Thursday, April 4, 2024

Unboxing: '85 Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires (Flying Pig Games)

In February 2015, Mark H. Walker launched a Kickstarter for Old School Tactical, the first game in a new WWII tactical series that is currently sitting at three volumes (with a fourth coming), multiple expansions, and great reviews. He had just recently completed the Kickstarter for Night of Man (a card-driven, science fiction tactical game), which I had backed, but had not yet received (and would not receive until early 2016).

These two Kickstarter campaigns were unique, in that they offered a pledge opportunity I had never seen before- a Maximum Supporter level (Night of Man called it the Awesome Supporter level). For significantly more than the price of the game, you would get a copy of everything Flying Pig Games ever produced (at the time of the Kickstarter, they had not yet produced anything).

During the Night of Man Kickstarter, I was struggling with money, and although I was desperate to get into whatever new games Mark was producing (I was a fan of his designs and products while he was the owner of Lock 'n Load Publishing), I couldn't get enough money together for the big pledge level, and ordered just the game. I was hopeful I would get a second chance though, so put a little aside for the next few months and was ready when that chance arrived again during the Old School Tactical Kickstarter.

Over the years since, I have gotten a lot of great products from Flying Pig Games, and I have done a decent job of keeping up on playing their new releases (although I am now a few games behind, shame on me). Night of Man, I have played and enjoyed. Old School Tactical has been fantastic. The game related to today's (eventual) topic, '65 Squad-level Combat in the Jungles of Vietnam, was a blast. I was incredibly lucky to get the opportunity to back OST when I did.

All of this was a long-winded way to explain how their newest release, '85 Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires, ended up at my door last week. I watched the Kickstarter with great interest, not only because I knew the game would eventually arrive (thanks Mark!), but because it is a topic I do not have any other games on, and that is a major consideration for me. Also, my friend Bob is interested in the topic, which increases the chances it will get on the table.

Well, let's take a look at what comes inside.

Nice looking box! The subdued colors create a box cover that is distinctive, and although you can see the relationship between this game and '65 Squad-level Combat in the Jungles of Vietnam, the latter's cover seems more vibrant. The rulebook lists the cover artist as Nadir Elfarra. I quite like it.

Here is the back of the box. Not much to say, as we will be going through the components individually.

First up is a stack of cards. The box says there are 69 of them, which are the 58 action cards, and 11 Bonus Victory Point cards. If you have played '65 Squad-level Combat in the Jungles of Vietnam, or Night of Man (which has some similarities), you will know what to expect here.

The cards provide options for your actions on your turn, along with numbers and Hit indicators that are relevant to combat. Some cards will also allow you to trigger special powers that the units may have (for instance, giving them explosive rounds for an action, or to shrug off a point of damage). This game also includes Bonus Victory Condition cards, which can give you additional ways to score Victory Points in scenarios that use them.

Next up, we get the rule and scenario book.

This is a full color book, and looks great! Seems like a number of rules have been clarified, and the Line of Sight rules have had some additions, but nothing looks particularly different from the previous game in the series. Nine scenarios are included (one, a bonus Kickstarter scenario). Only that bonus scenario uses a single map, and there are four 2-map scenarios, three 3-map scenarios, and a single 4-map scenario.

We get a single double-sided Player Aid, with charts on one side, and terrain effects on the back.

We get a single six-sided die. If memory serves, it is only used for targeting rolls for artillery, so it is not something you will need to reach for a lot in any particular game.

A Sequence of Play and general track, which is used at a minimum to count the number of turns. Nice quality, and durable looking.

Four countersheets, with quite nice-looking counters. These counters are big, although that may not come across in the photos- the majority are 1" counters, and the vehicles are 1 3/8", which is something I cannot say I have ever seen done before. You are not going to have a tough time handling these, and they are easy to read. What an impressive set of counters!

And finally, we get to the maps. Five are included, numbered 4-8 (the first three in the series are in '65 Squad-level Combat in the Jungles of Vietnam).

A decent sized town, with considerable cover. Is the walled compound just a building? I don't know, and the terrain chart does not make it immediately clear. Perhaps it says something in the scenario rules.

Cliffs and some buildings, with crops in the north/center part. That little valley on the right there seems like it would be a fun chokepoint for a battle.

A big hill to fight over, with many rough patches to break it up.

A moderately clear board, with scrub and rough sections.

Lots of open space.

One final thing to note- Mark sent a message on a number of channels about overlays that did not get printed but were supposed to be included. They will come at a later date, but he did provide a PDF version of them to give us a way to play the scenarios in the meantime. I have no doubt they will come someday, and I am not worried about them, but it is worth noting they are a required part of the package for most of the scenarios, and I do not yet have them.

And there you have it. Another great-looking product from Flying Pig Games that is sure to be worth your time to check out, and likely to be something I will play before the end of the year.

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