My FATDOG Experience (2012)
Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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FATDOG is Friday After Thanksgiving Day Of Gaming, and ranks only just below Festivus as my favorite non-traditional holiday.


This FATDOG in particular is held by Harvey Mossman ever year in Long Island, and this year in particular Harvey opened up his event to a more general audience, moving it to a hotel venue to hold the increased attendance (reportedly in excess of 60). The con is nominally for wargaming, but games like Last Night on Earth also got play, and I even spotted a Euro or two (leaving out names to protect the innocent).

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1. Board Game: Nine Navies War [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:9742]
Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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I arrived around 9, said my hellos to those I knew, and went upstairs for my free breakfast. Did I mention everything about this event was free? Free breakfast voucher, free lunch and dinner spreads, free snacks and drinks, no charge to attend. Donations were of course gladly accepted, and there was also a raffle with prizes from a number of supportive publishers.


Infused with breakfest, I got cornered by John Scherrer, and we settled on playing the Bomba-tastic classic Nine Navies War.

The quick pitch: It's World War One, except Germany overruns France in 1914. The war turns naval, and the game (based on the venerable War At Sea chassis) pits the players in mortal combat on the high seas. A chit pull system governs port activation, which leads to tense moments of bluff and bravado, but hot (or cold!) dice can sink the best-laid plans. It's a big-n-stupid game with loads of fun and large amounts of dice-hucking.

I claimed the Central Powers, with John in the Allied seat, and we were off to the races. Since I had a game planned at 2 and wanted some time for lunch, we figured we could at least get through the first three turns (1915), which coincidentally comprise the "short game" scenario. We left in the random event rolls, though.


The first major event was when the Russian Baltic Fleet sortied, drawing a formidable German force into battle. The Germans held all the cards -- greater numbers, better technology, superior training. The entire Russian fleet was sunk for few losses on the German side. An inauspicious beginning for the Allies...


John spread his considerable British forces wide, and the activation sequence forced him to cover only the North Atlantic from England, allowing the Germans to come out in force in the North Sea and Central Atlantic.


I combined the Italian, Austrian, and Spanish fleets in the Central Med to try to draw out the various British forces stationed in the region, but they refused to bite.


I also sortied the Turks in an attempt to split any British response, but instead the Alexandria fleet cut off and destroyed the entire Turkish navy, though with significant losses. A lost opportunity, as Sevastopol fell to the Germans on the next turn, and I had no ships in the area to take control of the Black Sea (about half the Russian Black Sea Fleet was lost fleeing to Alexandria).


The third and last turn started off poorly, as a freak giant herring collision sent the Bayern to the bottom (my only 6 attack factor ship!)


To add insult to injury, my considerable South Atlantic raiding force was destroyed when the German West African colonies were overrun by the Allies! I still had a slim lead at this point, but I needed a couple victories to end up ahead.


Fortunately, fate obliged as most of the Allied ports were pulled first from the cup. When the Malta fleet stayed at home, I was able to draw out the North African mixed British and Free French fleet to battle against the Italians, Spanish, and Franco-Germans. It was a slaughter (though not as one-sided as it seems in the picture, John just hadn't fired yet!) This battle off Ajaccio would give me some breathing room in the Med, and possibly open up reinforcing the Atlantic front.


It turned out my next game was going to start early, so we broke for lunch after three turns as planned. As you can see, I had a moderate lead, but one that could be easily overcome if the US enters the war early enough.

All in all, John and I had a good time. While I do enjoy the game, the extra-large fleets make for some honking big battles which take a while to resolve. I wonder if one could consolidate the pieces as capital ship divisions and shorten game time a bit? You'd lose considerable flavor though, missing out on all the ship names...
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2. Board Game: Southern Front [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:3256]
Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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I had been recruited for a game of Third World War using the first two modules, Battle For Germany and Southern Front. I had never played before, though I've owned the series for some time. It's a classic GDW game, with short but relatively clean rules, a doctrine-driven and process-heavy sequence of play, solid air rules, and a few twists, notably the proficiency ratings that play a huge role in combat.


Allan Rothberg and I would command the Warsaw Pact forces, he in the main German front, and myself in the Balkans. Allan had some experience, which is more or less required for the main event in West Germany - though powerful, one must know how best to use the Pact advantages to make solid gains before NATO can turn the tide behind a wall of air units and US divisions. My job would just be to open up the straits and allow the Black Sea Fleet to sortie, which meant a grinding offensive towards Istanbul while holding off the Greeks and possibly other NATO allies.


Our opponents were John Buck and Thom Sobczak. John had played the game back in antiquity, but Thom was as new to the game as I was. All three of these gentlemen are excellent players and fun to socialize with to boot.


