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Struggle for Europe brings so much more to the table than most games. The straight forward mechanics and smooth play may have been partially inherited from Europa but so many aspects of this old warhorse were brought up to code without overly complicating them in the process. This alone shows Beyma's deftness as a designer-developer.
Though it has a venerable heritage SfE is a unique game unto its own. The scaling of the game to a map size just large enough for a truly operational focus but not so large as to make it a true behemoth was done perfectly and was a brilliant and yet simple design choice that consolidates Beyma's straightforward approach. While it was not the first game at this scale, beat to the punch in full publication, just barely, by Udo Grebb and Andreas Bertram with the completion of the Apocalypse of Empires series through UGG around 2001 (a design based largely on Russian Front by Neil Zimmerer) Struggle for Europe was by far the better worked out, original and more playable game.
There are few rule books better written than that for SfE. A real triumph of the literal where the player must do exactly what the rules clearly state without any implications or assumptions arising from his own preconceptions.
Struggle for Europe is a physically beautiful game and the game components are the usual high standard from CoA. The map art has a narrative quality to it that no other WW2 game has. The factoring of the units and the alchemy between the various arms was done so well as to provide a new standard for what should be expected even from a theater wide that requires a more generic approach.
The game is the perfect balance of playability and detail at the corps level. The dynamics found in these relationship between the colorful units and the game space provided by the excellent map organically focus the player on the operations themselves. The mechanics of play easily fade into the background. These fundamental design choices remove the requirement of many abstractions and those that remain are tempered elegantly and pointedly toward a portrayal of interaction on the high operational scale.
If played ”in character” the system yields dramatic simulations. Planning is emphasized. Many logistical problems are elegantly represented by acknowledging that outside of the European continent army level activity was impracticable. The game generously provides units and mechanics for these outer regions.
When played 'face to face' the game has an ideal level of playability and complexity. You can tell a real game player put the thing together. Any real complexity is generated by the struggle between the players. SfE is also a joy to play with wargamers new to the game. As usual, it is with those who are masters of the game or those who are most given to seeking a competitive advantage within any game system that problems begin to arise. And in such a long game this is to be at all costs avoided.
Struggle for Europe
Steve and James and me have had a lot of fun playing 3 player games of Imperium Romanum II. Our last game came to an abrupt end, though not without its flourishes. We were casting about for a another good 3 player game and I decided to propose my all time favorite WW2 campaign game. Struggle for Europe by Clash of Arms. They kindly took me up on the idea and so this will be our main gaming vocation for a few months. Let's see how far we get.
This is the combination of three publications. War Without Mercy, Brute Force: The War in the West, 1940-1945, and The Mediterranean. I have been playing the series online for the past 9 years! Mostly campaign games and the eastern campaigns. PBEM campaigns take a couple of years to complete. I'm not really sure how long it will take the three of us to play face to face. It is a very stable simulation and unlike ancient games a single battle will never decide the game. It takes a very bad season to make things go south for a player and even then the game really requires a succession of these before a player should start to feel that all is lost.
Steve and I have already played the Fall Blau scenario twice and we are both old hands at WW2 wargames. James, is a walking encyclopedia about things ancient but he is a bit nervous about playing a modern combined arms affair. Over the years my SfE opponents and I have developed a set of Advanced Campaign rules for SfE. They are meant to make SfE play better as a five year campaign rather than the standard chrome that so often inhabits other WW2 house rules. I am actually quite proud of them. I will post the introduction to our house rules below. Struggle for Europe is a high end operational game and not a strategic theater wide game. The historical flow where the Axis expand, the tide is turned and then they are pushed back onto their home territories and possibly even conquered entirely in 1945 is pretty generally the case.
James had to be gone on business at the outset of our adventure. Since he is playing the Soviets in this one we have left them alone for now. Steve and I set things up and managed to play the first two turns in under four hours!! Most of that was set up and getting used to the OoB. A good omen? Considering the fact that the game has roughly 5 map sheets and well over a thousand pieces this is probably pretty good.
Note: there are more photos and game commentary in the comments to this post.
Wed May 16, 2012 11:02 am
A blinding light the sun had died
A new moon took its place - Def Leppard
Monday night, though games like Totaler Krieg! or Paths of Glory are the favorites of different members, the Denver Board Wargamers sit down to try out Strongholdat the Whittier community center. Surrounded by others playing games wherein the fates and fortunes of a stronghold does not hang in the balance rules are explained in detail. With 3 first time players the 4 player version takes an extended time to explain, each ability explained in careful detail, until those others, obviously jealous they were not in a contest of life and death, began exclaiming "are you still explaining the rules over there?"
