Game, Riverfolk Expansion, Vagabond Expansion)
  • 11= Riverfolk Company (Riverfolk Expansion)
  • 12= Corvid Conspiracy (Underworld Expansion)**

If the faction rolled is Vagabond, roll 2d6 again to determine which Vagabond:

  • 2= Vagrant (Riverfolk Expansion)
  • 3= Arbiter (Riverfolk Expansion)
  • 4= Scoundrel (Riverfolk Expansion)
  • 5= Tinker (Base Game)
  • 6-7= Thief (Base Game)
  • 8-9= Ranger (Base Game)
  • 10= Adventurer (Vagabond Pack)
  • 11= Ronin (Vagabond Pack)
  • 12= Harrier (Vagabond Pack)

Step C1: Choose Map

The Underworld Expansion adds a second two-sided map with the Lake and Mountain. To determine what map is being played, roll 1d6:

  • 1= Winter (Base Game)
  • 2-3= Fall (Base Game)
  • 4-5= Lake (Underworld Expansion)
  • 6= Mountain (Underworld Expansion)

Oh yeah, don’t forget that on many mapboards the Clearings are unmarked; you use the random set up to determine which ones are which. Even more randomness in set up!

Step C2: Choose Deck

Roll 1d6. Even roll uses the Standard Deck while an odd roll will use the Exiles & Partisans deck.

Step C3: Choose Bots

This step determines not only what Bots from The Clockwork Expansion you will play against, but also the order of play for them. Roll 1d12 to determine order of Mechanical Marquise 2.0 (M), Electric Eyrie (E), Automated Alliance (W), or Vagabot (V):

  • 1= MEW
  • 2= MEV
  • 3= MWV
  • 4= EMW
  • 5= EMV
  • 6= EWV
  • 7= WME
  • 8= WMV
  • 9= WVE
  • 10= VME
  • 11= VWM
  • 12= VME

For each selected order randomly insert the Human player anywhere in the order.

For the Vagabot roll 1d6 for character: 1-2= Ranger, 3-4= Thief, 5-6= Tinker.

For another level of variation roll 1d6 for each Bot to determine Difficulty. 1= Easy, 2-4= Default, 5= Challenging, 6= Nightmare. Difficulty cards are found in The Clockwork Expansion.

Oh yes, each of the Bots can add from zero to four Traits also found on cards in The Clockwork Expansion. All those combinations of Difficulty & Traits is almost too much to handle!

[Comment: The Bots are pretty easy to handle as they basically are graphic flowcharts of actions. Adding the Difficulty is easy as it is only one thing to remember off-board. Adding Traits escalates the workload as each extra Trait must also be remembered. Cards near the boards help but as one works their way through the flow of the board it is very easy to forget even when right in front of you.]

For example. I am setting up a game and first rolling 2d6 I see I will be playing the Underground Duchy. Rolling 1d6 next I get the Lake Board. Rolling 1d6 again I will use the Exiles & Partisans Deck. Now rolling 1d12 (and 1d6 for each faction) I see my opponents are Electric Eyrie (Default Difficulty), Mechanical Marquise 2.0 (Nightmare Difficulty), and Vagabot (Tinker/Default Difficulty). Inserting myself randomly in the play order we get Electric EyrieMechanical MarquiseUnderground Duchy – Vagabot.

5657F84A-0920-4E99-A8B3-332ED3FBEA58
My Root Solo Randomizer Set Up. This was before I discovered errata that changes the Duchy “Surface” to a corner not occupied by the Marquise Keep, Eyrie Roosts, or Lizard Cult Gardens.

Solo Play Experience

It’s hard to put into words my experience playing Root solo using my randomizer. Not only do I get to explore many different factions, but the variations that come from the different maps and different decks makes every game unique. Add on top of that a set of Bots that are actually pretty easy to execute (but not beat) and you get a great gaming experience with (truly) endless variations.

Oh yeah, in my Root Solo Randomizer game the final scoring was Mechanical Marquise 2.0 = 30, Vagabot = 23, Underground Duchy = 20, and Electric Eyrie = 18. Yes, the Nightmare Mechanical Marquise were really just that!


P.S. – Make sure you get the official Electric Eyrie updates at the BGG Forums.

