Sunday Summary – How’d it get to be so busy? #wargame #boardgame @gmtgames @compassgamesllc @stuarttonge @Zmangames_ @Gamelyn_Games @Funforge

Wow…no entries on this blog since last Sunday. Tangible proof that the post-COVID recovery is in full swing. Where I live all the COVID mask restrictions were (finally) lifted yesterday by the state dictatorship. Well, except for schools because the dictatorship has already crippled their learning in the past year so why stop now? I guess in future years gamers will look back on the Year of COVID as “happy times” with plenty of gaming. On a personal level, I’ve been back to work full time for a couple of months now and it’s cutting into my gaming time!

Huzzah!

Wargames/Books

I finished reading Most Secret and Confidential: Intelligence in the Age of Nelson (Stephen Maffeo, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2014) and pulled 1805: Sea of Glory (Phil Fry, GMT Games, 2009) out for some comparisons. I’ve got John Gorkowski’s Indian Ocean Region – South China Sea: Vol. II (Compass Games, 2020) ready for a deeper dive now that I’ve finished reading Eliot Ackerman and Admiral Jame Stavridis’ 2034: A Novel of the Next World War (New York: Penguin Press, 2021).

This week was also my birthday. The family really knows what I like, hence the arrival of Commands & Colors: Napoleonics (GMT Games) and Meade at Gettysburg: A Study in Command (Kent Masterson Brown, Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2021). This all-but-ensures my Fourth of July Gettysburg Memorial Wargame will be Eric Lee Smith’s Battle Hymn Vol. 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (Compass Games, 2018). Oh yes, and a new power drill to replace my old light duty one that wasn’t up to the demands of Mrs. RockyMountainNavy’s “Honey Do” list!

Boardgames

I worked on my first impressions piece of Stuart Tonge’s 2 Minutes to Midnight from his new Plague Island Games label (coming to Kickstarter next month). Spoiler Alert – It’s a big game that some might feel is unnecessary given the powerhouse Twilight Struggle (GMT Games, now in 8th printing) but it deserves a serious look as it builds a very compelling narrative in play.

I had an opportunity to pick up Space Empires 4x by Jim Krohn and GMT Games (2017 Third Edition). At the same time the seller had several smaller games he was looking to unload so a deal was struck. These are lighter games that I thought might be suitable for the family (or vacation travel) gaming table. Thus arrived:

I spent the past week looking through and learning each of the smaller games. Star Wars: Destiny will be turned over to the RockyMountainNavy boys as I know it’s not my thing but they are “modern” Star Wars fans so they can enjoy the characters. Samurai Spirit and Tiny Epic Defenders are actually quite similar cooperative tower defense-like games and either will make for a good family game night title—though I think the look of Samurai Spirit is more appealing. Tiny Epic Kingdoms will compete with Tiny Epic Galaxies (Gamelyn, 2015) which is already in the collection. Sylvion is actually more of a solo game and as such it will land on my table occasionally; if it has a drawback it’s because it’s more eurogame-like and therefore not my personally preferred gaming genre given it’s obvious preference for mechanism over theme (but the theme—what there is of it—is cute). Space Empires 4x is in the “wargame to play” pile…just behind Indian Ocean Region and Stalingrad ’42.

#Boardgame first place for NMBR 9 (@Zmangames_, 2017)

This Black Friday 2020 proved a winner for the RockyMountainNavy household. After the main part of our holiday shopping was completed, RMN T and myself paid a visit to our FLGS, Huzzah Hobbies in Ashburn, Virginia. Unbeknownst to me, they had 15% off everything and two deep discount areas of 50% and 75%. So I browsed and found a few games.

One game I picked up was NMBR 9 (Z-Man Games, 2017). I’ve actually had my eye on this title for a few years now but just never made the purchase until today. I was attracted to the game because, as a Tetris puzzler, I thought it might appeal to Mrs. RMN (because Tetris puzzlers are her thing). The box was slightly damaged but at 75% off I couldn’t pass it up this time.

I was right. I was wrong.

I was right because she really does enjoy NMBR 9. She actually played against me (and won, of course). I was then informed that I was wrong to have waited so long to get the game.

