Thursday, May 30, 2013


The local game Meetup has discovered Dominant Species, the hit GMT game that's gone into multiple printings.

We played the first game half wrong and still had a good time and our second game was a real eye-opener as the one person in the group who had not played in the first game ran away with a convincing win due to his near sweep of the end-of-game scoring round.

I'll have to play this quite a few more time before I can give anything resembling a  review, but the bottom line is that this is a fascinating game with a vast number of strategies available. I really felt like I was just scratching the surface of what the game had to offer. It's like some the best of the deep euros like Stone Age where every turn you are presented with about a dozen things you need to do and you can only do three or four of them.

The basic theme of the game is six competing animals vying for dominance in a hexagonal world that is slowly expanding and also slowly being overtaken by an ice age. Points are basically scored for having more "species" (blocks) on specific spaces during a scoring opportunity, but there are also various bonus scoring opportunities as well. Animals can compete directly and indirectly in many ways and there's therefore a lot of player interaction.

Given how enthusiastic the group was I expect this will hit the table a few more times over the summer.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Not good enough to win a Two on One yet

For our second game I wanted to play something quick (we had less than an hour) and still use some toys I hadn't played with yet so I set up a 2 on 1 fight with myself controlling a Fokker E.III and my opponents working together with a Morane-Saulnier Type N and an Airco DH-2. I erroneously told the French pilot his plane didn't have an Immelman T
Lining up a shot
urn card, which affected his play until he found, late int he the game, that he did have the card after all. Fat lot of good it did me.

My basic plan was to fient towards the DH-2, gte him to react and then swing around and deal with the French plane. Because I though he did not have the Immelman available I planned to use an Immelman myself to pull in behind him.

The plan sort of worked, but was basically mooted by the fact that one of the first hits on my plane by the Morane-Saulnier started a fire. This is always bad news, but the fragile Fokker was especially vulnerable. As it turned out, the damage cards I drew for the fire were not too damaging -- except for the last one. Meanwhile we traded shots. I almost caught a big break when the two Allied planes collided! But it turned out to be a mere brush by, as the French plane took no damage at all and the Britisher just a few points.

The inevitable happened on the final fire card draw which was a 5. I only had one point left so that was more than enough to end my flight and my fight. The DH-2 ended up with a half-dozen points of damage while the French plane was actually unscathed.

Everyone was ready for more action, so there will be more Wings of War/Wings of Glory this summer.

One afternoon over Italy in 1917 ... a Wings of War/Glory session report

Baracca's SPAD lines up for an early shot
At the local game shop played a couple of quick games of Wings of War/Glory. Turns out there are some interested players so i hope to get a few more sessions in over the summer.

The first game was an excuse to try out the big Bomber models and rules. I gave myself an Italian CA-3 heavy bomber with a SPAD XIII escort against a c
ouple of Austro-Hungarian Albatros D.III fighters, each controlled by one other player..

This was my very first time even trying the bombing rules, so I considered the mission a success if I managed to get any hits at all on the bridge target near the map's center.

As the bomber my plan was pretty straightforward, I was going to head straight for the target, dropping down from altitude 4 to altitude 1 to increase accuracy. There was no anti-aircraft defense at the bridge and I figured the altitude change might throw off the inexperienced AH pilots a little as well. My SPAD was going to take a quick pass at the left hand enemy plane and then turn on the other one. The t
Close call
wo Austrian pilots closed, with the one on the right trying to swing wide around the bomber for a rear shot.

The SPAD got in an early shot and swept past the Albatros as planned and then the Allies got a break. The very first shot by the rear gunner exploded the Red Albatros! I had considered taking the explosion cards out of the deck, but I figured "what are the odds ..?" As a wargamer, I really should know better. The odds were virtually certain.
Bomb run

Well, in any case, this was not an acceptable outcome so early,
as it left me with two planes and one of the opponents with none, so he was reincarnated as the Italian SPAD pilot and we played on.

As it turned out, in my inexperience I misjudged the bombing approach and had to come around again, which gave the surviving Albatros a few opportunities for more shots. There was little damage to the CA-3, however, and it successfully dropped the bombs for half damage and few off. Meanwhile the SPAD and Albatros tangled a bit. No one was downed, but the Albatros was worse off at game end.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Magicking of wargames

I played a couple of games of Wings of War and had a blast -- but also found myself with a nagging touch of dissatisfaction because of how hard it was to craft a historically realistic scenario with the tools at hand.

That's not because of excessive abstraction or some flaw in the game design. Far from it. Wings if War is like  a number of wargame products today, with an odd mix of realism and fantasy.  The game has reasonably accurate mechanics and seems well researched. The planes are mostly in the livery of famous aces. A lot of interesting planes are included. There are fascinating scenarios in the box. But there's the rub, really. The scenarios are, actually historically quite odd. There's little attempt to craft battles that could plausibly occur. For one thing, there's no attempt to avoid anachronisms, so planes that were not actual contemporaries can still fly together and fly against each other.

But even more, almost every scenario involves mixed groups of planes, often mixed nationalities.  A typical scenario might have a SPAD XIII and a Sopwith Camel against a Fokker Dr I and a Albatross DV. An interesting game, perhaps, but not a likely dogfight. Mixed air formations are rare because of the problems of coordinating aircraft with widely divergent performance. But this is the norm in Wings of War.

And not just in Wings of War. The same strangeness affects Axis & Allies Air Force Miniatures and the A&A land miniatures game. You can see it in games like Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations, ASL and in Tide of Iron.

In a game setting there is often a synergy to be had from combining disparate elements. It could be called the Magic: The Gathering Combo effect. A lot of "wargames" use design-your-own mechanics that likewise reward creating combos that work off each other in interesting ways but real-life militaries avoid because of the coordination problems.

Games like Wings of War and A&A have a lot of educational potential, but one wonders if some misleading impressions aren't also being passed along.  It might be an interesting matchup to pit a Me-109 and a Saeta against a Hurricane and a Typhoon but it's not likely any such matchup occurred.