Megagames Round up and next year’s calendar.

Megagames Round- up.

 

Now that is all my megagames done and dusted for the year it is time to take stock I guess. With the games this year so far it means I’ve been to 32 games in total (designed/run 2, played 12 and controlled 18). I really need to play more I think- it is always fun to do so, just a shame that the operational games that I prefer are few and far between these days. I should really try to get to another groups’ game as a player next year….

 

On the subject of next year: Pennine Megagames have announced the calendar for 2019:

23rd March sees Buccaneer link being run in Sheffield. Set in the War of Spanish Succession it is a prequel to John’s popular game from last year. I hope to reprise my control role from last time as I enjoyed it so much.

On the 18th May Becky put on Trope High link in Leeds. Think every high school film mashed together… so lot of roleplaying possibilities there at the school where everyone has a secret. I’m very interested to see how this one develops as it is something very different to our previous games and should bring in a different crowd of gamers.

22nd June will be a chance to refight the whole of WW1 in Cubespiel link from Tom. This will be run in Manchester- I’m looking forward to this one. An ambitious design but with Tom’s background I’m sure it will make for an interesting game.

At the end of the summer, 14th September, Paul will run Hold the Line ’39 link in Sheffield. Will the Polish mange to stop the German juggernaut this time around? Given how well the full-scale test of the rules worked with Czech mate this is another game that I’m wanting to play in.

Flying, Trading, Misbehaving link is a new game from a new designer Sam inspired by the Firefly universe being run in Manchester 12th October. This should be a good game for all the SF fans out there. Plenty to do whether you want to roleplay or just fight out space battles or even trading.

Pickles rounds off the year on the 16th November in Manchester again with Who Will Watch Them link , a negotiation game of super power limitation talks that could well be disrupted by super villains. Given the popularity of the Marvel/ DC franchises this one could go down well too. Superheroes and me don’t get on but Pickles’ design skills mean this will be a good game.

 

For more details see the Pennine Megagames website or look on facebook for us.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

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Megagame Report: Juntas.

Taking inspiration from the classic old board game of the same name (which I still haven’t played yet) Paul put on this megagame in Manchester on the 24th November. The scenario was expanded beyond the premise of the board game to have players taking on the role of the ruling politicos/ families of four fictional 1960/ 1970s South American countries, all of which were centred around the Anaconda basin. Also, there were players representing various multinational corporations trying to exploit the countries natural resources; four 2- person ambassador teams from the major powers (USA/ UK/ France/ USSR), five single player roles were given over to intelligence operators (all with bland names starting with ‘J’) and finally there were two players taking the roles of writers floating about looking for the story of the century. These final two roles were based on Ernest Hemmingway and Paul Theroux.

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The network figures on the abstracted board.

My job on the day was to run the intelligence game, something that I always enjoy doing. The game was a mixture of open and closed maps. There was a map that everyone could see that showed the info that everyone would know but a large amount of the info about the actual state of a country was kept hidden by control. This design philosophy was reflected in the intelligence game. The players had an abstracted map of the area upon which coloured figures were moved that represented local and transnational networks that could be hired to do the intelligence officers bidding. Whilst the players could negotiate and talk to other players in the game pretty freely the only way that they could mechanically interact with the game was through the networks. The hidden information came from the fact that they invested money into each network and only I as intelligence control knew who had invested what and who had ultimate control of each network. The five players were all experienced megagamers and kept me busy all day with some excellent ideas. Of the five roles four were American, and the final one was Soviet. Three of the US players worked quite closely together whilst John, playing a National Security Agency player, acted to type and kept a distance. Daniel as the Soviet was up against it from the start as the others instantly were suspicious of him, furthermore he invested heavily in the worst network in the game meaning that their loyalty to him was only matched by their incompetence in the field. Networks could be tested to see how good they were but that was not really done by many of the players.

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A general view of the hall with the screened off umpires’ section, the open map (bottom right) and the country tables round the edge of the room.

I could tell from turn one that I was going to be in for a busy game as Matt had been planning on the train down to the game, as he told me after the game’s conclusion, for his opening gambit. He wanted to buy a large quantity of heroin to have it at hand to potentially use to destabilise any of the four played countries if it looked like that they were going to move towards socialism/ communism… very CIA. His networks spent a few early turns locating and the purchasing said drugs. Ed was seemingly unhappy with his budget allocation and rather than deal with the paperwork to increase it (which was an in- game option) decided to raise his own slush fund by having his network rob some banks for him. This did wind up the counties no end as it got docked out of their budgets, as Ed’s networks were pretty good he never had an agent captured that might’ve given him away. A couple did go out in a hail of gunshots on the steps of a bank.

