Pevans's Perspective

This was the title of my board games column in Flagship magazine, so I thought I'd resurrect it, 8 years after Flagship's demise. The idea is to get down my musings in a more contemporaneous way - expect things to appear later in To Win Just Once (www.pevans.co.uk/TWJO) in a more considered form. Now, can I manage a less formal style?

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Samurai battles - even more of them

Paul Evans
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Nephew Tom and I have comprehensively christened my copy of Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles and I've given my first impressions of the game in my earlier post (Commands & Colors goes to Japan) after working through early scenarios. I've already reported what happened in scenarios 1-3 (see Samurai battles - lots of them), so here are scenarios 4 and 5.

Number 4 is Koriyama Castle 1540 AD (Enokawu River). So we're 23 years after the previous scenarios (but no arquebuses yet) and the warring clans here are Shishido (red) and Shinguto (blue) - clients of Mori and Amako respectively. As I was already on the blue side of the board, I took Shinguto first. Here's my view at the start of the game.
From gallery of Pevans

The river is impassable, but the fords are so shallow that they're effectively open ground. The hills either side of the Shinguto forces are also impassable - the troops are coming across the Bingo pass into Shishido territory. The defending troops are almost all archers (some mounted) and mainly samurai, but there are some spearmen on the right in the photo and another further back centre-left. Oh, and Shinguto gets a (temporary) victory banner for each unit on the other side of the river at the start of their turn.

I was able to attack on both flanks. On the left it was an archery duel. I brought up my mounted samurai bowmen, but Tom did the same, making it three Shishido against two Shinguto. Hmm... But I really didn't want to march my spearmen slowly forward against the bows.

On the right, the Shinguto forces massed against the ford just right of centre. My samurai foot spearmen led the charge, forcing Tom's defending ashigaru (down to a single block) to retreat and seizing a bridgehead. Tom hit them with his samurai foot spearmen, supported by the samurai archers from the centre and the Samurai bow cavalry that were in reserve. Bye bye my samurai spearmen (and that's 0:1 to Tom) as the ford was occupied by the Shishido samurai.

Bad news on the left flank, too, as my mounted archers took 4 hits to the 2 I inflicted on their opposite numbers. That's 0:2.
From gallery of Pevans

With a lead in victory banners, Tom then played his masterstroke. With plenty of Honor and Fortune chips built up, he played the "Turncoat" Dragon card. For the fourth time in six battles. However, this time I managed to roll some 'Honor and Fortune' and the Turncoat failed. Phew!

My ashigaru and mounted bowmen pressed the attack on the ford, eliminating the Shishido samurai (1:2) and again getting across the river. Tom threw everything he had on that flank (including the one-block ashigaru) into a counter-attack. A lucky die roll removed my mounted archers and I lost an ashigaru unit as well, while I took out that damaged unit and Tom's foot samurai. (3:4)
From gallery of Pevans

The Shishido mounted bowmen stormed across the ford to chase down my ashigaru, eliminating one unit, whose leader took the honourable course of seppuku (I didn't have enough Honor and Fortune chips to pay for a retreat!). On top of this, Tom's archers took out my bowmen on the left. That's 3:6, which is when we spotted that he only needed five victory banners to win. Oops!
From gallery of Pevans

We re-set the scenario and played the other sides, which went pretty quickly. We both started with lots of left section cards and Tom charged his left flank forces up to the river. With no cards to do anything on my right, I just had to stand there and take it. My archers were engaging his archers on my left (to little effect) and I had some archers in the centre just in range to support my right. Tom powered through my defenders, destroying two units and getting his first one across the river. (0:3)

I got one back, taking out an ashigaru spearmen unit (1:3) but Tom had moved another unit over the river (1:4). Finally, he brought two more units across the ford and eliminated a third ashigaru unit to take the score to 1:5. Those extra units across the river mean it would have been 1:7 on his next turn. Sigh. Here's that final position.
From gallery of Pevans

Scenario 5 is Koriyama Castle 1540 AD (September), continuing the spat between Amako (blue) and Mori (red) directly, rather than through their clients. Here's the set-up from the Amako side. Historically, they are chasing the three ashigaru units on the right, only to be ambushed by the main Mori force.
From gallery of Pevans

In game terms, the red player gets a banner for each of the ashigaru that they move back across the river (and out of the game). This leaves them with six units to 'ambush' the 10 Mori. I'm not sure I like those odds. Particularly as I'm playing Mori first. However, with only four banners needed to win, the Mori just need one more if they retreat all the ashigaru.

