News – Crushing Darkness: an Augmented Reality Trading Card Game!

 

CrushingDarkness
News – Crushing Darkness: an Augmented Reality Trading Card Game!
Ok, so I’m not a CCG fan, and I don’t post about many Kickstarter projects here, but there are exceptions that I think are worth bringing to your attention (although this is not an endorsement) and here is one.
This Kickstarter project looks interesting as it combines table top and ipad and you may find it worth your time to look into whether you might want to back it.

Crushing Darkness: an Augmented Reality Trading Card Game!

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Review – Cruel Necessity: The English Civil Wars, 1640-1653 from Victory Point Games

Cruel Necessity Slipcover (Front)

Review – Cruel Necessity: The English Civil Wars, 1640-1653 from Victory Point Games

Designer – John Welch

Map art – Tim Allen

Battle Event Card Back Illustration: Vinh Ha

Players – 1 (age 13+

Thanks to Victory Point Games for providing a review copy of this game

Living in the UK since 1990, you might think that I’ve managed to learn quite a lot about the English Civil Wars. The truth is, although aware of them, I don’t know much at all. The reality in the UK is that the history of the Civil Wars is really out of sight and out of mind here, except for the occasional BBC documentary. There is even a large reenactment society here called the Sealed Knot which goes around reenacting battles. I’ve always meant to go watch them but have never made the effort.

I think I will now though… Thanks to what I have learned from playing Cruel Necessity, from Victory Point Games. This is another game from the very successful States of SiegeTM solitaire system, Cruel Necessity is designed by John Welch, who also designed a number of other games using the States of SiegeTM system including, Keep up the Fire! and Levee en Masse.

Solitaire games are a lot more popular nowadays and Victory Point Games, in my opinion, lead the field with their States of SiegeTM system. With Cruel Necessity, John Welch has taken an obscure historical setting, the English Civil Wars, and given them an excellent platform for gaming and learning a lot about these wars which actually had a far reaching impact upon the western world.

Cruel Necessity, presents you with the strategic campaigns, but also puts you into the musket & pike battlefields of the period.

FYI, Oliver Cromwell referred to the execution of King Charles I in January 1649 as a “cruel necessity”.

Unboxing

The game comes with the following components:

– One 22″ x 17″ game map on card stock (unmounted, which would have raised the cost considerably

– One 11” x 17” Battle Display Mat

– 75 cards

– 98 thick, two-sided, multi-shaped game pieces

– One 2-sided player aid
– 2 6-sided dice
– One 22 page full colour rulebook including designer’s notes
The game map is outstanding, displaying England, Scotland and Ireland. The art is excellent, very evocative of the historical period  and very clearly laid out to play the game.

Cruel_Necessity_map

The Player Mat is very nicely laid out, with images of the era and a particularly nice feel of the battlefield and troop placements. This mat is used when specific battles take place and it works brilliantly.  “Keep your faith in God, but keep your powder dry”. Oliver Cromwell.

Cruel Necessity Battle mat

The playing pieces are sturdy, laser cut and look fantastic. I would say that this is the best counter art that Victory Point Games has produced to date. Bravo! Pieces represent the 4 Royalist armies that are marching on London, the tactical troop formations, the political and religious factions, fortresses, as well as information counters.

CruelNecessity_Counters(Front)_v1-1

The cards are in 3 decks representing each of the 3 wars. They are excellently produced. There are Event cards covering various historical events and the military, religious and political actions in the game. There are also Achievement cards which can be purchased, again representing historical events.

Cruel Necessity cards 1 v1-0 (ALT) Cruel Necessity cards 2 v1-0 (ALT)

I have to say that the presentation of the game components for Cruel Necessity is top class and rivals, if not betters, anything currently produced by the larger well known game publishers on the market. In game terms, this is a visual feat and deserves top recognition in our hobby.

Ok, this is all lovely, but how does it play?

Gameplay

As this is a solitaire game, there is a robust game “engine” that you will use to play. If you have played a States of SiegeTM game before, you know the drill for the most part. I won’t go through the full details of the process but will give you an overview of the main structure to give you a sense of how it works. Trust me, this is a game system that you have to experience to really appreciate.

There are set up instructions which clearly explain where everything goes and setting up the three civil war decks.

From the rules –

THE GAME TURN
You are the Puritan/Parliamentary player in this game and the game engine plays the Loyalist forces and Allies of to King Charles I.

1. Event Phase: Reveal the top card in the Event card Draw Pile. If it is an Achievement card, place it face up in one of the three Available Achievement boxes along the top of the map and reveal the next
card in the Event card Draw Pile. Do not proceed to the Action Phase until you have revealed an Event card. There aren’t many Achievement cards and they are worth purchasing for their victory points, with Zeal points when you can, which isn’t often I’m afraid.

