Sneaky Meeples

Trials, tribulations, outdoor adventures and occasional board game commentary. Join me as I try to squeeze some gaming time into my life as a work-from-home IT consultant.

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Pay a Coin, Upgrade a Building

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner KniziaMicrobadge: I'm obsessed with Obsession!Microbadge: I adopted my dog(s) from a rescueMicrobadge: I swing Kettlebells
"If it won't fit on the shelf, then you can't buy it." says that part of my brain.

"Fine," replies the other part of my brain. "I'll get a bigger shelf."

From gallery of Zveroboy

It was inevitable really, I do have five pre-orders on the way and as of this morning, two new additions, courtesy of Rachel's belated birthday present to me...

From gallery of Zveroboy

And finally, thanks to the shocking lack of decent statistics for blogs, stuff like posts made, average views, etc., I have only just this morning worked out that this is blog post #301, so here's to making it past 300! Huzzah!
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Mon Aug 15, 2022 9:58 am
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Machine Learning

Ben Goulding
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Nottingham
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The advantages of a dedicated gaming space are already becoming apparent. After breaking the seal yesterday with a morning play of Oh My Goods!, a quiet afternoon got me wondering about setting up a big game. Something that, now I can leave it set up, I can savour, where I can stand over the table, hand on chin, pondering that next crucial move to utterly smash my opponent. Hello again Scythe. It's been too long.

Not wanting to be too outrageous, I settled for adding two Normal difficult Automa opponents, as not only would I have to relearn how they work I also need to relearn some of the game's basics! Random draw gave me Zehra and her Crimean Tartars, facing off against Saxony and the Nordic Kingdom.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Oh crikey, how does this game work again? That's right, top row, bottom row, nice and easy. Hooray I made some food and produced a worker! Oh, bugger, how the hell does the Automa move again? Thankfully I had the handy ScytheKick app to parse some of this for me and before long everyone's units were spreading across the map with Bjorn making it to the Factory first. I did make several early mistakes with the Automa's movement, resolving all of the move options, not just the first possible one, so they both explosively expanded once the Riverwalk thresholds were crossed.

Going into the mid-game I'd finally got the flow of my Mechanical action board to get some mechs out stomping and upgrade cubes moving down for those juicy discounts, and my first star went down for smashing one of Saxony's mechs (which I put back in the home base, not back on the player board, whoops!). I'd forgotten about the Objective cards early on, both were by now impossible with one needing no mechs (I already had one out) and the other needing no more than three workers (I already had four). Ah well, there's plenty of other stars, and my actions worked pretty nicely to get stars down for doing all the mechs, upgrades, enlistments and getting to 16 Power.

Those early mistakes with Automa's movement ultimately cost me however, as final scores put both machines on 55 points (tie broken with remaining Power in Saxony's favour) and me just 1 point behind on 54. I have no idea if 54 is a good score or not, I've barely played Scythe in the 3+ years I've owned my copy and it is certainly one of the few games on my shelf I consider to be criminally underplayed, the others being perhaps Fields of Arle and Star Wars: Rebellion. I can start to remedy that right now however, I have a bit of time before my next work call so I'm off to reset the board...
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Fri Aug 12, 2022 9:35 am
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New Beginnings

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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Well it took long enough. After a whirlwind of activity last weekend to get everything boxed, packed, sorted, cleaned and moved, it's only now, three days after we moved in, that Rachel and I are starting to feel a bit more human and a little less knackered.

Boxes both full and empty abound in (almost) every room, I had to look through six kitchen cupboards before finding the dried oregano, I'm not sure where the water meter is and we're without internet until Monday.

From gallery of Zveroboy

In the meantime, a little bit of play at least. The games room was christened this morning with a pre-work solo game of Oh My Goods!. I managed to snag both the Oh My Goods!: Longsdale in Revolt and Oh My Goods!: Escape to Canyon Brook expansions last week, they've been on my radar for a good long while, and while I haven't started the storyline yet I did at least shuffle in the watchtowers and new buildings for a simple standalone game. 26VP at the end, which doesn't seem too bad, aided by decent stacks of high value ovens and shirts, but I did have a couple of unproductive rounds so it could have been higher.

Since the game is already laid out and ready for another game, no longer needing to packed away, I have no excuse not to try again later.
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Thu Aug 11, 2022 11:03 am
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Big Cats, Little Luck

Ben Goulding
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Nottingham
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As mentioned previously, Dad and I have been having a lot of fun recently with Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs' historical scenarios, so with last night at the Royal Oak looking like a quiet one with all the other regulars otherwise engaged, it was an ideal opportunity to have another crack at the "Lucky Shot" mission over a few pints of Nottingham Brewery's Extra Pale Ale.

