#WargameWednesday My 2016 Wargame Revival

I have been a grognard wargamer longer than I have played roleplaying games or family boardgames. However, in recent years I have fallen off in buying new wargames, partially because of the prices (generally expensive) and partially because I have spent more time and money on RPGs and family boardgames. With the rise of the online publishing industry, RPG games and supplements are way more affordable, and my family boardgames included game series like Star Wars X-Wing, Star Wars Imperial Assault, Memoir ’44, and more recently Tanks: Panther vs Sherman. These “light wargames” favor playability over complexity/realism, and in the case of X-Wing or Tanks are more akin to manual video games. These games sorta scratched my wargaming itch, mostly because I used them to introduce the RMN Boys to the hobby.

But although I was scratching the itch, I was not making it go away.

So in 2016 I made a concerted effort to return to true grognard wargaming. Looking back, my modest effort appears to have paid off.

pic1559499_mdBreaking the Chains: War in the South China Sea (Compass Games) [Naval Combat/Modern-era/Operational-level]. My effort to explore modern naval combat. Moderately successful; the game is a bit too simplified for my taste. Looking forward to the next (upgraded?) version the refines the combat system.

pic3090467_mdDawn of the Battleship (Admiralty Trilogy Group) [Naval Combat/Pre-WWI-era/Tactical-level]. A continuation of the Admiralty Trilogy-series and the first published after the break-up with Clash of Arms.

pic3163917_mdEagle of Lille (GMT Games) [Aerial Combat/WWI-era/Operational-level]. Expansion for Bloody April, 1917: Air War over Arras, France. I personally love operational-level air combat games but the prior planning and time needed to play is immense.

pic2958247_mdMBT Second Edition (GMT Games) [Ground Combat/Modern-era/Tactical-level] Jim Day‘s  Panzer (1979 Yaquinto Press) was my first-ever wargame. Love this implementation of his armor combat system to fight the Cold War.

pic2999397_mdPacific Fury: Guadalcanal 1942 (Revolution Games) [Naval Combat/WWII-era/Operational-level]. A unique game that got to my interest in WWII naval combat.

pic2838345_mdPlan Orange: Pacific War 1930-1935 (RBM Studio) [Strategic Pre-WWII-era]. Aligns with my interest in alternative naval war in the Pacific. Great use of the card-driven game (CDG) mechanic.

pic3236903_mdWing Leader: Supremacy 1943-1945 (GMT Games) [Aerial Combat/WWII-era/Large-scale Tactical-level]. A different, and very interesting, look at air combat. A nice mix of tactical and operational-levels of aerial combat.

Breaking it down, of the seven wargames purchased this year:

  • Plurality are Naval Combat (3 of 7)
  • Majority are Operational-level (if one counts the large-scale tactical of Wing Leader as “operational” (4 of 7)
  • Plurality are are WWII-era (3 of 7)

Interestingly, I bought no space/science-fiction games this year. That is, unless one counts my pledged

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Courtesy Ad Astra Games

Kickstarter for Squadron Strike:Traveller (Ad Astra Games) that was to deliver in July but I am still waiting on.

I have to say though that my biggest wargaming achievement of 2016 was introducing Little I to miniature-style naval combat using my old copy of pic253396_mdBattleship Captain (Minden Games, 2007). This is the game that really started Little I on the path to grognardia. He had played, and enjoyed, Memoir’44 but with Battleship Captain he started seriously studying the history behind the game. This Christmas season, his attention has been seized by  the Gale Force 9 Tanks game and he is seriously studying WWII armored combat now.

Here’s to hoping 2017 is a year of many more wargame experiences.

All images courtesy BoardGameGeek except where noted.

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Christmas Gaming 2016

Here is my gaming haul for the 2016 Christmas season:

pic3236903_mdWing Leader: Supremacy 1943-1945 (GMT Games)Lee Brimmicombe-Wood’s innovative “side-scroll” air combat game for the later half of World War II. Like its predecessor Wing Leader: Victories 1940-1942 this again made air combat games fun and interesting for me. The box is HUGE and very heavy – a welcome change from so many “light” games with a “heavy” price.

pic2999397_mdPacific Fury: Guadalcanal, 1942 by Revolution Games. Originally published in Japanese and now translated into English. Emphasizes planning by using a very different system of assigning units to Task Forces and then resolving combat in sequence. Suffers from some production issues (very DTP-publishing feel) but nonetheless an interesting exploration of naval combat in and around Iron Bottom Sound.

pic3238660_mdThe Space Patrol (by Richard Hazelwood, published by Stellagama Publishing). A 2D6 OGL Sci-Fi/Cepheus Engine RPG book for playing Space Patrol characters. Includes a very detailed discussion of legal terms and interstellar law. An interesting look at yet another career option. I try to support the Cepheus Engine system as much as possible since I disapprove of the direction Mongoose Publishing has taken the Traveller RPG rules.

pic3293444_mdShips of the Clement Sector 16: Rucker Class Merchant from Gypsy Knights Games. Another in a great line of outstanding ship sourcebooks. Includes multiple variants highlighting the “odd job” characteristics of the ship. Topped off by evocative fiction this book will be very useful in the Clement Sector setting or any 2D6 Sci-Fi/Cepheus Engine setting.

