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Subject: Democracy under Siege: an extremely closely fought 2-player game rss

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Scott Moore
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'This War Without an Enemy'
This is a session report from a 2-player game played using VASSAL with Advanced Rules and the Expansion Pack. I played Nazism and Gábor Valló played Democracy.

Turn 1 (1933): I began the game with good progress on the Political Regimes Track - control of Communism is very handy for Nazism in this respect. I mainly spent the Communism PPs on moving Nations, but I also launched a successful coup on Czechoslovakia to prevent Democracy from gaining control of it. The Communists took control of China. Play of Balkan Pact by Nazism helped them a lot, although I made a small mistake by not playing it on Round 2 rather than Round 1. Democracy focused mainly on claiming control of Resources and progressing on the Armaments tracks - Gábor said that the cards he got dictated his strategy. But he also sneakily put Netherlands under his influence and then claimed all 3 Oil Resources. At this point, I realized that I forgot about the Dutch colonies - in retrospect I should have at least made it more difficult for Democracy to make such a move. After that, I was content with claiming the Oil in Turkey, Iraq and Persia, and putting a CC Token in the Middle East to defend against Coups there.

Turn 2 (1934): at the end of Turn 1, I miscalculated regarding the Initiative, which resulted in Democracy gaining control of the Communists for Turn 2. But by then Communism was low in Prestige, suffering the -1 modifier on Political Event rolls. Furthermore, Nazism had the N2 Political Support / Struggle card, which I played on Democracy to prevent him doing too much during that turn. However, I was very concerned about Military Resources. Indeed, the Communists launched a successful Coup against Turkey, so I lost the Oil Resource there. Because of that, I was able to produce only 3 MRs at the end of the Turn. On the other hand, Democracy had already become a military super power, producing 8 MRs. In the final Round of the Turn, Democracy had changed the Initiative Order ensuring that it retained controlled of Communism for Turn 2.

This ended our first session, so I could pause to reflect on the game so far. If I had been able to retain the Communists for Turn 2, then quite possibly I could have reached 40 VPs and won the game. I saw that a successful Coup in the Netherlands would make life difficult for Democracy. However, the Netherlands was almost in Nazism’s Control Area, so I wouldn't have wanted to use Communism to launch the Coup there. My initial plan for the Turn had been to place a CC in Benelux. However, Nazism was 2nd in Initiative Order and Democracy 3rd, so the latter could react by placing a CC itself. However, Democracy might not have had enough PPs in Round 4 to defend against a Coup (due to the -1 PP penalty from the N2 card), so that was something I considered for Round 4. If Democracy had lost those Oil Resources due to the results of a successful Coup then it would have got only 4 MR rather than 8. Then on Turn 3, Nazism would have been able to could claim the Dutch Oil Resources for itself.

Turn 3 (1935): Gábor had Communism play C19 The Long March, then added 3 MR with Democracy and took a Fight a War action. In a later Round Democracy played D7 Fight for Freedom, but Gábor calculated that he didn't actually need to add any more MRs. Indeed, at the end of the turn the war ended and China entered the control of Democracy. The only action of note by Nazism was an attempted a Coup in Netherlands. Gábor used Communism to react to the Coup, and I rolled badly anyway, so it failed. Democracy had built up a formidable number of MRs: 20 by the end of the Turn. Meanwhile, Nazism only had 8 MRs. Nazism had been dealt N5 Rhineland Occupied, but didn't play it because of Nazism’s lack of MRs, and the fact that the card gives only 2PPs. I retained the card for Turn 4.

Turn 4 (1936): My opponent had pulled off the same trick in Round 4 of Turn 3 in order to retain control of Communism for this Turn. Democracy played D5 Occupation of Rhineland in Round 2 but didn’t succeed on the Political Action roll and had already used up both rerolls in the first Round. Nazism played N8 German Armaments twice during the Turn, and succeeded in increasing Germany's armaments track by two levels. For once, Gábor didn't manipulate the Initiative Order, and so Communism would fall to me for Turn 5.

