(Don't be taken aback by the date - this is a re-posting of a 2017 DonCon playtest session of MMP's upcoming release of Storm Over Jerusalem; the game has been modified somewhat since this session but I hope it gives interested readers a sense of how it plays as they consider a pre-order now that it's up for purchase.)
After checking in Saturday afternoon I met up with Wray Ferrell for a pre-arranged playtest of Scott Blanton's Storm Over Jerusalem. This is a card driven/area impulse game porting the Storm Over system to the epic siege of 70 AD. Scott was inspired by the Historical Concepts/Avalon Hill Siege of Jerusalem and is trying to capture the feel of that venerable classic in a game playable in an evening.
Scott created the playtest map by laying his area delineations over Charlie Kibler's AH map. Areas are rated for cover ranging from the relatively open terrain outside the city to the dense structures of the Temple Mount. The city walls form the boundaries of several areas, offering formidable obstacles to the assaulting Romans. The attackers have legionaries, auxiliaries, and cav as in the original, supported by siege engines. Siege towers are 'built' on the map while catapults and battering rams are represented by cards. Towers reduce the defensive benefit of walls while the other engines reduce the walls themselves. The Jews have leaders and factional issues as in the original game.
Players alternate activating areas for movement and/or combat, with cards played in support or as discrete events. Cards are also used to build siege towers and repair walls. The card economy shifts over time, with areas in the city granting extra cards; the defender's hand dwindles as the legions close in. Both sides have some heavy hammers in their card-arsenals, but the trick is in the timing. The Roman is working against the clock while the defender is just trying to forestall his doom. Rome *will* take the city; it's just a question of how long the Jews can hold out. In play it feels a lot like the older game, but can be completed in 90 minutes or so.
I took the attackers and worked the main gate to the city along with the outer wall closest to the Temple. I had poor luck with my starvation rolls (an end of turn mechanic that reduces the Jewish refresh ability), but my siege engines more than made up for it. I steadily reduced the defenses of the Temple quarter and the Antonia Fortress, while Wray rushed in troops to replace his mounting losses. Finally my battering ram breached the Temple wall, and my legionaries poured in for the kill. I completed my conquest on the seventh of ten possible turns, soon enough to edge Wray 29 to 21; had he held the victory areas one more turn, or a subset for two or more turns, it would've flipped the other way.
I enjoyed the game and feel it hits the mark as an homage to the original. The rules are very accessible, particularly if you've played other games in the Storm Over series. The Jewish player has to recognize his mission is to delay and deflect - his fate is decided and the mounting slaughter is inevitable. However, he has many opportunities to counterpunch and upset Roman plans with an unexpected cardplay or a sudden sortie. There's still work to do on the design, but it already a fun game and I think the substance is in place for a successful end product.
This is a weekly report of our Tuesday night gaming sessions in Chelsea (Manhattan).
06 Apr 2022
- [+] Dice rolls
Gary’s routine for most of the pandemic has been to join us Tuesday night for gaming, and then spend Wednesday power-washing our viscera off the treads of his demon-forged juggernaut. The most gruesome example was our session of C&C Ancients Epic Raphia, where Gary’s light infantry on the Ptolemaic right spooked the bejeezus out of Mark’s elephants while Gary’s own heffalumps carried their charges home for a decidedly epic 13-3 victory.
After that trouncing we lined up a rematch on the plains of Zama. A bit shorthanded, we assigned the Carthaginian center and overall command to Gary, with Mark lined up opposite his nemesis with the corresponding Roman roles. Campoverdi took the Carthaginian left against my Roman right, while Jim took the babykillers' right against Pete’s Roman left. What would the dice and cards reveal - vengeance or further humiliation?
Our forces were somewhat symmetric, with lights on the Roman right/Carthaginian left, heavies with medium support for both in the center, and a mixed bag of lights, medium infantry, and medium cavalry on the Roman left/Carthaginian right. However, the sons of Ba'al enjoyed both warbands and elephants, fragile but potent offensive weapons.
We opened the game by dressing ranks on the Roman left and sending lights forward on the right to harass the Carthaginian livestock. One elephant step fell to my javelins and we were off to a good start.
Gary responded by unleashing his elephants while Campo advanced his light cav. The elephants before me quickly returned to their lines but not before giving my lights and auxiliaries a good kicking.
The midgame saw Carthaginian elephants engaged all along the line, giving far better than they got. They paid a heavy price but in the process extracted a fearsome toll on our legions. On the Roman right, a swirling cavalry battle ensued, with charge and countercharge. Masinissa carried the fight to the Carthaginian main line, but failed to survive the return trip; his pursuers died in turn.
As a lull settled on the Roman right and center, the left engaged. Jim and Pete traded blows as Jim hurled his Gauls into the Roman line. Battle-backs were often more successful than the initial attacks as blocks fell on both sides. Gary’s play of I Am Spartacus brought the elephants to the fore again. They continued to inflict multiple casualties but were gradually melting away.
After an initial Roman lead of three banners to none, we were never more than two banners apart as the lead traded back and forth until the final card. Once the Roman left and Carthagian right were in contact, both sides lost at least a unit per player turn, sometimes two. Mark played Double Time for his own troops and stared grimly at Hannibal/Gary across the line as his hastati and principes got busy in the center.
Rome was up 12-10 as the victory threshold of 14 loomed. Hannibal’s forces were backed up against their board edge but both sides had several vulnerable units within striking range of the enemy. Mark gave me Order Four Units Right, took Move-Fire-Move for himself, and handed Pete Order Two Units Left. I killed a two-stepper but whiffed against a unit down to its last block. Justice prevailed as Mark’s velites stepped up and dispatched the last Carthaginian elephant for our fourteenth and final banner in a hard-fought victory.
This was great fun – a tough back and forth battle with all three sectors engaged. In Raphia our centers barely moved, which was a drag for the commanders involved, but no one could complain about a lack of action at Zama.
Gary made great use of his elephants, scoring a slew of hits outright as well as ample collateral damage with his rampage rolls. However, we had the edge in infantry action, and Mark directed our cards to where they were needed when the game was in the balance. My love of Epic continues to grow, and I reckon we’ll have no trouble filling out the roster next time around.
