The Vassalators - weekly wargaming
Ben Vincent
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Recently kuhrusty and I were both lamenting the fact that we weren't getting to play many wargames - and acquiring new games faster than we could play them. Inspired by sdiberar's Week Night Wargaming, we decided to embark on our own weekly wargaming quest. Separated by 400 miles, we'll be using Vassal to play our games online.

This geeklist will chronicle our games, and hopefully provide some useful commentary on the Vassal modules we try, for others who might be interested in long distance gaming.

Games played thus far:

Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage
Combat Commander: Europe
Rommel in the Desert
World at War: Eisenbach Gap
Hammer of the Scots
FAB: The Bulge
Napoleon's Triumph
Eastfront II

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1. Board Game: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:134]
 
Ben Vincent
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1-8-08: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage

Our first game was Hannibal, which we've both played a few times (and played each other at BGG.con '07. Rusty took Carthage, and I assumed control of Rome.

Game Summary: Hannibal suffered some early losses to attrition crossing into Gaul and facing Hostile Tribes. He was able to gather reinforcements and march into Gallia Transalpina with the help of native guides, where he's remained for most of the game ("training" is what I think Rusty called it). Rome has sent multiple expeditionary forces to Hispania, and much of the game has focused on Hasdrubal chasing Roman armies around Spain. Through the use of naval moves and forced marches, P. Scipio finally managed to evade Hasdrubal long enough to reinforce his army, capture Gades, and then gain control of the province of Idubeda. Rome lost Corsica/Sardinia to revolt (which resulted in the only turn thus far where we weren't tied 9-9 for province control). Mago briefly took control of Sicily during turn 5, but Longus recaptured a majority of the cities by turn's end.

After completing 5 turns, we called it a night and will finish the game next week. The current situation (from memory) has Hannibal camped in Boii with 8 units, Hasdrubal in Baeticia with 10 CU, Hanno in Carthage with 8, and Mago in Sicily with 1. P. Scipio is in Idubeda with 10 CU, there's a 10 CU Roman army in Samnium, 2 CU in Sicily, and 5 CU in Rome. We're at the Turn 6 reinforcement phase, so Scipio Africanus will be arriving this turn.

Vassal Module Comments: It's been more than a year since I've used Vassal, so I was a little rusty getting started. The module is pretty simple and straightforward, and since the starting positions are fixed, the initial units and control markers are already setup when you start a new game. CU quantities can be changed quickly (increase/decrease steps) - much easier than swapping out counters of different values. While I like the artwork on the new Valley Games map, I appreciate the high contrast between game elements and the background on this map - it makes province borders especially easy to pick out.

However, there were a few things we struggled with or thought could be improved:
- The leader abilities are not shown on the map (as they are in both the AH and VG editions), nor do they appear to be available in any of the attached files. Remembering which leader has which ability is one of the most difficult things for me in this game; it'd be nice to have the abilities available somewhere in the mod, rather than having to pull out my VG map and read them there.
- We had a lot of trouble shuffling the battle deck. I'm not sure why, but more often than not, after shuffling, the cards were shown face up to the player who shuffled.
- It would be nice if there were more event notifications. For example, the module doesn't tell me that my opponent is drawing cards, much less how many.
- Randomly drawing cards from your opponent's hand is cumbersome, requiring the cards be layed out on the board, individually flipped, and then picked up again. This has been a common problem with every Vassal and Cyberboard game I've played - there's got to a cleaner way to do this.

Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage Vassal Module
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2. Board Game: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:134]
 
Ben Vincent
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Ridgefield
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1-15-08: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage

After a bit of fumbling around figuring out how to start a saved game, we were back into the action.

Game Summary I may not have all the events in exactly the right sequence or turn, but here's the wrapup:

Turn 6, Scipio arrived in Dertosa. Hannibal immediately got moving, and attacked the Flaminus' army in Mutina. He won the battle, but suffered a 3e attrition result. Rome launched a major campaign: Nero marched up from Rome and attacked Hannibal, forcing him back to Boii. Flaminus followed up, pursuing Hannibal towards Gaul Hannibal fell back to Taurini, then marched south to Cosa. After the battles and attrition in the passes, he was down to 1 CU. Flaminus followed him over the pass and destroyed the remains of Hannibal's army. Mago defeated the Roman troops in Sicily and gained control of the province. In Spain, the Romans consolidated in Dertosa, then Africanus marched down the coast to New Carthage (avoiding an intercept), and put the city under siege. When Hasdrubal arrived to do battle, Africanus fell back into Acci, and gained control of Baeticia. Africanus then marched in Celtibera and gained control of that province. There was a massive battle around this time that saw Hasdrubal lose 5 CUs while retreating.

Turn 7: Africanus marched on New Carthage, eliminated the remains of Hasdrubal's army, and captured the city. He and P. Scipio secured the remaining towns in Orospeda. Mago was stuck in Sicily, so he beseiged Messana. Sicily then revolted, and Rome was able to briefly gain control there again, though Mago recaptured the province by turn's end. Diplomacy enabled Rome to take constol of Corsica/Sardinia.

Turn 8: Rome launched a Major Campaign, and Scipio Africanus sailed to Icosium in Western Numidia. The Roman army in Mutina beseiged Boii, and subjugated them by turn's end, gaining control of Gallia Cisalpina. Hasdrubal marched west to Saldae from Carthage with the army there. Mago attempted to reinforce him, but was forced to return to Sicily. Africanus took control of Western Numidia, then fought Hasdrubal, pushing him back into Cirta. Mago sailed to Hippo Regius and reinforced Hasdrubal. Africanus force marched south around Cirta, aiming for the undefended Carthage, but was intercepted in Thamugadi, where he again defeated Hasdrubal. He later force marched on to Carthage again and put it under siege, but failed to make much progress. (I had two force march cards in hand with Africanus in a position to besiege Carthage, but didn't earn a single siege point this turn!). Hasdrubal regained control of Western Numidia. Celtibera revolted (Rusty played the last 4 cards of this turn uninterrupted, after stealing some from me earlier)

Turn 9. P. Scipio sailed into Carthage with reinforcements for Africanus. Varro marched south into Sicily, eventually regaining control of the province. Rome regained control of Celtibera. Africanus besieged Carthage, gaining 2 siege points, before Carthage broke the blockade and removed them all. Hasdrubal attacked Africanus at Carthage, and after a massive battle, forced him to retreat to Thapsus. Hasdrubal made several attempts to chase down Africanus for the rest of the turn, but Africanus was able to repeatedly avoid battle and survived to the end.

Final: At the end of the final turn, Rome controlled 14 provinces to 4 for Carthage (all in Africa). After removing 10 PCs, that would have left Carthage with only 4 PCs on the map. A glorius Roman victory!

