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Subject: Which Columbia Block wargame to begin with? rss

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Martin Siebel
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I need an advice concerning columbia block games. I intend to buy my first of these games in the more or less near future and I am not sure which would be the best to start.

These games I am considering at the moment:

Napoleon : I like the theme and the idea of the seperate battleboard, but I am a bit
afraid of the block density on the board. From what I have read, the board is a bit too small for the blocks provided and I could imagine that this makes movements and browsing the stacks a bit tricky, if you do not want to reveal accidentally some blocks. Apart from this point, I am all for Napoleon.

Bobby Lee: The theme is nearly as interesting as the one of Napoleon and the battleboard is there, too. However, I think I would prefer the point-to-point movement of Napoleon over the hexes of Bobby Lee.

Pacific Victory: I like the setting and I like the graphics. I am not completely sure about the rules. In one of the reviews I read that there is no way to check if your opponent is playing by the rules. I do not expect my opponents to cheat, but mistakes may happen, especially in the beginning. Moreover I do not like to expect my opponent to rely on my honesty. I prefer checks and balances here. ( I like the rules of Bonaparte at Marengo, where for every special move the piece has to be revealed in order to be allowed to perform this move.) Is this a general problem with Columbia block games or is this only valid for Pacific Victory?

I was also considering GMTs Europe Engulfed, but the large map, the long playing time and the huge price are a big minus here. However, still thinking about it.

These games I would not really consider:

Hammer of the Scots and Crusader Rex have great reviews here on the geek, but the medieval theme does not appeal to me at all, so they are out.

I prefer a historical setting, so Victory and Wizard Kings are out, too.

EastFront seems to be a great game, but the topic is not too appealing to me and with EastFront II being released soon, I think it is better to wait for the new release anyway.

Rommel in the Desert seems a bit dry to me. (Sorry, could not resist the pun.) The theme somehow does not seem so interesting to me.

I am afraid that Quebec 1759 and War of 1812 seem to be a bit too simple for my taste, so I hesitate to really consider them. It's also a bit difficult for a European to relate to this far off colonial conflicts.

Thanks in advance for any comment on this !
 
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George Van Voorn
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Quote:
Hammer of the Scots and Crusader Rex have great reviews here on the geek, but the medieval theme does not appeal to me at all, so they are out.

I prefer a historical setting, so Victory and Wizard Kings are out, too.


Then you really have a problem, because any of these titles are good introductionary block games. The mechanics of WK for instance is much simpler than Eastfront (I know, because I own both of them). I strongly urge you to reconsider HotS, because it has rather simple rules, it's full of excitement and strategy (which includes some way of coping with bad die rolls, in my opinion) and it's scenario-based. Maybe you'll even start to like the medieval theme after all

If you're still not convinced then take Pacific Victory, although mind you, the Allies will always win...

But that's my opinion.

Quote:
It's also a bit difficult for a European to relate to this far off colonial conflicts.


I share that sentiment.

Good luck taking your pick!
 
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Robin
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Quote:
Napoleon : I like the theme and the idea of the seperate battleboard, but I am a bit
afraid of the block density on the board. From what I have read, the board is a bit too small for the blocks provided and I could imagine that this makes movements and browsing the stacks a bit tricky, if you do not want to reveal accidentally some blocks. Apart from this point, I am all for Napoleon.


I've played Napoleon. It was my introduction block wargame. I didn't notice a problem with the board, or at least not enough to affect the game. I think this game is extremely simple which would make this a great introduction game.

As for the other two games you are considering, I have not played either so I can't comment but I'm looking into Bobby Lee myself. Looks like a great game!

Quote:
Hammer of the Scots and Crusader Rex have great reviews here on the geek, but the medieval theme does not appeal to me at all, so they are out.

I prefer a historical setting, so Victory and Wizard Kings are out, too.


That's a pitty. Those are great games. I think that Crusader And Hammer have more depth than Napoleon but if you aren't interested I wouldn't suggest them.

