Welcome to another installment of the Lookout, my overview of things that caught my eye.
First, a boardgame. The Huntis a two-player wargame dealing with the WW2 operation leading to the Battle of the River Plate: the hunt for the German “pocket battleship” Graf Spee. The game’s production is currently crowdfunded on the platform gamefound, but the goal has already been reached, so it will be produced. The game looks very good and I’ve heard good things about a previous game by the same designer. I like that it is card driven and that the German player’s movement is hidden from the British player, which should provide for a dramatic cat-and-mouse game. It is also inexpensive, so I decided to back it. If you are also interested, there are still nine days left to back The Hunt: https://gamefound.com/projects/saltandpepper/the-hunt
Staying with the naval topic, Sam Mustafa has published a new set of naval miniature wargaming rules called Nimitz. They promise to deliver a quick and uncomplicated game of surface actions, but also include a campaign system that deals with planes, submarines, searching and similar, more complex stuff. As I think that, with naval wargames, a campaign context is much more important than with land wargames, I’m certainly intrigued by an integrated campaign system. I got the rules two weeks ago, but only had a very superficial look into them. The first impression was that they are a bit more granular than David Manley’s Find, Fix and Strike, which might make them more suitable for smaller actions. Although Sam Mustafa has provided ship lists for the most important fleets, there are none for the Spanish Civil War, so I’ll devise them myself. I’ll also paint up more of my Navwar WW2 ships – I went a bit on an ordering spree in December, as they are just so cheap, so I have a lot of them lying unpainted in a box…
Sellswords & Spellslingers is one of my favourites and also one of my most played games. However, although I have played a campaign or two, many of my recent games have been one-off affairs. Recently, Ganesha Games have published two campaigns for Sellswords: a short one, containing six scenarios, called Night of the Assassins, and a much more elaborate one, Close Quarter Battles. The latter is set in a city that sounds very much like Lankhmar, which is a welcome coincidence as I have recently been in the mood for some Fritz Leiber stories. It seems to have a narrative that offers more choice to the players than the usual linear campaigns that are the standard for those kind of games. I bought the book in the hope that I will be able to rope some of my mates into playing the campaign – between them, Sigur and Virago have enough fantasy buildings to recreate the City of Sevenscore Thousand Smokes with ease…
I’m especially happy about the second one – Vivandières played an important role in the French army and women in similar functions (official or unofficial) could be found in many other napoleonic armies. The models look very nice and clean. I will certainly get a set of each. Dermot has already announced that more stuff will come for the “camp and supplies” section of his range. As I’m mainly playing skirmish games, I can never have enough of such things, so I’m really looking forward to the new releases.
TooFatLardies have announced a new set of rules: What a Cowboy! The name already suggests that the game’s DNA is derived from What a Tanker!, a game I like very much (even though I’m not interested in tanks). If you follow the Lardies on social media, you will have seen some of their numerous test games. The rules will be out by the end of February. I will certainly get those, not only because I like the basic mechanisms, but also because I already have figures I can use, namely my Mexican Revolution collection.
Virago also has a long-time plan for a Wild West project (and some figures stashed away), so you can expect reports of shoot-outs in the near future.
My Spanish Civil War naval project has triggered an new interest in the Spanish Civil War in general. So my curiosity was roused when I read about a new boardgame being published.
Land and Freedom: The Spanish Revolution and Civil War looks very promising, especially since it is a semi-cooperative game where all the players work together against the fascists. This is a good idea because first, who wants to play the fascists, and second, instead of depicting the anti-nationalist side as a coherent block, it allows to show the difficult cooperation between the different factions. It is published by Blue Panther and will be out by the end of January.
This was definitely the year of naval wargaming. If you add up all the naval wargames in my BGG statistic, they are at the top of the list with 18 gameplays.
In April, I suddenly had the urge to re-visit the 1/300 American Civil War ships I had prepared for a one-shot game years ago. Thanks to my 3D-printer, I added lots of new ships, mainly from East Coast Ironclads. At first I played my modified Galleys & Galleonsrules, but from the second game on I started to tinker and by the fourth game, I was starting to create my own rules (I still logged them under Galleys & Gallons on BGG, because there is unfortunately no possibility to log games that are not in the database). I invited a couple of friends for playtesting (thanks to Sigur, Virago, Stephan and of course my wife K. for their feedback!) and, in the end, had something I was actually happy with. It needs some further development, but I’d really like to publish them in one way or another (probably as a low-cost pdf on wargamevault) this year.
However, the road into naval wargaming led me beyond the ACW and, after some reading, to the First Sino-Japanese War. I painted two fleets and K. and I started a campaign (which I’d like to finish this year). I then discovered that there were naval actions during the Spanish Civil War and promptly painted a Republican and a Nationalist fleet. From there, an interest in the mediterrean theatre during World War 2 developed, and I ordered even more ships, this time for the Italians and British. Virago, who has a long-time interest in naval aviation, offered to paint up some 1/600 aircraft, so I hope we can play a small campaign this year.
Next up on the list (actually in the first position if you don’t count naval wargames as one item) is a game my wife gave me for my birthday, namely Race for the Galaxy. This really is great fun and as you can see we played it a lot. This is also one of the rare games where I tend to win more often than not.