- [+] Dice rolls
15 Feb 2022
Tonight we'll be traveling back to the Second Punic War to settle the question of who will dominate the Middle Sea - here we go, for all the marbles!
Just for pure narrative value, Mark and Gary will face off as overall commanders, both leading their respective centers as well. Mark deserves another crack at Gary after the gods betrayed him at Raphia in December.
Our first die roll will determine who leads Carthage and who commands the forces of Rome; an even result grants Mark the role of Hannibal:
d2 = (1) = 1
27 Jan 2022
As promised earlier, here's a detailed recap of our game of Truth or Consequences. GorGor, Campoverdi, and I settled in for the campaign Thursday morning. GorGor was new to the title while Campo and I had a third of a game under our belts, but we'd all played Triumph & Tragedy several times.
For those unfamiliar with the series, the T&T system is a card driven strategic level block-unit approach to WWII. Each power develops their production capacity by increasing population under control, access to resources, and their industrial base. Production is then used to build and reinforce units, or purchase two flavors of cards. Each kind of card has two uses. Action cards are used to conduct diplomacy or perform military operations, while investment cards develop your industrial base or provide useful technologies (including, after several steps, the atomic bomb).
Military operations are conducted over spring, summer, and fall, with limited activity possible in winter. Each action card has a season, a letter, and a number. The letter represents initiative - the closer to the front of the alphabet, the earlier in the turn you go; the number is the number of actions available. Occasionally the decision between using an A4 versus a U8 can be tough depending on the board position and your imminent opportunities and threats.
There are land, naval, and air units (only one flavor of the latter). Within each class units are rated for combat priority, movement factors, and effectiveness against opposing classes. Generally the defender fires first within a class, but some technologies let you fire first regardless. The IJN opens the game with a 'shoot-first' advantage at sea. This is basic roll-to-hit, with a given unit throwing as many dice as it has steps. As a block game, units are concealed unless engaged, and even then the defender recovers 'concealment' between seasons.
C&C adds the Chinese Civil War to the mix, with the USSR controlling the forces of the Communist Party of China (CPC) while the US runs the Guomindang (KMT - the game uses Wade-Giles romanization). The KMT uses their own production capacity to build fortifications and militia, while Uncle Sam lends aid for regulars, armor, and airpower. The CPC spreads through partisans, placed via action cards. These partisans can evolve into militia for direct conflict. The Japanese and KMT can conduct anti-partisan operations, but risk adding to the partisan ranks with poor die-rolling. Once the Soviets have a valid supply line (a chain of friendly areas) to the CPC, they can offer direct aid just as the US does.
Success in China can be a big source of VPs for the US and the Soviets, while the Japanese have their own reasons to be involved given the potential gains in resources and population. Overall victory is determined by baseline production at the end of the game, peace dividends (0, 1, or 2 VP chits drawn while at peace), performance in China (for the US and USSR), a-bomb progress, and particular territorial conquests (capitals, subcapitals, and strategic bases). You can also win immediately by conquering two enemy capitals or subcapitals (New Delhi, Nanking, Novosibirsk, Tokyo, Mukden, & Los Angeles), or by completing the atomic bomb.
Die rolls gave the US to GorGor, the USSR to Campo, and the Imperial Japanese to me. Early diplomatic efforts in China gave me a toehold in Tsingtao, while Campo worked on his supply line to the CPC. GorGor brought the British into the game on his side, and resisted my efforts coax the Dutch East Indies into my Co-Prosperity Sphere.
With my Manchurian forces built up and deployed to Tsingtao, I decided the time for talking was over. I crashed across the border into Suchow, eliminating the KMT garrison. GorGor wasn't about to roll over, however, and quickly counterattacked. I was shocked to see armor and airpower alongside the KMT militia, and found my forces staggering back to Tsingtao to rebuild. It took two more seasons and the assistance of the Navy (oh, the shame) to conquer Suchow and move on to Nanking.
While I was embracing my fellow Asians, GorGor was splitting his production between R&D, pumping up US forces, and funding his KMT lapdogs. Campo was working on both the Red Army and spreading unrest in Korea and Mukden. This was proving to be a real pain in the butt, forcing me to commit ground troops to win over (or bury) hearts and minds.
The fight for Nanking was a bloodbath, thanks to GorGor's Air Defense Radar (doubles the dice thrown by air units in friendly territory). I finally crushed the remaining resistance, adding a subcapital to my collection. With most of China under my control I cast my eye southward.
By this time we were late in the game and as US production climbed I had to make some aggressive moves to match his VP progress. In 1943 I invaded and conquered the Dutch East Indies, taking control of its vast oil reserves (oil resources count double for the Japanese). Unfortunately, the Dutch were in thrall to the duplicitous Americans, so this constituted a declaration of war on the sleeping giant across the sea.
The US was quick to respond, establishing a blockade in 1944 between the Home Islands and my brand new oil fields. Meanwhile, I felt a sudden sharp stabbing pain in the middle of my back, coming from the direction of Siberia. Soviet troops poured across the border, while CPC regulars attacked my holdings in China proper. I was able to hold off the Reds but bravery alone was no match for the hulking US Navy, as block after block of Japanese naval power settled to the ocean floor.
End game scoring saw the US victorious, with 23 VP, largely from production. Campo was close behind at 20 - had he conquered Mukden and one more Chinese territory he would've eked out a tie. I was down at 13; even before the counteroffensives I believe I was below 20. I think my biggest mistake was knocking the KMT out - I should've allowed them some breathing room to engage the CPC, taking some heat off me. Given my land force buildup, a shot at Novosibirsk for the autowin was viable, and more likely to succeed than my southern adventure. Otherwise, the Japanese need to pour a lot more juice into the IJN than I did, and make the most of their surprise attack bonus.
All three of us enjoyed the game. I was afraid the Soviets would be a weak third seat but the Chinese Civil War gives them plenty to do. The Civil War itself is a lot of fun, with its own asymmetries and interesting interaction with Japanese ambitions. The naval action, as far as we explored it, proved plausible. I'm always a little nervous when an ETO system is ported to the war in Asia, but so far the T&T engine holds up. I'm sure there are edge cases we have yet to stumble across, and the Chinese Civil War is a minor rules morass, but overall it's worth the effort and for me at least, it edges out its older brother. A solid three player choice, with strong early promise for replayability.
