Archive for December, 2011

The Shadow of the Panzer

December 28, 2011

This blog is pretty much about boardgames.  But for this entry I’m going to discuss computer gaming.  We bought our first real computer back in 1987.  Prior to that I had played around with the Timex Sinclair, and a pre-Commodore unit called the PET, if I recall correctly.  I never got much out of those units.  But in 1987 we bought an Apple IIc.

Now this was a computer I could actually do things with!  It had a great manual, and we got “Appleworks” an early office bundle of word processing, spreadsheet and database.  But perhaps best of all, I was able to buy games to play on it!

It wasn’t too long before I discovered strategy games.  And I quickly determined that complex wargames were an ideal use for a computer.  My history with various cardboard wargames had been I would buy them, study them, and then almost never play them.  On the Apple, I would actually play them!  And an added bonus was that I didn’t have to read the entire manual.  Instead the computer enforced the rules.

I don’t recall the sequence of events, and they don’t really matter.  But I discovered two lines of games for the Apple that I dearly loved.  One was a series of games written by David LandryGettysburg, Chickamauga, and Sons of Liberty.  Good games, now lost to me due to changing operating systems.

Eventually people stopped writing for the Apple II, and it was time to either move to a Mac, or go the PC route.  Looking at the amount of software that was available, we opted to get a PC.  And I discovered my sort of games were also available.  One day, I found Panzer General

Panzer General turned out to be a big hit with me.  I loved the game, and was delighted to realize it was part of a series of games.  The “5 Star General” series.  I bought them all.  Panzer General had been ported over to Windows 95 by the time I discovered it.  But all the other titles in the series were older DOS games.  There was Allied General, an obvious companion to Panzer General (but not quite as much fun), then there was Fantasy General, which was great!  Instead of Panzers you recruited trolls and other fantasy creatures.  I loved this one so much I still have the old DOS version around here somewhere.  There were others too.  I remember there was a Space Empire version, which somehow failed to catch my imagination.  Perhaps more, its been a long time now.

But I must not have been alone in liking Panzer General the most.  Because along came Panzer General II, and a damn good game that turned out to be!   And then People’s General brought the conflict up to near modern times, and life was good!  But then the folks at SSI seemed to lose the groove.  They issued a couple more Panzer General Games – a 3D version and one other I cannot clearly recall, other than I didn’t like it.  It’s worth noting that I was playing on Windows 95 and then Windows 98, unless DOS was called for.

SSI had one more gift to give.  They issued David Landry’s Age of Rifles.  This was a great game, and surpassed even Sons of Liberty as my favorite 17th/18th century-based wargame.  It was well enough received they even put out an expansion for it!

But then, sad news,  SSI closed its doors.  My favorite computer wargame company was no more.  Time marched on, Windows XP became the inevitable future, which I ultimately had to migrate to when I got a new computer.  But I was okay, because I could still play my old games on the new computer.  But then – disaster!  I still recall how angry I was when I discovered that a service patch to XP broke my PC’s ability to play the old DOS and Win 95 games.

Worse, the popularity of Warcraft and Starcraft had changed the way people made computer strategy games.  Instead of the classic UGOIGO format I had loved, everything coming out was now an RTS – real-time strategy game – which turned the strategy games into arcade like games.  Eventually I pretty much gave up on playing wargames on my PC.  I would play Warcraft II or Starcraft (they are good games), but part of me would pine for the older style games.

This situation persisted for quite a while.  But one day I heard about a game company that was releasing a game by Gary Grigsby.  Gary Grigsby was a game author I recognized from the old SSI days.  I had played some of his early games.  I never liked them as much as the David Landry games, but still – worth checking out!

This led me to Matrix Games, and I enjoyed Gary’s World War 2 game – the title which I cannot recall right now – but it was a bit too close to Axis and Allies.  Some fun to play, but not entirely satisfying.  I discovered that when I changed computers again, this time to Windows  Vista, that I could no longer play this game either.  So I decided to buy another game from Matrix Games, and I selected Operation Barbarossa, which was reputed to be similar to Panzer General.  Sadly I could not get it run, and after getting frustrated with Matrix Game’s tech support, I gave up.

