Monthly Archives: March 2013

Playing Alone #2.5 – Thunderbolt Apache Leader, Day 2

Iraq, 1991

The US government has given my squadron the task of intimidating the enemy with a massive show of firepower over two days. We have just one day remaining to inflict as much damage as possible. The first day was a resounding success, with two major enemy battalions destroyed. It’s time to take out the rest of the trash… Let’s roll!

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Playing Alone #2 – Thunderbolt Apache Leader, Day 1

Iraq, 1991

The US government has given my squadron the task of intimidating the enemy with a massive show of firepower. We have just two days to inflict as much damage as possible. The enemy haven’t broken through into friendly territory yet, but their artillery unit is sapping our resources, so we have to eliminate that target as soon as possible… Let’s roll!

Campaign Setup

For this “introductory” campaign, I’ve purchased a reasonable selection of aircraft:

  • one A-10A Thunderbolt tankbuster plane
  • two AH-64A Apache assault helicopters (this is Thunderbolt Apache Leader after all, so I felt I had to go for those first two aircraft types)
  • two AH-1 Cobra helicopters

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Counter Culture

Having been nestled firmly in the bosom of eurogames, I hadn’t realised how coddled and cosseted my experience of die-cut counters had been. So many times I’ve opened the box, lifted out a counter sheet and found half of the counters literally falling out of their surround, with beautifully smooth edges and delightfully rounded corners. Elegant, simple and effortless.

Having recently started to spread my gaming wings a bit, I’ve been delving into the murky depths of the wargaming genre. Not the full-on hexes-with-stacks-of-chits experience (well… I downloaded and printed a copy of Battle for Moscow, but that’s a pretty simplified, no-stacking version of wargaming), but more the fringe oddities of the genre: Labyrinth: War on Terror, 2001 – ? and Thunderbolt Apache Leader. It turns out that war-type-games, with their heavy roster of counters, chits and markers, aren’t quite so simple when it comes to punching out the pieces. In an effort to fit all the counters on, rather than having each counter perfectly, pristinely die-cut, they tend to be partially cut in crammed rows and left for the user to push out and pull apart, which leads to a plethora of beautifully printed square counters with horrible tufty corners.

So I suddenly understood what those odd-sounding BoardGameGeek threads on “counter clipping” were all about. To clip or not to clip? To remove these shabby tufts or leave the counters hirsute? I’d never thought about it before, yet I found myself with chits in one hand and nail clippers in the other. And it’s really rather satisfying. Continue reading

Newcastle Gamers – Saturday 9 March 2013

One month older and with a +1 modifier to Progeny, I returned to Newcastle Gamers. Visiting in-laws meant I was able to make the 4:30 start of the session, and I’m so glad I did. If I hadn’t, I would have missed Keyflower.

This had been one of John S’s birthday games, received just a few days beforehand; having given it an inaugural two-player run at home, he was keen to try it with a larger group. Keyflower plays up to six, but we kept things sensible with a group of four: John, me, Olly and Camo. My psychic powers had foretold that this game would be hitting the table (i.e. John had mentioned it on Google+), so I’d watched through Richard Ham’s excellent play through video in an attempt to get a handle on the rules. (I’d also had a go at reading the rulebook, but it wasn’t desperately clear to my baby-addled brain.) John’s excellent rules explanation bolstered my confidence in my grasp of the gameplay, and we entered into the first of four seasons in the “Key” world – actually, given the designers’ penchant for calling everything “Key-x“, it’s probably called the “Keyniverse”. Continue reading

Playing Alone #1 – Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?

In a moment of recent weakness (i.e. my third child had just been born, I hadn’t slept in three days and I was walking past my FLGS on the way to the train station) I picked up a copy of GMT Games’ Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?. Why? Well, apart from being attracted by the unwieldy, punctuation-strewn title (henceforth abbreviated to LWOT), I knew it was well regarded on BoardGameGeek and it was a close cousin to “the best game ever”, Twilight Struggle, but with a solitaire system built into the game. Perfect.

It’s a card-driven game, somewhere in the no-man’s land between wargames and… well, everything else, really. It’s not what I’d call a wargame as such, but it is a game of conflict between two opposing sides, roughly simulating an actual war of sorts. And thus LWOT has courted a little controversy for two main reasons:

  1. It’s based on a current, ongoing conflict, with many of the cards representing real people (living or dead), recent events or things you don’t really want to have to think about while playing a game. For example, one of the cards represents the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Too soon? Maybe for some.
  2. In the two-player game, one player controls the US while the other controls the global jihadist movement. Yes, you get to be a terrorist. Not a cartoony, balaclava-wearing terrorist, but a setting-off-WMDs-in-Israel and overthrowing-the-Somalian-government terrorist. It’s a bit… dark.

However, the second point there brings up my favourite thing about LWOT: it’s completely asymmetrical. The US player has certain actions they can take with the operational value of their cards (disrupting terrorist cells, deploying troops to allied Muslim countries, conducting a War of Ideas, etc.), which are almost entirely automatically successful once they’ve played a card of high enough value. The Jihadist player has an entirely different set of actions (recruit terrorist cells, carry out jihad in countries with cells, set up bomb plots), which require a die roll for success every single time. The upshot of this is that the Jihadist can carry out operations all over the world, regardless of their cards, but the operations are prone to failure, while the US can only play where they have strong enough cards, but the operations work nearly all the time. It’s a neat touch that simulates the difference between a covert network of sparsely funded terrorist cells and the military and political might of the US. Continue reading