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!

Quartermaster General: The Cold War (@PSCGamesUK, 2018) – a #wargame that isn’t about a war that wasn’t

I AM A CHILD OF THE 1980’s. No, I wan’t born in the ’80s but I came of age in that decade. As such, the Cold War had a very formative influence on my life. As a wargamer, the Cold War had a outsize influence on my gaming too. Reading books like Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising gave inspiration for wargaming out the ‘what-if’ of a ‘Cold War Gone Hot.’ Coming forward 40 years we now get games that are a retrospective look at the Cold War. This is where Quartermaster General: The Cold War (PSC Games, 2018) enters the conversation. This game, which BoardGameGeek users insist is a ‘wargame,’ barely meets the definition. More accurately, Quartermaster General: The Cold War is a card-driven strategy game of placing influence for control themed around the Cold War.

A war game that isn’t

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Courtesy Mighty Boards

First, let me be clear up front that I don’t oppose the trend in wargame design that has delivered the waro to our shelves. I loosely define a waro as a wargame the uses many Eurogame-like mechanics. A supreme example in my book is Supply Lines of the American Revolution: The Northern Theater, 1775-1777 (Hollandspiele, 2017). In this wargame, it is the cubes of supply that are most important. Another great example is Nights of Fire: The Battle of Bucharest (Mighty Board Games, 2019), which wargame co-designer Brian Train refers to as ” a militarized Eurogame.” Bottom Line: A wargame does not have to be the classic hex & counter with a Combat Results Table.

When I got Quartermaster General: The Cold War (QmG: TCW) and went to add it to my BGG collection I was surprised to see it ranked as the #420 War game. I looked to see what it’s Strategy game ranking was and didn’t find one. Even Root (Leder Games, 2018), a classic “it’s not a wargame but it is” title is ranked the #17 War game and the #27 Strategy game. Interestingly, the original Quartermaster General (PSC Games, 2014) is ranked #105 in War and #468 in Strategy. So what makes QmG: TCW exclusively a wargame?

BoardGameGeek defines the wargames subdomain like this:

“A wargame (also war game) is a strategy game that deals with military operations of various types” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wargaming). However many wargames cover political and strategic choices. They can simulate historical, fantasy, near future or science fiction themes.
A wargame can be played on a board with counters, with cards or/and with miniature figures.

In Quartermaster General: The Cold War, each turn supposedly represents between two and two-and-one-half years of time. Each turn, players play different cards to place or remove armies, air forces or navies on the map. In the Scoring Phase which occurs after every 2 turns players gain VP for each Army that is on the map and for each Army that occupies an uncontested space with a Supply symbol (or Supply token of the same nationality). Different Status cards (if readied) may also award VP if the conditions are met. Navies and air forces do not provide VP.

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Courtesy BGG User @van00uber

The use of military units, be it an army or navy, as well as the powerful air force unit (the only unit that can attack from beyond a space) leads to a misunderstanding of what they actually represent. In Quartermaster General: The Cold War the various units don’t really represent military formations; they actually represent influence the owner has placed into that space. National power is composed of many elements, the classic definition being known as DIMEDiplomatic, Intelligence, Military, and Economic. That Army unit on the map is a combination of the result of DIME and are placed/removed or scored based on Status and Event cards representing many of the Diplomatic, Military, and Economic activities that happened during the Cold War or Espionage cards showcasing much of the shadowy Intelligence game of East vs West (or others). If we look at the game as a strategy game of placing DIME influence, then we are closer to the BGG definition of a wargame. The play of cards and placement of units of influence is definitely a set of ‘strategic choices.’ But what of the military operations?

 

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Courtesy funnyjunk.com

Battle and Elimination is actually a major section of the rule book for Quartermaster General: The Cold War. The section is short and sweet:

There are two types of battles: Land Battles and Sea Battles. In order to battle another Bloc’s Army or Navy, you must have a supplied Army or Navy in the same space, and play or use a card that allows you to battle in that space. Then, barring some other reaction, the enemy Army or Navy you’re battling is removed from the board. If both enemy Blocs are in a space, you may only battle one with a single battle action. (p. 29)

Missing here is a key component of a wargame – a randomizer. Not all wargames need a die but to reflect a Clauzwitz component of war – friction –  some sort of randomizer (cards, dice, etc) is needed. However, combat in Quartermaster General: The Cold War is prescriptive and absolutely deterministic (save having a readied card that can counteract the battle effect).

At the end of the day, Quartermaster General: The Cold War is not a wargame but a strategy game of placement and removal of influence which is unhelpfully depicted as military forces.

