My First Wargame: Ambush!

As a history major, I love learning about different events and time periods. My favorite, though, was World War II. I’m not sure why I was drawn towards it, but I loved learning about why it happened, how the war unfolded and the stories of various soldiers and their feats of heroism.

I think this is why I was drawn to wargames. Unfortunately, in the circle of friends I had when I started gaming, no one was really into wargames. I did find a class of games that focused on war, but could be played solo. You played against the game itself instead of an opponent. The first one that was recommended to me was Ambush!, which is an older game (It was printed in 1983 by Victory Games).

The box cover of Ambush!
The box cover of Ambush! (Photo taken from user FrUnit7 on Boardgamegeek, https://boardgamegeek.com/image/964790/ambush )

In Ambush!, you take control of an American Squad in World War II, taking them on a variety of predefined missions in Europe. The beauty in Ambush! is that the mission unfolds by making a series of checks when you enter a new hex. You do this by putting a card that contains a series of numbers into a “Viewing sleeve” and then looking up the number it gives you in a paragraph book. That paragraph book contains a variety of things, from German soldiers firing at you to “You notice a British plane flying overhead, spewing flames from the tail”. You may then encounter the plane later in the scenario, if you come across it.

The Mission Cartridge sleeve with a Mission Card enclosed. (Photo taken from user Jeff on Boardgamegeek, https://boardgamegeek.com/image/93878/ambush )

Ambush! also has an RPG feel to it. There are tables so you can roll and generate your own squad, and of course you have to name them, outfit them with gear, etc. You can play a campaign game where your soldiers gain experience and can gain better skills. But that means there are also rules for replacing your soldiers when they are incapacitated or killed. I love this aspect of the game. I really get tied to characters and that causes me to play the game differently depending on the situation I’m in.

As a wargame, the rules can be a little dense, but once you read through them and play a mission or two, things get pretty straightforward. The great thing about the rules is that it will introduce the first sections you need to play the first mission, and then add the extra rules you need to play the following missions. If you are familiar with wargame concepts, then you’ll feel right at home with Ambush! but as a new wargamer it could be a little intimidating.

A mission in progress. (Photo taken from user Blastpop on Boardgamegeek, https://boardgamegeek.com/image/2461950/ambush)

Ambush! has 3 expansions (that are pretty hard to find at an affordable price) as well as a Pacific base game and expansion (Called Battle Hymn and Leatherneck, respectively). These add more missions and different enemies, vehicles and weapons. These can definitely add the the replayability factor, because most of the missions are one use only: that is, once you’ve played it, since they are pre-programmed through the scenario cards, it’s easy for you to remember where certain events or soldiers are.

The Ambush! base game, 3 expansions, and the standalone Pacific version “Battle Hymn”. (Photo taken from user bdegroot on Boardgamegeek, https://boardgamegeek.com/image/720726/ambush)

Ambush is probably my favorite solitaire wargame of all time…and if it isn’t first, it’s definitely top 3. If you can find a copy (they appear on eBay and the BGG Marketplace from time to time at a decent price), I highly recommend it. It’s worth the learning curve, especially if you are looking for an immersive, individual soldier wargame.

Top 5 Wargames I’m Itching to Play

Hey all!

I’m here with a short post…I’ve been dealing with Vertigo for the past few days so I haven’t really been doing much of anything in my free time. No gaming, no video games, no nothing.

So, with it being a Wargame Wednesday, I figured I would post my top 5 Wargames in my collection I’m itching to play.

  1.  Up Front: I was part of the whole Kickstarter debacle, but luckily I was able to get a copy printed at WargameVault.  I have heard so many great things about this one that it’s jumped to the top of my must play pile.
  2. Combat Commander: Europe:  I just got back into this about 6 months ago, so I’m always dying to get it to the table.
  3. Unconditional Surrender: I have everything ready to go for the Case Blue “scenario” so now it’s just time to find to play this as an intro into the whole game.
  4. Breakout Normandy: A buddy and I try to get together once every (other) month or so to play a wargame.  This was going to be last month’s choice but due to real life, neither of us got to read the rules, so it’s still on my list for us to play at our next wargame day.
  5. Iwo: Bloodbath in the Bonins: This is a solo folio game from Decision Games.  It’s something different that I could play over my lunch hour(s) at work, so I’m reading through the rules now to figure out the best way to get it to the table.

There you have it. Short, sweet, and to the point.  I think the next Wargame Wednesday we have will be how I read and parse rulebooks, which, while not the most exciting of topics, may prove beneficial to some of you out there.

Wargame Wednesday: Standard Combat Series

Hello everyone!

I’m back with another Wargame Wednesday, and this one ties in with my last post on VASSAL.

I mentioned in that post that certain games don’t lend themselves to playing via email well, because there might be a decision point in the middle of a turn that would require you to stop, have your opponent decide what they were going to do before you could take your turn.

