All posts by rivcoach

A long time Wargamer, I also enjoy American style games, writing about games and designing games.

Boardgames in Blighty News – Attention Chess fans! Super Chess card game is live on Kickstarter!

IMG_0052Boardgames in Blighty News – Attention Chess fans! Super Chess card game is live on Kickstarter!

Chess fans! Yes there are loads of you out there. And I am sure that there are those of you who have tried variants to give this venerable classic game a breath of fresh air.

Well, here is a new Kickstarter card game project with just such a variant called Super Chess. AND IT’S AN ABSOLUTE BARGAIN AT £8 or £15 for 2 decks. Oh yeah, FREE SHIPPING 🙂

From the Kickstarter page –

Super Chess is a card-based expansion of traditional chess.

It puts a twist on the way traditional chess is played by introducing 36 unique cards. When activated, these cards spice up the game in a variety of unpredictable ways.

Super chess is easy to learn and can be enjoyed by all levels of chess players, from amateurs to grand masters. We have worked closely with game designers and chess players to ensure that the game is balanced and enjoyable. 

For casual players it can be an exciting alternative to traditional chess and for experienced players it introduces a whole new level of complexity to the game.

Go to Back Super Chess on Kickstarter! to find this project!

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Boardgames in Blighty reviews – Combat Infantry: WestFront 1944-45 by Columbia Games

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Boardgames in Blighty reviews – Combat Infantry: WestFront 1944-45 by Columbia Games

I haven’t written a game review in quite a while but I thought that I would do one as I am a fan of Columbia Games,

Not too long ago, the awesome guys at Columbia ran a successful Kickstarter for a tactical game which is certainly a departure from the typical Columbia block war game so I was really intrigued to see how their core rules format translated from the usual operational/strategic games that they have been producing and have given me great enjoyment.

Game description from the publisher:

Combat Infantry is a fast-paced World War II tactical level game that employs wooden blocks. The game system features innovative and interactive rules for Fire Combat, Close Combat, Morale, and Leaders. The game delivers a high level of tactical realism, yet is very playable.

In the game, you command a German or American infantry battalion, composed of three infantry companies and a heavy weapons company. Future expansion sets will include British, Soviet, Italian, and Japanese battalions.

Unit types include:

  • Leaders
  • Rifle Squads
  • Machine Guns
  • Mortars
  • Anti-Tank
  • Tank

The game is not card driven; units are activated by company and platoon leaders. The game includes

  • Two geomorphic maps on sturdy card stock at a scale of 100 meters per hex. Extra maps will be available for separate purchase.
  • Blocks 66 Black for German forces and 66 Green for US forces
  • 22 Yellow markers for smoke, barbed wire, fox holes, , destroyed bridges, etc.
  • 6 scenarios
  • dice 4x d10
  • Rules booklet

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If you are used to other games produced by Columbia Games, I can tell you that the good standard of quality, art, etc. is the same as in their other games in terms of functionality, theme and overall aesthetic. I particularly like the artwork on the maps although at times it is a little tough to see how the hill slopes work and there are some challenges of line of sight. But it does look fab. The combat units have more information than typically found in their other games but I had no real problems reading them. The units indicate unit type, strength points, morale, movement, firepower, range, Unit ID (company/platoon/battalion asset).

Unit types include – HQ (platoon/company), Company weapons (MG, Mortar, AT rockets), Battalion weapons (Engineer, Sniper, Tank, AT Gun, Bunker), Artillery and Air support.

The Maps depict terrain which is meant to typify the area of the Normandy invasion with a variety of terrain types which have effects on movement, combat, stacking, line-of-sight. The usual suspects in war games. There are even Normandy hedgerows which provide an interesting challenge.

6 generic scenarios reflecting typical company/battalion actions are provided with the game and and they vary in size, number of units and type of objectives.

 

I have only played this game solitaire so that is the perspective given here. Normally, it is difficult to play block games solitaire but the rules for activating company headquarters addresses his somewhat in that the HQs are randomly activated allowing for a playable fog of war feel.

