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/

Dungeons Of Yendor.

In the middle of August some 80 or so gamers met up in Manchester to play one of the latest games by noted designer Jim Wallman. Set within his established setting of Yendor (I believe this was the third or foruth megagame to be run in its environs) the King is fed up with parties of adventurers going down to the dungeon and causing trouble as well as the troublesome Orcs (free folk in this game) raiding out of them.Accodingly the King’s army has been tasked to clear the dungeons on mass.

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The game saw teams of players taken on the roles of the King’s army with their allied factions of Elves and Free folk as well as wizards decsend in to the dungeon; it was inhabited by teams or players representing factions that become increasingly monstrous the further down you went.

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My role was as control for the Free  Folk allied to the King’s army so my perception of the game is pretty much limited to that position. The Free folk did send one detachment with the main body of the King’s army but their main force seemed to be content to try to force its own path through the dungeon, engaging in some pretty big pitched battles with the dungeon dwelling Free Folk along the way. For army sized units to go dungeoneering you need to factor in a fairrly substantial logistical element. This really was the crux of the game and a faliure to really grasp this seemed to lead to some inital frustration with the players. That said all the players seemed to get into the game well; the number of players in costume was higher than normal too.

Given my role there were parts of the game, especially concerning the deeper parts of the dungeon that I was unaware of, something involving plastecine monsters, until one materialized on the surface attacking some Free Folk. After what was the best attended Pennine megagame to date we all went to the pub for the usual informal debrief.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

 

 

 

 

Some heavy metal comes forth from the Shed.

These were the last  of the 1/72nd vehicles that brought me up to my total for the quarter- see last post.

First up a Dragon Models M103 heavy tank. A great kit to build, and the single colour paint job went well too. Serving from the fifties to the early seventies it will make an interesting opponent to my IS3s.

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A Model Collect TOS1, basically the Katyusha from WW2 updated with Thermobaric warheads and mounted on a tank chassis, in this case a T72. They first saw operational testing in the Soviet war in Afghanistan then further use in Chechnya.

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Last but not least we have an S and S models Jagdpanzer Kanone in resin, I acquired this one from ebay a while ago. Seems like the tank hunters design lived on a bit longer after WW2, the 90mm gun of its was a rmed with soon became obsolete; the chassis were converted to carry Anti tank guided missiles instead.

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This trio should make for some interesting additions to my post war games.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

Urban Nightmare and the Control Seminar- Zombies a go go:

Urban Nightmare and the Control Seminar- Zombies a go go:

Pennine megagames hosted a rerun of Jim Wallman’s Ubran Nightmare game in Leeds. A crisis management game where the players run different components of Romero city and its surrounding state (The game is based on the ’60s riots in Detroit, Michigan). With teams as diverse as experimental scientists, Emergency services and Federal level special ops it was a heady mix of teams in a semi co operative fight against the game mechanics.

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My role was to be the control to the rather Gung- Ho National Guard time. They were intent on killing as many Zombies as possible as quickly as possible and certainly kept me busy that day running their orders from the team table to the main map.

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Tim who hran the game did a great job of trying to modernise Jim’s design which I think is coming up for being 20 years old now but there was still some clunkiness in its mechanisms that let the game down. Still all the players seemed to enjoy it which is the main thing.

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Jim ran a quick Control Seminar in Huddersfield as a master class in how to be an umpire/ control. To illustrate this he used a quick little game Folkstone Nightmare. The 15 or so of us there quickly got stuck in and I think we all learnt something that we will take forward to future games.

Cheers,

Pete.

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

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

Three weekends of Megagaming

Firstly apologies for the paucity of posts. I’ve been busy with postgrad work. Also with megagaming which is the topic of this post.

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Firstly Peninne Megagamers put on their first full home grown game: A Very British Civil War which was run in Manchester. Based on the popular alternative history gaming project (long story short: Edward VIII refuses to abdicate causing chaos and he invites Mosley to form a government, civil war starts between Socialst, Royalist, Fascist and Anglican factions) we had the four major factions battling over the Pennines from Liverpool to Hull, York to Chesterfield.

