Fun City Gaming

This is a weekly report of our Tuesday night gaming sessions in Chelsea (Manhattan).

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AAR 29 August 2017 - Command & Colors Tricorne, Handful of Stars, Terraforming Mars, Silver Bayonet

J. R. Tracy
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We closed August with eleven players for wargaming, a recurring favorite, and a new title.

Mark and Baron von Schulte matched up for the new edition of Silver Bayonet. They tried the small LZ X-Ray scenario (Into the Valley), which includes the map of the playing area right on the scenario card.

Some day this war's gonna end

They played two games, switching sides. Mark commanded the Americans in the first game, bunkering down on the eponymous LZ to hold on for the win. Rich tried a different tack as the US, counterattacking against the PAVN HQ. He struck between the prongs of the flanking attackers, tying up the HQ and hamstringing NVA operations.

Hot LZ

Both players really enjoyed it (Mark had already played it twice earlier in the day!) and the presentation is terrific. The new edition includes four mini-scenarios, a few medium-sized cards, and some campaign scenarios that integrate rules for helicopters, hidden movement, and more. It's certainly worth a look if you have the original game. The range of size options assures we'll see this again soon.

Hitting the HQ

Renaud and Mitch popped the shrink on A Handful of Stars, Martin Wallace's latest. This is a deck-builder based on A Few Acres of Snow, with further refinements. Neither had played AFAoS, so there was a lot of learning in the early going. Starting setups are random, and neutral space is seeded with aliens of various strength, so it took some time for their two cultures to make contact. They did manage to knock heads a bit before the evening drew to a close with the outcome still in doubt. There's enough here to warrant further investigation - with several experienced AFAoS hands in the house we should be able to assemble a full table.

Starry night

Bill, Campoverdi, Scott, Smitch, and Dave opted for Terraforming Mars, with Dave taking the win without placing a single tile on the surface! Pets generated his biggest haul, with a whopping nine points thanks to a convoy full of chihuahuas and some good card synergies. His 61 points comfortably edged Campo's 54. Campo, however, was burdened with the +/- corporation, one of the weakest in my opinion, so I reckon he did well to finish as close as he did.

Mars needs guitars

Herr Fuchs and I paired up for the new Commands & Colors Tricorne: The American Revolution, which takes Richard Borg's system to the War of Independence. Sadly I was unable to hornswoggle someone into stickering my blocks, so I had to perform the tedious task myself. No major accidents for a change, but a few German regulars apparently have English tailors.

Hammering the Scots

The chassis remains familiar to fans of the Commands & Colors series, but Tricorne adds the combat cards first seen in The Great War. These supplement your attacks, boost movement, allow recovery of casualties, and so on. Also, retreating units must now make a rally check, failure of which removes the unit entirely. Combat is therefore more lethal, reflecting the fragility of the irregular formations.

Don't tread on me!

Since we were just a couple days removed from the anniversary, we chose two scenarios representing the 1776 Battle of Long Island. We first fought Grant's Attack, a pinning action that held Washington's main force in place while the British flanking movement developed. David had the oppressors to my patriots. In addition to banners for casualties, some geographic objectives were in play, including the 'Correlyou' House (should be Cortelyou) in the center and Battle Hill on the British right (worth two banners to David, one to me). David also got a banner for capturing the road exit hex on the American board edge.

Timely play

David attacked on both flanks, quickly getting atop Battle Hill on my left but running into a buzzsaw on my right. Defending with just a militia unit and some provincials, I saw off the first attack, with a full unit of Redcoats running back to Staten Island upon failing their rally check after a retreat.

I peppered Battle Hill with rifle and artillery fire while my provincials on that flank massed for a counterattack. We traded casualties but I had the fire support that David lacked, and his regulars slowly melted away. On my right, my militia proved stalwart, eliminating a second unit of regulars in melee. We were both a couple banners from victory, but David's force on Battle Hill was in bad shape, with a couple units down to a block apiece. A final push by my provincials, supported by a rifle unit, eliminated two more units and carried the upstarts to victory.

Between a rock and a hard place

The second scenario covered Clinton's flank march. In the first scenario the British were almost entirely regulars, with a sole Highlander unit and some artillery for variety. For the flanking action, however, they enjoyed light troops, grenadiers, some Guards, more Highlanders, light cavalry, and a balanced batch of Hessians with lights, grenadiers, artillery, and regulars of their own. The Americans had another patchwork collection of provincials, riflemen, and militia, with no regulars to be seen. This time I took the British to David's Continentals.

No sleep till Brooklyn

The action opens with some British regulars and the Hessians facing the front of the American position, while the flanking force encroaches behind their left flank. The Americans enjoy good defensive terrain but have a terrible position overall. A couple Line Command cards granted me massive activations to open the game, and soon the defenders were under pressure from front and rear. My flanking force had a modified retreat route, allowing them to fall back obliquely, but the defenders had no such adjustment, and "retreated" right onto the bayonets of Clinton's troops. David's commander on his left was the sole survivor, cutting his way through a unit of Guards to freedom.

