It seemed fitting that on this Fourth of July weekend I pull out my absolutely favorite game on the American Revolution, Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection. This is Volume V of the COIN-series from GMT Games. I choose the short duration scenario, The Southern Campaign, using the Optional Sprint Scenario rules.
As I have stated before, LoD is not really a wargame. Each faction must simultaneously cooperate with their allies and fight their enemies while trying to win. Thus, although the Patriots and French are allied, they both have independent victory conditions.
The Southern Campaign covers from 1778 to 1780, although in the Sprint Scenario only the first two years are played.
Unlike my previous games where I was really just learning the rules, this game I was able to actually try a bit more strategy. I still messed up the rules in a few places, but it didn’t prevent me from having a great time!
Play was not perfect by any measure. The Patriots played a more northern strategy while the Royalists tried to turn the south. As 1779 neared an end, Washington and Rochambeau both took on Clinton in New York City.
Alas, the Patriots and French blew their timing, and at the end of 1779 and the Sprint Scenario, Clinton held in New York City. Meanwhile, Tories had been busy in the South. The final score was a Royalist Victory.
The gameplay mechanics of LoD are actually quite simple and I think I have pretty much got them down. The much harder part is taking those “simple” mechanics and executing a “complex” strategy. Unlike many games which get played a few times then collect dust until that far-off next scenario, Liberty or Death will definitely land on the table more often.
Mission F1 pits a Resistance T-70 X-Wing flown by Blue Squadron Novice (24 pts) against a pair of TIE/FO fighters (Epsilon Sqdn Pilot – 15 pts/Zeta Sqdn Pilot – 16 pts). The squadron point build imbalance is offset by the presence of three mine tokens in the battle space controlled by the Resistance player.
Swinging to the left, he tried to draw the TIEs across the minefield but they didn’t take the bait, instead sweeping to their left while keeping out of the lethal radius of the mines. Reversing hard into a tight turn, he raced through the minefield to get into position. His first shot was lucky and hit the trailing TIE which accelerated to get out of range while the second one turned to attack.
Ignoring a TIE that executed a Segnor’s Loop almost in front of him, he blasted one TIE away. Dangerously, he cut in front of the other TIE, just avoiding blasts of lethal energy. Boosting away, he extended the range as the other TIE followed. Dashing around the asteroid field, the TIE came just close enough to a mine to detonate it. His sensors told him the shields on the TIE were down. “That’s one chink in the armor,” he thought.
As he continued around an asteroid, the TIE tried to cut the corner. Unfortunately, it came a bit too close to another mine and set it off. Sensors said it was damaged!
Stressing his T-70, he reversed hard into the TIE. He quickly lined up his shot. With a sharp intake of breath he watched his energy bolts hit the TIE. He exhaled slowly as it exploded. He muttered to himself, “The Force was with me.”
It has been a long time since I played X-Wing. I had picked up Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game – The Force Awakens Core Set a while back and it has sat on my shelf – unopened – for several months. The RockyMountainNavy boys seem to have passed their initial fascination with X-Wing and in many ways it was replaced with Wings of Glory. I pulled it out for a somewhat rare weeknight gaming session.
Having not played in a while I didn’t use many optional rules. The fighters were all stock with no modifications. Relearning gameplay was quick (X-Wing is not complicated). Although the gameplay is not complex, there were more than a few “tactical errors” committed since the ships were new to us and their capabilities and limitations unexplored. Most significantly, near the end the Zeta TIE could have used their Action to Barrel Roll away from the mine and stay out of the lethal radius instead of looking ahead to the T-70 threat and placing an Evade token to try to avoid any hits.
Playing X-Wingreminded me that this is one of the games in my collection that I classify as a “Manual Videogame.” The concept of Squadron Builds, Modifications, and Actions (special abilities) all are common with video games. That is not to say I dislike X-Wing; rather, I see it for what it is. The RockyMountainNavy boys, especially Little I, love the Manual Videogame-style of gaming. Pulling out X-Wing reminded us all that this is a lite, fun game that is highly thematic and “pulls you into” the story. It deserves to be on the table more.
