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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 May 2017 - Advanced Squad Leader, Pericles, Up Front, Senji

J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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We squeezed in fifteen players for some WWII gaming, a visit to Japan, and power politics in ancient Greece.

Scott, Mitch, Natus, Renaud, Eliot, and JonBone pulled out Senji, to vie for the Shogunate of medieval Japan. Players accrue honor through battle, diplomacy, and set creation until someone reaches 60 honor points for the win.

Jon-san advances

Our players shoved each other back and forth across the map as JonBone edged into the lead amidst the turtle farm at his end of the board. Deft manipulation of turn order (a power granted the leader) helped him maintain his position down the stretch. The matter came down to a winner-take-all battle between Jon and second-place Renaud. Jon claimed a sack of heads and the win with a big roll. Reviews were mostly positive with a couple "just okay" verdicts. I thought this was our first playing of Senji but our diligent archivist found evidence of a session in the innocent summer of 2008.

Flawless form

Mark oversaw a session of Pericles: The Peloponnesian Wars, with Josh, Baron von Schulte, Bill, and Manfred. They chose one of the short Thucydides scenarios, just two turns in length. Since it was our first crack at the published version, Mark offered up a Spartan meeple for the winner.

Inside information

Josh and the Baron ran Athens while Bill and Manfred ruled Sparta. The Athenians did well on the periphery of the map but Sparta maintained a steady hand in the Peloponnese and its immediate environs. A decisive Spartan victory in Thessaly closed out the scenario, with Manfred leading his Eurypontid faction to victory.

Mark, Manfred, and Archidamus II

The Reverend Hawkeye continues to preach the gospel of Up Front, welcoming Smitch into the congregation this week. They got in two games, using the Meeting of Patrols scenario. In the first, Hawkeye's dogfaces broke Smitch's German squad, while in the second, Smitch's Soviets were broken by Hawkeye's squareheads. Smitch enjoyed the game overall, though he expressed a couple carefully worded criticisms which we dismissed as the ravings of a lunatic. Nevertheless, good to see the flock expand, week by week.

Sniped

Stéphane and I sat down for an ASL scenario, with Mormal Forest, an upcoming title from our Swedish friends. Fourteen German squads take on a like number of Frenchmen in May, 1940. The Germans are supported by five SPWs - two troop-carrying 251/1s, a pair of 37L-armed 251/10s, and a 251/9 Stummel with a stubby 75. The German infantry includes an 838, and they enjoy four leaders and a suite of SWs including a flamethrower and a demo charge. Finally, they have a 105mm artillery piece and a 37L antitank gun. The French only have three leaders, along with a light machine gun, a heavy MG, and a 60mm mortar. They also have a Hotchkiss 25LL ATG and a soixante quinze, plus a pair of R35 tanks. Two more R35s appear on the second turn, with an armor leader, but the German gets a Stuka and can pick its turn of entry (turn two, perhaps?). The action takes place on boards 63 and 42, with the Germans getting six turns to take two of three victory buildings (42Y6, 42U8, and 63T6) for a win.

Ready for anything

I had the defending French. Looking at the victory buildings, I thought the board 63 church would be difficult to take given a decent garrison anchored on the HMG. I therefore committed a reinforced platoon to the church and the surrounding town, and prepared a fall-back defense through the board 42 woods. On my right flank, I put a pair of squads upstairs in the 43V2 building, one with my LMG. I parked an R35 out front in 43U3, and billeted one of my precious leaders downstairs. One 8-0 for two squads felt extravagant, but this position provided critical flank protection for the main force falling back through the woods.

Nazis. I hate these guys.

In the woods itself, I had a line of elite squads up front on the M hexrow, with 457s on the refused flanks. The other Renault went in Q9, helping both the woods position and covering that side of the board 63 town. I put the 75 in 42R7. There was a risk it would never see action buried in the forest but my whole plan was based on funneling the Germans right up the belly. If it worked, I expected my 75 to feast on some point blank shots in a target-rich environment. I placed the 28LL in 63T4, where it could work with the the nearby Renault to protect one side of town and preserve my routing options. Also, it helped guard the left flank of the woods, along with the rest of the town garrison. Last, I put my Brandt in 63T1. With two on-board guns to start the game, I figured Stéphane would find the 63I3 and I4 hill hexes irresistible, and I hoped to shower his unemplaced (by SSR) gun crews with airbursts. As an added bonus, my entire force started concealed even though the Germans set up on board.

Beware the Hun in the sun

As expected, Stéphane set up some ordnance on the board 63 hill, with his 50mm mortar paired with the 105mm artillery piece. He hitched his 37L ATG to an SPW on my right flank for later use. He had also had a 37L SPW and the Stummel on my left, but all his infantry was in the center and on my right, with that flank supported by the remaining Hanomags. He opened with a 105mm shot at my 9-1 and heavy machine gun in the church steeple, but the concealment saved their bacon (they scampered downstairs in my ensuing player turn). The Stummel and 251/10 began shelling the town, and his mortar went after mine (the cheek!). His center troops stepped off nicely, but his left flank was immediately stalled by my boys in the U3 building, and my Renault quickly claimed the board 42 251/1.

Behind schedule

On turn two, Stéphane regrouped on the flank as the woods assault bounced off my next line of resistance. My 25LL engaged the Stummel, which was in for a long day. After patching up the troops on the German left, Stéphane resumed the attack only to see several squads broken again as they tried to move forward. With no pressure on my left and my right holding strong, I opted to bring on my armor in the center, with a view to parking right in front of the 42Y6 and 42U8 victory buildings. First I had to get past his Stuka - it spotted my Renaults, nosed over for the attack...and gacked both MG shots and the bomb To Kill roll. After a quick nip of cognac to steady their nerves, my tankers pressed on and reached the woods safely.

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen

On turns three and four, Stéphane failed to get any traction on the flanks. His mortar killed my own mortar halfsquad, but not before a 60mm shell broke the 105mm gun crew. The Stummel quickly collected an Immobilization marker, a No Smoke marker, and for the final insult, a Malfunctioned MA marker. I Shocked it a couple times too, just for laughs. On my right, he towed the 37L forward with hopes of engaging my Renault. My AFV was having none of that, killing the SPW before it could unhook the gun. I was trying to sneak some infantry from the town into the woods, so with the big gun down he used both the 251/10s to interdict. Once the artillery piece was back in action, he tried to engage my left flank Renault with one of the halftracks, but the Hotchkiss ATG swiftly eliminated the threat.

Wounded but still dangerous

The Germans were definitely getting the worst of it, with my sniper adding two leaders to the tally. However, Stéphane still had a potent force in the center, including the 838 and the flamethrower, neither of which had made contact. My defense was now back to the Q hexrow. Stéphane engaged all along the line, suffering some breaks but generally arriving intact. He managed to Assault Move a large stack adjacent to my R35 without losing concealment - it didn't take spider sense to see a lethal spout of flaming petrol in my future. I opened my Defensive Fire Phase with my weakest attack - a 2FP shot against the concealed stack from my Renault's coaxial machine gun. I rolled a three, and the whole stack broke, including the 838. The rest of my fire was equally effective but that shot essentially ended the game.

