A Minié View of Huzzah! – A Boardgaming Life Review

 

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By Paul Comben

Designer Richard Dengel

Publisher One Small Step

Be honest, how many strictly tactical level ACW games could you name…apart from this one, that is? Actually, I rather suspect readers could name close to all of them – which is another way of saying that there have never been all that many. I recall Devil’s Den and Little Round Top, to which I could probably add Baton Rouge, MacPherson’s Ridge, Gettysburg: The Wheatfield, and Battles and Leaders. There may be a few others, but we have never been exactly deluged with tactical recreations of Civil War mischief. And therefore, that a new company wants to devote some serious attention to this sort of subject matter, and that the intention is to feature some lesser known and smaller Civil War battles as well as key portions of the big fights, is something to offer a welcome to.

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Flawed Commander Nimitz? A BoardgamingLife Review

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By Paul Comben

Publisher : DVG Games http://www.dvg.com/

Let us imagine for a moment a book on the battle of Waterloo – a subject wherein, of course, we are somewhat spoilt for choice. This book, with a big portrait of the victor of Waterloo on the cover, is called something along the lines of “Wellington’s Campaign in Belgium” or maybe “Wellington and The Hundred Days”; but when you open this same book, and then scour its contents from page one to page four hundred, there is not a single mention of Wellington at all. His forces move; objectives are gained or lost; but neither actively nor passively is The Iron Duke ever referred to. Odd; in fact, rather disappointing; not quite what one would have expected.

And I begin this way just to stress one particular point – there is precious little Chester Nimitz in Fleet Commander Nimitz; he is there in the title, and his portrait adorns the box lid and rules cover, but he is not coursing through the contents. Yes, it is his theatre of command, and it is his forces and his enemy’s forces on the counter sheets, but the man himself, in character, style, the level of his command decision-making, his relationships with key subordinates and with the government at home, is more of less entirely absent – just like Wellington is in our book. I am not saying this to stick the knife into the game from the start, but simply to offer a statement about my perceptions and values in the area of game design. I have certainly voiced a plea for a more accented and colourful command presence in previous articles, and I find that FC Nimitz makes a lot of those points for me by being entirely bereft of the very things I would like to see.

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JULIUS CAESAR – A Boardgaming Life Review and After Action Report

 

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By Russ Lockwood

Publisher Columbia Games

 

Julius Caesar by Columbia Games is a game that  I always  thought  deserves  more attention than it has received.   It has an intriguing , puzzle like quality to it which takes several  plays to really  grasp the deep thought  required to play well.   With that in mind,  TheBoardgamingLife presents Russ Lockwood’s  Review and  After Action Report of this overlooked gem .

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The Field Commander Series Summary- A BoardgamingLife Review

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This highly regarded series of solitaire titles began in 2008 with the publication of the original version of Field Commander Rommel. Field Commander Alexander was released the following year, and then Field Commander Napoleon in 2011. The most recent title, Fleet Commander Nimitz, was published at the end of 2014.

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Umpiring the Empire-TheBoardGamingLife Player Aid for Le Vol De L’Aigle

 

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by Harvey Mossman

Approximately one year ago I umpired a game of Flight of the Eagle over the Internet.  It was a very interesting experience, both for me as the umpire and for the players who had to deal with true fog of war and 19th-century limitations on communications.  You can peruse my game review and a follow-up article which is a narrative of the campaign.  But I will dedicate this article to the lessons learned being an umpire for Flight of the Eagle.

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My Forty Years on the Eastern Front: A Boardgaming Life Game Survey

 Paul Comben

 

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Well, here we are with the stock-in-trade of the hobby – whatever else has been designed, and wherever else it took us, you cannot think of the hobby without the Eastern Front in World War Two. From small unit actions, where the brutal simplicity of combat, mano-a-mano, is conveyed in rules that can break your foot if you drop them, to grand operational and strategic designs that come with everything save a yellow briefcase, the hobby has done it every which way for decades.

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Legion of Honor – A first look by TheBoardgamingLife

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Designer: Richard J. Kane Sr. and J. Michael Ruttle

Publisher: Clash of Arms Games

by Harvey Mossman

I doubt there is a respectable wargamer who hasn’t thought what it would be like to wear the uniform and march proudly in the ranks of the Grande Armee, following your esteemed general, Napoleon Bonaparte into glorious battle?  Well now Legion of Honor,  the eagerly awaited game from Clash of Arms, allows you to don your shako and live the life of a Napoleonic Grognard.    Where else can you re-create “the life and times of a soldier in the Army of France under the Republican Empire of Napoleon with each player assuming the role of a young Grognard of boundless ambition but meager means.”  The game tries to capture an era when war still had an extraordinary yet brutal pageantry, where the individual soldier still believed in Glory, Honor and the chance to gain Notice from their beloved general.

