Paul Norell
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A passionate devotee of the English Civil War, I rejoiced at the publication of CN, especially as it included political and religious elements missing in conventional wargames. Added to this was the notion of solitaire play, pitting the player against the system, which promised an exciting a tense challenge. Why then do I feel a little let down?

After three or four games and achieving at best a minor defeat, I started to wonder whether I was doing something wrong, or whether there was something inherently problematic in the game itself.

I don’t think the game is particularly flawed: the tension and frustration are palpable; however, I finished each game with an intense feeling of dissatisfaction. To be sure, there were heart-pounding moments and occasional flashes of exhilaration, but overall, I was left with the sensation of impotence – that none of my decisions had really counted for anything and that it had all come down to the success (or otherwise) of my dice-rolling.

Of course, all games involving dice rely on luck, but it seems to me in CN, the luck element is so overpowering that the player has little chance to influence many outcomes. Five Zeal points can easily be frittered away just to achieve one result. I would like to think that the player’s decision-making could have more impact than his dice rolling.

The frustration that builds up in this game is more than I have experienced in any other game I have played in over twenty years. However, it is one thing to see your strategy thwarted by unforeseen events, quite another to see it evaporate in a plethora of poor dice rolls.

One solution I have considered is rolling each dice first, then allotting it to an action of my choice, thereby ensuring some successes. At least this way, the player would have an opportunity to prioritise actions.

I would be interested in the thoughts and recommendations of others who might be experiencing similar misgivings.

I absolutely love this game, but would like to feel a closer sense of player/system interaction. All thoughts welcomed.
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Brian S.
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The game has more than a three or four game learning curve before mastery, which I appreciate, because I like a tough challenge. Yes, there will be games that one can be cut off at the knees by bad die rolls. But each game has so many die rolls that the bad luck games will be outliers. If bad luck persists, I'd get new dice. I initially mocked the tiny dice that I got with the poly-bag version of the game, but those are the dice I ended up playing with. They don't roll off of my tiny table. And, not insignificantly, I've achieved a Minor Victory with them!
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Eric Normandeau
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Be sure to read the posts in the strategy threads. It is easy to play games like this one on semi autopilot and miss some of the important choices offered to you.
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John Smales
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pnorell wrote:
One solution I have considered is rolling each dice first, then allotting it to an action of my choice, thereby ensuring some successes. At least this way, the player would have an opportunity to prioritise actions.
player/system interaction. All thoughts welcomed.


FOG OF WAR is a "cruel" mistress. . .

I know how to lose this game, and I've done it plenty of times. This is a tough design to beat, but hang in there--knowing the cards makes a huge difference. The dice gods,however, will always be fickle--like that "strumpet" Fate. Chess is a possible solution, but I think that most of us who play historical games realize that victory has to be elusive or the fruit is not as sweet.

As for winning and wargaming, I am reminded of these words:

"If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work."
Shakespeare
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Brian S.
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Rhand wrote:
...victory has to be elusive or the fruit is not as sweet.

The truth.
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Wes Erni
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The key to Cruel Necessity's luck orientation is this -- you will make over 300 die rolls in a Campaign game, and you can almost always survive till the end with careful play. I am not saying all die rolls are the same -- but the sheer number really flattens out the dice luck factor. I have found that the card luck (when can I siege Oxford?, and when each Era's Reaction cards pass) usually influences my games more than the dice luck. CN actually has far less "luck influence" than some other State of Siege games (also less than most games I own).

Why CN feels like it relies on luck, is that the game severely punishes players that operate in suboptimal fashion. It doesn't drop a hammer on you -- it is insidious. You go along thinking you're doing "good stuff" -- and the game slowly slips away from you. The fact that your Action point total is based on your ability to maintain territorial integrity -- creates a "Cascade" game, failure breeds more failure. My second playtest game, I let Hull fall -- and I never got it back. The game was total misery, just an exercise in bare survival. I NEVER, EVER let that happen again.

