Board Wargames

Ogre Designer’s Edition

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Ogre Designer's EditionSteve Jackson Games has posted the Ogre Designer’s Edition (also known as ‘Ogre Deluxe’ or ‘Ogre 6th Edition’) as a Kickstarter project. In only its second day, it has passed the $100,000 funding mark. This already makes it one of the top board games on Kickstarter and it still has 28 more days to go.

Ogre has been on our Top Picks since the start and we have been reporting on the upcoming release for a few years now. It is the third or fourth wargame we ever bought and one we’ve probably played more than another other game. That is quite a mark. It is great to finally see this classic game get the treatment it deserves and heartening to see the obvious swell of community support.

Those who have never played Ogre (and its follow on titles G.E.V. and Shockwave) may wonder what all the hubbub is about. Ogre was originally published in 1977 as a ‘microgame’ or in other words as a small 8 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ ziplock bag game with cardstock counters you had to cut out. Like any great game it transcended its poor components with great gameplay. Various versions were released over the next few decades including the pocket box version, miniatures version, and deluxe version (not to be confused with the Designer’s Edition). There were also scenario and map expansion packs as well as an Ogre Book.

Ogre BookWhat has made Ogre such a classic game is certainly a combination of its great gameplay and its fictional setting. Ogre was certainly heavily influenced by Keith Laumer’s Bolo: Annals of the Dinochrome Brigade book that was published in 1976 as well as the Cold War itself. Similar to a Bolo, an Ogre is a massive cybernetic tank with advanced armor that runs on massive track groups and fires tactical nuclear shells. In the world of Ogre tactical battlefield separation is mandatory because of the nukes and lasers make aircraft useless (oddly missiles still have a function). Ground Effect Vehicles (G.E.V.’s) are the new cavalry. It is  future warfare that is not only plausible but, for the most part, not outdated by the 30+ years of technological and warfare advances since its introduction. Perhaps best of all, it is a future treadheads dream about: The tank ascendant once again.

The original Ogre game pits one player in control of a single unit, the Ogre, versus his opponent in charge of roughly a battalion of tanks, G.E.V.’s, artillery and troops on a nuke cratered battlefield. This odd matchup is certainly a large part of the appeal of the game. It was not only unique for the time (and somewhat even to this day) but also great for solitaire play as well as an easy way to introduce new gamers to the hobby. Watching a single unit charge forward to its ultimate goal of destroying the Command Post as a horde of smaller units try to stop it is simply fun, and challenging. The game is quick and multiple games can be played in a couple of hours allowing for gamers to try different strategies or for players to swap sides.

Of course players wanted more and G.E.V. brought a more conventional battlefield that featured all of the more traditional units pitted against each other on a non-nuke cratered battlefield. Shockwave introduced huge cruise missile launchers and other new units as well as a new map. And of course one could still throw an Ogre into the mix! All of this was with low production-value components, even for its day, but high art style. The units, especially the Ogre, had great designs and the map was colorful and holds up as great art to this day. But again, the simple idea of a G.E.V. able to skim over a water obstacle that stops a tank dead gives Ogre/G.E.V. that crunchy real-world feel that is often missing in historical games let alone sci-fi titles.

Best of all it all works! The game is balanced, challenging, replayable and, especially with the expansions, offers huge variety. It uses a points system that allows players to field custom forces and constantly challenges players to not only try different tactics but different force mixes. In many ways it what gamers always wished Warhammer 40,000 could be.

So now we are to see perhaps the ultimate version of Ogre released. Many will quibble with the choices Steve Jackson Games have made. We personally wish they went in a different design direction for the game and wish they perhaps offered a new modernized version of the rules along with the classic rules. But the fact is us old timers and a new generation of gamers will be able to enjoy Ogre once again. Tired eyes as well as tiny hands will have huge components to gaze upon and grasp. It is an occasion to be enjoyed for what it is, not for what it could have been — One also not to be missed.

Now we just need to get Steve Jackson to produce an iPad version!

Also see Ogre — A Look Back.

A Call to Arms: Starfleet — Available Soon

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ACTA Star FleetADB and Mongoose Publishing have partnered on a new sci-fi spaceship combat game, A Call to Arms: Star Fleet. The new game is based on the A Call to Arms rule system, of ACTA: Babylon 5 fame, and set in the Star Trek universe of the ADB license (essentially the original series). In addition to the new rule set, ADB’s Starline 2400 minis have all been redone in a new 2500 line and are now slightly larger (about 25%). [Note: The original resin releases were rather bad. ADB redid them in pewter and they quality is much better.]

