Spotlight on Games
1001 Nights of Military Gaming
- F -
On to G
- Family Business (Service compris)
Enjoyable card game of warring gangs.
Players each have nine gangsters as well as five action cards.
Action cards have the power to put other player gangsters "up
against the wall". When six or more are against the wall, a mob
war begins and the gangster at the head of the queue
is shot at the start of each turn.
This queue is a clever idea as it
takes on a maddening life of its own as players frantically
try to extricate their gangsters or consider adding those of
other players to the list.
Tactically, it is usually a good idea to play on the opponent
immediately to the right since if the action is cancelled, it
will be this player's turn next, followed by your own.
was a later similar game by the same designer.
Service compris is a 1997 re-publication in France.
[Take That! Card Games]
- Fantasy Trip, The
Fantasy role-playing system based on earlier hex-based wargames
Melee and Wizard.
Background material for the system was more lacking than those of
others, but it made up for this by being more playable and offering
a more realistic "feel". The hex-based boards seem to offer more
options for facing and movement in combat, although does make rooms
look awkward. The board does help to keep down disputes about distance,
however, compared to those systems which use a boardless,
miniatures-based "inch-by-inch" distance and location system.
Basic characteristics were reduced to just Strength, Dexterity and
Intelligence as well, which may have cut back a bit too far,
but do simplify matters. Emphasis here, coming from its roots in
wargames, is definitely on conflict and overall it was the RPG of
choice for those coming from more of a wargaming background due to
features such as six-sided dice only, decisions resolved by rule
not by whim of game master, attention to laws of physics, etc.
In many ways the system was largely undercut by its own publisher.
Designer Steve Jackson later lost control of the game due to
a disagreement with the publisher and went on to create the
role-playing system GURPS.
Supplements not discussed here include
Death Test 2,
Forest Lords of Dihad,
Master of the Amulets,
Treasure of Unicorn Gold,
Treasure of the Silver Dragon,
Warrior Lords of Darok.
- Fantasy Trip, The: Death Test
Role-playing supplement in which warriors who
"clean" out a set of underground areas get to join the army of,
a powerful warlord, rank dependent on how well they do.
An interesting test with some nicely-programmed situations which are
something like puzzles that the players need to solve together.
None of the opponents are spellcasters and players who don't like magic
can thus choose not to use it either. Not much replay value
once successfully completed. Folow-up Death Test 2 is
more of the same, except that magic is required. Requires one
to three hours.
- Fantasy Trip, The: Grail Quest
Role-playing supplement has players taking the roles of King
Arthur's knights (i.e. experienced characters) crossing the
countryside in search of the legendary Holy Grail. Somewhat
distinctively from most programmed adventures, there are
considerable rules regarding how characters may behave. For
example, it is unchivalrous to use poison or potions. Characters
must pay their debts and cannot flee a fair fight. Good, solid
Guy McLimore; Metagaming; 1980; 1-5
- Fantasy Trip, The: Security Station
Role-playing supplement set in a post-nuclear holocaust fallout shelter.
One innovation is that the area is poor in metals thus the players must
roll randomly to see what weapons are available. Full advantage is also
taken of the "high tech" nature of the area which sometimes warps the
way that magic works. It would have been nice however if more
imagination had been devoted to the monsters which are often
just the usual giants, dragons and so on. Recovering odd bits
of metal is major treasure in this scenario.
- Far Seas, The
Two-player magazine wargame simulating the operations of the eight
German cruisers caught at sea at the outbreak of World War I and the
British, French, Japanese and Russian ships operating against them.
Readers of The Last Cruise of the Emden will be familiar with
this topic. The map is worldwide. Light and flavorful, but unfortunately
marred by poorly-written rules.
- Fast Carriers
Two player wargame of navy operations in the Pacific Ocean during
World War II. The basic unit of strategic movement is the task
force and there are innovative rules for search including amusing
rules instructing "lie freely concerning your whereabouts". At
the tactical level, there are displays to efficiently organize,
for example, the launch, use and landing of carrier aircraft.
Interesting system simulates several different prominent battles.
May run rather long.
- Fatal Alliances
Wargame simulating the First World War using the maps
and simplified concepts from the World War II game World in Flames. Although an
interesting idea, neither of the two editions of this experiment
work very well. The morale rules weigh heavily against the
Central Powers, for the fall of the Ottoman Empire triggers
a domino effect that causes its allies to fall ahistorically
quickly. Worse, it is rather easy for the Entente to bring the
Ottoman Empire down. It probably would have been better had a new
game been designed for the different realities of 1914 instead.