- [+] Dice rolls
25 Jan 2022
With the cancellation of the 2022 Winter Offensive, my gaming time-budget suddenly had some slack, so I was able to attend David Dockter's irregularly scheduled CastleCon. This is the third time he's had a few friends over to his place in Soprano Country, and for once I was able to attend for more than an afternoon.
Campoverdi and I rolled in Wednesday afternoon, and pulled Doc away from work to join us for Brian Train's Red Horde 1920. This covers the Russo-Polish War of 1920, as the Red Army headed west to spread the cause of global revolution.
Campo took the Poles while Doc and I split the Reds, him in the south and me in the north, with the Pripet Marshes between us. The Poles are strong at the unit level while the Reds have the numbers. Combat is highly attritional - units may retreat in lieu of two steps of losses but often suffer considerably more than that. 'Shock'-rated attacking units can use a bloodier CRT, great for opening holes. Retreating units are disrupted, zeroing out their attack strength and halving their defense values. Unlike most games, disruption is a persistent effect, with removal possible but relatively unlikely turn to turn.
Restrictive command and control rules make it difficult to bring the Red Army numbers to bear. HQ assets allow coordination, but these in turn are tied to the sparse rail net. Also, movement factors are low - two MF for infantry and three MF for cav. Together these factors conspire to channel the action along the rail lines, with occasional opportunities for flanking action by cavalry against an enemy disrupted in previous combat. With no zones of control, the action is very fluid (as far as the low movement factors allow) but the vagaries of the rail net keep players from being too adventurous.
Operationally, action is governed by chit pulls. Each side has three command chits. When yours is drawn, you may fight, move, or use rail movement. This creates some very interesting choices once the lines begin to shift westward.
At the strategic level, players must be concerned with national morale, which is affected by capture and loss of terrain objectives and catastrophic casualties. Opening morale levels are determined by each side rolling 2d6. As you move up the track you gain some capabilities, and when you plunge the depths your miseries are compounded.
Our session opened with the Reds having a two pip morale advantage, and we increased that with punishing assaults in the north and south. Campo initially fought us at the border but quickly realized his best bet was to disengage to give his now-disrupted units an opportunity to recover. Constrained by supply, my northern thrust slowed to a one-hex advance as I struggled to bring my HQs forward while still hitting the Poles to my front. Doc did a better job of staying in contact to the south, and both of us were rolling some smoking dice. Polish morale dipped into the red zone (soon to be the Red zone), ultimately costing him a command chit. That operational advantage proved decisive and the Poles had to throw in the towel.
I thought this was a very interesting depiction of the conflict - Brian attempts to model the asymmetry with a couple simple subsystems and I think he achieves his goal. This is weird enough that it will take a couple playings to grasp the subtleties, but it plays very quickly. We played for 90 minutes which I reckon to be on the long end of a typical session. The Reds have a shot at a blowout win early but if the Poles can fall back, I see this evolving into a decisive action on the Vistula as occurred historically. I'll keep this in my travel kit and give it another crack as soon as possible.
Campo and Doc joined Petra, GorGor and Bob for a little Deep Sea Adventure. Earlier in the evening, Campo bravely volunteered to test my various attempts at a rye-pomegranate sour. Cocktail-wise the results were mixed but the impact on Campo was decisive and I soon assumed his seat at the table.
Sadly this was a pretty conservative game with not nearly enough diver death in the early going. However, Doc and Bob made up for that in the final round. GorGor took the win with Petra close behind, while Doc and Bob were dragged down to the briny depths by their insatiable greed.
For a nightcap, Bob, Doc, and GorGor introduced me to Sagrada. This is a dice-placement game where players are constructing stained glass windows for the basilica in Barcelona. Each player has a unique grid with some constraints on die numbers and colors, plus a secret victory condition. My goal was to place as many high-valued green dice as possible, and I was able to get down a few fives and sixes, enough to carry me to victory.
GorGor, Campoverdi, and I spent a good chunk of Thursday playing GMT's new Truth or Consequences, which ports the Triumph & Tragedy engine to the war in Asia. I will cover this game in a separate post, but we had a blast as GorGor's US pulled out a late game win as my Japan stumbled down the stretch. Campo's USSR gave the US a run for its money, however, with a late-game attack on Japan's holdings in Manchuria. Great fun and a largely successful design on first review.
Before dinner we dusted off the ancient and venerable Nuclear War with all the trimmings. I have mixed feelings about this game, recalling a lot of fun with the original spinner-based version but also some excruciating sessions that lasted well past the fun point. When Bob pulled out a die instead of the spinner, my unease grew.
Fortunately this proved to be a good time. The opening trip around the table was brutal for Campoverdi, as events knocked out his first five turns. Unsurprisingly, Doc was the first to start hostilities. He and GorGor both deployed nuclear cannons, but the Cool Cat Cannon Club was quickly canceled due to designer negligence. Meanwhile, Bob had an orbital Death Star deployed and was raining death down around the globe. Campo was first out, then Bob. GorGor took me down, but I had a B-1 bomber already in the air and plenty of warheads, and managed to annihilate the remaining world population. As global apocalypses go, I call it a success.
After a great meal we enjoyed a quick game of Timeline. This game is always amusing but can really make you feel stupid from time to time. Yojimbo's laser-guided event placement earned him the crown.
We closed the evening with four games of Secret Hitler. In the opening game, Doc, Tom, and I were Fascists, with Tom as Hitler. Doc got the Presidency right off the bat. Somehow his genius plan of faking a die roll and 'randomly' assigning me the Chancellorship didn't pan out. The Liberals quickly smelled a rat and we never got close to passing a policy.
The second and fourth games were also Liberal victories, albeit a lot closer. The highlight of the evening was the third game. Yojimbo and I were Party rank and file, while Doc was Hitler. Despite Doc's constant queries of "Does Hitler have any special powers?" and "Do I get to shoot anybody before I get in office?", Jim and I still managed to maneuver him into the Chancellor's seat with three Fascist policies on board. Global conflagration ensued, but it was totally worth it.