I won’t go through the gameplay mechanics in detail here but the basic structure of the normal game turn is –

  • Activation of HQs (to give orders to their units)
  • Choose one action per unit that is in command activation range (Rally, Fire, Special Actions (such as dig fox holes), Move and HQ action
  • Assaults

Units are reduced as they take hits from fire or Assaults. Assaults have 3 rounds to either win the attack or retreat. The usual suspects in terms of combat are there – armor is tougher to destroy, infantry is more fragile, mortars can fire on targets that are spotted, etc.

Terrain plays a significant role and provides a lot of the challenge and decision making in Combat Infantry and there is thankfully an integrated terrain effects table which captures all the effects of movement and combat.  Although at first it felt rather burdensome, after a few scenarios it was easier to go through the calculations. Understanding and making best use of terrain is essential to do well and have a chance of securing your objectives. Each turn is like solving a puzzle of marshalling effective combat power and perceived points of enemy weakness and the terrain effects on movement and and combat is significant and can quickly undermine your plans. Even after careful planning, and effective use of terrain, you still have to roll your D10s well to avoid the bad luck that happens in war even when plans are executed well. C’est la Guerre, eh?

As to be expected in a tactical game, there are a number of small detailed rules to add more historicity and “theme or feel” and they generally make sense at the level they are pitched. This game is by no means meant to be a simulation and I say HURRAH! I have neither the time nor inclination to play complex war games. I will leave that to those who do.

Combat Infantry hits a sweet spot for me of just enough challenge, thinking, subtlety and decision-making, at a manageable level of complexity but at its core, this a game that is meant to be played in a shortish space of time, with a very manageable number of units. As I was familiar with the core rule set from other games, I was able to pick it up reasonably quickly. I would say that this isn’t the easiest entry point for non- war gamers but if played with someone who knows the game, can be understood and enjoyed without huge effort.

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3 areas that could be different for me –

  1. the terrain does cause some line-of-sight issues as its not always straight forward and deciding which is the dominant terrain in a hex is arguable at times. But the map looks more realistic than games where the terrain has an unrealistic look as the terrain strongly conforms to hexsides. So its a trade-off.
  2. It would have been nice if the hexes were larger I think as the map feels rather crowded and it gives a sense of static, restricted combat with little room for manoeuvre.
  3. I personally would have preferred historical scenarios and more of them. I’ve never been a fan of generic scenarios in tactical games although I can see why its done. It would have brought the story out more which to me adds value. There are supposed to be more maps and scenarios coming so hopefully this can be done. Also, I can always create my own historical scenarios.

So overall, I really enjoy Combat Infantry and it will be interesting to see how it expands. It is relatively easy to get into, with a short and sweet rules-set. It uses a solid, tried and true core mechanics set which has been adapted to the tactical level. The fog of war rules add such a nice level of tension. It’s not buried in tons of intricate chrome that makes other games hard work. It is very playable in a short space of time and most of all, IT IS GOOD FUN!

For more information go to – Columbia Games – Combat Infantry

 

Boardgames in Blighty Kickstarter News – Past-Go Games launches Leviathan, a micro-game inspired by Moby Dick!

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Boardgames in Blighty Kickstarter News – Past-Go Games launches Leviathan, a micro-game inspired by Moby Dick!

Leviathan is a 2-player nautical combat “micro” card game inspired by Moby Dick.

Overview from the Past-Go Games website

Leviathan is an asymmetrical 2-player “micro” game, which offers a dynamic tactical battle at sea with a mere 18-card deck. The cards themselves are the “playing pieces,” and movement is measured out in real space on any flat surface.

Inspired by Herman Melville’s famous literary nemeses, one player controls the fearsome Moby Dick and a pod of whales, using hidden movement to elude the opponent, who controls the whaling fleet of Ahab and his crew. Moby Dick prevails by destroying the whaleship Pequod, while Ahab won’t rest until the white whale of his nightmares is slain.

Leviathan offers players a simple set of rules but a rich wargame flavor in about 15 minutes and is highly portable. This is a great piece of introductory level naval combat for both new and experienced gamers across the age spectrum, and a wonderful homage to two of literature’s most notorious monsters.

Now this is something completely different that attempts to capture the essence of the battle between Captain Ahab and Moby Dick played out as a naval battle that lasts 15 minutes. I’ve got to say that it is very refreshing to see such a unique game.

