Spotlight on Games > 1001 Nights of Military Gaming

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Legend of Robin Hood
Avalon Hill game has players each representing one of Robin Hood's famous cronies competing to raise the most money for the poor. Play is card-driven and highly random, certainly not deserving of serious play.
Legend of the Lost Dutchman
Very atmospheric game simulating expeditions to find a legendary pot of gold in the old Southwest. An interesting desktop-published game worth replaying, with excellent background notes. Chaos factor in luck of the draw and rolling to find treasure is fairly high however. Strategically, ledges seem to be not worth the effort while caves are more likely to produce. [Simulations Workshop]
Martin Wallace invention on the French Revolution is further removed from a military game than some of Warfrog's previous outings. Here the primary activity is cardplay to place some from what is an orgy of wooden tiles onto corresponding map territories. When one of the three colors is exhausted, each area is consulted to see which side has triumphed. Then, similar to a stock market game, the players who have been first and second in this color receive points, as does the top player in the color which did second best. The neat twist, with German game flavor, is that each winning stack is weakened by one (the maximum is three) so that victory will be less likely in the next game turn. Also available for "investment" are battles, completely abstract, intended as a "catch-up" strategy for whoever is in last place; it sometimes seems to help that way. But in general it's much better to have an ally and for this reason it seems best to have at least five playing. Perhaps those who re-named Attila "the Stockbroker" should now be talking about Robespierre the Stockbroker (but I haven't heard it yet). It remains rather unclear also just who the players really represent. The theme does come through, however, in some ways: the historical leader names (unfortunately sans any background information); the strong red, white and blue coloration; the names, "Terror", "Guillotine", "Emigration", etc. on the "take that" cards; the importance of Paris; the dominance of the Radicals there and the power of the Royalists on the frontiers. In fact the board serves only a thematic purpose, but the payoff is so small and the ease-of-play consequence so large that another way, e.g large tiles sortable by dominant side, perhaps should have been employed instead. As it is, tallying up everything is quite difficult and if players do so mid-turn, matters become quite lengthy. The other novelty is perhaps the best feature of all: as in life itself, the victory conditions are uncertain. If one player dominates the Moderates and appears to be winning, his opponents can try to achieve the equivalent of a coup and cause a completely different set of victory conditions to apply. Actually, this idea has been used before, but it's been a while: in Russian Civil War (SPI, 1976). This rule, by the way, ends the game prematurely, leading to a wide variance in length, perhaps from ninety to one hundred and fifty minutes. An important downside here is that only by the fifth playing will the complicated deck be well enough known to do it justice. Minor complaints: There is perhaps too much luck of the draw as the drafting mechanism does not go far enough. There are different ways of resolving all the different ties that can arise – couldn't this have been standardized in an elegant way? Just as with Empires of the Ancient World, there are errors and omissions on both the cards and the board – these games are better than the graphics treatment they are receiving. Compared to other Warfrog efforts, it only partly avoids the too-flexible bashing of Way Out West, and while reducing length, does not quite achieve the theme and fun of Empires of the Ancient World. On the other hand, if one wants something on this topic, it is more fun to play than La Révolution Française. As the player information comprises two sides of a A4 sheet of paper, is probably best for those who want games as least as complex as El Grande with expansions. Strategy notes: it is ridiculously easy for the Royalists to achieve their victory conditions on turn three unless those opposing it are extremely vigilant. Also, if going for the battle option, be sure to save the general until the last round as he is otherwise easy to pick off with a special card. [background]
Martin Wallace
Light Speed
Fast action multi-player card game of spaceships firing lasers at one another, reminiscent of Deep Space Navigator. Cards are played to the table turnlessly. Once one player has finished, this phase ends and combat begins. Starting with the slowest ships, each uses a straightedge to extend the laser paths on their cards until a target is hit, upon which damage markers are placed. The object is only to cause the most destruction. There is not much strategy here as the likely winner is simply the one who can get cards down fastest. This assumes that the game ever ends, a detail which the instructions never bother to quantify. Does each ship fire only once or do they continue until all matters resolve? This omission is very surprising after hearing publisher James Ernest's complaints at the Kublacon 2003 game design contest. Apparently one submission forgot to mention that its frogs are moved according to a die roll while another neglected to include that combat is won by the higher total. How is this worse? Nor is this all as the rules covering ship shields are particuarly vague as well. Now it would be downright silly to mention that in spherical geometry a line which extends forever eventually loops around the world and comes back to its origin and there is no rule to cover this, so I won't. But a serious omission is that as players rush to place their cards, there will be accidents, collisions, overlappings... the instructions say this is illegal, but provide no remedy for what to do when it inevitably occurs. This is more distinctive experience than strategy, but may be useful for breaking down tensions in groups where a party game is not acceptable. Caveat: quite a few bits in five colors must be supplied to make this work.
