The Great Wargaming Survey 2022

Karwansaray Publishers, the folks who publish Wargames Soldiers & Strategy magazine, have opened access to the 2022 version of The Great Wargaming Survey.

This is always a fun survey to take, plus there’s a chance for several lucky people to win some nifty prizes.

Everyone gets a discount code for 5 Euros off a product in the Karwansaray store (e.g. back issue of the WS&S magazine).

You can find this year’s Great Wargaming Survey here: 2022 Survey. Go participate!

For the curious among us (like me), survey results from prior years can be found here: Older Survey Results

Peace out!

Neuron Overload

There has been a deluge of gaming related activity elbowing its way into my Brain Space over the last 4 weeks. Between a trip down to Historicon in Lancaster PA, a deep-dive into the next design evolution of my Sword of Severnia fantasy battle game, a few recent hobby purchases, and plenty of gaming news flashing across my radar, my neurons are filled with more traffic than the Autobahn.

I really need to calm down, organize my thoughts, and write some proper blog-posts. Right? Well….. tonight you get a rambling stew of loosely connected thoughts, observations, and diarrhea of the cerebrum.

Let the stream of consciousness commence!

2022 has been a good year for board gaming. A bunch of new stuff has hit my table and we’re starting to gain momentum and play on an almost regular basis. Woohoo!

On the flip side, 2022 has been a slow year for miniature wargaming. Aside from a few games of Warlords of Hexenstein, a game of What a Tanker!, and an epic Battle Masters blowout game at Historicon, my wargaming buddies and I haven’t set aside enough time to roll dice and command our tiny painted soldiers to perform glorious deeds on the battlefield. I’m going to make a more concentrated effort to correct that deficit in the final five months of 2022.

Over the past year, I’ve been scouring eBay and elsewhere to purchase some nicely painted, yet affordable figures to help fill out two armies that I’m building/collecting for SAGA. I already have an acceptable Viking warband, although I still want to expand it by painting some cool figures that I already own. But my primary focus has been on constructing warbands of Normans and Late Romans.

The Late Romans are chock full of infantry (Hearthguard and Warriors), but light on archers and cavalry. I picked up 12 painted Late Roman archers in the flea market at Historicon, but they’re based as 3-ups (3 on a slender base). They can work for SAGA in a pinch, but ideally I want to grab more individually based archers. I also just purchased a box of Gripping Beast Late Roman Heavy Cavalry, so I need to get painting to solve my cavalry problem. While I’ve got enough painted figures to field a 4-6 point Late Roman SAGA warband and play a game with them, I just need to work on balancing out the army.

The Normans are also shaping up. I’ve actually got 3 Cavalry units (Hearthguard) here, a unit of archers, and 3-5 units of infantry (Warriors and Hearthguard). At Historicon, I purchased two bags of Victrix figures (Norman Cavalry and Dark Age Archers) that I would also like to add to my painting queue. It would be smart to build & paint some Dark Age Archers ASAP, because they work for Normans and Vikings, as well as Saxons, Bretons, and others. So, I could fill a few gaps in my painted soldier collection if I focused on that.

By the way, Late Romans serve perfectly as Buscans in Sword of Severnia, and Normans are a great match for Geels (Holy Crusaders). So, these SAGA forces double as human factions in my fantasy battle game — WIN WIN!

Speaking of painting, I finally put brush to metal last night! I did some detail painting work on a Late Roman General who I was sprucing up. Perhaps this will kickstart more painting. Fingers and paintbrushes crossed! I’m also curious to try out the small starter set of Army Painter Speed Paints that I bought at Historicon, along with a set of Metallic acrylics. Speed painting is much different in approach compared to the slow, methodical way that I paint. I desperately need to try some new techniques for speeding up my painting and improving my output. I’m too fussy and when I don’t see results fast enough, I become mentally defeated and put things aside “for a later day”. Models languish on my painting table forever. So… c’mon speed paint!

I mentioned a board game called Bretwalda a while ago. Well, I backed it on Kickstarter in the first-half of July. It looked gorgeous, I liked the theme, and the game play seemed interesting. Many multi-player dudes-on-a-map wargames take too long to play. Bretwalda seemed more innovative and plays in around 2 hours. Promising.

