The Simplicity of #1812TheInvasionofCanada (@Academy_Games, 2012)

This weekend the RockyMountainNavy Game Night featured 1812: The Invasion of Canada (Academy Games, 2012). This title is actually the first in the Birth of America-series but was the last to land on the RMN gaming table. 1812 is probably the simplest, least refined game of the series but that same simplicity creates a fast-playing, easy-to-learn gaming experience that delivers a wonderful historical feel that immerses players in the game.

The core mechanics of 1812 are the same as all Birth of America-series games. The usual Reinforcements – Movement – Battle – Draw Cards sequence is there. In 1812, Reinforcements enter at designated Muster Points. This limitation immediately forces players to consider how to flow forces into battles. Movement is done with the usual Movement Cards of which some are movement, some are Events, and of course one is the Treaty Card (combination movement/event). Battles have a subtle asymmetric character about them through the use of special Battle Dice that have different results depending upon the type of unit fighting. In one difference from the usual game series rules, the first “attack” rolls depend upon where the battle takes place with the Home Territory owner getting the first roll. In terms of rules complexity, I consider 1812the least complicated of the series. This makes it very easy to learn and quick-to-play.

Victory in 1812 is through simple majority area control. The game ends at the end of Round 8 or at the end of any round when one side has played all their Treaty Cards.

Unlike other Birth of America titles, 1812 can be played with up to five players (rather than the standard four). The “fifth” faction in this title is the Native Americans. As much as I appreciate the designers stretching the title for five players, in this case I doubt the real enjoyment the Native American player would get in a full game with (very) limited reinforcements and small forces. Native Americans appear in 1775: Rebellion (as a “neutral” faction that can be controlled by either side) and in 1754: The Conquest of America where they are represented again as a “neutral” faction that can be allied with and (using the Native American Expansion) as a source of asymmetric powers and alternate victory conditions.  In 1812, the Native Americans are a sort of “special forces” but are definitely an adjunct force but not a major power.

A major source of enjoyment when playing 1812 is simply looking at the game. The beautiful box art is supported by a map that is evocative of the era and card art that is exceptionally detailed. Just looking at the game immerses the players in the period and helps with the narrative experience.

U%u3KDqDRQKzsGLnzbhsmQOur first game ended in a tie after Round 4 when the Americans had played all their Treaty Cards. Both sides controlled one enemy Homeland Territory. In very typical fashion, the game came down to the last battle roll in the final battle. In this case, the British Regulars were able to defeat a mixed American Regular-Militia army and take the one territory they needed to tie the game. Total playing time for our first game was a very fast 55 minutes. This is partially because all four players (myself and all three RockyMountainNavy Boys) are familiar with the rules.

1812: The Invasion of Canada may be the “simplest” of the Birth of America-series but that does not mean it will end up not getting played. Rather, the many positive attributes of the game (familiar rules, beautiful artwork, thematic play) means it will land on the gaming table often.

Feature image courtesy Academy Games.

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Thoughts on Native Alliances in #1754Conquest from @Academy_Games

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Courtesy AcademyGames.com

In my first impression of 1754 Conquest – The French and Indian War (Academy Games, 2017) I touched on how much the game is like the others in the Birth of America/Birth of Europe-series. I discussed how 1754 Conquest adds new rules for reinforcements (Harbors and Muster Areas) and Forts. There are two other different rules that help set 1754 Conquest apart from other games in the series. The rules are Native Americans and the optional Native Alliance Expansion which we played with.

In all the Birth of America/Europe-series, there are four factions each of which draw their Turn Cube during a Round. In 1754 Conquest, there is a fifth “faction;” Native Americans. When the Native American Turn Cube is drawn, reinforcements are placed on the board. There is a clever mechanic using the spot on the Turn Order Track that helps determine which Native American area gets the reinforcements. Rules are included for when Native American are allied with a faction and how they act in battle.

