It is Sunday afternoon April 30th as I am writing this (or at least starting to write it) and I have just returned from 5 days of gaming goodness at the best little gaming convention in the Midwest Buckeye Game Fest! After a 3 hour nap, I ate some dinner but I still feel exhausted. You wouldn’t normally think that 5 days of gaming would exhaust you…..but each night we went to bed around 12:30am and woke up bright and early each day at 7:00am to get started again! We couldn’t help ourselves! The opportunity to play great multi-player and traditional 2-player wargames was just too much of a drive to be bothered by things like sleep, food and fashion. We had a blast and I am so glad that we attended again this year! This is now our 3rd time at Buckeye Game Fest (October 2019, March 2022 and now April 2023) and each year we look forward to attending as it kicks off our convention season with BGF in March/April, the World Board Gaming Championships (WBC) in July and then Gen Con in early August. We love conventions and firmly believe that they are about one thing…playing games! And more specifically BIG multi-player games. We have played some great ones over the years at these conventions including Pericles from GMT Games, Twilight Imperium IV from Fantasy Flight Games, Cataclysm from GMT Games, War Room from Nightingale Games and Successors 4th Edition from PHALANX just to name a few. The opportunity to bust out a huge game with lots of players is just a match made in heaven at conventions.

Last year I wrote up a more general summary of our experience at Buckeye Game Fest focusing on the venue, the amenities and nearby restaurants as well as gaming but in this year’s post I am going to simply give a day-by-day reckoning of all of the games and other activities we participated in while there.

First off though I want to thank some people. First and foremost, thanks to the staff at Buckeye Game Fest (Kristen and Bryan) for recruiting us as special guests and taking care of us. We appreciate the free badges and a few days of comped rooms, which helped us to be able to afford being there so long. We also wish to thank our 2 sponsors in Blue Panther, LLC and Marshall Enterprises. We don’t do this full time so we need all the help we can get!

Also, thanks to GMT Games and RBM Studio for the games they donated to giveaway as prizes at our events. We gave away 4 COIN Series games including Cuba Libre x2, Colonial Twilight and All Bridges Burning to the winners of our COIN Series Teach & Play Events. We also gave away several copies of C3i Magazine #33 and #34 to participants of these events. We hope that we have created some neophytes of the COIN Series and they end up purchasing the other volumes in the series that they don’t own! GMT and RBM are fantastic companies and really understand the concept of supporting events like ours as it assists in bringing new gamers into the world of wargaming and creates future sales for their products.

We also were given an advance copy of The British Way by GMT Games and played it and reviewed prior to attending the convention and then also had that on display in our area of the War Room to show off to fans of the COIN Series. Lots of people stopped by to check that out and flipped through the rulebooks and looked over the Event Cards as well. We had lots of questions about how it compared to Cuba Libre, whether it was a good entry point to the series, how long the play time was and even what mechanics changed in the COIN Series Multi-Pack format. I would have loved to have given some demos and played it with attendees but we had multiple events already lined up and had to take some time to play games as well.

And finally thanks to all those people who played games with us. Thomas (who we found out is from Indianapolis), Jordan, Bill, Russ, Charlie, Dean, David, the other David, Ken, Tim, Steve, Ari, Jeff, Alexander (another Alexander) and many others who we met for the first time or with whom we have played a game at BGF in the past. That is one of the cool things about going year after year, you meet people who become fast friends and then get to see them each year!

Day 1 – Tuesday, April 25th – Preparation and Set-Up of Unconditional Surrender!

