Arizona’s First 6-Player Game of Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea

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Above is a photo of the first large multi-player game of Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea conducted in Arizona.  It was essentially a learning game for the pictured entirely Euro Gamer participants (sorry, I did not record all their names… but you should recognize me, upper left hand at the table, in the white shirt… yup, I came to the gathering straight from a work day at the office).  One participant is not pictured because he was the photographer.

Frederick the Great Debuts in The Valley of the Sun: The First Arizona Playtest of The Seven Years War: Frederick’s Gamble

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Introduction:  A new career opportunity has returned me to the Phoenix area from back east.  This provided an opportunity to reacquaint myself with the wonderful and friendly community of gamers here in “The Valley of the Sun”.  This article is a high level After Action Report of our first experience playing The Seven Years War: Frederick’s Gamble (7YW:FG).

Please reference 7YW:FG material within GMT’s site, as well as within the InsideGMT BLOG, to gain a better context, understanding, and appreciation of this fine Greg Ticer design.  Referencing this background will complement this article’s descriptions.  

The Seven Years War: Frederick’s Gamble “Goes Electric” (with a New VASSAL Module!)

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When Designer Greg Ticer and I began our partnership to bring The Seven Years War: Frederick’s Gamble, henceforth referred to as 7YW:FG,  into published form; we could not anticipate nor imagine the great outpouring of enthusiastic support and encouragement of so many gamers, the play test team (from West Coast to East and to the UK), and of GMT itself.  This has been an exciting and gratifying experience as we watched 7YW:FG P-500 “make the cut” in its yet-to-be completed journey to print.

Printed form, of course, is not the only way GMT Games are today played.  Michael Arrighi is an already known and established talent with taking games into VASSAL form.  He was so enamored of Greg’s design, which results in a fun, fast-paced, and exciting game for play after play, that he volunteered to transition 7YW:FG so it could be played via computer with VASSAL.

As you’ll read and see in the ensuing article; what an excellent job Michael did! We hope this piece provokes your interest in the game, as well as patronage through a P-500 order, if you’re so moved.  The entire 7YW:FG Team appreciates any interest and support, as well as questions/comments regarding this presentation.

After Action Report: The Rockland Guys Go to “The Inner Sea”

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Introduction: This article complements Mark McLaughlin’s InsideGMT  Letter to Gene piece for this upcoming soon-to-be-announced GMT P500 listed game.  Mark and I hope it whets your appetite to learn more and, when the time comes, perhaps place an order for this new title to be added to GMT’s P500 repertoire.

The Seven Years War: Frederick’s Gamble: Game Development Progress Report and Updated Overview Presentation

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It’s been awhile since the last InsideGMT article concerning The Seven Years War: Frederick’s Gamble, henceforth referred to as 7YW:FG.  This piece is an update of the game’s development progress as well as solicitation of InsideGMT readers of whether the game is on the right track in considering certain content.

The 7 Years War: Frederick’s Gamble: Remodeling a 19th Century Field Battle and Siege System for the 18th Century

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During a WBC Convention, Gene Billingsley of GMT, acted as a kind of matchmaker (to those of you familiar with “Fiddler on the Roof” feel free to hum that tune which starts “Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match…”). He arranged introducing renown Designer Mark McLaughlin of The Napoleonic Wars, Wellington, Kutuzov, as well as many other titles, and myself, his erstwhile Game Developer for said publications, to Greg Ticer, a budding Game Designer.

WWII in Two (and a half) Hours and then 58 Minutes: Hitler’s Reich AAR’s with a New Player (Part 2)

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Be sure to check out Part One of this series for more information about Hitler’s Reich and the AAR of Game One.

Game Two: March 18, 2016 (58 Minutes to play)

Hitler’s Reich can be over very quickly.  Most games average two hours or a little more…but a few take longer or, in the case of tonight’s contest with my friend Max, less than an hour.

Max elected to take the Allies tonight (his second time playing the game).  As the Axis, I decided to go full blast to the West – and to ignore Russia, which the Axis can do in 1941 (as the Nazi-Soviet Pact is still in effect).  Not going East means the Fascists can focus on just one front (or the FFF – Fascist Front Focus)…but if they fail (FFFF…for Fascists Front Focus Fail) then they can be very, very vulnerable, as the Soviets are right on their border, with no room for the Axis to sacrifice before the Red Army could be poised to assault their rich with Production Centers heartland.