Peasants, they serve only to make the sword arm strong as those with power strike them down.
Steve the Great Manslayer and James the Merciless prepared their armies to assault the keep of Lincoln the Brave (He was not afraid to die, O brave Sir Lincoln!) and Nate the Not-Quite-So-Brave-As-Sir-Lincoln. Forges were fired up and the workshop air filled with sawdust as Marksmen ans soldiers began their training in preparation for the armies massing in the distance
More menacing, you must be more menacing, try scowling a bit more.
On the first day of the first month in some distant year
The whole sky froze golden - Def Leppard
The invaders discussed their plans and opted for sending a few trolls to the Great Manslayer's side of the invasion for a quick attempt at glory while developing a battering ram and siege engines to tear at the castle's structure. A catapult came up on the right side and a ballista to the left, as the first piece of the battering ram appeared in the barbican.
Without a direct threat to the walls the defenders began placing traps to limit those trolls while blessing their marksmen that they might send their arrows towards their foe, who being naughty in their sight, shall snuff it in greater numbers. A troll falls and the goblins are cleared from the battering ram.
Invaders learn placing a couple of goblins on the ram does not guarantee a breach.
All warfare is based on deception. Therefore, when capable, feign incapacity; - Sun Tzu
Another hasty invader conference. "Don't rush the attack", "Build the support elements first", "More green power to the ram". Their plan was two fold:
1. Have the war council to make the defenders think there was a plan
2. Have it away from the table so they would not see their confusion
As to a plan on the field of battle, it was pretty much the old standby "Wing and a Prayer". But, following the wisdom of Old Sunny Tzu, the invaders would pretend being capable while incapable.
The invaders built another ballista (2 now on the left) a cover for the three remaining trolls to hide behind while they waited for new arrivals to achieve their glory and increased our ram. They committed trolls to the ram with backup this time. Still no significant movement towards the walls.
The defenders spent their time building a cannon to continue their troll killing streak, prepped some cauldrons, laid more traps, sang martial songs and farted in our general direction. Their blessed marksmen fired all at our ram but the gates shook as a single point of damage was done to the great door.
You could see the fear along the walls
The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters - Chinggis Khan
The invaders, knowing the value of sticking with a plan, held a conference. "Abandon ram?", "Get greenies in the field?", "Hope lavish lifestyles among the defenders causes an epidemic of myocardial infarction?" (these were intelligent invaders).
So for the next 3 turns it was ram, catapult, flood ram with quality troops, sacrifice some gobbos towards future glory and move some extras onto the field of battle. 2 ballistas on the left never missed, 2 catapults on the right never hit. the cannons were thinning the trolls as they napped behind their cover. More greenies entered to threaten the walls, but glory was slowly slipping away to the defenders.
The defenders continued blessing their marksmen and pouring fire into the battering ram but on turn 4 the first gate fell, the ram advanced, glory was achieved and the defenders put more marksmen on the walls.
The castle, while still looking mighty, was beginning to weaken.
Alas, regardless of their doom, the little victims play! No sense have they of ills to come, nor care beyond today.
Fifth turn, ram is size 5, but the second gate is strength 6. The invaders do some quick calculations though rounding issues leave some confusion they realize that gate will probably not fall this turn. But they have learned that they can move single orcs up to the walls and neutralize marksmen in that section. So there are troops available to man the ramparts and imagine what it would be like to actually assault one of those sections soon. The ballistas (shuffled by the Lincoln the Brave) never miss. The catapults, shuffled by Steve the Great Manslayer never hit. The situation calls for bold action and the new conference, discussed at the table to show their confidence, decides "Let the defender shuffle the catapult cards!" Ah, the smell of victory is in the air as the second gate falls on the 6 turn at the same time 2 orcs blow themselves up to reduce a wall section, with an eye for glory and 8 trolls now crouch behind cover ready to rush to move (with drover ability if needed) to one of 4 wall sections on the left. The 2 catapults fire at the same wall section and, with the new "defender shuffles" plan in place, both hit, reducing that wall section and achieving glory.