Alexander and I have been looking forward to Buckeye Game Fest all year! In fact, we started our planning late last year with ordering some new giveaways including some TPA logo coffee mugs (which can be used to hold your favorite hot beverage or used as a chit-pull cup!), new stickers and some buttons. We also contacted our friends at GMT Games (Gene Billingsley and Tony Curtis) and RBM Studio (Rodger MacGowan) to request some games to present to the participants in our COIN Series Teach & Play Events. Funny story though. We had initially planned to meet up at my house at 3:00pm on Tuesday to embark on our journey across I-70 to Columbus, Ohio. But, sometime around 9:00am, I got a text from Alexander asking if we could change that to 2:00pm. I was good with that and went about my day at work. I was at a staff luncheon at our local Mexican restaurant for Taco Tuesday when another text came in at about 12:45pm asking me how early was too early for him to come over. I said I could be home by around 1:30pm but that I needed to finish packing and gathering my games before we could leave. He said that was fine and I finished lunch at around 1:00pm and immediately drove home. To my utter surprise, when I pulled into my driveway at 1:20pm, Alexander was already there! I laughed out loud and greeted him but let him know I had to finish packing and gathering up my games. He was fine with that and followed me in to start “assisting” me in packing up the games (he really just wanted to hurry up the process). Because of this, I was very excited and all of a sudden was thrown off a bit and forgot several things including my favorite belt to hold up my pants, an extra pair of reading glasses and at least 1 or 2 other games that I had thought about but forget in my excitement to get going. We loaded up the car and left around 1:35pm, which meant that we would arrive in Columbus, Ohio by around 4:00pm. When we left, our car was packed to the gills and we had very little room for anything else!

This meant that we would gain a few hours as I had originally expected us to get there around 6:00pm. We checked into the hotel, loaded up 2 whole carts with our stuff and got up to our rooms, unpacked and were on our way down to the War Room by around 4:30pm. This would mean we could get our reserved area organized and ready but also get Unconditional Surrender! setup and get playing that evening by around 8:00pm. We had decided late last fall to take Unconditional Surrender! from GMT Games and get it played over the first 3 days of the con. I realize now that this was way overly optimistic and naïve as we would ultimately only complete 2 years of the game ending in August 1941. Our last day playing the game was actually Thursday afternoon when we were able to get a few turns in near the end of the day.

We also got our area established by putting up our fancy TPA banner, laid out the advance copy of The British Way we were provided, put out about a dozen gently played wargames that needed a good home and put up our list of events over the next 4 days. We purchased these really cool acrylic clear standees and Alexander printed out nice little signs to put in them. I thought that made us appear really professional and like we knew what we are doing! Hahahahaha joke was on the poor attendees in the War Room though!

We got setup and were underway playing by 8:00pm and it was a bit slow going at first as we learned the rules and got comfortable with the systems. Alexander has played a few times solo before but even he needed some time to get comfortable. USE! is a big game in scope but has low counter density with no stacking allowed and just a few condition markers to place on units. Germany declared war on Poland at the outset and we were off and sprinting. By the end of the night, we finished just a few months ending with November 1939. A really interesting part of the design is the Political Phase where players can pay 5 resources to draw a chit out of a cup that has been seeded with several different types of chits such as a Political Success, which allows the drawing country to place a friendly political marker in a neutral country such as Hungary, Yugoslavia, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Norway to name a few, Political Failure, which allows the drawing player to remove one of their opponent’s political marker on the board, a No Event chit which means nothing happens or a friendly political marker that can be placed out. The goal is to get two such political markers in neutral countries to have them join your side in the war by adding their factories to your total and providing you with a few minor combat units to use in the game. This was a great part of the design but was really difficult for the Axis as I drew No Event or Political Failures on my first 11 draws. I was only able to annex Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania but had to invade Yugoslavia and Norway to get them on my side by breaking their Political Will. I also finally got Italy on my side barely but lost Spain and Turkey to the Allies and was never able to control Sweden or Finland.

We also were invited over to participate in a live episode of EYAWTKAW with Gary of Ardwulf’s Lair and Dan Pancaldi of No Enemies Here fame at BGF with the special guest being the Mark Herman! We had just started our game of USE! and were finishing up the month of September 1939. Poland would fall by the end of October 1939 and then attention was switched over to France! Here is a link to the episode (we came in at the 32:47 mark of the show):

All in all, a very good start to the convention and we retired to our room around 11:30pm to get some shuteye in preparation for a big day on Wednesday.

Day 2 – Wednesday, April 26th – 12 Hours of Unconditional Surrender!

We got up bright and early on Wednesday at about 7:00am and headed to the restaurant in the hotel for a full breakfast buffet. I ate a good low carb meal full of eggs, bacon, sausages and a biscuit while Alexander ate the same but with the addition of potatoes and toast. We ate quickly and were in the War Room at 8:30am and started back into our game of USE! This was our day to really make some progress and I was really hopeful that we could get in about 12-15 hours of gaming.

