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Fun City Gaming

This is a weekly report of our Tuesday night gaming sessions in Chelsea (Manhattan).

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AAR 9 June 2015 - W1815, FUBA, Splendor, Ra, Here I Stand

J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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With twelve players we had a lot of action, wrapping up HIS and getting a look at a pair of terrific Finnish offerings.

HIS rumbled to its dramatic conclusion with everyone in spitting distance of a win. Frustrated by multiple failures on the piracy front and against the Habsburgs, the Sultan turned to Italy. Venice, newly acquired by the Papacy, was the first objective. A ragtag collection of the faithful bolstered by mercenary scum met the Turks at Ravenna. The Ottoman horde carried a 17:11 dice advantage going in, but suddenly the clouds parted and a brilliant light flooded the battlefield - Smitch rolled seven hits to Hawkeye's four, repulsing the Turks and leaving them empty-handed at the end of the campaign season.

The Miracle of Ravenna

The final turn saw the Ottomans turn once more toward Vienna, while England joined the Habsburgs against France. The Turkish offensive breathed its last at Graz, but the English campaign went surprisingly well. Meanwhile, Eck triumphed in debate, adding a few more points to the Papal cause. This, plus the keys of Genoa and Venice, were enough to assure a victory for the Papacy. England, once the game's laughingstock after two disastrous wars against France, squeezed into second place, a remarkable comeback. Nice win for Smitch, great fun for all, and the stage has been set for Virgin Queen in a few weeks' time.

There will be no master of Italy

Mark, Mitch, Natus, and El Rios broke in Splendor, which has been getting good reviews but is only just now reaching the table. El Rios, returning from a long absence, made up for lost time with a handsome win. I didn't catch much of the game but the reports were positive.

Splendid

The same group followed up with Ra - with no TolleyMon at the table, it was a wide open session. This time Mitch took the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, edging out El Rios while Mark was busy building a sculpture garden.

Monumental Mark

Scott and I tried a couple titles from U&P Games, a Finnish outfit. First up was W1815, an intriguing take on the Battle of Waterloo. This comes in a simple folio package, with a map, rules, a handful of cards, a pair of dice, and some wooden bits in place of counters. There is no maneuver on the lovely map, but instead it serves as a highly functional play aid to track the battle's progress. The major formations of each side are laid out with spaces for the wooden pieces, which are removed as the formation takes losses. One side of the map marks the advance of the Prussians, while the other side monitors casualties and the morale states of the opposing sides.

Europe in the balance

The game proceeds with the players alternating the activation of individual formations. Each formation has a unique two-sided card, most of which bear a single-column combat results table. Activation means rolling a d6, possibly modified by various game states, and applying the result. Results include casualties, both friendly and enemy, morale hits for either army, and special outcomes such as the fall of Hougoumont or La Haye Sainte, or the dreaded "Ney's Cavalry Charge". Each formation has a particular nemesis, so for example when d'Erlon inflicts casualties, the Prince of Orange's I Corps takes the losses. Most formations also have a 'Counterattack' table, referencing a specific enemy formation (not necessarily their primary opponent). If you activate a formation immediately after its counterattack target was activated, you may use this table, often with devastating results.

Formations vary in strength from five blocks for Orange, four for d'Erlon and Reille, all the way down to two each for Kellerman and Milhaud. Once a formation's blocks are all eliminated, it can no longer be activated and that army suffers a morale hit. Overall army losses are tracked as well - beyond a certain point (on the fourth loss for the Allies, the fifth for the French) each new loss generates an army Rout Test (RT). RTs require a d6 roll against the army's current morale state - you must roll equal to or lower than your current value to pass. The armies start at morale 10, but as morale hits are sustained it can get shaky in a hurry, particularly as formations are lost and the Prussians show up. The passage of time matters too - the game has three time states, with the clock advancing with the tenth overall loss, and again when five Prussian units are on the map - each advance of time incurs another one pip penalty on RT rolls.

Les Belles Filles

Play proceeds until an army fails an RT or hits a casualty threshold (eleven for the Allies, thirteen for the French). That's the game in a nutshell, but the beauty is in the special cases and unique unit capabilities. I hesitate to call these chrome because they are integral to game play and form a web of interdependencies that drive your decision making. For example, when d'Erlon attacks Orange, Uxbridge may counterattack, which doubles d'Erlon's casualties and morale hits. Further, an Uxbridge counterattack automatically carries on to hit the Grand Battery. The French player may counterattack in turn with Milhaud, and so on.

The Allied Reserve formation is perhaps the most important in the game - its function is to undo the losses (casualties and morale) of the previous French activation, at the cost of one Reserve block (they start with four). These can also be used to cancel the loss of La Haye Sainte or Hougoumont, each of which flips the relevant French formation to its more deadly reverse side. However, the Allied player may only use the Reserve four times before the formation is lost - the fourth use not only eliminates the formation for a morale hit, but the Allied player suffers another die roll modifier on future RTs.

The other side of the hill

Other interesting functions include the Grand Battery which can chew up Allied morale unless Uxbridge sallies forth; Lobau, who delays the Prussians but always suffers casualties as he does so; the Ogre, who allows you to roll two dice and pick the better result on any single roll; and Old Big Nose, who immediately inflicts two casualties upon activation (Napoleon and Wellington are one-use-only cards). The Prussians advance relentlessly with each activation - as more arrive, they start to inflict morale hits and casualties on the French. If they seize Plancenoit, their card flips and it gets really, really ugly for the French. After Lobau is exhausted, the Guard can be activated to immediately undo the last Prussian result, but that's a short term measure and no way to win back an empire.

All these interactions add up to a very rich experience, but the game plays in a flash. I took the French to Scott's Allies for a best of five match. In the first, I almost immediately burned out my cavalry by rolling a '6' in my second attack. This invokes Ney's charge, which means all the French can do is launch cavalry attacks until he rolls a modified '1' or '2'. These attacks will inflict losses on the Allies but if the opposing formation remains in square, each charge is an automatic hit on the cav. With only four steps in the entire French cavalry arm, it can disappear in a hurry, as mine did. My unsupported infantry just could not carry the day, so we reset.

The Bravest of the Brave, but maybe not the smartest

In our second game, my Grand Battery could not miss, and I rapidly had Scott halfway down the morale track. In desperation he sent Uxbridge out to deal with the guns - the Earl's card will put hair on your chest, with the lower half of the card all dead dragoons, and the upper half eliminated French cannon. Scott rolled a '1', for two Allied losses. Milhaud immediately counterattacked to take Uxbridge's third block, eliminating the formation and inflicting an Allied RT die roll modifier for having no cav - the game didn't go much further.

The third game was closely fought until I decided to commit the Guard, which is pretty burly as you'd expect. They generated some hits, but I noticed the card says, "turn the card after die roll" - uh oh. The flip side also has a pretty good table, but it's littered with French morale hits, and the ominous phrase, "+1 modifier for French rout tests". Scott ably directed the Prussians, and their steady pressure, the inability to use the Guard to offset their advance (that effect is only on the front of the card), and my inept flailing in front of Hougoumont added up to a comprehensive French defeat.