I also did a lot of role-playing this year. I started a Traveller campaign with my virtual group and had a lot of fun with world-building and running the games. I’m really happy about this group – it already existed before COVID and is an opportunity to spend time with friends living in other parts of Europe. And when I was a bit burned out DMing, Jan took over with a fabulous short Shadowrun adventure set in Germany.
De Bellis Napolenicis was another one of my rules-tinkering projects. At the beginning of the year, I started a 6mm napoleonics project and decided to use DBN for rules. I wasn’t completely happy with them and developed my own; however, this attempt at game design produced a decidedly mediocre result, so I abandoned it after a couple of play-tests.
Spirit Islandis also a game I bought this year, mainly because my wife was interested. She also was the driving force behind playing it. I also like it, I think the theme and its implementation is great and it offers an interesting cooperative challenge.
Another recent newcomer is Undaunted: North Africa. I bought it just two weeks ago and we both like it very much, so this will see more plays next year.
At the beginnig of autumn, I was in a bit of a bad mood and behaved like a jerk, moaning that “no-one wants to play the games I want to play”. Keeping a statistic such as this is a useful tool to prove oneself wrong. It’s abundantely clear that I played a lot of games I like and that my friends are very indulgent – they even play-tested my not always exciting game ideas. And we had a lot of fun together, the highlights being the summer event racing game and my birthday game of Sharp Practice. So, sorry guys for being a jerk, I really enjoy all our games together and I hope that we will play many more!
My bad mood was partly a result of my working life, which was a mixed bag, with one huge exception: I started to teach at the Viennese University of Applied Arts at the department of Experimental Game Cultures. I started with a course on Innovations in Tabletop Gaming and I’m now running a course on game mechanics. This is hands down one of the best work experiences I’ve ever had – the students are curious, open and enthusiastic and the atmosphere at the department is incredibly welcoming. I really hope to be able to continue teaching there.
What is in store for 2023? I’m not really into making big plans, as I know that my interests can change at any moment. If pressed, I’d say that I’d like to publish something, either my ACW naval rules or the Star of Braverycampaign rules (perhaps even both). I’d also like to play a WW2 naval campaign set in the mediterranean, something that might get another motivational push when Sam Mustafa’s recently announced new naval rules come out. I also hope we’ll have another summer event – meeting a large number of good friends to have a day of gaming really is one of the highlights of my year. The Traveller campaign will also continue, at least until I run out of ideas, but then I’m sure someone else will take over as a GM. More Sharp Practice would be nice (I think I needed a bit of a break this year, but I start to miss it…). At the moment, I’m strangely enough again in the mood for some 6mm napoleonics, so I’ll try out Drums and Shakos Large Battles (and perhaps Blücher).
Oh, and I also want to post much more regularily on here, so I hope you will drop by occasionally. You might find a new post for a change!
I recently had twice the opportunity to play eurogames. The first one was Queendomino. As I understand it, it’s an enhanced version of Kingdomino, though I’ve never played the latter. Queendomino looks like a typical specimen of its kind: There is an intricate scoring system, so you only know if you’ve won (or even if you’re leading) at the very end of the game. There are no dice, chance is limited to drawing the terrain tiles. There are many different ways of acquiring points and many strategies are possible. The mechanics look well thought-out and balanced and I’d say that, objectively, it’s a very good game.
However, I didn’t enjoy it that much. I don’t play many eurogames, and when playing Queendomino I was reminded of the reason for this. There is a theme, but it is irrelevant. Everything is very abstract. There is no story, the only purpose of the game is to understand and exploit the mechanics well enough to accumulate the most points. In the end, it feels a bit like a lesson in accounting.
The other eurogame I played was Lords of Waterdeep. One could call this a eurogame disguised as an adventure game, and of course I liked it. There are all of the usual eurogame mechanics: worker placement, set collection and resource allocation, as well as the intricate scoring system. However, there is an actual story behind the game: The players are, well, lords of the city of Waterdeep, famous from D&D lore. They assemble and send out adventurer parties to do all kinds of jobs while also building their influence within the city. While it’s still about accumulating points, it feels more like a story is developing. The players are actually invested in the game world and not just trying to be better at exploiting the mechanics. It is also a surprisingly friendly game: Although there are intrigue cards, there a few opportunities to actually harm another player – most of those cards just give an advantage to you, without taking anything from the opponents.
Now I’m not really into games where backstabbing and being mean is the only way to win, as I prefer to play in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. However, one thing that I notice about eurogames is that player interaction tends to be rather low. People tend to play parallelly instead of with or against each other. Everyone is concentrating on optimizing their moves and collecting points. Sometimes, there is a short interaction when a sheep is exchanged for some wood, but that’s about it.
Apart from the narrative aspect, which is the single most important aspect of gaming for me, the centrality of player interaction may be the reason miniature wargames and co-operative games are my favourite types of games. In wargames, player interaction stems from direct conflict. You are constantly engaged with what your opponent does (or doesn’t) do and you have to react to each and every of his or her moves. With co-op games, the conflict is between the players and the game itself. This, however, means that the players have to interact and coordinate their actions so as to beat the game mechanics.
Eurogames have been at the forefront of the boardgaming renaissance and have been an area of innovation for many years. And don’t get me wrong: I like games that use eurogame mechanics. I’m just not interested in the bare, abstract mechanics in themselves. If there is a well-integrated theme and a story, like in Lords of Waterdeep, I enjoy them very much.