Doing a little #coronapocalypse #wargame Morning Recon all by myself in Red Storm: The Air War Over Central Germany, 1987 (@gmtgames, 2019).

KDiDKYRhSZyzuc78FsjBeAIN A PAST LIFE AS A US NAVY SQUADRON INTEL OFFICER, I did more than a fair share of Mission Planning for airstrikes. That is part of the reason I love designer Lee Brimmicombe-Wood’s Downtown: Air War Over Hanoi, 1965-1972 (GMT Games, 2004). In 2019 the latest addition to the series, Red Storm: The Air War Over Central Germany, 1987 (GMT Games) designed by Douglas Bush arrived after a not-to-long stint on the P500. This week, as I fight off the zombies-of-boredom of the Coronapocalype, I pulled Red Storm out and committed to a deeper learning experience.

First off, I must commend designer Douglas Bush and GMT for publishing such a high quality product. Not only do the game components look great, but the errata is quite small for such a ‘complex’ game. Part of this is surely the result of previous titles working out many of the kinks in the system design but Red Storm kicks the complexity of the simulation up a notch from the others so I expected more errata than exists. Kudos!

For my day of Red Storming, I decided to start at the beginning and use scenario RS1: Morning Recon. This is a solo introductory scenario where a flight of 2 SU-24MR have to Recon four targets. Victory is determined by the NATO player accomplishing four tasks. In the scenario as written, there is no actual combat (though the combat sequences are exercised). The scenario note is what made for my repeated plays:

Note: Player should try this scenario at least twice, once with the WP [Warsaw Pact] flight at Medium or High altitude (and faster speed) and once at Deck (lower speed, harder to detect). That will give a feel for the difference between “going high” and “going low” when trying to both get to a target and intercepting flights doing so. In addition, during the second playing of the scenario, players should let the NATO side attack the WP flight in order to further learn the combat rules.

Deciding to take the game one step further, I decided to play a fifth time, but in this case incorporating as much of Rule 33.2 Full Solitaire Rules as possible. To further mix it up, I used the Order of Battle Tables in the Appendices Book to randomly generate the forces. For NATO this meant rolling on the NATO QRA Flight / 2ATAF table for a result of “6-4” giving a flight of two Belgium F-16A. For the Warsaw Pact the roll randomly between the USSR and GDR [German Democratic Republic – East Germany] getting GDR than a “4” on the WP Special Missions / Tactical Recon table which launched a flight of two GDR MiG-21M. I decided to make this a “Combat allowed” version of RS1.

The resulting game was MUCH different than the regular Morning Recon scenarios. Not only were the fighters different but the lack of real BVR capability on the Belgium F-16A’s meant this was destined to be a knife fight. The GDR MiG-21M is armed with only an internal 23mm cannon so it really is in their best interests to avoid a fight.

I let the Bot run the GDR but gave it one input at start using a random die to chose between “going high” and “going low.” The random was “go high” so off we went. NATO was able to quickly gain a Detection on the flight but gaining a Visual Identification proved a bit more difficult as early Engagement rolls by me were whiffed. Amazingly, the simple Noise Jammer on the MiG-21M also slowed Full SAM Acquisition. However, the superior maneuverability and radar suite of the F-16A eventually prevailed and both MiG-21 were downed…although the second was just before it passed back over the inter-German border. All in all a very good fight!

844At present, an expansion for the game, Red Storm: Baltic Approaches is on the GMT Games P500 and at 485 pledges. I hope it comes “makes the cut” soon so I can get more Red Storm goodness to the table. Then again, I’m being greedy for there are 29 other scenarios in the base Red Storm and two campaigns (not to mention four Solo Scenario) to help me get through my coronapocalypse isolation before then.

So what?


Feature image: Three aircraft from the U.S. Air Force in Europe in flight on 6 April 1987 near Ramstein Air Base, Germany. These aircraft were part of a larger, 15-aircraft formation taking part in an aerial review for departing General Charles L. Donnelly Jr., commander in chief, U.S. Air Force Europe and commander, Allied Air Forces Central Europe. The visible aircraft are (front to back): McDonnell Douglas F-4G Phantom II (s/n 69-0237), 81st Tactical Fighter Squadron, 52nd Tactical Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II (s/n 81-0995), 510th TFS, 81st TFW, RAF Bentwaters, Suffolk (UK); McDonnell Douglas RF-4C-39-MC Phantom II (s/n 68-0583), 1st Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, RAF Alconbury, Cambridgeshire (UK). Courtesy wikimedia.org.