A German victory

Our fourth game again saw Uxbridge ride to his doom, with Reille and friends breaking through on the left. This set up our fifth and decisive game, which was a doozy. My attacks mowed down Allied troops all across the front, but I just couldn't manage a morale hit. Meanwhile, the Prussians were pouring onto the map. I decided again to commit the Guard, in the hope of breaking through a weakened Hill and on through to Brussels. Scott was four hits from breaking, and the Guard inflicts two casualties on half their results. For the first commitment, I threw Nappy in as well - double '2' (thanks for nothing, Boney). That was good for just one Allied casualty (and one for me as well, along with a morale hit). The Prussians kept coming, but I passed my RT. The Guard go in again - another '2' this time, for an Allied morale hit, and *two* French morale hits! The Prussians pushed me further, but I again passed my RT. Last time for the Guard...and I rolled a '1', generating *three* French morale hits and a defeat. All five games were fun, but the last was terrific, and going down with the Guard seemed a fitting way to end the session.

"La Garde Recule!"

This really is a nice little game - we played five times in under an hour, and each one felt like a fully realized recreation. The card abilities and interactions generate a viable narrative that maps well to the history. The structure imposes some false choices (are the Prussians playing Red Light/Green Light or what?) but the game works so well elsewhere that I can overlook a few flaws. The dual casualty/morale concept adds just enough complexity to the combat resolution to elevate it above mindless banging. I think some optimal strategies will emerge (Grand Battery 'til you miss) and suboptimal strategies will be immediately discarded once tried (don't lead with your horse). Whether that means it will be 'solved' in a couple dozen playings remains to be seen, but even so I think it so interesting and fresh that you will have fun regardless. As an added plus, it looks to be an ideal candidate for solitaire. Great stuff, innovative and beautifully packaged.

Next we tried FUBA, a soccer game from the U&P guys. Players maneuver their jersey-meeples across the pitch, vying for ball control and positional advantage. It's all driven off a very simple d6 system. The pitch is divided into thirteen zones, and the controlling player selects a target zone for his next pass. The ball is represented by an annoying round die - the top 'side' is the current control value. The controlling player rolls to match or exceed this target to retain possession, modified by how far the ball travels, relative number of players in the target area, and or two other things. The opposing player rolls as well. After control is resolved, the low-rolling player moves his guys as he sees fit, followed by his opponent - the catch is the second player may only move as many pieces as his opponent, so in certain situations you can press an attacking advantage and leave your opponent without the means to respond, or on defense deny your opponent the ability to develop his position.

Fitba!

Shots on goal are straightforward, rolling a d6 and trying to beat the current zone's goal value. The farther away, the harder it is to score (shocking) and opposing players in the shooting zone or between it and the goal act as modifiers. If you're in a viable zone, you may still shoot no matter how egregious the modifiers - you have to roll a six and make a subsequent roll to score, known to my ASL brothers as an Improbable Hit (C3.6). I should add, the control roll-off also governs other things such as the new control value, the intervention of random events, and the passage of time.

Looking to equalize

Scott and I played a full 90 minute game in roughly real time. I opted for an old-school English style, booming long balls up the sidelines and crossing for strikes. Scott did a better job of developing field position, usually managing a man advantage when on the attack. I had a lot more shots, but all were low probability threats. Scott scored first on a well-constructed attack, but I tied it up just before the half. In the second period, one of his diving divas proved persuasive, and I had a man sent off. Working a man down, we fought valiantly but yielded a second goal. I still managed three more shots on goal after that, including one from the penalty area in injury time, but all was for naught, as Scott won, 2-1.

Diver!

I enjoyed the game, and feel the theme carries over well. It's not a hardcore sim by any means but it has a sim-ish heart. I don't think you have to be a fan of footie to appreciate it, but it helps in identifying the narrative. We played version 1.0 but U&P is releasing it with improved rules (which, I think, we played with thanks to Scott's mad downloading skilz). It is a handsome production, and worth a look if you enjoy lighter sports sims or enjoy the theme and the vision of meeples stampeding up and down the field.

The loneliest meeple on the pitch

Scott and Mark rounded out the evening with three more games of W1815, Scott's French to Mark's Allies. Mark took the session with two out of three wins, all accomplished in 20 minutes. Really, on play time/play value ratio alone, this game is a marvel.

Uxbridge goes in
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Mon Jun 15, 2015 12:30 pm
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AAR 2 June 2015 - Here I Stand, Power Grid, Stone Age

J. R. Tracy
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We had eleven players last week to continue HIS, and play a couple classic Euros.

In the last session of Here I Stand, the Habsburgs just missed a win thanks to Frederick of Saxony, while France, the previous near-winner, found herself pushed far down the VP track. This week saw some reversals of fortune - a good portion of the board made war with Habsburgs, while Mark, assuming the throne of France, looked to repair her standing.

Makin' like Magellan

Jim's Habs had some good fortune on the sea, withstanding Hawkeye's attempt to extend Turkish naval dominance to the western Med. However, the Ottomans made progress on land, capturing Graz and taking Venice when the Pope wisely stood aside. England snapped up some Habsburg holdings in the Low Countries, increasing the pressure on that front. Meanwhile, Mark, having stabilized matters in the diplomatic realm, capped an impressive evening by circumnavigating the globe. That brought France roaring all the way back into a three-way tie for first! This is a very close game, with everyone still in it as we go into the final turns.

Neck and neck and neck

Dr. Rob, Mitch, Herr Fuchs, Dave, and myself again turned to Power Grid, using the German board. Everyone was on their game this week, with no easy buys in the auction and a lot of tactical manipulation of turn order as players timed their downshifts and expansions. After mapping out my progress to the dollar, for some reason I went off piste with a poorly considered resource buy - I figured I should grab another coal when it was cheap, without fully considering the implications. The great/terrible thing about Power Grid is that a small error early on can propagate through the rest of the game to generate massive implications for the end game. My 'cheap' coal left me a dollar short for a critical expansion, which left me at over capacity for a turn, which left me unable to win the plant that would've given me a victory a couple turns after that. Dave won that particular auction and the game. Good fun, and we hope to track down a China/Korea map for our next session.

Lodgemaster Seulowitz lights Westphalia

After Dr. Rob headed out, the rest of us tried Stone Age. I struggled to piece together the resources for good buildings, so I focused on the green civ cards instead. My people found themselves eating a lot of tree bark, but I steadily built a full set of cards. In the end, that was good enough to leap from the back of the pack to nip Dave for a win. Neat game, with several distinct strategies.

Love shack, baby!
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Thu Jun 11, 2015 4:29 pm
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AAR 26 May 2015 - Here I Stand, Tragedy Looper, Sons of Anarchy, Clash of the Gladiators, Android: Netrunner

J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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We had fourteen players last week for several multiplayers and a classic card game.

Here I Stand continued, with the pack dragging France back into the peleton before kicking her to the cellar. However, she was still a dangerous opponent, as England discovered. Stéphane landed a predatory expedition on the continent with visions of fresh keys dancing in his head, but Campoverdi squashed the invasion, and tossed the Duke of Suffolk into an oubliette alongside his brother-in-law Henry.

Tudor slumber party on the Île de la Cité

Elsewhere, the Holy Roman Empire was surging, filling the Med with her galleys and taking advantage of a peaceful Ottoman to expand her holdings in central Europe. Jim had the HRE on the precipice of victory, but Bill sent John Frederick and his Saxons to the gates of Prague, storming the walls for the Protestant cause. That was enough to prevent an auto-win, so this one will go the distance, to be concluded next week.

The Saxons save the day

Dan VIII was in town and tossed Tragedy Looper onto the table. He was joined by Dr. Rob, Scott, and Sean for this interesting little cooperative. The players are trying to prevent a crime from occurring, either outright or by travelling back in time to head it off once they identify the culprit. In this case, they quickly pegged a serial killer for what she was, and kept her separated from her potential victims for an easy win. Not the most rigorous test of their skills, but still, interesting and different.

