#WargameWednesday – Ranking my personal Top 10 #Wargames

This last year, I have have fully embraced my Wargame Revival I first talked about in December 2016. Since the beginning of the year, I have played 34 different games 57 times.

Along the way I taken a deep relook at my BoardGameGeek ratings. I have realigned many ratings, generally shifting more towards a 6.0 (OK – Will play if in the mood) than the 7+ (Good – Usually willing to play) I was at before. This time also afforded me a chance to look at my personal favorites and how they stack up on BGG (ratings/rank as of  08 October 2017):

#1 Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear (second edition) [My Rating 9.5 / BGG Rating 8.1 / BGG Wargame Rank 17]

I like this game for the simple game mechanics that still capture the feel of WWII combat. Absolutely unmatched with the Firefight Generator and Solo Missions expansion. CoH is notably my top ranked game, but also the game with a large rating disparity (my 9.5 versus a Geek Rating of 6.891 – a 2.61 overrating by me).

#2 Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection [My Rating 9.0 / BGG Rating 8.0 / BGG Wargame Rank 46]

An incredibly innovative game that in many ways turns the definition of “wargame” on its head. Also apparently overrated by me with against a Geek Rating of 6.492 or a 2.51 overrating.

#3 Harpoon 4 [My Rating 9.0 / BGG Rating 7.4 / BGG Wargame Rank 547]

Modern naval combat. I think this game gets a bad rap; its not really that complicated to play once you get set-up and some planning completed. Apparently I vastly overrate this game against a Geek Rating of 5.682 or a 3.32 overrating by me.

#4 Fear God & Dread Nought [My Rating 9.0 / BGG Rating 7.3 / BGG Wargame Rank 806]

World War II naval combat. Again, I think its underrated although I can see how it might only appeal to diehard grognards. The lowest BGG Wargame rank of my personal Top 10. Of my Top 10, this is the game with the greatest rating disparity against a Geek Rating of 5.626 or an overrating of 3.37 by me!

#5 Flat Top [My Rating 9.0 /BGG Rating 7.3 / BGG Wargame Rank 180]

I have the Battleline first edition from 1977. The oldest game in my Top 10. Another one with wide disparity of ratings with a Geek Rating of 6.206 (2.79 overrated).

#6 Wing Leader: Victories 1940-1942 [My Rating 9.0 / BGG Rating 8.0 /  BGG Wargame Rank 140]

Actually paired with Wing Leader: Supremacy 1943-1945 [My Rating 9.0 /  BGG Rating 8.5 / BGG Wargame Rank 286] these games both literally and figuratively changed my perspective of air combat games. Overrated – again – at a Geek Rating of 5.983 or a 2.77 overrate.

#7 Scythe [My Rating 9.0 / BGG Rating 8.3 / BGG Overall Rank 8 / BGG Strategy Rank 7]

The only “non-wargame” in my Top 10, Scythe is not without its detractors but it is a rare game that actually delivers on much of the hype surrounding it.

#8 MBT (second edition) [My Rating 9.0 /  BGG Rating 8.2 / BGG Wargame Rank 458]

Modern armored combat. Streamlined game mechanics make for easy, fun play. I overrate by 2.81 against a Geek Rating of 5.689.

#9 Panzer (second edition) [My Rating 9.0 / BGG Rating 7.8 / BGG Wargame Rank 139]

My first wargame ever was Panzer (first edition) [My Rating 8.0 / BGG Rating 7.3 / BGG Wargame Rank 629]; this is a worthy successor. I overrate by 2.49 against a Geek Rating of 6.006.

#10 Downtown: Air War Over Hanoi, 1965-1972 [My BGG Rating 9.0 /  BGG Rating 7.8 / BGG Wargame Rank 106]

As an old Navy Squadron Intel Officer, this game is strike planning like I remember it. Not everyone likes the planning nor some of the abstractions, but to me this is realism and playability combined. Of my Top 10, this one has the least ratings disparity with my rating “only” 2.40 over the Geek Rating of 6.098.

So what have I learned? I learned that BoardGameGeek ratings and rankings are virtually useless!