"Lucky Shot" attempts to recount the action of 24th April 1943, when German forces in Tunisia launched a variety of attacks on the Allied forces preparing to move on Tunis. At Gueriat el Atach, elements of the 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters were counter-attacked by Tiger tanks of 504th Schwere Heerespanzerabteilung. Thankfully for the Foresters, Churchill tanks (either of 142 Regiment Royal Armoured Corps or 48 Royal Tank Regiment) arrived in the nick of time and began to engage the Tigers. One of them was hit by three shots from the Churchills' 6-pdr guns, with one shot glancing off the underside of the gun barrel and jamming itself in the turret ring. With the turret immobilised and the crew likely wounded from the other hits, the Tiger with number 131 was abandoned in almost full working order. You can see it today at the Bovington Tank Museum.

Dad, playing as the British, starts with a pair of Churchill tanks dug into a hull down position on a hill, with plenty of APCBC rounds in reserve, and scores points every turn as long as there are British tank on the hill. A mile away, my pair of Tigers rumbles onto the field, with the simple objective of forcing the British tanks off the hill and causing as much damage as possible.

From gallery of Zveroboy
I left the crew counters at home!

The last time we played this scenario it was a pretty big loss for Dad, but lessons were learned and readily applied for this rematch. The early rounds simply saw him biding his time, loading APCBC ammunition and waiting for the Tigers to close the distance so that his 57mm 6-pdrs could have the best chance at hitting the penetrating the big tanks. My Tigers pushed closer, but with the Brits sitting still I had to use my precious actions to actively Spot the enemy and begin the engagement. Fortunately for Dad, my early shots went wide.

It didn't take long however for the Tigers to find their mark, with the range now only 600m and a wealth of Fire cards at my disposal I was able to play them in pairs to choose my hit location, aiming for those exposed turrets. The 88mm shell sails through the air, smashes through the steel and kills the gunner. But there is no fire. The crew don't panic. Calmly the assistance driver takes over the gunner's position.

"You lucky git." I say.

"Must be an Irish crew." he says, grinning.

While you never know how much you start with, luck is ultimately a finite resource and before long the Irish Churchill went up in flames and opened up a gap on the British hill. My blood was up and the first Tiger climbed the hill to engage the other Churchill at point blank range. I had it dead to rights, there was no way it would survive a shot from the mighty 88mm gun at this range. I scan my hand of cards to choose one for my tank's initiative, with lower numbers going first my choice of a 6 was the obvious one. Go first, get the shot, clear the hill and hold it against British reinforcements. We reveal initiative cards.

He's played a 4.

The turret turns, the loader quickly rams home an APCBC shell. The gunner aims, he can see the Tiger's cannon pointing right back at them.

From gallery of Zveroboy

It's a hit!
To the hull...
Penetration!
BANG!


A lucky shot indeed. Revenge wasn't long coming, another 88mm sailed up from the valley below to knock out that cheeky Churchill and finally clear the hill of British tanks. A somewhat desperate slugging match followed as the close range chaos was reduced to long range sniping as tanks were knocked out, even though Dad was running out of his crucial APCBC ammo, my losing a third Tiger was eating into the large VP lead I'd built up since forcing the Brits off the hill. After about 2 hours 40 minutes the Game Over card came up, and with three kills a side (one each being Catastrophic for the full whack) it was going to the close one. And indeed it was, a very narrow win for the British, 80 points to my 78.

Looking back it was perhaps extremely foolish of me to get that Tiger up onto the British hill, I was banking on the extremely low chance he'd be able to go first, and perhaps in the earlier rounds I should have closed the distance more quickly before opening fire. Dad had a full seven rounds at the start with both tanks on the hill, scoring 28 of his 80 points, my sluggish advance was to blame for that. Even so, it was the most enjoyable three hours of gaming I've had in a long time. And hey, the ol' man likes it too!

Dad: "It's the best of the WW2 games you've had so far. The new campaign scenarios are good and can be played out several times with different results so plenty of longevity in them. Don't just play them once and that's it. Definitely need to have some historical knowledge of WW2 and tanks in particular. I think it will take some time for us to get the best out of it particularly when it comes to handling the infantry as well. Not really got into that yet! Didn't like the fog scenario too much!"
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Wed Aug 3, 2022 11:38 am
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Surge

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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Whoa whoa whoa, hold up a second. Are these readings correct? Six game plays in three days? Have we seriously reached the heady heights of 2gpd (games per day)! Watch out sir, the equipment can't handle such power!

