Frienemies with Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017)

The traditional RockyMountainNavy Game Night saw Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017) land on the table. The game covers 600 years of Roman history using relatively low-complexity mechanics. Our game this weekend reminded me both why I like the game even when I have issues with it.

The RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself really like the game for its theme:

THE GAME:  It is 300 BC. Since being founded as a Republic in 509 BC Rome has grown in power and influence. Now it is your time…

You and up to 4 other players are one of Rome’s great leaders. Take control of legions and lead them across the known world for the next 600 years as you deal with uprisings, rebellions, political intrigue, and wars. Players can make alliances with one another (and true to Rome, break those alliances!) maneuver their forces and the enemies of Rome, all as they try to become the one true Caesar! All others are fed to the lions and their legacies lost to history…(Publishers Blurb)

We played a three-player game although we “know” this is not the optimal player count. Well, we play more for the fun of gaming together.

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Game Start – My Proconsul (Purple) is in Syria

The early turns were not kind to me. The other Proconsuls (i.e. the RockyMountainNavy Boys) moved the Enemies of Rome against me. As a result, I quickly lost my home territory.

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Enemy horde ejects me from my capital (Syria)

Not having a capital is not a total kiss-of-death, but having the fortress bonus on defense helps. I really needed a secure area to keep building up from. I thought I had found a way using the First Roman-Jewish War Event Card. I succeeded in reoccupying my capital in Syria, but along the way ended up fortifying the Enemies of Rome positions in Palestinia and Arabia Petrea.

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First Roman-Jewish War fortifies the area south and east of Syria

The other Proconsuls continued to use the Enemies of Rome against me, and as a result I ended up losing Syria again. I was forced to use Cilicia as my new “base” of operations.

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Ejected from Syria…again

Although I had difficulty in keeping a home territory, throughout the game I was always looking for easy opportunities to knock off a territory and gain that coveted Glory Point. I also paid a lot closer attention to the Event Cards I was dealt and tried to use them to create situations to gain Glory Points not just defend. When defending, one usually loses Legions to attrition in battle without any Glory Points gained. In the end game, the opportunity to retake Syria (yet again) presented itself. I took it, along with the Glory Point. To my (happy) surprise, at the end game scoring I pulled off a narrow victory!

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Victory by one Glory Point!

Playing Enemies of Rome again reminded me of several issues I have with the game. The first issue (which I have discussed before) is the victory point mechanic. In short, one gains VP (Glory Points) for winning battles as the attacker. What looks like a territory control game is actually not. Middle RMN Boy (playing Yellow) has the most territories and could of won if he was able to stay no more than two Glory Points behind the leader. My second issue is that for a game that is low-complexity (rated 3 out of 10 by the publisher) I actually have missed a few rules in the book. As a matter of fact, as I was reviewing the rule book before our latest game, I discovered this “obvious” rule that I had missed before:

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Enemies of Rome group size defined….

Although the Glory Point mechanic is a bit wonky, a larger player count is better, and some rules could be explained better, the RockyMountainNavy house still endorses Enemies of Rome.

Bottom line – It’s Fun!

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I was a bad outlaw in #FireflyTheGame (Gale Force Nine, 2013)

The RockyMountainNavy Boys are back from their summer travels. Before they left, they had found my Customizable Ship Models package for Firefly: The Game (Gale Force Nine, 2013) and painted up their own ships. For our Friday Game Night they wanted to get the models to the table and misbehave!

Since this was really only our second full Firefly gameplay, we went back to the starter “First Time in the Captain’s Chair” Story Card. We had all the Contact Decks on the table so we could work with any of them.

The game was really fun and we certainly created a ruckus in the house!

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Setting up….

I had Burgess as my Leader. I was immediately able to purchases Burgesses’ Gun for a whole lotta Gun Skill. To helped lead me astray as two of my three Starting Jobs were Illegal. So my life of crime began. Along the way I recruited some unsavory types with more guns, a little bit of mechanics, and not enough negotiation.

Youngest RockyMountainNavy Boy tried the lawful approach, getting Solid with Harken early. This gave him easy passage through Alliance Space. He was able to stay lawful until he needed to catch up – and went outlaw! Middle RMN Boy took a mix of Legal and Illegal Jobs.

My first job was Botched and I got a Warrant for my arrest. For the rest of the game I avoided Alliance Space. I did have one encounter with the Reaver but was able to Evade.