I think several new board & card games that I Kickstarted a year or two ago will finally be making their way to me in the back half of 2022. I’m looking at you Ragnarocks, Mindbug, and Gunfight Royale. They’re all quite different from each other: abstract strategy with Norse myth theming -vs- cartoony alien card battler -vs- cowboy gunfights. I have a good feeling that I will enjoy all of them. I’m doubtful that Thunder Road: Vendetta will deliver before 2022 ends, but that’s perfectly fine, I’ve got more than enough new toys to play with!

Also on the Kickstarter front, I backed a new mass-battle fantasy game designed by Buck Surdu called Wars of Orcs & Dwarves. Will I actually play it? I don’t know. I backed it because (1) I’m a rules-junkie and love to collect & read through wargame rules, (2) I wanted to support Buck, and (3) I was enamored with what I read about Wars of Ozz and this is basically the same game system, but with the huge advantage that I already own tons of painted fantasy figures. The folks at Sally 4th are following up regularly on the Kickstarter, and I need to check out what freebies they are sharing. More to report on later.

Are there too many good games coming out nowadays? To me, there certainly seems to be an overabundance of tabletop games (board, cards, RPG’s, minis) being crowdfunded on Kickstarter and Gamefound. It’s a full-time job to try and keep up with them. I don’t have the energy or time to do that. And unless you want to go broke fast, you need to be extra choosy about what you look at and back on crowdfunding platforms. There’s a lot of QUANTITY being released, but I’m not so sure all of it is QUALITY.

Without a doubt, games are being made with better components and more fanciful artwork than I saw 20-30 years ago. Heck, even in just the last 12 years, things have evolved to where most games look good. But for every excellent game design that comes along, there are 20 games that are overwrought & over-complex, stuffed with too much crap (rather than being streamlined), and are aimed at a crowd that will play the game 50 times.

I don’t know about you, but there are very few games that I’ve ever played 50 times, especially as a working adult. Who can find the time for that? There are a handful of games that are so deep, varied, and interesting that I could devote LOTS of time & plays to them (mostly miniature wargames). But those are truly the exception, not the rule.

Anyway, finding the good stuff amongst the chaff is a tricky task nowadays. What do you think?

Speaking of good games, Return to Dark Tower has a campaign running on BackerKit to fund the second printing of the game and its expansions. There’s also a new expansion called Covenant which looks really cool. I’m oh so tempted to back it. My problem: I haven’t played the base game enough times to justify getting an expansion already. My wife, who likes RTDT actually told me that. She’s 100% RIGHT. But… MUST…. RESIST…. THE…. LURE….

Well… that’s enough for now… Time for bed. Sevy, out!

Long Strange Trip

The Grateful Dead were right: what a long, strange trip it’s been.

My last post was during the final week of June 2022. Since then, I’ve happily played some games with my friends and even attended the Historicon 2022 miniature wargaming convention in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for 2 days. On the flip-side, my wife unfortunately passed COVID onto me the week of July 11-17. Blech.

No doubt about it, COVID sucks. But I was very thankful that my doctor prescribed Paxlovid to me, which is a miracle drug that greatly speeds your recovery from COVID and is highly effective at keeping you out of the hospital. It worked fast and had me feeling better the next day after my initial 3-set dosage. After 5 days on Paxlovid, I was feeling way better.

The biggest downside to the drug is “Paxlovid Mouth”. It leaves a horrible aftertaste in your mouth which you simply cannot get rid of. Think bad grapefruit mixed with sucking on a pile of damp nickels, and that approximates the taste. My Google-Fu led me to discover that eating copious amounts of Hot Tamales (red-hot cinnamon candy) would help counter the bad taste. It worked for about 15-20 minutes and then you needed to pop more candy into your mouth. It was a losing battle. I would have needed about 20 boxes of Hot Tamales to make a real dent. Oh well, at least the horrible taste went away about 1 or 2 days after the treatment ended.

