Sunday, October 25, 2015

And speaking of New Projects

I sacked off Fiasco today, too many things to do around the apartment, study foremost amongst them.  But I did find time to photograph the latest of the diffuse projects the new 'TML Towers' has permitted:

On the Road again...
 Yes, a return to the Road Wolf rules I proffered a free link to a few months back.  The game requires cars obviously, but the main game component those aside is a 6 inch wide road.  Cue a visit to Morrissons for another 99p doormat...

Perfect texture for a road
 It isn't deserted as you can see.  I have a dozen or so cars awaiting painting (stripping the paint with nail polish remover is more involved and harder than I expected!), with the aim of putting them into four distinct gangs.  I began with the custom build Chop Shop crew:

A mixed bag of HotWheels here as will be in following sets this group reflecting the more classically modded cars.  In my vision of this future dystopia I have elected for a cinematic rusty-dusty look.

More cars are needed before a game can take place but lets have a mood shot for now...

Anger Avenue...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Girls und Panzer: An Excuse to buy more Tanks!

I'm looking to have a test version of my game concept ready in fairly short order, already I have some 26 different cards developed (18 for main play and 8 for vehicles and characters), but I needed some tokens and a map for playing on.

Well with a fat paypal account this seemed like a good excuse to pick up a range of 1/100th scale tanks.  Big enough to be identifiable, but small enough to use in a 'game'.

A quick visit to the Plastic Soldier Company's site and I came away with this little grab bag of mainly Zvezda models:

Teams Ooarai and Pravda...
As a small review I can say that all of these were a joy to build.  The Russian tanks and the 3(t) and Mk IV are all Zvezda kits and mainly comprise 5 or 6 parts, they take about five minutes each to assemble but the engineering is great, and at this scale you can't ask for much more.  The KV-2 has a multi-part turret, but the whole is held together by a single connecting structure attached to the main gun which is absolutely ingenious!  If you're looking to build up early war forces in 15mm the Zvezda models are hard to beat.

By comparison, the Stug IIIf, by PSC, is a more traditional model, and benefits from more versatility and detail as a result, but the extras are not essential at this scale, though it did permit me to build exactly the right variant for GuP so I shouldn't really complain.

These may get a quick lick of paint but are more likely to get used as seen for initial play testing.

A nice diversion from MSc study yesterday however.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Crazy Idea


Going to a gaming show has focused my mind, I am planning a new game.  I've tried writing wargames rules and board games in the past, and come to the conclusion I am generally better at the former; how someone goes about designing a big game like Le Harve, or 7 Wonders is beyond me at present.

However when it comes to the mechanics of battle I have a much better handle on things, and have long thought about ways to combine the best board game and card game mechanisms into wargames rules.  It isn't just a case of novelty too as often they can offer a very real way to reflect more accurately command and control, or replicate luck without resorting to dice.

One project I'd come up with a couple of months ago was for a tank combat game driven by a card mechanic.  The concept would be based on a style of game known as 'Deck Builders', in which players begin with a set range of cards to control play but can choose to buy other cards into their deck from a shared supply of options to develop strategies and gain victory points.  I pondered this a while and left it on the back burner.

In part the idea was inspired by a sweet, but frankly bonkers Japanese anime series Girls Und Panzer.  In the tv series High School girls practice tank combat as an after school activity, it being elevated to the state of a sport thanks to the use of safe ammunition and a culture that sees tanks as unsuitable for men.  Did I mention it's bonkers?  Anyway, the show nicely displays how tank combat can be presented as a sports activity, and divorced of the need for infantry, artillery or air support can be boiled down to the sort of essentials a card mechanic could handle.

Whilst at Essen I had adequate down time to think about the many deck building games I've played (Dominion, Tanto Cuore, Streetfighter, Arctic Scavengers and Trains to name a few), and which elements I could combine and add to to make my own idea work.  Finally once home I got started.

