NavTac: Coronal and Falklands World War I Naval Miniatures Rules by Minden Games   This is a set of naval miniat...

NavTac: Coronel and Falklands World War I naval Miniatures Rules NavTac: Coronel and Falklands World War I naval Miniatures Rules

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

December 2017

NavTac: Coronel and Falklands World War I naval Miniatures Rules



by







 This is a set of naval miniatures rules for naval tactics (NavTac), and combat in the first years of World War I. The gun size goes up to 13.5" so the games ships will be preDreadnoughts and Dreadnoughts, but no super-Dreadnoughts.
 


  For play you will need two six-sided die, a ruler/tape measure, and paper and pencil. The turns represent five minutes of time. The game was setup to represent 500 yards to the inch. For those with a smaller area (in the first instance ships 22,000 yards apart would be 44 inches away from each other), you can use one centimeter to 500 yards. You will also need ship miniatures, or you can copy the eleven pages of top down ship pictures in the manual. Minden Games also sells  'NacTac Ship set A'. These are sheets of heavy paper with the ship pictures on them. These make it a breeze to make your own counters. Minden Games graciously sent me a copy of the ship set.





 The basic rules are only nineteen pages long, and have two additional pages of optional rules. The advanced rules bring into play ammunition usage, end on damage, and weather, etc. The rest of the rule book is filled with the various tables and charts needed along with play examples.





 The players can decide to use IGOUGO or WEGO  for each move. Ship movement is 1/2" (or 1/2 centimeter) for every three knots. So a ship making eighteen knots would move 3". Ships can turn 22.5 degrees for each 1/2" moved. Ships cannot turn more than 90 degrees during one turn.

 The rules for fire combat at first seemed a bit daunting. This is coming from a gamer who had limited exposure to miniature gaming many years ago. Just as in the real world you have to do ranging fire in the game before regular fire. This means that once you have straddled your enemy with a broadside you can then open up with more sustained and faster fire.




 The game comes with eight scenarios, but the player is only limited by his imagination with creating more. 

 This will be a few moves of the "Escape of the Goeben" scenario. Before World War I, England was building a few capital ships for the Ottoman Empire. When war broke out they were seized by the British government for the Royal Navy. The German battlecruiser Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau were cruising the Mediterranean right before the war. In an effort to sway the Ottomans to the Central powers, Germany offered her to them. In reality the Goeben was only half-heartedly pursued by the Entente naval forces. She made it to Istanbul where she was renamed the Yavuz Sultan Selim and became the flagship of the Ottoman Navy. This scenario represents an encounter during her flight through the Mediterranean. 

 Historically the Goeben and Breslau just really evaded encounters on their way to Istanbul. In this scenario I have chosen to have the Goeben fight it out with four armored cruisers that are stalking her. The Goeben is more heavily armed (10X11" compared to 6X9.2" guns), and the Goeben is .5 faster than the armored cruisers. We start with the Goeben and enemies moving, and then fire from both sides will take place simultaneously. The Goeben stays on course to be able to deliver a broadside with four of her five double gunned turrets. The British cruisers will only be ably to reply with three of their six guns. We start with the Goeben getting one hit on the Duke of Edinburgh. This is just ranging fire until the different ships get the range. The Goeben strikes for a damage of 2750 points, but because it is ranging fire, and because they are German, they only hit for one-third of the damage. The Duke of Edinburgh hits for two out of three, but because she is English and it is still ranging fire she only actually inflicts one-tenth of the 200 damage points.

 I inflicted a large amount of damage on two of the British cruisers, but my unlucky die rolls were matched by a lot of lucky British ones. It ended up as a marginal British victory because they inflicted enough damage to lower the Goeben's speed to three.

 The rules are easy to follow, and with all of the optional rules to add in to make the game more of a simulation, the game to me is a winner. I am even looking to buy some 1/3000 ships for use in more games. The counters work fine, but I believe it will add to the immersion factor. For my first foray into miniatures after so many years, I am very impressed. When I first looked at the rules they seemed a bit intimidating, and I was worried that the game might actually be a snooze fest. Thank you, Minden Games for showing me the error of my thinking. This opens up a whole new genre of gaming for me.


Robert

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Today I am reviewing not a game, but a box containing all the bits and pieces and knowledge to get you started on creating a game ...

