Conclusion of the Battle of the Philippines

Last Major Imperial Japanese Navy Attack – Two huge IJN fleets are spotted sailing towards ships supporting the US landing on turn 17. Three Battleships are the core of the Western Fleet with 2 BBs in the Southern Fleet. The battle and the war are lost if these fleets can sink 4 support ships under AI control (marked blue on the overview map). With no carriers the IJN must close to naval artillery/torpedo range. 29 - Jap Fleet Arrives30 - East Fleet31 South Fleet

Concurrently the US gets substantial naval points to deploy fleet units – but no aircraft beyond three outdated squadrons attached to the Baby Flattops (escort carriers) in the Western Fleet. Reserve surface ships were enough, so no fleet elements were purchased. The US surface fleet has less firepower than the Japanese, but many dive bomber squadrons. Two Fleet Carriers are on station. 32 - US South Fleet33 - US East Fleet

Both US Fleets withdraw at full power to give the dive bombers maximum time to savage the Japs. 34 - US Fleets Withdraw to Buy Time35 - Naval Battle Big Picture


Many Destroyer Squadrons Sunk While Land Forces Advance! – Both Japanese Fleets suffer major losses as dive bombers target the destroyer escorts. The destroyer squadrons were targeted to reduce long-lance torpedo attacks and enemy fleet scouting range. By the end of turn 20 most destroyers were sunk. 37 - Three DDs Sunk Turn 1938 - T20 Another 2 DD Squadrons Sunk39 - 2 DD Squadrons sunk in South on T20

US Marine and Army units backed by substantial armor and heavy artillery continue advancing towards the last victory city on the far West Coast. 36 - Driving to Last Victory City in West on T19

Unexpectedly, two units of Japanese Paratroopers were spotted on transport aircraft. Since US forces have total air dominance, they won’t survive long enough to make their drops. The overview shot shows the distance the IJN fleets must sail to reach the defending US surface fleets. 40 - Turn 20 Big Picture


Japanese Fleet Retreats After Heavy Losses – In an unexpected move, both Japanese fleets went into full retreat after all destroyer escorts were sunk. US Helldivers took few casualties but pilots flying obsolete Dauntless Dive Bombers off the baby flattops took heavy losses from concentrated anti-aircraft fire. 42 - Turn 22 South Fleet43 - Last Escorts Sunk on Turn 2244 - Turn 22 Big Picture45 - Turn 23 Jap Fleets Retreat


Last Advance in the Philippines – General Wrigley takes the stage at what he hopes is the last general staff briefing. “Fellow Officers, I know many of you were grumbling when your Navy dive bomber support was withdrawn. Since those Helldivers reached their repositioned carriers in the nick of time to sink the Japanese Navy targeting our supplies, hospital ships, and transports – I’m sure you will now agree with the Admirals’ decision to reposition those squadrons. The Navy is having outstanding success against both Japanese Fleets and our supply ships are safe. Still, we will not have dive bomber support for the rest of the campaign. Our massed heavy artillery means we probably won’t need it.

Our Marine, Army and Armored forces are about a week (two turns) away from capturing the last objective. Well Done!

On a sad note, doctors have informed me that this is my last campaign. I’m worn out and am unlikely to make it into next year. The Doctors also inform me that I’m a Schnauzer mongrel and am unfit mentally and physically to command troops – although I boost morale whenever I’m seen. Regardless, I’m sure that historians will think that it is very silly for someone to put a dog in command of forces simply because they were looking for a General’s name.”

[Like many, I name characters in RPG and wargames after things that make me happy. Wrigley will be 16 on December 7, 2019 if she makes it that long. Her health is rapidly failing. We lost Sgt. Zippo last year to old age. But new recruits Panzer and Dash have joined the ranks].

General Wrigley led a successful ground campaign capturing the last victory city on turn 24 and achieving victory on turn 25 – a full 25 turns ahead of the deadline. She (yes, when she was forced to retire by reactionary elements in the Pentagon) was discovered to be both a canine and female.

PS – no disrespect is intended to those in my father’s generation who fought in the Pacific. Many never returned. Many who did return bore visible wounds and less visible horrible memories.

41 - Land Advance Turn 2246 - Turn 24 Last Victory City Captured47 - Victory48 - Took Advanced AviationGeneral Wrigley - Above Ground for Now



Battle of the Philippines – Part 2

Driving to Victory – Turns 8 to 12: The Northern East Coast victory city has been surrounded and severely damaged on Turn 8 and should fall next turn. Heavier resistance including armor was encountered on the other Northern axis of attack, but US Marine and Army troops are defeating the enemy. 15 - Turn 8 North

A furious air battle was fought over the three Marine units moving through the center of the island towards the West Coast. Several Japanese squadrons were shot down. Marines slogged their way through the horrible mountainous jungle terrain against moderate Japanese resistance. Aided by dive bombers, a strong force is moving North on the Western Coast Road. US Carriers have reached their assigned stations. A cruiser accompanied by a destroyer squadron are several turns away from rendezvousing with the South Carrier. 16 - Turn 8 Center17 - Turn 8 South18 - Turn 8 Big Picture