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Each faction had a number of players split by region and role. Military commanders moved forces on the main map and fought occassional battles whilst the political players played a seperate game trying to influence the population of each area with rallies and marches. Ideally this activity was controlled by the overall leaders so that when a military player took control of a town the population had already been won over to that faction’s cause. Control of the towns and cities meant extra income allowing the purchasing of bigger armies etc.

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My role in the game was as a military umpire. Whilst armies were moved on a main open map the actual battles too place on a gridded board. With four battle boards ready the three military umpires (John, Rupert and myself) were expecting plenty of business but other than selling massive amounts of ammo we were fairly quiet. A few changes that would increase the number of battle in the game were discussed post game and I’m sure they’ll be worked in to future games.

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The mixture of political, military and diplomatic roles seems to mean that there was something for everyone and all the players seemed to of had a good time.

The following weekend saw Paul, Rupert and I go to the Hammerhead Wargames show in Newark to run a demonstration of Rupert’s forthcoming Jena game, given that the Napoleonic period is not something I know much about I swotted up with an Osprey the night before. The game is similar to the VBCW one in that players move unit on one map then go off to a seperate battle board to fight out and battles. The biggest difference is that the moves in the Jena are done on a double blind system to really get that fog of war that is often hard to replicate in table top games.

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We had a good run through of the game at the show. It was pleasing to see one young lad wander over to see what is Dad was doing then get into the game himself. Being the only map based game amongst all the table top games made us stand out and hopefully it has resulted in extra interest and players for the game.

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A fortnight after Hammerhead it was myself and Simon’s turn to demo a game. A the Triples show in Sheffield we ran through our Korean Chosin game to drum up some interest.Simon had done a superb job with the map and I knocked up some counters with his help. I bought some flags to add a bit of colour to our table

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Different to the above games it is a true double blind game with both moves and combat being resolved by umpires who then feed back the results to the players. Although we only let the punters at Triples play the US Marines on the day as we presented a stripped down version of the game. Again those who played the game seemed to have a great time and it was encouraging to see younger gamers pick up the ideas of the game (there being no rules to learn) and get into the spirit of things. It was nice to be asked by another show’s organiser to put on a similar game at his event, must have liked what he saw.

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Please look at the following links to register for either game – and the Urban Nightmare and Dungeons of Yendor games that are upcoming too.

 

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

http://www.penninemegagames.co.uk/the-jena-campaign.html

http://www.penninemegagames.co.uk/the-chosin-few.html

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

Don’t Panic Too- An Operation Sealion Megagame.

A couple of weeks ago I got the chance to try my hand at a ‘what if?’ megagame in Manchester based around the potential German invasion of Great Britain in the summer of 1940.

As a scenario for a game it has a long pedigree…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Sea_Lion_%28wargame%29 (I know it is a wikipedia page but it is fairly accurate).

Personally I have the belief that the invasion would have never been launched anyway, even if the Battle of Britain had ended in the Luftwaffe’s favour. Still to make the game workable Jim Wallman the game designer had to alter history, I would be interested in seeing a list of exactly what was changed but it was fairly obvious that the strengths of both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy were downgraded.

The game started off with a few hours planning the invasion, I had been given the role of the Luftwaffe/ Kriegsmarine Liaison Officer for the Heer’s Army Group A, this putting me in the team of the top level of command. This extended time to plan the first turn meant that we had a rather intense start to the game as we needed to come up with the plan and aims of our invasion.

Our planning map.

Our planning map.

After some discussion the vision of our CO became clear: he envisioned a crossing of the channel at the narrowest point with the main thrust on our right flank, landing on the beach west of Folkstone, our left flank and most westerly point was to be a landing on Brighton’s pebble beach. The Luftwaffe were to provide direct support to our ground forces. The Kriegsmarine was to protect the sea lanes with a layered defence of U boats, mines, S boats and Destroyers. Once the initial landing was made the first priority was to take the ports of Folkstone and Dover. Once these were captured we would be able to land far more materiel than on a beach , mostly 7th Panzer Division who would then drive straight up the road to London. The Fallschrimjäger would drop inland to secure airfields and the town of Ashford.

