Monday, April 29, 2013

Funny Little Wars Playtest Report

In hindsight it may not have been totally wise to paint hundreds of miniatures and arrange a convention game for a rule system I had never actually tried. I think I was using the logic that any game with adorable images and witty rules must be pretty great. While this has proven horribly wrong in the past (ahem, Dungeon Lords, Ankh Morpork...) in this case it turns out that Funny Little Wars is both adorable and well designed.

We held our game in the Charlestown town hall. That's a blog entry in itself. An antique hall with two gigantic open areas, a stage, and a kitchen. Why is this place not in use all the time? Tragic. There were five players. Two were veteran gamers, two had done some gaming, and one was a clever ten year old boy. The rules themselves took maybe fifteen minutes to explain. For an adult board or wargame that's pretty good. I had some play aids printed and then forgot them. That was unfortunate but turned out to be a minor issue only.

Prior to play I covered an eighteen by eighteen foot area of the floor with lime green felt. Blue and green fabric added a forest and river. I put down a half dozen simple houses and that was it for terrain. I think the overall effect was striking and effective, and certainly a contrast to the amount of fuss I usually put into gaming tables. With a bit more time I would probably want to add some lime green insulation sheet hills.

Our scenario was Charles Grant's Advance Guard Tabletop Teaser. I think a good convention scenario has to include either exciting troops, exciting weapons, or a scenario with clear objectives. Funny Little Wars troops are from imaginary lands and the weapons are pretty basic so using a Grant scenario was pretty essential. In this case the situation is that two equal armies stumble across two locations to occupy. Do the generals camp out on one, try and take both, or just defeat their opponent in the field and win by default? It's a basic question but engaging.

The group formed their plans and launched in. In the hours that followed we saw cavalry charges, towns being taken and defended, unexpected reinforcements, and artillery battles. I was very happy with the game on a number of levels. Firstly, each unit type had a strength and a weakness and the successful generals were the ones who recognized which was which. Young Liam scrambled to get his fast moving skirmishers into the town and held it afterwards against attack. Paul sent his cavalry in flanking sweeps across the board and tied up oncoming reinforcements simply by acting as a threat. Those moments were memorable because they felt right, they felt historical. The game is light but the foundation is solid.

Secondly, Funny Little Wars features matchstick firing toy cannons. Cannons that fire matchsticks across the board are more fun that a barrel of monkeys. After one turn I ran to my boxes and unpacked All of the cannon. They were insanely entertaining. I can't say they were terribly accurate but matchsticks flying hither and yon are just hilarious.

Finally, we found that the rules were more than adequate to manage the situations that arose. There were no fights, no pouty grumpy faces, just a bunch of players happily pushing soldiers around and firing matches at each other. That's most of what I look for in games. Not specifically flinging matches, but a relaxed good time. I'm looking forward to running the game at Huzzah and then getting it out into the garden.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Thank you Vogue Fabrics!

The Funny Little Wars game is ideally played outdoors but I'm reluctant to count on good weather in Maine. In addition I'd have to make a slew of movement trays and  deal with wind and dirt and all the other perils of the spooky outdoors. Happily the folks at Huzzah were able to get a room to play in. At this point the question was how to turn a hotel carpet into a cool old school style play surface.

Hey, everyone with twenty pounds of felt raise your hands! Yup, I'm now the proud owner or twenty yards of bright green felt, enough to cover the floor of a decent sized room. I had to look around a bit to find a good supplier of bulk fabric. It turns out that there's a store in Chicago that is apparently a mammoth cavern of fabric And does mail order. Vogue Fabrics was easy to work with and they got the material to me in no time. Plus it came in a gigantic box that's well suited for turning into a spaceship or submarine.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

More Cavalry for, well, someone...

I just finished another unit of cavalry for the Funny Little Wars game at Huzzah. I'm not even sure what their back story is but they're ready to ride, fight, and then return to the tavern for hard cider and onion soup. Next up, big beardy guys in grey! And on the horizon, the town...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Phantom Leader- Excellent Solitaire Fun

As I've mentioned it's been pretty hectic here but I did get a chance to try my new copy of Phantom Leader this weekend. This has been on my short list for a while now and I found a copy for the right price and picked up up.

Phantom Leader is a solitaire game simulating air missions during the Viet Nam conflict taking place between 1965 and 1971 or so. In the game you manage a squadron of pilots and attempt to complete missions and accumulate victory points. Your job is made harder by both enemy action and by unexpected political events. For example, one mission might require you to attack enemy air defense installations. But then "Peace Demonstrations" might occur and limit your weapons choices. On the other hand, you might get unexpected air support. As the player you have to assign pilots and arm them based on the mission requirements but keep in mind that unexpected events are pretty likely to crop up.

I played the simplest of games and flew a few missions during the early air war. Briefly (I'm tired from the d%$# painting) I found the game to be well balanced and very exciting. The random events and long list of possible missions keep things varied. The game components are top notch. But mainly I felt like this game walks the line perfectly between being demoralizingly hard and boring. Winning takes some work and effort but it's possible. In contrast, as much as I admire and enjoy Death Angel it does get to be a downer to lose 90% of the time.

I'll be playing more Phantom Leader soon, and if I can track some some more games in the series at a decent price I'll be pretty thrilled.

As an aside, someone might reasonably ask how this game could possibly be fun, considering the historical subject matter. I don't really have an answer. I'm well aware of how insanely ill advised and horrible the war was. So yes, good question. I suppose for me I can enjoy the game while simultaneously regretting the horrible judgement that got the United States into the war itself. Just one of those odd things.

No Posts?

Nutritious Dinner in Foreground
I felt like I was posting up a storm until recently. Suddenly I realize I haven't posted in weeks. Unfortunately I have not been busy inspecting a chocolate factory I just inherited (and there is one close by!). The Funny Little Wars project for the upcoming Huzzah convention has just taken up all my spare time.

Painting 54mm troops is not quite as easy as you would imagine. They suck up several coats of paint and my favorite shortcuts of washes and dips are pretty useless. In addition, everyone has lots of belts and webbing and shiny buttons so even painting in a toy soldier style seems to take forever. I'm feeling nostalgic for my 10mm Napoleonics, which really just needed a basecoat and a wash.

There is an end in sight, at least. If nothing else the project ends in May when arrives. None too soon as the painting space no occupies about 20% of the kitchen!