Lords of the Renaissance
Very atmospheric wargame realization of the era. [more] [summary] [errata] [variant] [analysis]
Philip Eklund; Sierra Madre Games Games of the Italian Renaissance]
Lords of the Sierra Madre
The lawless Old Southwest in the late 19th and early 20th century. Tons of flavor and very historical. For 4-8 players and as many hours. The game really needs time to fully develop opportunities for all players. Those who have problems deciphering the rules might want to consult my rewrite. [sequence] [action summary] [smelter summary] [analysis] [background] [errata] [variant] [playback] [cards list]
Philip Eklund; Sierra Madre Games
Lords of the Spanish Main
Phil Eklund game for up to eight set in the Caribbean of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Yes, every publisher needs a pirates game and now Sierra Madre has one, the only puzzle being why it took so long.  Players can represent anyone from Spanish viceroys to Cardinal Richelieu to Sir Walter Raleigh or Sir Francis Drake.  It is assymmetric in that one player controls the treasure fleet (who it is can change) which sails every ten turns while the others can be pirates if they wish.  But it's the fact of two ways to make money that is the point of the game, the other being to sail as a merchant to willing colonies, an activity that earns both the fleet and the colony owner gold.  The basic turn structure takes the same form as other Sierra Madre games:  a drawn card is auctioned – colonies, fleets, special powers – and players pay for them turn by turn under the installment plan.  They then take their individual turns raiding and trading.  Nearly everything is negotiable and when there are at least four players, this should help prevent a runaway leader, as the trailing can collude.  But it seems quite possible for there to be "fallaway losers", i.e.  players who drop out of contention without a chance of coming back. For example, several colonies are classified as "pearl beds", a type which the map legend helpfully points out, disappear as a result of 5% of the events.  Of course players can temper their spending for such colonies, but they are rare enough that even if not much was paid for it, losing them can be pretty devastating to a player's hopes and options.  One possible fix (thanks, Mike Siggins) may be that the instructions specify an improved starting position for late-arriving players:  let a player choose a new character if desired once per game.  There is a fair amount of negotiation and price-setting here, though some of it can be automatic. Most matters are fairly straightforward, so it does not have to be a heavy negotiations scene unless players want it to be.  The same goes for role-playing aspects, which though fun, take a lot of extra time.  This feature is nice to have, but not required for fun to ensue.  The optimal number of players is likely 4-6 and such a group can probably finish in 3-4 hours if not role-playing.  Combat is cleverly handled without dice.  Instead each player chooses secretly from one of four options and cross-references the result on a table, the important factors being fleet strength, seamanship quality and the weather vane, in effect working their way though a state table.  Physically, the production is more or less typical for this self-publishing company with a thin, but full color map and less color on the cards and mats.  There are 120 cards to cut out which paradoxically means that this game tends to be worth more punched than unpunched.  There is considerable use of red text on blue backgrounds which I find jarring as it makes the eye jump.  In addition the player markers look too similar – Siggins suggests borrowing cubes from another game, which would leave the markers available for use in recording payment plans.  Players also need to provide a quantity of coins to play. The player mats do carry a lot of useful information.  Some of the cards on the other hand probably have too much information – the very small print does not help – and it's not unusual for a player to forget that he has a certain power, even should he need it.  My preference would be to allow players a larger hand size, but let each card have just one very clear function.  I think this might help straighten things out in players' minds.  Because the systems have probably been designed asking the question "how would this work in real life?" rather than having an internal architecture from the start, there are some ambiguities in the instructions, which at the time of this writing are being ironed out in new errata.  Another obstacle to easy understanding is that some features are somewhat unusual, e.g. collecting income by rotating a card or sailing the sea without having any piece to put on the board, so players cannot rely much on their experience with other games.  