One last push

I think this is a very interesting situation. Both sides have good troops with powerful (for 1940) support. The German has field pieces on the attack, always a tricky proposition, but the terrain gives them a few options. Besides the hill on the German right, the 105 could team up with the Stummel on the left to hit the 42U3 building with smoke, supporting an attack down that flank. They also have excellent mobility, with the potential to carry four squads deep into the French rear. The key to unhinging the woods defense is to compromise one or both flanks, and a bold move by the SPWs could do just that. Of course, the 25LL is the perfect antidote to such a plan, but it can't be everywhere. In addition to transporting deep-threat halfsquads, the 251/10s can harass the reinforcing Renaults, relieving the Stuka for duties elsewhere. The Germans have a lot to think about and in turn the French must be flexible enough to respond to the unexpected. It's a nifty card, the likes of which we've come to expect from Mattias. I look forward to trying it again after its official release.
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Thu May 25, 2017 1:05 pm
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AAR 2 May 2017 - Victory Roads, Here I Stand, Quantum, Fort Sumter

J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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We opened May with more theology, a little WWII, a trip to outer space, and some playtesting.

Here I Stand convened without Charles, who was in the wilds of West Virginia training an Imperial PSYOPS battalion (he really is a hands-on Emperor). Fortunately, Bill was able to step in as regent in his absence, and the rest of the table was intact.

Calvin dominates open mike night in Geneva

After last week's debacle before Vienna, Campo's Ottomans indeed sued for peace, surrendering a VP in the process and two more to retrieve Suleiman and Ibrahim Pasha. That bumped the Habsburgs to the front of the pack, several short of an autowin but clearly the team to beat.

Campoverdi made do with a little Mediterranean piracy while he rebuilt his army, leaving the Habs to their own devices in Italy and the west. The Pope battled his ostensible ally while Henry VIII built a force in Calais that seemed aimed at the French interior. Bill's actions in Italy led to his play of Master of Italy for a VP. Not much else changed hands on the board as the debaters about broke even.

Suleiman and Clement confer

The players held their breath as the turn drew to a close - an Imperial voyage of conquest was headed to the New World. Bill drew Pizarro to be his personal ambassador of friendship and goodwill, and a laser-guided die roll led him to Tenochtitlan and the conquest of the Aztecs. That yielded two more VPs, just what the Habsburgs needed for the autowin.

Terrorizing the Tyrrhenian Sea

The battle for Vienna had far reaching consequences, leading directly to the Habsburg victory. Campo got a good ribbing from the rest of the table, but there were no hard feelings. I found his bloody, lifeless form at the bottom of our elevator shaft the next morning, apparently the victim of multiple accidental stab wounds.

We come in peace

Renaud introduced GorGor, Dave, and Herr Dockter to Quantum, a space combat and conquest game. Ships are represented by dice, with ship type indicated by the die face, which doubles as both speed and combat value (lower is better in battle). Players rocket around the map conquering systems, while researching tech advances to improve capabilities.

Quantum leap

GorGor won the first game and was therefore a marked man for the second. He pointed out Renaud Dockter had a pair of wicked techs on board but to no avail, falling to the repeated blows of the rest of the table as Renaud DD skated to a win. They had a blast, enjoying the variety of options and the interaction of cool tech advances. I played it last year and enjoyed it too - the theme holds up despite fundamentally abstract roots. I think it's a solid choice for a quick-learn multi, good for several plays over the course of an evening. (Edited to reflect actual events)

Scout scuffle

Mark and I returned to Mother Russia with Victory Roads, which uses the Liberty Roads engine to cover the last two years of the war in the east. The full game is a sprawling beast, so we went with the intro scenario, Budapest-Wien, depicting the German drive to relieve Budapest in January '45. To win, the Germans must clear a path to the city so it can trace supply to Vienna, while the Soviets need to both occupy Budapest and take Vienna. Any other result is a draw.

Last gasp in the east

The system is clean and easily grasped by anyone with moderate wargaming experience. Zones of control don't exist per se, but you can't trace supply through unoccupied hexes adjacent to the enemy. Supply itself is a simple trace to a friendly source. Combat is odds based, with attrition for both sides as well as retreat results and the potential for exploitation by the attacker. Exploitation allows limited movement and combat by victorious units. Elite units and armor have handy combat capabilities, but if utilized they must suffer the first loss in a given battle. The 2d6 CRT gives you a bell curve distribution, allowing for extreme outcomes on any given column. The most distinctive element is the support pool - each turn players draw chits that provide combat boosts, replacements or other performance-enhancing effects.

Brief relief

I had the Germans to Mark's Soviets. I massed my heavy hitting SS and Wehrmacht panzer divisions on the plateau west of Budapest and began methodically pounding my way through a thick belt of Red Army infantry. The opposing formations were on containment duty while Mark's own best troops were east of the city, so I made good headway, aided by the rarely seen Luftwaffe in a brief window of good weather. I turned aside Mark's assault on Budapest by invoking Haltebefehl, a stand fast order that reduced the effect of retreat results but locked my garrison in the city. No big deal, as my instructions were unambiguous: defend to the death. The city held, but I took my hits as step losses rather than remove units, a decision I would soon regret. On my next turn I reached the city with a big exploitation result, but I couldn't reinforce the defense because I was already at the stacking limit. Had I just killed off a couple units, I'd be defending with fresh panzergrenadiers rather than exhausted ragtag remnants.

No gas or kvass

Mark opened up with Katyushas to blast his way into Pest, the eastern half of the capital. I drove the Soviets from the west bank of the Danube south of the city, and attempted to encircle the attackers. Mark gave ground grudgingly, and his ample replacement rate brought his units back from the dead almost as fast as I could kill them. My constant attacks wore down my point units, and my offensive firepower was further reduced by mandatory withdrawals to defend Germany itself. Another healthy dose of the Red God of War helped Mark drive into Buda, pushing my victory conditions out of reach. However, I still had a lot of troops and plenty of terrain to work with so Vienna was also unlikely to fall. We called it there, a hard-fought draw.

This is classic 70s-style wargaming polished to a high finish. I enjoyed the throwback feel of trading rib-cracking body shots in an epic East Front struggle. I wasn't so fond of the teetering stacks of counters from map edge to map edge, but gameplay is much more fluid than the visuals imply. The scenario is a good intro to the system, though it leaves out some interesting advanced options that bring the meddling Führer into play along with some nifty command and control mechanics. The scenario feels like it should usually end as either a German win or a draw, with a Soviet win unlikely, but it's fun, perfect for an evening's entertainment, and leaves you ready to try one of the larger scenarios or the big daddy campaign. I haven't played its West Front brother but look forward to trying it now that I have a feel for the system. Worth checking out if you're hungry for meat and potatoes wargaming with modern systems and graphics.