Friday kicked off with a five player game of Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy. This is the second edition of the 4X Eclipse, with a host of ergonomic improvements and some minor rules and technology tweaks.
We played the alien side of the player cards; Doc was the piratical Orion Hegemony, Campo was the Borg-like Mechanema, Yojimbo was the ancients-worshipping Descendants of Draco, GorGor was the tech-adept Hydran Progress, and I was the vegetative Planta.
Doc suffered some terrible tile draws and found himself aimed at Yojimbo's empire with no recourse. However, true to form he focused on offensive weaponry so when the time came he was ready for action. Campo eyed the looming conflict on his flank and prepared accordingly. Meanwhile, GorGor made good use of his tech advantage and carefully built out a balanced suite of advances. My plant people avoided conflict and explored away from the galactic core.
Doc's forces rolled through Yojimbo but did not cripple him; the Descendants pushed past Doc and expanded toward the Hydrans while the Hegemony engaged Campo and gunned for the galactic core. I grew increasingly nervous as my economy couldn't support both expansion and research, and belatedly shifted my focus to weapons development.
When Campo developed wormhole technology I knew I was toast. Our once-impenetrable border was now wide open - as Campo's fleets poured in, he explained he was simply the Magyars fleeing Pecheneg pressure from the east. Meanwhile, GorGor returned my diplomat and attacked from the other side, and my little empire was suddenly the community salad bar.
As I desperately defended my collapsing frontiers, Doc had economic problems of his own. Military success couldn't offset budgetary woes, and he found his resource engine crippled going into the final stretch. GorGor was clearly in the lead but Yojimbo made a determined run at him, but to no effect. GorGor won pulling away, with Yojimbo in second and Campo a very close third. My heroic defense of my home world preserved enough VPs to edge Doc out for fourth position.
This was a hoot - we all enjoyed the original but this version of Eclipse is a pleasure to play once the pieces are sorted and ready to go. The prep trays are great, and the pieces look good. Our only complaint is that the power usage and initiative bumps of a given technology appear on the ship part tiles but not on the tech tiles themselves; therefore you have to look two places when researching potential new techs. It's a small quibble and overall we think it's a great presentation.
Friday afternoon, Doc and I defended our homes against the orcish depredations of Bob and Yojimbo in Stronghold: 2nd edition. We all have fond memories of the original and hoped for more the same but were generally disappointed.
The original game had a glory-based VP system and an explicit four player version; this edition has a fixed seven turn clock and rules for two players only. While the overall scheme looks similar it felt very different in practice. Bob and Yojimbo rolled to a pretty easy victory, largely due to Doc and I missing the Officer and Hero special abilities. We had fun, but more due to the company than the game. We'll be digging out the original for our next session.
Ace of Space is a favorite filler game, and we had a couple good sessions. Bob turned me on to the the income strategy, which I have neglected in the past, but it really transformed my game. Bob triumphed thanks to timely buys of VP cards, but it was a tight race and a great time.
My evening and gaming 'weekend' wrapped up with Circus Maximus. Doc procured some sweet chariot miniatures but they proved too large even for his blown-up map. We reverted to the entirely satisfactory counters instead.
I had a light chariot and a good driver, so I was determined to get out in front and stay there. However, I was often moving late in the turn, and was relentlessly whipped by each passing driver. As the field opened up, however, my superior speed began to tell and I started to pull away.
Midgame Yojimbo was my biggest threat but a critical lane-change decision cost him a few spaces and padded my lead. The turn order dice were my friends the rest of the way, and I crossed for the win, with Yojimbo in second and GorGor in third. My reservation with this game is the potentially tedious die rolling, particularly to resolve whip and ram attacks. However, Bob is a master of the rules and kept things moving at a very good clip. All in all, a great conclusion to a fun couple days of gaming.
Thank you Doc and Petra for wonderful hospitality, and Bob, GorGor, Campoverdi, Tom, and Yojimbo for good company. Group gaming has been a little light the last couple years, and it was nice to enjoy a roomful of people for a change. See you all soon.
- [+] Dice rolls
Eight of us gathered on line to cap 2021 with Epic Raphia from Commands & Colors: Ancients.
We assigned player roles randomly, resulting in the following:
Ptolemaic Overall Commander: Renaud
Ptolemaic Left Wing Commander: Campoverdi
Ptolemaic Center Commander: Scott
Ptolemaic Right Wing Commander: Gary
Seleucid Overall Commander: Natus Invictus
Seleucid Left Wing Commander: Mark
Seleucid Center Commander: The Jackal
Seleucid Right Wing Commander: JR
Needless to say the Seleucid back line was already wavering by the time we took the field.
As most of you know, Raphia was one of the greatest clashes of the ancient world, filled with hot elephant on elephant action and the clash of phalanxes. Antiochus famously fielded Indian elephants which quickly saw off their smaller African cousins, but no distinction is made in game terms in C&C:A. Our forces were evenly matched, with each side fielding a superior right flank. As the Seleucids, our basic plan was to win the right and crash the center before the forces of Ptolemy could do the same.
We opened well with my lights dashing forward to toss pointy sticks at Campo’s elephants. They didn’t like it one bit, falling back with jammy bits of Ptolemaic infantry stuck between their toes. On the left, Mark moved forward and unleashed ten dice against Gary…and whiffed. Gary clipped a few blocks battling back, and the power curve on that flank, already against us, shifted further.
Nate fed me what cards he could but I struggled to move more than my lights. Campo pecked away in return and whittled some light horse down to a block apiece. It could have been worse but all of Renaud’s attention was on the other end of the action. Campoverdi’s troops were so impressed with his leadership that both of Campo’s attempts at sector initiative saw Ptolemy blocks flee the field.
Meanwhile, Renaud placed hammer after hammer in Gary’s capable hands, and he made good use of them. Hurling dice fresh from Haphaestus’ own forge, Gary inflicted losses and spooked Mark’s elephants. The beasts stepped daintily around Gary’s peltasts but stomped on Mark’s own. Dead blocks soon became dead units, and even evasion was no longer an option.