**Upon further investigation I am not sure you can play The Corvid Conspiracy with the Bots. The Corvid Conspiracy has the Trait “Exposure” which allows an enemy to guess the type of facedown Plot Token in a clearing they also occupy in their Evening before drawing cards. To guess the enemy needs to show a matching card of the clearing. I do not find an official rule as to how the Bots could guess since Bots don’t have cards (Poor Manual Dexterity).

**(Continued) One option I thought of might be: (WARNING – Off the cuff and not playtested)

  1. Take the extra Plot Tokens and form a draw pile by removing the same tokens that are face-up on the board. Remaining extra tokens are placed in an opaque container.
  2. On a Bot turn, if that Bot is ahead in VP compared to the Corvid Conspiracy they randomly draw one token from the container.
  3. If the drawn token matches the Plot Token in that clearing the Plot Token is removed from the board and the Bot scores 1 VP.
  4. If the drawn Plot Token does not match, the player draws the next card of that suit from the Draw Pile, discarding any non-matching cards until a match is made.

 

Family root issues of a #boardgame #wargame – Root (@LederGames, 2018)

pic4608840Although I have owned Root (Leder Games, 2018) since I was a late backer, until this weekend I have only played the game solo or against my alter gaming ego, Mr. Solo. With a notice in my inbox announcing that my Kickstarter fulfillment of the latest expansion, Root: The Underworld Expansion, was shipping, I finally decided to bite the bullet and bring this game to the RockyMountainNavy Boys. For our first full-up play it had some rough points but overall the game shined.

To help introduce the game we set up the walkthrough. We found it not very helpful. I think as moderately experienced gamers it actually slowed us down. I think that with moderately experienced or more gamers can be given an explanation of the rules with an emphasis on what is the same across all factions (movement, combat, Crafting) and then a walkthrough of each board (Birdsong, Daylight, Evening) is sufficient at the start of play. Being able to describe the different root game mechanics (no pun) of each faction (engine building, programed action, deck building) also helped us understand how faction plays differently within the shared game environment.

We played a three-player game with the Marquis de Cat (RockyMountainNavy T), the Woodland Alliance (RockyMountainNavy Jr), and the Eyrie (myself) seated around the game table in that order.

Early in the game, the Fox Dominance card came out. Both RockyMountainNavy Boys became fixated on the card and very curious about what it represented. At the time it appeared, both the Marquis and the Woodland Alliance each ruled two fox clearings. So tempting was the card that both RMN Boys lost focus on their basic VP generation path. More experienced players know that going for a Dominance win in Root is difficult; newbie players don’t have the benefit of that experience. It therefore came as little surprise that one of the Boys (Jr – Woodland Alliance) grabbed up the showing Fox Dominance card as soon as he could. Nor was it surprising that very soon after the Fox Dominance was picked up that RMN T (Marquis) played the Bird Dominance card he had in his hand.

Not only did the playing of the Dominance cards totally change the character of the game, but the subsequent play (fully legal) of RMN Jr. almost derailed the entire night. Our general inexperience with the game allowed the Woodland Alliance to spread much Sympathy and accumulate way too many Supporters. RMN Jr used brought the hammer down and staged multiple Revolts with, alas, the main target of most of the Revolts being the Marquis. Thus, RMN T saw several clearings get wiped out. This was a major “take that” moment of the game, much more powerful than any of us expected. Now, RMN T is my Autism Spectrum boy that has challenges dealing with major changes in his environment. The multiple Revolts, all aimed at him, and the major reduction of his position on the board almost unhinged him. He was very angry – almost to the point I was ready to end the game. The only thing that kept hi in was that he recognized that the Woodland Alliance was now very near their dominance win condition and he swore vengeance. The next few turns there was a major ‘catfight’ with clearings bouncing back and forth between the Alliance and Marquis. Both came very close to their win condition only to be knocked back at the last moment by the other.

Meanwhile, my Eyrie kept plodding along. I went through several leaders as I repeatedly fell into Turmoil as I was unable to fulfill my Decree. Gradually, the Marquis and Woodland Alliance recognized that they had left me alone for too long. They both then turned their attention to me – and it was brutal. Fortunately, I had just enough Roosts out and a useful Leader with a good Decree that even as they knocked me back I still was able to satisfy my Decree and generate enough VP to reach the victory.

