Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Friday Gaming

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but I may have an anecdote or two. (I could be bluffing).

I'm far too tired to type them out, interested parties can be regaled during the traditional Friday Night Gaming! RSVP in the comments


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Three's a Crowd?

So there's us, the SABG, then there's the "Game Sluts" (ahem), but did you know there's also another game group in San Antonio?

Check it out.

Crazy. Here's this whole group with overlapping interests, and yet we've never had "formal" contact with them. I heard about this from a guy my wife works with. He's the one who came to an opening gaming night with several games from the Gipf project.

I can't decide if this story is about how big the world is or how small it is...


Super Bowl Preview, Pizza Box Style

Jon was kind enough to join me for a Super Bowl Preplay last night, so that I could send results to Jon took the Colts while I had my high-school favorite Chicago Bears. Alas that I didn't have the actual Bears from my teenage years in the 80's.
In the first half, Peyton Manning (of the Colts -- see picture) moved the ball effortlessly down the field, but struggled in the red zone. In five trips deep into Chicago territory, the Colts managed only 1 TD, 2 FG, and two interceptions. But Rex Grossman redefined inept, going 3-10 for 75 yards and a pick. Only two big plays (a 57-yard 1st-down bomb from Grossman after a pick, and a 54-yard run by Cedric Benson) kept the game close, with the Colts leading 13-6 at halftime.
Grossman finally started connecting with Bernard Berrian in the second half, and two big scoring plays (35-yard run by Thomas Jones, 54-yard catch by Berrian) put the Bears up 20-19 midway through the third. But that was the closest they would come to the Vince Lombardi trophy. Manning put his team on his back, calling 14 passes and only 4 runs down the stretch, and cruising into the end zone twice for the 33-20 win. On their last two possessions, the Bears managed only 4 yards of offense, while the Colts ran down the clock by *passing*, completing nine out of ten throws with only one rushing attempt. Manning won the MVP with cartoonish passing numbers (see below).
Bears 3-3-7-7 --- 20
Colts 7-6-3-17 --- 33
Rushing: Bears 21-134, 1TD, 0 fumble. Colts 20-122, 1 TD, 0 fumble.
Passing: Grossman (Bears) 8-20, 202 yards, 1TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks. Manning (Colts) 34-51, 509 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 2 sacks.
This matchup brought out all that I like and dislike about Pizza Box Football. It resolves quickly (just over two hours, with us dilly-dallying and having fun with it), makes some reasonable statistical sense, gives interesting play-calling decisions, and managed to stay close and exciting until the fourth quarter. The Mishap and Pressure tables are particularly fun; Grossman's pick was off of a tipped pass, and Manning is tough to pressure, twice rolling out of the collapsing pocket for completions. But it does have two flaws, I think:
1. Offense rules over defense. Offense quality is taken into account by modifying the results table that you roll on for each play. Defense quality is included by allowing an extra die on the defensive chart *when the defense guesses the play correctly*. So everytime Manning throws a short or long pass, he is benefitting from his superior table. But the Bears only get their defensive strength when they guess correctly (technically a 1 in 3 shot), and then the extra die only helps some of the time (about 1 in 2), and then it still may not be enough to bump you to the next level on the chart. So quality offenses benefit 100% of the time, while quality defenses benefit ~10% of the time. Jon was right to kill the clock by throwing; even when I guessed correctly, Manning had a better than 50% shot at a completion.
2. Big plays (usually a 16-18 on three dice) are too common. A real NFL team can count on a handful of 40+ yard plays in an entire season. There were six just in this game, along with a couple more where the end zone got in the way.
How would I fix it:
1. Change the results table to 4d6. This narrows the bell curve, making extreme events less common.
2. Change the defensive results table to a straight +/- modifier, not another die roll, which speeds resolution. And make the adjustment count more. A long pass should have a completion chance in the low 30s% against a base defense (once per three downs). If the defense is completely out of place, that should boost to ~50% (QBs can still be inaccurate). If the defense is focusing deep, the chance should be closer to 10% (catches are occasionally made in triple coverage).
I still haven't worked out how best to fix defenses, but I'm working on it.

Labels: ,

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The seas were angry, my friend...

Today I was finally inspired to put on enough stickers to play a scenario from the Commands and Colors: Ancients expansion. I let my 10 year old daughter pick the scenario, which was the battle of Crocus Plain. It was one of the early sluggos where Alexander's father, Philip/Val Kilmer/Doc Holliday, showed the Greek alliance who was boss.

Despite losing 6-5, and subsequently sending her to her room without supper, I am very, very happy with this expansion.

Oh, and the title refers to my army fighting with the sea at its back...Phocian leaders can't retreat off the board in this one, so perhaps we'll find my general at low tide.



With the latest Friday, and Saturday gaming hype I have to ask.... anyone going tomorrow? What time? It looks like I could be there from like 10am until 1-2pm or so. Parents in town...ergo, not much time for gaming.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

War of the Ring - Ben vs Carlos

Becoming increasingly frustrated with the Humans and Dwarves and their indecisiveness in taking action, the Elves of Middle Earth take action into their own hands and preemptively declare war on the Shadow Forces. Even as the orcs were being indoctrinated into the ways of peaceful meditation and other spiritual techniques that would have eventually reunited them with their Elvin brethren, Rivendell ordered its armies to march on a defenseless Moria. And deep within his lonely cave...Balrog wept.