The defenders man their wall sections in preparation for the long awaited assaults. Cauldrons and poles appear. Those "blessed" marksmen begin to pour fire into the ramparts as it is unlikely shooting at a 5 section ram with backups will alter the outcome at the gate. The honor guard still stands and glory is achieved on the 6th turn. But tensions rise and Sir Lincoln adopts his doom and gloom strategy the defenders never had a chance, there was nothing they could do about it, the game is probably broken in 4 player mode. The strain of the siege begins to show among the defenders.
Undaunted Lincoln the Brave prepares his final stand
The city's heart no longer beats no pity have I left to lend - Def Leppard
Turn 7. The defenders stand with 11 glory. The invaders have but 8. But a 6 strength battering ram stands before the final gate with backups so only a full movement of marksmen to the walls might, just might, stop the breach there. But 8 trolls and half a dozen orcs stand ready to assault one of three wall sections, preventing a flood of marksmen to those walls as any section with marksmen would be attacked and breached, or, at the very least, would neutralize the marksmen in that section allowing the ram to breach the gates. Only the marksmen in the towers can shoot unhindered upon the ram. And they won't be enough.
With the 4 troll movement to the walls and at least a 3 point breach (possibly 2 breaches even) the game will end this turn. With at least 4 points going to the invaders (and possibly 5 if a second breach by the trolls had materialized) Sir Lincoln the Brave ran away and Sir Nate the Not-so-Brave-as-Sir-Lincoln soiled his armor. The final score, ending on the 7th turn, was Invaders 12, defenders 11. The castle has fallen and glory is showered upon the Great Mankiller and the Merciless while the two side began cleanup of the battlefield.
In future years the site became a romantic picnic spot for senior orc commanders and their wives.
Now a quick poll. Lincoln and Nate suspect (yes, after only one play) that the game seriously favors the invaders when the battering ram strategy is used. There just isn't enough marksmen to stop them when, between the two invaders there are 20 reinforcements (and in later turns 24) available to ensure quality manning of the ram rather than just having the 14 available in a 2 player game.
Euro games have long been played at the Monday Night gaming at Whittier. The crowd of Euro players drifts between a handful up to about 10 or so. One of our ideas with playing at Whittier is that we might, over time, find some of those Euro players that have the interest to develop a love of Wargaming. I've heard about it happening before, and Lincoln is confident it will happen, but assures me it is a long road and patience is needed. I agree, in theory, but wonder how long this patience thing will take.
But we have had some success so far with wargames that drift closer to the fringe than the traditional hex and counter games. There was great interest in Struggle of Empires with 3 of the Euro regulars taking part and at least 2 of them enjoying the game. We had also got 1 in a game of Space Empires: 4X. But we tend to play the same games for a period while Euro games (in general) love to switch games from week to week.
I had brought Sekigahara along in hopes of enticing one of the regular Euro players into a game. Strangely, this was foiled by there being a larger than normal crowd of Euro players which meant games like Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game were going to hit the table and draw those 3 or 4 people I might otherwise have enticed with Sekigahara into the intrigue filled fun of Cylon, Cylon, who is the Cylon.
That left 3 of us, Lincoln, Steve and I, facing a two player game of Sekigahara. I am the most Euro centric wargamer in our group so I volunteered to step into Battlestar while Lincoln and Steve played Sekigahara. But the rules explanation I needed to give of that game beforehand meant that Battlestar was starting and Lincoln took my spot.
Steve and I played 2 games. He took Tokugawa and I played Ishida both times. The first game, a learning game for him, ended when he made a large attack at Gifu against my forces. His army was stacked with Tokugawa blocks and his had was well situated to play them out. It was tense, but I managed a loyalty check on his last 8 point block (3 for the block and 5 for other Tokugawa blocks) giving me 3 points instead of him getting 8, which meant he lost by 4 points, but more importantly, lost Tokugawa and the game.
But now he understood it better and we set it up again. This time he was plagued with a variety of cards while his armies were stacked clans. This allowed me to advance more than I did previously. But his maneuvering finally brought two clans together with the cards to support them. He even had 2 Loyalty cards.
Again, it was a very tense exchange. My hand was weak to a loyalty card in only one place, and he missed that opportunity. Playing his two at points I could resist them. My loyalty check on his clan was also repulsed. The end result was a final score of 22 to 21 with Ishida holding the field.
In my next move I was able to surround his weakened Tokugawa army because of my previous advances and eliminate him.
