Sunday, September 15, 2013

Chart Wars

The next random game from my collection I am writing about is Chart Wars, a completely non-serious wargame.  The green nation and the blue nation are at war, and many dice will be rolled before the dust settles.  This game is called Chart Wars because there are about two dozen random charts that are constantly referenced throughout the game.  At the start of each turn, roll for diplomacy to see who can attack who with what weapons.  Then you roll to see if you get any new units, or perhaps lose units.  Then you move units, which is pretty normal.  Then you roll for combat, with the strangest Combat Results Table ever.  For example, you could have your attacking units decide to become pacifists and leave the war.  Very odd.  You can also fire Scud missiles (the game was published in 1992), which usually hit a random hex on the board, if they even fire at all.

I do not particularly like the game.  While I have no problems with random tables in my game, they should at least make sense.  These tables make no sense.  For example, one of the last phases of the game is to roll on a table to see what impact your army commander had that turn.  ALL of the results have the commander having no effect, as a joke.  It is minorly funny, but that humor wears off really quick.  Player ability has nothing to do with anything in this game, just random dice rolling.  Probably not something I will ever play again, unless I am in a very strange mood.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Zombie Corps(e)

The next random game from my collection I will write about isn't a stand-alone game, but rather the first expansion to the Zombies!!! game, which I wrote about over five years.  Zombie Corps(e) is actually a really great expansion to the original game, and once I acquired it I hardly ever have played the game without using it.

Where the base game takes place in a nameless town, this expansion adds a military base on the edge of town.  The way that this works is that the military base has its own separate stack of board tiles to represent the military base.  Each turn, a player can decide whether to place a town tile, or a base tile.  Zombies are placed like normal, with the exception of the super, military engineered zombies, which appear on a specific tile.  These zombies are only defeated in combat on a five or six on a die roll, and they even glow in the dark.  Awesome.  This expansion also adds new play cards to the deck, including the wonderful bazooka, which lets you actually blow up an entire board tile, removing it from the game.  Good fun.  The military base also has its own helipad, and either that one or the one in town can be used to win the game through a helicopter victory.  This expansion really adds to the rather minimal strategy from the original game, and that is why I rate this expansion higher than the original game.

The only downside I have to reviewing this expansion is the fact that my affection for the original game has waned over time, and I think I have played it only three times over the last five years, as opposed to the first five years that I owned it, when it probably got played a good two dozen times or so.  Still, if you like the base game, this expansion is a no-brainer.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


The next random game from my collection that I am writing about is Manoeuvre.  This game, published by GMT in 2008, is an "abstract" game of maneuver and combat in the Napoleonic era.  The game takes place on an 8 x 8 grid of squares, created by combining four of the 24 4 x 4 square tiles that come with the game.  Each tile will have a variety of terrain on it.  The fact that each battles only uses four of 24 tiles, and they can be rotated as desired while setting up the map, means that you will likely never see exactly the same terrain twice.  There is also good variety in the armies, as the game comes with eight different armies (French, British, Prussian, Turkish, Spanish, Austrian, Russian, and American), only two of which get used in each game.  Each army has eight units that are unique to them (using historical unit names), and a custom deck of 60 cards, which is also unique to the army.

Play proceeds in turns, with most events being dictated by play of the cards.  Each turn a player can discard whatever cards they want from their hand, then draw up to 5.  They then HAVE to move a unit.  Even if you don't want to move a unit, you have to, which admittedly strikes me as a bit odd, but I guess the name of the game is "manoeuvre" for a reason.  You can then attack if you want to and you have the right card(s) in your hand, and lastly you can try to restore any damaged units and establish defensive redoubts if you have an appropriate card.  That is the game.  You move units, attack with units, and try to control the battlefield.  There are two ways to win.  First, if you eliminate five of your opponent's eight units, you automatically win.  If that doesn't happen, at the end of the turn after the second player as gone through their deck, the game automatically ends and victory is determined by who controls more squares on their opponent's half of the board.  There are tie breakers listed in case squares controlled results in a tie (I've seen it happen), so you should be able to establish an ultimate winner.

Overall the game isn't bad.  It has some nice chrome to it, and I like the variety in the game and the fact that it plays fairly quickly and isn't very complicated, but still has some good strategic depth.  However, it just doesn't "grab" me.  I think it is probably just too abstract for me.  While historical armies and unit names are used, none of the games mimic historic battles, and in fact you can have ahistoric games, such as Spain fighting against Turkey or Austria fighting the United States of America.  So, this one is very much a "game," and not a "historical simulation."  And that, in the end, keeps me from coming back to this title.  This game will likely get traded away for something else at the first opportunity.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #1: Greece & Eastern Kingdoms

Over five years ago I wrote about the game Commands and Colors: Ancients.  The next game on my random walk through my collection is the first expansion pack, Greece and Eastern Kingdoms.  This game doesn't come with any new rules (just some clarifications on the original rulebook), or any new terrain tiles, or command cards.  What it does come with is two new armies (Greeks and "Eastern" forces, which usually means 'Persians')., and 21 new scenarios.  The new scenarios are the real meat of this expansion pack, as the base game only had 10 scenarios.  Thus, buying just this one expansion pack more than triples the published scenarios for your game.  As you can probably guess from the title, the battles in this set involve either Greeks or "Eastern" forces, and usually both.  Some of the scenarios do make use of blocks from the base game, but you can really use whatever block sets you want, as long as you have enough blocks of each unit type.  Everything that I wrote about the base game still applies to this expansion, you just have a lot more scenarios to try with this expansion pack.  If you like the game, it is really worth it to get the expansion for the extra scenarios.

Critical IF

As you may or may not be aware, I used to curate a website dealing with gamebooks, those books that were all the rage for a few years in the 1980s, where the reader helped direct the flow of the story by making choices for the protagonist.  Things were dark on that front for a 16 years or so but recently more and more of those books are making comebacks, often in digital editions (iPad apps, eBook files, etc.).  Some of the old guard of gamebooks are also getting back into the swing of things, re-releasing a number of their old titles for a new age.  Dave Morris, of Golden Dragon and Virtual Reality fame, has started a venture called Critical IF that is reprinting many of these old books.  He was nice enough to send me a PDF version of the book Heart of Ice, so don't be surprised if I write a review of it in the not too distant future.