The White Box: A Game Design Workshop in a Box The White Box: A Game Design Workshop in a Box

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

December 2017

The White Box: A Game Design Workshop in a Box




Today I am reviewing not a game, but a box containing all the bits and pieces and knowledge to get you started on creating a game of your very own. As many of our readers probably know, board gaming is going through a new golden age. Literally thousands of new games are being created by hundreds of developers all over the world every year. Many of these developers are regular people with regular jobs, who tinker with ideas in their spare time. It's not a stretch to think that some of you reading this have had an idea for a cool game at some point and thought about making it yourself. But where to begin with such a project? 

The White Box wants to be the answer. It contains a treasure trove of various pieces that you can use to create a prototype of your vision without needing to raid other game boxes or go out to a hobby store to buy odds and ends. I'll cover all of those in detail later.  Besides the physical components, you also get The White Box Essays, a 200 page collection of essays covering just about every angle of board game development that you could think of, and probably several that you haven't. Let's take a closer look at it first.




The White Box Essays consists of 25 chapters, each covering a specific topic like theme vs mechanics, playtesting, pitching your game to publishers, randomness, writing rules, marketing, and so on. There is a lot of ground covered here, especially on the business side of things. It should be noted, this book is not presenting as a step by step guide for how to create a board game. In fact, many of the chapters are presented out of order from how one might expect to read them. It really is a collection of essays, and not so much an instruction book. 

While the book does cover a lot of different topics, most are presented only on a basic level. Enough to make you aware of the concept, but not much more. For example, the chapter on probability and randomness, a topic which could fill an entire textbook, is only five pages long. I was a bit disappointed to find most of the chapters on actual game design to be very light. You will want to seek out another book on this topic if you serious about developing a game and want some guidance on the theory and process of game design. While I'm not aware of any specifically for board games, there are plenty about video game prototyping and the process is essentially the same on a conceptual level.

That said, this book does have a ton of useful information about everything else you will need to know to actually put a board game on the shelf. Topics like coming up with a sales pitch for your game, what to think about when designing the box, how to get started marketing your game, how to handle distribution, or how to demo your game at a convention are all touched upon. These are the sort of things that a budding game designer might not consider at all when starting out, and it's better to learn from someone who has already run the gauntlet than learning these lessons the hard way yourself. This is where the book really shines and shows its value.

Now, let's take a look at the bits!






The inside of The White Box contains a nice variety of stuff to get you started with prototyping. While it's all things that you could get at a craft store (except maybe the meeples), it's nice to have a little starter kit that someone more experienced put a lot of time and thought into creating. There are also a bunch of plastic baggies included for your sorting needs once you get going with your game design. 





Like any good board game, The White Box includes some cardboard pieces to be punched out. As you can see, these are generic by design, but provide you with a lot of starting points for designing your own components and basic mechanisms. There are pieces with different colors, shapes, numbers, and symbols that could represent any number of things. There is also an entire sheet of blank pieces which you can use to create your own customized components.




Here you can see a closer look at the bits and pieces included. There are plastic disks, meeples, small wooden cubes, dice of various color (all d6's), and a large cube of each color. While these pieces are nothing too exciting, they are exactly the sort of thing you need to create a prototype of your game design. Once you have the mechanics working on an abstract level, you can replace the cubes with barbarian warriors or spaceships or, well, maybe leave them as cubes if you're making a Euro. 

Again, while you could go out and buy all this stuff individually and probably spend a bit less, it is a nice starter kit that has everything you need in one box.




You may be thinking that there is one very common component of many games that is missing here: cards. The Box does address that with the inclusion of a voucher good for $5 worth of custom printed cards from www.DriveThruCards.com and another $5 voucher for www.TheGameCrafter.com which can be used for custom cards or many other components. There was a note I remember reading on the Kickstarter page which detailed why they didn't include blank cards in the box, it would simply add to the cost with something that could be easily replaced with a deck of playing cards, some card sleeves, and regular paper. I think this makes sense and the box is not lesser for not including them. A regular deck of playing cards, which I imagine any gamer should already own, can be very versatile and fill in the gap here. 

While the White Box doesn't contain every single thing you might need to design, develop and publish a board game, it does make for an excellent jumping off point. The Essays will give you plenty to think about, especially if you have not done much research on your own already. The bits and pieces are perfect for your initial prototype and tinkering with ideas until you figure out something that works. I think this is a good buy for anyone curious about taking on the endeavor of designing their own board game. It would also make a great gift if you have someone like that in your life.  

You can find The White Box here: http://www.atlas-games.com/product_tables/AG2903.php


- Joe Beard





There is only one truly important component which you won't find in the box, but must provide yourself: Imagination!