With this sorted out the remainder of the game would be devoted to managing the game as it unfolded, easier said than done as megagames by the simple virtue of having many players seems to throw up Clauswitzian friction better than any other game type I’ve played. One thing to note here is that the game was held in a new venue in Manchester that allowed the different levels of command to occupy side rooms separate to the map where the game was actually decided with dice and counters. Compared to all the other games I attended that have been held in one big room it certainly helped up as the highest level. Players would only come and visit if they had something important to tells us or to ask for (nine times out of ten this was extra logistics counters) or we told them to report to us for a briefing; this meant people didn’t just pop to our table for no reason. As a result we were able to take our time with the game and not feel under too much pressure. This was in marked contrast to the fast paced, pressure cooker environment around the main map. I think this physical separation really helped the feel of different levels of command and I look forward to further games at the same location.

The organised chaos in the main room....

The organised chaos in the main room….

When the first turn started it was actually our quietest time as we knew that there would be a delay as information was filtered up the chain of command from Division to Corps (in the main room) to Army level (a different side room) before it got to us. What was clear after two turns was that the British had assumed that we would land in the west; the majority of their forces were deployed from Portsmouth in the west to Brighton in the east. This meant that our main thrust was facing relatively light opposition. That said our FJ drops was involved in a nasty fight for Ashford. The best news of all was the both Folkstone and Dover had not been sabotaged and were weakly defended with a Home Guard troops, just a battalion in each. The quick capture of both of these meant that we were pretty confident of getting our supplies across with some ease.

With our most westerly forces in contact with the most easterly of the main British line of defenders which made the decision to use them to pin down as many of the British units as possible, hoping that they would become focused on them and not realize our significant push out from the east. This was rather unfortunate for the Army and Corp players in that area as they got no reinforcements from our reserves, very little in the way of logistical support but had to face the brunt of the British counter attacks (and a stonking great RAF air raid which flattened Brighton itself late in the game). As harsh as that may be it was necessary for the main plan to succeed.

The Army commander pleads his case for more reinforcements to be sent to the bleagured troops in Brighton.

The Army commander pleads his case for more reinforcements to be sent to the bleagured troops in Brighton.

A few turns in it became apparent to me that the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine players were more than happy to come to us to keep us abreast of what they wanted which allowed our CO to give them their instructions at the same time; this did mean that my cast role as Liaison was somewhat redundant…. However I did find something to do and re -rolled my self as a propagandist. The game featured a pair of players taking on the role of the supposedly neutral media who could influence both the British public’s morale and the opinion of still neutral America (though I can’t blame them for being pro British really). I really got into writing communiques managing a page of A4 scribbles every hour or so. In fact I may have enjoyed it too much as I was pulled aside by control for trying to extend my influence in the game beyond my remit. In my defence that was never my intention when I wrote that Franco wanted Gibraltar back it wasn’t an attempt to bring a Spanish dimension to the game rather it unsettle the players with a piece of complete disinformation. I really enjoyed my new role and am pleased that I had the ability to expand on it throughout the game, even bringing in Lord Haw Haw to directly address the British public. In fact I would have liked to have seen the political aspect expanded upon if the game ever gets re- run; also I’ll choose a similar role if I see any in future games.

After 7 PzDiv had been landed it made fairly good progress up the road to Chatham, after the FJ had cleared Ashford albeit with heavy losses. If the British had been aware of these gains they seemed to not move much in the way from Brighton’s beach head to try and intercept us. By the time the game was called there was only a Home Guard unit, a Division HQ and artillery park between us and London; we had even managed to fly in an air-landing brigade to protect the left flank of the Panzers’ advance. I was fairly confident that in another turn or two we would have got into London itself, which did seem to be rather undefended.