The war that wasn’t

The Cold War is often described as a bi-polar conflict of East vs West, Capitalism vs Communism, or Freedom vs Totalitarianism. Quartermaster General: The Cold War breaks from this approach and makes the Cold War a three-way race between the Soviet, West, and Non-Aligned Blocs. This is a fair revisionist view of history which gives attention long-past due to the activities and motivations of countries and movements beyond Washington and Moscow.

Understanding the three-way race further reinforces the reality that the pieces in Quartermaster General: The Cold War do not represent military forces but the spread and influence of movements and ideas as much as military hardware. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than by the Nationalists. Take for example the Orange Espionage card Khmer Rouge (Use in your Begin Turn step. Eliminate all Armies in Southeast Asia that are not Nationalist.”). This card represents the movement, not the military forces. As a matter of fact, the Khmer Rouge never fielded large military forces but it was a powerful movement of ideas. In QmG: TCW this influential control of the movement is depicted using an Army.

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Khmer Rouge Occupy Phnom Penh

Not a wargame? So what?

If you’re still reading at this point you probably think I don’t like Quartermaster General: The Cold War. Actually, I think it is a good game. To be sure, it is not a history or simulation of the Cold War, but it does offer insights. In many ways, it accomplishes the goals spoken of by game designer Mark Herman who wrote, “As a designer, I always strive to develop game systems that allow the players to compete in a plausible historical narrative that allows for the suspension of disbelief and offers insight into a period’s dynamics.” (Zones of Control, MIT Press 2016, p. 133).

Nowhere is the period dynamics of the Cold War better demonstrated in Quartermaster General: The Cold War than by Escalation and WMD Costs. WMD – Weapons of Mass Destruction – cards can be very, very powerful but using them comes at cost of VP. The more powerful the card, the more costly it is to play. But, the cost of using the card is reduced by the target Blocs Escalation Level against your Bloc which makes it less costly (easier?) to use if you have been in an escalating contest with that Bloc. It makes for a natural arms race and illustrates how easy it is to escalate; and how hard it is to back off.

To be honest though, the number one reason I bought Quartermaster General: The Cold War is to play with the RockyMountainNavy Boys. It is unusual to find a game that supports three-players from the beginning. The three-Bloc set up of QmG: TCW combined with the quick-play (90-120 minutes) nature of the game engine is a natural fit for our family game night. It doesn’t hurt that the game also covers a period of history that I lived but they only (barely) heard about in school.

Designer Ian Brody in Quartermaster General: The Cold War gives us a streamlined card-driven game system that creates a plausible narrative using historical events and conditions that offers insights into the dynamics of the Cold War. It’s a good, highly playable strategy game, not wargame, view of the Cold War.

#GenCon2020 Weekend #Wargame #Boardgame After Action Report featuring @stonemaiergames, @gmtgames, @UnstbleUnicrns, @BlueOrangeGames, & @PSCGamesUK

I’LL BE HONEST, I WAS NOT GOING TO MAKE IT TO GENCON THIS YEAR ANYWAY. Moving to a new position made taking an extra non-family vacation dicey so I passed. Of course, it doesn’t matter now since COVID-19 changed everything. As a result, GenCon 2020 was held online and in homes this year. The RockyMountainNavy household did our part.

Plays

Here are the games played this GenCon 2020:

  • Scythe (Stonemaier Games, 2016): Friday night we picked up on our Scythe: The Rise of Fenris (2018) campaign playing Episode 4. We used the Scythe: Invaders from Afar (2018) and Scythe: Encounters (2018) expansions. Sunday night we continued with Episode 5, which unveiled [REDACTED]. I continue to be impressed how The Rise of Fenris campaign introduces new modular expansions that will be playable in any game going forward. Rather than just “open a box of options” the campaign introduces them gradually and provides a ‘reason’ for the new options to exist in the game universe. Brilliant marketing technique!
  • Here to Slay (Unstable Unicorns, 2020): This game already is officially the most-played game this year in the RockyMountainNavy hacienda and it shows no signs of slowing down. We are so familiar with the rules and speedy that the game takes no more than 20 minutes to play – a great filler before dinner or while waiting for something.
  • Wing Leader: Origins 1936-1942 (GMT Games, 2020): Played solo through Scenario O05 “Operation Zet” which depicts Nationalist Chinese flying I-16s’, I-15’s and Hawk III’s defending against a Japanese raid of G3M2 bombers escorted by A5M4 fighters. Takes place over Wuhan, China. Somewhat fitting in these days of coronavirus….(Note: I actually played it three times with the third play forming the basis for a long AAR).
  • Rhode Island (GMT Games, 2020): New arrival this weekend. Spent some time sorting and trimming the counters before pushing the cardboard around. I really enjoy the Battles of the American Revolution Series and this one doesn’t disappoint delivering insight into a lesser known (Battle of Rhode Island) and even a hypothetical one (Battle of Newport).