Work in Progress
And the ideas flowed quickly, too quickly perhaps; I have Masters work to do as well!  Still the idea has proved to have legs, and soon I can try it out in a somewhat raw form.  Obviously this is a game about fun rather than deep simulation of tank combat, I flogged that horse for well over a decade and got nowhere with it!  But it will balance elements of command and control, battlefield tactics and logistics as well as featuring distinct profiles for different vehicles.

If I can mash two very different genres together with as much success as the animated inspiration does, I'll be more than satisfied.

Stay tuned...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Essen in Full, Part 2

And so we continue our tale.  On Saturday I was slow to set off from the hotel and so headed out alone to the show.  We had a meeting point identified for later in the day so I had a chance to wander about alone and size up certain things in more detail.  On the Saturday in particular, whilst gaming would not slacken off, I would end up taking a lot more photos of miniatures.

I started up the camera at the Fantasy Flight Games stand (which, again, was enormous) for their wide selection of current and upcoming Star Wars Product.

Bantha rider and Smuggler to the fore
Currently in shops
 Some of this I already have, but no one except testers yet has the Hoth expansion, so these were the first sight in the flesh of these models for me:

A little tank, and Snowtroopers; Cool!
 Armada fans were also well served with the Wave 2 ships on display.  The new Star Destroyer is a beast:

Home One may be longer though:

Of course X-Wing players weren't going to be missed out, with vessels from the Rebels animated series seeming to be the next subjects:

Love the look of this
 Team Yankee was the main presence for Battlefront's Flames of War Series, and they had a very nicely done display/participation game:

Nicely done table, typical Flames deployments
Nicely painted models
Especially the 80's period US armour
 After missing it on the first two days I finally found Monolith Boardgames' Conan display.  I've kickstarted this one and so was very keen to get a look at what I'll be getting.

Some of the core models and the big ol' box
 What I'll be getting looks pretty awesome to me...

Having got myself $150 in the whole for this I was pleased to see the quality of the plastic miniatures, not to say the sheer number of them.  As this is likely to be the successor to Imperial Assault when we finish our campaign I for one was delighted with that.

Some of the expanded set of mini's
 That said I would've been happier to have got a demo of the rules, but there were only two display games, and every time we passed, and on several occasions tried to gauge the wait, there seemed to be no prospect of getting a go.  This was very popular though and one has to hope that's a good sign...

Nice 3-D terrain set up, slick game components
 Having met up again, we indulged in a bit of Jigsaw:  my small contribution to this monster is fron and centre.  I think it was about a 40,000 piecer...

Back into the fray.  10 Minutes to Kill is an elegantly simple assassination and detection game, that I proved to be terrible at!

Add caption
 Shortly thereafter I came across the demo stand for a game by Titan Forge Miniatures which I'd spotted that morning.  A cutesy tank battler.  Me and Dave had a go.

 Armymals in Action
 The game is a simple hex based wargeme, the equivalent of a paintball match in some ways.  The main game mechanic being the rolling of 6 dice - Yatzhee or King of Tokyo style - to generate actions and to purchase bonuses.  It's a great little light weight game with some strategy involved.  But in particular the plastic models and scenery are what really attracted me.

Pew Pew! 
One game later and 40 Eurons quickly changed hands, subsequently I checked the price on their website and found I'd saved myself at least £20 (mixing my currencies a bit)...

A little later we played the new game from the Creator of Magic: The Gathering; Treasure Hunter.  Overall a good solid card drafting game (pick one card from a set to build your hand then pass the rest on).  Not an instant need to own, but certainly a good game.

Saturday evening we went to an archetypally German collective restaurant/bar/gig venue/community hall/clubhouse and after the all you can eat and drink buffet, well, played more games.

Sunday morning and it was our last chance to pick things up.  I was torn over whether to buy another big box game, but knew my packing was going to struggle if I did; as a group we had a little space to spare so I could'e done.  In the end I wavered on the available choices and ended up with just some small bits and pieces, including a copy of the original Alhambra card game with a Dutch theme, specifically to annoy one of my gaming groups.

Me and Joe were first to the show on the last day, but getting there within the first five minutes was still too late to get a game of Conan, Joe tried an abstract martial arts game called Kumo.  It looked pretty, and was quite the abstract game.  I personally wasn't sold.