In the Center the last known Japanese fighter squadron was splashed in the Bay on turn 10. Three US Marine units launch coordinated attacks on the last Japanese force blocking access to the West Coast. Further South on the Coast Road, very strong US forces backed by armor and Lockheed Lighting fighters continue moving North. US forces are achieving primary and secondary objectives. Three of the six primary victory cities have been captured and the last secondary victory condition will be completed before turn 12. This rapid progress is easily seen on the overview map. 19 - Turn 10 Center and Air War20 - Turn 10 South21 - Turn 10 Objectives Checklist22 - Turn 10 Big Picture

US forces in the North broke free by turn 12 and rapidly advance on the road net. A Japanese armor and infantry unit are in danger of being cut off from the main force. 23 - Turn 12 North

Marine Units slogging through the center of the island have broken through to the coastal plain, isolating Japanese defenders on their river line. Marines are in radio contact with the main body pushing North on the Western coast road. 24 - Turn 12 - South and Center Linkup

More Land Victories and Dive Bombers Land on Carriers! – Turns 14 to 16: In the North the Japanese armor and infantry spotted on turn 12 were isolated and destroyed. Lead elements should take Carigara, the last Northern victory city next turn. All troops in the North have a unified supply line, although some troops lag several turns behind the lead elements. Unless something goes seriously amiss, the troops assigned to the North should quickly achieve their last primary objective. 25 - Turn 14 North

Dive Bombers squadrons are in sight of the carrier repositioned to the East. Big picture, all dive bombers should reach their assigned carrier within three turns. Two of the three remaining victory cities are under attack and should fall soon. 26 - Turn 14 Dive Bombers Approach Western Carrier27 - Turn 14 Big Picture

Carigara fell easily and major fighting in the North has ended. In the South armor crossed the river and is easily reducing the Japanese bunkers guarding the river. Heavy artillery arrived and should be in battery next turn. Despite significant Japanese defenders, the combination of armor, heavy artillery, and a four to one advantage in ground troops should easily take the next to last victory city in a couple of turns.

General Wrigley stepped up on stage at the General Staff Officer briefing before the assault. “We are going to make those Jap bastards die while minimizing our losses. We will attack with 3:1 superiority with river crossing backed by troops hitting bunkers and Jap defenders in the rear. Our heavy artillery will blow the hell out of them before the first tank or Garand round is fired. You got to love superior firepower, rested troops, and coordinated multiple-direction attacks. Go get them. One last thing. We captured photos showing how the Japs murdered and tortured our troops who surrendered after Bataan and Corregidor fell. Share them with the Captains and Lieutenants leading the assault. Take enough copies so every unit leader can have one.” 28 - Turn 16 Close to Taking Next to Last Victory City

Battle of the Philippines – Scenario 10 Order of Battle WW2 US Navy Campaig

Strategy – Capturing six primary victory cities gives you the win. Getting four allied ships sunk makes you lose. Specifically, the blue ships under AI control representing the supply fleet. Secondary victory conditions providing benefits are not losing any supply ships, reaching the Bayug Hanger in 10 turns and capturing 4 secondary victory hexes within fifteen turns.

1 - Objectives

Naval Strategy – My naval strategy is avoiding losing. Three sets of US ships must be guarded. Ships immediately off the invasion coast have multiple nearby airfields so defending them is easy. Sea access is far away, and my air power would sink any Jap fleet. The other groups are major problems. The second group is in the far South-Center of the map perhaps four flight turns from the nearest land airfield. The third group is the worst problem being in the far East about seven turns flight away from any land airfield. 2 - Objectives on Map

Controllable naval assets are only two destroyers, one cruiser and two carriers. The USA has a huge ground invasion force and massive air superiority. Marines should capture the first airfield within two turns of D-Day with additional airfields falling shortly thereafter. Projecting air power to protect the two distant sets of naval targets (fleets) is the problem.

The destroyers and cruiser will support the landing with naval gunfire, then sail South. Carriers start repositioning on turn 1 with one going East and the other South. Helldivers have a very long range and are potent against warships. They will be used in ground support roles until they must land to refuel/rearm. After refueling, Helldivers will fly west to land on the carrier. Less potent Dauntless Dive Bombers will fly to the carrier repositioned in the South. If a Japanese Naval attack materializes in the South, ground aircraft can arrive in four to six turns. But air support against a Japanese attack in the Eastern Fleet is seven to ten turns away.

For these reasons, the carriers must be in position to defend the distant fleets. Dive bombers will initially be used as ground support aircraft. After expending their bombs, they will land, rearm, and fly to the carriers. My Lockheed Lightning’s will remain on the mainland to provide ground support fire and to toast any Jap aircraft that show up. I have a couple of Corsairs which are superb long-range fighters but have negligible anti-ship capability. After the Battle of the Philippine Sea, carriers no longer need fighter air cover.

Land Strategy – Ground forces are almost all US Marines. I have a small number of regular army units and two groups of heavy artillery. Total air superiority should be achieved with six dive bomber squadrons for close air support supplemented with Lockheed Lightnings which have some ground attack capability.

Both Marine and Army units need costly upgraded training and equipment. Fortunately, I shepherded replacement/reinforcement points and can upgrade all Marine and Army units from 1941/42 versions to 1944 standards. Not cheap, but I have those reserves for a reason. It is time to use them. 5 - buying troop upgrades

My first upgrade priority was Marines, followed by Army, followed by upgrading Dauntless Dive Bombers to Helldivers. F4F Wildcat Fighters are almost obsolete, but I lack replacement points to upgrade to Corsairs or Hellfighters. Wildcats are kept in reserve.

