Friday, 31 December 2021

Review of 2021

As another year draws to a close it's time for my annual review post.

It's been a funny old year this year. It's the first full year that I've worked from home and that, along with some family issues mid-year, have been fairly disruptive to my routines. This has flowed through to my gaming, and has left me a little directionless and unenthused this year; there are things I'd like to have done, but I'm finding it much harder to initiate or focus on projects than I used to. That's not to say that I haven't played games; just not as many as in previous years, and I don't feel I've been as fun and creative as I normally like to think I am.

Anyway, I had a look through the year's posts, and I still seem to have run through a few sets of rules. The Portable Wargame - specifically my ECW version - has featured heavily, via a campaign and then, later in the year, some changes I made to the initiative system. I also got out Neil Thomas's 'Simplicity in Practice' and tried that again finding that, with a few tweaks, it's a fun and playable little game.

Nic Wright's offerings have featured heavily again - I have found either 'Blood, Sweat and Cheers', 'Palaeo Diet' or 'Galleys and Galleons' on my table a fair amount in the past 12 months. The latter has become a game like HOTT; something I can pull out and play with little preparation in order to simply scratch a gaming itch. The former has become the gladiator game of choice, and I say that as someone who has developed their own set of rules.

I rediscovered 'Black Powder' towards the end of the year, whilst new games have included 'A Billion Suns' and 'Giants', the latter being a reworking of 'Giant Monster Rampage'.

Boardgames have featured a fair bit as well. I rediscovered the delights of 'B17: Queen of the Skies', but the year has been dominated by a number of new games. First amongst these has been the wonderful cycling game 'Flamme Rouge', but we have also been entertained by 'Godzilla: Tokyo Clash' and 'Fast & Furious: Highway Heist'. 

Outside of gaming I have managed a little burlesque, mostly in the pre-lockdown early part of the year. And the biggest event of the year was the birth, in September, of my first grandchild.

Next year I have set myself what I suspect is an ambitious challenge; to play at least 52 different games or sets of rules. I did a rough count of how many different games I've played this year - it came out to around 37. So I have a lot of work to do next year.

Without further ado, here is my review of the year. As ever I have taken the post from each month which got the most views, with the accumulation of selected posts reflecting the year to some extent.

See you in 2022.


ECW Snakes and Ladders - Part 1 - My ECW Portable Wargame has seen a fair few outings this year. I started things off with a simple Snakes and Ladders campaign. Mechanically it was interesting to run; if I did it again I'd probably generate the battles differently. And I'm aware that the actual writeups could do with more colour and background.


Army Showcase - The Forces of Light - I did a couple of HOTT army showcases this year. This one features the forces from a couple of Alan Garner's fantasy books from the early 1960s. Along with its evil counterpart it's one of my favourite HOTT matched pairs.


Never Mind The Bullockornis - I haven't done a lot of painting this year; it has suffered from a lack of drive and enthusiasm along with my gaming. More so, since I dislike painting at the best of times. But I did manage to sit down and paint a load of new beasts for 'Palaeo Diet', expanding the variety of creatures my hunters can catch and eat, or be eaten by. In this game they were after a flock of flightless birds, whilst having to avoid giant monitor lizards.


A Billion Suns - First Game - A Billion Suns is a clever spaceship game from the author of Gaslands. After playing it a few times I'm not sure if that's all it is - clever. It is fun, but I found it hard to learn and teach since it requires the players to absorb a fair bit of information in order to understand how they are supposed to go about playing it; it's not just a simple game of lining up your spaceships and shooting each other. I would say that it's a miniatures game that owes a lot to Euro boardgames as much as it does traditional wargames. I might give it another look next year.


Gladiator Campaign - Part 3 - A gladiator campaign is always quick and easy to set up and run, and always gives an exciting narrative. This one used 'Blood, Sweat and Cheers' .


More ECW Portable Wargame Activation - One again the Portable Wargame features in my review. I love tinkering with the game, and came up with a way to determine unit activations that I felt improved the game. This is one of the posts in which I tested it. Six months on it's still a method I'm using, and seems to do the job.


Godzilla vs Kong - With Added Jaeger  - I got out my kaiju again, partially inspired by the King Kong vs Godzilla film. I had another go with the old 'Monster Island' game, but eventually settles on 'Giant Monster Rampage' instead. In the end I found, and bought, the latest version of the game, now called 'Giants'. I need to play around with it a little more, but it proved to be an interesting evolution of the system


HOTT Campaign - Season One - This is the third campaign I played this year to get into the list; a six army HOTT campaign using a simple mechanism to pair the armies based on their previous success. I ran it for four seasons in the end, each consisting of three battles. I felt a clear winner was emerging, but also felt that the selection of armies wasn't giving as interesting a set of games as I'd hoped. Still, the basic system worked.


