Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Year in Review: Our Take

So what did our team see as the most significant developments of the past year?

GrogHeads Management, 28 December 2013

Lloyd Sabin

Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol opened up some great turn-based, aviation-centered gaming to a huge audience. With one game covering World War I and one covering World War II’s Pacific War, with a cost as low as 80 cents on some days, it’s cross-platform compatibility is bringing high quality tactical aviation gaming to a much wider audience than ever before. Let’s hope that Sid Meier continues down this path and brings historical and military themes to gamers with future releases in the same vein.

Craig Handler

In a digital landscape littered with high-priced, fund building early access titles, ARMA III was released in an alpha state, but at an affordable price and in extremely polished shape.  Thus proving that games with significant future development to go can be enjoyable early on in the production cycle.

While not necessarily revolutionary, Bohemia Interactive’s newest title in the series is beyond question evolutionary in every sense of the word, building upon everything that had been accomplished earlier in the series.  ARMA III incorporates all that was good in ARMA I and ARMA II, and improves upon it, largely by incorporating feedback from its large fan base and community of supporters.  The mechanics behind ARMA III finally feel “right”.  Movement is fluid and the player is afforded an unprecedented level of flexibility and freedom of movement in a first-person shooter.

Some have criticized ARMA III for its near-future setting, but it still manages to feel authentic, particularly when compared to the crowded market of modern combat gaming which includes titles such as Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts.  ARMA III still has some way to go before its is finished, but all the tools are there to make it into the greatest combat oriented first-person shooter of all time.  It is beyond doubt one of the most exciting releases of 2013 and with Bohemia Interactive’s proven record of post-release add-on and DLC support, together with an already established cadre of creative mod makers, we will be talking about and playing this one for years to come.

Jim Zabek

2013 saw the return of classical wargaming on the PC. One game brought two major assets to the wargaming community which have ensured that the industry is not only alive and well, but thriving.

Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm crashed through the Fulda Gap to bring us hexagons and cardboard silhouette shaped units. None of these were particularly innovative, but was new was the solid production quality (varied sounds and eye-soothing graphics – though a few minor bugs still need to be worked out) combined with an incredibly addictive game style to make a wargame that is simply great. This addictive (and elusive) formula ensures that Red Storm is likely to be remembered for a long time as one of the best games of the year, and maybe the best in several years.

The second asset Red Storm brought to the table first requres a disclosure from me: I was involved with the developers in discussing how to implement an OODA loop. However, at the time I didn’t think my conversation was particularly significant. However, it seems to have inspired the developers to do that hard work of designing and implementing an asymmetric turn-based game system that does a fine job of modeling the deterioration of the command structure during wartime. This aspect, which I insist I had only a minor role in, turns out to be a real, significant development.

Between the addictive gameplay and asymmetrical turn-based gaming, On Target Simulations has delivered a simulation that effortlessly implements the elusive C3I aspect that many wargames either lack, or implement with some effort. Even if you’re not a fan of modern era wargames, you should give Red Storm’s demo a try. It’s an amazing game, and definitely the most significant development in the industry this year.

Brant Guillory

While hardcore grogs will (deservedly) turn their noses up as their cartoonish nature, the always-on interconnectedness of net-enabled phones and tablets have spawned a new generation of military-themed games and gamers. The massive rise of mobile-interface MMOGs have put ‘wargames’ into the pockets of millions of people, with Great Little War Game, World War, Little Commander, Modern War – World Domination, and the European War series all boasting hundreds of thousands of users. While these are not historically-accurate wargames in any sense, they are nonetheless putting tactical combat challenges in the hands of a huge number of players who enjoy battling with their friends. How many of these gamers might ‘graduate’ from the MMO-frenzy of unrealistic online play into a more historically-nuanced and accurately-modeled world of grognard-quality wargames? Not only is it hard to tell, it’s going to be hard to do if the grog world continues to turn their noses up at these cartoon shoot-em-ups instead of engaging them and looking for players that would be interested in moving to the tabletop, or to the world of deep grog-level games like those from Battlefront, Paradox, and Matrix.

