Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Perry Travel Battle game

As a change from the summer's diet of boardgames  I tried the Perry's Travel Battle game.  This was launched at Salute back in April when every other person seemed to have bought a set but I'd never actually seen it out of the box.

My friend Anthony had picked up a set and thought the system was rather good so we gave it a go last week.  Anthony, being Anthony, hadn't settled for a straight game out of the box but had replicated it in 6mm using a very nice mat from Deepcut Studios marked out in appropriately sized squares.

The original Travel Battle game comes with 2 hard plastic squares which are configured to form a battlefield complete with villages and woods.  The game also comes with 160 infantry, 24 cavalry and 4 guns all either generically Red or Blue.  Strangely the figures are 8mm which seems an odd size to pick. 

Image result for perry travel battle

The rules are nicely simple and use grid based movement.  An interesting touch is that units have to be linked to a square containing a Brigadier (this can be as part of a chain of units).  One effect of combat or shooting is to force units to retire back to the table edge at which point the Brigadier is forced to ride back and lead the unit back to the frontline, leaving the rest of his command waiting and not advancing.  I quit like grid based games...they can make the game seem rather chess-like but they make movement and range finding nice and simple.

Image result for perry travel battle

As I mentioned earlier, Anthony had replicated the boxed game on the tabletop using the original set  to determine table layout and then placing appropriate terrain on the mat.  We also used his very nice Baccus 6mm Napoleonic figures

As expected Anthony played British (he always does)... I had some lucky early dice throws which caused some casualties from my artillery fire and set the tone for the game.  The French right flank advanced slowly with the Guard proving reluctant to get to grips with the enemy but over on my left my cavalry charged straight into the British infantry.  There was quite a tussle on this flank but my cavalry were quickly supported by some rapidly advancing infantry and began to carve their way through the British flank and then centre, breaking both Brigades in turn.  To be fair this was mainly due to some lucky dice throwing rather than any cunning tactic.

The rules are nice and simple, reminiscent of the Neil Thomas rules (although I think there's more depth to the NT rules) and are ideal for a quick evening game or for the kind of quick game the Travel Battle set aims for.  I'm not sure it would tempt me to buy a set of the Travel Set but I can see the attraction if you want to take a game to a friends or play eg in the pub.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Boardgames #5...Ankh Morpork

This weeks boardgame is Discworld; Ankh Morpork.  We bought this for our son a couple of xmas' ago and it gets a rare outing.  Much to our amazement it sells for silly amounts on eBay these days as it's out of print (or at least people ask for silly amounts of money...I' not sure anyone pays it!!)

The game has up to 4 players taking the part of a character from the Pratchett books (I was Lord Vetinari).  Each player keeps their identity secret as they each have a different victory condition.  In this weeks game my objective was to have a presence in 10 different areas while my wife was attempting to take control of a number of areas.  My son was quietly encouraging the build up of 'trouble' markers across the city.  These are placed when 2 characters are placed in the same area and of course he won when the total reached 8.  He's much better at bluffing than I am as I hadn't worked out who he was until it was too late...remind me never to play poker with him!  To be fair I'd managed to get within a turn or so of winning but I suspect as soon as I reached my target I would have been taken out in a wife/son alliance {as usual...)

Part of the attraction of the game is the quality of the components.  Similar to games like Carcassone etc, the tokens are wooden and include player pieces as well as trolls and demons which can turn up to deny players use of an area.  If you're a fan of the Pratchett books (I'm old enough to remember buying The Colour of Magic when it first came out...) the cards and the board are a big attraction too, featuring a lovely map of Ankh Morpork divided into various regions and the cards featuring lots of characters from the books.

It's a neat little game with lots of flavour and allows a nice combination of bluffing and undermining your opponents (if you can work out what they're up to). 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Boardgames #4

...or a Tale of 2 WW2 tactical boardgames (I's hardly Dickens)

The summer boardgaming extravaganza continues with a pair of contrasting WW2 skirmish level boardgames.

