Wargaming in the desert –

A week before Consimworld, I had mentioned on Twitter that I was excited for the con, and someone had asked if there were any games I was looking forward to playing, and friends, I didn’t have an answer. I felt a little disconnected from the wargaming community this past year, and me not being able to answer that question created a little bit of anxiety, with various thoughts swirling around in my head, the loudest one that said, “do I belong here at this convention?”

Well five days of nonstop gaming in Tempe from Aug. 27-31 shut down my fears about that and I ended up having a wonderful time! There are so many different games you can play in the wargaming sphere, from megagames that last multiple days (something I hope to get into next year!) to 2P card-driven games that can be played in under an hour. Plus, a small highlight of attending an Arizona con during the summer is hearing Midwesterners say, “Oh, 100 degrees isn’t so bad!” when we’re walking to dinner. That #desertlife!

The main room at Consimworld at the Tempe Mission Palms hotel.

My buddy and game designer Dan Bullock arrived on the Friday the day before the con so we did some pre-gaming with a 2P game of Squaring Circleville. I really like the rondel mechanism of this game! My husband usually teaches this game, so I was a little unprepared for teaching it but we got through another enjoyable game of it. 

We’ve succeeded in Squaring Circleville, a real town in Ohio that the game is based on.

Aug. 27

This was the first day of Consimworld! Here’s Dan and me arriving bright and early for gaming!

Dan and I are ready for all the gaming! This was taken before temps hit 110 degrees. It was a hot week!

We started the con with a 3P game of Passtally. This quick filler is such a brain burner! I finally own a copy of it, after playing it at BGG Con Spring eons ago! This is a tile-laying game in which you’re building routes to connect to your markers. You can also build on top of other tiles, which elevates this cute game into super crunchy puzzle. For each turn, you get VPs based on how many tiles your route goes through — horizontally and vertically! 

Passtally is so pretty yet will probably melt your brain.

I then busted out my new copy of Twin Palms, a game I first played at Dice Tower West 2022. I backed the game on Kickstarter and it arrived the day before Consimworld. What luck! Twin Palms is a neat trick-taking card game, where you play pairs of cards and there are only 1-3 suits in the game, depending on player count. The highest pair of cards are determined by a hierarchy of pairs and/or suits, and you may bet before each turn how many tricks you’ll be able to take. It’s a neat twist on an otherwise very familiar mechanism. 

I love the cool retro artwork for this trick-taking game with a twist.

Next up was Pax Pamir. This is a game we play at every single Consimworld, but I am still not very good at it. Players are purchasing cards and creating their tableaus, while trying to gain control of territories at the right moment.  Every game I’ve played is so different. I’m hoping to get my copy from their Kickstarter soon, so maybe there’s a chance for me yet to improve my game! 

Pax Pamir never disappoints! I can never get enough of these components and linen map.

We then played A Study in Emerald, a grail game that’s, for the lack of a better word, insane. The Great Old Ones have taken over the world, and historical figures from the 19th century are either Restorationists fighting against the creatures or Loyalists attempting to defend the status quo. There’s a giant map of Europe, and players are depositing influence into various locations to attack monsters and/or gain cards. There’s hidden roles, deck-building, area control, and possibly zombies! Paranoia is at an all-time high, and when certain markers hit the end of their tracks, the teams compare scores and the side with the lowest score automatically loses. It is quite the experience, and I’m still not sure I’m describing the game correctly! 

A Study in Emerald is quite the experience! And sometimes there are zombies.

The last game on Saturday night was Crescent Moon. This is a new asymmetric area-control game set in the 10th century Middle East, which is laid out in a very small hexagonal-tile map. There are five different factions, and each faction takes 4 actions over the course of 3 rounds, making it a total of 12 actions total. There just aren’t enough actions to do everything you want to do. Each faction has a very clear objective, and the player guides clearly explain what that is and how to best go about your relationship with other factions. And while there are some similarities to Root, there’s a lot more wheeling and dealing to negotiate with your neighbors while you work toward your win conditions. 

A lot happens on this small map for Crescent Moon.