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The common knowledge map of the Anaconda basin.

Within the structure of the turn I was busy all the time as I needed to keep my paperwork regarding the networks up to date, thanks are due here to Becky W for helping my out with  cash counting duities. Collate the pieces of information that the intel players were asking for, resolve any other actions then relaying any pertinent info to the relevant country controls. As such I didn’t see much of the game other than that which was through the spy’s lens. John played the slow and steady game, sticking to his brief by infiltrating and bugging each countries’ radio network. This was spotted by the other three American intel players and they did try to spy on John to find out his loyalties. I just told them that they didn’t have a high enough security clearance to have the answer. At this stage of the cold war even the acronym ‘NSA’ was classified, hence its occasional nickname of ‘No Such Agency’.

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A glimpse behind the umpire’s screen where the countries’ actual data was tracked.

Daniels lowly network was nothing but not persistent taking several turns to finally blow up a dam as an act of economic warfare. As he was about to be hunted down to the others as the game drew to a close Daniel did the sensible thing and negotiated for himself a French passport. The heroin did make its way into the game as it was infiltrated, by the troika of US players when a country went over to communism, into a player’s food to make him unwell when it was withdrawn to limit his efficiency. It may have sounded far- fetched but one only has to remember the CIA plots against Cuba’s Castro during this time frame.

All in all it was a busy but very fun day and another solid political- military game by Paul to finish off Pennine Megagames 2018 calendar. The only thing that I would think about changing from my corner of the game would be to have an intel player tied to each ambassador team as it was difficult for the USSR player to do much and the US got a bigger advantage than the others as there were four players supporting that side.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

https://www.penninemegagames.co.uk/

Megagame Report: Czech mate ’38.

Czechmate ’38 was an operational megagame put on by Paul Howarth in October.  As can be guess from the name it is a what if? Exploration of what could of happened had the Czechoslovaks militarily resisted the attended annexation of the Sudetenland.  It was designed to test out some mechanics before they were used in other, bigger, games; as such this game was run as a small affair through Paul’s Story Living Games.

I got the chance to be the overall commander of the Czechoslovak forces. I came up with a simple plan. A crust of defences that would be held doggedly and the reserves held centrally to respond to the inevitable breakthrough. With only one good mobile division I kept it near the capital as I figured that this would be the main target for the Germans on the day to try and force the Czechs out of the game. I did know that the Germans only had about a fortnight’s worth of supplies, so it was a question of just holding on and trying to not give up any more real estate than I could.

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The plan forms.

On the day because of the small numbers of players I would also be running the air forces for my side. I had helped Paul with playtesting this part of the game quite a bit, so I was confident that I could do both jobs easily.

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A close up view of the air game board.

What really made my day go so well was the sterling work gone by Nick who was my aide de camp who kept me up to date with what was happening on the map, relaying messages and generally keeping things going along.

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My reserves looked impressive stacked up until I saw all the German cubes….

The previous playtesting of the air game had given me a slight advantage even though the Czechoslovak Air Force was greatly outnumbered by the Luftwaffe: I knew I could go toe to toe so put very little up in the early turns conceding air superiority on the basis that I’d never be in a position to seriously contest it anyway. I fully expected a massive German offensive, so my plan was to only fly 50% of my force at any one time, keep stuff cycled through quickly and concentrate on targeting the command and control links of the Wehrmacht.

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General shot of the room: the two smaller tables are for the air game.

The main game was played on an open map with 5cm polystyrene blocks. Each block represented a regiment with the face uppermost indicating that regiment’s current status. The blocks also showed the combat value in each state. Players were given and then had to spend command points to activate their units. It was my responsibility to assign from my pool of points allocations to each player.

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See what I mean about all the red German cubes…? Good job they took so long to clear the border fortifications.

In the plenary briefing of the game I got a little worried when Paul said that if the Czechoslovaks got wiped out and defeated by half past 12 would could just reset, swap sides and go again… it got me expecting a whitewashing. Fortunately, the bunkers that most of my troops started in were pretty tough and the fact that the German Heer was trying to advance whole Corps along a single mountainous road in October meant that they struggled to get the command points to activate.

