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

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

New Arrivals

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

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

Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible

Let me tell you a tale of longships and woe – A #boardgame story from 878: Vikings – Invasions of England (@Academy_Games, 2017)

The ships. I remember the ships.

The first sign of the Invasion was when the longships filled with helmeted warriors sailed up to Winchester. After they came ashore it was barbaric as they pillaged the land. It was not long before most of the south of Wessex, including Exeter and Canterbury were to fall to the invading hordes.

We English tried to fight. We struck back where able. Led by Housecarl and stiffened by the Thegn we fought – and died. Many a Fryd-man suffered but it didn’t turn back the Norsemand tide.

London and Thetford and most of the Kingdom of Guthrie fell. There were few rebellions; most were brutally put down. Even attempts to turn the Vikings warriors from their pagan beliefs failed. Then another wave arrived and Manchester fell. Only English and Danish Merica held.

Desperately seeking a new leader, we raised an army for King Alfred. He fought well, but not well enough. When he fell in battle, it was clear to all that the Treaty of Wedmore was the only answer.


This past Saturday Night Game Night in the RockyMountainHouse saw a return of an old friend and the joining of a newer one. The new friend was Gavin, best buddy of RockyMountainNavy Jr., who joined us for Game Night. The old friend was 878: Vikings – Invasions of England, the very family-friendly, area control, team lite wargame from Academy Games (2017).

Being bestest buds, RMN Jr. and Gavin took the Norseman and Berserkers, respectively. RockyMountainNavy T and myself took the English with T playing Housecarl and myself playing Thegn.

Teaching 878 or any of the Birth of America/Europe series games is easy. The fact that a new player plays on a team makes it even easier with experienced teammates. Gavin had no problem learning the rules and the few questions he had during gameplay mostly related to understanding Event Cards and their unique effects. That, and the fact the Vikings started out with a very aggressive move that cost the English dearly from the beginning didn’t hurt them either.

The aggressive move was to play Card 12 – Viking Ships (Norseman) on the first turn. The card reads:

The Norsemen may play this Event during their Movement Phase to move an Army from one Coastal Shire to any other Shire located on the same sea coast if they have a Unit participating in the move. This sea move costs the Army or Leader one Move, the same as if it had moved into an adjacent Shire. The Army may continue moving if it has any moves remaining.

Norseman Card 12 – Viking Ships

Normally, the first Viking invaders must enter from the North Sea. RMN Jr. landed at Canterbury and then pointed to the fact the shire adjoins both the North Sea and English Channel. After easily defeating the defenders of Canterbury in the first Battle Round, the Viking proceeded to Winchester as their second move using the Viking Ships card. We debated the interpretation of the card but in an attempt not not derail the game out of the gate we ended up allowing it. The result was a very uphill game for the English who lost their best reinforcement cities right out of the gate. This made massing of forces difficult for defense of the realm.

[The next day I searched the BGG forums for any comments and noted a very similar move was played at the 2018 WBC tournament – so it appears legal.]

The Vikings actually played both Treaty of Wedmore cards in Round IV but we had to play through Round V and the arrival of King Alfred before the game end. Going into Round V the Vikings held 12 Shires (three more than necessary for the win). After back-to-back activations of Norseman and Berserkers to start Round V they held 14 Shires. The English used the arrival of King Alfred to take back two shires but it was not enough and he fell in the last battle of the game. With 12 shires held at the Treaty the Vikings won.

This was Gavin’s first “wargame” that he has played (“other than Risk“). He liked it and was curious about the other titles in the Birth of America series. As much as we want to play more wargames with him, RockyMountainNavy Jr. also realizes Gavin is more of a mass-market gamer. That said, he does have experience in some hobby games like Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004), Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2016) and Here to Slay (Unstable Games, 2020). With that thought in mind, Jr. asked that we consider other games, like maybe starting with the deck-builder Trains (AEG, 2012) for another game night.

Most importantly, we also reaffirmed in the RMN Home that Weekend Games Nights are ESSENTIAL. In the past six weeks we have let Game Night slide in a combination of apathy and depression from the social situations surrounding COVID-19. We all enjoyed Game Night and we realized it is an essential part of our mental happiness. We agreed that we MUST get back to regular play – and we will!