It’s priced nicely at more or less what you might expect for a micro-game and comes with a higher pledge level if you would like a playmat. The art is striking and captures the theme very well.

Have a look me hearties at this fascinating project HERE which I would suggest is worth your consideration.

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Boardgames in Blighty Kickstarter News – Darien Apocalypse designer notes from the Ragnar Bros

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Boardgames in Blighty Kickstarter News – Darien Apocalypse designer notes from the Ragnar Bros

It’s unusual to find real creativity and risk taking in the current board game industry, especially on kickstarter where there is a huge predominance of the “same old”. Quite frankly, I find little on kickstarter nowadays  that captures my attention. Thankfully there are a few indie publishers who really push the boundaries. One is Backspindle Games who I have had the privilege to work with. Another is the Ragnar Brothers who I have admired for quite some time and they have become friends.
As I’ve done before, I’ve published designer notes for their kickstarter projects and here is another of those posts for a game that I feel deserves your attention because it is quite interesting and let’s be honest, a risk for them as the theme is pretty obscure.
From the current project which you can find HERE, which has 17 days to go…
Scotland’s tragic attempt to found a New World colony; an extraordinary game experience. Can you defeat the Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

 

1698: The hopes of a nation set sail for the Isthmus of Panama. The Gulf of Darien promised much for the Kingdom of Scotland; independence from England and a chance to stand as equals with the great trading countries of Europe. However, the fate of this New Caledonia would be beset by famine, pestilence, war and death. In under 18 months this brave attempt to carve out a new frontier would end in disaster. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse turned their eyes to Darien and found it an affront to the order of nature. Mortal sinews and stamina would not prove sufficient to overcome the visitation of inhuman wrath and by early 1700 the only remnants of this outpost of humanity were overgrown graves and derelict huts. The Horseman had triumphed. 

Can you do better against infernal forces ? Can you build a thriving community that defies the Four Horsemen?

In this game for 1 – 4 players you will make that arduous journey to Darien and you will attempt to survive all that the Four Horsemen can send against you. Darien Apocalypse can be played cooperatively or competitively; succeed against the Horsemen with or in spite of your fellow adventurers – you choose. The fate of a nation rests in your hands!

If this doesn’t sound intriguing, I don’t know what does. Dang, you are trying to survive the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!

Here is a note from Stephen Kendall of the Ragnar Brothers and I have put a link to the designer notes below, and put up images from the project. Please check it out as you may not want to miss out on this one!
“The Design Notes you see eventually peter out (there’s only so much a man can do!) as yet more minor modifications felt significant and needed a mention. I think the overall gist is actually far more important so don’t intend tidying these up any further.  We’re still making improvements as the rules come together – always been the way with the Ragnar Bros.”

Boardgames in Blighty News – PC Game inspired by classic tactical board war games, Burden of Command, is in development

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Boardgames in Blighty News – PC Game inspired by classic tactical board war games, Burden of Command, is in development

Sorry that I’ve been quiet for a while folks but to be honest, I haven’t seen much worth blogging about. Kickstarter, for the most part, continues to be the home of far too many unimaginative, derivative and “same old” stuff games and I find a lot of what’s on offer yawn inspiring.

Well, I’ve been awakened from my slumber by, dare I say it, a PC game (which I hope will be available on iOS.

From the press release…

Burden of Command:

A Word:  Leadership

A Phrase:  World War II tactical leadership RPG

An Experience:  You’re the Captain of a company of the fabled Cottonbalers, leading your men on and off the battlefield from Morocco to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. Fighting psychology as much as bullets, you must build respect, trust, and battlefield experience to bring your brothers safely home.

Chris Avellone: ““Burden of Command says it all in the name – it’s the first WW2 game I’ve ever experienced where the emotional struggle comes from the top and bleeds right down into the trenches.”

Alexis Kennedy: “The sweet spot for games with narrative is the place where writing meets design. Burden of Command plants its flag right at the heart of this sweet spot.”

Professor John McManus, Curator’s Distinguished Professor of US Military History: “Burden of Command is in a class by itself. I know of no other game that brings history to life with more accuracy and immediacy. Highest recommendation!”