AAR: We agreed that Hannibal's early inactivity allowed Rome a lot of freedom to be aggressive in Spain, and build up armies in Italy. By the time Hannibal attacked on Turn 6, I had 20 CUs in two armies in Italy. In the late game, Mago got stuck in Sicily. Rusty had missed that he couldn't cross the straits into Italy without first controlling the cities on both sides, and then couldn't sail away due to a lack of "3" cards. It was fun to see Africanus have such an impact (for me, anway!). In all the games I've played previously, one side already had a significant lead by the time Africanus showed up, so he was either overkill, or just fighting to keep Rome alive. Seeing him conquer Spain and almost Carthage was pretty neat.

Vassal Module Comments: My earlier comment about the general's abilities not being included in the module was in error. I accidentally clicked on one of the menu buttons once (the question mark next to the marker tray button) and that opened a window with a summary of leader abilities. I did notice at least one error though - it didn't say anything about Fabius not being allowed to leave Italy.
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3. Board Game: Combat Commander: Europe [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:102]
Ben Vincent
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Ridgefield
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1-21-08 1-22-08: Combat Commander: Europe

Session postponed on account of Rusty's extracurricular activites.

This was a short session - we got started late and ended early, due to work committments. We've both played CC:E before (it was my most played game of 2007), but this is the first time on Vassal for both of us. We decided to play scenario 10 (neither of us had played it yt) and Rusty selected the Soviets.

We only made it through a few turns as we spent most of our time wrestling with the mod. I'll hold off on the game summary until we finish up next week.

Vassal module comments: This is a great, comprehensive module, but it's also fairly complex and we had a few problems getting started. Note, this is a big mod. 99MB including all the scenarios I believe - many other mods I've seen are around 1MB. As a result, it takes a while to sync up the players.

After loading the scenario and poking around finding out where things were located, we drew objectives, set up our units, and drew cards. Or tried to. Rusty was unable to draw any cards, which we eventually figured out was because he'd somehow logged in as an observer. We tried to figure out a way to switch him over to the Soviet player, but were unsuccessful. Eventually, we quit the game and started a new one. This time, I didn't get a chance to pick my side, and ended up as the Yugoslavian player. The third time we started a game, we both managed to pick the correct sides, setup, and got to playing. I'm not really sure what was causing this. I did find it strange that when loading a saved game (any of the scenario setup files) I could choose from any country, not just the two that are represented in that scenario.

During the first turn, while resolving a fire attack, I disconnected from the server. After I rejoined the room, we synced up the game. Everything seemed to be working, but strangely, we both saw different cards in the discard pile. Rusty saw G-43 Command Confusion at the top of the die roll pile, but on my end that card was still in the draw deck somewhere. We decided to play through it - we'll see if that card comes up again later.

Eventually we noticed that the leader command ratings were being added to units that they were stacked with automatically. This is a nice feature, but unexpected. Playing face to face, I'm used to adding in the leader's bonus, so it was natural to do this online as well. The bonus is automatically added to weapons as well, but only if they are properly equipped within the mod.

The fire attack calculator is another nice feature that we had to experiment with for a while to figure out how to use. Ultimately what I think this mod needs most is some documentation on how to use its features. That would have saved us a bunch of time.

Finally, how does one shuffle in this mod? The only way we could figure out to do it was to manually send each card from the discard pile back into the draw deck. That was pretty tedious the one time we did it - by the end of the game I can see that getting tiresome. There's got to be a shuffle command somewhere, but we couldn't find it.

Combat Commander: Europe Vassal Module
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4. Board Game: Combat Commander: Europe [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:102]
Ben Vincent
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1-29-08: Combat Commander, Part Deux

Game Summary: The open objective was exit points doubled. The Germans drew elimination points doubled. The Russians drew one of the objectives (5 for 2 points I think), which was hidden.

The Russians set up in a forward defense. Leader, squad, and HMG in H5, squads in J6 and K7 guarding the main road. A unit and LMG in G7 would watch the south. A leader, team, and LMG in J2, and a squad with satchel charge in L1 to cover the north. Germany set up with a leader, squad, and HMG in M5, squad in M6, and squad and LMG in N6. Another leader squad and LMG occupied M3. The pioneers with flamethrower and satchel charge went in M1 and N1, with the third leader.

The early turns saw the Germans trying to root the Russians out of L1. The flamethrower was effective, but play of Light Wounds made it a slow process. The MGs focused on the leader in J2, but didn't do any lasting damage. In the center, the Russians poured fire into the squad in the open in M6, which broke, rallied, and eventually dug in. Around this time a blaze started in D5. Over the course of the battle, multiple breezes would spread this blaze to cover D4, E4, F4, E5, E6, and F6. This locked two objectives into Russian control, but isolated and very nearly killed the LMG team on the island.

After the Russians in L1 were eliminated, the units in J2 pulled back to G3. The pioneers followed, occupying the building I2 and J2. Using smoke, the pioneer team with a satchel charge was able to cross the road to H3 and toss the satchel charge at the adjacent enemy, breaking the leader there. The flamethrower squad later threw smoke and ran into the road at H2 where they got stuck in a wire obstacle. They managed to extricate themselves and enter the building, killing the leader with assault fire. The German LMG squad from M3 moved up to I4, and the overstacked poineer squad moved to J4.

In the center, the Russians eventually killed off the German squad at M6. The Germans fired back with focused MG fire and eliminated the squads at K7 and then J6. A hidden infantry gun showed up in C3 for the Russians. The broken Russian LMG team from G3 withdrew to F2. The flamethrower squad ran past them, through G2, F1, into E2. The Russians moved back into G3, and the IG fired ineffectively at the Germans.

At this point the time marker is on 6 (I'd earlier passed the initiative to reroll the sudden death roll, extending the game) and Russia has 1 VP (not counting their hidden points for Obj 5). Germany has a move card in hand, poised to move a pioneer squad and "1" leader off map next turn. The Russians at H5 fired at the Germans in I4. As a 10 FP attack, it couldn't possibly break the units, but we rolled for defense. The first roll turns up a "Time!" check. I roll for sudden death, and the game doesn't end. Rusty passes the initiative card to reroll, and still the game continues. I roll defense for the leader - another "Time!" check! I roll for sudden death and it's game over. I quickly pass the initiative card back, reroll, but I'm out of time, and the game ends.

Rating: (10) After 15 plays or so, I'm revising my rating upward. This was by far my most played game of the last year, and will likely continue to be my most played game this year - I've still played only a fraction of the available scenarios, and the scenario generator will keep this fresh for a long time. This game is frustrating in all the right ways. I really enjoy the uncertainty that comes with the cards. There are a few gamey abstractions, but it just works. The rules are incredibly clear and complete, and the player aids are fantastic.
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5. Board Game: Rommel in the Desert [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:1035]
Ben Vincent
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Ridgefield
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2-5-08: Super Tuesday Showdown

This is the very first game I ever played against Rusty. We'll see if he can shed the Desert Tuna moniker. We'll be playing the 1941 scenario, with Rusty taking the Axis, and me at the helm of the Allies.

