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A Look at the Nexus Game Fair

If you’re a large plains-roaming land mammal, or a driving cat, and you just can’t make Origins, there’s always the local convention  ~

Jim Owczarski, 31 May 2017

Milwaukee has missed GenCon since the day it changed lodgings in 2003.  I know.  I’m from here.  The mass of local gamers that were left behind have created other events and some have seen remarkable success, but none have approached the grand madness that is the mother of all American gaming conventions.

Still, I love the convention experience and was looking forward to checking out the Nexus Game Fair when it rolled into town late last week.  Most importantly, I was wondering if there would be anything at all for a grognard to do.  What follows are a few thoughts and a fair number of photographs documenting the experience of Friday and Saturday.

Hosted primarily at the downtown Hyatt, evident on the Milwaukee skyline by the spaceship-like restaurant perched at the top, Nexus seems to have kept its ambitions modest.  Attendance ran to the hundreds rather than thousands and there was rarely a press of crowds despite the smallish space.  It was, however, a professionally-organized operation with a well-designed program and a strong staff of workers managing registration.

Two beautiful days and I’m going indoors to play with little soldier men. (That’s the new Bucks’ arena going up.)

A Look Back at System 7 Napoleonics & Dragon Magazine

A stroll down memory lane to the days when wargaming and RPGs more comfortably co-existed ~

Jim Owczarski, 13 May 2017

I would have thought that after all these years the editors around this joint would have taken a liking to me.  I mean, come on, I’ve written reviews, previews, interviews, and even a travel journal or two, and have yet to get them sued for libel.  This is no small matter in our litigious day and age.

So why, then, does one of them torment me with this:

The Tuesday Interview – Didier Rouy, Part Deux

Part 2 of 2, as Cyrano starts asking more Napoleonic questions ~

Jim Owczarski, 18 April 2017

When we last visited with Dr. Didier Rouy, he was discussing his Flight of the Eagle operational-level Napoleonic Kriegsspiel.  In this second half of the interview, he discusses crazy things wargamers can attempt in the RPG-like Kriegsspiel space; how bear hats and humming can scare grown men; how a tactical, Napoleonic wargame could have been influenced by Magic: The Gathering (shudder); and what might be next on his design table.

continuing the discussion from last week

c. You acknowledge the link between the Kriegsspiel-type games like Flight and role-playing games, something about which I tend to obsess.  One of the immense strengths of RPGs is the freedom to create it allows to both the game runner and the player.  What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen a Flight player try or argue he should be able to do in a game?

Oh Boy, that can be a long response ☺

The Tuesday Interview – Didier Rouy

Part 1 of 2, as Cyrano starts asking more Napoleonic questions ~

Jim Owczarski, 11 April 2017

There aren’t too terribly many people who can claim to have designed games about warfare while at the same time being able to consult on a wound from a musket ball.  Dr. Didier Rouy holds his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Paris – Diderot and his M.D. from the same institution, earning the former in 1992 and the latter in 1991.  In 1989, though, he published the first of what would eventually be over a dozen different Napoleonic wargames.  His Vive L’Empereur system has since produced eight volumes.  Even dearer to my own heart, he is the creator of the three-volume Vol de L’Aigle, an operational Napoleonic Kriegsspiel, as well as Le Combat de L’Aigle, a tactical system that can be used to work out battles in the operational game.

Dr. Rouy took time recently to answer questions about how he got started, how the whole medicine thing figured into his wargaming, and what is his deal with oblong unit counters.  His answers were so thoughtful — and so long — that this particular interview comes in two parts!

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics – EPIC!

Jim descends further into his Napoleonic madness with massive-scale gaming ~

Jim Owczarski, 18 March 2017

I have been waiting for this one for a long time.

It’s almost unreal to me that Battle Cry, the first of Richard Borg’s “Commands and Colors” series, was released in 2000.  I like the American Civil War well enough, but, from the beginning, I hoped that the simple, elegant system evident in the game could be elaborated into the best of all periods, Napoleonics.