I like games that others don’t – apparently many games that others would say I overrate. Not sure if it really means anything because I feel that the wargamer segment of BGG is underrepresented by users. It’s OK with me; I enjoy my hobby and hope to keep gaming for many years to come!

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Courtesy BGG.com

 

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Bonus #Boardgames #GameNight – #NexusOps Redux

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Courtesy BoardGameGeek

With the long holiday weekend here in the States, the RockyMountainNavy Boys asked for another game night. The Middle RMN Boy was the first to nominate a game so we went with his proposal: Nexus Ops. We had played Nexus Ops just a  few weeks back and I wrote about my reservations. Tonight, I think the Middle RMN Boy made the right choice of game; we wanted a shorter game with easier rules  – in ways a sorta “middle-length filler” experience.

We played the three-player version again. Little RMN got lucky and got many mines near his home base while I ended up with many fewer. Seeing my disadvantage, I jumped out early and grabbed the Monolith and started collecting Energizer Cards. Meanwhile, Middle RMN slowly built up an impressive force. Little RMN and I sparred over the Monolith, and I held on for awhile but at the cost of several Energizer Cards. Eventually, attrition took its toll and I lost the Monolith, forcing me to go totally defensive.

Little RMN was ahead of me, 7 VP to 3VP with Middle RMN at 0 VP. The Red Horde of Middle RM started its inexorable trek towards the Monolith and assured victory.

And then something incredible happened.

Litle RMN had a Rubium Dragon on the Monolith. Just as the Red Horde was going to attack the Dragon jumped…into the Middle RMN home base. Winning the battle, Little RMN laid down two Secret Mission cards for 5 VP…and the win.

I can’t be mad at his victory for he used the Dragon’s asymmetrical capability at exactly the right time and in exactly the right manner. Middle RMN was stunned. I was worried that he might explode, but after a few moments he “got it” that Little RMN had taken a high-risk chance – that worked – and got the victory.

This is the second game of Nexus Ops where the Middle RMN Boy ended up in last place. I was a bit worried that he might be getting turned off to the game. But I needn’t worry for after he accepted the loss to his brother he showed us all the Secret Mission cards he had ready. Suffice it to say that given one or no more than two more turns he probably would of swept us both away and easily secured the victory.

This game has raised my personal respect for Nexus Ops a bit for tonight we found some narrative in the gameplay. I don’t think its going to change my BGG Rating (6.0 or solidly in my average) but it will make it more likely to land on the table again given the right conditions.

 

 

To be King – #RiskEurope (@Hasbro 2015) #GameNight

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Courtesy BGG.com

I picked up Risk Europe (Hasbro, 2015) for an inexpensive $14.99 at Tuesday Morning a few weeks back. I personally steer away from too many “mainstream” game publishers as I find the games generally unimaginative. When I saw Risk Europe, I consulted BoardGameGeek.com and saw that it rated a respectable 7.7 (Good…almost Very Good) so I bought it and rolled it out for our family #gamenight.

Risk Europe is not your usual Risk fare. The game is both a resource builder (ala Classic Risk) but using card driven mechanics. Each faction has eight King’s Orders cards; each round the player picks two cards and places them facedown in front of them. The round is played out in two turns where the cards are turned over in the order placed. Battles take place at the the end of the round (two turns). Each round, each faction has two-less cards; the deck is reshuffled every fifth round. Cities are worth variable value and each has a special characteristic.

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Courtesy BGG.com

Visually, the game is very attractive; the map is nice, and the colorful DoaM (Dudes on a Map) factor is fun. But something missed for us in this game.

Risk Europe is actually four different games. The standard is the four-player version and there are 2- or 3-player versions using Mercenaries. There is also a Kingdom Missions variant. We played the 3-player version using a Mercenary fourth faction. This faction is basically “for hire” each round (a set of 2 turns).

Little RMN took Constantinople and Rome as his beginning cities. This gave him an immediate advantage because Rome is worth two crowns (8 needed to win). Middle RMN had Stockholm and Berlin. The Mercenaries were set up (randomly!) in Madrid and Paris. For myself, I was split between Kiev and London.