Feature image courtesy ancientpages.com

#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.

t355_b2138e70398567c86527fda049c52d5f
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)

22b1bdd16bc6caeb036841f5b72fb839-queendomino-game
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.

03a66ad947679093537ec2960dbe02ed_original
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.

img_0015.jpg
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. 

7AD93191-680B-46A2-BFD1-9044CC1510AD
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

#Wargame #Boardgame #SocialDistancing in the time of #COVID-19

AS OF THIS MORNING (15 MARCH), my local county health department is reporting 10 ‘presumptive positive’ cases of COVID-19. The school district has already shut down thru 10 April and many events are cancelled to encourage ‘social distancing.’

In the RockyMountainNavy household, we have dealt with COVID-19 since Mrs. RMN returned from Korea right as the epidemic was breaking out there. She laid low for 14 days not because of self-isolation but because others avoided her (the worst ‘racists’ are often from one’s own race). Now there is panic in the wider community (why are people hoarding toilet paper?) and much is being cancelled. One aspect of social distancing we are practicing is to distance ourselves from social media. Frankly, its all doom and gloom with lots of disinformation. In a practical response this means that wargames and boardgames are hitting the gaming table more often.

For myself, I have played solitaire sessions of Steamroller: Tannenburg 1914 from Yaah! Magazine #10 (Flying Pig Games, 2017) and Less Than 60 Miles (Thin Red Line Games, 2019). I am able to get bigger and longer games to the table because I literally set up a table in the loft that allows me to put a game down and keep it there for a while.

From the family perspective we are using several different approaches to gaming. For our usual ‘longer’ weekend plays we are going back to finish our Scythe: The Rise of Fenris campaign (Stonemaier Games, 2018) while mixing in shorter family games at other times like Tiny Epic Galaxies (Gamelyn Games, 2015). I also am throwing in some 1v1 wargames like Hold the Line: The American Civil War (Worthington Publishing, 2019) to play against the one of the boys when they get tired of one another. In this time of crisis, we are also occasionally taking care of young children of family friends who are struggling with daycare and work. In those cases we pull out the family games for like Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2016) or even Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004). The list of games goes on and on as we (now fortunately) have a large gaming collection.

The RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself also have a ‘healthy’ collection of plastic models that need to be built. Today we will venture to the FLGS/Hobby store (Huzzah Hobbies) to lay in some supplies.

We have even talked about reviving our Traveller RPG campaign (using Cepheus Engine rules) or our long set-aside Star Wars sessions using the Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Roleplaying Game rules.

With boardgames, wargames, RPGs, and models we are pretty set to hunker down for the next several weeks. Let’s hope that everybody stays safe and we get thru this crisis as best we can.


Feature image: Playing Nexus Ops (Avalon Hill, 2005)

#Boardgame #FamilyFriday – Quick ticket to restaurant fun with Ticket to Ride: New York (@days_of_wonder, 2018)

AT THE ROCKYMOUNTAINNAVY HOUSE WE USUALLY PLAY GAMES AT THE HOUSE. However, two weeks ago we tried something a little different. It was a Friday night and Mrs. RockyMountainNavy and RockyMountain Jr. were tutoring a student. The young lady is an only child and both her parents work hard and get little couple time to themselves. Seeing that this particular Friday was Valentines Day, Mrs. RMN suggested we take Ms. C to dinner with us after tutoring so her parents could have a date. We are strong proponents of ‘couple time’ and are fortunate that the RMN Boys are older so they can take care of themselves giving us a chance for our ‘couple time.’ We recognize that not all families are as lucky.

img_0512.pngThat night we ended up at a local bar-restaurant, Ono Brewing Company (@OnoBrewCo). This is a self-serve brew pub that has a food truck-like small restaurant, Odd BBQ (oddbbq.com) inside. Having been here before, we saw a shelf with boardgames on it. We even saw other patrons bring their own games to set up and play, so we knew the place is both family and boardgame friendly.