Aug. 28

Sunday began with an epic game of Dune! It was my very first game of this, and we had a complete game with 6 players. I played as the Harkonnen, which excels at treachery, so basically the complete opposite of me in real life. The game plays out over 10 rounds, unless a win condition is triggered (controlling a certain number of strongholds) beforehand. The Dune planet is represented on the main board as a giant circle separated into sectors. At the start of each round, the storm moves, spice shows up on the board and the sandworm can appear to wreak havoc on players’ troops. There’s also battles, which players set up secretly with cards and leaders in their hand and discs showing the number of troops they want to commit. There are also traitor cards, which allow you to activate an opponent’s leaders to immediately lose your conflict. This game is so fun! 

The spice must flow! But watch out for the storm and sandworm — they’re both pretty treacherous.

I would totally love to play this again, especially because I nearly won and lost in the same round! During Round 8, I had a traitor leader card of my opponent I was battling, and I had a 50/50 shot of him using that leader. Unfortunately he didn’t! And I almost lost b/c if I had won that battle, the Bene Gesserit would’ve stolen my victory from me because they had made the prediction (at the beginning of the game per their faction power) that the Harkonnen would’ve won in Round 8. 

We then played La Belle Epoque, a euro-ey cube-pushing wargame. In this game, Central Empires, France, Great Britain and Russia compete with each other to gain control of countries across Europe during the time between the end of the Franco-Prussian War and the start of World War I. The game continues for 9 turns, separated by 3 eras, in which the game could end anytime during the 3rd era with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

We all were learning La Belle Epoque together. It’s a cube-pushing euro-y wargame.

We then ran into Bobby Factor, and it was such a pleasure meeting him in person and gaming all week! He has so many hilarious stories, ones that he’ll love sharing if you ever end up at a convention with him.

These fun guys! From left, Dan, me, Cory Graham, Bobby Factor and Sobhi Youssef.

Aug. 29

Monday began with a game of Dominant Species: Marine. I love, love this game, and I think I played my best game yet! (I came in second, fyi, as the reptiles. Please cheer for me.) I love the worker-placement mechanism of this game, with the limitation that you can only place your worker on a space after your last one on the board, meaning you can’t take an action you’ve already passively skipped. But once dominate in an element, you take a special white pawn that allows you to break some of the worker-placement and unlock some extra action spaces, but most importantly, it allows you to take an extra action before you spend your turn recalling your workers off the board. 

I love the Dominant Species: Marine’s board and color scheme.

I then played a prototype of Vijayanagara: The Deccan Empires of Medieval India 1290-1398. One of the designers Cory Graham is local, and I had a great time gaming with him all week. This COIN-inspired game is so, so good, and I think will usher in a new wave of more accessible wargames. The game is currently on GMT’s P500, and it’s the first game of their new Irregular Conflict Series. Vijayanagara is a 3P game that plays out in about 2 hours, with little downtime for everyone. Players take on the roles of the Delhi Sultanate, the Bahmani Kingdom and the Vijayanagara Empire, and like a COIN game, there’s a deck of cards that determine which two factions can take a turn. But unlike a COIN, the third faction can take a limited command and is still eligible for the next turn. Plus, a good number of events on the cards make it appealing to take the event instead of a full command because it allows your faction to stay eligible, a new twist to other COINs. I can’t wait until this game comes out. 

I really enjoyed playing Vijayanagara: The Deccan Empires of Medieval India 1290-1398. I can’t wait until it’s out!

Aug. 30

Tuesday began with a quick game of Dan’s card game Bowie where you’re playing as four different David Bowie personas trying to stay alive while earning points for recording music. Meanwhile various threats, dark princes and figures of the occult going after them. If any of the Bowies die, everyone loses. 

The Bowies must work together so one of them doesn’t get killed.

We then played Dan’s prototype of Blood and Treasure, a game about the U.S.-Afghan War and the contractors who would profit from it. Players are secretly bidding for market contracts but the trick is you want to bid lower than your opponents but enough so that you’ll receive the cash from your bid. That money can then be used to bid on other contracts but also gain extra pawns to take more actions. Your company will also need to diversify in various industries so that you can collect more contracts and put cubes on them so that when it’s inspection time, you won’t get penalized for non-activity on the contract. It’s an unflattering look at the U.S. government, a unique departure from your usual wargame themes. 