Not only does Mrs. RMN like NMBR 9 for herself, she also thinks it makes a good game for her older elementary and middle school students. The logical challenges of spatial orientation and trying to maximize points is a good combination for that age group. She even likes the scoring with simple addition and multiplication. NMBR 9 is easy to teach, plays fast, and is colorful on the table.

The RockyMountainNavy Boys also like NMBR 9. RMN T (my Autism Spectrum champion) really took a liking to it as he loves spatial puzzlers, maybe even more so than Mom does.

Abstract games form a small part of the RockyMountainNavy Family Game Collection but NMBR 9 is a very welcome addition. I think this game will be getting many more plays. Although Mrs. RMN has tried Azul: Summer Pavilion (Next Move Games, 2019) ranked the #2 Abstract on BoardGameGeek as well as Patchwork (Mayfair Games, 2014) which is ranked #4, NMBR 9 ranked at 47 will most likely be the one to end up on her gaming table.

I’ll be very happy to play right beside her.

When #boardgames are a little too close to life – #Coronavirus & Pandemic (@Zmangames_, 2008)

WHEN IS A GAME MORE THAN A GAME?

Given all the news about coronavirus, it seems only logical that Pandemic (Z-Man Games, 2008) would end up on the table for the RockyMountainNavy Game Night. Truth is, it was a very hard game for me to play.

This week my father-in-law passed away in Korea. We sadly made the decision that not all of us could travel to the funeral, but we put Mrs. RockyMountainNavy on a plane to go. On the day we got the news (early Wednesday morning) there were about 25 cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) reported in Korea. By the time she landed in Seoul Thursday night (Korea time) there were over 100 cases and a death. As I write this post Saturday night stateside, the Sunday numbers from Korea are 556 602 confirmed cases and three five deaths. The number of confirmed cases has practically DOUBLED EVERY DAY this week.

To say I am worried is an understatement. When I talked to her earlier this evening she told me that everyone is going out as little as possible. Before she left, we paid extortion prices for a package of face masks – now I am unsure she took enough. The US State Department is recommending ‘Extra Caution’ for travelers to Korea, and I fear that soon we may have more restrictions – restrictions that may make it harder for her to get home. That is, as long as she stays healthy.

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The RockyMountainNavy Boys wanted to play Pandemic because they felt it was timely. I almost said no as I am deeply worried. I know it’s just a game, but I was sure that losing would be a bad sign. I eventually relented, telling myself that the Boys needed to play so that they can feel like we are doing something, anything, to fight COVID-19. Even if it is just feeling good from playing a game. So I soldiered on and we played.

When we drew our Roles I almost bailed out. I was the Dispatcher, RockyMountainNavy T was the Medic, and RockyMountainNavy Jr. was the Researcher. The initial Outbreak was heavy in Latin America/Africa (Yellow) and Eastern Europe/Middle East/India (Black). I was trying not to feel despondent but it was hard. As we played though, we immediately started to mesh and support each other. We quickly Cured and Eradicated three diseases, BlueRed, and Black. The Medic had four Yellow City Cards in his hand and I was able to move him to myself and give him a fifth Yellow City Card so he could then move to a Research Station and Cure the final disease with four Player Cards to spare.

This win felt really good, maybe because I see it as a kind of sign. Yes, I know the fight against COVID-19 is not a game, but we beat the diseases in Pandemic. That was the sign I needed to see more hope. In its own way, playing Pandemic has given me hope that we can beat back COVID-19 and, more importantly, bring our family back together safe and healthy .

RockyMountainNavy’s influential #boardgame from the 2010’s

I want to thank all of you who took the time to make my post RockyMountainNavy’s influential #wargame from the 2010’s my most-read article this year. Sensing a good thing and wanting to keep try and keep the bandwagon going, I now will regal you with my fifteen most influential boardgames that I own or played that were published between 2010 and 2019.

Sorta.

Late Start

Like I said in my wargames of influence post, I ‘rediscovered’ the hobby boardgame industry in late 2016. Sure, I had some hobby boardgames, but I had not seriously tried to get the family into gaming. In late 2016 we started playing more games and by late 2017 we had instituted a Family Game Night on Saturdays.