Ms. C expresses great interest in boardgames. She even lamented to me once that, “I like to play games, but my parents don’t.” So we always try to leave a little bit of time at the end of her tutoring to play a boardgame. Two week before, the moms and kids had gotten together (I was at a Bachelor Party) and the RMN Boys taught Ms. C Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004). The Boys told me she really liked the game, but this night I knew the table was going to be smaller and time shorter. So we took along Ticket to Ride: New York (Days of Wonder, 2018).

It was perfect.

tt_ny-inside-680
Courtesy Days of Wonder

The smaller footprint meant the game easily fit on our table. We had eaten at a casual pace so we only had about 20 minutes to kill before we had to leave to get Ms. C back to her parents. Most importantly, Ms. C totally enjoyed the game. I mean she was really into it! As she played, she had that Michael Jordan-tongue thing going as she looked at her cards and the board and considered her options. The RMN Boys were playing very casual but Ms. C was super serious! In the end she came in second of three players but you could tell that she really enjoyed the game.

This very casual boardgame play was satisfying on several levels. First, it was the right game for the space and time available. Secondly, but more importantly, it was the perfect game for Ms. C and the RMN Boys to enjoy. Given the great level of enjoyment we all had, I have the feeling this game, and maybe the newer version, Ticket to Ride: London (Days of Wonder, 2020) will land on tables outside the RMN home more often.

tt_ln-box-462

tt_ln-setup-940
Courtesy Days of Wonder

 

After #SpringBreak Di$ney it’s time to get back to #wargames

I have not played a wargame or boardgame in over a week now. Not because I have stopped playing; instead I have been off playing with the RockyMountainNavy Family at DisneyWorld. Now fully recharged I am ready to get back to the gaming table!

ZQXOtLiRS4yH9j7lKgkrigBefore Spring Break, I had several opportunities to play @HBuchanan2‘s Campaigns of 1777. These days I am becoming a sucker for the chit-pull mechanic in games as they make the game very solo-friendly even without a dedicated solitaire version. I am also a sucker for wargames the American Revolution era. After driving from Virginia to Florida and passing by several Revolutionary War sites, I really hope he goes ahead with southern campaign version too!

sru0+D2iRSaTaHyp5osoWwAround the same time Campaigns of 1777 arrived I also too delivery of my GMT Games P500 order of @tdraicer‘s The Dark Valley Deluxe Edition. This is in many ways a modern monster game covering the complete Eastern Front campaign in World War II. I bought into the game based (once again) on the chit-pull mechanism that I enjoyed in the previous Ted Racier/GMT Games title, The Dark Sands. I have to admit that I want to get this one to the table soon; as I was inspecting the game and had the board laid out Youngest RMN and I started looking at the geography and talking in general terms about Operation Barbarossa and Eastern Front. Historically I have avoided anything above tactical-level games about the Eastern Front; looking to change that with The Dark Valley!

Y0BIfKqBQvWvDsPxZeosHgFinally, on the day before we travelled, a relatively new publisher, Canvas Temple Publishing, delivered their Kickstarter for WW2 Deluxe. This is supposed to be a game where one can play the European Theater (or Western Front) in World War II in an evening. First pass through the rulebook and components looks promising!

We actually took a few boardgames with us on vacation but were lucky and had not bad weather days so the games remained unplayed. The RMN Boys did play a few games of Ticket to Ride or Battlelore or 1775: Rebellion on the iPad but I didn’t get to play (something about driving and playing at the same time just doesn’t work!). We had considered taking Villainous with us but thought that would be too much Disney. So, with vacation behind me and now emotionally recharged, it’s time to get back to wargaming and boardgaming.

 

#Boardgame goodness with Villainous: The Worst Takes It All (@wonderforge, 2018)

I was very surprised to see that Villainous: The Worst Takes It All (Wonder Forge, 2018) took home the Toy Association 2019 Toy of the Year Award. Given last years winner I was shocked to see a hobby boardgame (though available in mass market channels) actually win.