Middle RMN got a sweet deal and picked up a job where he was able to ship 10 passengers across the ‘Verse for a $3000 (+$400 bonus) payout. This gave him the money he needed for the win. He was not far from the bank but took his time Moseying Along which caused brother and Dad to desperately race to complete their last job and then Full Burn to the bank. He didn’t let us win and with a smirk on his face arrived at the bank one turn ahead of the rest of us.

Gameplay was much faster than before. We already have the basic mechanics of the game down and can now work on strategies to win. Unlike our first game, we all took on more Illegal Jobs (in my case, all Illegal) and drew from the Misbehaving Deck heavily. After the game we all agreed that we want to try another Story Card next game.

A Little Rebellion – #GameNight 1775 Rebellion – The American Revolution (@Academy_Games, 2013)

After playing Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017) the past few weeks, the Youngest RockyMountainNavy Boy picked an older but highly enjoyable title for this week’s Game Night. So it was that 1775 Rebellion – The American Revolution (Academy Games, 2013) landed on the table. We once again played a three-player version, with the very typical RockyMountainNavy Boys teaming up against Dad. The Youngest played the Loyalists while the Middle RMN Boy took the British Regulars.

Battle Forth

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End of Round 1 – 1775 Rebellion by Academy Games

Knowing that the Boys are tough opponents, I struck hard and fast. The Continentals were able to eject the British from Boston while an early Benjamin Franklin allowed me to land French troops in Savannah. Dangerously, the Patriots Militia had to play the Treaty of Paris Card as it was the only movement card in the first hand! Meanwhile, the Loyalist were recruiting a large Indian army in New York. At the end of Round 1 the Americans led 4 (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, & Georgia) to 3 (Quebec, Nova Scotia, & Delaware).

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End of Round 2 in 1775 Rebellion by Academy Games

Round 2 was more a war of movement as both sides postured for advantage. As the Americans I pursued a Southern Strategy and was able to bring Maryland to The Cause but was worried as the British were obviously looking to drive through New York from Canada and split the northern colonies.

End of Round 2 score:

  • Americans 5 (MA, CT, RI, GA, MD)
  • British 3 (Quebec, Nova Scotia, DE)

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In Round 3 the Americans took South Carolina and moved into North Carolina. In the North, French troops arrived in Newport to bolster the defenses there. This was especially welcome given the relentless British march through New York, The British also used their Indian allies to take Pennsylvania. Of note, the Loyalists’ played their own Treaty of Paris card. The next Treaty Card played would end the game.

End of Round 3 score:

  • Americans 7 (MA, CT, RI, GA, MD, SC, NC)
  • British 4 (Quebec, Nova Scotia, DE, PA)
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End of Round 4 – 1775 Rebellion by Academy Games

The first turn went to the Continental Army that hunkered down building forces. The second Turn was the British Regulars who used Warship Movement to land a force in Savannah – negating American control of the colony. The British also took control of New York by defeating a mixed Continental/Militia force in the area between New York City and Albany. The game was turning in favor the the British who now were tied 6-6. However, it would the be Patriot Militia who played the spoiler. During Turn 3 the Militia played the second Treaty of Paris card meaning the game would end after this Round. The Militia was able to move a force into New York City defeating a Loyalist-heavy force making New York an uncontrolled colony. Another small Militia force with Indian allies entered Western Pennsylvania which also took control of the colony away from the British. In Turn 4 the Loyalist player had too little too late and was unable to reverse a single colony falling. At the end of Round 4 (and game end) the Americans took the narrow victory with a 6-4 final score.

After Thoughts

1775 Rebellion has the least special rules of the Birth of America-series and is in many ways the easiest to play. The game can also end early like ours did tonight with both Treaty of Paris cards out for the Americans by the end of Round 4. Total game time was a short 60 minutes. Though the game was short by our game night standards (2-3 hours being acceptable) it was nonetheless very fun. I get a feeling that this month will be an Academy Games month as the Birth of America-series and 878 Vikings – Invasions of England come out for play!

 

First Play – Survive: Escape from Atlantis! (Stronghold Games, 2012)

First play of Survive: Escape from Atlantis! this evening. Caught ourselves playing one rule wrong early enough to correct. Game culminated with RockyMountainNavy Dad shouting, “Kill him!” as Middle RMN Boy used a shark to kill off the last Youngest RMN Boy’s swimmer. Lots of laughing and good nature “Take that!” RMN Mom laughing along from other room. Fun fun fun!

