This War of Mine- the board game.

A few years ago a small indie computer game came out that became a bit of a cult hit and broke the stereotypes as to what a ‘war’ game was all about. Based on the experiences of civilians trapped in Sarajevo amongst over places, This War of Mine is a survival SIM where you direct a group of survivors trying to scrounge for food, barter for goods and fend off bandits. Whilst the game was not graphic in the gory sense it pulled no punches as to the mental breakdown and hardships suffered by the civilians under your control. Having a character commit suicide whilst under your control is an emotive experience that is simply not present in most other games. It should go with out saying that this is a pretty powerful game rather than a bit of whimsy.

A years or so ago a board game version was launched via kickstarter and I backed the campaign. Yesterday my pledge for the base game and a few expansions arrived. I’ve not had the chance to play or even read the rules yet but I thought I’d share some pictures.

 

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The basic game and the kickstarter extras in the brown card box.

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The components seem high quality. A nice touch is the pad of mini maps to record your progress in the game allowing you to ‘save’ your progress so you can spread your game over several sessions.

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The game board; the art style has been directly lifted from the computer game.

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The plastic figures that come with the game are pretty decent.

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A bit of an empty box but it made sense for shipping purposes. Other backers may of had more in their box as didn’t get all the extras that were on offer.

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Some of the stretch goal extra figures and a rather nice statue piece of terrain.

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The the paper extras were safely packed in a stiff envelop.

 

I’m really looking forward to giving the game a go, it came with a ‘ read this first book’ (something that I think is always a good idea so it should be an easy game to pick up. I’ll blog again when I’ve had a chance to play it.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

Urban Nightmare: State of Chaos- the first ever Wide Area Megagame. 1/7/17.

Last weekend saw the first event of its kind a ‘wide area megagame’, simply put this saw multiple venues each put on the same megagame all at the same time with interaction between each game possible. Jim Wallman of Megagame Makers came up with the concept and scenario, a monumental expansion of earlier game designs of his, and bravely decided to make the experiment happen. The scenario saw a zombie outbreak hit modern day USA; each venue hosted a game representing a single state, whilst in London there was a game set at the Federal level that was linked to all the other games concerning itself with shuttling resources about. In all there were at least 500 players in 11 locations in 5 countries (1 game each in Canada, Holland and Belgium, 2 in the USA and the remainder in the UK), it goes without saying that to have simultaneous gameplay with time differences the players in the Americas had to get up rather early. Each state was made up of several cities, each with their own police, emergency services and Mayor, state police and National Guard as well as a State Governor. In additional there were a few players taking on the role of Federal Liaison linking them to the Federal game in London.

Pennine Megagames decided to host two of the games rather than just one. I was originally slated to be a city control for Leeds but due to a personnel change I ended up going down to Birmingham to act as WAMCOM (Wide Area Megagame COMmunications) control, I had the job of co-ordinating any game information that had to flow from my game to any other and vice versa. The meant I had a much better idea of what was happening in the rest of the game but surprisingly little of the detail of the Birmingham game. Accordingly, I can only give an account of how I felt the game ran rather than the detail of the happenings within the state of Shawnee (basically Kentucky). For a better insider’s look, you’d be best off heading to Facebook and reading the player’s reports on there.

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The players seemed to get into their roles with gusto, with separate cities there was much politicking going on as there were state wide elections to be considered while trying to stop the zombie outbreak.  Unlike the previous Urban Nightmare games this one had an open map meaning the players had to interact with the rules directly and there was a lot less hidden information about zombie numbers and strengths. In the other games, the zombies were played and human directed but given the Birmingham game had relatively little control so the zombie spread was administered by them, I think that this made the job of the Shawnee players a bit easier than that of the other games.

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From the emails that I got in the early part of the day the zombies hit hard, many cities declared a state of emergency (necessary to call in state assets) after only a few turns of the game. This didn’t surprise me that much as I had helped to play test the game before hand and new that they had the potential to get out of control very quickly unless the players were very aggressive early on. After a few cities had fallen states were announcing a state of emergency so they could get access to federal help; Shawnee was the last state to declare a state of emergency. I did write little notes to keep our political control team up to date with the nationwide state of play, these were then passed on to the press team player, the media played an important part of the game, necessary in any game set in the present day really, these became known as the post-its of doom as I never had any good news to pass on. Not sure how many made it to the players as I know that most of the new generated was to do with our own state.