I played a 3P game of Blood and Treasure, a game about American contractors during the U.S.-Afghan war.

Next up was Flashpoint: South China Sea. Harold Buchanan designed this game in the GMT Lunchtime Game series (games that can be played under an hour for two players). I had a chance to playtest this years ago at a previous Consimworld, and I’m so happy to see his design here on table! It’s another accessible wargame that borrows the card-driven game mechanism for its gameplay. Players take on the role of China vs. the U.S., and the game begins with secretly bidding VPs to go first. Players then place economic and diplomatic influence across various regions and countries in the South China Sea to score for VPs each round. I’ll be doing a more in-depth review of this game soon! 

Flashpoint: South China Sea is 2P game that simulates the complex geopolitical contest currently taking place in the South China Sea.

I then played a quick game of Watergate. This is such a tense 2P game, also one that plays in under an hour. One player plays the side of a Washington Post Editor trying to connect Nixon to his informers, while Nixon is trying to hang onto his presidency and not be forced to resign. The cat-and-mouse feel of this game makes this game so good and enjoyable to play. 

Watergate is so tense! Every small move could have giant consequences in this game.

Lastly, I ran a game of Battlestar Galactica, a tradition for Consimworld. This is my absolute favorite game and each game is so much fun, even if us humans lose! So say we all! 

It was such a joy gaming with Harold Buchanan (left) and Bobby! My buddy Mark (back left) joined us for this game.

Aug. 31

On Wednesday, we played a game of Angola. I first learned this game last year (and it was one of my top games that I played in 2021) and have been looking forward to playing another game of it at this con.

Playing Angola a second time, I had a much better grasp on the game. But we still got outmaneuvered!

I played as the FNLA this time around, and it was nice not having to use the blank cards during your turn. I started out strong, getting lucky with the random start of most of my troops being in the north, but then I just got closed in on by FAPLA and by a few turns in, our side had lost the game. Still a great experience (it took most of late-morning to early evening), and I learned a thing or two about clipping chits. 

A similar photo like this got roasted on Twitter because some of the chits were not clipped! The horror!

I then played the working prototype of Forward Ever by designer Sobhi Youssef. This game is set during the U.S. invasion of Grenada, and it’s a trick-taking game where you’re placing influence on the board.. We got through a couple rounds of the game before Sobhi took some notes from some of the players’ feedback. 

We played Sobhi’s prototype for Forward Ever.

Sobhi is also designing After the Last Sky, set during first Palestinian Intifada from 1987-1993. I, unfortunately, didn’t get a chance to play his prototype. Hopefully I’ll get a chance next time we all meet again. There’s been talks to meet up at Harold’s convention in San Diego in November: San Diego Historical Con! I’ve already purchased my ticket for it. Looking forward to more wargaming then! I’ve only ever attended the convention online during the pandemic.

I’m hoping to get a chance to play After the Last Sky next time Sobhi and I are at the same convention.

By then, it was Wednesday evening. We all then thought we were going to do more gaming but instead winded down at a local Mexican place across the street from the hotel, partaking in food, drinks and great conversation. And that was a great ending to my time at Consimworld.

Cheers, Dan! We took a celebratory shot in honor of Dan’s birthday!

During the con, I played 16 games, 17 if you count Squaring Circleville the night before. The convention continued until the following Saturday, but I couldn’t stay the whole week because I had to get ready for another convention. (That post will also be coming down the pike). The only game I purchased during the convention was The Chase of the Bismark, designed by VUCA Simulations, which had a booth at the con.

There was a demo copy of this game during the con. It just looked so awesome!

I enjoyed playing all kinds of games: some new, some old, some under an hour and others that lasted a big chunk of my day. I met some lovely gamers and game designers, and learned more about design and the publishing process during my week with them. Thanks, Consimworld, for having me this year! It’s been a blast! See you next year!

Meeple Lady

Related posts