Jim Day’s Panzer by Yaquinto Publishing was my first ever wargame, coming as a Christmas gift in 1979. I liked the game so much that I picked up the rest of the series, ’88’ and Armoras soon as they were published. These games are touchstones of my young gaming life; they were how I cut my teeth in the wargaming hobby.
Last year I ordered GMT’sMBT (2nd Edition). I have heard great things about the Panzer and MBT system over the years, but had drifted away over the decades. I am glad I came back to Jim Day’s tactical armored combat games!
I played Scenario 1 – First Clash Pt 1 using the Basic Game Rules with the addition of Advanced Game Rule 6.2 Advanced Game Command Phase and 7.43 Command Span. I actually started play with just the Basic Rules, but quickly discovered the Soviets were running amok. I reset the game and introduced the advanced command rules to bring some sanity back to the situation.
The battle went in ebbs and flows, with the Soviets initially gaining the upper hand. The Soviets entered from the left side of the board which is generally more open than the other edge. One platoon in the center of the battlefield caught a US platoon in the open and decimated it. After that the Americans were more cautious in the advance seeking cover where available. The Soviets rapidly seized the center bridge crossing and were advancing for cover when it was ambushed from their flank by a US platoon that had gotten relatively close using cover. On the bottom edge, two Soviet platoons took on an advancing US platoon protected by overwatch fire. In a real bloodbath, the US lost a platoon but destroyed both Soviet platoons in return.
I was really glad I reset the game and used the advanced command rules. The Soviets have a single Company HQ tank that has to orchestrate their entire battle. This forced the Soviets to concentrate on the center and one flank. The Americans have two Company HQ tanks so they were able to split their force and remain effective. About mid-battle, the Soviet commander attempted to displace forward because his advancing platoons were actually exceeding his Command Span causing a lose of control. A US M-60 in Overwatch was able to get a lucky shot and destroy him. This crippled the Soviets as they were now severely limited in command actions. As a result, the Americans were able to roll up the Soviet’s flank and eventually eject them totally.
At first, I was worried that the extensive use of chits for marking spotting, command, and various other admin was going to crowd the map too much. I was very pleased that my fears are unfounded. The game flows very naturally and the chits do not get in the way. Very important to me, the game play and results feel realistic and not forced or contrived.
I previously told myself that the MBTcore game was going to be sufficient to scratch the itch of my modern armor combat and I don’t need any expansions. I told myself that I have the old Panzer series for WWII armored combat and I don’t need the new one. Unfortunately for me (but fortunate for Jim Day and GMT) one day’s play of MBThas totally changed my mind.
Over the past few years, I have successfully introduced my boys to the board game hobby, including wargaming. Their favorites are Memoir ’44 and World War I Wings of Glory. Little I has been bothering me to find a naval combat game. This past weekend, I pulled out Battleship Captain(Minden Games, 2007). They love it!
Part of the reason I selected Battleship Captain is an emphasis on playability over strict realism. Personally, I prefer the Admiralty Trilogy System, but I just know that this would be too complex for Little I to start off with. The other reason is that Battleship Captain comes with over 1,000 ships!
The 1,000 ships come on 24 mid-weight cardstock sheets. They really need to be mounted (looking into that now) but are very easy to photocopy. Regardless of how you use the counters, the important part is the the RMN Boys will have MANY ships at their disposal. If there is one thing I have learned from their experiences with Memory ’44 and Wings of Gloryit is that we NEVER have enough equipment!
The other advantage Battleship Captain offers is a very simple game engine and easy-to-use game charts. The Sequence of Play is very straight-forward. Each turn:
Both players secretly plot speed.
First Movement – Ships move half their speed with the slowest ships moving first.
First Fire Combat – Players secretly decide to fire this phase or not. Ships can only fire in one of the two Fire Combat Phases each turn.
Second Movement – Ships move the remaining half of their movement.
Second Fire Combat – Ships can fire in this phase if they didn’t fire in the First Fire Combat Phase.
