Boardgames in Blighty 2014 in review

Me

Boardgames in Blighty 2014 in review

I’ve received a 2014 stats review for my tiny little corner of the boardgaming world which I started in January 2010.

Crunchy numbers

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 52,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 19 sold-out performances for that many people to see it. Fair dinkum, I’d say…

There were 327 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 70 MB. That’s about 6 pictures per week. Not as prolific as some but my decision to become much more selective in what I post about has worked for my needs.

The busiest day of the year was December 22nd with 274 views. The most popular post that day was Yes, I am a Grognard (wargamer). That is really interesting as I posted that one on a whim. The Grognard community is very supportive so thanks!

Posting Pattern

In 2014, there were 123 new posts, growing the total archive of Boardgames in Blighty to 729 posts since I started. 

Attractions in 2014

These are the top 5 posts that got the most views in 2014.

Review – Theseus: The Dark Orbit from Portal Games

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

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

Review – Kampen om Norge (Battle of Norway) from Vega Forlag  

Review – Thunderstone Advance from AEG (a solitaire viewpoint)

Interesting how 3 of these are new releases from Victory Point Games. Not surprised to see Theseus as Portal Games continue to publish popular and intriguing games. Very surprised about Thunderstone Advance only in that I hadn’t realised that it has maintained such popularity, as good as it is.

How did they find you?

The top referring sites in 2014 were:

  1. boardgamegeek.com
  2. twitter.com
  3. facebook.com
  4. grognard.com
  5. victorypointgames.com

Lesson for any blogger is to keep working the social media proactively.

Where did they come from?

That’s 129 countries in all! Most visitors came from U.K. which pleases me as that’s where I live. The United States & Canada were not far behind. Really happy to see that I have a reasonably global reach. The internet is indeed, amazing.

 

So what does this all mean for me and Boardgames in Blighty?

Well, if you’ve been checking in with me, you will have noticed that I have significantly reduced the number of reviews, choosing instead to focus on news posts. With a year behind me where I was made redundant, found a new job, relocated to London, had a few health challenges and worked with Backspindle Games to get Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice 2nd Edition funded on Kickstarter and out to supporters as well as into the wider market, my time for reviewing games has become very limited. What’s more, I found that I was losing the fun of playing where it was all about writing reviews. That is a very bad thing for me.

So, I will continue as I am, posting news I think is interesting, particularly regarding my awesome friends from Victory Point Games, Columbia Games, Backspindle Games, and Esdevium Games with the odd review if I can make the time. Note – My reviews will likely be based on solitaire play as I don’t have a game group now. I’m also hopeful that there may be some podcast involvement in 2015 hopefully so watch this space.

That is unless, some of you are keen to post reviews or articles as guest contributors… if you are interested, DM me on Boardgamegeek where you can find me listed as mrivera.

Anyhoo, I wish you all a wonderful 2015. Play more games, spread the word and grow our hobby!

Boardgames in Blighty News – Spy Guys – Victory Point Games PRESS RELEASE

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Boardgames in Blighty News – Spy Guys – Victory Point Games PRESS RELEASE

Tovarich Pizann’s Spy Guys is a deceptively simple hand-and-tableau game of deduction and “take that!” where each of the 3 to 6 players is a spy trying to be the first to collect a set of four cards needed to complete their mission and escape! Since not everyone needs the same cards, players will discover fascinating moments of cooperation and conflict. Players with a hint of good memory, a good read of human nature, and a dash of luck can get their spy safely home first!

This game is only available in clamshell packaging.

Click here for all the details on Spy Guys.

Boardgames in Blighty news – NSKN Games announces the Kickstarter campaign for Edge of Extinction – an expansion to Exodus: Proxima Centauri

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NSKN Games announces an expansion for Exodus: Proxima Centauri

NSKN Games announces the Kickstarter campaign for Edge of Extinction – an expansion to Exodus: Proxima Centauri revised edition, a reprint of the base game and the Upgrade Pack.

Bucharest, Romania; Warsaw, Poland – December 23rd, 2014. NSKN Games are proud to announce a Kickstarter campaign for Exodus: Edge of Extinction.

In January NSKN Games will start a new campaign on Kickstarter to raise funds for an expansion for Exodus: Proxima Centauri revised edition. Together with the Edge of Extinction Expansion, the campaign will allow the company to reprint the base game, as well as an upgrade pack that brings the first printing of Exodus up to date and allows its owners to make full use of the upcoming expansion.

Exodus: Edge of Extinction expansion introduces asymmetrical game play through six diverse factions, new technologies, extra cards for all the decks, more ships and cubes and an all new mechanism to the game. [Andrei, please add quote somewhere here].