I upgraded all Marines, Army and some (but not all) of my Dive Bombers. Upgrading ground troops cost approximately 750 points – half of my total. Helldiver upgrades used up all but 50 or so points. I discarded three obsolete AA/AT guns and a captured Jap tank for a few additional points.

The map is huge and the overhead map difficult to interpret. I’ve heavily annotated the map to illustrate my strategy. Much of the land area is inaccessible to my troops. The accessible area has a very long and thick strip of mountains covered in jungle that greatly inhibits East/West movement. The victory hexes are all close to the coast on a road net.

My troops are all hitting the beach as close to D-Day as possible. Troops move much faster on land than in landing craft. Avoiding horrible supply problems requires keeping all troops in a connected zone of control to your supply ships. Jap defenses are not expected to be heavy and I have massive close air support. Thus, I strung out my landing over a huge area instead of landing in waves.

Two airfields and several secondary victory hexes are close to the beaches. Those are the immediate objectives of the first couple of turns.

Winning means capturing six primary victory cities. Two are close to the landing zones with one to the North and the other South. Three more victory hexes are on the West coast. Thus, the main body will head South down the coast road. Troops follow this road along a U-shape to reach the three primary victory cities on the West Coast. 3 - Troop Strategy 14 - Troop Strategy 2

A smaller force will drive North. The smallest force will cut through a gap in the mountains to support the main force following the road. The NW third of the map has no primary victory hexes and will be bypassed.

Successful Landings Turns 1-3 – US Marines and Army units massively outnumber Japanese defenders. Pockets of heavy resistance are pounded by dive bombers and ground attack fighters. My massive D-Day ground forces are backed by six dive bomber squadrons, Lockheed Lightning fighters/ground attack aircraft, and fighters. 6 - Ready to hit the beach

All landings were successful, and troops moved inland or along the coastal road net heading towards primary victory cities in the North and South. Japanese land aircraft were caught on the ground. By turn 2 the first airfield had fallen. 7 - Turn 28 - Turn 3

The big picture shows the two fleet carriers moving at full power to support the Eastern and Southern support ships. 9 - Turn 3 Big Picture

Rapid Advance – Turns 4-7 – Japanese defenders on the Southern Coast road had either been destroyed or pushed into a pocket by Turn 4. Lead elements captured the first primary victory city and had turned East towards the next target. But scouts reported spotting multiple Japanese Battleships with accompanying fleet elements close to the Philippines!

10 - Turn 4 Warning Sign11 - Turn 4

By Turn 6 two more primary victory cities are under attack in the North and on the East Coast. Several Marine units have moved inland and are crossing the gap in the central mountain range. The two US Carriers are within a turn or two of their planned positions. 12 - Turn 6 Big Picture
By Turn 7 the smaller US force in the North are attacking their first targeted primary victory city. Additional troops are moving on inland roads towards the final Northern primary victory city. 13 - Turn 7 North

The larger US force in the South captured the first victory city several turns ago and now attack their second victory city. After this city falls the force heads North on the Western Coast road. Note dive bombers support in the South along with Lockheed Lightning fighters. Next turn the dive bombers will start flying towards land airfields to rearm and refuel. Then the dive bombers start their long flight to the repositioned carriers. 14 - Turn 7 South

Wings of Glory World War 1 at Origins: A Newbie Wrecks Havok

2019 was my third Origins so I decided play something utterly different – miniatures. I’ve read after-action reports from Wings of Glory games and thought the WW1 aircraft would be a good place to start miniature combat because there are few units and the planes move slowly and are not very maneuverable. Ares sponsored multiple Wings of Glory and Wings of War scenarios, so I checked to see which ones welcomed beginners and signed up for two. My first 2019 Origins game was Wings of Glory on Wednesday Noon.

The first scenario was a fourteen-plane fight early war fight in the English Channel over a British Destroyer with engine problems stranded close to the French Coast. Seven German planes were attempting to sink the destroyer with seven allied planes flying in defense. Unfortunately for the Germans, the destroyer had multiple machine guns and honestly did more damage than the aerial defenders. The game was simplified with all planes flying the same altitude with no climbing or diving.Destroyer Engines Damaged

Twelve of the fourteen pilots (players) were experienced to very experienced.

There were two noobies at the table. The coordinator ran the guns of the destroyer. I flew a Sopwith Camel – the first single seater bi-plane fighter flown by the British – aka the “Snoopy plane.” The Camel is very sturdy, but has difficulty turning left due to engine design.My Camel

The coordinator gave a very brief overview of the rules. The rules were you pick three flight cards before the start of a turn; you cannot play two diamond cards in a row; no altitude changes; stay on the map; and if you are shot down you stay out one turn before reentering battle. The experienced players were eager to help the newbies.
A huge fight ensued. Furball 2Straifing run11 of 14 planesDefending Damaged Ship

I decided a couple of things before deciding on my first three cards. First, I would not embarrass myself by flying off the map. Second, I would intentionally move slowly the first turn so I would not crash into my fellow British pilots. Third, after the first move or two I would pick targets and try to shoot them down. This was not the most daring strategy, but it avoids irritating others and allows me to see how the game mechanics worked before the battle became intense.