Run away, ashigaru! I managed to get two of them acros the river, but Tom's ashigaru and mounted samurai archers were in pursuit and took out the third, along with the attached foot leader. (That makes the score 2:2) I actually had the Turncoat card this time, but not the advantage (ahead in banners and Honor and Fortune chips) to use it successfully.
From gallery of Pevans

And I'm now outnumbered, so I went defensive. Tom's archers engaged in the centre, killing my remaining leader. (2:3) His ashigaru swung across from his right to join his central forces and I lost another unit for no reward. That finished the game. (2:4)
From gallery of Pevans

For the re-match, I started with low-powered right section cards, so I couldn't pursue Tom's retreating ashigaru in any numbers. The units I did send after him got battered and he got all three ashigaru across the river. (0:3)

Exchanges of archery in the centre made little impression. Then Tom snuck his samurau through a wood to attack my battered ashigaru on the right. Removing them gave him the win in short order. (0:4) Ouch!
From gallery of Pevans

So we'd played a total of nine battles and I'd won a whole two of them. I'd blame bad luck, but Tom beats me consistently. I need a different opponent. Hmm, I believe Deon is free later this week...
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Sat Oct 9, 2021 1:30 pm
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Samurai battles - lots of them

Paul Evans
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Nephew Tom and I have comprehensively christened my copy of Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles and I've given my first impressions of the game in my previous post: Commands & Colors goes to Japan. This was the result of working through early scenarios and here's what happened in them.

The first scenario is "First Samurai Skirmish" and is explicitly "non-historical ... to introduce ... the basics". Thus the two sides have the same units: a mixture of samurai and ashigaru, mounted and foot, bowmen and spearmen. And an arquebusier unit each. Here's the starting set-up (from commandsandcolors.net) - note the almost-square board.
From gallery of Pevans

I attacked with the right-hand half of my army. In particular, launching my mounted samurai spearmen into Tom's ashigaru and killing their leader (1:0 to me). This quickly developed into a pitched battle as his mounted samurai spearmen hit my ashigaru in turn. Meanwhile a long-range archery duel centre-left saw my bowmen damaging his.

The right flank melee ended with me having lost three units - only the arquebusiers and archers left - while Tom had lost just one. Plus another leader - my cavalry leader committed seppuku rather than suffer disgrace. (3:3) Meanwhile the left half of my force had attacked, the samurai foot spearmen finishing off one unit of archers, but being badly battered in the process (the first sign that marching up to bowmen is costly). (4:3)
From gallery of Pevans

Tom eliminated that samurai unit to take the score to 4:4. However, he had several one- and two-block units just waiting to be finished off - as can be seen in the photo above. My ashigaru (note two of these are down to 2 blocks but still have leaders attached) pressed the attack on his one-block samurai unit and took it out for the win (5:4). This was a close battle that did its job of introducing us to the game and most of the different types of unit. It took about an hour to play. Given the two sides are essentially the same, we didn't replay this one and moved on to the next scenario.

Scenario 2 is Arita Castle 1517 AD (Phase 1 - Takeda Vanguard). Red, representing the Mori clan, has four mounted samurai bowmen with a mounted leader against seven infantry (one samurai archer, two ashigaru archers and four ashigaru spearmen) and an infantry leader from the Takeda clan. This looked like a quick scenario as it's only three banners to win and eliminating a leader counts as two. As I was sitting on the blue side of the board, I took Takeda first.

Tom immediately attacked my archers in the centre, one cavalry unit charging in, while the others stood back and used their bows. I managed to bring up my spearmen to support the archers, but lost one while battering the Mori cavalry in close combat. (That's 0:1 to Mori)

Tom then played his masterstroke. With plenty of Honor and Fortune chips built up, he successfully played the "Turncoat" Dragon card. My left flank spearmen changed side and attacked the archers they were supposed to be supporting! I was not happy, but managed to extricate the archers.
From gallery of Pevans

In the centre, Tom retreated his battered unit and assaulted the ashigaru with another one - with archery support. That's the position shown above. I battered this unit as well, pursuing it with my spearmen. Tom then flung his third unit in and destroyed the Takeda samurai led by Motonao, killing him into the bargain. That took the score to 0:3 (0:4 if you ignore that a player can't get more than is required to win) and demonstrated the huge advantage of mounted samurai over ashigaru.

Thus I felt hopeful when we swapped sides. Ignoring history (the two sides "engaged in a heated archery exchange"), I sent my three cavalry in the centre into close combat with the Takeda archers - Tom had got two of his spearmen up as support. I demolished the samurai unit in short order, Motonao committing seppuku to avoid being ridden down, and the ashigaru archers shortly after - though not without casualties. (2:0)
From gallery of Pevans

Tom then played his masterstroke. With plenty of Honor and Fortune chips built up, he successfully played the "Turncoat" Dragon card. Again. My right flank unit switched sides and attacked its erstwhile comrades from behind. With ashigaru spearmen on one side and their own cavalry on the other, my men fought valiantly. However, I lost one unit (2:1) before getting rid of the turncoats. (3:1)

Now there are 40 Dragon cards and only one of them is the Turncoat. With us using less than half the cards each time, what are the odds of Tom getting it twice? Be that as it may, this left the aggregate score for this scenario at 3:4 to him.