Pre-COVID Gaming

Prior to my bout with COVID, I enjoyed three different board-gaming sessions with my friends. Over those sessions we played a 4-player game of Castle Panic, 4-player game of 7 Wonders, three 2-player games of Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, a 4-player game of Cutthroat Caverns, and a 4-player game of Age of War. Here are my brief thoughts on all these games:

Castle Panic = This is a rules-light, semi-cooperative game with a fantasy theme, which I enjoy. Most of our group had never played Castle Panic before. Our game was exciting; we ended up being defeated by a swarm of monsters in the red map zones before we could kill the last 2 invaders. Goblin bastards! Castle Panic is not a deep-thinker and is prone to wild swings of luck, but with the right group it’s a good little beer & pretzels game. It’s a solid 7 out of 10 stars.

7 Wonders = 7 Wonders is an interesting game that mixes card-drafting and set collection. While the base mechanics are simple (draft 1 card, pass the remaining cards to a player beside you, then play 1 card), the volume of card iconography makes for a game that’s not simple to teach. You need to play 7 Wonders several times to truly grasp how to win.

I won our game on the strength of military might and a very good last round, so I earned bragging rights. I’m sure my Greek bathing ladies distracted my opponents!

I liked that player-turns were quick, and I love that there are a variety of viable strategies for charting your course to victory. On the downside, I dislike games with convoluted bean-counting at the end of the game to figure out who won, and unfortunately 7 Wonders falls into that trap, which knocks it down a few pegs from greatness. My rating = 7 stars.

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation = My friend Wally and I got together to play 3 games of Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation. It was glorious. Every single game came down to the wire, with the potential to go either way at the last minute.

This game is a masterpiece of excellent game design: easy to learn rules, surprising depth of play, plenty of variety, tense & exciting, and a terrific theme which really shines through. It’s ultimately the hobby-gamers version of Stratego (but oh so much better) and it’s chock-full of Lord of the Rings flavor and elegant mechanics. It’s a terrific 2-player game and one that I never get tired of playing. My rating = a perfect 10 stars (one of my all-time favorites).

Cutthroat Caverns = The box says it all. Cutthroat Caverns is a wild and wooly game that mixes semi-cooperative play with loads of devilish back-stabbing. The monsters you’re trying to kill are quite varied and often innovative, the card-art is generally good, and the table-talk this game elicits is a hoot. The Deeper & Darker expansion is a must.

Cutthroat Caverns is not recommended for an overly serious or sensitive gaming group that hates take-that games. There’s player elimination and some Encounter cards are a bit convoluted and not easy to understand, which dings the rating 2 points for me. That said, for players who enjoy a crazy romp it doesn’t get much better than this. My rating = 8 stars.

In our 7/7/2022 game, going into the final encounter I was crushing everyone with 20 Prestige points, but had just 10 points of Life left. There was a round where I went 4th out of 4 players. I was hoping someone would kill the monster BEFORE it got to me; whatever Prestige they earned wasn’t going to beat me. But everyone stymied each other’s attempts to kill the final creature. When it came around to me, I played an attack card to kill the creature and end the game — but wait — an opponent plays CRITICAL MISS which thwarts my kill AND inflicts 10-points of damage on me! I couldn’t counter it and my Elven Ranger died. ROYALLY SCREWED ON WHAT I THOUGHT WAS THE VERY LAST PLAY OF THE GAME! That’s a classic gaming moment that I’ll never forget. That’s Cutthroat for ya!

Age of War = I got this game as a Christmas gift in 2021. We finally played it on 7/7/2022 as an end of the evening cool down filler. It’s just okay. It’s simple to teach, the dice are excellent, and it uses push-your-luck mechanics which are fun. On the downside, the theme is completely pasted on (it could have been about anything), there isn’t enough decision making, and it can drag a bit for a game this lightweight. I’d like to play it again but my initial reaction was lukewarm. My rating = 5 stars.

That’s it for now. Hopefully I’ll get a post written about my trip down to Historicon. I almost didn’t make it due to COVID, so I was grateful that my plans weren’t totally ruined. See ya!

Quick Hits: June 2022

Today’s post takes a quick peek at some games, miniatures, and accessories that have caught my attention over the past two weeks. I always enjoy sharing my discoveries with fellow gamers. So let’s get right to it…


Bretwalda

I’m a big fan of area-control and battle games. I love games with a dark ages or medieval theme. I’m a sucker for games with beautiful art & components and great table presence. Bretwalda, a new game project by Phalanx Games that’s currently running on Gamefound, ticks all the boxes for me.