The morning started around January 1940 and I worked really hard as the Axis to invade Denmark and try to get Norway to join the cause. I also started to move German units into position on the Western Front for the commencement of hostilities with the French in or around February/March 1940. But, it would all depend on weather and as you may or may not know in Unconditional Surrender!, weather is determined with a random die roll with certain types of weather, such as Poor in January, February and March, are more likely than Fair weather in those same months. The reason weather matters so much is that an attacking unit will take a -2 DRM to their attack rolls in Poor weather, which can make the difference between success and utter failure.

This buildup on the Western Front would only last through February as weather was Fair and I decided to go ahead and start the Blitzkrieg. True to form, the Germans simply drove around the Maginot Line and invaded into the Netherlands and Belgium. Sedan also fell and within one month, with 2 units destroyed and the fall of Sedan, France was already on the ropes with a National Will of just 5 staring defeat in the eyes. You will notice the placement of Sortie markers on the German planes as each time they attack, they accumulate a Sortie. This Sortie negative is then used in the case of an interception attempt by the enemy who can attack your sorties and if they roll well, and you roll poorly additional sorties can be added and the +2 DRM added to ground combat can be lost.

By the end of February 1940, Germany had seized Paris and would have the French on the run. The Axis really just need one more month with some good weather to finish the job. I really enjoy the maneuver needed in this game as units have to use their Movement points to not only get in position but to initiate an attack. Mobile Assaults are better as you can attack and keep moving and attack again if you win while Assaults give more bonuses but end movement after a combat. In the picture below, you can see that I have pushed the defending French out of Paris and have taken Le Havre poised to attack across the Seine River. But, I did leave a bit of a hole there and put myself in real jeopardy as I am isolated and with a good roll on the French attack could see my unit have to retreat and be pushed into the sea eliminating it. The roll was bad and I survived enough to reinforce my unit in a later turn to deal the killing blow.

The slog in France continued as weather was poor in March, April and May and I was unable to knock out the French until Fair weather arrived in July. This was 2 months later than historical but I will chalk it up to bad weather and relative inexperience with the system leading to a tentativeness in my attacks. France fell as the German spearhead drives through Nantes to Brest taking those last two cities pushing the French National Will to zero and seeing them surrender. Vichy France was then created and with the surrender of France, Italy finally gets a Pro-Axis marker but still haven’t joined the Axis yet.

At this point, we took a break from USE! to play a game of Land and Freedom: The Spanish Revolution and Civil War designed by Alex Knight and published by Blue Panther. Steve Jones from Blue Panther joined in the game controlling the Moderates, with me the Communists and Alexander the Anarchists. This game is a semi-cooperative game where the 3 players represent different factions in the struggle for control of Spain in the Moderates, Anarchists and Communists. Each player has to work together to remove Fascist influence on 1 of 4 different Fronts (North, Aragon, Madrid and South) of they will build up with Fascist units and see that Front collapse. If you lose 2 Fronts during the game, the game is a loss and no one can win with any amount of Victory Points. If the coalition works together to keep the Fronts open, each player has a chance to win with the collection of Victory Points which are deposited into a draw bag called the Bag of Glory. At the end of each round, a certain number of chits will be drawn and placed on the Victory Track for the side who owns them. This is a very unique dynamic as players have to cooperate but also have to play the game to build their own power. If they build their power too much, they will generally lose by Fronts collapsing and if they don’t build enough the other players will run them over in the end. A real quagmire for the players and this one creates some really great tension and forces the players to have to use their cards and tableaus wisely to come out on top.

We came back to USE! for the rest of the day and saw our friends Bill Simoni and Russ Wetli join us to play the Soviets and Italians respectively. Lots of work was put in by the Germans from July through October 1940 with Norway being invaded and annexed, Hungary and Romania being convinced to join the Axis and Yugoslavia and Greece being given no choice with an invasion by the Germans and Italians. Getting Hungary and Romania to join by political markers was key as their units were then available to assist in the future launch of Operation Barbarossa on the southern front along with a few Italian units.