Give us your take in our forums >>

Merry Christmas from GrogHeads!

Now get off the internet and get back to Christmas!  We’ll see everybody again tomorrow!

Or go visit our forums and wish your fellow Grogs well >>

Games for the Holidays

GrogHeads Writing Staff, 23 December 2014

We asked our writing crew to recount their favorite holiday game gift memories.  See if you can guess who they are, and discuss your favorite holiday game gift hauls here >>

My first PC was a clone 486 DX-33 in a full tower, steel ATX case. I loved that 35 pound beast – it was my first PC gaming platform. After I played the obligatory Wolfenstein 3D, I wanted to try something different, like a flight sim. As luck would have it, Christmas was right around the corner and Santa was prepared to rock my world. On Christmas morning, I opened my gifts, which included a game called Comanche Maximum Overkill by Novalogic. By today’s standards, the game was very pixelated and had a laughable flight model, but I must have played that game from start to finish at least four times.  The joy of pounding T-72’s and SAM sites with Hellfire missiles and Hydra rockets while the snow gently fell outside my computer room window was perfection. Comanche made great use of my 4 MBs of RAM and kick-ass, 1MB Trident video card. As the years began to roll by, I started playing study sims with better graphics and more realistic flight models, but it all started with that Christmas back in 1992 and a copy of Comanche Maximum Overkill.

For Christmas 1984 I received a Nintendo NES. You’d think a 14-year-old kid would be beside himself for such a present, and I was, but my biggest ‘score’ wasn’t that game system. Instead, it was my copy of Axis & Allies that my mother bought for me. I broke it out right then and there on the floor and proceeded to play it by myself, while listening to the KISS cassette tape (another Christmas gift for that year) – Animalize. Don’t judge, it was 1984, man. Anyway, that was my first ‘cool bits’ game that didn’t have hexagons or cardboard counters to push around. A part of me, the anal grog part, might have railed against such a travesty (the side of me that loved Third Reich was not happy at that moment), but you can’t beat a classic game like A&A. Well…actually, you CAN beat that, because that very same Christmas, my grandmother bought me a late Christmas gift…a copy of Axis & Allies. By then I’d learned to not like stacks of chips and preferred masses of units stuffed into provinces…and two copies satisfied my OCD need to do just that! When my mother told me we needed to return that second copy, I insisted that there was little chance of that happening!

I was 12 and the only thing on my list that year was the Axis and Allies boardgame; the classic version as they had yet to come out with the theatre specific versions.  I had been brielfy exposed to the game at a friend’s house earlier in the year and since then that was all I had talked about.  I clearly remember people asking me what A&A was, and I would reply, “its like Risk but on steriods and in WWII!”  Needless to say, tucked in amongst the gifts surrounding the Christmas tree that year was a giant box with my name on it.  For two weeks it sat there under that tree calling to me, mocking me, tempting me.  Finally Christmas morning arrived and true to form my dad, with a chuckle in his voice, informed me that the big box was the last present to be opened after everyone had opened all the others.  I couldn’t tell you what anyone else got that year much less what other presents I recieved, all I knew was that A&A would finally be mine.  Sure enough the time came and I ripped into the giant present with reckless abandoned.  There it was, nice and shiny in the shrink wrap, my first “wargame.”  As you can imagine I did not move from that spot the rest of the day, save for dinner.  I read straight through the rule book, set the board up and then since no one would play with me, began my first solo wargaming experience until I was forced to go to bed that evening.  While admittedly I have recieved bigger and better wargame related gifts since then this memory has to be one of my favorites.

Christmas of 1982 was a games-overload Christmas for me.  We were in the midst of moving from Ft Ord, CA to the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, VA, so there was a limit to how much “stuff” my parents wanted to haul around for us kids for Christmas gifts.  While we were living in California, I had discovered RPGs with some classmates, and I already had a handful of different D&D books, but my Christmas wish list was full of them.  There were also a handful of wargames on there, but that was mostly to fill up the list in the hopes that no one would buy me more socks that year.  We spent Christmas with grandparents in Louisiana on our trip across the country, and between the two different places, that year I unwrapped the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, the AD&D Dieties and Demigods book, and a few of the old candy-stripe modules (I got several, but U1 is the only one I specifically remember from that Christmas).  Oh yeah, and there were wargames, too!  I got the old generic “Battle!” from Yaquinto, and Avalon HIll’s “War and Peace”.  Not a bad haul for a 5th-grader!  Several years later I scored module B10, the Dragonlance Campaign hardcover, a Battletech boxed set, and Star Frontiers Knight Hawks all in one Christmas, but by then the bar had been set pretty high with the “Haul of ’82”.

