#SundaySummary – Kicking it with @kickstarter Root: The Marauder Expansion (@LederGames)

Kickstarter

Leder Games does it again with another YUGE Kickstarter campaign; Root: The Marauder Expansion (Leder Games). As I finalize this post they have already passed 14,000 backers and over $1.3 million. I have to admit I went for the “All the New Stuff” pledge level – but only after some real deep thinking. The “All the New Stuff” pledge level for Root: The Marauder Expansion is US $110. OUCH! Yes, there’s alot of content there but it’s all expansions, for the root Root game. That’s a heaping pile of dinero for just new “bits!”

Expensive Marauder

I looked at maybe going for the “Marauder Expansion” pledge of $50 and possibly adding in The Clockwork Expansion 2 because I want to access solo play but together that’s $90. So maybe that $110 ain’t that bad. It’s still a big number to process, but maybe?

A part of me could pass on this Kickstarter. I have Root, which is a fine game itself, and The Clockwork Expansion which makes it solo-friendly-ish. I already don’t get to play enough with the extra factions. Additionally, the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself have fallen a bit off the boardgame bandwagon so we don’t get many titles to the table to begin with. My Root collection will probably never get extensive play as is. From that perspective I shouldn’t jump to invest in this Kickstarter campaign.

On the other hand, a great deal of the attraction in Root for me is not playing the game, but studying it. In some ways I have a streak of Systems Analyst in me. I deeply respect Root for its ability to take many different game play mechanics and make them work together. It’s an incredible design and one that is worthy of further study. Add to that the fact The Marauder Expansion adds “Hirelings” which are not full factions but, well, hired help that adds another tool to your kit to mix with a faction ability to make a victory. Again, very interesting from a system mechanics perspective. From that perspective an investment of $110 is a bit steep, but (somewhat?) justifiable.

I’ll freely admit this is a first-world gaming problem. I am very fortunate we don’t have a financial problem backing games. I can financially afford them; my real risk in ordering is not from the bank but the questioning from the RMN CFO.

Failed Expedition

Looking at Root: The Marauder Expansion number made me reconsider my entire preorder and Kickstarter listing. The first to fall was another Kickstarter campaign; Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition (Stronghold Games). I got to thinking – the RMN Boys and I sorta fell off the boardgame bandwagon this winter. As the family returns to full employment leisure time is lost and boardgaming suffers. We like Terraforming Mars and a shorter version would be nice but the truth is I don’t think we are going to be bringing new games to the table anytime soon. With delivery forecast for September, well, I just don’t feel the urgency to back this game when I will probably be able to find it at retail later if we want to buy it. I also don’t see any “Kickstarter Exclusives” here that are appealing enough to sway me back towards a KS purchase. Indeed, most of the add-ons are not game, but accessory items. While I like to play Terraforming Mars it’s certainly not a lifestyle game for me.

Upcoming Gaming

That’s not to say all is bad. As of this weekend I have 3x Kickstarter campaigns, 10x GMT Games P500 orders, and 6 preorders with Compass Games that remain outstanding. Of those, one Kickstarter (Supercharged, Dietz Productions) and one preorder (South China Sea: Indian Ocean Region, Compass Games) look to deliver in the next 30-45 days.

Harold Responds

Harold Buchanan wrote a long response on FaceBook to my comments on his taxonomy. You can find a link to it in The Armchair Dragoons forum. There was also this recent exchange on Twitter:

“If a reader makes it about them then of course it won’t fit.” Well, I’ll just repeat what I wrote over at Armchair Dragoons, “At the end of the day it doesn’t actually matter. We are a community of gamers – full stop.”


Feature image courtesy Root: The Marauder Expansion Kickstarter campaign from Leder Games.

#Wargamer vs #Boardgamer – My commentary on when best of intentions go wrong (and not helped by an obnoxious attitude)

I WAS MORE than a little curious when one of my favorite wargame designers, Tom Russell of Hollandspiele, made this tweet.

I was lucky and my google-fu was working and I quickly located the video in question. It was painful to watch. Tom was right; the reviewer had absolutely NO interest in the game and their comments reflected that. It was obnoxious and personally offensive. Not in what was said, but in how it was said.

When I viewed the video it had 25 “Likes” and 65 “Dislikes” (I was number 66). Fortunately for Tom, the comments were running heavily in his favor. I guess I was lucky because within an hour of my viewing the user had deleted the video. While I am happy the user deleted the video, I am sad that it happened in the first place. It would not have happened if the user had stopped a moment and found some ethical grounding for what they do.

Somewhere I vaguely recollect that the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) was looking at codifying ethics for content creators, but in the present absence of those I think hobby gaming content creators could look to food critics for an example of proper behavior. The Association of Food Journalists (AFJ) posts their Code of Ethics online. They start with five core principles:

  1. We take pride in our work, and respect the work of others.
  2. We do not abuse our position.
  3. We avoid conflicts of interest.
  4. We recognize and respect diversity.
  5. We are committed to transparency in our work.

Before you jump ahead and claim “reviewers are not journalists,” I will point to the AFJ Code of Ethics that states, “Reviewers should subscribe to the same accepted standards of professional responsibility as other journalists.” The AFJ also talks specifically about negative reviews. There are many hobby gaming content creators that could learn from these words:

Negative reviews are fine, as long as they’re fair and accurate. Critics must always be conscious they are dealing with people’s livelihoods. Negative reviews, especially, should be based on multiple visits and a broad exploration of the restaurant’s menu. Following a consistent reviewing policy without deviation may protect a critic from charges of bias or favoritism, while providing a platform from which to defend the review.

In this situation, I strongly believe the content creator clearly failed to respect the work of Tom. The video was very dismissive of the game, even stating, “I don’t know why someone sent this to me.” I could make an argument that the content creator abused their position.

