Last Saturday was end of three busy days of traveling and gaming. First was the twice-yearly GMT West – Weekend At The Warehouse, that was followed by the annual TableTopDOG gaming event on International Table Top Day.
GMT West April 2018
GMT West aka Weekend At The Warehouse is a four day, Thursday to Sunday, event held every six months at the GMT Games warehouse in California central valley. Up to 100 gamers get to play all types of game in the middle of a warehouse full of games. There are also new, as yet unpublished games, and their designers in attendance.
Over 3 days I only played a total of 6 games. The unusual thing was that I did not play a single game that was published by GMT Games. Many people are surprised that we go and take over a game company’s warehouse and we don’t have to play their games. All types of games are played: euros, team games, 18XX, monster wargames, and more wargames. If you look at the pictures albums posted below you will see all types of games were played. It should be no surprise that the most common games played are historical wargames. Most of these are also games published by GMT Games.
After arriving in early afternoon there were already many games in progress. There is a customary period of reconnaissance and re-connection immediately after arriving. Here are gamers who you may only see twice a year. Gamers have come from all over the USA, and from further afield too. After a wander, and lots of hello’s, it was time to push some cardboard around a map.
My first game played was a new release by Compass Games aka Red Poppies Campaigns: Last Laurels at Limanowa. Yup, another game on WW1. Myself and Karl K. setup Scenario 2. I was the attacking Russians. Karl was the defending Austro-Hungarians. We had previously played the first volume in the series: Red Poppies Campaigns: The battle for Ypres a few times before. The first thing we noticed was that elevation was more important in this single map game. The terrain was predominately hills with a scattering of woods. Lots of hills. As this volume is set in late 1914 it also means that there are no trenches on the map. If you ever want to comprehend why they dug trenches in ww1 then simply play the 1914 era scenarios in this series of games. You need cover. It was a tense game and a lot of fun too. Karl won the game despite the best efforts of my Cossacks. Bloomin’ Cavalry.
Friday was my only full day at this GMT West. I noticed that John Company was being played and Steve C. was going to run teaching games at 10am and 4pm. I first committed to the 4pm game, then changed to 10am knowing it would be a long and involved teaching process. Steve was happy to simply teach the 6 players who volunteered to play this economical/expand/embezzle game on the Easy India Company. Steve had declared that it was tough game to teach. He was not wrong. The individual game mechanics are simple. The game has lots of moving parts, and lots of subtle interconnections. Despite the best efforts of Chairman Brandon to fail the company we prospered for a while. Overall it was a fun, thematic, and tight game. The dice do play a part in the story it weaves. There might be too much dice luck for those who don’t like the fickleness of dice in their games. I still like it. Thanks to Steve to teaching the game. I went on to both teach and play John Company again the following Tuesday.
One of the guests in attendance was game designer and historian Dana Lombardy. Among other things he was demoing a WW1 themed card game. Two regular decks of cards that have a trick taking game built into the cards. Dana gave me the run through on the rules and we went at it. It was a close game with bluff, deception, and brute force. Perhaps fittingly the game ended in a draw with Dana ahead by 74 to 69 points. It’s a fast playing game with lots of history on the cards. It was good to chat with Dana too. Streets of Stalingrad was a fave game of mine.
Next was two games of The Cousins’ War by Surprised Stare Games. This one of the small format micro-games that has been a big hit for me over the last year. It plays in less than 30 minutes and has more than enough meaningful choices to make it worthwhile. It has bluffing too. Robert O. has a few minutes to spare, while waiting for his missus, so I taught him the game. Immediately after Dave T. showed up and I taught it again. He had recently bought the game so it was an opportune time for him to learn. This was a cracker of a game that came down to the last battle on the last turn. Whoever won the battle would win the war. I lost. Dice hate me, but in a fun way! Well done to Dave.
My last game of Thursday was Atlantic Chase by local-ish (Santa Barbara area) designer Jerry White. He had first demoed the game last October. This time I sat down to play for the first time. We played the ‘Bremen’ scenario. This is an excellent short scenario to learn about trajectories and searching. I took on the role of the Royal Navy commander versus Doug S. and his elusive cruiser liner SMS Bremen. The SMS Bremen is attempting to get back to Germany on the eve of ww2. It is a quick scenario with some sneaky options for the German player. Unfortunately, I was both sneaky and lucky. I launched 4 task forces to scour the Atlantic. After successfully finding and detaining the SMS Bremen, without shots fired, we reset the game for the next two players. This game went differently for the Royal Navy. Using the cruiser Graf Spee as a decoy the SMS Bremen made it safely to Germany. This is another innovative and well designed game by Jerry. He is a very smart and a very likable chap. Check out his games.