The third scenario is Arita Castle 1517 AD (Phase 2 - Matauchi River) and is more substantial. Here's the set-up from the Takeda side. The Mori (red) forces have crossed the river centre-left with mainly samurai archers, one unit mounted (the river is fordable, so the fords are effectively open ground). More cavalry lurks at the rear while a mixed group tries to out-flank the Takeda right. However, the Mori are facing a larger (just) Takeda army.
From gallery of Pevans

Tom seemed to have all the left section cards as he moved up archers and was shredding the Mori troops that were across the river. So I moved in to attack at close quarters, hoping to eliminate the cavalry unit that couldn't retreat. Probably not a good move as my units were mostly archers too. In the fighting that followed, I lost three (out of five) units, while removing only one of Tom's six (there were only four when I started the attack). However, I also killed the (unnamed) infantry leader with them to make the score 2:3. As the photo below shows, I still have two units across the river facing most of the Takeda army. My out-flanking force on the left hasn't moved, but has been engaged by Takeda soldiers.
From gallery of Pevans

By now I had left section cards and nothing to rescue my two advanced units, so I tried to make something with that flanking group on my left. I eliminated one Takeda unit, while Tom removed my two stranded units right and centre. (3:5) My remaining units in the centre moved out of bowshot, hoping to tempt the Takeda forces up to the river so that I could play my "Blue Dragon" Dragon card (1 die against each unit on or adjacent to water).

Instead Motoshige and his mounted samurai spearmen hit my left, pushing them back across the river. Except for my samurai archers, who hid in the woods. But not for long as a mixture of archers and ashigaru spearmen finished them off. 3:6 and another win for Tom.
From gallery of Pevans

Switching sides for the re-match, Tom was careful not to charge in. I tried to emulate his approach, attacking the Mori advance force with archery. I was not as effective as Tom had been. Again, he had left section cards and advanced the outflanking group to start an archery duel with the Takeda bowmen centre-right. He won this exchange, with my archers eliminated, his reduced to one block and retreated back to the river. (0:1)

With a lead in victory banners, Tom then played his masterstroke. With plenty of Honor and Fortune chips built up, he successfully played the "Turncoat" Dragon card. For the third time. The samurai foot spearmen on my left flank switched sides and attacked the archers alongside them. D'oh! Here's what that looked like. Note Motoshige taking his cavalry to bolster the right flank.
From gallery of Pevans

The renegade samurai started towards the Mori side of the battle, taking out the ashigaru archers in the way. (0:2) Another ashigaru archer unit fell to the arrows of the opposing Mori. (0:3) Time to attack! As part of my general attack on the advanced Mori forces, I went after the turncoats with mounted samurai (bowmen). My attack did not go well: I removed an ashigaru unit, but some lucky dice by Tom destroyed the samurai lynchpin of the attack, their (unnamed) leader fleeing. (1:4) This picture says it all, I think.
From gallery of Pevans

Tom counter-attacked with Mori cavalry advancing across the river. I brought Motoshige back to make it two cavalry onto one in the centre while my brave right flank ashigaru charged the one-block samurai archers on the river, taking them out, and my mounted samurai eliminated the renegades. 3:4 looks a much healthier scoreline.

The fight in the centre took one of my ashigaru, while my cavalry could only chase off the Mori horsemen. (3:5) Motoshige went after them, but some ashigaru got in the way. Between them and the arrows of the retreating mounted bowmen, Motoshige fell to give Tom another convincing win: 3:6. And that makes the aggregate score for this scenario 6:12 to Tom. Sigh.
From gallery of Pevans

There's more to come, but I think I'll make them a separate post. Watch this space.
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Sat Oct 2, 2021 5:42 pm
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Commands & Colors goes to Japan

Paul Evans
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Board Game: Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles
Nephew Tom and I have comprehensively christened my nice new copy of Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles, so it's about time I gave my first impressions. I was intrigued that it's billed on BGG as a re-implementation of Samurai Battles. I tried this at Spiel when it launched and it did not use the Commands & Colors system. Turns out it has two sets of rules, one of which is C&C. D'oh! Peter and I clearly played the other set. So bear in mind when reading this article that I don't know what is new to this game and what has been brought forward from the previous one.

[For anyone who isn't familiar with the Commands & Colors family, it's a series of simple wargames with the same core mechanisms. (Strictly speaking, only the games published by GMT Games, like this one, are titled "Commands & Colors", but the phrase is used to encompass the whole family.) In particular, players' actions are limited/powered by the card they play each turn. Military units are groups of models or wooden blocks, which are removed as a unit takes hits - the result of rolling dice. Players get victory markers for eliminating units, seizing geographical objectives and so on. Designer Richard Borg has done an excellent job of building on the core system to produce games - from several different publishers - that cover warfare from the ancient world to the future. As the name suggests, this game covers mediaeval Japan.]