For two and half hours we battled fruitlessly back and forth across the board. The Mercenary army traded hands many times. When the RMN Boys controlled it they used it to batter (and eventually conquer) England while I used the Mercenaries to grab cites in front of the other kingdoms. With the eventual loss of England, my treasury was reduced and I could not pay enough for the Mercenaries. Middle RMN hired them for several rounds and backed them out of several cities allowing him to take them.

At the end of 2.5 hours Little RMN was ahead 5 banners to 4 for Middle RMN and the Mercenaries. I was behind at 3 banners. We called the game due to a late start and little end in sight.

One rule we didn’t use was Crown Cards. With only 15 cities on the board, and eight needed to win, one must literally conquer half the board! Crown Cards are the second most expensive item available to purchase and count as a crown for victory. Maybe it was the first play but all of use focused on purchasing units rather than Crown Cards in their spend actions. There was also admittedly a bit of Analysis Paralysis as we all learned what the limits of the King’s Orders cards were.

Am I being unfair to Risk Europe and panning the game after one flawed play? Maybe, but these days I have discovered that the games that attract me the most are games that evoke a narrative. In Risk Europe, I want to imagine being a King in the Middle Ages, building my Empire across the continent. I didn’t get that feeling. Maybe its the 3-player variant with a Mercenary Army that seems overpowered; maybe we need to really play with Crown Cards or use the secret missions in the Kingdom Builder variant. I think we will get Risk Europe to the table again – eventually – but only when we know we have a 3+ hour block of time and all players understand all the rules.

“The whites of their eyes” – @compassgamesllc #CommandandColorsTricorneTheAmericanRevolution

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Courtesy Compass Games

Friday nights are usually movie night for the RockyMountainNavy Boys. For myself, I set up Compass Games’ Command & Colors Tricorne: The American Revolution. I was planning on a simple solo rules exploration game when the youngest RMN Boy sat down next to me and asked, “Can I play?”

Who am I to say no to a wargame!

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Courtesy westpoint.edu

The scenario I set up was the Battle of Bemis Heights, October 7, 1777. I chose this battle  partially because it was the first scenario in the rulebook – with lower unit density – and partially because it was (nearly) the anniversary of the battle! I took the Americans while Little RMN took the British. The British start with light artillery supporting a line anchored at one end by heights. The Continental Regulars are forward in a line passing thru/behind trees. There is also a detachment of Light Infantry (Col Morgan) on the left flank. A strong group of American Militia are further back and can be brought forward as reserves.

The battle began with an Opening Cannonade from the British guns. Fortunately, many of the Continental Regulars were just out of range or behind trees and safe. The British pushed out a unit of elite Grenadiers on their own left flank, and in the initial engagement routed an American Militia unit and pushed back the American right flank. Morgan’s light infantry on the American left pushed out independently and threatened the heights, but the terrain advantage helped the British defenders. The British also used some line volleys as the Americans pushed forward into the tree line.

At this point, Little RMN was feeling quite confident; he was leading 3-2 and had watched   the American Militia run away after a single volley. With his elite Grenadiers and terrain advantage he felt that he was on a path to victory.

But fortune was to favor the Americans. The Command Card “Steal the March” allowed the main American line to rapidly advance across the open field and enter Melee Range. Little RMN triumphantly played another “Line Volley” fully expecting to devastate the pesky Americans.

Then the Americans played the Battle Card “The Whites of Their Eyes.” This card lets the Americans fire FIRST in Melee combat. In the exchange of fire, not one British unit was able to stand and Battle Back. Indeed, three units ROUTED and ran off.

The Americans now held the advantage with the score 5-3 after the close fire exchange. Little RMN tried to reorganize his line and pick off ANY American unit. But while he was doing so, Morgan’s light infantry on the right got a clear shot an an unattached Leader – and got the kill. Americans win 6-3.

Little RMN has played plenty of Memoir ’44 and a few games of Command & Colors: Ancients so he was not totally unfamiliar with the game system. The real difference in Tricorne is the morale rules and the potential of routing units. This bit of historical chrome becomes an essential part of the Tricorne experience and makes Tricorne thematically appropriate without a huge rules overhead.

Little RMN wants to play Tricorne again. Worrying to me, this game we had the Middle RMN Boy as an observer. He quietly watched and learned. So quiet was he I fear playing him in the future because I could see the whites of his eyes as he studied the battle and considered what he would do differently.