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GLOOM OF KILFORTH Fantasy quest games have a good, solid lineage and, if you haven't read my recent interview with Tristan ...

GLOOM OF KILFORTH GLOOM OF KILFORTH

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

December 2017

GLOOM OF KILFORTH

GLOOM OF KILFORTH





Fantasy quest games have a good, solid lineage and, if you haven't read my recent interview with Tristan Hall, the designer & producer of Gloom of Kilforth, then have a quick look there to see some of the classics that inspired and to some extent influenced his design.  

In terms of narrative and theme, it is difficult for any treatment to be original.  In some form or other, it's going to involve questers journeying through a fantasy world, encountering strange creatures, gaining skills, powers and artefacts usually in order to attain some final goal.  In that respect,  Gloom [for short] perhaps inevitably can be little different. 

For many designs and designers, it is the underground route that is taken; the route of trolls and orcs, goblins and the undead through dark and noisome passages and echoing vaults with treasure chests and pitfalls, traps and poisoned stakes, locked and unlocked doors. The tendency of these examples of the genre is for them to be played out on game boards or large tiles that are drawn and laid down to form ever changing locations.  They are usually handsomely fleshed out with miniatures, structures and furnishings. They are mainly designed for cooperative play, often against one member of a gaming group who takes on the role of dungeon master, who either plays a neutral role overseeing all the action and die rolls or in a more aggressive role as the Evil One.  For some groups this can be a stumbling block when there are few players or simply because everyone wants to be an exploring Hero!

For many gamers, part of the pleasure of these games is the painting of the plastic and the tactile and visual appeal.  Cards may play some part, but rarely a major one.  Where cards do dominate, it tends to be in the more confrontational games set in fantasy/sci-fi worlds; probably the best known and earliest is Magic: The Gathering and its infinite new decks.  This flourishing and major sub-sector; LCGs [Living Card Games]has seen  a huge expansion in recent years, often driven by derivations from cult classics, from the cross-fertilised worlds of literature and graphic novels, film and T.V. such as Lord of The Rings and Game of Thrones, or Arkham Horror and Android: Netrunner [itself spawned from the original board game Android, with its loose connection to the work of Robert Heinlein].

Tristan Hall has chosen to take the latter path of the card-centred world, though largely in a non-combative direction or at least not in combat against another game player.  Whether through solo, cooperative or mildly competitive play, the real opponent is the game system and I make no bones about saying that it is solitaire play that occupies and absorbs my time with this game.


From the moment I saw the box art and then the many cards that form the game, I had one thought in mind; eerily seductive - what better quality could a fantasy quest game possess. Though I may be following in the path of others before me,  I think that it's almost impossible not to start with the art work of this game. It is stunning!  It has a huge impact on how you perceive this game!  So, hats off here to Ania Kryczowska and to Tristan's willingness to entrust so much to one person.  There is a blend of the fey and the brutal that caused a quotation from Keats' poem "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" immediately to spring to mind,
            "O, what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
             Alone and palely loitering?"

The result is a consummately consistent vision for this fantasy world, whose backstory is outlined on the back of the box.


A game begins with the following three steps -all of which can be done by random draw or personal choice: [1] select one of four quests [2] select a Race for their Hero [3] select a Class.  If more than one person is playing, then each follows the same process separately.  Your Hero is represented by a cardboard standee according to the Race you have chosen - a good touch is that each one has a male/female side.  

Your game board is a five x five landscape of cards - the eponymous Kilforth that will slowly succumb day by day to the GLOOM part of the title.  As night falls on the land one more of its locations will fall into not just the ordinary darkness at the end of a day, but the everlasting darkness of evil.  This is signified by turning over the randomly selected location card, thus providing a neat and handy game timer too.  When all 25 locations have fallen to the Gloom, you've lost!
Here you can see the whole game set out ready to play with the 5x5 grid at its heart. 

In the very middle is Sprawl City, where your chosen Hero [or Heroes] will begin the quest.
Each location is separately named and at the beginning of every game the grid of cards is randomly laid out, with only Sprawl City always being located at the centre [though even this could be changed, if you wanted to].  In this way, we are introduced to one of the many variables that make Gloom highly replayable.

Though each location is individually named - in the photo above you can just see the edge of the Blessed Grove and the Grand Plains - the terrain types are limited to four: Plains, Mountains, Forest and Badlands.