Anyway, the new game: it certainly looks the part and the wooden blocks mean a hefty box as usual. Plus several hours work applying stickers. The two sides are generic red and blue rather than specific Japanese clans. Who they represent depends on the scenario and these span nearly a century: from Mori versus Takeda in 1517 to Osaka versus Tokugawa in 1615.

I was pleased by the good solid dice (a bugbear of mine is the poor quality dice in many of the C&C family) and that there are 12 of them: 6 for each player means no reaching across the table. The cards are good quality, too. The first quirk I noticed is that the board is 12 hexes wide by 11 deep - almost square. Most C&C games are 13x9 (widescreen!) and this board even has space where the 13th column would go. I don't know whether there's a reason for this, though I do like the extra depth. (As far as I'm aware, the only other C&C board that's 12x11 is The Great War, though several have boards 11 hexes deep.)

Blocks have the red square/blue triangle/green circle designations familiar from other C&C games, but they are not explicitly heavy/medium/light units. Red squares are samurai (infantry and cavalry), blue triangles 'Ashigaru' (foot soldier) spearmen and green circles Ashigaru archers and arquebusiers plus the peasant levies. Effectively, heavy, medium and light units. Especially as red squares are slow with lots of attack dice, green circles are fast with few attack dice and blue triangles are in the middle. Here's a scan from the rules showing a sample of the units.
From gallery of Pevans

Turning to the rules, the most obvious new feature is the 'Honor and Fortune' system. Like Lore (magic) in BattleLore and HQ tokens in The Great War, players (mostly) acquire chips when they roll the Honor and Fortune symbol on the dice - this side of the dice has no other effect. Chips can be spent to power 'Dragon' cards, which provide bonuses and special actions (just like Memoir '44's Combat cards or Commands & Colors: Napoleonics's Tactician cards). So far, so standard.

However, players also lose Honor and Fortune chips when a unit retreats - more if it's a samurai unit. And, if you run out of chips, there's the possibility of additional losses for the retreating unit and others. Effectively, the army's morale is damaged and soldiers flee. What a brilliant way of enhancing the game's setting and giving players something else to worry about.

As well as military units, Leaders (single blocks) feature in this game and, unusually, come in three types. Foot leaders attach to infantry only, while mounted leaders can command infantry or cavalry. As well as allowing their unit to ignore a retreat, they can use Honor and Fortune to add a die in close combat. The third type is the Army commander (and his bodyguard), whose presence on the battlefield boosts some effects, but takes no active part in the fighting (unless attacked). I have yet to play a scenario with an army commander, but their main purpose seems to be to provide a target for your opponent.

The usefulness of your Leaders is somewhat balanced by your opponent gaining a victory banner for killing one. And, as mediaeval Japanese commanders led from the front, Leaders are easier to kill than in other C&C games. In keeping with the setting, a lone Leader who is forced to retreat (and lose Honour) can commit seppuku (and gain Honour) instead. However, this also means the player reduces the number of Command cards they hold, so it's not an automatic decision.

There's also a difference in the way terrain can protect units (which I first saw in Commands & Colors: Medieval). Take forests for example. In most C&C games, attacking a unit in a forest means subtracting one or two dice from what you roll in attack. Thus, ashigaru archers, who normally roll two dice, might roll just one when attacking into a forest while samurai spearmen, normally four dice in close combat, would roll three. However, the rule in this game sets a maximum number of dice the attacker rolls. This is two for a forest, so those ashigaru archers would attack with their full two dice, while the samurai spearmen would only get two, too. This is a subtle change and I'm still seeing how this effects tactics.

From gallery of Pevans
Playing a few games has let me draw some conclusions. First is that archers are powerful. They have a range of three and roll two (if ashigaru) or three (samurai) dice. Infantry generally move one hex at a time (and cavalry two), giving the archers plenty of time to inflict damage before attackers can close. The mounted samurai archers are particularly dangerous and there seem to be a lot of them. In the photo (right), red's three archer units have eliminated one of blue's, despite taking damage, and blue's spearmen have retreated out of range.

As a cautious player, I keep a few Honor and Fortune chips in hand to cover units forced to retreat. However, there doesn't seem to be any need to hoard lots of them - Tom and I were generating plenty of them in every game. So spend them to add an extra die to attacks involving leaders. This does make a difference. Bear in mind, though, that your leaders are more likely to be killed if they're in the front line. (Tom is particularly miffed that he'd not managed to kill a single leader of mine in our first seven games, while I'd polished off several of his.)

Scenarios are generally quick to play (so far) as they don't require many banners to win. In fact, one only needs three banners for a win and killing the enemy leader gains you two. So be aware of this when you start a scenario or it could all be over before you realise.

