Board Gaming · Review for Two · Wargame Garrison

Review for Two – Night of Man

Thank you for checking review #33 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this game in exchange for an honest review.

An Overview of Night of Man

Night of Man is a game designed by Mark H. Walker and is published by Flying Pig Games. The box states that it can play 2 players and has a 60 minute play time.

Night of Man is a card-driven, tactical board game. Set in a post-alien-invasion-of-Earth universe, the squads, heroes, and tanks of Earth’s Militia battle against powerful aliens with enhanced power armor, hover tanks, Mechs, and spider-like robots.

In each turn gamers draw up to a four card hand and may play a card, sometimes more, in each impulse. The cards activate units to move, fire, assault, and use special powers, such as explosive rounds, telekinesis, and more. Special cards, such as critical hit or bullet storm, can also enhance a unit’s attacks.

Each turn continues until three end turn cards have been drawn. Players then choose one card from their hand to keep, the administrative markers are removed from the board, and a new hand is dealt to each player. The players use that new hand, or the card kept from the previous turn, to bid for initiative in the new turn.

Night of Man ships with numerous scenarios, as well as a point system that allows gamers to put together their own battles in no time flat.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

This one is a tricky one to describe the setup because each game will be different. There are a set of scenarios to play through, each one dictating the boards used, how they are laid out, the armies fielded by each side, and where they are placed (or enter the board when moved). They also dictate the number of rounds played, the objective for each side, point values for destroying units (if the scenario includes scoring), and how many “End Turn” cards need to be drawn before the round ends.

The one consistent is that the deck of cards will be shuffled and four will be dealt to each player. If an End Turn card is dealt, it is placed face-up and a new one is dealt. The players then each select one card to “bid” for initiative. The player whose card shows a higher value discards the card and goes first, taking their turn with three cards. The losing player keeps their card and will have four to use on their first turn.

On a turn, the player plays one card from their hand. Each card has two possible actions on there, and the player uses only one. Most actions are marked with a green icon, but there are red and yellow ones as well. Red are interrupts, so to speak, allowing you to play them on the other player’s turn. Yellow are able to boost your action, making it so you can play more than one card for the round. After the action on the card is resolved, the player may discard any number of additional cards and draw back up to four. If an End Turn card is drawn, it goes face-up in the pile and a new card is drawn to replace it.

The core concept is simple: move your units toward the enemy and then try to shoot them into oblivion. This is an underexaggeration, to be sure, but it gets the core premise across. Some scenarios involve trying to find an object or gain and maintain control of a certain area of the board. The interesting thing here is that when a unit moves or fires, it gets marked with a token indicating that action is done. Which prevents them from activating for anything else this round unless a card, such as Second Wind, is played to remove those tokens.

My Thoughts

The premise and the theme for this game is great. I love the idea that the aliens have come and subjected the Earth to their rule. One side is playing those alien overlords, while the other is playing the role of a resistance of humans. The aliens are, of course, well-armored and hard to kill. The theme was what drew me to this game in the first place, and it didn’t disappoint once I got the game.

The counters are large and chunky and easy to maneuver and manipulate. Which is a good thing, because you’ll be adding them, flipping them, and removing them often. I couldn’t even imagine the headache this could have caused if the counters were really small. They also are clearly distinguishable on the board via color coding, and the artwork of the units and characters is done well. The board itself is a little bland art-wise, but the counters make up for it.

I love multi-use cards so very much. These are great because they not only make you choose between two actions on the card, but they also track the round’s end and are used in combat rather than dice. This might make it sound like you’ll be flipping that deck quickly, and you certainly can, but especially in that first round the deck goes one or two cards per turn. You’ll see a lot of repeated actions throughout the deck, especially Move actions and Fire actions, but there are enough to shake things up.

Combat is simple and dice-free. My wife is one of those who absolutely hates games that use a ton of dice. Her biggest rage during a game happened a few years ago playing Doctor Who Risk, and it was at that point that I knew I couldn’t play a game where combat relied solely upon who rolls better. This is a card-driven system for battle, which not only keeps things simple but also helps to flip through that deck. The modifiers used for range, etc. are relatively easy to grasp and follow, although the first few plays saw me triple-checking I had things right. The vehicles add complexity to the system, but not so much that it can’t be played. You’ll just be likely to have to check the process a few additional times the first play or two incorporating them into the mix. Something you’ll hear me mention often in this review.

