Night of Man:
A Xenomorph Is Involved…

It’s been a long time since leisure time and brain power have combined in sufficient quantities for me to get in some game time on the tabletop and then go all bloggy about it. With any luck, it will become more frequent than a once-a-year event…

Since it smacked down on the front porch of The Swamp Bunker about ten days ago, I’ve spent a number of interesting sessions playing Night of Man, the new sci-fi tactical shoot-em-up from Flying Pig Games — in fact, it’s FPG’s first boxed release (although it’s not like chief pig flyer Mark Walker hasn’t been around the wargame industry for a while now). In the interest of full disclosure, from time to time I write up bits of gaming goodness for FPG’s Yaah! Magazine. In return, from time to time, FPG sends me a magazine. They do not, however, send me free boxed games. (Sadly, one does not get rich writing for wargaming magazines.) I got Night of Man fair and square through the game’s Kickstarter campaign.

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If, like me, you enjoy poking around at a large variety of tactical wargames, you’ve probably come across Mark Walker designed games before. In a previous business-y incarnation, he was responsbile for the squad-level Lock N Load system and the platoon level World at War (plus its close relative, Nations at War). Probably other stuff I’ve missed, too. When I first saw the Kickstarter for Night of Man, I had to wonder how many different ways one guy could come up with to “do” a tactical wargame.

Fortunately, it appears the creative Mr. Walker takes his coffee strong because Night of Man is Different with a capital “D”.

For starters, the game box needs a sticker on it (in large print) that reads “Sized for Old Farts”, or something to that effect. The physical presentation is generously scaled and very sturdy. Counters (including markers) are one-inch square — no tweezers required — and the four mounted maps are marked with a one-inch grid. I have in the past fussed a bit about the teeny superscript numbers and congested counter graphics in both Lock N Load and World at War, so it’s only fair that I heap praise on the Night of Man counters for their ease of use. Hell, I don’t even need to wear my reading glasses to play the game. For those of us who are in our squinty-eyed, fumbly-fingered phase, this game’s graphics are good therapy. Continue reading

Stupid Computer Things

Sometimes even an old, bald wargamer gets the urge to just sit in front of a computer and blow up stuff for a little while without having to read 24 pages of rules.

I’ve been getting that urge more frequently lately, as my spare time has been compressed by the rigors of 10-year-old-Junior-back-to-school and my evening brainpower has been diminished by basically the same thing. Being the over-aged dad of an under-aged person has been more time and energy consuming that I would have ever imagined.

My mind is pretty much a one-track gadget, or at most a track-and-a-half, so I can typically handle only one computer game at a time. (It takes time to train this old brain on all of the buttons, twitches, and tactics.) For the past year or thereabouts, my go-to game for virtual mayhem has been Borderlands 2 — a combo shooter/RPG with eye-catching cell-shaded artwork, some excellent writing, and a lot of wry humor.

A few weeks back I bought the follow-up game, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, on a Steam sale for cheap. I cleared some disk space on my creaky old computer and installed it a week or so ago, and it’s diverting serious time away from my Borderlands 2 play. As a quick note, I’ve beaten BL2 twice with two different characters — but I still haven’t managed to explore anywhere near all of the game’s content.

Roaming around Elpis in a moon buggy.

Roaming around Elpis in a moon buggy.

As a stand-alone game, in the hands of somebody completely unfamiliar with the Borderlands franchise, The Pre-Sequel (TPS) would still be a worthwhile gaming experience. All of the systems BL2 players love — destruction, loot, humor, more loot — are included in TPS. But TPS has a special sort of ‘insider’ appeal for players of BL2. The playable characters in TPS are, for the most part, characters you encounter as villains in Borderlands 2. Since I haven’t finished the game yet, I can’t comment on the story arc that leads to their ‘conversion’, but it’s an interesting setup for the game.