Wiking wades in

Campoverdi and I closed out the night with a quick session of Mark's latest iteration of Fort Sumter. This is is a political game covering the run up to the American Civil War; Mark says he was inspired in part by the recent 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis. Smitch and I tried it a couple weeks ago but Mark has revamped the endgame considerably since then.

As before, the opposing sides compete for various political and military power centers via card play during each of three rounds, with secret objectives for each side that drive victory point scoring. As you commit resources to a given Issue (Armaments, Public Opinion, and Secession), you elevate your standing on the Crisis track - overdo it and you suffer an auto-defeat. The endgame used to be an abstract manipulation of the Crisis track via still more cardplay, but Mark has transformed it into a much more thematic final battle for board position. You are now rewarded for dominating the map and for control of Fort Sumter, earning VPs that are added to whatever you picked up during the three 'normal' turns.

Tension off Charleston

I had the North to Campo's South. He had bad luck with his Objective draws, doubling up on two of the three turns which limited his opportunity for craft and subterfuge. Since he lives at the corner of Craft Street and Subterfuge Avenue, you can see how this affected his game. I guessed his secret objective on the first two turns and successfully defended my own, putting him behind the eight ball going into the final crisis. I managed to keep my Crisis track position short of defeat while still controlling Fort Sumter, which put the game mathematically out of reach for Campo before the final card play.

Crisis mode

Mark's adjustments address my concerns about the final crisis in an imaginative way that improves the historical feel of the game. The playing time remains a short and sweet 20-30 minutes, marked with some difficult decisions. If he rounds out the design with some evocative art and flavor text, this should be a winner.
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Thu May 18, 2017 4:12 pm
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AAR 25 April 2017 - The Plot to Assassinate Hitler, Here I Stand, Terraforming Mars, Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne, Robo Rally

J. R. Tracy
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New York
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We had fifteen players get together to continue our religious wars, stop by Westeros, visit Mars, and revisit an ancient maybe-not-so-classic title.

Last week Nate's Protestants surged into contention in Here I Stand through the power of the spoken and written word, but this week lance and cannon wrote the tale.

Charles ponders the defense of Vienna

The Ottoman Empire, number one seed in the East, faced off against perennial powerhouse the Holy Roman Empire. Suleiman the Magnificent, supported by a massive army, drove strong to the hoop to throw down a two-handed thunderslam on Vienna, but Charles rose up for a stunning block. Suleiman drove again, and was once again denied. He was stopped for a third time, and then a fourth, at which point Charles tipped the ball to himself and turned the tables, defeating the now-cornered Ottoman Army and collecting Suleiman and his sidekick Ibrahim Pasha in the process.

Showdown

Campoverdi revealed to your intrepid reporter why he was so determined before Vienna. He had the Treachery card in hand, good for near-certain success in the siege that would follow a successful field battle. The odds were well in his favor - even after the previous losses he still managed even odds in the final battle. The consequences of defeat were dire, as he must now sue for peace and ransom his leaders from Habsburg hospitality. Campo is all about Go Big or Go Home, and he lived up to his reputation.

Focused effort

Elsewhere, the Pope struggled to control Italy, but managed to contain the spread of Luther's heresy. Despite my prediction last week, DeSoto somehow survived the Pacific transit to successfully circumnavigate the globe, another feather in Hawkeye's Habsburg cap. Hawkeye was on a roll, with two cards in hand after the rest of the table was played out. Some thought he should reach for Istanbul, but instead he shored up his border with France and prepared for the turn to come. The score remains tight, but with a wounded Ottoman the rest of Europe must now contend with an undistracted Empire.

Alba falls on the flank

Dave, Bill, Stéphane, and NewSteve headed out to Terraform Mars. Bill had the green corporation and did a very good job building a symbiotic set of cards for a steady income of victory points. Unfortunately for Bill, Dave was collecting a wide range of space rocks for a stack of end-game VPs - 27 in all, more than enough to sweep to a commanding win.

Eco-friendly

Manfred, Herr Fuchs, and Renaud sat down to Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne. I looked in at one point and Renaud's House Baratheon seemed to be in control. However, on my next pass, Ned Fuchs still had his head attached and was ruler of Westeros with a nice come from behind win for the Stark family.

Westerosi intrigue

The same trio then pulled out the 2016 edition of Robo Rally. This version tweaks the rules a bit. The most significant changes I observed were individual programming decks, damage resolution, which is now done via 'dead' cards which clog up your deck, and upgrades, which are now purchased with energy cubes collected from the board. The changes sound good, though this edition looks pretty weedy components-wise relative to its ancestors. Still, they had fun playing once they absorbed the changes, with Manfred Robo-dancing his way to victory.

Automated chaos

Last week Herr Dockter and I discovered we both had a hankering to try the old SPI magazine game, The Plot to Assassinate Hitler. This is a strange beast, using traditional hex 'n counter wargaming concepts in a game of political intrigue. Players maneuver their personnel across a schematic map of the Reich and its conquests, attempting to recruit neutral officers and officials to either protect or overthrow the Führer. DD had the bad guys while I ran the Abwehr. David's core agents were the SS, who can recruit Nazi Party flunkies. The spy service provided my loyal team, which I used to rope in sympathetic members of OKW. Highly placed civilians were in play for both sides.

Popping the cardboard

Recruitment is by die roll - a success brings the person in play for your side. My plotters could also get a 'Semi-recruited' result - these folks remain neutral until when and if Hitler is killed, at which point they join the plot. It's a terrible result, as I could not make another attempt to win them over, while I could at least try again if I missed entirely. In addition to recruiting new allies, David's agents could Investigate any of my guys that were Under Suspicion (newly recruited OKW members or active Abwehr agents). Investigations use an odds-based table and yield Randomizer Chits (see below) or a trip to the Interrogation Cells.

Clandestine recruitment

The core of the 'combat' part of the game is Harassment. This is a roll on a differential CRT, which produces attacker and defender retreats as well as 'Neutralized' and 'Masked' results. The latter eliminate an agent's zone of control and prevent him from Harassing himself - you can even move right through a Masked enemy's hex. In true 70s wargaming fashion, you cannot retreat through zones of control, so you kill (send into Retirement) units via classic encirclement tactics.

Good early draw

The Randomizer Chits provide a strong dose of chaos. These chits may allow you to recruit an enemy to your side, improve your chances in the interrogation cells, neutralize an an enemy agent at a key point, or alter an assignment to an occupied area. They also include Führer Access chits, which the Plotting player needs to improve his chances of initiating a coup. At some point in the game he will feel the time is ripe and roll 2d6, adding a modifier equal to the number of Access chits in hand. The higher the roll, the greater his initial advantage in the coup phase of the game.

