Thursday, 31 October 2013

Never Waste A Good Crisis!

It's been a few years since I've been to Crisis in Antwerp, or any wargames convention, but I am looking forward to this one.

I look forward to meeting people. I don't see my club members in Delft too often lately, so I need to catch up. I will also look forward to play in Peter & Petra's new demo game, or at least have a look.

But Sidney Roundwood will be there, and I look forward to meeting him in person, as well as Stefan of Monty's Caravan.

There will also be a meetup of the Dutch Miniature Wargaming facebook page, so in case you hadn't heared about it, come and have a chat at 13.30 hours at the Karawansary booth.

Anyone not listed above who follows this blog or wants to shake hands for the heck of it, gimme a shout in the comments.

Puppet Wars minis painted and demoed by the guys
next to the Wyrd Miniatures booth at Spiel
Oh yes... games...

I was hoping to score some 20mm US WWII minis, but that seems not so much of an option. I also hope to pick up some Darkest Africa stuff from Foundry for my maroon project. Maybe some books on the Napoleonic wars, eg Stephen Summerfield's books on the Prussians.What about some steam punk minis? Or a reasonably priced copy of Puppet Wars?

Of course I could let myself be persuaded into joining whatever new project boils up among my fellow Murphy's Heroes.  You can see where this is going...

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Spiel Essen 2013 part I

Yes! This was a good year to be at Spiel in Essen. Even if there wasn't a great game to swoon about, and even if we had a last minute cancelation (with Douwe as a great substitution) and others were experiencing distractions form real world troubles.

Well, if you say so...
The new layout in the three halls and galleria was an improvement. It felt more spacious even though there were more people than in previous years (according to the Spiel website).

I must say I was also pleasantly surprised this year with effort made by most demo people. The Poles have made a great effort over the past years, but there were more examples of passionate people trying to win you over. For example the guy at the La Mame booth who really knew how to sell Coup to me. Rare to see such enthusiasm. Small designers tend to take all of that burden upon themselves, but demo people can be worth gold, if only to relieve the pressure.

So, what about the games? I´ll start my Essen report with impressions of the games I didn´t get to play. Next will follow my experiences of the games we did play. The Polish games will be in a third and last post.

Some neat balancing mechanisms in the deck management of Kampen om Norge were explained to me by one of the designers, who hung around the Spielbär stand. The Germans have to win 6 victory positions before their deck runs out, while the Norwegians can reshuffle if they want. The Anglo/French also have a limited deck.

It is only because I can’t be fooled into buying another 2 player wargame that I didn’t buy it, but this game genuinely seemed to tackle the most difficult campaign to wargame: Norway 1940. It combines sea, air and ground troops, in a very big area. It is probably hideously expensive to order it from Norway. So it will probably never gain a wider audience. I think that’s a shame.

Origin from Matagot is a civ game, where the shape (length, colour and thickness) of your figures determines their characteristics as you expand over the world. Didn’t hook me though.

Concept from Repos is in the line of guessing games such as Pictionary, but here you have a board of images that helps you to describe your subject. There are hardly any rules in the box and very little stuff. It’s just that I am fascinated by communication between different cultures and the problems of translating abstract concepts, so I bought it anyway.

My friends tried Uwe Rosenberg's new game Caverna, and it is mostly an easier, fantasy version of Agricola. Resources are not so tight.

Canalis from AEG continues the Tempest series. It is a tactical tile laying game.

Northwest Passage from Matagot looked interesting, with the retreat and advance of frozen ice driving the players on... or back. It’s tile laying and action taking. I would have liked to try this.

Russian Railroads lacks armoured trains to make it interesting. But then again, I don’t like train games. If you want armoured trains: buy Corto!

The guy at the Asyncron stand did a great job explaining l'Aeropostale to me. You run one of the first airline companies to encompass the world in your network of postal and passenger services. Nice theme & artwork, but would have liked to try it. That might have clinched a buy.

Hard to figure out why Madeira was making such an impact. It looked like the next ‘trade to impress the prince’ game. We couldn't fit into a table to try it. Probably for the better.

I only had a quick look at Ace Detective by Richard Launius. The investigation issue is dealt with by you putting the most clues on the suspect with the most clues at the end of the game, a mechanism we also saw in Android. The story-telling aspect is just the optional addition of players rewarding each other for story telling and this is also a well known mechanism. But both mechanisms have their weaknesses and didn’t fire me up to come back and find out more.

Had Suburban Dispute explained to me, and the background story is interesting enough, but I just couldn’t see it being fun for the full length of the game (2-3 hours)

Seven Swords (based on the classic Kurosawa movie Seven Samurai) by Xenos looks good and sounds good. The mechanics are interesting and seem to create a nice dynamic and tactical options. However, I just fear that the rulebook will be as badly written as Luna Llena and others from this company. Guys, get your ffing act together! You have interesting themes in the Ameritrash genre, but if you can’t write a decent rulebook I just can’t bring myself to recommend you to others. Bloody shame!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Off to Essen 2013

The day before Essen. We have a drop out for medical reasons but a promising replacement. It will be a little bit weird this year, with probably a couple of games back home on Saturday.

Check me out on twitter @jurdj the coming days as I play stuff and post images.

It's been some time since I set up my watch list for Essen 2013, but I've been watching the updates and there's some good stuff out there for the Ameritrash minded.

The 10 games that I look forward to most are:

Ace Detective. Richard Launius + 'noir storytelling card game that rewards imagination'

Corto. I love the Corto Maltese comics, so I'm certainly going to check this one out. The fact that Seb Pauchon is involved is a good sign!

Coup. The buzz is good, and some new editions are on the way.

Duel of Ages. The new edition has been very favourably reviewed by two Mikes! see for Mike 1 and Mike 2.