David fought gamely, battering my Hessians, but my German grenadiers proved their worth and closed to punish the defending riflemen. A full unit of British cavalry fled the battle, but otherwise I had all the good fortune. Compromised retreat paths sealed the Americans' fate, and well timed combat cards and line commands sped the process. David's left wing commander was the sole survivor on that flank, cutting his way through a unit of Guards to freedom. This scenario begs to be played twice. We learned a lot the first time through, and feel the Americans have to extricate themselves from the jaws of the trap before considering offensive action.

The great escape

We had a great time with Tricorne. I'm not fond of Commands & Colors: Napoleonics so I was not very optimistic going in, but between the rally test and the combat cards, this has a very fresh feel. Both add some thematic color and seem to encourage offensive action. The rally test adds an extra dollop of chaos - we both saw full units depart the field, David whiffing on a six-dice roll at one point. Our only concern is finding scenario-worthy situations. I expect we'll see the French and Indians added in a future expansion, and given the loose scaling of the series I'm sure they'll be able to scrape up enough actions to fill another expansion or two. Overall, a very satisfying night of gaming, with more to follow.
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Thu Sep 14, 2017 5:07 pm
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AAR 22 August 2017 - Angola!, Terraforming Mars, 1914: Serbien Muß Sterbien, Blood Rage

J. R. Tracy
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We packed in fourteen gamers for terraforming, WWI, blood raging, and war by proxy.

Hawkeye, Mike, Mark, Mitch, and Bill headed off to terraform Mars once again. The table foolishly allowed Mitch to run the Eco corporation, and the Jolly Green Giant predictably stomped his way to another victory. It was a very competitive game, with Mitch coming in at 58 and Hawkeye taking second with 53, while fifth and last checked in at 49.

Bumper to bumper across the finish line

Renaud chaired another session of Blood Rage with Scott and Dr. Rob. Rob had a sweet setup allowing him to pillage already pillaged spaces, and scored a bundle sinking his own ships as well. However, Renaud once again mounted a ferocious charge in the third age, collecting a whopping 100 points! Impressive, but not enough to pass our resident theologian, who was able to hang on for the win.

Ragers

Stéphane and Smitch continued with Serbien Muß Sterbien. The frequency and force of the Austro-Hungarian hammer blows have diminished, but Stéphane continues to push the Serbs back. It is now a question of supply management as Stéphane rearranges his supply heads for a strong push before Smitch can establish a cohesive defense. This is a handsome game, and despite its reputation for complexity they seem to be humming along without many issues.

Holding the Sava line

Natus, Campoverdi, Jim, and I set off for central Africa with Angola. Natus and Jim paired up with the FNLA and UNITA respectively, while my MPLA partnered with Campo's FAPLA. We worked hard for a socialist future, winning the first three turns, but in the process blue and green picked up a fistful of major units. We also screwed up a couple foreign aid bids, handing back a couple victory points for little gain.

Run through the jungle

In the midgame Jim and Nate began to roll, helped by the mercenaries and elite armor support. Jim secured Nova Lisboa and recaptured Benguela, while Natus launched a counteroffensive against Campo's early gains along the north coast. We held the east and the center, but struggled against the main enemy columns which always had an edge in die roll mods.

Work to do

Things went pear-shaped with the fall of Cabinda - that in itself was no surprise, but it came a little early and the extra green units fueled an FNLA drive down the Carmona-Lucala road. Campo was facing pressure from UNITA in the south, so I gambled and launched an attack north from Luanda. I was confident I'd do some serious damage with heavy air support and a spearhead of three tank units and a pair of armored cars. Unfortunately, a firestorm of antitank missiles utterly annihilated my armor and I suddenly wondered if I could even hold the capital. We surrendered three or four heads and ended turn seven down three VPs. Sadly we had to call it at that point, reckoning it a likely FNLA/UNITA victory.

Tag-teaming Nova Lisboa

Angola is always a hoot and this was no different. Afterward Campo thought we needed to gang up on one of the two western factions in the early going. We did pound Nate initially but let up after a turn and spread the love. In retrospect I think Campo's right. Now that we have some experience, we should be able to finish next time out. There's no telling how the endgame may play out given foreign aid, major units, and all the crazy games you can play when constructing your turn. I hope we can put our lessons to good use some time soon!

Shattered remnants
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Mon Sep 11, 2017 6:33 pm
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AAR 15 August 2017 - 1914: Serbien Muß Sterbien, Blood Rage, Fate of the Elder Gods, Up Front, Roll for the Galaxy

J. R. Tracy
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We had twelve gamers for World Wars I and II, some mythology, and dice-driven engine-building.

Smitch and Stéphane have enjoyed a few sessions with Der Weltkrieg Series but opted for a different take on the Great War this week. They headed for the Balkans with Michael Resch's 1914: Serbien muß Sterbien. Smitch took the Serbs to Stéphane's vengeful Austro-Hungarians.