Two very close games. 1 Loyalty check deciding the first and 1 point deciding the second. Considering Lincoln and my 14-13 ending for our first game a week ago that makes 3 very close games in 3 plays. Gotta love that type of stuff.
Lincoln says he enjoyed Battlestar Galactica, so maybe, with the patience shown by the Euro players, he is becoming a Eurogamer.
Coming off the disaster at Thracia in Imperium Romanum II described in painful detail at http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/9815/debacle-on-the-pl..., I needed a chance at redeeming myself. I know Lincoln to be a tried and true hex and counter wargamer but willing to try new things so it can come back to his turn to pick the game. Yes, he picks Blitzkriegand we spend 20 hours playing through 2 games then I can select C&C: Ancients and we can get 2 hours in playing 2 games of that. Lincoln truly is a better strategist than I.
Alright, I exaggerate a bit, Lincoln is a true wargamer, he definitely has strong preferences but enjoys nearly everything that hits the table. He has just convinced himself that he doesn't do as well at CDG's or Point to Point movement as he does when the map is made up of colors that made the game look aged when it was first printed. So, of course, coming off a hard loss to him in that style of wargame I immediately suggested we try the shiny, new, graphical masterpiece that is Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan.
Not it is important to note that Lincoln is the axis around which our wargaming group revolves and he accepts that this means he must be set up like this upon occasion. Though he knows none of us would quit and go home if we didn't get our way, he succeeds because he has a sense of fair play that is a mark above common.
So we sat down to our first game of Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan.
Only 12 pages of rules but nearly every concept was a new one. I explained the game and Lincoln asked cogent questions, then studied the card distribution. How many of each clan was available, how many special attacks and double deployments did each deck provide. We spent as long explaining the rules for this as for some of the traditional 40 page hex and counter systems (since those frequently have numerous sections that repeat in nearly every game of that style. As a matter of fact, his entire Blitzkrieg explanation (and 1776 as well) was "OK, what you need to know is ZOCs are done this way, this nuance, that . . ." and he was done in 10 minutes.
Our first moves were slow as we compared the cards we had with the armies that were on the board. It is a bit tedious until you get it sorted out but we worked through that without considering it to onerous.
Lincoln moved on the castle at Aizu while I moved Ishido forward to take Miyazu castle and put pressure on Kiyosu while fortifying Gifu. Aizu and Miyazu fell quickly and we tried to find the balance of working towards larger hand size but maintaining options for the present. This game provides a good balancing act that I expect will change from game to game but come easier as it becomes more familiar.
Tokugawa moved from Aizu on Gifu just as Ishido moved out of that location to take Kiyosu. Trapped between two armies which, if combined would match Ishido's own army (about 8 blocks) but without a good set of cards to support a combat that large Ishido retreated towards his power base to buy some time.
Meanwhile, out East, Lincoln retreated a decent sized army (5 or so blocks) that had been putting pressure on the Uesugi clan by a single space. Since I was busy cycling cards to support my Western strategy I suspected he did this because he was doing the same and was leaving his eastern force less supported and wanted to ensure I couldn't hit that eastern army.
Given that analysis I decided to advance the Uesugi clan to the resource point near their home, but still within range of his retreating army. But, I also decided I would take a risk and make that a complete bluff, using all Uesugi cards to satisfy my movement/recruitment needs. A bit of a gamble but given the first game confusion, my assumption of his motives and my semi aggressive bluff forward with the Uesugi I hoped it would hold while we worked out the bigger situation near Gifu.
We had 2 or 3 battles between the forces of Ishido and Tokugawa and while the end result was several blocks were lost by both sides. This impacted Tokugawa more, as Ishido was closer to his power bases and could replace those losses quicker. But, he could not replace the losses and get the necessary cards to support a final assault prior to the now eminent game ending.
We realized neither power would achieve their instant victory conditions and as week 7 began we started counting points. 2 for castles, 1 for resources. We maneuvered to capture what we could from the enemy, exchanging castles, 1 from him, 1 to him. All the time, I knew my gamble out east would lost me the game now. I had exactly zero Uesugi cards and knew that all he needed to do was move against that location and deploy 2 points (I did have a free daimyo I could deploy of course) and he would take that point giving him 14 points to my 13.
But he moved against the resource at Tsuruga instead and I had just enough cards to hold there and send him back the the recently reacquired Miyazu.
