Sep/Oct #Wargame #Boardgame Acquisitions featuring @gmtgames @hollandspiele @worth2004 @MultiManPub @LnLPub @Academy_Games @FFGames @UnstbleUnicrns @MoonrakersGame

In early September I wrote about how many games might be arriving into the RockyMountainNavy gaming collection given the reawakening of the publishing industry as they struggle to recover from COVID-19.

Boy, did I underestimate myself.

Turns out that between September 1 and October 15 I took delivery of 16 (!) items into my gaming collection. This includes:

  • 8 wargames (+3 expansions)
  • 3 boardgames (+1 expansion)
  • 1 accessory

I also diversified my acquisition chain. In addition to Kickstarter and publisher pre-order systems, I also used a local flea market, online digital, BGG trading, publisher direct sales, and (gasp) my FLGS!

Wargames

Washington’s Crossing (Revolution Games, 2012) – A not-so-complex look at the Trenton Campaign of 1776. My more detailed thoughts are here.

Flying Colors 3rd Edition Update Kit (GMT Games, 2020)(Expansion) So many Age of Sail games take a super-tactical view of ships that playing them can become unwieldy. Flying Colors takes a more ‘fleet commander” point of view; here you can be Nelson at Trafalgar, not Captain Hardy. The 3rd Edition Update Kit brings my older v1.5 up to date with the latest counters and rules, allowing me to set sail for new games in the future.

White Eagle Defiant: Poland 1939 (Hollandspiele, 2020) – The follow-on to the gateway wargame Brave Little Belgium (Hollandspiele, 2019). Don’t let the low complexity of the rules fool you; the game is full of impactful decisions. I have more thoughts here.

French and Indian War 1757-1759 (Worthington Games, 2020) – Another entry in my collection of Worthington block wargames. Simple rules but deep decisions. It’s been a long-time since I labeled a wargame a “waro” but this one crosses over between the wargame and boardgame crowds.

Harpoon V: Modern Tactical Naval Combat 1955-2020 (Admiralty Trilogy Group, 2020) – More a simulation model than a game. I’ve played and owned Harpoon titles since the early 1980’s. Can’t help myself; I love it.

Iron Curtain: Central Europe, 1945-1989 (Multi-Man Publishing, 2020) – Another entry in the Standard Combat Series from MMP. I like the multiple eras of play and the ‘Road to War’ rules that deliver replayability in a (relatively) small package.

Konigsberg: The Soviet Attack in East Prussia, 1945 (Revolution Games, 2018)Acquired via trade. I like chit-pull games as they are good for solo play. I am also interested in this title because of the time period; I have played Operation Barbarossa to death and am interested in a late war perspective when the Soviets were on the offensive and it was the Germans rocked back on their heels.

Corps Command: Dawn’s Early Light (Lock ‘n Load Publishing, 2010)Acquired via trade. Got through a trade more on a whim than with any real thought. First look is a very simple ‘Cold War Gone Hot’ wargame. Realistically it has only seven pages of rules!

Nations at War: White Star Rising (Lock ‘n Load Publishing, 2010) – I don’t really need another World War II tactical game system; I’m very happy with my Conflict of Heroes series from Academy Games. Acquired through trade with no real big expectations. First impression is this platoon-level game is reminiscent of PanzerBlitz (Avalon Hill, 1970) but with chit-pull activation and command rules (both of which I really like). Maybe some interesting potential here, will have to see…. (Acquired at same time were two expansions: Nations at War: White Star Rising – Operation Cobra and Nations at War: White Star Rising – Airborne)

Boardgames

One Small Step (Academy Games, 2020) – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; worker placement games is not really my thing. However, I really do like One Small Step. Not only does the theme engage me but the team play version of worker placement makes it a good game night title for the RMN household.