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Fall back positions were organised.

When the Germans made their first breakthrough I called a tea break to sort out the allocation of reserves and to speak to each commander to see how likely they were to hold out and for how long. At this point I assigned some fall-back positions trying to make the best use of natural obstacles. I was prepared to give up some areas rather than risk having any forces encircled.

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An army marches on its stomach so I brought tea lof to sustain my Czech team.

In the end the reserves, at least those that were rifle divisions, were parcelled out quite early. Hindsight has made me consider if a bolder strategy would have been to have released them to players at the start to make the initial crust of defences very strong indeed. It would have left me with only the Fast Division to act as a reserve which wouldn’t have been very much at all…

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Towards the end of the game the Germans did start breaking through.

I got the chance to do a little roleplaying/ politicking to try and appeal to the French to apply diplomatic pressure. I knew a full-scale invasion of Germany wouldn’t be possible (and outside the scope of the game) but when it was announced that the Poles were mobilizing to take advantage of our misfortunes I appealed to the French to call them off. I knew that this would be easier if we managed to put in a decent counter attack. I knew that I couldn’t turn back the German tide, but I could definitely put a dint into the main thrust. It is worth remembering that the German tanks at this stage were quite poor, mostly Panzer I and Panzer IIs with the better Panzer IIIs and IVs being quite rare. Easy prey for the LT 35 and LT 38 tanks with their 37mm guns I could field. The attack went in as I planned and managed to stall the main German thrust to Prague. It wasn’t a game winning manoeuvre, but it should that will still had fight left in us and saved the capital for a few more days. In the end the game ended after ten days/ turns; certainly, much of the country was occupied but we still had units in the field and a functional government. The Germans had paid a heavy cost to get this far, especially in materiel. So much that a further invasion of Poland the following year would have been doubtful.

The game system seemed pretty solid and I’m looking forward to it being used in next year’s Poland game. The only thing that needs to be added would be a better fog of war mechanism so the location of my reserves would of have to have been discovered in the game by the Germans but that is a minor thing. The only down side of the day is that I now want to raise a 20mm collection to fight out some of the battles the game generated with toy soldiers.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

Megagames Report: Everybody Dies 3: Playing with Fire.

I’m a bit behind with putting up my megagame reports so expect a glut of them over the next few days… They might not be as long as previous game write- ups but I’m keen to get as much down on each of them.

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The very evocative map was back- new were dragon miniatures.

The first of September saw Pennine Megagames put on Becky Ladley’s Everybody Dies 3: Playing with Fire. This was a return to the Game of Thrones world; this time set a good 150 years before the novels/ TV series. The big feature of this game is that it featured large numbers of dragons flying around and getting involved in the narrative. As I’m, seemingly, one of the few people that have still not read the books or watched the TV show I volunteered to control. I was put in charge of running the map where those players commanding armies would be.

Keeping the players on track proved to be hard work and I’m sorry to say that it was my first experience of players purposely bending the rules. I’m sure it happens in many games, but it was a first to see it first- hand…

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The busiest part of the map for the whole game.

The game was very much focused around the events in King’s Landing where the King died in the first turn sparking a civil war between the Greens and Blacks. There were only a few battles on the map so most of the day I was regulating movement and calling players on it to keep them on the straight and narrow… some not liking that.

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Becky had won a competion to get an ice sculpture- got to be a first in a megagame.

As the third run of the game it was very slick in terms of the mechanics. Becky had done a great job simplifying and clarifying both the map movement and the combat. Using the same basic mechanisms for both land and naval combat was a good idea and the game handbook was well produced.

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Daniel lays down the law with a two hand point during a combat.

For an excellent reflective piece by Becky on her game look to her blog here.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

Megagmunda: The megagame.

Back in the mid nineties when I was doing my A levels I used to play a lot of Games Workshop’s Necromunda game and over the years I’ve read a bit of Judge Dredd, although I’ve never been a massive 2000AD fan, so when the mash up of both of these SF universes was added to the Pennine Megagames Calendar I definately wanted to play.