Post game analysis showed he did have a card to support at least 2 points out East but he did not have the knowledge that that would be all that was needed. Which is exactly at what this game of bluff and maneuver excels.
Imperium Romanum II and the curse of over agressive play
Overview or the game is afoot
A multiplayer, multi session round of Imperium Romanum II came to an end for me with my aggressive style of play backfiring on me. I find this game to be a creditable feel of the ancient period, with 35 scenarios (33 plus 2 introduction) with each having a very different feel/optimal number of players, ranging over time from 88 BC (Marius vs Sulla) to 540 AD (Belesarius vs Justinian).
Point of interest. We refuse, even after multiple games, to introduce any house rules, though many others seem to have done so.
Scenario Specifics or how to pick a blanced scenario responsible for a quick loss
The scenarios were created with an eye to historical value rather than play balance so we were looking around for a balanced 3 player scenario and opted for Scenario 10: Septimus Severus v Pescennius Niger vs Clodius Albinus 193 to 197 AD, as it seemed to have a fairly equatable distribution of forces.
Lincoln played Albinus (the White) with his forces deployed in Britain/Gaul with me playing Niger (the Black) with forces from Byzantium east through Asia Minor and Syria/Judea and south to Aegyptus and Stephen caught between us. Interestingly, this scenario starts with no player owning the prime Italian lands (Italia, Cisalpina, Sicilia, etc).
Protagonists or Why does everyone hate me?
I had hoped that this might lead to early conflict between Steve and Lincoln but, alas (for me), it lead to early diplomatic relations as they split that rich area between them. So while I looked desperately for someone/something to attack in the early months (you lose faction morale if you do not make an attack during the campaigning season (usually Mar/Apr through Oct/Nov)) they had plenty of rich cities they could meet that requirement without ever entering into conflict.
Steve is a diplomatic genius, and was able to get good concessions from Lincoln while retaining a large enough force near Byzantium that I had no easy attacks. His placement kept my forces locked up in Thracia while he added to his empire as quickly as his armies could march.
Sit Rep or the pressures that lead to bad decisions
Niger starts with an economic/fleet advantage and a few more troops on the board than either of the others, though the troops are lower quality and unable to make amphibious landings in another power's provinces. So I was relegated to taking small potshots at cities I could not control to restrict my morale losses each turn while the two of them maneuvered in diplomatic joy to put even more pressure against me.
Byzantium (which was actually destroyed by the Historical Severus in this period and then rebuilt) creates an interesting dilemma for Niger. Niger has enough forces to hold it, probably through the first couple of years, but it did seem an alliance between the two could bring the forces necessary to reduce it in time.
Faced with a temporary advantage (much larger fleets, a higher number of troops in the area) I looked for ways to exploit that before the pendulum swung in the direction of the partnership. Adding to the pressure Niger felt was the scenario requirement that the Parthian activation be rolled against each month (turn) with them activating on a 2 or a 3 on a two dice roll. The Parthians are not a particularly large force (probably 20% overall strength of Niger) but they are very mobile and could cause some issues, specifically requiring up to 1/3 of Niger's forces being redeployed to deal with them.
The Move or judgment is not always sound
Deep into the second year/campaign season Steve moved an obvious trap force out to within reach of the forces at Byzantium. He parked them within supply range of his forces at Thessalonika but also within supply range of Byzantium, allowing me to move a large force against them, but also within range of a large portion of his remaining forces to neutralize my army should it have some measure of success against his bait. Limited intel is in effect in the game so I could only guess at the actual size of the bait force, a factor he took into account.
The game, like the period covered, has very hard outcomes to battles. Frequently one side is completely eliminated. I looked at the forces I had available in Byzantium and believed he had made an error. I thought if I could move a larger than expected force against his bait and get a good result he would not be able muster a large enough force to spring his trap. Looking at the combat tables I figured I would have 3 chances of completely eliminating his units even if it was at 5-4 odds, and better chances should his forces be smaller than I expected. I had a 1 in 6 chance of losing my entire force (with an appeal to deity option that meant even then there was only a 1 in 6 chance of me losing my imperator (a game losing result). Success would allow movement against Macedonia and then into Aechia & Epyris. This was optimal to me, as Lincoln had already deployed a decent sized force into A&E but my fleets had now stopped the quick reinforcements of those units.