Purchases

There were more than a few deals online for games so I took advantage of a few:

What was your GenCon 2020 experience?


Feature image courtesy gencon.com

#SPIEL18 – My ESSENtial thoughts including AuZtralia, ICECOOL, lots of Plastic Soldiers, and wars across the world

The Essen Game Fair, or International Spieltage 2018, is going on as I write this post. BoardGameGeek collected a list of around 1200 games that either debut or will be available at Essen. Like so many others I reviewed the list to see what strikes my fancy. Apparently, I am too much of a niche-gamer because my list of “Must Have” or “Interested” is very small.

I have seven games on my “Must Have” and “Interested” list. All but one are wargames or a “waro.” One is a kids game because, you know, reasons!

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Spiel18 My Picks via BGG.com

AuZtralia (Stronghold Games)MUST HAVE

I am not a Cthulhu Mythos fan and for that reason alone this game should not be on my list. However, this Martin Wallace-designed waro looks so interesting with its mix of multiple Eurogame mechanics (worker placement, resource collection, track laying, and action selection) combined with a semi-cooperative wargame. My preorder is already placed.

ICECOOL2 (Brain Games)MUST HAVE

The RockyMountainNavy house already owns the original ICECOOL. It is a favorite game amongst Mrs. RMN’s students (especially Little Clara). This expansion takes the possible player count to eight making it a great candidate for a Party Game.

1918: Death on the Rails (2D6.EE)Interested

Chosen mostly on the basis of the topic. Admittedly, the game does not appear to offer any really new or innovative mechanic but (hopefully) is a solid implementation of a block wargame. I have few European publishers in my collection; interested to see their perspective on wargames too.

Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy (Lautepelit.Fi)Interested

The original Eclipse was strongly recommended to me by Uwe Eickert of Academy Games but I never got around to picking it up. Maybe I will be better this time!

Lincoln (PSC Games)Interested

Card-based wargames are not really my thing but just maybe this one will work for me. Almost pulled the trigger during the Kickstarter campaign but several design controversies made my shy away. Still a bit reluctant to go all-in.

Radetzky: Milano 1848 (Post Scriptum) Interested

A cooperative wargame? Sounds interesting!

Wings of Glory: Tripods & Triplanes (Ares Games)Interested

Technically speaking, the RockyMountainNavy collection of Wings of Glory “belongs” to LittleRockyMountainNavy. He likes Wings of Glory over Fantasy Flight Games’ X-Wing because it is more historical and less tournament-based. That said, he does have an interest in the steampunk genre through games like Scythe (Stonemaier Games) or AuZtralia.

Undecided

Not shown above, I have another seven games in my “Undecided” category.

Battlestar Galactica: Starship Battles – Starter Set (Ares Games)

Am interested in the topic but if this is another cinematic movement system and not vector movement (more thematically correct) then I am going to pass. Have some hope since the publisher’s blurb mentions, “…unique dynamics of the battles….”

Expedition Zetta (Ion Game Design)

Topic interests. Looks thematically appropriate. Need to learn more.

Hannibal & Hamilcar (Phalanx)

Another asymmetric card game. Not sure about card games.

Normandy: The Beginning of the End (Draco Ideas)

Need to explore what the Paths to Hell system really is. Another question is, “Do I really need another WWII tactical combat system?” After all, I am already all-in on Conflict of Heroes and the Panzer (Second Edition) series.

Quartermaster General: The Cold War (PSC Games)

Looks interesting…may be suitable for family game night with the RockyMountainNavy Boys. Few games out there in that 3-6 player category (with three-players key for the RockyMountainNavy Game Night).

Scorpius Freighter (AEG)

“Recruit Crew, Customize Ships, Smuggle Goods.” Sounds alot like Firefly: The Game, which I already own, only with the serial number filed off. Although thematically close it is much different graphically. Interesting, but once again I have to ask myself is another “pick up and smuggle” game worth my investment?

SHAEF (PSC Games)

Another PSC Games card-driven title. But only 2-player.

So there is my Essen. Of the 14 games here I think three or four maybe will get into the RockyMountainNavy collection within the next 12 months. Maybe.