Then, out of Russia, came a game called Fantasy Wars.  It was apparently inspired by Fantasy General, so I bought it, and liked it enough to buy the sequel Elven Legacy.  These were quite fun to play, and I still keep them nearby, and will play them occasionally.  And because I am a stubborn cuss, I still had the download file for Operation Barbarossa on my desktop.  Over a year (maybe 2) after I bought it, I decided to try again, and voila! Suddenly it loaded properly!  Much to my delight, now I was able to play Operation Barbarossa.  And a darn good game it is, too!  Which leads me to the current moment…

Matrix Games recently sent me a holiday sale flyer, announcing a sale on their library of games.  They called out a new game called Panzer Corps.  The successor to Panzer General?  Color me intrigued.  So I bought.

What a blast!  This is the game I’ve been wanting for years.  I am very glad.  It’s like finding an old lost friend again!


1761 assembly

December 17, 2011

I’ve been working on building a prototype set lately.  Ian Wilson, author of 1861: Russian Railways, has released files to his game under design, 1761: From Canal to Rail.  I am intrigued by the idea of exploring the transportation networks that canals and stage coaches provided, and how they got disrupted once rail arrived.

In case you are interested you can search for 1761 in Google Groups, and you can find it.  He posted the files for download.  So you can build your own set if you like!

I had my usual follies in trying to print out a map.  But I eventually learned that selecting “no scaling” and “tiling” would allow me to print the entire map and to get it at the right scale for regular 18xx tiles to fit properly.  I’m planning on borrowing my tokens for 1825 or 1829 Mainline, which means I can omit producing them, also I intend to borrow all the yellow track from other 18xx games.  But even so, I have been giving my new printer a workout.  (It is still feisty, but I seem to be able to get my work out of it.)

1761 has a variety of different types of companies.  There are stagecoach lines, which will immediately close once a railway connection between the two cities listed is created.  There are canal companies, which actively lay track (representing canals) at the start of the game, and build networks – operating much like a railway company in other 18xx games.  But after enough boats are sold the “Railway Age” begins, and then the game changes.  The tiles are removed from the board, and all of the canal companies are converted into annuities.  Now the players begin a more normal 18xx game.

I’m still absorbing what this early 17xx game may mean for the following 18xx game.  It’s an interesting idea.  I’m not entirely sure I like the idea of removing the canals off the board.  It seems like a missed opportunity.  Having different tiles for the canals might have been interesting.  They then could have posed as variable obstacles for the early railways that wanted to overbuild upon them.

But, that is not what is written, and I am sufficiently interested to try it as written.  The open question is whether anyone else will  be as intrigued?

3rd place again… but with a bullet!

December 11, 2011

Four of us gathered to play a variant on the new 1830 game yesterday.  (We played Scenario 1, in case any of you want to look it up.)  1830 is a great game, one of my personal “10’s”.  It was published about 25 years ago by Avalon Hill.  Since Avalon Hill closed doors over a decade ago, this game has been out of print.  And in recent years 18xx games have been getting more attention.  So Mayfair recently republished this game.  But they did more than just publish 1830 – they also expanded it with several extra tiles and an extra board, to allow some significant variations off of the original game.

I believe all four of us were experienced hands at the original 1830 – for sure three of us were.  So trying out the first variant scenario appealed to the group.  In this scenario, the expanded map is used.  In the south of the map a coalfields site is added, along with a few more cities.  In addition, all the off-board sites allow for passage through them.  (In original 1830 they can only be a terminus.)  One additional private company was added to the game, which gave access to the coalfields.  Two new public companies were also added to the game.

So while the game was going to be different, there were a lot of elements from the original game still present.  Oh sure, there were other changes, and I won’t try to list them all.  But one worth mentioning was the addition of several more trains than normal.

