Thursday, May 31, 2007

Game Per Cubic Inch

Or "Game Per 16.4 Cubic Centimeters".

I commented on BGG the other day about In the Shadow of the Emperor--a personal favorite with a great online implementation. It struck me that some games just have small boxes, but a lot of game stuffed into them. Of course, many wargames fall into this category, but I don't think a ton of euros do.

Of note, In the Shadow of the Emperor, Struggle of Empires (and perhaps some other Wallace designs like Perikles), Louis XIV, and Intrigue come to mind, which I played last night. It's not simply game length that I am talking about, but also complexity and immersion. Judging by size on the shelf, and not knowing any better, one might misjudge some of these small boxes.

What are some other games that might qualify?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Wargame Order

I was excited to find Troll & Toad a couple of weeks ago. They sell euros and wargames. This makes it easier to get all the games I want in a single shipment without having to order twice, pay for shipping twice, or wait for a package to arrive twice. I was going to wait until several euros on my want list were released. Since then, one of my wargames went out of stock there.

So I said, "screw it," and decided to order the wargames by themselves from Bunker Hill Games. They are very close to me and charge exact shipping. Late Saturday night I placed an order for ASL Starter Kit #1 and A Victory Lost. Sunday morning (Memorial Day weekend!), I got an email to verify shipping method and amount. The order shipped Tuesday morning, and will likely be here Wednesday. Note that, since I placed my order, T&T has AVL in stock again.

I've already started playing AVL on Vassal. It's rather deep for a game with such simple rules. I had figured out the basics of play just by reading the reviews and rules questions. My online opponent filled in the missing pieces. The Vassal implementation has a few huge advantages over face-to-face play: it highlights active units when their command chit is drawn, and it can display command radius for HQ's (even when it snakes across a bridge). The only downside (especially for the Axis) is that you have to zoom way out to get a good overview of the situation to decide what chits to select for the current turn. It would be awesome if you could right click on an HQ and select "use the chit for this HQ".

The game covers Operation Saturn, in which the Soviets launched a major effort to push back the Germans (and other minor forces) late in 1942. It ended with Manstein's famous Panzer counter-offensive. The Soviets have superior numbers, but their units are weak, less mobile, and more difficult to command. The Germans must fall back very quickly or suffer flanking and severe losses. As the turns progress, the Germans get better reinforcements and command ability. If the Soviets push too far, they will get cut off. If they do not push enough, they cannot secure enough victory points. Railroads are key for reinforcements. Supply lines must be maintained or your units become weakened.

Playing the Axis feels a little bit like playing the French in Bonaparte at Marengo. except that the Germans need to run away a little more deliberately. If you try to hold your ground at all, it's very easy to get flanked. And if you are forced to retreat into a zone of control (a space adjacent to an enemy unit), you lose a step (in most cases counter gets flipped for first step, then eliminated for second).

I've played 113 games so far in May (with 2 more game nights coming this month). I only missed one day, which was an all-day D&D event. The real hits this month have been Struggle of Empires, Torres, and Colossal Arena.

A Victory Lost image by mandelberg

Sunday, May 27, 2007


I am beginning to question my ability to pick games I will like just by reading the rules. The latest in my sporadic series of bad calls is Yspahan. It's got lots of choices and a nice dose of randomness to keep things fresh, but it fails to generate anything positive within me.

The theme is meaningless. The choices are uninteresting. Of course, there's skill involved, but not at a level that I care to exercise. It has the hallmark of a game with direct interaction, yet every time I have the chance to steal a row of dice or send a cube to the caravan, I start to wonder what's on TV.

The fact that it got a Spiel des Jahres nomination should be a clue that this game was destined for my "maybe never play again" pile. It will likely join other recent uninspiring purchases: Hermagor and UR.

Yspahan image by richardsgamepack

Friday, May 25, 2007

Google Reader

I've been having such trouble with BlogLines that I gave up and decided to give Google Reader a try. It's pretty painless. You can export your feed list--folders and all--to an OPML file, then import it into Google. Let's see how this one works...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Stocks Are Down

After playing Imperial last week, I started thinking more about stock games. These are games where players can buy shares (or whatever they are called) in some commodity (or whatever they are called). You try to make your shares worth more, and the opponent's shares worth less. You also try to acquire more shares that are likely to increase in value.

I consider all of the following to be stock games: Acquire, Imperial, Manila, Gheos, Arkadia, and Modern Art.

The problem I have is that, at any point in time, the "commodity speculation" part of the game is not a very interesting exercise. If you have more of one share than anyone else, you want to increase its value. If the only other player who has more than you is behind you in points, the same holds true, to some degree. If you are behind in all shares, then you need to buy more. All by itself, it's just a math problem.

Of course, the ways in which stocks are acquired, and the ways in which their values change is the interesting part. But, sadly, all games of this type have lost just a little bit of shine for me.