There is no getting around it: this game is fun. And that, in spite of anything else, is what you want to find in a board game. Those first two scenarios are introductory, at best, and should be viewed as such. They are the equivalent of the first ten levels you gain in an RPG – meant to get your feet wet before introducing more complexity. The third scenario doesn’t add new rules, but it does provide a few new units and an objective for one side to chase. I’m halfway through this campaign and really enjoying the progress so far. I’ve seen there are other campaign packs, including a solo one, and those are very likely to enter onto my wish list.

The boards are folded in two and, at least with my copy, tends to not lay flat on the table as a result. This is a preference thing only, and worth noting, but it doesn’t end up affecting the gameplay itself.

The rulebook is hit and miss. I thought, upon first read, that it covered things well. And what it contains, it does cover well. But there are omissions throughout, such as what happens if enough End Turn cards are dealt into the opening hands to end the round, or what triggers the powers shown on the units’ counters (It was my third play when I noticed the small “Power” word on some of the cards and was able to make the connection). Or what happens when a unit is on fire from the Infantry’s special power? I’ve seen threads galore mentioning the Handler and his Spiderbots, and with good reason. The other thing I would have liked to see were more visual demonstrations of what was being explained. Blocks of text are great, but a small image (and there are some in here) would help to emphasize that and provide a quick go-to as a refresher.

And so I am torn on the use of cards to trigger the end of a round. Part of me wants to love it and proclaim the brilliance of this concept. It isn’t often that the game gets to a point where both sides can’t do anything (although the alien side is more likely to hit that point first) apart from toss cards and hope to draw a Second Wind or trigger the round’s end. So long as one side is able to do things, the round will keep going (it can end if both players pass consecutively). The variable round length is great in concept: there should be uncertainty in war about how long a battle will take. But what about when you draw all of the End Turn cards at the very start of a round? And if this happens a few turns in a row? On the reverse side, what if they all keep populating at the very bottom of the deck? This game could either run short or really long in those scenarios. I’ve had more games where rounds end super-early than running really long, but the chance is there and some players really won’t like that variable length.

The player aids provided are fine, but there were things that I found myself having to look up time and again in the rule book. So they are things I wish there had been an aid for, so that the finding of this information could have been a little easier. I had to look up what the various numbers on the counters represented, and there are two times when this really happened: the first few plays to get down the leg units, and then just when you get those few parts down the vehicles are thrown into the mix and double the numbers you’re looking at on the unit counters. The same thing goes with the cards. For the most part, things are easy to get down early but once vehicles come into play, I found myself checking and rechecking what the numbers were and when they were used. Finally, there are powers and abilities indicated by small icons on units. These are great, but I had to look those up repeatedly and found myself forgetting what some of them did. None of these three things are game-breakers, and they are all covered well in the rulebook, but I’d prefer not to flip through the book every time I need to reference these things. At least on the counter layout and the card layout.

Final Verdict

This is a game I really want to love, and I know with more plays and more exposure I can come to love the game. Right now I simply enjoy the game. It is a nice system, although a little more complex than I initially expected. There are a lot of things to remember, and if you can’t recall which number on the token represents the ABF or the HF, etc. then you’ll be grabbing the rule book often for reference. And that part is why I’ve hesitated so long in teaching the game to my wife. It isn’t bad in the first three scenarios, where you have all leg units, but the vehicles add extra layers and a lot more numbers become relevant. Which also makes more card abilities matter. Which means I need to have a good grasp on those things if I want to teach her in a manner that she can find enjoyable. Having me stop things to reference the rulebook every five minutes wouldn’t exactly be an experience she’d find to be fun.

I do enjoy a scenario system, and so I am glad this has that available to play. But it does also include the important skirmish system. This gives it life beyond the scenario plays, allowing each player to build and field a custom army to battle it out.

I’m still very early into my wargaming career, and I probably secured a copy of this about 6-12 months too soon. It was quite a jump from the Swords & Shields system from Stamford Bridge to this one. However, anyone who has a fair amount of experience with wargames should fare well when playing this game. And this game has been worth the effort I’ve put into learning things and I have no doubt it will continue to be rewarding.

The biggest headache will come from the text-dense reference sheet, no quick reference for what is shown on each counter, and those occasional things that aren’t explained well in the rulebook. Those things can usually be inferred based on how a player chooses to interpret things, but there will be questions that you simply can’t find a clear answer to. Which is always frustrating for a gamer.

Overall I have enjoyed Night of Man, and this is a game that I plan to play more times, both solo to sharpen my understanding of the rules and system as well as with my wife. I’ll need to be solid in my command of the game and what everything means if I want her to enjoy the next plays where we add more complexity and depth to the game. But I am confident this will be one we’ll both enjoy because we like games with conflict and where you need to use tactical maneuvering to be victorious. If you are just exploring wargames, this might not be the right purchase (yet), but if you’ve got a good command of consulting tables and modifiers, this game is definitely worth checking out.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

Board Gaming · Review for Two · Two-Player Only · Wargame Garrison

Review for Two – Stamford Bridge: End of the Viking Age

Thank you for checking review #23 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**A copy of this game was provided by Tiny Battle Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

An Overview of Stamford Bridge: End of the Viking Age

Stamford Bridge: End of the Viking Age is a game designed by Tom Russell and is published by Tiny Battle Publishing. The rule book states that it can play 2 players and has a 70 minute play time.

Stamford Bridge: End of the Viking Age is a low-complexity two-player wargame about the 25 September 1066 Battle of Stamford Bridge. Three weeks before his defeat at Hastings, King Harold Godwinson surprised his brother Tostig and King Harald Hardrada of Norway and won a decisive, if costly victory against the Vikings.

At the heart of the game is a simple turn structure in which players choose two phases to perform: Retreat, Shield Wall, Move, or Combat. Players can also perform two Move Phases in a single turn, two separate Combat phases, or a more powerful– if bloody– Pitched Combat. Combat resolution is quick and accurately represents the brutal, costly nature of linear warfare of the period.

As leadership of the Viking forces passes from one leader to another, the rules of the game are changed, imparting a sense of historical narrative while giving both players an equal chance of victory.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

The game is a 2-player only so nothing changes. The great thing about this game is that there are two games included in this one ziplock bag. The first side is for the Stamford Bridge battle, having the Anglo-Saxons facing the Vikings. Both sides are attempting to be the first to eliminate 12 units from the other side, although there comes a point where the Viking losses will bring about a flurry of Viking attacks in a desperate attempt to either end the game or lose.

The other side is for A Hill Near Hastings, which pits the Anglo-Saxons against the Normans. This one is unique enough with including Cavalry and Archers for the Normans, who are split into three wings that activate and operate independently of the main force. Like the previous scenario, the goal is in trying to eliminate a certain number of troops from the other side.

The actions are simple in both games, with Attack, Move, Shield Wall, Retreat, and Double being the actions in Stamford Bridge while Hastings adds Charge and Fire for use with the horses and archers. Each counter has a letter to indicate its skill, and a symbol to indicate the class of the unit. These are cross-referenced on a single, simple chart with the roll of a single die to determine if the enemy is hit, if both sides take a hit, if one side must retreat a space, if a unit is eliminated, or if it is a miss. There are ways to maneuver troops or use commands to increase your odds of success. Anyone familiar with Wargames will have no issue maneuvering this, and even a new Wargamer will be able to navigate this after a few combats.

My Thoughts

Everything in this game has been streamlined to make it easy and accessible. Movement is simple because there are no varying terrain types to take into consideration. There are no leaders on the map, simplifying that process. Almost all of the units in the game are infantrymen. There are a handful of commands. There is only one chart to reference. The game feels like a Wargame, but it is not only playable by a beginner but also plays quickly enough to be almost a filler for more experienced Wargamers. The accessibility makes it a great game to introduce new gamers to this category of games. The short playtime and small number of counters makes it so that this is one that can be pulled out and played when you don’t have time for a longer game.

The counters are nice and thicker than expected. While small in size, I’ve never had any issue seeing the counters and being able to read what they say. They all punched out easily, have distinct colors/shades to make them easy to sort, and their letters dictating their power are all easy to spot while on the map. They are elegant and provide the information you need while retaining a clean appearance.

Hidden within this simple are some surprisingly important decision you can make during the setup of your counters. You’ll usually have a mix of counters from A-D, and you’ll need to decide whether to put your strongest guys up front (where they are likely to die earlier in the game) or near the back (which by the time they are into battle, you may have lost so many counters that defeat is nearly inevitable). How you group counters together makes a difference, as having the same letter counter attacking together gives far greater bonuses than having a B, a C, and a D counter all attacking at once. It isn’t deep in the decision-making, but after a few rounds you begin to see how some of those early decisions, and then how you maneuver those troops during movement, can really impact the way things play out.