As the Axis I opened with trying for Franco, and bringing Spain into the Axis Camp with an Event Card Conflict Action to make the British Gibraltar Production Center vulnerable (and no, I won’t make another FFFFF out of this, I promise: although Franco’s first name also begins with the letter F).   I Failed.  (yeah, again with the Fs, this is like Sesame Street, brought to you by the letter, well, you know).  Then Failed again.   Failed again.  Fourth time, however, was the charm …but in the meantime Max had gotten a Convoy through (to increase his hand size from the starting 6 to now 7 cards) and had put a Fleet in the North Sea to protect that Allied Production Center, which abstractly represents the vital convoy routes which keep Britain a going concern, and he had picked up a few other Event Cards to bolster Allied prospects.

Once I got Franco and could place an Axis control disk on Spain, I went for the Waffen SS (or Panzer Tactics as it is also known) which gives an extra die in land combat.  You can’t attack out of Spain the same turn you get it, which gave Max as the Allies a chance to beef up his defenses as he could see my next play …charge in with the panzers from Spain into Gibraltar (a Victory Center, one of six needed to win a knock out automatic game win in the West).

To counter this threat, Max went for “Vichy Defects”, a Political Event Card which puts a lot of control markers on the map, two of which are in the sea zones next to Gibraltar.  This helps in the defense of Gibraltar.  It was a good plan in theory, but the Waffen SS, led by Rommel, supported by Stukas and with a killer Conflict Card won the day for the Axis…but only by the slimmest of dice roll margins.

This conquest of Gibraltar, however, took ALL of 1941 to accomplish….or almost all.  As the deck was nearly empty, which would signal the end of 1941, I decided to go for Russia after all – but not to conquer it, just to bleed Max’s Card Hand and gain a bit of breathing space for the inevitable Red Army offensive..

The Axis gets to call “Operation Barbarossa” anytime during 1941.  If they do, that breaks the Nazi-Soviet Pact and brings Russia into the war on the Allied side.  “Operation Barbarossa” does, however, give the Axis a special turn in which they are guaranteed FOUR attacks – one against each of the four Soviet territories that border the Axis eastern front.  Normally you get one attack and, if successful, a second (and maybe extras with a Blitzkrieg, if you pay for them).  “Operation Barbarossa” is four guaranteed attacks, and even if you lose three you still get the fourth.

By this late point in 1941 I had a pitiful hand of Conflict Cards, but this was a chance to burn four cheap cards and hopefully draw out four good ones from the Allied hand.  It worked like a charm; yes, I lost all four battles, but it cost him some very good cards to do it.  The year ended with him dropping a Fleet off Malta, in the Sicilian Sea, to protect it and threaten an invasion of Sicily.

That ended 1941.  The Allied hand size goes up one each year to reflect the burgeoning economic assistance being provided by the USA, so he gained what he had lost from me taking Gibraltar, and we each drew some good Event cards in the year-end interphase – one of the Events I drew was  Landing Craft, which allows an amphibious invasion.

As 1942 dawned, I decided to stick with the plan to go West.  The Wolfpacks struck, knocking down the Allied hand.  A fierce sea-saw conflict in the North Sea (in which the Bismarck was sunk twice…the card actually represents not just that big ship and her sister behemoth, Tirpitz, but the German main battle fleet).  The third time, however, saw a successful Axis attach and the North Sea was mine.

I then went for the Paratroops Event and got them.  This allows an attack across an intervening space such as the North Sea.  I used them to attack Scotland with the dreaded Fallschirmjaegers (German for airborne troops).  That attack, however, failed.  Undeterred, I went direct for London with the Landing Craft Event supported by Rommel, Stukas and the Waffen SS.  This concentration of powerful attack enhancing cards did the trick – even with Max getting the extra die for defending the capital.  (It helped that I played the Outfoxed Event which made him play a random Conflict Card from his hand rather than the card of his choice). The loss of London cost him two cards from his hand…..cutting him down to three cards to my nine.  The next turn I took Scotland as well, leaving him no land route back into London.

Max was now on the ropes, despite getting a Convoy through which increased his Card Hand Size by one.  I now shifted the Axis focus to the Middle East, and got Iraq to revolt.  That cost him another card and Production Center.  I then attacked out of Syria (which ironically had joined the Axis through play of the Vichy Defects Event Max gained – as that card is a two-edged sword, but one that normally favors the Allies, as it protects Gibraltar, helps with Malta, and gives the Allies a foothold in North Africa).