This is one of my favorite scenes from this event. It sums up GMT West for me. A whole group of gamers gathered around having fun playing a game. Most of these gamer also happen to be game designers. The game is Tank Duel by Mike Bertucelli. That is Mike in the blue t-shirt in the left foreground.
Can you name all of the game designers in the pics?
Due to my prior commitment to TableTopDOG I had to leave GMT West late in Saturday morning. The fun and frolics continued had to continue without me.
Saturday the 28th also marked International Table Top Day. April-Lyn had kindly offered to host our Meetup group event in Ventura. Thus was held TableTopDOG 2018. This was the 5th year we had held an open and free day of gaming event on Table Top Day. Hence our DOG title for Day Of Gaming. No dogs were allowed, unfortunately.
TableTopDOG 2018 was already jamming along by the time I arrived in the mid afternoon. Just as I settled down to learn the new-to-me game Whistle Stop a few newcomers arrived. After several hours in the car I was okay with teaching some newbies some games that I already knew inside and out. The next few hours was spent teaching fun and enjoyable games to both new and experienced gamers. I ended up playing as many games in a few hours as I had in the previous days at GMT West.
Serge destroyed me at Azul, no shock there. Christieann beat my score too. Cool. My winning streak is done. I need to up my game!
One highlight of TableTopDOG was the game raffle. Group members had kindly donated, new and gently used, games for a prize raffle. Those who attend get raffle tickets for both taking part in the days activities and for teaching games etc.
The games played included: Dungeon Lords, Whistle Stop, Azul (x a lot), Qwixx (x2), Tsuro, Rhino Hero, Zombie Dice, Speed, Rising Sun, Castles of Burgundy, Dinosaur Island, Terraforming Mars (x 3), Photosynthesis, The Opulent, Santorini, Sushi Go, Win Lose or Banana, Power Grid, Dixit, 6 Nimmt (x2), Vast: The Crystal Caverns, Kodama: The Tree Spirits, Lords of Waterdeep (x2), Tiny Epic Quest, Dice Throne, Start Player, Scattergories, Delphi, Kingsburg, Fallout, Red7, Loonacy, Nyet!, Fuse, Wildcatters, Secret Hitler, and Indulgence.
As can be seen from the list it was a full and busy day of gaming. It was hard to estimate the total number of people who attended. I counted over 30 and I arrived late. People had already come and gone. After putting some heads together we estimate in the region of 40-50 people attended our 5th annual TableTopDOG. Woof!
The final act of the Saturday was a minor car accident when my gf and myself went off to get Jamba Juice. Her car got the worst of it and is now being repaired. The important thing was that no one was hurt. Not a good end to an otherwise great few days.
4th May 2018
P.S.: FYI, it was not quite 500 miles of traveling, but it was close enough.
P.P.S: So I did play a GMT game at GMT West. It just has not been published yet.
Tanks and aircraft are two things where I adore the minutia of detail. The subtleties between opposing machines, and even between different versions of the same machine, have captivated me since I was a small boy. I like games that include that detail, yet without the detail becoming a drag. I want to play the game without having to fight the game system or the laws of physics.
The first air combat game I played that had oodles of detail was Air Force by Avalon Hill. All of those lovely detailed and colorful data cards on a myriad of aircraft. I ogled those data cards for all of their tech-laden goodness. I loved the detail even though I sucked at the game.
The game that re-awoke that desire for detail in air combat was the Wing Leader series of ww2 air combat. This game, and many other innovative air combat games was designed by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood and published by GMT Games.
In the Wing Leader series the detail was there without the cost in complexity. Complexity is often the first casualty of a highly detailed game. Time and complexity can mean you spend hours fighting a few minutes of elapsed time. The revelation for me was that the details between the different aircraft still counted, yet so did the tactical factors such as position, height, pilot experience, and aircrew training. The scale used was the difference. It was no longer individual aircraft zooming around the sky, it was flights and squadrons of aircraft.
The Wing Leader series had enough aircraft detail to satisfy that itch and the aircrew themselves have enough variables to get me rooting for a individual Ace or favorite squadron. Along with a myriad of different aircraft types and marks there are were tactical choices that I had not seen in other games. The vertical aspect now mattered more than ever before without the mechanics of diving and climbing becoming a bind; The quality and doctrine of the aircrew mattered. Good tactics seemed to pay off at last. Boom and zoom attacks were so much easier to perform without worrying about throttle settings or wing loading. That was perfect for me.
I have to include a shout out to J.D. Webster for the Fighting Wings series etc. This is great for the aircraft tech-head. By the way, I suck at this type of air combat game. It was like playing Air Force all over again. I would always overshot the target due to a misjudged turn and then present a perfect target for the enemy. The lesson seemed to be that I am better at commanding a few squadrons rather than individual aircraft. For individual aircraft combat I think I should stick to the simpler air combat games such as Down In Flames or Wings Of Glory.