As I look back over an ever-increasing number of Christmases I’ve celebrated and reflect upon the games I’ve received as gifts I can’t point to a single “greatest” game that I’ve received. Instead, my favorite part is the a process, but let’s call it something less dry – the spirit of giving. Many years ago my best friend and I agreed to exchange games for Christmas. Not tools. Not sports paraphernalia. Games. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about fine art, but some time back I ran across a story where an interviewer asked Picasso what his favorite painting was. His reply: “The next one.” So it is with me. I’ve gotten some great gifts over the years (and given some great ones, too). But for me the best gift is knowing that we have a tradition where we know that next year, we’ll get at least one game from someone who knows games and can even play them.

Tell us what you think in the forums >>

GrogHeads Strike Back! The Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm Contest

Welcome to the GrogHeads Strike Back!

GrogHeads has partnered with On Target Simulations and Matrix Games to bring a fantastic year-end shootout, with a chance to win some excellent prizes from Matrix Games and the GrogHeads prize vault.

Here’s how it works:

1.  You have to play a game.  We know, right?!  Let us say that again: You have to play a game.  See, you’re loving this contest already.

1a.  Specifically, you have to play this game: Flashpoint Campaigns: The GrogHeads Strike Back

1c.  This is a custom-modified self-contained game and scenario for Flashpoint Campaigns.  This scenario is not available as a part of the standard install, so even if you already have the game (and OTS loves you if you do!) then you still need to download and install this package to play.


2.  When you complete the game, you save your final score report, and upload it to the GrogHeads forum in the designated thread.

2a.  Entries that are emailed, faxed, posted, sent by courier, carrier pigeon, or paper airplane won’t count.  You have to upload the entry in our forums, in the proper thread for your entry to be a part of the contest.

2b.  The highest score (percent) will be the grand prize winner.  In the event of a tie, the first tiebreaker is VP locations held, then enemy units killed (see image for scoring order).


You need to capture and post the Staff Summary Report from the end of your game. If your screen doesn’t look like this, you posted the wrong screen.


3.  But wait!  Some chucklehead scored 98% of day 2 of the contest!  It’s hopeless!  How can I ever win?  Fear not, fellow Grogs!  Every entry into the contest gets one virtual ticket thrown into the digital raffle hat for a consolation prize.  That’s right, every separate score screen you upload after playing the game gets you another chance to win.  So you might never score out of the 30s – who cares!?  Score in the 30s eighteen different times, and you get 18 different chances to win in the consolation drawings.

3a.  You can also earn an entry to the consolation drawing by “liking” the contest post on Facebook, and another by “sharing” the contest post on Facebook.  2 clicks for 2 entries!  w00t!


4.  You keep talking about “prizes”.  Yes, yes we do.  Because we’re just building the suspense.

4a.  How are we doing?

4b.  Still in suspense?

4c.  Can’t wait to find out what you’re playing for?


5.  All entries must be posted in the forums, with a forums time-stamp no later than Midnight Eastern (US) Standard Time, Sunday 5 January 2014.  That’s midnight when Saturday rolls into Sunday.  Entries posted or received after that time will not be counted for the grand prize, or consolation drawings.


4d.  How’s that ‘suspense’ thing working out for us?


6.  Legalese:  At the bottom of this article is the full set of legal terms and conditions.  You participation in this contest is your acceptance of those conditions.  Remember that our in-house counsel is an excellent shot and owns a LOT of firearms.


4e.  You’re just waiting to find out what you can win, right?


7.  Forum membership is required for submitting your entries.  You must be a registered member of the GrogHeads forums to enter.  But hey, registration is free!  What a deal!