If you reveal an Event card, place it face up on the top of the Discard Pile where it becomes the new Current Event card. Complete all of its activities (military, religious, and political) listed in the order that they are presented and then proceed to the Action Phase. Here is where tactical battles occur on the player mat. Also, the Loyalist armies move and adjustments made to the political and religious tracks to reflect the effects of events. Quite often, the effects of events are not helpful to the Parliamentary/Puritan forces. 

2. Action Phase: You may now spend your Zeal Points to attempt to purchase an Available Achievement card, Campaign against Invading Armies on the map, Besiege an enemy Fortress, favorably adjust the Political tracks, etc. This is your chance spend Zeal points to take the fight to your enemies on military, political and religious fronts and purchase Achievements

3. End Times Phase: If you do not control London, OR if you have four or more Political markers (including your and your enemy’s) in their “F” rows, you lose the game immediately. If you have completed the last Event card, the game is over; check the Victory Conditions to see what level of victory or defeat you have achieved.

4. Housekeeping: Prepare for the next turn by removing all temporary Strength Modifier and DRM markers from the map, gaining Zeal Points, and preparing the Draw Pile for the Second or Third Civil
Wars after completing the First or Second Civil Wars.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? The system itself is indeed simple but there are so many considerations to be made, you will feel your brain frying a bit. It took me a practice learning game of the 1st Civil War to get it fully as there are a number of small things to remember. The player aid helps a lot with this. Also, the system for the tactical battles is actually pretty easy to learn and plays in minutes.

All in all, this is not a difficult game to learn at all if you have played other games using the system. It is more advanced in scope than some of the earlier games using the States of SiegeTM system. If you are new to the system, it may take you a bit longer to learn but overall it won’t cause you too many challenges and you will be well into it.

Cruel Necessity plays pretty quickly. About an hour per war. Actually, for me the first Civil War played longest and the other 2 moved along very quickly as you have the most Zeal Points and battles to fight during the first war. Also, I was really caught up in the flavour text which gives a real history lesson. As I had less Zeal Points to spend due to getting a kicking by the Loyalists, it meant the turns moved more quickly.

Did I enjoy Cruel Necessity?

Quite frankly, this is the best solitaire game that I have ever played, and I’ve played quite a few.

The good news is that the States of SiegeTM system has evolved nicely through a number of games (some of which I have reviewed in this blog) and purrs along in a finely tuned machine. This system works really brilliantly and has reached a new level of cool, in the way it seamlessly combines the strategic picture and challenges with a well-crafted, nicely abstracted tactical battlefield element for the major battles which literally only takes minutes to play.

This is the closest to really playing history in a war game I’ve had in ages without being buried in ridiculous amounts of detail. Although I’m no expert, if feels like John Welch really did his homework. You really get a sense of the wider historical story. Politics and Religion are huge factors and some crazy stuff went on make no mistake. Amazing events including the witch trials. These Civil wars were really wars of religion and it makes fascinating reading, playing and learning.

The game system puts you under a lot of stress with the variety of pressure points that you have to deal with: the relentless march of the Royalist armies, the huge influence of Catholicism, the influence of the Monarchy, the threat of Irish troubles, those pesky Scots, keeping your fortresses strong enough to keep the enemy at bay, never having enough Zeal points available to do what you want to do (and they decrease as your fortresses fall…), and the list goes on. Added to this, you need to punch your weight tactically on the battlefield. I need to work on that as I managed mostly draws. 

I have to be honest and say that it seems that the deck is really stacked against you as the Parliament player. This is a tough game to win and you can see from the way it plays that the odds were in the Loyalists favour. Yet, historically, the Parliamentarian forces won out and set the path for democratic reforms which had huge consequences. It didn’t help that I had a series of bad die rolls but you know what? It was truly a learning experience and a very interesting one. The ebb and flow of the many conflicting interests is brought out very well. And… IT IS REALLY FUN TO PLAY! And that’s what really matters, even if I had my butt kicked.

Oh yeah, one really useful aspect worthy of mention…

Scenarios! Yes, you can play each Civil war separately for a short session or play the whole campaign game. There are set-up and victory point conditions for each. This is an excellent feature if you are short on time and want to have a cool game experience.

I can’t wait to play Cruel Necessity again. It delivers an awesome gaming experience and a step in a brilliant direction in terms of quality of the experience and game dynamics. The addition of the tactical player mat and simple fast tactical battles, adds the charm and is pure genius in design.