Star Wars: Rebellion (Fantasy Flight Games, 2016) Acquired via flea market. I jumped at an opportunity to get this game via a local flea market at an excellent price. Thematically excellent but I still have doubts concerning gameplay. It does create a very good narrative though….

Here to Slay: Warrior and Druid Expansion (Unstable Games, 2020) (Expansion) Here to Slay is the #1 played game in the RMN home. The RMN Boys (and their friends) love it. The game is far from perfect; like many others I don’t feel it is anything like an RPG as it proclaims and it’s too easy to win with “six classes in your party” versus slaying three monsters. Maybe this new expansion will change that with a bit more focus on the warrior class. Maybe….

Moonrakers (IV Games, 2020)Fresh arrival. Bought because I keep looking for a decent Traveller RPG-type of boardgame or something that captures the same vibe as Firefly: The Game (Gale Force Nine, 2013). My other attempts to find these types of games, Scorpius Freighter (AEG, 2018) and Star Wars: Outer Rim (Fantasy Flight Games, 2019) were less-than-successful. This title just screams OPA in The Expanse. Playing it will have to wait as there is a backlog of games in front of it in the to-play queue (obvious from the above).

Accessories

Sirius Dice: Spades (Sirius Dice) – I picked these up sorta on a whim. They look and feel good. If I ever get back to playing RPGs they may come in handy.

“A people unused to restraint must be led; they will not be drove” (George Washington) – #Wargame #FirstImpressions of Washington’s Crossing (revolutiongames.us, 2012)

The introduction to David Hackett Fischer’s book Washington’s Crossing is simply titled “The Painting.” In the intro, Fischer describes the power of the famous painting of General George Washington crossing the Delaware River enroute to his raid on the Hessians at Trenton. The same picture is used on the cover of Washington’s Crossing: A Game of the Winter Campaign of 1776-1777 (Revolution Games, 2012). When I played my first game, I too recreated the famous raid; indeed, it took all of two turns to cross the river and raid Trenton. This left me off-guard because there were 40+ more turns to go before the end of the game. “What do I do now?” I asked.

“What do I do now?” The same question that George Washington pondered after Trenton.

Part of my answer is in the subtitle on the box – “A Game of the Winter Campaign of 1776-1777.” Although the famous river crossing will happen (sometime, somewhere) and the Battle of Trenton is bound to happen, Washington’s Crossing – the wargame – looks at the larger two-week campaign of which the Battle of Trenton was just one part. In this wargame version of Washington’s Crossing you fight the campaign, not just a single battle. Along the way, Washington’s Crossing delivers valuable insight into the role of leaders in these eighteenth century armies – one professional and another of commoners struggling to achieve independence.

The Designers Notes of Washington’s Crossing tells me the game system is mechanically derived from previous designs of Kevin Zucker and his operational Napoleonic games and Joseph Balkowski and his operational-level American Civil War games. I don’t own any of the games mentioned, so I had no pre-set expectation coming into Washington’s Crossing. When I first set up the game I got very worried –  every leader has an off-map track where the number of troops in their command is tracked. General Mercer? Seven-hundred fifty troops with a “100” marker in the 7-spot and a “10” marker in the 5-spot. General Rall at Trenton? He has a “1000” in the 1-spot, a “100” in the 2-spot, and a “10” in the 5-spot. Oh yeah, don’t forget to add that Fatigue Marker in the 2-spot! This game was quickly looking to be an exercise in accounting, not a “warGAME.”

Stepping through the Sequence of Play in Washington’s Crossing also seemed a constant look-up exercise. Roll for Weather. Roll for Raids. Track your Activations and roll for movement (and if crossing a Ferry roll again) and don’t forget to track your Fatigue. Roll for Reaction Movement. Combat is a roll for Surprise and then a roll for the combat results. Now you need do do some math for losses are expressed as percentages. Move those troop track markers!

Then, in the middle of the game, the enlistments in the American Army end. On the first turn of January 1st the American army must reorganize. Some leaders may totally disappear. It’s another accounting exercise!