The main map at the conclusion of the game- the first time I actually got to have a proper look at it.

The main map at the conclusion of the game- the first time I actually got to have a proper look at it.

We were helped by three major factors: most of all the British had misjudged their initial deployment and never really seemed to move from it throughout the game. The Kriegsmarine player did a fantastic job against some pretty stiff odds to get plenty of units landed as well as their vital logistics too- he was far more successful than I thought possible, at the game’s end he pretty much controlled the channel and was planning to breakout past Cornwall into the Atlantic after a few capital ships of the RN had been sunk. Thirdly the RAF were never the threat that I thought they would be, our Luftwaffe did a good job keeping them away from our forces; speaking to others after the game it seemed that the air combat for both sides were pretty ineffective.

All in all another great day’s gaming and a nice new venue that I hope will be used again in the future.

Cheers,

Pete.

Useful link:

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

D Day Dodgers Megagame, 18/4/15, Royal Armouries, Leeds.

Yesterday I was in Leeds for the latest megagame- this time set in WW2. As the title suggests the megagame covered the campaign in Sicily and Italy. Given it was my seventh game so far (doesn’t seem that long ago since I went to my first one: Operation Goodwood) I asked for and got a high level command, in fact I was head of the entire British effort, Commander of 15th Army Group. Under me were two armies and four corps as well as attached air assets. One thing that was noticeable about the game was the number of new players there on their first megagame- so only having got their briefing materials that morning. Being six games in I was something of a veteran by comparison, a somewhat unsettling idea… especially as it was my first time in the lofty heights of high command… My command team included Evan as my operations officer, Chris as Logistics/Amphibious Landings/ Naval officer; his economic acumen was superb- he made sure that everyone had enough supplies to fight and that the right amount of shipping was available when needed (he and I managed to go through the logistic side of things from the pre game briefings on Thursday that really helped both of us) and new player Ken as my intelligence officer (his job was to liaise with everyone and keep us all informed as to where the front line were) who did sterling work all game.

Organised Chaos at the 15 Army Group HQ.

Organised Chaos at the 15 Army Group HQ.

The game started with the joint British and American forces already landed in southern Sicily, we had to then battle to take the island. Given the starting dispositions I followed a pretty much historical plan, sending the Americans west to clear the island and Palermo and the British to clear the east side up to Messina.

Given the entire air command and the US corps were made of entirely new players they acquitted themselves superbly, couldn’t of helped for better. The veteran British corps players were solid too, I felt I had slightly neglected them as I tried to help the new players as much as possible but given their methodical and steady progress up the east coast I felt I could just happily leave them to get on with it.

Our planning map.

Our planning map.

I landed a division directly into Palermo, they were unopposed in the main but I got a reprimand from the RN for ordering their Battleships into the range of land based fighters without adequate air cover. At this point the US Provisional Corps player was rather overworked having control of five divisions by himself, that said he was by far and away my most aggressive player often bypassing the Army HQ to talk directly to me, given he had command of my only Armoured Division he was the idea player. Still to ease things Evan volunteered to leave Army Group HQ to go down to Corps level to help him out.

The Germans for the most part had moved to the east side of the island and were holding firm around Mount Etna and in front of Messina, at this point Ultra intelligence allowed me to identify that extra units had been brought across the straights of Messina, something that I had been previously unaware of due to not being able to get any air recce up there.

The fight for the island went a little slower than I expected but this was understandable as the new players got to grips with what they were doing. As what happened historically Mussolini was toppled and lost the reins of power; this brought a pause in the game. Italy was evacuated by the Germans and the Italians left there surrendered.

Chris and Rob (game control) sort out logistics.

Chris and Rob (game control) sort out logistics.