I designed this expansion with the fans of Exodus in mind. The six factions in Edge of Extinction are the essence of the new asymmetrical game play. Now you will truly feel different, you won’t just build an empire, but you will build your empire and it’s going to be one of a kind.” said Andrei Novac, the designer of Exodus: Edge of Extinction.

About Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Exodus: Proxima Centauri is a 2-6 player game, ages 12 and older that takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes per player. First published in 2012, it was later revised and reprinted, with the revised edition receiving the Dice Tower Seal of Excellence.

The list of differences between first and revised editions of the game can be found here.

About NSKN Games

Established in April 2011, NSKN Games specializes in strategy board games. Known for unique and bold designs, the company publishes games enjoyed by both hardcore gamers and the more casual, who game with friends and family.

In 2014 NSKN Games published Praetor, Versailles and Progress: Evolution of Technology – the company’s first Kickstarter project that raised 500% of its funding goal.

Boardgames in Blighty Kickstarter news – Ragnar Brothers will be launching a new project for their latest game, DRCongo

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Boardgames in Blighty Kickstarter news – Ragnar Brothers are will be launching a new project for their latest game, DRCongo

My friends, the Ragnar Brothers are at it again. Seriously, they can’t help themselves but to create yet another game on an interesting topic.

The game is called DRCongo and will be coming to Kickstarter soon.  If you are a Ragnar Brothers fan, get your cash ready. If not, this looks like a great place to jump on board. In any case, I will post a note here when I know when the project will go live…

From Boardgamegeek –

The game explores a hopeful hypothesis that if enlightened industrialists worked to develop the economy of this mighty country then it would escape the clutches of a crippling insurgency.
Players build industries and expand a transport net-work of river, rail and roads. Oil, minerals and crops are produced and if sold via the Atlantic port of Matadi will reap rich reward. Players develop their own cities and Hydro-electricity can be sold to these.
The game is built in four game layers with layer two introducing Insurgents and Peace-keepers, layer three the Government and layer four strategic interventions by other countries.

The art looks truly lovely as you can see from the images I’ve posted here.

Congo1Congo2Congo3Congo4Congo5Congo6

Designer’s notes have been posted here –

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1286431/drcongo-design-notes

I asked Steve Kendall a few questions which he has answered below.

1) The wargamer in me wants to play the insurgency bit of course so my first question is why did you go down the road of an economic game rather than a political/military struggle? Any thoughts in terms of the rising influence of radical islamist groups in Africa? 

You’ll have to leave your war-gaming instincts behind, Mark. The game was always set to explore the economic potential of the country and we wanted the Insurgents to be seen as a brake on this happening, rather than the central issue of the game. It’s difficult to fathom the political / military turmoil of this tragic country and we have been very quick to emphasise that we are NOT trying to make play out of an on-going conflict. That said, I think we should also point out that in the game (as at present in the country) there isn’t an out and out war going on. ‘Insurgent’ was the best term we could find as description, but we also considered ‘Bandits’ and ‘Militia’, both of which are perhaps a little less political.

Just to say that at game start there is one Insurgent playing piece (Major or Minor) per province and that players use their Peace-keepers (of which they have just five) to ‘suppress’ an Insurgent by simply being in the same province. Players may also make a simple dice roll to try to eliminate an Insurgent – or lose their Peace-keeper should they fail.

Radical Islamists? No.

 2) Can you enlighten us with an overview of the current and potential future economic, political and insurgency situation and who the players are? 

The players in the game are ‘Industrial Barons’. I like this term because players have to carve out their position across the map-board in quite a free-booting way – they can do their business in any province. Building industries is restricted by the spaces available in each of the ten provinces. Some have two spaces, most have three and Katanga (the great mining area) has four. Not even Katanga has just one type of industry, so there is always a mix between Crops, Hydro (electricity), Minerals and Oil. Furthermore there are ‘single’ and ‘double’ production spaces.

The Insurgents of course are the fly in the ointment. In order to build an industry at least one Peace-keeper must be present to suppress or eliminate any Insurgent there present. Similarly the Barons may place transports and develop cities, but are always hampered if Insurgents are in affected provinces. It’s probably best to point out that three Insurgents appear each phase as dictated by the current Action card.

The economy is always tending to improve – and quite rapidly. In the first phase cycles the Barons will be scratching around for a few $1000 dollars here and there. Later in the game a single type of resource can bring in over $15,000. The reason for this tremendous increase is the driving development within the game; the opening up of transport routes (rivers and railways) to the Atlantic port of Matadi. All resources exported through the port earn the full revenue value as dictated by the International Market. Resources that don’t reach the coast are exported ‘over-land’ i.e. through neighbouring countries and thereby earn only half the revenue value. Worse still, some resources can’t reach the over-land routes and must sell to the Local Market, receiving hundreds instead of thousands of dollars.

