VPG Press Release – Disaster on K2 released!

Adventure above 8000m!

From designer Tom Decker comes the next challenge – Climbing and conquering to survive the Disaster on K2! As an internationally renowned expedition leader, you are anxious to gain prestige by leading a group of high profile climbers from your country to the top of the most difficult peak in the world, K2. While some of the climbers have been selected for their climbing abilities, others have been assigned to your team for various political reasons.

Certainly if you can accomplish this feat, your name will go down as one of the greatest expedition leaders of all time and your fame and fortune will be assured.

Play solitaire or compete against another player to lead your climbers to the summit of K2 and back down safely. Or take on the challenge of climbing both Everest and K2 in the campaign game by adding VPG’s Disaster on Everest.

Click here for all the details and to order Disaster on K2.

http://victorypointgames.com/details.php?prodId=164

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Review – D-Day Utah and Omaha: The American Beaches from Victory Point Games

Review – D-Day – Utah and Omaha: The American Beaches from Victory Point Games

Designed by Paul Koenig

Development and Graphic Design – Alan Emrich

note – thanks to Victory Point Games for providing a review copy of this game

Continuing with my recent spate of war games, I bring you another World War 2 game, one of a set of games covering the Allied landings during Operation Overlord and produced by Victory Point Games. Paul Koenig has designed separate games looking at operations at the British, Canadian and American beaches, which are arguably, the most well know amongst war gamers, if not students of military history.

“Beer and pretzels” games are games that are easy to play, tend to have very few rules, clear mechanics and can be played in a short time period. These games tend to be well suited for busy gamers who struggle to invest time in deep and “heavy” war games (conflict simulations).  D-Day – Utah and Omaha: The American Beaches a game for 2 players ages 12+, is definitely a “beer and pretzels” game and is yet another example by Victory Point Games that clearly demonstrates that traditional hex and counter war games have a place to play in the war gamer’s library.

The components of D-Day – Utah and Omaha: The American Beaches are typical standard for VPG ad you get 2 games, one for the landings on Omaha Beach and one for the landings on Utah Beach and the airborne operations behind Utah Beach. The artwork is standard hex and counter fare and clearly provides you with nice looking, if unremarkable maps covering the key terrain features and counters representing the military units and information on such things as artillery and air/naval support, leadership, hit points, etc. All, east to read except for the unit designations which are quite small. Thankfully, the different units for each division are color-coded so it is easy to see which units are part of the same division.

 

Gameplay

The mechanics are pretty clear and will be very familiar to experienced war gamers to get into the games quickly and shouldn’t be too difficult at all for those putting their toe in the water with these entry level games.

The game process is as follows:

Landing Phase – The Allied player places his beach landing forces and airborne troops as designated. The really interesting and elegant part here is the very simple way the struggle for the beaches and chaos of the airborne landings is covered. very simply through rolling a die on the June 6 Landing fire table. Depending on the die roll, landing units take hits. through the three turns on June 6th, the chance of taking hits decreases. Very easy, very straightforward. It does just enough to give the allied player a feel for the difficulty the allies troops had in their landings.

Support phase – players can obtain artillery support and for the allies, extra air and naval support chits, again, randomly rolled for. Before you start thinking oh, this is so random, the die rolls help give a sense that warfare has a reasonably sized luck element, no matter how effective your planning is, your troops trained, etc. The interesting thing about the artillery and allied support chits, is that you need to consider how and when to use your finite amount of support. As you might expect, there never seems to be enough support, especially for the Germans who will struggle to bring in much artillery support which reflects the situation and surprise that the allies managed to pull off.

Operations phase -The heart of this phase is the chit pull process as divisions are activated randomly so things are always edgy as you never know in what order you will be able to take your actions. Movement is typical fare, subject to terrain of course and there are no locking zones of control, which means that you need to be careful about unit placement as any gaps in your line are just that; gaps in your line. This makes loads of time as the situation was very fluid with the allies trying to establish beachheads and the Germans trying to throw units at the beachheads without proper coordinatinon due to being caught literally with their pants down by the landings. Combat takes place in three ways –

– Full Fire attack by adjacent units – retreat is optional if units take hits, also the Germans can retreat before this type of combat

– Combined – units that move can conduct a mobile fire attack at 1/2 strength

– Close Combat – units enter the enemy’s hex and if they survive a fire attack, can then assault the enemy unit and force theme to retreat

All of this works pretty smoothly and quickly once you settle into it and in short order you are moving through the game. There are a few optional rules for leadership, rest & refit of units, indirect fire and overruns none of which make a dramatic difference although add a bit more time, but not loads, and flesh things out a little more historically.