The Germans homed in on the Destroyer – except for the newbie who kept flying erratically in the middle of the formation. My fellow Brits went full power to intercept. When the Germans got in range the ship’s machine guns opened fire to devastating effect as they targeted every German plane in their firing arc.

After the first two moves I was about a half a turn (say 2 cards worth) flight time behind the British leaders. At this point I started to plot what I thought the closer opposing Germans would do and attempted to counter-move so their planes would enter my firing arc – hopefully while staying out of their firing arc. There is a lot of chaos (and guesswork) in a fourteen plane battle.

I’m a pretty good low stakes poker player. I was more flying in opposition to my chosen opponents than attempting to create action on my own. Perhaps it was blind newbie luck, perhaps it was my poker skill, perhaps everyone else discounted me as a newbie – but I landed more shots than almost everyone on the British side (excepting the destroyer) and downed two German aircraft without getting shot down. A good part of this was luck because my total of 7 landed shots included a “boom card” and a “pilot shot” card both becoming kills. Kills were signified by awarding a green poker chip while being shot down acquired the dread red poker chip. Nailing a GermanKill 1

The coordinator declared three winners and I landed in the top three. I was given a $5 coupon for Ares merchandise – which I gave to a fellow wargamer back at the Armchair Dragoons booth.

Sunday Afternoon – Late in the War my 2nd Battle
The second scenario was placed in 1918. Two British Bombers are being intercepted by five German planes. The Bombers are escorted by five British planes. The Bombers were flown by the coordinator. In this battle everyone started at level 3 and there was a hard ceiling at level 4. Planes could climb and dive. Every single pilot in the air, except me, was experienced.British Bombers

This time I was flying with the Germans in a Schuckert D III which is both faster and far more maneuverable than early war planes. As a newbie, I decided I would stay at the same level as the bombers (level 3) and not climb or dive. Once again, I initially flew slowly to see how the battle developed. Schuckert DIII

What happened next was every German plane excepting mine flew into close proximity of the bombers and concentrating their fire. The British defenders also swarmed around the bombers, except for two planes attempting a longer range intercept. I realized that the furball around those bombers was very tight, that I did not really know how to fly this plane, and that if I quickly closed on the bombers I was likely to collide with something.

So, I went after enemy planes instead of the primary target of the Bombers. My fellow German pilots poured massive fire into the bombers and eventually shot one down. I was the only pilot who never even fired a shot at the bombers.

I went after the Brits using my previous strategy of thinking through what I thought they would do and playing my cards appropriately. I got on the tail of one Brit and poured a total of 5 hits on them eventually shooting them down. My second target took six hits (three close range shots) and fell. By this time, I was so far away from the rest of the action that I never closed within range again. My first killMy second kill

Dumb luck again? Natural talent? I have no idea. I did get one “boom” card, but that was on the fifth hit. The other plane went down after a swarm of hits from myself and a fellow pilot. I once again got two kills with no losses and was awarded another $5 off – which I gave to another German pilot. Two Kills!

Back at the Aerodrome
This was a lot of fun! Having a bunch of planes in the air is manageable with this very quick flight and combat resolution system – at least if a supra-majority of the pilots are experienced. Both scenarios were scheduled for two hours and ended a hair early. The other players could not be more welcoming to a newbie pilot. The battlefields were very memorable with the miniature planes and the ship. Both scenarios were stacked against the Germans because the destroyer or the bombers gave additional fire against the Germans – but everyone seemed to have a good time and thanked the organizer. Ares provided enough prize support that winners felt a sense of accomplishment (although I gave my two coupons away).

Wings of Glory is an excellent Convention game. Large scale, memorable battles can be fought in a short time.

However, there are two improvements that could be made for newbie players. First, the organizers should have a short rules synopsis printed out on 3×5 index cards for newbies. Wings of Glory and Wings of War put their full rules set online in pdf form – so having a short rules summary for newbies would not run into copyright problems.

Second, card design contains a simple, correctable flaw. An Immelmann turn is a vital maneuver in aerial combat generally and in the Wings of Glory game specifically. An Immelmann reverses the direction of flight over a single card. The card signifying a straight ahead move and an Immelmann card are almost indistinguishable – if a newbie player gets their cards shuffled together incorrectly in the heat of battle.

The cards should print something legible – the flight in a different color; having a “reverse direction” printed on the card; or something else to prevent the wrong card from being played. The diamond on the bottom of the card indicating a special maneuver which cannot be played twice in a row is clear – the Immelmann was not to an utter newbie who got their cards turned around.

To my embarrassment, my next to last move in the second game (3rd card in sequence in my next to last turn) was an accidental Immelmann instead of the full power straight ahead move. This happened because I shuffled the card in upside down into my flight deck. It made no difference in the outcome. At that point I was very far away from the other planes. I also misjudged the turning rate of the bombers and never got close for a shot on them – a mistake due to my inexperience and lack of knowledge. I am a noob and I totally misjudged the speed of a bomber turn.

If nothing else, the suggested 3×5 card should give newbies a warning to be sure that their cards are all sorted so the bottom of the card has the correct flight indication. Don’t get your cards turned around in the heat of battle!

