Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Showing posts with label End of the Triumvirate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label End of the Triumvirate. Show all posts

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.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday afternoon Triumvirate

Joe C. (l.) and Frank H.
My friends Joe C. and Frank H. joined me this afternoon for my favorite three-player game of all time, The End of the Triumvirate (designers Johannes Ackva and Max Gabrian, artist Andrea Boekhoff, publisher Z-Man Games).  Frank had played twice before, but it was Joe's first time.  We went over the rules, and he picked it right up.  Joe drew Caesar, Frank was Crassus, and I played Pompeius.  Joe keyed on the significance of the political competence and pushed himself immediately down that track, although Frank kept up with him and bought votes early.  I tried to bolster my military position and thought I'd left my civil servant adequately defended.  Joe proved me wrong and took it from me on, I think, the fourth turn, and I was never able to recover another one.  Frank maintained his political lead and won the first election.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

East India Company: Turn sequence re-work pays off

After work today, I got a fourth playtest of "East India Company" with my friends Brian G. and Frank H.  Earlier this week, I'd completely reworked the turn sequence to improve the flow of decision-making and order of events, plus I added a couple of commodity tiles to the initial set-up to open up the early game.

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!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

After School Special: Three Games at Game Parlor

Most of my gaming experience on a week to week basis comes at home with my wife over cocktails - this time of year, out in the back yard next to the fire bowl.  But on occasion I will get together with friends after work at Game Parlor Chantilly, which is not far from where most of us work and therefore a convenient stopping place in the middle of the week for a game session.  We call it an After School Special, and sometimes even call it by its acronym...

This evening my buddies Grant, Keith, Brian, and I got together and started off with Tannhauser (designers William Grosselin and Didier Poli, artist Didier Poli, publisher Fantasy Flight Games).  I had first seen this game demonstrated at PrezCon a few years ago, and I have to say that I was mildly intrigued but also a little put off.  The demo was a little rushed, not well explained, and played through haphazardly, so I walked away thinking not much of the gameplay.  I have a very different impression of it now - a fun shoot 'em up skirmish game with a few neat special-ability twists.  In this evening's game, we paired off two players against two, each team controlling three heroes and two troopers.  Grant and Keith seized control of the center hallway of the house, but Brian and I managed to do some serious damage with a couple of hand grenades and some ridiculous dice luck.  We ended up winning in a game that probably shouldn't have been so lopsided.

(c) Z-man Games
Used by permission
Grant had to leave, so Keith, Brian, and I broke out my very favorite three-player game, The End of the Triumvirate (designers Johannes Ackva and Max Gabrian, artist Andrea Boekhoff, publisher Z-Man Games).  This was a very close game all the way through.  There were times when I really thought I was going to pull off a second election as consul and win the game, but instead Keith couldn't be stopped in achieving a competency victory despite best efforts from Brian and me to hold him back.  I am continually amazed at the knife-edge balance of this game.  It is not a symmetric game like many Euros, where play balance is a foregone conclusion because each player starts in an identical situation.  Yet there is no position in Triumvirate that has any kind of presumed advantage, or can be knocked out easily.  I've played three times now, and every time I'm left awestruck at how tight this game is.

(c) Fantasy Flight
Used by permission
With a little time left to kill, we decided to play Citadels (designer Bruno Faidetti, numerous artists*, publisher Fantasy Flight Games), which is right now my favorite game of all.  This was the game that kept us up until 2:00 in the morning at World Boardgaming Championships, after we'd each already had a full day of tournament gaming.  This time it was my turn to pull out the victory.  As always, it was a game full of second-guessing and back-stabbing.

Next post:  My latest design inspiration

* Artists for Citadels as listed on Boardgamegeek:
Cyrille DaujeanJulien DelvalJesper EjsingBruno FaiduttiDidier GraffetBjarne HansenDarrell HardyFlorence MagninJean-Louis MourierScott NicelyChristian T. PetersenBrian SchomburgRichard Spicer