Happy Gaming!
 
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Nick Avtges
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Have you considered Bonaparte in Marengo? Not a Columbia game, but a block game. It is also interesting because I don't think it's possible to make mistakes (ie, cheat). You must reveal the unit if you make a move which requires it to be cavalry. Otherwise, all units have the same capabilities. It also has a Napoleonic theme, which seems attractive to you. It is also a really excellent fun game and easy to learn and play. I'd recommend that.

Otherwise, from your list I've played Hammer of the Scots, Eastfront, Victory, and Wizard Kings. I'm also gearing up for my first play of Pacific Victory. Hammer of the Scots would probably be my first recommendation for an introductory Columbia block game. It is a really excellent game and offers completely assymetric play for both sides, which is interesting and adds a lot to replayability. Eastfront is my absolute favorite block game of all time. The command and control system is brilliant. I understand, though, why you want to wait...but pre-order EastFront II right now. You want it, trust me. Victory and Wizard Kings are interesting, but I'd prefer Wizard Kings. In Victory, the theme sort of gets in the way as you wonder why there aren't historical scenarios for the game. Wizard Kings doesn't have that problem and is better for it. It also is better because each army is different that the others. Pacific Victory looks interesting, I set it up solo a couple of nights ago. While not the most complex block game, it is a step up from Hammer of the Scots, say. The rules are relatively standard block game stuff, but the play is where the complexity steps up as you are not limited in what pieces you can move, as you are in Hammer (with the card play) or EastFront (with the HQs). So there is a lot to think about on each turn.

So, my recommendations would be Bonaparte at Marengo, Hammer of the Scots, and EastFront.
 
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j b Goodwin

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Despite your current non-interest in them, I'd still probably recommend Quebec or 1812 to start with. Columbia block games have a very different dynamic than chit-and-hex games. These two games introduce you to the hidden "fog-of-war," (and yes, this allows your opponent to cheat in all of these games, so if that's an issue, you'd better get a new opponent or play something else) and they also are small enough in size to ease you into the nail-biting tension that you get from these games (you never have enough resources to make you feel comfortable).

Eastfront is a fantastic game, for example, and many say it is the best of the block games, but it is a complex game to manage, and I wouldn't recommend it to a newcomer.

Pacific Victory would be a slightly less complex place to start. It uses the Victory system, but adds the driving scenario that Victory did not have.

The block games are very different from "flat" wargames. They can be real brain-burners, and frustrating in that you do not have perfect knowledge of the forces facing you, but those are the things that make them so attractive.

 
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Mark Crocker
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Well, my money would be on Quebec...but I'll bet you end up with Napoleon, and that's not a bad choice.
If the cheating possibilities bother you, but you are still attracted to the wooden block idea, check out "Clash for a Continent" by Worthington games. Block pieces made to lay exposed. Just look it up here (BGG), and I believe there is also a link to their website here, where they have some other games using block pieces.
I'll take point to point maps and block counters, any day of the week when compared to hexes and traditional counters.
 
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Alex Sorbello
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you might wanna consider grant instead of bobby lee.
 
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Jim Crimmins
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I think most of the titles are fun engaging games... I've played almost all of them... Hammer is a personal favorite... Rommel seems EXCELLENT but I've only played once (although I'm itching to get more scenarios on the table). Napoleon is definitley simpler than most and may lack the replay value of others, but is a great game to get started with in the genre...

As for the honesty issue, you really have to have some trust in your fellow gamers when block-gaming. Personally I don't see any fun in cheating to win, where's the value in that? Sure mistakes can be made, that can happen in almost any game setting... but I confess, I've never really worried that any of my buddies was cheating in one of our blockgames, but I guess that's me.

On a side note, ANYONE considering Europe Engulfed might have to act soon... the designer Rick Young noted in one of my recent wargame threads that GMT is down to less than 25 copies of the game, and most online game outlets have run out of copies... this game might be out of print within the month... at which point you're at the mercy of ebay or reprinting... Just something to consider if you really want the game.
 