Victory Point Games and John Welch deserve awards for this game! If you enjoy solitaire war games, BUY IT NOW!

For more information go to – http://victorypointgames.com/details.php?prodId=253

News – El Generale – is live on Kickstarter

ElGeneraleKS

 

News – El Generale – is live on Kickstarter

This isn’t an endorsement but I thought that I would share something a bit different for a change on Kickstarter which you may want to have a look at…

El Generale is a light fictional Euro war game set in the modern era. Players are leaders of small countries, that want to reach a certain position on the international scene. It seems to evoke Risk, perhaps Diplomacy with a touch of Junta and should be very interactive. 

From the KS page – 

The main goal is to accumulate the most money at the end of the sixth turn of the game.

Every player starts with his own country, the same amount of money, people and the same infrastructure. And of course a handful of Generals for their army. During the game each player has to invest in the military strength (defense and offense), transportation and hospitals to see his country grow.

Attacking other players weakens their ability to generate money. But no one should forget about defense. Player’s army is made of people moved from different regions to the attack or defense formations. During the battle, there are Generals, that can lead soldiers by adding their strength to the army.

The other possibility to attack other players is to send the bombers. But bombs can be stopped by the AA missiles set in the attacked country.

El Generale is fast paced, and it encourages aggressive style of play. Although there is player elimination mechanic, there is also protection from being ganged up on by all other players.

If you are interested in finding out more about this project, co to –

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1059808302/el-generale-it-s-time-to-run

 

 

 

News – Mound Builders – Victory Point Games PRESS RELEASE

MounBuild_Cover(1-up)

 

Mound Builders, from Wes Erni and Ben Madison, is a solitaire States of SiegeTM game where you represent the two largest pre-Columbian Indian “mound builder” cultures that dominated eastern North America from before the time of Christ until the coming of the European colonists in the 17th century. Your empire represents the earlier Hopewell culture and the later Mississippian culture that derived from it.
 
Until the arrival of the Spanish late in the game, you will expand your control across the map of North America, extending it over the various chiefdoms encountered and incorporating them into your economic and religious sphere (“empire”). Your domain will grow and shrink, but be aware that rather than a military advance and retreat, this process represents the rise and decline of culture, religious ideology, and an economic way of life, threatened from outside by competing ideologies and lifestyles as much as by hostile armies.
 
Your goal is to extend Mound Builder culture and amass as many chiefdoms as possible before rival native powers (and the smallpox-ridden Spanish!) rise up to drive you back to your Mississippi River heartland and extinguish your vast capital city at Cahokia, Illinois.
Click here for all the details and to order Mound Builders.
VPG_200x200_logo

 

Review – Paul Koenig’s The Bulge: 6th Panzer Army from Victory Point Games

6thPanzer_Slipcover_v0-3

Review – Paul Koenig’s The Bulge: 6th Panzer Army from Victory Point Games

Designer – Paul Koenig

Art – Tim Allen, Clark Miller, Alan Emrich

Victory Point Games has supplied a copy of this game for review purposes

This is a game for 2 players, aged 13+

The Battle of the Bulge. I haven’t researched this but surely, this particular event during the 2nd World War has been the subject of more war games than most. I’m really interested to see that Paul Koenig has now put his design talents  into producing the first in a new series of games on the German offensive in the Ardennes which effectively was Hitler’s last throw of the dice.

As this game is using the core game engine introduced in his D-Day series and successfully upgraded to fit the Operation Market Garden Series, I was very hopeful that this new series would bring the interesting challenges of the Battle of the Bulge to the gaming table. There were particular aspects of this huge battle that simply needed to be reflected but too much chrome and special case rules might bog down game play in what is at its core, an elegant, very playable system.

Reading the following from the Victory Point Games website gave me confidence…

Using a fresh take on the venerable wargaming system presented in the D-Day and Market-Garden series, Battle of the Bulge authority and game developer Randy Heller has brought Paul’s system up in scale to handle the larger operations in this campaign and provides the great (but manageable!) gaming “chrome” that wargamers so enjoy when exploring history using a “paper time machine” like Paul Koenig’s The Bulge: 6th Panzer Army.

This game covers the operations in the northern half of the Battle of the Bulge with the next game in the series covering the southern half. Ok, so this needs to have the feel of what I understand about the Battle of the Bulge and remain very playable and it looks like the commitment is there to deliver this.