My gaming streak started off on Sunday with a Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs match against Dad. Thanks to the recent arrival of Tank Duel: Expansion #1 – North Africa and Tank Duel: Tank Pack #1 we now have a wealth of historical scenarios to play through, and we've generally found these to be pretty enjoyable. Our choice for this session was the "Lucky Shot" mission, seeing a pair of British Churchill tanks, dug in on high ground, face off against a pair of heavy German Tiger tanks. The Churchills, played by Dad, have a decent initial advantage, starting at 400m range (granting an extra card each), hull down (can only be hit in the turret) and on a hill (giving +1 penetration to shots). The final boon is especially crucial given that the Churchills with their 57mm 6-pdr cannons are rather outgunned by the pair of mighty 88mms on the Tigers. The British get bonus VPs for holding their position on the hill, whereas the Germans get points for clearing the hill.

Early rounds saw my Tigers tenuously close the distance, both of them getting bogged and slowed down by the rough desert terrain, but before long I had zeroed in the Churchills and the shooting started in earnest. Shots were traded up and down, with Dad's fire suffering somewhat from needing to use his APCR rounds to penetrate the thick German armour, while my 88mms struggled with the heat haze penalties, but when they did hit they hit hard. At game's end it was three kills for the Germans to two for the Brits, but I was comfortably far ahead on VPs thanks to one of my kills being catastrophic (thus scoring maximum points for killing the whole crew) and, having forced both Churchills off the hill, a constant influx of victory points.

From gallery of Zveroboy

With Rachel away on business Monday night, Elsa and I decamped round to the parents for dinner and, afterwards, two games of Castles of Mad King Ludwig. The stars were clearly aligned for the Ol' Man that night, as he won both games (me not far behind both times, and Mum admittedly not "match fit") and set a new personal record of 134 points!

Topping off this explosion of gaming was Tuesday night the Royal Oak, once again with seven in attendance and thus a two-tabler with four for Terraforming Mars and three for Root. As much as I enjoy Terraforming Mars I simply can't bring myself to play it every week and since Andy was determined to finally play Root, I got my seat booked in for my first Cole Wehrle experience. The cats were heavily recommended as my faction, played-it-a-few-times Martina took her usual birds and never-played-it-but-owns-it-with-all-the-expansions Andy was very forceful about playing the riverfolk/otters. The rules weren't too hard to grasp at short notice, I'd read through a summary that afternoon, so our first game got off pretty sharpish.

I am not good at these kind of games. Yeah, it was my first time playing, but losing my Keep early on to a swarm of otters left me feeling like Board Gaming's All Time Biggest IDIOT and it honestly felt pretty unrecoverable as Martina romped home to 31 points. Flip those digits to get my score. Ouch. At least Root is easily reset for another game, so with drinks recharged and a (slightly) better idea now of what to do my cats tried again to control the forest. My start was definitely better, making sure to not leave my Keep so exposed while also getting some early crafting done for easy points, and I'd built up some proper mobs of cats ready to go on the rampage.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Despite the back-and-forth and bloodshed, Martina managed a second win, her bird government falling into turmoil only once (I feel like this is good, only having it happen once?) but both Andy and I bettered our first time scores, my initial 13 left far behind as I just edged to the heady heights of, gasp, 20 points. It's not hard to see why so many people like Root, it is a gorgeous looking game and the artwork on every card is wonderfully evocative. While it's really not my kind of game, there was still plenty to like so it goes firmly into the "not really fussed but happy to play it at games night" pile of games.

Board Games at The Royal Oak, Watnall, NG16 1HS, every Tuesday evening, upstairs from 6:30pm
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Fri Jul 29, 2022 3:42 pm
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Simulation Saturday

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner KniziaMicrobadge: I'm obsessed with Obsession!Microbadge: I adopted my dog(s) from a rescueMicrobadge: I swing Kettlebells
One slight advantage of half the house being packed up ready for our move (still no completion date, harrumph!) is that the housework is a little quicker. Since Rachel was out all day seeing a friend and Elsa was dealing with the heat by simply snoozing the day away, once the housework was done there was nought to do save for take up Joe's offer of some Tabletop Simulator action.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Obsession first, me as the family York versus Joe as the Howards. The market was rather sluggish for the whole game despite us using the variant that refreshes it every Courtship, it just generally felt like nothing but "low tier" rooms. My opponent managed to win three of the four courtships, but I realised early on that my estate was generally inferior and thus made gathering Prestige guests a priority.