My first character in TPS is an Enforcer named Wilhelm. He has some mad combat buffs, a few cybernetic implants, and his Action Skill lets him toss out a couple of drones: Saint, which regenerates his health, and Wolf, which attacks bad guys with blasts of shock-y, laser-y looking stuff. In Borderlands 2, players encounter Wilhelm as a completely robot-ified Hyperion ultra-badass who deploys multiple repair and attack drones. Continue reading

Target Lock on My Rebellious Child

As the ongoing hype continues to build toward the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, It’s entertaining to ponder (as much as a very irregular gaming blog can ponder anything) the central Yin and Yang of what has become known as the “Star Wars Universe”. The second trio of Star Wars movies made a total hash out of the whole Force shtick, turning away from earlier hints of mysticsm while simultaneously introducing one of the worst ideas in the history of high-dollar space opera AND presenting a great argument against so-called Romeo and Juliette laws.

A lot of Star Wars fans, I think, have a misguided view of what it takes to turn to the Dark Side of the Force. Presumably, they’re the people who have a warped view of order and authority, but let’s stay focused. On the surface, it’s easy to think that Star Wars bad guys turn into bad guys because they’re basically assholes to begin with. I mean, clearly, The Emperor is an asshole. Anakin somehow manages to turn into an asshole, despite Obi Wan’s best efforts. All of those Sith Lord types (you know, the Darth-whatsit guys) are really assholes.

The Rebels run out of ships. Again.

The Rebels run out of ships. Again.

My own observation is that turning to the Dark Side (or not) has a lot more to do with family than it has to do with any latent (or overt, for that matter) assholery. Continue reading

Heroes of Normandie: Observations

Unless I’m writing about a monster game or something similarly complex and time-consuming, it always seems a bad idea to post a gaming AAR based on information gleaned from only a single playing. I thought about this quite a bit since my last blog post, so I’m altering my plan a little bit toward more of an overview approach.

Single scenarios from a ‘system’ game, learning scenarios and other small set-pieces seldom provide all of the experience and understanding I like to have when I sit down to write. Such is the case here with Heroes of Normandie. The focus of my previous written examples was the first offering in the game’s scenario book (which I think was also included in the print-n-play version), but I have played several other scenarios in the box before firing up my keyboard again.

Continue reading

Heroes of Normandie: The Setup

I think the best way to provide an overview of how Heroes of Normandie works is to just dive right into some scenario setup and game play. I’ve never been big on trying to provide Reader’s Digest versions of rules anyway. On top of that, for the really curious, v1.1 of the HoN rules is available for download from the Devil Pig Games website.

For my example, we’re diving into the first scenario in the scenario booklet. The US and German players have evenly matched forces in a sort of modified capture-the-flag setting. There are five possible “objective” locations on the two-board setup; the actual objective — which a friendly unit must reach (ostensibly to recover some valuable documents), then exit the board safely — is selected by die-roll at the beginning of Turn 2.

Setup for the first scenario, "Godsend".

Setup for the first scenario, “Godsend”.

Each side receives the basic units on a standard rifle/panzergrenadier platoon template. No attachments or assets are available in this brief learning game. Note that “platoons” in HoN aren’t really platoons. They’re closer to reinforced squads or, at best, half-platoons. Each template includes a Recon team (three little guys drawn on the counter), a ‘Fire’ team (with five little dudes), an Officer and a sort of ‘heavy’ team. Continue reading

Hedgerow Heroes

About 15 months ago I lost my mind for a while and plunked down a significant chunk of change (in adjusted game budget dollars) as a Kickstarter campaign pledge for a game titled “Heroes of Normandie”. Offered up by Devil Pig Games (essentially a French design and art team), I was impressed by the game’s potential to become a colorful addition to my array of tactical-scale wargames. The game system was based on a game I was already familiar with — “Frontiers”, designed by the same team and published by Asmodee Editions — so I figured the chances of a good result were fairly high.

Heroes of Normandie content

Inside Heroes of Normandie Base Set box.

Thanks to general wargame design craziness and the vagaries of gentlemen in France trying to superintend manufacturers in China, the project neatly spiraled away from its original production schedule (“Estimated Delivery Sep 2013″). That said, the whole oversized Kickstarter package landed at the Swamp Bunker — finally — at the end of May 2014. Continue reading