On the right, a line command allowed me to get my heavier troops within spitting distance of Campo, but that was the only time I was able to move more than three units. We finally made contact but I landed no killing blows. Meanwhile, Gary received back to back Mounted Charge cards. With two units of heavy cav at his disposal, the result was carnage. The last of the Seleucid left was crushed and Gary turned toward the center.
I think we're still in this
Gary, drunk with bloodlust, surrendered control of his units as they crossed the sector boundary. Finally Scott and The Jackal had a chance to participate after exchanging menacing glances for an hour. A Ptolemy Double Time card wrapped things up, claiming a unit of Seleucid Argyraspides for the thirteenth and final block. At 13-3, it was quite the asskicking. Fine, we didn't want Syria anyway.
This scenario is balanced on paper, but the Ptolemoids got the cards and dice they needed and had the skill to extract maximum value. Nate had almost nothing for our right and little to help Mark, whose dice were pretty much the opposite of Gary's. It was an efficiently-conducted slaughter. Despite the lopsided outcome, we had fun - this is a big multiplayer banger and the banter flew alongside the sling bullets. Between VASSAL and Discord, it was easy to execute and at two hours, suitable for a weekday evening. We will reconvene before too long; we must have our vengeance.
- [+] Dice rolls
27 Dec 2021
Okay, this is the arduous command assignment process for our upcoming C&C: Ancients Epic Raphia game. I will assign the roles in the following order:
Ptolemaic Overall Commander
Ptolemaic Left Wing Commander
Ptolemaic Center Commander
Ptolemaic Right Wing Commander
Seleucid Overall Commander
Seleucid Left Wing Commander
Seleucid Center Commander
Seleucid Right Wing Commander
3 Natus Invictus
6 The Jackal
I will roll a die for the first role, assign it to a player, and repeat until our fates are sealed.
Here goes, for Ptolemaic Overall Commander:
1d8 = (2) = 2
- [+] Dice rolls
- 1886378. jrtracy
- 1d8 =
- (2) =
- Mon Dec 27, 2021 6:08 pm
- 1886381. jrtracy
- d7 =
- (3) =
- Mon Dec 27, 2021 6:15 pm
- 1886382. jrtracy
- 1d6 =
- (5) =
- Mon Dec 27, 2021 6:17 pm
- 1886385. jrtracy
- d5 =
- (3) =
- Mon Dec 27, 2021 6:19 pm
- 1886386. jrtracy
- 1d4 =
- (2) =
- Mon Dec 27, 2021 6:20 pm
- 1886388. jrtracy
- 1d3 =
- (1) =
- Mon Dec 27, 2021 6:22 pm
- 1886389. jrtracy
- 1d2 =
- (1) =
- Mon Dec 27, 2021 6:23 pm
HazMo 10 Fresh Grist
This is the dawn of WWII, on the outskirts of Shanghai in September 1937. Paul’s IJA was on the attack with a dozen first liners, three 448 Assault Engineers, an HMG, a pair of mediums, some LMGs, a pair of 50mm mortars, two DCs, and a flamethrower. He had four leaders out front and two Chi-Ros in support.
Opposing this mob, I had ten first liners, four 447s, an MMG, three LMGs, a pair of ATRs, and a host of hardware including 37mm and 75mm artillery pieces, a 20L Oerlikon, and a Vickers 6-ton tank. I had great leadership, with a 7-0, an 8-0 Commissar, and a mighty 9-2. I also had two Wire counters, a pair of roadblocks, and three fortified building locations to help me hold the center of the board 53 town.
To win, Paul had to take six of the seven multi-hex buildings (he started with one in hand). The multi-hexers were stone and the rest of the buildings wooden by SSR. Paul could start with 75% of his force (his choice) on board with the balance trickling in beginning on turn three of our seven turns, with the of delaying some reinforcements in exchange for a fighter bomber with bombs.
My starting force seemed a little light, but an SSR allowed me to ‘buy’ reinforcements: for every three CVP I inflicted, I could purchase a squad (randomly determined to be a 336, 337, or 447) with the possibility of a support weapon and/or leadership (2/3 chance of each). I could buy multiple MMCs at once but only got one roll each for SWs and leaders per turn. On top of all that, all my 447s were automatically Dare-Death squads, no assignment necessary. Close combat would be a bloody two-way affair.
The Japanese set up on/north of hexrow W, while I set up on/south of V. I decided to focus on holding the left, western half of the town, centering my defense on the P3 church. I placed my wire in S4 and S5, and fortified both levels of R2, placing the 75* downstairs and the Oerlikon upstairs to cover the approach through T1/U2/V2 (T2 was rubbled by SSR). I also fortified Q5, and occupied it with the 9-2, directing a 447 with the MMG.
I put the 37* next door in P5 pointing northeast, where it covered the Q hexrow all the way down to Q10. The Vickers, HIP by SSR, sat in O7 looking down the road through the center of town. I had an ATR on each flank, and a light screen forward on the right; I distributed the balance of the troops evenly after that. The Commissar sat in the church, while the 7-0 backed up the troops on the right. My roadblocks sat in V3/W4 and V8/W9, cutting LOS as much slowing Paul’s armor. I kept a few troops off the front line in case Paul decided to build a kill stack or two to soften things up right off the bat.
My general plan was to reinforce whichever flank was feeling the most pressure, favoring the left otherwise, while hoping to hold the church and one more building for the duration.
Paul went heavily against my right flank, overrunning my screen and quickly taking the R6 building. He was soon formed up in the angle running from T5 through R6 and out to R9 (Q7 and R7 were shellholes by SSR). Though I was a little sad he didn’t run his jaw straight at my R2 fist, I thought this was still an acceptable development as my western forces were only lightly engaged.
Overshadowing all of Paul’s early progress was my first roll of Final Fire. I hit a 447 and an FT/DC/448 in T5 with my Q5 MMG/447, directed by the 9-2. I dropped a three on an 8(0) for the dreaded flamethrower Daily Double. The Assault Engineers ate the KIA (thanks to the -1) while the 447 was reduced. Both support weapons were destroyed by the subsequent die rolls (A9.74) and with three CVP in the bag I already had a fresh squad warming up in the bullpen. This was only a hint of things to come.