Victory is achieved in the Omaha Beach game through capturing towns and cities, eliminating enemy units, German units surviving, and exiting the map. For the Utah Beach game, its the same except exiting the map.

The Omaha Beach game is a straightforward prize fight with the landing troops struggling to punch their way through the beach defenses of Bloody Omaha. The Utah Beach game is different as the German beach defenses aren’t as difficult to overcome and you also need to manage your airborne units behind the beaches who are fighting to capture key towns.

 


Did it work for me?

This is a very solid “beer & pretzels” game system, ideal in its intention to make simple, playable games which give you a sense of the D-Day operations. The ebb and flow of the battle is there without getting consumed by the mechanics. These games are meant to be played and enjoyed at a simple level, not analyzed for minute detail. They remind me of the heyday of the SPI Quad games which were elegant and still stand up as fun games. I would absolutely recommend these games to new war gamers and those wanting to taste the wonderfulness of war gaming. Experienced players looking for a light alternative to their conflict simulations or a vehicle to introduce newbies need look no further.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 8 out of 10

Family friendly?

Sure if you want to introduce your kids to war gaming.

For more information about Victory Point Games go to – http://victorypointgames.com/


Review – Loot and Scoot from Victory Point Games

Review – Loot and Scoot from Victory Point Games

Designer – Chris Taylor

Art – Tim Allen, Scott Everts and Chris Taylor

note – Many thanks to Victory Point Games for providing a review copy of this game

As I’ve said before, I am certainly a fan of fantasy themed games and always willing to have a play.

Many fantasy themed games tend to be what are referred to as “dungeon crawlers” which are all about a group of characters, all with different abilities and backgrounds who band together to explore an underground dungeon or at an outdoor location in the quest to collect treasures and destroy the monsters that are infesting the area. This is another extension beyond the core war gaming focus for Victory Point Games and as such, needed to fit into their production model of very few rules, card game maps and cardboard counters or chits to represent characters, resources monsters, etc. and all relatively small and compact especially compared to a number of big and brassy Rolls Royce level productions now available. I am a fan of Victory Point Games precisely because they have stuck to their guns in terms of production model and continue to set out to prove that you don’t need to have lots of glossy plastic miniatures and huge heavy game boards and components to produce good, fun games.

So, does Loot and Scoot stack up? Well, it is a game for 2-4 players aged 10+ and there are solitaire rules with the first expansion.

In the small packet you get one double-sided page of rules. Yes, only 2 pages!!!

136 color die-cut 5/8″ playing pieces and tokens

Providing – adventurers, monsters, money, divine pity, loot, hirelings, upgrade buildings, poison, treasure and dungeon parties

Four Dungeon Maps

Loot and Scoot Expansion #1 Loot Harder comes with

40 new counters adding new buildings, new effects, more poison and treasures

2 additional maps

The standard of artwork is typical by VPG standards, colorful, functional and easy to read. Everything works and is very easy to use. The counters are sturdy and durable, the maps are on thin card and fairly basic but again, they work for the context of the game.

 

Gameplay

The object of the game is to gain victory points for monsters killed, treasures gained, etc. The game ends when one player defeats the Big Boss of his/her dungeon. Each player has to choose another player’s dungeon to explore, not their own. So there is great uncertainty as players can choose different dungeons to explore which could be quite advantageous, or not so… The dungeons are populated with monsters, traps, and treasures and in the expansion rules, secret rooms which are hidden from view until you enter each room of the dungeon.