Cornered Canaris

Pre-coup activity sees agents getting assigned to the front via die roll (away from Berlin where they are less useful and more vulnerable) before both sides maneuver within the capital. Various Headquarters provide three-hex safe havens for either side, while agents prowl the streets for recruits and potential victims. Hitler starts the game in the Bunker but around midgame starts bouncing between Berlin and the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia. The Allied advance gradually gobbles up the occupied zones; Allied agents play a role by making such zones 'sticky' - you cannot escape a zone with an Allied agent without travel papers. Once the coup is initiated, recruitment ceases and it's all about combat (harassment). The SS player wins if he clears Berlin of all Abwehr agents, while the Abwehr wins if he clears Berlin of the SS. Note Hitler's death or survival isn't part of the victory conditions. However, his death rallies the semi-recruited OKW officers to the conspiracy, while his continued survival makes it harder and harder for the Abwehr to successfully harass enemy units.

He came for the waters

We went with a random setup to get things rolling and I immediately went about winning the OKW over to my righteous cause. DD however fully grokked the wargaminess of the enterprise and started consolidating his forces and building lines of units and zones of control. By the time I responded in kind, he had a well defended front built across the center of Berlin. Fortunately, I did well with the early chit draws, pulling 22 in the first two turns, which granted me a little tactical flexibility and put me well on my way toward calling a coup.

Cool under pressure

With lines established, the midgame was spent pouncing on wayward operatives unfortunate enough to be assigned to the occupied territories. Himmler ran a ruthless hit squad in Paris and neighboring regions, surrounding and eliminating patriotic Wehrmacht officers. He even snagged Canaris for a little close questioning but the old admiral simply shouted "Do you know who I am?!?" and stormed out of Nr. 8 Prinz-Albrecht-Straße. I had success nibbling at the edges of the SS lines, and the pool of retired stormtroopers grew. With several Access chits in the kitty, I called for a coup as soon as Hitler popped over to East Prussia. I got a great roll and my crew was ready to drop the hammer when we had to call it a night.

The GröFaZ lounges in his lair

This was some crazy-ass weirdness, but we liked it. Does it work as a game? Certainly. David figured it out first but I caught up to the point I think we had an even match going into the coup portion. Does it work as a simulation? Uhhh, sorta-kinda? I think there's some merit to the idea of coordinated action and spheres of influence, but the whole thing feels like someone was asked to carve an assassination game from Destruction of Army Group Center. We dug it enough we're actually going to try it again soon, using stukajoe's sweet Plot Cards. Nostalgia can be intoxicating!
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Tue May 9, 2017 12:51 pm
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AAR 18 April 2017 - Advanced Squad Leader, Here I Stand, Twilight Struggle, Arena

J. R. Tracy
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We had ten players on Tax Day for some card playing, some squad leading, and our annual trip back in time to the Reformation.

Here I Stand kicked off our traditional springtime HIS/VQ double bill, with Smitch taking the English, Mitch the French, Hawkeye the Habsburgs, Jim the Throne of Saint Peter, Campoverdi the Sublime Porte, and Natus the Protestants. A new edition of HIS is coming in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses, and Ed Beach was kind enough to forward the revisions to be included. I will try to note them as they come into play.

Prior to the Proddie surge

England and France immediately faced off over Scotland, but thanks to a rules tweak this wasn't to be a typically bloodless phony war of past HIS games. Elsewhere, Ferdinand relieved France of Metz on behalf of the Habsburgs, while Pope Jim methodically pieced together the keys of Italy. In the east, the steady beat of Ottoman kettledrums marked their progress across Hungary to the border of the Empire.

Suleiman seizes Buda

England, France, and the Habsburgs dabbled in a bit of exploring as well, with Cabot claiming the Great Lakes for England, Verrazano discovering the Amazon for France, and Cortes conquering the Incas. DeSoto is sailing west across the Pacific for an appointment with the business end of a Polynesian war club.

Embracing the vernacular

As befits the early turns of Here I Stand, the real drama was theological. The Papacy and the HRE got the better of the Diet of Worms, picking up three spaces. Nate's conversion rolls were dismal at first, with the Reformation completely absent from the board at one point. He got hot at just the right time, going six for six on his rolls for the translation of the New Testament into German. This popped him up to twelve spaces just as Jim played Master of Italy with two keys in hand. Under the new rules, this granted the Pope a card draw, which was the Schmalkaldic League. Mandatory play of the League rallied the German princes to the Protestant banner, giving Natus temporal strength and political influence to support his heretical cause, and on turn two to boot. The sudden ascendance of the Protestants tightened up the score considerably, with five powers within a point of one another and traditional laggard England within striking distance.

Perfect timing

At the other end of the big table, Dave and Bill paired up for Twilight Struggle, with Dave taking the Soviet Union. A late-turn play of Blockade by Dave found Bill unable to respond, wiping US influence from West Germany. Bill did what he could with the remnants of his hand to repair the situation, but the deck was shuffled and Dave found himself with Blockade again! He gambled and played it early. Bill didn't have any three cards, so again West Germany was cleaned out. This time Dave was able to follow up and assert control, and from that point the US cause was doomed.

Before the fall

They followed up with a couple games of Arena: Roma II but unfortunately I didn't get a chance to hear who won either match.

Forum-hunting

Scott and I finally got some ASL in with A114, Hamlet's Demise. This features elements of 3rd Panzer Division encountering a mixed French group defending a Belgian town. I had a PzI, a PzII, and a PzIII supporting a predominantly second-line infantry force, but I also had a squad of Pioniers and a flamethrower to help out. Scott had half a dozen first-line squads, a pair of leaders, a little H39, and a 25LL anti-tank gun. I needed to score 16 CVP without allowing Scott to inflict 20 CVP on my force. This is a notorious pro-German dog, so we added a 60mm Brandt mortar to Scott's order of battle, along with a crew, and bumped one of his 8-0 leaders up to an 8-1.

Solid opening

We were playing on what amounted to a halfboard (the middle 13 hexrows of Bd 24) so time wouldn't really be a factor. Scott was strong at the forward edge of the center building cluster, with an O5 defender protected on either flank. A strong stack (likely a leader/MG/squad) in the S8 stone building anchored Scott's left, and what was probably the Brandt in T1 kept my infantry off the high ground. The Hotchkiss was in T3, waiting to react to my attack.

Starting to squeeze

My approach in a situation like this is to be aggressive, while keeping my AFVs separated so a given ATG location can't engage more than one at a time. Losing a panzer when a gun pops up is irritating, but losing two in the same phase is unforgivable. I would press with my infantry, keeping my leaders back to pick up the pieces and counting on my firepower and flamethrower to open some cracks in the central town defense. The bulk of my force hammered their way into the M4 wooden building, with the heavier panzers in support, while an 8-0 led a pair of squads on my extreme right flank. My PzI pushed ahead with trepidation. The first movement phase cost me a couple half squads but I had a solid firegroup established for the next bound.