Don't give up -- keep your Zeal flow going, and then make your actions count. It is so easy in this game to do what LOOKS right -- when in reality you are throwing your Zeal Points into the trash. Find out what IS right, and stick to it -- distractions abound. Once you master the rhythms of the game (not that easy, given the great depth of CN), you will actually kind of appreciate some bad luck -- just to keep the game tension up. If you need a jumpstart, the Coach's corner strategy articles (on this site) give a good background. I am keeping my best "moves" to myself (Alan's orders), but you can get pointed in the right direction.
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Paul Norell
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Thanks for all the feedback. It's greatly appreciated and I feel encouraged to persevere.
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Adrian Prodi
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i felt the same but then got a minor victory , see my conclusions here :
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1102426/first-thoughts-e...

pay attention to upgrading the cities, no dice rolling is involved there and i agree with our colleague who stated that this game is less luck orientated compared to other SoS games.
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D D
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Any game involving die rolls and random event cards depends on some sort of luck. Where strategy comes in is with the options you have. Deciding which options are less risky and whether or not you have zeal to throw around for the tougher ones. Picking and choosing risks and thinking ahead to compensate for bad luck down the road is where the strategy shines.
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David Kennedy
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pnorell wrote:
After three or four games and achieving at best a minor defeat, I started to wonder whether I was doing something wrong, or whether there was something inherently problematic in the game itself.

Good heavens! You've only played the game three or four times and you haven't won? It is a solitaire game. It is designed to be hard to win. It is NOT a puzzle to be solved. I've played hundreds of SoS games and I figure I'm lucky if I've won 15% of them. If you're getting discouraged so quickly, I sense you are easily frustrated. As I told my daughter shooting baskets, practice makes perfect. Now if you're not enjoying yourself, for sure, stop.

pnorell wrote:
I don’t think the game is particularly flawed: the tension and frustration are palpable; however, I finished each game with an intense feeling of dissatisfaction. To be sure, there were heart-pounding moments and occasional flashes of exhilaration, but overall, I was left with the sensation of impotence – that none of my decisions had really counted for anything and that it had all come down to the success (or otherwise) of my dice-rolling.

Could you provide some data to back-up this assertion? If you've had an incredible run of bad luck over 300 die rolls in three or four games, I'd like to see this. If you're not keeping a record, perhaps you should.

That said, if you are having an incredible run of poor luck over three or four games, what does that have to do with the game? It seems like a poor basis for making decisions about the game's design.

pnorell wrote:
Of course, all games involving dice rely on luck, but it seems to me in CN, the luck element is so overpowering that the player has little chance to influence many outcomes. Five Zeal points can easily be frittered away just to achieve one result. I would like to think that the player’s decision-making could have more impact than his dice rolling.

The fact you use five Zeal as your point of reference suggests you don't hoard your Zeal points for BIG Zeal surges. That's a problem.

I'm totally unclear what decisions you are making. Could you be more specific?

pnorell wrote:
The frustration that builds up in this game is more than I have experienced in any other game I have played in over twenty years. However, it is one thing to see your strategy thwarted by unforeseen events, quite another to see it evaporate in a plethora of poor dice rolls.

What is your actual strategy? How is this being thwarted by your poor die rolling? If your poor die-rolling is a known variable, perhaps you should account for this in your strategic planning. Simply repeating the same moves and hoping for a better die rolling seems unwise. Your experience seems to bear this out.

pnorell wrote:
One solution I have considered is rolling each dice first, then allotting it to an action of my choice, thereby ensuring some successes. At least this way, the player would have an opportunity to prioritise actions.

This mechanic has been suggested by other players for other SoS games. I find the idea puzzling and uninteresting. While I wouldn't recommend the idea since game tension would disappear, I'd be curious to hear how it goes. I recall another proponent of this mechanic tried it, but abandoned it.

I do think the idea of altering game mechanics should be undertaken once one has demonstrated some skill and expertise in game-play. Obviously, rules can be modified to make game-play easier, but I fail to see the purpose.

pnorell wrote:
I would be interested in the thoughts and recommendations of others who might be experiencing similar misgivings.

I absolutely love this game, but would like to feel a closer sense of player/system interaction. All thoughts welcomed.

It sounds like you haven't adjusted to the level of abstraction inherent in the game. It is really about the prudent allocation of your resources over the course of the entire game. As Wes suggests, you have to allocate your Zeal very carefully to maximize them. You also have to be able to assess the risks you confront and understand they are dynamic. Thus, the game is one of dynamic risk assessment and the timely and thoughtful allocation of resources.

I wish I could be more specific with suggestions. I, too, have played the game many times and always lost. I, too, have yet to develop any proficiency with the game.

But, despair is not an efficient option. It took me over two years to figure out how to play VPG's "The Lost Cause". Early play was very frustrating because I had no idea of how to play. So the game slaughtered me regularly. But, patience and persistence ultimately prevailed. If you're having a hard time, consider putting the game away and returning when you are fresh and rested. Your frustration suggests you are not playing at any peak efficiency. Take a break, let your subconsciousness work, and return when you are ready.