There are four ‘layers’ to the game and the rules are therefore divided into four different games, each later one building on the previous systems. The third game introduces the Government. Players must bid to take the role of one of three Ministers: Defence Minister (operating Government Peace-keepers), Interior Minister (buying and operating Government industries and transports, selling any Government resources and developing Government cities) and Finance Minister (adjusting resource values on the International Market). I wouldn’t say it’s very political, but it works well and builds player interaction. The Interior Minister is able to siphon off Government funds – this feels sadly appropriate.

 3) Any chance of an option for a player to represent the insurgency?

No. It might be best to compare the character of the game to that of Viking Fury (Fire & Axe). Players have a common aim; in this case to build the industries and transports of DRCongo and thereafter (and during) to develop cities. Throughout the game, players will help each other in the struggle against the Insurgency. Of course players vie with each other to maximise their score (‘medals’), but never actually conflict. ‘Support cards’ are generally beneficial, but there are some that can be used to hinder other players – and to target a ‘tall poppy’. The Insurgents have no constructive role in the game – I’m afraid you can’t be the Colditz Security Officer!

4) What influenced your design choices for this game? Any tips of the hat to your Angola game? 

We have always enjoyed economic building games and I suppose our games Canal Mania and Workshop of the World are pre-cursors to some extent. However the route building in DRCongo is quite restricted with just four boat counters and three railway counters to place between all players – that’s the total, no more. Players can also place a couple of trucks each onto borders, but this is often a last turn play in order to gain a cheap medal.

We had been playing Planet Steam and I was fascinated by the way the market for resources worked in that game – quite chaotic, yet also strangely logical. That was certainly an influence.

Most design choices sprang from the necessities encapsulated in the theme – so jump to the next question.

Angola? No – although Angola is one of the forty countries represented by the Support cards.

 5) It’s nice to see you guys choosing yet another obscure theme. How did this come about? Tell us about your inspiration.

I read a book called Blood River, written by Tim Butcher. The journey he made down the Congo river (following in the adventures of his forbear, Henry Stanley) mirrored a trip I made up the river some fifteen years earlier. Things had got worse it seems – and it was pretty bad when I travelled.

 Most Ragnar Brothers’ games are driven by a real sense of passion for a theme and DRCongo probably heads that list. I probably spend too much time designing games (my wife would certainly agree) and feel a certain amount of guilt that I should be doing something more useful, if not more altruistic. This is one game (History of the World would be another) where I hope some learning and thereby some good might come about. 

I digress….. of course the designer in me couldn’t resist the elements of play that Tim Butcher inadvertently pointed out; the potential wealth of the country, four different resource types, the defunct transport system, the need to access the Atlantic port, the Insurgent menace …..

6) Do you design with mechanics first or theme first, and why. Any particular innovations?

Theme drives our designing. I’ve tried starting from abstractions (abstract themes or isolated mechanics) and always find myself grasping for a ‘story’ like a drowning man. Any innovation in our games spring from the needs of the theme. Generally we assemble lots of mechanics gleaned from the hundreds of games we have played recently or in the past. This isn’t done in any conscious way, we just find what we need and stick bits together. However we always try to make the games ‘elegant’, by which I mean things should run sweetly and smoothly – but ‘character’ elements are also very welcome. 

Innovation in DRCongo ? Not certain. How about ….

  • Players can use each others’ transports free of charge – that’s quite unusual. It prevents lots of small (and dull and ultimately meaningless) transactions
  • Industries ‘flip’ to produce resources or to help develop cities
  • Hydro sells to cities
  • International Market / Local Market variables
  • Players who ‘drop out’ last, go first (not at all common, that one!).

7) What are your Kickstarter and publication plans and timeline?

 We’re on schedule to Kickstart mid-January. Hopefully Christmas will not have left everyone skint. In order to produce a better video demo we paid rather a large sum to have a ‘digital sample’ made up. This has proved very useful and with blind testing also going on we are confident that the final product is going to be great. More-over it won’t take that long to produce given that the art-work and rules should be totally finished before the end of the Kickstarter. Games should be ready to send to customers by early summer (and that’s 2015 folks!).

Advertising will happen on BoardgameGeek and we will also flag up the project via social media. The target is due to be set at £10,000 – which doesn’t cover our costs, but we really want to get this game out. It will be a tremendous addition to the Ragnar Brothers portfolio.