My winning was probably the best outcome on several levels. First, if RMN Jr had won after what he did to his older brother, I don’t think the older one would ever play Root again. Likewise, if RMN T had won his younger brother would likely never play again because he would feel ‘punished’ by this brother after what he did to him. Next, the fact that both lost when playing a Dominance card showed them that maybe they need to stay focused on their basic win conditions like the Eyrie did. Additionally, we all learned the lesson that you have to keep an eye on the other and understand their way of play to keep them in check. This is perhaps the hardest element of playing Root for not only do you have to ‘know thyself’ but you have to ‘know thy enemy’ too. In Root the fact that every faction plays differently creates a learning challenge that can only really be overcome by multiple plays with multiple exposures to the different factions. As it is, this first game of Root was rough  and although I feel it will land on the gaming table again I will have to be careful about how the new factions are introduced.

On the very positive side, all of us agreed the art in Root is incredible. RMN Jr wants to explore the game and play different factions. RMN T is less positive, but will likely play again if done right. That’s my Root challenge.

IMG_0084

 

November 2019 @kickstarter Monitor – @LederGames @StrongholdGames @Academy_Games @worth2004 @fortcircle

AS WE MOVE INTO THE HOLIDAY SEASON I am looking forward to the myriad of sales that are forthcoming from multiple game publishers. Well, at least the wargame publishers. The annual GMT Games sale is past and others are either underway or imminent.

Then there is Kickstarter.

Kickstarter doesn’t have any real ‘sales’ since their whole sell model is (supposedly) built on ‘deals’ for supporters. Timelines also are much different – order (and pay) now for promised delivery then. So in order to get something for the Christmas season it means making a commitment months (if not years) in advance…and just how many Kickstarter projects have actually delivered on time?

In the last year I supported more Kickstarter projects than ever before. I currently have five projects outstanding. I also am keeping my eye on several others that are closing in the next 20 days or less. What am I thinking?

BACKED/OUTSTANDING (5)

pic4608840Root: The Underworld Expansion (Leder Games) / ‘Underworld Warrior’ level / Funded 02 Apr 2019 / Estimated delivery: Dec 2019 / ON TIME? – Claim they are on track for on-time delivery

I really like the Root-series although I don’t get it to the table enough. I also am usually hesitant to invest in expansions unless I really love the system. I guess I just really love Root.

pic4599496Terraforming Mars: Turmoil (Stronghold Games) / ‘Mars Attacks’ level / Funded 02 May 2019 / Estimated delivery: Nov 2019 / LATE – EU delivery underway; US delivery to start after Turkey Day and continue through December

The expansions for Terraforming Mars are a mixed bag. Some, like Prelude, I see as essential while others, like Venus Next, are a total pass. Backed this one mostly for the redone boards and a hope the expansion game is worthwhile. However, after listening to a podcast discussion on 6 Zones of Play I have my doubts.

pic4793691One Small Step (Academy Games) / ‘Apollo 11’ level / Funded 06 Aug 2019 / Estimated delivery: Dec 2019 / ON TIME? – No updates since late August

Academy Games has history of (very) blown timelines but delivery of awesome games.

pic4983441Philadelphia 1777 (Worthington Publishing) / ‘Early Bird – Philadelphia 1777’ level / Funded 21 Oct 2019 / Estimated delivery: April 2020

Worthington is my go-to publisher for block wargames. They also have a sale ongoing that includes several older games. Interesting….

pic4791402The Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle) / ‘One Copy’ level / +200% funded with 11 days to go / Estimated delivery: April 2020

I have the PnP and am looking forward to the fully published version. First-time game designer/publisher usually means unforeseen delays; we shall see.

INTERESTING/UNBACKED (6)

Traveller RPG: The Deepnight Revelation Campaign Box Set (Mongoose Publishing) / +300% funded with 20 days to go / Estimated delivery: July 2020

I love me some Traveller RPG but ~$60 for a pdf? Oh yeah, it’s Mongoose. HARD PASS!

STRIKE!: The Game of Worker Rebellion (The TESA Collective) / ~155% funded with 11 days to go / Estimated delivery: March 2020

I like the looks of this game. However, I do not like the politics of the campaign. This campaign is more about a political statement than a game. If it was the other way around then maybe. PASS.

High Frontier 4 All (Sierra Madre Games) / ~2700% funded with 6 days to go / Estimated delivery: June 2020

At $59 for the ‘Core’ level this is not a bad deal, but when an I going to get a game this heavy to the table? PASS.

pic4787621The Zorro Dice Game (Overworld Games) / ~675% funded with 6 days to go / Estimated delivery: June 2020

The RockyMountainBoys and I like lite dice games. I can still get the ‘Zorro Base Game’ level for a mere $15. SERIOUS CONSIDERATION.

