Charles S. Roberts Awards Pending, Plus Wargames for Two from Worthington, Hollandspiele & GMT

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by Candice Harris

• In June 2020, I posted an article announcing the exciting comeback of the Charles S. Roberts Awards for Excellence in Conflict Simulation after seven years of inactivity. Well, today I’m happy to report that the results are in and will be announced on October 25, 2020 at 8 p.m. EDT (UTC-4) on the No Enemies Here YouTube channel. Thanks to everyone who submitted votes and the CSR Awards team who compiled the results!

The presenters for the CSR Awards include Trevor Bender, Fritz Bronner, Jack Greene, Jan Heinemann, Mark Herman, Lawrence Hung, Steve Jackson, Tim Kask, Derek Landel, Dean Liggett, Riccardo Masini, Bruce Monnin, Marc Miller, Allan Rothberg, Fred Serval, and Kevin Bertram…with a “Candice cameo” where I’ll present the Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Wargame category.

You can check out the list of 2019 nominees on the Charles S. Roberts website and start making your guesses.

In the spirit of the upcoming CSR Awards broadcast, here are a few interesting 2020 wargame releases to check out:

Worthington Publishing is releasing Maurice Suckling‘s American Civil War-based, card-driven game Chancellorsville 1863. Suckling’s 2019 release Freeman’s Farm 1777 is, coincidentally, one of the 2019 nominees for the CSR Awards’ Best Ancients to Pre-Napoleonic Era Board Wargame category.

Here’s a brief overview of how Suckling’s 2020 follow-up to Freeman’s Farm 1777 works, as described by the publisher:
Chancellorsville 1863 is a card-driven game on the American Civil War Battle of Chancellorsville. Playable by 1 to 2 players in one hour, the game comes with a card-driven solitaire engine. Designed by Maurice Suckling (designer of Freeman’s Farm 1777), the game uses many of the concepts from that game. However, added hidden movement, much more maneuver, and other design tweaks make this a truly unique game.

Each turn, players play one of their three in-hand formation cards to maneuver or attack enemy forces, gaining momentum cubes based on the formation activated. Each formation is a Confederate division or Union corps. Each formation card allows a major and possibly an additional minor activation: major allowing two moves for a formation while the minor allows one move. After each formation moves, combat can occur if a move ends in a location with an enemy formation. Tactic cards may be played during the formation’s activation giving it movement or combat bonuses.

At the end of the formation card activation, players may spend their momentum cubes to buy tactics cards which may give them benefits in combat or movement in future turns. Players then draw a new formation card refilling their hands to three. Hooker, Lee, and Jackson have bonuses that can be played once a game, adding to movement and combat.

Game board w/ hidden map screen posted by the publisher
Victory is determined by destroying enemy formations through morale/strength loss, or the Union occupying the three victory locations that represent cutting off the Confederate army from Richmond.

Additional rules allow for fixed defensive positions, Jackson’s Flank March, and even his death.
• In September 2020, “wargames and weirdgames” indie publisher Hollandspiele announced the release of White Eagle Defiant from Ryan Heilman and Dave Shaw, the design team that brought us Brave Little Beligium in 2019, which is another CSR Awards nominee, but in the Best Post-Napoleonic to Pre-World War 2 Era Board Wargame category.

Here’s a preview of what you can expect from White Eagle Defiant, the 1-2 player, chit-pulling, wargame that partially follows the footsteps of its predecessor Brave Little Belgium:
White Eagle Defiant recreates the German, Slovak, and Soviet invasion of Poland in September and October 1939 that marked the beginning of the Second World War. Germany and its Slovakian ally began the invasion on September 1, 1939; the Soviet Union followed suit on the 17th. Known in Poland as the September Campaign and in Germany by the codename Fall Weiss (Case White), the campaign ended on October 6, 1939 with Germany and the Soviet Union splitting the country in two.

In White Eagle Defiant, one player controls the Germans, Slovaks and Soviets (simplified as the Germans in the game) while the other player commands the Poles. The German objective is to gain control of Warsaw and other designated Victory cities while preventing Polish forces from destroying their forts in East Prussia and recapturing Victory cities. If the German player does so in less time than the historical campaign, they win the game. Anything less is a draw or a win for the Polish player.

This quick-playing wargame employs very similar mechanims as Brave Little Belgium, but with a modest increase in complexity. The game uses a point-to-point map and a chit-pull mechanism to simulate the campaign, with each turn representing four days. Random event chits are included to add variety and excitement to the game, reflecting the weapons (such as armored trains and aerial bombardment) used at the beginning of World War II. The combat system, while still simple, is enhanced to better simulate mechanized warfare, as well as the use of combined forces. (Players can bring forces from adjacent spaces into an attack, creating primary and secondary combat groups.)

Other new features in White Eagle Defiant include Panzers for the Germans (which can roll two dice instead of one) and cavalry for the Poles (which can roll a “first shot” at the beginning of a combat round). A Victory Point track allows for variable entry of Soviet forces (depending on the success of the German player in capturing Victory cities), as well as the possibility of the Allies launching an attack in the West (if the German player fails to do well in capturing Victory cities). Finally, a “blitzkrieg breakdown” track is used by the German player; if the turn ends before both German army group chits are pulled, the German player may elect to activate a group, but possibly suffer a “breakdown” while doing so — and if five such breakdowns occur, the German player automatically loses the game.

Players who enjoyed Brave Little Belgium will find that White Eagle Defiant offers the same tense play for both sides, while presenting new challenges that reflect the dawn of the blitzkrieg era.
• On the GMT Games front, I’m looking forward to sharing some impressions of their latest COIN series release, VPJ Arponen‘s All Bridges Burning, once I get a couple more plays in, but Mark Simonitch‘s Caesar: Rome vs. Gaul recently caught my attention since it’s a reimplementation of Simonitch’s asymmetrical, card-driven classic Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, which is on my list to try.

From the publisher’s description below, it sounds like you’ll ease right into Caesar: Rome vs. Gaul if you’re familiar with Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage or PHALANX‘s 20th anniversary edition of that game, Hannibal & Hamilcar, but it should be a solid entry point even if you’re new to the system, like me. Here’s that description:
Caesar: Rome vs. Gaul is a fast-playing, easy-to-learn, two-player card-driven game on Caesar’s conquest of Gaul. One player plays Caesar as he attempts to gain wealth and fame in Gallia at the expense of the Gauls; the other player controls all the independent tribes of Gaul as they slowly awake to the peril of Roman conquest.

Caesar: Rome vs. Gaul uses many of the core rules and systems used in Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. Players are dealt seven cards at the start of each turn and use their cards to move their armies and place control markers. Players familiar with Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage will quickly learn this game.

The game covers the height of the Gallic Wars, the period between 57 BCE and 52 BCE when Caesar campaigned back and forth across Gaul putting down one rebellion after another and invading Germania and Britannia. Units are individual Roman Legions or Gallic Tribes. Each turn represents one year.

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