Epic 7×7 #Kingdomino + #Queendomino Battle (@BlueOrangeGames)

Our Family Game Night has changed a bit in character recently. Finding ourselves short on time with RockyMountainNavy Mom working weekends now, the last few weeks have seen shorter game nights with smaller, more family-oriented games vice larger grognardy titles. This weekend, Youngest RMN suggested playing multiple rounds of Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2016). He then asked if we could do try the multi-player 7×7 version using the tiles from Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017). Both Middle RMN Boy and myself agreed to three rounds.

We only played one. It was epic.

I have played 7×7 Kingdomino before but only in a 2-player game. Playing a three-way battle was much more challenging. Quickly I started concentrating solely on my board and virtually ignored the others. This is a dangerous strategy for in Kingdomino one must think offensively (selecting tiles you need or can use) and defensively (checking the game state of the other players and possibly selecting a suboptimal, but useful, tile for oneself while preventing the other player from selecting it).

Early in the game I selected a tile that Middle RMN Boy really needed. He needed it because it was the only playable tile left and my selection meant he was left with an unplayable tile. I admitted that I was not even watching their boards because I was struggling with mine. I jokingly said that we all were going to probably lose to Middle RMN because he has the best spatial awareness of any of us.

Fifty minutes after we started the game ended. The game was a bit longer than we expected not because of major analysis paralysis but because we were all trying to be careful.

Both Youngest RMN and myself had completed 7×7 boards with Middle Kingdoms (castle in exact middle). Middle RMN had Middle Kingdom but an incomplete 7×7. We then scored our boards.

After scoring the 7×7 and Middle Kingdom bonuses, I only had one territory of any real value at 88 points. The rest was not very valuable. Final score – 136 points.

Youngest RMN got the 7×7 and Middle Kingdom bonuses and had a huge Ocean that gave him 90 points. Total score – 140 points.

Middle RMN did not score the 7×7 bonus but had one territory – Mines – with 16 crowns on 8 territories. That’s 128 points right there. When he finished adding up his score he had an incredible 217 points.

Total runaway victory. All the more sweet because Middle RMN is my Autism Spectrum son. His brothers (and even myself) underestimate him at times. Once again we are reminded that he can be a shark at games. Youngest RMN is demanding a rematch on Sunday.

It’s nights like this that make me a proud gaming parent. Can’t wait for next weekend!

Gettysburg and Gaming

This week we missed our weekly Family Game Night for maybe only the second time in over 18 months. The fatherly part of me feels a bit sad since I missed out on quality gaming time with the RockyMountainNavy Boys, but we more than made up for it in a short spring break trip to Gettysburg. The trip to Gettysburg National Military Park made me think of several games I have and consider how wargaming can help me teach the American Civil War to my family.

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Courtesy BGG.com

I last went to Gettysburg in the mid-1990s. I was attending a school in the military and we did a staff ride to Gettysburg. As I recall, we didn’t see any movie or the cyclorama and instead used the Army War College staff guide for moving about the battlefield. I sorta recall that I picked up my main Gettysburg wargame, Thunder at the Crossroads, 2nd Edition (The Gamers, 1993) in the gift shop. I remember because I had to explain to my classmates what a wargame was (sigh).

For the family this time we didn’t do our visit the military way, but the way the National Park Service recommends. For a very affordable $15 ($14 with military discount) one can get in to see the 20 minute movie A New Birth of Freedom (narrated by Morgan Freeman), the Cyclorama painting of Pickett’s Charge, and the museum before embarking on an auto tour of the battlefield. The movie is excellent, the cyclorama breathtaking, and the museum extremely educational. As much as I was looking forward to teaching the RMN Boys about the Battle of Gettysburg, it was Mrs. RMN who got the best education. Being a naturalized citizen fo the United States, she missed out on a great deal of history in the schools. Beyond the battlefield, the history that resonated with her the most was the divided nation, much like her original birth land of Korea. She studied closely the words of Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation as well as the Gettysburg Address. It was a good learning experience for all of us.

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Courtesy BGG.com

Looking at my gaming collection, I actually have on three American Civil War games. In addition to the previously mentioned Thunder at the Crossroads, I also have The Civil War (Fresno Gaming Assoc, 1991). This game rates a solid 2.8 on BGG.com and appears in geeklists like “The Worst Game in Your Collection” or “Worst. Game. Ever.” I rate it as a 5 (Mediocre – Take it or Leave it) though I don’t remember why I rated it this way.