What shocked me even more were comments from the Ravensburger CEO after the win (as reported by Dice Tower News):

“The positive response from Disney fans and strategy board game enthusiasts for the growing Disney Villainous franchise has been overwhelming. In the last quarter of 2018, Ravensburger sold more than a quarter of a million copies globally of Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes It All, and it rose to Top 5 of Amazon’s Most Wished for Board Games. Even before it hit shelves last summer, we knew we had a winner and had already begun working on the next in the franchise, Wicked to the Core.” -Filip Francke, CEO of Ravensburger North America

Did he really just say they sold 250,000 copies IN THE LAST QUARTER of 2018? This is an incredible number considering the very popular Ticket To Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004) claims to have sold six million copies…in 15 years. Even the venerable Settlers of Catan (now simply Catan) was credited with 22 million copies sold in 2015…20 years after it was released.

In some ways the sale of Villainous also show a disconnect in the hobby boardgame market segment. BoardGameGeek only shows a bit over 5000 copies “owned” and the game is ranked as the 237th most popular Family Game.

I think Ravensburger is really happy about the public reaction to Villainous: The Worst Takes It All. Having released the title under the Wonder Forge line with a pen-named designer has all the hallmarks of trying to reduce risk from exposure to a flop. I guess this fear is no more given press about a forthcoming new expansion, Villainous: Wicked to the Core.

[I wonder if Wonder Forge is going away. Contrary to the words of Mr. Francke, Wonder Forge has acted nothing like a company with a “winner.” The last Tweet on @wonderforge was in September 2018 and the website http://www.wonderforge.com looks like it was last updated Spring/Summer 2018. Even at Ravensburger USA it shows Villainous: The Worst Takes It All as “Coming Soon” with no further link provided. For a game that appears to be making bank for the company it sure ain’t getting much online love from them. Maybe that will change after the TOTY award.]

Here at the RockyMountainNavy house Villainous: The Worst Takes It All initially got a mixed reception. After hearing about the new expansion we decided to bring the first game out again and give it another shot.

I took Ursula while Youngest RMN Boy played the Queen of Hearts. I was surprised that Middle RMN Boy took Maleficent as he has played Captain Hook in every other game of Villainous. I thought for sure he was going to take Captain Hook because he usually shows less initiative in games given his Autism Spectrum and hesitation when trying something new.

Learning our lesson from before, we took time before the game started to study our Villain Guides and strategize before the first round. We went round and round slowly at first as we relearned the rules. Middle RMN Boy and myself constantly played Fate Cards on the Queen of Hearts but we didn’t seem to be able to find very powerful ones at the right time. For myself, Ursula had the Crown at Ursula’s Lair and I was ready to play a Binding Contract on King Triton and get the Trident. After that I figured it would be one more turn to get the Trident to my Lair. It was looking to be not a moment too soon as Maleficent had three Curses out and probably had a fourth ready. To our surprise, the Queen of Hearts played then immediately turned her last Card Guard into a Wicket and then Took the Shot…and made it!

We all agreed that this play of Villainous was much more satisfying then the first time. The key appears to be taking the time to study the Villain Guide ahead of starting play. After the first few less-than-satisfying plays Villainous: The Worst Takes It All had sat on the shelf of shame for several months. I think it is back now, for better not worse!


Feature image shot by self

 

RockyMountainNavy #Boardgame of the Year for 2018

This is the first in my series of 2018 “of the Year” posts. This one will cover boardgames, a second will look at wargames, the third will be expansions, and the last is my Game of the Year. Candidate games are taken from those published and which I acquired in 2018.

For my 2018 Boardgame of the Year the candidates are:

…and my winner is…

box-hero
Courtesy Stronghold Games

As I recorded in my First Impressions post, I was a bit cool to AuZtralia at first. After playing it a few more times (and especially after solo play) I have really warmed up to this title. What I initially called “schizophrenic” in the game I now see as a well-accomplished blending of sometime disparate game mechanisms into a complete game playable in about 2 hours.

mUEt+tWpRO6rBH%Dpdzi%w
Photo by self

At the time I wrote this post, AuZtralia has nearly 900 ratings on BoardGameGeek with a rating of 7.7. It was also ranked 197th in the Thematic Game category. I personally think the Geek Rating is a bit low and the game should get more respect than it seems to be garnering. I have heard some people criticize the randomness in the game (“this game has way to much randomness, the scoring sucks”) while others don’t like the blending of mechanism, especially when the game devolves into a wargame (oh the horror!). I think designer Scott Muldoon (sdiberar on BGG) says it best, “I don’t think the work is a stroke of genius, but it’s a solid game that has staked out some new territory (“Rails to Cthulhu, Now With More Combat”).”