Calculations or how math failed me at the critical moment
It looked like an opportunity to set the alliance back and get out of the narrowed options available while sitting in Byzantium. With at least a 50% chance of success and around a 10% chance of disaster I decided the time was ripe to change things into my favor.
The miscalculation I made, of course, was that I had other leaders besides my Imperator to lead this gambit. So in actuality I had a 50% chance of getting some increased advantage but a 10% chance of losing the game completely. Risk analysis should always take into account the things risked. And, in my over aggressive mind frame, I failed to do that simple thing.
I moved in and got the 5-4 odds I expected. A 130 point army of Steve's was now in 50% danger of being destroyed. I was ecstatic, seeing, in my Pollyanna world view, that nearly half his total forces would be destroyed once I rolled a 4, 5 or 6. Now I had been rolling HOT dice up to this moment. I had won 6 straight roll offs (the highest roll on 1 dice wins the roll of) with Lincoln and Steve. That is 64-1 odds to win 6 straight, so how could I lose against one more 1 in 2 odds. I could see Lincoln grimacing already as he saw the danger to his armies in southern Greece.
The Result or how the gods turned against the favored son
And . . . I rolled a 1. My entire army would be destroyed. But there is a desperation option where you can roll a single dice against the Appeal to Deity table and possibly get the previous die roll changed. That was part of my plan and I had a smug look on my face as I picked the dice up once more to change the outcome.
And . . . I rolled a 1. Imperator dies (they put a big enough risk into the Deity appeal table to make it non trivial risk).
Rationalization or how things that happen to me are clearly not my fault
So, even if I had taken another leader than my imperator into that battle the gods would have eliminated Niger for his temerity to ask for their intervention. The 3% worst outcome had come into effect. I was out of the game and Lincoln and Steve suddenly found themselves viewing the world as hostiles rather than in a diplomatic alliance.
Now, Lincoln is not the type to have taken that risk. Relying on even a 3% chance of losing the game to get a 50% chance at a decent advantage is much larger than he would take in a game that was only 14 or so turns into its 48 turn length. He is content to build over time. Steve is between Lincoln and I on risk taking and while he is not averse to taking a chance he did set that move up as a trap so he sees a well executed trap that lured me in.
The Question or a quick poll to make Lincoln or me feel better about our choices
What would you do? Is it worth a 3% chance of losing the game to get a 50% chance of advantage or is it better to wait the time and act more long term to retain your small advantage and look for options that don't entail a game losing result.
Sun Apr 22, 2012 12:11 am
Great evening for Space Empires 4X. Several players owned this game but with the standard time constraints and habits it had not yet made it to the table for many. Roger was able to arrange play at his church, which meant we had several tables available in a large area, which is always nice. Seven people showed up for the evening gaming and we divided into two groups. The first, led by Roger, decided to play the basic game and use the Instant Technology Upgrade optional rule. Lincoln, a master at learning and understanding conflict games and having spent the last few weeks learning and playing somewhat complex vintage Hex and Counter wargames (Imperium Romanum II and Strategy I) felt he could handle the 16 page rulebook and wanted to include all advanced rules, the black hole sling and the Research Funding Limits optional rules. Scott had played 5 or 6 games of SE4X before and agreed. Hating, as always, to be outdone by Lincoln, with glassy eyes and my standard confused look I fell in line with this plan.
If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
Discovering a barren planet in the hex next to my homeworld I opted to pursue Terraforming research early. The optional rules about research require a player to spend 5 CPs per dice. They then roll the purchased dice and record the results. Once the total of all the dice rolled meets or exceeds the cost of the technology, the technology becomes available to the player. Also, you cannot spend more than 10 CPs than you have spent the previous Production Phase.
I gave 1 research grant (a die) for 5 CPs on Production Phase 1 and applied this toward terraforming. I rolled 3 and recorded that as my advance towards this technology. On turn 2 I applied 2 more research grants (dice for 5CP each)towards terraforming, rolling an 8 and a 5. I know had 15 credits towards terraforming. On turn 3 I needed 10 more credits to get terraforming and considered whether I should purchase 2 or 3 dice towards this goal. Not needing it immediately, I decided to go with the averages and purchased 2 dice for 10CP, rolling a 7 and a 4. My total towards the technology was now 26 and since it required 25 I now purchased a Colony ship to colonize that barren planet.