Oh and ‘yes’, there will be a cloth map available in the Super Deluxe game!

Steve Kendall – Ragnar Brothers

http://ragnarbrothers.co.uk/

Yes, I am a Grognard (wargamer)

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Here’s an article that I wrote and was kindly posted on the Whose Turn Is It Anyway? podcast website here –http://whoseturnisitanyway.com/article-i-am-a-grognard/

If you aren’t a subscriber, check it out as it’s good fun.

 

Yes, I am a Grognard (wargamer)

And I’m proud to say it. We we wargamers are better known within the hobby by the monicker, “Grognards”, in deference to Napoleon’s Imperial Guard,

From Wiktionary –

grognard m (plural grognards)

  1. a grumbler; one who grumbles
  2. an old veteran soldier, specifically an old grenadier of the Imperial Guard (Grenadiers à pied de la Garde Impériale); an old complaining soldier

We wargamers, are a niche within the wider boardgame community. We love to play games about battles, wars, campaigns through all periods of history as well as fictional settings. I have been playing games from a very young age and have loved many different types of games but when push comes to shove, I always go back to wargames as my favourite games to play. And yes, I grumble… a lot. And yes, I have reached 60 this month so I’m an old grenadier in the wargame community. And no, we aren’t warmongers and those who say we are are ignorant idiots.

The truth about us wargamers is out there somewhere…

wargamers

Why do I like wargames? Well I’ve been really interested in history and in military history since I was very young so wargames was an extension of this. Wargames have been a way for me to attempt to get a sense of the problems and challenges in warfare and what commanders and troops had to deal with. Abstracted, to be sure, but interesting nonetheless. Wargames tell the story of these events and bring them somewhat to life. They have always added to what I have read and learned through the years and have given me a profound respect for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

It all started for me with a Parker Brothers game from a long time ago.

1863 from Parker Brothers 

1863

I was particularly interested in the American Civil War as a child and I’m pretty sure that this game was the first wargame I’d ever owned. I remember playing the heck out of it. I don’t suppose that it stands up well today but I was in early Grognard heaven at a young age.

Battle Cry – Milton Bradley 

“Milton Bradley?” I hear you say? Well yes indeed. Another early game found its way into my room and I was off having a great time. The later reinvention of Battle Cry is still in my collection and much treasured.

The first “Golden Age of Wargaming” circa late 1960’s – 1970’s ish…

I was fortunate enough to get seriously into wargaming during what is known as the First Golden Age of wargaming, so called due the proliferation of titles published by 3 companies, Avalon Hill, SPI and Games Designers Workshop.

gettysburg

Gettysburg

My first “serious” hobby wargame, Gettysburg was given to me around 1970, I think anyway. I became aware of the Avalon Hill publishing company as there was a full colour brochure included in the game. I was amazed that the were so many games available. This was a simple game using a square grid for movement of the units.

France 1940 

Another game in the AH stable, and my first of many “hex and counter” wargames, this time set in World War 2, another area of interest for me. Designed by James Dunnigan who I would become familiar with when he started SPI and i became introduced to…

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Strategy & Tactics Magazine

This was a revelation for me. James Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen were keen to take on the Avalon Hill dominance of the wargaming market. Avalon Hill published the occasional game with very strong production and lush components for the time. Dunnigan’s Simulations Publications Inc (SPI) would change this model, producing a ton of titles covering a much broader range of historical topics with relatively decent components and paper/card maps and their marketing flagship was Strategy & Tactics magazine which came with a complete game in each issue. My first 2 issues were these…

S&T1S&T2

Well I say complete…

The proliferation of titles meant that the playtesting was pretty shoddy on a number of titles and there was almost always the eventual errata. To be fair, all wargame publishers had this problem but its more pronounced in SPI’s case due to the sheer volume of titles published.

And the publishers wrote rules almost as if they were legal documents, rather than a user friendly explanation of how to play.

SPIRules SPIerratta

Trust me, it was hard work in those days learning rules. You were forever having to go back to the rulebooks for clarification. But it was worth it! Some awesome games were published back in the day like…

AHGamesnapoleons_last_battles_spi_quadrigame_flatpack_box_frontSquad Leader

SPIWOTRBakshiStalingrad

TSSPanzergruppe Guderian

 

 

There were so many games and the vast majority were traditional hex and counter games. It was quite amazing. The downside of all this was that it became increasing difficult to attract new gamers as there were so many games that were more simulation, less game and added to this was the cost of doing business increasing for such a niche hobby to the point where almost all publishers but Avalon Hill failed to survive, and even they were bought out by Hasbro.