You can read the press reports that the game generated here: http://unsoc.net/

By the middle of the afternoon several of the states were in mass panic with cities completely overrun with zombies and in some cases completely abandoned to their fate, in comparison the Birmingham players were doing well. Rumours abounded of other state’s governors being hunted down and arrested as well as one state being taken over by a National Guard coup (there were rumours at this point of a nuclear weapon being used, I’m not sure one was but I did see a picture of a release form allowing the use of unconventional weapons signed by a state governor. I’m not sure what the federal team were up to but a great deal of military hardware was released to them along with all manner of experimental medical equipment. In the end, I think a cure had been developed and then aerosolised and was being prepared to be spread out over the states. This came at a terrible price to both lives and infrastructure of the affect states through the four days of game time.

Overall, I think the first Wide Area Megagame was a great success, credit should go to Jim Wallman for putting it all together, also to the control and players around the world. A few technical issues popped up but not enough to break the game. For one I struggled to get access to the relevant game server through the firewall of the school hall’s wifi. We ended up having to use a mobile phone hot spot for the duration of the game. At an individual venue level, I think that the game worked better being multiple cities in a state rather than the previous games of Urban Nightmare that I’ve played that were just based around a zombie outbreak in a single city in one state

It was great to go on something of a megagame road trip to a new part of the country and see some new faces. Hopefully they’ll make it up to Manchester at least for future games.

Will there be another Wide Area Megagame? Who knows but I’d like to be involved if there is based on my experiences of this one. Everyone in Birmingham had a great time and it was great hearing all the individual game stories in the pub afterwards.

Cheers,

 

Pete.

http://www.penninemegagames.co.uk/

http://www.megagame-makers.org.uk/

A first try at 5core Skirmish (3rd Edition).

I, like most wargamers I think, am never 100% fully satisfied with any given rule set and so I go through stages of tweaking bits, rewriting others or adding bits in. Also I’m always keen to try a new set of rules to see if the grass is greener on the other side. The obvious answer would be to write my own set but that is always easier said than done.

Given how much I and the others have enjoyed playing Nordic Weasel’s 5core Brigade Commander rules in 6mm I decided to pick up one of their skirmish sets from Wargames Vault and give it a go.

I grabbed what was handy fromthe shed and Brian and I had a quick run through of the rules. I set up a 4 by 4 table (I’ll say here that we played with all measurements doubled) to look a bit like Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). The light green patches were  bits of scrub, mid green defined the edge of woods.

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Brian got 2 four man teams of RLI each with 3 FN FALs and 1 FN MAG:

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Whereas I got 10 assorted ZANLA (5 AK, 2 SKS, 2 PPSh, 1 RPD), all of the figures were from Under Fire Miniatures.

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My ZANLA move up the left flank.

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Whilst others advance into the kraal.

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The RLI move into position at the edge of the woods, this was just before we found out how powerfully an FN MAG is.

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We used a lot of counters (Green= hidden, Orange= fired, White= Panic, Red= Knocked Down, blood splat= out of action) I know that is not to all gamer’s tastes but for me function follows form if it for the sake of game play.

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RLI advancing through the scrub on the ZANLA right flank.

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In my last two turns I managed to combine a scurry followed by a fire fight; I got my men into position weathered the return fire then was in a good place to shoot. I took a few casualties (4 out of the fight) but I gave the RLI a bloody nose (2 out of the fight) which historically they would have found hard to countenance.

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First impression on the game were overwhelmingly positive from both of us- clear rules and it played nice and quickly too, ideal for a mid- week evening. The mechanisms are very similar to the brigade level game but feel right for a smaller level of play. Having three reserve activation dice to use throughout the game is a nice feature, standing in for the asset cards in Brigade Commander. The RLI didn’t do as well as they should have, even with the tactical advantage, but if we re run the scenario I’ll add in some skills to boost their performance. I wanted to keep things simple for a first run through.