The centre of the board rotates.
 As might be expected for a French company, Studio Tomahawk games had a substantial presence, alongside Gripping Beast.  There were demo games of the Crescent and the Cross and Saga in evidence:

Using figures from the new plastic starter sets
One thing I noticed was the boxes of Plastic starter armies that were news to me.  The starter armies include four points of plastic figures and it appears  slimmed down playsheets & rules may be included (?).  Certainly the German demo set featured slimmed down rules for the Viking and Saxon starter sets.

As mentioned in the previous part of my coverage, all the big players in fantasy skirmish games were present, the scale and organisation of their stands put the best British operations to shame, here for example is the Corvus Belli stand for Infinity, which was always packed:
The demonstration games featured great figures, and great terrain, as was becoming commonplace.  But the massed spectacle of big wargames was never there.  Not that for these games that is every the intent:

Very pretty models
Very pretty scenery
As an aside, a portion of the show, maybe 10% or so - which is still a huge amount of floorspace - is devoted to comics, roleplaying, LARP and Cosplay.  Lots of trade stands were selling all kind of weird, including some fruity Japanese versions of 80's duelling books, cuddly Cthulhu's, nerd mouse-mats and rubber armour.  At one stage I ran into these guys harassing the comic artists:

Skaven get everywhere
 Not featured, pictures of The Joker and Harlequin that virtually every comic fanboy took (so they could trim the Joker out later, if you catch my drift).

Meanwhile with our wargaming theme still in mind I found the Rubicon Models stand and got pictures of their upcoming prototypes and current models:

 Some interesting choices there and the quality of the models are great.  I may have a project for some of these in future and I know they'll get my money over Warlord's equivalents every time.  No offence Warlord!

Time for a gaming break, for the last couple of hours we tottered around the show playing whatever we could.  Prodigals Club was a moderately complex Euro styled worker placement game about losing all your money and upsetting polite society.  Think of it as playing Terry Thomas in any film ever, or living the life of an Eton graduate with a role in politics:

I'm about to insult society with my knowledge of horseflesh
 Opinions were divided on this, with me and one other player loving it and the other two failing to be sold on the concepts.  I think in one case essentially playing a cad did not sit well on their moral compass.  I wonder what it says about me that it seemed like a delightful conceit?

Back to Mega Civilization, seeing it laid out on a table made it apparent just how massive it was...

Just the board and some of the components
We found a couple more games to play, winding up with the lightest fare of the weekend to close.  Looney Quest was a drawing game emulating the style of platform games.  Essentially you draw simple lines and shapes to hit or encircle targets on an image, of course you don't get to use the image to do it and you only have 30 seconds to get this done.  It was a simple, fun family game and a nice way to wind up the show.

Sunday night at the hotel was a quieter affair but revolved around the usual activities as our little group, now swelled to six, played more games and figured out the packing.  Monday was a free day but no one had any firm plans for it and in the end we just wandered around Essen in a fairly chilled manner until it was time to go home.  Essen it turns out has a lot of Goth shops, and German food is of course amazing, if you like meat, cheese and bread.

Thanks go to Matt and Joe for organising the trip.  It was a grand time.  I did think I might get gaming fatigue by about halfway in, but it was more like one of my snowboarding trips - you had all the time in the world to do what you went for, but no pressure to if you'd rather just relax; which tended to mean doing as much of the activity as you can rather than feeling pressured to do it and not wanting to.  I can't recall the last time I played so many games in such a short time.

Would I recommend it?


If you enjoy board games, you'll not find more choice than there is here, and if you can justify the visit as a holiday itself then the savings on games are phenomenal, most games are only 50-75% of UK prices.  Conversely miniatures pricing was more varied, but if you could buy it at home that would generally make more sense.  The opportunity for getting new releases is another big factor, but to have the best chance of finding what you want, be there in the queue to get in about 8am Thursday.  Sunday is bargains day, by which point companies with an eye on shipping costs for unsold stock and the bottom line are slashing prices everywhere.  The day to skip, Saturday certainly, just so busy!  And if all else fails, there's no better place to try before you buy.  All day long.