As a grognard wargamer, moving from wargames to boardgames was a bit jarring. I mean, you often times play with more than one opponent? Although they were not new to me, I really came to understand the Ameritrash vs Eurogamer battle and started looking at games from both a thematic and mechanical perspective. Along the way, I never gave up on wargaming and introduced the RockyMountainNavy Boys to the wargame niche. The challenge was finding good multiplayer wargames that could be played in an evening.

Here comes the Waro

I needn’t have worried, for in late 2017 a new ‘genre’ of boardgames was starting to be talked about. Here came the waro, or wargame-Eurogame. There is no single definition of what a waro is, but to me it is a wargame that incorporates elements, be it mechanical or component-wise, of Eurogames. In 2019 Brian Train used the term, “militarized Eurogame” which I find both very simple and highly descriptive. So the list you are about to see has more than a few waro games on it. That is because as a wargamer these titles often speak to me and have brought gaming joy tot he RockyMountainNavy household.

Unlike my previous list which was presented in order of year of publication, this one will be a vain attempt by me to rank them. Please don’t ask me to define my criteria; this is really a ‘gut feel’ of how I rank these games. Like before, the list is light on pre-2016 games because it was then that I turned hard into the hobby. I am sure some real gems from earlier in the decade deserve to be here; I either don’t own them or simply missed them as I took in the later-half of the decade.

My 15 Influential Boardgames of the 2010’s

15. Agents of Mayhem: Pride of Babylon – Academy Games, 2019

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Courtesy Academy Games

The ‘dungeon crawl’ is a very popular boardgame format. In the RockyMountainNavy house we tend to stay away from fantasy but the RMN Boys are Star Wars fans so we own and played Star Wars: Imperial Assault after it came out. I recognize that the game is very popular (currently #37 overall on BoardGameGeek) but as big fans as the Boys were the game never really clicked. Indeed, the entire dungeon crawl gaming genre (as well as man-to-man scale skirmish games in general) seemed kinda lost on the Boys and myself. That is, until I played Agents of Mayhem: Pride of Babylon.

 

Maybe its the 3D terrain. Maybe its the fact I am not familiar with the setting and therefore more open minded. Maybe I am more accepting of modern superpowers vice always fighting Star Wars ‘canon.’ Whatever the reason, I really enjoy the game. I really like the character and unit tableaus and how they enable handling them in a very easy manner. There is no need to lookup a table or chart; its’ all really in front of you.

Agents of Mayhem: Pride of Babylon makes my influential list because it shows me how a skirmish / dungeon crawl-like game can be made fast, fun and furious (to steal another RPGs tagline).

14. AuZtralia – Stronghold Games, 2018

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Courtesy Stronghold Games

According to BGG and Stronghold Games, AuZtralia is an “adventure/exploration game.” To me, I think they forgot “wargame.” To me, AuZtralia is a waro but in a slightly different sense of the word. In the first part of the game, AuZtralia is a Eurogame of building railroads and seeking resources. At some point, however, it switches over to a wargame where your armed forces (supported by certain individuals) are fighting the Old Ones. I like this schizophrenic design approach. It is certainly one way to approach a waro; in this case one I really enjoy.

 

AuZtralia is influential because it shows the very direct marriage of a Eurogame and wargame. 

13. Cataclysm: A Second World War – GMT Games, 2018

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Courtesy GMT Games

I think Cataclysm has an identity crisis. Thematically, the game covers the Second World War periods. Published by GMT Games, it just must be a wargame since that is what GMT publishes, right? To all of you I say, wrong! To me Cataclysm is not a wargame of military conflict, but a game of politics where military action is one possible tool in your kit. Yes, I declare that Cataclysm is a political game. Like the ad copy says, “This is not your father’s panzer pusher.”

 

Cataclysm is influential because it forced me to stretch my definition of wargame and give serious consideration to the politics of conflict, not just the military confrontation.

12. Pandemic: Fall of Rome  – Z-Man Games, 2018

zgLVeSk8Tn+CXkchMq7sMwThe RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself are not really into cooperative games. That said, we always have fun playing the original Pandemic and have used it to introduce hobby boardgaming to others. That said, we are not huge fans so have not sought out other Pandemic titles. That is, until Pandemic: Fall of Rome came out. At first I bought the game because I had dreams of enticing the oldest RMN Boy (the non-tabletop gamer) to play because he loves ancients. That didn’t work, but I discovered a new Pandemic, one that included ‘battles.’ Like AuZtralia, I categorize Pandemic: Fall of Rome as a waro because it very successfully mixes both Eurogame and wargame.