We wouldn’t be the RockyMountainNavy family without the kids getting games for Christmas too:

pic132447_mdRMN A got Command & Colors: Ancients (GMT Games). This is technically A’s first wargame that he “owns.” He is studying history and very interested in the period. Looking forward to facing off across the battlefield from him (but first he needs to put all those stickers on)!

pic3239100_mdRMN T got Endless Vigil: A Sourcebook for Sentinels for the Force & Destiny segment of Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG line. Looking forward to exploring the Star Wars RPG universe of urban settings and encounters for the Force.

pic2933710_mdRMN Little I got Tanks: Panther vs Sherman (Gale Force 9). This starter-set game plays to two of his interests; WW2 armor and models. The price entry point is very low ($19.99) but he will surely be spending a good deal of his earnings over the next year on the expansions (i.e. models). He already has several 1/100th scale Zvezda armor – look for him to make his own stat cards soon!

pic3105185_mdAlmost forgot – RMN T also got King of New York: Power Up! (iello). This is an expansion for King of New York OR King of Tokyo (which we own). Beware Mega Shark!

pic691901_mdRMN Little I also got Memoir ’44: Breakthrough (Days of Wonder). Just remember, the battle always takes place at the junction of two maps! Between Memoir ’44 and C&C looks like the younger gamers are fully-involved in Richard Borg war games.

(All images courtesy BoardGameGeek/RPGGeek)

Merry Christmas and Happy Gaming to all!

Memoir Monday – The War Expands to the Pacific

Picked up the Memoir ’44 :Pacific Theater expansion pack this weekend for the boys. This is actually a good buy since it uses the American army and maps found in the base game. If you get other theater expansions you must also buy the map pack.

Wake Island was the first scenario played. Boys like it. They also like the special command rules which reflect the Samurai spirit and doctrine as well as the Gung-ho Marine attitude.

So far, Memoir ’44 is staying on the top of the must-play list for the summer. I think its going to be sooner-than-later when the other theater packs and maps arrive in the RockyMountainNavy household. This is not a bad thing; on the contrary the game is inspiring learning and study for the summer! (Image courtesy Days of Wonder)

Sainte-Mere-Eglise Anniversary Battle (Memoir ’44)

Fitting that the boys and I played the Memoir ’44 Battle of Sainte-Mere-Eglise on the anniversary of the battle. The scenario map and setup can be found on the Days of Wonder site. I played the Germans who are trying to hold the town against the paratroopers of the 505th Parachute Regiment.

Per the special rules, the boys called for a random paradrop of four additional American paratrooper units. Luckily for the boys, three units landed on the map, all in the center area, with one actually in the town adjacent to my defending infantry unit. The boys were able to rapidly destroy this defending unit and occupy every part of the town.

My counterattack began to the south (Fouvile) where the infantry tried to move out and clear the way for the Panzers behind. At the same time, a weak advance (low Command Cards) pushed the units to the north (Neuville-au-Plain) towards the lone American infantry unit holding the only hill on the map.

Lady Luck did not shine on me for this battle.

At several points the game, my command cards (4) consisted of two or three cards ordering units in the center – where I had been pushed out. The few command cards I did have seemingly favored the Fouvile side of the board, but never in sufficient numbers. My units were forced to move up piecemeal and slowly while getting ground down by the Americans holding Sainte-Mere-Eglise. An attempt to use the Panzers to sweep around the town and cut off retreat routes was left unsupported by the infantry (to few units ordered by Command Cards). The Americans in town dug in (sandbag fortifications) which made digging them out even harder. The (very) few Command Cards drawn for the Neuville-Au-Plain side of the battle only succeeded in slowly pushing units towards the hill but again never in sufficient numbers for a useful attack. Neither could the few units even try to slide by – command on this flank appeared paralyzed.

In the end, the Americans won (4 Victory Medals to 2 Victory Medals) by destroying three units (including the Panzer) on the one flank and one at the base of the hill.

Like the historical battle, the American troopers on the high ground fought the Germans to a standstill. The real defeat came in the south where the Germans were committed – and destroyed – piecemeal.

Tactically, the game seemed to capture the realities of warfare in WWII; armor needs infantry support, a well-timed airstrike slowed progress, and command & control paralysis can upset your plans.

Memoir ’44 – Wargames as Education

Earlier this spring I picked up a copy of Days of Wonders Memoir ’44 game at Barnes & Noble on a Red Dot 50% discount. I have Battlelore but rarely played it so I have a bit of familiarity with the basic game system.

The game has proven a big hit with the boys. At first it was the “toy factor” of the little plastic bits that lured the youngest one in. Since I was too busy, they took it upon themselves to learn the rules. I sat down with them today and we played the Sainte-Mère-Église scenario. We discovered that they had missed a few of the more subtle parts of the rules but were generally playing as the rules direct.

Last night, the boys chose to watch The Longest Day for their Friday night movie. They had seen it before but after playing Memoir  ’44 they wanted to see it again. The game has done exactly what the wife and I hope games do for the kids; it got them thinking. In this case it is the history of World War II.

The boys have already burned through the scenario book and are itching to spend their money on expansion maps and equipment packs and the like. They have even pulled out some of my old Osprey Publishing books with their great battle maps and started making their own scenarios.

To me, with my more simulationist-bent for gaming, Memoir ’44 is more “game” than I usually prefer. But it has fired the imagination of my boys and for that I can only thank Richard Borg and Days of Wonder.