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Subject: long-lost session report rss

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Dave Kohr
United States
San Jose
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I somehow managed to post this under the game The Battle of the Bulge instead. Moving it to here now:

At the Dec. 13, 2000 SVB session about 22 people attended.

Let's welcome newcomer Jeff Kahn!

GMT's Battle of the Bulge wargame "Tigers in the Mist" (ChrisF, *DaveK*) :

ChrisF: "I went into this one with curiosity but low expectations, I admit. I've had it for over a year and wanted to play, but had somehow never got around to it other than an hour of solitaire to learn the game. Given my low expectations, I was impressed. It plays fairly cleanly, is quite simple, for a wargame, and has a good feel for the Battle of the Bulge.

The downsides are an outrageous luck element and the rather perverse stacking rules. On the luck, my Germans were rather unlucky on the first turn - several nearly-maximal odds attacks failed to clear US areas of only a single 1 or 2SP unit, which meant I could never secure a real breakthrough, which made the whole game practically impossible for the Germans to win. The combat system is extremely attritional (the system is much bloodier and even more defender-biased even than the various Columbia games), which means a German who is unlucky early is probably doomed.

The other problem is the 4 units AND 10SP stacking limits. These are so comparatively low, that the attacker has a hard time even getting decent odds in a system that is already weighted heavily against him. Unit cohesion is important, obviously, but I like Storm over Arnhem's system for portraying this a lot better.

Anyway, despite all this, the game is far from bad. I do like the simplicity and the generally pretty good historical feel. But, as a game it's certainly not in the same class as Storm over Arnhem, We the People, or Rommel in the Desert, or even the less-stellar but still quite solid Saratoga, Royal Tank Corps, or Cataphract. Hopefully the new Simple Great Battles of History will be a good intro-level game too. Tigers in the Mist is certainly a game I could be talked into playing again, but not somthing I would instigate."

Chris' Funagain review of most everything except the gameplay is at

DaveK: "After playing it twice, I definitely think more highly of the game than Chris does. But first, I'll get my (few) gripes out of the way:

As many have noticed, the boundaries between the areas are nearly invisible. When I first saw the map, I thought it would be unplayable, but after playing a little I can see this is merely a constant nuisance.

The scenarios I've played (1-turn intro and 5th Army tournament scenario) are pretty one-sided, with the Germans doing almost all the attacking. Since even the campaign ends on Dec. 22, it's not clear to me if the Allies ever get to do much besides bleed.

I'm not sure about play balance, at least not in the 5th Army scenario. Neither Chris nor I made any huge strategic blunders, yet the game was essentially a shutout: Chris was nowhere near scoring any VPs when we stopped, just a day before the scenario's normal end time. He was supposed to get something like 13 for a win.

Now on to the praise:

Other than the unfortunate choice of colors for area boundaries, the rest of the components are quite attractive. The armored units have individual tank silhouettes, and the map itself is very pretty and evocative of the Ardennes (in summer, anyway--it doesn't show any snow!).

The movement/stacking rules work in concert quite well to represent the constricted road net and channeling terain, without adding a lot of fiddly rules of the sort "no more than X units may pass along a road segment in one turn", as many other games do.

The luck component is actually not so bad, I think our game was an aberration. There are many more dice rolls for combat than in typical CRT-based games, so the odds of a single defending step holding out against a well-planned assault are not too high (1 in 10 or 1 in 15), and for the Allies to completely prevent a German breakout this sort of thing has to happen in multiple battles. I suspect the trick is that the Germans have to plan for the possibility of losing some battles despite high odds. On the plus side, I really like these fistful-of-dice combat systems, both because of the "fun" factor of rolling lots of dice, and because they generate a wider range of possible results than a CRT while fitting that range onto an appropriate bell curve. Also, the game gives an ever-increasing modifier for the critical engineering function of trying to rebuild bridges (and I believe you get to try every impulse), so the likely elapsed time for doing so is predictable--the Germans are less likely to be hosed by a few bad die rolls.

The impulse system strongly encourages skillful management of reserves (both for the defenders to plug holes in their line, and for the attackers to exploit them). It seems like it should model overrun/breakthrough/ exploitation well, but we didn't get to see it in our game because Chris had such horrendous luck at first.

The attritional system "feels" right in many ways: slightly more clever moves lead to slightly better combat results, which add up to a bigger difference over time; offensives lose steam gradually (but unpredictably) due to losses; and single units lose effectiveness (but still take up stacking space).

The overall rules are extremely streamlined and playable, with lots of non-essential chrome left out.

The developers built in good "ergonomics": good player aids and a well-thought out system of markers that show what's been moved, modifiers for blowing bridges, etc. I found myself spending very little time fiddling with rules and counters, compared to other similar games.

The playing time of the "tournament" scenarios is perfect for me (3-4 hours, with most of that time spent thinking and playing rather than leafing through the rules). And the sequence of play is fairly interactive, so you're rarely sitting around waiting.

I strongly suspect that the game is much better balanced than our game's outcome. In most games where one side starts out on the offensive with a big force advantage, it's harder to learn the tricks needed to attack effectively than it is to defend. (As one example, ever Barbarossa Campaign game I've played has this characteristic.) I like Tigers enough that I want to replay it to learn some of those tricks, which speaks highly of the game. It may well move onto my "want to buy" list."
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