Pandemic: Fall of Rome is influential because it demonstrates the power of mixing a very cooperative ‘stop the spread’ Eurogame with key wargame (battle) mechanics.

11. Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection – GMT Games, 2016

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Courtesy GMT Games

As I really discovered hobby boardgaming (and wargaming for that matter) in late 2016 I heard about this thing called the COIN-series. At first I was not interested because professionally I tend to pay more attention to rogue nations and peer competitors and never really got into the counterterrorism or counterinsurgency areas. At the same time I also had moved to the East Coast of the US and was studying more Revolutionary history. I passed on COIN until I saw GMT Games getting ready for a second reprint of Liberty or Death. The approach of the game was intriguing; framing the American Revolution as an insurgency? I bought it and was confused at first. This is a complex game! But I persevered and eventually, after several plays, it started to click.

 

Liberty or Death is influential because this game showed me that games can be used to teach and explore very serious political topics.

10. Nights of Fire: Battle of Budapest – Mighty Board Games, 2019

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Courtesy Mighty Boards

Brian Train, co-designer of Nights of Fire: Battle of Budapest, writes in the designer’s notes how this title is a “militarized Eurogame.” I adit I bought this game at first because it is a Brian Train design and I like how he sheds light on smaller or less known conflicts in history. The topic of Nights of Fire is very niche, the Soviet invasion of Budapest in 1956. Nights of Fire, however, uses a very Eurogame-approach to model this battle with cards and area control and blocks and tokens. This is really a card game with hand/action management and block wargame put together. I also respect the designers that were able to make the same game play competitive, cooperative, or solo.

 

Nights of Fire: Battle of Budapest is influential because I consider it the best example of the ‘bleeding edge’ of waro design.

9. Root: A Woodland Game of Might & Right – Leder Games, 2018

 

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Courtesy Leder Games

Root is a wargame, right? Look at BoardGameGeek where as I write this it is the 19th-ranked wargame (as well as the #33 Strategy Game and #39 overall). With all the battling in the game it must be a wargame, right? As much as I want to agree, I see two games here, but neither of them are truly a wargame. On the mechanical level, I am in awe of the design of Root that incorporates so many different game mechanisms into a well integrated package. Every faction plays differently, be it set collection or action-selection or hand management. I am totally amazed that Cole Wehrle makes this all work together. But none of those mechanisms are ‘wargame.’

 

IMG_0084On the second level, I see Root as a political game. Each faction has a different way to victory and battling is just one lever of power a faction can wield. Once again, you can play Root as a ‘wargame’ but, like Cataclysm before, this is really a political battle where fighting is a tool that can be chosen.

Root is influential because it shows me how one integrates many different game engines into a political game that is vicious despite the cute and fuzzy animals. Truly a wild kingdom!

8. Queendomino – Blue Orange Games, 2017

 

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games

Spoiler Alert – you’re going to see Kingdomino a bit later in this list. As much as we like that game, the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself also really enjoy Queendomino. That is because we view Queendomino as the ‘gamers version’ of Kingdomino. We really enjoy how the designers took the simplicity of Kingdomino and added jus the right amount of new mechanisms to make the game vastly more interesting yet still simple to play.

 

Influential because Queendomino demonstrates how to take a great simple game, add a bit of complexity, but still keep it easy and fun to to play.

7. Quarriors! – WizKids, 2011

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Courtesy WizKids

Finally, you say! A game from before 2016! I think I actually bought this game in 2011 from Petrie’s Family Games when I lived in Colorado Springs. I seem to remember the owner, Cameron, giving me a strong recommendation and, seeking a game to play with the RockyMountainNavy Boys, I purchased it. Then life got in the way and I moved to the East Coast for a job while the RMN Family stayed in Colorado. It was not until 2013 that we were all back together again, but then I was concerned that all the reading on the cards and how to put a strategy together would be too much for my middle boy who is on the Autism Spectrum. As a result, we really didn’t get this game to the table until 2017.

