Guardian Games – Portland, Oregon

June 17, 2016

Guardian Games

Local game stores are becoming a thing of the past. There are a few where I live in Salem, Oregon, but honestly they are not that great. Some of gone to just fantasy game stores, which has little interest for me. Another seems to be in that downward spiral with declining stock, and it seems to have last been cleaned in the Bush era. I can order most of what I want online, but there is just something valuable about actually seeming a product in person. Also there are products I have never heard of that you often find (and want) in a brick and mortar store.

My friend Mark lives in Portland and recommended that I should go to a place called Guardian Games. I had decided that I needed to go there, even if it would require a 50 minute drive to get there. I knew that my wife and children would not be that excited about going, so I thought I would have to go it alone. I have another gaming friend, Shane, who lives nearby. I have known Shane since my Tucson days. If I remember correctly, Shane and I have been playing games together since about 1982 or 1983 (yes we are old guys). Shane lives in Oregon, but works in Tucson, so we don’t often have the time for games, instead we just get together for dinner and beers. Shane is back in Oregon and wanted to get together, so I suggested a trip to Guardian Games if he was interested. Shane said he was, so we went up to Portland yesterday to go to Guardian Games.

Guardian Games had a slick webpage (http://www.ggportland.com/), which was a good sign. It was fairly easy to get to the store via I-5. We did have to fight a lot of horrible Portland traffic (the next mayor of Portland and the Oregon Department of Transportation really need a plan to deal with Portland’s poorly thought out traffic network!). and made it to the store. Guardian Games has adequate parking, but I suspect that on a Friday or Saturday night parking might be a problem.

Our drive was clearly worth it as Guardian Games is a really amazing store. First, it is huge, not your typical dreary little game store. Secondly, it was clean, something that many game stores seem to lack these days. The staff were friendly and helpful, but not pushy or gamer-weird. There were several sections of the store that really interested me. Guardian Games has a very extensive board game section with both Eurogames and wargames. They had a number of older second-hand wargames that interested me. The miniature section was also very extensive. They had a good selection of the Wings of War games and miniatures (which I would like to get into), the typical fantasy miniatures, a good selection of the Star Wars games, a huge selection of Flames of War miniatures (I don’t play Flames of War, but I use the miniatures to play Nuts!), and a lot of other miniature games that looked interesting to Shane and myself (like Dystopian Wars –http://www.spartangames.co.uk/products/dystopian-world/dystopian-wars). Additionally, they had a fair selection of Vallejo paints. I limited myself to about $100 in spending, but I could have spent $500, and not regretted a single purchase.

So quality brick and mortar game stores are not dead. There are just fewer of them, but Guardian Games is clearly worth the trip.

 


Blűcher podcasts by Sam Mustafa

December 6, 2014

When I read about a new set of wargame rules coming out, I always hesitate. Unlike many people, I do not rush out to buy the newest thing just because “new” is cool. Actually, new isn’t always good. So when I heard about Sam Mustafa’s new wargame rules, Blűcher, I was cautiously interested. I really like the one base equals one brigade grand tactical scale for Napoleonic wargaming. I have played a lot of Volley & Bayonet, but the lack of meaningful command and control rules has always left me wanting more. I liked Grande Armee and Fast Play Grande Armee, but I could never seem to figure out how to integrate them into a campaign system given the nature of SP losses in the games. So Blűcher seemed liked what I was looking for, especially with the emphasis on campaign games.

In an earlier post I linked to some of the free downloads on Sam’s Honour Page for Blűcher. I downloaded all of these and read through them. My first impression was Blűcher uses the SP system from Might & Reason/Fast Play Grande Armee along with some ideas from LaSalle, as well as some new innovations. I couldn’t (and still can’t) see how better overall commanders impacts the command system, but I am sure it is probably somewhere in the rules or could be easily added in. The system seemed interesting, but I had some hesitations. I’ve reached the point where I hate to buy yet another set of wargame rules only to try it a few times and then discard them.