Monday rambling #boardgame musings – Sustaining hobby hype

This holiday weekend I got to wondering how the hobby boardgame industry can sustain interest for a game in this era of “Cult of the New” and the many, many new games being published every day. A great deal of my thoughts here were triggered by Uwe Eickert of Academy Games in an interview he did with the No Enemies Here V-cast:

Uwe brings up many good points about how the hobby boardgame industry will likely be facing major changes in the near future. For me, I recently started questioning the future of my part of the hobby as I updated my Preorder & Kickstarter GeekList and looked at “The Hotness” on BGG. What I see is an industry that still is riding high on the “Cult of the New” and FOMO – “Fear of Missing Out.” As I look at my preorder and Kickstarter list and then The Hotness, I wonder if the hobby boardgame industry can sustain the hype they need to sell games.

As Uwe points out, there are many, many, many new games published every day. Indeed, the lifespan of a game has shrunk to almost nothing. Many games are here one day and gone tomorrow, replaced by another new game. The preorder and Kickstarter approach to buying games throws a wrinkle in this in that the games are not “here today” but “here at sometime in the future.”

What does that mean to me?

Let’s look at a a few of the games I have on preorder/Kickstarter. One of the older titles is Flashpoint: South China Sea on the GMT Games P500. I pledged for this game in February 2018 (nearly 2 years ago). The game status is, “Made the Cut; in final art & development” meaning, well, it just means it’s not at the printer yet and the delivery date is undeterminable. Now, I like designer Harold Buchanan and I ordered the game mostly because it is his design. I follow design diaries when they come out but, to be honest, my interest has cooled considerably in the past 2 years. Whatever hype I had is nearly all lost.

Another game on my list is Root: The Underworld Expansion from Leder Games. I pledged to Kickstarter in March of 2019 with a projected delivery date of December 2019. As it looks now, I won’t get my copy until February 2020 – if I’m lucky. I love Root and apparently many others do too as it is in The Hotness on BGG but…I find myself just playing the basic Root these days sans expansions. In the past year my hype has faded.

My hype deflation doesn’t stop there. The year 2019 was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing and I was caught up with the nostalgia; so caught up I pledged for One Small Step from Academy Games in July. Good thing Academy didn’t run the Apollo program because OSS is due March 2020 (compared to the Dec 2019 projection at funding). I love Academy Games but once again they hype I felt is fizzling as fast as a failed booster.

Not all is bad. Designer Lee Brimmicombe-Wood works hard to get expansions for his Wing Leader Series from GMT Games out to players. The next one, Wing Leader: Origins, which went on P500 in July 2019 is already at the printer (meaning 1-3 months more until delivery). That’s a good turnaround and I am able to keep my hype going, especially given the previous expansion, Wing Leader: Eagles, delivered to me in September 2019 – a gap of around 6 months between product delivery. Maybe there is a lesson here….

But then there is Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile from Leder Games. Presently on Kickstarter, Leder Games easily reached their funding goal (though I wonder how much better they might of done if they were not head-to-head with Return to Dark Tower). There is lots of good hype around this game. In particular, I appreciate the efforts of Dan Thurot at Space Biff. I am excited for this game, RIGHT NOW. But…the projected delivery date is January 2021. Throw in a healthy dose of Kickstarter doubt and I might see this game in…June 2021? That’s more than a year away. What is Leder Games going to do to sustain my hype? More importantly (for them), what if they don’t sustain my hype?

In the case of Kickstarter the publisher has an advantage in that they have my money up front and regardless of where my hype meter is they will deliver the game when they deliver it. The challenge for the publisher is to keep my hype going over a long period of time. If they don’t I am less likely to support their next Kickstarter. Publishers that use a preorder system are not as bad off (they have my pledge for a game but don’t get my money until closer to publication) but again, sustaining the hype during game development is a challenge/threat. Aside – I cancelled a preorder once after it charged. I kinda felt horrible telling the publisher that I wanted my money back even before the game was delivered. I understand some publishers are on razor-thin margins and even one cancellation can be difficult. So I try to stay ahead and if I cancel do it before charging occurs. But I digress….