Loot and Scoot is an easy game to pick up and the game process is as follows:

Hire Hirelings – or actually, cannon fodder  that you push in front of you to take hits from monsters before they get to your adventurers, heh, heh, heh…

Beg funds (takes up both actions in a turn) – cash poor? need to hire help or train skills? go cap in hand to your friendly neighborhood bank manager

Build an upgrade – Upgrade buildings allow you to increase the abilities of your adventurers which helps them live longer. This is a good thing…

Train adventurers – That’s what the upgrade buildings are for

Trade Adventurers – you can trade adventurers with other players at a “negotiated” price, interesting… heh, heh, heh…

The 2nd action can also be one of these OR, you can go Lootin’

Lootin’ involves going into the dungeon and exploring each room, taking on the monster located there, overcoming the trap and/or collecting treasure. You can go as far along in the dungeon as you dare. After all, if you can get rid of more monsters and get to the Big Boss before the other players you should win. Right?

Well, As you do this, you will take hits and your party will weaken and diminish and you will eventually get to a point when you have to decide whether to carry on or cut and run to live to fight another day. So you will need to go back to the local Inn, drown your sorrows and build up your team again. You see, in most cases, you need a 6 on a 6-sided die to kill the monster and that just doesn’t happen too often. Hence you really have in essence, a push-your-luck game with a 1 in 6 chance of killing baddies. Not too easy :-p

So there is lots of tension and frustration as luck plays a huge part in your destiny. You can only do so much to up your odds but those monsters are quite unforgiving. Well almost. You see when a monster is too big for its room size, the poor little diddums is so uncomfortable that you can hack em down on a 4+ die roll. Although this doesn’t happen much.This can be very frustrating for experienced players as they have such limited control to impact their ability to kill monsters as it all comes down to rolling a 6.

 

Did it work for me?

As a simple gateway game, this all works very easily and clearly. The scope is limited but if you are looking for a light dungeon bash to play with new gamers, or to introduce others, especially kids, to the fun of dungeon crawling, this can be an ideal place to start.  As a relatively fast filler, or a solitaire game, again Loot and Scoot works. It isn’t big and sexy like the glamorous D&D board games for instance, but you know what? It basically plays in a very similar way and it is a lot easier and less time consuming to get into, set-up, and play. So for me, it works as a nice simple and very fun alternative to the big games. Is it deep and detailed? nope. It doesn’t need to be. Most importantly, if you accept the luck element is there to make sure it isn’t an easy steamroller over the monsters and still present a challenge, you will enjoy it.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 7 out of 10

Family friendly?

Actually, it is light enough that it could actually be a fun laugh for families.

For more information about Victory Point Games go to – http://victorypointgames.com/index.php

The Story of Espionage – Part One

 

The Story of Espionage – Part One

As I posted previously, Michael Fox of the Little Metal Dog Show and I are designing a game we currently have named Espionage. We thought that it would be interesting to start a designer’s diary and Michael has done so on LMDS and I have added my comments. I will be copying our notes here as well. These will also be supplemented with the occasional conversation which Michael on his LMDS podcast. Please feel free to post your comments!

Here is the start of our designer’s diary as originally posted on the Little Metal Dog Show

Wherein Michael reveals a desire to create but an inability to see it through. However, good fortune is just around the corner…

The cat is out of the bag – I’m co-designing a board game alongside Mark Rivera from Boardgames in Blighty. I have no idea if it’ll be any good, but I thought it’d be nice to tell the story of what’s happening. Essentially a designer’s diary, I plan on putting regular-ish updates here on the site to keep you lot appraised of what’s happening. We’re actually a fair way into the design process but didn’t want to even announce anything until we had something tangible. The game has a working title of Espionage and – at the moment – is in the ‘nearly a fully working prototype’ stage. More information will be available soon, we promise! In the meantime, here’s part one of the diary.

The old cliche is that everyone has at least one book in them. Look into the world of board games and that changes slightly as everyone and their dog reckons they’re capable of creating something that they’re sure other people would enjoy playing. Of course, who am I to buck the trend? I’ve been playing games since I was a child and reckon I’ve got a decent enough handle on them. The only issue – a complete lack of experience, ideas and resources. Never stopped me before, mind.