Unboxing

In the box you receive –

•    One 20-page full-color Rules booklet

•    One 11” x 17” mounted, jigsaw-cut game map  and one card stock 11” x 17” map so you can choose to play on either

6PZA_Map(FB)_v1-2

As you can see, the map depicts a variety of terrain types in the northern half of the Bulge including forest and key cities. The Ardennes was a particularly difficult area to conduct military operations and this is reflected well. The game map looks great but you look at it and wonder, how in the world can the German player take advantage of his armoured formations with so many physical obstacles in the way?

•    One sheet of 106, two-sided game pieces
6PZA_11x17Counters_v0-1
 
 
As you can see, the game pieces are really nice and easy to read and quickly spot on the map. The quality and thickness of the pieces will stand up to many plays. I do love the creativity being used for creating small game markers.
•    One two-sided player aid which shows the starting set-up
•    One 4.5” x 11” Turn Record mat
 
6PZA_TurnTrack_v1-5
 
This is a nice addition to the production of the games in this series. No doubt required due the larger scale of the map compared to previous games, it lays things out nicely for reinforcement units. Note the turn track. This game only has 7 turns as it only covers the initial few days of the German offensive in the north of the Bulge.
 
•    One six-sided die

As in the previous games, this game is made to the same  high standard that I have become accustomed to VPG 

Game play overview

Unlike the previous games in the series, the game play does not use a chit-pull system and instead uses a bit of a more traditional “I go- You go” approach which gives the players the choice to emphasise Combat at a cost to Manoeuvre, or Manoeuvre at a cost to Combat.

Game Turn Sequence of Play (from the rules)
1. Mutual Support Phase. On Game Turns 3, 5, and 7, both players receive their respective Support markers.

2. German Operations Phase. The German player receives reinforcements and declares the Combined Operations that his units will conduct this turn, either:

Manoeuvre & Engage to conduct the German Movement Step first, and then the German Combat Step (at half strength); or Fire & Movement  to conduct the German Combat Step first, and then the German Movement Step (at half speed).  German non-Artillery units that have neither moved nor attacked this turn can attempt to Repair adjacent Demolished Bridges.

3. Allied Operations Phase. The Allied player receives reinforcements and declares the Combined Operations that his units will conduct this turn, either:

Manoeuvre & Engage to conduct the Allied Movement Step first, and then the Allied Combat Step (at half strength); or Fire & Movement to conduct the Allied Combat Step first, and then the Allied Movement Step (at half speed). Beginning on Game Turn 3, at the end of this Phase, Allied units can attempt to Demolish or Repair Bridges.

4. Housekeeping Phase. At the beginning of this Phase, rotate German Artillery units that moved so
they again face the German player. Advance the Game Turn marker one position or, if  the last turn is completed, determine the winner according to the Victory Conditions.

 
The process is very straight forward and works very smoothly. This system itself emphasises gameplay over simulation and plays quickly as this is a small game without tons of units and actions to take. The core rules include more traditional rules for –
 
Zones of control – which inhibit movement (unlike the games in the previous series)
 
Terrain effects – for movement you would naturally expect this as well as for combat. Unusually, the terrain occupied by a defender plus a die roll, not its combat strength, determines its defence value. The defender’s die roll compared to the final modified Attacker’s value determines damage and retreats.  
 
German Garrisons – the German player needs to ensure each city taken has a garrison or they lose victory points
 
Artillery – the most interesting part here is that the Americans can move and fire, the German Corps Artillery can only do one or the other.
 
Bridges – the river obstacles are a key to victory for both sides and capturing or blowing bridges is crucial
 
Random Events represent actual or likely events during the offensive which add some nice interesting wrinkles to the game.
 
Optional rules cover Leadership, Allied interdiction, Combined arms, Improved positions, The Fuel Dump. I recommend that you lay with these as they are easily included and add some nice depth to your decision making
 
The rules overall, are very straightforward. Experienced war gamers will want to play with all of the optional rules for the full experience. Less experienced players may want to ease into it but I don’t think they will have any problems getting what the game is trying to do.
 
Do I like Paul Koenig’s Bulge: 6th Panzer Army?
 
The Bulge is right up there next to Operation Market Garden in terms of my interest in the period so Paul Koenig’s Bulge: 6th Panzer Army is a slam dunk winner for me. But interest aside, as a game, it’s probably my favourite Bulge game, having played a few others, as its balance of simple, yet interesting  gameplay works a treat.
 
I love the choice between full movement/weakened combat versus full combat/weakened movement. Both sides are really faced with a tightrope to walk along. This simple, yet elegant design feature really brings the operational problems to life. The German needs to breakthrough and quickly before the US reinforcements arrive to clog up the pinch point cities and bridges, yet the attack strength isn’t as useful but can still have an affect. The terrain is simply a nightmare of broken ground and forest which helps the defenders a lot, especially if the opt for delaying tactics.And if the bridges are blown… Oh, the stress of it all….
 