The four decks, one for each type of terrain, are called the Encounter Decks, so-called because as you enter you will turn one of the appropriate cards up and encounter whatever is revealed on the card.  Successful encounters will possibly lead to drawing from one of the four Reward Decks: Spells, Items, Titles and Allies.
Just one of the four Reward Decks
A very minor criticism has been that the illustrations for the backs of these decks are drawn from some of the many superb individual pictures on the reverse.  Considering the hundreds of cards in total, all with highly individual and highly detailed art work on the reverse side, I certainly don't have any problems myself with this.

Below is just a small sample to demonstrate the variety and detail each card displays.

These as you might guess are Items, while the next are potential Allies.
And please don't tell me that there are too many males with droopy moustaches and beards or over made-up and underclad females! 

Apart from the eight decks already mentioned there are several more.  Each Class of Hero has a corresponding Skill Deck.  The quests themselves are called Sagas [lending a Nordic or Icelandic feel to the atmosphere] and come in sets of three cards that take you through four Chapters [i.e. four separate mini-quests] and then the Finale where you take on the supreme Evil Being [think "boss monster" from computer gaming].  These latter are called Ancients and each comes with his/her small deck of Plot cards. 
Here in the top two cards you can see one of the potential Ancients you may be up against and the specific abilities linked with her, while below is one set of Saga cards.

Finally, there is the Night Deck, one of which will be revealed at the end of each day turn.  These contain information as to which location is turned to its Gloom side and usually brings with it some further hindrance for your Heroes!

Among all the many cards, the single significant problem has been with the Location cards in distinguishing the starting side from its reverse when it has been flipped to show that it is now in Gloom.  The response from Tristan Hall has been absolutely typical of all his attention to and concern for players of this game.  In the soon to be released 2nd edition, this has been addressed through constant dialogue with  the gaming community both online and off and ultimately via a democratic vote on the varying ideas of improvement suggested by those gamers.  

Along with the cards come a substantial number of cardboard tokens, 142 in all,  that make up the Gold and Loot that may come your way when an Encounter is successfully won.  
Just some of the Loot 

The final tokens are wooden ones that denote such things as Health, Action pts, Hidden status and Obstacles.  Some have queried their aesthetic appeal and appropriateness,  but personally, I really like these and find their nice chunky quality useful.

As always, binding all the components together and creating harmony out of the many pieces is the rule book.  Like everything else in this game, it is a lavish, quality production of 32 glossy A4 pages in full colour.  Besides reproductions of the cards to help illustrate the explanations of how to use them and what the various symbols mean, there are many additional illustrations there purely to maintain the immersive atmosphere of the game. 

For a game that works almost entirely with cards, it's no surprise that five pages alone are taken up with explaining them.  Be careful how you approach this learning process.  I would suggest that a skim through is best without trying to memorise details will pay dividends. 

Briefly the rule book takes you through
[1] Set Up
[2] Card Anatomy [i.e. the explanations mentioned above]
[3] Actions - the various things you can do and how to do them, each of which costs an Action Point
[4] Deeds - these are supplements to your Actions, often granted by cards or items that you've acquired and most importantly they do not cost Action points.
[5] The Night Phase
[6] Four separate sections that act as very substantial reference material.
Just a few more nasties to contemplate!

Central to play is the Confront Action as this is the main way in which you will garner the necessary gold, loot, assets and cards to accomplish the Sagas and finally take on and hopefully defeat the Ancient One. As with most fantasy games, this involves tests where your Hero chooses one of their abilities to pit against the ability/quality of what you have encountered.  As you might expect encountering enemies is usually the toughest nut to crack.

The hope is that you will be able to test using your strongest ability, but that ability may not necessarily be possessed by your target and so you're forced into using one of your lesser abilities.  Even when this does work in your favour, things do not always go to plan, as when I encountered a weak enemy who needed multiple hits on his health to be overcome!


The other major concept is Keywords, as the completion of each Saga entails a set of keywords to be acquired.  When winning an encounter, the card you have overcome will contain one or more keywords that can be immediately traded in for a reward or the card can be kept to help you later complete the current Saga.  This is one of the more agonising choices you will frequently face: an immediate benefit set against a long-term essential goal. 

Sometimes the current situation will pressingly influence your decision, but too often it doesn't.  As you gain insight through playing the game, you will learn which locations are most likely to generate certain types of Keyword.  If you wish, you can learn these directly from the rules and this certainly will help your progress.  But I must confess that I couldn't resist ignoring that readily available knowledge, so that the experience became much more [for me] genuine and engaging as I truly discovered the nature of this realm of Kilforth.   