Game Summary: The first few months were slow. The Axis moved up the coast road to Tobruk, while a lone unit hopped from oasis to oasis, eventually getting to Siwa. The Allies held in place building up supply, but had to deploy units to protect the road at Sidi Barrani and Mersa Matruh to guard against the threat of a strike from the desert.

The first combat didn't occur until 4 or 5 months in. Two elite German armor units drove through the desert and attacked the lone Allied infantry at Sidi Barrani, eliminating the unit and cutting the bulk of Allied forces (in Sollumn and Bardia) off from supply. The Allies responded by stretching a new supply line through the desert from Bir Kenayis to Sidi Omar. The Italian armor at the oasis attacked Bir Kenayis in an attempt to sever this new line, but failed to defeat the Allies there. Allied units from Sollum occupied Gambut and Sidi Rezegh, cutting of another Axis unit at Ft. Capuzzo. At the end of the month, the Axis lost 4 units to lack of supply (including all of their armor, I think).

The Allies received another wave of reinforcements and consolidated their forces in Sollumn and Ft. Capuzzo, while the Axis moved more units up the coast near Tobruk. The Allies strung out a line of units south of Sidi Omar towards the Jarabub Oasis. The Axis attacked and broke the line at Ft. Maddalena. The Allies pulled the remaining units south of the fort back to Sidi Omar, and simultaneously attacked Sidi Rezegh, threatening to cut the lead Axis elements off. The Axis reinforced their supply line at Bir Gubi. The Allies then blitzed El Adem with 6 units - or rather feinted a blitz. El Adem was lightly defended and fell in a single round of combat. If it had been an actual blitz the Allies could have moved into Retma unopposed and cut off 6-8 Axis units. Instead, the Axis were able to pull their forces back to Bir Harmat and Sidi Mufta.

There was some more consolidation of reinforcements and tightening of lines. The Axis pulled the mass of their troops back into Gazala. The Allies moved large forces into Bir Harmat, El Adem, Bir Gubi, and along the road between Tobruk and Sollum. At this point the game got a little silly - Rusty's only real shot at victory required him to kill a whole bunch of units in the next two months, while I was getting greedy and looking for a quick knockout blow. So I moved a few fast units up to Sidi Mufta, intending to tear down the track through Ben Gania and cut the Axis off at Beda Fomm. The Axis launched an attack from Gazala, and the units at Sidi Mufta fell back to Bir Harmat. The Axis then pressed the attack here. Both sides poured reinforcements into the battle. The Allies also attacked through the pass to attack Acroma. Eventually, after every Axis unit at the front was engaged, the Allies sent a couple of fast recon units from Bir Gubi to Gazala, cutting all of the Axis off from supply. This being the final month, and nearly 1 AM, we called the game.

AAR: I enjoyed a massive supply advantage throughout the game. For the first several turns I was unengaged, able to pass and build up supply. Meanwhile Rusty had to spend his initial supply to get into the fight, and spent a couple of extra cards moving the one unit across the bottom of the map - I'm not sure if that maneuver was worth the cards. By the time I had to start maneuvering I didn't really have to worry about the cards. I started two turns with 16 cards in hand, and both times only 2 of those were dummies. I was also flush with build points - saving between 14 and 19 on several turns, because I didn't really have anything to spend them on (the few units involved in early combat were eliminated, so there wasn't anything to reinforce).

Losing his armor was obviously a big setback for Rusty, but those elite German infantry units are still awfully hard to kill. He never did attack Tobruk (I built a minefield early, which may have influenced that decision); that might have been a better move, but then I was waiting for his units to get stuck in combat so I could hit them from the rear.

I have a tendency in games where I'm obviously winning to get overly aggressive and go for a quick knockout. Often it backfires, and very nearly did here. If I'd played the last few turns more conservatively, Rusty wouldn't have really had any chance of victory. By extending my lines, I gave him a shot at eliminating a bunch of units. In the last big battle, I had something like 5 armor (all 1-2 step), 7 inf (all 1 step), an artillery and an AT unit, plus 4 disrupted mech/armor unit that couldn't fight. If he'd been able to win there, I think that would have left him with more units on the map. That's still like 15 more hits, but I could have played it safer.

Vassal Module Comments: This is a great module, we had no problems. Unless you count my horrendous die rolls... If I could make one improvement, it'd be to number the hexes - that would make it easier to communicate what you're doing when your opponent can't see you.

Rommel in the Desert Vassal Module
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6. Board Game: World at War: Eisenbach Gap [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:1568]
Ben Vincent
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Ridgefield
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2/12/08: World at War: Eisenbach Gap

Game Summary:I received my copy of Eisenbach Gap last week, but only had a chance to skim the rules before this session. Rusty explained the basics to me, and we ran through a couple of activations so I could get the hang of it. Then we set up Scenario 1 "for real." I took Team Yankee, and Rusty the Communists (oddly attacking from the west).

The 1st Tank started off by skirting the north edge of the map, around the hill, keeping out my line of fire. Team Yankee failed to get any activations in the first turn. 1st Tank pushed further east on the second turn, destroying the ITV in western Eisenbach. Team Yankee's M-1s fired at the T-72s passing to their north and destroyed two units of tanks. On the third turn, the Soviets fired smoke to cover their advance, and sent a unit of T-72 south to assault the Team Yankee HQ in town, but were repulsed. 1st Tank HQ followed up with a second assault with two T-72 units, and completely destroying one of Team Yankee's M-1 platoons and the HQ. The American infantry squad vacated their ambush position on the wooded hill north of town and assaulted the 1st Tank HQ. The combat was a tie, resulted in two reduced T-72s, a reduced 1st Tank HQ, and disrupted infantry and M113 pushed back out of town on the American side.

At this point we revealed the last formation counter and some confusion arose. Every tile was turned up, but there appeared to be only one Team Yankee marker in the mix. We spent some time trying to figure out whether there had been a turn when Team Yankee activated twice. I said no at the time, but thinking about it some more, I must have had two activations on turn 3, because my tanks were already Ops Complete when they were assaulted. Somehow, one of the Team Yankee markers disappeared. At this point, due to the uncertainty of whether we'd been playing correctly, we called the game, and decided to start fresh with Scenario 2 next week.

Had we continued, the outcome was probably dependent on the next activation. The Soviets had lost 2 T-72s, and had 3 reduced and disrupted, 1 disrupted, and a reduced HQ. The American infantry and M113 were disrupted, and there was one full strength M-1 platoon active. The Team Yankee HQ would be rejoining that platoon reduced at the beginning of the next turn. If Team Yankee were to go first, and the infantry rallied, they could assault the 1st Tank HQ stack again and potentially eliminate them and hole up in town. The M-1 would have a high chance of eliminating any stragglers from that fight, or the other reduced T-72 nearby. If that happened, the Soviets would be down to 3 T-72 units, vs 1 M-1 platoon and and 1 infantry platoon with dragons. Obn the other hand, if 1st Tank activated first, they could likely eliminate or at least reduce the M-1 with close range fire.