- Federation & Empire
Campaign wargame designed to go along with Starfleet
Battles, the tactical spaceship game based on the Star
Trek television series. Comes with two options, either
abstract combat on the galactic board or as a scenario generator
for battles to be resolved tactically. The latter is what
Starfleet Battles very much needs, but to actually play
it would require many, many hours. Prior to publication I had
actually invented and conducted a campaign with my own rules
which I still tend to prefer as more flavorful.
Multi-player abstract somewhat akin to Chess, as a
grid and pieces with special powers are used. Piece types
include the King, the Squire, Spearmen, Sergeants, Cavalry
(includes the Prince, the Duke, and two Knights) and the Archer.
Very intricate as well as difficult to plan as so many changes
occur on the board between turns.
Battery-operated action game featuring lava-colored marbles
rising from a rotating "volcano". The four players operate a
mechanism to block the marbles from entering their area
and instead shoot them into those of their opponents. Any
player who fails to block six marbles has his flag fall down
(although not reliably) and cannot win, but may still continue
to participate. The player with the fewest marbles wins. The
mechanism is not foolproof and over-enthusiastic players can
too easily shoot marbles completely out of the playing area. [Goliath
Once upon a time boardgames were adapted for use on the
computer. With this one, we see the reverse as a "get weapons
and shoot 'em up" is converted for the table. The luck factor
is high, not just in whether one gets a good weapon or gadget,
but whether one can get any at all. There is more luck involved
in where one appears after being fragged. At the same time it
seems doubtful that fans of the genre can get similarly excited
without the music, sound and special effects that normally
accompany the digital versions. One can admire the simple
and clean ways in which the three statistics Health, Accuracy
and Speed all work together in a smoothly-realized system,
the sort of thing publisher Steve Jackson already excelled at
long ago in games like Melee
and Wizard. Surprising that
a more realistic simultaneous movement system is not employed.
Large "cardboard heroes" with stands work well on the two-sided
paper board. Artwork is acceptable and appropriate for the
genre. It would have been nice to avoid repeatedly printing or
photocopying throwaway status sheets. And the more dice the better
as they also help as tracking devices for expendable ammunition.
Two expansion sets, Death Match and Deadlands,
seem to have been released simultaneously.
- Franco-Prussian War, The [SPI]
SPI wargame for two simulating the 1870 war between Prussia and
France. It seems difficult to avoid anything but an historical
result as the Germans simply dump enormous reinforcements to the
front from their superior rail lines. A completely different
game with the same title and subject was later published by 3W.
German light war game about Germans for up to four. Prussian
King Frederick the Great, also in control of his Hanoverian ally,
tries to stop the converging forces of Russia, France and
Austria/Holy Roman Empire. There are no zones of control or
combat results tables. There are supply depots and mild supply
rules. The unit of movement is an army, whose strength, being
recorded on paper, is generally unknown to the enemy. There
are no special leader abilities and random events tend to
arrive only when the game is nearly over, and even then, only
once per round. Movement is from point to point at a fixed
rate – no force marching – and is slightly improved by
roads. The most unusual aspect and biggest departure from
simulation is in the combat resolution and reinforcements
systems. Both essentially depend on play of traditional cards,
the familiar spades, hearts, diamonds and and clubs. The board
is divided into large grid areas, each labeled by one of the
suits. An army can only play combat cards that match the suit
of the area it's in. In combat, players take turns then,
adding cards whose rank (kings are converted to 13s, queens to
12s, etc.) is added back and forth, as if a virtual seesaw.
When an army cannot or will not play to take its total above
zero, he must both retreat and lose steps equal to the amount.