Megamunda, a mining planet,  was divded up into four citi tables over which the gangs fought for control of the seedier parts of the economy whilst the miners were in town to spend their hard earned cash. The five gangs (Troggies, Neon Knights, Cosmic Punks, Van Der Saars and Bandidos) had a representative in each citi who had to fight for control on a hex map my placing countrol counters down and fighting for turf. There were a large group of judges who tried to keep law and order on each of the citi tables, above them were the Governor and planatary wide level. To complicate matters further the mysterious Inquisitions were present doing secret things.

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I was asked by Philip, the game designer, if I minded being put with a group of first time gamers to give them a bit of help if they needed it. I didn’t mind at all so was given the role of the deputy gang boss for the Bandidos. At this point you may have noticed that some megagames have adressing up element to them, something that I’ve never really gon for myself but given my miss-spent you as a goth/ rivet head/ industral fan dressing as a SF gangmember was something I could easily do. Sadly most of my clothes from 20 years ago no longer fitted but I still had all my spiked arm bits and what not so I dug them out. I also got a friend of mine to shave my head into a mowhawk  and dye it yellow (The bandidos gang colour), I figured it would be getting into the spirit of things.

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The game went really well. As deputy gang boss I wasn’t fixed to a single table but could chat/ scheme/ form alliances with the other gangs as well as sort out the money for the Bandidos. This meant I collect was the citi level bosses took each turn and then bought resources, different cards, for them to use in the game. These cards were sent through the central hub and there was a chance of them being intercepted by the judges and anything illegal confiscated. Gang members in each different citi could also trade cards this way too. The gang bosses could also hangout in the wastelands and play gamble for game cash. I’m not the betting sort, at least not with games of chance, but when introduced to Liar’s Dice a game of bluff and deception I took to it straight away and found I was quite good at it. I won 2/3rds of my games and got some good stuff for my gang.

The game cards were fun and you could set up some good combinations with them. We were planning an offensive against the Troggies in one of the citis so used card to spy on the assets and steal the best ones before we launched our, successful, attack against them.

We entered an alliance fairly early with the Van Der Saars; we agreed to not fight each other and help out in fights if needed as well as passing along any items that the other side wanted. I’ve read enough H P Lovecraft to be suspicious when they asked for any old books that we came across…. I did get pulled in by the Inquisition for an interrogation to see if I knew anything about the missing governor, any heretic or any xenos on the planets. I didn’t voice my suspicions about the Van Der Saars but after I was let go I wrote down my accusation on a piece of paper. I kept it handy, if I ever felt that we were being betrayed by the Van der Saars I would have slipped it to the Inquisitors.

The team I was with for the most part really enjoyed their day and they wee agreat bunch too. Only one of them seemed not so keen. At the end of the day we had achieve 2 out of the 3 (and probably the 3rd to be fair) objectives we had been given as a gang which was as much as others so that was pretty succesful.

It was a great day, and a nice change to get to play a game too. For a first game it worked very well. A few tweaks could be made to the design but they’d mostly be nitpicking.

 

Apologies for the paucity of pics- my phone camera isn’t the best and most came out blurry.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

 

 

Book Review: ‘The Pentagon’s Urban COIN Wargame (1966)’

It is well known that I’m a sucker for anything with COIN when it comes to games and books (and academic endeavours too) so when this book was released by John Curry’s History of Wargames Project clicky I ordered it straight away and similarly when I arrived I read it straight away…

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The book is a reprint for the archives of what is to all intents and purposes a megagame. The game that the Pentagon created was meant as a training tool to better understand urban insurgencies and to generate insights in those who may have to deal with them in the future.

The game has three sets of players: Government, insurgents and general population, the latter being split by socio- economic class. Initially the insurgents are hidden within the general population and are unknown to the Government, in a similar manner the Government has players hidden within the general population that are unknown to either the general population or the insurgents.

Play is split into 24hr long cycles with a day/night phase in which players have to do assigned task in certain parts of the city (such as go to work to get paid) or to keep up appearances if they are undercover. The game ends when certain victory conditions have been met; interestingly the general population can ‘win’ by increasing their personal wealth and backing the winning side on the final turn. The final turn not being announced in advance.

 

Being a serious military game there was a lot of record keeping built in. Players were expected to keep an accurate record of their locations visited within a turn, so it could be analysed later.