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Gettysburg’s Gettysburgs: A Boardgaming Life Review

By Paul Comben

 

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Let’s face it, some of us have had more than forty years of marching down the Chambersburg Pike, and we have all done it with great games, fair games…and the occasional piece of absolute rot. We have sought to take the high ground, defend the high ground, move around the high ground (if the map would let us), and fight out the great turning point of the Civil War with systems as variable as the holiday road works on the English M6.

How many Gettysburg games have there been since the late Fifties? God knows. What I am more certain of, however, is that plenty of us have played plenty of them; and like London buses, if you missed the last one, there will be another along in a minute – even if it is going somewhere you would rather not.  I cannot think of London without the buses, and I cannot think of the hobby without the Gettysburg games. So here is a run through of all the Gettysburg titles I have ever played; a celebration of a lifetime spent rolling the dice, losing Lee under something, and not understanding what any given rule actually meant.

And with that, I start in 1972… with something from 1964.

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All Around the Block: A Look at the Utterly Unique Designs of Rachel Simmons – A Boardgaming Life Review

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 By Paul Comben

It is far from unusual within the broad church of board wargaming to find designs based upon the use of wooden blocks. Columbia has dedicated itself to this approach for decades; and recently, alongside the occasional contribution from the likes of GMT, we have had the stunning visual effects of the VentoNuovo “Blocks” series – though, for my taste, the colour has run a little too extravagantly in the case of those designs. And then there are all those C&C offerings; but while there is an awful lot of timber included, they are not really part of this family in any real sense – they may walk the walk just a bit, but when they talk, it is another entirely separate language they go battling off into.

Whatever their subject matter, games that do belong to what we usually associate with the wooden block approach tend to share a range of common mechanisms – each block’s informational sticker gets rotated to show losses; there is often a measure of quality (usually a letter) to show who gets to fight first; and there is a number to indicate how many dice are tossed into the maelstrom of combat. Of course, some games are markedly more complex than others, but there has certainly been a carry-over of mechanical approach, and why not, when it has worked so well for a markedly long time.

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But where does the work of Rachel (formerly Bowen) Simmons fit into the scheme of things? In her three games, Bonaparte at Marengo, Napoleon’s Triumph and The Guns of Gettysburg, yes, there are indeed blocks, and there are representative values of strength on one side of these blocks only; and like not a few other members of the family, the maps are divided into areas – but in this case it all adds up to a very different way of working, predicated on an entirely different ethos. For a start, whereas the vast majority of other block games will have you rolling multiples of dice at every turn, there are no dice in any of Simmons’ designs. Random chance, in terms of rolling your way to victory or defeat, does not exist in these three battle worlds – chance comes solely in the form of what the players do and what they think their opponents are doing…essentially, in the worst cases, being fooled, being foolish, or fooling yourself. What these games are not is an intense look at tactical evolutions on early to mid-Nineteenth Century battlefields. You are not forming square or sending the skirmishers out; those things may be considered within the system as “assumed.” What you are doing is deploying force, threatening the use of force, hoping to bluff your opponent into committing to the wrong deployment, and then folding up his/her disjointed position like a wet piece of cardboard.

And, for the most part, it is utterly brilliant.

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The Maps of Collapse – Wargaming the End of the Reich

By Paul Comben

 

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Let me begin by telling you about this extension kit I came up with many years ago. I was just a lad, but a lad with ambitions to turn my copy of Stalingrad into something that time-wise, went beyond spring 1943, and territory-wise, extended all the way to Berlin and Vienna. To achieve this, I drew a map on a bit of card, putting in the cities, the rivers, and the mountains – and because I had no way of drawing a hex grid, I did squares (of sorts); and when I had finished, after some time of trying to put everything where it was meant to go, it looked absolutely horrible… I mean, hideous to the point of travesty. But I was thirteen, and I did not care; I wanted my Berlin map, I wanted the drama of experiencing the death throes of the Third Reich; and just because all I had was a bit of card that was only slightly better marked out than a Viking’s idea of what Australia looked like, I saw no reason to deny myself the pleasure.

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