My son and I decided to have a game of Heroes of Normandie.  I'm a big fan of the system... there are earlier blog posts about it hereherehere and here (obviously I'm a bigger fan than I'd realised!).  At the end of 2015 I even signed up for a Kickstarter which produced lots of new squads and terrain tiles as well as storage for the counters and, more importantly, a revised rulebook which collated all the info from the various expansions.  Callum kindly put together the Pegasus Bridge shaped Dice Tower for me. I've always been slightly baffled by the need for dice towers but it was free....

The Very large box the Kickstarter came in

Storage for the counters
My Dice Tower...

HoN presents itself as a rather cartoonish WW2 movie inspired boardgame but underneath the bonnet is a very, very good tactical level game.   Normally when I've played this (usually against regular opponent Anthony at Guildford) we've played pre-designed scenarios from the main box or from the mini-Campaigns such as D Day.  The rules do, however, allow you to build your own forces within some constraints and so we tried both options.

Initially we played out the "Slaughterhouse 5" scenario which pits Germans against US troops holed up in a house and their comrades who have come to relieve them.  My son played as the Germans and really struggled to make headway.  As in previous games we found buildings to be real deathtraps: any units that head inside tend to be faced with a flurry of grenades.  Despite a furious struggle around the target house the Germans couldn't seize control before the end of the game.

Callum then suggested we try building our own scenario which we tried a few nights later.  The point balancing is more complex than it first appeared but we worked our way through and played out a straight encounter.  This was a very bloody affair...the tone was set in the first turn when my Greyhound which had advanced too far ahead to be safe, was swiftly despatched by a Panzerfaust wielding squad and most of my squads came under MG42 fire.  Some shoddy dice-rolling on my part and a good grasp of fire doctrine by Callum meant I was increasingly pinned down by MG fire and units began to fall rapidly.  Even the presence of 'The Rock' (a MG wielding hero with an unfeasibly large chin) made little impact and the game was rapidly over.

A few nights later I had one of my regular game nights with my friend Andrew.  He was keen to try out the starter kit of Advanced Squad Leader which her had acquired.  I last played ASL sometime back in the early 80s at uni and remembered it being very, very complex, so I was curious to see if it had changed or if my memories of the game still held true.

The game still feels very much like a 1970s/80s boardgame....little card chits, legalese rules in small print, very complicated turn sequences and lots and lots of baffling acronyms...

This is the degree-level turn sequence chart...

How did it play??  Well, the scenario pitted  US paratroopers against Germans at Vierville in Normandy with reinforcements arriving on both sides as the game progressed.  At first, I have to admit I found the turn sequencing baffling with units firing at different parts of the turn and at different strengths but the complicated turn sequence table did actually make sense and I quickly found that there was a pretty intuitive flow to the game.  It does have a chess-like structure which means you need to consider carefully who moves when and where...get it wrong (as I did!) and you'll pay the price.

Despite some early success in Turn 1 of 5 (low dice rolls are good and I rolled 2, double 1's in succession!!) Andrew was able to recover from his earlier damage and consolidate his troops in the village centre, occupying most of the objectives.  I think we got  to turn 4 of 5 but it was clear by this point that there was no way I was going to winkle him out of the buildings and we called it a night.

I enjoyed ASL more than I definitely has a very old-school vibe to did we ever manage to wade through the encyclopedia-style SPI rules in the old days??  But it was a fun game and certainly challenging.  Would it work as well once we added in more complicated weapons and terrain??  I hate to think how complicated it must get in the full game, and especially with vehicles,  but it was a fun evening and definitely one to revisit.


Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Boardgames #3

So following up from my defeat at my son's hands in Twilight Struggle we thought we'd go for something that brings all the family together in a spirit of goodwill and harmony...Kingmaker!

