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This is a weekly report of our Tuesday night gaming sessions in Chelsea (Manhattan).
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AAR 4 December 2012 - Doctor Who, Borodino 1812, This Accursed Civil War, Mississippi Queen, Roma: Arena

J. R. Tracy
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New York
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We had eight gamers last night for a mix of wargaming and light euros.

Scott is cooking up a light variant of Ben Hull's Musket & Pike rules, and he and Natus took it for a spin with Edgehill from This Accursed Civil War.


Edging forward

Scott's Cavaliers launched into the Roundheads, but Rupert struggled with his orders after his initial charge. Nate was moving his infantry forward on the center and left when they called it. The rules seemed to work, but Scott said he has a lot more work to do before they are ready for prime time. This is a personal project, as far as I know, and not for GMT (yet...?).


Ruprecht sticks a fork in his eye

Campoverdi, John, El Rios, and Dutch tried Martin Wallace's Doctor Who card game. Players appear to be both the Doctor and the bad guys, defending and attacking various locations around the universe. Three of the players found it thematic but ironically the winner, Dutch, thought it a bit dull.


Exterminate!

The same crew then turned to river racing with Mississippi Queen. This is usually good fun but this session turned into a procession down the river once Dutch established a lead. Unless the leader botches a move, he will glide home a winner barring an unfriendly tile draw. That proved the case here as Dutch had no problem negotiating the final twists and turns on his way to victory.


Twisty turny Mississippi

Rumor has it John taught Roma II: Arena to Dutch, only to be thrashed as the student became the teacher. Nice trifecta for Dan.

Meanwhile, Bill and I broke out Columbia's newish Borodino 1812, just squeezing under the wire for the 200th anniversary (more or less). This is a blocky treatment of the battle at division scale, using irregular areas on a map representing about an eight mile by six mile battlefield. Terrain is a mix of woods, swamp, towns, redoubts, rivers, and streams, and distinguishes between 'in-area' terrain and area-border terrain. The latter regulates the number of units that can engage in combat, similar to earlier Columbia games. The redoubts reduce casualties by 50% (but curiously have no effect on bombardment) while most of the other terrain effects clip the combat effectiveness of units by a pip (A2s become A1s, etc). Roads crisscross the battlefield, and serve to keep players honest. Normally units only move one space but infantry can move two along roads and cavalry three - that's zippy enough to threaten supply sources if a flank is momentarily unguarded.


The mighty Moscow militia

Command and control is driven by corps and army headquarters, which function like the HQs in EastFront. To activate a given unit, its parent HQ must be activated, which costs a step. The unit (and the rest of that HQ's formation) may then bombard, move, and engage the enemy. Infantry, cav, light artillery, and horse artillery can all enter enemy areas for combat, while heavy artillery can only bombard from adjacent spaces. Combat itself is standard Columbia fare, with units rated A/B/C for firing order (generally artillery units are As, cavalry Bs, and infantry Cs), defender getting first shot, and effectiveness ranging from one to four (you must roll less than or equal to the effectiveness to inflict a hit). The attacker must turf the defender out of the space in three rounds or retreat and suffer pursuit fire. Each side gets four replacement steps a turn, which usually go to the HQs which just activated. All straightforward stuff and familiar to anyone who has cracked open a Columbia game in the past 20 years.


Jägers anchoring the left

The HQs have designated start areas but beyond that, setup is pretty free, with units only required to be in command range and on the appropriate side of the start line. Victory is determined by casualties inflicted (French units are worth more than Russians) and control of the five redoubts (Shevardino, the Great Redoubt, Les Fleches, Gorki, and Maslovo). As Kutuzov, I loaded up the Fleches and the Great Redoubt with artillery, backed them up with my best infantry and heavy cav, and gradually thinned my lines toward the flanks, with Jägers in the swamps to the left and my Cossacks on the right.


Davout flanks the fleches

Bill opened the battle with Davout driving through the Utitski Forest south of the Fleches while Eugene headed for Borodino itself. I fled in terror before Davout's mighty divisions but dealt Eugene a pretty sharp spanking. Eugene recoiled and Murat came forward with his Cuirassiers and Dragoons, but I formed square and sent them packing as well. Davout engaged my main line of defense and starting taking heavy casualties, and Bill was burning command steps at a pretty good clip. Ultimately the French attack petered out and we turned our attention to the northern flank where my Cossacks caught the scent of the French baggage train and followed their instincts. We had a few turns of interesting fighting with combined arms on both sides. At one point I was caught wrong-footed as my infantry found itself chasing Hussars in open ground, rarely a good idea. Once Bill stabilized the flank, we called it a night.


Careful with that axe


Square dancing


Cossacks looking to liberate some loot

I was a little skeptical going in to this game; I really don't care for Columbia's ACW battle games on Shiloh and Gettysburg, and feared similar disappointment here. However, I enjoyed Borodino Borodino very much - the combat arms have distinct roles, the terrain guides decisions in sensible ways, and the command structure presents difficult but satisfying planning puzzles. The battle itself is a slugfest without a lot of subtlety, but there are elements of maneuver on the flanks and even within the bashing around the center. The block-derived fog of war adds a little something to the tension, but isn't nearly as much of the character here as it is in, say, EastFront or Rommel in the Desert. Physically, she's a beauty, with a very heavy cardstock board and the usual fine Columbia blocks. I ended up four blocks short for the Russians, which is why my Jägers look suspiciously like green dice, but Columbia has always been good about correcting that sort of thing. Overall, I'm pleased and surprised, and will give this one another try.

JR
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