Flash back to October 2010 and the BoardGameCamp event that took place in London. Prior to the day, organisers announced that there was to be a special strand – a design competition, the winners of which would have their game published. This was far from your normal print run though – the victorious game would actually be put on the back of the Christmas 2011 Selection Box released by Cadburys. For those of you outside the UK, the selection box is a long running tradition, a bunch of chocolate bars and sweets put in an oversized tray, boxed up and given to people as a filler gift. I recall playing simple roll and move games that were printed on them when I was young – far from the things I love to play now, admittedly, but they were a diversion and kept me and my brother entertained.

The question that hit me was would it be possible to cross the two parts of my life? Could a game be made that appealed to the market that selection boxes are aimed at? In other words, could I put together a game for kids that was a bit more that the usual throw-a-dice, move-a-piece you’d normally get on the back of the box? Well, no. I’m not that good working on my own, but if I had a group to work with… maybe we could do something.

After putting a shout out on twitter, a group was formed. Neil from Thru the Portal, Mark from Boardgames in Blighty, my friend Chris and myself would form a team to create something. We had no idea what would come from this meeting of minds, but there was little harm in finding out. After all, what did we have to lose? Come the day of BoardGameCamp, we were run through the rules along with everyone else. I all honesty, there were a lot more teams there than I expected. Perhaps the lure of the potential glory was more than I thought…

Ideas were bounced around, and after not very long we had a basic idea for a game – up to four elves would run around a board grabbing presents for Father Christmas to deliver. These were represented by tiles that would be randomized and placed face down on the board. Most were a single present, some were double (woooo!) and some were nasty surprises, allowing you to steal from another player – after all, what’s a game without a little nastiness? A couple of playtest games later and we were happy – we had achieved a decent enough ruleset that worked, a game that was easy to understand and set up, and a playtime that wasn’t too long but still felt substantial.

The only problem though? It didn’t look too great. None of us considered that it needed to look amazing to catch the judges eyes – after all, that was what an art department would do if we were lucky enough to win. We hoped that the quality would shine through and – strangely enough – it seemed to capture the attention of the playtesters. Come judging time, we knew we’d be happy enough if we even got a mention, but as the games were picked off one by one… well, we were getting more than hopeful. It was down to the last two and – our game was announced. Our little design team had come second. Not bad at all considering that none of us had ever tried such an endeavour previously.

Cadbury, bless ‘em, sent us all massive hampers of chocolate a few weeks later to say thanks.  Our game is officially theirs so we can’t say much more about it – secretly we’re all hoping they realise that it’s actually a work of genius and they’ll use it anyway – but the thought was always in the back of my mind. Is it a one off or could I make something that could potentially be published. Again, I dismissed the thought. I don’t work well on my own. Then, however, an email arrived.

“It’s Mark. I’ve had an idea for a game, but I think I need your help…

Mark’s Response to The Story of Espionage – Part One

Michael is right in saying that many of us gamers feel that we have at least one game design in our heads and I am no exception. I’ve had this idea for a game for quite a while really.

Creative ideas are funny things aren’t they? They come and go as little sparks that fire off and for a brief moment, enlightenment…

Then life intervenes and you carry on with the normalities of life, probably never giving much more thought to the sparks of enlightenment that flash through our day, except every once in a while something sticks and gnaws at you. and so it has been with a particular idea I’ve had for a game. I’d say its been about 2 years since the germ of my thoughts began around this game and I’ve mused about it on and off without much development although I seem to remember writing down a few thoughts about it once or twice but for the life of me, I have no idea what I did with them.

I’d not done much at all in the past in terms of game design although, funny enough, I just remembered that I did submit some initial drafts of a couple of war games based on battles from the American Civil War (along with an article on the SAS) to Ty Bomba when he started up Command Magazine. He came back with useful comments for developing the games and he bought the article but unfortunately, a relocation to England got in the way and I never got back to them. Shame really. Hmmm, I still may have the materials somewhere… I digress…

So anyway, as Michael notes, we met at Boardgamecamp last year. We had been in touch for a little while and it was great to meet up in person and yes, he was the catalyst for forming a team to do an on-the-spot game design and I’m really glad he did as it was a great and fun experience. I think the thought that our little game could get in front of over 1 million UK households was quite mind blowing and at the end of the event, I think we were quite satisfied at coming in 2nd place. The huge basket of Cadbury’s goodies went down very well too.

