On the table catchup

Yes, the lockdown has meant I have done more gaming than usual. Here are some of the games I have had on the table over the last few weeks.

WW2 tactical – my favorite topic. This is Jim Day’s magnum opus with a core game plus four expansions to date. (Of course I have all the expansions.) Finally, I think I am getting to grips with the rules. I am also trying to work out alternatives to the command control and morale rules which I think are a bit clunky.

From Joe Balkoski’s wonderful modern naval conflict series, this is packed full of accessible one map scenarios. This is one of the top series I wish would be updated and republished. Meantime, the game packs a punch.

PanzerGrenadier tactical (platoon level) WW2 combat. I have tried, tried, and tried again to get into the system. This time, I almost made it. However, the leader and activation rules don’t do it for me. Besides, the War Storms series seems to do this so much better. If I get this game (or others in the series) out again, it will be to work on my own house rules. There’s got to be a better way.

Tactical WW3. Yes, I know it doesn’t have morale rules. Yes, I know it doesn’t have command and control rules. Yes, I know the open lines of sight at great distances are unreal. I know all of these things, but it was still fun to play – and a bloodbath. This game is one (of many) I have often thought of going back and fixing to my own requirements. It has an elegant combat system that cries out for use elsewhere.

Ancients battles on a square grid. I set up and played the Granicus scenario, but the setup didn’t match anything I had seen before about the battle. Inevitably, I was more interested in the system. The map graphics are awful, but the rest is of much greater value. There are multiple versions kicking about: the original, the original plus errata, and a BGG gamer’s variant with added bells, whistles, and complexity. This game is one (of many) I have often thought of going back and fixing to my own requirements. (Stop me if you’ve heard that before.)

Finally I got to play a COIN game (a series about counter insurgency conflicts). I managed to follow through the extensive example of play in the box and kept going. However, dealing fairly as a solitaire player with four factions was too much for me and the result too lopsided in favor of one faction. But it was fun. And it was great to understand more of what was going on. The game comes with a paper decision maker for non player factions. However, that really slows the game down, so I’m unlikely to go down that route. On the other hand, I have the COIN game set in the Vietnam War and that’s a subject I would like to dig into a bit more. Andean Abyss was good fun, though, and taught me a lot.


Tanks on the table

A Panzer boldly advances towards the enemy

A Panzer boldly advances towards the enemy

On the table is Panzer, Jim Day‘s game of tactical combat in World War Two, published by GMT. This originally came out in 1979 (gulp!) from Yaquinto Publications, was reissued by Lost Battalion Games as a set of miniatures rules, and is now back as a board game. Two versions with a more modern setting were previously published by Avalon Hill: IDF, and MBT.

Currently, on top of the base game there are three expansions which give you the opportunity to refight actions from the Eastern Front from 1941-45, and on the Western Front from 1944-45. There is a France 1940 expansion in the offing. I have not seen anything about Pacific battles being made available. The latter does not trouble me as I have less interest in that theater of the war. I would, however, like to see a Western Desert expansion…

The game scale is individual tanks and squads. Time scale is ’15 second to 15 minutes per turn’ which is one way of dealing with the challenge that time scales offer! The ground scale used to be 50 meters per hex, but for this version it has been changed to 100 meters per hex. The rationale given is that this is to maintain consistency with the forthcoming release of a new version of MBT which uses that larger scale. I do not like the change in scale, but it doesn’t seem as if that is a widely held objection.

The original game featured simultaneous movement using written orders. This is now replaced with an ‘I go, you go’ system where you give orders to units. For example, you might order Tank A to move, Tank B to fire, and Tank C to overwatch. Then, units can only do what they are ordered to do.

The game comes with a basic game that lets you handle tank on tank warfare. The advanced game adds the leg units and weapons like anti-tank guns. The optional rules bolt on more detail at the inevitable expense of added complexity and playing time.

For example, in the advanced game you may not be able to give an order to every unit; available orders depend on the size of the unit and its quality. There are no explicit morale rules unless you use those given in the optional rules.

The core of the game is the amount of detailed information given about tanks, their armor, and their weapons. Almost everything else is subordinate to that. I find the combat procedures to be easy to assimilate, and so less daunting than might be apparent from the rulebook. However, I’m uncomfortable about the lack of morale as a standard feature, and have tried to think of house rules to compensate. So far, no success, but it’s fun trying things out.

This is never going to replace ASL, but I like to have it as an alternative. It’s a better solitaire experience.



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.