7a.  The official contest entry thread is here

7b.  The official contest discussion thread is here

7c.  Don’t mix them up.  If you post an entry in the discussion thread, it won’t count.  If you post a discussion question in the entry thread, you will be mercilessly mocked.


4f.  Prizes?  Oh yeah!  Prizes!  Here’s what you’re playing for:

GRAND PRIZE:  $65 credit at the Matrix Games store – enough to cover a boxed copy of Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm, or any number of excellent titles from the largest publisher of digital strategy games.

CONSOLATION PRIZES:  Four total.  Two winners will get $20 credit to the Matrix Games store.  Two other winners will get random prize grab-bags pulled from the GrogHeads prize vault, with a retail value of at least $20.  Consolation prize winners do not get to pick which prize we send you.  They come out in the order they come out.  

Winners will be notified by message through the forums, and the winners will be announced publicly on 6 January 2014.

GARPA 34 – GrogHeads Advanced Research on Projects Advisory

Authors: Brant Guillory & Jim Zabek

As Santa’s elves are banging out the last of their projects to be delivered next week there have been a number of game developers who’ve been making similar plans but with the help of crowd-sourced funding. Those of us in the US have even enjoyed a reprieve in the weather, with temperatures around LongBladia managing to briefly climb above freezing. The levels of snow we’ve received could be characterized as harassing fire – enough to cover the lawn and roads but not enough to make the kids happy with a day of school closure. Not to fear, temps are expected to come crashing down soon, but you know what that means: spring can’t be far behind.

Tabletop Games

Castles – A Strategic Card Game by AAIIEEE! GAMES

$7,339 pledged of $2,500 goal ending January 2nd

GARPA-34-Castles-Card-GameIf Castles looks familiar to you, it did to me, too, and for good reason.

Way back in November AAIIEEE GAMES (their capitalization, not mine. Really.) launched Castles as a “Strategic Card Game For Two Players” and set their funding goal at $6000. It failed to come anywhere near that goal, gaining a modest 2,787. Undeterred, the developers have reworked their math and decided that they could make do with backers supplying a more modest goal of $2500 and removing the word “strategic” from their game’s name.

They must be evil geniuses because this time the public got solidly behind them, easily meeting the $2500 goal and – surprisingly – have more than four times the number of original backers have coughed up $7300 worth of support, an amount that would have surely satisfied their first attempt at funding.

Crowd-sourced games can be strange in that way. In any case, if you’re looking for strategic card game for two players, with mild elements of fantasy and some attractive artwork, Castles may be the game for you.


MegaMat Gaming Mat by Frontline Gaming and TABLEWAR

$73,374 pledged of $15,000 goal ending December 22nd

GARPA-34-Megamat-ImageMiniatures gamers are constantly on the prowl for a better mousetrap. Anything which gives their gaming experience an edge is carefully considered for addition to what is likely to already be a well-stocked inventory of gaming accessories. The limits of discretionary income are often the greatest impediment to buying wholesale swathes of accessories for our tables and it is well that we should have limits lest we have no room to store our accumulated treasures.

So it is that I am well aware how tempting it will be to many readers when I place these gaming mats here for your consideration. The creators of the MegaMat have already reached a successful level of funding. Their offering is simple: 4’ x 4’ or 4’ x 6’ gaming mats that provide a color base on which to game. So far it appears as though three backgrounds are available: grassy plains and blast zone were the first two mats promised if the minimum fundraising goal was met, with additional plans for more mats to be unlocked as fundraising levels were achieved. Planned stretch goal maps will include urban combat, alpine, and barren wasteland.

The mats have been created by professional game artists and the printed resolution is promised to be at 300 dpi (current test images are said to have been at 150, which already looks quite good).

The material the maps are printed on is similar to that of a mousepad, which provides a flexible material for ease of storage that is also crease resistant, and has a rubber back to help secure it to whatever surface it is placed upon. The mats are also coated with a water-resistant material to help resist stains and keep it clean. If any of these mats needs to be on your gaming table you’d better hurry as the fundraising window is closing rapidly.