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  • April 2012 Miscellany

    Thoughts about some game-related topics that are not long enough for separate blog posts.

    Quotation:  "There's an old saying that I love about design, it's about Japanese gardening actually, that 'Your garden is not complete until there is nothing else that you can remove.'"  --Will Wright (SimCity, The Sims, Spore, etc.)

    Is it more fun to be an expert, or to be in the process of becoming an expert, at playing a game?

    I am scheduled to be a speaker at the East Coast Game Conference in Raleigh, NC, April 25 and 26, specific time to be determined.  (Topic: Much of Game Design Is Managing (and Causing) Frustration.  That may sound familiar to some readers . . .)

    For those unfamiliar with video game conferences, they are very different from tabletop game conventions.  The major activity at the latter is game playing, and attendees are mostly consumers.  The major activity at a conference is dissemination of techniques for making and marketing video games, and this is done principally through talks and workshops.  Attendees are mostly video game professionals, and those who want to be (students).  And as with professional conferences in academic disciplines, they tend to have more expensive entry fees than game conventions, and tend to be on weekdays rather than weekends.  This one is Wednesday and Thursday.

    Game designers:  How many times do you expect people to play your game?  My answer varies with the type of game.  If it's a sweep of history game, I think in terms of many, many plays, as I know people who've played Britannia 500 times, though I'm sure the average even amongst the game's fans is closer to 50 than 500.

    If it's a "screwage" game, I think in terms of 10-25 times rather than 100 or 500.

    But I never think in terms of, say, 5 times.  Yet it seems to me that the majority (a great majority) of games published nowadays are designed as though 5 plays is sufficient.

    And I suppose it is, for a great many game players.  Variety (which often means playing lots of different games) is valued over depth (which involves learning more about, and getting better at, a particular game).

    Of course, I usually get to see (and occasionally play) at least 30 plays of most games that I "finish".  But the game changes over time, so it isn't quite the same thing as playing the same game over and over.

    And if a prototype doesn't hold my interest over five plays, I shelve it.

    Game studies scholars like to use the term "Meaningful Play".  Whenever I see it I turn off, because to me it's terrifically vague and, well, unmeaningful.

    Unfortunately, the structure of education in the USA means that anyone who is an actual practitioner of a discipline--for example, a game designer or a novelist--is discounted by academics, who emphasize degrees and reference to what other academics have said/written.  "Practitioner" is often a dirty word among people who have sailed through college to grad school to a terminal degree and then right into teaching.  Which helps explain why our educational system has less and less to do with the real world, as time passes.

    "Games studies" is about culture, not about game design.  The scholars do not pretend to offer anything to help game designers.

    On Facebook I've seen lots of graphics, "what <profession or vocation> really does" with six photos of how different people perceive the "profession".  For example, what hockey players do.  What home schoolers do.  I've not yet seen one for game players.

    Designers of video games, especially video game interfaces, will benefit from reading Jakob Nielsen's posts about Web usability.  For example,
    talks about smooth workflow and disruptive workflow.  Workflow is just as important in a game as in Web usage.

    Comic books might be the midpoint between RPGs that resemble novels and those that resemble tentpole (fantasy) adventure movies like Indiana Jones.  Not that most comics make any attempt to be believable.

    Someone wrote to me about a graphical exposition about instant gratification, and I discovered others as I looked around the Web site (which is generally about online graduate school).  Generations ARE different, and these graphics (which site their data sources) help illuminate this.  I've also added a report of a recent survey.
    Instant gratification
    Millennials and work
    Meet the Millennial generation
    Millennials Are More 'Generation Me' Than 'Generation We,' Study Finds

    Anyone who designs interfaces or interaction for video games should read the following.
    And marvel at how many interfaces fail to recognize such fundamental rules of behavior . . .