There is a great deal to learn, but I found playing even a single game brought most things fairly smoothly into play and understanding.  As a gamer for whom fantasy games are going to be on the periphery,  Gloom of Kilforth has provided an excellent slot.  It combines an aesthetically highly pleasing and immersive world with a reasonable physical footprint for my gaming table.

Set up is very quick and there is no myriad outpouring of plastic pieces to be sorted and later stored - never mind their plaintive waiting to be painted.  As indicated it is the solitaire experience I have found most valuable, especially as it greatly enhances the feeling of exploring and being in a fantasy world.


As mentioned, a 2nd edition will soon be available and for those of you in need of a French edition, these can be bought direct from Nuts Publishing.  Also soon to appear is Tristan Hall's 2nd game Tears To Many Mothers on the topic of The Battle of Hastings.

So, plenty of goodies to get your hands on!














































































































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Q&A With D. Ezra Sidran PhD of the Kickstarter PC Game 'General Staff' http://general-staff.com/ https://www.kickst...

Q&A With D. Ezra Sidran PhD of the Kickstarter PC Game 'General Staff' Q&A With D. Ezra Sidran PhD of the Kickstarter PC Game 'General Staff'

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

December 2017

Q&A With D. Ezra Sidran PhD of the Kickstarter PC Game 'General Staff'


Q&A With D. Ezra Sidran PhD of the Kickstarter PC Game 'General Staff'






http://general-staff.com/


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1366362068/general-staff-game-of-military-tactics-and-wargami/description




1. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work on AI?

I started writing computer games in the ‘80s and I had two #1 games (UMS: The Universal Military Simulator and Designasaurus). Mostly I’m known for commercial wargames. In 2003 I returned to college and earned a doctorate in computer science. My doctoral research (can be downloaded for free here: http://www.riverviewai.com/download/SidranThesis.html) is about tactical artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. I’ve had a number of papers published about AI for wargames (they can be downloaded here: http://riverviewai.com/papers/index.html ). After receiving my doctorate I consulted for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the US Army, the US Department of Defense and the US Office of Naval Research (US Marines).


2. Some of us remember you from the older game series Universal Military Simulator in the 1990s. Please tell us a little about those games, and what you did and didn't like about the finished products.

The three big computer wargames that I wrote were UMS: The Universal Military Simulator, UMS II: Nations at War and The War College. UMS was a #1 game in 1989. UMS2 was named wargame of the year. UMS and UMS2 were both big wargame construction sets that allowed the user to create their own armies, maps and battles.

What I liked about these games was their flexibility and the way that users could adjust every variable used in combat resolution. The problem that I ran into was that these were big ambitious projects and I was constantly bumping up against computers with limited memory in those days. Consequently, for UMS2, we had to use a memory / hard disk paging system that could bog down on old machines. None of that is necessary with today’s computers.


3. I suppose this is the biggest question: Why is 'General Staff' different than other PC wargames, and why should we support your efforts? (This is highly subjective and readers please understand that I am sold on the concept).

General Staff is the first computer wargame construction system in over twenty years. You have complete control and can design armies, maps and battles from the 17th, 18th and 19th century. I have been developing the AI for General Staff for almost 15 years. I sincerely believe that it is the best tactical wargame AI that is available. It is also a learning AI. That is to say, the more you play against it, the better it gets. This is the first commercial implementation of the AI research that I originally did for DARPA.


4. I see that so far your Kickstarter has met two stretch goals, and has brought in over twice the amount of money needed for funding the project. Are there anymore stretch goals to be added? What does the future hold for 'General Staff'?

Kickstarter backers of General Staff are pushing me to add online player vs. player. This is far outside my area of expertise so right now I’m emailing every developer I know asking for advice and suggestions as to how to implement this. I’m getting a lot of good feedback. I know the users want to play against other people around the globe and I promise I’ll do everything I can to implement such a system.

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‘Welcome to Centreville’ is an unusual title to be published by GMT Games. My view of their games is mid-to-heavy weight wargames using ...

Welcome to Centerville Welcome to Centerville

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

December 2017

Welcome to Centerville

‘Welcome to Centreville’ is an unusual title to be published by GMT Games. My view of their games is mid-to-heavy weight wargames using lots of different game systems. What often sets GMT’s games apart from other publishers for me most is their production quality. In my opinion, many wargame publishers skimp on production quality whereas GMT consistently knocks it out of the park. This game is a departure from the normal wargame I expect from GMT but nothing has been lost from the production quality in this new game from Chad Jensen.