As I look at myself, I feel my own ‘industry’ shake up coming. First, I honestly am trying to slow down my purchases. At this time last year I had taken in six new games; this year I have purchased one board game supplemental item (a box organizer). Of the 18 items on my GeekList, I think no more than 14 could deliver in 2020. That’s averaging more than one game a month – is that not enough?

I also found a few retailers that offer new games at prices similar to the preorder or basic Kickstarter rates. Usually these retailers have the games available at nearly the same time as the preorder is released or soon thereafter (for Kickstarter its early retail release). Here there is no price advantage for me going to the publisher. Instead, have a “disadvantage” in that I don’t get the game first (Cult of the New membership – REVOKED!) but maybe this is better as I get to see initial reactions once the game is “in the wild.” At the very least, I will be able to get a game when my hype (interest?) is highest, not long after it has cooled.

Some may point out that the preorder and Kickstarter methods serve the publisher as it is a barometer of interest. I sometimes wonder just how true that is. For instance, my oldest P500 at GMT Games is from October 2017 (!). Apparently, there are only 164 people who want a reprint of Panzer Expansion #1. Yes, there is a copy available on GeekMarket…for over $100! I want the game, but I don’t want it that badly. What good is it doing remaining in a vast limbo on the P500? Apparently the hype is long dead with this one. How many other games suffer the same fate? If I don’t preorder or back on kickstarter what is the real penalty for ME?

Then again, maybe I am being too impatient and paying to much attention to the hype-of-the-moment. Is it so bad to wait six to 18 months for a new game? Is that not a reasonable period to allow a game to be developed, playtested, manufactured, and shipped? There are plenty of (bad) examples of what happens when a game is rushed.

I’m torn. What are your thoughts? What is your boardgame hype like?


Feature image courtesy Leder Games

 

#Wargamer Outrage – Get over it!

So, the wargaming world was all abuzz last week. GMT Games, considered by many the flagship publisher of wargames, decided NOT to publish a Eurogame.

Reading the Twitter and BoardGameGeek outrage one may have thought the end of the world had arrived.

Let me be clear. As far I care GMT Games can choose to publish, or not publish, any game they want. Choosing to not publish a game is not censorship – it is a business decision.

Let’s also remember that this business decision has a real personal impact. It comes through clearly in a posting by GMT’s Gene Billingsley on CSW:

There’s certainly truth to that, Steven. I think Michael has a point, though. We’ve all had several days to vent about this decision, whatever our POV. The reason I’m not sharing further, btw, is because I think anything I say at this point will just be used by one side or the other to further deepen divides or “prove” their points. I have no interest in that.

I do want to thank Roger Miller for his most recent post. I wish everyone would read it and really give it some thought. Roger Miller, “GMT Games” #100011, 9 Apr 2019 6:20 pm

So let’s leave this discussion here. I understand that there are consequences to every decision (I knew this was a lose-lose when I made the decision) and that people on both sides of this want us to suffer them to varying degrees right now. But for us at GMT, with a tough decision behind us, we need to stay focused on the work. What I told our group of amazing office folks recently (you can probably imagine what they’ve had to endure this week) was:

“Let’s be kind in our responses. Let’s give everyone time to vent, think about it, and at some point move on. Most of all, let’s get back to the business of what our customers most want us to do – creating and producing more great games that they will enjoy.”

And that’s where I’ll leave it. Let’s close that discussion on this topic. If you have further things you want me to hear, please feel free to drop me an email.

Enjoy the games!

Gene

For what it’s worth (nothing, for I am not by any measure a content creator of any significance for the wargaming community), I was not going to purchase the game. I don’t buy games because of a publisher. I buy games that interest me and I want to play. The game did not interest me. But just because I don’t like the game doesn’t mean I don’t think it should be published. I certainly wish some games were never published but many times they are. So I express my approval/disapproval as I can. Usually that is in the form of a purchase – or not.

I have not reviewed my P500 list at GMT Games because I don’t have to. I have made my decision previously about which games I want to buy. I don’t need to review them because of this business decision.