Resolving fire combat is also very easy and almost all rolls are 1d6:
Determine range; this gives a gunfire factor (derived from printed factors on the ship counter)
Determine target armor; convert to odds
Roll on Table A FIRE COMBAT TABLE (very few modifiers)
If HIT roll on Table B HIT TABLE (again, very few modifiers)
Occasionally one moves to Table C PLUNGING FIRE TABLE (again, few modifiers)
Occasionally one uses Table D INTERNAL DAMAGE TABLE (few modifiers)
For particularly devastating hits, players move from Table B to Table E SPECIAL DAMAGE TABLE (few modifiers)
Hits are noted using tokens on the table. There are rules for torpedoes, and other optional rules for added realism, but at its heart Battleship Captainis a very simple procedural game. All the information you really need to play is either on the ship counter or the Reference Card. The game doesn’t have submarines or aircraft which helps it stay simple.
For our game night, we decided to play the Battle of the Denmark Strait. Little I studied this battle after I got him an Airfix set of plastic models.
To assist in learning the game the first time I was the Referee. Little I took the Germans (Bismarck and Prinz Eugen) and T took the British (Prince of Wales and Hood).
The battle started out well, with both sides starting a slow circle to keep broadsides bearing but the ranges (beyond 16,000 yards) led to few hits. As both sides gradually felt their way to as little as 12,000 yards there were still only a few hits. Little I attributed this to poor die rolls (at one point he rolled three “1”s in a row) and switched out dice several times during the game. T had just as poor luck.
Getting frustrated, Little I decided he wanted to explore the Torpedo Combat rules, but to do so meant having to get within 9,000 yards of the British battle line. So Prinz Eugen broke from Bismarck and began an epic charge into the British squadron. Again, the British were plagued by bad luck (poor die rolls) and Prinz Eugen made it to within 2,000 yards before launching a salvo of torpedoes – and missed.
Not to be deterred, Prinz Eugen gamely hung in the fight at close range; so close we had to look at the Ramming rules. Prinz Eugen and Prince of Wales scrapped sides, and the luckless Prince of Wales got the worst of it. Prinz Eugen loosened its second (and last) torpedo salvo and hit Prince of Wales, though not in a devastating manner. At the same time, Hood and Bismarck were exchanging salvos with Hood having a slight advantage in hits.
At this point, we had been playing for 2 1/2 hours and it was getting late so we decided to end the game. We reviewed the damage to the ships:
Bismarck had light Flotation Damage and some Turret Damage for slightly reduced speed and firepower
Prinz Eugen had significant Flotation and Turret (firepower) damage
Prince of Wales had moderate Flotation damage and was severely slowed
Hood had light Flotation damage but what she had was slowing her more than Bismarck.
We mutually agreed that Bismarck escaped to back to port (she was headed that direction) and that Prinz Eugen was sunk. Hood and Price of Wales also returned to port. Little I understood this meant that Bismarck did not break out into the Atlantic shipping lanes (its historical mission) but he said it was more important that it not be sunk!
So our first play of Battleship Captainwas a success. The RMN Boys have already grabbed my Ziplock Edition of Graf Spee (an earlier, slightly simpler version of Battleship Captain) and are playing it as I write this report. I can hear their good nature laughter and I am getting constant updates from Little I as the battle progresses. For our family, Battleship Captain is a win!
First up was character generation. The party is four adventurers; a Cornelian Human Smuggler/Charmer, a Wookie Hired Gun/Bodyguard, a Twilek Technician/Mechanic and a Drall Technician/Outlaw Tech. This is not a balanced party with two “techies.” Oh well, it is the characters they boys want! The group has a slightly modified YT-1300 Light Freighter named Nimble Cash.
The first session started in-res, with the ship carrying a “slightly” illegal cargo and being chased by a pair of TIE fighters. This encounter allowed each adventurer to participate in the combat sequence. Eventually, after a not-too-difficult time, the ship escaped.
Next encounter was with the groups nameless contact to deliver the cargo. The Charmer tried to use his natural, well, charm to get a better price. After a short social conflict sequence, he succeeded. The group got almost all the money they wanted. In lieu of some of the money, their contact gave them another job. A simple mail job to deliver a letter.
