Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend Gaming

Played a few things this weekend, and read some nifty miniatures rules.

First, I have been playing around with Star Wars: Imperial Assault from FFG.  Great game, but it have been giving the Skirmish game some thought, and trying to justify making up scenarios using the old Star Wars collectible figure game maps to use...

Today we played two board games with some friends.

First, there was the 10th Anniversary version of Ticket to Ride.  What a lovely (and LARGE) re-do of a great game.  I only wish that the 10th Anniversary edition came with rules for all the Mega variants in the ticket deck.

Second, we played the Reiner Knizia camel fest, Through the Desert.  What a fun game.  Some problems because of pastel colored camels ("They look like Lucky Charms marshmallows!!").  But the game went rather well.
Some of the gamer activities I have been stewing in have been getting the new website for the Guns of August convention a living thing. 

I have also been reviewing the new Sailing Ship rules from Osprey.

Reports and reviews coming up.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Board Game session - after RPG session

We had a fun board game night at the Gaming with Chuck secret headquarters location.

Admittedly, this followed a role playing session, which featured the intrepid adventurers in our World of Greyhawk campaign finally escaping the perils of Cannibal Island.  Of course, the means of escape (teleportation from the bowels of an evil castle on the rim of a fiery volcano) led them to a snowy pass in the Lortmil Mountains.  During a blizzard. With dire wolves and yetis closing in.  Oh, and Baba Yaga made an appearance (the first of many, in this campaign).  But they escaped from Cannibal Island.

Back to the board games - half of the group retired after the RPG session, and dinner from a local pizza and subs shop, but the rest of us were in the mood for some light, fun board games.  Here is our play list:
King of Tokyo (I didn't win)
Boss Monster (I didn't win)
Fandooble (I didn't win)
Tsuro (I didn't win)
Fandooble, again (I didn't win)
Web of Power (I didn't win)

There was a theme to those games.  But, of course, winning isn't so very important, especially here at GwC.   And besides, I got to run an RPG that featured octopus-men, yetis, a statue of Kali, and Baba Yaga, all in the same episode.  I really think I won, after all.

As an aside, check out the web site run by the Esoteric order of Gamers, with a list of all the fantastic quick reference sheets they make. Extremely useful.  Boardgame Reference Sheets

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Naval Imagi-Nations Campaign

As the nations of Balkania left the Imperial Age, and entered into the age of massive industrialization, like their European counterparts, there was a mad rush to construct fleets of warships of ever increasing complexity and lethality, in an arms race that rivaled those of the early 20th century.

Tweedland Destroyer Flag

The Imperial Navy of Tweedland, modeled after a number of successful designs in the British Navy form the years between the wars, was involved a series of strategic operations in the Pampion Sea, against her ancient adversary, Royal Marina of Vulgaria.  The Vulgarians had jump-started their naval architecture program just a few decades earlier by kidnapping several prominent Italian designers and engineers, so their units bear a strong resemblance to the Regia Marina.

Vulgarian Royal Marina
Tweedland, in this region, is operating from their colonial ports at Utica and Cyrene, and operate a rather large air station at Pancritas.  They are actively involved in policing the Pampion Sea, as well as supporting their ground operations in Talantis - which means delivering supplies to Tarraco.

Vulgaria, on the other hand, has their southern mainland ports of Massilia and Salonae to support operations in the Pampion Sea.  The regional capitol at Cremona is home to not only Vulgarian 4th Air Force, but also is home to their notorious Motor Torpedo Boat squadrons.
Friesland Naval Ensign

The ground campaign in Talantis is between the Tweedland 8th Army, and the Frieslander Talantian Corps.  In order to limit the amount of support that the Tweedland navy can deliver, the Frieslander Supreme Commander has authorized the use of U-Boats in the Pampion Sea, against Tweedland shipping.  These elements will occasionally coordinate with the Vulgarian Royal Marina.