I managed to acquire the C&A for the minimum bid, which made me very happy.  I also got the M&H, which I was happy to milk for cash as well.  I decided to not float a company in the first Stock Round, as I saw the player to my left was planning on floating the B&O.  Since I wanted to float the PRR (I had a free share with my C&A company), I thought it would be neat to let him soak up the cheap 2’s.  Also, by investing in other players early companies, I would be able to drive their stock value down once I divested.

So I sat and watched the action until we got to the 3rd Stock Round, when I finally floated the PRR.  Even so, I was forced to buy two 2 trains, because so many were included in the scenario.  I floated the PRR at 90, and that proved to be enough for the entire game, I don’t believe I ever had to retain with them.  However, they topped out with a 5 train, which limited their income in the last portion of the game.  But their stock value was high, the second highest in the game.  Eventually I also launched the NYC, and managed to get them up to a diesel.  But it was painful having to withhold twice to allow that to come to pass.

I am not prepared to list what all the other players did.  But basically they were content to work more in the south, while I was running around the greater NY area.  Eventually the map all grew highly connected, and some HUGE diesel runs were being run by the end of the game.

Perhaps foolishly, I felt like I was doing well.  Even as the two who usually battle it out for the victory were agreeing between themselves that one of them had it won, I was thinking that I might still be in the hunt.

All of us were right.  I was close.  But I was still third.  The scores at the end of the game were:

11,800 – C

11,769 – A

11,550 – Kevin

9,135 – S

Aii, yai, yai!   So close and still the 3rd place guy!


December 10, 2011

One activity I enjoy with my boardgaming hobby is creating player aids.  My love for office supplies is a running joke with my wife.  Recently I managed to damage my old printer trying to force some 110 lb test cardstock through.  I was a bit mad at myself for damaging what had been a good printer.

Last Sunday I bought a new printer.  I opted for a different unit, one that requires less bending of the paper – it feeds from the back.  I was initially pleased with the printer, and excited that it was a wi-fi printer, allowing me to set it up in a different room (no printer cable!).  But just 5 days later I am now unable to print again.  Somehow the new printer has managed to break my “print spooler” on my lap top.  Grrr.

Last night I wasted much of my evening trying to re-enable my print spooler.  No dice.  I have an e-mail off to my printer manufacturer.  I’m hoping they know how to fix this issue.  I find this sort of junk very frustrating.

Sorry for the lack of gaming content!


December 6, 2011

I played Inotaizu tonight.  This is a great game about Japanese cartography.  I’ve played it a half dozen times now, and really enjoyed it every single time.  So much so that I bought a few copies, and ensured they got distributed to friends around here.

Imagine my surprise when we were readying for our game tonight that I found a rule that I had muffed every other play!  Geesh.  I have never before noticed that the pre-printed spaces on the board are not to have cards played on to them!  So we played it correctly tonight.  I still like the game, even with the right rules!

The Weather Outside is Frightful…

December 5, 2011

Monday night, but I skipped gaming.  I’ve gotten spoiled by the usual nice New Mexico weather, and tonight’s snow, ice and single digit weather forecast induced me to stay home rather than venture across town for the usual Monday night gaming.

So for a spot of amusement, I thought I’d list the games I own that refer to bad weather…

A Few Acres of Snow – And in my opinion, a crackin’ good game!

Der Untergang von Pompeji – Okay that’s a stretch!

Snow Tails – And I will admit, I don’t quite get what a “snow tail” might be, except perhaps the thing the driver of the sled might see!

Tyranno Ex! – Okay this is actually about climate change, and the title doesn’t really refer to the weather, per se… but I’m running out of candidates!

Huh – turns out I don’t have much in this zone.  I did check out Meteo (also known as Wind und Wetter), which would have qualified.  But as it happened I didn’t like that game enough to keep it.

So it would seem that generally speaking we are reduced to complaining about the weather, but not really doing anything (in a game) about it!