There are certain games that are IGOUGO, which means I take my turn then you take yours.  These usually tend to lend themselves to play by email (PBEM) because there may not be tons of decision points where a quick back and forth is needed.  I mentioned in my last post Day of Days as my last 5 x 1 game, so today I want to talk about a great entry level wargame series (of which Day of Days belongs to) called the Standard Combat Series (SCS).

A wargame series normally is a variety of games that all fall under one ruleset, so instead of learning a ton of different rules, you learn the main rules, and then learn any game specific rules that the specific game in the series has.

SCS was originally published by “The Gamers” but is now published by MultiMan Publishing (MMP) who is really well known in the wargaming community.  Originally designed by Dean Essig, SCS is a great series for people who may be interested in getting to know more about traditional hex and counter wargames.  Many games in the system have a low counter density (which means there are few playing pieces on the map) and the rules are considered light (7 pages in the series rules, plus whatever game specific rules you are playing).

Essig writes in the designer notes of the series rules:

This series was designed for two reasons. First, it was meant to offset our other series which, by an order of magnitude, are much more complicated than the SCS. Second, it was designed to be a basic ‒ read FUN ‒ game which can be played at times when the others seem like too much of a good thing. These games are made for the “break out the beer and pretzels, and here we go” type of evening. While none of our games are designed with the beginner as their raison d’être, the SCS was designed as something the beginner would be able to handle ‒ as opposed to being devoured by.

So this series, while it might be difficult for a new wargamer, is not impossible to grasp and could be played in an evening (depending on scope of the game and scenario).

There are tons of games available in the SCS catalog, ranging from WWI to WWII to Modern Day.  The system rules adapt fairly well to various time periods (or so I’ve been told, I’m still waiting to play my first entry in the series, although I am very familiar with it and it comes highly recommended).

I am planning on playing Bastogne (World War II, Battle of the Bulge) with a friend, and starting in the coming days. I spent some time today outlining the rules and getting a grasp on the system, and I’m really looking forward to getting it played as a stepping stone and then onward to the monsters (very large games) in the series, including Day of Days.

If you are interested in the Standard Combat Series, you can find more information here:

http://www.multimanpublishing.com/Products/tabid/58/CategoryID/12/Default.aspx

http://www.gamersarchive.net/scs.htm

Latest SCS Rules

If you are a wargamer, what game(s) did you start with?  If not, but interested, are there any games you are interested in? Let me know in the comments!

Wargame Wednesday: VASSAL

Image Credit: http://www.vassalengine.org

I’m going to try something out, starting this week.  On every other Wednesday (I think) I’m going to do a feature called “Wargame Wednesdays”.  I’ve talked about my love for wargames in the past, and how wargames are pretty much responsible to getting me into board gaming at large.  So I’ll stick with what I know.

I have an addiction, which is monster wargames.  I don’t think there’s a set definition other than you know it when you see it, but I consider a monster wargame a game that takes up a lot of space (so multiple maps) and a lot of counters.  The scale doesn’t matter, as I have heard or own some that look at the grand strategic scale (so, country to country and dealing with armies) to much smaller levels, such as examining the first 10 days of D-Day (so a very zoomed in look at the Cotentin peninsula).

The two main obstacles to playing monster games is size and time.  I know that I own a few games that are considered monsters, and the time it would take to play them and the space it would take to leave them set up in between turns means I will never likely get them played.

Or will I?

I’d like to introduce you all to a program called VASSAL.  VASSAL is an open source, free program that can be downloaded at www.vassalengine.org.  VASSAL allows you to download modules (all types of board games, but I’ve mainly used it for wargames) that can be played live with another player (usually using a voice chat program like Skype or Discord) or that can be played via email by transferring a log file that keeps track of your turns/moves, then the other player loads that log file and continues the game.

There are a few caveats to using VASSAL, though.

  • In most cases, the module won’t enforce the rules for you. This isn’t a wholly automated computer game implementation of the game.  Some modules do contain automated features but that depends on who designed it.
  • Speaking of who designed it, some modules are fully supported by the game publisher and some aren’t. Some will omit vital information (such as combat charts or other things of that nature) so that you must own the game to play it.
  • On game ownership: The rule of thumb is that one of the two players should own the game in order to play it.  Some publishers only make the modules available on their websites, others are available from the website itself.  Either way, please please please stick to this rule.  Support the publishers who keep this hobby alive.

I haven’t used VASSAL much, but my main wargaming friend and I are planning on starting up a game of Day of Days, which is the last game I need to play to complete my 5 x 1 challenge for the year.  I’m looking forward to exploring VASSAL more if this is successful, as well as maybe sharing session reports and screenshots from our games.

Have any of you tried VASSAL before? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!