Loopin'!

Dan IX, Chris Storzillo, Dutch and I tried Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem, another licensed multiplayer from Gale Force Nine. Each player represents a motorcycle gang in sunny Charming, California. Chris had the wealthy Lin Syndicate, Dan IX ran the volatile Mayans, Dutch controlled the hivemind One Niners, and I had the eponymous Sons of Anarchy (technically SAMCRO - Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original). Over the course of six turns we rode around town, sourcing and selling 'contraband' (probably uncirculated Magic cards and C3I inserts), while battling each other for control of advantageous locations. Each gang has a limited set of orders per turn; orders are used to move gang members, initiate throwdowns (fights), summon help, or utilize a location's special function. The nominal currencies of the game are money, guns, and contraband, but orders are the resource that governs all others.

Whoever has the most money at the end of the game wins. Each gang has a special ability - the Lin get extra money when they control the Patch (the initiative marker), the Mayans can throw down without expending an order, the One Niners may summon help without expending an order, and the SoA get an extra dollar when they sell any amount of guns. Each location has some nifty function, like a favorable rate of exchange for trading guns for contraband, or the ability to reduce the heat on your gang. Your heat index represents the level of law enforcement interest in your activities - the more they're paying attention, the less contraband you can sell in the market phase. When you max out the heat index you lose a member (presumably taking a fall for the brotherhood). Heat increases every time you use a gun, or for operating in some of the sketchier locations.

Trouble at the smoke shop

The basic economy of the game is converting orders into cash, but you can do that a number of ways, by trading guns, or selling contraband, or hitting up the locations that grant cash outright. Each turn we fought over the choicest locales - you must solely occupy a location tile to use it. If two or more gangs are present, one may throw down to initiate a fight in which all participate. Players summon help if they want, and each full member (the guys on bikes) is worth two points, initiates are worth one, and guns (secretly committed) are worth three. All this plus a six-sided die is your total score. Guns send guys to the hospital (50/50 chance of survival), fists send 'em to your clubhouse.

In our game, the Lin looked like the biggest threat as Passaic's Finest proved disturbingly efficient at running a crime syndicate - a side benefit of the job, I guess. Dan IX used his free throw-down ability with abandon, kicking off several scraps. I cornered the gun market and put a lot of guys in the hospital, but I wasn't getting a very good return on my order expenditure. Dutch made excellent use of his dog whistle, summoning gang members from all over into every fight. He also carved out and protected a nice synergy between two tiles, picking up contraband cheaply and immediately selling it at another locale. Steadily cycling that relationship filled up the One Niner coffers, allowing Dutch to handily beat Chris, $32 to $26, while Dan and I were at $24.

Chris, Dan, and I all enjoyed the game very much - Dutch liked it too but thought it was a little long. It's area-majority with teeth, and has several different ways to build your economic engine. The tile interactions are neat, and I like the contraband market - the more folks commit to it, the lower the value per bag o' Magic cards. Efficient use of orders is a must - I found myself burning actions grabbing locales only to lose them, while Dutch staked out his territory and dug in. I haven't even seen the TV show but the game piqued my interest. Kudos to Gale Force for another solid use of a popular license.

Dutch, Dan VIII, Dan IX, and Sean spilled some blood on the sand with Clash of the Gladiators. Sadly, this passed without any photographic evidence of Dutch's glorious victory.

Last up, Scott tutored me in a session of Android: Netrunner. I was Haas-Bioroid to his criminal hacking faction. Scott got off to a hot start when he burned through to my HQ on his first run before I could get any ICE out. Of course, I couldn't get any ICE out because my hand was full of agendas, and he plucked one for his trophy case. I somehow managed to score a couple agendas, and set a sweet trap for Scott on one server. Unfortunately, I didn't sell it very well - Scott pegged it for what it was and hit my other servers instead. Hiding in the skirts of a femme fatale to get past my strongest defenses, he completed a couple more runs for the win. It was touch and go for a while, with more action on the credit side than the board, but Scott was a man with a plan and I was just along for the ride. Fascinating game, and I'd love to achieve at least baseline competence in it some day.

Harvesting credits
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Tue Jun 9, 2015 4:01 pm
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AAR 19 May 2015 - Star Wars: Armada, Here I Stand, A Throne Vacant, Doomtown: Reloaded, Power Grid, Magic: The Gathering

J. R. Tracy
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We had thirteen gamers this past week for theological discourse and other, less civilized, pursuits.

Our annual Here I Stand/Virgin Queen cycle kicked off with HIS. Smitch was the Pope, Hawkeye took the Ottomans, Jim was the Habsburgs, Campoverdi the French, Maynard the English, and Bill was the Protestant.

Aylward Pasha, the picture of serenity

Campo rocketed out of the gate, drawing several minor powers to his side and delivering the blessings of French civilization to a few corners of the New World. By turn three France was poised to win. However, a play of City State Rebels shaved a point off of France's lead, preventing auto-victory and extending the game into next week.

Bloodbath at Graz

Elsewhere, the Protestants are still looking for a place to nail their theses, England's monarch is doing hard time, and the Habsburgs and the Ottomans are up to their usual hijinks to the tune of thousands of dead and a devastated countryside. Campo goes into next week with a giant bulls-eye on his back - we'll see if he has the diplomatic chops to keep his enemies divided until he can close out a win.

Big iron and deceit, Ottoman tools of the trade

Scott is developing the GMT edition of A Throne Vacant and sat down to test some tweaks and clarifications in a campaign game with Natus. Nate took the French to Scott's Grand Alliance.

A bourbon-soaked Bourbon

Catalonia rebelled early, helping the Alliance cause. Scott supported the rebels by landing English troops in southeast Spain. Nate smashed the expeditionary force and routed the Catalans, but failed to retake the cities themselves. Meanwhile, Eugene seized northern Italy, and the Austrians held their own in Central Europe. They called the game early for a likely Alliance win.

Catalonia, undefended but unbroken

Sean and I *finally* popped the shrink on the base set of Star Wars: Armada, which has been languishing in the 'play soon' pile for far too long. This is a space combat game pitched a couple levels above that of its cousin Star Wars: X-Wing. Emphasis is on coordinated action and balancing the use of large ships and fighter squadrons.

Each big ship has four firing arcs which double as defensive zones, with each arc rated for firepower and defensive shielding. Ships also have unique maneuver schedules broken out by speed, a command rating (which allows it to store commands), a squadron rating (the number of fighter squadrons it can direct), and an engineering rating for repair. They're also rated for the number of hits they can take (hits don't count against this until the shielding has been defeated). Finally, each ship has a small array of defensive systems that may be deployed when under attack. The Empire gets an iconic Star Destroyer, while the Rebels get a frigate and a corvette.

Underway with escorts

Fighter squadrons are much simpler - no facing, no shields, an attack rating versus ships, and a separate attack rating for use versus other fighters. They are rated for speed and hits - the Rebel X-Wings are more robust and pack a bigger punch, but the TIE Fighters are faster and get re-rolls when attacking in groups. Fighters may be moved one of two ways - they may be directed by a ship during the Ship Phase if the ship plays an appropriate command - directed fighters may both move and fire in either order. Undirected fighters move in the Squadron Phase, but may only move or fire. Directed fighters are much more effective, but commands are precious and minding the little ones may be an unaffordable luxury.

