Homefront Wargame Center

…supporting our hobby!

Posts Tagged ‘DVG’

“Operation Red Nose”: the HFC Game Meeting March 2011

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on April 5, 2011

"Operation Red Nose" - 4 days of eating, drinking, and non-stop gaming!

This years’ HFC & Friends Game Meeting was again held around the days that are known in Germany as ‘Karneval’ or ‘Fasnacht’ and which is a time when folks start wearing silly costumes, drinking a lot and dancing to a very weird form of music 😉

Since we don’t belong to those who take part in such strange rites, we usually use the time to prepare ourselves with beer, food, and games and then just close the door for a few days of gaming. A good friend of ours, Wolfgang,  who is living in Mainz (also a city which is ruled by the ‘fools’ during this time) then comes over to join us and so he arrived on Friday, quite early. Denny and I got some new cool games over the year which he didn’t know yet, and we were also eager to get some multiplayer games going with games we could only play with two players so far, so we were looking forward to some great game sessions.

When Wolfgang arrived, we started with a little chitchat and had a beer for starters and then we prepared the gaming table. He was very interested in trying out some LCGs about which we talked before and he had some first impressions about the core gameplay of these sort of card games when he played Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers on the Xbox 360 (it’s not a LCG, but not actually a CCG either, so it’s a game in-between with pre-built decks and limited possibilities to customize your deck). But he at least knew the basic gameplay and he liked it, so he was interested to see how a real LCG would be played face to face.

Call of Cthulhu (LCG)

The first game: Call of Cthulhu (LCG)

The first game on the table was Call of Cthulhu (FFG), which is the easiest of the three LCGs published by FFG so far. Since we all love Arkham Horror and the Lovecraft theme, this game seemed to be a good introduction to the LCG genre. We set it up, I explained the basic Sequence of Play and then we started playing right away, using the player aid sheet that we had printed out and laminated before, to make things as easy as possible.

Wolfgang chose the Miskatonic University deck and I played a Shub-Niggurath deck, all of which were mono decks. By now, we own enough Asylum Packs to play all factions of the game as mono decks, and although for some players out there this doesn’t seem to be the best way to play the game competitively, we decided to use mono for Wolfgang’s introductory games for several reasons. First, it’s easier for a new player to see how a faction in a pure format is played, how it feels, and he will soon realize the strengths and the weak points of that faction. To know the specific strengths and weaknesses of a given faction is an important prerequisite for deck customization.To give Wolfgang a very harsh and brutal impression of each fashion, we even removed the neutral cards from all decks, so that he could feel the raw characteristics of each faction without any fine tuning and balancing. The intention was to show him the options for deckbuilding and deck enhancements by chosing a certain focus, adding neutral cards, or even by building a combi deck with a second faction, which will eventually lead to a deck that works great. If you don’t know the characteristics of a certain faction, you don’t really know how to counter their weaknesses or how to maximize their strong aspects.

CoC gaming table

Apart from this, we generally don’t mix all factions wildly together because we love to play the game based more on theme than on raw competition power, so Denny and I also chose our decks based on the humans vs cultists dichotomy that is part of the Lovecraft stories. Denny is playing all cultist/Old Ones factions while I am playing the Syndicate, Miskatonic University and the Agency. In our games, we pimp these factions with neutral cards but seldom mix them with the other factions, it just feels right for us to actually play from a certain story perspective.

The first game indeed showed that the Miskatonic University (with all their professors and students, who are well-educated and learned in old scriptures dealing with arcane content) is a difficult faction to play without any neutral cards. The MU is quite strong in the arcane and investigation struggles, but really weak in terror and combat. That means if you are sending out some of these academics to investigate what’s happening, they might have the knowledge to solve the arcane and investigation struggles but they are easily frightened by anything supernatural. So before they can use their strengths to get some success tokens on a story, they often will flee the scene because of a lost terror struggle or be dead and out of the game after an attack by the monsters lurking around.

Shubb-Niggurath vs. Miskatonic University

Shub-Niggurath, on the other hand, is quite strong in terror and combat, but lacks on the investigation side, so usually this deck doesn’t score a point in the investigation struggle, even if no one is around to stand against them. Therefore, bringing success tokens on the story is taking some time and the fastest way to achieve this is by eliminating the opponent’s characters with terror and combat, so at least you get the additional success token for being unchallenged in a story. The match MU vs. SN seemed to be a bad choice at first and very unbalanced as the first game was a complete domination of my Shub-Nigurrath faction over the MU, who never really got thru because of losing the first two struggles (terror and combat). Afterwards, we decided to play a second game with the same factions nonetheless, because Wolfgang didn’t want to base his judgement about this particular faction on his first game alone, so now feeling a bit more competent and knowing what the MU faction can do – and what not, we shuffled the cards and started again.