It certainly paid off in the end. Our estates scored exactly the same and Joe pulled ahead on VP cards and money. My gentry deck however was far superior, and coupled with me scoring all four of my Objective Cards it was just enough to pip me the win, 204 to 201!

From gallery of Zveroboy

Lunch munched and water gulped (stay hydrated folks!) I fancied giving Ark Nova another crack after my very favourable first impression the other week. I was happy to go straight in for an "advanced" board, choosing the "build next to the lake" zoo, and my initial strategy was looking geared towards small animals.

I really struggled with getting my second association worker, I felt it took me way too long to get one and I don't know how much of that to blame on my own bad decisions or luck of the draw. Once I had my initial selection of small animals down I tacked on a "rock symbols" strategy for which I quickly made progress thanks to having the Cable Car. Once I'd played what I had though, I simply could not draw the cards to keep my strategy going and it all sort of floundered. While I did well on Conservation, sponsoring all five projects (I had Veterinarian to make that action cheaper), my initial lead on Appeal was eventually overcome (and then some) by Joe. Final scores were 15 to me and 25 to Joe.

It might be a bit dismissive of me to simply chalk up my loss to "luck of the draw" but the simple fact is that I did not do better on my Small Animals or Rock Symbols objectives because I did not have the appropriate cards to play. Yes I used the Draw action as often as possible, using my Xs to boost it when it sank back to the low slots, but really what I should have done was realised sooner that it wasn't paying off and instead pivoted to using what I had. I'm a seasoned enough gamer to realise that simply comes from experience, and I like Ark Nova enough that I'm sure that experience will continue to grow.
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Mon Jul 18, 2022 11:45 am
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Blown Past Falling Sand - A Tank Duel AAR

Ben Goulding
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Nottingham
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I mentioned in a previous post that I had just about got to grips with Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs' solitaire "Robata" system, and with my recent acquisition of both the Tank Duel: Tank Pack #1 and Tank Duel: Expansion #1 – North Africa expansions I've been keen to have a go at the wealth of new historical scenarios. I don't quite have the wherewithal (or table space) to attempt the grander 3v3 or 4v4 battles, but there's a few 2v2s that look perfect. So grab your sand goggles and ready the boiling vessel because we're off to North Africa, to the action at Beda Fomm.

In February 1941 the Italian 10th Army was forced to retreat from Benghazi in Libya, moving south along the coast road, where they were met by British forces that had cut across country and set up roadblocks and ambush positions. Early British actions managed to sow confusion in the Italian columns, but as more and more Italian forces arrived in the area the British tanks started to suffer losses to artillery fire. On the 7th, after two days of combat, and with more British and Australian forces approaching from Benghazi, the Italians made a desperate last push on the roadblock at Beda Fomm. Thirty M13/40 tanks managed to over-run the screening infantry and destroy all but one of the British guns, and six M13/40s even made it all the way to the reserve areas that had only been set up the previous day. The last 2-pounder (40mm) gun knocked out all six, with the last being disabled only 20 yards from the officers' mess tent.

Tank Duel's version of the battle sees a pair of Italian M13/40 tanks attempting to break through the defences of two Cruiser Mk.IVs and pair of fixed 2-pdr AT guns. While the Italians do also have infantry, their only concern is to break out of the closing trap so they cannot be used to engage the British tanks as per the normal infantry rules.

All the Italians have to do is reach the roadblock at "range 0", any tanks that do so will escape the battlefield and score VPs, and if the infantry make it that far they will swarm the British rear areas and immediately eliminate the pair of 2-pdr AT guns, halving the firepower the British can sling downrange. For the British, exactly the opposite. Knock out as many Italian tanks as possible and prevent the infantry from over-running the roadblock. I'll be controlling the British against Robata's Italians.

Order of Battle:

British
1x Cruiser Mk.VI A13 with Elite crew [Cruiser (1)]
1x Cruiser Mk.VI A13 with Seasoned crew [Cruiser (2)]
2x QF 2-pdr AT guns, Emplaced and Hidden at 600m [2-pdr]

Italian
2x M13/40 with Elite crews [M13/40 (1), M13/40 (2)]

External image

Round 1:
M13/40 (2) moves to 600m.
Cruiser (1) moves through blowing dust and into a wadi at 400m.
Cruiser (2) moves to 400m through blowing dust.
M13/40 (1) moves to 600m, while infantry also advances to 600m.

