Gaming Grumbles – March 18, 2018

(A collection of random gaming thoughts – possibly negative. You have been warned)

I can’t figure out how to link to a Twitter video, but go look at the March 16 tweets by @koreaboardgames. Maybe if Toys R Us in the US did events like these kids game days they would still be around rather than dumping Di$ney $tar War$ crap Hasbro toys on the market.

Amarillo Design Bureau has released Captain’s Log #45 on places like Wargame Vault. When I was a huge Star Fleet Battles player, I literally raced to the game store to buy the latest Captain’s Log. I usually enjoyed the fiction, loved the “history,” and played the ‘eck out of the new ships and scenarios. But $19.95 for a digital download? For a product that was originally released in 2012 – and not updated? That works out to something like $.13/page – a bit rich for my wallet.

My Incredibly Negative Kickstarter Experience continues (no) thanks to Ken Burnside and Ad Astra Games with Squadron Strike: Traveller. This campaign funded in March 2016 with 290 backers pledging $23,339 against a goal of $5000. At the time it looked promising as the campaign claimed:

At the time we launched this Kickstarter, the setting-and-scenario booklet was edited, the tutorial booklet was in final edits, and the SSD booklet had been laid out. The countershafts have been laid out, and the folio cover and box wrap are laid out and ready to send to the printer.

On the first business day after this project reaches its funding goal, I’ll send the print job to the printers to minimize delay in shipping games to backers.

I pledged for the boxed game; no minis. In late February 2018 some backers who purchased minis finally started receiving their ships but the game is still not ready. In an update on March 17 backers were told that the SSD book is in layout because it needed “re-designing,” tutorial scenarios are being written/rewritten, and…I really don’t give a damn about your excuses anymore! Where is my frakking game!




Deep Strategy, Simple Game in 1754 Conquest: The French and Indian War (@AcademyGames, 2017)

This week’s RockyMountainNavy Game Night featured 1754 Conquest: The French and Indian War from Academy Games. What I really love about this game, and the entire Birth of America-series, is that there are deep strategic decisions played out in a very mechanically simple, yet thematically appropriate game.

The publisher’s blurb for 1754 goes like this:

‘1754 Conquest’ is an area control game that continues the award winning Birth of America Series. Players for each side work together in order to coordinate their strategies. To win, each side attempts to control Victory Spaces on the map that represent towns and forts. The militia players receive reinforcements from muster points while the French and English Regulars must ship their reinforcements from overseas. The game ends when the Treaty of Paris is signed and the side controlling the most cities wins the game.

We usually play the three-player variant with myself on one side against the RMN Boys together as a team. This week I asked to mix things up a bit and to be part of the team and not play against both Boys. So when we sat down around the table it was the Middle RMN Boy and myself as the British Regulars and Colonials against the Youngest RMN Boy taking the French Regulars and Canadians. Before the game, the Middle RMN Boy and myself agreed to a “middle” strategy in which we pledged to focus on going thru Fort William Henry to Montreal. Supporting this strategy the British Colonials had Muster Markers in Oneida Carry and Philadelphia.

I played the Colonials in a very aggressive manner and pushed into Canada, seizing Fort Saint-Frederic and Fort de La Presentation early in the campaign. Further to the west, an opportunity arose to seize Fort Dusquesne  and I took it. In the east, around the French bastion at Louisbourg on Nova Scotia, all was static. As the French defense stiffened, they pulled their Muster Marker back to Montreal.

Campaign Overview (base map courtesy

As the game entered the later turns, Youngest RMN used a special Event card to enter his French Regular reinforcements at a defended harbor. His target was the Chesapeake Bay, which he successfully assaulted, followed by seizing Williamsburg and Alexandria. But his assault in the British rear was too late as both British Treaty of Paris cards were played, ending the game after the current turn. A desperate French attack that saw Fort William Henry fall to the French was offset by the Colonials leading a massive Indian raid through Fort Niagara, Fort Toronto, and into Ottawa with all becoming British controlled. The end result was a major British victory.

This was the longest game of 1754 we have played lasting into the seventh turn of eight possible. Still, total play time was a relatively quick – and very enjoyable – 100 minutes.

Our game this weekend showed the value of choosing a strategy and committing to it, even when major distractions abound. 1754 Conquest, like all of the Birth of America-series, are great teaching games and highly suitable to family game nights. Not only does one learn the geography, but the game mechanics help players explore strategic choices that are very historically thematic.

Featured image courtesy Academy Games.


Game of the Week for 12 March 2018 – Talon Reprint Edition (@GMTGames, 2017)

Courtesy GMT Games

I have my own shelf of shame and one of the games that is sitting on it is Talon Reprint Edition (GMT Games, 2015/17). I wrote a First Impressions post last September but the game has languished, unloved, since. My past few Game of the Week have been older games; this week change that and try a newer game.