Then I heard about Sam’s podcasts about Blűcher. I thought I’d give them a listen. I found that Sam did a very good job explaining the basics of the game, and most importantly a lot about the design philosophy that went into the rules. The podcast was an explanation of the rules rather than a sales pitch. I’ve listened to the first three podcasts (all that have been posted as of December 6). The podcasts answered a few questions that I had, and therefore made me far more likely to purchase the rules. The rules seem to be about the right focus in scale, design concepts and complexity. They seem to be about a 5 on a complexity scale of 1-10 (low to high), but they are close enough to my ideal complexity of 6 or 7 for me to consider. That is refreshing as so many rule sets are now oriented to super fast play and very low complexity (and therefore super silly in my opinion).

If you want to hear the podcasts you can find them at: http://www.sammustafa.com/honour/category/podcast/

The first three have been about 20 minutes long. I felt like Sam had a good depth of discussion in them without getting bogged down in too many details. So take a listen if you are interested in learning more about Blűcher.


Review of Two Hour Wargame’s Nuts! Final Edition

October 27, 2014

Nuts! Final cover

I have been playing World War Two skirmish wargames with the Nuts! rules by Two Hour Wargames since the first edition of the rules. I have enjoyed all of the previous editions of the rules. When the 3rd edition (the “Final Edition”) came out, I wondered why should I buy yet another edition of the rules? Most wargame rules do have more than one editions, but not all new editions are an improvement over previous editions. Often the second edition of rules are the best as they fix issues with the first edition, but don’t dramatically change the good parts of the game. Often the last edition is the worst edition. For example I liked the first edition of Command Decision, but it had some issues. The second edition fixed those issues. The third edition of Command Decision was also good in that it streamlined the rules a bit. However, the fourth edition of Command Decision (Test of Battle) changed the rules so much that it killed my interest in the rules. That took a lot as I used to write for the Command Post Quarterly and had many webpage posts about the rules. So with that in mind I was a bit leery of the 3rd edition of Nuts!, but I bought a copy anyway.

As my thesis, I want to start off by saying that the 3rd edition of Nuts! (the “Final Edition”) is the best version of Nuts! to date. It keeps the basic rule system, but provides a lot of improvements over the first two editions. Here are some of the good improvements:

1. The way starts can use “Star Power” has been vastly improved. Now stars get a number of dice equal to their rep that can be used to potentially (but not guaranteed) reduce damage they take in the game. This really does a good job at recreating a cinematic impact for being the “star” of the story.

2. The In Sight check has been improved to be by groups. It still gives each group a chance to fire first, but reduces the number of dice rolled as the check is now by groups not individual figures. While checking In Sight firing order by individuals is still good for low figure density games like All Things Zombie or Six Gun Sound, the group method works better for Nuts!. Remember your groups can still be one figure if you want to activate that way.

3. A lot of the reactions have been reduced to a few charts. The new Crisis Test replaces a lot of the older checks like Received Fire and Man Down. This means less lines to have to look through on the reaction charts to find the one you need.

4. The Melee system has been revised to be more like the Final Edition of Chain Reaction. Having used this system recently in our All Things Zombies games, I can say that it works very well and is quick and not cumbersome.

5. The vehicle lists look expanded and now include a number of towed guns.

6. The vehicle rules also look expanded. We have used vehicles in a few games of Nuts! with the earlier editions and they worked well. The new rules answer a few questions we had with the previous editions. Also the campaign rules now allow you to play a tank platoon rather than an infantry platoon. I’ve not run five vehicles at a time yet, so I can’t comment on how well running that many vehicles would work. I do have a platoon of American Shermans to paint, so I plan on trying out playing a platoon of tanks in the future.