Suffice it to say I was stupid. The RMN Boys can handle this game quite well. They love it so much they both put their own money forth to buy expansions.

Quarriors! is influential because it is one of the most-played games in the RockyMountainNavy collection and often used by the Boys to beat up on old Dad because they are much faster at building synergistic dice pools than I am.

6. Rhino Hero – HABA, 2016

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Courtesy HABA

A yellow- box game from HABA is for kids only, right? Sure, the box says for ages 5-99 but we all just know its really a kids game. WRONG! I cannot even start to count all the hours (and I mean hours) of fun play this game has occupied int he RockyMountainNavy house. Not only hours of fun for the RMN Family, but Rhino Hero is a title we use to introduce others to hobby gaming.

Rhino Hero is influential because it has opened the eyes of many non-gamer friends to a different type of family game and shown them good family fun.

5. Kingdomino – Blue Orange Games, 2017

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games

When I pulled Kingdomino out the first time the RockyMountainNavy Boys were dubious. After all, how hard could it be to place dominos on a 5×5 grid? Years later this game is often the go-to when we need a quick filler game before dinner. Or when we want to introduce somebody to gaming. It is very easy to teach. I also enjoy watching a new player as they play their first game; you can literally see the lightbulb go on in their head as they realize what they can do when selecting a tile. You can see their eyes dart between the tiles and their kingdom, and eventually the other players, as the strategy develops in their head.

Kingdomino is influential because not only do we enjoy every play, it is our gateway game of choice to introduce others to hobby boardgaming.

4. Terraforming Mars – Stronghold Games, 2016

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Courtesy Stronghold Games

Somewhere I think I heard that Terraforming Mars was a good science lesson. Wanting to encourage the youngest RMN Boy to pursue the sciences I purchased this game. At first I was doubtful as the sheer number of cards seemed overwhelming. I also was concerned (again) whether my middle boy could handle all the reading and assemble a strategy. Well, the youngest was taken by the game (“See Mom, it teaches me!”) while the middle boy caught on (maybe faster than I did). Once we added the Prelude expansion that jump-starts your Corporations we find ourselves playing this game even more often than we did before. Now our neighbors have the game, making a inter-family game night a real possibility.

Terraforming Mars is influential because it showed that we all can enjoy a good middle-weight Eurogame and are not limited to simpler titles or wargames.

3. 1775: Rebellion – Academy Games, 2013

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Courtesy Academy Games

(Yes, another pre-2016 title!) Alas, I did not discover this game until I had a conversation with Uwe Eickert of Academy Games at the wargaming conference CONNECTIONS 2017. While discussing his excellent Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear second edition (Academy Games, 2012) I mentioned I was always looking for a good family wargame. Uwe immediately sold me on his Birth of America series so we soon had 1775: Rebellion on the table. We now own the entire Birth of America and Birth of Europe series and we will surely buy any new game in the future.

1775: Rebellion is influential because showed us that a lite family strategy/wargame does not have to be Risk; indeed, there is much better out there that not only is fun to play but also teaches good history.

2. Enemies of Rome – Worthington Publishing, 2017

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Courtesy Worthington Publishing

The lite family strategy/wargames of the Birth of America series (Academy Games) were such a big hit in the RockyMountainNavy house I went looking for more. Given the oldest RMN Boy’s interest in Ancients I chose Enemies of Rome as a good candidate game. Little did I realize how much the other Boys (especially the youngest) would be taken with the game. Enemies of Rome is one of the most-played games in the RMN collection and there is no sign the Boys are going to lose interest. Heck, even I will probably not lose interest because every play has been different. Just last week, I started out in Syria and halted my expansion across Africa because I was sure that card that brings hoards of ‘Enemies of Rome’ out across North Africa was going to come out next. It never did because it was one of the cards removed at setup. But I was so sure it was going to come I I followed a strategy that defended against a non-existent threat. Now the RMN Boys are looking to use this game for the Neighborhood Gaming Gang since it plays up to five.

Enemies of Rome is influential because it is our most-played lite family strategy/wargame that is simple to learn yet offers deep play time and time again.