At the beginning of the turn, players select one of four commands for their ships: Navigate, Squadron, Repair, or Concentrate Fire. Navigate allows you to change your speed and enhances maneuverability, Squadron directs fighters within command range, Repair repairs, and Concentrate Fire juices your attack. If you don't need the special ability afforded by a command at the time it is revealed, you may 'store' it in the form of a marker for later use. These stored commands aren't quite as powerful as they would be if used when revealed, and you may only keep a number equal to your command rating. Also, larger, more unwieldy ships have a command queue - you execute the oldest one each turn, so for a beast like a Star Destroyer, you are planning three turns in advance.

Movement itself is not plotted - you are free to move as you please within the limits of your current speed and turning ability. Movement is assisted by a nifty articulated ruler - the more nimble your craft, the more you can bend the ruler. Players alternate activating their ships, firing before moving. After ships move, the undirected fighter squadrons go. One consequence of this sequence is undirected fighters will be forever chasing ships, as the ships will move away and the fighters will have to forgo firing in order to keep up, a sort of Nantucket sleigh ride in space.

Darth Smithious adjusts his starboard shield

Sean and I played the basic scenario with the ships in the box. He naturally gravitated to the dark side, while I took the good guys. My plan was to fry his fighters and avoid the Destroyer, and that's pretty much how it played out. The combination of higher staying power and a bigger punch meant my X-Wings cleaned up. However, he nearly took down my corvette before his big ship lumbered off the far side of the playing area on the last turn. You play until one side is eliminated or six turns pass - I don't see a complete elimination barring scorching dice, so the turn limit looks like the real constraint.

For combat, you roll the dice appropriate to your fire arc and range (short, medium, or long), and generate hits, critical hits, and a special result that disables defensive systems. Crits are regular hits except they carry an extra disabling result, such as reducing the target's own fire dice. Shields absorb hits until reduced to zero, though engineering activity can build them up again. In our battle I burned through the Star Destroyer's shields and got it down to 50% of damage, while my weedy corvette was one knock away from space dust.

The game plays very smoothly, and though we flipped a lot of pages the first turn it all burned in quickly. Our card table proved to be maybe half a length too small, so we didn't get to exercise much maneuver, but we got a good sense of the potential. The ships feel quite distinct, and I love the fighter squadron/big ship contrast. There are several scenarios beyond the learning situation, and you'll be shocked to learn FFG has one wave of expansions out already and more to follow. We will try it again within the month, but on the bigger table with maybe some extra ships.

The big guy means business

Dr. Rob, Mitch, and Dave cranked up Power Grid, with the US map. I don't know much about the course of the game but Dave had an enormous carbon footprint and Rob came away with the win.

Dirty work

After Rob left, Mitch and Dave played three qames of Magic: The Gathering using some of Mitch's favorite preconstructed decks. Dave won one of three games, not a bad achievement against Mitch.

Facing the manastorm

Last up Sean and I played Doomtown: Reloaded, learning via the very nice preset decks and tutorial provided. I had the Law Dogs to Sean's Sloane Gang. This is a card-driven game set in the Old West, with supernatural and steampunk elements, though our game was fought with straight-up conventional shootin' irons.

Players vie for control of a town, by deploying gunmen and controlling buildings. Buildings generate income in the form of 'ghost rock', which is used to play cards out of your hand and pay for other activities; cards also carry traditional card values (three of clubs, etc), which we'll get to in a moment. Cards represent gunmen, accessories, and in-game actions such as interrupts. Conflict occurs when opposing gunmen are in the same location; someone can throw down, kicking off a gunfight.

Hostile takeover

Gunfight resolution is what sets Doomtown apart. Players draw cards from their decks to construct poker hands, using the card values. Gunmen add some bonuses, such as extra draws or the chance to discard and replace cards. Players discard down to their best five cards and compare. As an added twist, many card values are duplicated. You can construct a hand using dupes, but it's labeled a Cheatin' hand with potential consequences. As the goody-two-shoes lawful faction, I had some advantages when facing a cheating hand, while my no-good outlaw opponent had benefits of his own when cheating. Hands are ranked in traditional poker order, though the Dead Man's Hand (aces and eights) is the highest in this particular world. The greater the difference in hands, the more casualties suffered by the loser. This is a very cool and thematic subgame, and a nice hook.

In our game, I opened a General Store only to have Sean's goons show up almost immediately. I won the shootout but Sean managed to get a lead in income. I had trouble getting gunmen into play, so Sean was able to square up the numbers on the board before our final throw down. Sean had the edge going in (he was drawing ten cards with four redraws to my seven and two) but I had a powerful card tucked away - if Sean used a Cheatin' hand, I could force him to discard it and draw cold, five cards off the top of the deck. I only managed to scrape together two pair myself, but sure enough, Sean couldn't help but use two kings of spades for his four of a kind. I made him toss it, but sadly, his new hand *still* beat my two pair, killing off my posse and granting him control of Doomtown...for now.

That's when I reached for my revolvers

I enjoyed the game - the poker-hand combat resolution elevates the game and makes it worth a look. There are two other factions, a spectral circus and a cattle-baron confederation with the budget for steam-powered technology. There are several expansions as well. I don't know if it has the depth and variety of play of something like Netrunner, but I look forward to a few more games to see how the other factions interact. I believe it can handle up to four players, another plus - we will certainly be giving it some more table time.
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Tue May 26, 2015 12:30 pm
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AAR 12 May 2015 - Penny Press, Power Grid, Clash of the Gladiators, Cuba Libre, Line Out, Surrounding Nobunaga

J. R. Tracy
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We had a dozen players for Euros and wargaming, with a little playtesting thrown in.

Bill, Dr. Rob, Hawkeye, Mark, and Jim sat down to Penny Press, a game about the newspaper business in late 19th century New York City. Each player runs his own paper, sending his reporters out to dig up the scoops in a variety of subjects. The game has elements of worker placement and bidding. Putting a reporter on a story not only improves your chance of carrying it but also ups the ante, increasing its value. Publishers are trying to optimize front-page real estate - any empty front-page space is worth negative points, but a claimed but unpublished story will cost you points as well. Play proceeds until three editions have been published. Jim emerged the winner thanks to a focus on the most highly rated stories.


Print the legend

The game looks great - lovely board and components, with a very nice period quality. Unfortunately, our crew didn't really warm to the game itself. The link to the subject matter felt weak and the game seemed to be missing the ability of newspaper magnates of the age to shape the news as much as report it. The latter is a case of expectations, however, as the design is more focused on the publishing process than the politics of journalism. Mixed reports on gameplay, with one player calling it a bit thin while another saw some interesting timing options. Overall, not likely to make it back to the table. However, Bill (an actual New York City reporter) did bring a sweet brew with a groovy wargaming slant.


Steady, lads!

Mitch, Miles, Dave, Herr Fuchs, and myself pulled out Power Grid, using the Germany map. It was the first time for Miles, though the rest of us are pretty raw. Miles and I staked claims in the Ruhr, where the cities are packed together, while Herr Fuchs stared up on the Baltic coast. Dave was more central, while Mitch had the east to himself (we dropped Bavaria from the map given given our five players).


Eyeing Osnabrück

Dave and I both horrifically overbid for our first plants, and spent a good part of the game scrambling to make up for it. We had a strange mix of plants flow into the auction, with several in the high 20s and low 30s popping up almost immediately. As a result, everyone could juice a fair number of cities in the midgame. We then saw a steady trickle of crappy high-teens plants, and a subsequent game of chicken as everyone waited for some other sucker to clear a lousy 2-city coal-burner so something tastier could pop up to the top row.