The Team: We’re a small indie bringing unusual skills to bear. Avellone, Kennedy, and McManus act as senior advisors, As lead I draw on a PhD in Artificial Intelligence (Yale) and Masters in Neurophysiology and Psychology (Oxford) to engineer a psychological battlefield.  The team and playtesters include an extensive group of active and retired military as well as professional writers.

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What I am loving about this game is that loads of inspiration has come has come from some of my favourite tactical boardgames such as Ambush, Squad Leader, and Combat Commander.

Here is a link to the Development diary which is very interesting and a worthwhile read. War gamers should keep an eye on this one for sure!

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Boardgames in Blighty – Lessons and top tips from game designers about the design process

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Boardgames in Blighty – Lessons and top tips from game designers about the design process

So I asked board game designers (including some notable names who graciously responded…) to share their lessons learned and top tips about the game design process and here is what they said…

David J. Mortimer – Design within enforced constraints to drive creative solutions.

Gary Dicken of Ragnar Brothers – Think about solo play from the beginning, it will greatly help the multiplayer design process.

Jen Freeman – 1. Be open to ditching the mechanic you really like. 2. Writing rules down helps, you’ll often find ways to simplify the game.

Paul Grogan – 1. You cant please everyone all of the time. 2. Do independent testing and adjust based on feedback.

Jackson Pope – 1) Playtest, playtest, playtest 2) Not all playtest feedback is right, don’t let it take your game where you don’t want it to go.

Michelle Travis – 1. Complicated =/= complex. 2. Document the evolution of your game. ESPECIALLY why you made certain rules/design decisions. 🙂

Page West – 1. Don’t know if I fit here (yet) but I’m working on it!Anyway 1. Don’t force anything. Let it be natural, you’ll have a much better flow in it. 2.Make your own game. Don’t let playtesters do it for you. Try some things they suggest maybe. But don’t add it in every suggestion.

C. M. Perry – Rapid Prototyping & Iteration Testing are the heart of design. Finding & Developing the FUN for the target audience are its soul.

Manuel Correia – 1) Until you play it, it’s not a game. It’s an idea. 2) Listen to the playtester’s problems, but not their solutions.

Concrete Canoe Games – 1) Playing gives you more info than anything so get a proto to the table asap. 2) Your game is not your baby, be willing to listen.

Christopher M. Hamm – 1) What worked in early versions may not work now. 2) Warping your game for one thing means the thing is the problem.

Sarah Reed – 1. Playtest with designers – both your games & theirs. 2. Know your design goals & target audience from beginning, but be open to change

Tony Miller – 1. Graphic design matters when it comes to prototypes art does not 2. Playtest with a specific purpose in mind

Jon Moffat – 1. Be open to ditching a design 2. Players are horrible at suggesting fixes, but they’re great at breaking things

Iain McAllister – 1) your rulebook won’t be looked at by anyone but you for a long part of the design process 2) prototype early and often

Rob Harper – 1) A crappy prototype on the table is worth more than a week of thinking it out. 2) Listen to all feedback but don’t act on it immediately.

Tommy Girard – Don’t leave your idea as an idea. Get it into a hard copy as soon as you can. The longer it bounces around in your brain, the more you feel attached to it and afraid to break it. Have a bric a brac drawer full of game bits too. Very helpful for rapid prototyping. Also design a game for you and at least person will love it.

Carl Frodge – 1.Let your theme drive your design and let your design drive your theme. In other words, mechanics aren’t a game, I can come up with mechanics all day long and never come close to making a game out of them, the mechanics have to have meaning, they have to have a purpose and that purpose has to come from your theme. 
2. Know your theme. If you’re gonna design a game about pirates, you better do some research on pirates. If it’s about ballet, you better learn about ballet.
Bonus: Don’t write down every idea you have, if the idea is really good, you’ll remember it, if you don’t remember it, it wasn’t important for the design.

David Brashaw, Backspindle Games – Balance. Leave no man or woman behind…

Barnslig Park – 3 golden rules: Testing, testing, artwork

Michael Fox – Test, test, and test again. Then do some more testing! Ask the players to focus on one thing at a time that you really want to investigate. Also, don’t worry if something doesn’t work. It may not be right for the game you want to make, but it may be perfect for something else!