Vassal module comments: This is a pretty straightforward and simple module. We didn't have any major difficulty, although it took a while to find the Smoke marker, which is spawned by selecting a HQ and picking a Smoke mission from the menu - there are no Smoke counters in the counter tray. The Disrupted and Ops Complete markers could be improved. By default, when you add a counter to a hex, it appears at the top of the stack. When two units are stacked together, this can lead to confusion about which unit the counter applies to. It's possible to reorder the counters in a stack using the left and right arrow keys, but we thought a cleaner way to handle these markers would be with flags directly on the unit counter, like the Combat Commander module does with suppression, for example.

[url=http://www.locknloadgame.com/vassal/wawv1.2.zip[/url]World at War: Eisenbach Gap Vassal Module[/url]
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7. Board Game: World at War: Eisenbach Gap [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:1568]
Ben Vincent
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Ridgefield
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2-19-08 2-18-08: World at War: Eisenbach Gap

I had something come up on Tuesday, but we were able to squeeze in a game on Monday night. Rusty asked that we never speak of this again, but out of respect for our adoring fan, I think I should post something...

Game Summary: Scenario 2 begins with the Soviets entering from the south; they must capture every city hex in play to win. I set up the two US infantry platoons in Eisenabch and Klappebruck, adjacent to the bridges. The M-1 (with HQ) and ITV started on the large central hill, and the jeep was parked in a stand of trees SW of Klappebruck.

Rusty's forces crept onto the SE corner of the map. Just like last game, I held my OpFire, waiting for a juicier target to appear, and ultimately running out of chances to shoot. The threat of OpFire kept him from advancing too far, but also left several ATGM equipped units with LOS to my tanks. This lead to the devastating turn 2, when a swarm of Saggers completely destroyed my M-1 platoon (knocking out the HQ for a bit), reduced my ITV platoon, and reduced my Jeep platoon. I had managed to eliminate a couple of BMP units before then, but the situation was looking grim.

I managed to pull the ITV back off the hill towards Eisenbach, and the Jeep fled onto the bridge north of Klappebruck. My reduced HQ reformed in Klappebruck. The Soviets pushed into the gap SW of Klappebruck, which turned into a killing field. The Dragon equipped infantry in Klappebruck destroyed vehicle after vehicle, including all of the T-62s and the Soviet HQ. The Soviets tried an infantry assault of the town, but the dug in US infantry caught them with OpFire in the open before they made it into town. The ITV and Jeep (which retreated further north after running out of TOWs) each contributed a few hits over the course of the battle, but spent several turns out of command as well. The Soviets never got within range of the infantry in Eisenbach. After losing their HQ, the Soviets had a very difficult time mobilizing their remaining forces. Gravely depleted and with no chance of securing their objectives, the Soviets conceded on turn 10.

Vassal Module Comments: Rusty's changes to the mod reduced the clutter that we were dealing with last time. For the next step, he suggested incorporating automatic OOC and Rally checks when a HQ is activated.
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8. Board Game: Napoleon's Triumph [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:382]
Ben Vincent
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Ridgefield
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2-26-08 3-4-08: Napoleon's Triumph

This module is version 0.3, and the comments on the download page say "Needs playtesting, please provide feedback". From an initial look at the module, here are my comments:

- There should be a way to attach units to a HQ, so they can move together and rotate about a common point.
- In addition to free rotation, the blocks should have options to rotate 90 degrees, and reset to 0 degrees. Otherwise those of us who are... particular about these things will spend a lot of time lining up blocks.
- Markers/flags to indicate spaces where road movement has occured, units that are detached, and have received commands, and retreated would all be useful. These are less necessary in face to face games because things happen right in front of you, but in a PBEM game you might forget which block in a space has already retreated or received a unit command.
- The board is really too big for the screen, so a separate window to track the marginal data (commands, turn, morale) would be handy.
- I would prefer to have the board rotated 90 degrees. It's "upside down" for one player, but I find it easier to when it looks the same as on the table. Plus then you don't have to rotate all the blocks 90 degrees after placing them.

UPDATE: We loaded this one up last night, but after experimenting with it for a bit, decided it was going to be too fiddly to be fun. The inability to link blocks together into a formation for easy movement and rotation meant that we'd be tweaking individual block positions and orientations for the next several hours, which we didn't really look forward to. So we passed on NT for now.
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9. Board Game: Combat Commander: Europe [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:102]
Ben Vincent
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3-4-08: Combat Commander: Europe

After scrubbing our NT plan, we fell back on a game that we're both familiar with. We set up Scenario 11; I took the Germans, Rusty the Americans, including their Sherman.

Hey, I thought there were no tanks in CC?!?

I stacked Sgt. Ganz (a "2" leader) with a weapons team and SS squad, each toting machine guns, and moved them into the building at Objective 2 on my first turn. Rusty responded on his turn by firing with a couple of infantry units dug in at objective 5. This was a pretty low odds attack - he had 7 or 8 FPs, and my morale was 10, +3 cover. However, the first roll resulted in a sniper breaking Sgt. Ganz, and one of the subsequent rolls turned up the KIA event. Ganz, being the only broken unit on the board, was eliminated on the first turn.

The loss of Ganz really hurt. Now instead of one Fire Attack order giving me two 10 FP attacks, I could only manage one 8 FP attack. Against dug in, leader supported units, this was mostly ineffective. For the rest of the battle, the Germans around Objectives 1&2 traded fire with the Americans on Objective 5, but it never amounted to anything on either side.

In the north, I moved Lt. Lauerbach with two squads along the edge of the map. When they broke through the treeline into the NW quadrant of the map, the American Sherman opened up and broke the lead squad in the open. However, they were able to dig in and rally. Then I got stalled waiting for a move card. I had enough smoke grenade cards in hand that I could completely cover my dash across the open ground, but no move. The Sherman continued to pour fire into my positions. Eventually the .50 cal jammed. Now I didn't even need the smoke, just a move card, but no luck. Eventually, repeated shelling from the Sherman's main gun killed Lt. Lauerbach. Then I finally drew a move, but could now only move one of the squads.

I moved a squad behind the hill and into the woods adjacent to Objective 4, which was guarded by an American squad and team. The American squad advanced into melee with my SS squad. I played an ambush, and eliminated the Americans. I then followed up by advancing on the objective, killing the team there and securing Objective 4. Another American squad appeared as reinforcements nearby. I moved my lone squad to engage in melee, but we eliminated each other with ambushes (I'd had two No Quarter cards in hand to play after this battle, which would have scored me another 4 VPs).

At this point the Americans were in the lead with 6 VPs. All of their reinforcements had arrived, and we'd already made on Sudden Death check. The Germans controlled Objective 1-4, and the Americans had #5. I was down to 3 squads with MGs, no leaders, and no apparent way to gain more VPs. Since it was now midnight, I decided to concede. We flipped our hidden objectives: mine made Objective 4 worth 2 more VPs, but Rusty's made each Objective worth 3 more VPs. So if we counted the hidden objectives, the Germans were actually winning with 5 VPs. But since I conceded (and Rusty could have potentially run someone up to reclaim Obj 4 before the next Time check), Rusty gets the win in my book.