So, will I do it again?  Very probably.  Next time; road trip?....

Friday, October 16, 2015

Essen in Full (with Wargaming, Honest) Part 1

Why should wargamers give a damn about Essen?  It's a board game show after all.

Well if you're a regular reader of my blog for a start, you know I love board games, and they offer a much broader feast than wargaming, even if they cannot match the latter for spectacle or the ability to represent battles and skirmishes in detail.

But that aside, being the biggest store-front for the wider hobby in Europe, arguably the World, major players in the Wargaming hobby have to take Essen seriously and have a presence.  We'll see them crop up as we go along, but especially for fantasy gamers, all the major players are there.  It is not a place for display games particularly (unless you count a twelve foot wide version of Catan), but rather it is all about demoing games.

Anyway, enough preamble.

Special thanks go to Jet2 for arranging something akin to an endurance test of a flight out to Germany, a 6 hour delay was at least compensated for by extended time to chat with the pretty passenger sat next to me (and in due course with a full refund).  German airports seem to have very variable hours of flying, and so eventually we ended up in Munster, some 120km north of our intended destination.  Eventually arriving at our hotel at three am, this led to a slow start to our Thursday morning - the first public day of the show.

Opening panorama, for room one, of seven...
 First of all, to misquote Douglas Adams, Essen is big, really big.  You might think it's a long walk from one end of Salute to the other but that's just peanuts to Essen.  Let me put it in context, the trade stand for Queen Games was larger overall than the main hall used by Pudsey Recon, and there were several major traders of a similar size.  The place was really just enormous.  We spent day one, of four no less, leisurely going around the various halls looking out for things of note and games to play.

One of the first things I spotted were these enigmas, that I've mentioned on the blog before.  Not available in the UK, my will to resist would slowly crumble...

Recycled T54 parts?
 Out first game of the day was Space Cadet: Away Teams, but it proved to be a disappointing dungeon crawler with little to commend it other than pulp styled models.  Moving swiftly on we managed to play one of the games of the show thereafter:

Art straight from 'Archer' it seems
 Codewords is a deceptively simple game of word association, that as a group was bought and played a dozen or more times over the week.  Great for larger groups and as a filler game.

Wondering around the huge halls on the first day I had to draw the attention of one - a massive wrestling fan - of our group to WWE Superstar Showdown.  Neither of us expected much, though I had heard if you wanted a wrestling game it was the one to go for.

Annoyingly, this turned out to be a fantastic game.  If thought of as a one on one skirmish or brawling system, it is really well presented and conducted, and thanks to ingenious card play and loss mechanics, really supplies the theme of wrestling in buckets!  I spent the next three days giving the stand a wide berth, to avoid buying the game. I am no fan of wrestling, but it was that good.

As stated, Essen is an enormous show, attracting 150,000 attendees, many attending for all four days, as we did.  None of these however seemed to be flocking around the Games Workshop age of Sigmar stand.
Tumble-weed not pictured
It was never busy, and seemed to come with an air of desperation throughout the week.  It is notable that at a show where people actively demonstrate their games, GW did not have a demo of AoS, 40k or any other of their in-house products available.  The Forgeworld stand by comparison was busy, not least as it was saving Europeans an enormous sum in postal charges to buy at the show.  By comparison the Warlord Games and Mantic Games stands both were busy, and both had demonstrations available to play.

both this and GW out in the sticks of the smaller massive halls
 Elsewhere there were were a variety of weird and wonderful skirmish games.  The expected such as Infinity, War Machine and Freebooters Fate rubbed shoulders with innumerable newer or smaller systems:

Steam Robot deathmatch
 Wolsung (?) was just one of many, with steampunk seeming to be a definite theme to many games.

