Trouble Ahead?

Out of the wrapper and on to the game table:

An unusual game about potential conflict in the South China Sea which includes a Political and a Military set of rules. In some scenarios, using cards, you play out the political aspect and the shooting can start at any time or not at all. Or, you can skip the politics and go straight to war.

The components are good, though the back side of some of the counters is slightly off. I found the rules a bit rough, but nothing that could not be bridged with some common sense. The system is easy and accessible and gives each player plenty to think about. The decisions are tricky, not the rules.

Some have criticized the lack of scenarios – there are only half a dozen or so – but if that bothered me, I’d be able to get some fan created ones from BGG. The current challenge, given how much fun this is, is how do I stop myself buying the next in the series?


This is part of the Operational System Series designed by Adam Starkweather and published by Compass. The particular game is about hypothetical Cold War going hot in the 1980s.

The game comes with three standard sized maps and one small add-on for Berlin, a mountain of play-aid cards, over a thousand 9/16″ glorious counters, as well as a rule book and scenario book.

There’s a lot to like here. Continue reading

Holland ’44

Newly arrived, this is Mark Simonitch’s game about the Market-Garden Campaign in WW2. It uses 8 hour turns with units of battalion (and company) size. There are two sheets of counters, one main map and a small extension. Based on a quick flick through of the rulebook, it seems to be about the same complexity level as his previous games Ardennes ’44 and France’40. To me, that makes them about 4 or 5 on a rising complexity scale of 1-10.

It joins the ‘to be played’ queue.

Two points of note.

First, the campaign didn’t take place in Holland. Mark confesses this in the rules, but is comfortable that marketing won out over accuracy in this case. For what it’s worth, I don’t agree, and I dare say if I was from Holland – a part of the Netherlands – I might be more vocal in my opposition.

Second, this is one of the most gamed about topics of the era. So, it will be interesting to see what fresh perspectives Mark brings to bear. I was delighted to see he quoted John Butterfield’s Hells Highway as a landmark design which Mark looked to as a sort of benchmark. Hell’s Highway is one of my all time favorites. I do wish, though, somebody had taken the HH system and rolled it out for other WW2 actions.

We’re going to build a railroad!


I have always admired the 18XX games from afar, but when GMT announced they were producing one – designed by Tom Lehmann – , I knew it was a sign. I picked my copy of 1846 up from a USA dealer as part of a bulk order filling in some gaps in my Lord of the Rings LCG, and it duly arrived a couple of weeks ago. It’s taken this long for me to get it out of the wrapper, check the contents, and have a first look of the rulebook.

The physical components look to be fine, with a dandy mounted game board. The rules however left me with something of a sore head. It appeared to me that the rules assumed players were familiar with 18XX games, and a lot – or some – prior knowledge was expected. In fairness, after spending some more time on a closer read of the rules, I am reasonably satisfied all the information is there, just well hidden. And the example of play was a life saver.

Since the playing time is on the very wrong side of 3 hours, I doubt this will surface at my regular (euro) gaming session, but I am determined to assemble a crew of volunteers to try it out.

Operation Dauntless

Out of the wrapper for me is this:


It’s a company level game on that WW2 battle, using an upgraded system based on the designer’s excellent Red Winter, and appears to have just as much, if not more, of that game’s love, care, and attention poured into it.

A quick read of the rules suggests that the best way to get into the game is to work through the training scenarios.

I’m looking forward to playing this, but it will still have to wait its turn. As always, my to be played queue is long and ever changing.

Ortus Regni


Out of the shipping box and wrapper is Ortus Regni. It’s a card game with a medieval theme, designed by Jon Sudbury and produced by him. To quote from BoardGameGeek:

Ortus Regni is a novel card game inspired by the late Anglo-Saxon period of English history. A time of warring Earls, claiming whatever lands they could… establishing fiefs, cultivating powerful vassals, fighting and engaging in endless political struggles. All while Vikings roamed not just the sea, but the land. It is truly a Dark Age. Or is it? Lasting for 600 years, until the Norman Conquest of 1066, this era decided the future of a great kingdom that would become England.

Designing your Earl Deck before play begins is one of the key features of the game. Ortus Regni is a deck-design game, rather than a deck-building game. That is, you are entirely in control of the deck that you will begin play with in a game of Ortus Regni.

There are several canonical Ortus Regni deck design concepts—such as a Lord deck, an Army (Land) deck, a Politics deck, or an Emissary (Monk) deck, and more. But such concepts are only the start of your design options. The Earl Deck you put together can be a subtle hybrid of several concepts, or something entirely different and unusual.

I have only had time to open the boxes – the basic game is for two player, and each expansion adds the capability for another two players – and check out the contents. Stunning. The quality of the artwork, the design, and the attention to detail in the package is outstanding. If the game play is even half as good, this will be a great game. I think I know what we might be playing next week…

And I would be remiss if I did not mention the excellent customer service. Top notch. Thank you, Jon.

Playing the play

"To go first or last, that is the question." - Source: Ystari via BoradGameGeek

“To go first or last, that is the question.” – Source: Ystari via BoardGameGeek

Out of the (Chanukah gift) wrapper – thank you Lori, Sarah-Lee, and Tomer! – is Shakespeare, designed by Hervé Rigal, and published by Ystari Games. It can take up to four players (though, interestingly, BoardGameGeek puts three as the optimum number), does include a solitaire option, and claims playing times of 20-90 minutes.

The description from BGG:

The theaters of London are abuzz. In one week, her majesty the Queen will attend their new shows and will grant her support to one of the troupes. It’s the chance of a lifetime for the young authors who are inflaming the populace with ever more audacious and motley plays. But how do you create a masterpiece in such a short time? Whoever has the answer to this thorny question will probably enter the rolls of history!

In Shakespeare, players are theater managers who must recruit actors, craftsmen, jewelers and others in order to assemble everything needed for the play’s performance at week’s end.

Players are competing to get the right combinations of people and assets so as to end with the most prestige points.

The online reviews are very favorable, and my reading of the (clear and easy) rule book suggests this will be a good game to play, though there are bound to be the usual stumbling first steps before we get it right. The interactions are extensive, and it appears the possibility of screwing up your opponents (and, of course, the other way round) must be borne in mind with every action.

I’m looking forward to getting this on to the table and playing it.

A game about the game

In this case, we are in A Game of Thrones territory:


Also newly arrived and out of the wrapper (but as yet unplayed) is the second edition of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game. It’s designed by Eric Lang (multiple design credits) and Nate French (Lord of the Rings LCG designer).

The theme is obvious. It’s a card game (duh!) – using the Living Card Game (LCG) format – designed to accommodate player v player or multiplayer sessions. I bought it partly for that reason, partly because of the good reviews, and partly because I have been impressed by the previous games from these designers.

Incidentally, the LCG format means you know exactly what cards are in the expansions, so you are not engaged in a furious hunt to find (and buy) the rare, powerful cards.  The Netrunner card game is LCG, and that’s another reason for buying this game: with Netrunner, I got in late, and it took me time to track down and acquire the expansions after the fact. Here, I am in at the start, so it should be – ha! – easier.

I’ve only had a chance to skim the rules and components, but so far it looks good. That matters for nothing if the play is crap, but I am optimistic this will be a good one. It goes in to the queue,

A new wonder


Newly arrived, and out of the wrapper, is 7 Wonders: Duel. Designed by Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala, it takes the 7 Wonders theme to a two player level, using some clever mechanics to deliver an excellent and challenging game.

As in the original game, you have a city to build, aiming to get the most VPs from a variety of sources. The player with the most VPs at the end of the game wins. However, Duel introduces a sudden death victory condition: you can win by collecting six different science symbols, and you can win by accumulating a large enough military power. So, instantly, there are several winning strategies to follow.

Instead of cards being passed from player to player, here the 20 cards in each Age (there are three) are laid out in an overlapping grid. You can only take a card that is not overlapped, and as you take cards, you may uncover better cards for your opponent. Each Age has a different grid patter, with alternate rows face up and face down. This means you can do some planning – I want that card – but fate and your opponent may intervene.

As well as the cards, there are wonders to build, each of which gives a different set of bonuses. Also, collecting matching scientific symbols grants you a choice of the available advancement tokens, again with different bonuses.

The physical production standards are high, and the symbology is easy to follow. The rulebook looks worse than it is, but that’s because it carefully takes you through the game, and is very thorough. In other words, when you start to read it, and use it, things flow smoothly.

I was very impressed with the game, because it packs a lot into the box without being complex. The interactions, tactics, and playing techniques may take some time to master, but the game is quite accessible, especially if you have played the original 7 Wonders. It’s not quite a bridge game, being one to introduce first time non gamers, but it’s not that far away. And it plays quite quickly – easily under an hour, unless you or your opponent are struck with analysis paralysis.

In short, this is a pretty damn good two player game.