1. Scythe – Stonemaier Games, 2016

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Courtesy Stonemaier Games

Another recommendation from Uwe Eickert at CONNECTIONS 2017. I had never played a Eurogame of this sort before and my first reading of the rules were daunting. I played it solo a few times then tried to teach it to the RMN Boys.

We all fell in love with it.

First it was the art. Jakub Rozalski is incredible.

Second is the game mechanics. Middle-Heavy Eurogames are not in our usual wheelhouse. Scythe was so different than anything we played before. But the asymmetric powers of the factions and economies makes no two games alike. The expansions are clean and add good flavor; the campaign is an incredible journey.

Scythe is influential because it opened our eyes to a whole new type of boardgame and it keeps us coming back with innovative expansions and endless replayability. I think we will still be playing this game in 20 years.


Feature image from teedep.com

Sending in a winner with Letters to Santa (@Alderac, 2014) #boardgames #cardgames

Although the RockyMountainNavy home is usually a wargame house, we do occasionally play other hobby boardgames. This week a holiday favorite, Letters to Santa (Alderac Entertainment Group, 2014)** came back out and reminded us how family gaming can deliver the greatest pleasures.

As I’ve mentioned before, Mrs. RockyMountainNavy tutors children at our home. One of her newest students is a sixth-grade girl, Ms. A. Ms. A is artistically gifted (her drawings are incredible) but she lacks a strong desire to learn. She has an older sister (high school senior) who is drowning under a schedule with five AP classes. Consequently, the older sister is very mean and doesn’t encourage younger Ms. A. Indeed, her sister’s meanness actually discourages Ms. A from wanting to learn.

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games

The first time Ms. A came over she was rightly skeptical. After all, she was being pushed by her Korean Tiger Mom! That day we finished up her lessons with a four-player game of Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017). She caught onto the game immediately and quickly went on to win (I think all that spatial awareness she has in her art helps her immensely). She also genuinely enjoyed playing in the larger group. It is obvious she enjoys the social aspects of boardgaming. Mrs. RMN likes to use games to help teach kids as they learn so much more about working with others and discovering how games work. It’s all good for learning!

This week, in keeping with the holiday spirit, we pulled Letters to Santa out for the after-lesson game. She absolutely enjoyed the game, often going after RockyMountainNavy Jr. (whom she really likes in an older brother way). She caught onto the cards right away but was missing some of the strategy. That changed when RockyMountainNavy T played Gingerbread Man (Compare hands; lower hand is out) against me and lost with Mrs. Claus (7).  Ms. A then had her chance and played Krampus (Guess a player’s hand) and correctly guessed that I had Santa Claus (8) in my hand thus giving her the win. The look of pure joy on her face as she put it all together and won was priceless.

May all your holidays be filled with that much joy. Merry Christmas!


** In 2018 Z-Man Games acquired the rights to the Love Letter license from AEG. Unfortunately, it does not appear that the Letters to Santa version also conveyed as I cannot find a copy anywhere these days!

#FirstImpressions – Castle Itter: The Strangest Battle of WWII (@danverssengames, 2019) #wargame #boardgame

SOLITAIRE WARGAMES OFTEN HAVE A PROBLEM. That problem arises from the nature of solitaire play wherein the player not only ‘plays’ the game but often has to ‘run the game engine’ at the same time. Many times this leads to procedural play which can grow repetitive and uninteresting. To me, the key to breaking out of this game design cul-de-sac is to build great narrative moments into game play. Solo wargames like Enemy Coast Ahead: The Doolittle Raid (GMT Games, 2017) play out in ‘acts’ with each one telling a part of the story. In NATO Air Commander (Hollandspiele, 2019) one is always drawing cards but planning and executing your raids is full of nail-biting moments. At first look, Castle Itter: The Strangest Battle of WWII (Dan Verssen Games, 2019) comes across as very procedural and even a bit uninteresting. However, after a few plays, and as familiarity with the rules grows, a rich and exciting story emerges from play.

I backed Castle Itter on Kickstarter and recently took delivery of the game (I also picked up Pavlov’s House, 2nd Edition, but more on that later). The combination of critical praise for Pavlov’s House and the theme of the Battle of Castle Itter drew me in.

