Old School Tactical Volume 1  Reprint

Category Archives: Classic Reviews

Car Wars – A Trip Down The Memory Fast Lane, Part 1

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The first of a series, Michael looks back at the wasted years of burning rubber through the blacktop battlefields of yesterday ~

Michael Eckenfels, 09 September 2016

CAR WARS: A MEGA-ARTICLE RETRO LOOK

 Back in 1983 or so, when I was transitioning from middle school to high school, hobby stores were a refuge of mine. Mostly I, as well as some of my friends, were into role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. I still remember the modules at this store costing six dollars, which at the time was of course a princely sum for a 13-14 year old. (My first job in 1986 paid minimum wage, which I think was $3.25 an hour.) I’d be lucky to get five dollars from my cash-strapped parents, and having to save that money was a chore of epic proportions, because this was, of course, the heyday of the arcades.

Arcade games like Dig-Dug, Tron, Jungle Hunt, Zaxxon, Joust, and Burger Time hypnotized many a kid into pouring quarters into them, and I was one of the zombies. Saving money was never my strong suit, but when I found something I wanted in the hobby store, I’d save up religiously for it. Car Wars was one of those games.

The Battle of Waterloo: A Comparative Exercise, Part 3

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In the finale of our Waterloo comparisons, our resident Napoleonicist continues his side-by-side comparisons with the groggiest of the grog games ~

Jim Owczarski, 23 July 2016

The 201st anniversary of the Great Battle has passed, Spring has turned to the heat of Summer, and, for those who have come this far, it’s time to explore the rarefied air breathed by the more complex simulations of the Battle of Waterloo.  (ed note, links to read part 1 and part 2)

I begin with a game to which I react much like that famous speech from the end of so many relationships, viz.: “it’s not you, it’s me.”  Martin Wallace is one of the great Euro-game designers of our time and there’s much conceptually to admire in his “Waterloo”, but, despite my best efforts, I’ve never been able to bring myself to love it the way some do.

You can keep your Mona Lisa.

You can keep your Mona Lisa.

The Battle of Waterloo: A Comparative Exercise, Part 2

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Our resident Napoleonicist continues to compare all things Waterloo side-by-side, and ratcheting up the difficulty level on the games ~

Jim Owczarski, 21 May 2016

The nice part about doing a series is one can leave aside the preliminary pleasantries and leap to the business at hand.  For those who missed the first journey into the world of wargaming Waterloo (I may need to trademark alliteration that strong), it’s here.

For those already up to speed, what follows is a discussion of some of the medium-weight games to take up this greatest of battles.

It may surprise some that I do not find Richard Borg’s Command and Colors: Napoleonics to be a light wargame.  It is, after all, the direct descendant of Memoir ’44, likely the greatest gateway wargame ever made.  It borrows its predecessor’s left-center-right battlefield construction; units, though blocks and not little plastic man, are still formed of a few markers each; a hand of cards drawn from a common deck that shares many similarities with Memoir drives the action; and combat is resolved with dice that have symbols rather than pips.

They were on sale.  How could I say no?

They were on sale.  How could I say no?

Classic Reviews: Red Dragon Inn

The only thing that’s more fun than drinking, gambling, and rough-housing in a medieval tavern in a laughter-inducing game about drinking, gambling, and rough-housing in a medieval tavern. ~

Brant Guillory, 11 May 2016

Originally published ~ July 2007

So you and your friends either slayed an evil beast, or conquered the local warlord? Both? Well done, you! Time to celebrate, quaffing pints and regaling your friends with tall tales of your exploits over at the Red Dragon Inn. classic-RDIYou goal is to be the last one standing among the carousing adventurers at the inn, which is not an easy feat when you’re subsisting on a diet of Dragon Breath Ale.

Each player has a playmat that organizers the cards in play, and tracks both the character’s alcohol level, and fortitude. The goal is to keep the alcohol content low, and the fortitude high; should they meet, the character falls unconscious and the rest of the party splits the loot. Speaking of loot – should you run out of loot, the inn tosses you out on your heels. In either case, you’re out of the game. The last conscious player standing, with cash, is the winner.

