Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hey Kids! What time is it?

Time for more Axis and Allies blogging!

Yes, we do go to this particular well quite often, thank you very much for asking. But today is gonna be different, because this time, we played Axis and Allies Revised!

I expect at this point, some people are asking, "What's so different about Axis and Allies Revised, as opposed to Global 1940?" If this is the case, you probably haven't played both of them, and I'm glad to offer my services as one of the players, assuming you have a free weekend or two, and a large surface area on which to put the 1940 board.

The major differences, other than board size, include fewer rules and abilities for Revised, a later starting date (1942), with Panzer divisions poised to parade victoriously through Red Square, Japan more or less ascendant in the Pacific, and fewer nations. 1940, in a historically accurate but otherwise misguided move, also includes France, however in most iterations of that version Germany at the least takes Paris on the first turn, dooming them to well-deserved irrelevance.

For the first time in a long time, we managed five players, but since I'm too lazy to give a nom de blog to any of them, I'll be referring to them as the countries played. Havoc Jack commanded the Imperial Japanese forces, and in a stunning departure from normal roles, I was in charge of the American armed forces.

Having made that long prelude to the actual meat of this post, I find again that I should've taken notes if I wanted to do a proper blog about it, and probably have done it in two posts, if only to boost my count. At any rate, starting from the end, the Allies were victorious due to having mostly locked down Germany; the Japanese forces were nearly poised to backstab Russia however their forward bases (one of which was provided by me, necessarily or not) could not have produced enough to cause too much devastation before Germany went under.

Some other items of note from the game:

After Germany successfully invaded Egypt, the UK attempted to take it back, and failed miserably. This temporarily led to them losing both India and much of Africa, however they were able to offset it somewhat by taking Norway and by the US launching an early invasion of Africa.

Japan did well on its early assaults, however as tends to happen they lost most of their ground forces. Had they more land units to take and hold territory they may well have wreaked more havoc then what they did manage.

In a spectacular bout of bad rolling in one round, Germany, rolling for 10 tanks attacking at 3 or less, managed a single hit. While they did win the battle in the end, due to at best average defense from Russia, it's still worthy of a mention.

The US didn't get nearly as much action as they could have, I probably could have just gone straight for Europe and had better results, especially vis-a-vis Japan's poor showing in terms of infantry.

Germany did a fairly effective job of protecting its air force up until near the end, when it was found that owning Denmark does NOT protect the Baltic sea from being invaded. Which it shouldn't really, given that here Denmark is grouped into Western Europe. When this was discovered, the Allies could have gone for the quick victory and taken Germany, which at this point was covered by only a single fighter, however we allowed a redeployment. Instead an attack was launched at most of the German air force, which happened to be unprotected by infantry, and actually succeeded in taking the territory.

Anything else? Oh, right: I don't like playing as the U.S., especially in this version. They hardly ever get any of the epic die rolling you can expect from the Eastern Front.

Also, when in doubt, buy infantry. I saw two examples of what happens when you don't, an example of why you need to do so, and, full disclosure, one minor counter-example. (To be fair, I wasn't expecting Germany to launch a more or less all-out air assault on the Royal Navy, but that's because I wouldn't do it.) WARNING: That link is to TVTropes. Go through at your own risk.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Design blogging: The Zombie Game

All right! We're back in action in 2012! Okay, enough of that, tonight we're going to be live-blogging our design meeting on one of our games, currently titled "The Zombie Game". Whatever merits we may have as game designers, coming up with good titles is not one of them. The idea for this game came about after watching the movie "Zombieland", and a discussion about why military forces always seem to be unprepared for zombies.

The premise of the game is such: zombies have overrun China, and the other powers of the world are attempting to end the threat before it becomes uncontainable. Why China? Mainly the large population to be zombified and government censorship to prevent the news from getting out. The playable nations are the U.S., India, Russia, and the Arab League, a loose and probably unfeasible coalition of Muslim nations. We originally included the European Union but discarded it as they don't have much viable territory on our game map, plus their military response would be pretty anemic anyway. (Havoc Jack adds there's some doubt it will exist by the time the game is published.)

Gameplay is similar to the Axis and Allies model, with specialized rules for the expansion of zombies and event cards which do things like add random zombie outbreaks around the world.

With the basic explanations out of the way, let's talk about the changes that are being made after our few initial rounds of playtesting, with random excerpts whenever.

First things first: we got rid of the U.N., or at least the game version. As its purpose was more or less similar to the actual U.N. (i.e. condemn Israel and the U.S. and give diplomatic cover to random dictators) it was an unnecessary mechanic and the only reason we could find for keeping it in was to continue to make fun of them. Since we don't need the game to do that it went.

We also removed the oil purchase mechanic we borrowed from the game Powergrid, which mirrors a basic supply and demand function, raising the price as barrels are purchased from the market. While it is admittedly an awesome mechanic, it adds unnecessary complication to the game. With any luck we can get it back in the game later on.

...insert distraction by Youtube here.

Okay, back. Decided to test out various battle scenes. After about 50 test battles against five zombies, it was determined that three tanks are the minimum necessary to have a decent chance of winning a battle. Two infantry and two tanks both only managed to win one battle out of 10, three infantry managed two of 10, and the three tanks won nine of 10.

Last but not least we worked up some notes for national abilities, although these mostly haven't changed much. Still happy with the Arab League having martyrs, although it could be likely to get us in trouble with someone. Being able to take out zombies without fear of losing troops to make more zombies is quite useful, IMO.