My first play thru of Castle Itter was…flat. The game is not very complex; each turn the Defender gets five Actions followed by three SS Cards being drawn and resolved. Lather, rinse, repeat. Simple yet very procedural and repetitive. I was so disappointed that I was sure I had messed up the rules somehow I reset the game and played again. I could do this in part because the game plays quickly in around 60 minutes.

That’s when the magic started to happen.

Mechanically, Castle Itter is both literally and figuratively a classic ‘castle defense’ game. Although some wargamers claim it has roots all the way back to Up Front (Avalon Hill Game Co, 1983) I never had that game so I can’t make a comparison. What I do see is  shades of Castle Panic (Fireside Games, 2012) where the monsters are descending on the castle or even Pandemic: Fall of Rome (Z-Man Games, 2018) where you not only have to defend Rome but accomplish your goals before the card deck runs out (in Castle Itter you have to survive until relieved which happens when the deck is exhausted). All of which is to say that mechanically Castle Itter feels not much like a wargame. Once I got that thought into my head the narrative portion of the game exploded.

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In play, Castle Itter builds an exciting narrative. Every action the rag-tag, motley crew of defenders takes becomes an agonizing decision. How do you organize a defense with an SS Officer (maybe the best leader?), an American tank crew, low-morale Wehrmacht soldiers, French prisoners, and an Austrian resistance fighter? How do you withstand hordes of SS riflemen, machine guns, mortars, and (worse) artillery?

By my third play the mechanically procedural play of Castle Itter had faded to the background and the story of the battle started emerging. I won one game (barely) and lost another (on the last two cards). In every game the tension was palpable.

I am not usually a solitaire wargamer. Although I do play solo (often against my nemesis Mr. Solo) the very nature of solitaire games often puts me off. Castle Itter is definitely an exception and will get out to the gaming table more often because not only can it be an evening ‘filler game’ taking 60 minutes or less to play but it is – at heart – an exciting story.


Images by self

#FridayFamily #Boardgame Thoughts – Cooperative Games

WITHIN THE ROCKYMOUTAINNAVY GAMING COLLECTION, cooperative games have 11 places on the shelf. As part of my 2019 Gold Geek Awards Challenge I recently pulled out Pandemic (Z-Man Games, 2008) to replay. A lot has been written about Pandemic and I have nothing really new to add. That said, recent events in the neighborhood have got me thinking about cooperative games in general.

Pandemic was not the first cooperative game in the RMN gaming collection. I think that honor goes to Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game (FFG, 2008) although that game sat on the Shelf of Shame unplayed for many years. The first cooperative game the RMN family played that I expressly recognized as cooperative was Forbidden Island (Gamewright, 2010). Other cooperative games played include:

Pandemic, however, occupies a special place in the heart of myself and the RockyMountainNavy Boys. It has this special place based on two particular games we played. The first loved game is the first time we beat the game. We were literally down to the last card and all of us were standing around the table. When we cured the last disease and won we all jumped and high-fived each other. It was maybe the most satisfying moment of family board gaming ever. The second special game was where Middle RMN Boy, my Autism Spectrum angel, awed us beyond belief when he laid out the path to victory that none of us saw. Pandemic literally has brought us together as a gaming family.

During the Memorial Day weekend we were invited to a neighbors house for a barbecue. I had heard from my Boys that this family was getting into modern board gaming. My Boys had played Survive: Escape from Atlantis! (Stronghold, 2012) with the other boys and they had purchased the game. When talking to the parents, they steered the conversation to board gaming. They were curious about what games we played. Then they mentioned they had purchased Pandemic and all but invited us to play together in the near future.

I’m worried.

It’s already established that I love Pandemic, but I am not sure this is actually a good game for that family. Their boys are very competitive; I doubt they can cooperate enough for Pandemic. A “take-that” game like Survive is much more up their alley.

Thinking ahead to a board game night with the neighbors, I’m struggling to come up with a good group game. Something like Happy Salmon (Northstar Games, 2016) is good for a few minutes of laughter but I need something that lasts longer.

Looking through my collection, I came across Abandon Ship (AEG, 2008). Although not listed in BGG by this mechanic, I term the game a semi-coop. From the publisher’s blurb:

Abandon Ship is a game in which you play to move your group of rats off the ship before the rising water drowns them. The S.S. Nvrsnks is also loaded with valuable points-earning cheese, but don’t let desire for that lovely food send your rats to the watery depths. Your opponents may also share some of the rats in your group; they may want to move the rats in a different manner from you.