But there are so many dudes-on-a-map games out there, I’m reluctant to buy into another one that doesn’t bring anything new to the table. So, what makes Bretwalda any different from the run of the mill game of this style? Looking at the reviews, a couple of cool things stood out. The factions are asymmetrical (with different powers). Seasonal random events occur, plus Danish invaders can mess with everybody, which adds a layer of surprise and suspense that I love. The map that the factions are vying over is tight, almost circular, which prevents turtling and triggers more fighting. I also like that there’s an aspect of diplomacy in this game, which is refreshing.

I haven’t backed this yet, but I’m very close to pulling the trigger on it. There are only 9 days left in the campaign, so check it out if it sounds interesting to you.

Base Pledge is about $92 USD

Chaos Wars 4 – Thunderbolt Mountain Minis

Ah, Ral Partha; the fantasy miniatures that I grew up on. While I still own some Ral Partha minis, I sold a big batch of them (still in blister packs) a few years ago at the flea market of a local HMGS East convention. Most of these minis are true 25mm. I currently play most of my miniature games in 28mm (including heroic 28mm), so most of the old Ral Partha figures look small & slender in comparison.

Color me pleasantly surprised when I saw the new Chaos Wars (Wave 4) kickstarter that’s offering newly sculpted 30mm fantasy miniatures sculpted by the talented Tom Meier.

I really like the look of these new Elves and Goblins. They conjure a very Lord of the Rings feel to me, which is cool, and the scale fits with great with the chunkier minis I prefer.

Really like those Goblins and Elves. The Trolls are funky, but have personality!

Litko Magnetic Base Bottoms

I was running low on adhesive magnetic base bottoms, as well as 80x60mm regiment bases which we use for our fantasy wargames. So, back around Memorial Day I felt it was high time to place a Litko order and restock my supplies. As fate would have it, Litko was having a sale — woohoo! The picture below shows what I bought.

I couldn’t resist a sale!

For my Sword of Severnia fantasy battle game, as well as Warlords of Hexenstein, we base our single units on 80x60mm stands. I use plywood and masonite bases. I then glue an 80x60mm metal base on top of that (you can also use flex steel, another Litko product). For my individual 28mm figures, I stick heavy-duty adhesive magnetic bases to the underside of their bases. The magnetic attraction enables figures to adhere nicely to the regiment stand, which works great when moving troops around in mass-battle games.

The big advantage to this system is that you can easily remove individual figures from their regiment stands and use them in skirmish/warband games where unit-basing isn’t used. For example, I will often pull a bunch of Vikings off their regiment bases to use in SAGA, or remove medieval Knights and Archers to use in a game of Lion Rampant. Being able to get double-duty out of my figures is important to me.


Dungenerator

I don’t currently play D&D, but if I still did this Kickstarter project would definitely pique my interest. The Dungenerator is a deck of cards that a GM can use to create on-the-fly dungeon layouts. Rooms connect to each other along one of more sides of each card.

The artwork has a certain bold charm to it, and the concept is simple but useful. These cards might even be useful in games such as Four Against Darkness, Rangers of Shadow Deep (or underground Frostgrave encounters), or any type of skirmish style dungeon adventure.


Until next time, keep on gaming!

Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

On June 23, 2022, I played Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu for the very first time. I was joined by my regular gaming buddies, Kevin and Wally, for a 3-player game. We ended up playing the game twice during a 2.5-hour gaming session.

Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu is a co-operative board game. Each player assumes the role of a character (we used Magician, Hunter, and Driver), and your team of investigators is collectively trying to close 4 dimensional portals before something cataclysmic happens. You all lose if Cthulhu appears (the last of 7 Elder Gods), more than 3 slimy Shoggoths show up to terrorize the world, all the investigators go insane, too many evil Cultists have been summoned, or you’ve run out of Clue cards (used to close gates and aid movement).

Setting up our game of Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

We got slaughtered during Game-1. Cthulhu awakened before we closed any gates. We didn’t work together as a team very well and were overwhelmed. Chalk it up as a learning game.

In Game-2, we co-operated a whole lot better, closing 2 gates and nearing the seal of a third before a fast-wriggling Shoggoth squirmed its way through a dimensional gate and awakened the cosmic wrath of Cthulhu. Dang it, close but no cigar!