Some damned foolish thing

Stéphane has the firepower and the troop strength, but the Serbs enjoy excellent defensive terrain. The border regions proved difficult to penetrate, and after two turns of action Stéphane has only a single VP town to his credit. However, he's applying pressure all along the line, and at this point his supply situation is proving as difficult an adversary as the Serbs. This will take a few sessions to complete so we'll see more of this in weeks to come.

Punitive expedition

Scott and Hawkeye paired off for Up Front, with Hawkeye's British on the attack against Scott's French. They decided to boost the French chances a bit by making them elite, improving their hand flexibility. They played The Infantry's Iron Fist, with Hawkeye's "iron" fist consisting of a more tin-like Universal Carrier. He gamely assaulted Scott's Legionnaires, dug in on a hilltop. The fire support from the Carrier wasn't enough to disrupt Scott's firegroups, so Hawkeye's Tommies struggled to close the distance. The third deck expired with the British still short of their goal, for a French victory.

Once and future friends

Campoverdi, Dr. Rob, Mitch, and Jim tried the new Fate of the Elder Robs, with each player leading the mortal cultists of a particular Great Old One or Outer God. Campo favored Azathoth, Dr. Rob represented Atlach-Nacha, Mitch worshipped Yog-Sothoth, and Jim pressed the concerns of Nyarlathotep in a professional, business-like manner. Gameplay appears to have elements of worker placement and area majority as players compete to be the first to summon their deity to Earth. Campo triumphed when his blind idiot god appeared as a harbinger of better days to come.

Cultivating cultists

Our Blood Rage mania continued, with Renaud, Bill, the Baron, and myself competing. I got off to a fast start, pumping my Rage up three clicks on the first turn. However, crafty card play eroded my advantage as I seemed to leak rage points with every combat.

Renaud reaches for rage

We combined for an impressive menagerie as the game wore on - the Baron had the sea serpent and the floss giant, Renaud had the mystic troll, Bill collected the dark elf, and I recruited Fenrir. However, I made a couple bone-headed mistakes that cost me quests, as I misread region names or failed to notice a gigantic sea snake just offshore. Boardplay aside, I still advanced all three of my stats, which provided the bulk of my glory points. Renaud put us away decisively in the third age with his patented endgame atomic leg drop. He finished with a total of 136 points, and in the battle for second place Bill and I tied at 108, with the Baron just behind at 104. Great game, but I need to play it again soon while the gambits remain fresh in my mind.

Loki draws a crowd

Hawkeye, Bill, Scott, and I wrapped up the evening with Roll for the Galaxy. I built a lovely novelty-good engine, with three planets cranking out vuvuzelas and fidget spinners and shipping them to market. However, Scott had a good development/settlement engine of his own, so we had a great race to the finish line. Unfortunately I needed one more crank of the handle, and my pile of VP chits couldn't overcome Scott's impressive collection of tiles, as he edged me 39-34.
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Wed Sep 6, 2017 2:50 pm
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AAR 1 August 2017 - Pax Renaissance, Pericles, Blood Rage, Field of Glory

J. R. Tracy
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(Due to an anomaly in the space-time continuum and my inability to read a calendar, I inadvertently published the 8 August report before this one)

We opened August with eleven gamers, for Nordic adventures, the Great Game, ancient politics, and the clash of shields.

Renaud, Smitch, and Mitch rolled out Blood Rage, using the expansion gods and monsters. Thor and Heimdall joined the fun, providing game-altering tweaks to whatever areas they occupied. I believe Renaud and Mitch split the games. This was Renaud's first time trying the game, and he came away a convert.

Tribal conflict

Herr Dockter was in town looking to kill Hitler but we persuaded him to join Scott and myself in Pax Renaissance. Dr. Rob signaled from his palanquin that he would deign to join as well. I've never played but have observed a couple games, which for an Eklund game is the same as saying I've never been to the moon but I've seen it from earth. Rob has played, however, and Scott proved an able teacher.

Merchant princes

I had several concessions in place early on, and soon had a pile of cash in front of me. I made good use of the trade routes while I could before the bastards other players diverted the action around my way stations. My entire tableau was in the east, and as the basic concepts started to gel I figured my best shot was engineering an Islamic holy victory. Unfortunately, Scott was eyeing the same goal and we canceled each other out in our efforts to control the Mamluk region. Meanwhile, DD was stealthily accumulating Law prestige and flipped a card to Republic to capture a Renaissance victory!

Trade fair!

I'm glad I finally got to try this - I really enjoy Pax Porfiriana and Pax Pamir, and find this somewhere between the two in terms of complexity. It was still a bewildering experience at first, but the map construct helped provide a framework and grounded the concepts as Scott helped us along. Kudos to David for a nice win, and also to Dr. Rob who revealed this was not his favorite game by a long shot, but played with enthusiasm nonetheless.