This time – and that’s the beauty of the game, really – things went completely different and not really well for me. I wasn’t able to bring out characters in the first turns at all and in later turns only some weak ones while Wolfgang had some great guys on the table, who were able to limit my actions and could control the game by their various character abilities. He hit me fast and hard with some spells, which limited me even further and he actually rushed me and won quite easily this time. Since I couldn’t send out some of my better characters to challenge him, he had not to deal with the terror and combat struggles as much as in our first game. Some of his abilities changed all terror or combat struggles into ones that could only be won with investigation icons and since that’s not the strength of Shub-Niggurath, I usually lost these as well as the genuine investigation struggles. So the second game ended with an easy victory for the MU and it was a good example how even such an unbalanced combination of factions in a game can be won by the faction that is considered the weaker one if things go right for them.

Still, the MU usually has a hard time alone and makes for a much better support faction in a combi deck, so a strong partner who can deal with terror and combat is able to cover their backs, while they can use their arcane and investigation icons to keep standing after being involved in a story and collect success tokens on a regular base.

Generally, Wolfgang liked the game and stated “that it demonstrates very well the strong aspect of LCGs –  very simple game mechanics, but still lots of tactical/strategic options and the possibility to play it according to your very own ideas with the customization of the decks”. This ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ nature of the game appealed to him and so he said: “Let’s try out another LCG!”.

Warhammer Invasion (LCG)

The next game: Warhammer Invasion (LCG)

So we prepared the gaming table for the next LCG, one step up in complexity and options (complexity is a relative term here, of course, because compared with a consim, all LCGs are quite simple) and that was Warhammer: Invasion.

Warhammer: Invasion is based on the Warhammer Fantasy universe, a different universe than the known Warhammer 40k universe, and we only own the core set so far. Thus, when using only the core set, you simply choose your faction from the pre-built decks in the box, spice up this basic deck with 10 random neutral cards and you are ready to go. Wolfgang stuck to a human faction as he did in the previous game, so he chose the Empire. As in CoC, Denny and I had divided the factions among us – she’s playing the Orcs, the Chaos etc. and I’m going into battle with the Dwarfs and the Empire. I didn’t have any problems with Wolfgang’s choice because this would allow me to play a faction which was completely new to me as well. I wanted to try out the Chaos, so after choosing sides and dealing out the neutral cards, we laid out the citadels and the war-horns were blowing…

The Chaos was crushed by the Empire

Using our player aid sheets and the rulebook, we got into the game easily and it didn’t take long before we were engaged with each other, thinking about our possibilities. I had some form of deja vu however, because I couldn’t really bring out many characters. What I had on my hand was expensive and so I had some troubles to defend my citadel while lacking the force to really attack his one. The game went on with some discussions about the rules and the card wordings, which is still a general problem of this whole genre. You are easily disappointed when you come to the game with a consim mind, expecting some clear and extensive rules about all details of the game. One has to adapt to a very literal understanding of the cards’ wording to not get into trouble about how some cards are used and especially when to use them.

In the mid game, I was able to bring out better characters and at least could stand against the fast Empire deck for some time, but in the end I lost. Apparently, you have to get used to the abilities and characters of the Chaos faction if you want to be successful, so we decided to shuffle the decks and used the same cards for a rematch.

This time I had some great cards in my starting hand and was able to bring out some good characters and cards that created corruption to the enemy, while my characters could gain strength thru their corruption! I had some nice little synergies in effect and prepared for some major attack… when the Empire cleared the battlefield with a card that killed all characters in play who were not in a zone with a developement! I didn’t have any developments in play because I planned to use my cards offensively and Wolfgang had only a few characters out and one developement which saved a good character.

As scary as the dark forces of Chaos: The cake, forged by orcs in the depths of Mordor, made of blood and steel

So I saw myself totally open to the enemy with all my good cards and my smart little synergy plan destroyed in one single sweep. Things went bad again for my Chaos faction from then on, I didn’t get any good cards anymore or at least not cards I could afford with my now limited resources and from my citadel I could watch Wolfgang preparing for battle with more and more troops. In the end he had out a dozen cards both for the attack and the defense while I could barely bring out a little demon then and now before everything was killed again and so that game ended also with a glorious victory of the Empire over the Chaos.