We had typical end-game caginess with folks trying to manipulate turn order to their best advantage. David had plenty of power but Mitch had a ton of cash, thanks to a timely down-shift. He was able to surge to 15 cities to kick off the end game, but could only power 12. David could power 13, but only had the resources to spin up 11. That left Mitch the winner, with Miles and David right behind. Again, good fun, and we knocked it out in a little over two hours.


Two's a crowd in the Ruhr Valley

Smitch tried out his new rugby game (Union rules) with Scott. This is a captain's game with player positioning across the pitch. It's still early days so they played about a third of a game with no score. Steven will head back to the drawing board to apply some new observations.


Looking something up

Scott then pulled out Surrounding Nobunaga, set in the 16th century during the Oda clan's drive to unify Japan (under Oda dominion, of course). This is the same subject matter as MMP's A Most Dangerous Time. Scott played Nobunaga, while Smitch took everyone else.


Ripe for shogunation

Steven stitched together a containment defense while waiting for his bigger clans to arrive. A strike at the Oda backyard forced Nobunaga to respond, and the would-be hegemon found himself pinned and then killed in battle for an opposition win. The game looks lovely and played at a good clip, but it helps to have a Japanese speaker in Scott to render it accessible.


Cornered!

With Dr. Rob's departure, Mark, Hawkeye, Bill, and Jim tried Cuba Libre, with Mark taking the Government, Bill the Reds, Hawkeye the anti-Red/anti-Batista Directorate, and Jim the Mob. Mark shot out to an early lead and the rest of the table struggled and failed to reel him before he notched a swift and tidy win.


Batista consolidates his grip

Last up, Miles, Dave, Mitch, Herr Fuchs, and myself finished the evening with Clash of the Gladiators. I always like trying something different when building my teams, so this time I went with the spear-carrying initiative fighters as my first pick for every tray. Kids, don't try this at home. Hey, at least it made it easy to choose the first fighter to die when I started taking losses, and boy did I start taking losses.


Far from a fair fight

I was the first to be wiped off the table, but I still stayed in the hunt thanks to the angriest bull to set foot in an arena. He killed six fighters before succumbing. Miles and Mitch were doing a lot better with their human gladiators, turning on each other after mowing me down. Dave and David did all right against the humans but really got the worst of it versus the beasts. Miles was the last man standing, and edged out Mitch and Herr Fuchs for the win, while Dave and I were just a point behind. Fast and furious, and maybe a little mindless, but a nice follow-on to a brain-burner.


Definitely not Ferdinand
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Fri May 22, 2015 1:51 pm
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AAR 5 May 2015 - The Middle Kingdom, Up Front

J. R. Tracy
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With just six players, we only had a couple games on the table this week.

GorGor and Dr. Rob squared off in Up Front, choosing Scenario F, The Infantry's Iron Fist. Steve took the attacking Germans (a smallish squad supported by an armored car) to Rob's Tommies, equipped with rifles, a Bren gun, and a PIAT. Steve had to get four cards into good terrain at range chit '4' to win.


Flanked, drunk, and in a stream is no way to go through life, son

Steve drew a Hill early, and promptly parked his PSW atop it to rake Rob's positions. However, Rob hit the open-topped AFV will small arms fire and killed the commander. That wasn't enough to send the armored car home, so it fought on with diminished effectiveness until the PIAT finally found the range. Our resident theologian had less luck against the German infantry, which bounded forward without loss while the British desperately searched for another fire card. By the time Rob finally connected, Steve's maneuver group of four men was at range chit '4'. Rob broke three, but Steve immediately drew a Rally card to sort them out for the win.


He refuses to just take your word for it

My recap doesn't do the game justice, as it was a back-and-forth cracker of a scenario. Mulling his decisions, Rob said he might have been better off advancing himself, to meet the German lead group at RR5 for additional firepower. Even as the ostensible defender, you still have some maneuver options in Up Front, part of the game's charm.

At the other end of the table, we continued last week's session of China: The Middle Kingdom. Smitch and Dutch returned, while Jim jumped into Scott's seat and I took over Campo's faction. As mentioned last week, this is Britannia-goes-to-China. It's very attacker-friendly - attacking units hit on 4-6, while defenders hit on only 5-6 (though in mountains the attacker needs a 6 while the defender's effectiveness is unchanged). Nations generally score by occupying territory, but some have specific geographic targets or score bonus points for killing an historical rival.


The Golden Horde

We were at about the halfway point, and kicked things off with Smitch's Song taking over much of the map. However, this was all just a prelude to the game's big show, the arrival of the Yuan (Mongols), with Kublai Khan in the lead. The Yuan are superpowered in every respect - they hit on 3-6 (2-6 with Kublai calling the shots), and get to move and fight *three* times on their turn of entry. They burst forth from the steppes and swept all before them, reducing the map to a single non-Yuan unit clinging to the island of Hainan after just two impulses. Dutch used the third Yuan impulse to eradicate this insolent survivor, before building his stately pleasure-dome on the banks of the river Alph.


Prepare to be assimilated

After the Mongol rampage, we each had our moment in the sun - I had the Ming and some foreign powers at game-end, Jim ran the Qing, and Smitch had the Red Chinese. However, Dutch won in a romp, with Smitch a respectable second and Jim and I a somewhat less respectable third and fourth.


Adjusting population

I enjoyed the game for an evening, but two sessions seems like too much for what it is. I feel Britannia does a better job of tying the nations to the narrative, and does so in less table time. Middle Kingdom has its charms - I like the rebellions, the Nationalist/Communist rivalry, and the way foreign powers (Great Britain, Japan, Russia, and Germany) are handled. The entry of the Mongols is a wonder to behold and a great gaming moment, but even that highlight seemed a little empty. Barring a serious head injury I don't see how the Yuan player fails to sweep the board - it's just a matter of how many losses he suffers in the process. You could reduce that to a simple table and resolve their conquest with a free Yuan setup on an empty map. You'd save 15 minutes off the game time without much impact, but lose the epic spectacle - might be a fair trade. So, I'm glad I tried it, but I'll pull Britannia, Chariot Lords, or even the flawed Maharaja down for a spin before my next trip to the Middle Kingdom


The Chairman's last stand
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Tue May 12, 2015 1:00 pm
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AAR 28 April 2015 - Napoleon, The Middle Kingdom, Twilight Struggle

J. R. Tracy
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We had nine gamers Tuesday night for just three games, though we did play two of them twice!

Stéphane and Dave played Twilight Struggle, with Dave taking the Soviets both times. In their first game, Stéphane was rocking the space race and had near-perfect timing on the scoring cards. The US had the VP marker deep in the blue before their good cards even showed up. Around mid-game Dave found himself with a handful of US events and poor prospects overall, so he conceded.

Round one

The second game followed a more typical pattern, with the Reds jumping out to a substantial lead while Stéphane tried to hang on until the big guns arrived. The VP counter floated up to 19 a couple times but the US beat it back down, until Dave worked it up to 19 once more and won a Brush War to put the USSR over the top.

Southeast Asian sweep

Scott, Dutch, Campoverdi, and Smitch tried China: The Middle Kingdom, which applies the Britannia engine to the history of China. There are 46(!) countries/races involved over the course of the game, so it's a constant cavalcade of new faces vying for a slice of the Middle Kingdom pie. The combat system and VP structure encourage an attacking strategy, so the action is non-stop. The presentation uses a lot of proven graphical torture techniques such as red-on-green printing, inscrutable fonts, and trippy map colors, but the players managed to see past all that and get into the game.