Coming next: reports from Tom's and my battles.
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Fri Oct 1, 2021 5:32 pm
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Not much of a Breakthrough

Paul Evans
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When I play Memoir '44 online, I usually do so on the Days of Wonder app (also available on Steam). The advantage of this is that the software implements the game, so you can't do anything that would break the rules. And it's quick to play, too - though an undo option would be so useful (for those occasions when you click the wrong thing). However, the app doesn't support more recent expansions to the game, notably my favourite, the Breakthrough expansion, or the terrific New Flight Plan.

Conversely, the (excellent) implementation on Vassal does include Breakthrough (and New Flight Plan). However, it's essentially manual play - you have to know and apply the rules, just like a face-to-face game.

For my latest encounter with regular opponent Evert, I persuaded him to use Vassal and try a Breakthrough scenario. (If you're not familiar with Breakthrough, it uses a larger board - the same width, but much deeper - and a revised deck of Command cards where Section cards let players move - but not battle with - units in addition to those they've ordered.)

We decided to try "Counter-attack of the BEF". A mixed French and British force is trying to stem the German blitzkrieg in northern France in May 1940, pre-Dunkirk. The Allied force is on the attack, with the Germans spread over half the board and defending. Here are the starting positions (from Vassal), Allies at the bottom. Note there are also two British units holding Arras (left centre edge), which is a victory medal objective for the Axis.
From gallery of Pevans

Evert plumped for the Allies as he prefers attacking. No problem for me, I'm a defensive General (my wargaming days also taught me I'm a better commander of infantry than cavalry/armour). While Evert started moving units forward - a slow process even with the extra movement options - I attacked Arras. Some good shooting, along with long-range fire from my mobile artillery, eliminated a defending unit and I was able to occupy the town for a second medal. [That's 2:0 to the Axis]

The French troops on Evert's right wing moved fastest and engaged the forward German units. However, I had brought up some tanks. They removed two French units and inflicted damage on the other flank. Evert's attacks caused casualties (and forced my battery of 88s to retreat), but didn't eliminate anything. [4:0] (The movement lines show the advance of the German tanks and removal of French units. I've also retreated a battered infantry unit - with panzerfausts - to the woods. The red markers indicate the British infantry I targeted on the left.)
From gallery of Pevans

Allied armour in the centre and right moved up in force to engage the German forces. The exchange of fire between the French and German armour on the Allied right saw the French tanks destroyed. [5:0] But the British armour claimed two German tank units [an "Armour Assault" card] in response and advanced across the railway to surround the town of Agny. [5:2]
From gallery of Pevans

The Germans counter-attacked strongly, removing two of the British armour units in turn. [7:2]
From gallery of Pevans

[After two hours play, we saved the game at this point and came back to it a week later - Evert reckoned he had a strategy to try.]

The first thing that happened was that I finished off the third British armour in the centre [a "Behind Enemy Lines" card]. [8:2] The British infantry moved forward. I continued long-range pot-shots with my mobile artillery. First, this damaged the last British tank unit, then it finished off the British infantry in the Arras fortress. [9:2]

Time for the Germans to attack. Moving up my remaining tanks in the centre, I took out an advancing British infantry. [10:2]
From gallery of Pevans

However, the British artillery was now in range of Arras and eliminated my infantry holding the town, depriving me of that medal. [9:3] Quite rashly, I continued to press the attack.
From gallery of Pevans

I lost two infantry and one armour in exchange for the last British tanks and regaining the medal for Arras. [11:6] With nothing much left of my right wing, I switched my attack to the centre. German infantry advanced across the railway track, forcing back the last French unit. British infantry and artillery supported the French, but the German infantry continued forward.

However, the end came when German planes ["Air Power"] took out a heavily damaged British infantry unit hiding at the back of the battlefield. [12:6] Here are the final positions with the target of that air strike (bottom left) about to become the 12th medal. Time for the BEF to retreat to Dunkirk.
From gallery of Pevans

That was a total of three hours playing time - much longer than a standard M44 scenario. Luckily, Evert agrees with me that the Breakthrough expansion adds depth and subtlety to the game, it doesn't just take longer.

Now, how well can I do when we swap sides to play again?
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Wed Sep 22, 2021 7:06 pm
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Dead Man at Verdun

Paul Evans
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Nephew Tom and I are both fans of the Commands & Colors games and thought we'd try out the Vassal module for The Great War as our latest outing (a few weeks ago now). And a splendid implementation it is, too.

I'm still impressed by the way Richard Borg tweaked the Commands & Colors system to reflect trench warfare - particularly as all the units (until you add the Tank Expansion) are infantry. Essentially, the dice are much more deadly, but trenches provide good protection. However, you can't just hide in your trenches if you want to win... The downside is that many scenarios are much the same: one side with lots of units in their trenches to attack with, the other with a few units to defend its trenches. The two major expansions provide more variety, though.

