Monday Jun 19, 2006

ConsimWorld Expo 2006

I took a few days off at the begining of June to go to ConsimWorld Expo 2006. This event is a game convention for the serious board wargaming. Not much else is going on there. But if you are a serious board wargamer, it's the best convention of its kind that I have been to. The facilities are good, the activities are well organzied, there are a lot of free door prizes (but I wasn't lucky enough to win one), there are lots of friendly players and wargame industry folks there, and of course the games are great fun! But Arizona this time of year is quite hot.

This convention specializes in hosting so-called Monster Games which are huge board wargames. Given that emphasis, it's not surprising that the convention is mostly about the playing experience. Some other well respected wargame conventions like the WBC focus on competition and tournaments. My own experience at the convention (playing the monster game Streets of Stalingrad) is chronicled on the ConsimWorld discussion board starting here".

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Monday Dec 19, 2005

Board Game News

For those following along, the major news in board game websites is the shutdown of Gamewire. Technically, it's not shutdown, but pretty much all the contributors have moved on to BoardgameNews.

Just to re-iterate, BoardgameNews is pretty much the place for finding out the latest game industry news. The site also hosts a number of regular columnists, the TheDiceTower podcast, convention and club information, and pointers to media stories on board games.

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Thursday Jul 21, 2005

The Gamewire

The Gamewire is best news website on boardgames I know. While there are some reviews there (and previews for upcoming releases), the Gamewire is best for getting the latest announcements on German and American boardgames. It doesn't really cover wargames. Practically every day, there are new items about what games are being released, reprinted and game industry announcements. Plus, there are some blogs and "special feature" articles like game convention reports and interviews.

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Friday Jul 15, 2005

The Dice Tower

First the familiar refrain -- It's been quite a while since I last blogged ... But I thought I would point out another excellent game podcast called The Dice Tower. The show is the work of Tom Vasel and Joe Steadman. Tom is already well known for his numerous reviews of German games. Joe (his sidekick?) is a wargamer. Both are well known fixtures over on BoardGameGeek. They also have their own website here.

Folks may be wondering what a "dice tower" is. Boardgames often require you to roll dice (sometimes quite a few at once). Anyone who has played Monopoly knows the dangers inherent in having dice raining down like meteors on their hotels and game pieces. Plus, there is the other problem of retrieving dice from under the table, behind the couch and so forth. The most common solution to this problem is to roll in the game box top. But that has the problem of having a large footprint, and suprisingly people often miss this large target in the heat of the moment. The dice tower is a purpose built device that attempts to provide a solution to these problems. Some examples include this and that. The "tower" has an opening where dice are dropped (not thrown) into. As the dice fall, they hit a number of internal baffles to be sure they are randomized on the way down. Finally, the dice land in a tray where the results can be observed.

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Tuesday Jan 18, 2005

German Games and GeekSpeak

Been quite a while since I posted ...

Personally, I enjoy two types of boardgames the most. One type is the historical board wargame, which usually simulates some battle or campaign. The other type is the so-called "German" or "Euro" boardgames. There isn't really a strict definition for such games. But to quote from the BoardGameGeek Game Glossary, a German game is:

A game from Germany. Such games typically have relatively simple rules, short playing times, fairly high levels of abstraction and player interaction, and attractive physical components. Games not from Germany that otherwise meet the criteria are occasionally included in this group...

Personally, the German games that I have been playing a lot of recently are Battle Line and San Juan. Maybe even some other Sun bloggers play these sorts of games too. However, the most famous game in this category is probably Settlers of Catan.

Anyway, all this leads up to mentioning GeekSpeak. GeekSpeak is an recorded audio interview show from BoardGameGeek about mostly German games. To me, it highlights yet another entertaining way websites can build community and effectively use the medium.

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Monday Oct 25, 2004

Battle for Moscow

Back in 1986, Frank Chadwick designed Battle for Moscow as a free introductory board wargame published by GDW. Ten years later, it got a new lease on life as a downloadable version from Web-Grognards. More recently it has been converted into a Cyberboard Gamebox. ("Gameboxes" are what Cyberboard modules are called.) In an attempt to figure out CyberBoard, I tried the Gamebox recently.

As I mentioned previously, the available documentation for Cyberboard isn't very good. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a rather enthusiastic fan base for this tool, its features and the fact that it is free. So I decided to slog ahead and learn by doing. I needed a simple and short game to try it out on.

Battle for Moscow fit the bill. I had looked at the original free board wargame version of this game back at a 1986 LA game convention. But since that time, it had basically remained buried in my game collection. The game includes historical background. But just so you know the basics, the game is about the German attack on the Russian front in WWII to take Moscow in 1941 (which failed). As an introductory game, it's pretty good. It has short rules, short playing time, introduces a lot of standard board wargame concepts and is a reasonably interesting situation. My own experience leads me to believe that among experienced players, the German side may have an edge. While the rules recommend cutting the German replacement rate, another minimal fix might be to allow the Soviet player "free" setup of the unit normally positioned in Mozhaisk anywhere to the east an existing Soviet setup hex (I am thinking at the South Edge near Bryansk).

My experience with Cyberboard has been very favorable. While I still haven't been able to figure out all the features (e.g. does turning on the snap grid really do anything?), the core stuff works quite well. The basic idea is that the tool maintains state in a "game" file. As you go through your turn, everything is recorded (movement, combat, rolls of the dice, notes describing your actions, etc.) in a "move" file. When your turn is over, you send the move file to your opponent. He plays back the action to see what happened and to update the state in his game file. Then, the opponent goes through his turn recording his moves in the same way and sends you his move file. When you use it for solitaire gaming, you don't have to send move files back and forth. I have found the playback features very interesting. You can try different strategies by going through the playback to a critical decision point and then saving as a new game file.

As with "real" computer games, there are some drawbacks. When you have a large map the navigation is somewhat of a pain. Also, the social interaction with your fellow player is missing. But as way to keep games "virtually" setup, as an enabler to play by email and as a way to try alternative strategies, Cyberboard seems like a real winner.

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Wednesday Oct 13, 2004

How to squeeze in more boardgame time?

Argh! No time or just leftover scraps of time here and there. How do I get more boardgame time in? Among other things, I am thinking of trying CyberBoard. It's designed to help with traditional board wargames.

One great thing about it is that the program and the gamesets are free. I might even be able to play by email. (Some solitaire gaming might be fun too.) Further, I don't have to keep the game set up. But of course, the social aspect of game playing will be missing. Some folks might think that's a small step from real computer games, but that is not what I am after really. Documentation on this tool is pretty scarce. The best I have found is here.

There is also ADC-2, which I also bought a while ago, though never really tried. Many commercial wargame manufacturers charge for their gamesets, so I might have to incur further costs depending on what game I want to try. Anyway, more after I have tried it.

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