As a political gesture towards honoring the Pampion Triple Naval Alliance, the Free-Falconia Government has placed some of their remaining naval assets under command of the Tweedland colonial office at Utica.  These would normally be allocated to keeping the Talantian Approaches open, for supply convoys, but operational needs may have them committed, alongside Tweedland ships, throughout the Pampion theater of operations.
Free Franconia Military Forces

I have been working up a simple system whereby two sides of players (one commanding British and French ships, representing Tweedland and Free-Falconia; the other commanding Italian and German forces, representing Vulgaria and Friesland) will follow this order of play for each turn:

1. Allocate patrol forces - naval and air
2. Receive operational intelligence and orders
3. Commit reserve forces for support of operations, or divert patrol forces
4. Adjudicate map situation, and develop tabletop battle for that turn

I will be using General Quarters.  I plan to employ the original GQ1 and 2 rules - I have the newer GQ3 edition of the rules (published by the fine folks at ODGW), and they are great, but they would distract, as I am expecting players who are not necessarily naval gaming experts, and the older rules are much simpler).  Ship models will be Navwar 1:3000 vessels.

Operations Map
This was developed using AutoRealm, and I plan to use the same map for several different fictional naval campaigns.  I plan to go back and use the transition fleets I developed for Furstenberg and Rumpwhistle in an operation on this map, as well.

Monday, April 13, 2015

New Train Titles - pt 1

So, a few new games were acquired late last year.  Some of these were discussed in the posting about Thanksgiving gaming, and some were mentioned in the post about the Christmas break gaming.  But, a few of the titles were train related, and as train related gaming is something of a high interest theme here at Gaming with Chuck, it felt right to do a short blog post about it.

First, a word about Train games.  These are not all what purists would call Railroad games.  To some, that includes the 18xx series.  To others, that includes the Martin Wallace masterpieces, Steam, Age of Steam, and the various derivative titles (Railroad Tycoon and Railways of the World).  Still others include railroad themed route building games (which tend to be lighter, such as Ticket to Ride, or TransAmerica).  To some it is the family of crayon based games, such as Empire Builder (and Dampfross, and many others).  It might include railroad theme games such as Russian Railroads.  And strange combinations of these, like Chicago Express.  Finally, to some it even includes games that have mechanics that are typically Railroad game mechanics, but for non-railroad themes like Elfenland, or Poseidon.

To me, all of those are Train games.  It can be a train related mechanic (pick up and deliver, stock manipulation, network building, travel), or it can be theme (Russian Railroads, Express).

So, what were some of the train titles acquired last year here at GwC headquarters?
  • Boxcars
  • Isle of Trains
  • Continental Express
  • Paris Connection
  • Russian Railroads
  • Ticket to Ride 10 Year Anniversary Set
  • Trains: Rising Sun
  • Yardmaster
  • Yardmaster Express
A few words about these . . .

Boxcars, of course, is the Rio Grande Games re-issue of the Avalon Hill classic, Rail Baron.  But wait!  Rail Baron was a reissue of the game Boxcars.  So we are now back to the original.  Except, it has a new board (the UK) and some adjusted rules.  This is a game of pick up and delivery.  The routes are all developed.  What players can do, other than receiving a constant stream of pickup and delivery points, is to purchase railroads, which are cheaper for them to run on, but more expensive for the competition. The game is a simple race to develop a pile of money ($200K) and then return to home base (starting position).  Very fun, and now made even better because the one tedious part of the game was using the charts to roll up cities for delivery.  This can be done, now, with a very nice App for iPad and iPhone - available for free from iTunes.  What a great thing!

Isle of Trains is a great little card game, from the Dice Hate Me games series of 54 card games called the Rabbits.  This was the result of a kickstarter, the ended up with six published titles.  The series includes:
Yep - Seth Jaffee of Eminent Domain fame is the (co) designer of this great little card game.  The game is one of building your train (using mechanisms familiar to deck builder game players - cars have costs, and you pay that cost with other cards from your hand), and then loading cargo on your own, and others', trains.  Why load on another player's train?  Well, because you are rewarded with special actions - and they make all the difference.  Once you have a train, and some cargo, you can complete contracts - of which there are six, each corresponding to one of the main cities on the Island of Sodor Isle that is the namesake of the game.  We have played this a few times, and the decision making and action planning is great - especially for a small format game.  It takes about an hour to play, and it is an hour well spent.  One of the best things about the game, is that the great card art (by Daniel Guidera and Christopher Kirkman) is fantastic, and very reminiscent of a Little Golden Book (especially The Train to Timbuctoo and The Little Red Caboose).