 

Although I’ve designed/ run a couple of games now and played/ controlled in many others I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert, but a few things do jump out at me. The insurgency is rather generic: given the era that the game came from it is assumed that the insurgencies is a communist one (the historical examples that are cited the majority are) or at least a war of national liberation that is using communist ideology to achieve that. Whilst more background would help player engagement and immersion with the setting and roleplaying opportunities it would also frame the responses of the government especially with how to approach ‘carrot’ rather than ‘stick’ responses to insurgent demands. It was interesting to see that there was a role for the press within the game; although this was referred to tangentially rather than explicitly.  The control forms seem like a lot of work to do and whilst they track the location of the player it doesn’t record the most important aspect: that of the social interactions of that player. It would be through such interactions that opinions would be formed and alliances made, especially for those players making up the general population.

 

One thing that really intrigued me was a comment in the introduction that a copy of these rules was found in Paddy Griffths’ own archive; for it was he who started megagaming as a recreational hobby (and then taken forward by Jim Wallman). Is the game the genesis of the modern hobby as we know it? Time and some more archive work may yet tell us….

I am tempted to try and get a game organised to try this out with a few players- I think 20 players would be a manageable number to recruit and test the game out properly.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

Future plans… ideas brewing.

Now that a couple of weeks has past since my Case Blue ’42 megagame I have recovered and can start looking to future projects.

I’ve hada chance to look at the feedback from the game and, with one exception, it is all positive. That is really gratifying that so many people enjoyed the game. As for the less than glowing feedback I know what went wrong and how to fix it in the future. Either way it hasn’t put me off running more games. I’m not sure if I’ll do another big game next year by myself or as co-designer but I’d like to help in a supporting role to someone else; a few ideas have been mentioned that I’m looking forward to helping out with… watch this space. The year after I’m looking at developing a 1919 post WW1 German Freikorp  game with the nascent Wiemar republic struggling with both internal and external threats. I was rooting through a pile of books today looking for something else and found a few that will be useful for research purposes so have left them somewhere accesible (OK there are currently a trip hazard).

I was thinking that given all the resources that I have made up for Case Blue it would be a shame just to have them sat in a box for ages so I put my mind to thining what I could use them for. The feedback on the game said that the core mechanics are solid but just need a few rough edges rounding off, a second or third large scale run should do that. The obvious thing would be to use the maps to game Operation Uranus (the Soviet winter attack that encircled Stalingrad) and possibly let the Germans attempt to relieve Paulus and his troops stuck in Stalingrad.

The decision to be made would be should the game start with a roughly historical set- up or one extrapolated from the end of the megagame? Given that players on both sides were arguing over who exactly won it could be a controversial choice… Doing it has a half sized game with 20 or so players would be an easy enough proposition.

Another option for using the components could be do stage something of a prequel: Karkhov in May 1942. Most of the units could do duty there but I would need a new map. It has a lot to offer in that it saw a large and argueably overambitious Soviet attack that caught the Germans unaware that resulted in some very large tank battles. The Germans did rally and inflict a heavy defeat on the Soviets but would it go that way in a re- run. I should dig out the excellent David Glantz book I’ve got on the battle and have a think.

Given that none of the players or units got onto the Stalingrad map in Case Blue ’42 I thought of a nice way to use the map. I’ll develop a Stalingrad urban combat game to take round the local wargames shows to drum up some interest in Pennine Megagames and what we do.

Moving away from megagaming I’ve some other plans too: a VBCW game set within Huddersfield with all the players nominally on the same side but with hidden agenda; this will probably end up being  a RPG/ commitee/ map game mash up. I’ve written up a scenario for a multiplayer game of 5core: Brigade Commander that I’d like to try, nothing too big- probably 7 players or so. We’ve all collected so much stuff in a short period of time it would be nice to see it all being used at once. I’d like to run a Vietnam campaign at a skirmish level based on actions against the Ho Chi Minh trail, be nice if I could integrate low level air and ground gaming in that one.

I cat sat for friends of mine last weekend (seven rescue cats, some with health issues, and a snake) and they very generously got me some Necromunda figures as a thank you so that will be a project for the next few weeks. I hope that I enjoy the new version as much as I did the original. I bought some GW Chaos Cultists to have a practice with so I can get back into the swing of painting that stule of figures again. I’ve had a hankering for doing some sci fi gaming recently so the Van Saar figures scratch that itch nicely. I’ll mix them in with some of the nice Copplestone sculpts that are still available from Moonbase and North Star that I’ve long coveted.

Well, that turned out to be a longer post than expected guess I had more ideas than I thought. Best get cracking.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.