Rich
United States
Northern VA
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I will preface this by saying I've only played CR 3 times so I'm not drawing any permanent conclusions about the game but here's my predicament.

The last two games I've played the same opponent once as Saracens and once as Franks. Neither of us have extensive block game experience but both of us have a lot of general war gaming background. In both of the games that we played none of the victory cities changed hands. (In a fit of desperation as the Saracens late in the first game I blundered and foolishly left Egypt wide open, but there were no victory city captures by 'legitimate' means in either game).

The first game we played we got a couple of minor rule interpretations wrong in favor of the Franks so I figured that may have caused the stalemate but in our second game we switched sides, corrected our rule interpretations, and again none of the victory cities changed hands.

So I am pleading for guidance on a tactical and/or strategic level to what the trick is for capturing a victory city (especially for the Saracen but also interested for the Frank since he would need to go on offense as soon as the Saracen player got the upper hand).

What seems to be the biggest obstacle to capturing a victory city is the limitation on storming blocks to no more than the castle limit. If the defender is able to get the maximum number of blocks into the castle to defend it, with the advantage of defensive blocks firing first (within each A,B,C initiative rating) coupled with the need for the attackers to register two hits to inflict one pip of damage, it seems nearly impossible to capture a victory city by frontal assault (storm). My opponent as Saracen did come close to capturing Antioch by laying siege and not storming. As a result of some poor siege attrition rolls I was hanging by a thread but a timely Manna card saved my bacon there.

A couple of specific questions come to mind:

1. If the defender holes up in the castle is it a good approach to lay siege on an early card, hold the siege for a couple of turns, hoping siege attrition wears him down, and then storm?

2. Given storming is throttled by castle limit is there any advantage to attacking a victory city with a large number of blocks? Besides discouraging an opposition relief force the only other potential advantage I see to this is you could storm on round 1, withdraw heavily damaged storming blocks in round 2, and then replace them in round 3. However, with the battle limited to only 3 rounds per turn this approach seems costly in terms of forfeiting a good portion of the round 2 attack. My opponent as Saracen mustered and on the following turn attacked me in Tripoli with 9 blocks. He stormed with a Jihad card but as a result of somewhat unfortunate dice rolling his two storming blocks were shredded without inflicting any serious damage on my two defending blocks. As a result of discouragement, and the need to start preparing for winter, he soon abandoned the attack and began retreating.

3. Is it usually necessary to maintain a winter siege in order to capture a victory city?

I'm open to any and all advice out there so please don't feel limited by my three questions.

Thanks!
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Ron Draker
United States
McLean
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Hi Rich,

I've played hundreds of games of CRex over the years and usually do see VP cities change hands a number of times a game.

The key is to lay siege early in a year and let attrition work for you. The Winter Campaign card also works great for extending the siege. As the Saracens, you have some powerful four-step blocks that hit on 3s and lots of A rated blocks to shoot first if you must storm. I usually allow myself a couple turns of storming before the winter sets in if I don't have the Winter Campaign card.

As the Franks, it can be harder to take cities if the Saracens keep them well garrisoned, because most Frankish units are B rated. The principles remain the same as far as early siege and multiple rounds of assaults. Remember that English can sea invade. If the Saracens leave Egypt poorly guarded, it's a prime target. The Jihad card also can help take a castle by allowing your units to roll first, and the Assassins card can help weaken or eliminate a defender.

With a little more experience, I believe you'll find CRex a very deep and rich game of position and maneuver. It is one of my favorite Columbia games.
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Shayne Richards
Australia
Mittagong
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I agree mostly with Ron. Saracens will find good success (especially up north) early in the game by utilising attrition. The attrition works less well for the crusaders who are better at storming. Also when you are playing the crusaders a CRUCIAL and oft overlooked strategy that will help victory greatly is DO NOT automatically retreat into a castle if you are the crusaders.
 
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Rich
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Thanks to both of you for the advice. I'm far from giving up on the game but less sure about my primary war gaming buddy. Next time I coax him into a game hopefully we'll see a little more victory city switching action.

Out of curiosity I downloaded the version 1.4 rules and noticed that the storming unit allowance was 2x the town rating. This, along with increased road limits and a wilder knights charge dice roll, leads me to believe that version 1 was more wide open and likely to result in more changes in ownership of the victory cities.

Have either of you played Version 1 and do you find that to be true? I'm just curious, not leaning toward switching at this point.
 
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C Sandifer
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Lutherville
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To be honest, I've always thought that v2.0 would be improved by allowing [castle limit+1] blocks to storm a castle.

So a 1-limit castle could be stormed by two blocks, a 2-limit castle could be stormed by three blocks, etc.

 
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Steven Hall
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Ft. Mill
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Exactly! Lay siege early in the year. Attrition him 3 times, then storm his degraded units before winter. No hurry. I love this game.
 
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Rich
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Well, a year and a half later and I still haven't got this to the table with my skeptical primary war game buddy.

But ...

I have played twice with my wife. The second time we played with the castle storm allowed to go up to Castle Rating + 1 and the game really clicked. I enjoyed it even though I lost as the Saracens. I don't think that the +1 castle storm was completely responsible for the increase in enjoyment but I believe it helped. Compared to previous plays I think I also used harrying more effectively and, based on some of the advice in previous posts, pulled off a real nice prolonged siege of Antioch. My wife used sea movement very effectively. Unlike the games in previous posts where no major cities changed hands, in this game Egypt and Antioch changed hands once and Tripoli changed hands twice and very nearly a third time.

Very exciting ending to the game. On the last 3 non-winter turns of 1192 the Saracens were killing Franks like flies in a furious battle to retake Tripoli (both Richard the Lionheart and Saladin bit the dust) but two damaged Frank blocks held on in the castle to seal the Frank victory.

From a lessons learned perspective as the Saracens I was probably not aggressive enough early in the game in killing Frank pool blocks and as a result all three groups of European Crusader Knights came on board relatively quickly.
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