Deathride of the H39

Turn two saw a lovely symmetry during Scott's fire phases as I answered his threes with threes of my own. When I rolled threes on my own attacks, however, he could only come up with tens and elevens. As the French first-liners melted into green squads, I pushed my way into the center. Scott had better luck on his left, smashing my flanking force from his S8 stronghold. He dismantled his mortar and hustled it over to U5 to cover the streets on either side of town, and sent his Hotchkiss forward to engage my PzI. If he could kill it and follow up against my shattered flankers, he had a shot at collecting a bucket of CVPs.

Hammering the hamlet

When the Hotchkiss rolled into view, my PzI made a successful Motion Attempt and changed its VCA to facilitate a rapid escape. Meanwhile, my town infantry closed on the H39 with destructive intent, killing it in Close Combat on turn three. Scott was running out of infantry and I had a lot of time remaining, but I wanted to seal the deal before he somehow turned the tables with a shift of fortune. I sent my PzI behind town to cut some rout paths, stopping in S4, inside the minimum range of Scott's U5 mortar. Scott's ATG popped up in U5 as well, opened fire on my PzI...and rolled boxcars. In the ensuing Close Combat Phase, I captured two broken squads trying to escape a Melee, pushing Scott over the CVP cap and out of his misery.

Suffering in good humor

Even with our tweaks, this was a grim exercise for the French. In retrospect, we should've adjusted the CVP levels instead, raising the German VP requirement and lowering their cap. I've won this as the French but had to capture the PzII to do it, which seems a little extreme. We did at least satisfy our primary goal, which was to simply play some ASL, but I will make sure Scott enjoys a more competitive situation next time!
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Tue May 2, 2017 12:56 pm
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AAR 11 April 2017 - Star Trek: Attack Wing, High Frontier, Fort Sumter

J. R. Tracy
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We had eight gamers for some more vacuum-packed adventure and a little playtesting.

Mark, Maynard, Bill, and Hawkeye set out once more to conquer the solar system with High Frontier. Sadly they did not complete the game but Mark was crowned both Doomsayer and King of the Gods, which you have to admit is pretty good for an evening's work. That was enough to establish a solid lead, with Hawkeye in second, bringing Bill's HF win streak semi-officially to an end.

Gassing up at the Molly Pitcher service plaza

Scott was kind enough to teach Star Trek: Attack Wing to Smitch and myself, with the able assistance of Miles Muldoon, a promising young ensign fresh from Star Fleet Academy. ST:AW is a Star Trek-themed adaptation of the X-Wing space combat system. Ships are rated for attack dice, defense dice, shields, and hit points, and are further distinguished by firing arcs and different maneuver schedules. Equipment upgrades and crew and captain cards provide even more customization options, adding persistent and one-use bonus capabilities.

Starfaring Muldoons

We split into two teams, using preset forces drawn up by Scott for a balanced match. Smitch and Scott paired up as the Romulans and the Kazon respectively, while I took the Klingons alongside Miles' Federation. I had I.K.S. Negh'Var and the Kronos One, while Miles had the gigantic USS Phoenix and of course USS Enterprise. Scott ran a pair of Kazon Predators to go with Smitch's Warbirds. Both my ships had upgrades and/or captains providing one-use damage-cancelling effects, which didn't seem very Klingonish but I wasn't arguing.

Miles and I decided to ease into the fray at a moderate speed, while Scott barreled forward. Smitch's message to his partner seemed to be, "You go ahead and see what's up, I'll be along momentarily", as the Warbirds lingered at the far edge of the playing area.

A Predator becomes the prey

Scott's lead Predator glided gracefully into the firing arcs of all four of our ships, and was quickly reduced to a sparkling cloud of space debris. Deft post-contact maneuvering helped its stablemate avoid a similar fate. My ships found themselves without a target for two turns and Miles struggled to hit the cloaked Romulans. However, once my Klingons came about and Miles closed the range, we bagged one Warbird and chipped the paint on the other. We were still relatively unscathed when Miles' bedtime loomed - even ensigns have to respect Mom's Prime Directive - so we called it a win for our good guy/bad guy mashup.

Wheeling into the Warbirds

ST:AW has a more stately quality than X-Wing, appropriate for the capital ship orientation of the former against the zippy dogfighters of the latter. Each race had a distinct feel, and while I quibble about the defensive nature of my Klingon upgrades, their stock features are all about the batlh of the attack. A learning curve must be negotiated to get the most out of your ships. The Romulans in particular seem blessed with interesting but hard to master features, while I had probably the most straightforward race. I only have a few ships, but given Miles' love for the game, I am sure Scott will be building out their collection. I look forward to further collaboration as the young Muldoon ascends through Federation ranks.

Claiming his prize

For a nightcap, Smitch and I tried Mark's new design, Fort Sumter. This covers the run up to the American Civil War, with the players attempting to manipulate the crisis for political gain without tipping the country into open conflict.

There are nine areas on the map, tied in groups of three to three Issues (Secession, Public Opinion, and Armaments). Each player monitors his progress in a given Issue on its respective track, while the Crisis track records the sum of the three. If you hit 9 on an Issue track, you lose automatically, and topping 12 on the Crisis track at the end of a turn is a loss as well. However, being top dog on the Crisis track without hitting 12 is worth two VPs at game end. You also get VPs for achieving Objectives during the game.

Still brothers, for now

The game consists of three normal turns followed by a final crisis. At the beginning of a normal turn, each player draws three random Objective cards, which are revealed to his opponent. These name either an area or an Issue track. He secretly chooses one and discards the other two. Players then receive five Strategy cards apiece. These have an associated Issue type, an event, and a point value. Four will be played over the course of the turn and the fifth held for the final crisis. One player starts with the Presidency, which may be played during the game to move one of either player's track markers, but must then be surrendered to his opponent.

Play consists of alternating card play - you may either play a card for points to place or remove friendly control markers, or for the event, which usually allows you to redeploy control markers in some manner that might suit a particular board situation. When you place N markers in an area on the board, you move your position up on the associated Issues track N-1 spaces. If you remove markers, you move down the track the same way. After each side plays four cards, Objectives are revealed - you get one point for each Objective controlled, even your opponent's, so two VPs are in play each turn.

Honest Abe

For the final crisis, players play their reserved Strategy cards one at a time. If the Issues on the cards don't match, players may move their Crisis marker one space up or down; if they match, however, both move *up* two spaces. After all three are played, the top player gets two VPs and overall VP totals are compared, unless of course someone suffered an automatic loss. Ties are are broken by whoever owns the Presidency.