If I had any criticism about component quality, and I am nit-picking here, the ‘cloth’ bag from which you draw new vocation tiles is very light-weight, almost paper-like; but it works and gets the job done. You do have to apply 12 stickers to the wooden pieces before your first play. The board and wooden pieces are all excellent in terms of quality, as are most new hobby games released these days. The theme and the artwork are appealing to the non-wargaming audience. In fact, my wife expressed an interest in playing this game just based on the box art. (disclaimer: my wife doesn’t share my gaming obsession…yet.  Fifteen years in and I still haven’t given up. To play a GMT game with my wife was/is on my bucket-list, so thank-you for making such an accessible game GMT. I just need to get her to step up to Here I Stand next…(spoiler: it's not going to happen!))

I don't know what this material is called but it's not cloth.
Welcome to Centreville, as the title and box-art would suggest, is no wargame. It is a Yahtzee-style dice chucker to compete for the most lucrative buildings, positions and jobs in the titular Centreville. Each player is attempting to increase their Prestige and Wealth above those of the other players to win the game. These two metrics are scored separately on the same track and the lower of these scores is your final score. If you have 67 Prestige but only 20 Wealth your final score is 20.

On your turn, after you’ve rolled the extra-chunky six dice, up to 3 times, you can use the rolled icons to occupy spaces on the board. In general, the most rewarding, or more powerful spaces of the board are available when you roll 3 or more of the required icons. There are 10 different icons that you can roll and each icon can be used individually, or in sets, to place one of your tokens onto the board, or to take a counter that provides a turn-changing ability from the board. Alongside the icons, each die has a different colour which affects which areas of the board those icons can be applied to. Using my basic (and probably wrong) maths there are 36 different icon/colour combinations that you could roll (4 icons are colour agnostic).
Hunky, chunky dice!
As you can see, there are a plethora of options available to players and it proved bewildering to new players on the initial rules run through. However, each player is provided with an excellent player aid, which after half a dozen turns or so makes it abundantly clear what you can do with the icons you’ve rolled. I found, after the briefest explanations of how you win the game, and the basics of what you do on your turn, the game and it’s many options are best explained by playing/explaining the first few turns rather than painstakingly going through each possible outcome.

I am not disposed to like the randomness of Yahtzee-style dice chucking games. In this game however, the number of options and their combinations with the turn-changing abilities mitigates that randomness somewhat and after half-a-dozen plays, it has become my favourite Yahtzee-mechanic game. You’re still limited to the dice you’ve rolled after the third roll (or even four rolls with the Urban Planners or Media tile's special ability) however, there are two special icons on the dice that behave differently from the other symbols which allow and require you to roll tactically to be more effective.

The first 'special symbol' is a question mark icon which duplicates any other icon. If you roll one tree icon and 3 question marks you effectively have 4 trees and can occupy the most expensive property in town.
Icons...icons everywhere. There are 13 distinct board areas on display in this corner of the board.
The second special symbol on the dice is the hourglass symbol which effectively locks that dice in that it cannot be rolled again on your turn. Each hourglass will move the time marker on a space, (potentially triggering a scoring round or adding a disaster tile to the cloth bag) and they provide a small bonus to either Wealth or Prestige for the rolling player.

The number of symbols on each dice is different but you can attempt to control the roll through ‘Master Tiles’ and the question mark symbol. For example, the blue Master Tile allows you to set the Blue die, there are Master Tiles that allow you to set 4 of the 6 dice. The black die has 2 hourglass symbols on it, more than any other die. Rolling and re-rolling the black die has a greater risk and there is no equivalent Master Tile to control it with.

Initial Setup for a four player game
The board itself is a pleasantly compact board that contains a multitude of icons and areas. In general, the ‘town’ is divided into areas which provide Wealth, and areas which provide Prestige. There are other areas which allow players to add new abilities to their standard turn. These new abilities, gained through Vote icons or Education icons allow further control of the dice or the game turn. The standard turn is simple and even in the late game where each player may have 3 or 4 turn-changing abilities a turn can be completed in short order.