Meanwhile, the Nazgul of Sauron (did I mention that Nazgul is a Mordor phrase meaning “We sacrifice our lives so that those who hate us will know peace”?) desperately searched for the misguided Hobbits who had stolen the One Ring. Deeply concerned that the benevolent power of the ring would be misunderstood and misused, the Nazgul searched for them. Luckily, as then Hobbits first left Rivendell, the influence of the Nazgul hit them hard; convicting their conscience that they should return the ring to its rightful owner and help all Middle Earth see a new ear of peace and fellowship amongst all races and people…but this was not to be.

Although, the Nazgul called out to the impressionable Hobbits, their companions whispered dark and untrue secrets into their ears and urged them away from those who sought to help them. They were led by the one called…Ben.

As the Hobbits fled, the Elves mercilessly sacked Moria. Unholy celebrations of victory erupted in the cities and settlements of the so-called “Free Peoples” as this no doubt fed their lust for more blood and conquests. Alas, Sauron had no choice but to call his people and their allies to war and to march west to protect the just people of Isengard from suffering a similar fate as Moria. In an unprecedented mobilization of men, beasts, and armaments, the new hoard march westward. It was imperative that the isolated peoples of Isengard be liberated.

Standing firmly between the hoard and Isengard were the stubborn peoples of Gondore and Rohan. They made it clear that Isengard and its new leader Saruman were to be sacrificed in the name of some new and horrible new order of terrible tree-people - Obviously the result of a hideous genetic experiment of an insane Dr. Ben. Isengard would never see the liberation of the peoples from the east.

As Isengard was mercilessly crushed, the shadow armies overran most of Gondor. Minas Tirith saw a huge siege, but with the aid of magic, superb siege engineering, and magnificent leadership, it was taken. Westward the hoard marched to capture the last stronghold of Gondor – Victory seemed in easy grasp. However a pesky and embittered king (I think he called himself Aragorn, or something like that) managed to sneak into the besieged Dol Amroth, just as a peace deal was about to be concluded between the combatants there.

But to no avail. Ben somehow managed a military victory over the shadow forces. With the loss of two strongholds, the valiant orcs and peoples united under the benevolent eye or Sauron lost their will to liberate and returned home. As his great and all seeing eye shed it’s last great tear, Sauron vanished into the void…

This is an awesome game. Ben was a great host and I look forward to another game.

Sat Morning Wargames

Steve arrived ready for games @ 8. We had some coffee and Krispy Kreme (thanks, Steve!), and then got down to serious fun. I had set up the game the night before, so we only had to customize our Lore councils and Lore deck, and we were off.

Free Companies
We played Free Companies. I played the "vertical banners" and Steve took the "hozizontal guys". We maneuvered our troops carefully at first with most action happening on the flanks. I advanced my dwarves against his goblins, but he held back, so the burden of advance was one me. On the other side our two armies clashed. Steve did a great job of keeping his troops in supported clusters and wearing me down. I left a few units loose, and he pounced on them hard. The point of no return came when Steve shifted a bunch of units across the board. He was already ahead by several figures at that point, and soon thereafter he won the game. I forget the exact score, but it was something like 6-3.

To my surprise and delight, it was still early, so we went for a second game. We kept the same armies, and Steve tried to storm my stronghold. He had 3 archer units, and he had the great luck to draw two Darken the Skies at the outset. The first two turns I was met with 24 dice of arrows. That served to soften up several of my units, kill one, and build-up a nice pile of Lore for Steve. Meanwhile, I tried to learn from the mistakes of my last game and coordinate my units a little better.

The main battle raged on one flank as Steve went after the strong hold. The other side of the battlefield is constricted by a river, and we didn't draw a lot of cards there anyway, so it was stagnant except for the odd bow shot from Steve. He advanced on my stronghold while my commanders fretted about what to do (I didn't draw any cards there for several turns).

Eventually I executed a foot onslaught that pivoted around, smashing his attack and disrupting his formation. Unfortunately, I had left the edge vulnerable, and Steve took advantage of the opening. Within a few turns my units were isolated and weak, and shortly thereafter they dropped off. By this time he had taken one of the ramparts, and he sent a green infantry forward to the stronghold while the spider swooped in behind. The garrison fell, giving him the 6th pt.

IIRC, the final score was again 6-3.

Final Thoughts

We managed to get in 2 scenarios, and we weren't rushing or pushing. The big key, I think, is that I had set up one the night before, and we collaborated to set up the 2nd. I feel better about the playtime, now.

One of the key things in C&C games is the ability to improvise a plan and take advantage of sudden opporutnities. "Mini-plans" are probably key. Make small building moves while you accumulate enough cards for an attack. It seemed that Steve did a great job of adjusting plans to capitalize on opportunities as they came up.

We debated the relative merits of Lore council composition. Steve pointed out that some cards are really powerful w/ a high level guy, and this was key when I played Al; my Healing Mist was huge because I had a 3rd level cleric. While that's true, probably 3/4 of the deck isn't level dependent. Most of the time there's little benefit in having a 2nd level lore master, except that you do get an extra lore card. At this point, my preference is to have a diverse council, though I may eventually change my mind.

Finally, Steve is a great guy and a great opponent.