Smitch was the North to my South, and we both scrambled to control areas on the map, only to watch our Issues and Crisis markers race up their tracks. So, we then scrambled to pull markers *off* the map to take the crisis off the boil. The second and third turns were much more crafty, and we went into the final crisis tied. However, we were both at the top of the range around 10, and matching Issues on the second card raised me to 12. I used my last card to drop to 11, but Smitch abused the powers of his office to push me back up to 12 for an autodefeat.

We had fun figuring out how to balance board position against our track progress, and enjoyed the game theory dance of the final crisis. This is more a themed Euro than a deep study of the situation, but I think good art and some mechanical tweaks will raise the history content. However, Mark's goal is a thirty minute game you can play two or three times in a session, and in that respect it's right on the money. I also enjoy the player's role, milking an existential crisis for maximum political capital. We offered some thoughts about the end game and the Presidency, and Mark is going to rework a few elements before we give it another run in the weeks to come.
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Mon May 1, 2017 12:39 pm
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AAR 4 April 2017 - High Frontier and High Frontier

J. R. Tracy
United States
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It was all about the solar system this week with two five-player games of High Frontier.

Dr. Rob, Bill, Stéphane, Smitch, and von Schulte manned one game, which was a model of efficiency. Everyone was off to the stars in an orderly fashion, but Bill's proven mastery of sub-light-speed space travel has yet to be matched. He pieced together another win, but we added substantially to the collective experience of the group, bringing three new players to the game.

Bill rules the solar system once more

At the other end of the table, Scott was joined by myself, Hawkeye, Jim, and Jon. I drew the Taikonauts, notorious for claim-jumping and their willingness to abandon crews on some forsaken piece of rock for the greater good. Their felonious ways confer a significant advantage in some aspects of the game, but I was having none of that, choosing an unconventionally conventional strategy instead.

Outer Muldoonia

The other four programs opted for a counterclockwise path from Earth, so I went clockwise, determined to be the first to land humans in the Jovian belt and return home. I boldly planted the red banner on Hygiea, then headed back to explain to the Standing Committee why I ended up one belt short of success - engineering excellence undone by incompetent navigation. Elsewhere, Scott was puttering around the inner planets in a square-rigged solar dinghy, and judging by the muttered comments from the ESA, Jon found nothing but salt deposits in the Karin Cluster. Jim and Hawkeye had a little more success in the same general region.

Salty

On my second trip out, I was determined to reach the Asgard Ice Spires, but miscalculated my fuel requirements and came up a teaspoon short. I put in at Elara and slowly built up the reserves I needed to complete my journey. Out of sheer pigheaded stubborness I was hauling a crew, a refinery, and a robonaut, determined to get everything done in one mission (collect the Jovian bonus and build a V-type factory). I eventually succeeded, and was ready to produce a mighty N-6Li microfission thruster when we called it due to time. At that point, Scott's steady looping between home and the inner targets put him well in the lead, with Jim and Hawkeye trailing. Jon finally reached the moon for a gratifying personal triumph. My early mishaps put me off the pace, but the microfission thruster is a beast and I think I would've given Scott a run for his money in a longer game.

The starbuggy of my dreams

After a rough session in the Space Academy of Hard Knocks, I'm ready to try HF again tomorrow. As a competitive exercise it's a challenge fighting both your opponents and the system itself. However, the mechanics slowly sink in and each departure from LEO is easier than the last. With a few runs of the basic game under his belt, Scott is ready to try the advanced game, and the rest of us aren't far behind. Per aspera ad astra!
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Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:09 pm
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AAR 21/28 March 2017 - Mage Knight, Terraforming Mars, Eldritch Horror, High Frontier, Conan

J. R. Tracy
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I was out of town visiting colleges with Matilda, but young Natus and handsome Hawkeye accepted the keys to the kingdom and ably hosted in my absence.

Where does the time go?

Scott taught Mitch and Eliot Mage Knight, using the Blitz variant to accelerate the leveling a bit so players could get to the good stuff. They didn't quite finish, but Scott bagged a city and Eliot had a sackful of artifacts. Looks like the Steins enjoyed it and may add it to their family collection.

Have fun storming the castle! (photo by Scott Muldoon)

Renaud and Campoverdi took a run at Eldritch Horror - let's just say we shouldn't leave the collective sanity of the planet in their shaky hands.

It did not end well

Last up, Hawkeye and Dave taught Bill and Jim Terraforming Mars, adding the drafting rules in the process. The combination of teaching and working through drafting for the first time slowed things down considerably, so they didn't finish, but we have a couple more ready players for what has become a reliable title.

Marsaforming Earth

I returned on the 28th when we had a group of eight for some space exploration and barbarian heroics.

Scott cracked the shrink on the new edition of High Frontier with Eliot, Bill, and Stéphane. Scott is our subject matter expert but Bill had some experience as well. After a walk-through by Scott, they all reached for the stars.

For the greater glory of the People's Republic

Everyone quickly found successful component combinations and claimed slices of the solar system, with Stéphane and Scott neighbors in the Gefon and Vesta families respectively, while Bill pushed out to the Nysas and Eliot went all the way to the Jovian Himala moonlets. However, Bill was ahead of the pack with factory creation, the first to reach three. It wasn't all A-OK for Team Terdoslavich, however, as he lost three missions in a row trying to negotiate the rapid rotation of the comet Elst-Pizarro. Despite these setbacks, Bill had enough points to win no matter who placed the seventh and final factory, so they granted him the win with Eliot and Scott close behind.

Calculating the next hop

All told, it was a remarkably successful game in terms of overall achievements, with everyone getting at least one factory out on the board. The new edition looks great, and the minimal errata did not interfere with understanding or enjoyment. This is sure to see a lot of action in the next few months.

Hazardous duty

Last up, I ran a couple games of Conan, managing the bad guys against the heroic trio of Herr Fuchs, Dr. Rob, and Mitch. In the first scenario, we let David play Conan even though he forgot his Conan t-shirt, while Dr. Rob played the agile Shevatas, and seductive Mitch took the form of the equally seductive Bêlit, pirate queen of the Black Coast. This was a ship-borne adventure, and my band of mercenaries had to board the heroes' ship and seize Bêlit. I had a capable mercenary captain, a magic user, and a mix of melee and ranged fighters. The heroes had a little help of their own from Bêlit's loyal bodyguards. Just to engage the good guys I had to swing across the gap between the ships, risking the sharks circling below.

Brothers in arms

Things started out well for me, as all my boarding attempts were successful and I started cutting my way through the bodyguards. Unfortunately, Shevatas successfully boarded *my* ship, and began slicing up my archers who were providing effective fire support. At the same time, Conan was making quick work of my melee henchmen, so I played my hole card, converting my magic user into a winged shadow demon. My demon flapped over to Bêlit's quarterdeck and sank its talons into her. I had Bêlit down to a couple hit points when Conan finally arrived to behead it for a win for the good guys. I screwed up by not unleashing the demon immediately - there is a small surprise factor but as my most efficient fighter it should've been tearing into Bêlit from the start.