Beyond Humanity: Colonies (Three Headed Monster) / ~625% with 2 days to go / Estimated delivery: September 2020

This game looks incredible and highly innovative., but at $225 (GASP!) for the ‘Colonist – one way ticket’ level it’s wayyyyy too rich for me. This is also their first ‘creation” – I see lots of risk here. PASS.

Stellar Horizons (Compass Games) / FUNDED 10 Nov 2019 with nearly 1000% of goal / Estimated delivery: April 2020

I missed it but at $119 for the ‘Interplanetary Explorer’ level it’s a fair chunk-of-change to ask for during the holiday season when I am looking for economy in my purchases.

KICKSTARTER OF SHAME (1)

Cortex Prime: A Multi-Genre Modular Roleplaying Game (Cam Banks) / ‘Prime Softcover Plus’ level / Funded 29 May 2017(!) / Estimated delivery: April 2018 / LATE MAYBE NEVER

I pledged at time when it still looked like RPGs would be a major part of the gaming scene in the RockyMountainNavy house. Since then, I cooled considerably to RPGs. This campaign has seen the designer move to New Zealand (I’m not saying he took the money and ran but….) and an endless string of delays. In September 2019 the designer announced an alliance with a whole new company and a whole new production model – but no delivery date. Like others I tried reaching out to the campaign to get a refund. Like many others I am ignored.


Feature image courtesy entrepreneur.com / Game cover images courtesy BGG.com

 

 

Entering the matrix doesn’t mean exiting from #wargames

Over on Rex Brynen’s excellent PAXSIMS website, he posted a link to BEAR RISING, a Matrix game looking at the Baltic in the post-INF Treaty era. As a wargaming professional, I appreciate that Matrix games can be used to explore policy issues and generate greater insight into the issue. Matrix games are a part of wargaming, but apparently some out there want to distance themselves from that connection. Taking a look at BEAR RISING you find this:

What are matrix games? Matrix games are different to normal Wargames. In most of those games you will probably compare lists of statistics and peer at complicated books of rules containing someone else’s idea about what things are important, before making a decision, checking that it is covered by the rules and rolling dice to see if you succeed. It can take a long time, look really complicated and can be very difficult to explain to a newcomer. Instead, in a matrix game you simply use words to describe why something should happen, the Facilitator or the players (or both) decide how likely it is, and you might roll a dice to see if it happens (but equally, in the face of a compelling argument, you might not need to). If you can say “This happens, for the following reasons…” you can play a Matrix Game. The games themselves are not intended to be fiercely competitive, with obvious winner and losers. Instead they operate with the players working to generate a credible narrative. It is from examination of this narrative after the game that the player gain insights to the situation being portrayed. The player roles have objectives that will place them in conflict with other players, but it is perfectly possible for all of the players to achieve at last some of their objectives by the end of the game.

Let’s take a few of these sentences apart:

  • “In most of those games you will probably compare lists of statistics and peer at complicated books of rules containing someone else’s ideas about what things are important before making a decision, checking that it is covered by the rules and rolling dice to see if you succeed.” I guess you have only played wargames like Advanced Squad Leader, right? You totally have missed out on many “light” wargames like Brave Little Belgium or uncountable others? I hope you are consistent in your views and have the same disdain for heavy Eurogames out there and especially for anything designed by Phil Eklund, right?
  • “It can take a really long time, be really complicated and can be very difficult to explain to a newcomer.” I challenge you to try any of the Academy Games Birth of America-series or Commands & Colors (Compass Games or GMT Games) or a Hold the Line game (Worthington Publishing). If those games are too complicated for you and difficult to teach a newcomer then you have no place talking to anybody about a Matrix game.
  • “Instead, in a matrix game you simply use words to describe why something should happen, the Facilitator or the players (or both) decide how likely it is, and you might roll a dice to see if it happens (but equally, in the face of a compelling argument, you might not need to).” But you just disparaged rolling dice above….
  • “The games themselves are not intended to be fiercely competitive, with obvious winner and losers.” Ah…another bias. Wargames “must” be “fiercely competitive.” Let’s not talk anything about the learning that can come from exploring the situation; it’s war and war is automatically evil! To that I say si vis pacem, para bellum.*
  • “Instead they operate with the players working to generate a credible narrative. It is from examination of this narrative after the game that the player gain insights to the situation being portrayed.” I would argue that some of the best wargames, like the new Tank Duel (GMT Games, 2019) or Enemy Coast Ahead: The Doolittle Raid (GMT Games, 2018) generate a “credible” narrative during the game and don’t need a scribe to explain it to the players afterwards.
  • “The player roles have objectives that will place them in conflict with other players, but it is perfectly possible for all of the players to achieve at last some of their objectives by the end of the game.” Is this not the hallmark of a good game design? A good design will see all players work towards their objective, with the end result being a measure of how well they achieved those objectives. The objectives themselves do not have to the same (for example, who controls the most territory) but can be different like in Nights of Fire: Battle of Budapest (Mighty Boards, 2019) where the Revolutionaries try to save civilians while the Soviets try to control the city. Or maybe the designers of BEAR RISING are not familiar with a GMT Games COIN game like Colonial Twilight (see Grant from The Players Aid comments about terror) or the asymmetric Root from Leder Games?