A typical opening round, I was able to get one tank into some cover at least, and the extra card from being at 400m is always helpful.

Round 2:
Cruiser (1) is caught in blowing dust, but fires at M13/40 (2) which has been forced to stop due to bogging down in sand. The shot hits and destroys the track, immobilising M13/40 (2).
M13/40 (2) is abandoned, as the panicked crew bail out.
Cruiser (2) stops its advance and fires at M13/40 (1), missing.
M13/40 (1) moves to 400m along with the infantry.

The Italian infantry are half-way to the roadblock now, just two more Infantry Advance actions by Robata will see them over the line and my 2-pdrs silenced. Entirely possible for Robata to do this, I can only hope I get an infantry card next round.

Round 3:
Cruiser (2) moves to 200m and gets bogged in a depression, but the Italian infantry are forced back to 600m.
M13/40 (2) (reinforcement) goes hull down and spots Cruiser (1).
Cruiser (1) manages to shake off the dust cloud and advances to 0m, concealing itself within a depression.
M13/40 (1) Stays at the 400m range but moves up onto a dune. It spots Cruiser (1) but becomes bogged down.

With the first Italian tank knocked out last round and it's respawned replacement all the way back to 800m, I have a bit of breathing room to advance and close the range.

Round 4:
Cruiser (1) fires at M13/40 (1) but the shot goes wide. However, the first of the 2-pdrs finds its mark, hitting M13/40 (1) in the side of the turret. The shot penetrate, killing the assistant driver and starting a fire.
M13/40 (2) attempts to provide covering fire for it's comrade, firing at Cruiser (1), but misses.
Cruiser (2) sees the burning M13/40 (1) and goes for the kill. The hit smashes through the turret, shrapnel kills the driver and sends the fire out of control. Only the loader manages to escape the resulting inferno. The 2-pdrs meanwhile have reloaded and are ready to fire again.
M13/40 (1) burns up.

Due to all the negatives (cover, dust, tank size and a Tactics from Robata) on the 2-pdr's shot it needed 21 or lower for a result, good for me that it landed! Given how easily Robata can recover from the "Fire!" and "Broken!" conditions, I thought it wise to actually knock out the burning M13/40 rather than risk it rallying and getting the fire automatically extinguished. Since my actions were pretty effective this round I had loads of left over cards, and getting rid of 4 Order Icons allowed me to get both 2-pdrs ready to fire.

Round 5:
M13/40 (2) fires again at Cruiser (1), misses again. Meanwhile the Italian infantry advance to 400m.
Cruiser (2) moves onto a hillock by the roadblock (range 0m) and manages to find concealment.
M13/40 (1) (reinforcement) scans for targets, spotting both British tanks. The infantry press the attack, and are now only 200m from the roadblock.
Cruiser (1) attempts and fails to find a hull down position. Meanwhile the Italian infantry is repulsed again, they fall back to 400m.

The infantry got uncomfortably close that round! Thankfully my second Cruiser has a good position on the hillock, and the extra elevation will give it's 40mm 2-pdr gun a nice bit of extra penetration.

Round 6:
M13/40 (2) moves to 400m and gets a flank shot on Cruiser (1).
Cruiser (2) fires at M13/40 (2) and misses, as does the first 2-pdr AT gun. The Italian infantry are repelled back to 600m from the roadblock.
M13/40 (1) is caught in a blowing dust cloud, but manages to go hull down.
Cruiser (1) follows the shot of it's comrade and fires at M13/40 (2), missing as well. However, the second 2-pdr, which has remained hidden until now, sights on M13/40 (2) and neatly penetrates its hull, wounding the assistant driver.

All four British guns fired this round...and the only hit was a little underwhelming! Still, both Cruisers got their +10 acquisition markers for (hopefully) some better shooting next round.

Round 7:
M13/40 (2) sees an opening, the driver guns the engine and races for the roadblock, making it through and escaping the combat area. 5 VP for the Italians. Meanwhile the infantry follow behind, pushing forward to 400m.
M13/40 (1) moves into a depression at 600m, gaining a flank shot on Cruiser (1). The Italian infantry keeps their momentum, they're now only 200m from the roadblock.
Cruiser (1) fires at M13/40 (1), the shot hits and wounds the assistant driver. Fire from the roadblock is enough to push the Italians infantry back to 400m.
Cruiser (2) also fires at M13/40 (1), but the enveloping dust makes sighting difficult and the round misses. The infantry is pushed back further to 600m.