A Family Announcement - As I noted above, this was the biggest event of the year! In September my son and his wife presented us with our first grandchild - Elijah MC Cooper Saunders (Eli). He's now nearly four months old, and has already played his first game of 'Black Powder' (or, at least, he assisted me in playing one, which is very much the same).


Turks vs Venetians- I dabbled in a fair bit of 'Galleys' & Galleons' this year, and my most popular post was this one in which two Lepanto-era galley forces thrashed it out. It was a big game by G&G standards, with about sixteen ships per side, but played quickly and smoothly.


Frocktober 2021 - Part 3 - Every year I do the Frocktober fundraiser for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation. This post covered the final batch of the eleven different dresses I wore throughout October. Our family raised nearly $1000.


A Portable ECW Encounter - And the year ended as it begun - with a Portable ECW Wargame. Once again I was testing changes to the game, and finally took the effort to write them up as well (that's in another post though). 

End Of Year HOTT

I haven't played HOTT for ages, so I squeezed in a quick game yesterday evening. Once again my trusty Elves found their way onto the table, but they were opposed by the Ratmen, an army not seen that often on this blog.

The Ratmen attacked, and fielded 1 x Warband General, 4 x Shooters, 2 x Lurkers, 2 x Beasts and 8 x Hordes.

The hordes and beasts were massed on their right flank, whilst the shooters covered the centre.

Against them the Elves had 1 x Magician General, 2 x Spears, 4 x Shooters, 1 x Behemoth, 2 x Riders

The Rats advanced, whilst the Elves were content to sit tight and shuffle their troops around.

The Ratman hordes spread out ready to attack, at which point the Elves made a short advance and unleashed a volley of arrows into their ranks.

This broke up the Ratman line a little, and blunted their first attack, which was driven off with some beasts being casualties.

The Elves now attacked in the centre, rushing the Ratman shooters. The Ratmen did better here, pushing back or holding their opponents.

The Ratmen went for an all-out attack, looking to score a breakthrough which could be exploited by their superior numbers.

Once again they drove back the Elven centre, with the Elves' treeman ally being reluctant to take on the musketeers opposite him.

In teh centre the Ratman general charged into the fight. He and his fierce bodyguard swept away a group of Elven spears.

The Elves attacked ...

... and lost their treeman. But they were now very much in a better position overall.

The Ratmen had lost most of their hordes on the right, as well as both groups of beasts. A shooter fell in the centre, and the army was close to breaking. Their general charged the second group of Elven spears, but was driven off. The loss of another shooter saw their army break.

The Ratmen might have been better off if they'd sat tight and used the woods on their side of the board to funnel the Elves into the centre. However with shooters, beasts and lurkers in play, the Elves would have been stupid to have attacked such a position and there wouldn't have been much of a battle. A better Ratman attack would have been to put the hordes in the centre and simply to have matched the Elven shooters with their own. This would have been a bit 50/50 in terms of outcomes, but the beasts could have provided useful support. Still, it was late in the day, and my brain wasn't in the right place for cunning plans. And the Ratmen suffered for it.

Apologies for the weird photos; I got a new lens for my camera at Christmas and thought I'd try it out. I need some practice.

Monday, 27 December 2021

52 Games

Every so often I set myself challenges on this blog, and I thought that since this coming year was my tenth anniversary I'd try another one.

In previous years I have set myself the goal of playing six games at least six times (and a number of other bloggers did that one with me) and also of playing one game of 'Hordes of the Things' every week for a year. Way back I set myself the task of playing each of the scenarios in 'One Hour Wargames' in order, but that's still ongoing; I think I have around six left to do now.

Anyway, earlier this year I looked at the previous year's gaming and saw that I'd played a lot of different games in that time - some only once, others more than once and a few many times. I wondered how many different games I'd played during the year, but never really got as far as counting them. However it gave me an idea for a new challenge.

In 2022 I will attempt to play 52 different games or sets of rules. Unlike HOTT 52 it won't be 'One Game Per Week', because my brain can't handle that. But over the course of the year I will track every unique game or set of rules I play, and record them in a post here. 

Whether I will complete this challenge or not remains to be seen. I'm in a bit of  a gaming doldrums at the moment, and finding it hard to motivate myself to play much of anything a lot of the time. I hoping this challenge will encourage me to play a little more, as well as make me drag some negelcted games and rules out from my collection in order to make up the numbers.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, 26 December 2021

Christmas Games ... And More

Stick out this post until the end for a nice surprise.

We didn't play as many games this Christmas as we usually do. For various reasons we had fewer people over, and with a small baby in the mix our usual routines were a little disrupted. However we had a request to play Dixit on Christmas afternoon, so that's what we did. At first it was Cei, Maya Catherine and myself who played. I won both games fairly easily. Catherine dropped out to start cooking Christmas dinner, and Michelle took her place. Michelle them proceeded to wipe us out.