I am hurt but I am not slain.
I'll lay me down and bleed awhile,
Then I'll rise and fight again.
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Paul Norell
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Hi David, I really appreciate your considered reply. Thanks for taking the time to address each point. Actually, I am slowly coming round to the idea that the game is harder to win than I thought at first. I agree with all your points. I guess, like many, I get a bit phobic when I see die rolls of one coming up all the time and, of course, quite forget when all the sixes appear!

I am currently on my fifth game and taking it slowly and recording my decisions. My earlier comments were probably a bit hasty. This is the first solitaire game I have played where the Player is under such intense pressure. There is no relief; it's like trying to hold back a flood.

I am a devoted student of the ECW and find the historical narrative every bit as interesting as the game itself. I take your point about saving zeal points. It's quite hard to resist spending them all at once!

Your comments, and those of others, are really encouraging. Thanks again.
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D D
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pnorell wrote:
There is no relief; it's like trying to hold back a flood.

That is true. The odds are heavily stacked against the parliament. Not sure of the ratio of event cards that are mostly in the royalist favor. Plus there is TWO attempts by the royalists to besiege your fortress. Plus the royalist get good named units right out the gate. Plus the more favorable political standing at the start.

If this is historically accurate, it MUST have been fate for parliment to have won. (Or an act of higher power as believed by Cromwell).

I myself am trying to work on my strategy. However, I am mostly putting out fires rather than making positive progress. Consecutive bad rolls had stopped me dead every time. I am spending and loosing zeal rather than having it to use toward achievements. Trying figure out what I am doing horribly wrong.
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Paul Norell
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I know the feeling. When you figure it out, let me know. I actually finished my last game with an intense feeling of dissatisfaction - not because I lost (again), but because I hadn't enjoyed the experience. It's the first game in over fifty that I have, that I've ever felt that way.

I don't think my strategy is necessarily at fault, it's just that I don't seem to be able to achieve anything.

I shall leave the game on the shelf for a time, while I try to figure out how to enjoy it more.
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Brian S.
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I am in the middle of a game where Cromwell and Ironsides arrived early on before much of the battles in the First Civil War deck were fought. My lucky day! Then I proceed to lose *both* Cromwell and Ironsides in the same *First* Civil War battle. It was early in the game and I seriously thought of starting over and rewrite history, but I stuck with it. Then almost immediately after gaining the New Model Army units, I lost one. The odds are long, but my current score isn't bad. If I pull out a victory, it'll be the most satisfying victory so far. It would seem "Cruel" is included in the title for more than historic reference! Still loving this very tense game.
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Samuel Baney
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Yes, after three plays, I just managed to win a minor victory. The game is set up in favor of the Royalists, to be sure! That is why the victories are so rewarding. I played that third game after about a two month hiatus, because I had my rear end handed to me so badly the first couple times! Keep at it, and you'll get it!
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Samuel Baney
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GameBreaker wrote:
The key to Cruel Necessity's luck orientation is this -- you will make over 300 die rolls in a Campaign game, and you can almost always survive till the end with careful play. I am not saying all die rolls are the same -- but the sheer number really flattens out the dice luck factor. I have found that the card luck (when can I siege Oxford?, and when each Era's Reaction cards pass) usually influences my games more than the dice luck. CN actually has far less "luck influence" than some other State of Siege games (also less than most games I own).

Why CN feels like it relies on luck, is that the game severely punishes players that operate in suboptimal fashion. It doesn't drop a hammer on you -- it is insidious. You go along thinking you're doing "good stuff" -- and the game slowly slips away from you. The fact that your Action point total is based on your ability to maintain territorial integrity -- creates a "Cascade" game, failure breeds more failure. My second playtest game, I let Hull fall -- and I never got it back. The game was total misery, just an exercise in bare survival. I NEVER, EVER let that happen again.

Don't give up -- keep your Zeal flow going, and then make your actions count. It is so easy in this game to do what LOOKS right -- when in reality you are throwing your Zeal Points into the trash. Find out what IS right, and stick to it -- distractions abound. Once you master the rhythms of the game (not that easy, given the great depth of CN), you will actually kind of appreciate some bad luck -- just to keep the game tension up. If you need a jumpstart, the Coach's corner strategy articles (on this site) give a good background. I am keeping my best "moves" to myself (Alan's orders), but you can get pointed in the right direction.


Excellent advice. The die rolls are what they are. I have found that making sure that EVERY zeal point counts is what makes the difference. Everything you do has to be intentional.
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