Ignacy Trzewiczek, Portal Games – I want too much. Sometimes less is more. Essence of experience is the northstar. I must learn a lot. I can do better.

Cohort VIII Games – 1) Don’t get lost in mechanics or the latest hotness; chase what’s fun for you. 2) If it’s in the way of the fun be able to give it the axe!

Benny Sperling – Some themes are a tough sell. Designing games is a joy, it should be fun-not a chore 😉

Mark Herman – Be true to your topic and it’s easy to start a design but a lot of hard work to publish a game.

Issac Shalev – My theory theory is inspiration only hits when you’re hungry, tired, or holding a baby. Seriously though, 1 – the playtest isn’t wrong, don’t ignore uncomfortable feedback. 2 – Be bold! Make things that excite you and move you! 1 – work with 2 – profit!!!

Chris Kirkman – Creation requires hard work & discipline, but don’t forget to have fun. 2) Sacrifice food, sleep, & whatever else when inspiration hits! food, sleep, & whatever else when inspiration hits!

Corey Young – 1) Don’t just design one game. 2) When you get stuck, put the game away for a month or two. Intentional procrastination, spurs new ideas.

Daniel Skjold Pedersen – 1) Look for & follow the core experience whatever it is. 2) If you want to make games for a living treat it as work w/ all implications. 

Dan Letiman – 1. Design something that you are passionate about (theme or mechanisms), it’ll be more fun that way! 2. Get it to the table early and often

Tony Boydell, Surprised Stare Games – 1. Take your time; it will be ready when it’s ready 2. You can NEVER playtest too much. Not EVER.

Tristan Hall – 1) pay close attention to informed, constructive criticism. 2) filter out entitled bullshit criticism. 3) carefully work out which is which!

TC Petty III – Start boring. If the game is boring & ends up being fun, you have gameplay. Throw out your 1st couple designs. Your next game will be better.

Brian Lelas – Perfect math is not a fun game. Balance is all well and good but difficult decisions are better. Fun comes from the experience, not the stuff making it all work in the background.
PLAYTEST A LOT.
Also, playtest by yourself first, multiple times – you will find all the stupid bullshit obvious stuff immediately within the first 10 mins of moving pieces about. Only when you’ve iterated on this a few times and are not seeing stuff you know are broken, move on to getting others to try the game. The more you can do to avoid comments like “ignore this” or “that’ll be different later” the less confusing a situation a playtest will be for others.

Giuliano Draguleano – My 2 cents…. tell a story. A nice story, maybe not unique (no such things since 3000 years ago), but something that gets the imagination juices flowing.

Byron Collins, Epic Wargames LLC – 1. Simplify. It’s hard to do. 2. Avoid kitchen sinking your design (see 1).

Robert Burke – 1. Don’t hesitate to kill your babies if playtests show positive results without them. 2. Make the game you want to make.

Bez – 1- whatever your desires/objectives are, keep them (and your target audience) in mind. That helps you filter out the conflicting feedback. 2- shut up during post-game discussion. Don’t defend choices, explain previous versions or (even worse) tell someone how they played badly.

Chris Urinko – 1) find other accomplished designers to give you real critical feedback. 2) Play games to broaden your knowledge.

 

Boardgames in Blighty News – Step right up and get a free pdf copy of Casual Games Insider!

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Boardgames in Blighty News – Step right up and get a free pdf copy of Casual Games Insider!

A free pdf Board Games magazine you say? Well that would be corrrrrect! To celebrate their 6th year of publication as they are almost ready to launch their annual kickstarter fundraiser on July 7th, the good folks at Casual Games Insider are allowing me to offer you a free pdf of their next issue.

They would like to offer a free PDF of Casual Game Insider for me to share as a gift to you awesome followers. Interested? Sign up for your free copy here –  http://casualgamerevolution.com/promo/cgi20 and they’ll send you the Summer 2017 issue after it is released. Enjoy!

 

Also, we have announced that our 6th year Kickstarter campaign starts July 7. We have a new look and tons of great content in the works. I hope you’ll consider spreading the word. http://casualgamerevolution.com/kickstarter