7. The campaign rules are a big improvement. You can now play mini-campaigns, like Anzio, and how well you do in each battle moves the campaign forward or even backward. There are more detailed rules about what PEFs do and how to create a sort of AI for enemy forces. That is a good addition as it helps determine what enemy forces do in solo games or games where both players are on the same side. The campaign games will be larger as while a player starts with just a squad in the Patrol mission, players start with full platoons in the Attack and Defend missions. Once the mission starts, more forces can come as reinforcements, which could result in battles with more than a platoon, which is not a big deal as the rules seem more oriented towards larger battles now. The one thing I think I’ll revise is the reinforcement charts to better reflect what forces most units would get, less tanks and more things like anti-tank guns and other company and battalion assets.

8. There is a new section entitled, “Chocolate & Cigarettes”. These are squad or smaller sized missions that you can do in between the larger campaign missions. These look like a lot of fun and remind me of the many missions members of the squad undertook in the old Combat TV series.

Overall, I give these rules a good review. I am glad that I bought them despite already having the two previous editions of Nuts!. The rules have a very dynamic activation system, which makes them both interesting and fun to play. In Nuts!, you still are focused on individuals rather than ten figures who are a squad. You can move all of your squad together or break them down into groups of any size, including one man. I like that a lot more than rules where you have to move your squad around in predetermined sizes like squads or half squads. While the “Star” rules are a bit cinematic, the game can be played without those rules for a more historical game. Having said that, when I play a campaign, I would use the Star rules as I want to recreate more of a TV series or movie. The real war experience was pretty brutal and sad; having a more cinematic game will simply be more fun and give a campaign more player attachment and more of a story line to follow.

So if you have liked the previous editions of Nuts!, I would highly recommend you buy the new edition of the Nuts! rules. If you are just looking for a new set of rules for World War Two skirmish, I can also recommend Nuts! as both fun and historical. Overall, I’m really happy I bought these rules and will look for more of the updated editions (the Final Edition) of Two Hour Wargames rules to play. Hey Ed, how about an update of the Old West rules!


Good Customer Service from Wargame Accessories

July 21, 2014

I recently orders some metal bases from Wargame Accessories (http://www.wargameaccessories.com/) for use with my 15mm American Revolution project with the original Piquet rules. I found that the bases were not cut correctly so I contacted Jeff at Wargame Accessories. He apologized for the incorrect base sizes. It seems his regular base cutter was gone and others had been doing the cutting. He has offered to send me replacement bases at no cost. That sort of customer service will have me ordering more bases from Wargame Accessories in the future. So Wargame Accessories is clearly a company that I can recommend doing business with.


Henry Hyde’s Wars of the Faltenian Succession

July 6, 2014

I just got my copy of Henry Hyde’s Wars of the Faltenian Succession. It is a compilation of his articles about how to create an imaginary nations for wargaming. The original articles appeared in Henry’s former magazine, Battlegames. When converted to American dollars, I think the price of the supplement was a bit shy of $7 (which is about the cost of a McDonald’s Extra Value Meal these days). I have always been interested in these “imagination” style of wargaming so I thought I’d risk $6 and some change to see the full package. I had read some of Henry’s ideas about this in book, The Wargame Compendium, but the full package is an excellent buy for anyone interested in creating their own imaginary nation for wargaming.

The full supplement expands the basic ideas that Henry included in The Wargame Compendium. There are 12 sections that take you from start to nearly finish in creating your own imaginary nations for wargaming. It is clearly aimed at creating nations for 18th Century style states, but with some changes would work for other periods. Included are ideas for how to make maps for your nations, movement rates for your armies, logistics, national economies, creating fictional armies, adding personalities to your campaign, linking battlefield combat to your campaign, and siege rules. Despite having played miniature wargames for 33 years and having run several successful wargame campaigns, I learned a lot from Henry’s ideas. Therefore, I can highly recommend the purchase of this supplement for those of use who don’t have the original articles from the Battlegames magazine.

You can get a copy here: http://henrys-wargaming.co.uk/?page_id=1667.

Wars of the Faltenian Succession