I really appreciate the presence of only one chart to consult for battle. This helps the game to not only remain simple in the approach, but also keeps the combat moving forward at a quick pace. You roll one die, you check the one chart, and do what the end result says. There is something elegant in the simplicity of this system which prevents the game from overstaying its welcome on the table.

The rulebook itself is nice in the layout and presentation, but my favorite part would be the pages at the end covering the history behind the battles. This allows even the casual player to spend 15 minutes and walk away knowing a little bit about these important historical battles. A small list of selected readings would have been a welcome addition, to steer those who end up interested in these battles toward some quality books to read.

The map itself is not high in quality. It is slightly thicker than paper, and so I have concerns about its long-term durability. I understand the need for the map to be like this, making it both light and affordable, which is why it isn’t fully a negative. This is easily the most fragile thing that comes with the purchase of the game, yet it is arguably one of the more important components.

There is kind of the inclusion of leaders, but it is really abstracted. Basically they are the number of commands you get to issue, which in the Stamford Bridge battle is really interesting on the Viking side because those commands change in value as more units are lost. This represents the different leadership qualities of those Viking leaders, and it adds a little interesting variety in playing that side. The Hill Near Hastings is interesting for the Normans, as they can activate two of their three groupings and have limitations in that sense as well as the inclusion of archers and cavalry units. The Anglo-Saxons, unfortunately, are static in their command decisions which almost makes them the least interesting side to play in both battles. Leader chits would have certainly raised the rules and complexity a little, but it also would have opened some limitations and forced some extra tactical decisions in the game which could have helped this to have a longer life in the collection.

There is one action among the selection that ended up getting ignored: Shield Wall. The problem comes because there two things you’ll end up wanting to do each turn: move and attack. Move because the results of the previous battles almost always leave at least a few units unengaged in a combat. Battle because you need to kill units in order to win. If you could advance one space as part of a Shield Wall action and then attack, it’d be a combo I’d use often. As it stood, it really only entered play when standing on the hill, complementing the advantage of the higher ground for the Anglo-Saxons.

There is only one chart to consult, but I really found myself wishing there was a player’s aid for this game. Something small which contained the chart, and a brief overview of each command, would enhance the experience for two players. I understand the desire to trim costs, but this was one thing I really desired to have while playing the game. Even just having a second copy of the chart would have been enough.

There is a limit on how much replay this game will have. Sure, you get two different games in the folio, but neither of them really offers a lot of room to deploy tactics beyond the placement of your troops and when to use your Initiative token for the back-to-back turns. This game isn’t supposed to be one you play all the time, but some players may be content after playing each side on each map just once. It is unlikely to be the type of game that gets pulled out and replayed often because the rules and the number of counters and the size of the map are all so small and streamlined.

Final Verdict

I really, really enjoyed this game. While it is not likely to be a game that will get pulled out often due to its simplicity, that same simplicity is the very reason why I love this game. It is easy enough to bring in a new player while remaining interesting enough for a more experienced player. It lays the groundwork to become familiar with the Swords and Shields system, which is used in a few other folios by Tiny Battle Publishing and is used in an upgraded form in several games offered by Hollandspiele. That makes this an obvious entry point for purchase to anyone wanting to try out Wargames because this is a simple, inexpensive game that will allow you to branch out to nearly another half-dozen games that use a similar system.

This game doesn’t do anything spectacular or complex, yet it doesn’t need to. Its cost and the components for that cost are what will draw a person into the game. I found this to be a fantastic first step into the world of Wargames, and that it presented enough interesting decisions to make it enjoyable playing both solo and against an opponent. If you have ever had even a passing interest in playing a Wargame, I would definitely recommend this as a place to learn the basics and see if you want to take a deeper plunge into the broad spectrum of games in that category.

Ultimately, if I was a beginning Wargamer looking for an entry point, this is a game I would definitely purchase. If I was an experienced Wargamer looking to expand my collection of games that could bring new Wargamers into the hobby, I would definitely purchase this game. If I was a Wargamer interested in this period of history, I’d likely purchase this game. But experienced Wargamers looking for a game to play many times with other experienced Wargamers may want to look toward something a little more rich in variety and tactics.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

Board Gaming · Wargame Garrison

Wargame Garrison – Three Medieval Introductory Wargames

I had a few board game resolutions coming into 2017. This blog was one of those, and so far this has been far more successful than I ever imagined it could be. Another was to play more new games, and I’ve played over 50 new-to-me games so far this year and have nearly half that number again just in those on my shelf, waiting patiently for me to play them. My third resolution was to start exploring wargames.

