Clash of Dice

Clash of Giants: Civil War is Ted Raicer‘s new game about the battles of Second Bull Run and Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Published by GMT games, the system is an ACW adaptation of his Clash of Giants system which covered several World War One battles in a couple of much earlier GMT releases.

Inside the box you get one standard backprinted map with the two battlefields done by the excellent Charles Kibler. Second Bull Run is done at 500 yards per hex, and Gettysburg at 270 yards per hex. There are separate countersheets of larger, well printed counters, for each battle with different variations of Blue and Gray, making it less likely you will get the wrong units appearing in the wrong battle. I like that. Continue reading

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War in 1987

The box is full...

The box is full…

On the table is Jim Day‘s game MBT, about the Cold War going hot in 1987, published by GMT. It is a tactical game (units are single vehicles or squads, and each hex is 100 meters) using the same core engine as Panzer, Jim’s WW2 tactical game, also from GMT.

I have the same issues with MBT as I do Panzer (see here) but was always going to get the game and try it out.

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I have now played the initial two scenarios several times, using the basic rules, the advanced rules, and then my own mix of basic and advanced rules. I have also tried out some house rules (or variants, if you prefer) to try and fix bits and pieces. I have not come up with any magical solutions, but it is great fun trying things out.

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Unconditional Surrender

usurrender

On the table is the Sal Vasta design Unconditional Surrender, a game about WW2 in Europe published by GMT. I bought this when it first came out in 2014, but it has only now made its way to the front of the ‘to be played queue’ and on to the table.

The game gives a high level focus on matters, with army sized ground units, doing battle on a lovely map (with each hex representing 30-60 miles) over monthly turns. There’s an interesting set of diplomatic and political rules, but that part probably works best for two player games. The rest of the action is highly playable solitaire; the only slight challenge is the need to decide if each side in each combat will or will not pile in support. In my play, I make the decisions for one side, and let the dice decide for the other side. Then, in the next turn I swap things around.

Ground action uses a single unit activation at a time, delivering something rather different. Moving units can do mobile assaults on their own – repeatedly, with each one costing movement points – but cannot assault. An assault can be set up, but the attackers can only do that one attack. The other notable point of difference is that units do not have combat factors. Instead, units generally act as modifiers on the combat results table. The CRT uses opposed totals, so the system can build in the effects for attacker and defender, and other stuff like weather, and isolation, all very neatly.

Economics is handled in a refreshingly simple way: count the factories, make deductions for strategic warfare (and that is easy, too) then calculate the available production points. That is the currency for buying stuff. However, the game doesn’t seem to allow non historic builds, and neither can you save, because if you don’t use the stuff that month it is gone forever.

There are additional markers and events that add in some detail. For example, Netherlands and Belgium can use a Ground Support marker to help them in combat. The chit returns 1d6 turns later. As another example, the main factions can buy Surprise Attack markers that are needed for invasions.  The Political and Diplomacy system uses markers with a neat mechanic that prevents players from guaranteeing the outcome of their efforts, providing a decent amount of tension.

I am impressed by the way the thing hangs together. There are lots of scenarios, including some easy ones to get your feet wet. But after Poland and Norway, the Western Front in 1940 is a tough nut to crack. The scenarios do include the whole package should you so choose. It is suggested that would take 50-60 hours of play, but I would double that estimate. However, the time is not because of the complexity of the rules; it’s because of the need to master the ever changing situation. Although the builds are limited, this is not a scripted straight jacket, and the action can go off on strange tangents (in a good way).

It’s a long, long time since I played anything at this scale.  I have fond memories of the original Third Reich from John Prados and Avalon Hill, but not the monsters that it spawned. I liked the old SPI game WW2, even though it was much simpler and very much more a game than a simulation. But this game has given me a real buzz, and it’s a definite contender for convention play if I ever make it back to Consimworld.

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Tough choices

Here are the two latest gaming arrivals:

Tough choices…

Both are wargames from GMT.

Andean Abyss is a counter insurgency game about modern Columbian history. It’s a subject I know next to nothing about, and the game seems jam packed with material to sort that out. It’s not a topic I was interested in, but in a brief conversation at ComsimWorld Expo earlier this year, Gene Billingsley (of GMT) convinced me to try it. Bloody April is a game about a particular period of the WW1 air campaign in the West. (I have not found the Snoopy counter yet.)

Both show signs of GMT’s increasingly high production standards. For example, both have mounted maps. And both boxes are sturdy, and have some solid inserts to keep the contents in good order.

An initial inspection of the components, and a quick read of the respective rule and play books just makes me want to forget everything else and play them. However, real life intrudes.

Both join the ever increasing queue to get to the top of the ‘to be played’ pile.

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Pushing Panzers around

I have not had much time for real gaming recently, but Panzer (from GMT games) is on the game table. I am making my way through the rules and pushing some panzers around to see how things work, before (hopefully) writing a full article on the game. Meantime, gamers of a certain vintage may enjoy the rush of nostalgia brought about by the boxtop art:

There’s something familiar about this…

A nice way of remembering Redmond A. Simonsen.

As it happens, the game is also a blast from the past in more ways than one. I remember buying the original version while on holiday in Ottawa, Canada. A long time ago. It’s been a system I have repeatedly taken out and played with ever since that first acquisition, and I am delighted  GMT have given it a new lease of life.

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Red Winter


This is a game about the Soviet attack at Tolvajarvi, Finland in December 1939. Each hex is 425 yards, each turn is 90 minutes (day) or 15 hours (night), and most combat units are company sized. The game comes with a single standard sized map, one countersheet, play aids, a rule book, and playbook. The designer is Mark Mokszycki. Continue reading

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