The Battle of Waterloo: A Comparative Exercise

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What happens when our resident Napoleonicist compares all things Waterloo side-by-side(-by-side-by-side-by-side)? ~

Jim Owczarski, 23 April 2016

With respect to E.S. Creasy, lists of “greatest” or “most significant” battles are best left as the stuff of coffee shop debate or oversized, remaindered tomes available at your local discount book store.  There’s just too much that goes into defining sprawling words like “greatest” that prevents the conversation from being useful much less dispositive.

That said, Waterloo is the greatest battle ever.  Ever.  I will not subject this to further debate.

Let us instead, at the request of the editorial staff hereabouts, visit some of the many consims to take up the battle, and, along the way, talk about how approaches to the battle have changed over the years.  This is not a complete list and it is a subjective one, but I hope it gives you a small window into the world of Waterloo gaming — a place where I have spent an awful lot of time.  Lest the tyro turn away at first glance, let the story begin with the simpler games that offer to take the player back to mid-June 1815.

I must here confess that I don’t think over-much of the Avalon Hill classic “Waterloo”.  It’s not that both the board and the counters are, putting the matter generously, merely serviceable.

Yep, 1962.

Yep, 1962.

Classic Reviews: Barony

In the free-wheeling high-concept/questionable-execution years of the mid-90s, a lot of crazy role-playing ideas bubbled up.  Better Games explored a few of them, and several of them in Barony ~

Brant Guillory, 18 March 2016

CR-Barony-1Better Games has disappeared, and with them, several extremely good ideas bound up in some horrid presentation.

 

There are three books in Barony. One develops characters and introduces players to the concepts of “Free-Style Role Play,” one walks GMs through developing scenarios, and the last one is an interesting work on dragon battles. Covers are colored cardstock, with black and white art. Line drawings abound. The cover is a loose slip-sheet similar to the older D&D modules, but it is plain paper, not cardstock, and so it is flimsy and does not stand on its own.

 

Better Games had a line of games that were all considered “Free-Style Role Play” that attacked several ideas that gamers had held onto more out of habit than necessity.

 

Classic Reviews: Runebound 2nd Ed

Runebound might be the best adventure you can fit into one evening.  Players have the latitude to customize their characters and pursue their paths to victory, using a variety of strategies.  Build your own hero and save the realm, in one afternoon. ~

Brant Guillory, 9 December 2015

  • Pros:  Well-balanced, nifty movement mechanics, gorgeous.
  • Cons:  Little interaction between players, needs a lot of table space.

Some gamers love the intricate role-playing game full of soliloquies, conspiracy theories, and more character development than a British melodrama.  Others would rather dispense with the backstory, role-play an archetypal character, and kick butt.  In the early days of computer games, most fantasy ‘role-playing’ was the former, not the latter.  Runebound strikes me as one of these computer games, transported to a board game environment.

And don’t think that’s a negative in any way.  Some of the most fun I had in my teenage years was in front of Pool of Radiance and the Wizardry series.  These games were fantasy adventures, but not necessarily fantasy role-playing.  Runebound understands the difference.

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Classic Reviews: Enchanted Locations

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Brant Guillory, 26 August 2015

Flip through it, and compare your needs to the price tag. But don’t just drop $30 on a book full of maps, because the B&W maps aren’t as useful as you might think, and the supporting information is sparse.

Yeah, it’s several years old, but I got it one summer at Origins. And there’s no review of it in the archives (ed note: “the archives” of the original site), so for a lot of you, Enchanted Locations may be new to you, too.

This book is from Fast Forward Entertainment, and was put together by James Ward, one of the “grandfathers” of the game. It is d20 compatible.

First Impressions

This book looks good. It chock full of maps, which gamers love. In truth, that’s one of the main reasons I grabbed it. I’m a map geek – a seriously cartography-addicted gamester. These maps are black and white, but detailed. There’s no index, but it really isn’t needed, since the table of contents covers all the big entries. However, an index might have been helpful to find specific treasures and/or encounters.

Digging In

Reading through the table of contents, you notice an imbalance of maps and encounters. Although there are about 75 maps spread across levels 2-21, there are very few low-level maps. I happen to like lower-level games; the balance of survival and heroism to me is more entertaining than power-blasting your way through every encounter.