    There's a tendency for people to think that a game is the sum of its mechanics.  To me a good game is more than the sum of its parts.  How those mechanics work with one another, and how they work with actual human players, makes a big difference in the outcome, and is much less than entirely predictable beforehand.

    Most free-to-play video games rely on in-game purchases to speed  up progress in the game, to bypass certain tasks. Aren't games meant to be fun? Who watches good movies and wants to skip to the next scene so they're further into it, who skips pages in a book so they can boast how far along they are in it to their friends?  None of the people who are actually enjoying the experience, that's for sure.

    I've been reading the GenCon event rules.  I was considering offering game design talks as I do at Origins, WBC, and PrezCon, with the added possibility of selling copies of my book, which may be available by that time.  (This is a common activity of authors of books of all kinds.)

    But seminars at GenCon don't give the speaker any credit toward the entry fee.  Game sessions do because players are charged fees to play, and GenCon collects the fees.  Further, for all practical purposes, sales outside of the Exhibit Hall are prohibited.

    My publisher exhibits at GenCon, so all is not lost.  But for now, I'll skip it.

    Does practice make a difference in game playing?  Are you going to play better when you've been practicing the game, or once you've become a top player will it all come back to you immediately?

    A friend of mine loves Robo-Rally.  He plays a lot, teaches other people to play a lot, and goes to PrezCon in Charlottesville every year to play in the tournament.  This year he played 23 games at PrezCon, and won the tournament.  I think practice does help.

    Another game he's come to love is Merchant of Venus.  He's played once every two weeks in the past year.  But at PrezCon the game was played on the old board rather than the lovely custom-made set he uses.  Though there are few if any functional differences, he had a hard time seeing what was going on.  On the other hand, Merchant players came by as he played with his custom board, and remarked how hard a time they had seeing it.

    So he was practicing, but on the wrong board, and maybe that's why he didn't make the finals in Merchant this year.

    Certainly practice makes a big difference in games that are related to sports.  For example, the top video game competitors in games that require a lot of manual dexterity (FPS, RTS) practice 8-10 hours a day.  And we know how much professional athletes practice nowadays.

    If you're going to make a game as complicated as a video game, then let it be a video game.  If you're going to make a game where people matter, then make it as simple as you can, so that the people vs. people can occur.

    I see a lot of complicated tabletop games lately.  Some are complicated for atmospheric reasons, the story.  Some (the puzzles turned into contests) are complicated so that the puzzle is harder to solve.  The presence of other people is, to a greater or lesser extent, there only to help you keep score and provide variation (the way a computer would provide variation).

    In most general terms, playing games used to be about earning something, and possibly failing; now they're about getting rewarded for participation, without the significant possibility of failure.  Especially video games.

    For example:  at one time it was the referee's task in D&D to make the players fear for the lives and livelihoods (possessions, relationships) of their characters.  Now it seems to be the referee's task, in 4e D&D at any rate, to present a (usually harmless) tactical mess, then reward players for participation.

    And in many other cases it's the referee's task to tell a story, not to threaten characters (unless that fits with the story).

    Stages in a game are important.  They provide at least a perception, if not an actuality, of change/growth and learning.

    More important, if there are no stages players may wonder why they're playing the game as long as they are.  Why not play half as long?

    Game designers want to avoid the kind of thing some basketball "fans" talk about, they only watch the end of a game because they feel what goes before isn't important.  They don't recognize that there are stages and variations in basketball that are as interesting as the results.  They're only interested in the destination, not in the journey.  If you're only interested in the destination, why watch at all, just get the score after the game is over.

    Stages help the feeling that there's more variety in the game, as well.

    I've read that novelists don't enjoy reading novels as much as ordinary people, as they tend to think about how the novel is constructed while they're reading.  In fact they're particularly happy when a novel is so absorbing that they forget to think about how it was made.

    I have the equivalent, "game designers' disease".  When I watch a game or play a game or talk with gamers I'm almost always thinking about how the game is put together or what the motivations of the players are.  I don't know that that reduces my enjoyment, since my favorite game is the game of designing games, but it certainly makes for a different point of view.

