February 6, 2023

#UnboxingDay ~ Sparring Dragons by Norsehound Games

RockyMountainNavy, 19 January 2023 ~ #UnboxingDay

While it seems fashionable to dump on Twitter at the moment, I for one am very happy to see wargamers—like they always have—are sharing game idea and building our hobby even there. One example of this is “Postcards from the Front 2023”, a Game Jam hosted by Hissycat Studios that can be found using the hashtag #pftf2023. I constantly watch this stream and have played several of the wargames found there. One in particular that caught my attention is Sparring Dragons: A Postcard Taiwan Conflict by Michael Ptak (@Norsehound).

 

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You gotta click to “open” this box…

click images to enlarge

Here is the Game Jam description for Sparring Dragons. As the postcard game maximizes space usage for rules and play content, this description is lacking on the download:

“The tensions for Taiwan go hot! Based on TSR’s Hunt for Red October, Sparring Dragons is a postcard-sized reduction of the engine to simulate the conflict. The Taiwanese forces must hold out against the Chinese navy’s attempts to land an invasion force on the island and take Taipei. US forces are headed in to help, but they may not be in time.”

Admittedly, there is no real way to “unbox” this game because it is delivered digitally to your device. When downloading Sparring Dragons into your digital box you get a pdf file that, although described as a “postcard” game, can be printed on a standard-sized sheet of paper.

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“Postcard” on 8.5″x11″

 

I took the liberty of trying to print a copy of Sparring Dragons on a larger piece of paper. I chose 11″x17″ and without any print setting adjustments the game printed decently but with large margins—and only marginally more playing area.

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“Bowing up” Sparring Dragons to 11″x17″ – results are “marginal”

 

Something to be aware of when printing Sparring Dragons, or any of these postcard games, is print resolution. When I enlarged the pdf I lost some resolution making the text fuzzy and a bit more challenging to read. This reminds me to thank Jon Compton at Canvas Temple Publishing for making wargames with larger hexes and counters for us fumble-fingered and bespectacled Grognards…

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Sometimes its hard to see the other side…apropos in a game where detection is important?

 

Given Sparring Dragons is a print-n-play game, you will have to do some arts and crafts. Norsehound thoughtfully laid out the counters such that if folded over they line up properly. That said, to make the counters you have some work “cut out” for you. If you have those little plastic slotted feet you can even turn these counters into standees, or if you have spare blocks you can create a block wargame for yourself.

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Seeing through the cover…

 

Like the ad copy stated, Sparring Dragons uses game mechanisms lifted from the wargame The Hunt for Red October published by TSR in 1988. I wrote about my reaction to that older game in late 2021 here at ACD in an article titled, “Combat for the masses or an unfathomable #wargame? The Hunt for Red October (TSR, Inc., 1988).” Sparring Dragons is a very simplified version of The Hunt for Red October…but more on that in a later post!

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The Hunt for Red October from 1988

 

I highly encourage my fellow Grognards to look at the games under the #pftf2023 hashtag. Find a game that looks interesting. [Spoiler: There is a postcard Market Garden wargame by designer David Thompson of Undaunted fame there.] Print and play. Most importantly send the designer feedback—good or bad. Game Jams like this one are just one path to building a stronger wargaming hobby. You can do your part starting with a simple click to open a (virtual) box of gaming goodness.

 

 


Thanks for joining this month’s #UnboxingDay with the Armchair Dragoons and we hope you enjoyed a look under our hoods!  You can always leave us your feedback in our #UnboxingDay thread, or in the comment area on this article, below.
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