So, earlier this year, my thoughts around a board game design started to gear up a bit and I quickly realized that it would be useful to partner with someone to carry it forward. So who better than my friend, Michael Fox of the LMDS…

Review – White Star Rising: Nations at war from Lock n Load

Review – White Star Rising: Nations at war from Lock n Load

Designer – Mark H. Walker

Artwork – Olivier Revenu and Guy Riessen

note – many thanks to the folks at Lock n Load for providing me with a review copy of this game

Back in the day… yes, I am an old time grognard, or war gamer… when I first discovered war games, I came upon the Avalon Hill game company, and in particular, a game called Panzerblitz which was about combat on the eastern front during World War II. Being a military history buff since I was a kid, a game where you got to control tanks and troops to take objectives and defeat the enemy was right up my street. And Panzerblitz had these nice sized cardboard counters with images of tanks!!!!

I remember spending loads of time playing and loving it but I was more interested in the western front in World War II. Then along came Panzer Leader! A western front version of Panzerblitz! What more could I ask? I loved it at first but I did find it to be more complex and time consuming so I gradually lost interest although I did love the tanks.

Fast forward to recent times and the thought occurred to me that I hadn’t played that type of game in a very long time. And since I’d been getting back into war gaming lately, wouldn’t it be fun to try my hand at Panzer Leader again? Well, I don’t know. I didn’t remember it as particularly engaging and fun. Not like Panzerblitz.

What’s a boy to do? Well I have been following Mark H. Walker’s Lock n Load Games for quite a while and I spotted a relatively new release called White Star Rising: Nations at War which was similar in setting and scale to Panzer Leader so I though, why not?

In the box you will find over 300 game pieces with gorgeous art work depicting armor, infantry and support units and weapons. You also get four gorgeous 11″ x 17″ geomorphic map boards which can be re-arranged to make many configurations so you can have lots of opportunity to create western front battles of your own design. Player aids, dice and rules/scenarios and you are all set.

The quality of components are very nice indeed. However I have 2 gripes which are shared by others – namely, the game boards are subject to warping. Not a good thing. I don’t know the production answer to this but it needs to be resolved. Also, as nice as the counters are, there is a lot of information on them and hence the print is rather small – tough on the old eyes. and the colours chosen also makes some of the numbers tough to see.

Edit – I understand now that the board warping is rare and easily resolved through a bit of careful bending. It worked for me Also, the counter printing is NOT a major issue and works well. Probably my aged eyes fading!

These aren’t mere quibbles although certainly not game breakers as this is a brilliant game otherwise.

Game Play

Not a game for beginners per se, White Star Rising is part of the Nations at War system and can be picked up by those unfamiliar with this type of game with a bit of effort and time. The rules are familiar fare to experienced gamers for sure and it didn’t take me long at all to go through the rules and pick up how to play. The rules and scenarios are clearly laid out and set up with easier scenarios first to help you learn the system.

The process of play is as follows:

– Operations phase – players pull chits representing the military formations involved in the scenario which enables them to activate the units of each formation to move and have combat. What is particularly the best part of the game is that each turn, you never know in which order you will be able to activate your formations. In fact, you may pull a chit which ends the turn and then you have lost your opportunity! So there is considerable pressure on the players to make the most of each turn. A very simple mechanisim, but effective in bringing the uncertainty and fog of war as well as focusing your mind.

– Marker removal phase – this is an administration phase where you remove markers, replace eliminated headquarters, etc.

– Formation impulse – assuming a formation is activated, you check to see if they are within command range of their leader or sub-leader and if so, units are allowed to move or have combat. You also try and rally disrupted units.

– Movement  – where you move units subject to terrain restrictions, transport units (mechanized infantry can be on foot or flipped over depicting being transported by armoured trucks).

– Combat – standard fare including ranged and assault combat as well as overrunning units in clear terrain. Interestingly, and very welcomed is that combat is very easy to resolve as it is based on number of dice rolled to determine number of hits you have a chance to make and then the defender rolls to see if any of the attackers hits can be blocked. Results can be misses, disruption and damage. All very easy and fluid. Didn’t take me very long at all.