I really enjoy the research grant method of technology upgrades. In general the averages win out and most research costs the same. One technology I tried for ended up costing me 50 to get the 40 points required and I think Lincoln had a technology complete with less than the standard required expense, but overall, it adds tenseness without impacting balance.
On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions who, at the dawn of decision, sat down to wait, and waiting died.
Three player games have a natural tendency to be slow to action as each awaits an opening that won't, in turn, leave them open to the third. With two people also playing for the first time I anticipated a slow buildup and a longer period of economic development than might be normal. The first few turns of this game revealed the truth of that.
My worlds reached out like two arms towards my opponents and I began building shipyards at the end of each arm. I saw that Scott had developed Exploration and was methodically expanding into Deep Space, but without threatening either position. Lincoln, like myself, had colonized and applied Merchant Pipelines to maximize his income and threatening looking stacks were beginning to appear at his worlds. But he was content to build up and watch.
I was using my time to build the "perfect" combination of technologies but was pushing scouts into deep space to get an idea which direction, towards Scott or towards Lincoln held the most promise once I began building fleets. Time passed and the stars moved along.
Fear of the Unknown
A child's fear is a world whose dark corners are quite unknown to grownup people; it has its sky and its abysses, a sky without stars, abysses into which no light can ever penetrate.
I quickly appreciated Scott's desire to explore safely through deep space. My first four scouts were lost to Danger and the second fleet of 4 that followed were lost after exploring 5 hexes. In total during the game I lost 12 scouts to Danger tokens while exploring 16 hexes. But I had found a path towards both Scott and Lincoln.
The path to Lincoln was through Nebulas and Asteroids, slowing travel considerably while I saw that Scott had most of his fleet on the far side of his empire and I could quickly move into his area. I began to prepare for the great invasion.
I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.
As I have said, with Scott leisurely exploring deep space and Lincoln building stack of units that caused the players in the basic game to walk over and take notice I happily built up my technologies. My plan was to bring Attack and Defense to 1 and Fighters to 3 and then build a carrier fleets. The isolation allowed this plan to develop and was finally building large fleets on Lincoln's border so I would not alert Scott to my true intent and, because of the terrain of deep space, would only require 1 more turn to Scott's homeworld than it would to Lincoln's.
I could build 2 complete carriers (2 carriers with 6 fighers, 54 CP) each turn. When maintenance finally became expensive enough I had to drop to building 1 carrier per Production Phase I decided it was time to attack. But wait, Lincoln had seen Scott's slow expansion towards his side of the board and, in typical Lincoln fashion, rushed out to crush it. This he did very effectively. Lincoln had also gone for a carrier based strategy but was opting for Raiders to augment that strength. Scott had been developing large ships but while his research was up to building Battleships he had not yet had enough time to get any into his exploration fleet. Lincoln made short work of Scott's fleet and I saw that Scott's Homeworld might now be in real danger. Scott confirmed this when he said "I think that is the game for me, that was my major fleet".
My opportunity to get to Scott's homeworld had passed. Lincoln would beat me there. But I now knew Lincoln only had fighter 1's, attack 1 and tactics 1. I felt confident that my 7 carriers loaded with fighter 3's and supported by att 1 and def 1 technology (which had conveniently been built upon Lincoln's border) could handle his fleet. The issue was the full turn it would take to move slowly through deep space terrain between Lincoln and I.
The best weapon against an enemy is another enemy.
Lincoln had the fateful decisions to make. He knew Scott had just built up some new ships at his homeworld. Lincoln had not sent his full fleet against Scott (about a third had stayed behind to watch his border with me) and I was definitely moving towards his space with everything I had. Given the limited intelligence in the game he decided to move to combine is fleets and stop my progress.
Through deft use of decoys he was able to channel my movement towards the world that had his combined fleet. I opted to have a titanic battle because I knew he could reach his homeworld before I could and another production phase would pass, allowing him to build new, top technology ships, while my attack fleet went unsupported.
7 carriers stocked with fighter 3s went in and we arrayed our fleets. He had a base and raiders which quickly eliminated 3 fighters, then followed it up with his tactics allowing his fighters to fire upon my fighters first.
Here is where the difference in tech began to appear. With fighter 3's and Def 1 he had a -2 when rolling to hit my fighters. He had Att 1 so his final amount needed was Base 5+1-2=4. He had 10 fighters, each needing a 4 to hit and managed only 2 hits.