I really enjoyed the game. It was better than I expected. The game looks good on the table and the Lovecraftian theme shines through. Cultists, Shoggoths, Insanity, archetypal investigators, occult relics, the classic towns of Arkham/Dunwich/Innsmouth/Kingsport, and an array of nasty Old Ones all make their appearance here.

And oh boy, it’s challenging to beat! Despite our best efforts, we lost both games. The next day, I was pondering “how do we better co-operate to beat this thing?” To me, that’s the mark of a good co-op. Plus, the game doesn’t overstay its welcome. There’s a lot of fun packed into roughly one hour of typical play time.

Best of all, there’s enough variety in the Old Ones, investigators, and relics that the re-playability factor seems high. It’s definitely a keeper and a game that I recommend for fans of Cthulhu, co-ops, and mid-weight strategy games.

What a Tanker! – First Play

On Sunday afternoon (June-19-2022), we broke out my 1/72 scale Dragon Armor tanks and played our first ever game of What a Tanker! (a game by Too Fat Lardies). For those who aren’t familiar with the game, it’s a pure WWII tank battle game. Infantry and artillery don’t make an appearance here, it’s simply tank-on-tank goodness.

We didn’t have any specific scenario in mind; it was a simple “destroy your enemy” battle. There was a crossroads in the center of the table that I laid out, so that seemed to have a funneling effect on us mentally, as several tanks ended up duking it out in the center.

It was an engrossing game and we caught on to the game mechanics quickly. However, after close to 3 hours, Wally’s Germans had managed to destroy 1 Sherman (Big Jim), while my USA/British alliance took out a Panzer IV (Rolf). Both sides still had two operating tanks left (only 1 of them having even minor damage). We called it after that… a Tie.

The Too Fat Lardies are big proponents of “friction” in their game designs. I agree with that philosophy in war games. But wow, the way Command Dice work in What a Tanker results in a game with a large degree of chaos. There were many times that a tank just sat there and did nothing, and times where it was aimed & loaded but lacked a Shoot dice needed to fire at its enemy. The vagaries of the Command Dice can lead to a lot of frustration. Still, on balance, I enjoyed that mechanic.

My biggest gripe is the difficulty in destroying enemy tanks. It’s a slow process to wear-down an enemy tank from 6 to 0 Command Dice. Blowing a tank up outright ultimately comes down to a lucky shot or managing to maneuver behind them and blast them in the rear-flank. I was expecting this to be faster & deadlier, but it’s really a bit of a slog.

One thing that could be tweaked (which I may house rule) is that close range fire should be deadlier. There’s no difference if I shoot you from 48” away, versus 8”. Our Jagdpanzer IV L70V tank destroyer -vs- Churchill Mk III battle, two very heavily armored tanks, ended up as an extended pillow fight; nobody could inflict any damage on the other. I think a simple +1 Aim and +2 Strike bonus, for being within 12” of an enemy, can make close attacks deadlier without unbalancing the game.

Overall, the game is easy to learn and fun; I want to play it again. It ran much longer than we expected (close to 3 hours). Despite what some folks suggest this is not a fast-play game, especially if you’re managing 3 tanks per player like we did. Looking forward to trying it again. Hopefully, we get a faster, more decisive outcome next time.

Pulp-o-Matic

While I have yet to actually play a game in the Pulp genre, I’ve been slowly building up my collection of painted figures over the past few years. Recently, I bought the following set of figures from a gentleman who listed them in the TMP Marketplace.

These are mostly Copplestone figures, and include 2 archaeologists, 1 heroic pilot, a gang of 5 Chinese hoodlums, and a set of 5 Gangsters. They’ll make a fine addition to my eclectic collection of pulp heroes, sidekicks, and villains.

Evolve & Twist

I haven’t posted in a while. Between our 20th wedding anniversary, a vacation in Mexico which was linked to my niece’s wedding, celebrating my wife’s birthday, a winery weekend vacation with good friends, and work stuff, I haven’t had the time or inclination to write anything.

But I did get to play two board games over that timeframe. Woot!

Evolve or Get Eaten!

