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Showing posts with label Wooden Ships and Iron Men. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wooden Ships and Iron Men. Show all posts

Friday, August 14, 2015

WBC 2015

Keith Ferguson and I drove up to Lancaster, Pennsylvania last Thursday for our annual pilgrimage to the World Boardgaming Championships.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The game time conundrum revisited

A couple of years ago, I looked over my game collection and sighed at the number of games that hadn't seen the attention they deserved.  I wrote a post listing games that I wanted to spend more time on, even as I realized that as long as leisure time is limited and the game collection is big, there will always be neglected games on my shelves.  It's a topic worth revisiting from time to time - both because it's interesting to see how the list has changed (and how it hasn't) and because it's helpful to look at the collection with fresh eyes and think about resurrecting a few titles that might bear dusting off and playing again.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A look back at hip-pocket wargames

I just saw the documentary Game On: The World Boardgaming Championships, by Alex Dunbar of Wind-up Films, which featured (among other things) the progress of a young competitor in the Ace of Aces tournament.  And just yesterday, my friend Paul R. just contacted me, now that we are working in the same building, about getting together for a game (which we haven't done in far too long).  It occurred to me that with proper planning, we could play a wargame on a lunch break.  Both of those events reminded me of a post I wrote a couple of years ago on what I called "hip-pocket wargames" - those that you could pull out and play on relatively short notice.  So what follows is a re-post of that blog entry, which might be new for some of my more recent followers.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Spring and summer photos

As October begins and fall sets in, I thought I would look back at some of games I got to play over the last six months.

My friend Grant G. gave us Goa for Christmas, and Kathy and I really like this neo-classic Euro.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

WBC 2014 Saturday and Sunday: WS&IM fleet action, Acquire semifinal, and demos

One quick go-back on my earlier posts recounting my World Boardgaming Championships experience this year:  The very first thing that Keith Ferguson and I did Thursday morning, on our way to the registration desk, was to bump into Josh Tempkin of Tall Tower Games.  He spent a good part of the convention demonstrating several of his games:
  • "WarTime," which I've written about before as a fascinating, innovative real-time wargame involving sand timers
  • "Throne Dice," which surprisingly I still haven't taken the time to play
  • "Commissioner," which I learned at UnPub 4 as "Lesser Evil"

Thursday, August 14, 2014

WBC 2014 Friday: WS&IM loss, Acquire victory, and EIC demo

Friday August 8 was the day that the Vendors' Area opened at the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, so Keith Ferguson and I headed there as soon as the doors opened to see what we could find.  I had a few specific games in mind, and I was fortunate to find immediately the one at the top of my list, Concordia, designed by Mac Gerdts and published in the U.S. by Rio Grande.  I was initially attracted to this game simply because the title, after the Roman goddess of harmony, shares the name of the protagonist in my wife Kathy's series of historical murder mysteries.  Reviews led me to believe that I would appreciate this game in its own right, so I look forward to giving it a try.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

WBC 2014 Thursday: TPA and a day of not winning

Last week I conducted my fourth annual pilgrimage to the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the summer highlight of my gaming year.  I had a fairly loose schedule in mind, with only a few key tournaments that I specifically wanted to hit.

Friday, August 9, 2013

WBC 2013 Saturday: Wooden Ships fleet action and semifinal

Saturday at the World Boardgaming Championships was the day I'd been preparing for - the Wooden Ships and Iron Men fleet action and, if I qualified, the semifinals with a goal of reaching the final and competing for the championship.

My fellow Dutch players, Admiral
Ron (l.) and Commodore Tim H.
Wooden Ships fleet action
Tim Hitchings always puts on a great fleet action at WBC.  This year, the scenario involved a meeting engagement in the Dogger Banks between a British fleet of six ships-of-the-line and six frigates escorting nine merchant vessels against a similarly outfitted Dutch fleet.  The goal of each fleet was to escort its merchants safely off the opposite side of the board.  I served as the rear commodore of the Dutch fleet, with the ship-of-the-line Holland and a frigate under my command, as well as three of the merchants.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

WBC 2013 Friday: Gryphon and Avalon Hill

Continuing my saga from yesterday's post...