This game was even more appealing to him because of the nice touch of options you get with the three zones in play, but the cards and rules questions that came up were a bit disappointing for him. The problem is not so much the fact that a game which uses many different cards and effects and time frames to play cards and defend against cards, has some ambiguous aspects in the wordings of rules and card texts, but the unsatisfying situation that there’s not really any answer to get by the designer(s). When you look for some answers that might help you to clarify specific points, you usually only have the official FAQ and the forum over at FFG or BGG.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Events and Conventions, Gaming this weekend, HFC, Wargaming in general | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review: Lightning: D-Day!

Posted by Denny Koch on February 25, 2011

Game: Lightning: D-Day!

Publisher: Decision Games
Published in: 2004
Designers: Dan Verssen
Era: World War II, D-Day (Normandy invasion)
Game Type: Card game
Players: 2
Contents: 110 full color cards, Quick Play rules
Average Playing Time: 30 min

HFC Game-O-Meter: E


Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 7
Rules: 6
Playability:
9
Replay Value:
5

Overall Rating: 7.5

PRO Very short playing time, almost no setup time: perfect starter, filler, or closer game; nice historical photos, small box and quick gameplay = perfect travel game, strategically challenging, tough time limit, amazingly high simulation value, very short rules…
CONTRA …which may be too short and imprecise for some players, artwork somewhat boring, not too much variety

Introduction

A card game about the Normandy invasion 1944

Lightning: D-Day! was the first game of the “Lightning Series” by designer Dan Verssen, a game series consisting of five very small and fast card games. Other games in the series are Lightning: Midway, Lightning: North Africa, Lightning: Poland, and the contemporary Lightning: War on Terror.

We own the game for several years now and we also had a small review on our old HFC website, but we recently “rediscovered” it and decided that this game is cool and needs a new review in our ambitious Operation Review Reset.

The Lightning games are famous for their speedy gameplay, very short rules (1 sheet of paper!), and low setup time. They can be played within 30 minutes, but they still offer a strategical challenge and are a tough nut to crack. Lightning D-Day isn’t an exception from this rule; the Allied player fights against a brutal time limit while the German player tries to slow him down and to make his advance as costly as possible.

As the name suggests, Lightning: D-Day! deals with the Allied Normandy invasion on June 6th, 1944. One player controls the Allied forces (US, British, and Canadian units), the other player controls the German forces. There is no game board; the play area is defined by five beach cards which represent the historical landing areas (named Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, and Utah beach by the Allies).

Gaining control over Omaha Beach is much harder than controlling the other 4 beaches

Both players control a fixed number of units or Forces per beach (3-4) which represent the historical units from both sides, for example the Canadian 3rd Inf., the British 7th Armored, or the US I Corps on the Allied side or the 21st Panzer, 352nd  Infantry on the German side. In addition, both players have draw decks of Action cards which heavily influence the combat. Action cards can lower or raise the attack or defense value of units (by representing bunkers, squad cohesion, artillery, the chaos of battle) or add special bonuses to a beach, for example by placing the famous 101st and 82nd Airborne there. Stragglers on the Allied side and reinforcements on the German side can further fortify a landing zone.

A game is played over 5 turns, each turn representing roughly one hour. Each turn, the conditions for the Allied player improve, representing his successful landing and advance on the beaches. After five turns, the number of beaches controlled by the Allied player is counted. The game outcome or victory level depends on the number of beaches in Allied hands. The Allies have to control at least four of the five beaches to achieve the historical outcome; less than four beaches mean a draw or a German victory.

Because of the time limit of five turns and the limited number of actions each player can resolve on a beach, one game doesn’t take longer than 30 minutes which makes the game a perfect starter, filler, or closer game on a game meeting when there isn’t much time left for a larger wargame or for “warming up” before moving over to the more complex games.

Despite being a small and fast card game, Lightning D-Day is challenging and requires strategical decision-making and planning in advance for both players.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Games A-Z, Historical Games A-Z, Lightning Series, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review: Hornet Leader – Carrier Air Operations (DVG)

Posted by Denny Koch on February 3, 2011

Game: Hornet Leader – Carrier Air Operations

Publisher: DVG
Published in: 2010
Designer: Dan Verssen
Era and Topic: Contemporary / Historical and Hypothetical / Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground warfare
Components: 330 Full Color Cards, 2 Full Color Counter Sheets (352 counters), 8 Full Color Campaign Sheets (Libya 1986, WWIII North Atlantic 1986, Iraq 1991, Israel Defense 2003, North Korea 2007, Taiwan Defense 2008, Russia 2012, Iran 2014), 11″x17″ Mounted Tactical Sheet, Full Color Player Aid Sheets
Game Type: Mixed: Board, counters, card-driven