I actually started thinking about launching Operation Barbarossa in August 1940 but the weather was not great that month and would only get worse and I just didn’t have the buildup on the East Front that I needed. I then decided that I needed to get back to politicking and also Strategic Move my German units from the Western Front, now that France had fallen, and fill in the gaps in the south and strengthen my lines in the north. Here is a short video on my thoughts in August 1940:

All of this preparation came to a head in April 1941. I decided to Declare War on the Soviets and launch Operation Barbarossa headlong into the red steel curtain in the east! The best part of the game is the concept of movement and maneuver to get into position to maximize attacks and cause the enemy units to have to retreat into one of your Zones of Control and be eliminated. This requires some good work by the Infantry units followed by some dashing maneuver with the mobile units including tanks and Panzer grenadier units. All in all, the initial assault goes extremely well in the north, decent in the center and terribly in the south. But, all in all a success!

North – The Germans push the Soviet line back in the north exposing Riga and opening a hole in the center allowing the capture of Kaunas and Vilnius.

Center – In the center, Brest falls as well as Lvov and a huge hole forms along the stretch from Lvov to Cernauti.

South – As was expected in the south, not much movement as the Romanian, Italian and Bulgarian units struggle against the strong Soviet defenses. But help is on the way as German infantry can pour through the hole to the north and swing round to begin cutting supply of the units in the south.

Meanwhile, the Italians didn’t fare very well in North Africa as they launched an assault from Tobruk supported by a single Italian air craft and couldn’t get anything accomplished in Alexandria. It was like bashing your head against a wall each turn and having no movement. Low supply would then become a concern as the British moved Task Force H and a Fighter squadron to Malta and harried supply convoys attempting to create supply back to Italy. This seemed to be a real miscalculation on my part as I should have moved at least 1 German air squadron to assist in the theater, mainly with harassing Task Force H so they couldn’t intercept our supply and force Low Supply markers on the Italian units, which meant they had a -2 DRM on their attack and defense rolls. But all that said, Italy stiffened and fell back to Fortress Tobruk where they held off the British for month after month.

At this point, it was 11:30pm and the War Room was closing down so we retired to our room for the night to think through our strategy and mistakes.

Day 3 – Thursday, April 27th – Planned Events Begin with Nations & Cannons RPG

Day 3 dawned early as we rose at 7:00am again, got ready and headed to breakfast. We had a game of Fire in the Lake on tap for 9:00am with Ari and Alexander and this was a great time. We love Fire in the Lake and it is by far our favorite COIN Series game but Ari and Alexander had only played a few other COIN Series games and never FitL. I played as the ARVN, Alexander took the NVA while Ari played the US and Alexander the VC. FitL is a bit larger and more complex than most of the other entries in the series but is a great opportunity to see the inter-factional dynamics in action as each side works together with their ally while simultaneously screwing them over. This is particular the case with the ARVN as they are going to win by having their Patronage high and this comes from the Govern Special Activity by transferring Aid (which is specifically the funds the US gave to the ARVN to prosecute the war) over to their own pockets. This is usually done by lowering support in the chosen space, which the US has been working hard to build, and then taking that money. In the end of our 3 hour short campaign game, the VC won because the US player (Ari) was not doing enough Sweep and Assaults in the South and allowing them to build up their bases. I guess the ARVN could also have done this but they were more concerned with becoming rich! Great game as always.

We next played a 3-player game of Time of Crisis with our friend Jordan and this game is always a blast. In fact, I really like this game and its use of simple combat mechanics and deck building to create a very interesting game of chicken as players have to be at each other’s throats from the get go to attempt to gain the throne in Italy and serve as Emperor. But you also have to fight off various Barbarian invasions and have to focus on your military or you will find yourself holding onto nothing. I played the green player and started in Galatia (in later editions now Pontius) with Jordan as the red player starting in Thracia and Alexander as the blue player starting in Gallia. I seized on the initiative in round 3 and went after Italia and became the Emperor. I was able to control 4 regions keeping my influence level high enough to avoid other players from kicking me out and held onto the seat for 7 turns. I was then unceremoniously booted out and struggled against the Sassanids to the east while Alexander donner the purple and shortly after Jordan set up his pretender kingdom. Great fun and it came down to the very end when Alexander built a few more improvements than us and won by 5 VP’s. This game is simply great and I cannot wait until we get the new expansion and the deluxe edition hopefully in 2024.