    A tweet from a confused punter: @lewpuls This guy thinks he is Egon from Ghostbusters with his dig against books. "Print is dead", HA!

    I guess that's from my last Miscellany when I talked about why someone might want to read a book.  But it would be really odd for someone whose book is about to be printed, to say "print is dead".   *Shakes head*

    (Though you know, I've heard that Amazon now sells more non-print than print books.)

    Strategy and Tactics

    Strategic: plan well ahead.  That includes planning what additional forces you want/need to acquire.  Ultimately, everything that happens is of interest to you (Diplomacy, HotW, Brit).

    Tactical: do the best you can with what you have RIGHT NOW (most games depicting a particular battle)

    So Twilight Struggle is described as a very tactical game because it is so much an improvisers' game, it's very hard to plan ahead if I can believe what people write about the game.

  • Arkham Horror - The Grudunza Horror (Part 6: Indiana Jones scenario)

    Following up on my Indiana Jones character from Part 5, here is a full scenario to use him with.  I think Indiana Jones makes for a good variant addition to the AH world, because he fits the time frame, is involved with supernatural things, and has a great sense of adventure and character and many unusual encounters.

    I have not tried this out yet, so it's more theoretical than anything at this point, but I think it might work well.  I also updated the Indiana Jones character sheet to include his ophidiophobia.  I figured it wasn't enough to include snakes in the scenario... Indy should have a particular problem with them.

    And in true IJ franchise fashion, I'm already working on a sequel...

    (To view full-size, right-click and select View Image or Open in New Tab.)

    Indiana Jones scenario




    Part 1: The GOOs

    Part 2: Karma

    Part 3: Unsung Heroes

    Part 4: Clue Cards

    Part 5: Investigators

  • Arkham Horror Across The Dimensions

    This blogpost and comments are to help flesh out the inspired idea of KingPut to use two Arkham Horror games to, well, let's just let him describe it (with cleaned up grammar):

    ...I do have a wacky idea for playing Arkham if we have eight guys that we like that want to play AH. We set up two Arkham boards side and place Kingsport and Dunwich between the two Arkham boards. Four guys play one AH board and four guys play the other board. The dual AH dimension game can be played with one complete set + expansion the only thing we'll need is one extra Arkham board. The Kingsport and Dunwich board are shared by both group. Kingsport will be more active because both groups will be activating it each turn. Each group will have its own big bad, doom tokens, etc.

    The advantage of this is that everyone can kind of play together and we can play with expansions. But the game can be played in 3 to 4 hours vs. 6 hours with eight players. 

     That's pretty much all he's got though. I see the narrative as GOOs approach, Arkham shudders and those sensitized to the coming of the GOOs find themselves drawn apart into distinct dimensionally shifted Arkhams--a ploy by the GOOs to keep opponents at bay until they can invade?! 

    Whatever--you have two Arkhams.

    So far, we've worked out that:

    1. Environment/Rumor effects are only in the Arkham that originated them.
    2. Effects that apply to "in town" are also limited to the one Arkham.

    I was thinking it would be cool if people would return from OW to the OTHER Arkham if possible. It's a hassle to move the player sheet, but come on--that's cool. They become first player next upkeep.

    What about a shared Outskirts/Lost In Time & Space?

  • ARKHAM HORROR flowchart update


    I have printed the final set today. it rolls off the presses as I type. Bit off WAAAY too much here. I will be sending them Monday. Thanks everyone--you are all generous beyond words. Even unspeakable ones. 


    I finally got some (hush hush) time on the work printer to bang these things out. First I had to go back and forth with Skelly on some typos on v 2.6 for the Deluxe Ed. I'm going to be fancying up that version of the flowchart, incidentally. It gets too confusing if I try to gather flavors from everyone.  But so's you know, there's two flow charts. 1.4 and 2.6. Version 1.4 is the base game only. It's still got typos ("Victoy!"), but it will get you through the game with no problems. I'm tossing in a plain-paper double-sided version of that to everyone that ordered, deluxe or not. 