HFC Game-O-Meter: D


Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 9.5
Rules: 7
Playability:
9
Replay Value:
10

Overall Rating: 9

PRO Awesome presentation; excellent production quality; heavy box crammed with cool stuff; historical and hypothetical scenarios; solitaire game which can be played as 2-player cooperative game; tough decision-making; interesting mix of tactical and operational gameplay; large variant of aircraft; world-wide missions; various adaptable difficulty-levels for beginners up to experts; Navy and Marines variants; lots of “chrome” adds to the atmosphere; rulebook includes background information about weapons and friendly aircraft…
CONTRA …but no information or design notes about enemy units; no hints about coop gameplay included in the rulebook; service years and aircraft type should have been printed on the counters for easy reference; only one log sheet in the game box


Introduction

We are big fans of Thunderbolt Apache Leader (GMT), so we were looking forward to Dan Verssen’s Hornet Leader – Carrier Air Operations, the latest game in DVG’s Leader Series.

Believe it or not, the "Solitaire game" Hornet Leader is one of the best cooperative wargames ever!

We are also notorious for our special interest in cooperative games, so we were really delighted when we discovered that Hornet Leader (HL) isn’t only an excellent solitaire game but also a very challenging 2-player cooperative game experience which requires much teamwork, planning, and tough decision-making.

In Hornet Leader, you are in command of a Navy aircraft squadron, stationed on an aircraft carrier. The game is scenario based and offers historical and hypothetical contemporary scenarios ranging from Libya 1986, Iraq: Operation Desert Storm 1991, Israel Defense 2003, North Korea 2007, Taiwan Defense 2008 up to WWIII North Atlantic 1986, Taiwan Defense 2008, Russia 2012 or Iran 2014.

Scenarios (“Campaigns“) come in various difficulty levels, ranging from introductory to expert. You can also “tweak” all scenarios if you want them to be easier or more challenging by adding “advantages” or “disadvantages”. In addition, you can choose to play each scenario as an US Navy or US Marines squadron which means that you have different aircraft at your disposal (because Marines carriers are smaller and operate closer to the shoreline) and different rules regarding the target zones of your attacks. You can also play each Campaign as a short, medium, or long campaign, depending on how much playing time you have at your disposal. Combined with the fact that you face different enemies each time you play the scenario, this system ensures a very high replay value.

There are different types of mission, you don't destroy targets day in, day out - sometimes, you also fly Search & Rescue Missions or protect your own fleet

The main objective of the game is to fly “Missions” where you destroy enemy ground units, for example tanks and convoys, stationary installations (Radar stations, factories) or fight enemy fighter squadrons or fleets. There is a large variety of available targets which have different special traits as well as variable numbers of protective ground units and/or fighters. Some are easy to destroy, some are tough nuts. Some can be destroyed in addition to a primary mission as a secondary target. Each destroyed target is worth a certain number of Victory Points, so you have to pick your targets carefully.

The game is an interesting mix of card game with a game board (“Tactical Display Sheet”) and counter system. Aircraft are represented by cards (and counters while flying a mission), their weapons are counters. Random events and the composition of enemy forces are determined by card draw, the main target is represented by a card, but you fight ground forces and enemy aircraft which are randomly drawn counters on the Tactical Display Sheet.

Coop gameplay isn’t much different from solitaire gameplay, except that each player commands their own aircraft. But you plan and fly your missions together (which requires much coordination and teamwork to be successful). This variant works great and is really challenging, so if you know another Hornet Leader player in your area, you should give it a try together. To be honest, in our opinion, Hornet Leader is one of the best cooperative wargames ever published

After intensive Hornet Leader sessions, we have to admit that we became enthusiastic HL fans. This is a very good game, it’s demanding, it’s very variable, it’s challenging, and it’s just fun to play. But more about that later…

Game components and graphic presentation

The heavy gamebox is crammed with cool stuff

Hornet Leader is a game with a very high heft factor: the heavy box is crammed with high quality components such as a mounted (!) map-board, various counter-sheets, card-packs, a full-color rulebook and more. This big gamebox isn’t a bluff package (like what you probably know from some other game publishers, big boxes filled with little stuff and much cardboard), here you get a heavy box full of cool stuff for your money.

The overall production quality is very good. The counters are of a thick, sturdy quality and with a nice glossy coating which gives them a very attractive look and a great feel. It’s not a problem to punch the counters from the counter sheets, they are accurately pre-cut without being too loose (so that they would fall out of their counter sheets during shipping).