However, players that suffer Analysis Paralysis could be catatonic here. Trying to min-max this game I think is best left to Alpha-zero. If your group suffer with any AP players then don’t buy this game, or just refuse to play with them. In this game there is nothing to do between your turns; you can’t start planning until you see the first roll on your turn. I timed (discretely of course) 12 and a half minutes in between one of my turns playing a four-player game with 2 AP players. Playing quickly it could come back around to you in under 5 minutes.

This is an easy game to introduce casual gamers to. It’s a step above the likes of Catan or Dominion and is just as appealing. It may not be as accessible as those games, just because of the number of things you can do with the icons you’ve rolled, but after that initial rules-hurdle has been crossed this is a good game and surprisingly quick game that new or experienced gamers would enjoy; especially if they’re looking for something a bit meatier after their umpty-teenth play of King of Tokyo. I imagine that if you’re reading this, you are the serious-gamer in your group; this may be the ideal game to introduce your 'less-serious' friends to GMT Games. Next stop Fire in the Lake …
After the first scoring phase.
I did try, unsuccessfully, to introduce this to non-gamers. Specifically, my in-laws; it's not something I can recommend trying. It's either a next step game or a mid-weight euro, I can't decide but it's not a game to convert people into gamers. In terms of complexity, it feels about the same as 7 Wonders. There are many more choices in this game and it plays in approximately the same time. In fact, the playtime along with the number of decisions you have to make is the biggest appeal of this game to me. I can't think of many other short(ish) games that provide so many decisions in such a short time.

The adage ‘do what the other players aren’t doing to win a Euro’ doesn’t really apply here. You need to focus equally on your own Prestige and Wealth to be successful. There isn’t much player-interaction aside from the usual worker-placement DOS (Denial of Spaces) attacks and through the voting mechanism. Votes enable you to take the ability provided by a Public Office from another player by rolling more votes, in a particular colour, than they did to win it initially (each public office corresponds to a different coloured die).
After second scoring phase
There are three phases, to this game which each end with a scoring round. The phases end after the time marker has moved a number of spaces which is determined by the number of players there are. If none of you are rolling hourglasses (unlikely), the phase is going to be long. However, after the first scoring round and the first disaster has occurred there will probably be very few rules questions as the iconography on the board and the summary player aid do an excellent job to answer most questions.

Scoring follows the principle of if you have the most or share the most of something with a player you both receive a set number of points. Second most owning player(s) receive significantly less.  This is applied over the board in all its different spaces, and in that, this is the epitome of a point-salad game - everything scores some points. Scoring only stops play for about 5 minutes and it allows you to strategize for the next phase i.e. do you need to concentrate on Wealth or Prestige for the next phase.
Endgame scoring: Yellow wins with 75 points, Brown has 61 points, White has 54 points and Grey just 47 points. (Grey hadn't played before, and Yellow (me) had played and taught it at least 4 times by this point)

Each player also starts with a secret Legacy Tile, in effect, this is a secret mission, revealed at the end of the game, and is only scored in the third and final scoring round. There are 7 Legacy tiles in the game so each game will have a subtly different scoring regime in the final round. In one of my games, the Legacy Tile changed the winner of the game. This was one of those stand-and-shout gaming moments. I love it when games provide sufficient balance and tension throughout the game that the winner is still undecided up until the final reveal of the game. In my experience, there is skill involved in this game, and for equally skilled players there were rarely run-away leaders.

The game claims 2-4 players. Unfortunately, at two players, the rules introduce a third-player bot, which to me, indicate that it’s really a 3-4 player game. I have played with the bot and it is well designed and its actions can be resolved fairly quickly (there are no bot-action flowcharts here. Lookin' at you COIN!) but it was never really a competitive player. The bot's main purpose is to disrupt and deny spaces from the other two players. The concept and implementation of a bot for the intended audience of this game may be a step too far and I don’t really like a bot that isn’t competitive. I know earlier prototypes of this game there were rules to limit board spaces with two players but they’re not in the published rules. I have a feeling the proto-type 2 player rules would be more interesting to me.
Setup from here takes about 5 minutes

The game does play well at both 3 and 4 players, assuming you’re not playing with AP-prone players, but it is a better game with 4 players. It has a small foot-print and plays in just over an hour. It provides enough choices to satisfy any crowd of gamers and is now my go-to take-along-a-game-to-a-game-group game. I am pretty confident that very few gamers will have tried it or even heard of it. I hope that GMT Games' foray into more Euro-style games continues and proves successful for them. I notice Chad Jensen also has Golden Gate Park up on their P500 list, needing some love.