    I just printed the first Deluxe on the nice paper: Ivory 32 lb. 100% cotton. Unf. I want to sex this sexy sex. 

    For aging, I am going to try the tea bag method. Which involves putting some testicles in my mouth. After that, I brew up some tea bag and paint the pages with them. Maybe sprinkle some instant coffee on there a little bit and dry in the oven. Depending on how this turns out, I am debating picking up some Walnut Ink Antiquing Spray and maybe a little fire! Hellllsss yeahhhh. Err, I mean,  R'lyeaaaahhhhhhhh.

  • Arkham Horror with the Girls

    The Spawn invited her cousin, Ghost, and her friend, Kindle Girl, over for Arkham Horror and a sleep over on Friday. This kind of took me by surprise, since The Spawn has never played Arkham Horror, and doesn't like games that last more than 30 minutes.

    The first thing she asked when we sat down to play was if the game was really going to last for 8 hours. The game did last 4 hours, with a break for pie, and The Spawn spent a good deal of it standing  up (she just can't sit that long). I tweaked the game a bit so we were playing in easy mode. It was pretty much a cake walk for the investigators. For veterans it would have been a rather dull game, with few tense moments, but the girls didn't realize this. They spent most of the game in fear of their characters dying a horrible death, although none of them ever got close to it. I think this game wins the prize for the most time spent in the Hospital and the Asylum, as whenever the girl's characters where down even a couple sanity or life points, they went directly for the heal up. 

    I was getting a bit worried that the girls were going to decide that Arkham Horror was a bit long and dull, as despite my love for the game, it was beginning to feel that way to me. But, no, once they sealed that last gate, and did their victory dance, they all declared the game awesome. They decided, however, it would be even more awesome to play with just their friends, rather than us boring grown-ups. Ghost, who is an experienced player, was the voice of reason and explained that the rule book was about a zillion pages long, and there was no way they could run a game by themselves without a bit more practice. So, yay, I get to run at least one more game for them this summer to teach them a few more rules before they abandon me.       

  • Arkham Horror, a gateway game for Europlayers?

  • Arkham Horror: The Grudunza Horror (Part 1: The GOOs)

    I've got me a bad case of monkey mind, so one of the things I do to give those monkeys some busy work is to have them create some variant content for games that I like; games that have a system that particularly seems to welcome new content (whether they need it or not).  Some of the games the monkeys have created new things for include BSG, Last Night on Earth, Space Hulk: Death Angel, Defenders of the Realm, Forbidden Island and Pandemic.  But when there's a game that is as adaptable as Arkham Horror, and a free software program (Strange Eons) that allows you to easily create custom content for it, then of course that's what the monkeys are going to spend more of their time working on.

    I've already shared the Streets of Arkham and X-Files variants here, but I realized that although I've shared these other AH variants at TOS and on the FFG forums, I haven't posted them here for my fellow F:ATties. So for whatever it's worth, even though there's already way more than enough published and variant AH content as it is, here's some more...

    Included are some new characters, new GOOs, a herald and guardian or two, a new type of thing that is sort of an ally/guardian/investigator, and a few other miscellaneous things.  Some of these things have been playtested and seem to work well enough, but not necessarily everything has been tried yet, so print-and-play at your own risk.  I'll provide a little bit of director's commentary on everything as I go...