This was first published at


Philippine Sea Finale

Turn 15 – Three Japanese Carrier Groups Spotted! – Three Japanese carrier groups, each with a fleet carrier, battleship, heavy cruiser and two destroyer squadrons are spotted on the Eastern Map edge. Scout planes have all three groups in sight. Task Force UFO is in a two-turn flight range of the Northern and Central Japanese Carrier Groups. 24 - Turn 15 3 Carrier Groups Enter25 - T15 South Carrier Group

Task Force UFO directs the bomber squadrons in the air to the North group while launching all torpedo planes this round. The Guam strike group composed of two carriers, one heavily damaged is about a turn behind Task Force UFO and launches a pair of dive bombers. 26 - Turn 15 Big PIcture

Turn 17 – Jap Carriers Heavily Damaged! – It took two turns flight time to reach the Jap carriers. In the North two Helldivers landed hits on a Jap Carrier severely damaging it. 27 - Jap Carrier in North Heavily Damaged Turn 17

In the center, a TBM Avenger landed a huge blow on a Jap Carrier. A Dauntless Dive Bomber hit for minor damage.

“Mommy – I’m going to die! There is a Jap Zero on my tail and Captain Skull dances at the death of Scouts” cried the scout pilot over the airwave. This was followed by loud sobs, crying sounds, and the Lord’s Prayer. Then two US Navy Fighters dove out of the sun almost splashing the Zero on a single pass. A second pilot came on the air: “Shut up your mewling or my wingman and I will shoot you down ourselves.” A nickname was born. 28 - Jap Carrier in Central Fleet Heavily Damaged Turn 17

Turn 18 – Two Jap Flattops Sunk & Mewler is Safe! – The North carrier was the first sunk, closely followed by a dive bomber hit on the Center carrier. The Jap Zeros savaging the scouts of “Mewler Flight” were shot down. Unfortunately, three Jap Cruisers are rapidly closing on TF-UFO. US Dive Bombers will be redirected to this threat before flying South after the final Jap Carrier. 29 - North Carrier Sunk30 - Center Carrier Sunk

In the South an Avenger lands a torpedo in the 3rd and last Japanese Carrier. The screenshot captures the “boom” on the carrier before the damage is assessed. 31 - Turn 18 Torpedo Strike on South Carrier

During the Japanese part of turn 18 a cruiser launches a torpedo at a carrier in TF-UFO. Fortunately for the carrier (but not the destroyer), a screening ship took the torpedo intended for the carrier. [Another good reason to cluster your carriers surrounded by escorts. It is much harder to land a torpedo hit with this formation.] 32 - Jap Cruiser Has Long Range Torpedo hit on escort destroyer 77

In the Big Picture, the Guam Strike Carriers have rejoined TF-UFO. Two of the three Japanese Fleet Carriers have been sunk. The last in the South has suffered a major torpedo hit. TF-UFO will start withdrawing at full steam away from the remaining Japanese ships. 33 -Turn 18 Big Picture

Turn 19 to 22 – Overwhelming US Victory! – US Dive Bombers sank the final Jap Carrier on Turn 19. TF-UFO reversed direction and steamed back towards Saipan. No US Air Squadrons were destroyed. “Mewler” returned safely. 34- Last Carrier Sunk 35 - Victory Turn 22 of 30

Amphibious tanks were my research pick after the completion of the scenario. 36 - Landing Craft Tank Advancement

Post Battle Analysis – I took multiple risks in this scenario. I split my forces which split my Combat Air Patrol. A Jap Torpedo plane made it through the fighter screen and landed a heavy blow on a Guam Force carrier.

TF-UFO was extremely aggressive steaming very close to the map edge. Flight times to the Jap Carriers when they appeared on map was very short and the battle ended quickly. But this also put a couple of Jap Cruisers in range of the Task Force which could have ended far worse than it did.

The decision to send most of my destroyers South to protect the Saipan troop transports from Submarines was wise. The Japanese had a large torpedo force and if it was unmolested transports would have been torpedoed which could have lost the war for the USA.

Finally, the decision to aggressively bomb Rota and Guam to end the Japanese Land Based Air threat was a good decision.

A more conservative and frankly better strategy would have done this differently. Send all carriers with TF-UFO South. Bomb Rota and Guam with the carriers protected behind a thick Combat Air Patrol screen. Only then sail towards the Japanese Fleet. This accomplishes the same strategy with far lower risk than I ran – unnecessarily.

Only three scenarios left before the US Navy Campaign is complete!

[Final note. I realized during this conclusion that I swapped my “east” for “west” in the text and screenshots earlier in this scenario. Once you edit screenshots and add text you cannot erase words and rewrite. The text of the AAR could be easily altered, but it would be confusing when looking at the mistakes on screenshot text. So the mistakes remain.  Oops!]

Silent Night – Martian Night

“December 25th, 1914. In the sleepy town of Grovers Mill the 6th Infantry is celebrating Christmas when suddenly the peaceful night is shattered; Martian Tripods have broken through the front lines!” described this Origins session. That sounds different. This Origins I decided to play miniatures for the first time. Silent Night, Martian Night was pick #2 when I built my Origins schedule.6 - scout walker

I knew nothing about the game, the game world, or miniatures play. But it sounded weird and potentially fun.