Warring kingdoms

The four factions ebbed and flowed over the map, with a wide variation in fortune. Smitch had a long stretch of casual conversation without a piece on the map, while Campo seems well established with several countries still in play in the south. They're about halfway done, with Dutch, Campo, and Smitch pretty happy with the game, and Scott less so. Scott will chime in for himself, but a couple complaints seem to be the wacky combat system and a disconnect from history that's egregious even for the breed. Having slagged off some elements of the presentation, I have to say the country cards are very nice - a lot of effort was put into the production, but the results are uneven. We should be finishing this this week.

More contenders

Bill, Hawkeye, and I opted for three-player Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815, with the latest Columbia edition. Bill was the Emperor, Hawkeye was Wellington, and I was Blücher. The game is familiar to many, but to recap it is a classic block game, with three turns a day (morning, afternoon, evening). The catch is each turn is for one side only - i.e., the French move on the morning of the first day, the Allies move in the afternoon, etc. The French may move two groups per turn (all the troops in a town constitute a group), while each Allied army may move a single group per Allied turn. With such limited movement options, players must depend on forced marches and battle-driven reinforcement/regroup movement for added mobility.

Aiming for Ath

In our first game, Bill shifted the ponderous Armée du Nord east to engage the Anglo-Allies. Hawkeye dropped his troops back, leaving a thin screen on the river crossings to slow Bill without risking too many units. This proved sound, because once Bill finally sunk his claws into a decent-sized battle, there was no way he could beat the British and friends and still have time to turn on my Prussians.

Blocking Brussels

We reset and tried again. This time Bill was more aggressive, and turned on the Prussians for the first blow. I hustled my troops toward the point of attack, and we had a good-sized fight in Namur. The terrain blocks favored me, however, and I was able to press Bill on the French right. I stretched him so much that Bill was forced to commit reinforcements there instead of supporting his success on the opposite flank. With the attrition curve in my favor, Bill was forced to break off the fight. He needed to win that battle to knock out the Prussians and set up his attack on the Anglo-Allies, so we called the game at that point.

The field of decision

This was a learning session for all of us. The French drive the pace and clearly have to risk a few dents and scratches on their shiny new war machine. The forced march rule is harsh, with a 50% chance of a step loss per unit (33% if a leader is present), but it looks like Napoleon has no choice. He has to snare one army immediately, beat the pants off it, and catch the other as it bicycles toward the far corner of the map. The victory conditions seem to encourage the separation rather than concentration of the Allied armies, at the expense of history, but it does make for a nice strategic puzzle. It played well as a three-player game too, so one to note for that option. We will revisit it soon.
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Mon May 4, 2015 7:04 pm
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21 April 2015 - Advanced Squad Leader, Vietnam 1965-1975, A Study in Emerald, Der Weltkrieg, Magic: The Gathering, Android: Netrunner, Pompeii

J. R. Tracy
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Before we get rolling, I want to offer a shout out to Eric Lee Smith, currently recovering from a cerebral aneurysm he suffered last week. So far he seems to be bouncing back; our thoughts are with him.

We had fourteen gamers this week for all sorts of gaming, warlike and otherwise.

Stéphane and Smitch returned to the WWI Eastern Front with their Romanian tussle from Der Weltkrieg Series. Last week's session closed with a Romanian unit loose in the Serbian hinterland, bad news for the Central Powers.


Running the gypsies to ground

Stéphane moved heaven and earth (and a Bulgarian infantry brigade) to deal with the problem, at the expense of other activity on the Danube front. Once that crisis was dealt with, he focused on the mountainous border with Romania, where Smitch was threatening a couple Austrian towns. Both sides thickened their lines to the point further progress was unlikely.


The Russians arrive

Back down on the Danube, the Russians were finally rolling, putting together a nice concentration east of Bucharest. However, the weather was turning and the trenches were deepening, so any hope of crossing into Bulgaria faded with the progress of the turn marker.

Once winter (the final four turns) set in, they called it, for a marginal Central Powers victory. Bucharest was safe, so the CP was unlikely to do better, while the Russians were too late to make an offensive impact for the Romanian cause. It was a good, close game, enjoyed by both.


The 2nd Bicycle Brigade claims the polka dot jersey

Hawkeye, Ollie, Mark, Maynard, and Dr. Rob pulled out A Study in Emerald for the second week in a row. It proved to be three Loyalists to two Restorationists, and the latter were smoked out early and kept pinned to the low end of the scoring track. Though pink, Maynard worked the zombie angle aggressively, getting five out on the board, a local record. However, the laurels went to Oliver, who focused on city control for a handsome win.


Shoggoth shopping

Mitch brought his box o' Magic and paired up with Natus. Natus used one of Mitch's pre-constructed decks and though he kept up a brave front, Mitch deployed wall-wall mana and critters to keep Nate on his back foot all game. By the time Nate had anything deployed, Mitch's big guns were out and closed out Nate's life counter. No big surprise here as Mitch has been swimming in the MtG tournament shark tank for years.


It only looks solitaire

The Emerald crew, ex the departed Dr. Rob, broke out Maynard's copy of The Downfall of Pompeii. Players spend the pre-eruption portion of the game getting their pieces out on the board via cardplay, while the mountain smolders. An occasional Omen card allows a player to hurl an opponent's piece into the volcano, to the amusement of everyone. Well, mostly everyone.


Vesuvius will have the last laugh

Once the volcano erupts, it's time to get out of Dodge. Everyone tries to get their pieces off the board, while directing lava flows to block the exit paths of their rivals. Oliver proved to be the most nimble, skipping out of the city just ahead of the molten rock. I think Ollie, Mark, and Maynard enjoyed the silliness of it all, but Hawkeye was less enthused. You can almost make out the bitter expression on his plaster cast in the Naples museum.


Urban renewal

Nate and Mitch followed up MtG with more cardgaming, as Nate taught Mitch Netrunner. Mitch's Corp fended off Nate's runs long enough to get his agendas out for the win. Thanks, Nate, for extending Mitch's all-conquering reach to yet another card game.


Setting up a run

Scott and Jim sat down for the First Volley scenario of Victory Games' Vietnam 1965-1975. This takes place in 1965, in the I Corps sector near the DMZ, where Jim's Free World troops had to defend their coastal enclaves against Scott's NLF backed by the NVA. It's just two turns long, but still a step up from the training scenario.


Ever the rules wrangler

Early on, Scott goaded Jim into chasing some pajama-clad guerillas back into the jungle. Jim quickly figured out that wasn't going to work without a little more planning, but with the burden of attack on the Reds in this scenario, he decided to settle in and let Scott come to him. This is a lot to ask - the NLF/NVA have to take a population center to do better than a draw, and direct assaults in the face of Free World firepower just has Bad Idea written all over it. They played it out and I think they enjoyed the system, but were a little disappointed with the competitive balance of the situation.


Hunkered down in Da Nang

Paul Sidhu joined us for the evening, and happened to bring along a picture of the two of us also playing Vietnam back in 1985, during Hurricane Gloria. As a further coincidence, we're playing the very same scenario!


Seems like yesterday

Pablo Garcia, up from Chile for an IMF shindig, joined Paul and me for a playtest of Whom Gods Destroy, a new three-player ASL card slated for publication by MMP. This saw action a couple months ago at our place, but it was a first playing for the three of us.

It is late summer of 1944, and the Germans are trying to extract themselves from Greece. An SS unit is tasked with opening a route through the partisan-infested countryside, while Greek Nationalist and Communist guerillas get their licks in on the Germans and against one another. I drew the SS, while Don Pablo got the Nationalists (EDES, represented by Allied Minor counters) and Brother Paul the Communists (ELAS, using Partisan and Soviet counters).