I earnestly want to make the argument that the content creator failed to respect diversity. Not because of Tom’s race, but because Tom is a wargame designer. From the beginning, Tom knew not to send this particular creator a wargame because they not only dislike wargames, they openly hate them. As a personal position I am fine with that, I am not going to tell someone else what to think. The problem I have is that this content creator has monetized their opinions which, in my mind, means a higher ethical standard is needed.

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Courtesy BoardGameGeek

Finally, I question the judgement of the content creator. Why did they make the unboxing video in the first place? Do they unbox every game without any sort of prescreen? If the reaction was that emotionally negative, did they not pause to ponder if their video was “fair and accurate” or just a visceral outpouring of their biases against a genre of gaming? There was obviously no thought. Just imagine what could of happened if the creator had contacted Tom and politely stated he was declining to post his video because “it’s not in my wheelhouse.” The ensuing conversation would of likely been good for both sides.


Feature image Brave Little Belgium. See my impressions here.

Humming Along with Battle Hymn Vol 1 – Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (@compassgamesllc, 2018)

A new game arrived this week. Battle Hymn Vol 1 – Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (Compass Games, 2018). The game spent a very short time on my preorder list and now is hitting the table. Both Battle Hymn and a previous game of the week, Thunder at the Crossroads (second edition) (The Gamers, 1993), are brigade-level combat games in the American Civil War. Both titles include the iconic Battle of Gettysburg allowing in some fashion a straight-up comparison.

Thunder at the Crossroad

Battle Hymn Vol 1

Complexity

Medium

Medium

Playing Time

18 hrs plus

45 min – 8 hrs

Solitaire Suitability

Medium

High

Unit Scale

Brigades

Brigades

Turn Length

30 minutes

60-90 minutes

Hex Scale

200 yards

300 yards

Maps

2x 22’x34”

2x 39”x25”

Counters

560

528

Rules

Series/Game

Series/Game

In simple terms, the games look virtually identical. Whereas Thunder at the Crossroads uses it’s Command System as its distinctive game mechanic, Battle Hymn uses a chit-pull system and an “innovative” combat system to distinguish itself. As the publisher’s blurb puts it:

Battle Hymn is a new brigade-level game system that simulates the chaos of the America Civil War using a simple activation system combined with a detailed combat system. The system’s designer, Eric Lee Smith, originated the “chit-pull” activation system in his game “Panzer Command” and later used it in “Across Five Aprils,” Battle Hymn’s forerunner, both published by Victory Games. Units are organized by command, usually divisions, and activate for movement when the command’s activation market is picked from the cup. The system uses traditional mechanics for movement, with units differentiated by type, but adds a level of detail to combat that feels almost miniatures like. In fact, the system is designed for easy conversion to miniatures. When one side has the initiative they decide when their combat phase occurs, without it, you don’t know when it will happen.

In my first read-thru of the rules it appears to me that although both Thunder at the Crossroads and Battle Hymn are rated “Medium” complexity, Battle Hymn is a much simpler game than Thunder at the Crossroads.

Command System: This is the heart of Thunder at the Crossroads. In Battle Hymn there is no need for written orders. More “realism” in Thunder at the Crossroads at the cost of more complexity.

Movement: Units in Battle Hymn don’t change formation or extend lines or the like as found in Thunder in the Crossroads. Again, more “realism” in Thunder at the Crossroads but again, an increased cost in complexity.

Combat: Battle Hymn claims the innovative combat system “elevates realism” and is “based on recent historical research and the best practices used in miniatures games.” I will need to play more to judge for myself but from a simple game mechanics-perspective the combat system in Battle Hymn is much more intuitive to me. I was constantly stumbling during play of Thunder at the Crossroads with the A, AB, B, etc. Firepower levels.

I also have to say the map for Battle Hymn is one of the most gorgeous maps I have ever seen in a wargame. Done in “period style” it is extremely pretty. I am very tempted to reach out to Compass Games and see if they will sell one unfolded and shipped in a roll container so I can frame it and hang it on the wall of my gaming room.

battlehymn_gettysberg_map
Gettysburg Map (courtesy Compass Games)

I also like the scenarios in Battle Hymn. Ranging from 45 minutes to 8 hours I think I will be able to play the shorter ones first to learn the game system and then go for the longer engagements/campaigns:

  • Gettysburg
    • Pickett’s Charge – 3 turns, 45 minutes
    • The Best Three Hours (Devil’s Den) – 3 turns, 1 hour
    • The Accidental Battle (Day One) – 11 turns, 3 hours
    • Longstreet’s March (Day Two) – 9 turns, 3 hours
    • The Tide Turns (Day Three) – 7 turns, 3 hours
    • The Battle of Gettysburg (campaign) – 31 turns, 8 hours
  • Pea Ridge
    • The Surprise Attack (Day One) – 9 turns, 2 hours
    • Missouri Redeemed! (Day Two) – 5 turns, 1.5 hours
    • The Battle of Pea Ridge (campaign) – 15 turns, 5 hours

I am very happy that I pulled the trigger and stepped out of my gaming comfort zone to purchase Battle Hymn. To be honest, it was actually very easy given the videos @PastorJoelT posts on Twitter. Thanks Joel!

Featured image courtesy Compass Games.

#RPGaDay 2017 – How do you find out about new RPGs?

#RPGaDay August 3, 2017

My primary means of finding out about new RPGs is through my Twitter feed. I also watch several forums, especially Citizens of the Imperium (CotI) for Traveller RPG and now Cepheus Engine-related news. Less active is RPG.net or even RPGGeek. I also occasionally hunt Kickstarter and listen to the occasional podcast. Overall, I think I’ve curated a decent selection of Twitter feeds that I get what I need in a relatively timely fashion.