Tom was amused by the idea of fighting over a dead man, so we played scenario 246 Verdun (Le Mort Homme) from the French Army Expansion. This uses some of the extra unit types introduced with this expansion, adding to the variety. And the scenario is interesting with two hills (one of which provides the title) for the Germans to occupy as well as the French trenches. The Germans are also "racing against time" - the French player can use a 'Recon' card to gain a victory medal.

Tom drew the French, giving me the job of attacking. And I had several useful cards to do just this. First, though, I thought I'd soften him up with my (off-board) artillery. As usual, this had no effect - you have to be lucky for the artillery to do some damage, but it can be devastating when it succeeds.

So I threw my right wing forward to sieze Hill 304, as shown below (my right is left in the picture - the colours aren't clear in the picture, but the black German units have icons facing right while the dark blue French face left). I got the French out of their 'Fortified Positions' initially, killing two units. Tom gained a medal for a Recon card, hence the 2:1 score shown (righthand edge of the picture). Fighting went back and forth for a while before the Germans could claim their medal for there being no French units on the hill.
From gallery of Pevans

Time to try and do the same on my left wing by attacking Le Mort Homme in the same fashion. The French defenders here held on while their remaining troops gathered below Hill 304. I finally cleared Le Mort Homme but, before I could get the medal at the start of my next turn, the French attacked Hill 304. Eliminating a German unit and taking away my medal for Hill 304 saw the French win 6:3, as is about to happen in the picture below.
From gallery of Pevans

It was actually much closer than that scoreline suggests, with Tom getting two medals for "racing against time" and that two-medal swing at the end. Well, that's my excuse.

Switching sides left me trying to repeat Tom's defensive success. Again the German attack came in on Hill 304. My French threw them back, albeit taking casualties into the bargain. Here's that position with six French units left to defend against 11 Germans.
From gallery of Pevans

German troops had also been advancing on the French right to threaten Le Mort Homme. They were joined by soldiers from the centre trench to make six German units facing two French. When the attack came, the Germans eliminated the one French unit on the hill and got into the French trench. However, they were deprived of their two positional medals by sneaky card play (sending the German troops on Le Mort Homme back to base) and a carefully positioned machine gun.

The battle for Le Mort Homme continued for a few rounds, but the hill was eventually taken by Tom's Germans to win 6:5. Here is that final assault - the Germans just need to wait for their next turn to get their medal.
From gallery of Pevans

It was a much closer score this time - and only one "racing against time" medal for the French, I might add. But the French need to do better than exchanging a unit for a unit. And a convincing win for Tom overall.

There's a more detailed account (but without pictures) on commandsandcolors.net.
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Mon Aug 30, 2021 4:42 pm
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Four months later...

Paul Evans
United Kingdom
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Yes, it's been that long since my last blog post. That's because my life has been up-ended dramatically.

Let me explain... No, there is too much: let me sum up. Back in March I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. The tumour was removed surgically a couple of weeks later (though I'm still recovering from the operation). I am now in my first cycle of adjuvant chemotherapy (luckily with very minor side effects).

There's a more detailed account of all this in TWJO 213 and I don't intend to repeat that here - check it out if you want to, but you may find it's too much information (I would).

Anyway, the good news is that I am recovering - though I'm finding everything I do takes longer - and feeling the urge to start writing again.

I will need to find things to write about, though - I've not played many games in recent months. However, I've just returned to playing online on Wednesday evenings with the Swiggers gang - old favourites mainly. And I'm getting in plenty of Commands & Colors games: both Memoir '44, through the app, and Commands & Colors: Napoleonics, on Vassal. These games have been real ding-dongs with my two regular opponents and great fun.

So, expect a mixture of after-action-reports, reminiscences of old favourites and accounts of solitaire play. Oh, and first impressions of the odd new (to me) game...
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Mon Jun 7, 2021 10:29 am
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What's happening?

Paul Evans
United Kingdom
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This was meant to be a final blog entry for 2020... Two weeks later, it's the first for 2021. Sigh. Oh, and Happy New Year! to one and all.

It's about time I put something on my blog... The problem is that I don't think of playing games online as being blog-worthy. Partly because I'm largely playing old familiar games, but also because, somehow, playing online doesn't feel 'real'.

I am playing quite a bit, though. Wednesday evenings sees the Swiggers group online, usually at Yucata or Board Game Arena (or both), playing in real time. I have even tried a couple of new (to me) games this way: Yokohama and Underwater Cities. Both intriguing games that I'd really like to try face-to-face.