We are still annoyed over the death of ACTA: Babylon 5 but ACTA: Star Fleet is probably worth a look at least. ADB has a good track record with partnerships and owns its Star Trek license. The miniatures are certainly a big question. Neither ADB nor Mongoose have been known for high quality minis but Mongoose has certainly gotten better recently. The initial previews have looked good and the one picture of the unfinished resin looks pretty good as well (but not as good as Spartan). But how this translates to production pieces remains to be seen. It appears that perhaps they have beefed up and slightly shortened the Federation nacelle towers and they are going to be in resin not metal.

This month is the release of Call to Arms: Star Fleet and the first of the 2500-series miniatures near the end of this month.

Starline 2500 and A Call to Arms: Star Fleet are approaching!
The joint venture between Mongoose Publishing and ADB, Inc. is moving along quite well. ACTASF should be available in stores before Christmas. This will be a beautiful hardbound rulebook with spectacular color photos of many ships.

The Starline 2500 ships are designed for use with SFB, FC, Starmada, and ACTASF, so the ship types that appear in the Squadron boxes won’t change from the 2400 line (and the price for 2500s will actually go down to $29.95). What will change is that the 2500-series ships will be cast in hard resin, not pewter, and they will be about 20% larger so that all the details that you asked us to add will be there!

Our European customers will have the option of ordering from Mongoose-UK so their shipping will be perhaps more “local.” Both ADB, Inc. and Mongoose-US will stock the minis as will many game stores, so you should have easy access to these new, highly detailed ships.

New 2500-series Border Boxes priced at $124.95 will contain 24 ships.
New 2500-Series Fleet Boxes will be priced at $99.95 and will contain 16 ships and a quick start rulebook.

The 2400-series border boxes will also be available (at least by mail order) in 2500-series for a somewhat higher price. The 2400s are pewter; the new 2500s will be resin.

Remember that all of the current Starline 2400 blister packs, squadron boxes, fleet boxes, and border boxes will remain on sale at their current prices indefinitely.

[Updated: 27SEP13]

Breakout: Normandy Deluxe Edition — First Look

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Breakout: Normandy L2 Design Group surprised a lot of folks by producing a new version of the classic Avalon Hill wargame Breakout: Normandy. Breakout: Normandy has been out of print for a few years now but is still a very popular game and still sees a regular tournament at WBC. Breakout: Normandy is a board wargame covering the first month of the Normandy campaign in WW2. It is an area movement game based on the system debuted in Storm Over Arnhem and recently seen in Monty’s Gamble.

The new L2 version of the game is known as Breakout: Normandy Deluxe Edition and was produced with the support of Don Greenwood the game’s original designer. Breakout: Normandy was one of those classic games that basically got everything right from the start. It was also originally produced with very nice components. So what does the new Deluxe Edition provide different from the original? Thankfully, besides simply getting the game back in print, not much. The map is 10% larger to accommodate the new 3/4″ counters and incorporates the first week of reinforcement displays. The map itself is the typical L2 heavy foldout stock. The counters are slightly larger but otherwise unchanged. The real change is in the rulebook. The rulebook is all new and is in full color and very attractive. The new rulebook incorporates all official errata to the original game and a few minor rules changes.

Breakout: Normandy ArtDon Greenwood describes the new rule changes in the excellent included designer’s notes. He has focused on the fact that after thousands of plays it became apparent that the Germans have a slight advantage in the game. He also does not like some of the tactics that have resulted. To address those he jettisoned the Victory Point for holding the Advantage. “To compensate the Allies for this loss as well as to address their earlier balance problems, Naval Bombardment Impulse join Air Bombardment Impulses in being ‘free’–which added a staggering 12 Impulses a game to the Allied ledger…. To complete the Allied Aid package, Weather Changes…were made less likely by eliminating their occurrence during air and naval bombardment. And lastly, players can no longer guard against weather changes by using the now non-existent End of Day dice roll modifiers.” That’s it.

If you are a Breakout: Normandy fan you will want this edition if only for the new rulebook. If you never played the game before and you have any interest in WW2 you should give the game a look. Highly recommended.

GenCon 2011 Punch List

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Gears of WarWell GenCon 2011 is over. We were not there but from all of the various coverage it looked like a good show and had record attendance. Below is a list of all the new goodies we are looking forward to based on the show announcements. Thanks to Russ at the D6 Generation podcast and the Beasts of War for their excellent show coverage.