The saddest part of this whole episode is the actions of more than a few members of the wargaming community and BoardGameGeek. I would like to think our hobby is a diverse, inclusive, tolerant crowd. This past week I saw too much negative behavior and it is disheartening. Too many gamers forgot to treat each other with respect. Some of the attacks turned very personal. A few threatened to leave the hobby or burn all their games.

Good riddance.

Summer Doldrums – or Continuing #Kickstarter and PreOrder Madness

As it is the summer, my gaming as slowed as the RockyMountainNavy Boys find more outdoor activities to do, the family is traveling more often, and long summer evenings make gaming less a priority. But it doesn’t mean I don’t want to play! Or try new games!

In April 2018, I had 13 games on pre-order. What has happened since?

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Preorder, or just a disorder?

I currently have 16 items on preorder. A majority (9) are GMT Games P500 orders. I have a love/hate relationship with P500; I love the games but hate the wait. I also am a bit disappointed that GMT Games has become a victim of the Cult of the New (COTN) with newer games seemingly taking priority over long-awaited reprints or expansions. I don’t blame GMT Games; they are going after the money where money is to be had.

I am also a bit surprised at the number of Kickstarter games I have pledged for. Given my hesitancy to previously support games I am surprised that I have five on this list. (actually six but the forever-delayed Squadron Strike: Traveller does not have a BGG entry and therefore does not show up). I have to say that so far I am extremely happy with the Triplanetary campaign since it is delivering early (my copy may even be in the mail as I type).

I actually had another Kickstarter item on order until last night when I cancelled it. It was an RPG product and I had backed it because the theme was interesting. As I looked at the product a bit deeper there were aspects that I found, well, I decided the product was not for me and dropped the campaign.

The last two games are Father’s Day gifts to myself and show as preordered because I don’t have them in hand just yet. Once again, the ever-awesome The Player’s Aid guys just make it so that I can’t pass on another game. In this case it’s Patton’s  Vanguard (Revolution Games). The other is Mrs. Thatcher’s War: The Falklands 1982 (White Dog Games). This buy was heavily influenced by an interview designer Ben Madison recently did with Bruce Geryk at his Wild Weasel podcast.

Four of the Kickstarter games are to deliver before the end of the year. We will see; Triplanetary looks like it is coming in early but three other Kickstarter campaigns I have backed (two non-boardgames) are delayed. Maybe a poor investment?

Discipline – or – KickStarter and Preorder Madness (April 2018 Update)

fullsizeoutput_5b2I really need to get my game budget under control. Last year I purchased many games and this year swore to get my spending under control. I have tried to be pickier (No Honey, really!) with my choices.

This week I was purchasing a just few games (Honest, Dear!) and looked at my Preordered BoardGameGeek collection.

Uh oh….

According to BGG, I have 13(!) items on preorder. I actually have 15 given that Hold the Line: The American Civil War (Worthington Publishing via Kickstarter) does not have an entry yet. And then there is Squadron Strike: Traveller (Ad Astra Games, never?). I have written before about my disappointment there. Here are a few I am most interested in:

Agents of Mayhem: Pride of Babylon (Academy Games, 2018?) is not my normal game genre. But it’s designed by Gunter Eickert and Uwe is publishing it. I trust them to make a good game. Even it it is a Kickstarter project….

After watching @PastorJoelT ‘s videos on Twitter and following my visit to Gettysburg, Battle Hymn Vol. 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (Compass Games, 2018) looked too good to pass up.

I have patiently waited for Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel! – Kursk 1943 (second edition, Academy Games) for a while now. I am part of the ProofHQ looking at the new rules. I like what I am seeing so the delay, though unfortunate, is not totally unbearable.

Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017). Another buy after @PastorJoelT showed videos. Also like that it compares to 1775 Rebellion – The American Revolution (Academy Games). Looking for a deal, I ordered through Miniature Market. In preorder although I see a few copies on the street. Worth it to save a few dollars?

I actually missed the Kickstarter for Root: A Game of Woodland Might and Right (Leder Games, 2018?) but recently pulled the trigger and ordered it via BackerKit. I was initially hesitant because I like the GMT Games COIN series (which Root is supposedly heavily influenced by) but just was not so sure the RockyMountainNavy Boys would like it. After looking at the Print-n-Play versions posted I decided to go for it!