Eastern promises

Mark enjoyed the fruits of his labors with a game of Pericles, joined by Baron von Schulte, Jim, and Bill. Rich and Bill teamed up in Athens as the Aristocats and Demagogues respectively, while Agiad Jim and Eurypontid Mark opposed them in Sparta. They opted for the Archidamian War scenario.

Debating the issues

On turn one, Athens aimed for Sicily while Sparta pursued Amphipolis. Jim dominated the Spartan political arena but Mark hatched a sound plan to control Amphipolis. Unfortunately, he added a play for Chalcidice at the last moment which cost Sparta Amphipolis. Athens succeeded in their Sicilian campaign, putting Sparta in the hole going into the second turn.

History rewritten

Spartan misfortune left them with a limited Strategos supply, and the Aristophanes card reduced them further. Athens was also limited by Aristophanes, but had enough of an edge to cement her gains. With the outcome of the war decided, it was just a matter of which Athenian faction would triumph. Bill and Rich were tied going into the final issue resolution, which Rich used to conduct a successful raid. He picked up three honor for a win, and the coveted Spartan 300 meeple.

The Baron collects his prize

Scott, Bill, and I rounded out the evening with a couple sessions of Field of Glory: The Card Game. This is a card game of tactical ancient combat. Each player builds their deck from identical source decks of 48 cards, drawing four at a time and keeping two until you have 24. Cards represent units but also have a value for deploying formations, which may also be used to augment combat power. The 'board' consists of five cards; most are clear, but occasionally woods or hills appear which are placed on the flanks. Players deploy units to the table and conduct attacks. Combat compares opposing unit strengths, plus the bonus value of a single card from either your hand or off the top of the deck. Play continues until someone controls three of the five terrain cards at the beginning of their turn.

Loving his options

Scott and I paired off first. He had a host of light units and quickly swarmed the board, controlling three cards by the end of his second or third turn. However, my heavy infantry and elephants slowly turned the tide, ultimately recovering the lost cards and winning with a terrain victory. Bill then stepped in, and a succession of flank attacks and overlap cards allowed me to smash his center for a second win.

Bonus

I think this is a pretty nifty little battle game. I enjoy the deckbuilding aspect which isn't entirely in your control - you must adapt to the vagaries of the draw both as you build and as you play. My one complaint is the symmetry - I'd be interested to see a version with distinct opponents. As it stands, however, it's a tidy, playable package.
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Tue Sep 5, 2017 4:37 pm
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AAR 8 August 2017 - Advanced Squad Leader, Blood Rage, Churchill

J. R. Tracy
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We had a group of eight as the dog days of August settled in, for ASL, Nordic bloodletting, and the defeat (or appeasement) of tyranny.

Renaud, Smitch, and Bill returned to Blood Rage, again summoning the gods to do their bidding.

Pillaging Asgard

They played two very tight games, with Renaud taking the first by a single point and crafty Smitch riding a Loki/Fenrir combo to victory in the second, despite Renaud's whopping 80 point third age. They did make one rules error discovered after the fact, leaving gods in place instead of moving them after their region is pillaged. Not a gamebreaker, but played properly it should make the gods more interesting and dynamic.

Odin holds court

Jim, Campoverdi, and Dr. Rob lined up for Churchill, with Campo as Winston, Jim as Joe, and Rob as Franklin. Loki was not involved at this in the table but mischief was in the air nonetheless.

Shaping the postwar world

Campo drove hard up the boot of Italy but showed less interest in the campaign for France. Rob was in Japan-first mode, so without help from the Wallies, Jim was unable to take Berlin. The game ended with Germany still in the war, with the "win", such as it was, going to Halifax, errr, Campoverdi. Jim did score extra VPs for bringing a bottle of custom hooch back from the hollers of Kentucky.

Maybe not a thousand years, but more than eleven

Last up, Hawkeye and I paired up for Advanced Squad Leader. We were in the mood for something from the 1940 battle for France, so we picked The Wisps Come and Go, from Le Franc Tireur. It is set on 4 June with the Allies attempting to retake Abbeville; the scenario itself covers the fight around a farm on the outskirts of town.

Barely street legal

I had the defending Germans, with six squads, three leaders, and several machineguns defending the board 43 Koresh Compound. Hawkeye had a mixed force, with a half dozen squads of battered Seaforth Highlanders starting on the map, joined by six squads of elite chasseurs arriving in style aboard Lorraine 38Ls. The 38L was an improvised APC with limited passenger capacity, augmented by a tiny four-man armored trailer! Both groups had decent leadership and a handful of machineguns. He also received a midgame reinforcement of a single H39 crewed by enthusiastic infantrymen. To win, Hawkeye had to empty the compound of good order Germans.