  • Gears of War: The Board Game — We have always been huge Space Hulk fans and the new GoW game looks similar. Initial demo game reports are good and the components are certainly top notch. The D6 Generation have a full review of the game in Episode 86.
  • Dust Warfare — After watching AT-43 die we passed on Dust Tactics. But the game has been generally well received and the minis are well done. Dust Warfare is a full blown mini ruleset written by Andy Chambers. If nothing else it will be worth a look.
  • Android books — We did not care for FFG’s Android board game but did like the universe it was set in. Now FFG is bringing out two novels, Free Fall and  Golem, set in the world of Android.
  • Star Trek: Fleet Captains — We almost forgot about this one. WizKids debuted a new board game of exploration and starship combat using unpainted plastic miniatures. We saw some shots of it at the show but never heard any reports on play. It looks interesting. Again, Russ from the D6G snagged a copy — And even painted some ships — and Episode 88 has a nice review of the game (forward to 2hr29min). The rules are available for download.
  • Star Wars X-WingX-WingFFG got a Star Wars license and will be doing a bunch of products with it. One of the first is X-Wing a tactical space combat game. Many are calling it Wings of War in space but it is really no more similar to it than any other air-to-air combat game. It comes with pre-painted plastic minis (surely with tons of expansions due along soon thereafter) and focuses on fighter-to-fighter combat in the Star Wars universe. Demo game reports were favorable overall and there is certainly more depth to the game not really explored yet by quick demos. But it is meant to be a simple, fast game not any sort of ‘simulation.’ It should be good for some quick fun. We just hope they produce the B-Wing fighter!
  • Star Wars: The Card Game — Well the world probably needs another Star Wars card game as much as a Wookie needs a razor but we’ll give it a spin.
  • 15mm TerrainGale Force Nine announced a bunch of new 15mm terrain for Flames of War and the like. The new Desert Oasis is our favorite.

Oddly, even though Steve Jackson Games was at the show, we didn’t hear a peep about the new Ogre 6th edition. We hope this is not a bad sign. [Update: Steve posted an update on the Ogre site, “The status is: Still planned, still the super-fancy as per the prototypes you can see on that page. . . And definitely still not on track for 2011. I warned everyone in May that it might not happen in 2011, and now I can say it definitely won’t. I knew that at the end of June, before I took July off, and I should have shared.”]

[Updated: 10OCT11]

Incursion SNAFU — Review

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Incursion SANFUGrindhouse Games’ first expansion for its weird-war WW2 board/miniatures game is now available. SNAFU is a 64-page softcover book that includes new units, new missions, painting guides and an official FAQ. The book follows the Incursion rulebook style and continues the high design and pulp feel of the original game.

Released separately are a host of new miniatures that cover the new units in the book. But as always if you do not want to play the game with miniatures standups are also included (this time as a download only). The Allies get the official release of the MI-13 rules along with new rules and miniatures for Bazooka APE, Zip Kelly and Gracie. The Germans get some new Sturmzombies, the evil Drohne, and the massive Panzeraffe. Rules are provided for all of the new units and their weapons. The stat cards are a separate download and are not included with the book.

The Panzeraffe is a huge model and even makes the Gracie walker look a tad small. The Panzeraffe can be kitted out for shooting or close combat and Gracie can stomp over units as easily as it can gun them down. Both Zip Kelly and the Drohne represent the lighter but more nimble choices. Overall the new units are a welcome addition to the game and will add to a player’s tactical choices.

Incursion SNAFU UnitsThe meat of the expansion is certainly the new missions. SNAFU includes nineteen new missions in all including six solitaire missions as well as three two map missions. You will need the map expansion or an extra copy of the game to play the larger missions. The Cinematic missions include a couple pages of the needed rules for solitaire play. This is a nice addition to the game and allows for some unique forces. The mission selection overall is a nice mix and, especially when combined with the new forces, increases re-playability considerably.

Incursion SNAFU PaintingRounding it all off are a few pages of painting guides including color recommendations and also a complete FAQ for the rules to date. All-in-all if you have any interest in Incursion this is a must get expansion. If you thought the re-playability of the original was a bit limited this also solves that problem. New meat for the Grinder!

The Apple iPad and Gaming — A Look Back

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iPadWith Apple’s announcement of the new iPad2 on March 2nd we thought it a good time to look back at our year with the original iPad. We wrote about a number of game related functions for the iPad when it first came out and for the most part all of those have remained solid to one degree or another. Read the rest of this entry »

Spearpoint 1943 — Review

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Spearpoint 1943Frontline General’s Spearpoint 1943 WW2 tactical card game has been out awhile now. Initially we didn’t pay much attention to it, but the recent announcement of an expansion got us to give the game a try.