Turn 5 (1937): Nazism received the N2 on Democracy Political Support / Struggle card again, and I played it on Democracy. Gábor had low PP value cards anyway, so he had to make do with only 2 or 3 PPs per Round during this turn. Democracy played D39 Hindenberg Explodes, but Nazism spent an MR, rerolled, and succeeded, so Democracy lost the Prestige instead. The Nazis finally played N5 Rhineland Occupied and succeed with the Political Action after 2 rerolls. With Communism I successfully played C14 Alliance with France and took the Nation away from Democracy, thus reducing the latter to only 4 Prestige. Then with Nazsim I played N32 Anschluss in two consecutive rounds, failing both times. Nazism had also had few PPs durng this turn. With Communism I had focused on moving Nations away from Democracy and then in the last Round paid 1 prestige to alter the Initiative Order and spent all its PPs on moving Bulgaria into its Control, boosting its Initiative by 1, and ensuring that Nazism would continue to control Communism in Turn 6.

At the end of the Turn, we were neck and neck in VPs: Nazism 50 and Democracy 49 (Communism had 29). Whereas Nazism controlled Czechoslovakia and Poland, it had few MRs, so even with the +5 VPs from the Rhineland, it only had 17 accumulated VPs. Democracy, on the other hand, had 26 accumulated VPs because it had gained +8 VPs from MRs in the previous two turns. Nazism had tried for a Coup in Netherlands in Turn 3 but it failed, and in turn 4 had too few PPs to attempt it. So Democracy still had 4 Oil Resource and Nazism only 3. I played C23 Armistice with Kwomintang twice in Turn 5 but failed on both attempts, so China was still controlled by Democracy.

At this point I was almost sure the game was close to the end. Democracy's mighty military machine and Nazism's weak one had, so far, balanced the fact that Nazism had focused more on politics and thus was in a better position on the Regimes Track. I was also very excited waiting to play Turn 6. Nazism was to have control of Communism and still had the Anschluss in Reserve and could also retain the War with Ethiopia card for some potential extra VPs. But Democracy had limitless MRs and also had more Coup Cells in position on the map - so I was fearing for Czechoslovakia and Poland.

Turn 6 (1938): I controlled Communism again this turn. I stole Spain from Democracy by playing C12 Popular Front wins Spanish Election and then I wrestled control of China away from Democracy by playing C20 Mao Tze-Tung and then moving China using PPs. I also successfully played N36 Annexation of Czechoslovakia. However Democracy still got another +8 VPs for MRs, so we were equal on 34 accumulated VPs at the end of the Turn. Gábor had stolen Finland from Nazism in a Coup and moved Poland away from Nazism with D13 Alliance with Poland. The overall score was Democracy 58 VPs and Nazism 55 VPs.

Turn 7 (1939): Yet again, I had managed to hold on to control of Communism. All three ideologies were very low in Prestige by this stage (0 for Communism and Democracy, 2 for Nazism), so we were mainly playing cards for PPs. Nazism had N35 War on Poland but decided not to play it as D13 Alliance with Poland had been played in Turn 6 and I feared that Gábor might have D35 Defend Poland. But Nazism still had N19 War with Ethiopia in hand and as C25 War on Japan had been ongoing for the past 2 or 3 Turns, I knew that I could cause Total War with a successful Political Action. Still, for the first 2 Rounds Nazism was struggling to attain a potential lead in VPs. A successful Coup enabled Nazism to steal Hungary from Democracy. But I knew that Democracy would gain another 8 VPs from MRs, while Nazism would only get 4 VPs. In Round 3, I calculated that I had a good chance of winning with Nazism, so I played N19 War with Ethiopia and, as Nazism still had 2 Prestige, I spent one on a +1 to the Political Action roll and was successful at the first attempt. With his PPs, Gábor launched a successful Coup in Poland despite a -1 modifier as I had moved it into the Instability zone using Communism's PPs. Nazism was last in Initiative Order and I used it to spend PPs to move Turkey into its control.

Game end: the final result was Nazism 73 VPs, Democracy 72 VPs, and Communism 40 VPs. I had controlled Communism in Turns 1, 5-7 while Gábor had controlled it in turns 2-4.

Final considerations: so, a very close game. I think controlling Communism is a very important element of a 2-player game. However, with the Advanced Rules, the mechanism for determining control is rather obscure, so it takes a lot of thinking to manoeuvre into a position to gain or retain control - you have to think about Initiative Order this turn as well as the level of Prestige in order to calculate Initiative Order next turn. You have to take into account Exhaustion. And you have to be ready to change the Initiative Order at the right time (typically in Round 3 and/or Round 4) in order to make sure that the other player cannot change the Initiative after you.
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