Teamwork makes the dream work

I set up my MMG with a leader in a foxhole in L10 to guard that flank from the British, and the heavy upstairs with another leader in O7 to greet the French. A halfsquad sat in another foxhole in K10 to slow any flanking move, and I placed my third foxhole in M10 to cover my retreat to the compound. The rest of my infantry was at ground level covering the perimeter of the compound itself.

Hawkeye's British started in the large grainfield and his French entered from the east. He opened with one platoon of Highlanders working toward the flank while the rest crept through the grain. The chasseurs entered in two groups, with three 38Ls dropping their charges in P2, and two at the end of the hedge around L5. The sixth supported the British on a wide flanking move through the grain.

Rare counter sighting

My brave little halfsquad held up long enough for half my force to meet the flankers, while the HMG hammered the Seaforths in the grain. With the Tommies staggered, the dismounted chasseurs made their own attack. A squad from the O2 group met tragedy attempting to reach the compound wall, so the balance moved through the brush to join their brothers near the hedge. They fared somewhat better, merely breaking back to the refuge of the woods. The French struggled to push forward from the brush but they at least picked up a couple heroes for their trouble.

Bemused by his predicament

With the bulk of the French reforming, Hawkeye's hopes rested on his flanking force in the K10 woods. The Highlanders were thrown back but the supporting chasseurs traded shots with my MMG squad, breaking the leader. Another German squad fell, opening a brief window of opportunity. Sadly for the Allied cause, my remaining squads returned fire and shattered the French as well. By this time the Hotchkiss had arrived on the scene, parking behind the compound to disrupt rout paths. Unfortunately, lack of infantry support left it vulnerable to counterattack. With his infantry largely broken and his tank about to succumb, Hawkeye called it a day and headed for the coast for a ride across the Channel.

Pour la France!

I think this is a tricky scenario for the attacker. The Allies outnumber the Germans 2:1, but the Highlanders have an ELR of 2 and quickly melt down to second liners, and the French approach is hazardous. I think their best bet is a coordinated assault that brings all their strength to bear simultaneously, perhaps by leaving the French mounted on turn one and dropping everyone at the wall on the second turn as the British move in as well. The armor arrives in time to make routing difficult for the Germans in the endgame - given captured use penalties and anemic armament, it's more effective in the Rout Phase than firing. Overall I think the card is worth a look, suitable for a weeknight or a Saturday afternoon if you're itching for some Fall Gelb action.
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Wed Aug 30, 2017 10:53 pm
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AAR 18 July 2017 - Techno Bowl, Terraforming Mars, Churchill, Carbine, The Big Push

J. R. Tracy
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We had twelve players for still more playtesting, WWII power politics, terraforming, and football.

Jim joined Natus and Bill for Churchill, with Jim taking FDR, Natus Winston, and Bill Uncle Joe.

Yalta

Nate dominated the first two conferences, while Bill took the third. On the military front, Jim drove hard across the Central Pacific, letting Nate handle the Germans. Bill closed on Berlin and while the Wallies closed from the West, but Berlin held out with everyone just a space away. Japan, however, succumbed. Nate's jowly resolve paid off with a victory for Empire and Commonwealth, 39 points to Jim and Bill at 34 apiece.

FDR makes a point

Scott returned to Techno Bowl, introducing Dutch to the game. Scott took the !Eagles while Dutch ran the !Redskins. They did not get through a full game but Dutch enjoyed a taste. He compared it favorably to Blood Bowl, which has yet to make an appearance at one of our sessions. We'll have to address that soon.

Setting the play

Renaud and Herr Fuchs graciously traded off trying each other's recent card-based projects.

Into the Badlands

First up they tried David's Carbine, on the Indian Wars of the 19th century American West. The look is reminiscent of Ben Hull's Fields of Fire, with cards representing terrain across which units maneuver in counter form. It is all very tactical in look and feel, and I loved the openness of the terrain and sense of movement.

No place to hide

They then played Renaud's The Big Push. The subject is the Western Front in WWI, covering the entire front from 1915 to 1918. Each side competes for air superiority and commensurate reconaissance advantages, builds up troop and logistic reserves, and tries to nudge the trenchlines forward.

Mud and blood

This looks pretty nifty, just five turns to cover the entire affair but with a lot of back and forth within those turns. This is already in print, in fact - you can obtain it via TheGameCrafter.

Gas!

Mitch, Eliot, Aaron, Hawkeye, and myself gathered for Terraforming Mars. Aaron was new to the game but everyone else was an experienced hand.

The Mayor of Mars

Mitch drew the eco corporation and single-mindedly pursued shrubbery. Son Eliot did not do much to develop the board or bump the terraforming factors, instead working toward off-map goals. I was the thermal king, pumping the temperature, while Hawkeye had a city and card strategy, settling Mars and scooping up the occasional random VP. Finally, Aaron ran a balanced tableau, fleshing out some card synergies and placing the occasional tile.