This was the most frustrating CCE game I've played so far. Losing my best leader on the first turn, failing to draw useful cards for many turns in a row, and only being able to play 2 orders with no leaders really put a damper on what I could accomplish.
 
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10. Board Game: Combat Commander: Europe [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:102]
Ben Vincent
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3-11-08 & 3-20-08: Combat Commander: Europe

The last time I tried posting this, BGG timed out and I lost it all. Here's hoping it works this time...

Game Summary:So we talked about trying a new game on the 11th (I was pushing for Asia Engulfed), but neither of us had a chance to learn the rules ahead of time, so we opted for Combat Commander again. This time we played Scenario 12. Rusty played the Allies, and I played the Germans.

I set up my defense along the high central ridgeline, with the bunker at the NW end of the ridge. The HMG went in the bunker, the LMG at the SW end of the ridge, and the mortar in the center, looking down the road. A leader and squad with MG occupied objective 3. Two squads deployed behind the ridgeline as reserves.

The Allies deployed in 3 groups. On their left, Jensen's platoon of infantry started out in the cluster of buildings. In the center, Lt. Blankenship's platoon started just downhill of objective 4. The mortars were deployed in the SE corner.

In an ironic parallel of our last game, on the very first turn Lt. Blankenship moved his platoon forward and was broken by a sniper attack. A KIA event immediately followed, and Blankenship was eliminated. The platoon did manage to overrun the most forward German squad, and suffered some losses from their return fire. Action in the center then stalled out until reinforcements arrived.

In the west, Jensen proved to be a bumbling leader. His troops deployed poorly, which prevented him from assaulting objective 3. Eventually they bypassed the objective and worked north along the road. When the platoon came into view of the German bunker, nearly every squad was broken between the withering fire and minefield. The Allies were able to hide in the thick fog, preventing the Germans from eliminating them entirely.

The assault bogged down as the Allies struggled with their lack of leadership. The Germans fired intermittently into the fog to keep them pinned down, but could not focus enough fire to drive off the Allies. Eventually, reinforcements arrived in the southeast. The mortars fired smoke onto the ridge in preparation for a quick march north along the eastern road. The wind finally picked up, blowing away the smoke and dissipating the fog slightly.

In the east, one of the reinforcing squads managed to sneak up to objective 3 and ambush the Germans there, capturing the objective for the Allies. Jensen routed away from the lines, and another squad routed and fled out into the open where they were cut down by machine gun fire.

The Allies continued to press forward in the west, supported by mortar fire. The lone German squad at objective 2 moved forward to take up a blocking position where the road entered the woods. They held up the advance briefly, but were eventually broken and routed back to the north. The Allies pushed into the woods, capturing objective 2 and, now presed for time, moved on to exit the map. A German squad from the ridge near objective 4 came down off the hill to pursue them, eventually recapturing objective 2.

Despite a massive lead for most of the battle, the results were in doubt as time wound down. The Allies had been unable to dislodge the Germans from the ridge, but they managed to pass a number of troops through the German position. A late event that awarded VPs to the Germans for each eliminated enemy unit finally put victory out of reach for the allies.

AAR: A long, hard fought battle that Rusty very nearly managed to turn into a win at the end despite early setbacks. I'm sure things looked grim throughout from his perspective. As for me, the thick fog was very tough to penetrate. Many of my fire attacks were ridiculously weak - as in 2-3 FPs. I also made a few mistakes with my initial deployment, misjuding LOS from my entrenched positions to the likely routes of advance, so there were long periods when I couldn't see the enemy to shoot him.

Vassal Module Comments: I think I've listed most of my comments about this module in the previous entries, but one thing that was slightly problematic this time around was the support weapon movement modifiers. For example, the American mortars had a -3 movement point penalty - this is shown in the lower right corner of the counter. However, the icon that the module uses to show which unit is carrying the equipment covers up the movement modifier, which makes it rather awkward to calculate movement points. And unlike most other situational modifiers, this movement penalty isn't factored into the values shown on the unit's counter. My suggestion is move "equipped by" icon to the upper right corner of the counter.
 
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11. Board Game: Hammer of the Scots [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:300]
Ben Vincent
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3-25-08: Hammer of the Scots

It's Hammer time. This week's game featured Rusty as the rebellious Scots against my noble English campaign to unit Britain.

Game Summary:
1297: Wallace moves north to secure Angus. The English levy (4 infantry) move across the border, working their way up to Fife. Late in the year the English face the Scottish forces in Angus, forcing their retreat and recapturing Angus. The Scots are overstacked in Buchan, so Wallace winters Selkirk Forest. All four of the new English infantry blocks find winter quarters in Scotland.

1298: Edward bribes Bruce, who joins the English side. Wallace races through Annan, avoiding battle, to hole up in Galloway. Edward moves into Annan with his hobelars, knights, and two archers. Wallace engages the army but is unable to break contact before the hobelars reduce him to half strength. He falls back into Teviol. Edward procedes to pillage Teviol, which eliminates Wallace. (Wallace goes back into the force pool, since he wasn't eliminated in combat, but he was never drawn on subsequent builds). Edward winters in Annan.

1299: The Scottish bribe Angus to join their side. Edward marches to Lanark, dispatching Bruce and an archer to capture Galloway, which falls quickly. Edward's army moves to Fife, with Edward and the Hobelars pushing ahead to attack Angus, where they drive back the Scots. The Scots respond by attacking and capturing Comyn and Mar. A subsequent attack into Atholl is replused. As winter sets in, Edward returns to England with his knights and archers, but he controls everything from Argyll-Atholl-Angus and south, plus Ross in the north.

1300: Moray leads an attack against Ross, who flees to Garmoran after suffering some losses. Edward returns to lead another army out of England, marching up the coast through Lothain and on to Fife. A sea move reinforces Edward's army with two more infantry. The Scots attack Argyll but are repulsed. Edward leads his knights, archers, and three infantry in an attack on Buchan (which contain 4 Scottish blocks), while Angus and another English infantry attack Mar. The Scottish again attempt to invade Atholl but are beaten back. Mar falls quickly, and Edward makes short work of the Scottish forces in Buchan - a lone step manages to retreat to Strathspey. Edward winters in Buchan.

1301: Edward's army rolls over the lone defender in Strathspey, and into Badenoch. Comyn continues his streak of losing every battle he is involved in, and is "convinced" to side with England. Nobles pushing up from the south into Lochaber force a general retreat from the Scottish. Edward moves into Moray, where the Scots again refuse battle. As Edward returns home for the winter, there are two full strength English infantry units camped in Moray. Ross huddles in his castle as the last remaining Scottish units - Moray and Keith - disband for lack of supply.

1302: In the spring, the English infantry push north, subjugating Ross' lands and uniting Scotland under the English flag.