Jim Beegan and Adrian John built a huge, destructible battle-map diorama based on the All Quiet on the Martian Front miniature system. As you can see, the layout was gorgeous. Premade “lit smoke plumes” marked destroyed buildings or destroyed Martian walkers.7 - Buring Buildings End of Turn 1

We played a three versus three matchup. Each Martian players ran a big walker, a scout walker, and three drones. I played one group of Martians. The other three divided up the troops of the 6th Infantry with heavy tank reinforcements.

All Quiet on the Martian Front is an alternative WW1 with Earth invaded by Martians. Ground troops wear breathing protection and rudimentary body armor. Tanks are far advanced from historical 1914.3 - Walkers in the Hills

As you can see, the playfield was massive. Jim and Adrian went to a huge amount of work to build the play field plus considerable trouble to transport it to Origins.

The rules were simple. Martians got points for blowing up buildings and killing civilians. If the Martian players failed to obtain 55 points they lost. The human players attempted to evacuate civilians while delaying the Martian advance. To complicate matters, a river crosses the playfield. A single bridge can be blown, greatly slowing Martian movement.

Players had reference with movement rates, types of fire, range of fire, armor and attack die. The Martians had area effect fire beams and even more powerful direct fire shots. But Martians could fire a very small number of shots per turn. Humans had swarms of units, an amazing total fire rate, but each shot was relatively weak.10 - Martian Walker goes Boom!

I knew nothing about this game specifically or miniature combat generally, but Jim and Adrian made it easy to play. Two players had played using these rules, everyone else were newbies.14 - Jim and Adrian

Jim and Adrian put in an amazing amount of work build and transport the playfield. Rules were communicated clearly, and they helped with the logistics of moving the horde of civilians fleeing the Martian onslaught. Everyone had a good time and I took more pictures of this event than any other I played at Origins.

However, the Martians lost and probably never had a chance at victory. Martians cannot come within an inch of any revealed human unit and lack overrun. With the fire rate and armor class, competent human players can block the relatively narrow roads by sacrificing troops for time in this six-turn game. The Martians had to cross the river to kill enough civilians (or blow up enough buildings) to score the 55 points needed for victory – and terrain choke points made that almost impossible.12 - Civilians Herded to the Train

But play balance is the easiest thing to fix in any game. A boring game system, incoherent rules, or a bad game design are much harder to overcome. An adjustment of the score needed to win, providing some level of points for torching (literally!) human military units, allowing overrun attacks by the Martian Walkers (even if this was just a pass-through movement with a free shot by immediate defenders) could all lead to better play balance. Hot dice rolls by the humans (they won initiative the first four turns and blew the bridge on the first attempt) helped, but with minimal tactical skill a human player should block enough choke points to evacuate most of the civilians and achieve victory.

This was fun! I’m glad I played. And my description and photos undersells the visual wonder Jim and Adrian brought to Origins.

This originally appeared at Armchair Dragoons:

Origins Game Fair 2019 – My Experience with 10 Organizations

Origins Game Fair 2019 was a lot of fun. I arrived at 8:00am on Wednesday and helped set up Rogue Cthulhu. My gaming started at Wednesday, Noon and continued through Sunday afternoon. My gaming experience touched heavily to lightly on ten organizations. This reviews my experience with the ten organizations, not the games themselves. I ran one session and played in thirteen sessions. Most of my Origins experience is as a player.

Organizations run a substantial, if not a supra-majority of the 7,000+ Origins events. Organizations propose sessions to Origins with Origins determining the overall schedule and assigning session numbers to the submitted events. Origins also handles individual registration, handing out free passes and even hotel rooms to some event organizers, plus selling dealer space and individual memberships. I’m sure much more goes on behind the scenes but I’m only writing about my direct experience.

Origins – GAMA is the trade organization running Origins. Origins was so ill-managed over the last two years that I wrote GAMA Board Members requesting firing everyone associated with high level Origins decisions and those responsible for online event registration. In the past two years event registration was a literal nightmare which never functioned properly until days after registration opened. Event locations ran out of water, trash bins often overflowed, and the Con was poorly run. In 2018 Origins had an inexcusable debacle with author Larry Correia. GAMA did not renew executive director John Ward’s contract, fired others, and hired replacements.

From a participant’s standpoint Origins was much better run this year. Website information was better. Origins staff responded to questions on web forums. Online registration worked smoothly. On-site registration was moved so registration lines stopped blocking doors to event halls. Convention bathrooms were much cleaner, trash was picked up, water dispensers were refilled, and table covers were provided so players did not pick splinters. Random discussions about Origins experiences during events supplied additional evidence that for many, Origins ran much better run this year. Overall Grade: B+/A Origins-2017-Goodman-Games

Columbus Convention Center/Hyatt Hotel – I’m unsure if the responsibility for convention amenities is on the Columbus Convention Center or Origins. As mentioned above, the Convention Center itself was a much better environment this year.
The convention center melds with the Hyatt Regency and some of the facilities are seemingly the responsibility of the Hyatt. Unfortunately, the Hyatt restroom facilities became increasingly toxic as the week progressed. Please clean up your act next year. Grade: B+/A for Convention Center, D- for Hyatt. Columbus Convention Center

Rogue Cthulhu/Chaosium – Rogue Cthulhu ran a massive schedule of Call of Cthulhu events and provided the space to run Runequest. Some events were modules provided by Chaosium, others were homebrew events written by individual game masters, yet others were previously published scenarios ran at the convention. Chaosium provided substantial prize support to Rogue Cthulhu. At every event the individual voted best player at the table chose an item off the prize table. Every session participant was entered into a raffle for large prizes. Individual prizes were published Chaosium adventures or collections of Call of Cthulhu short stories with retail prices running up to $35 an item.