During this pause there was the opportunity for a little diplomacy with the Italians, through the game controllers, offering to surrender and disband their forces in Italy. After Ken started to put out feelers for their terms we really needed a man to deal personally with them. At this point Evan was recalled with a for the Corps HQ for a special mission…

…The Italians were prepared to open up a port for us before an armistice was signed and disband all other units afterwards if we promised to help protect Rome. During this planning phases Ken and I got quite caught up in the fun of the diplomacy to the detriment of the operation planning for the invasion of the mainland, planning that wasn’t made easy as we knew we were losing some units (withdrawn as part of the Overlord preparations) but we didn’t know exactly what we were getting as replacements.

We had a plan to get the Italians to open up Taranto to rush in a Corps worth of troops pre armistice but we couldn’t be sure that it would be completely unopposed. Basically the Italians wouldn’t disband until we made a show of attacking and I wasn’t keen to attack until they had disbanded (especially as rumours of Rommel’s presence were abounding). At this point I decided that a bit of real politic was in order; to sweeten the deal I promised to land the 82nd Airborne in Rome (historically it was considered but abandoned after the 82nd Divisional Commander did a personal recce of Rome), something that I had no intention of doing (Sorry to all the Italian players).

So I pushed a British Corps across the straits of Messina into the toe of Italy at the start of the 1430hrs turn with the Italians agreeing to announce their armistice at 1459hrs (too late for the Germans to alter their orders for the 1500hrs turn). This worked well, so well in fact that the Italians (excited that all the US Paras would soon be helping them out) decided to swap sides and fight along side us. With much cheering when the announcement was made they rushed to move all their game tables from the Axis side of the room to the Allied side (carried on the tables was a ton of useful info on German dispositions and units that Ken quickly hoovered up). Also scheduled at 1500hrs was a British Corps in Taranto and a joint US/UK landing at Salerno.

The Italian players have moved across to the allied side of the hall.

The Italian players have moved across to the allied side of the hall.

Unlike in real life the German players were badly positioned to counter this. With three major ports in our hands the logistic battle was won and they couldn’t muster enough strength to push the amphibious landing and the coast back into the sea. This was partly due I think to the fact that four Italian divisions had attacked the Germans in Rome and engaging in street battles whilst they awaited the arrival of 82nd Airborne (here Ken and I were to be loudly bemoaning the nasty sandstorms on the North African coast).

The advance up the main body of Italy went pretty well, the scattered Germans suffering badly. The two lads running the air support really got into the swing of things here, now they had got the hang of the game their air support was devastating, and as the Italian airbases became open to them it became even more so with great support to the ground units and vital coast rounds being constantly interdicted.

Given how well we were doing (the Rommel rumours remained that but they did cause me to be more cautious that I should have been in the east) Ken and I discussed what to do with the 82nd Airborne that we were holding in reserve. The east was secure that Salerno beachead was holding well so they didn’t need the help… so we decided that we would supply the armour in Salerno with extra logistic points and ask them to push out of the beachead hard towards Rome where we planned to drop the Paras. This fulfilled our obligations to the Italians finally (even though I wasn’t intending to when I made them).

The arrival of the Paras redoubled the Italian efforts in the capital and the Germans were ejected south of the city. At this point END EX was called and I felt pleased that we had won and taken Rome.

I really enjoyed the game, in fact it was my favourite of all the ones that I have been too. The top level of command is more enjoyable, I was constantly busy and surprised at how fast time had passed, without the rhythm or writing orders and waiting for the results to come back of the Corps level players I was constantly on the go, getting info for all side and having fun trying to balance everything. All the new players were great- really through themselves into it and by the end of it were doing fantastically. The diplomacy side was a lot of fun, more than I expected to be honest. I imagine it would have been interesting for the German players, knowing that the Italians were probably going to swap sides but not knowing exactly when and under what terms- I’d be interested to know how it affected their planning….

The master map at the end of the game.

The master map at the end of the game.

After the game we all went across to the pub for a game game drink and informal debrief….

Really looking forward to the two remaining northern megagames of the year. It will be interesting if the organisers decided to base any follow on games on the result of this game or whether to do a follow up game based on the historical post Salerno landing pre Anzio landing situation.

Cheers,

Pete.

Useful link:

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