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Dan Conley
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I've played several of the Columbia block games and have a few more I own but haven't tried yet. Quebec and 1812 are fairly simple, but I consider them great places to get started with the block games. But, since the subject matter's not appealing...

I'd recommend Napoleon as your entry point. "Block density" isn't a huge issue with the game and, if you like the theme, I'd go for it! Pacific Victory is a good game but slightly higher complexity (in my opinion) than Napoleon.

Waiting for the new EastFront is a good idea! By the time that one sees the light of day, you should have a good feel for the games and know whether you want to spring for that one or not. It's toward the top end in terms of complexity for the Columbia games.

Good luck!

Dan
 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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I would suggest that you try to pick up the Avalon Hill version of Napoleon on Ebay. It had considerably fewer blocks than the current version, but played very well.
 
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Martin Siebel
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Hi again,

first of all I would like to thank all of you for your thoughts, experiences and advices. the many good contributions helped me a lot to make my mind up.

First of all, not to insult a very popular game, I should be more precise, why I felt the topic of Rommel in the Desert 'dry'. I read a lot of statements, how important lines of supply are in this game and this kind of management, though of extreme importance, somehow does not appeal to me too much. But maybe I just got a wrong impression about this topic.

As far as the 'trust your opponent' aspect is concerned, this is not really a problem, more a minor flaw of the concept in my opinion. I very much do trust my opponents and cheating is neither an option for them nor for me. The concept of making concealed moves which cannot be checked is just a bit irritating to me.

In many other games with this kind of concealed information there is no way to cheat, as e.g. in Stratego every piece has the same movement abilities and the opponent does not need to know any concealed information in order to judge if a move is legal. (no, scratch that, bombs are not allowed to move.) Bonaparte in Marengo requires the relevation of the piece to prove that it is allowed to do what it is doing, whenever it is doing something which is not allowed for all pieces. The most convincing solution in my opinion (although more information than necessary is revealed in this game, as also the strength, not only the type of the unit is revealed. Room for improvement, I guess.) But as I said, this is not a big problem, I was just thinking if this is only specific to Pacific Victory. (I am halfway through reading the rules of 1812 and up to now I did not see a point where hidden information would be required to judge if a move is allowed. Here I assume that naval units are easy to be traced and in principle do not need to be kept hidden, but maybe I am wrong here, not having read the whole rules.)

But back to the outcome of my reflections. From the onset I was slightly in favour of Napoleon and my only real concern with this game was the crowded board issue I read about. Here HelenOfTroy's comment was helpful to put down this concern. However, there were so many positive comments on War of 1812 as an introductory game that I was considering this again. And meanwhile I even think the beautifully drawn map could make up for the far off colonial theme . So I think I will try to acquire both games, Napoleon and War of 1812. (So you were right, Crockerdile) Now I just have to try to convince my non-gaming wife that this is money well-spent, but this is a completely different kind of wargame...

Oh, yes, Nick, thanks for the suggestion of Bonaparte at Marenge. I own this game already and while I like it a lot, I must admit I am missing the dice a bit. But the lack of them contributes to making this game the unique gem that it is, of course

 
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Dan Conley
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GREAT! Best of luck with the games...and with talking to your wife, of course.....!

Dan
 
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j b Goodwin

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I like 1812 a lot (see my previous reply), but beware: the tempo of the game is unlike other games you've played, and it may seem wrong (as if you were playing by the wrong rules) at first. Replay (or continue playing), and the subtlety will begin to show itself. Very tense, and you always feel inadequate. A good game.
 
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Kubilai wrote:
First of all, not to insult a very popular game, I should be more precise, why I felt the topic of Rommel in the Desert 'dry'. I read a lot of statements, how important lines of supply are in this game and this kind of management, though of extreme importance, somehow does not appeal to me too much. But maybe I just got a wrong impression about this topic.