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Courtesy AcademyGames.com

The 1754 Conquest Native Alliance Expansion is a deck of 15 cards. During Setup, each faction draws a single card. The card will either have an Native American area that, if controlled at game end, scores extra Victory Points or a special Native American ability that the faction can use. For instance, in the image above if the Algonquin Alliance card is drawn, when the game ends with the faction in control of those Native American home areas gains extra Victory Points. Other cards are special abilities for the factions, such as the Mingo Alliance card (pictured above) that negates the Fort Die if present.

These simple changes and expansion make 1754 Conquest extremely thematic. Not only are the major contested areas the Native American lands (as was historically the case) but the importance of alliances with the Native Americans cannot be understated both in history and the game. Academy Games (rightly) boosts that, “This expansion exemplifies the impact that the Six Nations had on the French and Indian War!” For the full experience of 1754 Conquest, the expansion is essential. Adding this expansion should be a no-brainer as there is little-to-no rules overhead and seamless integration with the existing game system.

In our first game, two of the factions (British & French Regulars) drew Area Alliance cards. The British Colonials drew the Ojibwa Alliance power (ability to cross the Great Lakes) while the French-Canadiens had the Mingo Alliance power (nullifies Forts). In the end game scoring, neither side gained extra points (failure to have Native American units in the areas). During the game, the Colonials were able to use the Ojibwa Alliance to cross the Great Lakes and take some French territory (although the “invasion” was later turned back). The French-Canadian faction should of used the Mingo Alliance in one battle but we all forgot (to our later disgruntlement as it may have made the difference in the battle and possibly even the final scoring). On balance the Native Alliance cards added an interesting element of gameplay with little rules overhead but with great thematic impact.

In many ways the Native Americans in 1754 Conquest exemplify what I love about the entire Birth of America-series and 878 Vikings. The games are great for 3-4 players, feature easy-to-learn and easy-to-play rules, and hit so many thematic elements that they teach without being preachy. 1754 Conquest, and it close cousins 1775 Rebellion, 1812 Invasion, and 878 Vikings are the epitome of family wargames that are fun to play and educational.

#FirstImpressions – #1754Conquest by @Academy_Games

On the table for this weekend’s RockyMountainNavy Family Game Night was a full 4-player game of 1754 Conquest: The French and Indian War (Academy Games, 2017). I usually do a “first impressions” post after playing a game for the first time and I guess this posting is no real exception. Well, except that since 1754 Conquest is part of the Birth of America-series and we have previously played 1775 Rebellion and 878 Vikings, we actually have a great familiarity with the basic game system. So this is more of a “ongoing thoughts” after the first play of another game in the series. Bottom Line: 1754 Conquest is a great family wargame and beautiful on the table.

Like other games in the Birth of America/Europe-series, 1754 Conquest is team-play, strategic-level of conflict, lite-rules wargame. The core gameplay is the same; Reinforcements, Movement/Event Card play, Battles, and End Turn. 1754 Conquest introduces several advanced rules (that are changes from 1775 Rebellion and 1812 Invasion) including Strategic Forts, Muster Areas, and Harbors. The later two determine where reinforcements arrive (British and French Regulars enter at Harbors, British Colonials and French-Canadiens enter at Muster Points). The Fort Rule thematically captures the important roll of forts in this war.

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Courtesy AcademyGames.com

Beyond the familiar gameplay, another part of 1754 Conquest that captures my attention (literally) is the fantastic art. I recently listened to a podcast (can’t find it now) that talked to Steve Paschal, the artist who did the cover of 1754 Conquest. Mr. Paschal has done lots of work for Academy Games, and his work is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. The cover of 1754 Conquest is by far my favorite because I think it captures so much of the spirit of the game. Not only is the cover nice, but all the components nicely compliment each other and make the game extremely beautiful to lay out on the table and adds immensely to the joy of play.

Playing games, and especially wargames, has an important role in the education of the RockyMountainNavy Boys. When playing 878 Vikings, I discovered just how much the Oldest RMN Boy loved Viking history, and how much the Youngest RMN wants to learn. Personally, I have a love of early American colonial history and the French & Indian War and American Revolution are amongst my favorite periods of history to study. So this time we did something a bit different and I read aloud from the Historical Notes at the back of the rulebook. The Boys were fascinated learning about George Washington’s role in the war, and were awed when they realized that their mother’s favorite movie, The Last of the Mohicans, is on the board (Fort William Henry). When I got to the section labeled The French Plan, Youngest RMN Boy stopped me and suggested we not read further until after the game so they could explore the situation for themselves. To say I was proud is an understatement!

The game ended after Round 4 with the British having played both their Treaty Cards. The result was a very narrow victory for the British, 6-5. Total playtime was a very short 70 minutes, which is very fast for us in a first-play of a new game. Again, 1754 Conquest is not a truly “new” game to us, and the fact we have familiarity with the core game mechanics meant the introduction of the new rules did not slow down our learning of the game.

1754 Conquest is less complex than 878 Vikings due to the absence of Invasion and Leader rules. It is more complex than 1775 Rebellion given the different reinforcement rules and forts. But in no way can I say that 1754 Conquest is better than or lesser than either of those other games. 1754 Conquest is superior in what it delivers; an easy to learn, simple to play, team wargame that captures the feel of the French & Indian War period. Additionally, it is a beautiful game!

2017 Gaming Retrospective

Well, its that time of the year for the obligatory post addressing the question, “How much did I game in 2017?” This year I tried to keep better stats using BoardGameGeek. Here is my year:

fullsizeoutput_56bIf my math is correct, that is 124 plays of 59 different games. Actually, it’s only 57 different games because there are two expansions in there.

I have no real data to compare these numbers to because I admit I only sporadically logged game plays in 2016 and before. But there are a few trends I noticed myself.

Family Gaming: This was the year that the family started gaming together. Look at all the family games. From heavy games like Scythe to lighter fare in Kingdominothe game shelf is sagging a bit more this year.

Academy Games: Easily one of my favorite publishers today. In particular I love their Conflict of Heroessystem and their “lite” family wargames of in the Birth of America and Birth of Europe series.

Hollandspiele: Another small publisher. Small, innovative and interesting games have rekindled my love of wargames.

GMT Games: A powerhouse publisher, this year I explored titles beyond their niche wargames. Their COIN-series title Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection is a favorite.

All in all, 2017 was a good gaming year. Here’s to hoping 2018 continues the trend!

Happy New Year!

#FirstImpressions – 878 Vikings: Invasions of England (@AcademyGames, 2017)

This Christmas was a very merry Academy Games Christmas in the RockyMountainNavy household. Our Birth of America collection was completed with 1754 Conquest: The French & Indian War and 1812: The Invasion of Canada. The first of the Birth of Europe titles, 878 Vikings: Invasion of England also landed under the tree. This weekend, 878 Vikings found it way to the RMN Game Night in a full 4-player scenario. 878 Vikings delivers a fun family game that strikes a nice balance between playability and teaching.

Academy Games calls the Birth-series “light grand tactical play.” In reality, these games are light strategic play with little “tactical” elements. In 878 Vikings, two factions of Viking invaders are trying to conquer England which is defended by the Housecarl and Thegn. Each turn, a new Viking leader will invade and try to conquer shires while the English try to hold back the Viking hordes.

It is actually a bit rare for all three RMN Boys to play on a game night. This is usually because the oldest RMN Boy, a die-hard video gamer, often chooses to pass on boardgames. However, in this case it was he who wanted the game because he absolutely LOVES Vikings. Thus, the teams were Oldest RMN Boy – Viking Beserkers, Youngest RMN Boy – Viking Norsemen, Middle RMN Boy – Housecarl, and myself as Thegn.

As we were setting up the game it became very apparent that the game had struck a cord with the oldest RMN Boy. Without reference to any materials he was talking about the history of various Viking Leaders. Youngest RMN Boy had pulled out his Guts & Glory: The Vikings book and was trying to keep up with his older brother. You have to understand something about these two; the Youngest RMN considers himself the smartest and was not prepared for his older brother to be so far ahead of him in Viking knowledge.