The stuff of nightmares

Dr. Rob was late for the midnight service at the Temple of Bel, so Mitch and David swapped roles for another nautical scenario. In this one they were leading a mutiny on a pirate vessel and had to assume control, steering the ship to safety. Each turn Conan could attempt to recruit more pirates to their cause while either hero spent an action to guide the ship. This was a fun puzzle game as the 'steering' action is a significant constraint, essentially limiting the good guys to the use of a single hero per turn. Conan was having a bad hair day, failing every recruiting die roll, but Shevatas' ability to slip past enemy figures helped enormously. The big Cimmerian sacrificed himself for his friend, yielding his last hit point just as Shevatas guided the ship to friendly hands. I'm sure Conan will rise to fight again, next time we're in the mood for some Hyborian adventures.

Conan's last stand
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Mon Apr 17, 2017 12:47 pm
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AAR 14 March 2017 - Chaos in the Old World, Quartermaster General: 1914

J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
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On the eve of the Ides of March, we had nine gamers, including a couple out of towners, for some multiplayer action. Before the games began, however, we toasted the arrival of Mark's first grandchild!

Mazel tov!

After killing some bubbly, Mark sat down for some QMG:1914 action with Bill Thoet, the inimitable David Dockter, Dave, and our own more local Bill T. The Bills took UK/US and France, Dave was the Tsar, the Dockter took AH/Turkey, and Mark was Kaiser Bill, just to increase the Bill count. Dockter was skeptical given his experience with the original Quartermaster General but was willing to give the WWI version a shot.

The lamps go out yet again

After Austria-Hungary opened the action in the east, things got exciting with a German drive along the Channel coast. Picklehauben appeared before Paris and a flurry of Reserve cards were played before the capital finally fell. France struggled to get back into the game, but Italy, Britain, and Russian fought on valiantly. Unfortunately for the Entente, the early German success proved sustainable, and the Central Powers prevailed. I think the Dockter was a little more impressed this time around and the table had good fun overall.

Paris falls, but not without a fight

Down at our end, I joined Smitch, Mitch, and Natus for Chaos in the Old World. I was the Blood God, Mitch the Changer of Ways, Smitch the Prince of Pleasure, and Natus the Plague Lord. It's always a tough choice for Nate - if Slaanesh and Nurgle got together and had a baby, we'd finally have something in the Chaos pantheon worthy of his heart and soul.

Nothing says pleasure like Mint Milanos

I moved first so my cowardly opponents fled like roaches before the brilliant cleansing light of Khorne. The map is only so large so I caught them eventually but still failed to kill anything on the first turn. For the Blood God, that's serious bad news. I was playing from behind at that point, using my cards as best I could but managing only one double-click the entire game. Meanwhile, events provided a steady supply of nobles and heroes to feed Slaanesh's corruption machine. He wisely upgraded his cultists to two hit points, protecting him from my legions. Tzeentch was doing well but didn't have the tools to slow Smitch, so the only one with a chance was Nurgle. Nate had an outside shot to score 50 VPs and nip ahead of an inevitable Slaanesh dial win, but fell short the turn before Smitch clicked out for the victory.

The Blood God always calls collect

I enjoyed the game as always but didn't play particularly well. I think Khorne has to provide a solid game to keep the other players honest. Otherwise, it's like Nappy Wars with a weak France, with the other powers getting up to all kinds of shenanigans. Playing a little more often would help, so I'll try to keep it towards the top of the pile. Blood Rage competes for table time, but all told, I think CitOW edges it out. Everyone's strengths and weaknesses are on display, the countervailing abilities of the powers are known, and the dial advancement keeps the action hurtling down the tracks; CitOW FTW.
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Mon Apr 10, 2017 2:01 pm
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AAR 7 March 2017 - Advanced Squad Leader, Men of Iron, Anachrony, WWII ETO prototype

J. R. Tracy
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New York
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After a couple weeks off for travel, we were back in action the first week of March with ten gamers, for some two-player wargaming and a new multiplayer Euro.

Smitch, Campoverdi, Dave, and Stéphane played Anachrony, a post-apocalyptic worker placement game. The players command factions of survivors after a near-extinction event and struggle to manipulate the time line before a second event finishes the job. Players send their workers through the timescape to collect resources, or on various spaces on the board to improve faction capabilities, complete projects, or battle temporal anomalies. Workers don exosuits to venture into more dangerous locales but the exosuits consume precious energy. At some point an asteroid hits the planet, signaling the endgame.

The sorting of the bits

After organizing the mountain of components, play moved along crisply, with Dave mastering the field for the win. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, saying it moved from an engine-builder to a VP race for a nice change of playing style once the asteroid hit. Theme-wise, opinions were mixed, but even those who felt the theme was thin weren't bothered by it. Overall, a positive first impression, good enough to warrant another visit.

Surfing the time rifts

Bill sat down with Renaud to try the latter's new WWII ETO card game. There is no map per se, with location cards serving to represent the theaters of engagement. During his turn a player may attack a card in his opponent's tableau if he has an 'adjacent' card - thus the Allied player may attack Libya if he owns the Egypt card, and so on. Players commit forces from neighboring cards if they have them, including leaders and other bonus cards if they're eligible. If the attacker wins, he seizes the target card, adding it to his own tableau.

Explaining the card map

I watched a little bit of the early war, as Renaud's Axis overran Poland and the Balkans, while Bill tried and failed to throw the Italians out of North Africa. Renaud eventually won, but in the process uncovered some exploitable anomalies that will be patched before the next time out. I like the mapless construct and the force commitment process. The cards are broken out by year so the character of each side will change over time. I don't know if that is linked to events in the game at hand, or if it forces an ebb and flow of Axis fortune. Regardless, Renaud should have another iteration ready to go soon, perhaps by GMT East.

Reaching for Egypt

Scott and Natus returned to Infidel, selecting the Harran scenario. Natus as Baldwin II was trying to drive off Scott's Seljuks, with a little help from Bohemond of Antioch. Nate's initial charge staggered Scott's troops but the Saracen counterblow cut the knightly momentum and the tide shifted.

Baldwin forces the center

The Crusaders fell back and Scott edged around the flanks of the two clumps of Edessans and Antiochenes. At this point they realized they'd been misplaying the knights, inflicting Retire results on them which should've been downgraded to Retreats. This significantly clipped the effectiveness of Nate's force, so they stamped a giant asterisk on the exercise and called it a night. A disappointing conclusion, but they enjoyed the portion they played. I believe they used Scott's modified command rules, removing some of the hinky aspects of continuity; perhaps he can comment on his tweaks.