Vassal Module comments: HOTS is a pretty simple game, not a lot of moving parts or complex rules. The module is therefore also pretty straightforward and works great. There are two things that I think would help polish this just a bit more: 1) Players should receive a notification whenever someone draws a card, to prevent potential cheating, and 2) There should be a count of how many blocks are in the English draw pool, to facilitate drawing half for the English levy. Alternately, a "draw English Levy" command could be added that automatically draws half of the blocks in the pool.

Link to the Hammer of the Scots Vassal Module can be found here.
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12. Board Game: FAB: The Bulge [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:1467]
Ben Vincent
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4-1-08, 4-8-08, 4-15-08?: FAB: The Bulge

We're making progress, but it's been slow. After the first session we had completed 2.5 turns. We only managed 1.5 turns in the second session. The game has been fun and tense, but I'm not so sure about "Fast Action."

We're both new to this game - when we started Rusty had played "Nuts!" once, and I had just read the rules. We've both since played another face to face game, but we're still learning. Neither of us had a preference for sides, so we rolled for it and Rusty got the Germans.

Game Summary: 16 Dec 1944 - The Germans attack across a broad front. They dedicate massive amounts of artillery to their initial assault, but it is largely ineffective (Rusty scored only 1 artillery hit, though he used just about every asset available). The unprepared Americans survive first contact in most battles, but the units in Lutzkampen and Marnach are overrun. The Americans withdraw all up and down the line, attempting to refrom slightly further west.

17 Dec 1944 - The German Greif Team secures a river crossing to exploit the gap in the American lines, while paratroopers drop on Stoumont. American engineers blow bridges leading to Ettelbruck and Malmedy. German armored divisions pour through the gap in the American lines at Weiswampach, swinging north to Vielsam, which cuts supply to St. Vith, and south through Houffalize and Noville, entering and capturing Bastogne. The Americans scrambled to establish a line north of the Ambleve River, and trucked the 1st ID to Marche. In the south, the 4th ID and newly arrived 10th Armor attacked the Germans in Junlinster, driving them back to the Sauer. The Americans defending St Vith, cut off from their supply lines, surrendered en masse.

18 Dec 1944 - American Engineers constructed a defended roadblock at the critical road junction in Baraque de Fraiture, in an attempt to slow down the German advance. A task force was deployed to hold Werbomont. Engineers destroyed bridges along the Ourthe river leading to La Roche. The German advance continued along the Ourthe, through Samree, Hotton, Ouffet and Esneux. The garrison at Wiltz was overrun, and the Americans in Elsenborn and Ligneuville were forced to retreat. American reinforcements moved into Huy, Amay, and Liege. An American unit moved into Stoumont and found the German paratroopers already dispersed. A German division from Hotton circled north of Marche into Rochefort. The maneuver cut supply to the town, but also left the most forward German units out of supply. The 10th Armor and CCA 9 Armor attack the Germans in Beaufort, shattering the suprised defenders and pushing across the Sauer into Irrel.

Dawn, 19 Dec 1944


19 Dec 1944 - German units continue to push west, securing the supply lines along the Ourthe river. The Panzer Lehr division attacks Marche, but fails to dislodge the 1st ID. Units from Ouffet and Trois Ponts conduct a river assault to capture Werbomont; even a reinforcing unit from Aywaille cannot hold back the attack. Fresh German units attack Monschau, but are stalled in the difficult terrain. The Germans in Echternat, cut off from supply, attack Beaufort but are defeated and melt away. A river assault into Malmedy is repulsed by the 2ID, who then follow the retreating Germans across the river, in Ligneuville, but do not quite eliminate them. German rear echelon units occupy Sinspelt and Bitburg and blow bridges across the Sauer and Our into Diekirch to prevent an American thrust north. In the west, the Americans shift south, occupying Ciney in order to secure a supply line into the beseiged town of Marche. In an effort to isolate Bastogne, American units are trucked into Sprimont, but the Germans blow bridges across the Sure to prevent an attack on Wiltz.

Dawn, 20 Dec 1944


20 Dec 1944 - Germany's plans to execute a massive encirclement of Allied positions are thwarted by a lack of fuel, so they try to form smaller pockets. In the north, fresh armor units are rotated into the fight at Ligneuville, while the Germans attack Malmedy from Elsenborn and Vielsam. The Germans capture Malmedy, shattering the 99th ID, but the 2d ID in Ligneuville holds fast, though now cut off from supply. A German attack into Sprimont results in no losses on either side. A Fallschirmjaeger division reinforces the attack on Marche, but the 101st Airbone also moves up from Ciney to assist int he defense. The attack is aborted in the face of two full strength American divisions. The newly arrived 3rd Armor convoys to Wanze, while the German unit in Andenne shits to Ciney to encircle Marche. In the afternoon, the Americans attempt a river assault on Werbomont, but German reinforcements from Ouffet push back the attack. The 3rd Armor attacks Mean, attempting to restore supply to Marche. The defenders intially hold, but the Americans place extra effort here, and they are pushed back to Hotton late in the day. The 82nd Airborne moves east from Huy, destroying the Germans in Ouffet. The 10th AD crosses newly repaired bridges out of Ettelbruck, circles around Wiltz, and rolls into Lullange, cutting German supply lines to the units around Bastogne.

Dawn, 21 Dec 1944


21 Dec 1944 - The Germans pushed towards Verviers, attacking Hohes Ven, Spa, and continuing to fight in Monschau. The outnumbered and outclassed American garrisons held all along the line, aided by the difficult terrain. In the east, the Germans pulled back, attempting to shorten their supply chain and plug holes in their lines. A river assault into Diekirch was also held up by the stiff American defense. At the end of the day, the Germans were unable to restore supply to the the pocket around Bastogne, and the units there began to suffer from lack of critical supplies.

Dusk, 21 Dec 1944


At this point we called the game. With Bastogne undefended, the two American units in Arlon could just walk in and secure the final VP needed for a sudden death victory at the end of the turn. This would also put the American unit in Lullange back in supply, and the unit in Ligneuville could be supplied by air, leaving the Germans no chance to gain an VPs during the American half of the turn.

So the final result: Sudden Death victory for the Allies on Turn 6.

Vassal Module Comments: There is a lot of information on the map and pieces that is fairly small. This isn't a problem in itself, but it does mean that you have to be zoomed in to see everything clearly. This results in a lot of scrolling the map back and forth, which is especially annoying when you're trying to grab assets from one side of the map and move them to the other side to attach them to a battle. Rusty's suggestion was to make the Available/Used/Eliminated portion of the map a separate window, which seems like a good idea to me. I think the zone boundaries could also use a bit more "pop" so they stand out at the wider zoom levels.

It would be helpful if the marker selection window listed all of the markers. Roadblocks, for example, are not listed. Instead, you get them by choosing another marker and flipping it. This works fine for control markers and disruption markers, but it's not very intuitive that the roadblock is on the back of the OOS marker, or wherever it's found. I understand why this is done with the physical game, but there's no carboard to be saved with the Vassal mod.