Continental Express is also a small format card game. This one is from Asmodee, and is packed in a really nice tin box, similar to another of their titles, The Builders: Middle Ages.  They have several other titles in this same format of small tin box (Noah, Souk, Cardline: Animals, Cardline Dinosaurs, and Cardline: Globetrotter), however The Builders and Continental Express seem to be the most mature of these.  In this game, as in Isle of Trains, you are constructing a train.  However, that is the goal of this one - building the train.  You collect sets of cards, drawn from a pool of available cards each turn, and then turn them in for new cars on your train.  Each new car card has a train line symbol, and there are bonus point categories for those symbols.  Not a bad little game, and set collection is always a good mechanism.  The artwork is gorgeous, although closer to the Ticket to Ride artwork, than it is to other styles.

More coming on other titles, but this is enough for now. . . .

Assorted gaming projects and activities - an update

Several things have been going on lately, in the Gaming sphere of life at GwC headquarters.  Here is a rundown...

Cold Wars - I attended Cold Wars last month - it was a touch and go decision up until the last minute, and it wasn't helped by the fact that there was a dreadful blizzard on the day I was supposed to leave.  I left the next day, and still had a great time.
I met up with Chris and a bunch of the folks from Maryland, and further north, who game together at the HMGS shows - I have played with them a bunch in the past, but mostly it was Warhammer Ancients.  Patrick, of course, was there - as were Mike and Gil and some others.
I got to participate, as a viewer/heckler and Referee's assistant (glorified title for flipping a few initiative cards) in some really compelling games of Muskets and Tomahawks from Studio Tomahawk (the fine folks who publish SAGA).  I bought a copy of the rules, and the cards, etc, from Steve at Age of Glory- a great fellow to deal with.

Painting - I have begun collecting some new paints.  I have wanted, for some time, to experiment with using artist acrylics, entirely, for a project - and then assessing what the finished look is like, compared to using gamer paints (like Vallejo or Reaper), or craft paints (like Folk Art or Apple Barrel).  The brand I have selected is Liquitex.  I went with the Basics line, rather than the Heavy Pigment line.  I have used some of the colors from their Heavy Pigment artist line before - notably Titanium White and Cadmium Red (for 19th century Egyptians and British Red Coats, respectively, because I wanted bold bright colors, and I wasn't getting that from the craft paints I was using at the time).  The results for me were excellent, and so I wanted to follow up by purchasing a full palette of colors to use for an upcoming project.  I went ahead and got the 24 color starter set - the additional colors in the 36 color and 48 color sets did not really inspire me too much as being necessary for an experiment in a new medium.  I did wander outside of the Liquitex range for some other colors I will need - notably, I picked a light terracotta color from the Winsor & Newton line, to use as a basis for flesh.  I plan to try this out on a unit or two of Vikings, either for SAGA, or Lionheart, or both.

Boardgames - Many new card games and board games over the past few months, since Christmas, mostly from Kickstarter rewards and a few trades and purchases.  I have begun writing an article about new Train titles at GwC headquarters, and will publish that shortly.  Played a few titles on the week leading up to Tabletop Day, but did not participate in any activities this year (we were on a spring break trip, and returned too late to host a game day, or attend the activities at the local game shop).  Some of the titles played recently included Salmon Run, On the Underground, and Valley of the Kings.  Loads of boardgames on the iPad, but hey - that don't count.

Wargaming - There has been, of late, a resurgence in interest in Wargaming in the Department of Defense, and a number of professional developments for me are underway, where I am participating in wargaming design, the re-purposing of models and simulators for wargaming, and also teaching my Combat Modeling class.  Not really hobby oriented, but hey - steel sharpens steel.

Roleplaying - I have taken up the flung gauntlet from John, in following on his Village of Hommlet game, in the World of Greyhawk.  I have the players investigating the circumstances (which, of course, includes a DUNGEON) around the mysterious deaths of three brothers, who were Knights from Veluna, who came with Prince Thrommel to fight the army of evil at the battle of Emridy Meadows.  The Knights, distracted by the youngest one who fell in love with a Village girl near Nulb, disappeared before the battle of Emridy Meadows took place.  Now, ten years later, the players were traveling through the region, on their way north from Hommlet, and they came across tales and rumors.  The game so far has focused on the upper level of the Dungeon they uncovered in the forest glade where the Brothers were laid to rest - but who killed them?  What happened to the girl?  How come two of the three graves are empty?  The game is going well, although we only play about 1-2 times a month. 