Apart from a review of Yeomen (which everyone should print and try that quick wargame out!) and a post discussing why I backed 878 Vikings on Kickstarter and Pendragon on GMT’s P500, I’ve been fairly silent in discussing my wargaming. And there is good reason for that.

My experiences had all been print and plays, and I hadn’t made the plunge into wargames yet. I’m still slow to get in there, but I do have a few on the shelf now and have played through one of them. A review on that will be coming at some point in the future. But I digress here…

The problem I ran into with wargaming was my own preference. I had no interest in WWI, WWII, modern warfare, or even Napoleonics. There are some excellent wargame manufacturers and also some very enthusiastic and dedicated wargamers, but most games fall into categories where I have no interest. In some ways, this is both a benefit and a problem. The problem is finding those games which fall into periods of interest for me, and in trying to sift down to which ones are good for introductory wargames. The benefit is that there are a small number of games that I’m even tempted to purchase, which helps the wallet.

So this is the first of four planned posts where I will be covering one of the areas of wargaming I’m interested in and sharing what I feel would make a good three games to start with.

And today we’re covering the period I am most interested in: Medieval, which can be defined as roughly 400 AD through 1500 AD.

1) We Happy Few: The Battle of Agincourt by Tiny Battle Publishing

I would place Stamford Bridge: End of the Viking Age here, as it is likely a simpler starting point, but there are two reasons I am choosing We Happy Few instead. First, I will be reviewing Stamford Bridge in the future, so I don’t want to spoil that coverage. Second, I think that Agincourt is an important battle to cover for any Medieval wargamer, and this serves as an excellent starting point.

This probably will not be the last of the Waaah! folio games you’ll see mentioned in these introductory wargames posts. Nor will this be the last Swords & Shields system game that will appear in this list. Having played one of the games in that system, I can attest to it being a great system for learning wargames. There are enough parts and pieces to get a good overall feel for wargaming, and this one in particular is excellent in presenting a dilemma that happens a lot in historical games: one side will appear to have a clear advantage based on numbers.

The game has an 11″ x 17″ map, 88 counters, and just 5 pages of rules. All of those equate to an excellent entry point to wargaming.

2) Invasion 1066: The Battle of Hastings by Revolution Games

This game was interesting enough to make my list of 10 games I wanted to play in 2017, and it is still one of the few I need to pick up, much less play. This is another game that comes in a ziplock bag, which is usually a good sign that the game is one the smaller side for counters, rules, and complexity (though not always). 1066 is just as important a battle to cover as Agincourt, and the two of these paired together will allow you to discover the impact that roughly 400 years had on warfare.

This one is larger than the Stamford Bridge: End of the Viking Age that I own. The map size is the same, but this has 140 counters, 12 pages of rules, and has a pair of player aids. All games should come with player aids, I think. While the one I have from Tiny Battle Publishing has two battles in the one bag, this one takes one of those battles and ramps it up to a larger scale. And I imagine that the Invasion 1066: Stamford Bridge does the same thing. Both of them are games I plan to own and play at some point.

3) The Grunwald Swords by Hollandspiele

I promised the Swords & Shields system would reappear in this short list, and there is a good reason why it should do so. After playing those first two games, you’ll be itching to play a game that comes in a box. And what better box game to start with than one that uses version 2.0 of the rules system from We Happy Few? That level of familiarity will make diving into this game that much easier, and while this one drops back on the counter number to 88, it contains a 22″ x 17″ map so you’re covering a lot more area in the battle. This also covers a battle that is unique: you don’t see many games on The Battle of Grunwald out there.

There are lots of horses involved with both sides of the battle, and it comes with a system-specific rule book and this battle-specific rule book. Altogether a manageable 12 pages of rules. After playing this game, you’ll be prepared to jump into some deeper and larger games, or maybe you’ll just want to explore some more of the Swords & Shields games put out by Tiny Battle or Hollandspiele. There are three in each of those, and I’m sure they will all be great additions to a collection.

So there is my brief overview and set of suggestions. What would you recommend for a new wargamer regarding this period?

Better yet, what are some games you’d suggest they consider playing after progressing through these three?