The full-color cards are also of a very high quality and glossy. The artworks are really cool and add much chrome to the game. There are various types of cards – Aircraft, Target cards, and Event cards.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Historical Games A-Z, Hypoth. Games A-Z, Leader Series, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

New Year’s Gaming

Posted by Denny Koch on January 4, 2011

Happy New Year!

Dear fellow gamers!

Happy New Year – hopefully, a year full of new wargames (and old classics, of course!). Thanks again for keeping faith with the HFC and for your appreciation and great feedback!

Christmas provided us with new games, so we spent the prolonged weekend around New Year with unboxing, glueing, and counter-punching.

A Game of Thrones: Battles of Westeros (FFG)

However, before trying one of our gifts, I had to solve a problem I was occupied with since early December: Andreas’ House Stark armies were still undefeated in the Battle for the Kingsroad in FFG’s A Game of Thrones: Battles of Westeros board game. This Friday, my House Lannister forces challenged House Stark to a return game!

 

The Battle for the Kingsroad, as seen from the Lannister POV

The game started as bad for House Lannister as the last game had ended. My armies were crushed under Stark’s bowmen, infantry, and cavalry. In the final turn, I didn’t have anything left besides my two leaders Kevan Lannister and Adam Marbrand and one lone 3-step Casterly Rock chevalier unit. My objective was to cross the River Trident and to occupy two strategic hexes which were heavily defended by Stark’s bowmen and Richard Karstarks cavalry. We discussed whether it was possible to fulfill the victory conditions with my poor, lonely units, but decided to play it out.

And, as every experienced A Game of Thrones fan knows, things always turn out differently and with a big surprise you didn’t expect or see coming. This was also true for my game I had thought lost.

My cavalry unit managed to lure Andreas’ infantry over the Trident, so that they couldn’t reach and defend the objectives in time. Kevan Lannister (without any accompanying men) escaped an engagement at the ford and rushed into one objective hex where he stood adjacent to Stark’s archers. Since he was a sole leader, he couldn’t be killed but had to be captured, but the bowmen were incapable of achieving enough hits to capture him.

Kevan Lannister and Adam Marbrand, defending the objectives!

Simultaneously, Adam Marbrand remembered his strength – riding through any terrain, even impassable, even a river, as long as his move ended in a legal hex. And so he galloped into the Trident, followed the river until he reached the objective and occupied the hex – again, adjacent to the bowmen who couldn’t capture him either.

Richard Karstark then attacked Kevan Lannister because it would ensure his victory if he captured at least one of the two leaders, but the attack failed. In the nick of time, House Lannister won the battle (for the first time), by utilizing typical Lannister tricks and strategies 😉

War is Hell: The Hell of Stalingrad

We then tried out Andreas’ Christmas present: The Hell of Stalingrad, a card game by Clash of Arms Games.

This game proved to be an absolute blast, we got the hang of it really quickly, despite the fact that the structure of the rulebook isn’t optimal and you have to do a lot of page turning.

The game certainly requires some table space...

We were immediately thrilled by the innovative and very cool mechanics, the impressing and quite explicit artworks, the historical photos, and the overall look and feel of the game.

In our first game, I played the Germans and Andreas played the Russians. In the game, you have to fight for single historical buildings and locations (for example, the Tractor Works, Red October). It’s the German objective to capture the buildings and reach the Volga and it’s the Russian job to hinder them and to fight for each building. The combat system is extremely bloody and gives a very good impression of the chaotic, bloody, and desolate battle for Stalingrad.

In the evening, we supplemented our game by watching the German 1997 movie “Stalingrad” which depicts the Battle of Stalingrad from the perspective of four German grunts and their Lieutenant. The movie is quite visceral and realistic, showing heavy fightings, tanks and overruns, fanatic Nazi officers, arbitrary executions, desertion attempts, as well as (forbidden) contacts or cease-fires with the Russians in order to retrieve the wounded, catastrophic conditions on the battlefield hospital next to the airfield within the cauldron (where, in real life, my mother’s cousin, 18 years old and from a miner’s family in the Ruhr region, died of a shot in the belly. I still got pictures and the letters to his mother from his superiors and the army chaplain.)

Heavy fighting in the Red October steel works factory

If you are interested in this movie, there is a dubbed version available, but I have read that the dubbing is terrible and completely destroys the atmosphere, so you should  do yourself a favor and watch the German version with English subtitles!

The problem is, even if you know some German, you will have a hard time understanding it  without subtitles because most soldiers speak in various local dialects from Northern German to Prussian to Bavarian or Swabian or are shouting while under heavy artillery fire. In addition, working-class slang of some soldiers in contrast to the educated speech of the officers gives valuable insights into the background of the characters.

More games, more fun!