The Talon Play Book has a Tutorial scenario so that seems like a good place to start. If I can get a chance with the RockyMountainNavy boys, we might try Scenario 1 – War is Upon Us during the week. The scenario looks to be a good learning game with few ships on two evenly-matched sides duking it out. If all goes well, Scenario 3 – The First Fleet Engagement looks like a good Game Night event.

Like I wrote in my First Impressions, I see Talon as a sci-fi fleet combat game to replace Star Fleet Battles (Amarillo Design Bureau) in my collection. I tried Federation Commander (Amarillo Design Bureau) but found it wanting. I think this is because the RMN Boys are simply not Trekkies. [I know, I have failed as a Geek Father – sue me] More directly to my point, they are not well acquainted with the thematic elements behind SFB and FC, and therefore the complexity of the games push them away. I also see Talon as an inexpensive alternative to Star Wars: Armada (Fantasy Flight Games). In the case  of Armada I dislike the theme (I am very anti-Di$ney Star Wars these days) and cringe at the cost of all those miniatures in a game that is another unappealing manual video game.

To be fair, I actually have another fleet combat game in my collection. Full Thrust (Ground Zero Games) and the very similar Power Projection: Fleet (BITS UK) are probably my favorite sci-fi fleet combat games. FT is a generic set of rules whereas PP:F is tailored for the Traveller RPG universe. The problem is that both are miniatures games and I never made that investment (although with modern desktop publishing software and home printers it is possible to make custom counters and tokens).

I am also very happy to get Talon to the table in part because another sci-fi combat game I bought in 2016 has yet to arrive. I made the mistake of backing Squadron Strike: Traveller by Ken Burnside and Ad Astra Games on Kickstarter. Allegedly, the miniatures for the game started shipping late February, but for backers like me who didn’t buy minis and am waiting for my boxed set it appears that all I am going to get is a beta-version of the pdf. All of which makes me look forward to Talon that much more because its a lot easier to have fun with a game when its actually on your table and not vaporware!


February Gaming – or – Quality Grognard Time

fullsizeoutput_596My February gaming stats are improving. Played 14 different games (+2 expansions) a total of 43 times – in a short 28 day month!

Kids games still dominate with five games for 28 plays. Add in family boardgames (4 games/6 plays) and seemingly little is left. In reality, I was very happy to get in nine plays of five different WARGAMES this month!


The Man with the Plan – Playing #Pandemic by @Zmangames

“I is for Infected” (Courtesy KillerTaco on

With #windmageddon shutting down most of the area this weekend (and thankfully we didn’t lose power or have a tree fall on our house – or a large outlet sign) I felt the need for a “lighter” Game Night. So Pandemic (Z-Man Games, 2008) landed on the table. The RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself played a 3-player session with Youngest RMN Boy as the Operations Specialist, Middle RMN Boy as the Dispatcher, and myself as the Scientist. I really enjoyed the game tonight not because (spoiler alert) we won, but because the game enabled Middle RMN Boy, who is on the Autism Spectrum, to shine.

At first it looked bad as the initial infection was heavily Black Plague and Red Death. As we tried to beat back those two contagions, the cards fell my way and I was able to eradicate the Blue Virus. Youngest RMN was quickly able to cure the Black Plague, but several closely spaced Epidemic Cards led to multiple outbreaks. It was looking bad; we really needed to knock back the Black Plague and the Red Virus was out of control. We cured the Yellow Virus, but really needed to get after the Red Death.

We always play Pandemic with everybody’s cards face up in front of them so we can all collaborate on strategy. Usually, this discussion is dominated by Youngest RMN and myself, with Middle RMN Boy only occasionally making a contribution. We usually try to let him plan his own actions and Youngest RMN Boy sometimes has to control his facial expressions as he disagrees with what his brother does.

Tonight, at the peak of the pressure as we were running out of Outbreaks and Action Cards, Youngest RMN Boy and I were having a “spirited discussion” as to the next actions. We were trying to plan two-players ahead, and that included Middle RMN. Suddenly, Middle RMN Boy spoke up.

“Don’t worry, I got this,” he emphatically stated.

“Got what?” I asked.

“We can win. I’ve got this!”

I challenged him to explain what he was thinking. He proceeded to lay out a three-player sequence of events that, sure enough, would give us the win. His idea took advantage of a recently drawn Event Card and optimized each players abilities. It was a brilliant plan.

I love my Boys and sometimes I don’t give Middle RMN Boy enough credit because of his Autism Spectrum. He rarely shows the ability to think ahead, and when he does it’s often for the wrong reasons that end up getting him in trouble. Though we haven’t played Pandemic too many times, it obviously has “clicked” with him.

Small moments like this tell me that our weekly game nights are well worth it. It also reminds me that, as much as I love being a Grognard, other genre of games are well worth playing and sometimes bring out the best in each of us.


Rommel the Younger in Landships! (Clash of Arms Games, 1994)

The Game of the Week was Landships! Tactical Weapons Innovations 1914-1918 (Clash of Arms Games, 1994). My intent for Game of the Week is to set up and play a solo game to rediscover or further explore a particular wargame. This week turned out a little different.

