Play my games online, sort of…

One thing I have had to learn lately, in the process of playtesting my COIN system French-Algerian War game, is how to use VASSAL.

This word, not really an acronym, once stood for “Virtual ASL (Advanced Squad Leader)” because it had originally been programmed by people who wanted to play that game remotely, online, and in real time, as the next step forward from PBEM or PBF (Play By E-Mail, a method of playing a game by correspondence where you record your move in some fashion and then e-mail that to your opponent; and Play By Forum, where players submit their moves to an online forum, discussion board, etc..). But now it has grown into a strong application with which almost any board game can be converted into a version playable online, and it’s all free.

I knew how powerful this thing was, and how much potential it has, but just never found the time to do anything with it, either to play games (as I have hardly any time to play anything except my own stuff) or to write modules for my stuff (as I am the world’s worst programmer, even when programming is not involved!). I have never liked computer games, period; I am an old-school-cardboard, face-to-face experience man.

But now more and more playtesting is done through VASSAL, and it makes a lot of sense: no requirement to get people together physically; changes can be made to a single module in a central location as the game develops; and any number of games can be played at the same time, with results noted. It’s also great for making very old, long out-of-print games available again for people who can never own a copy. I’m grateful for all this, but I think I’m still a long way from designing my first module successfully.

Meanwhile, energetic folks have made VASSAL modules of my games, on their own time, and they are available for free on the central website at http://www.vassalengine.org. You can get the following titles:

Thanks to Michel Boucher, Martin Hogan, David Janik-Jones, and Joel Toppen for their work.

I mentioned PBEM – before VASSAL there was another program that allowed this, called Cyberboard (http://cyberboard.brainiac.com/index.html). It is only for Windows systems and stopped development about 5 years ago, but there are a lot of “gameboxes” available for it still. It’s also useful for creating new games: Dr. Phil Sabin of King’s College London swears by it for creating prototypes. Cyberboard gameboxes are available for these titles:

Many more PBEM resources available from Mr. Walter O’Hara’s comprehensive Emporium:  http://pbem.brainiac.com/

Thanks to Walter O’Hara, Mike Welsh, and Noel Wright for making these.

I also need to mention Limey Yank Games (http://www.limeyyankgames.co.uk/lyg/), which also makes hundreds of modules and gameboxes available to players, including some of mine: 

Thanks to Andy Loakes, and Daryl Anderson who contributed the gameboxes.

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Shining Path now on sale through One Small Step!

folio edition cover

SHINING PATH, my game on the “Sendero Luminoso” insurgency against the government of Peru, is now available from One Small Step Games, in folio format.

Getcher copy at http://ossgamescart.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6&products_id=48 .

Nifty map, 140 two-sided die-cut counters, $22.95 not including shipping!

The BTR Games DTP-quality edition of the game has been withdrawn while this edition is in print.

Andartes and Green Beret available in DTP format!

Hello all,

Constant Readers will have figured this out by now, but I am announcing two game designs by me, self-published, in DTP format (meaning mount and cut your own counters). It is like going full circle to 20 years ago, with the Microgame Design Group, but this is the way I want to do it, and finally get it done. I got friend John Kula to do the map, cover art and counters (Grognards will remember John’s artwork on the covers of Simulations Canada games).

I have made up a limited number of copies of each. Games are US$15 each, this includes postage to anywhere in the world. Autographed on request. I take (and prefer) Paypal; email me at brian.train@gmail.com.

Andartes cover

ANDARTES

This is the very original version of my Greek Civil War game. I designed it in 2007-08; it uses a development of the Algeria/Shining Path game system. Though it is about the same war as the Decision Games version, and has some of the same chrome (Stalin Score, American aid), it plays very differently and is a more ambitious design all round.

Game comes with a colour cover, 11×17″ colour map and 280 colour counters; counters are on a big sticker sheet so you don’t have to apply the glue yourself (though you do need to find some cardboard to stick it to, and cut the counters yourself). Usual rules and charts.