The first game that I played was Evolution on 6/8/2022. This was played at a local board game night that my friend Kevin and I attended for the first time.

Evolution has a fun dinosaur theme and low-complexity rules. But it’s a game that you need to play regularly in order to know which cards are contained in the deck, and how they synergize to develop a good strategy for gaining points. Making great combos is the key to doing well.

I finished in 2nd place playing with gamers who had played it before, so I felt like I grasped the concepts well enough for my first game. I would definitely play it again; it’s a solid game with multiple paths to victory.


Twist like we did last Summer

This past Thursday evening, I had a terrific time playing Dungeon Twister 2: Prison with my old friend Wally.

Dungeon Twister is one of my favorite 2-player games. It’s not a typical dungeon crawler game. Instead, it’s a thinky 2-player game to see who can escape the dungeon the fastest.

I love the variety of characters and tactics, and the element of surprise (the room reveals, combat cards, room rotations). Just when you think you’ve found an escape route, your opponent twists a room and your best laid plans are foiled. The dice-less combat is fast & deadly; part playing the odds and part bluffing & double-think. Games of Dungeon Twister are never dull; they’re a constantly changing puzzle you’re trying to solve.

I pulled out a hard-won 5-3 victory. It was satisfying. But if Thursday’s game taught me anything, it reminded me that win or lose, we need to play Dungeon Twister much more often. It’s such a well-designed and fun game. I own two expansions to the game, Forces of Darkness and Paladins & Dragons, which add a huge amount of variety to the game with new characters, new items, and new modular board tiles. We need to dive deep into these suckers.

Dungeon Twister is an older game, but you can usually find both the original and 2nd (Prison) editions on eBay. The original edition has the better rulebook and fewer hellish-to-navigate rooms, while the 2nd edition (Prison) has nice miniatures rather than cardboard standees. There’s really no problem mixing & matching the sets; variety is king with this game.

While I’m sure it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, Dungeon Twister is great if you enjoy mid-weight strategy games featuring spatial reasoning, direct conflict, variable character powers, and an element of puzzle solving. I highly recommend it; it’s in my top 20 games of all-time.

Stormin’ Normans

While I paint my own wargaming figures occasionally and enjoy it, it’s not viable for me to assemble and paint a wide variety of armies quickly. First, I paint way too slowly. I know that I could get faster by painting more often and by being less fussy about it, but facts are facts. It’s something to aspire to. I also spend most of my hobby time designing and playing games (especially the former). That doesn’t leave as much time for painting as I need, and I haven’t figured out how to distort the space/time continuum yet.

So, that means I’m always looking to buy nicely painted figures to flesh out various armies & warbands in various periods/genres. At the moment, I’m looking to collect painted figures to build both Late Roman and Norman warbands for SAGA. I already have a nice Viking warband.

My SAGA opponent, Kevin, has Anglo-Saxon / Anglo-Dane and Irish warbands. I wanted to pull together two more armies so that we can get a buddy (or two) to join us for some SAGA battles, and so we have more armies to play with. We can also easily use these armies for Lion Rampant, when the extended Version 2 book that includes the Dark Ages (and more) is released this summer. Plus, they all work as various human races in my Sword of Severnia fantasy battle game too.

Anyway… I was finally able to snag my first set of Normans off eBay from a seller in Canada. These are Victrix miniatures and I like the dynamic poses. There are two infantry units of 10 soldiers each, so 20 figures overall. That’s a good start for a SAGA warband. Progress!

Horrified and Happy

Just a quickie post…

I recently purchased a copy of Horrified off eBay, the co-op board game by Ravensburger. Although I never played the game before, I’ve watched several “how-to-play” videos on it and know that I’m going to like it.

With that in mind, at the same time I was searching to buy a copy of the game off eBay, I also decided that I was going to bling it out a little. So, I also purchased a small batch of the collectible Funko Mystery Monster Minis to use in place of the plastic miniatures that come with the game. I was able to score Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolfman, and Frankenstein’s Monster for a decent price. I also splurged for The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but since he’s much more rare, he was pricey.

Those 5 little buggers cost me TWICE as much as the entire game. Gah!!! I don’t normally feel the need to upgrade components in board games, but this just seemed like a fun thing to do and well, I’m a 58-year old kid at heart it seems.