The panzers rolled out of Syria into Palestine under Rommel and from there blitzed into Suez.  In Hitler’s Reich, you can launch a Blitzkrieg Attack from a successful land assault, reusing that attack’s conflict enhancing Events, at a cost of minus one card to the attackers Hand.  If successful, up to three Blitzkrieg attacks can be made from a single assault… which simulates the hard driving mechanized offensives which  so characterized WWII in Europe.

That was another Production Center taken from the Western Allies.  Unfortunately, here I got a little careless, and instead of blitzing again into Egypt, I stopped (as previously mentioned, blitzes cost cards from your hand and knock your hand size down).

Max played for and got Sherman tanks (the equivalent of the Waffen SS – an extra die in combat) and damn, retook Suez out of Egypt!  I should have knocked out that offensive base which enabled the Suez attack.

He also sent Fleet Carriers (an excellent Naval Conflict Event) into the North Sea and knocked out my fleet there (but failed to regain control of the sea zone and its crucial Production Center).

It looked like the tide had turned – but I was not yet ready to give up the Axis Western gambit.

Back into Suez I roared with Rommel, the Waffen SS Panzers and Stukas – and then after that victory blitzed through to seize Egypt.  Then I put a fleet in the Irish Sea, another Production Center abstractly representing the convoy routes back to the USA.  He matched it with a fleet of his own, and then we went head to head, four dice to four dice, one card to one card for the Irish Sea.  I won, and then won again to take it – and gained a Sudden Death Victory by taking all six Western Allied Production Centers (Irish Sea, North Sea, London, Gibraltar, Suez, and Iraq).

….all in 58 minutes.

Max played well.  Going after and getting “Vichy Defects” to help defend Gibraltar was a good play, as was his attempts (some of which succeeded) to bring Convoys through, get Sherman tanks, bring Turkey into the war and recruit a good Russian defensive general.  My play was hardly flawless, but it was solid, focused, and backed by good card draws and a little bit of luck (we went back and forth on the dice).

The FFFF doesn’t always work (actually, it doesn’t usually work) but when it does…


WWII in Two (and a half) Hours and then 58 Minutes: Hitler’s Reich AAR’s with a New Player (Part 1)

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Introduction: If this is the first InsideGMT piece you’re reading regarding the Hitler’s Reich game, you’re urged to reference other material within this site for additional background regarding this exciting and fun forthcoming GMT offering.

What you have here (in two successive InsideGMT articles) are Designer Mark McLaughlin’s After Action Reports for two games of Hitler’s Reich with a new player during March 2016… one game resulting in an Allied victory and another in an Axis victory.

Game One: March 5, 2016 (2.5 hours to play)

Hitler's Reich Playtest Map

Hitler’s Reich Playtest Map

Intrigued by the gorgeous new Charlie Kibler map-in-progress and sample card art for Hitler’s Reich which he saw on the GMT Blog and Consimworld; my friend Max decided the time had come to try this game.  A veteran board wargamer, Max swiftly picked up on the system after I provided him a quick 10-minute overview, and then, without ever needing to look at the rules or a player aid card again, we got into a hard fought exciting game of Hitler’s Reich and finished that game in just under two and a half hours.

Hitler’s Reich Gets Real – First Look at a More Polished Play-Test Map and Conflict Card Art

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Hitler’s Reich just got real – a real artist, that is.  Veteran GMT artist Charlie Kibler has taken his professional brush to designer Mark McLaughlin’s hand-drawn playtest map and cards.  Although this is just his first pass and more work will be done to brighten it up and bring it to life, Kibler’s map is clean, crisp and clear.  The designer, editor and playtesters are excited about seeing the game’s wooden pieces march and retreat across Charlie’s map’s nicely delineated borders and into the production centers and capitals control of which will determine whether Hitler’s Reich will rise or fall.

Hitler’s Reich: A Card Conquest System Game: Extended Example of Play (Part 2 of 2)

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HitlerReichTAB_P500(RBM)Click here to read Part I of this article

Chapter Four.  Blitzkrieg & Second Success Action

Because the Axis won its first Action, it gains a Second Success Bonus Action.  The Axis choice to take the Production Center Bonus Event Action put that Success Action in jeopardy, as had the Axis failed in the Production Center Bonus Event his turn would have ended.  The Axis was successful, however, and thus play continues to its Success Bonus Action OR choose to immediately launch a Blitzkrieg Attack from newly captured Leningrad.

This is an important game decision, since by making an immediate Blitzkrieg Attack the Axis Player may continue using the Manstein, Stukas and Waffen SS Events.  Otherwise, those three Event cards would be “flipped over” and not available until the next Axis turn.