A game I got for Christmas was the strategic board game “Zombie State: Diplomacy of the Dead“. This isn’t a wargame and you don’t shoot zombies either, it’s a strategic game where states have to deal with a zombie pandemic by sending the military, doing research to find a cure, or developing other technologies. We didn’t try it out yet, but it looks very promising and certainly is an unusual approach to the zombie topic.

Another zombie game which found its way to us was the dice game “Zombie dice” which can be played within minutes – very quick, very funny. You roll dice with symbols which symbolize close combat against attacking zombies. There are brains, there are shotguns, there is escape. If you need a game which doesn’t need table space and which can be played on the train or on a party by 2-99 players, check it out 🙂

A game you certainly won't find on the HFC website: "Monopoly Junior"... played by Denny with niece and nephew 😉

Last but not least, the brand-new Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations by DVG  reached our HFC test lab after being delayed by German customs. The box is very impressive with cool artworks and even the customs officer was impressed and couldn’t believe that this was a board game (he thought it was a PC game because it looked so modern and stylish). Hornet Leader is a Solitaire Game like its cousin Thunderbolt / Apache Leader, but like TAL, it can also be played with two players cooperatively. Watch out for our review where we will take a special look at the cooperative aspect of the game!

We are also looking forward to the new cooperative The Lord of the Rings LCG by FFG which will (according to unconfirmed rumors) be published February / March 2011.

2011 will be a great and interesting gaming year (as was 2010), so stay tuned and visit us again for more information, reviews, and stuff!

Posted in Gaming this weekend, Wargaming in general | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New experimental Wingmen rules for DiF – Aces High (DVG)!

Posted by Denny Koch on November 11, 2010

One of the new wingmen cards

Our review of Aces High inspired game designer Dan Verssen to experiment with new wingmen rules. One of our major complaints was the elimination of wingmen rules from the new Down in Flames game (which were a vital part of the original Down in Flames series by GMT).

Dan Versson developed experimental rules and Wingmen cards for playtest purposes and published a sample dogfight game between two leaders and two wingmen, showing the new rules in action.

“My goal is to return wingmen to the game, while keeping the rules as simple as possible. From what I have heard, almost everyone likes the idea of wingmen, but many people were turned-off by the old rules. For those of you who never played the old game, the wingmen rules were filled with complexity and exceptions. Basically, you had to learn/teach two seperate sets of rules, one for Leaders and one for Wingmen. My goal is to make the Wingmen rules as much like Leader rules as possible, while still retaining their flavor.”

If you are a wingmen fan and want to participate in testing the new rules, you can simply download the rules and sample cards and integrate them into an Aces High dogfight.

Feedback, comments, and suggestions are highly welcome, please leave any comments in the DVG forum on Consimworld!

Posted in Down in Flames, News and Releases | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review: Down in Flames: WWII – Aces High (DVG) and comparison with DiF (GMT)

Posted by Denny Koch on November 3, 2010

Game: Down in Flames: WWII – Aces High

Publisher: DVG
Published in: 2008
Designer: Dan Verssen
Era and Topic: World War II / ETO and PTO / Air combat
Components: 110 Full color Action Cards, 110 Full Color Aircraft Cards, Full Color Rulebook, Full Color Counter Sheet (88 – 5/8” counters), 6 Full Color Campaign Sheets
Game Type: Card based wargame

HFC Game-O-Meter: D


Our Rating (1-10): (Rating for experienced DiF players / Rating for casual gamers who don’t know the original)

Graphic Presentation: 9
Rules: 6
Playability:
6/8
Replay Value:
3/9

Overall Rating: 5/8

PRO Great artwork; very modern design; high production quality;  strong glossy coated full-color cards, counters, and rules; fast gameplay; new actions cards; new fighter ratings (firepower, two Horsepower ratings); PTO and ETO; new maneuvering system with speed and action cards; tactics cards; almost no setup time; fighters can attack in chains and be attacked by several other fighters which provides dynamic dogfights…
CONTRA …which are more ahistorical because of the removal of wingman rules; campaign extremely simplified; elimination of almost all simulative aspects of the classic campaign game; only one bomb mode (no more level, saturation, torpedo bombing etc.); simple hit system; simple bombing system without random element; no more variable mission length; no ingress / egress / target / home bound turns; simple Flak rules; no crews; rules describe only 1 vs 1 dogfights for simplicity – but are raising questions for 2 vs 2 (or more) dogfights; ambiguous rules and wording; some rules only mentioned in examples

A preliminary note or warning:

This is not only a review about DiF – Aces High, but also a detailed comparison between the “new” DiF series and the “classic” DiF series by GMT Games. Many wargamers who enjoy the classic GMT series (and own several modules and expansions) are wondering whether they should “switch” to the new system. Information about the differences and about who should switch – and who should not! – are sparse and scattered all over the internet.