Conventions - I have been helping, and will continue to help with the ODMS conventions in Williamsburg.  Some of the Staff have had medical problems and the remaining crew needs the help.  Also, I plan to attend Fall In next November (I can't wait).  I don't know about Historicon (family travel the week before, and the week after, will leave that weekend pretty tied up), but have been thinking about "The Weekend".  Does that event's name sound like an M Night Shyamalan movie to anyone but me?  Also, planning on attending Congregate in Greensboro NC this summer, working staff for the Con Suite.  Plan to do some heavy gaming while there, as well.

That is all, for now, will report back soon, and hopefully the Train Game article will come around quickly.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Twelve Plays of Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful, unique time of the year - centered around the modern interpretation of a Christian Holy festival.  At Gaming with Chuck headquarters, we do many of the things (both religious and non-religious) that others do - we decorate the house, celebrate with family time and food, immerse ourselves in medieval Carols, as well as Victorian and modern songs, and try to spend time with friends, as well as much more family time than the rest of the year. Celebrating the birth of Christ with as much joy as we can muster.

During this time, one of the ways we spend our relaxation time together is (of course) by playing games.  So, once the weeks of the Advent started ticking down, and vacation times started, we started having multiple opportunities for board game sessions.  I wanted to get at least twelve good plays in this year (the "Twelve Plays of Christmas"), and if you count everything (including card fillers, etc) between the Saturday of December 13 (the weekend when vacation time for me started), up through January 1, we had 28 games.

For a list, check out these Board Game Geek stats.

Now, granted, at least 8 of those plays were lightweight filler games, but that still leaves a respectable amount.  I didn't get to play some of the heavier Euros I like to play, and no wargames included, but this was Family time, and Friend time, and we did get in some pretty respectable titles, regardless.

Breaking it down by Title, here is the list (from most plays to least plays):

Shadows over Camelot (3)
Trans Europa (3)
Yardmaster (3)
Guillotine (2)
Power Grid: The First Sparks (2)
Sushi Go! (2)
Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary (2)
Carcassonne (1)
Category 5 (1)
Easy Breezy Travel Agency (1)
Flash Point: Fire Rescue (1)
Lords of Waterdeep (1)
Munchkin Adventure Time (1)
Pandemic: The Cure (1)
Salmon Run (1)
Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries (1)
Trekking the National Parks (1)
Valley of the Kings (1)

This did not include iPad plays of Ticket to Ride, Agricola, Stone Age, and Lords of Waterdeep (of which there were many, especially of the first two).

Of this list, some of these titles were new.  Here is a brief comment on those that are new to the staff at Gaming with Chuck:

Yardmaster - We got this title recently, benefits of a Kickstarter campaign.  It is a great little card game, with a nice industrial age Train theme, and we like it a lot.  Also came with Yardmaster Express,which we have not tried yet, but also looks good (and even shorter time to play).  Played a three way game with myself and two other competitive card players - it was quite tight and close scoring. Very satisfying.

Power Grid: First Sparks - We have owned this for a few years, but with the move last year, and other things going on, this is one of those titles that has been waiting to be played.  We finally tried it, and we like it.  Compares well with Power Grid - simpler, less complex economy, but much shorter playing time.  A good trade off - makes both very attractive, for different reasons.

Sushi Go! - This one was a Christmas gift for a good friend, and as we all enjoy drafting games, we thought we would like it.  I think we liked it more than our friends did!  Lightweight, but plays in a few short moments, and would be a good "set the mood" game for something deeper.

Easy Breezy Travel Agency - This is the first of the six pack in Dice Hate Me's "54 Card Rabbits" series, that we received recently (again, compliments of a Kickstarter campaign).  This is a really fun little game.  There might be a strategy hidden here, but it seems like it is over too quick for someone to get bent out of shape over not finding it.  Fun, and fast.