This “conflict” between the two of them continued as play began. Youngest RMN considers himself a bit of a tactician and usually leads his middle brother in plan development when they play against me. This time, it was literally like watching two Viking factions arguing amongst themselves.

The initial Viking invasion went well but was stopped in the south. Aggressive Thegn play (by me) and a Reinforcement rather than another full invasion slowed the Viking advance and allowed the English to take advantage of Viking overreach. The first invasion was eventually defeated (the leader eliminated) but at the cost of many Thegn which weakened further defenses. A lucky Saxon Navy card play forced the next Viking invasion to land in a less-than-optimal location and gave time for the English defense to stabilize. When the next Viking invasion arrived, an absolutely heroic stand on the beach (with Middle RMN rolling 5 hits on 6 dice) gave the invaders pause and made them adopt a less aggressive strategy. One feature that (happily) surprised us was the many Event Cards that feature some sort of betrayal. Both Viking Treaty of Wedmore cards were out by the end of Round IV, meaning Round V would be decisive. This was also the turn of Alfred the Greats arrival and when Housecarl went first they took back two Viking controlled shires. At the end of Round V, the Vikings only controlled 8 shires, short of necessary victory.

All the RMN Boys have played 1775 Rebellion: The American Revolution which is the first of the Birth of America series featuring the least complicated rules. Although the basic game mechanics are similar in 878 Vikings, all agreed that the Leader rules and invasions makes 878 Vikings play very differently. In this case the difference is welcomed as 878 Vikings plays very thematically appropriate. The rules overhead is very light but delivers a powerful gaming experience. As an added bonus, the Viking knowledge that Oldest RMN Boy possesses has challenged Youngest RMN to go back and carefully reread his Viking book and dig into the historical notes in 878 Vikings. In this way, 878 Vikings has achieved a goal that Mrs. RMN and I both strive for in gaming; teach the Boys.

So as 2017 comes to a close I have to give a big shout-out to Academy Games for delivering not only a fun game, but one that makes my boys hungry to learn more. Such is the power of gaming. Here is looking forward to many more learning chances from gaming in 2018.

The FLGS has got to earn the F

Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower created quite the stir recently when he ranted on about the Friendly Local Game Store (FGLS). In all the negative backlash, mostly on reaction to the tone he took, I think people tried to ignore his real message – the FLGS is not always friendly.

Nearby where I live, there are four “Friendly Local Game Stores” or FLGS. There used to be five but one closed a few years back. Let me tell you a little about each.

FLGS #1 is the best for wargame selection but it is small and impossible to navigate on a weekend with gaming tables occupied in the middle. If there is a game going on then good luck getting the cashier to pay attention! The RPG section is in a dark back area with sagging shelves. They still writes out sales invoices. My wife refuses to enter the place because the regular clientele creeps her out; probably because they hit so many of the negative gamer tropes. If I want to buy a wargame this is not the place I really want come to, much less bring my boys to.

FLGS #2 is right in my neighborhood. It’s within walking distance. If I want to play Magic: The Gathering or in an X-Wing Tournament this is the place to go. If I was competitive. I say that because the players I see are hyper-competitive and this is not the place for a friendly pick-up game. That said, they did support a game outreach event at the local library, but it came and went quickly. Last year I walked in looking for card sleeves and they were helpful. This year I walked in with a card from Academy Games 1775 – Rebellion and asked for help finding the right size card sleeve. The store owner asked what game it was for and I told him. He acknowledged he didn’t know the game but after looking at (not examining) the card in my hand he declared, “We don’t have sleeves for that card.” I asked if he could measure the card (I know they have a sizing mat) and maybe find something close. He got up from behind the counter (out of his comfort zone?), walked to one display, roughly compared the card to a few packages and declared, “We don’t have any sleeves for those really old games.” I looked behind the counter at his more premium line of card sleeves but he totally missed my hint. Probably for the better as he obviously didn’t want to sell me any sleeves and I now felt like I was sullying his place with a non-MTG card. I left. I have not been back since.