The Mushroom Eaters. A game by Nate Hayden (of Cave Evil and After Pablo fame) is bound to be special. I'm interested in the action path mechanic and of course the highly original theme

Pathfinder. See Michael Barnes' rave review

The Rats in the Walls. Henning Poehl´s fun games, great artwork and the Lovecraft setting might just be awesome.

Sigismundus Augustus: Dei gratia rex Poloniae. The theme of the game appeals, but it's quite heavy and worker placement, not a stand up conflict game. There's a favourable review at Little Metal Dog

A study in Emerald. Gaiman + Wallace + Lovecraft. It's almost to good to be true. Either elation or deep disappointment

Veto by Kuznia Gier. Polish 17th century history, political infighting an intrigue! However, the company is going through a rough patch and is unlikely to attend the show. I'll check anyway.

On the Essen 2012 front, I managed to get a game of the Lupin III expansion set in as evidenced by my review. But I will give myself a pass for Signum Mortis, which was late in delivery anyhow. That is also a good warning for me to trim down the loot to the absolute necessary this year and forget about games that I don't have the time for to learn.

Of course, time is a matter of priorities.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Followers: 39 Reasons To Be A Happy Blogger #4

Continuing the honours list of my followers:

#16 Millsy, ´Mad wargamer´ with an interest in Dark Ages and GW; blogger at Canister & Grape

#15  Phil Broeders, convincingly backs up his claim of dedication to all kinds of wargaming at The Wargaming Site

#14 Mik, of Mik´s Minis where he shows there are no bounds to creativity when it comes to wargaming. Fantasy, scifi, Lego, historical etc etc

#13  Ian Willey of the Blog With No Name, who indeed manages to get the better of me most of the time with his series of Terribly Obscure Wars

#12 Jim Hale, the man with more blogs than split personalities (I hope), Arlequin's Wargames, War of Burgundian Succession, Brush Fire Wars, France d'Abord, La Carretera de la Muerte, Dark City, contributing as well to the Interbellum blog on imagi-nations

#11 Erwin Blonk, smart guy, fantasy wargamer, music fan, dad, in no particular order

#10 The Frontline Gamer. Blogging in a class of his own, with his Sunday Sermons providing me with some weekend's reflection.

#9 Bert van Hal of Little Lions Wargaming blog. He plays WH fantasy, 18th century, and is interested in much more...

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Lupin III

Hard to tell how big an impact childhood TV shows actually have, but I remember a few of them very well. There was Robbi, Tobi en het Frawatuig, De Stratemaker op Zee-Show and later Inspector Gadget. The impact on Pierluigi Frumusa must have been the same for Lupin III, a Japanese cartoon series about the grandson of Arsène Lupin, the French 19th century equivalent of Robin Hood.

Basic game and expansion
Lupin III and his gang, consisting of gun toting Jigen, modern samurai Goemon and vamp/action woman Fujiko, are always intent on pulling off great and improbable heists. At the same time they are pursued by gruff inspector Zenigata, who by force of the plot must always fail.

This gives the game a natural set up of a match between the gang players and the inspector. But the gang contains one weak joint: Fujiko. She has her own agenda and might in some cases decide to keep the prize to herself. The possibility of a three-way stand off gives the game an edge over many other coop games.

The theme is further integrated into the gameplay as all the characters have unique stats and a set of mission cards, which give you different options (like Lupin's penchant for disguises and Fujiko's betrayal). This reinforced by the excellent graphic design and the inclusion of five plastic figures of the main characters is a bonus.

Special character cards, and yes: only in Italian
Every game is based on a scenario, drawn from the cartoon series. The original game includes a double sided board for the first two scenarios, the expansion two more. Every scenario comes with a few specific rules as well.

Another feature of the game is that it includes a planning phase, in which the gang decides on the way to execute the heist. They have a limited budget with which to buy equipment, from shovels to guns to paragliders.

A few suggestions for your shopping list

Finally there's the limited visibility. As long as they are not in sight, the gang are not on the board, which is why Inspector Zenigata has a challenge on his hands setting up his policemen at the start of the game.

Lupin pops up near Stonehenge to the surprise
of inspector Zenigata and his agents

Together, the heist scenarios, planning phase, hidden movement and conflicting goals of the players with unexpected twists in the execution phase make the game feel very much like the cartoon original. I think that´s a major achievement for a designer.

So, what's not to like about Lupin the 3rd, a good looking game dripping with theme and some interesting and rare mechanics? As in other cases (Gen-X, I'm looking at you here) English rules written by non-native speakers are not the easiest to digest. A combination of weak translation and sloppy rules writing leaves considerable gaps and confusion that players need to sort out during the game. Luckily there´s a revised English rulebook and a FAQ to provide some help.

As one of my friends said: rather than not playtesting it enough, they have probably playtested it too much and forgotten how much is assumed in the rules that we're not told about.

The visibility issues also can become problematic, which is why I think playing with an umpire is a good idea, especially when introducing players to the game. Does that diminish the game? I think not. But then I am used to half finished games where umpires and players work with the mechanics and role play rather than try to break it. If you are up for a unique game, brimming with theme, don't let these glitches stop you.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

A Hint of Gamer Dad

I started this blog out of a sense of giving up time while gaining a family, but it is nice to see that these things can be combined occasionally. Surprisingly, the kids come asking to paint and build model tanks with me. So in the past month we've

built a 1:72 Supermarine Spitfire

Many thanks to my step parents for gifting this one bringing this as a gift!

and GW Skaven warriors

built and painted M3 half tracks

while I worked on two M3A4 Shermans

 which the kids can paint as well. The advantage of US plain colour scheme is apparent immediately.

And to top off last Sunday,

we built bows and arrows in the woods

Not so bad at all.