And there is the obstacle that there is a large number of exceptions and special cases.  Gabe Alvaro has counted 116 uses of the word "if" and this doesn't include possible uses on the cards.  Exceptions tend to hamper crisp and correct play, but on the other hand, omitting them would have a cost in flavor.  In the end it remains a taste issue, but all these factors mean this is not really suitable for a novice group, though I've little doubt any novice can learn it if taught.  Thematically then, it's quite strong, though the nature of colonies, being auctioned off rather than founded is a bit jarring.  The chaos level is somewhat high as well.  Although the unbalanced deck relies on the auction mechanism for proper costing, if things appear at a time when funds are not available, this can be skewed.  On the other hand, as only a third or fewer of the cards are used, a waited-for card may never arrive.  Actually, it might be a good variant to double the number of new cards arriving every turn to provide more variety from turn to turn. Certainly the surprise of new things, and the way they force re-considerations, is one of the game's chief delights.  Finally, for those of you keeping score at home, just as in other Sierra Madre games, not only does this one include a comet, but the designer has managed to even put himself in the game, in a way.  For history geeks, there's plenty more as well. [background] [summary] [quick setup] [errata]
Strategy: Medium; Theme: High; Tactics: High; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 7
Philip Eklund; Sierra Madre Games 2006; 3-8
Lost Worlds
The popular book game format of Ace of Aces transported to the world of fantasy medieval combat. Although not bad, mostly of interest to fantasy fans, particularly as games seem to develop into well-worn patterns. Now being published by Greysea LLC.
Very early wargame designed by Lou Zocchi, for years a distributor in the Southeast. May be the first to ever simulate air combat. This one concentrates on strategic air bombing in Europe during World War II. The Allied player plans bombing raids on a private map while the Axis player deploys fighter aircraft in an attempt to shoot them down. Although there is a surprisingly-wide variety of different aircraft with differing characteristics available, combat is handled very abstractly and even worse, if an aircraft type decides to drop extra fuel tanks to gain maneuverability, all aircraft of this type across this board must also drop tanks.
Lunatix Loop
Auto racing game with the possibility of causing damage via ramming or substances dropped on the track such as oil, glue or tacks. Elegant system features each player choosing one function card a turn, providing a real-life, simultaneous feel without the annoyance of having to actually write out orders. Damage is measured in terms of maximum speed on a facsimile speedometer. Strategically, the best idea usually seems to be to avoid the lead and consequent damage in the early going, but to keep close, and then to try to be the fastest car on the last couple of turns. Difficult strategic choices raise interest considerably above the typical auto racing game. But too many racers seem afraid to take large risks. The fact is, you can survive going several tens of miles per hour over the limit in a curve provided you go to the inside lane and have at least one luck chip. An interesting tidbit: in this game about East German cars the German rules use the term "Wende-Karten". "Wende" generally means turnabout or changing direction by 180, i.e. U-turn. But since 1989 it has also often been associated with East Germany in a political way, with many referring to the events of 1989 as before "Wende" and after "Wende". And an East German person who would prefer to return the communist times is called "Wendehals", i.e. wryneck. [Locust Games]
Lunch Money
Multi-player card game based on the model presented in Nuclear War, with a few alterations, in particular, many more defenses and virtually no setup requirements in card play. Constructed around the ugly theme of beating up children for their lunch money, encourages players to get even uglier by announcing exactly what form their attacks are taking. Rather than being cartoonish, card art is dark in both coloration and spirit, although nicely realized by Carta Mundi. Unfortunately these cards do not contain enough text to explain how they work. Also, it is another of those like Rette Sich Wer Kann, in which players must choose to pick on some other player for no particular reason at all (at least in Nuclear War there was some advantage in choosing the player to your immediate right). Here's a suggestion: maybe you should just go ahead and choose whoever brought and suggested this game for play. [Take That! Card Games]
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