With my firepower steadily chipping away at Japanese strength, Paul had to jumpstart his attack. After deploying his armor for cover in Q9 and Q10, Paul launched a Banzai charge against my right, on the heels of a DC Hero. My 37* went down to an 11, as did a couple LMGs and my Vickers’ CMG, so Paul was able to crash into the P7 rowhouse. A few of my squads broke on FPF, and though I got my licks in, Paul established himself on my side of the Q hexrow and had a shot at turning the flank of my western position.
As pressure mounted on my right, Paul decided to now hit my far left with his reinforcements. A leader and a pair of squads entered in Y1 and made their way through the orchards before getting hammered by the Oerlikon. The survivors gamely advanced into the rubble in T2, only to be smoked by the artillery piece across the street. With this threat stymied, I could devote full attention to the looming assault against my R4-P5 front.
With his forces dwindling and Chinese strength gaining, it was do or die time for Paul’s Japanese, or do and die as the case may be. He only had one leader remaining but all his troops were in a single contiguous mass; it was time to get out the red counters. First a Chi-Ro crashed through the front door of the 9-2’s fortified location, but not before the MMG filled the street with residual firepower. Then the infantry followed, with carnage not far behind. Paul didn’t lose too much crossing the street and generally drove me back from the forward edge of my position, but I was able to rout most of my troops back to the Commissar. My R2 guns turned to face the attack as well.
In my following game turn, the Commissar rallied up the 9-2 and his friends. On my right, reinforcing GMD squads cleaned up the Japanese incursion without loss. On the left, my ordnance pounded Paul’s troops in Q3 and Q4, while my church force finished off the remnants. With yet another fresh platoon of Chinese forming up to enter, Paul felt his prospects were dim and called it a day.
The real MVP was SSR 6, which allowed me to buy fresh troops as I inflicted casualties, but the star on the board was probably the 9-2. I don’t think a single roll can make or break a scenario of reasonable size, but that opening 3 certainly shaped the course of the game. The 9-2 was a steady performer after that, and I can’t blame him for failing to stand up to a twelve-and-a-half-ton monster appearing in his living room. Overall he earned his bars.
The story of the day was the relentless bleeding of Paul’s force. I focused on striping and then reducing squads, ignoring halfsquads unless I had no other targets. The steady accumulation of CVP bought me ample support; over the course of the game I added eight squads to my force, along with three leaders and some LMGs. In the face of this it feels like the Japanese needs to husband his forces early and then hit the Chinese en masse. This is essentially what Paul tried but the previous casualties just made me too strong to overcome. A mid-game double Banzai, with half the Japanese OoB in each, might shatter the GMD through FPF and carry the buildings before the reinforcements can intervene.
I love this situation – early war is my favorite period and I have a special fondness for GMD/IJA cards. This is a formidable Japanese force but that reinforcement SSR is a doozy. I think the Japanese have a shot, but until you see it played out it’s hard to get a sense of how quickly that power dynamic shifts. The GMD reinforcements come in just over a MPh away from the VP buildings, so the IJA has a turn before the impact of losses is really felt. Planning around that gap is probably the key to a successful attack.
This is one of those rare scenarios where the attacker must plot his assault turn by turn before the first weather die roll – you need to know where to be on turn four to maximize the impact of your all-out attack. I will happily play this again, and look forward to taking the Japanese. They might have the short end of the stick but I believe the tools are there to give them a chance.
- [+] Dice rolls
At this year's New York State ASL Championship in Albany, I decided to try to play only scenarios from Hazardous Movement - these are big, interesting cards and I looked forward to trying as many as possible.
HazMo 3 Seaside Retreat
It’s August 1944, and the war has arrived in the south of France. Vic’s Free French have thirty squads supported by four Shermans, a pair of Stuarts, and seven halftracks (six are transport-only M5 battle taxis) on the attack in Operation Dragoon. I’m defending boards 51 and 78 with twenty-two squads backed by a 37L ATG, an 81mm mortar, a 150mm infantry gun, a StuG IIIB that’s been under a tarp since Barbarossa, and a pair of GSW 39H open-topped TDs, basically Marders on Hotchkiss chassis. This is a garrison formation, reflected in the vehicles as well as the preponderance of second-liners and conscripts; even my LMGs are war-booty French FM 24/29s.
I also have eighteen mine factors, two roadblocks, two trenches, five wire counters, and three fortified locations to help me create a warm welcome for Vic’s understandably angry Frenchmen. Orchards are shellholes by SSR, greatly opening lines of sight while providing a bit of cover for cautious infantry. Vic has to take three SSR-designated factories in nine turns without losing 60 CVP (his unarmed halftracks are worth zero after unloading). Besides the 1re Division Française Libre, a bunch of locals have formed up to provide a platoon of sewer-dwelling Partisans that enter in my backfield. I bid 0 for the Germans while Vic bid 1 for the French, so with the aid of an extra roadblock, I prepared my defense.
Though the victory objectives are all on board 51, the long ridge of board 78 is definitely a factor. The Level 3 peak has been shaved off by SSR but there are still plenty of good lines of sight into town from L2. The fight through the city would be a manageable grind, but my fear was a mounted flanking movement along or behind the ridge. Vic could deploy up to five squads at the outset, making his 15PP halftracks much more efficient. I decided to meet this threat head on, loading the leading edge of the spur with both GSWs (78W4 and W5) and the 37L (W4), supported by infantry in trenches (X4 and W5) armed with LMGs and led by an ambitious 7-0. An ATR (yes, an ATR in 1944 – these guys weren’t in the front of the procurement queue) lurked in the 78AA4 brush for good measure.
In town, the designated factories were buildings 51C2, O2, and U2. A pregame random rubble distribution didn’t change the landscape too dramatically, but I used my wire and roadblocks as best I could to channel Vic’s approach. Vic could set up on a narrow board edge strip or enter on/after T1 on the east and south edges as far west as 51Y10. I placed RBs in 51X8/Y9, O9/P9, and O7/P7, and wire in P10, Y10, P2, P4, and O4. My fortified locations were 51P1 (to allow my INF gun to set up there), V3, and E2. I could HIP a Set DC by SSR, so I put one in the ground level of 51W4, with an 8-0 (with my second DC) manning the plunger in S4. I converted some of my mines to AT mines in 51X1 (allowable by SSR) and put 6 factors of AP mines in both 51F1 and F2.