Some kind of generic markers would also be useful. A couple of different colored circles, explosions, numbers - whatever. When playing online it's helpful to be able to place a marker in the area where we're currently conducting a battle, for example, so neither player loses track of the action. However, all of the markers currently inclued have other meanings, so it can be a bit confusing to use them.

I found it a little bit difficult to tell when my own pieces were face up or face down. It didn't help that a few of the pieces that started on the map and the reinforcement card were faceup when they should have been facedown.

When I chose "send to elimination box" from the right click menu on the Allied unit that starts in Area 12, it went to Area 8. It seemed to work fine for every other piece.

When drawing from the asset stack, a notification should be sent to all players. Otherwise a player can cheat by drawing and reshuffling in the window (which the other player can't even see) until he finds the assets/events he wants.

It would be nice if there was a screenshot mode that just showed the wood side of the blocks for both sides, so I could share screenshots without revealing the details about my units.

Link to FAB: The Bulge Vassal Module on the GMT site
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13. Board Game: Rommel in the Desert [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:1035]
Ben Vincent
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5-6-08: Rommel in the Desert

No game during the last week of April due to work schedule conflicts.

Rusty wanted a rematch after our last game of Rommel in the Desert, so we set up the Crusader scenario, and Rusty picked the Allies. I set up a ring around Tobruk, and place the rest of my forces in a line stretching along the border. Rusty then piled a mountain of units on his side of the border.

He opened the game by attacking my one unit in the oasis on the map edge with 4 blocks. "No problem," I thought, "I'll just fall back." At this point I was rudely reminded of some of the rules differences between RitD and FAB (which we played all last month), as my GE Motorized Infantry was obliterated by pursuit fire, and I realized that there was a limit to the length of my supply line through desert spaces. So on my very first move I had to commit my reserves in order to plug some holes. Rusty always tries to capture (or at least threaten) my supply source by running guys through the desert from oasis to oasis, so I knew I had to block that route.

The focus shifted north, as we battled back and forth across the front. Rusty lost his lone AT unit, and ran into both of mine. I committed my armor in a big counterattack that dragged on far longer than I expected. Rusty then assembled another push at the south end of my line and broke through. The path through the desert was open to him. I raced an Italian armor unit west to block his approach to the oasis, but it was overrun. The British raced to the coast and occupied the coast road, putting the entire German army out of supply and winning the game.

We've played this game before; scroll up to see my previous comments on the module.
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14. Board Game: Hammer of the Scots [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:300]
Ben Vincent
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5-20-08: Hammer of the Scots

After missing a week due to other commitments, we squared off for the Hammer of the Scots rematch Rusty had demanded. Once again he managed to lead William Wallace into obscurity, as Edward conquered Scotland without ever fighting a battle himself.

The game opened with mixed results. The Scots conquered Angus, and Bruce destroyed the English Hobelars, but Buchan helf firm against a Scottish assault. At turn's end, the Scottish forces in Angus were overstacked, so Wallace had to flee to Selkirk, and an infantry unit was disbanded. The following year Bruce accepted a bribe and joined the English, virtually surrounding Wallace. Wallace moved across the border into England, but English forces cut off his retreat and his followers were dispersed following the battle there. By the end of 1299, Edward and the Lancaster knights were wintering in Menteith, and every English infantry unit was at full strength inside Scotland. In 1300, Edward marched up the coast. The Scottish nobles fought a delaying action, forcing battle and then retreating, until they were pushed back to Moray. Edward's army threatened to attack from Strathspey while English nobles and infantry secured the Comyn lands. Bruce rejoined the Scots, and Dunbar was occupied by Scottish forces while he was defending the English border. Moray couldn't support such a large army through the winter, and many troops were dispersed. In 1301 the English pressed on in the north, killing Moray and converting Ross. By the end of 1301, the Scots controlled the border (Bruce, Dunbar, and an infantry in the province between) as well as Argyll. The rest of the map was red with English blocks. At this point we called it for time - it seemed unlikely that the Scottish would be able to pull off a victory, as the English still had every infantry block in Scotland, it was only a matter of time until they could be moved into position to crush the remaining resistance.
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15. Board Game: Combat Commander: Mediterranean [Average Rating:8.51 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.51 Unranked]
Ben Vincent
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Looks like I forgot to put this one up.

6-3-08: Combat Commander: Mediterranean

We missed a week because Rusty was busy fulfilling his GOTW duties. This week, we picked up CC again, and decided to try Scenario 23: No Man's Land. The only terrain feature on this map is a road that runs diagonally across the battlefield. Both sides start with a bunch of trenches on opposite ends, but eventually someone needs to stick their heads up and move around if they want to capture any VPs.

Rusty volunteered to play the Italians. The British are outnumbered but start with a forward deployed "sniper" (leader with MG), and a radio. I had two artillery request cards in my opening hand, so I was able to start laying smoke on the Italian positions right from the start. Once they were covered by smoke, I ran a squad out into the middle to capture the objective in the center, and then they returned to my trenches. We sat in a stalemate for quite a while. The only pieces in range of each other were my sniper team and about half of the Italians (some obscured by smoke). They traded mostly ineffectual fire for quite a while. The Italians did end up losing a squad to an event, but it later reappeared as walking wounded right on my map edge, and they walked off for VPs. I then decided to run a squad for the Italian edge, using arty smoke and smoke grenades to mask my advance and successfully exit.

Rusty eventually killed the sniper and finally broke my radio (the first time through the deck I'd drawn and used every artillery request card). We were getting near to sudden death however, and I was up on public VPs (and had several more because my hidden objective made the central objective worth 5 VPs). We ended up calling this one early for time, as a minor victory for the British.

I was disappointed by this scenario. With the low unit densities and complete lack of cover, I didn't feel like I had any interesting choices to make. For the most part our trenchlines were out of range of each other's guns, so the only way to attack was to walk out into the open and try to hit guys in trenches. Without enough units to mass fires and overcome the cover, this would have been difficult even if they didn't shoot back. So we mostly discarded and waited. Perhaps this is an accurate depiction of the situation in the desert, but it wasn't terribly exciting to play.
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16. Board Game: Napoleon's Triumph [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:382]
Ben Vincent
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6-17-08: Napoleon's Triumph

Our intention this week was to play Eastfront 2. However, the Eurofront 2 module currently available doesn't seem to allow players to choose sides, which means that all pieces are visible to all players. So we decided to try Napoleon's Triumph instead.

Previously we had shied away from NT, because of some UI issues, but it actually worked out pretty well. The rotation issues that were discussed above weren't a big problem - what's strange is that when I load the game offline the blocks free rotate, but in an online game the ctrl-z and ctrl-x commands step through 10 degree angles. It would be nice if the initial OOB was laid out on the board to make setup go more quickly, and Rusty had a few other improvement ideas, but it was definitely playable.