I will repeat what I said before; Matrix games are useful to explore policy issues and generate insight. But they are one tool in the vast kit available to designers. To maximize that insight, I prefer designers and players to have open minds and to avoid/remove as much bias as possible. In the case of the BEAR RISING designers, they show me that they have deep biases that make me doubt the assumptions their game is built on.


* “If you want peace, prepare for war.” In my case I strongly advocate studying warfare to understand – and avoid – military disasters of the past.

Feature image courtesy BEAR RISING.

March 2019 #Wargame #Boardgame #Kickstarter & Pre-Order Update – or – The Root problem of Defiantly losing control to Memoir-able games!

Coming out of the holidays in 2018, Mrs. RockyMountainNavy asked that I try to “control” my spending budget for boardgames and wargames in a bit of a more reasonable manner. She asks not because she dislikes my gaming hobby (on the contrary, she heartily endorses it) but because I was a bit too frivolous with my spending. I promised to do better.

To that end I have tried to control my “acquisitions” so far this year. One change in strategy I adopted is to go ahead and look at Print-n-Play modules a bit more. I also took a hard look at my GMT Games P500 and other pre-orders to try and “trim the fat.” I also committed to looking alot harder at what Kickstarter campaigns I would pledge to support. As tempting as they were, I passed on several new P500 and Kickstarter campaigns. I was doing pretty well until this month. Since the last days of February and into March, I have fallen off the wagon a bit and pre-ordered or pledged for three games.

 

I backed a new Kickstarter campaign in March. This one is really a no-brainer for me as it expands my 2018 Game of the Year. Leder Games Kickstarted Root: The Underworld Expansion. As I write this post the campaign already has over 10,000 backers and nearly $850,000 pledged – with over 2 weeks remaining.

I really am looking forward to this expansion with two new factions and two new maps. I realize that my $50 pledge will grow by at least $20 more for add-ons. Of that money, paying $5 for corrected Faction Boards is an easy choice. Paying $15 for the Better Bot Project may seem pricy, but given that it includes Bot Boards for all the factions it will make the game not only more solo friendly but able to play larger faction counts with fewer players. But given my love of the game it is so worth it.

poland-defiant-coverI also pre-ordered Poland Defiant from Revolution Games. Having picked up Counter-Attack 1940: The Battle of Arras (Take Aim Designs/Revolution Games, 2019) and Panzer Expansion #4: France 1940 (GMT Games, 2019) earlier this year I am on something of an early-years World War II kick. The period is coming to fascinate me as the various nations tried to figure out what the new age of warfare would look like. I really enjoy playing Counter-Attack 1940: The Battle of Arras and positively enjoy seeing Youngest RMN Boy discover more history through Panzer Expansion #4. I also look forward to the chit-pull mechanic as I have come to appreciate the power of that mechanic and its useful application for solo gaming.

pic4610324Another game I pre-ordered is Memoir ’44: New Flight Plan (Days of Wonder, coming May 2019?). I expect this new module to get heavy use as the RockyMountainNavy Boys often play Memoir ’44 without me. That said, these days I enjoy the simplicity of Richard Borg’s Commands & Colors-series and its various implementations in Memoir ’44 or Battlelore. Don’t get me wrong; simplicity is not lesser enjoyment. Games like Commands & Colors: Tricorne – The American Revolution (Compass Games, 2018) are awesome for teaching and learning more about the time period.

What about you? What games are you (im)patiently waiting for?


Feature image Leder Games