Our intention was to review the new Down in Flames series from a wargamer’s perspective who played and enjoyed the classic series, especially the campaigns, and to give you veterans an overview over what to expect from the new system – and what not!


Introduction

Shoot down your enemies… out of the sun!

In 1993, GMT Games published the first module of the Down in Flames series, “Rise of the Luftwaffe“, depicting WWII air combat in Europe, designed by Dan Verssen, Gene Billingsley, and Rodger McGowan. In 1995, the second module, “8th Air Force” was published. The game series was then further supplemented by two Pacific modules (“Zero” and “Corsairs and Hellcats“) as well as several smaller add-ons published in GMT’s C3i magazine.

The first two modules are out of print by now and there are no plans of reprinting them. Instead, GMT announced a new game which will replace the first two modules and serve as a modern update: “Wild Blue Yonder“. This game is still in P500 status and when (and if) it will hit the market is unknown.
Update 2017: The game is available  now!

If you want to get into the classic and very popular “Down in Flames” series, you have to search eBay or other marketplaces for Luftwaffe or 8th Air Force, and you can expect that it will cost you a nice amount of money. The Pacific expansions are still available at a reasonable price, but if you want to “own them all”, it will require some dedication (and money) to become a “Down in Flames” pilot.

But wait… what about the relaunch of “Down in Flames” by game designer Dan Verssen? Why should I bother collecting the “old stuff” when there is a brand-new, revised, modern version available?

In 2008, Dan Verssen published his own new version of “Down in Flames” in his own company, DVG (Dan Verssen Games). The first game was “Aces High“, supplemented in 2010 by “Guns Blazing” and several smaller card expansions. The new version is not compatible with the old GMT Down in Flames series, but was announced as an advanced, revised new game which improves many aspects of the old game while streamlining the Campaign game (which was quite simulative and of moderate complexity in the old games, so the designer felt the need of making the Campaign more accessible to casual gamers).

WWII air combat on your gaming table!

But should you really sell your entire GMT DiF collection and switch to the new, improved version of Down in Flames with modern and stylish graphics, more fighter abilities, more and different action cards, more maneuvering options, more color, more fun?

The answer is: you could – if you are a casual gamer or a gamer who enjoys playing the basic dogfights variants of the original game and who never touched the campaigns because they were too complex for you, or who always thought the wingmen rules were too static (disregarding historical leader and wingmen tactics which were even more static, so that the RAF pilots were actually dubbed “Idiotenreihen” (rows of idiots) by German fighter pilots due to their rigid and static formations). You will get improved graphics and a more dynamic dogfighting system than in the original game and you will certainly enjoy the new look and feel.

But beware – if you are an experienced wargamer who loved the GMT DiF series, and especially the campaigns, you should avoid the new game system! While the dogfights and several basic mechanics benefit from the new rules and action cards (reducing historical accuracy but enhancing gameplay), the Campaign game is simplified beyond recognition and won’t satisfy you if you loved the old Campaigns – on the contrary, we were heavily disappointed by the dumbed-down Campaign rules.

Aces High: the components

Besides this, the original rules (which consist of two 22-pages-rule books in 8th Air Force) are now condensed into one 24-pages rulebook. The campaign rules, formerly filling a rulebook of their own, are now drastically shortened and integrated into the basic rulebook. The shorter rules are not only caused by a reduced complexity, but also by a new wording which is more ambiguous and less extensive than in the old rule books. They certainly aren’t sufficient to please a classic-GMT-DiF-player, so read this review before considering to sell your old games on eBay!

As we stated in the initial warning, this review of “Aces High” gives a general overview over the DVG game, but also serves as a comparison between the old system and the new system from a wargamer’s point of view, because many wargamers are interested in the question whether they should sell their old games and switch to the new system – or whether they should stick to the GMT games.

Hopefully, our review will help them to decide whether they would enjoy the new game (a more casual gamer with a preference for simple dogfights who loves exciting graphics and thinks the old system to be too static and old-fashioned certainly will, so no game-bashing is intended!) or be disappointed.

What is Down in Flames anyway?