Elsewhere some beautiful samurai miniatures caught my eye, if only for the paint jobs:

Yes, hand painted
 One of my favourite games as a nipper was Civilization, the original version.  IIRC it took up to 7 players and took about 6-12 hours to play.  Years later certainly the 'heftiest' game of the show was the new revised edition:

Wooden box
 More on this in part two, but this is a game with components numbered in the thousands, not to mention a board that looked to be about eight feet long, accommodation for upto 18 players and a full playing time measured in days, not hours.  Oh, and it was 179 Euros (about £140).

Osprey were there with their gaming arm, selling plenty of Frostgrave and showing off their upcoming Arthurian game and a game based on submarine hunting:

Um, C4?  Nope, wrong game...

 Both looked intriguing, but even more so was the large anime character on their back wall, what are they planning on next?...

Our last game of the day was The Bloody Inn; a French game about gruesome murder and hotel management.

The Monk helped me bury a corpse, the Gardner was having nothing of it!
 A neat little card game, strong on theme and 'Take That' mechanics.  It is however a pitch black theme and the card art won't appeal to everyone.

Chinese food, a mooch around the centre of Essen and an early night finished off the day for all, and we hit it early doors on the Friday.

First up was a run in with Kings Forge at the Game Salute stand:

Dice!  So many dice!
 This was to be my first purchase.  Kings Forge is a card crafting and dice collecting game.  To build the valuable objects needed to win you have to carefully select the resource cards to allow you to build up the needed supplies of dice; each player gets a chance to roll to create objects, and rather than first come first served he who rolls the highest combo of dice that make up an object wins it, so gathering resources effectively can give you a real edge.  Balanced by the destruction of resources to fuel cards or to make items, the game requires deeper thought than just chucking a pile of dice, and has excellent catch-up mechanisms.  40 euros (£30) got me the core game, two expansions and a completely separate card game - which given they offered me a wooden box first seemed like a great upgrade!

Being Germany it was completely acceptable to wonder around the halls with a beer, so I did.

Ah, beer...
 The social contract is such that no one in Germany would misbehave due to excess alcohol in a public place.  I don't think I did anyway.

The day rolled on, several of us were in full-on buying mode, and various other games were played; including Trains - a Japanese take on a Deck Building game with a a board game of railway building attached.  Actually pretty good.  Later the whole group reconvened, having split in two earlier and we agreed to go wait for one of the major draws at the show.  Mysterium.

Queues worse than at a theme park
 After an hour waiting we managed to hook into a game with a French couple, who clearly did better with the language barrier than we could've done in reverse.  Mysterium is essentially a detective game with one player (the ghost) handing out clues to the players in an effort to get them to guess who murdered the spirit's human form.  The clues come in the form of abstract cards, and the ghost cannot say anything to support his choices.

I proved to be a very good spiritualist
 The art in the game is beautiful, the game itself is essentially a cooperative version of Cluedo, but with so much more to it than that simple description suggests.  No dice, no movement, but a lot of fun and a real experience.  Worth our wait to play.

On last round of the hall and I spotted something I should own soon, the Ares Games reprint of the Conan Strategy game is due any day now, and the expansion is soon to follow.

 With lots of new games between us, we grabbed quick food on the go for the evening and headed back to the hotel, which like most in Essen laid on rooms for gaming in the evening.  Our Holiday Inn had two large rooms plus overflow space available and on the Thursday-Saturday nights these were both full with 30-40 gamers eying up one another's purchases.  We played Escape from the Temple, more Kings Forge and later a game of dubious aesthetic/ethical merits:

Maids - the game
Tanto Cuore is the sort of game that gets gekks that reputation we're often trying to shake off.  It's another Japanese take on Deckbuilding, but this one features anime artwork and a heavy dose of what in the genre is termed 'Fan Service'.  This was a fun game, with plenty of laughs within the gameplay, and a decent amount of thought involved, but the theme would certainly divide many.  It's one you need to know your partner would be cool with before bringing home and plonking on a shelf where - y'know - normal people might see it.

So that was days one and two.

Half way through the show.

Coming up in part two more games, more models, something that constitutes an actual wargame (kinda) is played; and perhaps much more besides.