Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jazzed over Jena 20

If you like the Napoleonic era you want to know about the products offered by Victory Point Games. Jena 20 is reasonably priced at $20.95 and offers a quick game that is exciting and fresh nearly everytime you play. I have played this one about five times and am delighted with its simplicty, ease of play, and of course, its fun factor. Jena is based on Napoleon's invasion of Prussia in October 1806.

First, there are only 20 counters in the game. That's right, only 20 counters. Unlike many wargames, you can have this game on the table an playing in literally minutes.

There are a number of strengths in this game. First, sticky zones of control. What this means is that once a player moves a unit adjacent to an enemy unit he cannot continue moving. Also, he cannot freely move in and out of an enemy zone of control. Players may be forced to retreat after a battle. This really is a strong point to the game because it forces some conflict and at times, forces a player to avoid conflict.

The morale point system creates a sturdy foundation for play. If a player's morale level ever drops to zero he loses immediately. A player can use morale points to do things like increase his defensive or offensive strength for a battle or to force march a unit (increase its movement by one). The most common loss of morale points comes from losing a battle. If a unit loses a battle and is forced to retreat (determined by a die roll) more than its normal movement factor than the overall morale drops a point. Players must work diligently to protect these morale points and to use them properly.

A randomizing factor are the events. The events are well-designed, none of them being super-powerful and none of them being game breakers. an event can bring in reinforcements or restore a morale point. An event may bring morning fog which would effect movement. While each event can impact the play of the game no event is likely to swing the momemtum of the game too far to one side or the other. The events add to the flavor and unpredictability of the game and add an extra level of pleasure to play.

The only drawback to these games is that they are printed from a desktop computer. However, let me say that the art is very high end and the quality of the components are far superior to most of the desktop printed products hawked on the internet. Alan Emrich and his team at Victory Point Games are doing things right.

Jena 20 is only one of a series of these small Napoleonic games. The others are just as good. Other titles include:
Albion 20
Dresden 20
Austerlitz 20
Borodino 20
Bussaco 20
Waterloo 20
Katzbach 20
Vittoria 20

There are also several expansion kits available to extend your gaming pleasure with these titles.

A deluxe version of Jena 20 is available in the most recent issue of C3i magazine.

For more on the Napoleonic 20 series (and many other wonderful small wargames) check out the website:

For more on the deluxe version of Jena 20 published in C3i # 23 check out the gmtgames website:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Petroglyph Develops a Panzer Blitz of Its own!

I recently bought an Xbox 360 (refurbished- do you think I am nuts enough to pay full price for a video game machine) and started playing over the internet via Xbox live. I'm too cheap to buy a new game so I settle for purchasing used games from my local GameStop! One of my favorite titles is the Quantum of Solace game, based on the 007 movie of the same name (but actually a mixture of action sequences based on both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace). However, during a break I made an exciting discovery. I played a demo of "Panzer General: Allied Assault" and was instantly hooked. In moments, I had pulled out my credit card and purchased the full game. I was delighted later to discover that the game is in reality a boardgame that is being published by Petroglyph games. (The Xbox version is designed by Ubisoft).

So, how can I describe this one. It is a mixture of board and cardgame. The board is something like a chess board, with individual rectangles representing areas that are controlled by one side or the other. The goal of most games is to capture the home row of your opponent. Player may hold ten cards and the cards truly drive the game. Some cards are units, which allow placement of combat units. The units are fairly standard artillery, infantry, armor, mechanized, etc. Units can normally move one square. Moving into an enemy occupied square creates a combat situation.

Combat it really very, very cool. Each attacking unit has a specific attack level. Other surrounding units may be used for to support an attack. If a force attack a unit that is "dug in" then that unit gets to fire first. In the midst of a combat, players are allowed to play combat cards that can change the flow of the battle. Some of these do immediate damage to an enemy unit, some of them increase attack or defensive levels, etc. After both player finish playing combat actions players can burn ANY type of card using its level (7 is the highest I remember seeing) to boost their attack or defense level. Then, as if that wasn't enough, a die is rolled. The die has positive and negative 1-3) That number is either added or subtracted from the total attack being made and then the results are computed.

Another key element to the game is the use of prestige points. Players earn prestige points for holding territory or elimintating enemy units. Prestige points must be used to play cards (each card has a value of 0-7 on it).

The game has a great ebb and flow to it, whether playing another player online or simply playing against the artificial intelligence of the program. There is a large luck factor which will put some gamers off. After all, having the right cards in your hand may not be the easiest thing to accomplish. Still, players must use the proper strategic movement, plan the use of cards, and then choose when to make attacks, etc.

This game was a wonderful discovery and I can't wait to get my hands on an actual copy of the boardgame. In the meantime, my Xbox 360 is getting a lot of use between Quantum of Solace multiplayer, watching Netflix films, and playing Panzer General: Alllied Assault.