We then sat down with Ken Repel designer of 1812! War on the Great Lakes Frontier from Compass Games and discussed that design as well as got an early look at his upcoming new game called Saratoga: Turning Point 1777 from Compass Games. The game is a tactical level game covering 4 battles in the Saratoga Campaign including Saratoga 1 & 2, Hubbardton and Bennington. The cool thing about this little package is that the smaller games (Hubbardton and Bennington) and their outcomes somewhat determine the forces available during the larger game of Saratoga. Ken stated that these are in full playtest mode and he hopes to have them ready to go by the end of 2023. He is working with Gilbert Collins as his developer and is making great progress.

We next sat down with Steve Jones with Blue Panther, LLC for an interview and discussed their load of new games from their clients including Hollandspiele, The Historical War Game Company, Catastrophe Games and White Dog Games. Blue Panther has also started publishing their own original games starting with this year’s release of Land & Freedom. We got a good look at their next game called Road to Independence: The American Revolution 17754-1783 designed by Steve Kling.

The final activity for the day was a 4 player session of the new Nations & Cannons RPG from Flagbearer Games, which uses the 5th Edition D&D system but tailors it to the happenings of the American Revolution in the late 1770’s. Alexander was the DM and prepared a masterful campaign for the four of us including David Thompson (of Undaunted and Valiant Defense fame!), Russ Wetli from Cardboard Conflicts, our friend Bill Simoni and myself. I played a Bard like character named Daniel Shays called a Firebrand who rather than spells has special abilities called Gambits that act as spells. David played a Barbarian character named Peter Francisco who literally carries around a 5′ long claymore sword and rages when in combat with the Redcoats. Russ played a Fighter named Yohann Jasper who is a deadly aim with his carbine and scattergun and Bill played an Oneida Ranger named Sawmill who loved to get in nice and close with his handaxes.

Our task was to rescue a recently captured spy from the clutches of the British and we had heard he was being moved to the docks to exit the city of New York via ship. Through some contacts and reconnaissance we found out the planned route and devised a plan to ambush the column as they moved toward the ships. The ambush would see us block the path of the soldiers at a narrow chokepoint in the street with a wagon filled with manure and then would be set it on fire and throw the entire wagon load on the party by Peter as they approached. Johann would act as sniper and provide overwatch from the rooftops as Daniel would set a bear trap in the alley to catch any retreating soldiers and Sawmill would wade into hand to hand combat. The plan worked perfectly and even the recruited Patriots helped to secure the prisoner and secret them away from the alley through the adjacent buildings. Come to find out though that the prisoner was a distraction and not the real target. We found out from a dying solider that they had taken him to a farm in rural Manhattan where he was being planned to be executed by the notorious British leader Major General Lord Arthur Cathcart. Daniel Shays ended up approaching the stockade building and throwing a torch through the window to rid the group of any other combatants and the uproar caused lots of Redcoats to converge on the area but to no avail as the party would scatter and meet up at an orchard to discuss the plan to approach the farmstead.

The group decided to then reconnoiter the farmstead where the spy was being held and came across the 71st Militia Regiment lead by Colonel Armitage Bennett. The militia had a daring night time assault planned on the farm and the party asked it they could lead the strike causing a distraction to allow the militia an advantage. Daniel Shays had found a bomb and was going to sneak up to the stockade walls and lob it over the wall into the barracks where most of the soldiers were staying. Simultaneously the other 3 would sneak around the back of the stockade, scale the cliff and wall there and enter the compound and ready themselves to attack the large church on the farm where there was a definitely something strange going on as there were piles of dirt around the building with lots of muddy footprints going into the church. Daniel lobbed the grenade perfectly rolling a natural 20 and the grenade ignited the powder store absolutely destroying the barracks and the 20 or so soldiers who were billeted there. With this glorious distraction, the part approached the church only to encounter a well organized firing line of 7 British Regulars who gave them a run for their money before the party could engage in bloody hand to hand fighting and force them to surrender. As the militia continued their attack using a 12 pounder to blow down the front gates and fire a warning shot into the main house, the party entered the church to find that the muddy footprints lead downstairs where a crude system of caverns had been dug out. They followed the path to a large chamber where a summoning circle was placed with the spy tied to the supports and a darkly dressed and bloody Major General Lord Arthur Cathcart was in the middle of a summoning ceremony which ended with him slitting his own throat to summon a hideous 10′ tall Wendigo that attacked the party with a vicious hunger.

