Saturday, April 8, 2017


Ryan, Dan S, Dan K and I had a game of Guiscard by Historic One, which is a 2013 update of the 1981 title Cry Havoc. This is a skirmish game, with each hex representing two meters and each counter one man or horse. A hex-and-counter skirmish game is unusual; generally skirmish is done with miniatures instead. Guiscard covers the Norman occupation of southern Italy (and is named for Robert "Guiscard" de Hauteville--Guiscard means something like "The Sneaky One"); other titles in the series cover Normans, Saxons and Danes in England, and the First Crusade.

The scenario we played depicts a hypothetical situation from the AD1053 Battle of Civitate (where the outnumbered Normans beat an Italian/German alliance in southern Italy). Half a dozen Swabian heavy infantry are isolated on a knoll with some trees and brush for terrain; the Normans are trying to kill the Swabians before a Lombard force can rescue them. 

The Normans set up one force in melee with the Swabians, and a second force of cavalry as a screen blocking the rescuers. The armored Swabians were pretty tough, and held out for a while despite being outnumbered and surrounded (and despite my initial placement of them, which probably could have been better); however, the Norman horse delayed the Lombards long enough that only one wounded Swabian escaped. The Lombards did manage to kill the Norman lord, though, and claim a moral victory.

The rules are readable although somewhat ambiguous on several points. Two things I found odd: a) there are no morale rules; in our game, there were high casualties but no one retreated more than one space; b) each man is represented by two or three double sided counters, and you have to replace the original Mounted Intact counter with Mounted Wounded, Dismounted Intact, Dismounted Stunned, Dismounted Wounded, or Dead. The task is not made easier by the counters being thinner than I'm used to. There are a couple other quirks (Byzantines should be skutatoi, not hoplites) but nothing major.

Given the game cost (~ $100) as compared to skirmish miniatures rules such as Pikemen's Lament or Lion Rampant, I don't think I'd buy a copy of Guiscard; however, I'd certainly play it again.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Power Grid

With most of our Monday night gamers either sick or at work, Jesse and I decided to learn Power Grid, an economic game where you compete to provide power to the largest network of cities. We used the German board; the US grid is also an option in the basic game. You have to carefully balance how much you spend on power plants vs fuel vs expanding your network; in the early game, you may find that the fuel to provide power costs you more than you earn from providing that power. Jesse went for wind turbines, which have no fuel cost but only power a few cities; he was able to pull ahead in the short term but didn't upgrade frequently enough. I went with coal and oil and frequent upgrades, and managed to surge ahead on the last couple of turns. We both had a good time with it but we think it would be even better with a couple more players.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Xia: Legends of a Drift System

Had a good game of "Xia: Legends of a Drift System" with Darci, Kris, Jesse and Tom Paul. Kris took the lead by exploring and finding Fame Points, but Jesse pulled ahead by trading. My moment of glory was destroying Darci's ship (which was already heavily damaged) by ramming, thereby earning the Viking title.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu is based on the multiple-award-winning Pandemic game. In RoC you have Investigators instead of Scientists, cultists instead of diseases, and Elder Gods instead of outbreaks. The board shows four towns--Dunwich, Arkham, Innsmouth, Kingsport--each with half a dozen locations. If you get enough cards associated with a town, you can seal that town's Eldritch Gate; if you seal all four gates, you win. If you get overwhelmed by insanity, cultists, shoggoths, or Elder Gods, you lose.
In my first time through, playing solo, I drew the Hunter and the Driver as my investigators. The Hunter plowed along, wiping out cultists and shoggoths (atlhough she did go insane for a while); the Driver tagged along behind her until he collected enough town cards, then raced off to seal the next Gate. I won handily enough--but then I realized that I'd missed "if a site has three cultists, do not place a fourth; instead, an Awakening Ritual occurs."
So I tried again. In the second game, using a Hunter and a Detective, I'd gotten two gates closed when my Hunter successfully fought a shoggoth--but the Sanity roll you take for fighting a shoggoth triggered another two cultists appearing, on a location which already had two, meant Dagon Awakened, which added one cultist to every Gate location, which triggered another Awakening, and thens plummted out of control and then Cthulhu.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Stonewall off Ferrol