Infantry-wise, a thin screen of halfsquads manned the 51CC hexrow to slow Vic’s opening. I lightly defended the U2 factory, and began defending in earnest along the P hexrow with three squads, two lights, a medium and an 8-1 in the P5 building, and two squads, the heavy, and my 9-1 in the O2 factory. The U2 factory would be the last stand position, receiving three squads in the factory proper with an 8-1 directing an MMG/467 in the second level of 51H1. A screen of three squads set up in the L6 and G7 rowhouses to deny the Partisans an easy approach.
Besides the 37L and the GSWs, I had the 150 INF in 51P1, the mortar in 51U2 (I could designate one factory as roofless), and the StuG IIIB in 78I9 looking down the road. I placed my HIPster allocation as halfsquads in an upper level of 51G2 (hoping to deny rout to anyone breaking in the F1/F2 mines) and in the upper level of of 51E1, packing a PSK to deal with any backdoor Sherman shenanigans.
Last but not least, an inflatable tank and some helmets on sticks occupied 51X9 and W9 respectively to deter any Frenchmen that got past the wire, while a pseudo kill stack sat in S7 looking down the road. I don’t expect much more from dummies than to give my opponent pause, and I felt these positions were good value and should eat up a few of Vic’s brain cycles before succumbing.
Overall I felt it was a strong D but over a third of my troops were conscripts; with an ELR of 2, that proportion would only rise with play. This one is all about space/time tradeoffs and my goal was to disrupt Vic’s timetable and never let him get back on schedule.
Vic’s opening shot saw a pair of MMGs break my HIP 37L crew – chillaxing in Provence obviously did not prepare these guys for action and they promptly topped themselves on their first rally attempt. Vic followed up with a flurry of relentless searching – my HIP potential and the possibility of a Set DC put a couple bees in his bonnet. My little DC ambush was unlikely to survive his paranoia but I didn’t mind the impact the searching had on his pace of advance.
Vic rapidly overran my pickets but was understandably cautious when approaching my dummies – it took him a couple turns to engage the U2 factory by which time the Set DC had indeed been discovered. A Sherman found the hulldown 51X1 position irresistible but sadly failed to trigger my mines. However, the 150 INF knocked it out with an HE round, after dispatching the armor leader-directed Sherman the previous player turn. After three turns the U2 factory fell, but a squad with an ATR persevered in 51S2/L2 for a bit longer, cramping Vic’s style by threatening the flank of any halftracks scooting down the near side of the ridge. This was important because Vic continued to keep the bulk of his HTs and passengers out of play through the first third of the game.
Besides his MMGs, Vic had a 9-2 directing a pair of HMGs from a Level 2 building location. Together they tormented my board 78 ridge defenders, ultimately stunning the 78W5 GSW and breaking the 7-0 and his squad. This opened up the southern board 78 road for exploitation and he launched a wave of halftracks with some Stuart and Sherman support, heading for my rear area. With my main anti-armor position suppressed or outmaneuvered, my StuG broke cover and relocated to 78A5 to meet the anticipated onslaught spilling off the west end of the ridge. Up to this point I was comfortable with the French rate of advance but suddenly Vic had an opportunity to break things open.
Vic dedicated his surviving Shermans to eliminating my GSWs; the 78W5 GSW was still buttoned up from the stun, and its partner in 78W4 couldn’t cover the south side of the ridge, effectively leaving me vulnerable to the point of helplessness. However, his M4s whiffed on their bounding fire shots, forcing him to bring over a Stuart from town in an attempt to kill my buttoned-up TD. However, the Stuart’s long approach allowed me to make an automatic motion attempt and re-orient the TD toward an escape route. The Stuart also missed, and on my next player turn both GSWs scooted away, ultimately into positions guarding the end of the ridge and the back side of the 51C2 factory. Had Vic even killed just one of them, the endgame might have been a different story.
After overwhelming the 51O2 factory, Vic’s infantry found themselves struggling to clear the L4 rowhouse area. With the final factory in the distance, he hoped to bring some pressure from the rear. A Sherman came down off the ridge to challenge a GSW – despite Intensive Fire by both sides, both vehicles remained intact, but I had the first crack in the upcoming player turn. Vic wasn’t done yet, however, and raced a CE Stuart through a hail of small arms fire to finish the job. Vic now had at least a hope of winning the armor battle as a prelude to his final assault. On my player turn, however, I rolled snake-eyes on an 8-1-directed shot against the CE Sherman, already under the effect of a light stun. The second stun sent it home. I had my surviving GSW covering the rear of the factory (supported by the still-hidden PSK team) and the StuG sat hulldown in 51B3 covering the front. With five and a half squads in or adjacent to the building, a further two in the buildings just beyond, Vic felt even the prospect of victory was out of reach. We played a further half turn without any French progress, and Vic called it a day.
The fortune was pretty even but a couple units seemed to get the best of it in nearly every encounter. My INF gun accounted for two tanks and killed a squad outright, and attracted a host of French resources to assure its demise. The ATR squad in 51S2 claimed a laden halftrack and proved hard to kill, slowing Vic’s advance. Both proved instrumental in delaying the assault on the final factory until it was too late for the French.
If I were to play this again I would pull my AT assets way back, with trenches, the mortar, and the GSWs maybe in 78N6 and M7. Someone suggested triple-fortifying 51H1 to put the 37L at Level 2, commanding the ridge to keep the halftracks at bay. I like that idea, though that’s a huge commitment in resources. Also, Vic pointed out 51S10 isn’t bypassable on the board edge, making R9/S9 a great spot for a roadblock, particularly with our game’s rubble in Q8 and R8.
As the French, I would do everything I could to get infantry to the far end of board 78 ASAP – I think you need to be attacking the 51U2 factory by turn five at the latest, regardless of the action elsewhere. As factories the objectives are easier to take than regular multihex buildings, but they’re still big with plenty of supporting positions, and each one is essentially a scenario unto itself. I’ll add that the CVP cap shouldn’t affect your decisions – it’s so high that if you hit it you were losing anyway. The sacrifice of a noble halftrack or Stuart may be a cheap price for an overwhelming rush down the ridge.