After a protracted battle, that saw Peter Francisco and Sawmill fall to the beast knocked unconscious and bleeding out, Johan rolled a natural 20 on a rifle shot to fell the abomination and end the threat. The spy was alive and rescued and the group returned as heroes to the city. What a great time! The system was very cool and worked really well in a historical setting. Everyone had a grand time and we agreed to play again next year!

That was such a fantastic and eventful day and we headed to our room at 11:45pm and didn’t get in bed until 1:00am.

Day 4 – Friday, April 28th – Everyday is Friday!

Friday would dawn too early as we did sleep a bit longer but still got up early at 7:15am, headed down to breakfast and then to the War Room to get ready for our day. Friday, would be the first of our COIN Series Teach & Play Events where we would teach Cuba Libre and Andean Abyss. Grant would teach Cuba Libre and Alexander Andean Abyss. This event started at 9:00am and we had a full boat as 8 players had purchased tickets and showed up.

The COIN Series is such a fantastic experience and we love teaching it to new players. When I teach the game, I always first go over the victory conditions. The challenge here is that the game is an asymmetric design, which means not only do each of the factions play differently, having access to different Commands and Special Activities, but each of the factions also win the game in a different way. Sound confusing? Well, it can be, especially for new players as they will struggle to understand their victory conditions but also to do well at the game must be aware of their opponent’s conditions and monitor them so they can counteract a victory.

I always start the game out by reviewing those Victory Conditions and helping new players to understand what they mean. This can be the most in-depth part of the teach but is very important. If they don’t get a good understanding of that element from the get go, they will find themselves lost and frustrated due to their inability to get where they need to be. I have also found that with new players you will need to remind them that they can find those Victory Conditions on their faction’s play aid. Encourage them to review those regularly, even before they start each of their turns. It is that important! I also remind them that they will become more comfortable with the system and with these Victory Conditions as the game progresses and as they see how pushing this button leads to that lever moving on the board.

I next go over the Propaganda Round and inform them how they will get resources. Most of the faction’s Commands and Special Activities cost your currency and can be performed in multiple spaces if you pay 1 for each of the spaces where you take these actions. But, if you don’t have resources to spend, you cannot take the actions you need to. Some are free but those are the less effective ones and the really powerful ones always cost. Resources are generated during these interim periods and each faction gains those resources in a different manner. Understanding where your pay day is coming from is very key to new players particularly. I always remind that we are X cards away from a possible interim period and you might want to review how you get resources so you can add a Base, Swing Support/Opposition or gain Control of one more territory to get as many resources as you can…or to effect your opponent by taking one of those things away.

Our games went well and everyone seemed to be really happy with the outcomes. We had been given some prizes for the events by GMT Games (4 copies of games including Cuba Libre x2, Colonial Twilight and All Bridges Burning) as well as copies of C3i Magazines and various inserts signed by Rodger MacGowan. We also threw in some TPA coffee mugs that had our beautiful logo on them, perfect for hot beverages or to use as chit-pull cups.

If you are interested, you can read more of my tricks to teaching the COIN Series at the following link:

Next we did an interview with Tim Densham of Catastrophe Games and got a good luck at several of his upcoming projects including Sadr City, the follow-up to the fantastic Zurmat, which sees this volume add some new tricks to the game to account for the urban center including media and its effects.

We also got a look at Arabian Struggle which is the same system as was used in Judean Hammer but is now designed by a new team. This one looks pretty unique as it is now designed for 3-players with a 3rd faction. This is coming to Kickstarter late in the year or the first of 2024.

After the interview and before we got to some other big games, we effectively did the last few turns of Unconditional Surrender! that we would get in. Here in these pictures, you can see the effects of the 2nd month of Operation Barbarossa as the Germans have broke through in the north cutting off supply for units in the center causing them to retreat. Army Group Center pushed into the marshes and eliminated several Soviet units (a total of 7) while Army Group South is moving on Odessa.

I brought up my DAK unit (which was not going to do any good in North Africa) and used it to punch through the gaping holes created by the infantry to blitz onto Velikiye Luki and then move to the rail crossroads that link up the Soviet units on the south and put the Germans just just 2 hexes from taking Smolensk.