    The nice thing about a lot of the custom AH stuff is that it can be very easily integrated into the game...  Most things are just a piece of paper.  For example, you can print out a custom GOO and lay it on the table and it'll look comparable to the published stuff and the doom tokens fit just fine on it and all that.  I've tried out a lot of custom stuff in AH games and though once in a while something seems unbalanced or unfinished in terms of the mechanics, usually it works fine and you don't feel like you're playing some "home made" kind of thing.  Whereas, with some custom content for other games, no matter how good it might seem in theory, you might never actually use it because it involves printing out a bunch of cards or tokens or whatever, and that seems like more of a pain than it's worth when you don't even know if it's really worth playing.  But by and large, most of what I'll be sharing here involves things that if you print them out with halfway decent quality, the difference to the published components will be negligible.

    First up... Release the GOOs!


    Juk-Shabb: This was designed particularly to create a shorter game.  Some of my favorite games of AH have been epic games that took several hours, so I'm not trying to shorten the game in general, by any means, but I thought it might be useful to have a GOO (other than Yig) that is meant for the purpose of moving things along faster or playing when you've got a time crunch.

    Full size:



    F'non'F: This was created after a game where I kept forgetting to apply modifiers from Environment cards.  I don't know about y'all, but I do that, or forget to do that, all the time. I also forget sometimes to apply Skill and Ally bonuses to skill checks and to check for monsters with matching dimensional symbols when I close a gate.  So this is kind of aimed at the forgetful player (me), to minimize some of the clutter of things you need to keep track of when you play.  Again, I love the game exactly as it is, and I wouldn't want to remove Environments or Skills or Allies from the game in general, but for one GOO I thought it might be an interesting diversion.

    Full size:



    Lmbaa and Sros: These are meant to give Corruption a bigger role in the game. 

    Full size:





    Mogrozh, Vlthu'hmor, Kzaaj Hxra: Some more GOOs. You'll need to use some kind of cubes or chips or tokens or whatever for Kzaaj Hxra's "slime tokens".



    Full-size: Horror Outskirts Expansion/Vlthuhmor-Front-Face.jpg


    Full-size: Horror Outskirts Expansion/Kzaaj-Hxra-Front-Face.jpg

    Kzaaj Hxra


    Zoidberg:No comment.



  • Arkham Horror: The Grudunza Horror (Part 2: Karma)

    Instant karma's gonna get ya, but the longer kind will be beneficial...  I'm working now on a companion herald that would be, in essence, "bad karma".  But for now, it's all good. 


    Karma rules


    Karma locations

    Karma tokens front/back (or just use some Othello chips or something with two distinct sides:

    Karma token frontKarma token back


    Click here for Part 1: The GOOs.

  • Arkham Horror: The Grudunza Horror (Part 3: Unsung Heroes)

    This is an entirely new type of thing, sort of a mix of an Ally, a Guardian and a shared Investigator.  I haven't tried this out yet, so if you get a chance to playtest it, I'd really appreciate any feedback.  While this is meant to be an Ally/Guardian, in essence, there is a cost for hiring each person and a penalty (though generally mild) when they are removed from the game, and they may require some finesse and timing to use in a way that will be most beneficial.  In theory, I really like this idea, so hopefully it plays out well.

    (For full-size images, right-click and select "View Image" or "Open Image in New Tab".)

    Unsung Heroes rules sheet (or the back side of each Hero sheet):

    Unsung Heroes rules

    Detective Shaw:

    Detective Shaw

    (Note: There is only meant to be one marker in play... I'm providing the round counter as an alternative, which might give them more distinction when on the board.)

    Eliza Brisbane:


    Father Dan:

    Father Dan

    Boris the Bull:

    Boris the Bull


    Leonard Schultz:

    Leonard Schultz


    Nurse Anya:

    Nurse Anya


    Click here for part 1: The GOOs

    Click here for part 2: Karma

  • Arkham Horror: The Grudunza Horror (Part 4: Clue Cards)

    There have been a few different ideas passed around on the FFG AH forum as far as Clue Cards, and some of them I like a lot.  But this is what I came up with...  The idea is that you could choose to draw these instead of Clue tokens, and the distribution of the Clue Card deck would be such that it would roughly match the distribution of monsters (i.e. there would be more moon and hex cards).  I'll probably make cards with white bordered symbols as well (where you lose 1 Stamina), so in a way these would function similar to Corruption cards.  At some point, when this is tested/tweaked, I'll make an Artscow deck available.