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Huzzah Hobbies

FLGS #3, Huzzah Hobbies, is a real FLGS. Huzzah is the most balanced store in the area. It does have a focus on MTG and Flames of War, but also has a nice stock of new tabletop games and a few RPGs. This store actually spawned FLGS #4, Huzzah Junior, which is the “kids” version. We are patrons at both and the staff is very helpful and friendly. They usually have at least one new-ish game open and ready to demo. Huzzah sponsors many game nights (even at a local brewery) and contests. The problem is – as friendly as they are – the prices online are just so much better than they can offer. So we use these two stores mostly for game accessories, plastic models, and an occasional game purchase.

FLGS # 5, now closed, was the old veteran that had been around over 25 years. It had a fair selection of wargames and RPGs. Problem was their new item section was very small and their shelves were full of old backstock…in some cases very old. I had a love-hate relationship with the place. At first I went on weekends but came to despise the staff that always seemed to look down on my boys and I because we were not there to play MTG. I eventually figured out that the owners covered weekdays and they were much friendlier. I even made a package-deal with the owner to relieve them of several items that had been on the shelf for years (literally). The store closed because the owners wanted to be closer to their grandkids, though one candidly told me that online sales had taken a big bite out of their business.

camgirls1-300x247For a good example of another real FLGS, I point you to Petrie’s Family Games in Colorado Springs. Petrie’s is a real family game shop. When we lived there it had a very small selection of wargames and RPGs but was blessed with the friendliest owners. Petrie’s also had an awesome game library and they were often willing to break open a game, even a newly released one, to look and play with it. The owners are just good people and they made this the only game store my wife ever willingly entered.

You may be offended by Tom Vasel’s tone, but you have to listen to the message. FLGS are not automatically “friendly;” it is an honor they must earn. A major part of earning the “F” in FLGS is by creating a welcoming, inviting atmosphere. If my little corner of the world is any indication, two out of five understand that, one struggled with it but is now gone, and two others are missing the opportunity. That’s a 50% failure rate amongst the existing shops. That leaves two stores doing their best to support the hobby. It’s an uphill battle against online retailers and Kickstarter, but by being Friendly they get me through the door.

This is what Tom was really trying to say. The FLGS problem I see starts when a store feels that the “F” in FLGS is their entitlement and they stop earning it. Get me through the door and they are more likely to make some sort of sale. Without the “F” it is far less likely I will enter the store. If I don’t enter, I can’t buy.

#GuestPosting – #ConflictofHeroesAwakeningtheBear (@Academy_Games)

Youngest RockyMountainNavy Boy continues his writing exercises. This week he wrote about what is one of his favorite wargames, Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! (Second Edition) from Academy Games. We also play with Firefight Generator to make our own scenarios. As before, what follows is his lightly edited essay. I really like getting his perspective on gaming and enjoy reading what works – or doesn’t – for him.


Overall, I think the game Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! with the Firefight Generator is fun and interesting. This game is based off the Russian Front during World War II. The players in the game are commanding either the Germans or the Soviets.

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Courtesy BGG

The appearance of the game is interesting because of the counters and the map. The counters are easy to read and all the information needed to play is right on the counter. The map is geomorphic meaning all the maps fit together in different ways.

The Action Points in the game show the difference between the Soviets and the Germans. For example, a German tank gets two or three shots while a Soviet tank only gets one shot each turn. This shows the differences in training and leadership between the Soviets and the Germans. Action Points can also make you think about what you have to do and what you can do. Also, Actin Points can give you a lot or a little flexibility in the game.

Finally, the Firefight Generator makes the game fun because you get to make your own battle. You get to pick your own troops. You get to pick the battlefield and the conditions on the battlefield.

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Courtesy Academy Games

Overall, I think the game Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! with the Firefight Generator is fun and interesting.