I've also re-discovered some older games that I enjoyed at the time, but haven't played for years: Egizia, Elfenland, Glen More, Puerto Rico, Yspahan... Great fun.
From gallery of Pevans

On top of this, I've been playing Commands & Colors games on Vassal - which I only got to grips with in 2020. It's amusing that I have a 100% record against some opponents and a 0% record against others. The picture above is Evert (playing French) thrashing me on his introduction to Napoleonics. The British position still looks good, until you realise the whole right wing of the army has disappeared... Conversely, the picture below shows my Romans chasing Hamilcar (played by Deon) off the field of Bagradas (Ancients), despite Deon having got his heavy infantry into the fight. Mind you, he used to have some elephants...
From gallery of Pevans

However, the big success for me was being introduced to Forgotten Waters. This game of "Piratey Misadventure in a World o' Magic" has proved terrific entertainment. It uses an app instead of a paragraph book to flesh out the bones of the game's mechanisms and tell the story of your game. Even better, the "remote assistant" app lets a group play together while in different places - you just need one person with a copy of the game.

I had so much fun playing this with the group that I invested in my own copy and have been playing solitaire as well. Officially it's for 3-7 players, but the Variants on the app include one- and two-player rules. Essentially, the solitaire game gives you a gang of four pirates to take actions, but you only count as one for rewards and so on. And there's a tweak to the all-important way your character progresses to their personal goals. If only I'd taken some photos, I'd put them in here.

The initial scenario has proved frustratingly hard to complete succesfully (falling off the edge of the world, sinking ignominiously to Davy Jones's locker, being blown to smithereens by Royal Navy Cap'n Razor - yep, managed all of those). I have only achieved this once and this was a solitaire game with, ahem, a little cheating at the climactic showdown (I knew I needed a bigger boat).

Maybe because we'd been honed to a fine edge by that first scenario, the team found the second one we tried a bit of an anti-climax: we succeeded at the first attempt with all but one of the crew also getting a personal victory (something none of us had managed before). This has not put us off, though: next scenario is scheduled for early January...
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Sun Jan 3, 2021 6:48 pm
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Allez les Bleus!

Paul Evans
United Kingdom
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Continuing my Great War day with nephew Tom (see Back to the table for the first instalment), we set up a French Army scenario: No 41, Verdun (Bois des Caures). This was also our first experience with the new special personnel introduced with this expansion - the German forces include a flamethrower and elite units while the French have an officer and one of their choice.

The scenario set-up had an impressive array of German troops right across the board with a few left over, waiting in their trench to attack the much sparser French spread across three lines of trenches. The Germans are "racing against time" (the French can take a victory medal when they play a 'Recon 1' card) but also gain medals for exiting units off the French side of the board and for capturing the French bunkers in the trench network.

The photo below shows the starting positions from the French side with the blue French pieces surprisingly bright. The bunkers are the leftmost (containing a machine-gun) and rightmost positions plus one in the centre towards the bottom of the picture (where the French officer is lurking).
From gallery of Pevans

Tom took the Germans to start with, meaning I got an extra Special and chose to bolster my mortar unit. Tom used "Infantry Assault" cards to attack in the centre initially, quickly getting a foothold in the French trenches - as shown below.
From gallery of Pevans

With the French units spread around, I couldn't counter-attack in any strength. My machine-gun in the bunker took out a couple of German units, but couldn't stop Tom's next attack on my left, taking said bunker. I'd played a couple of 'Recon 1' cards that kept the scores level at 5:5, but Tom got the next medal to win 6:5.
From gallery of Pevans

Switching sides, tbe battlefield looked very different, as usual. Tom's choice of Special personnel was the extra figure for the machine-gun unit in the bunker.
From gallery of Pevans

My starting hand included a "Whistles & Bugle Calls" card. This says "...issue an order to a group of battlefield units in adjacent, linked and contiguous hexes". Hmm, how big is a group? All the German units are in adjacent, linked and contiguous hexes... Of course, the result of this was to leave most of the German forces standing in no man's land, which would have been catastrophic if the first French trench had been more fully defended.

My next trick was to use a "Short Supply" Combat card to remove the souped-up French machine gun from the bunker so that I could just walk in. Tom was not happy as German troops swarmed into the French trenches.
From gallery of Pevans

Fighting in the tranches went back and forth, but I was able to swap out damaged units for full strength ones. That kept Tom down to two medals as I reached six for the win. It's an entertaining scenario, though I think the odds are with the Germans. They certainly won both times in our case and the aggregate score was 11:8 to me.
From gallery of Pevans
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Wed Oct 14, 2020 10:48 pm
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Back to the table

Paul Evans
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After a suitable quarantine period, nephew Tom came round for a day of games. Well, game. We're both Commands & Colors fans and our choice this time was The Great War. Starting with a Tank Expansion scenario from the battle of Cambrai: No 29, Graincourt. This particularly attracted me because there's not a trench in sight.

The way The Great War works is that attacks are powerful, but troops are usually protected by the trenches. In open terrain the effects should be devastating. The set-up has the British advancing across the open towards the village of Graincourt, where the German troops have the shelter of the buildings. However, the British have tanks. But the Germans have field artillery in fortified positions alongside the village (the first time I've used these units).