The US player is weak and thin on the ground (hence Hitler chose the Ardennes for the attack) and can quickly find themselves in a world of hurt with little to stop the Germans. They must stack units where possible, use the most defensible terrain and build improved positions but time in terms of short game length and the advancing Germans make this difficult at best. They can run but they can’t hide, and must counterattack or the German player will simply wrack up the victory points.
 
I think that both players have tough but different challenges to deal with which makes for a fun and interesting gaming experience. The gameplay is smooth, although the combat is a little unusual and takes getting used to. It makes sense and is interesting as at the end of the day, the terrain was a hugely determining factor for both sides.
 
Paul Koenig’s core design with Randy Heller’s development have expanded the horizons of this excellent game system and I can’t wait to play the next game in the series covering the southern part of the Bulge and the heroic stand of the 101st airborne at Bastogne.  6th Panzer Army will get played again, and again as it demands having another go. The ease of play, yet interesting treatment of the huge battle makes for a lot of interesting fun.
 
 
Paul Koenig’s Bulge: 6th Panzer Army is an excellent addition to the series of games based on the same core system. It steps up to a grander scale to match the requirements of the Battle of the Bulge and keeps things at the same level of interesting, elegant simplicity. I recently recommended the D-Day and Market Garden series to a non-war gamer who wanted recommendations of gateway war games. I would likewise add 6th Panzer Army without hesitation.
 
Kudos to Victory Point Games for not just cranking out identikit rehashes but keeping things fresh and interesting. Bring on the next game!
 
 

News – Press release regarding UK Games Expo 2014

UKGElogo

News – Press release regarding UK Games Expo 2014

2014 Press Release

Climb on Board for the UK’s largest Hobby Games Convention
Board Games are back! Thousands of families are discovering a new generation of table top games
that are fresh, exciting and just plain fun. If you think board games are limited to Monopoly, Cluedo
and Scrabble think again. An annual Expo of all the latest non-electronic games returns to the Hilton
Metropole Hotel, NEC at the end of May. When the doors open 5000+ visitors will descend on the hotel
to explore 100+ trade stands, sit down and try out hundreds of new games or enter National
Championships for the chance to be crowned the UK Champion. UK Games Expo is the premier event
in the UK where all aspects of the gaming hobby are represented under one roof:
 Card Games
 Boardgames
 Role-playing Games
 Miniature Games
 Family games
The organizers have worked hard to create a fun event which will appeal to families and the general
public as well as the Hobby Games enthusiast. These are the main elements:
 Tournaments and Championships in the most popular game systems. Prizes include all
expenses paid trips to World Finals in Berlin, Paris and the USA.
 Newest games and releases on show.
 The largest Hobby Games trade fair in the UK.
 Family Zone – lots for the kids to do
 Authors and artists
 Participation and Demonstration Games – No need to know the rules in advance.
 Costumed Groups
 Guests this year include Red Dwarf star Chris Barrie, Material World Presenter Quentin Cooper,
game design legends Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, Roleplaying veterans Monte Cook, the
King of Cooperative Games, Matt Leacock as well as one of the world’s most prolific board game
designers Reiner Knizia.
 Seminars and Talks on hot topics in tabletop gaming and guides on designing and publishing
your own games and books and using crowd funding.
 Space for Open Gaming and the largest Roleplaying Games schedule in the UK.
UK Games Expo is open to the public. You can book in advance OR just turn up and pay on the day.
Details
UK Games Expo is on Friday 30th May, Saturday 31st May and Sunday 1st June 2014 at the NEC Hilton
Metropole Hotel. Adults tickets from £9, Family Tickets from £22. 10’s and under get in free. Visitors
can arrange accommodation via a special rate.
Full details on http://www.ukgamesexpo.co.uk

News – Mage Company launches Hoyuk on Kickstarter

hoyuk

News – Mage Company launches Hoyuk on Kickstarter

Another European Kickstarter project for you to check out.

Hoyuk is an awarded tile-laying & area control game for 2-5 players inspired by the first prehistoric cities built in the Near East 10,000 years ago. We make a trilingual version: English-German-French.

In Höyük each player represents a clan which will settle with other clans to erect a village. A replica of a Neolithic settlement will be built on the Höyük board using tiles to represent houses. Many additional pieces, such as ovens, shrines, and pens, will also aid a player in building their settlements.

The purpose of the game is to build the best settlement and score the most victory points. There are multiple paths to victory with many choices along the way. The best Clan will prevail in Höyük!

Have a look here at the project –

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/magecompany/hoyuk