Munchkin Adventure Time - We don't care for Munchkin too much at GwC headquarters, however we do love Adventure Time - so this was a good compromise.  The character cards seem to be just right, and the many, many references (some esoteric) to elements of the TV show had us all giggling.  Played with a youngster, a teenager, and several adults - all fans of the show - as well as an older friend who didn't know what it was.  All of us loved it, regardless, and had a great Munchkin game (Editor: is there such a thing?) in the process.

Pandemic: The Cure - The staff at Gaming with Chuck are split on Pandemic.  Actually we are split on cooperative games in general.  Meaning, I like them, and the Mrs does not.  However, given that this (the Pandemic dice game) plays fast, is very interesting, and isn't too terribly cooperative, it was quite fun, and still didn't feel like a bunch of individual solitaire games going on (like, say, the Catan dice game, or some others).

Trekking the National Parks - This one is pretty fun.  It is a draw cards and move game, with the goal of getting Park card by visiting parks on the map, and turning in sets of cards.  Or is it a move around and collect stones to have the largest amount of certain colors?  Or is it a collect post cards, and then turn them into VPs by playing sets of cards?  Any of these three things seem like a reasonable path to victory in this deceptively simple (but fun) game about our national park system.  Very fun - drew many comparisons to Ticket to Ride - I felt like it was of an older Alan Moon vintage - one of his Elfen games.

Valley of the Kings - We have played this one a few times now - during this recent Christmas period, and a few times back around Thanksgiving.  It is a great little deck builder, with some innovative mechanics.  We love it - the theme, the play, the length of time, all of it.  Some really neat ideas for different strategies, but the strongest seems to be concentration on a particular category or two.  Not sure about timing of the collection of scoring cards (unlike Dominion, etc - this one has you removing cards from play in order to have them count as final scoring artifacts).  Is it better to score all throughout, or to get some big stuff at the end?  Will have to play more to experiment.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Gaming pt 2

The holiday was fantastic!  Not only a great time of thanks, and fellowship - visiting friends, wonderful meals, relaxation and conversation - but also a great time for some gaming!

Of the original list from Part 1 of this article, three of the games (Pigpen, X-Wing, Age of War) were not played.  But the other three were, along with some other games that we played and tried out.

Trans-America was a lot of fun.  We played two times, one with four players, and one with six players.  Fun each and every time.  Originally a title from Winsome Games (as Iron Road), we have the printing from Rio Grande games (and Trans-Europa, along with the Vexation add-on).

There was a game of Valley of the Kings - all of the players were new to the game (including yours truly - my first time playing).  We picked up on it pretty well.  By the third or fourth time around the table, all four players had the hang of things, and had a grasp on the "entomb" focus of the game.  The end score, however, was a little spread out.  Top scorer had 45 points, two middle scorers had 26 and 27, and bottom scorer had 16.  Closer next time, I'm sure.

There was a seven player game of Elder Sign, where the intrepid adventurers ventured into the haunted museum One More Time to do battle with the minions of some outre, alien being.  Lots of dice rolling, tension, etc, and a win just in time.

There was a mad, mad round of Walk the Plank.  Further comment prohibited by the decency board.

A really good game (four player) of Lords of Waterdeep happened.  Great time.  We did not use the expansion, but probably could have, for more mayhem.

The game about the Justice League, defending the Watchtower, that is available only from Target - Justice League: Axis of Villains - was brought out.  It is a super hero themed Fortress Defense game, only this time four of the members of the Justice League (Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and the Flash) are working hard to keep a batch of DC Comics villains away.  Lots of fun, and I got to be Green Lantern, one of my favorites.  (why is there no Aquaman in the game?)

Finally, there was a game of Pandemic, to round out the board games.  As with Waterdeep and Elder Sign, none of the expansions available were used, but the base game (this time with four players) was quite good regardless. The roles we had were Dispatcher, Scientist, Medic and Researcher.  We played at the basic (Introductory) level, and we barely won.  The Player Deck was about to run out, even though we already suffered through the four Epidemics.

We also were treated to a short run through of Adventure Maximus - a (sort of) mix between a roleplaying game and a card driven strategy game (although in this case, it is fantasy adventure in a sort of Adventure Time type setting).  Very much fun.