Managing the workflow

This proved to be a Stein family feud, with Dad's terraforming translating into additional income to further fuel his machine. Son Eliot tried to be more stealthy but his growing mass of VP cards was hard to conceal. Mitch, however, was able to seize two Milestones and an Award, enough to top both the clan and the table. Eliot took second and Aaron edged into third. Good fun, and a great welcome for our newest occasional member, Aaron.

Mission accomplished
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Tue Aug 29, 2017 2:21 pm
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AAR 11 July 2017 - Techno Bowl, Fire in the Lake, Championship Formula Racing, Fort Sumter, Quantum

J. R. Tracy
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We had eleven players for space adventure, gridiron action, a land war in Asia, some racing, and a little play testing.

Natus, Smitch, Campoverdi, and Thomas played the short scenario of Fire in the Lake, with Nate taking the US, Smitch the ARVN, Campo the NVA, and Thomas the VC. The other players furiously flipped through the rulebook as Nate summoned B-52 strikes, lightning bolts, marching broomsticks, and a storm of frogs. Despite using the full power at his command (and beyond), Nate failed to stem the insurgency. The game was called before completion but consensus handed Thomas the win.

A friendly MACV advisor offers some tips

Scott and I finally hooked up for Techno Bowl: Arcade Football Unplugged as his !Jets faced off against my Arizona !Cards. He had a lockdown corner and I had a fleet receiver, but he also had a running back with the dreaded 'spin' ability, making him very hard to take down. I had a rough clue as to gameplay from watching Scott in action against Jim, but Scott ably explained the details and we were off and running.

Son of Sam

Scott scored first on what amounted to a tip-drill hook 'n ladder, with the secondary receiver gathering in a batted ball and taking it to the house. That darkened my mood briefly, not just from the bitter aftertaste of dice perfidy, but also from a fear this was a cartoon version of football. However, subsequent play put that fear to rest, as we both crafted deep, slow-developing plays alongside sudden sharp stabs into the line or out in the flats.

In the grasp

I was particularly proud of a short side sweep that worked perfectly - no TD but a good 20 yards picked up. An intricate bubble screen did go all the way, but for the wrong reason. I set up a devastating block with the hope of picking up the extra action I needed to execute the play. I failed to do so, but Scott was kind enough to blow his next die roll, giving me the free activation I needed anyway!

I had the ball and was driving for the winning score as the seconds ticked down. I used all my timeouts, which was a mistake - I did indeed score, but left enough time on the clock for Scott to run two plays. He got to midfield on the first, and used motion to disrupt my defense on the second, getting behind my secondary for a game-tying bomb. That's where it ended, in a very satisfying 21-21 tie.

Juking won't save you now

After my initial misgivings, I was impressed. There is a real football feel here, along with an element of deckbuilding and card play. The dice are a big factor, and we did ourselves no favors by being overactive on defense. Every time you roll you could be handing your opponent an opportunity. I think we both helped each other out inadvertently by trying to make plays on D that in retrospect had poor risk/reward prospects. Reducing contact on defense except when you have an advantage or are simply desperate will reduce the luck factor. We need to focus on pre-snap movement and downfield positioning instead - I doubt future games will all be such shoot-outs. Looking forward to getting this back on the table as the coming season approaches.

Airing it out

Bill, Renaud, and Stéphane set out to conquer space in Quantum. Ships are represented by dice, with the face indicating the type and relative power (1s are are Battlestations while 6s are Scouts). Players may also research upgrades to improve capabilities. Sadly I was so engrossed in 16 bit football action that I didn't see who won, but I am a big fan of the game and I think Renaud converted Bill and Stéphane as well.

Planetary defenses

They followed with Championship Formula Racing, again racing on the Monza track. I believe Renaud finally captured a checkered flag.

Men of la Monza

Last up, Mark and Hawkeye continued to tweak Fort Sumter, as Mark gets it ready for some semi-blind testing at DonCon. The crisis component has been reworked, retaining the timing element but removing the absolute brinksmanship of the original design.

I'm sure this will just blow over
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Mon Aug 28, 2017 3:23 pm
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AAR 22-30 July 2017 - Combat Commander, Storm Over Jerusalem, Enemy Action: Kharkov, Successors, and many more

J. R. Tracy
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My DonCon 2017 WBC wrapup is posted here, in glorious Technicolor. With that out of the way the weekly reports should resume shortly.

(photo courtesy of Jeromey Martin)
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Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:35 pm
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AAR 27 June 2017 - Time of Crisis, MBT, Codenames: Pictures

J. R. Tracy
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In late June we had a smaller summer crowd including some welcome guests from North Carolina.

Smitch and Baron von Schulte broke out the GMT edition of MBT, going with the intro scenario, First Clash Part 1: Czech Western Border. The Baron had a reinforced company of 15 M60A3s against Smitch's baker's dozen of T72s in a meeting engagement. With the basic rules is strictly a hardware fest, so the Americans need some numbers to make up for the absence of soft factors like training and command and control.