The southern front just melted away as my German infantry teamed with several Romanian and Bulgarian units hit the Soviets hard and obliterated them. I used my air support skillfully and have now opened up a corridor to Odessa and beyond as there really is no resistance for the German advance there.

As you can see in the above picture, the Soviets are in real trouble as their supply lines are compromised and they will have to retreat to get within 2 hexes of an open rail line and will have to cede all of that really difficult to attack in terrain in the swamps. This was a huge boon to the Axis advance and saw me gain multiple hexes of ground while knocking out 7 total Soviet units. The only problem that Germans are having is t hat their sorties are building up on their air units and it will be difficult to use them as the front progresses because the Soviets have a few fresh air units that will be able to knock them out of the sky. At this point at the end of May 1941, we were discussing the fact that the Germans might very well be in Moscow by September, just ahead of the major Soviet reinforcements coming in the month of October. At this point, we called our game of Unconditional Surrender! because we though it might be over, although there is a lot of ground between the line and Moscow but just not enough Soviet units to defend it, but also because we were not going to get any more real opportunities to play because we had events and other games committed to.

We then moved to a 5-player game of Sword of Rome from GMT Games. Bill Simoni had played before so he volunteered to teach us all and had prepared some fantastic player aids as well with an extended Sequence of Play and actions. This one is a point to point movement Card Driven Game, which I have owned for several years but never got a chance to play. I had heard that the game was best at 4-players but we did a full 5-player game and afterward would agree that having Carthage as an active player might have broken some things. After about 2 1/2 hours, we had completed a full 2 turns, and lots of tactical and strategic mistakes had been made as my Etruscans/Samnites were on the door step of winning after several rousing military victories against both Gaul and Rome and control of 3 VP spaces. It is a very good game and we all had a great time but mistakes were made and the game turned out to not be as competitive as we had hoped. On our next play in the future, we will not make the same mistakes though and will most likely get a full game in. We all liked what we were doing and really enjoyed the mean spirited cards where leaders were catapulted out of the battles, dice were rerolled or reinforcements would show up unexpectedly. Each faction is also very much asymmetrical in their special abilities, cards and units, which keeps things really interesting. I really liked this game and will definitely give it a go again in the future.

After a major dinner break and a trip to Bucca di Beppo, we came back and played some lighter faire with Quartermaster General 1914 and Undaunted: Reinforcements while Alexander set up his 15mm Flames of War Miniatures for our Saturday morning event of Battlegroup. The Central Powers dominated in QMG 1914 as Jordan, who was playing the Austro-Hungarians and Ottomans really did well in getting himself setup to mill VP’s over the course of the game. The Entente were too much concerned with Germany and could never get enough territory to close the gap. I played as France and would really work better with the British in the future and do more planning of troop placement and attacks to coordinate more effectively. I own QMG World War II and really can’t wait for an opportunity to get that one to the table soon.

Next, we played a 4-player game of Undaunted: Reinforcements with Russ and Jordan on a team and David Thompson (the designer) and I together. We played the same scenario twice switching sides after an Allied win for David and me followed by a narrow Allied win for Russ and Jordan. I really like the 4-player mods to the design as it really works well and now want to do some more 4-player in the future.

A fantastic Friday at the con for sure. Lots of gaming, good interviews and a good time was had by all. This night, we got into the room at 10:30pm but didn’t turn out the lights till midnight for whatever reason!

Day 5 – Saturday, April 29th – Going Out with a Bang

We woke up, got ready, ate breakfast! Blah, blah, blah and finally made it to the War Room at 9:00am ready to go with our 4 player game of Battlegroup with Alexander’s gorgeously painted 15mm late WWII Flames of War miniatures. He had created two armies, one made up of British infantry with Bren Guns, a few PIAT’s, 3 Sherman Tanks, mortar team, an Achilles Tank Killer (later game reinforcement) and mobile flamethrower against a few squads of German Fallschirmjäger, infantry, some 88’s, and a formation of Stug’s. We played with Ken and Tim Densham from Catastrophe Games for about 4 hours and called it at that point with the British coming out barely ahead on the morale level as we had inflicted quite a few losses on the Germans with the deft use of Assaults into pinned units. The Stug’s had killed all 3 of our Shermans but the Achilles had done a good job of exacting some revenge on at least 2 Stug’s before being bombed to death by a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 formation that dropped 8 bombs. We had a blast and lots of laughs were had! I was glad that we were able to show off another side of wargaming and also allow Alexander’s great work with the brush get shared.