Long ago I remember a friend had Triplanetary: The Classic Game of Space Combat (Steve Jackson Games, 2018?). At only $45 via Kickstarter this seemed like a good deal as it is a topic I love.

If predictions are to be believed, August/September 2018 may be a busy month of new games. Mrs. RockyMountainNavy keeps reminding me about this as I spend now for gaming later.

 

May 2017 – My Geek Hobby Year-to-Date

Traditionally, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer for the RockyMountainNavy family. That is until we moved to the East Coast. Now school for the RMN Boys goes until mid-June. However, I still want to use this occasion to look back on my geek hobby year-to-date.

Wargaming

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Courtesy BGG.com

According to my BGG profile, I played 10 games in January, four in February, four more in March, none in April, and only two in May. For a year that I wanted to play more I certainly have dropped off! Summer may change as I have several new games inbound. Arriving tomorrow is Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal – The Pacific 1942 (Academy Games, 2016). I also may be getting closer to my Kickstarter delivery of Squadron Strike: Traveller (Ad Astra Games, ??) which after many delays (unwarranted and unacceptable in my opinion) finally opened the BackerKit this week. I also pledged for Worthington Publishing’s Mars Wars – but it cancelled. This month I pledged to support Compass Games’ new Richard Borg title Command & Colors: Tricorne – The American Revolution. To be honest, I am buying this title as much for myself as for the RMN Boys – which is both a blessing and a curse. I am certainly blessed in that I have boys who love gaming, but cursed in that they are not a hard grognard like their old man. The titles also reflect a change in my gaming interests as I struggle with the closure of many FLGS and the movement of my purchasing online or (shudder) to Kickstarter. I also have several games on P500 at GMT Games and hope to see that production schedule move forward this year.

Role Playing Games

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Courtesy RPGGeek

Whereas my grognard-fu has been weakening, my RPG play has been one of steady growth. Mostly this has revolved around the Cepheus Engine RPG system and products from Gypsy Knights Games and their The Clement Sector setting or products from Samardan Press, Zozer Games (especially their SOLO supplement), and Moon Toad Publishing. I have to tip my hat to these third party publishers which are doing so much to breathe life into my RPG adventures. For this summer, I also have a Star Wars: Edge of the Empire (Fantasy Flight Games) campaign at-the-ready. Here too I have dipped deeper into Kickstarter and pledged support to Cam Banks’, Magic Vacuum Studio’s Cortex Prime: A Multi-Genre Modular Roleplaying Game.

Books

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Courtesy Amazon.com

I started off at Christmas with a good collection of books that I am whittling down at a much slower pace than I wish. This is not because I have ignored them; on the contrary, I am probably reading more than I did last year – just not reading off my list! Science fiction books have taken up much of my reading time. I have found myself lost in rereading the Charles E. Gannon’s Caine Riordan series from Baen Books. I also turned to Kickstarter again for content, this time in the form of Cirsova 2017 (Issues 5&6) and its short stories.

Plastic Models

I didn’t get time to build much but the RMN boys got many kits completed. We even found a YouTube channel that we love, Andy’s Hobby Headquarters. He not only shows great models, but the boys are studying his techniques for better building.

Education Support

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Courtesy goodreads.com

I also have to do the Dad-thing and boast a bit about my youngest RMN Boy. This past quarter he was studying World War II and had a project to complete. The project supposed the student had found items in the attic from grandparents accumulated during World War II. The student had to put together a scrapbook of a newspaper article relating a battle (writing assignment), a letter from a soldier/sailor to home describing another battle (writing assignment), a letter from home describing the home front (writing assignment), a letter from the mayor to a local boys club thanking them for supporting the war effort (another writing assignment), notes from Grandmother about key personalities (short biographies), and a propaganda poster (art assignment). We had fun doing this project as together the youngest RMN boy and I prowled my shelves for sources, watched movies and documentaries online, and even pulled out a few games to better visualize the battles. A very proud moment for this father as the New Media and my book and game collection came together to teach a young man history.


Feature image courtesy 365barrington.com