Phil came down from Williamsburg to learn Ironclads, and took the formidable CSS Stonewall vs the slightly less formadiable USS Niagara and the rather fragile USS Sacramento.  The scenario is one we've done several times before, with the Rebel ship attempting to get out of the harbor and cripple one of the Union vessels along the way.
In the first game, Phil took the Stonewall and sailed pretty much straight for the board edge, I took Niagara in close, suffering several substatial hits along the way; however, while Niagara is light on armor, she has lots of hull points, so she chugged along resolutely. And then I got in close astern and gave him a rake with my full broadside--11" Dahlgrens and 150 pounders. That wrecked his steering gear, and from there it was just a matter of following his wake and giving him one broadside while the other one reloaded.
In the second game, Phil took Stonewall again while Ryan and I swapped ships. This time Phil immediately cut right to go around the far end of the shoal, away from Niagara. I took Sacramento over to try to cut him off without actually getting in his way--Stonewall has a reinforced ram bow. I did nick him a little, but he outguessed me a couple of times and used me as cover to prevent Niagara from getting a shot. After punching huge holes in Sacramento's armor and setting her afire, the Rebel swung around to get another close range shot, which was reasonable (because he needed to cripple one of the Union ships to win) but a probably a mistake (because it let Niagara catch up). The two heavy ships tangled at close range, culminating in a ram which left Niagara low in the water, but also meant Stonewall was a stationary target at point blank range. The heavy Union guns battered Stonewall's hull enough to render her unable to make the oceanic crossing, costing her the win. A hard fought action all round.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Most Peaceful Wargame Ever

I just had the Most Peaceful Wargame I've ever had. 
The game was PanzerLeader, with a hypothetical Brits v Soviets scenario in May 1945. My Red Army forces rushed (because we're Russian) to the plateau in the center of the board, and took up Wellington-inspired defensive positions. The Brits had no line of sight to most of my units; if they wanted to attack, they would have to come up the slope and over the lip of the plateau, emerging into open ground at point blank range. I also left a few speedbump units to the south and at the crossroads behind me. 
I figured he'd assault, and that would weaken him enough for me to counterattack. My opponent, however, decided that "frontal assault into T34/85s and SU152s" didn't sound wise, so he left enough force to pin me and sent a few units around behind me to try to pick off the crossroads. The flaw in his plan is that his forces were sneaking from tree to rock, to keep me from Opportunity Firing on them; in contrast, when I decided to send reinforcements, I just ran an armor company right down the road from the hilltop to the crossroads, and was generally able to get there without risk of getting shot on the road. (I did offer him an Opportunity Fire shot on a T34/85, but he decided his Daimler Ferret scout car would rather run away instead of chipping my paint as my T34/85 rolled toward him).  Since I could reinforce faster than he could send attackers, he realized he couldn't take the crossroads; and it didn't weaken me quite enough to tempt him into assaulting the hill. This was turn 9, and the time limit was turn 10; there was not enough time for either of us to clear any more objective hexes even if we launched an all out assault, so we called it a draw without playing out the last turn.

Total shots fired: zero.

In a similar scenario on the other side of the room, the Americans sacrificed a few scouts to locate the Russian forces, then used artillery and aggressive armor attacks to break the Russian center for a decisive win.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear Solo

I've previously written on what I regard as some of the problems with the Conflict of Heroes series. Those haven't stoppped me from buying Awakening the Bear 2e and the Solo expansion, and I've just finished the first solo scenario. There's one change in the Solo version which I really like: you no longer activate one unit at a time and keep using it until it's out of Activation Points. Instead, you select any Fresh unit, take an action, and check whether the unit is Spent. If it isn't, you can take another action with it--or you can leave it alone for a few impulses while you use another unit, and then come back to the original one when you're ready. Higher AP cost actions (such as Rally, 5AP) are more likely to cause the unit to become Spent than low cost (Move in the open, 1AP) actions. However, you don't track Activation Point totals any more; as long as you're lucky with your Spent checks, that unit stays Fresh and can take action after action after action. Of course, you can also order a squad to scurry across the street into the building on the other side, only to have them become Spent after the first 1AP movement and get stuck in the middle of the street.

I did manage to win the first scenario, capturing the objective and polishing off two German squads while only losing one of my own. It was close, though, as the halftrack chased my SMG squad for a while, then got adjacent to one of my Rifle squads and put a hit on it. Fortunately the scenario timer ran out almost immediately afterward, and the Germans didn't get a chance to finish off my wounded squad. Final score, 2VP for the Russians.