The infantry got uncomfortably close there, thankfully I had two infantry cards in my hand and was able to play one with each of my tanks.

Round 8:
Cruiser (1) encounters more dust. A shot at M13/40 (1) goes wide.
M13/40 (1) attempts to find a hull down position, without luck. The Italian infantry rally and advance again to 400m.
Cruiser (2) fires at M13/40 (1). The shot hits the ammunition rack at the rear of the turret, as the tank immediately explodes. Only the driver survives. Infantry repelled back to 600m.
M13/40 (2) (reinforcement) moves to 600m and gains a flank shot on Cruiser (1). Again, the Italian infantry push back at 400m from the roadblock.

A lucky moment for me when M13/40 (1) floundered a bit and "wasted" its action. It actually had a decent shot lined up on Cruiser (1) that needed 63 to hit (as well as being a flank shot). Unfortunately for the Italians, the "Success Check" was failed hence the "wasted" action. It seems a bit whiffy sometimes that the Robata should have a good firing opportunity or a good chance for a flank, only for the Success Check to cause a failure, but I suppose it represents the A.I. having Fire/Move cards outside of it's Fire/Move Level.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Round 9:
Cruiser (1) takes aim as the dust around it clears. M13/40 (2) is hit right through the front of the hull, wounding both the driver and assistant driver.
M13/40 (2) holds firm. Despite the wounds just received there is no mechanical damage and the crew do not panic. The commander-gunner takes careful aim at Cruiser (1). The 47mm shell smashes through the turret of the Cruiser and causes a shower of shrapnel and fragments, wounding all four of the crew. A fire starts, and the crew, bloodied and bruised, start to panic.
M13/40 (1) spots Cruiser (2) but otherwise hesitates. The Italian infantry make one last push towards the roadblocks, but are stopped 200m away.

With the Game Over card being drawn during M13/40 (1)'s action, thus ends the engagement. Good timing too, I doubt my damaged Cruiser would have passed its Morale and Fire checks had it had another round. A solid victory then for my British Cruisers, with 3 kills for a total of 27 VP. Not quiet a clean sheet however, as the single M13/40 that escaped got the Italian Robata its only 5 VP.

I will certainly hold my hand up and admit to a few mistakes here and there. I know that I missed one opportunity for the Italians to take an infantry action, but it wasn't on a turn that would have seen them break through the roadblock so no harm done there really. I think as well there were one or two of Robata's Fire actions where I didn't do a Success Check, but otherwise I think it was pretty solid. Any human playing the Italians for this scenario should be playing very aggressively I think, ideally moving the infantry as often as possible even if it means doing a worse Tank Action. Since I already have the tanks out, I'll be resetting it and swapping sides so expect a battle report from the other perspective at the weekend maybe!
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Thu Jul 14, 2022 5:22 pm
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The Two Tables

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner KniziaMicrobadge: I'm obsessed with Obsession!Microbadge: I adopted my dog(s) from a rescueMicrobadge: I swing Kettlebells
Two more Achievements Unlocked! for our fledging board gaming club at The Royal Oak last night. A new record attendance of seven souls and a 100% increase in tables utilised, as we split three for Ra and four for Terraforming Mars.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Some five player Carcassonne to start with, which quickly became six as Ankush arrived, and I am willing to go on record to state that six player Carcassonne is a rather a chaotic mess. The tiles are do diluted that it feels hard to finish features of more than half a dozen squares and indeed those who kept their cities small and finished them often went ahead in the points. A win for newcomer Vincenzo with 66 points.

It's a bit of a meme that the hardest game night decision is "what shall we play?" Some what to play what they know, some want to try something new, some want to play something they brought. He won't play games with zombies, she doesn't like games with bluffing, they only want to play party games. No-one wants to play Scandaroon.

No worries with that here though, since three of our number are off to the World Series of Board Gaming in Las Vegas later in the year, so Jac, Martina and Ankush all have particular games they want to practice and hone their skills at. Ankush and Martina were keen for Ra and were joined by Andy, while Jac, Vincenzo, Dad and myself opted for TM.

From gallery of Zveroboy

I couldn't really have asked for a better start as Thorgate, an asteroid Prelude providing enough starting steel and titanium to get my power production up to +6 in the first generation. After using it all up on Magnetic Field Generators, Jac thankfully pointed out how much of a colossal idiot I was to have missed the Energizer milestone....5VP for having +6 power production.