To me, the mark of a good, well designed war game is directly aligned to the lack of need to keep going back to the rulebook to check understanding, check for exceptions to rules, etc. Mark Walker has done a great job here. I quickly found that I just didn’t have to go back into the rulebook much at all and I could get on and play. With my limited time this is simply a brilliant aspect of the game. Yes, I had to check the rules for a few bits and pieces but all in all, there is little down time away from the action.

This is not a game for the heavy war game fan. You aren’t going to find lots of stats and exceptions to rule 9.1.2b paragraph 2… You can play this game rather than just experience the detail and for me, it works admirably at that level.

 

Did it work for me?

Fun is the name of the game for me and White Star Rising has it in spades. It hit just enough theme, detail and mechanics for me to enable me to get into it rather quickly, play it and enjoy it with little muss and fuss. It is gorgeous to look at and certainly fulfills my need for a light/medium weight game that is first and foremost FUN!

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 8 out of 10

Family friendly?

Doubtful, as its really for war game enthusiasts.

For more information about Lock n Load games go to – http://locknloadgame.com/

Design update taster – ESPIONAGE

As announced previously, Michael Fox (Little Metal Dog Show) and me, Mark Rivera (Boardgames in Blighty) are collaborating on a new game design called ESPIONAGE

London circa 1910, is a bustling city with a growing population. Rumblings of discontent amongst the masses across Europe and the rattling of sabres amongst the powers of Europe have resulted in a number of military alliances. King Edward the VII dies in May and George V is on the throne. Talk of an impending war is in the air. The threat from the Kaiser’s armies and fear of an invasion by Germany is rife.

Championed by amongst others, Winston Churchill, the recently formed Secret Service Bureau, is tasked with rooting out foreign intelligence agents to protect Britain’s security. Rumours abound and London seems to be the ideal location for enemy operatives to blend into society and carry out their nefarious work.

Dispatching their counter-intelligence agents, the Secret Service Bureau, sets out to discover the Kaiser’s agents and stop them from carrying out acts, which could make Britain vulnerable in the event of war.

This is where you come in…

Can you, as one of the King’s unsung agents, complete missions to prevent the German agents from undermining Britain’s security? Or… As a German agent, can you successfully complete missions that will bring valuable information back for the Kaiser’s military leaders?

Espionage is a light-hearted game for 2-6 players, set in London in the period prior to the breakout of the First World War.

The players take on the roles of German Intelligence Agents or British Counter-Intelligence Agents who carry out various “Missions” to gather or prevent the gathering of military intelligence in one of the world’s most important cities.

Note – the Missions and characters in this game are loosely based on some actual events and people whilst others are based on those dreamt up by fictional stories from the period.

We will be putting up Designer Diary notes periodically and invite your thoughts and suggestions.

New release from White Goblin Games: Cherokee

New release from White Goblin Games: Cherokee

2e Exloërmond, The Netherlands – 350,000 copies is what he sold from his most successful game to date, Saboteur. We’re talking about Belgian game designer Fréderic Moyersoen, of course. His newest release – called Cherokee and being published by White Goblin Games in May – has the same potential. It’s one of those games that offers a lot of fun, in a rather small package… A tin can, that is.

White Goblin Games will publish the game in a multilingual edition, including rules books in English, German, French and Dutch. The story line is just as simple as the game itself: After the death of Yonaguska, the Cherokee tribe meets to select a new leader. As always with the Native Americans, the wise elder have the most influence and occupy the highest positions in the hierarchy. In view of their old age they are also vulnerable to the youngsters, who want to take their place and do not hesitate to challenge their opponents. Which clan can obtain the most feathers and thus select the new leader?

The aim of the game is to get members of your clan as high in the human pyramid as possible, as well as as often as possible. Players will however definitely try to hide their clan colour in this very easy-to-learn-but-hard-to-win card game. If you don’t keep your identity secret during the battle for selecting the new leader, you might not be able to win this game.

A trailer for Cherokee has been released in the meantime on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLlMkOuPpZ0. After the success of Get Nuts (see http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/69587/get-nuts) this is the second, ‘own’ release from Dutch publisher White Goblin Games this year so far.

Cherokee will be expected in stores May 28th. The game will make its debut on the Zuiderspel fair, Eindhoven (NL), April 25th, where it will already be demonstrated!

More information: