Gaming Break

Roy and I had an opportunity for a short gaming session. We started off with Commands and Colors Napoleonics, then moved on to Keyforge.

This was a first outing for Roy with the Napoleonics version of Richard Borg’s hugely successful series. However, he had played the Ancients version, and was highly experienced with Memoir 44 (WW2) so had no trouble pitching in and playing away.

We played the Vimiero scenario, the August 1808 encounter between British and French forces (with a few Portuguese on the British side). I played the French, who were on the attack, with Roy manning the defense lines.

The scenario began with probes by the French forces which were bloodily repulsed. The victory goal was six banners (victory points). Roy had run up a two-nil lead before I even got close to a first banner.

My cards were awful, but then things changed when I drew the cavalry charge card. This allowed me to utilize my cavalry advantage – four units to two – and well and truly pile into the British lines. The killer was another wonderful card – supply lines or similar? – which allowed me to banish a key British artillery unit back to the baseline. In combination, this just was too much for the British. Although they fought hard, and did some damage, I surged ahead to a lead that was slowly converted into a win.

Next up, Keyforge. This is a game from the designer of Magic, the original collectible card game. Much of the core is similar – generate monsters and magic items, do damage, and win – by this is a very different game.

First, there is no collectible element. Every single deck in the world is unique.

Second, there is no deck building.

Third, the play doesn’t involve resources, but Houses. Each deck has cards from three Houses. Each turn, in essence, you can only use one your Houses. So, there are some tricky decisions to be made.

Fourth, you win not by eliminating the other guy, but by using the games currency – aember – to build three keys before your opponent.

Roy got off to a good start and set up a monster line of monsters. I slowly managed to get some of my team out, but Roy was soaring ahead in aember collection. He kept his lead and ran out an easy winner by three to one.

I like the accessibility of Keyforge. It’s easy and fast to play. But without the deck building, where is the skill? It will be interesting to see how this one fares, and whether there are further Keyforge type games.


Heaven and Hell

This month I was able to get together some of the ‘old’ gamers for a session. And quite a session it turned out to be, too.

Avri, Azriel, and Rosalynn were introduced by Efrat to Heaven & Ale, a tile placing game about monasteries and beer.

The rules explanation took a while, but the players seemed to agree that the game was not that complex once you started playing. Of course, there’s a difference between playing the game and being any good at it, as I know only too well.

“That’s a fine – hic! – brewery you have there.”

Rosalynn and Azriel were quite, patient, and dogged. But neither were able to break out of the build up stage and develop a meaningful set of tiles and interactions to seriously challenge the leaders until it was too late.

Efrat, who had played the game before, seemed to be knocked off her stride by doing the rules explanation. Avri seemed to ‘grok’ the game quickly, and he was soon in contention. Then, in the last few turns, he left everyone behind and ran up a massive score. I think it may have been more than everyone else’s score added together…

Although the game seemed a tad on the long side for me, the players were not troubled by that. All had a good time, with a very healthy post mortem taking place to figure out what went wrong and how they could improve things the next time.

While they were brewing their ale, Peleg and I played Commands and Colors: Napoleonics. This is a light wargame, played with blocks on a hex grid, and units being activated by cards drawn from a single deck. There are special cards with surprise effects, and dice to resolve combat. Nevertheless, there is a decent amount of skill in the game.

French still holding on

We played the first scenario, Rolica (17 August 1808). Wellington vs General Henri Delaborde, with the Anglo Portuguese on the attack.

I took the outnumbered French defenders, and Peleg the Anglo attackers.

I rebuffed Peleg’s early attacks using my cavalry as a sort of fire brigade. First it won on the right, then it raced across and won on the left, then it raced back to the right.

I was 4-3 up (needing 1 Victory Point for the win) when Peleg’s artillery produced an amazing bombardment that got him the 2 VPs he needed, for a 5-4 win.

It was very exciting and a ton of fun. We will definitely do that again.

Thanks to all who came, and especially Efrat for bringing along that quite intriguing brewing game.


Napoleon goes square

Newly arrived:


This is the Napoleonic version of Richard Borg‘s (“Borg’s” not “Berg’s”) Commands and Colors system.

GMT’s excellent production gives you a hard mounted (folding) game board, with wooden blocks and sheets of self adhesive stickers that you apply to make up the units. There are overlays, some unique dice, a deck of cards to drive the game – the cards limit what you can do with your troops – a color rulebook, and a color book of scenarios.


I have the Ancient era version and have had much joy using it as an introductory game for non wargamers. I don’t really need another introductory game, but while that will not hurt, there was another motive for – finally – giving in and buying the damn thing.

I have been thinking about doing some miniatures gaming in this era. But getting and painting the miniatures is a major time consuming endeavor. So, I have this idea of using the blocks from the game instead of miniatures. Of course, I need to settle on some rules and so forth. But getting these soldiers is a good start. Besides, I do fully intent to use the game. There are some who will prefer Napoleonics to Ancients, and now I can cater for both.

First up, I have to apply the stickers to the blocks. Here are some British Grenadier Guard units.


I still have a way to go. What you see are the remaining British and Portugese blocks. The French blocks are all done, but at the time the photographs were taken, Napoleon had them off on a training march.


Where did the general go?

Part of the setup card for Ilipa - 206 BCE

Part of the setup card for Ilipa – 206 BCE

This month’s mayhem took place on the plains outside of Ilipa, courtesy of GMT’s Commands and Colors.

Ilipa is one of the Epic System battles – essentially a bigger version of the base game, with some tweaks to the cards and some fog of war rules. To get the best out of the Epic stuff you need four players on each side: one commander and three subordinate generals. As we had four altogether – Ben Peleg, Roy, and me, we played in teams of two and let the fog of war happen naturally.

The actual battle was from the Second Punic War and featured Scipio Africanus beating up on the Carthaginians and taking Iberia from them, forever.

Peleg and I took the Roman Army. We only had a couple of good quality heavy infantry units, most being medium infantry, with some light and medium cavalry in support.

Ben and Roy’s Carthaginian Army was short of decent quality heavy and medium infantry, but had lots of Auxilia, and some warbands. They also had a couple of elephants; these are potentially devastating, but can trample their own soldiers if they retreat.

They're coming!

They’re coming!

The battle opened with Peleg and I trying to set our units up to use a couple of cracking command cards we had in our hand. Before we could get underway, however, the Carthaginians feinted with an elephant and were a bit shocked when we wiped that solo adventurer out. That was the last we saw of the elephants!

Now Peleg and I put into action our master plan. Just as we played the first mighty command card, the Carthaginians played a card to counter it. Undeterred, we went at it again for our second sweeping move. They did it again.

Calm before the storm

Calm before the storm

While this was going on, skirmishes on the wings were just about even. But Peleg and I were too aggressive and suffered by seeing both our cavalry wings get ground down.

At this time Peleg deserted the field (ie went home!) leaving me to try and pull off a miracle. I did not manage it.  I battled on, but soon enough the Carthaginians got the final victory banner they needed to claim the win and rewrite history.

Dangerous chappies

Dangerous chappies

I did not keep a note of turn by turn events as I was too engrossed in the gaming challenge. (I doubt I will ever try, as it was hard enough concentrating on the game!) I think this was the same for all the players who seemed to have a good time. We recognize the element of luck, but we also recognize we had great fun.

Now, if we can only muster enough players for the 4 v 4 real thing…

Thanks to all who came for a great night’s gaming.


Mayhem Monday – November 2013


The second Mayhem Monday got under way with two games: Amir and Peleg tackled Commands and Colors. Ben, David, Roy and I tackled Cold War.

Peleg had played Commands and Colors before, and he helped me set the game up while I did a rules briefing for Amir. That game went well. Amir was soon comfortable enough with the rules to make his own way, and he gave Peleg a tough, tough time of it, just sneaking the win by a single point.


I had chosen Cold War because I had fond memories of it as being tense, but fun. Well, my memory is clearly playing tricks, because this game was not a success. What made it worse was that my rules recollection was flawed, and we played several turns before Ben wisely spotted something that was crucial to the game, and which I had been doing incorrectly. Oh dear. Fortunately, for me, everyone was very good about it. Ben even said he had quite liked the game, though I think it was a minority opinion!

Ben went off home, as he had an early start. Peleg also retired. David waited while I got Roy up to speed on Commands and Colors, and then they played it to a conclusion. David and I had a couple of games of Battleline, both of which he thrashed me at.


So, the winner was Commands and Colors. The feedback was clearly that people wanted a real wargame and none of the pseudo wargame/euro mix that is Cold War… Hint taken, guys.

Thanks to everyone who came and took part. It’s possible that December’s Mayhem Monday will be a multi-player Commands and Colors. Ironically, I had thought about doing that but wasn’t sure if people were interested in that. It turns out they are, and I am delighted.

From here on, we will be true wargamers!

Ancient battle


This week, I introduced Peleg to the joys of Commands and Colors, a light wargame about ancient tactical combat. It’s designed by Richard Borg, and published by the excellent GMT company.

The game is played in scenarios representing historical battles with units (made of different sizes and numbers) of wooden blocks, sporting decent pictures of the troops. Each player has a number of cards to start and, typically, plays one per turn to activate some of his units, and move and fight with them.

"A kingdom for a card!"

“A kingdom for a card!”

So, it’s partly about movement on the hex gridded board, and partly about card management. Peleg is well able to handle both these concepts, but it took him a little longer to grasp the tactical realities of the two battles we played. For example, sometimes he advanced when a cautious retreat was clearly called for, and sometimes the other way round. However, his fresh approach did give me one or two anxious moments, despite my much better experience of the game, and the first scenario was close. The second, unfortunately, was a blowout for me.  More fortunately, he really enjoyed it, despite the losses, so we should see this one out on the table again.

"It's wet, here!"

“It’s wet, here!”