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Posted on Jul 12, 2006 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

ACG At Origins 2006 Final Report

Armchair General

While at the Matrix Games booth (perhaps the only computer game company at the show), we got a demo of the new Forge of Freedom: The American Civil War 1861-1865 game. Based on the Crown of Glory engine, the game (in this early demo version) shared many obvious similarities with COG, and one presumes the jump from one to the other will be a smooth one. This title seems to hold a variety of gaming options for strategic and tactical Civil War fans as we saw an interesting political dimension involving state governors in addition to external nations such as France and Great Britain. Furthermore, when there are enough troops involved in a battle, the game reverts to a turn-based tactical mode, allowing both sides to maneuver on the battlefield and meet in combat. As one would expect, we saw many dimensions to the combat routine, including fog-of-war, hex facing, unit formations, weather, and so on. This one should be out in the fall of 2006, but even this early version was looking pretty attractive.

WWII: The Struggle for Europe and Asia Hard to capture the size with mere photos. The map is 8 feet long!

One of the larger board games being played on the second floor was called World War II: The Struggle for Europe and Asia. The easiest way to describe the game is Axis & Allies on steroids because it uses a map and miniatures which are reminiscent of that title, although the comparison basically ends there because this is simply immense in scale and detail next to A&A. Billed as a midpoint between World in Flames and Axis & Allies, the designers have tweaked this thing for four years to get it to where it is now. The map is simply gorgeous (a roll-out plastic sheet) and the units in play were painted miniatures which, while somewhat similar to the A&A pieces, actually contain much more detail (we saw the Yamato leading a fleet for example). A full game is said to take about a day’s time, which is why we were unable to sit down and give it a go and get a more in-depth report. However, we may score a demo copy (without all the pretty metal miniatures I’m sure!) and have a more detailed overview soon.  As a final note, we were really impressed by the friendly gents playing this game when we popped by.  It just so happened to be the designers themselves!  To learn more, check out their website.

During one of the days we (at the booth) decided to buy a cheap game of Risk and start playing as the day came to a close and most folks had vacated the Dealer room.  Andrew, a self-proclaimed Risk master, began the game by stomping around the map destroying everything before him.  James and Brian both tried to hold on, and eventually settled into an impromptu alliance as they tried to hold off Andrew’s hordes.  Eventually, the combined weight took its toll and Andrew was halted – but not before he took his revenge and eliminated James out of spite (destroying any chance he had to actually win the game).  This friendly rivalry would show itself several times in the next few days, in several different games…

The characters of Origins.

Little did we realize that one night we would end up in the camp of several people in the industry, including some guys from Matrix Games and the Wargamer. We were immediately introduced to one of their Origins traditions, which is to play fun, fast playing games while relaxing after a full day of standing at the show. Our first taste of battle came from Slugfest Games’ Kung-Fu Fighting, which was a small game consisting of cards and a small character board for each player and Chi (or energy) stones to record health and activity points. The object of the game was simple: beat down everyone else using stunning marital arts moves such as flipping, kicking, punching, running up the walls, and several other crazy actions. You can also wield weapons, including hitting your neighbor over the head with a table! Each player can attack and defend by expending cards. The last person to have Chi is deemed the Kung Fu master. Rather than present a unified Armchair General front, James and Andrew wasted no time killing each other while the rest of us stood by in open-mouthed astonishment. After they were dead, Brian was left holding the bag against two Wargamer veterans – although he made a good showing because they were too polite to gang up on him. At least for a while, Armchair General had a Kung Fu master! Learn more about Kung-Fu Fighting at their website.

Another Slugfest game that got a lot of play that night was En Guarde! This was very similar in principle to Kung Fu Fighting, but involved Renaissance-era fencing rather than throwing punches. Once again James and Andrew quickly tore each other apart, pretty much ensuring that no amount of Parrying or Lunging could help Armchair win this match. In a later match Andrew got a taste of the most horrible card in the En Guarde! system – the pistol!

David Glantz giving a lecture at the War College. Andrew (Doctor Sinister) with hero Michael Stackpole.

Tucked away in one of the small conference rooms just outside the main halls, the War College was in full swing. One of our team attended a talk by military historian David Glantz. Replete with detailed battle maps and analysis, Colonel Glantz was giving an excellent talk on actions leading to the German encirclement of Soviet forces around Kiev in August 1941. With his rapt audience in the palm of his hands, Colonel Glantz brought life to the incredible battles taking place during the early phases of Operation Barbarossa and gave a superb lecture.  It is worth noting that even though this is billed as a game convention, there is much to keep the "serious" wargamer and historian busy as well.  It is definitely not all Pokemon!

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