Here's looking forward to more Sat morning games.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Dice Towers, Anyone?

I predict after I return from an upcoming business trip, I'm going to be in the mood to make additional dice towers. I've now completed towers for Rob, Jon, and Simon, and if other members of SABG are interested, I can make some more. My design for the towers has evolved over the past few months, through a series of pretty ugly failures, though thankfully no serious wounds. I'm now feeling confident enough in the reproducibility of the current design that I can make a fair number of these without a ridiculous amount of effort. I really do enjoy working with wood, though I'm truly not very good at it. Perhaps with this practice, the towers will be even better as production continues. The main point of this is that the folks within SABG have been great pals over the past year, and I'd like to give something back to the club.

First, Kendahl and Patrick. You guys are in the hall of fame for welcoming me into the group, so if you want a dice tower, just let me know. I'll mail it to you.

Oh, also... unless you really, really don't think you're capable of doing it, I'm going to ask that dice tower recipients apply the stain/polyurethane to the wood themselves. This final step is messy, chemical intensive, and (at least to me) the least fun of the process, plus I'm sure everyone would like to have total control over what color you paint your tower. The job will cost you around $5 for the stain and take approximately 2-3 coats over a day or so.

So, the $10-$15 for materials plus the time to do the cutting, sanding, and assembly will be my gift to you, dear reader. However, to make this perhaps a bit more fun and interesting, to qualify for a tower you'll need to accomplish a suitably magnificent feat of skill and/or craftiness. Please remember this is all meant to be in fun, and I'm sure everyone who wants a tower will get one eventually. So if any of this seems silly or ridiculous, you're probably correct. I've been brainstorming a few qualifying challenges, and the initial list is:
  • Win a game of Twilight Imperium 3 in which I participate
  • Defeat me in a card driven wargame
  • Serve as the "DM" in a game of Descent where I can play as one of the characters
  • Organize and run a board game tournament of some kind within SABG
  • Defeat me in a game of War of the Ring (with Expansion); your choice of sides
  • Without any use of Google (honor system, please; watching the show is perfectly fine) tell me what the name of the recurring German corporal was in Hogan's Heroes (hint: not Schultz... the other guy)
  • Recruit a bona fide new member to SABG, previously unknown to us
  • Sing me the Notre Dame fight song at an SABG game session at DL
  • Be the first to beat me at Tide of Iron when its released

Okay, that's probably enough to get a few dice towers out there for those that want them... Oh, one tower per customer, please.


Atomic Comics and Gaming

Yesterday evening I stopped by the closest FLGS to my house, Atomic Comics and Gaming, on Broadway, roughly across the street from HEB Central Market. The store is relatively new, having opened within the past year and has a great location right in the heart of a busy retail district. I was initially hopeful, as from the street I spotted a rack of board games on the wall. Unfortunately, once I inside I found what looked to me like a store on the ropes.

First the positives:
  • Gaming Space: The store has dedicated 2-3 gaming tables at the back which are for free, open gaming. Though the lighting in the store seemed just a tad dim and the space a bit cramped for the number of tables, this looked area looked like it would work for a small group.

  • Location: For me the location, about 3 miles from my house, is ideal. Plus, being across the street from Central Market and a few other good eating places would make any mid-game-day reprovisioning quite convenient. Parking around the corner on a side street seemed adequate.

  • Video Games: One thing I think every FLGS should have is a few arcade games. Its always fun between game sessions to blow off some steam with a good fighting game and even have a quick king of the hill type tournament against your gaming group. Atomic Comics has a 2-3 arcade games in the store set up for just this sort of fun.

  • FFG presence: The store did have Marvel Heroes and World of Warcraft on the shelf, priced at full retail.

Now the negatives:

  • Lighting: The entire store could use a healthy increase in footcandles. My overall impression was that the store had a dark and dreary atmosphere inside. Last night actually had clear skies, so I don't think this can be blamed on cloudy winter weather. In particular if we were to ever use the gaming space, lighting might become an issue.

  • Atmosphere: Thinking back, I'm not sure whether the actual temperature in the store was cold or whether this impression was merely psychological. The floor of the store is not carpeted and the ratio of merchandise to floorspace is pretty low, giving the impression that the store seems somewhat barren. The walls of store were painted with a dark color, with lots of comic posters all over the place. My overall impression of the store's "theme" was was that it seemed like a converted basement bedroom of a comic-geek teenager. The girl behind the counter had bouncey Tejano music playing through the store audio system, which at least to me, didn't seem to go too well with the pseudo-gothic theme of the store.

  • Merchandise: The board game content was approximately 5-10 games, all priced at full retail. I don't remember exactly what all of them were, but other than the FFG stuff I don't remember being impressed by the selection. A few Steve Jackson titles, I believe... On the store's website they adverstise as being a certified hub for all things Wizkids. I figured I'd at least be able to get an occasional in-the-neighborhood fix of a Mechwarrior CMG booster or two from the store. Unfortunately, they didn't have a single booster pack from the game in stock. I did see a few Heroclix items on sale, plus a fair amount of Magic and a few other CCGs. Overall, the store seemed about 80% comics.