While preparing to leave, the inevitable “Imperial entanglements” arrived in the form of a Storm Trooper squad led by a Sergeant. Not having anything to hide, the group boarded the ship before events went sideways. In the course of the battle, each adventurer got a spotlight moment:
An enraged Wookie bashing the head of a Stormtrooper and knocking him out cold
The Drall with a Goo-Gun “gumming” up a trooper and letting the Mechanic dispatch him
The Charmer taking a glancing stun bolt, improvising a melee weapon, and tripping and falling in the middle of combat.
This was really a near no-prep session. Came off pretty well with an emphasis on the narrative dice. The RMN boys caught on quick, and grabbed at the opportunity to contribute to the story.
Tune in next week for the continuing adventures of the Nimble Cash.
Cooker, the Human Bounty Hunter Gadgeteer and Gunner, the Rodian Bounty Hunter Assassin who both work for Jabba the Hutt got a simple assignment. Take a datachip from Mos Eisley to Mos Shuuta and deliver it to Ying. Such a simple, low-level job they don’t even get a vehicle but have to take a sandskimmer bus.
After an hour with little air conditioning and no water (+1 Strain) Cooker noticed a sand plume approaching. The bus tried to flee but was easily overtaken. As it got closer it looked like Sand People and they did not appear friendly! Gunner tried taking them out but failed. Cooker on the other hand shot out the engine and the bus was able to flee.
The first encounter was supposed to end up in a close-quarters battle but Little I rolled a Triumph and ended the battle early.
Arriving in Mos Shuuta both our heros went to the Cantina. After a few awkward initial encounters they find Ying and exchange datachips (they deliver their datachip and get one in return). As Ying leaves he is followed by a drunk Sandperson.
These casual encounters forced Little I and T to study their characters a bit more, learn how to assemble a dice pool, and role-play a bit instead of just saying what they want to do.
Following Ying, they turn the corner just in time to see Ying get jumped on the bridge to Shantytown by a group of eight toughs. Though they try to aid Ying, he gets rolled and two toughs make off with the datachip.
Both characters make good use of Talents such as Quick Draw and Intimidation. Cooker scores a Triumph with his Brass Knuckles when the fight gets up close and personal. Though the toughs get away with the datachip, the heroes learn Ying was jumped by the Maura Swoop Gang.
Gunner tries to Track the get away but loses the trail. The heroes then look at the datachip they have. On it is 500 credits and an encrypted message. Gunner takes his time and slices the simple message which is from Teemo to Jabba; in two days time the Maura Gang will try to “kill him.” Gunner successfully unslices the message and cover his tracks. The heroes return to Jabba’s palace and deliver the datachip. They are awarded the 500 credits.
In the post-session we used a 5W approach to frame what they know:
– Who: The Maura Swoop Gang
– What: Is going to try to “kill” Jabba
– When: In two days
– Where: From the south? (based on trend analysis of gang activity; search of interlinks with several advantage)
– Why: ???
Each PC gets 5 XP. Both decide to save it up for future use. Both Little I and T are looking forward to the next session. Both need to participate a bit more in creating the narrative and roleplay their characters more (perform, not explain I tell them).
Sat down today for a first-ever run through of Edge of the Empire Beginners Game with Little I and T. Both took two characters to play. As this was the first time for them playing EotE and for me being a GM for this system it was very much “by the book” for the adventure.
The session took about 2 hours to play. As this was the boys first time I found that as the GM I was describing Advantage and Triumph more than they were. Understandable since they were very unfamiliar with the game mechanics and not used to the narrative approach to gaming. As the session progressed they got better and by the end they were offering up suggestions. The most memorable moment was when Lohrickk the Wookie (played by Little I) used his Vibro-Axe to smash the Stormtrooper Sergeant and scored a Triumph which led to a Thor-like shockwave that knocked the rest of the Stormtrooper squad down.
– Narrative Play: As the boys came up with ideas I rewarded them with bonus or setback die. This encouraged them to think and scheme creatively.
– Destiny Points: Like Bennies in Savage Worlds or Plot Points in Cortex I feel these should be used liberally; as it was I think I was being a bit too generous with bonus die and not giving the players a chance to chose to use Destiny.
Little I insisted that the boys create their own characters and has already dug through the box of Star Wars Miniatures and chosen his figure. He is anxiously awaiting to start his own adventure. Both the boys pulled out Episode IV tonight to get in the right frame of mind for their campaign.