    Clue Card example

    Clue Cards


    Part 1: The GOOs

    Part 2: Karma

    Part 3: Unsung Heroes

  • Arkham Horror: The Grudunza Horror (Part 5: Investigators)

    Some new investigators...  At some point, I'll add the Personal Stories and backstories for more of them, but for now, Quentin Matheson is the only one who's got all of that.  So far, from the ones I've played (which is most of them), Quentin and Fanny are my favorites. I really like Fanny's Ally function, in particular.  

    Monterey Jack has always seemed like kind of a boring character to me, so there's also my update of him included, as well as the more direct version of Indiana Jones.

    I just realized looking through these together that I didn't create any 3/7 or 7/3 Sanity/Stamina characters (not counting Monterey Jack).  From the official investigators, some of my favorite ones are 3/7, but I guess from a design standpoint, I have a hard time committing someone to that, knowing that it can be particularly tricky to play those characters.  Anyway, at least one of these investigators should probably have a 3/7 or 7/3.

    (Right-click and View Image or Open In New Tab to see full-size image.)

    Quentin Matheson

    Quentin: Story So Far

    Quentin PS1Quentin PS2

    Quentin PS3Quentin PS4







    Monterey Jack (updated)




    Part 1: The GOOs

    Part 2: Karma

    Part 3: Unsung Heroes

    Part 4: Clue Cards

  • Arkham Horror: The Grudunza Horror (Part 6a: Indiana Jones Campaign)

    A follow-up to the last installment...  The first Indiana Jones scenario turned out to be a really good time when I tried it out so I expanded it into a campaign.  Haven't played through the rest of it yet, but it was fun to put everything together.  Twenty years from now I'll make a 4th scenario...

    Here's all the stuff:




    If you don't want to use the Activity Markers as Snakes...





    Part 1: The GOOs

    Part 2: Karma

    Part 3: Unsung Heroes

    Part 4: Clue Cards

    Part 5: Investigators

  • Arkham Horror: The X-Files


    So yeah, the X-Files jumped the shark back before "jumping the shark" had jumped the shark.
    I stopped watching it faithfully after about 6-7 seasons, and only recently rented the latest
    film they made (which turned out to be pretty lame). But in its heyday, The X-Files was
    quite cool and I was a big fan.  I thought about it again a few weeks ago after coming across
    a couple of custom Arkham Horror investigators for Mulder and Scully.  I realized that the
    whole X-Files thing could really be a good fit for AH, with the Ancient One and its monsters
    representing the alien colonization.  Sure, the setting is anachronistic in terms of the era,
    but so what...  I designed an X-Files variant for the game, including 5 investigators, a Lone
    Gunmen ally, a herald for The Syndicate, and several Syndicate agents.

    I've tested this twice now with a 5p and 3p game, and it really does add a nice X-Files flavor
    into the AH system.  Both games seemed to be skewed against me pretty heavily, so I've
    since tweaked things to move a little more in the good guys favor.  I still make no promises
    for balance, and it may still be skewed against the investigators, but it definitely works as it
    is and is a fun variant to play if you are an X-Files fan at all.

    Anyway, here are the latest versions of the components...

    Dana Scully

    Fox Mulder

    Lone Gunmen


  • ARMS TRADE -- 1984 Shitty SciFi Style!

    Ice Pirates


    It's on like TRON. Well, not like TRON exactly, that was pretty good.


    Discuss the Arms Trade in this blog post!