GB Cover

GREEN BERET

Green Beret is a game on the counterinsurgency in the Central Highlands of Vietnam in 1964-65, just as the war passed out of its “advisory” stage. The Viet Cong player attempts to infiltrate, gain control of the population, and destroy Free World units (Militia and Strikeforces of the Civilian Irregular Defense Program, units of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, and A-teams of the Special Forces) where possible. The Free World player attempts to stop this by “winning hearts and minds” and detecting, interdicting, and destroying Communist units (Local Forces, Guerrilla companies, Main Force battalions, Cadres and Supply units).

I designed a card version of this game in 1996-97, and it was published for a short while by Simulations Workshop. I think only about 100 copies were made. One of them sits in the library of the JFK Special Warfare Centre at Ft. Bragg (or maybe it doesn’t, if someone had a tidying fit). In 2008 I made a map-and-counter revision of it, it wandered around and in fall 2013 Decision Games bounced it back to me after deciding it was not the sort of thing they thought players would want in Modern War magazine.

Game comes with a colour cover, 11×17″ colour map and 140 double-sided colour counters; counters are on a big sticker sheet so you don’t have to apply the glue yourself (though you do need to find some cardboard to stick it to, and cut the counters yourself). Usual rules and charts. Scenarios include 1964-5 free deployment using two different methods, 1964-5 historical, and 1962-3 Operation Switchback scenario.

Thanks for your interest!

COMING SOON – The Scheldt Campaign

cover – all artwork by Kerry Anderson

Kerry Anderson has done some wonderful artwork on The Scheldt Campaign and the game will soon be ready for release through the Microgame Design Group. This game will feature a 17×22″ map and 244 die-cut counters!

This will be the first board wargame to focus exclusively on the clearing of the Scheldt Estuary by the First Canadian Army, an important campaign that has received scant interest in history.

CSW discussion area at http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX/.1dd6f4d9/0?14@@

BGG game entry at http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/125416/the-scheldt-campaign for a look at some graphics samples (well, they are all reproduced here, but can be viewed at different sizes there).

small section of the map

small section of the map

The game uses a heavily adapted version of the Staff Card system first seen in Joe Miranda’s seminal game Bulge 20

Each player has a C2 Level which represents the maximum number of Staff cards he may have in his hand at any one time. The current C2 Level also determines how many Tactical Units the player may have under command of a single Task Force HQ at one time. Also, the mix of Staff Cards differs between the German and Allied sides.

Each Player selects his hand of Staff Cards from those in his Available Pile during his Planning Phase at the end of his Player Turn. Cards remain in your hand until played or your ensuing Planning Phase, at which time you keep or discard any cards in your hand and then select back up to your current C2 Level (thus planning out your next turn).

In the game you have four kinds of staff cards, with the following functions:

G-1 (Administration):

  • Enter reinforcement units (not in Isolated hexes);
  • Recover 1-3 Hits from Tactical Units (only one card per Tactical unit, and if not Isolated)

G-2 (Intelligence):

  • Regroup Tactical Units in Operations Zone of a Task Force HQ;
  • Play in Battle sequence to take or keep Tactical Advantage (first fire);
  • Play any time to inspect enemy card hand or OOB Mat for 30 seconds

G-3 (operations):

  • Conduct Tactical Movement with one unit (which can be anything from a single battalion to a Task Force HQ fully loaded with combat brigades and supporting arms);
  • Conduct an Attack

G-4 (Logistics):

  • conduct Strategic Movement (either triple MF with one unit, or cross-Scheldt movement with one Tactical Unit);
  • Play in Commitment step of Battle sequence to give Combat Support (German can play one for artillery; Allied can play one for artillery and one for Air Support)

Also, the combat system uses multiple dice so that units wear away as they take hits and become less capable. There are never enough Staff Cards so you have to balance out the need to push on vs. the risk of burning out your front line units.

section of the counter sheet

section of the counter sheet