I would like to thank GMT Games for providing this review copy. GMT Games have started shipping this out so you can still get it from their website for $59 or from a few online websites offering a pre-order price here in the UK. I don't think this game will be very common and I think it will be difficult to track down if you don't act soon, but I guarantee it is worth it.

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The End of Empire Napoleon's 1814 campaign by George Nafziger       I first heard about the author through war...

The End of Empire Napoleon's 1814 Campaign by George Nafziger The End of Empire Napoleon's 1814 Campaign by George Nafziger

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

December 2017

The End of Empire Napoleon's 1814 Campaign by George Nafziger



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 I first heard about the author through wargaming circles. His absolutely immense compendium of 'Orders Of Battle' (OOBs) were always discussed in gaming forums etc. I am not sure exactly when, but he released his magisterial list free for all to use. This was and is an absolute godsend to wargamers.

 The book, End of Empire, is a tome on the subject. It is so well written that at times it is frustrating. Let me explain. Mr. Nafziger writes so clearly about the events that it is hard to remain calm and non-committal while reading the book. You can easily follow the campaign, so the frustration comes when Marmont, Macdonald, or some other marshal of France, do not do what obviously needs to be done. Time and again, Blucher is on the ropes with Napoleon ready to deliver the knockout blow, when one of his Marshals lets him off the hook. You find yourself, at least I do, imagining what Massena or Davout could have done in the other Marshals' shoes. Do not even get me started with the allies. Their attempts to get to Paris are as embarrassing as watching Bumble Bees in slow motion trying to get back into the hive. The book shows exactly what transpired during Marmont's treachery. Ragusa (Marmont was the Duke of Ragusa) became as widely used in the 19th century for traitor as Quisling was in the 20th.

 The book delves deeply into the different generals and their thinking and reasoning, or lack there of. To me, the writing transports the reader to 1814 and keeps the reader in the grip of the story as well as any non-fiction work can. 

 The book is also liberally supplied with black and white images of the different generals and battles. It is also well supplied with maps so that the reader can follow along with the campaign easily.

 I am waiting, albeit impatiently I might add, for the rest of Mr. Nafziger's Napoleonic books to be released by Helion&Company.


Robert

Publisher: Helion&Company
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

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Caracalla A Military Biography by Ilkka Syvänne    Why did the names of some of the worst Roman emperors start with ...

Caracalla A Military Biography by Ilkka Syvänne Caracalla A Military Biography by Ilkka Syvänne

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

December 2017

Caracalla A Military Biography by Ilkka Syvänne



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 Why did the names of some of the worst Roman emperors start with the letter 'C', as in, Caligula, Commodus, and Caracalla? I am not talking about the the emperors who only wore the purple for a short time, but those who at least had a few years in their reign.

 I am not a big fan of the Roman Empire; most of my reading is done during the period of the Republic. I have to say that this book is truly an amazing gold mine of military history and everything else you would want to know about the Roman army during this time.

 Caracalla, or more correctly, at birth Lucius Septimus Bassianus, and later Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus was described by Gibbon as "the common enemy of mankind". The author of this book cuts through 1800 years of slanted history to give us the real story of the man and his rule. The book even goes into the history before his birth and after his death. 

 This book has worked its way into the top five of my favorite books. For someone who has been reading voraciously for fifty-three years it is quite an accomplishment. The writing is superb, and it still amazes me what the author has packed into a little over three hundred pages. The book is also filled with pictures, some colorized, maps and diagrams. This is a one book encyclopedia of Roman history and military during the middle part of the empire. When you can take a subject that the reader normally doesn't care about and turn it into a page turner, that is something few authors have been able to do. Caracalla has been one of the poster children for despots for many years. To bring his story into perspective and help the reader rethink his views on a much maligned man is not an easy task. To be honest, the author does not try to make him a Boy Scout, but to bring the history of the time alive for the reader to judge for himself what he would have done in the same situation. Since Caligula, the emperor had been a marked man. Except for the time of the 'good' emperors - Trajan to Marcus Aurelius - the man in the gilded seat seems to have had a target on his head. Very few of the Roman emperors died in their beds, at least of natural causes.
Oddly enough, Caracalla's murder seems to be one of the very few where the Roman Army was actually upset over his demise. Usually they were in the plot thick as thieves.

 I cannot praise the book enough. From the illustrations to the diagrams that show how Caracalla tried to emulate the army of Alexander the Great, the information in the book is priceless. 

Robert

Author: Ilkka Syvanne
Publisher: Pen And Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers 

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