The way supply works in RitD is actually pretty simple. Each of your units has to be able to trace a line back to base. If an enemy block cuts that line, you unit has one turn to reestablish supply, or it is eliminated. Much of the game then consists of trying to cut and protect supply lines, though there are plenty of dicefest battles as well. I find it fun, but YMMV. Also, of all the block games mentioned, I'd say Rommel is the one most vulnerable to cheating, if that's an issue for you.
 
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Jeff Yeackle
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Kubilai,

I'm not sure where you were planning on buying your game from, but if you were ordering direct from Columbia you might want to consider their free international shipping on orders over $100.00. This would require picking up at least two games, but I'm not sure how much more that would be compared to one game + s/h. They also offer a 3 game bundle price of $149.00.

As for the games... it's a tough choice.

One of the biggest complaints about Pacific Victory is that the Japanese player has a *very* tough time winning the game. Naturally, if you find this to be the case, a slight change to the victory conditions will fix this.

When Napoleon is brought up, a good sign that it's a great game is that everyone is always arguing which edition is better, not whether the game is good or not. I think those used to the Avalon Hill edition (2nd) find the columbia (3rd) board more cramped with the additional units, while those whom started with the 3rd edition don't see a problem.

I'm not a huge ACW game fan, but I have been eyeing Gettysburg. It's a bit more expensive than either Bobby Lee or Sam Grant. One plus for the later two is that if you buy one, and really enjoy it, you can combine it with the other since they use the same rules. I'd download the rules to help decide which would be the system you would prefer (Gettysburg vs. Lee/Grant).

I see a lot of equal good press for both Quebec and War of 1812. The one thing to be aware of is that these are the lightest games offered by Columbia. Both games support written orders, and Quebec includes rules for decoy units which is a nice twist.

Man... just typing this up makes me wanna play, and it's 2AM!

Best of luck deciding, and I hope my addtional (and late) info helps!

jeff
 
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Martin Siebel
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Jeff,

many thanks for your very welcome advice. Living in Europe, it is always a bit tiresome to order directly from an american company. There is always a long waiting time and it's difficult to get replacements in case something is wrong with the shipment ( I have to think here of overstretched supply lines.... ) . So I was very happy when I found a shop in Germany who sells Columbia games. The shipment is for free inside Germany from a very low price limit upwards (20 Euro, if I remember correctly) and the prices do not seem to be much higher than the prices when ordering from Columbia directly (40Euro instead of 40USD). I was thinking for some time of the bundle with free shipment, but once I found this retailer decided that I prefer the more local distributor.

I liked very much what I saw about Gettysburg, but I think it might be better to start at a lower level of complexity and a higher level of abstraction (i.e. less blocks and more strategical than tactical). I am aware that 1812 is one of their most simple games, but I think this might be also a good game to introduce other players to this game. The map and the blocks may hide to the casual gamer that this is a wargame. Once caught with this game I can dare the step to Napoleon.

Anyway, thanks a lot for your opinion and all the best!



 
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Gotthard Heinrici (prev. Graf Strachwitz)
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Hallo Martin!

Unfortunately Middle-Ages is a Topic a topic that hasn't your interest.

Otherwise I would say go for Hammer and Crusader Rex.

How about even more ancient?!!

Then I would say invest your money in Command & Colors: Ancients or Hellas, the new Colombia game about the Greek period.

Again, I don't believe this is your cup of tea so I will continue:

I have several Columbia Games and EASTFRONT really hits the jackpot with me. It is currently reprinted and expected soon.

This is the most clean, balanced and replayable of all the the Columbia games IMHO.

I have Bobby Lee as well and although it is lovely representation of history the replayability is lacking a bit.

Napoleon, nice but there it stops

A pacidic block game is not for me. There are much better games out there.

If you are looking for an excellent replayable yet realistic and fun block game: invest your money in EASTFRONT.

I can recommend Euriope engulfed as well but you have to have space and dedication!!
 
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