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.