 

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Courtesy BGG.com

The other American Civil War game in my collection is For the People (GMT Games, First Edition, 2000). This card-driven game (CDG) was one of my first forays into that game mechanic and, at the time, I found it wanting. Since then the CDG mechanic has grown on me and I have come to like it.

 

For a guy that is was so into tactical or operational-level wargames, I am surprised that I have only one Civil War game of that flavor in my collection. I guess I am a bit lucky that it is Thunder at the Crossroads given that there are many positive reviews of the game out there. I like hearing comments that it is long, but playable. It is also popular enough that there are even how-to videos posted out there. I strongly recommend Gilbert Collins’ review posted on Youtube.

More recently, I have been following Joel Toppen (@pastorJoelT on Twitter)and his replay of the new Compass Games title Battle Hymn Vol. 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge. This one looks interesting enough I may just have to order it!

I aslo note that Worthington Publishing announced a new Kickstarter coming soon for new Hold the Line: American Civil War.

I like the Hold the Line system, and this one looks interesting. I guess my getting it will depend upon the price point. Worthington is going to be working a bit uphill here since I have an inherent distrust of Kickstarter.

I have also heard rumors that Academy Games is looking at a Gettysburg version of Conflict of Heroes. Take my money!

So although I missed out on game night, our family trip to Gettysburg helped all the family learn much more about a vital period of American history. In the long run, we will get more American Civil War games to the table.

Featured image: Pickett’s Charge Cyclorama courtesy NPS.gov.

Old Lore – #BattleLore (Days of Wonder, 2006)

The RockyMountainNavy Family Game Night game this week was BattleLore (Days of Wonder, 2006). This is the first edition of the game and not the more recent Fantasy Flight Games second edition. Our game this week was generally good although I made a few errors during the evening. Playing BattleLore has rekindled my interest in the game and it deserves more table time.

In the RMN family, we usually end up playing a 3-player event. This makes it harder than it should to find a good game because many games are either 2-player or a multiple thereof (i.e. 4-players, etc.).  The Birth of America-series from Academy Games (1754 -Conquest: The French & Indian War, 1775 – Rebellion: The American Revolution, 1812: The Invasion of America) work well because they are 4-player games that also work at 2-players or – best for us – 3-players.

I own BattleLore: Epic BattleLore (DoW, 2007) that I thought would give me a scenario using the multiple boards that is suitable for 3-players. Using the extra board, it is possible to make a layout that is six-sectors wide that allows multiple commanders to play one side. But when I looked for an adventure (scenario) that used this map configuration there was none in the booklet. As the RMN Boys were already at the table and itching to play, I went ahead and laid out an adventure from the booklet that used a single army and an epic-scale 3-sector map. I asked the Boys to share command and they (reluctantly) agreed.

Wrong choice on my part.

Asking the Boys to “share” command of a single army spread over three sectors did not work. I thought about using a variation of the 4-player Reluctant Allies in Epic BattleLore but decided it would be unfair in a 3-player set-up. The Boys ended up bickering a fair bit (more than their usual friendly banter) and I could see the frustration growing in Middle RMN as his younger brother outright refused at times to work together. The Boys ended up winning, 7 banners to 5, but it was not a really fun game.

I apologized to Middle RMN about my choices going into the game and he was a good sport. I think he and I are OK but I don’t want to be his brother on the other side of a future battle because I sense there will be no mercy given!

All that said, the game night was not a total disaster. Having not played BattleLore in a long time (my last previously recorded play was in 2010!) and putting aside the command issues we enjoyed it. The addition of Lore and Creatures and the Goblin or Dwarf units – each with advantages and disadvantages – makes for an interesting game. The game is not without its challenges; soft sculpts and lack of good player aids detract a bit, but should not be showstoppers to enjoyment. I also think that the Boys are much more able to handle all that BattleLore brings to the table now that they are more experienced gamers. The last time we played Youngest RMN was a wee 6-years old and Middle RMN, my Austism Spectrum hero, was 12.

In addition to the core set and the previously mentioned Epic BattleLore expansion, I also own Call to Arms, the Dwarven Battalion Specialist Pack, and the Goblin Skirmishers Specialist Pack. Between all these expansions I “should” be able to come up with good adventures for 3-players, especially using the Call to Arms system. Although fantasy is not my go-to genre for gaming, I sense that BattleLore may actually fit many of our Family Game Night needs. BattleLore will find itself on the gaming table again, but not before I thoroughly reread the rules and make considered decisions on adventure design and balance.