Rogue Cthulhu was very well organized. They had a central information table, a display showing which tables were running which event, had an organized system for integrating individuals with generic tokens into games with empty slots (usually no-shows), with a seated waiting area for generics and those waiting for a game. Rogue Cthulhu has large physical props to set the mood. If a game session was canceled, those holding tickets for that event were seated first in alternate events.

The judges were on time with pregenerated characters for my two sessions. Every judge had a printed (or electronic) copy of the scenario. Every gaming table had a power strip for keepers using laptops or tablets which allowed players to recharge their devices. Everything including prize tables and information booth were set up and ready to go before the first gaming session on Wednesday.

From a game master’s perspective Rogue Cthulhu was very easy to work with. Judges running homebrew scenarios submitted the scenario in advance for quality control screening. Those running a Chaosium supplied scenario got pdfs including pregen characters more than two months before Origins. A backup copy of each Chaosium scenario was held by the organizers. Rogue ran ticket collection, raffle tickets, and participant seating smoothly from a Judges perspective. Last, Rogue provided a checklist for judges on core Call of Cthulhu rules, materials provided by Rogue, and keeper guidelines. Overall Grade: A+Rogue Cthulhu

Rogue Judges – Rogue Judges ran a massive and eclectic schedule of tabletop board games. Games ranged from simple to moderately complex. The variety of games Rogue Judges ran was staggering and they had a large gaming hall space. I played Scythe and the Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game with Rogue. Each of my games had six participants.

Rogue Judges had an information table which also held games not being run currently. My Rogue Judges were on time with game boards fully set up before players arrived. One Judge ran two game sessions for each of my Rogue Judge events. Each judge knew the game, could interpret and explain the rules, and made fast decisions instead of dithering or being indecisive.

The Dresden Files game is a simple tabletop game. None of the six players had played the game before. Our coordinator provided a good game overview, a good rules discussion, and was readily available to answer questions. My session was professionally run and he oversaw two concurrent game sessions without problems.

Scythe is far more complex than The Dresden Files. Two of the six players had Scythe experience and those players helped the inexperienced interpret the rules. The game board was set up and resource pieces were in hand and organized. The judge quickly answered questions, including a couple of moderately difficult questions during game play. The Scythe games ran much slower than The Dresden Files, but this is to be expected given the differences in game complexity.

Overall, Rogue Judges provided a highly enjoyable game experience. The only obvious improvement would be having a prize table for participants, but that would require securing manufacturer support by Rogue Judges and as an outsider I’m unable to judge the feasibility of this. Given Rogue Judges professionalism, providing products for player prizes seems an inexpensive way to generate player enthusiasm for your game. Overall Grade: A.

Steve Jackson Games – I played the 2018 Illumanti game. Steve Jackson Games had an information table and quickly directed me to my game table. The game was set up and ready to play. Our judge arrived on time and gave a quick and accurate game synopsis. The judge oversaw only our session. All players had played earlier editions of Illumanti, but nobody had played the game in the last decade. No player was familiar with the rules.

Our judge started the session by giving each player a card which could be integrated into the game if owned or purchased. Our judge knew the rules, assisted in game play, and made quick decisions on game questions. The game session was too short to complete the game, but long enough to familiarize everyone with the rules and game play. Overall Grade: A.

Goodman Games – I played three sessions of Dungeon Crawl Classics. Two rounds in the tournament plus a homebrew game. Tournament judges were very familiar with the scenario, pregens were provided, and the scoring system was clear to the judges with key elements (but not details) given to players.

I played two of the three tournament rounds with my group knocking itself out in the semi-finals due to a dumb player decision. The judges kept everything moving and were careful not to provide suggested courses of action. Both tournament judges had run the tourney previously and it ran like clockwork. This was essential because the number of completed rooms was a key part of a groups score.

The homebrew game also started on time with pregens. The game keeper was knowledgeable but was a little slower in making decisions – but this was not a problem because it was not a tournament. Only three of six players showed up, but the judge quickly adapted, and play progressed smoothly. Every player got a Dungeon Crawl Classics bookmark for participating.

My three Goodman Game sessions were very enjoyable, but the organization was somewhat poorer than Rogue Cthulhu, Rogue Judges or Steve Jackson Games. There was no information table or designated individual to greet players and get them to the right table. The tournament judges could not clearly explain the prize structure. Nothing was given to players participating in the tournament – which is inexcusable given Goodman Games normal loot package for convention game players (I’ve played at many Goodman Games events at Cons and the lack of player loot was an oversight by someone given company support to judges). Don’t get me wrong, by now I have almost all common player loot and turned down another bookmark. But the other players would have appreciated the gesture. Overall: Grade: B. Would absolutely play in their events but small details were poorly executed. 

Goodman Games

Ares – I played two large Wings of Glory WW1 games. The first game had 14 planes in the air in a seven on seven dogfight. That game had twelve experienced players and two newbies. The second game had ten players and I was the only newbie. In addition to being utterly unfamiliar with Wings of Glory, I had also never played a miniature wargame.