Abandon Ship plays up to seven players; perfect for a larger game night. It also covers both areas the other family wants (although they may not know it). For Mom & Dad they get their coop; for the boys they get their take-that.

So, here is to hoping that Neversinks floats the neighbor’s boat (ok, that was a bad pun but you gotta just live with it).


Feature image TheBoardGameFamily on BGG

Rainy Day Solo #Boardgame – Holding back the barbarian hordes in Pandemic: Fall of Rome (@Zmangames_ , 2018)

The rainy weekend meant staying in on Saturday. To pass a bit of the afternoon I sat down for a solo play of Pandemic: Fall of Rome (Z-Man Games, 2018). I got this game late last year and posted my initial reactions before. As I wrote then, the game is highly thematic, if not strictly historic, and a real challenge.

Given the RockyMountainNavy Boys would rather play a game of Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017) instead I tried the Solitaire Challenge version of Pandemic: Fall of Rome. Although I own the original Pandemic (Z-Man Games, 2008) I have never played it solo. In the Solitaire Challenge, you take on the role of the Emperor and command three different roles in the game. Instead of each role/player having their own hand of cards here you have a common hand and a Treasury to draw on. Each turn a different role is used in sequence and for each there is the usual Do 4 Actions, Draw 2 Player Cards, and Invade.

In my game the roles I was drew were Praefectus Fabrum, Preafectus Classis, and Vestalis. I feel this was a fortunate draw because both Fabrum and Classis have actions that add Legions and the ability to move strategically about the map. Vestalis gives access the the unused Event Cards as well as allows a bit of Player Card management with her ability to draw 3 Player Cards and keep the two you want (the third going back on top of the deck).

I tried to implement a strategy I had not tried before and built many Forts forward along invasion routes. Instead of spending time moving about trying to collect cards for Forge Alliances I instead focused on keeping the number of invading barbarians down. I got lucky in that a few times when revolts came I had Legions in those cities and was able to limit the spread. As the game moved into later phases and the Recruitment Rate dropped I was able to get the right cards and Forge Alliances that made up for lost Recruitment with the ability to Enlist Barbarians.

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Rome doesn’t fall..this time (credit – self)

It was still a near-run thing and I was subjected to five of the the six Revolts and my Decline was just one away from defeat while the Player Cards deck was almost exhausted. After Forging Alliances with three tribes and though lots of Enlist Barbarian actions and strategic movement I was able to eject the last two invading tribes from the map and win; and a very satisfying win it was for Pandemic: Fall of Rome is not an easy game to beat.

I found the Solitaire Challenge extremely satisfying and fun to play. The game still struck all the right thematic cords and built an interesting historical narrative as play progressed. I hope that the RockyMountainNavy Boys will give this game another chance, but even if they don’t I know Pandemic: Fall of Rome is a solid solo game that at least I can still enjoy.


Feature image ospreypublishing.com – Peter Dennis battlescene art from Campaign 286 Catalaunian Fields AD 451.

#Boardgame Education -Roman history with Enemies of Rome (@worth2004, 2017) and Pandemic: Fall of Rome (@Zmangames_, 2018)

Youngest RMN Boy had some History homework this weekend. Trying to be a good parent, I asked to check it and make sure it was done correctly. I also was curious to see what he is studying.

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thehistorynetwork.org

The subject was the Fall of the Roman Empire. As I flipped through his completed notes packet I quizzed him on some parts:

Me: “Hmm, two capitals?”

Youngest RMN: “Yes, Rome and Constantinople. You know, like in Enemies of Rome.

Me: “Invading Germanic tribes?”

Youngest RMN: “Yes, all the Goths like in Pandemic: Fall of Rome.

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Credit: Self

We both shared a laugh as we realized we describe history in terms of boardgames. That is not a bad thing; the spin-off educational value of boardgames and wargames is heartily approved of my Mrs. RockyMountainNavy. It’s part of the reason we play; the games can educate us in so many ways.


Feature image courtesy Worthington Games.

 

 

 

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!

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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.

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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).

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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.”

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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.