All this accounting and die rolling in Washington’s Crossing makes the game – a piece of art.

This is a winter campaign; the weather can be fickle. It was for George Washington:

Once the men began to move, moreover, unforeseen delays occurred, mostly due to weather. It had been cold and clear throughout Christmas day, but around sunset, just as the American forces were setting out, the temperature rose and, paradoxically, conditions quickly fell apart. It began to rain. Hail followed. Snow came next, driven by keening winds that one soldier equated with “a perfect hurricane.” Either a nor’easter or an arctic front had struck – John Ferling, Almost a Miracle, p. 176.

Troops in Washington’s Crossing don’t act on their own; they need a leader. Leaders in turn must be inspired. Washington’s Crossing depends heavily on a “chain of command.” Command Leaders, like George Washington, have a Command Span and can activate other leaders. Using your Activation Points and ensuring your subordinate leaders are within the Command Span of a Command Leader is important if you want to move or fight. Indeed, it is the real key to the game. Even if you can get them to move, they may step lively – or not.

The second key mechanic in Washington’s Crossing is Fatigue. Troops move, they get Fatigue. Troops fight, they get Fatigue. The only way to reduce Fatigue is not fight and not move – each night.

Putting all this together is the art of war – Washington’s Crossing style. Best of all, it’s laid out in the Players Notes:

The keys to playing Washington’s Crossing are the proper use of Activation Points, the management of fatigue, and the use of maneuver to force the enemy to fight on unfavorable terms. On offense you need to make a plan, save some activation points and make sure your troops are well rested before jumping off. If a major victory is possible push your leaders to the maximum fatigue and spend activation points freely. On the other hand if part way through it is clear the plan is going to fail break it off and save fatigue and activation  points. On the defense choose your ground and try to move your troops as little as possible. Wait for your opponent to spend most of his activation points and become fatigued and then launch your counterattack. On both offense and defense a firm concept of what your maneuver is trying to accomplish is vital. If you play this system by moving your leaders every turn you will constantly be fatigued and short of activation points and will be unlikely to accomplish anything decisive.

Having just leaders in the map in Washington’s Crossing gives the game a very realistic feel. Intelligence (Set Up) tells me how many troops they started with, but how many do they have now? You might think you know, but you don’t really know until you commit.

Photo by RMN

As scary as all the tracks and markers may look like, the game mechanics of Washington’s Crossing actually play rather quickly. Indeed, the accounting exercise portion of the game quickly fades to the background as the core mechanics of Activations and Fatigue come to dominate your thinking and planning. Good Player Aids help here, especially the Washington’s Crossing % Loss Table that makes converting those percentage losses into whole numbers quick and easy – no calculator required!

 

If I have any complaint about Washington’s Crossing it is the map and counters. Like I already stated, this was a winter campaign. The Painting and other artwork of the period show a cold, white winter. Yet the map in Washington’s Crossing looks like early Fall with many warm earth tones. The counters in Washington’s Crossing are also small 1/2″ size; a challenge to this bifocal-wearing Grognard to read from a distance. That said, these complaints are minor and in the end it all works on the table.

When unboxing and setting up Washington’s Crossing I expected a game delivering to me the Battle of Trenton. In reality, Washington’s Crossing is so much more. It is a look at a short campaign in an era of warfare where what and when leaders act and the condition of your troops must be carefully managed as you maneuver across a wide battlespace.

It’s a shame that designer Roger Miller has yet to add any further volumes to this series. That said, in many ways Washington’s Crossing pairs well with a more recent game, Campaigns of 1777 (Strategy & Tactics Nr. 316, 2019) by Harold Buchanan, that covers the campaign around the Battle of Saratoga. Both games are similar in that they cover a campaign but each approaches it a bit differently. Regardless, Washington’s Crossing delivers a solid game system that can be foundation exploring many other campaigns of the American Revolution.