Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cavalry for the Baron!

I dislike painting cavalry in every scale. It manages to combine painting big solid colored models with portions of insane detail. Hussars are probably the worst offenders and of course Veglians need Hussars to defend the Istrian peninsula from all comers. The Baron (or some appropriate leader, I am working out the details) was introduced to his first unit of cavalry today.

"I don't see any lace. Where is all the gold on the scabbards. Is the sabertache decorated with regimental colors?"

A Line of Two!
Sadly, these brave horsemen must make do with dash and daring and not rely on the decadent accoutrements of the effete Franks and Austrians. On a positive note, however, the Baron's six year old son took one look at the hussars and made off with them in a flash. First he put them in a "line of two's" and then sent them off into their first swirling melee. As of now "the good army had won" and horns of triumph were sounding across the land! But only for a moment, as the battle begins again. I am hoping to retrieve these figures by May in time for Huzzah.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Huzzah Project Begins

Yesterday I registered to run some games at Huzzah, the upcoming wargame convention in Maine. Huzzah is my favorite convention. The game variety is excellent, the tables look amazing, and the people are generally fun and friendly.

I had originally planned to run Funny Little Wars (FLW) and Commands and Colors:Napoleonics but I took a reality break and settled for FLW. This is a toy soldier style game played with relatively large figures over an entire room (or better, a garden!). The game concept is retro, cute, and the miniatures look great when painted.

FLW also has some qualities that make for good convention games. A good game is one that six strangers can play with a minimum of time spent on rules explanations. The game should have objectives that are interesting and easy to discern. The forces should have some qualities which are appealing and engaging.  The players should spend more time moving figures than waiting for a chance to move figures.  There are a vast number of games that are terrific as club games but terrible as convention games. And the opposite is true as well.

The main challenge right now, other than making terrain, making buildings and forests, and painting a few hundred figures, is the game scenario itself. FLW is set in a nebulous time period that combines motorcars, rifles, cavalry and artillery but not so much machine guns or massed artillery. There is still a role for the cavalry charge and the folks at Krupp have not yet churned out hundreds of big guns. Further, all units can conceivably move in a given turn and they move several Feet at a time. In the case of light cavalry a charge can be made across six feet of space! I'm going to need to find some 19th-early 20th century era scenarios that allow forces to really cover ground without ending the game after two moves and a single massive firefight.

H.G. Wells Kicks it Old School
At present I'm looking into Charles Grant's old Tabletop Teasers, happily reproduced here. There's also the possibility of refighting H.G. Wells' original Little Wars Battle of Hooks Farm. Finally, Henry Hyde at Battlegames has a good set of Command Challenges and an interesting set of tutorials called Win More Wargames that feature some promising map setups. I'm not sure which way things will turn but I think I'll find a few good old school battles to run by May.

A Blast from the Past

Over New Years we entertained some old friends and their 8 year old son. At one point the boy was looking for a game to play and I rummaged around the game closet to see what might be fun. We played Munchkin once and he liked that and then we pulled out Wings of War. The dad and son sat down and played a few rounds and the game was a nice success.

I always felt like Wings of War deserved to be a bigger hit in our gaming club than it ended up being. The aircraft models are really nicely done, the rules are simple at the basic level but have some optional touches that add realism without sacrificing gameplay, and it all moves along very smoothly and gives a good quick game. I think Wings may have suffered because relatively few people are interested in the First World War, and because it straddled the line between board game and miniatures game. Many board gamers may have felt the planes were too expensive and many miniatures gamers may have been bothered by prepainted miniatures. In any case the game and its components are now being sold at huge discounts by multiple online shops.

That being said, I would Still highly recommend Wings of War as a fun air combat game. In fact, considering that you can get it for a song, I might recommend it even more highly.  As a bittersweet postscript my friend plans to buy the X-Wing game now, which uses the same mechanics but lies squarely in the rapidly expanding Star Wars universe of merchandise. My poor biplanes have been tossed aside for shiny TIE fighters and A-Wings!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dawn of the Zeds- Solitaire Gaming

Lately the thought of driving a half hour down the snow covered highway to maybe get in on a board game has not been looking so rosy, so I began looking into solitaire games. Happily it turns out that there are a Lot of interesting looking solitaire wargames. After some time deliberating my wife got me Dawn of the Zeds for Christmas.

Dawn of the Zeds (DoZ) is published by Victory Point Games, which has an extensive line of solitaire games. Their solitaire engine is called the States of Siege system and presents the player with a series of encroaching threats, all of which demand some attention and of course there are not enough resources to go around. In the case of DoZ you're placed in a city and forced to deal with hoards of zombies approaching from various directions. You have to decide which direction to send your strongest fighters in, and also hunt for supplies, heal wounded civilians, and research weapons and a cure for the plague. Each action costs resources of some sort and there are usually few resources at hand.

The Game Board

DoZ has a lot of good qualities. The game is tough and you can expect to lose more often than win. There is a great degree of theme and each time I play I very much feel the stress of being surrounded by shambling undead, slowly advancing down highways and streets. There is a huge degree of variability between games based on random events and a random pool of initial heroes to draw from. Finally, the game will absolutely reward thoughtful play. If you allocate your resources wisely then civilians are saved and your heroes succeed. If you play carelessly you will be swamped.

The game components are also pretty decent. The product is sold in a ziplock bag so the board is pretty flimsy but counters and game cards are quite nice. The rules are well written and easy to follow. I think it's a good value.

If there is a negative to DoZ it is that it is not a quick game. I like being able to knock off a game of Race for the Galaxy online in ten minutes. DoZ is a good hour's committment if not longer. Further, you can't play for a quick win. The game system is really an endurance test- can you balance resources long enough to be rescued? That's fine enough but sometimes I want a quicker playing experience.

In total I really enjoy Dawn of the Zeds. It carries its' theme well, it has huge replay value, and it's challenging and interesting. I even suspect it would be fun to watch simply because of the engaging drama. I'm curious to see how some of the other States of Siege games play out now.