“Down in Flames” is a card-based wargame about Air Combat in World War II, WWI and post-war. Players control single fighters (German, British, Polish, Russian, US, Japanese) and conduct dogfights against other fighters. Fighters maneuver against each other, trying to get an advantaged position from which they could shoot down their enemies. The best position is tailing the opponent, but since each player wants to tail the enemy, there’s a lot of maneuvering until one fighter is behind the other and that’s what makes these dogfights a thrilling and fun experience.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Down in Flames, Games A-Z, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Gaming this weekend: Down in Flames (GMT)

Posted by Denny Koch on October 20, 2010

Module 1: The Rise of the Luftwaffe, unfortunately out of print

This weekend, a classic returned to our gaming table: Down in Flames by GMT Games, a card-based game series depicting World War II air warfare.

Down in Flames consists of 4 modules and several expansions, but we wanted to play the dogfight variant this weekend, not one of the larger campaigns, so we only used the first two modules “Rise of the Luftwaffe” and “Eighth Air Force“.

“Dogfights” are the basic game variant where your leaders and their wingmen fight against the other players’ fighters. The “Campaigns” are the advanced variant, they add special rules, bomber formations, and historical scenarios, for example “Invasion of Poland” or “Battle of Britain” with several sub-missions, like bombing raids on railway stations or supply depots.

This isn’t meant to be a review or anything like that, just some short random impressions and general thoughts that occurred to us while we were (re)playing this game which had spent a long time on the shelf (you know the problem… too many games, too little time… ;)).

Down in Flames – more than a series (actually, two series)

Module 2: Eighth Air Force, adding more fighters, more scenarios and replaces the Luftwaffe rules

“Rise of the Luftwaffe” was the first module of the GMT game series, published in 1993. Ownership of this module is the prerequisite of playing the second module, 8th Air Force. Unfortunately, both modules (Luftwaffe and 8th Air Force) are out of print and GMT Games doesn’t plan to reprint them. The other two modules which depict World War II air combat in the Pacific theater (“Zero” and “Corsairs and Hellcats”) are still available. GMT announced that they are planning a “Down in Flames Deluxe European Theatre Game” named Wild Blue Yonder which will replace Luftwaffe and 8th Air Force, but it is still in P500 status and whether it will ever be published in the foreseeable future is unknown.

At the same time, game designer Dan Verssen re-booted the series and published DiF in his own company, DVG (Dan Verssen Games) with revised expanded rules and new modern artworks. The first module of his new Down in Flames series was “Aces High”, published in 2008. The second module “Guns Blazing” was just released this autumn. His new DiF games are not compatible with the GMT DiF series, however.

So getting into the “classic” GMT version of the game is somewhat more difficult than jumping into the new DVG version because especially “Luftwaffe” is hard to find, at least for a reasonable price. In addition, if you own Luftwaffe and 8th Air Force, there might be some slight rules confusion because the 8th Air Force rules supersede the Luftwaffe rules whereas you have to stick to the Luftwaffe rulebook if you want to play any Luftwaffe campaigns.

We are in the lucky position of possessing several copies of the GMT modules as well as the Dunkirk variant from the C3i magazine (the house zine of GMT), so when we decided to bring back the classic DiF to our gaming table, we could jump into our dogfights immediately. We also decided that it would be an interesting task to compare the classic GMT Down in Flames with the brand-new DVG DiF series and to write some impressions about the differences between both series. Since many gamers are confused by the old series vs. the new series vs. the Wild Yonder P500 module, some information about both series could be helpful. We know about the confusion because we fell into the same trap… so you can expect more about both games in this blog – stay tuned!

Dogfights on the table

There is almost no setup time - you select your fighters and off you go!

So this weekend, we returned to the classic GMT version (we will play the DVG version next weekend). We hadn’t played Down in Flames in years, so we actually had to re-read the rulebook and almost start from scratch (although we quickly remembered why we always liked the dynamics of this fast card-driven wargame!).

Since we did a review reset when we relaunched our HFC website, we took the chance to read the rules with a fresh perspective as a new player would read them. And don’t get me wrong – we really love the game, it’s certainly one of the coolest air combat games ever made and the flight and fight dynamics, the speed, the feel of being a pilot are unmatched. Nevertheless, some random aspects, negative as well as positive ones, shall be mentioned here.

The 8th Air Force rules supersede the Luftwaffe rules, so when you are playing the dogfights variant, you only need the 8th Air Force Basic game rulebook. Unfortunately, the Luftwaffe rulebook has more illustrations as well as card explanations which are missing in the 8th Air Force rulebook, but this becomes more problematic in the campaign game (for example when you want to know what a “spoiled attack symbol” looks like – which is only illustrated in the Luftwaffe rulebook). For dogfights, the 8th Air Force rulebook is sufficient and you can leave the Luftwaffe rules in the box.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Down in Flames, Gaming this weekend, Historical Games A-Z | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »