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FRAG! November 2011

Charles Rector's Weblog; Apr. 12, 2012; By Charles Rector
Type: News
Shrapnel Games Newsletter

Issue 123, November 2011"Most human beings are quite likeable if you do not see too much of them."   
~ Robert Wilson Lynd

  1. The November Editorial Introduction
  2. News Direct from the Frontlines of Shrapnel Games
  3. Trivia Time: 82nd Airborne – All American
  4. The Holiday Guide
  5. The Dice Of War: Star Trek: Fleet Captains
  6. Sizzling Sellers and Those Special Offers
  7. Link O' The Month
  8. The Crystal Ball

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Everyone gets everything he wants.1. The November Editorial Introduction

I have a friend who will typically purchase two or three copies of most games. One copy to play, one to get extra pieces from, and one to keep in the shrink to store on the shelf for investment purposes (although I can’t see him ever parting with any game). If he buys a used game he wants one in pretty good shape, preferably unpunched.

The latest Risk game, Risk Legacy, is pretty much his anti-game. Here’s a game that actually has players drawing on their maps, destroying cards, and other acts of vandalism. A radical idea that pretty much destroys all second hand sales unless the game has been untouched and anathema to any gamer who believes in unblemished, virgin components. Again, unless the original owner never touched his copy.

"...you can redo strategies at your whim thanks to the save feature."

I have to say Hasbro is getting pretty clever in trying to gouge consumers. Finished with your experience and want to start anew? Uh-oh, looks like you need to spend another fifty bucks on a new copy.

And yet, stripping away the cynicism I have to admit that this is at least something new in the world of board game design, so bully for that. It also got me thinking about computer games.

When you play a board game you get one chance at

victory. You can’t launch your massive offensive on the East Front and when you see it crumble tell your opponent you want a do over. There are no mulligans in the world of cardboard and CRTs. Yet when it comes to computer games unless you’re playing against a human opponent you can redo strategies at your whim thanks to the save feature.

Imagine a strategic World War II game which essentially acts as a strategy Rogue-like game. When you exit it saves, but there is no way to do the load and reload shuffle when you invade France. Just like in real life you get one chance. Send your best division to their death? Too bad.

When was the last time you were on the edge of your seat while watching combat results pop up in a game? Oops, didn’t go your way. Reload. Ho-hum.

Consider no reloading. Suddenly every battle puts you on pins and needles. No longer are your digital troops easily sent to their repeated deaths, for now there are actual consequences for poor tactics. The thrill of playing against a live opponent without the need to actually interact with other human beings.

I’d love to see a “permadeath” single player strategy game.

2. News Direct from the Frontlines of Shrapnel Games

Welcome to the latest issue of the Shrapnel Games official e-newsletter, one hundred and twenty three issues strong and still kicking. To our American brothers and sisters we hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

So with the year winding down you know what comes up in December. As usual for this time of year we’ve included a holiday gift guide of all our games in this newsletter. While these are great for snapshots of our titles be sure to visit our site for complete descriptions and demos.

A holiday gift guide also means a holiday sale! From now until December 20th all our titles are discounted (although since you can’t get better than free our free games are still just free)! Save on everything from Dominions 3: The Awakening to newer releases such as Bronze and World Supremacy. All titles are available as downloads, and the majority can also still be had as physical copies if that is your desire. And hey, don’t forget all our titles are DRM free and crafted by the very best independent developers on the planet!

Check out the sale by visiting the Gamers Front here.

There is a patch now available for Data Jammers: FastForward. Bringing the game up to version 1.1.0 the patch fixes a couple of minor bugs but most importantly adds lives tied into the difficulty of the game.

The patch is available at the official product page, just click here.

And if you haven’t yet checked out Data Jammers: FastForward you can grab a demo and view a video of the title in action at the same page.

Ernest Adams, game designer, author, and industry speaker, had this to say of Data Jammers:

“The Digital Eel guys have done it again: another outrageously retro, tongue-in-cheek, weirdly beautiful,and very inexpensive video game. As if Brainpipe weren't enough, now it's Data Jammers: Fast Forward. What Atari might have produced if they had had a sense of humor and a better CPU. I don't normally flack video games, but these guys' imagination and polish consistently impresses me -- and there's only three of them.”

Data Jammers: FastForward is currently available as a download for Windows but will be available in the future for Mac. Normally $9.95, it is on sale for $4.95 until December 20th as part of our holiday sale.

Total Eclipse, the pen and paper RPG from Disrupted Gears looks to be an early 2012 release rather than a late 2011 release. The game is pretty much good to go but we want to take some time and go over everything one more time, so expect to see it hit the virtual shelves pretty quick after this last look. In fact, it may even be possible to still hold to a late, late 2011 release but January is probably a better call, especially since everyone will be dealing with the holiday season.

If you want to meet Patrick Proctor of ProSIM he will be discussing his latest book, Task Force Patriot and the End of Combat Operations in Iraq at the First Infantry Division Museum near Chicago. The event begins at 7:30 PM on December 21st. For full details you can visit his Facebook page.

Until next month!

3. Trivia Time: 82nd Airborne – All American

The 82nd Airborne Division began life not as an airborne division, but rather as a regular conscript division during the First World War. Formed in Camp Gordon, Georgia on August 25th, 1917 the division soon acquired the nickname "All American" when it became apparent that there were soldiers from every state of the Union making up the division.

The division was sent overseas less than a year after activation, and in June 1918 elements of the 82nd fought with the British in the Somme region to gain experience. It was here that the first 82nd soldier lost his life, Captain Jewett Williams of the 326th Infantry Regiment.

During five months of fighting the 82nd participated in several major campaigns, including the St. Mihiel offensive and fighting in the Meuse-Argonne region, which was the last action they saw in the war. It was also the most brutal, with over seven thousand 82nd troopers giving their lives.

With World War One over, the 82nd was demobilized, but reconstituted in 1922 with unit headquarters located in Columbia, South Carolina. It was essentially a reserve unit, with elements based in the southeast (besides South Carolina reserves were also found in Georgia and Florida under the 82nd badge). It would not be until World War Two, in 1942, that the 82nd would be truly reactivated.

After hostilities broke out between the US and the Axis the 82nd was activated in March of '42 and moved to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana under the command of General Omar Bradley. Bradley's second-in-command, General Matthew Ridgway, succeeded Bradley as overall commander of the 82nd just a few months after it was reformed.

In August 1942 the 82nd was once again reorganized and it was here that it finally became what it is best known for, being an airborne division. The 82nd Airborne Division then moved from Louisiana to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. At Fort Bragg heavy training commenced in preparation for actual combat duty.

In 1943 the 82nd Airborne went into battle. The 505th regiment made the first combat parachute assault for an American unit in Sicily for support of Operation HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily. While the fighting in Sicily was a great success for the 82nd, as they were able to progress over 150 miles in five days of fighting, the victory was tainted by the loss of twenty-three transports who were downed by friendly fire.

Continuing the fight in the soft underbelly of Europe, the 82nd were at one time considered for a drop directly into Rome to hasten the demise of Italian resolve. Luckily the idea of an urban drop was reconsidered and instead the 82nd supported the breakout from Salerno. Throughout the fall the 82nd continued to fight in Italy. Once it seemed they were

needed elsewhere the 82nd were sealifted to England to prepare for the greatest invasion of all time, Normandy, although one regiment stayed behind to assist at Anzio.

Reorganized and refitted in England, the 82nd then participated in Operation NEPTUNE, the airborne portion of the invasion of France in 1944. Once on the ground the 82nd saw thirty-three days of continuos combat, and suffered over 5,200 casualties (either killed, wounded, or missing) in that period. Pulled out of France and returned to England after that, the 82nd then became part of the newly formed XVIII Airborne Corps, consisting of the 82nd, the 17th, and 101st Airborne Divisions.

In September 1944 the 82nd, as part of Operation MARKET (as in MARKET-GARDEN) under the XVIII Airborne Corps, parachuted into Holland in an effort to end the war quickly. What happened next is well-known, as Arnhem proved to be a bridge too far for the Allies, and though the 82nd secured its objectives with the British unable to secure Arnhem the operation was a failure. The 82nd was then sent to France.