To learn the basics of the game I set up the Fast Play scenario and started stepping through it. Not long into the first turn Youngest RMN Boy can up to the loft (where my small game table is) and sat down asking, “What’s this?”

I swept the German counters over to him, pushing the French on my side. Quickly explaining the basics of the rules, I invited him to play.

Germans cross no-mans land and push past to the town (@Mountain_Navy)

The game took us two nights as we were just playing it in the short time after dinner and chores and bedtime routines. The French won the battle, barely, by Close Assaulting a lone German infantry platoon in the town and eliminating them on the last turn.

Youngest RMN Boy was slightly dejected as he thought he was going to last through the turn and win. I pointed out to him he did better than the historical situation.


“Yes, Rommel only made it to the woods,” I said as I pointed to the map.

“Rommel? I did better than Rommel!?”

I read to him the entire scenario description, including the title (“Rommel at the Argonne”) and the historical result.

“I did better than Rommel!” he exclaimed.

It was at this point I realized that he actually knows who Erwin Rommel is. I should of realized it as we had talked about him when we played Panzer and he had recently read an old copy of Ballantine Books’ Panzer Division: The Mailed Fist by John Macksey that we picked up at a used book store.

It was really awesome to see him connect to history. Making those connections is a major reason I played wargames for the past 40 years. Seeing him make those same connections assures me he will continue playing for the next 40.


Pounding Panthers with Panzer (Second Edition, @gmtgames, 2012)

Courtesy BGG

The very first wargame I ever owned was James M. Day’s Panzer published by Yaquinto in 1979. My friends and I played the h*ll out this game, and the companion ’88’ and Armor. Looking back, I am amazed that these were my gateway games into the wargaming hobby. They definitely are not for the faint of heart as the rules are very fiddly. Today I introduced the updated Panzer Second Edition (GMT Games, 2012) to the RockyMountainNavy Boys. I am happy to say the updated Second Edition is a fine game too.

We played the Basic Game version of Scenario 2 The Village: Poland, late 1944. The RMN Boys took the Soviets and entered from the river edge of the map. I was the Germans and entered behind a small series of hills on an adjacent edge.

Given the two Boys, the Soviet force was divided between them. Little RMN took his part of the force (which included three T-34/85 and a SU-85 and SU-100 tank destroyer) and immediately turned to fight the advancing Germans. Meanwhile, the rest of the Soviet force (seven T-34/85’s) dashed for the village. The Germans were able to top the hills and shoot down at the exposed medium tanks and tank destroyers, eliminating all six tanks for a loss of a single Panzer IVH destroyed and a Panther damaged.

The other Soviet force buried themselves in the village but the relentless German drive eventually evicted them. A few more Germans tanks were lost, but the rest of the Soviet force was destroyed.

The Soviets hold the village for now, but 4x Panthers backed up by a StuG IIIG will make short work of them soon….

The Basic Game in Panzer focuses on the Sequence of Play and utilizes a simplified damage resolution system. Most importantly, armor has only two factors, frontal (forward hemisphere) and rear (back hemisphere). In this simple matchup, the frontal armor of the Panther was impervious to all the Soviets guns beyond a range of 4 hexes (400 meters). The Youngest RMN Boy expressed extreme displeasure with this condition – he had read that one way to beat the Panther (or Tiger tanks) was hit it from the side or behind. In the Basic Game this is hard to do because the “frontal” armor covers the forward 180-degree hemisphere – there is just no “side” armor unless you are behind the tank! This led us to a discussion of the Advanced Game with a much more detailed hit location and armor penetration model. Both RMN Boys expressed a desire for a rematch using the Advanced Game rules because the Basic Game just “doesn’t feel right.” Youngest RMN Boy also commented that Panzer helps him understand World of Tanks better where a Panther is Tier 7 but the T-34/85 is a Tier 6.

Overall, I have to rate the RMN Boys first reaction to Panzer (Second Edition) as “guarded interest.” They didn’t dislike the game, but they immediately compared it to Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear (Second Edition, Academy Games, 2012) which they have played often. They agreed with me that CoH: AtB is more a “game” and less a “simulation” whereas the Basic Game of Panzer is too much game in what should be more a simulation (meaning the Advanced Game is the “gamed simulation” Panzer should be).

Courtesy Academy Games

The RMN Boys want to play Panzer again as they (especially Youngest RMN Boy) want to get into some of the details and experience what they have only read about in Osprey Books and the like. That said, they are also looking forward to the delivery of the new edition of Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel! 1943 – Kursk to see how the tank battles version of that series plays out.

Panzer was my gateway game 39 years ago. It is good to see that 39 years later the game still ignites the imagination and promotes learning. The game has stood the test of time well, and I expect it to continue to do so into the future.

Featured image courtesy Roger MacGowan (@RBMStudio1 on Twitter)