No matter...the draft was kind to me and plenty more power tags came my way while I got my first couple cities and greeneries rooted along the top of the Hellas board. After seven highly competitive generations Mars was terraformed, and to my honest surprise I'd scraped the win with 62 points! It was close though, Dad (Ecoline) was second with 59, then Vincenzo (Point Luna) with 58 and finally Jac (UNMI) with 56. Jac, ever the analytical gamer, knew exactly what had cost him his victory: a miscalculation of Dad and I's green cards made him think he'd win the Magnate award, so his final actions were used for forests. Had he calculated corrected however and played extra greens, then Dad and I would have tied for Magnate's second place, Jac getting the 5VP to squeak the final victory.

Ra seemed to go down a treat at the other table, getting played twice in a row, with an Azul finisher neatly closed out as we packed up Terraforming Mars. Happy gamers all round, same again next week.

Board Games at The Royal Oak, Watnall, NG16 1HS, every Tuesday evening, upstairs from 6:30pm
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Wed Jul 13, 2022 3:00 pm
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First Impressions: Ark Nova

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner KniziaMicrobadge: I'm obsessed with Obsession!Microbadge: I adopted my dog(s) from a rescueMicrobadge: I swing Kettlebells
With Rachel and I still stuck in house move limbo (paperwork all done but no completion date, easy stuff already packed and boxed) and with the British weather fast approaching the point where everyone complains that "is too 'ot to do 'owt" we're finding our weekends rather languid. Obviously the daily chores get done, but by lunchtime we're free agents. Rachel sinks into Grey's Anatomy and Skyrim, while I hop on Discord and see what the lads are up to.

Yesterday afternoon Joe and Ken were on, we decided to play something on Tabletop Simulator. "Go on then." I said, "Teach me Ark Nova."

I've been sceptical of Ark Nova (AN) for a while now, I will freely admit that it completely passed me by and I literally had no idea this game even existed until the BGT&C Facebook group seemed to suddenly explode with zoo-based content. Any post that wasn't a picture of the box with a caption like "Just arrived, can't wait to play this!" was instead someone asking where they could buy it because everywhere they've looked is out of stock. Comments abound extoling it's virtues and mechanics, with the stand-out ones being to the effect of "This is the Terraforming Mars killer." Regular readers know I'm a rather die-hard TM fan, it's one of the handful of games that I have over 100 logged plays of, so such claims cannot go unverified for long.

And honestly I'm not really sure where people are getting all the TM comparisons from. Sure, AN uses tags on cards for various things and...that's about it? Oh, placement bonuses on the board. My gamer's brain was reminded often of The Castles of Burgundy, with the Xs working like, well, workers and their +1, various bonuses lining up and chaining together, the different zoo boards with their different gimmicks as well as the simple puzzle of building everything you want and/or need within a limited space. The mechanic of removing the cubes to get bonuses and extra income is classic Stonemaier Games (Tapestry, Scythe), flipping the action cards to a reveal a powered-up version is straight out of Colony and from Brass: Lancashire comes the bracketed income track.*

None of this is bad thing. Ark Nova's recipe has many ingredients we are all familiar with, that most of us like and enjoy, and added to those are several of it's own with the result being something that is truly excellent.

From gallery of Zveroboy

The actual game we played was perhaps not representative of the true experience, I zoomed up both the Appeal and Conservation tracks and romped home to a winning score of something like 26 points, while Joe and Ken were deep in the negatives. Likely this was due to Ken suggesting I start with the newbie board while he and Joe, with several plays each under their belts, had advanced boards**. Even so, after the game they both admitted their strategies floundered whereas mine, apparent even to my opponents, was more consistent and self-sustaining. My starting hand immediately gave me a focus: WAZA Large Animal Program, New Zealand Fur Seal, Red-Shanked Douc (both large animals and made easier to play thanks to the Program) and the Large Animals objective card. Later card draws got me the Siberian Tiger and Dugong (I just ran out of time to get my fifth large animal (Australian Pelican) into the zoo) so throughout the game I had a clear path of what to do and none of my actions ever felt completely wasted or out-of-step with my broader strategy.

Which leads me into my first (possible) negative of Ark Nova, and it's that which can stifle any card-based game: luck of the draw. Did I win because I had a good starting hand with clearly synergising cards, while my opponents had a mismatched variety? Is the game still enjoyable if the cards just don't come your way, and by extension how powerful are cards that allow you to draw more cards? My single biggest gripe with TM is that +Card cards are rather integral to dominating the game and they have a habit of snowballing your engine. I'm not saying they are required to win, but a player who is seeing more of the deck is, I think, much more likely to win.