In France the 82nd participated in the Battle of the Bulge, fighting on the northern end of the bulge. As the Americans drove eastward the 82nd participated in the bloody fighting in Hurtgen Forest, and on April 30th, 1945, they fought their last action of WWII while crossing the Elbe river.

From August until December of 1945 the 82nd was tasked with occupation duty in Berlin. It was in Berlin that they earned the nickname, "America's Guard of Honor", after the 82nd Honor Guard impressed General George S. Patton, who is quoted as saying of their honor guard, "In all my years in the army and all the honor guards I have ever seen, the 82nd's honor guard is undoubtedly the best." In 1946 the 82nd returned home to America and led the victory parade in New York city.

During the Cold War the 82nd participated in several actions, and was on alert for many more. They were alerted in '65 for possible action in the Caribbean, and then in '73 for potential conflict in the Middle East. In 1978 they went on alert in response to a hostage crisi in Zaire, and then in '79 for the Iranian hostage situation.

As far as actual actions during the period the 82nd fought in Vietnam during the Tet offensive, and continued fighting in 'Nam for almost two years. They fought in Grenada and Panama during the '80s, participating in both Operation URGENT FURY and GOLDEN PHEASANT (Panama). In the '90s the 82nd was also found in Kosovo.

Finally, the 82nd has also fought in the first Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

4. The Holiday Guide

It’s that time of year again, when one begins to think of giving and receiving gifts. To help with the gamer in your life (even if that’s just you) we’ve assembled a handy list of our games. All games are available as downloads, while a few marked titles are available only as downloads while the rest of the catalog can still be ordered as a physical product (which wraps much better than an ethereal collection of zeroes and ones). All titles are available for Windows, with titles playable on other operating systems so noted.

You can find our Holiday Gift Guide online here.

Downloadable titles are fully archivable, as are the physical products. If ordering a physical product please be aware that the shipping department for our online store will be closed beginning on December 23rd to observe the Christmas holiday.

5. The Dice Of War: Star Trek: Fleet Captains

Star Trek: Fleet Captains (WizKids)

It is doubtful when Star Trek first aired that anyone had any idea how much of a cultural phenomenon it would become. Oddly, over the years while there have been board games set in the Trek universe the vast majority have not tried to replicate the idea of boldly going forth and exploring the universe but instead focused on combat. Remember how the series was full of ship on ship violence? Yeah, I don’t either.

In the mid-80s there was one game that did bring the series feel to the tabletop, West End Games’ Star Trek: The Adventure Game. And now, in 2011 there is another game bringing the exploration back to the Trek ‘verse, Star Trek: Fleet Captains (Fleet) from WizKids.

Fleet is a game of galactic exploration played out on a randomly created universe of thin tiles. One side represents the Federation and the other the Klingon empire. Set in the “Prime” universe the game encompasses most of the Trek incarnations, which all intermingle. The set up is very open ended, with players allowed to choose everything from the size of the universe to the shape of it to how many victory points are needed to win.

The freeform nature extends to how players decide on fleet construction. Much like a standard miniatures game each vessel is worth a certain number of points, and the size of the game will limit how many points of ships the player can have. Additionally, the players will use cards in the game, with the cards adding modifiers to ships, altering combat, or having other game effects. There is a wide range of choices, with the cards being divided into strategy themes. Players create their hand from choosing a number of themes and setting the rest of the cards aside.

Although the game is won and lost by victory points those victory points can come from a variety of sources. Destroying enemy vessels, building star bases, and completing missions will all gain you points.

Both sides are dealt a number of missions at the start of the game. A mission involves a set of instructions, such as inflicting damage on your opponent, discovering a number of unexplored areas, or other task. Since there is no way the system knows how the game will unfold the mission requirements tend to be fairly generic.

The mission concept is a very clever idea, avoiding a set of static victory conditions that would grow old over time. Instead, each game will dynamically evolve thanks to the fact that the players’ goals will change game to game. And since each side will be facing off with different goals it creates a situation where players are actively engaged in not only trying to fulfill their own conditions but stopping their opponent’s conditions at the same time.

Fleets unfold in a IGOUGO manner, with each side moving ships, playing cards, and performing a limited number of actions with their vessels. In a standard game that number is three. As players explore the

galaxy there is a random chance of an encounter occurring when moving.These encounters are typically based on Trek episodes and involve some sort of ship systems test.

All tests in the game, whether scanning a planet or firing photons, involves an easy system of taking a base number, computing any modifiers, and adding the whole shebang onto the results of a d6 roll. If the total sum is higher than the target number (or in combat your opponent’s modified roll) you are successful.

Modifiers for tests run the gamut from playing cards, attached crew members, to changing the base system rating itself. As a WizKids game Fleets using their “clix” system, originally made famous by Mage Knight. The ships are represented by plastic miniatures (a note on these in a moment) mounted on a base that houses a stats dial. The dial can be turned to change the stats as needed. So, click the dial a couple turns and change your power from sensors to weapons if you’re going to battle.

Thankfully the ships all have data cards that show exactly what all the stats are. The dials often stick, and are impossible to read across the table necessitating picking up the miniature and looking at the base. It’s far easier to simply track everything on the data card.

By the way, the miniatures are absolutely dog vomit. Expect to find at least one or two assembled incorrectly (good Chinese political slave labor is so hard to find today), while the rest are simply poorly crafted. Since there are a variety of ship types scale is not relative, which while it is understandable there is just something odd about seeing a Bird of Prey that is larger than the Enterprise.

Components in general are pretty poor, especially for the price point of the game. The tiles are paper thin, as are the cards. When one considers what other publishers can put out for the same amount of money it is really inexcusable.

Looking beyond the components though Star Trek: Fleet Captains is a solid game. The sheer variety of how the game can unfold (universe, command decks, encounters, fleet compositions) makes every game fresh. Likewise, there is no one path to victory, as every game will see different needs to achieve victory. It’s also nice to know that there are always choices to win based on a player’s style. Want to hunt down and destroy your opponent? You can. Want to avoid all conflict and win by exploration? That’s possible too.

Star Trek: Fleet Captains “gets” its source material, which is pretty important, otherwise you just have a sci-fi game with Trek elements tacked on. No, this is a game that feels like you’re playing our own season of Star Trek. Send away teams to strange planets, visit star bases, make diplomatic overtures to bizarre aliens, and when everything else fails give your opponent a dose of hot phasers.

6. Sizzling Sellers and Those Special Offers

Since this is the season for thankfulness we’re always thankful for when the top three sellers over at the Gamers Front actually end up being the top four, since two are so close to call. Last month we’ve had the usual suspects still ruling their respective roosts.

Coming in first is Dominions 3: The Awakening, which should come to a surprise to no one. Not even your drunk aunt Gilda. Dominions 3 is the game that keeps on giving, one that is perpetually young thanks to the sheer amount of content that will take years to completely experience. Always fresh, always something new to see.

Next up is the Enhanced Edition of WinSPMBT, one of the few turn-based wargames on modern warfare available on the PC. WinSPMT is fully comprehensive, featuring conflicts from 1946 until 2020, with armies and hardware from around the world. If you can think it up you can play it. Endless content is just one reason everyone loves WinSPMBT.

Then there’s WinSPWW2, the same great game but set in the years prior to 1946. Experience the dawn of combined arms warfare. Fight before the big one kicks off or throughout it. Again, if you can think it up you can play it, and if you’re feeling lazy there are literally hundreds of scenarios to choose from, or make up your own with just a few clicks. Solid tactical wargaming found here.

Tied with WinSPWW2 is everyone’s favorite alien meeting, planet hopping, star tripping adventure game, Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space. Become your own Captain Kirk in this fast playing game of epic space exploration and drama, with randomized set ups for infinite fun in infinite space. Throw in the ability to extend gameplay even further through mods, and you have a classic on your hands.

Never a turkey, it’s Dominions 3: The Awakening.

Pumpkin pies can’t stand up to 120mm sabots inwinSPMBT.

Royal Tigers can really mess up your family function inwinSPWW2.

Forget the relatives and head for space in Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space.

The Gamers Front specials of the month can be found here.

The November specials include War Plan Pacific and Salvo!.