I dropped out at that point in order to help with the food, but the other three continued for a couple more games, which Michelle won again. Comfortably. Cei has married a game-winning machine.

I only got one game for Christmas this year - Small Samurai Empires, which is a neat little game based around becoming the Emperor of Japan (although in theory it's more about being Shogun I suspect).

It has gorgeous little samurai meeples - a different design for each of the four players.

The rules seem quite involved, but it actually plays very smoothly. One each turn both players place orders next to the four regions that make up the islands, and these are resolved in particular sequence. the orders allow you to recruit troops, move, attack and harvest resources. You play three rounds, each of two turns, and resolve scoring at the end of each round. At the end of the third round there is a final scoring process as well, which is based on how important particular regions are. The importance of each region is determined by the players during the course of the game, so there's some interesting strategy involved in seeing what's likely to be the higher-scoring parts of the board and making sure you have a stake in them

Catherine and I played a far from perfect game, but we got the gist of things, and finished fairly closely.

The central, orange, area has the potential to be the highest scoring region, but is also the largest and was hotly contested.

In the end I controlled the central region, whilst Catherine dominated the southern grey region. Both scored well. Catherine and I were roughly equal in the green region whilst I had nominal control of the low-scoring northern purple region. In fact I used this area to recruit armies which I then shipped south in order to contest the southern regions. It was this that gave me enough points to clinch a win.

What of non-gaming presents? Well, this was my favourite - a t-shirt from Maya. We've been watching a lot of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine recently, and Garak is a favourite character of us both.

I also got some new lenses for my camera - a fisheye that I haven't tried out yet and a 50mm equivalent which I've tested out on the cats.

Mr Wednesday



Aloy again (because she's my favourite)


And, of course, I tried it out on my grandson Eli. he's three and a half months old now, and seemed to really enjoy his first Christmas.

I hope you all managed to have the Christmas you'd wished for, and that you got the gaming gifts you expected!

Friday, 24 December 2021


I ran another Faustus Furius race, but thus time used a more formal course. This game was done on a  bit of a whim, which is why I marked out the course with random bits of card and river sections that were on my table. It was done according to the minimum size for a circuit given in the rules - 30cm wide by 60cm long. 

I used six chariots again, but ran a mix of types. Red and Yellow were fast, Green and Blue were Agile, Grey was Scythed and White was Standard.

Blue and Yellow got off to a terrible start when Grey, the scythed chariot, attacked one of them, went out of control and spun around, wrecking them both. They would have to right themselves and make a slow start.

In fact, with their fast trait, Yellow more than made up the lost ground, and got into second place behind Red, the other Fast chariot. But fast chariots aren't so good on the corners.

Red and White made the corner. I'm not sure what happened to Yellow at this stage. The Agile chariots, Green and Blue, got into a mess with Grey, in which Grey was wrecked and Green spun to a halt.

White took the lead, as Red, whilst fast, had had to take the corner a lot wider. 

Ah - here's Yellow, coming up in third place, having taken the corner really wide. White held onto the lead as the chariots entered the second turn.

Again, White's better handling told over Red and Yellow's superior speed, and White continued to maintain its lead as they entered the second lap. Green and Blue were coming up fast as well, and would make light work of the turn too.

White was now well out in front.

Red and Yellow sped down the straight, but Green and Yellow were in the running now as well. Although Green had spun out again.

The benefits of a fast chariot can be seen here. Although White took the corner well, they seemed to slow on the back straight and Yellow, despite its slow cornering, was catching up. Grey was about to be lapped - cautiously, because those scythes are dangerous and Grey has nothing to lose.

Yellow and White went into the final corner together. 

And they both fluffed it. White crashed, and Yellow took it too wide and spun to a halt.

But they had a good lead and were back in the race before the other chariots, led by Red, could overtake them.

Yellow surged ahead, and had to fend off an attack by Grey. Amazingly it survived.

In the approach to the final corner Blue, Red and Green got into a mess and there was a bit of a disaster again.

Meanwhile White had put on a burst of speed, and managed to cross the finish ahead of White.

There was no way Yellow couldn't take second place - the compulsory movement would do it even without them rolling dice.

Red and Blue had lost out on the final corner, but Green deftly avoided the worst of the disaster, and picked up a late third place.

So the fast chariot was beaten by a standard model, but only just - the balance is kind of right with a standard chariot performing better on the turns, but losing ground on the straights. In previous games I've felt that Agile chariots have an overall edge because their cornering is just so good. In this race though they kept getting delayed by poor positioning and the side-effects of attacks. Even so, they made up the lost ground well.

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