The only two minor quibbles would be how to have assault and bolt action rifles on the table at the same time. We decided to just treat the AKs and FN FALs as infantry rifles and the SKS as a single shot rifle to provide some differentiation.

Also I’d have like to see some rules for medics too – but that can be easily house ruled (and that takes us back to the top of the post).

I’m very taken with the set and am already planning future games as well as tie ins with our 6mm Cold Wars games in a mini campaign.

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

Where we are going we need roads….

As you will have seen from past posts I’ve been getting into 6mm ‘Cold War goes hot’ gaming recently. However I’ve been unhappy with roads I’ve used for my games: I just used the thinnest dirt roads from my 20mm collection. Whilst they did the job I’ve been on the look out for a more suitable replacement and after considering a few options I’ve made my own (kind of).

 

Firstly I purchased this rather nice  PDF from Wargames Vault:

http://www.wargamevault.com/product/196057/Roads-1-285

Being multilayered you can selected the different types of road marking and road surfaces before printing them out. I went for European markings and dirty asphalt dry before getting them printed out (Cheers Brian). I then used the technique I had previously utilized to make megagame counters and stuck them on to self adhesive floor tiles (4 for £1). You can get thicker more durable tiles from places other than pound shops but they need to be cut with a blade and ruler rather than scissors that slows down production.

I went from this:

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To this:

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I tidied up the edges and added a bit of weathering with marker pens and pencil crayons to give a bit of variety:

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I did plenty to give enough variety to the road layouts. The vinyl tiles give them a bit of flexibility but I don’t know how well they’ll drape over hills… Gentle slopes should be OK.

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I made up a quick layout so I could see how they look:

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You get a decent selection of parts although I’d have liked to see a single into dual carriage way connector. I grabbed some 6mm toys to see how they scaled (Heroics and Ros based on 50mm and 30mm squares for 5core Brigade Commander):

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Overall I’m really pleased with how they look. I’ll get a game in with them as soon as possible to try them out.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

Some Bush War figures.

I’ve been painting up some of the various figures  from Under Fire Miniatures for African bush wars and I thought I’d share them with you.

First up: two groups of  assorted Rhodesian African Rifles.

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Moving geographically westwards and forwards chronologically I’ve done some South African infantry with the later helmet and webbing. They should be good for games set around the time of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale.

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Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

The French invasion of Ireland, 1796, a Napoleonic What if? Megagame.

Last Saturday I went over to Leeds for another megagame, this time however I got to be a player rather than acting on the control team. I was looking forward to the game as I really enjoyed the game designer Rupert’s previous Napoleonic outing Jena 1806 (where I got to indulge my megalomania as ‘N’ himself) and in the game, I got to play an intelligence/ political/ counter insurgency role which I knew would be fun. As with the previous Jena game movement was blind, players wrote down their daily orders and the control team adjudicated any moves on a hidden map reporting back any items of interest or when contact was made with the enemy. When two armies met, the players moved to a series of generic battle boards that were used to fight the ensuing battle out face to face. The game however continued around any fights allowing delaying actions to be fought or reinforcements to be rushed up to support.

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Ireland’s long troubled history with Great Britain doesn’t really need to be retold here but suffice to say that a growing nationalist movement, centred around the Protestant Wolfe Tone, wanted to take advantage of Britain’s distraction of the burgeoning Napoleonic wars on the continent to make a push for Irish independence. For the French, an invasion to provoke an Irish uprising would draw British attention away from the continent to ease their strategic situation. A French invasion fleet was assembled and slipping past the Royal Navy’s blockade sailed to the Irish coasts getting as far as Bantry Bay before being hit with a storm that scattered the fleet and ended any hopes of invading. Rupert’s game starts the storm abating and the landings taking place.