War Plan Pacific

War Plan Pacific is a turn-based grand strategic game of the epic conflict between Imperial Japan and the Western Allies during the Second World War. Players can command the historical forces of Japan, the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands in three different scenarios providing historical and alternate set-ups, playable against either the AI, live opponent via the Internet, or PBEM.

Inspired in part by the classic Avalon Hill board game on the subject, Victory in the Pacific, War Plan Pacific has a comfortable tabletop feel while embracing the digital experience. And just like that classic title, War Plan Pacific was designed from the ground up to be playable in a single session.

While the game plays fast don’t confuse playability with a lack of historical gameplay. KE Studios, developer of War Plan Pacific, has simply distilled down the Pacific conflict into its more important

aspects, creating a game that holds true to reality while not becoming mired with details. Players will find that they can pursue historical strategies in their bid for victory, or branch off and set their own course.

Turns are one month long, and units represent individual ships of light cruiser size or larger, amphibious and transport groups, and air groups. War Plan Pacific emphasizes air and naval combat, abstracting land combat. Combat is handled via a battleboard, and much like the game at large, provides players with many interesting decisions while never weighing them down.

For more information on the game and to download a demo please visit its official product page.

For November War Plan Pacific for Windows is available on sale for only $34.95, download or physical copy.

Inspired in part by the great naval paintings of that era, Salvo! has been designed from the keel up to provide an engrossing gameplay experience that allows armchair master and commanders to effortlessly face off against mighty armadas using a very intuitive interface. Players can command fleets of up to one hundred ships per side in a single battle with just a few clicks of the mouse, thanks to the unique ‘Action Marker’ system found in the game. With this system orders can be given to each individual ship in a scenario, or ships can be moved by squadron, allowing large scale engagements to be easily managed.

Salvo!

Combat is a wonderfully aesthetic aspect of the game, with vessels lovingly rendered in full 3D and battles playing out in a full broadside of sight and sound. Salvo! keeps the number crunching behind the scenes, allowing gamers to concentrate not on combat result tables, but fighting the battle. For example, while gamers will see a text report of “Constitution receives light damage” the player will also witness their ship shudder under a blaze of fire, with sails ripped to tatters and gaping holes peppering the hull. With such visual feedback reinforcing what’s occurring behind the scenes it becomes second nature for gamers to appraise how the battle is faring, and makes plotting strategy a snap without the need to catch every single text message like in some wargames.

The battles themselves are spread out over twenty-four campaigns, covering naval warfare from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. All the major naval forces of the era can be found in Salvo!, along with the nefarious pirates of the Caribbean and Barbary coast. Whenever possible the vessels are historically named and rated.

Multiplayer is fully supported, included PC versus Mac play. A full featured editor also allows editing scenarios and individual ships.

Check out more about Salvo! at its product page.

Salvo! is $34.95 for either the PC or Mac version until the end of November.

A note about holiday shipping. If you are interested in a physical product please keep in mind that with the holidays the world of package delivery can slow down, so please order early. Additionally, the Shrapnel Games shipping department will be closed from December 23rd to the 26th, so no orders will ship during that period. Digital purchases are of course not effected.

7. Link O' The Month

As a wargamer chances are you’re quite familiar with the basic history of wargaming. Matthew Caffrey’s article on wargaming history and its military applications though is an interesting read, delving deeper into the history than just namedropping “Little Wars”.

For example, you probably know people who find wargaming more work than fun, but you probably never wanted to kill yourself over a wargame, right? Apparently that wasn't the case for one Prussian officer, Lt von Reisswitz Jr., who introduced wargaming with paper maps, not sand tables, to the Prussian officer corps.

Unfortunately, it caught on and soon the entire Prussian Army was wargaming. According to Caffrey, “This was the beginning of Lt. Reisswitz's problems. His fellow officers resented the time these cumbersome wargames required. Finding his isolation intolerable, in 1827 Lt. Reisswitz took his own life.”

At least today there are plenty of solitaire games to play.

Read this and more at:

www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/cc/caffrey.html


Get it Now!8. The Crystal Ball

Total Eclipse: 2012

All American: The 82nd Airborne In Normandy: 2012

Eat Electric Death! (Board game): 2012

Star Legacy: 2012

Copyright © 2011 - Shrapnel Games, Inc.

 

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