Somewhere along the Iron Curtain

Smitch used his superior speed to gain the mid-map VP locations, and began trading shots with Rich's M60s. Both sides melted away at about an equal rate, but Smitch held the field despite mounting losses. Rich came out ahead in the exchange of fire but the territorial VPs were enough to yield a Soviet victory. They enjoyed it but feel it likely improves significantly with the addition of the advanced rules.

Flanking fire

Hawkeye, Mark, Scott, and I took another run at Time of Crisis. I focused on the northwest corner of the map, starting in Gallia before expanding to Britannia. Unfortunately a rebel emperor appeared in Gallia and it was a couple turns before I could build up the strength necessary to dispose of him. By this time Mark was lounging atop the Palatine demanding another serving of peeled grapes.

Pretenders pretending

Mark's power base in the east was eroded by Hawkeye and Scott, so I took advantage of his reduced support and grabbed Italia for myself. I hung on for several turns, stretching a Legacy lead I originally built with the corpses of dead barbarians. I was still on the throne when I passed 50 points, declaring myself victor while conveniently forgetting the threshold is actually 60.

A soon to be posthumous Postumus

Though I wear a wreath of asterisks, we still had a lot of fun with this - Hawkeye said he enjoyed it much more than our playtest last summer. The small changes enhance the pace of play, and the presentation is clear with only a couple questions popping up during the game. Looking forward to playing it again, using the correct victory conditions - 50 makes for a nice quick game, but 60 allows the various deck engines to hit their stride for a competitive endgame.

Legacy for the taking

As we were wrapping ToC, Scott and Crystal Blanton arrived along with a friend, Traci Rhinebarger. We ended the evening with a best-of-three match of Codenames: Pictures, Tarheels vs Yankees. I was the clue-giver for our first win, but handed the second game to the Carolina crew by picking the Assassin. However, Mark led us to victory in the third and final game. I think I like this version better than the original, and Phil Palmer suggests mixing the two for an even better game! Fun nightcap with old friends.

There's a lot riding on this
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Wed Aug 2, 2017 5:06 pm
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AAR 20 June 2017 - Bitskrieg, Fort Sumter, Techno Bowl, Championship Formula Racing, Star Wars: Rebellion

J. R. Tracy
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We approached the Solstice with thirteen players eager for playtesting, racing, rebelling, and gridiron.

Mark brought around a fresh iteration of Fort Sumter: The Secession Crisis, 1860-61 and several of us tried it in succession (secession?). Mark and Dockter paired off, as did Natus and I. I'm not sure who won the Mark/Dockter matches but Nate won our game pulling away because I struggled to meet my own objectives while he nailed all of his. That left him well positioned to dominate the endgame to seal the win.

Nothing secedes like secesh

Mark changed things quite a bit from my last try but I think it is all for the better. The fundamental elements remain, with three domains of political influence in play, each with three power centers. However, the endgame is completely revised, suppressing the earlier gaminess, and the crisis element now feels more organic. I'm enjoying how the game evolves, as Mark explores several approaches to find a good balance of playability and thematic relevance.

Butternut Nate

In more playtest action, Scott and I tried his homebrew Bitskrieg - The Tiny Tank Battle Game. As the title implies, this is a tactical armor combat game. Scott has been developing Bitskrieg with his son Miles, using a standard chessboard with orthogonal movement. Each player places a bit of blocking terrain and a pair of objectives, and then deploys his force of light, medium, and heavy tanks, alongside a tank destroyer or two.

Sneaking up the right

AFVs are rated for speed, armor, and firepower. Players take turns moving or firing a single vehicle. To hit, you must roll greater than the range in squares. Once a hit is tallied, you roll a number of dice equal to your firepower, and if you exceed the armor value of the target, it's a kill. After an AFV is activated, it is flipped over until you burn a turn refreshing all your vehicles to their available side.

Celebrated designer

The rules are dead simple but the gameplay has surprising depth. Each class of AFV has its own strengths and weaknesses (TDs are well armed but may only fire straight ahead, for instance) and the move/shoot/refresh decision process generates several dilemmas over the course of a game. We played two quick games while Scott waited for Jim to arrive. I squeaked out a pair of narrow wins, once by refreshing early with only half my force spent, getting the jump on Scott's tanks before they could support one another.

Looking for a soft spot

I had a blast with this. It's very light but generates slam-bang armored combat with some difficult choices. You win by eliminating the enemy force or by seizing objectives, stretching the decision space a bit. Force construction and terrain deployment options should yield good replayability. Hollandspiele picked up Bitskrieg for publication, so you will soon have a chance to check it out for yourselves.

Perfect shot!

Renaud brought Championship Formula Racing, an open-wheel racing game that updates the venerable classic, Speed Circuit. Players customize their cars by spending build points on starting speed, acceleration, deceleration, wear, and top speed. You also pick a skill level, which grants favorable die roll modifiers in precarious situations. Turn spaces are rated for their safe maximum top speed, but if you enter a little hot, you can brake, expend some wear points, or chance a die roll (perhaps spending a skill point to improve your roll). Cars interact through drafting and forced passing, which can result in trading paint or even a spinout.