Intelligence in #GameNight #1775Rebellion (@Academy_Games)

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1775: Rebellion at End of Round 3

Played 1775: Rebellion (Academy Games) for Family Game Night again this past weekend. This time, we were able to get the oldest RockyMountainNavy Boy to play. He is more a video gamer than a boardgames, but Mom “mentioned” to him that 1775 could be used for learning about history too. Since he wants to be a teacher he decided to try it out….

This was our first 4-player go at the game and it pitted the Oldest RMN Boy (Continentals) teamed with myself as the Colonial Militia versus the Youngest and Middle RMN Boys as the British and Loyalists. The game was easy to teach and the Oldest RMN Boy caught on quickly to the game mechanics. Strategy was a bit harder to teach, and I let him make many the decisions during his turn with just limited advice. There were a few points I should have intervened more forcefully, but I have to balance the personal desire to win with the parental need to teach and nurture. Of the two, the latter is definitely more important; all the more so with the Oldest RMN Boy who needs valuable teaching points.

The game ended in the 7th Round with a narrow British/Loyalist win of 3-2. Some of the more memorable events during the game included:

  • An indecisive offensive by the Continental Army against New York City early in the war the was narrowly defeated
  • See-saw control of Rhode Island and Connecticut; kicked off by the use of Benedict Arnold to turn the sole Continental Army unit in Newport to the British
  • A Contiental/Militia “Southern Strategy” that was stymied by a single Loyalist group in North Carolina (Mountain Boys?) that refused to die
  • In a key late-war battle to grab control of Pennsylvania, the entire Continental/Militia army fleeing.

Once again I can’t say enough just how much theme this game packs into its simple game mechanics and Event/Movement cards. That said, as much as we all love this game I think we may have to park this one on the shelf for a bit because the Youngest RMN Boy has studied all the cards and was “card-counting” in the game – pointing out that the Continentals had not played the Warship Movement card yet and they needed to careful. Is that meta-gaming or does it reflect a good intelligence network in the game?

#GameNight old is…old. #NexusOps (1st Ed, Avalon Hill, 2005)

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Courtesy BoardGameGeek

The RockyMountainNavy Saturday Family Game Night series continued this week with Nexus Ops. I have the original Avalon Hill Games, Inc. version from 2005. This game is good, but showing its age. In it’s day it probably seemed innovative enough; by today’s standards its a bit stale but still makes for a good light, family wargame.

The players each lead a corporation exploring a strange planet. Each corporation is trying to explore the planet, gaining the most income from mines while buying units to fight and control areas. Victory Points are scored for winning battles or completing Secret Missions. The first player/corporation to 12 VP wins. Each player/corporation has the same player mat with identical cost and capabilities. The only difference is the starting money; starting earlier means less initial income. The middle of the board is an area known as the Monolith; only certain units can enter this space and possession gives the owner two (2) Energizer Cards (special abilities for reinforcement, movement, or combat) each turn.

IMG_1946We played a three-player game with Little RMN starting off, Middle RMN second, and myself third. Play initially was slow as all three corporations explored the board. Little RMN jumped out and took the Monolith, only to be ejected by me. I took full advantage of my Secret Mission cards and laid down many, but most were only one VP making my march toward victory slow. Little RMN eventually caught on and started playing his Secret Mission cards, and was quickly catching up as his were of the two and three VP-each variety. Middle RMN was accumulating money and making both of us worried. Eventually, Little RMN and I clashed over the Monolith and mines along our exploration boundaries, but I was unable to devote my full attention to him because I was worried about the storm that might come at me from the other direction. Eventually, my slow but steady strategy worked and I made my 12 VP on a few fortunate plays of Secret Mission cards just ahead of Little RMN sweeping me away, and just as the Middle RMN was making a giant purchase of killer units that surely would of swept me away too!

After the game we talked about the game mechanics. We all agreed that it was very simple with little variety. Sure, the board will be different each time, and the Exploration chits vary, and going first starts with less money, but the corporations themselves are symmetrical with no difference other than the color of the bits. After playing games like Scythe or 1775 – Rebellion recently this symmetry was very…vanilla. This doesn’t make Nexus Ops a bad game  – just not as interesting as more recent designs.