The game was set up and ready to run before the players arrived. The judge was familiar with the rules and made quick decisions on rules questions or firing arcs (very important in an aircraft miniature game). Most players were very familiar with the game and eagerly assisted newbies.

Players shot down during combat restarted after a one turn delay. Both games ran long enough that a meaningful, but simple score could be assessed. The first game ran under simplified rules with everyone flying the same altitude and the second game allowed altitude changes. Prizes ($5 off coupons on Ares merchandise) were given to the winners with three players designated winners in each game. In a weird stroke of beginners’ luck, I was a winner in both games, but I gave my coupons to others who play Ares games.
Wings of Glory is a deceptively simple game. Both players and game masters were eager to help newbies and were forgiving of rookie mistakes (I played an Immelmann card when I meant to go straight ahead in game 2 which was highly embarrassing). The games ran efficiently, and players had a good time.

However, Ares could make a simple improvement to help newbies. If a rules reference card with core rules plus a warning to keep your cards organized so you can discern between an Immelmann (which reverses direction) and a straight move would be helpful. I got the “no two diamond cards in a row” rule without problems, but another rookie kept messing that one up. Every other game I played at Origins had a copy of the rules and/or a rules reference card. I’m guessing that Ares convention games are predominantly played by experienced players so simple ways to help newbies was overlooked. Ares has pdf downloads of the full rules on their website – so providing a rules reference for newbies would not cost them money. Overall Grade: A for experienced players and B for Newbies.


Jasco Games – I played Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Board Game at the Jasco area. Jasco had a large presence at Origins selling the Buffyverse games (Buffy; Buffy Expansion; Angel) and coordinated appearances by second tier stars of the TV series. Sales, game demos, and star appearances (costing $40 for a signed photo or selfie with few takers) were all in the same large area.

Buffy was set up and ready to go when I arrived. Enough players arrived that three games ran concurrently. Jasco had a big area, but the staff was much greater than the number of games, retail sales, and visitors to see the B-actors. In sum, lots going on at Jasco but somewhat overstaffed at the time given the number of customers.
Buffy is fun, but not complicated. One staffer quickly rattled through the rules – think the rapid delivery of a bored museum tour guide. My table had three experienced board game players none of whom had played Buffy. The adjacent table had five players, one of whom had played a game in this series (Angel). Unfortunately, the staffer who rattled through the rules quickly departed. The other staffers chatted with each other, checked their phones, worked other areas and were largely useless to us.

My group had many rules questions, mostly because nobody ran through the first complete turn with our group plus the rules were explained unprofessionally. The guy on the table beside us (trying to play his game) was a more consistent rules interpreter than the paid staff. My table eventually gave up trying to flag down staff to answer gameplay questions that could have been handled by supervising a full turn of gameplay and we turned to the printed rules.

Jasco was incompetent. They had enough staffing, but staffers were uninterested in helping our group. Rules coverage and introduction to game play were handled incompetently – far worse than all other groups I gamed with during Origins. I own an unopened copy of Buffy and read the short rule book in forty-five minutes after returning to Alabama. While this game is more complicated than The Dresden Files, it is far less complicated than any other game I played at Origins. Weirdly, this is a fun game with relatively simple rules. But if I had not already owned the game, I would have never purchased it given my unnecessarily unpleasant Con experience. Overall Grade: F. Heads should roll. Jasco games

Everything Epic Booth – Everything Epic had a demo booth/game sales in the dealer hall. I purchased Big Trouble in Little China several weeks before the Con but had only briefly scanned the rules. Big Trouble in Little China has inventive game mechanics I’m unfamiliar with. It combines a board game with a “choose your own adventure” game mechanic. I’ve never played anything like it.

Everything Epic had three table set up for either Big Trouble or the Lo Pan expansion. I came by the booth the first time and talked with the staff. I mentioned that I owned the game but had only scanned the rules and that a playthrough would be very helpful getting up the learning curve. He asked me how much time I had (fifteen minutes) and suggested that it would be best if I could come by with thirty minutes or more to spend. He also referred me to the game designer who answered a lot of questions and was quite happy to talk with someone who had purchased his $100 game.

I returned on a subsequent day with forty-five minutes to play. They were not demoing very much so two staffers sat me down, quickly ran through the game mechanics, and walked me through three turns of play. One staffer ran Lo Pan’s minions, the other played Jack Burton, and I played Wang. I rattled off dozens of questions during play and all were answered quickly and competently. They sometimes suggested moves after I made my move (letting me change if desired) but let me charge ahead if I wished. After forty-five minutes of play I think I’m at least 50% up the learning curve on a somewhat complicated game with some innovative rules mechanics.

Unlike my other experiences discussed above, I did not buy an event ticket for Everything Epic. They were friendly, adapted to my time schedule, and did not push me to buy something after I explained I wanted to learn the core game mechanics and play through a couple of times at home before considering any additional purchases. Grade: A+ – they adapted to the customer, were fast, and very knowledgeable. everything epic games

Armchair Dragoons – I know these guys and write for the website. I hung around the booth when I had gaps in my schedule and was uninterested in further exploration of the dealers’ room. Had good conversations, a lot of laughs, and shared a pizza on Wednesday. But I did not play any of the Armchair Dragoons sessions and cannot comment on a game experience with them. Armchair dragoons

This article first appeared at Armchair Dragoons: