domenica 11 giugno 2017

Card Games!

Today we will have a break from miniature wargaming. Let's talk about card games.
When I was younger (well, I'm barely and adult now anyway), my first games, before diving into wargaming, were collectible card games, as Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Ho, and eventually, at the high school, Magic the Gathering.

I really loved MtG, the mechanics, the setting, the illustrations...but it went quickly expensive: to keep your deck competitive, you had to spend a lot of money and the continuos publication of new expansions (which makes older prints out of standard for tournaments) made me sick. So I had to shut it down.

In the following years, as you may imagine, my attention was entirely drawn by miniature wargames, starting with 15mm ancient wargames (as Impetus and Field of Glory) and continuing with 28mm scale (Lion Rampant, Ronin, Bolt Action, just to name a few).

So I was a bit surprised when my high school friends (who are casual gamers and absolutely not into miniatures games) started to develop an interest in card games. Since I already abandoned  collectible card games, I was not enthusiastic, until I realised I missed a lot of new generation card games, which do not require collection but are complete in their box (except expansions), basically board game without the board!

Now, if I should choose what to do during an evening with my friends, my first choice would be choosing one of our card games and having some games! Of course they require small space for stockage and transport and so they are useful as travel entertainers too!

Playing Munchking in Stockholm hostel last month!

Every game in our collection share the following characteristics:
  • easy to learn: we can't spend an hour to teach a new player how to play
  • easy to play: we want to feel relaxed after a game, it's a sort of after work meeting so everyone is already tired from the working/studying day
  • fun (of course!)
  • short: ranging from 30' (allowing multiple games in a evening) to 1 hours (with one exception): we are meeting during the working week.

And now a quick list of our games, if anyone wish a more detailed description, just ask and I'll provide a full review!

Samurai Sword

It uses the same mechanic as Bang!, bringing them into the Japanese setting. Each player has a secret role (Samurai and Shogun, Ninjas and Ronin) forming up to three different teams, (but you don't know who is your ally and who's your enemy). The game it's pretty simple you must attack the players to kill them and gaining one honour point (each player can respawn a set amount of times in the following turn), when the deck ends or one player reach its respawn limit, the game ends and the team with more honour points wins the game.

3-7 players, about 30'

Exploding Kittens

According to the disclaimer, the most founded game on kickstarter. In this game, drawing is the last action in your turn, and sometimes, in your game. The deck is filled with dangerous exploding kittens, ready to blow you up. If you draw an exploding kittens you die. Of course you can defuse them once (or more if you can steal defuse cards from other players), but they'll eventually blow up in your face! And then it's game over! Only one player will survive! I strongly advice to purchase the expansion Imploding Kittens too, which adds lot of variety to the game.

Ta Pum!

A cooperative game, useful to strenghten friendship, you can only win (or more often loose) all together. You represent a group of friends thrown into the first world war trenches. The missions are awful and only helping each other you can survive the war. The game has a beautiful French comic style of illustrations! (the game is French)

2-5 players, about 30'-1hour

Stay Away

Have you seen "The Thing"? Well, this is a blind game, one player at a certain point of the game will become the Thing and starting infecting the others, you must find him and kill him (via flamethrower). But you must pay attention about who you incinerate, if all the non infected players are removed from the game the Thing team win! There is a lot of bluff in this game, and I advice you to play at least with 5-6 players, but with 10-12 will still work and increase tension (lot of tension in this game, I really like it! I can assure you that will fear the infection (and the flamethrower) and do anything you can to convice other players to have mercy!

4-12 players, 15 to 60 minutes

thanks to Isola Illyon for the image


A parody of Dungeons and Dragons, or fantasy RPG in general. A comic style hidden a nice mechanic with lot of fighting between the players and with the monsters to become the first character to reach level 10 and win the game! A lot of expansions and mods for different settings (for example Munchkin Chtulhu). It can last a bit longer than the other games, let's say 1.5 hour to 3 hours. Can be found here, or in many game shops.

The author playing as a dwarf (nano in Italian)

Ready to Rock

Last, but not the least, Ready to Rock! This game was created by an Italian guy and it really deserves to be known, the game represent a Rock concert, each player has a ticket (his starting point) and must reach the stage, where the band is performing to win the game!
Each turn the player can do two actions, i.e. playing two cards from his hand. There are basically two kind of cards: the path cards, which draw the path you can walk to the stage, and the flash cards, all well themed actions (drinking beer, groupies, etc...). One flash card can make you draw one random the stage card, this separated deck is placed on the stage and represents actions performed by the band which affects all the players. Sometimes can be very counterproductive!

The game is written in English even if it's produced in Italy and in the website you will find a nice tutorial and game aids, there is also a mobile page to be used for advide during the game! (So you doesn't have to ask for the rules booklet).

Players: 3-9
Duration: 20-40 minutes

sabato 3 giugno 2017

Infantry in Lion Rampant

Today, I'll focus mainly on the role of the infantry on the battlefield in Lion Rampant, the medieval wargame rules by Dan Mersey.