Here are the opening positions from the British side of the board. We're using the second edition models, in a less brittle plastic, hence the rather bright appearance of the brown British pieces. The German figures are a pale grey - except for the darker field artillery pieces which are from the first edition.
From gallery of Pevans

The British gain victory medals for occupying the village (as well as eliminating enemy units). However, they're also "racing against time": the German player can gain a medal by playing a "Recon 1" card.

I drew the British and advanced cautiously, making sure my tanks didn't break down. I carefully manoeuvred the flanking tanks into the centre, so I could use all of them with my "Assault Centre" card. Tom stymied this with a "Lost Messenger" Combat card, damn him!

So my advance proceeded more slowly, the tanks drawing fire while the infantry advanced behind them. Here's my left flank tank taking on the field artillery - and being attacked by some brave German infantry. I'm hoping that I can move my infantry through the woods to outflank the village.
From gallery of Pevans

The field artillery turned out to be less of a threat than I expected, my tanks rumbling up to the guns and trashing them. Then I moved up my infantry to take the village - the union jack counters are victory medals from occupying the village. And there's a one-figure German unit making a desperate assault to try to finish off the one-figure British infantry next to the tank.
From gallery of Pevans

That was a win by 7 medals to 3. Switching sides, here's the initial view from the German perspective with the British already advancing on my right. The German forces look very sparse.
From gallery of Pevans

Tom took some risks with his tanks, but got away with advancing faster than I did. The field artillery didn't do any better this time - both batteries have gone in this photo. On my left there's a tank versus machine gun duel while the British have started occupying the village.
From gallery of Pevans

I made a fight of it, though, moving around the village to deprive Tom of medals. Right at the end, one of the tanks bogged down (indicated by the large cardboard counter in the photo below), but this made no difference at this stage. Tom and I got enough hits on the tanks that, statistically, we should both have had a couple of successful damage rolls - potentially knocking out a tank, which would have had a significant effect on the result.
From gallery of Pevans

This time it was a win for Tom (looks like a scenario the British will usually win), but I'd managed a couple more medals than he did as the Germans, so that was 7 medals to 5. The aggregate score was thus 12:10 to me. The difference was that I was able to play a couple of "Recon 1" cards to gain "time pressure" medals.

Next up was a French army scenario, but I'll report that separately.
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Mon Oct 5, 2020 11:18 pm
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Stop that blitzkrieg!

Paul Evans
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Deon and I were a bit anti-social at Swiggers on 12th Feb: we played a Memoir '44 scenario. Just the two of us.

The other eight split across two tables. One lot went for classic bidding game Medici - so good they played it twice! The others went for Glen More which took rather longer. Then they had a go at Medici while the first table tried to escape from the monster in Fearsome Floors. All good fun.

I'd suggested a Breakthrough scenario to Deon and we settled on "Breakthrough to Gembloux". This is very early in the war with the French troops trying to blunt the blitzkrieg. Thus all the German units are in the first two rows of the board with the French defending in depth. 12 victory medals are needed to win three game, but the German player must get at least one unit off the far side of the board (from a specific hex). Drawing for sides, I got the Axis, so I was on the attack. Here are the starting positions from my end.
From gallery of Pevans

The initial advance by the Germans was met by advancing French armour. The German tanks got stuck in and immediately destroyed a French unit (first medal!). In response, the first lucky dice roll went to Deon as a three dice attack wiped out a tank unit. A "Their Finest Hour" card saw the Germans take out three French units, including the infantry damaged initially.

French tanks pressed the attack on their left, taking the lead 6:5. I pulled level and then it was time for my lucky die roll: taking out two French units to go 8:6 ahead. I continued to push forward on my left, losing more tanks to the last of the French armour. Add you'll see from the photos the advancing troops have to weave their way round the rivers and rows of 'hedgehogs'.
From gallery of Pevans

Then I stalled for a while with a lack of left section cards. Instead I moved up in the centre, trying to link up and using the mobile artillery to good effect - until Deon got it. Here's the position just before that happened - the mobile artillery is the grey pieces (actually American Priests from the Equipment Pack) left of centre towards the top of the picture. The French artillery has moved into the centre of the board and the French still hold two forward positions (on the right).
From gallery of Pevans

Then it was attrition as I tried to work closer to the exit point and Deon thwarted me with his last full strength units. I had 14 medals, two more than I needed to win, which was pointless until I got a unit off the board. With Deon on 11 medals, it was getting edgy. An Armoured Assault took out his artillery, which had been plaguing my attempts to advance. This left him with two infantry units.

All it needed now was for me to keep my weakened units out of the way while moving up my artillery and last full strength infantry unit. Deon decided to go out fighting, but lost another unit before I snuck what was left of an armour unit around the back and off the board for the win 12:11 (though I actually had 17 medals by this point!). Here's the almost final position.
From gallery of Pevans

That was a tough fight all the way, with Deon only left with one unit by the end! Great fun and a rematch is pending.
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Sun Feb 23, 2020 10:56 pm
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