You can see how the Balkan forces are spread rather thin. I couldn't expect much in the way of reinforcement for the first two weeks, and even the second-tier NATO forces in the region would still be able to wrest air superiority away. Allan and I formulated our plans. We decided to minimize the forces facing Jugoslavia, and send the Hungarians into Austria immediately to help stabilize the central theatre's southern flank.


The Bulgarians would strike the Turks first and push through their defense-in-depth to assault Istanbul, with Soviet marines landing on the isthmus behind the city. Romanian forces would form a reserve behind the Bulgarians, screen the Jugoslavs, and cut the Greek army off from threatening the Bulgarian flank.


Although the invasion of Austria ended up triggering Jugoslav entry into the war on NATO's side, we went ahead with our plans. The Bulgarians pushed down the coast as a Romanian corps struck at the Greeks in Macedonia. Although NATO had air superiority in the Balkan theatre, the results did not add up to much (no serious strikes, and ground support was not enough).


Comrade Allan, meanwhile, made a good push across the northern German plains, flanking Hamburg and threatening the Netherlands by the end of the first week, all without too many losses. Pact air forces took a beating, however, and poor maintenance would ground too many air units for the second turn.


On turn two, the Bulgarians, with a bit of help from airmobile units, were able to drive right up to the gates of Istanbul, wrecking a few Turk divisions in the process, and driving the rest against the coast. Nearby Greek forces were also driven away or cut off. Airpower pounded the city, turning it into a deathtrap. Although not able to force my way in this turn, it seemed inevitable that this key city would fall on turn three.


Meanwhile, a few Bulgarian tank brigades and second-rate Romanian divisions held the Jugoslavs at bay. Greek forces trudged north to invade Bulgaria and threaten Sofiya, but the forces were insufficient and they didn't even attack.


Soviet forces in Hungary and northern Romania hammered the dispersed Jugoslav army (which is mostly brigade-sized formations). By the end of turn two, they had driven to the Adriatic, taking Zagreb and then Trieste, and cutting off the Jugoslavs from the main theatre. Italian forces had reinforced Austria, but Category II divisions were soon due in the theatre and would be sufficient to dislodge them, along with the threat to their communications from the Soviet army plunging through Venice.


Meanwhile, Allan's forces had penetrated further and widened their breakthrough. Hamburg fell after a brief but hard-fought siege. The Dutch were shaken by their casualties, and were near capitulation. Vanguard Soviet formations were suffering considerable disruption, however, and superior NATO airpower was beginning to take its toll. Still, with numerous reinforcements due to arrive, we felt good about our chances.

It was at this time that I began to fade rather heavily, having gotten up at 6 am to make it to the event after a full slate of holiday travel the day before. I don't think Allan and Thom got much further into the game.

We had a terrific time, although there were a few questions regarding omissions or vagueness in the rules (a bit surprising given their relative simplicity). Still, it was good fun figuring out how to make the Pact doctrine work, and there was definitely a sense of strategic decision-making that had to be backed up by solid operational play. I particularly enjoyed playing with the relatively obscure Southern Front forces (the Bulgarians!) and I could see getting one of these modules on the table again at my regular game night.
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3. Board Game: Bomber Command [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:3606]
Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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As I mentioned before, there was a raffle (run by the spunky Bob DeMaio) with prizes from several major publishers (notably GMT, Dan Verssen Games, and Academy Games) as well as some donations of older out of print games - about two dozen in total! You could put your tickets towards any individual game, with the winner drawn at random from the game's envelope.

I bought fifteen tickets, and stuffed five into the envelope for Bomber Command. It's not a topic I am terribly interested in, but it's a beautiful package and I respect LBW's work ethic. Also, it had few tickets early and I always enjoy being a winner. Still, I was moderately surprised when my number was called. A win! Looking over the game later, I was glad I chose to go for it.
 
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4. Board Game: Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! (second edition) [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:471]
Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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The second game I aimed my tickets at was the new edition of the first module for Conflict of Heroes. Harvey claimed that Uwe Eickert himself brought this copy back from Essen, and it was the first copy available in North America (preorders won't ship for a couple weeks...!) I had tried the system a couple years ago, but decided I didn't want to keep up with the several planned releases. It was a handsome game with interesting ideas, though, so I went for it in the raffle.

I was rather surprised to win this one as well! I thought more wargames would go for it. It is a very impressive package and I hope to get it on the table again soon, and put it through its paces.

***

All in all, FATDOG 2012 was an incredible event. I had a great time and will definitely try to make it next year. They're going to need a bigger venue!

Massive thanks to Harvey Mossman for pulling this off. I know he had help, but it's his drive and generosity that made it happen. See you all next year!
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