Rusty picked the allies so he could start on the offensive, and proceeded to soundly thrash the French. He moved two large corps to engage Legrand, and another against St. Hilaire. Although my cavalry screen initially appeared effective, I made a series of blunders commiting to attacks that I probably shouldn't have started, and frittered away several units to preserve the larger formations. In a desperate attempt to take the initiative I launched a guard attack with Legrad that was repulsed, dropping my morale into single digits. The French reinforcements arrived and managed to shatter Kienmayer's corps (though it took two heavy cavalry charges), but it was too little too late, and the allies claimed victory by noon.

One thing that stood out to me was how effective Rusty's artillery turned out to be. He says it was an accident, but it was an "aha" moment for me. I have always had trouble getting artillery into the fight (funny, considering I was an artillery officer), but now I see some ways to make better use of them in my next NT game.

Link to Napoleon's Triumph Vassal module
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17. Board Game: Napoleon's Triumph [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:382]
Ben Vincent
United States
Ridgefield
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7-8-08, 7-15-08, 7-31-08: Napoleon's Triumph

I've been remiss in updating this geeklist. Gaming has slowed over the summer, as work, vacations, and other obligations have interefered with our available time, but we did play two more games of Napoleon's Triumph over three sessions in July. Rusty won them all. So now that we've found a game he can consistently beat me at, I think it's time to move on to another title.
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18. Board Game: Combat Commander: Europe [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:102]
Ben Vincent
United States
Ridgefield
Washington
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8-26-08, 9-4-08: Combat Commander: Europe

After a 4000 mile roadtrip, I was ready to avenge my string of defeats at Austerlitz, so loaded up Combat Commander and selected a scenario at random. Scenario 7 starts with the Russians randomly scattered around the map, and only 1 order per turn. The Germans have managed to capture two objectives (losing a squad and LMG in the process), but the Russians have drawn two additional leaders as reinforcements, and are moving in force to counterattack the Germans. This was a short session, so we were unable to finish, and will pick it up again next week. At this point the outcome is still very much in doubt.

Update:

This game ended the following week in a Russian victory. Unfortunately since it's been 3 months, I don't recall the details.
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19. Board Game: Rommel in the Desert [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:1035]
Ben Vincent
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Ridgefield
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It's been quite a while since I updated this list. Our gaming has tapered off the last few months, as illness, work, and the great kuhrusty disappearance of 2008 intervened. Honestly, that last one wasn't my fault.

But we have gotten a few games in:

10-14-08: Rommel in the Desert

Rusty wanted to try the 41 campaign. The last several games he'd played he'd won as the Allies, and each time had thought "if only the Axis guy had doen that differently...", so he wanted to put on Rommel's hat for a change.

The early months passed quickly, as forces on both sides moved towards the front. The Axis surrounded Tobruk, and in July, they attacked the fortress in force. The initial assault was largely ineffective, but reinforcements poured into the battle and began to grind down the defenders. The Allies responded by counterattacking at Bethamed, attempting to secure a supply corridor to push reinforcements to Tobruk. Before the battle in Bethamed was decided, Tobruk fell to the Axis.

Then the Allies passed.

Flushed with victory, Rommel ordered his forces to to Bethamed to crush the Allies there. The Allies responded by blitzing from Sidi Omar through the Italian unit at Bir Gubi, and then up the road to Bir Harmat and Acroma. Taken off guard and down to the last of his supplies, Rommel threw one of his few unengaged units into the middle of the British supply line, but it was mopped up by the British follow on forces who captured El Adem. And so Rommel's Afrika Korps, having so recently captured the fortress of Tobruk, found themselves cut off and out of supplies, and surrendered en masse.

The aftermath:
 
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20. Board Game: FAB: The Bulge [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:1467]
Ben Vincent
United States
Ridgefield
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10-21-08, 10-28-08: FAB: The Bulge

Although our last FAB game took several weeks to complete, at just a turn/week on average, we decided to give it another go. This time I took the Germans.

The first day saw heavy German casualties, but a breakthrough in the center. On the second day, German tanks rolled into Bastogne, and surrounded St. Vith, but a German unit in Wiltz strayed to far from it's supply lines and disintegrated. The third day saw the Germans advance into Marche, as the Allies desperately threw up a line from Werbomont to Malmedy, and counterattacked in the south near Diekirch. On the 4th day two German divisions crossed the Meuse, beyond the range of their supply lines but poised to wreak havoc on the morrow. However, the Allies advanced across the Our into Dasburg, and won an early victory.
 
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21. Board Game: EastFront II [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:1261] [Average Rating:8.03 Unranked]
Ben Vincent
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Ridgefield
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12-9-08, 12-16-08, 12-23-08, 1-6-09, 1-20-09, 2-3-09, 2-24-09: Eastfront II

The game we've been wanting to play all year looks like it will be last one before 2009. We downloaded Ben Smith's v1.7 Eurofront II module and spent some time expeirmenting with it before setting up the Barbarossa scenario. By the time we'd finished setup it was late, so the war kicks off next Tuesday.

Module comments
- The thing that threw me off right away about this module is that I was never prompted to pick a side. Instead, when a block is turned face down, only the player who flipped it may turn it face up, or adjust step values. This works out fine, it just took a little getting used to.
- It can be difficult to tell if a block I control is face up or face down, because the narrow white "halo" around a face down block is the only indication.
- In the base module, the setup sheets start empty. It would be really nice to have the blocks already in place on the setup sheets when a new game is started (perhaps this would require loading a save file instead of starting a new game). The first day we started this game, we spent quite a bit of time setting up all the blocks on all the setup sheets - only to discover just as we finished that we were in the Eastfront scenario (i.e. no WF map), so all those Eurofront and Westfront sheets we'd just loaded up with block were useless...
- Rusty has mentioned several times that he'd like another zoom level on the map. On my monitor I can see most of the front without scrolling the screen when zoomed all the way out (as seen in the screenshots below), but playing on his laptop, Rusty needs to scroll around a lot and loses some of the big picture. If we could zoom out one more step that would help.
- In v1.7 there is no indication when a player adds or removes steps to a block. This feature was added in v1.8 - and it's very nice - but you have to start a new game with that version for the feature to work properly.
- It would be nice to have some off map battle windows, to temporarily place the blocks of those large, ongoing battles.
- It would be nice if, when a HQ was activated, it would highlight the surrounding hexes out to its current command range.
- It would also be nice if there was a way to automatically show railheads, and an easy/unobtrusive way to show control of empty hexes.
- Another "nice to have" feature: put "Out of Supply" in a unit's right click menu, and when selected, attach an OOS flag to the block (that moves with the block). The current method that requires dragging OOS chits from the piece tray (identical to the physical version of the game) is a little cumbersome.
- We've experienced some weird glitches with private notes while playing this game, with notes reverting to earlier entries. I doubt this is related to the module, but since I haven't made much use of notes in other scenarios, I'd never noticed any issues before.

Link to Eurofront II module
 
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