In the years since, I’ve bought and happily played Memoir ’44 (2004), Commands and Colors: Ancients (2006), Battlelore (also 2006), not to mention the remarkable array of expansions, special editions, and the like for all these systems.  I gave Zvezda’s Samurai Battles a miss if only because it’s the only era covered that doesn’t appeal to me.

True Napoleonic wargamers are obsessed with scope, spectacle, and sweep.

And then it came out.  In 2010, GMT Games gave the waiting world Commands and Colors: Napoleonics.  Sure, it was wooden blocks not lovely figures.  Yes, it was the British, Spanish, and Portuguese versus the French.  And, yes, for reasons known only to the grim gods of game production, the Prussians were excluded from the included Waterloo scenario.  But it was Napoleonics and that, at first, was enough.

This was no longer the simplified rule set found in Battle Cry.  There was the forming of square; different grades of horse, foot, and guns; and even elegant rules to differentiate leaders and national troop characteristics.  In the latter case, French troops, and their famous columns, fight better in melee, while the British lines do real damage with ranged fire, &c.

After much fun was had, though, it was ultimately not enough.  True Napoleonic wargamers are obsessed with scope, spectacle, and sweep.  It is this that leads us to do really, really dumb things like this: Historicon 2010 Part V Wagram (Shako II) and Outro

For the record this is my shaky-cam — I’ve become better — but this game had run 14 hours before I had to leave with it far from finished.

GrogHeads Reviews High Treason!

See you in court! ~

Jim Owczarski, 18 February 2017

Function before form!

Function before form!

My love of the Napoleonic era is high, wide, and deep, but I’ve always taken the age of empire to be my second true love, if such a thing can be countenanced.  Much of my early study of the era came from Jan Morris’ Pax Britannica trilogy, particularly the first volume, Heaven’s Command.  Far from an academic exercise, it’s an evocative series of sketches of the men and women who peopled the British empire, giving more weight, it has always seemed to me, to the interesting as opposed to the more objectively significant, although one can certainly be both.

TANKSgiving! – The Great War “Tanks” expansion

tanksgivingheaderCyrano goes back to the trenches for the earliest days of tank warfare with a look at the “Tanks” expansion for The Great War ~

Jim Owczarski, 19 November 2016

Since the powers-that-be hereabout have imprudently given me another platform, I’ll make this particular teapot just a bit more tempestuous:  Memoir ’44 is a war game.

The best-selling installment of Richard Borg’s Command and Colors system — and one of the best-selling war games of all time — is criticized for its abstractions, its toy factor, its simplicity, its lack of tactical granularity, and, for all I know, the devaluation of the dollar against the yuan.  I for one, while acknowledging its limitations, love the toys, the card-play that creates uncertainty, the straight-forward rules, and the ability to fight the entirety of the D-Day landings in an afternoon.

It shouldn’t, then, be too great a surprise that I was looking forward to the Plastic Soldier Company’s release of The Great War, Mr. Borg’s take on World War I, and particularly the tank expansion. The bicentennial of the war is upon us and I wanted to see what tweaks would be brought to the system to make it more than just World War II with less elegant tanks.

box

GrogHeads Previews Platoon Command

LNLP’s forthcoming game gets the once-over from our preview crew ~

Jim Owczarski, 09 November 2016

Let’s get this out of the way, shall we?

Lock ‘n Load Publishing’s forthcoming Platoon Command is not an attempt to reboot Up Front.  It is neither Up Front 2.0 nor is it Up Front Lite.  It is not Up Front Redux featuring behind-the-scenes footage of how a scoundrel and his shadow company absconded with more than 300,000 Kickstarter dollars and left a trail of litigation and rage.  Not that I’m bitter, of course.

No, courtesy of a rare bit of wisdom from corporate gameocracy, Up Front, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof, is now available from the Wargame Vault and everyone interested can play this classic for a reasonable sum. Even more gratifying, the going rate for second-hand copies has now plummeted accordingly.  And besides, Platoon Command, though a card-driven game of World War 2 squad-level combat, bears little resemblance to its far more complex, some have even dared to say obtuse, ancestor.

Not. Up. Front.

Not. Up. Front.