We then transitioned to our last event of BGF with our final COIN Series Teach & Play. This one saw 2 players not show up so Alexander and I got to sit down and play with me teaching Cuba Libre and his teaching Andean Abyss again. I played as the DR and had a great time building up and then ambushing the unsuspecting Government player in the middle of the board (Las Villas and Oriente) to take advantage of those sweet 2 Population areas while also building all 4 of my bases. This lead to me pulling a daring Ambush on the last move before a Propaganda Card to control Las Villas and gain those final needed 2 points to claim victory. I felt bad winning but at least 2 of the players at the table were experienced and it wasn’t like I was stealing candy from babies! The Government run by Peter came in 2nd and Charlie’s Syndicate was a close 3rd with the July 26 faction taking it hard this game finishing last (but Thomas had won Andean Abyss during the 1st Teach & Play Event!). A great time was had by all and I know that Peter was very interested in teaching CL to his gaming group.

After dinner at the North Market, we came back to the War Room and everyone was simply wasted. I think that all of our brains were simply on overload and we decided to play a final closing game of an 8-player The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31. For those that don’t know, The Thing is a glorious hidden traitor game where someone starts as the infected (Jordan in this case) and has to sabotage the outpost while infecting others and getting onto the helicopter at the end of the game to spread their infection to the world. We played it very deftly and the humans ended up winning against Jordan (who started infected), Russ and Charlie (who both became infected). The best moment of the night will forever be referred to as the Accidental Sabotage as Bill Simoni, who is a terrible liar by the way, accidentally placed a Sabotage Card into a test thinking that he had put another card. We deduced that it was him who did it as the other 4 humans were pretty positive we were all still good. Bill spun some terrible story and got caught in his mistake but luckily we forgave him and allowed him to get on the helicopter at the end. One of the best parts of the game is that at the end in an 8-player game, there will be 3 blood tests that can be used to test individuals and smoke out the infected. We used one on Bill and he was a human. When we asked him what happened, he said he simply forgot what card he had put in! This was almost a huge mistake that would have got him killed (left behind) but for our deductive reasoning and the blood test. The 5 humans got on the chopper and voted off the 3 suspected infected and won the game! What a great way to end the day with a laugh.

We went upstairs tired and worn down after 4 1/2 days of gaming and running on little sleep but we were ready for our final few hours on Sunday before heading home.

Day 6 – Sunday, April 30th – This is the End!

We slept in a bit on Sunday morning and skipped breakfast arriving in the empty War Room at 8:10am to shoot our hour long debrief video of the con, recounting the games we had played and enjoyed, the new designs we had seen and the laughs we had. We then sat down with David Thompson to discuss his in-design projects including Night Witches, Undaunted: Battle of Britain and the future of the Undaunted Series and Valiant Defense Series.

David is a great dude and always has so many projects on the burner. We said our goodbyes, packed up our room and left the hotel by around 10:30am with a short pit stop for breakfast before making it home to Indianapolis by around 1:30pm. Alexander then left, I unpacked my clothes, throwing them in the laundry and re-shelved my games. My wife asked he if I had had a good time and my reply to her was “Absolutely! The best time ever….”. I then retired to my bed for a 3 hour nap and then wrote this piece. I cannot wait until next year! We don’t have a date as of yet but we have plans to attend again and hopefully will show up on Tuesday afternoon again to begin playing a big hex and counter wargame like SCS Day of Days from Multi-Man Publishing. We also want to do some more multi-player wargames such as Here I Stand (full 6-player) from GMT Games, Time of Crisis again, maybe with a tournament element, and something else that we will think up. Maybe War Room! To next year and thank you to all of those that played games with us, our sponsors Blue Panther and Marshall Enterprises, GMT Games and RBM Studio for prizes and Buckeye Game Fest and their staff Kristin and Bryan for the offer to attend as guests. Till next year!