  • Activity Level: I visited the store at approximately 7 PM on a Thursday night. I was the only customer in the store. No gaming activity of any kind was underway. One of the fun things about going to an FLGS is seeing what other geeks are playing. Perhaps this isn't entirely a fair criticism of the store itself, but the activity level in the store was zero.
  • The store is hurting. Maybe I came on a bad night, but the store was dead. I was looking forward to throwing them a bone or two, but I honestly couldn't find anything I was remotely interested in buying.

  • We are very lucky to have a store like Dragon's Lair in our town. I need to shop there just a bit more to show my support.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Friday Night Gaming

Jacqui and I will again be hosting tomorrow night (7pm to whenever). RSVP in the comments!


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

BattleLore Report

Al and I met at 7 at DL to play BattleLore. I set up while Al skimmed the rules. I covered a few more items, and we started. We played a scenario w/ full lore rules, but a fixed council to keep it a little simpler. I had lots of cards, but Al had more total lore masters.

Things ebbed and flowed across the battlefield. As always I never had quite enough control over my troops. The variety of troops was nice. Different kinds of foot and cavalry, a few archers.

The lore helps to smooth out the luck, IMO. Rather than a straight-up miss, you pick up a lore token, which softens the sting. Then your lore cards help you mitigate poor command cards to some degree. Plus the lore council is fairly cool. It's only "cool" rather than "super-cool" because there's a lot of overlap among the different cards reducing the differences among the people.

The downside of all this cool stuff? The game takes longer. Al and I were tied 4-4 @ 9 when we had to leave. The lore deck has to be set-up, and then it requires shuffling on top of deploying the units. The extra stuff in the lore cards, especially healing, stretches out the game. For example I had a healing mist that let me reinforce several weak units, otherwise Al would have won before we had to leave.

I don't have any real complaints, but if I were going to make one up it would be duration to complexity ratio. The game length might be pushing it a little bit for this game. If I'm going to invest that much time in a single game, I'd like to have a lot of control, but the system is set-up to deny you a lot of control.

I like the game and the C&C system. Unit variety, terrain, chaos, magic. At an abstract level it actually models warfare pretty well. Fast and simple for a wargame.

Anyone looking to play?

Labels: , ,

Scratching Yet Another Old Itch: Battletech

Ever since the early days of Mecha-Godzilla, Micronauts, Robotech, Transformers TOS, etc., I've been a big fan of giant robots bashing each other to bits. I first discovered Battletech in the late 80's as a hex and cardboard stand-up robot wargame produced by FASA, complete with lots of dice, hit tables, damage tables, line of sight rules, etc. The game was detailed, but still played fast and fun. Blowing the arms and legs off the enemy; causing internal ammo explosions; and the dreaded death from above attack by jump-capable mechs was all part of the package.

Over the years I lost interest in the game system, as it seemed to add more and more chrome but little additional fun. However, my interest in the world of Battletech continued through PC gaming all the various versions of the Mechwarrior computer game up through MW4.

A few years ago I noticed Wizkids had released a collectable miniatures game (CMG) set in a slighly altered version of the Battletech universe. For some reason the game used weird farm, forestry, and factory mechs rather than the battlefield-optimized killing machines we all know and love. Fighting with farming robots just didn't excite me. In addition, I am always fearful of getting addicted to any form of collectable gaming crack, so I shied away.

Recent developments with the Wizkids Battletech game have caused me to take a new look at the game. First, the game system is apparently falling on hard times, forcing Wizkids to rework their marketing strategy. In 2007 the game is moving away from the traditional blind booster pack type of product and moving to set-piece battlesets, analogous to Heroscape. You get to see what you're buying... what a concept! Also, since the back catalog of booster releases for the game now stretches over roughly 8-10 past booster sets, picking up big lots of used figures off E-Bay is quite inexpensive. Finally, even if I did decide to get some boosters, they're pricing out at around only $3 a piece if you buy them in case quantities.

Right now I'm just testing the waters a bit by picking up the starter set and a few additional figures so I can see if the game is actually fun. If you'd like to test this out with me, just let me know.


In Further Praise of Valley Games

I just received my upgraded, wooden dice for Command and Colors: Ancients yesterday from Valley Games. I cannot overstate how much of an upgrade these finely crafted dice actually are. The picture above, borrowed from the Valley Games website, just doesn't do the dice justice. The paint used has a metallic finish to it, giving the swords and helmets just the right amount of gleam. The dice are a bit smaller than the horrid, plastic garbage dice provided by GMT, making them much more dice tower friendly. In addition, the feel of wooden dice in your hand seems much more appropriate to the theme of the game than the cold, slick, black plastic dice that come with the game. Perhaps as you play you can picture some ancient Greek craftsman carving these little cubes as the hoplites marched out the gates of the city-state...


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Props to Brian for winning the BGIA Strategy article of the year!

In other news, SABG loses to East Tennessee Gamers, again!

It was a good year for the online boardgame community, and I don't envy the difficult decisions made by the good people over at Gone Gaming. Congratulations to all the winners!!


Monday, January 22, 2007

Games = Priceless collectibles

Very interesting. It would be nice to see this in the US. Don't know that I would buy the new version to a game that I already own, but it does look cool.

Labels: ,

Sunday, January 21, 2007


gaming...tomorrow. what time are you going to be there? I could be there at 10am.

Wed Night Wargames

I'm looking for an opponent this Wed night for some short 2 player wargame action.

- Any C&C, though BattleLore is #1
- War of 1812
- Hammer of the Scots
- etc

My place or yours. 7-9:30 or 10. I live on the west side near Sea World.


Newest SABG Member

No, I'm not recruiting space aliens, at least not yet. That picture is among the first portraits of "Sprout" Kostek. I'm sure there will be many more to come in the future.
The doctor told us he was 90% sure Sprout is a girl, then minutes later he said "Oh, hey, what's that?" and changed to 90% sure it's a boy. After that, I hope you understand if my confidence is not high.
Sprout's ETA is late June/early July.

Labels: ,

War of the Ring

Jeff and I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon playing War of the Ring yesterday. Although we played with the non-expanded version of the game, our session still featured enough high drama, epic battles, and daring escapes to make it a very memorable experience. As neither of us had played recently we spent a wee bit of time looking up rule details as we played, so the game clocked in at just under 4 hours. The time did fly by though, and only my grumbling stomach eventually forced me to consult my timepiece.

Highlights of the game:
  • The Army of the Dead came to the rescue. Minas Tirith and most of Gondor fell for the first time very early in the game due to a well executed invasion by the Dark forces. Just a few poorly equiped and demoralized conscripts huddled on the shore of Dunkirk... I mean Dol Amroth, praying for rescue. The evil legions marched forward for the final stroke to knock Gondor out of the war. Then, out of nowhere Aragorn and a horde of undead soldiers from the past came hurtling in from the sea, totally destroying the Army of the Shadow and slaying two Nazgul! Minas Tirith was soon retaken along with all of Gondor, and Isildur's Heir was crowned.
  • Both Minas Tirith and Helms Deep changed hands multiple times in very bloody sieges. Finally Gondor was bled down to a few peasants with pitchforks and Isuldur's Heir received his ultimate spanking. Helm's Deep, once recaptured, started doing its best Bastogne impression and never fell again.
  • The game ultimately came down to a final draw out of the Hunt Bag. A happy tile meant goodness and light would prevail; a bad tile would mean fresh hobbit stew for the boyz. Everyone held their breath as the Dark Lord reached his twisted black claw into the Sack of Doom, only to pull out a tile that was only mildly bad... resulting in an almost totally corrupt, but still functional hobbit hero doing his duty.
What a great game! Many thanks to Jeff for hosting the session at his ultimate gaming pad. I sincerely look forward to playing again, and hopefully trying out the expanded version sometime soon!


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sun night

I have a little time Sunday night, and I'm looking for an opponent for a 2 player wargame. Either my place or yours. Let's say nominally 7p-9:30p. First one to post gets it. My preferences in order are:

Combat Commander
War of 1812
other 2 player < 2.5 hrs


Friday, January 19, 2007

Thoughts on Tide of Iron

It seems as if Fantasy Flight Games' new mega-box game, Tide of Iron, is about to hit store shelves. Despite the fact that I've practically had their games on auto-buy for the past year, I have been a bit on the fence with this one. I already own Lock 'N Load and Combat Commander: Europe. Do I really need another tactical infantry wargame?

As I was pondering this dilemma, I was quite pleased this evening to see FFG had posted a promotional video for the game. I honestly cannot remember ever seeing an actual board game video commercial other than by Hasbro. If this is a side effect of FFG's recent foray into the movie business, I'm very pleased. I hope this trend continues. Wouldn't it be great if every game included a video tutorial on how to set up and play? Anyway, even if you're not interested in the game, its worth watching the video to see just how well produced the video actually is. I'm very impressed!

One thing Tide of Iron has going for it are the miniatures. The modular infantry bases look like a great concept that will (of course) have a ton of potential for expansion. Customizing squads looks like fun. I don't know if the high unit density shown on the map is reflective of an actual scenario in the game, but if so it looks like there would be lots of hot plastic death dealt out on the tabletop. I did see a fist-full of dice at one point in the video as well! I also think how FFG has adopted the Doom/Descent system of ordering units will work very well with the WW2 battlefield theme. I was pleased to learn they're also already planning North Africa, Eastern Front, and Pacific expansions... Sound familiar?

From what I can tell this is a product aimed at the rather fertile territory between the low complexity and sometimes blandness of Memoir '44 and the realism at the expense-of playability zone occupied by ASL. Recent games aimed at the same niche, Lock 'N Load and Combat Commander, are spiritual descendants of the Squad Leader family of games, retaining a fair amount of charts and jargon, but significantly simplifying the system in an effort to increase the fun factor. I think both succeed very well. Tide of Iron seems to take a step closer to Memoir '44 in complexity level, but its unclear if this will take away too much of the deep, rich flavor tactical combat can have.

Anyway, the game looks like its beautifully produced and has a high potential to be fun. What does everyone else think?


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mmm. Salty Earth.

I've owned most of the Card Driven Wargames ...

But I've never snagged a copy of the Grail of CDGs. That will change shortly ...

Actually, with all of the hype I'm somewhat worried that this can't live up to it. I've actually sold about half of the CDGs I've owned without ever playing them, and only played most of the others ~2-3 times each. (Of course, until I moved I didn't have any opponents).

Still, smells like a pre-order to me.


Winter Gaming, Friday, 19 Jan 07

For those of you with the day off Friday like me, if you'd care to warm up before going to Brian's in the evening with some daytime board gaming, just post a comment in this post.


Friday Night Gaming

Jacqui and I will be hosting a (hopefully post-freeze) gaming session Friday Night. RSVP in the comments!


Wizard Kings, v2.0

Nooooo! Say it ain't so, Joe!
Columbia, purveyor of fine block games, has announced they will start shipping a new version of their game Wizard Kings starting in Feb. I knew it was coming, but based on how slow they develop their other games I assumed it would take until Fall.
Wizard Kings is one of the favorite games. It was among my first block games, and it combines both high level strategic decisions (build your army; heal your troops) together with medium and small scale decisions (how to handle the maps; how to deal with individual battles). All of this is delivered in a package that plays in about 1.5-2 hrs and has a fantasy theme.
Good times!
Problem is, I'm still digesting the huge slug of new games from Christmas, first and foremost being the dynamic duo of BattleLore and CC:E. I don't know if I want to add another one to further dilute my limited play time.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Snow Day Part 2, Wednesday, 17 Jan 2007

The weather outside is frightful, but inside its so delightful.... you know the rest. Tomorrow my job is shut down for yet a second day. If anyone would like to brave the icey streets for the purpose of board gaming fun, either post a comment or shoot me an e-mail. In the mean time, its a good day to snuggle up with nice long rulebook.


Monday, January 15, 2007

1/16 freeze

I'm off until about 4pm tomorrow. Anyone interested in playing barring any overnight natural catastrophies? I'd like to play more Combat Commander, and Perikles if there's 3 at least. I could host btw.

Plus, I'm also itching to play my only XBOX 4 player 'minigames party game' that I haven't played in ages.


Scratching the Itch

It’s been about a year and a half since I’ve played any Dungeons and Dragons, and that’s too long. I don’t want to start a full campaign, just a single adventure that can be finished in session or two. Back in Knoxville, we called this a One-Shot. You don’t have to have any previous experience. There won’t be any hard-core roleplaying. (Think Descent with some Choose Your Own Adventure between the fights.) I’ll have all the characters prepped and I’ll write up “Playing DnD – Instructions for Board Gamers” for those of you who are newbies or have only played Second Edition (or First Edition). It won’t happen until sometime in late February/early March. It’ll take time to get things together and I’m not going to spend that time until I know people want to play. Amy has already claimed one of the six slots. Post in the comments if you’re interested in claiming one of the other five.


Gaming on Monday, January 15

Monday is a holiday for me in honor of MLK. With all due respect to MLK, this should be a great opportunity for board gaming! Anyone interested in joining me at Dragon's Lair? I should be able to start at 10:00 AM. Please post interests and arrival times in the comments to this post.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Off Topic: The Red Baron

This is another in a series of off-topic geek related posts regarding interests on the periphery of our board gaming hobby.

The upcoming movie The Red Baron looks like it might be the cure for the hangover still lingering from Disney's Flyboys. Germans seem to have a knack for making good war movies like Das Boot, Stalingrad, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Downfall... perhaps its their technical accuracy and willingness to show war in all its gritty detail.

Lena Headey who plays Richthofen's girlfriend, i.e., the obligatory love interest, is also the female lead in another war-related movie I'm anticipating in 2007, 300. Being the love interest of both Leonidas and Richthofen in a single year is pretty impressive.

Bringing this back to the world of board gaming, I'm feeling the need to pull Wings of War back off the shelf.


New Official BattleLore Scenarios

Borg and company have released new official BattleLore scenarios! We need to get these on the table.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Another sweet deal!

For the Combat Commander fans who didn't p500 this beauty, and now are in love with the game (ie hypocrites)

Boulder's sweet deal.

Check out the Saturday night special....feel tempted to get fowl play or alhambra dice game, now that we have the dice game fever (Yspahan, To court the King, etc)....although reviews of the latter have been lackluster.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Die Macher on Tanga

For $29 bucks (shipping included).

Just FYI.


Twilight Imperium - Reflections

Now that the December game of Twilight Imperium is behind us and the stress of the holidays has subsided, I have had a chance to think about the game that we had a few weeks ago. I have been thinking about the expansion set and how it compares to the base game. The new races are good, and the new features add a lot, but what I have been thinking about most is the new strategy cards.

When we played last, I went into the game cold – that is I did not have a chance to consider the new cards and how they were different from the original set. In short, I have decided that I like the new cards better, but not by too much. Overall, they seem to move the game along at a faster pace by letting you do more on your turn.

Card #1 – The base game has the Initiative card as #1. I think that the impact of this card was not what the designers had envisioned and it seemed to be picked the fewest number of times in the games that I played. The replacement card (Leadership) is really a more powerful version of the original Logistics card. This new card gives the chance for more command counters which means a more active game. I just wish it had kept the name “Logistics”

Card #2 – The new Diplomacy card is a more powerful version of the original, offering more options for both primary and secondary actions. It seems more geared for empire expansion than economic growth. The original card could protect you from a hostile opponent anywhere on the board while the new one will protect a single holding from anyone. This is a tough call on which I like better. Either can come in useful depending on the circumstances.

Card #3 – The new Assembly card is kind-of similar to the old Political card, but with new twists. I defiantly like the new one better because I feel that it gives the player more control over what is to be brought to the council. This card has great potential for good bribes and deals.