Friday at the World Boardgaming Championships was the first day that the vendors set up shop, and my friend Keith Ferguson was eager to be there when the doors opened.  Somehow I got the Friday morning schedule wrong and missed out on competing in a morning tournament, so I went to the vendors' hall instead.  As soon as I walked in, I saw the Gaming Nomads booth with Incan Gold (designers Bruno Faidutti and Alan R. Moon, artist Matthias Catrein, publisher Gryphon), which my family had been playing using a makeshift homemade version.  For $20, it seemed reasonable to get a copy of the real thing, since it gets some play in my house.  I overheard someone ask for Salmon Run (designer Jesse Catron  artist Eric J. Carter, publisher Gryphon), which I didn't even know they had until they pulled it out from under a low shelf, so I picked that up, too.  Finally, I decided to get Pergamon (designers Stefan Dorra and Ralf zur Linde, artist Klemens Franz, publisher Gryphon Games), which has been on my wishlist for a long time but which I just never picked up until now.  So I bought three Gryphon games from the first vendor I saw.  I decided discretion was the better part of valor at that point, and turned around and walked out again before my credit card got any other bright ideas.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

WBC 2013 Thursday: "Small" tournaments and second-hand buys

Last week I spent four days at the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  WBC is one of my favorite conventions, and this one had a few highlights that I hope to share over the next few posts.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

WBC: Wooden Ships semifinal and final

I was pleased to qualify for the semifinal in the World Boardgaming Championships Wooden Ships and Iron Men tournament.  The previous year, I'd lost in the semi-final to Evan Hitchings, and as it happened, this year would provide the opportunity for a rematch.

Semi-final: Frigate frenzy
For the semi-final, we were each given the opportunity to choose from among three orders of battle:
  • Two elite-crewed American frigates, including one 44-gun ship
  • Three crack-crewed British frigates
  • Four French frigates - one crack and three average

Friday, August 10, 2012

WBC: When ships were made of wood

The Wooden Ships and Iron Men tournament has become an enduring staple of my experience at World Boardgaming Championships.  My post a few days ago described my loss in a one-on-one engagement, but I enjoyed a fair degree of success later in the competition.

Monday, August 6, 2012

World Boardgaming Championships: Wonders, ships, and farmers

Last Thursday, I arrived at the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with a "flexible plan" (which is just one step above no plan at all) of how best to enjoy this annual trek to the highlight event of the Boardgame Players Association.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

S. Craig Taylor

Don Greenwood included the following note in his most recent newsletter to the Boardgame Players Association:
S. CRAIG TAYLOR, Jr: I regret to inform my many friends in the hobby of the passing of our longtime friend. Craig was a prominent wargame designer who left his mark on the genre with designs for such varied concerns as Battleline, Yaquinto Publications, Avalon Hill and Lost Battalion, among others. His work was steeped in his background as a miniatures enthusiast and a keen interest in military history - an area of expertise in which few were his equal. He authored virtually dozens of games, but will probably be best remembered for his seminal work on Wooden Ships & Iron Men. I had the pleasure of working with Craig for nearly 20 years at Avalon Hill and admired him for the honesty and principles with which he lived his life as well as his obvious skills. My life is richer for having known him. He will be sorely missed.
Wooden Ships & Iron Men is perhaps my favorite wargame of all time.  I remember buying it at K*B Toys in 1976, the year after it came out.  It was billed as an "Official Bicentennial War Game."  My copy is now "well loved," heavily worn from so many sessions of tabletop sea battles.

I met Craig Taylor at HistoriCon, I think six years ago, when he was with Lost Battalion Games and I was hawking my very first real game design, Diadochi.  I bought two games from him (Enemy in Sight and Task Forces at War) and sat in on his demonstration of the western front Sergeants! Expansion, which was just coming out that year.