Strange bedfellows

Pablo had fifteen squads, Paul had nineteen(!), and I had a mere ten, but I also had a machinegun-laden SPW, a pair of ex-Italian AFVs, and a positive mental attitude. Everyone had a slew of support weapons and great leadership. We all entered from different directions, and the victory conditions were, in descending order, to outnumber both opponents in town, outnumber both opponents along the road, or score the most CVP. If there was still a tie, whoever killed the most Germans won, which seemed kind of unfair.


Opening moves

Pablo's EDES entered first, but farthest from the objective, so he grabbed a hill with his mortars and sent his main force directly toward town and a smaller group on a wider swing to threaten me. I entered second and was able to establish myself in the village. I sent a platoon with a couple of medium MGs to the top of a hill as well, to interdict Paul's approach, and a squad and a leader off to my left flank to keep an eye on the Nationalists. Finally, Paul entered on a broad front, cresting a long ridge on his side of town, with *two* platoons threatening my MG position.


Gone to the Great Party Congress in the Sky

I drew first blood with a ferocious rate-of-fire tear from my MMGs, sending Paul's commissar to an early grave. However, a sniper sent my SPW home, but not before I pulled the heavy machinegun out. An unsettling level of cooperation between my Greek counterparts steadily pressed my Germans from three sides, but I maintained a CVP lead thanks to the benefit of better defensive terrain. Unfortunately my central position meant I had trouble routing by turn two or so. The highlight of the midgame was a 20-flat spray fire shot against a pair of Partisan squads that managed to turn both Fanatic and added a Hero to each.


Already feeling squeezed

Though I led in CVPs by a substantial margin, I struggled to return my brokies to good order given the lack of rout paths. Paul rolled through my MMG position, scattering the Germans on that flank. Meanwhile, Don Pablo made good use of a gully to get most of his force into range of the center of town. Up to this point, Paul's ELAS had suffered the brunt of the German firepower, but now there was a very real chance Don Pablo could win outright. Greek cooperation was replaced by a brief fascist/communist alliance as Paul and I both turned our guns on the EDES. Paul and Pablo continued to take ATR potshots at my tanks, however - they were worth two squads apiece for the town and road VCs, and their firepower dominated the center of the village.


Double trouble

By the endgame, I was down to a single good order squad in town. Paul's Reds were pouring down the slopes into the VC area, but I was still worried about Don Pablo. One of my tanks had a broken main armament and thus didn't count for victory, so I sent it after a platoon of EDES in the gully. This exceeded beyond my hopes, killing two squads in the process and chasing off the rest. Several more ATR shots and CC attempts failed to kill either tank, so after our final turn we toted up the score. Pablo failed to win the town VC by a squad, and the road VC by a little more than that. It came down to the CVP totals, which granted me the win with 15 points to 10 and 9 for Paul and Pablo respectively.


EDES gets in the picture

This one looks good to go - though I won the CVP count by a substantial margin it was actually a very close game. The town and road VCs were close, and if either of my tanks had gone down, the SS would've been outside looking in on a EDES/ELAS fight for the lead. I caught a break when my SPW went home as well - I reckon that typically dies in action, for a hefty five CVP. I have a soft spot for Dogs of War, Kinetic Energy's venerable three-player scenario, but that one's a static urban action that seems to fall out along the same lines every playing. Whom Gods Destroy is much more fluid, with maneuver options for all three players. Chris Olden, the designer, has done the right thing by keeping it light on SSRs, letting the three-playerness speak for itself in terms of novelty and appeal. Definitely one to look forward to.


Final positions
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Mon Apr 27, 2015 12:30 pm
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14 April 2015 - October War, A Study in Emerald, Victory in the Pacific, Up Front, Der Weltkrieg

J. R. Tracy
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We had thirteen gamers this week for a lot of wargaming and a little Lovecraftian horror.

Stéphane amd Smitch paired up for a little piece of Der Weltkrieg Series from The Eastern Front: 1914-1917 box, with Smitch handling Romania against everything Stéphane's Central Powers could throw at him. The Romanians have to hold off the Austro-Hungarians in the north and the Bulgarians along the Danube, with some slow-moving Russians lumbering down to lend a hand.


Transylvanian imbroglio

This situation has quite a different look from its West Front iteration - smaller formations, much lower troop density, and difficult terrain on every front. The natural barrier of the Danube kept things quiet along that line, but the mountainous Hungarian borderlands saw a subtle fight for position, as every retreat or advance carried a threat of isolation. The underdeveloped infrastructure was a factor too - the single-line rail system made strategic redeployment a slow process for both sides.


Fending off the Bulgars

Most of the action was in the hills, with Smitch trying to nip off any protruding bits of the Austrian line, while Stéphane used his interior lines to concentrate firepower in response. The Danube stalemate continued but the steady trickle of arriving Russians may soon shake things up. In the west, Stéphane has a small problem in the form of a single Romanian division that slipped across the Danube into Serbia when the Bulgarian river flotillas were asleep at the tiller.


Hill country barbecue

The Romanian interloper isn't much of a threat in terms of combat power, but its presence on the wrong side of the river will demand a response, promising some logistical headaches for the Central Powers just in getting troops to the region. Interesting situation so far, to be continued next week.


Gypsy caravan on the loose

GorGor, Mitch, Brother Leon, Herr Fuchs, and Natus gathered for A Study in Emerald. Leon and GorGor were tentacle-loving Loyalists with everyone else trying to restore the old order.


Assassinating riff-raff

Herr Fuchs is a natural source of chaos in this game, as he loves to get the biggest, baddest cards into action. True to form, he dropped Cthulhu on The Hague and generally ran around raising hell. Mitch ran a careful game of assassination and consolidation, while Leon and GorGor just tried to keep their heads above water and maybe push Natus into last place to sink the Restorationist cause. That was not to be, however, so Mitch powered through to a win while Herr Fuchs babbled happily in a mound of Madness chits.


Devastation in Den Haag

Hawkeye and Jim played nearly three full games of Up Front, opening with a German v American Meeting of Patrols scenario. Hawkeye's GIs managed a win by getting four unpinned soldiers up to Range Chit 4. In another Meeting of Patrols, Hawkeye's Italians faced Jim's British. This time it was Jim doing the maneuvering, and he worked a group up to Range Chit 4 himself. However, before they could find cover the Italians raked them with a couple of heavy fire cards. Follow-up attacks shattered the second group as well, eventually leading to an Italian win on casualties.


Moving out

Last up, they tried an Armored Recon scenario, with Jim's Soviets (supported by an M3 halftrack) facing Hawkeye's IJA. This was really Jim and Hawkeye combining forces against the vehicle rules. They stumbled through for a while until Jim had to head home, but they should be in better shape for another crack at AFVs next time out.


Needs a Rally card (of course)

Maynard continued his Victory in the Pacific kick, introducing Dave to the game. Dave took the IJN to Maynard's USN, and after hitting Pearl hard, he sought to establish an extended perimeter.

Maynard hit right back, and the middle turns settled into a brutal game of attrition. Dave kept hitting the Hawaiian Islands, forcing Maynard to respond. The US carrier fleet was wiped out by the time the big slug of turn six reinforcements arrived, but the IJN was in even worse shape, given it was well past its high water mark in numbers. However, Dave had successfully fended off Maynard's attemtps to collapse the Co-Prosperity Sphere. Japan had enough POC in hand that even if the USN quickly ran the table (which looked likely), Maynard couldn't get the number below zero. Maynard conceded to Dave, who is obviously a fast learner.


