Washington’s War

Washington's War

I played Washington’s War with John on Friday night. I played the original, We the People, a few years ago. Just about the only thing I remember about We the People was that it was a great game let down by a tediously slow battle card system. Washington’s War fixes that simply with a modified die roll. Both games have top-notch components, so this seems the perfect reprint.

We the People “started the Card Driven Wargame genre”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/519144/card-driven-wargame-cdw-evolution and as a genre-creator it has genuine quality. If only it had been imitated by more games that were as fast-playing and easy to understand. Twilight Struggle fits that bill and the BGG ratings speak for themselves. I would like even simpler, shorter wargames to come out of this mould, but I doubt I’ll see them. If you like Twilight Struggle or Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage you will almost certainly like Washington’s War.


The Bloody Borders

I visited Julian on Thursday to play miniatures. I never got into miniatures, simply because I don’t paint, but I’ll play with someone else’s toy soldiers, particularly if they paint well.

We played a game of The Bloody Borders, a super-simple skirmishing rules set from “Wargames Illustrated”:http://www.wargamesillustrated.net about the Anglo-Scottish “Border Reivers”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Border_Reivers of the 16th century.
* “background”:http://www.wargamesillustrated.net/gallery/download/Bloody%20Borders%201.pdf
* “rules”:http://www.wargamesillustrated.net/gallery/download/Bloody%20Borders%202.pdf
* “campaign rules”:http://www.wargamesillustrated.net/gallery/download/Bloody%20Borders%203.pdf

We played two linked scenarios. In the first, my English village, populated by the Charltons, was attacked by Julian’s marauding Armstrongs trying to capture livestock. In the second, a posse of Charltons pursued the Armstrongs back towards the border.

Julian used 28mm plastic miniatures. As you can see from my poorly lit photo, they look great. He uses a fast varnish-dipping technique, which he says is considered a bit naff among the cognoscenti, but I think they look very nice. The bulls were adapted from wine bottles, which is why they look Spanish.

Bloody Borders close up
Bloody Borders close up

I like the free-wheeling, fast, casual nature of miniatures with Julian. It’s about seeing how a narrative unfolds, not about realism or winning.

Napoleon’s Triumph

Peter came over and destroyed me at “Napoleon’s Triumph”:http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/18098. It’s very difficult to grasp how to play well. I read the rules, but they didn’t help much when playing. Peter understood the basics, so cleaned up.

As many have said, Napoleon’s Triumph is a game that reinvents the wargame. Imagine Nightmare Stratego and maybe you’ll have an idea. I suspect I will not like it in the long run, as I like to relax while playing games, but I was very wrong about Age of Steam on my first play, so it will get another chance.

Before I play Peter again, I’m going to try to find the time to play the solitaire scenario with Vassal.

A House Divided

We had another go at the 10 round 1861 scenario and finished in 90 minutes. Again we had a great time and this time the Confederacy had it their way. It’s a fast playing and clever game. I don’t have any real desire to step up to a longer scenario yet.

We stuck with the Basic rules, but only used one optional rule – Novice Union. Next time we’ll play with the “WBC scenario”:http://cheyne.net/blog/2009/05/a-house-divided-wbc-scenario/.

It was good to play with the map fixed by the stickers that arrived quickly from Phalanx Games. It’s great that they are still supporting this game, several years after publication and even to someone who bought the game second hand.

A House Divided – WBC Scenario

I did some research about the optimal scenario for “A House Divided”:http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/701. I emailed “Daniel Broh-Kahn”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgamedesigner/4090, who ran two A House Divided tournaments at the World Boardgaming Championship.

Basically, the Advanced rules were used, with no optional rules, unless both players agreed.

There are three session reports at the WBC website:
* “1999”:http://www.boardgamers.org/yearbook99/ahdpge.htm
* “2000”:http://www.boardgamers.org/yearbook00/ahdpge.htm
* “2001”:http://www.boardgamers.org/yearbook01/ahdpge.htm

All the games were 10 turn scenarios.

The “rule of 7”, was used to minimise luck:

bq. The sum of your marches die roll and your recruiting die roll in a month is always seven. As all scenarios start with a 1 for marches for both sides, things get bloody quickly.

In 1999 and 2000, they tried to follow the campaign game over the rounds – in other words, 1861 for the first round, 1862 in the second round, 1863 in the semis and 1864 in the final.

In 2001 they abandoned this in favour of the 1861 scenario throughout as it had proved the most balanced.

By 2001, there were concerns that the short scenario favoured the Confederates, as they can play suicidally on the last turn:

bq. A possible addition to next year’s tournament would be a variable ending chit for the scenario, preventing the Confederate player from end-gaming the situation and picking up easy cities with no chance of retaliation, as the Confederate always has the last player turn. In this possible tournament addition, the Confederate player rolls to end the game on turn 9 (33% chance) then again on turn 10 (67% chance) and finally on turn 11 (100% chance).

I’ll give this ruleset a try, once we are up to trying the Advanced Rules.

I “crossposted”:http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/408176 this to the Geek.

A House Divided

“A House Divided”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/701 is an excellent introductory wargame. It is still popular after 28 years, which says it all.

I went over to my b-i-l’s last night and we played the short 10-turn 1861 scenario using the basic rules. We played with all the pro-Union optional rules, to give Tully an advantage. He didn’t need them as he won comfortably.

The components are top-notch, however, we were a bit caught out by some “map errors”:http://www.boardgamegeeks.com/thread/19113. Atlanta and New Orleans should be victory cities, but the map is printed wrongly and caused confusion. I hope Phalanx send me stickers for the board, otherwise I’ll print and stick the corrections myself.

People complain that the game is too simplistic, but Tully has not played any wargames other than Risk before and hates my monotone rules explanations, so it was perfect. It is also a flexible system, with two rules sets – Basic and Advanced, and many optional rules, with the impact on game balance shown. There are also different scenarios, for 10, 20, 30, 40 or more turns. It means you can customise the game for the situation. As we play more, we’ll ramp up the rules complexity.

Maybe if Mikko had tried a 20 turn scenario he would have “enjoyed it more”:http://www.melankolia.net/gameblog/archives/2004/03/a_house_divided.html?

1989: Dawn of Freedom

Hardcore Twilight Struggle fans will know this already, but there’s a new, free, print and play game that uses almost the same mechanics to depict the Democratic revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989, called “1989: Dawn of Freedom”:http://www.boardgamegeeks.com/boardgame/26997.

Ted Torgerson is an interesting designer. He seems to be disinterested in professional games publishing, but just wants to do it as a hobby. I have come across a couple of his old games in the past:
* “Free At Last”:http://www.boardgamegeeks.com/boardgame/23312 – another card driven wargame, this time simulating the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s.
* “Sharks and Jets”:http://www.boardgamegeeks.com/boardgame/22083 – a “tactical combat game based on the musical West Side Story” – really.

There is a positive “review”:http://www.boardgamegeeks.com/thread/397394 at the Geek and all the materials required to play are “available”:http://social.consimworld.com/profiles/blogs/final-1989-rules-cards-and-map at Consimworld. Most importantly, it’s available for play at “Wargameroom”:http://wargameroom.com, so you can be sure it has had some tough playtesting.

I’ll have to muster the time and materials to assemble 1989 and give it a try.