Thursday, March 8, 2018

Deluxe QED's Blue VS Gray

Back in the late 1990's (I think it was 1999), I had the pleasure of meeting Evan Jones (the designer of Blue vs. Gray), and his partner from QED Games at Origins. They were there to demo and release Blue vs. Gray, and as the owner of an educational game store I was very intrigued. Blue vs. Gray was the perfect game to add to our Civil War games line-up with its wealth of history on every card and its focus on personalities, events, and grand strategy rather than combat. Over then next few years we sold many copies to schools and educators, as well as gamers. I also had the satisfaction of winning Blue vs. Gray Origins' tournament the following year; the final game being against a Civil War history professor from a college in Virginia. With the closing of our store the game sat on my shelf for a number of years until I started playing it with a fellow fan at the local game club. I realized it would benefit from a deluxe treatment.


So last year I pimped Blue vs. Gray out. It didn't really take as much work as some of my other games since it really is only two decks of cards. What it needed was a larger board rather than the one made out of cards. So I scanned the map cards and enlarged them to 10" X 13 1/2", mounted them on chip board, and lamented them. Now when a map card is drawn, a large card is placed down. I also made a version of the play mat from the GMT deluxe version of the game, and made new control makers on 1" wooden disks. It also needed a larger box. While the large cards are not quite as colorful as the original cards, the big map is very satisfying to play on.


You can get copies of the cards in a PDF file. Just have them printed on 11" X 17" stock. Map Cards.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Golden Age Air Racing & Civil Air Patrol

Last evening my Civil Air Patrol squadron had its weekly meeting. As the aerospace education officer it was my night to have the program. The plan had been to work on astronomy and celestial navigation, but it being Northeast Ohio the weather didn't cooperate, as usual. Luckily I had a back up lesson - air racing.

Air racing played an important roll in the development of the air plane, and since we are close to Cleveland, air racing is a part of our local history too. Naturally I thought a game would be a good addition to the lecture. Luckily I have a copy of Golden Age Air Racing by Dave Schueler from from the Air-Pirates Yahoo group. I had an idea that I would be using the game for a class in the future, but two weeks ago having realized that it would be a full moon and March, I had better have a fall back lesson ready.

So I raced to JoAnn Fabrics for a piece of green canvas for a play mat, slapped some paint on for background and used my 4" hex template for spaces. I found some paper pylon patterns and a Bendix tower at Fiddler's Green. The bleachers I modified from a paper model for slot car racing (I thought more era appropriate advertiser signs would look better). The stands for the planes are 2" hex tiles from Lowe's turned upside down for texture and painted with acrylics. The planes I designed from various 1930's air racer schematics I found and made them into approximately 1/144 scale 2.5D paper models. I also designed record sheets that would allow my cadets to learn the game quicker.

A big help and inspiration was from Kevin Smyth's Air Racing at Enfilade article on his A Gamer's Tale blog. He was also very helpful in answering my questions I had about his game.

It was a success. With the wind and snow pelting the hanger it was a fun evening of racing planes and learning about the history of air racing (I like to teach as the game is progressing.) I even had airplane trophies I had found at Oriental Trading Company that I relabeled for the winners. 




Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Advanced Civilization

One of my long time gaming goals has been to make a deluxe version of Avalon Hill's Advanced Civilization similar to my treatment of Victory in the Pacific and LiftOff!. I received the original Civilization as a Christmas present back in the early 1980's, and then got the western expansion board and commodity cards through the General.

Civilization has always been one of my favorite games, though I rarely get to play it due to time constraints. Over the years I have often been tempted to sign up for it at Origins, but the thought of a nine hour game until early in the morning lost its appeal years ago. Usually when we play it now it is over several weeks of game nights. (It helps to have a dedicated game room so the game can be left up.)

I knew I wanted a larger board in something other than day glow 1980's colors, and larger cards in better quality than the cheap punch-out paper civilization cards of the original game and the small commodity cards. I also wanted the board to be one piece rather than a original mounted board with the paper western expansion add-on.

As I began to start the design process I discovered a thread of posts on Board Game Geek by Evan Derrick on his redesigned Civilization project. Not only was he almost finished with it, but he is an actual artist/graphic designer. So rather than reinvent the wheel, so to speak, I made use of his excellent work. (You can find them on Board Game Geek in the Advanced Civilization files.) The only changes I made were to resize the Civilization cards to tarot-size rather than poker-size, and to enlarge his board to match the size of my other updated games.

My game group has really enjoyed playing Civilization; many of my game group's younger players for the first time. This past years we've had it out a number of times - more than we've played it over the past 20 years.





Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Battle of Britain and Civil Air Patrol

I see that it has been over a year since I last made a new post to this blog. While I had such good intentions of working last winter on catching up on my backlog of post that I wanted to share on my gaming life once again got in the way.

Last January I became the Aerospace Education Officer (AEO) for the local Civil Air Patrol squadron. From high school through my college years I was a member of CAP both as a cadet (for those of you who know about CAP I received both the Mitchell and Earhart awards), and then a senior member. For I number of years now I have been an Aerospace Education Member, but when the local squadron changed their meeting nights I was able to attend. I found that they needed an AEO, and with my background in CAP, science and education they were excited to have me. So instead of spending 2017 gaming I worked on lesson plans, building science equipment, and teaching classes on rocketry, hydraulics, astronomy, and aviation. It's been a lot of fun; I have a large group (31 cadets currently), of very intelligent, well behaved cadets who are interested in learning what I am teaching. Certainly different than teaching in the public schools - more like homeschooling my daughter, Maggie Reitz-Wells.

Of course I have had the chance to use games in the program. This past summer I built a simulation of the Battle of Britain. I started with Avalon Hill's classic London Burning. While this is primarily a solo game, I have found that solo games are easier to adapt to large groups than a game designed for multiple players. By the time I was done the game was able to accommodate 28 players. 

The game is composed of two parts, a strategic board of southern Britain (based on the original AH board), with 2-inch hexes, and a tactical air combat board with 4-inch hexes.  The boards are of felt with features painted on, and defensive installations (Chain Home stations, AA emplacements and barrage balloons), made of paper for a 3D effect.  The aircraft are also paper models of Spitfires, Hurricanes, ME 109's, and HE 111's. 

Each side was commanded by an air marshal. The German air marshal's task was to pick the bombing targets and assign aircraft for each mission - a mix of bombers and fighters. He then handed the target selection over to his navigation officer who plotted the course, being careful to avoid AA batteries and keep the flight as short as possible. The British air marshal decided which of his squadrons would be on patrol or standby and at which airbase. The British defense minister controlled the placement of defensive installations and handle the budget for repairs of civilian targets and aircraft.

The British defenses where composed of six squadrons. Each squadron was commanded by a cadet who's job was to intercept the attacking German aircraft. One released by their air marshal they needed to plot their intercept course, decide if they would wait for support, and then whether they would attack bombers or fighters. 

The German pilots represented both bombers and fighters. The cadets controlling the bombers needed to decide their formation to best defend each other, while the fighter pilots needed to decide if they would intercept fighters or defend bombers. 

I began the evening with a brief overview of the Battle of Britain, but used situations during the simulation to point out actual historical events. It made the lesson much more fun. As it so happened this class occurred on the night before the release of Dunkirk; a nice tie-in.