Sad that people like him don't last forever.
Sergeants! (designer S. Craig Roberts) demonstration at HistoriCon 2006

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hip-pocket wargames

(c) Z-man Games
Used by permission
My friend Grant and I had plans to play a three-player round of The End of the Triumvirate (designers Johannes Ackva and Max Gabrian, artist Andrea Boekhoff, publisher Z-Man Games) Friday afternoon, but our third player never showed.  Having lost an hour waiting, and me having to leave less than two hours later, we were faced with having to come up with a quick two-player game on the fly.  (We eschewed the idea of playing TEotT as a two-player game, which is possible but which, in our opinion, loses the essence of the game.)  Now, Grant has quite the collection, and I was quite happy with what we ended up playing - Traders of Carthage (which is on my "must have" wishlist) and Oz Fluxx (another in the series of light-hearted Fluxx games by Looney Labs).

Filler games like ToC and Fluxx accommodate this niche perfectly.  But both of us were wishing we'd had a wargame locked and loaded as a contingency to knock out in our hour-and-a-half window of opportunity.  In retrospect, we certainly could have played my miniatures favorite De Bellis Antiquitatis or the quick and dirty card game Down in Flames: Zero!  Even a game of chess might have worked, and I think we considered it.  Grant specifically mentioned he would have liked to have played a Columbia block game, if we'd had more time.  But when you don't have your miniatures handy or can't lay your fingers on the right game on the spur of the moment, we found it hard to whip out something that's both meaty and quick.  

So the situation spurred a conversation on Tuesday among some of us about what wargames would have fit this situation - something at hand on the shelf that can fill a contingency window of an hour and a half or so. "For short wargame, break glass."  Paul R. reminded me that Scenario 3, "Stuart's Raid," from Stonewall Jackson's Way is very quick.  He also told me that just the previous Thursday, he and Frank H. had completed a scenario of the Avalon Hill classic Caesar's Legions in two hours - including set-up, rules review, play, and clean-up.  PanzerBlitz also came up in our conversation. 

So I thought I'd review my own collection and see what candidates I have as "hot standbys" for spur-of-the-moment wargame options.  Here's what I come up with as good options from games I have on hand:

Image courtesy of
GMT Games
  • Down in Flames III: Zero! (designer Dan Verssen):  GMT's clever card game of World War II dogfighting can be knocked out in less than an hour pitting a flight of four American aircraft against four Japanese.  Always fun.
  • Memoir '44 (publisher Days of Wonder):  Richard Borg's fun, approachable World War II game that starts in northern Europe but whose expansions extend to all theaters
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men (designer S. Craig Taylor):  One of my very favorite games, an Avalon Hill classic handling of tactical naval combat in the age of sail, from single frigate engagements to large fleet actions
  • Panzer Leader (designers Dave Clark, Randall C. Reed, Nick Smith) and
    (designer Jim Dunnigan):  Two more Avalon Hill classics, timeless treatments of battalion-level armor and infantry combat on the western and eastern World War II fronts, respectively
  • Battle Cry  (Avalon Hill / Hasbro):  Richard Borg's American Civil War predecessor to Memoir '44
  • De Bellis Antiquitatis (designers Phil and Sue Barker and Richard Bodley Scott):  The only miniatures game on this list, appealing for its small scale and rapid play time.  Our collections are 15mm scale, which means each army fits in a cigar box and the battle can be played on a two-foot-square board with a half-dozen pieces of terrain.  Simple, quick, and still tactically challenging.
  • Richtofen's War (designer Randall C. Reed):  A favorite of mine way back in high school, I haven't touched this Avalon Hill World War I dogfight classic in a long time, but I remember it was a quick play with a lot of tactical maneuver.
  • Saipan (designer Kip Allen):  The only folio game I have from the SPI "Island War" quadrigame, this is a nice treatment of the US Marines' invasion of the very toughly defended island.  Play balance issues need some treatment, though.
  • Ace of Aces (designers Doug Kaufman and Alfred Leonardi):  A true "filler" wargame.  This was a fun diversion when I was on a submarine in the Navy.  My department head and I had a decent campaign going during one deployment.
So I think the lesson learned here is that I ought to have two or three of these "at the ready" for any spontaneous opportunity for a wargame encounter.  I wonder if I should carry some of them in my car?  You never know when the mood will strike ... to kill some cardboard!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Third day at World Boardgaming Championships

Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson
Saturday was all about Wooden Ships and Iron Men.  Tim Hitchings set up a fleet action in an engagement between British and French fleets in a hypothetical scenario with several players on each side in which the British fleet attempted to intercept a French fleet leaving port.  Tim gave me command of the British fleet.  The entire action ran about seven hours, with a short break for lunch.  A number of people dropped out, and others dropped in over the course of the scenario.  The battle itself was exciting and engaging, as the British became almost completely surrounded by the more numerous and better-reinforced French.  British superior crew quality and gunnery, however, helped the Royal Navy withstand the onslaught of the French fleet.  Despite one or two of the British ships having to strike colors under heavy rakes from multiple directions, we were able to sufficiently bloody the French that Tim declared the Royal Navy team to be the winners.  He gave me a prize as the best captain in the British fleet.

Later that day, I faced Evan Hitchings in the semifinals in a very even match-up of two 74-gun SOLs.  Again I was able to practice my tactical doctrine of concentrating fire on the rigging of the lead ship to reduce maneuverability, then focusing all squadron fire on a single ship's hull to take it out of action before turning to the other target.  In relatively short order, I had taken out the mast of the lead enemy ship and forced the second ship to strike her colors.  My ships had suffered a lot of damage in the process, however, and after some amount of time, my opponent was able to force one of my ships to strike her colors.  He had also inflicted a waterline hit on the other ship that induced flooding, so that a third of my crew had to be taken out of the gunnery teams to operate the water pumps and keep the ship afloat.  All else being essentially equal, my remaining ship - down one crew section - was not able to keep up in the battle of attrition that followed with the remaining enemy ship.  When the timer was up, it was clear that Evan had inflicted more damage on my ships than I had on his, so he won our semifinal matchup and advanced to the final.  We both agreed that it was one of the most exciting battles either of us had played in the tournament.

Keith and I met Chris and Cherilyn from dicehateme.com in the open game room, where they invited us to playtest a game in development called Viva Java.  The premise is that players collaborate to invent blends of various coffee beans that will be profitable on the premium coffee market.  The game involves a number of innovative mechanisms, the most interesting of which is the formation of players into temporary teams who try to combine their resources to come up with the most optimum blend on the market.  Players can invest in each others' projects if they think they will be profitable.  The cooperation is always transitory and self-serving, so there's a constant interplay to juggle benefits of collaboration with the game goals of beating your opponents.

I have been reading the Dice Hate Me blog for quite some time, so it was great to meet Chris and Cherilyn and discuss their game projects as well as share Trains Planes and Automobiles with them.  Their energetic enthusiasm for gaming is infectious.  Likewise, Josh Tempkin of Tall Tower Games shared some fascinating insights into how he and his partner developed a carefully researched and tested set of design principles on which they base all their game projects.  The results speak for themselves in the gameplay of their project Wartime, which I consider to have the potential to be a groundbreaking development in table-top gaming as a fundamentally new paradigm.

Keith, Brian, and I got together afterward for a number of games - Tikal, Citadels, and 7 Wonders.  Keith had competed in the finals for Conquest of Paradise, and Brian had made the finals for Tigris and Euphrates.  So, in short, there's been a lot of boardgaming going on this week...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Second day at World Boardgaming Championships

Friday morning, I ran a session of Trains Planes and Automobiles for several kids in the Juniors Room between tournaments.  Laurie W. of the Junior Events staff at WBC had played it with me yesterday, and she talked up the game among the kids to help spur interest.  The kids that joined me at the table had a good time learning and playing TPA and really liked it.  Later in the day, I played TPA with my friends Brian G. and Keith F., each of whom had already bought a copy.

I had some free time to try another round of Wooden Ships and Iron Men, and was surprised to learn that I was in the running for the quarterfinals.  I took the opportunity to play another session to try to boost my chances of qualifying.  In our scenario, I had two British 74-gun ships-of-the-line (SOLs), and my opponent had equivalent ships.  From the first turn, I could tell this was going to be an unusual game.  My opponent opened with an innovative tactic; he sent one of his vessels upwind and the other downwind as I approached in order to attempt a rake on one end or the other of my line.  I am rather traditional in my tactics and refused to separate my ships but maintained a close order line in an attempt to overlap fields of fire and concentrate on a single target (as I had against Robert yesterday).  

I focused my fire on one ship's rigging to reduce his maneuverability and render him unable to tack upwind and rake the rear of my line.  Suddenly he turned toward me, rammed my rear ship, and attempted to board it - something I really did not expect.  What followed was a bloody melee over several turns in which my crew barely prevailed.  He fought to the last man in a the battle that left my rear ship with only an eighth of its original crew standing.  Meanwhile my lead ship was engaged in a pounding point-blank exchange of broadsides that left both his downwind ship and my lead ship in danger of striking.  My rear ship freed itself of the grapples from the now-empty, drifting enemy vessel, and re-joined my lead ship.  I was able to engage his remaining vessel from both sides and deliver the decisive blow that force her to strike her colors.  At the end, we both agreed that it was one of the most exciting WS&IM battles either of us had played in a long time.  Unlike the previous day's victories, which seemed to some degree products of dice luck, I felt as though I won Friday's battle largely through tactical discipline.    

I entered the Alhambra tournament, which was very well attended.  I had a strong second-place finish among the six very friendly players at our table (including Laurie W. of the Juniors Room).  As it turned out, only first-place finishers would qualify for the semi-finals, so I was out of the running for Alhambra.  

A little later in the day, Joel Tamburo hosted a seminar on ethics in gaming, an engaging discussion on a rich topic that I will explore in more detail in a later blog post.

That evening, I saw a demonstration of GMT's Washington's War, which looks like an interesting game that explores the efforts of Great Britain vs. the Continental Congress to win the hearts and minds of the colonists during the American Revolution.

Keith F. had seen a demonstration last year of a game called Wartime, an as-yet unpublished real-time board wargame.  Josh Tempkin of Tall Tower Games has it for demo here at WBC again this year, so Brian G. and I had the opportunity to try it out.  The game involves perhaps the most innovative mechanism I can remember seeing in a long time - a set of multiple egg timers for tracking when pieces may move.  All play is simultaneous and open, and the game involves no luck at all.  Players simply move and attack as fast as the egg timers allow them to.  The gameplay gives new meaning to the phrase "fast and furious."  We finished our first game in nine minutes.  It felt very much like a real-time video game, but in the format of a boardgame.  We learned subsequently that later that very evening, Josh sold the design to a publisher.  We look forward to seeing the production version when it comes out.

The three of us got together for a late-night session of Stone Age and were joined by Debbie, whom we had not met before but who saw us setting up and asked to join us.  Stone Age falls into the worker-placement category of Agricola or Pillars of the Earth, but it has some novel scoring mechanisms that take some getting used to.  I really enjoy the game but am reluctant to buy it only because it is another bird of that feather, so to speak.

On our way out, we ran across a game of Lifeboat that was being played by Chris and Cherilyn, the creators of the Dice Hate Me blog and podcast.  It was great to meet them in person.  They plan to have playtest sessions of two of their games on Saturday, so I hope to try them out, time permitting.