Card #4 – I like the new Production card. It speeds the game by allowing you to produce units faster and with greater flexibility (building in systems where you have already activated). Good card!

Card #5 – I also like the new trade a little more than the old. I like how the active player does not need to cancel all trade agreements, but can cancel up to two. Obviously this is more fun with more players. I like how the other players don’t need to spend a command counter to get their trade goods, even if they do get minus one trade goods.

Card #6 – The new Warfare card is a tough call, but I think I have to go with the new one. I like the old cards ability to allow a “Double Activation”, kind of like a Blitz in EastFront, but the new High Alert feature is probably more useful.

Card #7 – The new Technology card wins hands down. Get technology faster and cheaper. The Jol-Nar are probably the only ones who don’t like this as it erodes their powerful technology growth in comparison to the others.

Card #8 – I think that the biggest sore spot with the game design was the original Imperial card. I heard more negative press on this than just about anything else in the game. I was glad that they printed the Imperial II card, which is the variant that we liked to use before Shattered Empires. Regarding the new Bureaucracy card, this is still something of a mystery to me.

So one day when we play again, which cards will we use? I would probably say the new ones. The rules do allow for substitution of the “Like Named” cards, and this would be something to think about, but I would imagine that the new deck would stand as-is. One thing that I do wonder: Would it be possible to use the new deck along with the like named old cards as well as their new counter parts? So for example, if you wanted to choose the Diplomacy card you would have the choice to choose Diplomacy I or Diplomacy II. And then if you happened to choose Diplomacy I, then Diplomacy II cannot be chosen. I wonder if the designers considered this possibility.


Risk: Star Wars the Original Trilogy Edition

Darth Vader: Risk: Star Wars the Original Trilogy Edition is here.
Governor Tarkin: Risk? What makes you think so?
Darth Vader: A tremor in the Force. The last time I felt it was in the presence of my old battered copy of the game.
Governor Tarkin: Surely Risk must be dead by now.
Darth Vader: Don't underestimate the Force (or Hasbro).

At long last the original trilogy version of Risk has been released. Perhaps the fanfare for this game was totally off my radar screen, but although I've been eagerly anticipating the game, I didn't realize until today it had been released in mid-December.

Though I'm still waiting for the box to arrive at my front door, I find myself already feeling a sentimental attachment to the game. One of my fondest memories is as a young boy going to see the original release of Star Wars with my Dad. I also have great memories of playing heavily contested games of risk with my family and high school pals that took the entire night to play out. Considering the original trilogy was completed so many years ago, its actually suprising a Risk version based on the movies hasn't been released until now.

In addition to the reasons mentioned above, I must admit I do have a weak spot for low-brow American-style, fist-full-of-dice-chucking games with lots of theme, miniatures, and color board, cards, and bits. To me this type of game is just good, relaxing, escapist fun! The Risk series of games in particular has always been a favorite of mine, with Risk 2210 and Lord of the Rings Trilogy Risk being particular favorites. With the possible exception of Heroscape, I think there is no better mass market game out there, especially if you're wanting some form of combat related theme to the game. The recent Hasbro releases of Monsters Menace America and Nexus Ops I found to be both great fun.

Anyway, though I know this type of game may not be to everyone's liking, I thought I'd share some of my excitement for it on our blog!


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Labels and Searching


Once upon a time, Brian suggested we could improve the searchability of our blog by deleting planning posts. Tortured, quixotic soul that I am, I raised a contrary voice based on the idea that some one, some where might actually want to read all that stuff. I won't complain if anyone wants to delete their posts, but I don't plan on doing it myself.

Still, though, anything that increases searchability is a good thing. Enter the new blogger & labels.


I strongly advocate the use of labels on all posts. You can make one up if you want, but at this point you already have a pretty good set to pick from:

- administrative
- planning
- ramblings
- session report

These should cover the vast majority of our posts.

Labels are available in the lower right hand corner of the "create post" page.


Long Lost Post on BattleLore

I just lost a long post with a bunch of thoughts on BattleLore. It's too disheartening to try typing it again. Summary: I'm fairly optimistic. Looking at the web page there's a lot of interesting looking scenarios out there, and the reports are generally positive.

In particular there are two scenarios I found based on Robin Hood where the two armies are very different and the terrain is used to good effect. In one, the Merry Men must rescue Maid Marian, in another they must fend off the Sheriff. Each scenario shows signs of considerable thought with various intricate victory conditions. Play balance is unclear, but the creativity is impressive.

The lore system seems to have added quite a lot to the game. It smooths out the luck and adds more options, and keeps people involved on the opponent's turn, all good things.

This game could be a real winner, especially if it gets good support.

I am looking for opportunities to play, so let me know if you're interested.


Friday Night Gaming

I'll host Friday Night. Jacqui will be traveling for her yearly Market trip. Last year she spent 8 hours in the airport and then came back home, but the weather looks more promising now...

I should have my copy of Imperial by then. But who knows?


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Monday Gaming, Jan 8, 2007

Location: Dragon's Lair
Agenda: Bring some board games you want to play. If there's something specific you'd like to play, just add a comment to this posting.
Start time: I'll be there by 5PM, though I suspect others may arrive earlier. If you plan on participating, please put post your expected arrival time in the comments.