I then took my fighter 3's (base 7) plus 1 for Attack Tech and I rolled 16 dice. His base (5 needed) fell with four shots, his raiders followed, I took out his shipyards and scouts that had not yet fired (8's needed on all of those) and then thinned his fighters by a couple. I still had 7 carriers and 16 fighters to his 4 carriers and 9 fighters. He realized it was over.
We adjudicated the game as a win for me and wondered how to address the super carrier strategy I had employed. I pointed out that it was 8 turns before I began even building a navy (other than my unlucky scouting corps) so simply not allowing forever to grow would be a good one. Zerging early to keep players from sitting back and building things in the perfect order might help. Dreadnaughts with the appropriate techs would make short work of even Fighter 3's.
There are probably other strategies to keep someone from reaching the overwhelming force point that I was able to reach only because I had planned on having 10 uninterrupted turns to build up everything I wanted.
12 Production Phases
First major combat on Production Phase 11
Surrender on Turn 3 of Production Phase 13
We were absent from Whittier on these days and played at Steve's house instead. We will definitely be in attendance at Whittier this next Monday.
We were absent from Whittier but not because games were not being played! We introduced Steve to Imperium Romanum II at his house on the 20th. We all agreed this is a great game and in the coming months hope to play the Marias vs Sulla scenario to completion The game is too long to be played at Whittier.
James and I both feel the victory conditions for this scenario of Imperium Romanum II should be sudden death. In fact, I think this may have been the original intent but was changed in playtesting or for some other reason. This makes the game opening much more taught.
James introduced me to War of the Ring Collector's Edition on the 16th.
This Friday the 24th, James, Kevin and I are meeting with Denver Metro Boardgame Strategists for a pickup game of Space Empires: 4X.
We think this game may become standard fare at Whittier as well.
Space Empires 4X, Maria or Struggle of Empires will be our next game.
Thu Feb 23, 2012 11:36 pm
We played a four player game of Strategy I and committed to continue the game into another campaign year. Hopefully will post the details if we do manage to continue the game.
When posting frequency decreases that just means we are playing lots of fun new games.
Lincoln and Steve have been playing the historical Bussaco Almeida et Bussaco 1810 scenario in the Jours de Gloire series. The battle ended in a tie.
Several games of Imperium Romanum II have been played by James, Lincoln, Dan and Kevin.
We are looking to bring the Jours de Gloire system to Mondays at the Whittier as well as Struggle of Empires and possibly Imperator/King of Kings or Historia Romana.
We did not meet Monday February 13th. Instead, Steve and Lincoln met to play another Jours de Gloire game called Fuentes de Onoro 1811
We had a great game of Strategy I this week. We are still playing the ancient Diadoche Scenario.
Dan - Rome (Winner)
Lincoln - Greece & Egypt
James - Carthage
Steve - Gaul & Seleucid
Greece over taxed all its cities in D and H. Because Rome did not attack Greek provinces during the first campaign season Greece concentrated on reconquering province D. Without a Greek threat and with some cooperation with Carthage they concentrated on taking the large province J from the Gauls and did so with ease. Egypt and Seleucid began the scenario prepared to go to war with one another but quickly decided to join forces against Carthage. The campaign season was not extended. Rome ended the first campaign season with a nice lead in VPs.
During the second campaign season there was general agreement between Greece and Carthage to go after Rome. Gaul would not commit and Rome actually left his captured province open to be recaptured. Rome invaded Greece's province D and devastated all his cities there. Greece left the continent entirely and invaded Roman province J winning a battle against a legion and taking most of the cities before the Romans concentrated in the coastal city F3 forcing a risky attack. In the process the Seleucid player too the opportunity to attempt to catch the Greek fleet at sea. The Egyptians came to the aid of the Greeks opening a path back to port. Carthage decided to land in Province J and recapture a few of those cities for himself. Any coalition against Rome more or less fell apart at that point. Rome was well on his way back to defend his beleaguered province. At a certain point Carthage found himself stuck between a Gaulish and a Roman force. He attacked the Gauls and lost!
At this point we ran out of time and called the game for Rome. In retrospect, I think it is clear that if Greece does not threaten Rome or is not the target of Roman aggression, the Gauls will lose a province to Rome. The consequences of this are unsettling for a Greek player.
Its becoming clear that few of us can be trusted further than he can be thrown!
I'll post the pictures that go with this soon.
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