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G.W.
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[Latest in a series of previews for my solitaire age-of-sail operational game, now in development and available for preorder at Legion Wargames.]

A solitaire system is often especially well-suited to wargames that have one highly active side vs. a side with a simple plan and relatively few decisions to make.

For example, in one game you might be managing an outnumbered siege defender against massed attacks by a less sophisticated enemy, for example. In another game you may be the maneuvering attacker storming a well-armed and well-fortified but static defense.

A Glorious Chance features an active, dynamic AI opponent whose objectives mirror yours. Like you, the AI assigns various missions to its ships and can score Victory Points through naval and amphibious battles.

How does that work?

AI Strategic Priorities
Each turn, after you’ve already committed your ships, you roll a 1d10 to set the enemy’s overall priorities for the two-week turn...



Each of the three mission types in the game – Patrol, Land, or Escort – can end up being low, medium, or high priority for the AI squadron. So that’s nine possible combinations of a mission type and the AI’s priority for it.

The most aggressive posture would be all missions on high priority; the most passive would be all missions on low priority. In between are variations -- A somewhat defensive AI stance would be high priority to escorting supply convoys, medium priority to patrols, and low priority to land-support missions. An AI gathering its full might for a decisive battle on the water might set Patrol to high, leaving Land and Escort at low priority.

Note that as the human player, you will be able to see these AI priority levels. That represents an intelligence factor. It represents your invisible spies and scouting vessels* reporting what the enemy’s general intentions and preparations seem to be.

The 1d10 dieroll helps to vary the AI Strategic Priorities results and always keeps an element of surprise in the game. But the AI also takes the game situation into account. This happens in two ways:

a. The Turn Record Track gives a set dieroll modifier to the AI Strategic Priorities roll, which can help push the AI into a more aggressive or passive mindset...



For example, on Turn 1 of the U.S. Solo Campaign the AI British have a +5 modifier that reflects the historical situation: The game opens in June 1813, when the U.S. squadron was hunkering down in port to protect their shipyard and the nearly completed super-corvette, the USS General Pike. The AI British start with all six lake zones under their control. So it’s natural that the AI will be more likely to strike hard and press its advantage early in the game.

That DRM drops on subsequent turns to +4, +3 and +2. Then it becomes conditional: The AI watches to see if the Pike has been launched, and if it’s Deployable the British get a +1 DRM. If the Pike is still under construction that turn, there’s no DRM. Later, the DRM can get as low as -3 if both the Pike and the new USS Sylph have been launched.

Finally, on the final turn the DRM is +5 again. That’s because news of the Battle of Lake Erie (an offmap event) raises the psychological stakes and puts pressure on both sides to settle the Lake Ontario campaign before good sailing weather ends for the season.

b. The Strategic Priorities Table also makes the AI factor the current game score into its mission priorities.
The columns of the table represent specific levels of game score. All other things being equal, the table makes the AI tend toward greater aggression if it’s way ahead in Victory Points (pressing their luck) or way behind (desperate to turn the tide). If the AI is somewhat behind, it leans toward caution. If it’s somewhat ahead it leans toward mission priorities that reflect boldness.

Target Cards
Strategic Priorities are only half the AI’s “brain.” Those priorities intersect with the deck of Target Cards to generate the number (and sometimes the type) of AI ships you’re likely to see in a turn, the location(s) where they appear, and their mission.

For example:

You’re playing the U.S. Solo Campaign and an Encounter happens in the York lake zone. You flip the Target Card that triggered the Encounter and see this:



You roll a 1d6 to determine how many ships – if any – are actually here on a Patrol mission. If the British priority for Patrol is low, there’s only a 1 in 6 chance for any ships to appear at all. But a high Patrol priority means you’re more than likely to face one or more British ships here – and on a 6 (“All” result) you’d face their full squadron.

Each of the 50+ Target Cards for a campaign game has its own table, which is geared to the zone and mission type. Compare that Patrol mission card for the York zone to this one, for the British homeport zone of Kingston:



Kingston is a much busier and strategically valuable zone for the British. A high British priority on Patrol missions means you would always face British ships when you flip this particular Target Card, and you’d have a 50-50 chance of encountering their full squadron.

*A few words about intelligence in the game:

The War of 1812 on Lake Ontario was marked by a particularly high level of espionage and mutual knowledge about enemy capabilities and intentions.

Part of the reason was geography, since the opposing squadrons’ homeports were only 36 NM (67 km) apart:



The populations on both sides of the US-Canadian border shared a common language and their accents were indistinguishable, so it was easy for spies to blend in. The near-wilderness terrain and the Thousand Islands region between the ports offered endless places for spies and deserters to hide or sneak back and forth. So, in A Glorious Chance you will know quite a bit about the enemy. Whether you know enough to make a critical decision with sufficient confidence – or with enough time to act on it – is another story!

There’s also a card-drawn random event called “Intelligence,” which represents a special breakthrough for your side...



The Intelligence event significantly increases (but doesn’t guarantee) the chance that your forces find enemy ships in a specific location next turn. If you’ve been itching for a general engagement to possibly decide the campaign, you can use this added intel to try and set a trap for the enemy.

Unfortunately, you would have to make this commitment next turn before knowing the AI’s Strategic Priorities. If the AI ends up setting Land missions to high priority, you might position your ships for a battle that never comes, while the AI squadron surprises you by appearing at your homeport to make an amphibious assault!

Try your own hand at outwitting the AI by placing a no-money-down preorder now at Legion Wargames. We need roughly 100 more CPOs to make the cut for publication. The sooner we reach 250, the sooner you can see real art and components (instead of my playtest art shown here) and get this game on your table.
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Dundy O
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"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
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Very nice write-up! I went to the website and ordered. Let's get this game on our tables.
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Walter Hearne
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Just CPO'd. Age of sail naval stuff is not really my thing, but your write-ups have convinced me this is a game worth supporting. (Plus, I used to live in the area).
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Royce Reiss
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I had already preordered the game and your write up makes me look forward to getting it even more.
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Randy Lein
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Gina,

Nice presentation this. And effective too since the CPOs are up 7 this week and puts you a mere one behind your nemesis, Nemesis by Kim Kanger...

Randy Lein - LEGION WARGAMES
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G.W.
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Thank you, Randy!

Next up:

Some of you have said you wished you could see A Glorious Chance being played on a real tabletop (since all my videos, designer's notes and AARs so far have shown only VASSAL or Tabletopia versions).

So I've had a physical prototype printed and I will be shooting some new videos soon, featuring the tabletop version. True, the artwork is still my homebrewed playtest version and not yet the gorgeous final art that Legion Wargames is known for...but anyone still on the fence can get a sense of what's in the box and the tactile experience, as I manipulate real cards and make real random draws from real cups.

This is also a chance for me to test and refine the ergonomics of the game. Some game actions that are easy to do in VASSAL can be more of a chore with tabletop components, and vice versa.

I appreciate all of your comments and encouragement about A Glorious Chance. Please tell your friends and encourage them to preorder!



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