We last played this a couple of years ago but it involves roping my wife into a game and, to be fair, she's not overly keen on Kingmaker.  She does however have a knack of disarmingly insisting she doesn't know what she's doing while hoovering up Royal family members and seizing castles left, right and centre.  This game was no exception where she immediately up-scaled Percy (already one of the most powerful nobles) into some kind of uber-Lord who could easily take on everyone else single handed!  My son and I were had more balanced forces but he was slowly outstripping me and eventually (after 3 sessions of the isn't something that can be played out in an evening) I'd managed to take down Percy by combining everyone against him but realised I was still outgunned and conceded the game.

I played a lot of Kingmaker in my uni days and those games would go on for weeks (and involve tantrums... and chair throwing on one memorable occasion!!)  so this was relatively speedy by comparison!

Somehow we managed to lure my wife back for another game but only after we'd promised it wouldn't be Kingmaker.  This time we decided to go for Settlers of Catan.  I bought a set of this a year or 2 ago but hadn't actually played fact I've never played Settlers despite it being one of those seminal games that everyone seems to play.

Game #1 was very much a case of us all trying to work out what we were doing...despite the rules only being 4 pages long there still seems to be a bit of thinking involved.  As expected I was duly handed my arse to play with by my wife who pretty much wiped the floor with my son and I ...the revenge game is planned for this evening....

...UPDATE... I won!!!

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Chain of Command - Russia '42

This week's 'game I haven't played for ages' entry is Chain of Command.

Andrew and I have an occasional game at his place and it has been a good excuse to dig out rules and figures that haven't seen the light of day for a while.  Digging through the blog it looks like I haven't played CoC for a couple of years (and annoyingly the photos have vanished from the posts...something to do with photo storage I think).

This weeks game pitted the brave Heroes of the Soviet Motherland against the Evil Fascist Vipers (can you guess which side I was on??) in a straightforward encounter game with both sides pretty evenly matched.  The objectives were 2 bridges which were conveniently nearer my side of the table but most of the fighting actually centred round a small cluster of houses in the centre of the table.

I've just spotted that the right hand bridge symbol doesn't make any sense (unless it's a viaduct!),
but I cant be bothered going back and changing it!!!  How did I ever pass A-Level Geography???

In Chain of Command troops initially patrol, using patrol markers which move around the table until contact is made.  These then become a number of 'Jump Off Points' which troops can deploy from, given the right dice roll

After the initial patrol phase I made an immediate error and deployed a section rather quickly...I'd forgotten that deploying troops only leaves them vulnerable to getting caught in the open.  I'd attempted to run from the woods on the left to the village and seize the terrace of (suspiciously Western European looking) houses but failed to reach them.  Up popped a German section which proceeded to hammer me with rifle and MG fire...

The brave Soviet soldiers nearly make it to cover...

A 2nd USSR section watches from a ruined house...

oops...the very depleted survivors barely hang on

The survivors of the Soviet charge did manage to get into the houses and their Leader removed some of the shock but they were almost immediately close assaulted by the German section that had shot at them.  Not surprisingly the Soviet section was wiped out in the assault but did manage to cause enough casualties to throw the attackers back.  This bought enough time for me to deploy and move a MMG and crew into the terrace.  In CoC one of the results of the Command Dice that players roll each turn (which determine who can be activated etc) can be to allow the active player to retain the initiative and have another turn.  This time the Germans were the ones caught in the open as the MMG opened up on a German section caught between the 2 ruined houses opposite...

The MMG in position...
...and the lucky Germans caught in the open

Much to Andrew's relief, my dice rolling skills failed at this point and the Germans took relatively light casualties.  Andrew had learned from the very brutal assault earlier and stayed safely in cover in the ruined buildings and whittled down the MMG crew with rifle and LMG fire, eventually forcing them to retreat.