Spearpoint 1943 is a WW2 tactical card game that let’s players game battles between Allied and German forces in Italy in 1943. It ships in a small box that fits the two decks of cards and four D10s. The cards are of good quality with historical photos and clear iconography. There are four types of cards: First are the unit cards for the Allies and Germans. These include equipment such as tanks, guns and aircraft as well as the crew units for the respective equipment. A deck of Damage Effects cards track damage and combat results to units. The Command Deck are the cards used to actually order your units around.

The rules are very straightforward and fit on a two-sided 11″ x 17″ sheet. The site also has an excellent example of play that clears up any confusion. Basic flow of the game is to pick a starting force based on points (or play a scenario) and then you divide your forces into starting forces and reserves. Starting forces begin in your hand and the reserves form your draw pile. This is a tactical game and you are playing with what is basically a reinforced platoon. You then ‘commit’ your forces simultaneously to play and attack with them based on initiative. You commit units to either a frontline or a rear line and some units can be in one or the other or both. Thus you can place your tanks up front and your artillery in the rear. This gives a nice sense of depth and allows for breakthrough actions. Command Cards can be played that allow various special actions such as ‘Fire Mission!” that gives a rear line artillery unit a bonus 3 to its attack. Combat is also tactical with weapon attack values compared to defense values. The combat and damage mechanics are slightly confusing on first read but after you actually play through a couple of combats they become second nature and play proceeds smoothly.

Games play quickly and can be concluded in about 30mins. The standard points based games are fun but we prefer the scenario based games. So far Frontline General has released eight scenarios (they call them ‘situations’) that cover a variety of tactical situations.

Village and Defensive Line Map ExpansionWhat really grabbed our attention was the upcoming Village and Defensive Line Map Expansion. This expansion adds a map with terrain tiles to allow you to fight over actual terrain instead of the abstract front/rear lines. This should work well with the Spearpoint 1943 system and add some real maneuver to the game. It is currently in pre-order. There is an excellent video walk-through of the new expansion on BoardGameGeek.

Overall if you like WW2 tactical combat and are looking for a quick pick-up game give Spearpoint 1943 a shot.

[Updated: 18AUG11]

Hornet Leader — Review

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Hornet LeaderDVG Games recently released Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations. Hornet Leader is a remake of the original game that started the series more than a decade ago and includes the expansions that were released as VASSAL only games in the past. Last year DVG also released the excellent Phantom Leader in the same series.

The game ships in a beefy extra-deep box although it is largely filled with air. It has a mound of cards and excellent full-color components. We found an excellent review of Hornet Leader on Wargame Center. As always, BoardGame Geek has some excellent supporting files.

The D6 Generation — Lost Chapters

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Russ from The D6 Generation podcast posted their first Lost Chapters episode. The one hour show covers their first Deathwatch game and is available for $1.00 via either Ambling Books or Payloadz. Unfortunately neither option provides a simple one-click purchase and download but we tried it via Payloadz and as long as you already have a PayPal account it is pretty straightforward. They also have a special Wives Attack segment and Battlestar Galactica Review available for purchase.

Note, if you decide to purchase via Ambling Books you are essentially getting a version that can only be played via that application/service. With Payloadz you get a straight .mp3 file that you can play on anything.

The whole Lost Chapters idea is a way for the D6 Generation to generate a little bit of income, provide more content and could perhaps lead them to do a few things they might not otherwise do. After all, they only have so much time and spending it on something they get nothing in return for beyond praise can only be sustained for so long. If you enjoy the D6 Generation be sure to grab a few Lost Chapters or throw them some support in another form. These guys really do a great job.

[Updated: 26JAN11]

Point 2 Point Episode 43 — Now Available

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Jason White, of the board wargaming podcast Point 2 Point, made a New Year’s resolution to produce a show every month in 2011. To achieve this he may need to do a lot of the shows without his co-host Scott. Episode 43 is his first effort of the year and he does a great job. We’ll ignore his digs on Conflict of Heroes and chalk it up to stress! They are currently having trouble with their main site so Jason is posting on the ConsimWorld blogs.

Jason flies solo for this new episode of P2P. He talks about a number of games including: Hellenes, Hearts and Minds, Command and Colors Ancients, Combat Commander Pacific, and Asia Engulfed, among others. He also gives his current top ten list and his hot ten list. He introduces some new segments, including a pre-order of the month. This month he focuses on GMT’s first design in the Fighting Formations series, a game focused on the Grossdeutschland Division. After the credits, you are welcome to stay tuned for an “Extra Point,” a non-gaming segment that will appear from time to time after the credits.