  • Art Culture and Board games

    Ferris Bueller's Day Off


    An art gallery in Santa Monica is running an exhibit called Gallery 1988 ( At this exhibit are many pieces of art and several of them pertain to the movie Ferris Bueller's Day off. As a child of the 80's I enjoyed Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I still quote the movie from time to time. I also enjoy art for art's sake.  Art can take the form of anything it wants.  At the exhibit a couple of noteworthy Ferris pieces include the picture above and the piece pictured below.


    Ferris the video game


    For those of you who pay attention to BGG you may have noticed the Ferris Board Game has made it into the "Hotness" section.  I think they made the wrong decision in accepting this piece of art as a board game listing. The direct listing for the Ferris print is listed here What is being sold for $100 is a giclee print on archival paper.  When this is purchased the artist will send you the print with game pieces and rules. The game play is a simple roll and move and, in my opinion, is an ironic take on mainstream games of the period. If pieces of art are allowed on BGG then anyone could take a crap in a box, write anything they want and call it rules and game play. Maybe I'll submit some used car parts to BGG I'd like to sell, throw in a couple dice, and a rule book and save my self the listing fees on ebay.


    Listing this on BGG as a game not only opens the door to posting any whimsical object on the geek it also allows the horde of game players to unfairly criticize and compare this to other games.




  • As per Uba's request: Constantine Pics! Look at my baby!!!

  • Asymmetry in Napoleon's Triumph

    I am trying to wrap my head around the fascinating gameplay in Napoleon's Triumph, so I decided to write some ideas out. I have played the game three times.


    I find the asymmetry intriguing. The Allies start with more units and strength than the French do. Though the French have fewer units, they are more concentrated in number and therefore tend to perform better in battle. These factors create some structural pressure on the Allies to use their greater but more dispersed forces to manoeuvre around and feint attack against the French.


    However: though the Allies need to get busy, they have a weaker command structure. They have more units than they can coordinate. It is impossible for the Allies to move all their corps in one turn, and so their advance on the French is necessarily staggered. This means that the Allies are more likely to have their forces split up, engaging in different parts of the board unevenly. This uneven development is also encouraged by obstructions in the terrain in which the French are embedded. The French, by contrast, have a strong command structure. They can move every one of their corps every turn. Though they have fewer forces than the Allies, they can coordinate them all. There are also fewer terrain restrictions to deal with if they go on the offensive.


    The result of this asymmetry is very interesting: it creates a sense that the Allies are walking into a trap, as apparently they did in the actual battle. Everything combines to make the allies take some risks, and for the French to exploit likely missteps. (If the Allies play well, the French may need to bring in reinforcements to lessen the imbalance of forces. But if they do that, their victory conditions become more difficult to reach.)


    A key challenge for the Allies is to find a way to make most of their greater numbers. Even though their advance must be staggered and uneven, if they could nonetheless make the different corps reinforce and support each other, that would be quite effective. Somehow they need to use their superior numbers to overcome the French advantage in movement. I haven't a clue how I'd go about doing this, but it will be fun to experiment with different strategies.


    While there is some incentive for the French to take a defensive posture, they also have a greater capacity to act. The French, it seems to me, can make most of the asymmetry if they constrain the movement of the Allies (for example, by occupying approaches with smaller forces) and divide the Allied forces. With the enemy divided and poorly coordinated, the French can then use their greater mobility to surround or out flank the enemy's isolated sections.


    I am very much looking forward to my next game in two weeks.


  • AT GOTY? Storm Over Dien Bien Phu Review

    In many respects the Storm Over System feels like an Ameritrash invention to me. When I compare it to other light war games it generates more fist in the air moments after a dice roll, and more slams of cards on the deck per hour than any of the competition. Whether you should get a Storm over game I guess really depends on whether that's the kind of experience you want from a light wargame.