Monday (and Tuesday?) Gaming

This is not a test. This is a broadcast of the SABG Game Gathering System. Please proceed to Dragon's Lair (or a designated alternative) and administer an appropriate dosage of games.

I can't make it Monday. I'm catching up with an Old Friend. I can make Tuesday, if anyone is interested (if not, I'll play Shadowfist). After all, Combat Commander isn't technically on my 5 & 10 list yet ... those games split between two years.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Axis and Allies: Battle of the Bulge

I'm looking for someone to try out the newly released Axis and Allies: Battle of the Bulge with me next Saturday afternoon, January 13th. The game should take approximately 3 hours to play. Numerous additions have been added to this freshly minted version of the Axis and Allies system, including supply effects, a new combat system, and zones of control. If I have to I'll just play the game solo, but I'd certainly prefer another human to play against. Don't make me ride alone with Hitler!


Friday, January 05, 2007

The Gaming Canon

No, this isn't about big guns. That's spelled "cannon." I only know which is which because I checked on wikipedia.

Jeff's recent post about gaming in the new year and the top 200 got me thinking. What are games that define the center of our hobby? No fan of science fiction hasn't seen Star Wars. If you are a fan of jazz, then you own a copy of Kind of Blue, and if you are a music lover generally then you own Beethoven's 9th. In literature these central works have been termed the Western Canon.

So what's our canon? What are the games that opened new boundaries, that set milestones, that created a new idiom? I thought we'd let the ideas simmer here, then maybe next week some time I'll take the stew over to BGG as a geek list.

These are not games that everyone has to love, but these are seminal games that are excellent in some way. If you love games, then you owe it to yourself to learn to play these at least passably well.

- oldest game still being played- next best abstract, chess, has more rules for a single move, castling, that all the rules of go together
- I don't know if some games are art, but if any game is art then go is.
- If there's life on alien planets, it's possible they could have invented the *exact* same game we play, whereas there's really zero chance they invented the exact game of Puerto Rico.
- Within your first game or two, the rules disappear and you think mostly about larger ideas: shape, structure, tactics, and strategy.
- If you had to, you could play on the ground w/ two kinds of rocks
- If I could only play 1 game (thank God I don't), I would pick Go w/o any hestitation.

Monopoly, Risk, Trivial Pursuit
- While these games are not impressive compared to contemporary offerrings, these are the cultural touchstone games.
- If a non-gamer sees a game, there are only three categories. If it's a party game, it's like Trivial Pursuit. If it's a wargame, then it's like Risk. If it's neither, then it's like Monopoly.

Settlers of Catan
- arguably the game that started the current euro-game revolution.

Puerto Rico
- top rated game on BGG for several years now
- has become a touch-stone game and point of comparison for gamers

After that, I'm not sure. Other games are either too recent or too niche or I'm not sure of their significance to the hobby. Some ideas were:

El Grande
- highly rated, especially among "power" gamers

Tigris & Euphrates
- highly rated, especially among "power" gamers


HAL, can you hear me?



Gone Gaming 2006 BGIA Nomination

Hey, I totally didn't realize it, but our blog was nominated again for the 2006 Board Game Internet Awards, Best Game Club Site category. Here's the link.

Gone Gaming

Brian's site received a nod as well under Best Game Blog.

We rock!


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Friday Night Gaming

Brian and Jacqui have other commitments this week, so plan to get your cardboard fix at Jeff and Amy's!

7:00 PM Friday

RSVP in the comments

Knizia Almanac

Spielbox just (finally) released the English translation for their Knizia Almanac issue. I thought this might be of interest to the group. Here's the link.

Creative title with subtle in-joke

I’ve played ninety of BGG’s top 200 games. I considered making a New Year’s resolution to get the played number up to 105 or 110 by the end of 2007, but then realized how difficult that would be. Obviously, I’d be aiming at a moving target. Dozens of new games are released every year and several end up highly ranked (at least initially). Even without an influx of new games, the rankings still shift. Also, about twenty-five of the remaining 110 are abstracts and hardcore wargames. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever play those. Several of the top games are hard to find (Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage, Republic of Rome) or take all weekend to play (Civilization, 7 Ages). It was a nice idea, but there’s just too many factors working against me. On the up side, a resolution that hasn’t been made is one that can’t be broken.

But if I had gone through with the plan, here’s the games I’d be looking to play:

Leonardo da Vinci – This was seeing a lot of play locally, but then it suddenly stopped.

Through the Desert – I know, I know. I can’t believe I haven’t played it, either.

Thurn and Taxis – Any SdJ winner is worth a try.

Imperial – Antike was not a hit locally, although I liked it. We’ll see if Mac Gerdts’ rondel gets a warmer welcome this time.

Stephenson’s Rocket – Knizia + Trains = High Potential (and I happen to know a member of the group is getting a copy soon)

Easy trivia question number 19: Who’s the actor in the picture above?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Session Report (Combat Commander)

Ted and I played Combat Commander today. I wrote a detailed Session Report. [I also copied it to BGG. I didn't realize when you post a SR you can now put your group, so I called it "San Antonio Board Gamers" (original, eh?). Can we search on that?

Anyway, our scenario used the map shown (poorly) here. The main building is just left (West) of that pond in the middle.


1/2 gaming? .... or just pushing it.

Ben and I will be playing either Combat Commander or BattleLore. Jeff is interested in gaming too. Anyone else?