My Saturday plan currently consists of joining the WS&IM fleet action, a multi-player event in which each player controls two ships in a large naval battle.  There are several demos I want to see during the day, and the WS&IM semifinal and final will be later that afternoon.  If I take leave of my senses, I may participate in the midnight Wartime tournament, just because that game looks like so much fun.

Friday, August 5, 2011

First day at World Boardgaming Championships

A quick summary of yesterday's events:

I started in Wooden Ships and Iron Men with a single frigate engagement against Tim Hitchings, the event coordinator.  I won largely due to die luck; for a good stretch of the game, I couldn't roll lower than '4,' and he couldn't roll higher than '3.'  It's hard to lose under those conditions.  

I followed with a match-up against Rob from Alexandria, VA, my two Spanish 80- and 74-gun ships-of-the-line (SOLs) against his similarly rated vessels.  I won that engagement as well, partly due to basic naval gunnery tactics (concentrate both broadsides on a single target, take down one mast, then switch fire to hull and blast away) and partly due again to die luck (although not as egregious as in the frigate battle).  I was by no means unscathed; through effective use of chain shot, Rob completely demasted my 80-gun SOL.  At one point he tried to perform an end run by pulling his rear SOL out of line and upwind, away from my fire, then rigging full sails, and attempting to sprint around the far side of his lead SOL to turn down wind and attempt to set up a rake on my rear SOL.  I was pretty tight with my line and maneuver, though, and managed to re-form my line along the wind in such a way that instead of firing on my rear, he faced a combined broadside as he made his attempted raking maneuver. Meanwhile, I was able to keep up the barrage on his lead SOL until she struck her colors.  At that point Rob felt that he was unlikely to pull out a win (particularly under tournament time constraints), and he conceded the battle.

I had an opportunity to introduce Trains Planes and Automobiles to Laurie W. and Jenna S., the adults running the Juniors Room.  (There were few children present at the time, and those were all engaged in other games already.)  The adults seemed interested in learning a new family game, and it went over very well.  I'm optimistic they will look for it in the Vendors Room tomorrow, when Worthington Games will have it available for sale.

I competed in the 7 Wonders tournament at a very fun table of seven people, including Stefan from Montreal.  I came in a very close second place (112 points over two games).  There were 25 tables and 42 seats in the quarterfinal, so my strong second-place finish qualified me for the quarterfinal.  Unfortunately, there I had my worst showing ever, with 36 points and a solid lock on seventh place.  So that was it for 7W for me this convention.  

Dr. Lewis Pulsipher delivered a seminar that amounted to a summary of his lecture notes on game design, with a great deal of Q&A and interaction among the audience members, who included Joe Angiolillo, designer of Objective Moscow and Operation Typhoon (although he denied deserving credit for that latter title), among others.  It was a rich and fascinating session that ran so long that I skipped the Agricola heat scheduled for later in the evening.

After my friends Keith F. and Brian G. finished in Agricola (Keith won his table), we went over to the open gaming area, where I introduced them to Citadels.  Keith won our game, a victory I think I could have snatched from him if I'd properly played the assassin against the architect (rather than the warlord), which would have prevented him from building his eighth district and getting sufficient bonus points to outscore me.  Curses!

Today's plan includes more WS&IM, more opportunities to introduce kids to TPA, Alhambra (or maybe Agricola - there's a conflict), demos of Tikal and Washington's War, a seminar on gaming and ethics, and opportunities to play Battleline, Ingenious, and Liar's Dice.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Final preparations for WBC

I'm making final preparations to leave early tomorrow morning for Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to attend the World Boardgaming Championships.  Besides introducing Trains Planes and Automobiles in the Juniors Room, I hope to attend Dr. Lewis Pulsipher's seminar on game design and play a few games.  The top six on my list are

The first four are among my favorite games; the last two are new to me, and I look forward to learning about them.

I welcome comments from others already at WBC or planning to go.  Let me know what you're most looking forward to!