    Storm Over Dien Bien Phu is the latest in a line of games using a variation of the Storm Over Arnhem game rules dating back to 1981. There are at least a dozen games (a lot of them are low print run magazine games) that use the same basic system of moving groups of counters representing your troops across an area map. Each unit can do one thing in a turn and then it is exhausted. Creating this great tactical dilemma of what one thing out of four or five do I do with this group of units and do I do it now or risk doing it later? This entry, like the other mmp ones, adds cards to the mix. On your move, play an event card or move or attack with some units. Once both players pass the turn is over.

    game in play

    image credit; Cauvin @ BGG

    Dien Bien Phu is a rather niche wargaming subject about a pre-vietnam war between the French colonial forces and the Viet Minh (read North Vietnamese). In 1954 the French tried (and succeeded) to force a grand showdown with their elusive enemy by dropping a load of paratroopers on to a critical hill in the jungle near the Viet Minh supply lines. The Viet responded with a 17th century style siege. The game, in broad strokes depicts this story of embattled French fending off the superior numbers of Viet that come swarming out the jungle.

    Whilst the game does depict history historical interest is not really necessary to enjoyment. I’d go as far to say that If you are really interested in the historical battle go for Legion Games attempt instead. Storm over DBP has enough historical flavour to bring its setting to life but not enough for a grognard study. Artillery, which was a key factor in the battle is abstracted to cards, and French supply drops are handled with some control of critical areas, card supply and reinforcement schedules. More than this though is the tone of the game. I referred to the Storm Over system as Ameritrash because to me it feels very AT. If this game had plastic space men in it and a glitzy board people would be lauding it as AT game of the year. Timing the use of your units, the deadly but simple single die roll combat mechanics and the play of event cards all give the game a good mix of calculation, surprise, and screw you moments. It does feel like a siege but I don’t really identify with  Vo Nguyen Giap whilst playing it, I feel like a dude with a beer in his hand chucking dice. Its great, but it’s a light hearted experience.

    Should you get this game?

    It is a bit of an odd turkey for a light wargame. It doesn’t really shoot for the heavy history market and it is a bit niche for the wider consumer ( mmp only seems to be dimly aware this wider market exists). I also wonder, that like the simpler columbia block games, it might all start to blur into one if I played many games in the series. I don’t personally think there is much merit in owning both Hammer of the Scots and Julius Caesar. Both great games but things can feel a bit vanila after a while with the rules being so similar. Storm Over as a series has the potential to be the same. You'll get a different map, and different event cards and some extra chrome. In DBP control of some areas matters for French card draws, and the Viet Minh can, and must, dig trenches before attacking. The combat system, add up your attack strength, roll 2d6, subtract their defence deal damage, will be the same in each game and might wear thin after a while. I have not played any others from the series but one of my opponents felt this game was better than the recent Storm Over Stalingrad. DBP might be shorter too, it clocks in around the 2 hour mark.

    In summary, I’d recommend getting one of the Storm Over series if you are into light war games. This one is a solid entry but the subject matter might not appeal to all. If you already own one, I guess its up to you as to how much you need another. Also its an mmp game so it has a paper map. The counters are the bigger size and the cards are really top quality. Rule book is about 12 pages but lots of diagrams.

  • At the Gates of Loyang - Why do I hate it?

    At the Gates of Loyangis a game about getting vegetables and exchanging them for other vegetables and then exchanging those vegetable for money which is used to buy points. That should be explanation enough for why I hate it. But it isn't. 


  • AT-43/ Help needed building armies


     I want to take full advantage of FFG's sale and build full U.N.A and Therians armies for AT-43.  So I turn to you my fellow gamers in seek of your trusty suggestions.

     This is the list of miniatures I have for the following armies:


    1Fire Toad
    7Steel Trooper
    2Steel Trooper with Missile Launcher


    1Wraith Golgoth
    6Storm Golem
    2Storm Golem with Sonic Gun

    Which miniatures should I buy for each army?

    Army list suggestions are most apprecciated.

    I'd also like to inquire about the Karman army, they are just so cool looking but I wanted to know if they are really underpowered as some claim, what are their strenghts and weaknesses and any suggested army lists.