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There were three teams on the game, the British, the French and the revolutionary Irish.  On the British team the players were split between the regular units and fencibles, the militia and the yeomanry. I commanded the last group as the Duke of Leinster. Rather than having any units in the game that could stand in open combat I could activate 5 groups of yeomanry across southern Ireland to spy, sabotage, try to drum up support for the British or conversely stamp out any signs of insurrection. I was pleased to be assisted in my task by a young lad on his first megagame that had first been introduced to them at one of the demo games that I’ve helped Pennine Megagames put on at various wargames shows in the North. One area in which this game differed from the previous one was in the intra- team communications. A letter had to be written and placed inside an envelope and handed to control. They would then deliver it, after a suitable amount of in game time had passed, to its intended recipient.

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After a somewhat ineffectual briefing I had only a vague idea of the operations of the British that I was to support so our team had to work on what we thought best.  An initial attempt to get the Irish population on side was met with very little enthusiasm which left us with a bit of a dilemma over how to proceed with the game. Counter insurgency warfare is difficult enough as it is but being faced with a hostile population and no ‘carrot’ to bribe them with we were only left with the ‘stick’. We had to find a path that saw us being effective enough against any uprisings but not so severe that it brought the peasantry out in open revolt. The sectarian divisions in the population just added to this difficulty. This problem would be tricky enough on its own but it was made even more difficult as the revolutionary Irish team had an equivalent team of players trying to ferment the very revolution with were trying to damp down.

 

One thing that became clear quite early on was the postal system between teams was very slow. Information was coming to us several turns after it would have been useful or were requesting information from us that would be out of date after the time had passed for us to collect the information and to dispatch a rider to get the report to them. A lack of direction from the Commander in Chief didn’t help either; we were on our own. It felt a bit like we were playing a separate but parallel game, not a criticism per se rather than it didn’t have the communications that is common in most games. This wasn’t helped by the revolutionary Irish interfering with our mail, we just couldn’t work out if our letters weren’t getting out (which would indicate a problem close to us) or our replies were getting to us (which could be a problem further afield). We did get in on the postal interference act intercepting the French Commander in Chief’s letter. Sadly, our overzealous Yeomanry captured some of our post too so that was sent on its way.

 

The real fun started when I received a letter from someone signing themselves as ‘Celtic Soul’- I wasn’t sure if this was a wind up to waste my time or a player who was going against his team and trying to put out peace feelers. Either way I thought I’d best reply and try to get them onside. This prompted a game long exchange of letters which I kept a record of.

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Later, I got a letter from Wolfe Tone which made me think that ‘Celtic Soul’ was a genuine player going against his team, but perhaps according to his own personal brief? The paranoia was beginning to set in. The Duke of Leinster was a sitting member of the Irish parliament as well as Commander of the Yeomanry so I could offer Wolfe Tone some degree of political appeasement (especially as I noted in my player briefing that the Duke of Leinster had previously supported Catholic emancipation. The letter writing and debating with the two other players whose characters were sitting MPs meant that towards the end of the day I had left the day today running of the counterinsurgency side of the game to my teammate. It did pay off though as an Irish player did swap sides with a large number of troops and took to the field against his previous comrades.

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The politicking and letter writing was good fun and a role that I had not previously done in a megagame. The game ran its course with the French winning every military engagement they fought but unable to provoke a widespread Irish rebellion, partly because their slow movement meant they had to requisition lots of supply from the local population turning them against them. So, it was probably a tactical/ operational win for the French but in strategic terms they failed to create a big enough problem in Ireland for British to withdraw troops from mainland Europe. As with all megagame it is best to decide in the pub afterwards who the real winner was.

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Over a pint in the pub it was good to catch up with my opposite number on the revolutionary Irish, we had a good laugh over similar attempts to steal each other’s letters. The ‘Celtic Soul’ pseudonym was a wind up (still something I couldn’t afford to ignore in game). One bit of gallows humour came from him trying to spread a false rumour in Wexford that protestants were hanging catholic priest at the same time I had sent the yeomanry in to check on seditious preaching, they had exceeded the brief I had sent them with and decide to hang the priests….

 

The control team did a great job, special thanks to Holly for having to decipher my poor handwriting all day. Another enjoyable game and a role that I would like to try again in a later game.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

http://www.penninemegagames.co.uk/