The Prussians have the largest hand size and are mostly on the
defensive so they often employ a trick of getting the result
to -1 and thereby slowly give ground. Reinforcements are
earned by turning in a large point value of cards – presumably
in a suit where combat is unlikely – to get one point. The
combat method deserves a lot of credit for bringing something
new to such systems. On the other hand it's a little athematic
when Prussia uses the same hand of cards to defend all of its
frontiers. Could these presumably intangible factors really
make such a difference in this era of relatively primitive
communications? Presentation-wise the first edition is a curious
mixture. For the most part it's wonderful, however, featuring
an absolutely gorgeous map on which every last town and burg
is labeled. But it also includes cardboard chits and, even
worse, chits to cut out of a postcard. But it's easy enough to
borrow cubes from some other game for this purpose. There is
also a very small amount of writing required. The ideal number
of players is two or three as otherwise the straightforward
France and Russia positions have little to do and there is too
much downtime for all. The main situation is really between
Austria and Prussia anyway and the game could easily have
focused only on this. This particular conflict, by the way,
can have some strange results such as opposing armies gettng
trapped behind enemy lines, a situation which the lenient
supply rules permit to persist for quite some time. The Freddy
the Great position is by far the most interesting one, but the
others can be helmed by those learning the game for the first
time. Game length is variable, but usually clocks in around
three hours. Not everyone enjoys the taste for direct
conflict, but for those who do, this is one of the better
Strategy: Medium; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 6
Richard Sivél; Histogame; 2004; 3-4
The rules do not appear to be clear on the point, but it seems
that several different groups have been flying on a plane and
crashed in a desert containing plenty of treasure but little
food. Thus like the Donner Party they may be forced to attack
and eat members of other parties, or, if worse comes to worst,
from their own. The game system
is rather interesting as all of the characters are placed face
down as are food, treasure and roads. Players may move around
and secure food by turning these up in the right order and
combination. There is a bit of a memory aspect which may bother
some players. Strategically it seems best to try to carve out
a private little area where one's weaker, more valuable members
can be protected and hope that food will be found there.
- Fury of Dracula [2nd Edition]
One-against-four game of hunting Dracula across the cities of
Europe. The best feature is the heart of the system, the rule that
Dracula must, with a few exceptions, always keep moving – in
general he may not stop or double back. This is very thematic as
clearly a character with his looks and proclivities wouldn't be
able to blend in anywhere for very long. But its implementation is
quite elegant as well. The Dracula player has a card for each city
and signfies travel by simply placing a new one, face down, at the
end of a queue. When the queue is full, the oldest card pops off
and that location is again available for travel. There are at least
two other nice features. Each of the four vampires hunters – von
Helsing, Lord Godalming, Mina Harker and Dr. Seward – has
different abilities/limitations, but not so starkly as to make one
preferable to another. Of course the hunters win and lose together
anyway. What's nice also is the combined event deck which often
provides great boons to hunters, but sometimes turn out to be
Dracula cards which go to his hand. Deciding when to draw one is
often a great dilemma. Oh but Dracula's game is a nervous one,
always trying to stay one step ahead and be unpredictable.
Meanwhile the hunters experience a sort of dissonance as they must
stalk their quarry, but encountering him is so dangerous that they
fear to do so. There is a rotating time of day track and much
depends on whether an encounter occurs at night or in daylight; the
rest on whether the hunters have found useful items. For this
reason Dracula should be most daring and active at the outset and
focus on being elusive toward the end. Some game aspects might have
been handled better. A playing will probably last at least two
hours, but possibly twice that. The combat system with its many
cards and options is very rich, but not necessarily smooth. Is this
rarely used feature really worth the level of complication revealed
by a rather large combat chart? There also seem to be some strange
queue situations that can arise from use of multiple special cards
which might be better explained by the rules. Then there is the
rule by which Dracula can stop train moves via card. This
interrupt-style rule on a relatively minor game feature really slows
down play and could easily have been handled differently. Handling
of the presentation is very attractive. There are a very large
number of gorgeous cards – items, events, locations, etc.
The map is both handsome and practical, easily able to accommodate
the five, unpainted plastic figures. Each player also has a mat
with handy information and places to store cards, which is
especially useful if a player is running multiple characters.
There is even a mini-map Dracula can use for planning. Overall this
is a very nice thematic experience with the twin downsides of
going on too long and possible player elimination. Something closer
to the length of the similar
would have focused on the main situation and allowed more players
to try their hand at running Dracula – an important issue in this
sort of assymmetrical game. I'm left pondering one question. I can
see Dracula as cold, scary, romantic, sneaky, mysterious, but where
does fury come into it? Hmmm, if he's a thousand years old maybe
some parts have fallen off? Is dat what make he so mean?
Strategy: High; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 6
- Fury of the Norsemen
Tactical wargame in a medieval setting about dreaded vikings
plundering a fictional village in northern France. Even if
one can get over the distasteful topic of the murder of the
helpless, not particularly innovative in its mechanisms. Title
comes from the plaintive recorded prayer of a medieval monk,
"O Lord, from the fury of the Norsemen, deliver us."
Please forward any comments and additions for this site to