It wasn't looking great for me at this point...I had been having a little more success with my mighty tank and armoured car assault on the Germans in the SE farmhouse who were threatening the 2nd bridge.  I say 'mighty'... I had a T26 and a BA64...hardly a Kursk-level assault... but it was doing the job.  Andrew's section were trying to drive the tank off with small arms fire but then he managed to get the required roll to deploy his Panzerbuschse Team who, after a few close misses, managed to knock out the MG on the armoured car leaving it completely ineffective and vulnerable. My T26 wasn't having much luck firing on the section holed up in the buildings and I was conscious that there was a Pz38 lurking on the other side of the table although to be fair it had turned up and then refused to do anything thanks to some unlucky dice rolling on Andrew's part.

T26 to the rescue...

The uncooperative Pz38

By this point I had a couple of sections still Soviet antitank team had been quickly seen off by Andrew and my tank was stationary guarding one of the bridges but not able to achieve much.  On my left flank I had 1 section remaining in a farmhouse but they were coming under increasing fire from the Germans in the village and a halftrack which had also put in an appearance.   The farm only counted as light cover and I forgot that I could have the unit take up a 'Tactical' stance which would have improved their cover.  At this point I decided that the Soviets would make a hasty withdrawal and conceded, but I suspect there was going to be an awkward conversation with the Commissar afterwards. 

The unit in the Farmhouse....I finally get to make use of my laser line pointer!!!

As we got to the end of the game we realised it was now well after 10 and time to call it a night anyway...I guess the sign of a good game is not noticing the time passing by.  It's definitely inspired me to make more use of Chain of Command.   Somewhere in the loft are my early war British and Belgians so some exploring is definitely required, as well as beefing up the options for the Germans and Russians.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Forager-Napoleonic skirmish rules

These new rules from Stand To games have just launched on Kickstarter.

They look pretty promising with a very cinematic approach which sounds right up my street so I've succumbed and backed the Kickstarter (because obviously I really need another ruleset!!)

Details of the Kickstarter can be found here and the Stand To games page can be found here

Monday, 31 July 2017

More Boardgames

This weeks gaming round-up....

Image result for command and colours ancients

I played a couple of games of Command and Colours: Ancients down at Guildford with Mike.  We had the whole game apart from the actual rules so we had to wing it slightly and come up with a random selection of infantry and cavalry and make up solutions for any complicated situations!  Luckily neither of us are too 'gamey' and weren't bothered by this.

We managed a couple of games in the evening: as neither of us had played C&C for ages the first game was very much a reminder of how it all worked and I managed to steal a victory by the subtle tactic of having my Elephant (I was Carthaginian so I had to have an Elephant) stomp all over some Romans and then charging  a Heavy Infantry unit and Leader straight across the board, killing everything in their path!

The second game was also pretty close but Mike had sussed out the dangers of Elephants this time and took Nelly out pretty quickly and I eventually lost by an honourable margin.

Image result for twilight struggle
As predicted, my son and I also played a game of Twilight Struggle which spread over several evenings.  BoardgameGeek suggests a playing time of 2-3 hours...really!!??  The game went my way from the start with my victory points hovering in the teens for most of the game (first one to 20 wins) and my son, as the USSR struggling to keep up.  As usual he was playing a cunning game and I realised he was up to something in the last turn or 2...he'd steadily built up influence points across most of Europe, having sneakily checked the Victory Conditions.  If a player controls Europe at the end of the game they win, regardless of Victory Points...this is tricky to achieve but I'd been too preoccupied with Asia and S America and he snatched the game on the last turn!

Image result for hammer of the scots board game

I nearly bought Hammer of the Scots after reading about it on the Musings on wargames and life does look very appealing and I suspect it's only a matter of time before I give in and get a copy.  I'd popped into Orcs Nest in London last week after a meeting and admired the game.  I also came across "Labyrinth: the war on terror" which seems to be a game based on the Twilight Struggle system but focusing on the Middle East and Afghanistan in more recent years.  Looks very tempting but the subject matter does seem a bit bleak...reading reviews where people win by setting off a WMD in America doesn't sound the cheeriest of ways to spend an evening!

Image result for labyrinth war on terror board game