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Scythe Faction Mat – Each faction is different (Courtesy BoardGameGeek)

Nexus Ops will stay in the Saturday Game Night series rotation, but I don’t expect it to be played that often. Maybe when we are looking for a quick game on a short game night or if we introduce new players it may land on the table. 

 

 

 

Rebellious #GameNight with #1775Rebellion (@Academy_Games)

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Courtesy Academy Games

The RockyMountainNavy family weekend game night this week featured another new acquisition, 1775 – Rebellion (Academy Games, 2013). 1775 – Rebellion is the first game of the Birth of America series. The publisher, Uwe Eickert, personally recommended it to me for helping teach the RMN Boys about the American Revolution. When I purchased the game, I also picked up the book Teaching the American Revolution Through Play that uses the game as part of lesson plans.

1775 – Rebellion is a light, strategic wargame. Like many Academy Games products, the game is a mix of “traditional” wargame mechanics with a strong Eurogames influence. Using simple gameplay, wooden cubes, cards and custom dice this area-control game recreates the American War of Independence. The RMN Boys really enjoyed the game. The random drawing of turn order keeps the tension going even when it is not a players turn and the hand management of Movement or Event Cards allows a wide variety of strategies to be attempted.

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The Rebellion takes shape

Our game played out very close to historical. The Rebellion was strong in the New England colonies, but the British swept down from Canada and threatened to roll down the coast. Rebellion resistance stiffened (thanks to French intervention) and the British were stopped. Changing strategy, the British used large Loyalist forces in a Southern Strategy to attempt to roll-up the coast from the other direction. However, the wily American Militia along the colonial frontier used many Indian allies to successfully contest complete control of colonies. By the time the Treaty of Paris arrived, the British were behind on colonies and lost the war.

During play, there were two events that highlighted how thematic the game is. At one point during the evening, the youngest RMN Boy (playing the American Militia faction) complained that it was difficult coordinating – or always agreeing – with his brother playing the Continental Army. I pointed out to him that historically Regular and Militia officers often quarreled and sometimes misunderstood each other. They even sometimes worked against each other too! The youngest RMN Boy thought about that a moment, and sheepishly looking at his brother said, “Oh, I guess this game is real.” At another time during the game, the youngest RMN Boy (again) grumbled that is was “unfair” that the British Regulars and Loyalists had more Warship Movement cards than the Americans did.  I pointed out to him the British had the Royal Navy, whereas the Militia had boats (like those used by Washington to cross the Delaware) or relied upon the less numerous French fleet. Realizing that the cards were not just there to make his life difficult, I could see the realization in his eyes as he started understanding the maneuver advantage naval superiority gave the British in the war.

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Courtesy Academy Games

Such is the teaching power of 1775 – Rebellion. Before we played I looked through the Teaching booklet and consciously tried to mix in a few learning points. The book lays out a five-lesson plan that uses the game for two of the lessons. I appreciate that each lesson has readings and writing assignments that focus the discussion and learning objective. I will be using this book in a more formal fashion later this winter, maybe during a break week to have fun/education. The lessons are aimed squarely at the middle school student; making the youngest RMN Boy a prime candidate.

The truth to the matter is that I don’t have to rely on the book; the game teaches by itself. From the custom battle result dice that often have units flee or retreat as much as (if not more than) they destroy a unit, to the Event Cards that invoke historic events (you should have seen the boy’s faces when I played Benedict Arnold in a major battle and turned their last Continental Army unit and ensured my battle win) the game just feels right. I am not saying this is a replacement for Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection (GMT, 2016) which is still my favorite strategic game of the AWI, but 1775 – Rebellion is a perfect “lighter” game that oozes so much theme with very little rules overhead.

The RMN Boys have really taken to the Birth of America series and want both 1754 – Conquest: The French and Indian War as well as 1812 – The Invasion of Canada. Mrs. RMN saw the boys engagement with the game (and the long conversations the boys and I had after the game and on Sunday talking about the history of America in the the late 18th and early 19th centuries) that she has “approved” a future purchase. I can’t blame her; 1775 – Rebellion has spurred their desire to learn more about American history. There is no better praise of a game than to say, “it makes one want to learn more.”