That anxiety is lessened however by other elements of AN's design, the "discard down to 3 cards" step of the income round is the main one, but I also like the limitations on playing cards which makes collecting the deck much less attractive. Not only is how many animals you can play limited by the Animals action (and similarly, the Sponsors) but also by your available enclosures, in turn limited by the space in your zoo. The feeling therefore is that one never plays a card simply for the sake of it, there's no engine that you blindly build up and up to a monstrous final form, instead I felt that every card added to the tableau had to be meaningful and fulfil a clear purpose. Another reason for TM's "Card Draw Snowball" is that every card is drawn blind, so if you're after something specific you have no choice but to draw and draw and draw until you get what you want. AN removes a large part of this by simply offering a market row, six face up cards there for all to see, which is utilised wonderfully with both the Cards action (and the nice difference between it's draw and snap options) and the upgraded actions that allow playing of cards directly from the market row, making the market row an extension of a player's hand akin to the flop, turn and river of Poker.

My final point of praise (for this post at least) goes to AN's action system which soothes another of my general board gaming annoyances, that of players taking ages on their turns to do all their stuff. Out of five possible actions you do one per turn, instantly making it meaningful and important, yet variety is encouraged because of how the actions cycle along your board and become more powerful as they move from the 1 to the 5 position. Turns never drag, and when someone does do X that gives them Y giving them Z which means they can take A, get B and finally do C, you know that came about through good play, not just because they have more stuff to do.

Is it the "Terra Mars Killer" it's so often proclaimed as? Not for me. On many levels they are fundamentally different games. Aside from the theme, TM has the competition that comes from a shared board and is, to my mind, much more of an "engine building" game, something I don't think Ark Nova is (at least not to the same degree). All told, that's a lot of words to say I liked it, would happily play it again, and it's going on my wish-list.

*I am not in any way saying these games are the definitive source of the mechanic, merely that these are games that AN's mechanics remind me of.
**Ken had the "H" board that gave something to do with Sponsors (I thought they were helipads!), and Joe had the "cash for building next to the lake" board
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Mon Jul 11, 2022 1:47 pm
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Panzerhund

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner KniziaMicrobadge: I'm obsessed with Obsession!Microbadge: I adopted my dog(s) from a rescueMicrobadge: I swing Kettlebells
Last night was a little glimpse of what I plan to be doing more of once Rachel and I finally move house and I have that separate room with a dedicated gaming table. A room to myself. A big chunky game set up and ready for solitaire play. Background ambience provided by lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study/hunt Soviet tanks to.

Against two Robata-controlled T-34/76s was my pairing of a Panzer IV and Stug III, in what would be my first serious attempt at learning the AI opponent of Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs.

From gallery of Zveroboy

No special scenario for this, just a straight up slugging match and a determination to learn the ins-and-outs of TD's Robata thought process now that I know the normal rules pretty well. All-in-all I think it does a great job of simulating a decent opponent. The theory behind some of it's actions is sensible such as wanting to go first if it has the chance of a good shot, or wanting to go later in the round if it has no viable targets and instead wants to play reactively. Initial rounds took me a while to process through the flowcharts and action lists with occasional consultations of the Playbook but by game's end it was flowing nicely.

First "blood" went to the Soviets, and I say "blood" because despite having an excellent flanking shot on my Stug III and having the tank destroyer dead to rights, all it did was blow off the track and immobilise the vehicle. My crew failed the subsequent morale check and hopped out, a sensible decision given the circumstances. While the replacement Stug raced into position my Panzer IV managed to exact some revenge, hitting the lead T-34 in the tracks. No immobilisation result, no fire, no explosion, but through the vagaries of warfare the tank's commander was instantly killed. Wrong place at the wrong time?

Before I could land another shot to finish them off the crew bailed so instead I pressed the attack and moved both my tanks closer in. Whiffed shots all round for the next few turns, until the Stug found the second T-34 which, like the previous kill, knocked out the loader but left the tank mechanically unaffected. They managed to rally themselves just in time for the Panzer IV to hit it again, and this time the resulting fire make them swiftly bail out.

A victory then for the Panzers in a surprisingly un-explodey match, the first abandoned Stug was easily recovered and repaired, and while the burned out T-34 was good for nothing more than scrap, the abandoned one could certainly see action again...

From gallery of Zveroboy
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Tue Jul 5, 2022 10:56 am
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