Vic played a solid game but I think I won this scenario in the side selection phase. The Free French are powerful, with ample mobility, firepower, leadership, and support weapons, but the combination of terrain and time pressure is just too much to overcome. With the bidding system used at Albany, I think I’d go as high as three or four to play the Germans – this would probably mean losing a wire counter and a squad. That would get it closer to square, but even that might not be enough. I love the situation, with a second-line formation with cast-off weapons facing a well-equipped juggernaut; building an elaborate defense was fun. However, if you take this one for a spin, be sure to give the French a little help so both sides can enjoy the action.
- [+] Dice rolls
(Last up, I paired with Joe for a friendly game that turned out to be for fourth place overall!)
DTF 12 Not One Step Back
In the Don Bend, my Soviets are counterattacking across board v into the board 3 village in July of ’42. I have a KV-1, three T-34/M41s, and three T-60/M42s entering on turn one, followed by six 527s and sixteen(!) 447s on turn two. Joe is defending with eleven 467s forward, backed by a 37L ATG and a 75 (not 75L) ATG, a converted war-booty artillery piece. On turn three of eight, Joe gets three more 467s and a Marder commanded by a 9-2 armor leader. My mission is to control four of the six multi-hex buildings, one of which is a factory by SSR. This being a DFT scenario, we each get to buy our support weapons, so I don’t know exactly what I’ll be facing in that regard. Also, by SSR early-war doctrine is in effect, so I must move all my infantry before any AFVs, reducing the potential impact of VBM freeze sleaze.
Joe’s setup didn’t give me many clues – his infantry was restricted to a narrow band of board v, though his ordnance had more options. I decided to go hard left, using my armor to break or park on top of the infantry I could see, and following up with the bulk of my force. I spent six precious purchase points on an HMG, which I planned to deploy on the overlay-hill in the center of board v. That would be supported by a full platoon, giving Joe some pressure in the middle, while a single squad would sprint down the right flank until it found trouble. I hoped to break into town from the left, establishing a pair of T-34s on the 3W8 ridge before the Marder arrived. With luck the center of town would fall early and the battle would be for the 3M2 factory and the 3L4 building.
The push down the left went better than expected, as I rolled up the squad and two half squads defending that flank, along with their leader. A 247 had a brief and shining moment as a 248 before succumbing. In the center, I humped the HMG into vO5 where it proceeded to attract all sorts of attention the rest of the game. I’m not sure it fired more than one shot, as it eventually disappeared beneath a growing mound of bodies. Joe sent about half his force back into town in the center, with the balance defending the approach through vM7 and vicinity. Moving my radioless tanks in two-vehicle platoons, I indeed got two T-34s on top of the ridge before moving through town.
My mixed platoon of a T-34 and T-60 ended a turn in motion in 3U3 and 3U4. Joe’s 37L popped up in 3U2 and sanctioned both in quick succession – nice little recon by death! That 37L and its crew proceeded to be a major pain for the next couple turns.
After finally dealing with the 37L, I had some momentum and was pressing through town with my infantry. Joe’s Marder won a nice little duel with a ridge-top T-34 but I had a leg up elsewhere. The last Germans between me and my final assault was Joe’s MMG squad, which had just retreated from the 3R3 building to 3Q4. I hit it with a 24(0) shot – nothing. I followed with a 12(+1) and an 8(+1) – nothing and more nothing. No one else had a shot so I moved – Joe immediately laid a firelane down the Q hex row out to vQ7, stopping my movement on that flank. I placed a captured Candygram on the MMG squad, taking some comfort in the manner of its pending demise. In Joe’s Final Fire, he dealt an 8(+3) to a pair of 527s, ELRing both. In the ensuing AFPh, I rolled an eleven for the DC and the rest of my force failed to make a scratch. That single unit halted my attack in its tracks, reducing my advance to all of one hex. Oh, to add insult to injury, my Commissar proceeded to methodically shoot his way through the former 527s before rejoining the attack.
Once I was past the MMG from Hell, I fought my way into the 3L4 building while the KV and my remaining T-60s took positions along 3P3-3N4. The Marder challenged them but fell to the KV. Joe stepped out of the K4 building, yielding it to me in the face of a ton of firepower, but now had to take it back. Meanwhile, the vL9 building was empty. I managed to get a couple squads into L9 along with the Commissar. Now Joe had to retake two buildings, but he managed to get a full platoon into each. However, though he could reach all my troops in the 3L4 building, I was able to shield an upstairs squad in vL9. Joe had to eliminate it outright with Advancing Fire, and came up short.
On the Soviet side, it was a joint effort, with no single unit dominating, truly a triumph of the proletariat. I have a bone to pick with my blood-spattered Commissar, but he was just doing his job. Joe, however, had multiple candidates – the 37L crew, the MMG team, and the 9-2 armor leader all had great games. Joe blew the sD on the Marder after rolling into LOS. Given my buttoned-up status and red numbers (we were dueling at 17 hexes), his 9-2-directed OT vehicle actually had an edge despite the smoke. It was a cool move that paid off handsomely.
With 22 squads and an expendable 6+1, I should’ve set up a Human Wave. I Banzai all the time with the Japanese but a Soviet Human Wave is usually a bad idea. Here, however, I had the terrain and unit concentration to make it feasible.
We both felt this is pro-Soviet, at least on the first playing. Joe played very well and had some good dice, but still was behind the curve down the stretch. The German has too many things to figure out and the time/space tradeoffs aren’t immediately obvious. Having played it once, I think Joe and I could do a solid job with the defense. I believe both guns need to be closer to the endgame action (the 37L was fine, but his 75 was forward on his left flank) and some more infantry earmarked for falling back immediately. Still, it’s an interesting card and worthy of further play. Despite its size it plays at a good clip – we might see it again in Albany.
(Good game, with good company, and a nice wrap to my return to ASLOK - 4-1 and fourth place in the GROFAZ)
- [+] Dice rolls