Scenic Silverstone

Renaud and Stéphane lined up with Renaud for the first race, on the Silverstone track. Stéphane took the checkered flag when the leader spun out with an aggressive entry on the final turn. After wrapping up Bitskrieg I replaced the departing victor and joined Bill and Renaud for another run at Silverstone. I did a terrible job managing my resources, finishing last with several wear points in hand and a skill modifier unspent. Bill claimed the win, and we moved on to the Nürburgring. I put my lessons from the first game to good use and led from pole to that part of the track that comes right before the pole. Bill and Renaud had superior acceleration and top speed, so I pressed on the last two turns, spinning out in each. The first cost me most of my lead, and the second cost me the win when Bill flashed past as we approached the finish.

Downshifting

I very much enjoyed CFR, from the initial car-building through the planning for the final turn. I like how various decisions propagate through the course of the race - "If I take this turn a little fast, I can seize the sweet spot into the next turn, and enter the following straightaway positioned to hit my max speed". The element of chance looms but does not dominate - planning and player interaction have greater impact. I can't compare it to Speed Circuit but I found it on a par with Race! Formula 90 - a little simpler but a bit faster to play, too. I much prefer it to Formula Dé. I would like to try a multi-lap race to see how pit strategy affects play.

Taking the inside line

Elsewhere in the Wide World of Sports, Jim and Scott faced off in Techno Bowl: Arcade Football Unplugged. This is a card-driven football game with a throwback nod to the 16-bit video games of yore. In the basic game, teams have seven players, each with a rating from three to seven. This represents their speed and hitting, with lower numbers better for various forms of violence. Each team has a few bonus skills sprinkled across a few star players. These skills grant die roll modifiers on hits or bend the rules in interesting ways.

Marino rolls out

Every player has two (identical) cards, and before each play, each coach assembles a five card hand of his choice. Order matters so the offensive coach is choreographing his play while the defensive coach has to anticipate which players will be best able to react and disrupt the offense. After these five cards are burned, coaches draw from the remaining cards until the play is completed.

Movement is simple, with orthogonal and odd-numbered diagonal moves costing one factor each, and even-numbered diagonals two factors each. Thus if you move three spaces along the diagonal, it would be 1-2-1, for a total of four factors. The opposition casts a 'zone of control' (called 'threat'), adding a movement penalty which is cumulative with each additional adjacent player - you don't get very far squeezing through the line. Just about every non-movement action is a 2d6 skill check, with a seven yielding a partial success (which grants the opposition a chance to react with a half move) and a ten is a full success (allowing you to follow on with another action). If you miss your roll, the opposition gets a full action of their own. Player values and star skills modify these rolls where appropriate.

A skeptical Shula

The offense has four plays to score or it turns the ball over. The play begins with each coach turning over his first card. The faster player goes first - if tied, you compare the second value in the player's number, with higher going first. Still tied? Roll the dice! The defender may opt to bring in a card off his 'bench' but this allows the offense to do the same, until finally things get rolling. Factoring in time outs and the time impact of pass plays and out of bounds, it seems like you should get through 14-18 plays a half.

Jim and Scott picked their favorite teams, the !Dolphins and the !Jets respectively (due to licensing issues names are changed but the analogues are obvious). They settled into a defensive struggle, with lots of action but no scoring. Late in the second half, however, !Marino aired out a long ball down the left sideline, with !Duper getting under in time to reel it in and carry it to the house. There was still time on the clock but midnight loomed so the called it a win for Miami, 7-0.

Headed for the promised land

After, they discovered one major rules error - they overlooked the cumulative nature of opposing player threat penalties, allowing defensive players to crash into the backfield and disrupt plays before they could get started. With a stickier line, wing play should develop more easily, leading to more downfield action and scoring. They really enjoyed the game, and we can expect to see it return soon.

Too late

Last up, Smitch brought his buddy Ben Fey along to lead the Empire in Star Wars: Rebellion against the Stein boys, a couple of moisture farmers from the Upper East Side. Mitch and Eliot stashed the base on Kessel, planning on a heavy metal defense as opposed to deception.

Rebel counterstrike

Smitch and Ben methodically worked their way through the galaxy, with two large fleets and probing missions. The Alliance used sabotage actions to disrupt Imperial production near the base, and chipped away at their mission deck, shortening the gap between the turn marker and a rebel win. They were helped around mid-game when they opened a turn by hammering an overextended Imperial ground force, which cost the bad guys some time to rebuild. In addition, rebel production was spinning at full capacity, with the base hosting an impressive force. Once the Sith finally vectored in on the actual base location, a Rebel fleet was already in orbit to greet them, besides the hidden force. With no way of cutting through the defending ranks in time, the Empire conceded. Freedom reigns!

Welcome to the Kessel system!
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Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:56 pm
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