The Middle Ages features a pretty static infantry: except fiece foot, who were mainly found at the fringes of European territories, the standard infantry unit deployed in a static defensive spearmen armed formation. The main aim was to resist the assualts of enemy's cavalry: superb knights, sergeants or arabs mamelukes. Occasionally they could face some barbaric infantry, classed as fierce foot (let apart for a second the possibility to grade as fierce foot halberdier or sword and buckler, we will come back to this later).

During Dark Age, the situation was similar: the Roman infantry lacked the might of the past, and the Barbarian Infantry, often of low quality (levy, better represented as foot yeoman, IMHO) was used as a rally point for noble cavalry, according to Procopius. Even in the East, against Sassanid, the battles were mainly fought between  opponent cavalry.

Things become very different when talking about Classical Antiquity, between the classic Greece and the Roman Empire (principate at last), the infantry was the key of the battles, with cavalry often considerated an auxillary corps, at least until 3rd century AD. With the rules, as they are written, you cannot simulate this in any realistic way. So we must deal with Classical Antiquity separately (i.e. in a other post!)

So, back to Infantry in Middle Ages. In my humble opinion, there is one main issue. Two infantry units (segeants or yeomen) facing each other, causing a situation in which no one wants to attack, because the attacker rolls 5+ and defender 4+. I can see the logic of this: we just said that during this period sergeants formed a defensive formation and all that stuff. But, in some particular context, if you're fielding pretty specular armies (for example two Communals Italian armies) I'd advide to allow a sort of  incentive the clash of infantries that happened frequently during the period. It's true (and a bit hollywodian as the author likes) that infantry stood in front of enemies knights, but infantry lines often clashed.

The author probably decided that the variety and interplay of arms would avoid such situations, and it wanted us to focus on different arms, so adding a cavalry unit, or a foot man at arms or a fierce foot unit (not very common during the feudal age), could break the balance, and in most games, this will work. But mono-dimensional armies exist, even if the rules allow you to field max 12 points or 4 units of any determined kind of unit, but nothing could prevent you to field 3 sergeants units and/or foot yeoman units.

During our game, however, sometimes happened (maybe the knight ran away or were deployed at the other side of the battlefield, or whatever) that two units of foot sergeants stood watching each other for an entire game, none of them (rightly) wanting to lose their advantage charging the enemy.

According to rules can give an offensive edge to your sergeants (and yeomen), making them "offensive" : spending 2 points more, the unit's attack become 4+ instead that 5+. Anyway, I think tthat 2 points for +1 attack is too expensive.

What should we do?
  1. nothing, the troops variety or at least the difference in armour would break the balance.
  2. add a scenario optional rule, "Guelphs and Ghibellines": foot sergeants and yeomen gain +1 to dice rolled when attacking enemy's foot sergeants and yeomen for no cost. It could break the empasse. Use sparingly only in symmetric games (and under supervision of your parents).
Of course the latter option would diminishing the cost-effectiveness of purchasing offensive sergeants (still attacking 4+ on every enemy unit), but I already consider 2 points a bit too much for +1 when attacking. It's not even useful to break the balance, since the attack and defence are equal in sergeants or yeomen, but you can field 3 units vs 2. If the players with three static sergeants sits down, the offensive minded player will soon finds his men are too few to disrupt 3 enemy's units.

And this is the first issue of Medieval Warfare that could need a fix. Bear in mind I just proposed one of the possible solutions.

Second issue: where are the halbardiers and (later in period) sword and buckler men?
Well, that's an interesting topic: in the rules there are two ways to portray them:
  1. use offensive foot sergeants or yeomen (the unit costs +2 points) attack and defend on 4+ and lose schiltron, armour as the main unit (3 or 2).
  2. use fierce foot (4 points) attack on 3+, defend on 6, wild charge! armour 2.
I see none of these option is very used by our local club, why?
Offensive foot (either sergeants or yeomen) are the best way to represent halberdiers, in our opinion, because they retain their defensive capabilities, but they cost too much. Fierce foot aren't really loved because they're wild charger, and stay almost halplessy if they fail to countercharge.

Possible solutions:
  1. offensive foot cost reduced to +1 point
  2. add a new upgrade for foot sergeants and yeomen (I really had sword and buckler in mind when I wrote this) (I cannot think about an appropriate name now, let's call them AlternativeOffensive), leaving the hot minded troops as fierce foot.
The unit switch Attack with Move and Attack Value with Defence value. It lose Schiltron special rule, and gain Countercharge Infantry special rule.

So an Alternatively Offensive Foot Sergeants unit (Sword and Buckler for example):

Attack 5+  Attack Value 4+
Move 6+   Defence Value 5+
Shoot - Shoot Value-
Courage 4+ Armour 3 (2 if foot yeomen)
Max movement 6"

By the way, this is exactly how I would represent Early Migration (i.e. Early Dark Age) infantry in  those people still using massive infantry charges, instead that relying on cavalry for their attacks (the latter are often referred as Sarmatized Germans). Of course I would also represent in the same manner Celts infantry during Classical Antiquity. But I think this post is already long enough and I shouldtalk about them an other time.