Many of us were saddened by what appeared to be the demise of our beloved hobby…

The 2nd Golden Age of Wargaming

The 1990’s seems to have ushered a new wave of publishers and thankfully, it still continues as business models and production costs appear to have been sustained by the hobby and that is fantastic news. Companies such as GMT, MMP, and a host of smaller wargame publishers such as Victory Point Games and Columbia Games have really published some fantastic games and the hobby seems to be pretty healthy.

The traditional hex and counter games are still there but the rules seem to be better and games more thoroughly playtested in many cases. Card-Driven games, have brought in much more historicity and new approaches such as area control and Block war games added to a much higher standard of graphics have raised the overall standard of wargames across the board.

I personally have become a big fan of Victory Point Games and their States of Siege series of solitaire games.  I would also say that Columbia Games and their library of excellent Block wargames are personal favourites.

Days of Wonder who produce a variety of game styles have an absolute winner in Memoir 44 which is probably my favourite wargame. Its simplicity and accessibility have opened the hobby to many non-wargamers and this can only be a good thing.

Here are some of the cool titles available today. Even if out of print, you can probably find them on ebay.

CombatCommcruelempiresmemoir

 

twilightJC

This is unquestionably the best time to ever to be a wargamer or to discover board wargames!

 

So why write this?

Well, it seemed like a good idea to go down memory lane and talk about something that is a true love. I love being a wargamer. I have learned a lot by playing war games and have made a lot of friends over the years who share this love. I have had such fun and loved stretching my brain to challenge myself against historical leaders and to understand just a bit more about these epic events. Through playing war games I have come to really be thankful for those who fought and paid the price for the freedoms I enjoy.

War games may not be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s fine but for this old grognard, its been and will continue to be an awesome hobby!

Useful links

http://www.consimworld.com/  The leading website for all news related to board wargames

http://www.victorypointgames.com/  One of my favourite wargame publishers

http://columbiagames.com/ Another of my favourite wargame publishers

 

http://www.gmtgames.com/

Boardgames in Blighty Kickstarter news 14/12/14 – If I had the cash I’d look at…

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Boardgames in Blighty Kickstarter news 14/12/14 – If I had the cash I’d look at…

After a couple of fallow weeks where the new Kickstarter board game projects were certainly not worthy of my attention, let’s see what has turned up during the past week. Hello? anything there?

Night

Night of Man

Seasoned tactical wargame designer Mark H. Walker takes on futuristic combat in what looks like a very cool war game.

Lead the desperate Earth Militia or the merciless Aliens in card-driven, board and counter focused, tactical battles.

You control tanks, heroes, squads of soldiers, hover cars, Walkers, missile teams… a lot of stuff. Each of the game’s ten scenarios allows you to control various units, usually between eight and twenty. Players alternate playing cards to move these units on the game board, attack the enemy, and fulfill victory conditions.

This looks like a fun game. The art is excellent and ta da da, da da! It’s Euro-friendly 🙂

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1408460255/night-of-man?ref=category_newest

Oh well, that’s it. Nothing else looks interesting…

Boardgames in Blighty news – Espana 20: Volume 1 – Victory Point Games PRESS RELEASE

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Boardgames in Blighty news – Espana 20: Volume 1 – Victory Point Games PRESS RELEASE

España 20: Volume 1 features two complete games covering key battles fought over control of the Iberian Peninsula.

Considered one of Wellington’s finest battles, Arapiles 20 (July, 1812) from Lance McMillan focuses on the hard-fought meeting engagement between his veteran British forces and Mareschal Marmont’s French army in the hills south of Salamanca. With two armies of equal strength, victory requires careful planning, precise maneuvers, and exact timing to take advantage of the opportunities offered by unexpected events. Will the British player be able to pounce on a fleeting French blunder to win the day (as happened historically), or will the French be able to simply bludgeon his opponent into submission? In Arapiles 20, the outcome of this famous battle is in your hands.

Hans von Stockhausen’s Bailén 20 (July, 1808) showcases the stunning triumph of General Francisco Castaños’ Spanish army over French General Pierre Dupont’s Corps d’Observation operating in the mountains of Andalusia. This game challenges both players: The Spanish must struggle to coordinate the actions of their large and enthusiastic but mostly untrained army, while the French must decide whether to try and hold against superior numbers or conduct a fighting withdrawal back to Madrid. With Spanish guerrillas, a baggage train full of looted treasure, and treacherous Swiss mercenaries who might change sides in the middle of the battle, Bailén 20 offers players plenty of military adventure.

Click here for all the details on España 20: Volume 1.