Through Wing Leader, my dreams of ww2 aerial glory can come true at last. From squadrons of Spits and Hurricanes piloted by the plucky RAF, to hordes of Me-109s and Focke- Wulfs diving into formations of B-17s. The Wing Leader series has it all, except for the Avro Anson of course.
Tally Ho Chaps!
10th April 2018
Wing Leader series website by the game designer.
BoardGameGeek link to the Wing Leader Supremacy 1943-1945 game.
My Silly Board Game Memes page on Facebook.
My twisted 10×10 Challenge has been making progress in the more difficult “non-GMT aka the Other Wargame” category. This is great as I have been playing some interesting wargames. Many of these games are new to me too.
A wargame that I have been long wanting to play is The Big Push. I posted an After Action Report (AAR) for this game in a recent post here. Continuing with the WW1 theme I played In Flanders Fields with Ken Tee. This game is on the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. This battle was the first use of poison gas in warfare, and is a key part of the game for the German side. We had to end the game early, but we hope to revisit the game soon.
Thee games especially helped to increase the list of the “other wargames” category. A category that I was concerned that I was falling behind on. The 10×10 Challenge has helped to add visibility to what games I am playing, and to add more variety to the types of games that I play. Job Done!
Last week was the annual Flarchcon week of gaming hosted by Rob March. As is normal we played a bunch of games, played with his awesome dog Denali, and consumed lots of nice food and drink. The revelation for me was playing Quartermaster General 1914 for the first time. I had read the rules a while ago, but the game had not gelled in my brain. The original Quartermaster General game is very simple, hence it pays fast and frantic. The new game in the series adds a number of mechanics that seem to muddy the clean and simple gameplay. Or so I thought it did. I was wrong. Quartermaster General 1914 is a great little 5 player wargame. It still plays fast, and has a good amount of bluff and strategy. The players have more options, which in this case works well.This game is worthy addition to the multi-player wargame category.
The disappointment of Flarchcon for me, was after a full day of playing Virgin Queen we only got to the start of turn 5. It was a tight game, with all the players trying hard, and the game ebbing and flowing. The longer game suits the side that I played, the English. The longer game has more events that swing the game into new areas. We rarely get to explore those aspects as the game often ends in turn 4. We had some serious gameplay queries that caused the game to pause. The thing to remember with such a game is to keep it flowing. Saving a few minutes here and there would have allowed us to play that extra turn. This could have resulted in an actual winner being determined. Instead we had France with 22 points, and myself as England with 19 points. The game was just getting fun when we ended the game, out of time.
Unexpectedly, I am falling slightly behind the curve with my Battlestar Galactica plays. The Tuesday night group has been having a problem getting a quorum for BSG. It has been a problem all year. We have managed to recruit a new guy into the regular pool of players. New Chris is shaping up well. I am looking forward to being airlocked by him in a sneaky cylon treacherous move.
On July the 23rd there will be another Sunday event at McGregors Craft Beer and Wine, in Moorpark. The first event there attracted 17 people, a good crowd for a first event. I am hoping for more next time. It would be great if we get some beginners or newcomers too.
12th July 2017
A Game That Does It Right
Clank! A Deck Building Adventure has been getting a lot of plays since I acquired it last December (2016). For a game that uses many common mechanics it just works well. It is also a game that works for me even though the theme is not a big draw.
- It is a deck-building game, nothing revolutionary there. The cards are easy to understand. There are no complex icons to remember.
- The theme is understandable. Go into the dungeon and steal things from the dragon, and get out alive!. No pressure.
- There is drama. The drawing of damage cubes from the bag creates plenty of tension.
- The players have choices. The players can play it safe and steady, or fast and loose.
- It plays fast enough.
- Suitable for beginners, and experienced players alike.
- It’s expandable. More cards, different boards make for a varied and re-playable game.
It is always a pleasure to find a solid game that does it right. The gameplay is sound, despite being on the light-medium difficulty level. The cards are easy to comprehend. Despite not being the type of game that I would go for, I am glad I bought it. It is the game that Thunderstone should have been.
Last week we had over our limit with 36 attendees. We had so many signups we had people on standby in the hope that we could find space for them. We accommodated everyone a little big of juggling, and having good table loading. We managed to fit everyone by ensuring the our tables were well loaded with people. A 6 player game around one table helped a lot.
This week we had only 27. Only one of the newbies came back. Just when I thought the attendance numbers were growing again they drop down to new norm of the high 20’s.
The Somme 101st Anniversary – The Big Push After Action Report
July the 1st was the 101st Anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme. After visiting the Somme battlefields last year I finally got to play the only wargame that cover the battle. Here is my After Action Report, with lots of pictures from my Somme trip.
2nd July 2017