LBA back from the dead, ready for deployment

Last up, Mark and I played October War, Mark's very first design. We've talked about it for months, but were prompted to finally try it by Mark Neukom's groovy scenario cards. We chose Chinese Farm - Mark remembered it as pretty pro-Israeli, but it has combined arms and the chance for both sides to attack and defend.

Operationally, the momentum of the Egyptian assault has stalled and the Israelis are on the counteroffensive. My objective was to clear a road of Egyptian units within three hexes, all the way to the Suez Canal. I had two brigades entering along different map edges, each with nine platoons of MBTs and nine platoons of APC-mounted infantry - the MBTs were M48s in one group, M60s in the other (identical for game purposes) and the APCs were M113s for one brigade, M3 halftracks for the other. The M3s are faster but more vulnerable than the M113s, especially to artillery.


Dodging Saggers

Mark had nine platoons of infantry and six Sagger ATGM teams, deployed in the 'Chinese Farm' itself and along a ridge overlooking the road. He also had armor in the form of a bazillion T55s entering on turn one, along with a single BRDM section (a Sagger-armed armored car unit). The T55s are inferior to the M48s and M60s in every respect but speed...and numbers. We both had off-map artillery in support (plotted one turn in advance), and I had three platoons of M113-mounted mortars for direct fire support.

My general plan was to send most of my infantry for the ag complex, with some armor support, while the rest of my armor deployed along a wadi to meet the T55s. The rest of my infantry would get get close to the ridge and keep the RPG-armed Egyptian infantry from harassing my armor. The first turn went well - Mark's Saggers hammered my halftracks, but three of his teams depleted their missile stocks on their first shot, a big relief for me.


Buying the farm

On turns two and three, the assault on the farm began in earnest. Mark vectored all his artillery in on the area, tearing up my dismounted infantry. However, I had a heavy advantage in numbers and carried the position. Elsewhere, I moved a couple platoons of M48s inside the minimum range of the Sagger teams and eliminated the undepleted sections, while my infantry fended off Mark's brave but foolhardy RPG teams.

Soon Mark's T55s moved up to engage, and the next couple fire phases would decide the battle. Two thirds of the Egyptian AFVs came over the ridge for the road, while the balance swung south to hit the farm. Mark had more units, but I had better pKs. In the end, the latter won out; as I picked off tanks, the weakened platoons were more likely to panic, further eroding Egyptian effectiveness. Eventually the exchange rate grew too lopsided for any hope of recovery, so we called it.


Egyptian counterattack

I thought it was a fun little game, pretty spry for its 38 years. The differential CRT makes sense, and the pre-action panic die roll adds a layer of unpredictability that mimics C3i issues. Before firing or moving, a unit must pass what amounts to a morale test, modified by nationality and loss state - the Israelis are more likely to do as they're told, but even they lose their focus from time to time. Artillery is a nuisance for armor but a real infantry-killer, and the smoke option proved useful in my initial attack. I felt the various combat arms interacted in a plausible manner, compelling tactics that reflect the actual narrative. We talked about some potential tweaks - I don't think this warrants a re-release, but a couple pages of updates and variants would enhance the experience without weighing down the basic, fundamentally clean system. Fun stuff.


The scrap heap
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Fri Apr 17, 2015 12:30 pm
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AAR 7 April 2015 - War Plan Orange, Patchistory, Fire in the Lake

J. R. Tracy
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We had nine gamers Tuesday night for some playtesting, COIN action, and weird world-building.

Mark unveiled War Plan Orange (working title), a variant for Empire of the Sun based on the U. S. Navy's plans for conducting a Pacific war against Japan in the 1920s and '30s. The assumption is things kick off a little sooner than they did historically, so the forces involved are more battleship oriented than the carrier navies of WWII.


Bywater's heirs

Hawkeye took the US to Scott's Japan. The Emperor quickly took down the Philippines, landing in Mindanao before moving on Luzon and taking Manila. The USN responded swiftly, rolling through the Marshalls on the way to retaking the Philippines. However, Scott sliced through a screen to sink Hawkeye's Fleet Train (essentially a mobile logistics center), stopping the US advance in its tracks. Hawkeye would have to build a forward base for the final leg of his counteroffensive, leaving him almost no time to retake his former possessions.


Kicking down the back door

The cards were kind to Hawkeye and the US, however - Hawkeye was able to accelerate his base construction, and was poised to reconquer the Philippines for a likely US victory.


CINCBATFLT/COMBATFOR Aylward

I think everyone was happy with the way the game played out, though Mark may tweak a couple things to better fit the short (relative to EotS) game length. The map area is a subset of the full EotS map, and the whole thing looks like a candidate for a future issue of C3i.


Stormlanding in the Mandates

While keeping an eye on WPO, Mark ran the Reds in Fire in the Lake against Smitch's RVN and Campo's US. They played the 1965 scenario, and early play saw the ARVN controlling the Delta while the NVA massed in the north and the VC infiltrated the center of the country.


The red and the running dogs share a joke

As things came to a head, Mark couldn't quite coordinate his two-headed beast to put either faction over the top. Meanwhile, Campo pacified large swaths of the country, edging into the victory zone, while the RVN approached its Patronage target. However, Mark handcuffed Smitch by leaving him just a Limited Op going into the final Coup card, allowing Campo's US victory to stand.


Hammer poised over the north

Dave, Bill, Maynard, and I tried Patchistory again, and had a very weird game. For all I know, *every* game of Patchistory is weird, but this one felt particularly unpredictable.

Dave and Maynard scarfed up the first two Political tiles to come up in auction, while Bill and I were shut out for the entire first Era when no more Political tiles appeared. This left us very limited in our activities, so I built up a massive military while Bill fleshed out his resources. I made out nicely when the Military prestige card game up in the end-of-era phase, but it felt like Dave and Maynard were running away with the game.


Can you dig it?

In Era II, Bill and I finally got on the Political board. I immediately built a trade route toward Maynard with murderous intent. Meanwhile, Dave had a nice stable of Heroes with complementary features, and was minting votes and occasionally cashing in a fistful of VPs via Hero worship. After Napoleon squished Maynard, I turned my attention to Dave. Bill was quietly humming to himself, picking up tiles on the cheap and generally keeping a low profile.


Political machine

Dave opened Era III by taking down Unsportsmanlike Conduct Jesus (aka Christ the Redeemer) - this further boosted his hero-worship potential. He also outbid me for a sweet set of wheels (a three-transport-value tile) which would have looked very nice on my lumbering war machine. However, I did score a stealth bomber fleet, while Maynard launched the Red Cross. When we weren't paying attention, Bill built an amusement park and a national park system. I managed to score a decisive victory in a war against Dave, and felt comfortable that I had dragged him down to earth...until we tallied the score. A vote tie on the two lowest prestige tiles binned the whole lot, so we went straight to adding up the VPs. I had 88, Dave had 91, Maynard had 99 (charity has its benefits), while Bill had a whopping 134! He not only had his parks in play, but he also added workers to his Era III culture tiles, and was really pumping out the VPs in the last couple rounds.


Coulda used a couple of those at Waterloo

I was pleased to see a crazy finish, and it was fun to get the Era III tiles into play. I was also gratified to learn a monostrategy such as all military all the time isn't a good bet. However, we were a little shocked by the chaos of it all. I think it's just a function of our lack of familiarity - we didn't recognize the power of Bill's tableau, and misestimated the magnitude of Dave's mid-game VP haul. Still, a fun, if strange, little game.
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Mon Apr 13, 2015 12:30 pm
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