Rebuffed on the right

Last up, Hawkeye and I settled in for some ASL, picking DB 132 One Last Victory, from Dispatches from the Bunker. It's January '45, and as part of Germany's last hurrah in the west, my Gebirgsjägers of the 6th SS Mountain Division have to take the town of Reipertswiller from a ragtag band of dogfaces from the Thunderbirds. This was the tail end of Operation Nordwind, and if the sun was setting on the Reich, my troops certainly didn't get the memo. I had 16 squads, 75% elite, five leaders, a flamethrower, a demo charge, and some other support weapons. Hawkeye had ten squads, three each of first and second liners and four green squads ready to break any SW they could get their hands on.

The defense of Reipertswiller

We fought over board 67 - I had to take a bunch of buildings in the center of town plus a piece of a clump of buildings in a far corner around E2. However, I received a flanking force in the early going, entering by die roll. The later they arrived, the fewer buildings I had to take. Ground snow was in effect, but I was wearing the latest from the Hugo Boss winter camo collection, granting me a little protection from ranged fire.

Through the screen and heading for town

Setup restrictions forced Hawkeye to set up a third of his force in a forward screen - these troops had a pair of captured German light machine guns, a couple leaders, and three squads. The rest of his boys were in town, with a refused flank ready to greet my reinforcements. I focused the bulk of my attack on my left flank, which would allow me to support the flankers, while a platoon attacked on the right to pin the defenders over there. It took me two turns to overwhelm the screen, longer than expected, so my flanking force entered without much help from the on-board force.

Rounding up some stragglers

The initial assault on the town did not go well for the Germans, with Hawkeye enjoying the benefit of stone building TEM while I was relying on hedges and woods for cover. However, once I established a foothold in some buildings the morale differential asserted itself and the GIs started to melt away. They got their licks in in close combat but I pushed them back until just a lone halfsquad held the church steeple amidst a sea of Germans. However, the clock was emerging as Hawkeye's ally and he still had a couple squads defending the final objective. I had two turns to take it and still deal with the knuckleheads in the belltower.

Stymied by stubborn stalwarts

The steeple garrison finally did the sensible thing, breaking and surrendering. Hawkeye had a wall of brokies blocking most of the paths to the E2 area, but a double-timing German squad and leader managed to thread their way through a hail of bullets to grab a building. Hawkeye sent a squad and a leader of his own to grab it back, but despite the CX state of my men, they saw off the counterattack to preserve the win. I had my doubts about this card given the disparity of forces, but the time pressure and terrain do a lot to make up for shaky GI morale. I think Hawkeye had a solid town defense, and he was well prepared for my flankers. The game may turn on how the screen performs - Hawkeye did a good job of delaying me, but lost most of the screening troops in the process. Just one more surviving MMC might have made the difference in town. Still, it came down to a final Close Combat, so I can't quibble too much about balance. I like the scenario and would try it again - it's well suited for a weekday night or a Saturday afternoon.

One last shot
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Mon Apr 3, 2017 2:45 pm
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AAR 14 February 2017 - Victory or Death, Great Western Trail, Up Front, Nexus Ops

J. R. Tracy
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We had ten players on Valentine's Day for some newish hotness and some old favorties.

Smitch introduced Great Western Trail to Dr. Rob, Baron von Schulte, and Dave. Players are ranchers driving their herds from Texas to Kansas City. There is a strong worker placement element as players divide their resources between the cattle drives themselves and buildings that enhance their capabilities.

Git along!

Dr. Rob proved to be the top cowboy, which is no surprise given the role the Seulowitz clan played in settling the west. He described it as a race game, investing his actions in cowboys and the railroad as he felt they had the most direct impact on his final score. Rob found it a bit fiddly and lacking player interaction. Smitch came away with a more positive opinion, conceding the interaction point but giving it good marks for multiple options and replayability, as the building mix can change substantially from game to game. Theme-wise, not much dust on these meeples, so you'll have to look elsewhere to satisfy your inner cowpoke.

Stockyard bound

Hawkeye continued his series of one-on-one Up Front tutorials, with Bill in the pupil's seat this time around. They worked through three British/German scenarios, advancing Bill up the learning curve. Hawkeye admitted that even as an experienced hand he still stumbles on occasional rules such as ordnance and infiltration, so the rest of us shouldn't feel so bad when we botch that sort of thing.

Relative Range 101

Mike Buccheri was up from Baltimore, sitting down with Dutch, Campoverdi, and me for a session of Cake or Death. Malloc was Sparta alongside Dutch as Corinth, while Campo ran the Delian League and I had mighty Athens.

Zenith of the Demos

With the image of a burning Acropolis haunting my memory, I aggressively built up the defense of Athens in the form of Prepare cards. However, a lucky strike against a naked Sparta killed the defending hoplite and the capital itself. This removed the direct threat to Athens, but also rendered my earlier card play moot. Further, I had no cards in hand to take advantage of a largely empty Peloponnese.

Campo and Dutch battled over the Gulf of Corinth and Syracuse, while Malloc opened up a campaign on the Ionian coast. I responded with the help of the Delian League, stamping out the Lacedaemonian colonies but not before they had racked up a tidy VP score. Incredibly, despite lacking one capital for most of the game, Sparta and her Corinthian ally had a solid lead going into the final turns.

Fatal distraction

Sparta finally reestablished her home town, but Campo and I were rapidly closing the gap. Unfortunately a clutch of Corinthian Status cards sealed a win for the Oligarchs with VPs out west and in Boeotia. An impressive win for Mike and Dutch. Besides their own deft play, I think the biggest factor was me fighting the last war. I'm used to Sparta knocking on the gates of Athens from the early going, and overcommitted to counter that threat. A reserve of offensive resources would've allowed me to occupy the Lacedaemonian hinterlands, but those cards were burned building unused walls. I'm sure I will overcompensate in some new and equally useless way next time out.

Oligarchs for the win

Last up, Natus joined Dutch, Malloc and myself for Nexus Ops. Unfortunately I couldn't find my classic neon edition so we were forced to use the hideous pastels of FFG's second release. I had Dutch to my left and Natus to my right.

Out of his element

Dutch and I skirmished lightly while I struggled with Nate over several tiles. Mike and Dutch paired up on the other side. My fight with Nate was largely a stalemate but Dutch got a tile or two off of Malloc, and was first to occupy the Monolith. I scratched my way atop the Monolith for a brief turn of glory myself, before being hurled off.

Malloc moves his minions

Dutch was clearly in the lead but we all had a shot at the win. I then made the bonehead move of the game, recruiting a Rubium Dragon and sending it forward against Dutch. He hit it with everything he had, easily burning through my inadequate escort to kill the beast itself. He then produced the card granting three VPs for the head of a Dragon, collecting a decisive victory in the process. D'oh! Still, solid Ameritrash fun - now I have to dig out the One True Edition so we don't have to suffer with the Smartie-colored critters again.
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Tue Mar 14, 2017 7:36 pm
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