Other Candidates

Let me also say that Pandemic: Fall of Rome (BGG rated at 7.9) and Ticket to Ride: New York (BGG rated at 7.1) are also excellent games. My opinion of Fall of Rome may change as the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself play it more. Ticket to Ride: New York makes an excellent gateway game or filler game. As far as Villainous; let’s just say the less said the better.

Blah-day Gaming

Today was a Federal Holiday to honor former President H.W. Bush and although I didn’t have to go to work the Youngest RockyMountainNavy Boy was also home. He had come down with a case of the blahs and didn’t really look healthy enough to go to school. Instead, he stayed home and we both took advantage of the day for some father-son bonding using boardgames!

22b1bdd16bc6caeb036841f5b72fb839-queendomino-game
BGG.com

The first game of the day we played was Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017). It was a good two-player contest with me emerging victorious 54-44. Today’s play also pushed Queendomino into my Dimes group of played games (at least 10 plays) for 2018.

teg6
BGG.com

The second game of the day was Tiny Epic Galaxies (Gamelyn Games, 2015). My Secret Mission was Orbiter (all ships on home galaxy at game end, +2 VP) while Youngest RMN Boy was Conqueror (most planets, +3 VP). The Secret Mission 1 VP difference was the final scoring difference with Youngest RMN squeaking by with the 1VP win (24-23).

IMG_0015
Credit – Self

The third and last game of the day was Ticket to Ride: New York (Days of Wonder, 2018). This was another game that needed one more play to enter Dime -status for the year. Middle RMN Boy joined us for this game which in hindsight was a mistake as he totally swept us 38-31-25.

None of the games played today were “heavy” by any stretch of the imagination. In many ways playing the “lighter” games was right because the play emphasized family together time instead of being a “brain-burner.”

zgLVeSk8Tn+CXkchMq7sMw
Credit – Self

As excited as Little RMN was to play with Dad on this Holiday/Sick Day, he got more excited when a certain box arrived. Pandemic: Fall of Rome (Z-Man Games, 2018) is now in the house and will almost certainly land on the gaming table this weekend for a 4-player session. Given the theme, even the Oldest RMN Boy wants to play. Which goes again to show how gaming can bring family and friends together and make even a dreary day so much better.

Featured image courtesy Z-Man Games.

October ends with a Silver Bayonet charge from @gmtgames & Dad is the real King(domino) (@BlueOrangeGames)

IMG_0073
October 2018

My October gaming featured 20 plays of 11 different games. Actually, I played 19 times with 10 games and one expansion. Or two expansions? Confusing. The ability to tie an expansion to a game is a needed upgrade to BoardGameStats to avoid this very confusion.

530
GMT Games

The top game of the month was Silver Bayonet: The First Team in Vietnam, 1965 (25th Anniversary Edition) (GMT Games, 2016). I played this game six times in the one week it was in the house this month making it currently tied for my second-most played wargame of 2018. I like the game so much I wrote about my out-of-the-box impressions, theme, and game mechanics.

DFILK233QhiVw9QZAigEhAThere was one special game this month, Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017). My father, aged 88 years and a veteran of the Korean War, visited our area as part of an Honor Flight group. After dinner one night the RockyMountainNavy Boys got to sit down and play a single game of Kingdomino with him. When we lived closer to him we played many games togther. I remember one early game where he sat down and played Blokus with the kids. As the kids racked up the points Dad sat there pondering the board until he finally asked, “How do you win?” To him a game is always a puzzle to be solved; it was supposed to have a “key” to unlock it. He never did figure out the key to Blokus, though over the years he did play several games of Ticket to Ride with the kids (and often held his own). Given my dad’s age and general health, and the fact he lives on the opposite side of the country, this very well could be the last game the RockyMountainNavy Boys play with him. Thanks to boardgaming we have several good memories of times with him.

How’d it suddenly get so dusty in here?