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Subject: Hammer of the Scots and Bonaparte at Marengo rss

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I am fairly new to Board Gaming in general (as I played Computer games for years), and have yet to really get into what appears to be called "War Games." I have given up on virtually all computer games as Board Games require (IMO) so much more thinking and allow for across the table interaction.

I have looked for a 2 Player game as I find it very difficult to find people wanting to play Board Games very often.

Hammer of the Scots looks rather nice, but I have also been looking at Bonaparte at Marengo as an option.

Can someone tell me the basic difference between these two games and what the strengths/weaknesses of one are over the other?

Remember, I am just getting into Board Gaming and have not even played a gateway War game as of yet.

Thanks for the help.

Faithful
 
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Bill Herbst
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In a very brief summary:

Similiarities -- they are both highly abstracted asymmetrical lighter wargames that play to conclusion in about two hours. They also both use concealed unit strengths to simulate the fog of war.

Differences -- Combat in Hammer is decided by die rolling based on the different characteristics of each unit. Combat in Bonaparte at Marengo has no luck involved in its combat. The activation of forces in Hammer is handled through each person's hands of cards (which also introduce random events into play); this is quite different from the activation system in BaM. Victory conditions in Hammer revolve around each side getting enough nobles to switch their allegiance by defeating them in combat. Victory in BaM for the Austrians is accomplished by destroying units and seizing key terrain squares while the French win by avoiding the Austrian victory conditions.
 
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Clark Millikan
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I think the main point is that this is a decision you can't get wrong. These are two of the best out there in my opinion. If you enjoy the one you get, and have the time and money, definitely get the other.

As for diferences, I'd say HoTS is closer to a 'typical' wargame. You're trying to concentrate your forces, fight battles where you have superiority, maximize the gain from good luck, and minimize the damage from bad luck. B@M is a more abstract, maneuver based game. Comparisons to chess are accurate IMO. I find there is more bluffing in B@M than HoTS. In HoTS, you are mainly trying to get your forces to the right place, and fooling your opponent means weakening yourself at the critical point. In B@M, knowing where your opponent's cavalry, and artillery pieces are is critical, and bluffing at the right time can be very profitable.

But, don't agonize over this. Just get one.
 
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jamison creel
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To me the main difference is that BaM is a good game.

I own and have played both numerous times and I really don't understand the hype and the high rating that HotS gets. With two skilled players HotS will probably be decided by luck. There is luck in the die rolls. There is luck in the unit draws. There is luck in the cards. If England draws Edward a lot, especially if they draw him with a lot of knights and high numbers then they will probaby win. If old Edward never shows up then you can't win.

I don't mind luck in a game. I just don't like this much in a game that is supposed to be somewhat serious and that takes so long. If I want a light hearted dice-fest then I play Nexus Ops or maybe Memoir '44.

If you want a really inovative game that is thoughtful and comes down to skill then you have to try BaM. It's a beautiful game. It's fun to play. You really feel like a Napoleonic general pushing pieces around a battle map. The only caveat is that it is a bit more complex and it is a bit of a brain burner. If you want a thoughtful gamers game go with BaM.

If you want something lighter, more of an American style dicefest then skip all of HotS' pretension and get Nexus Ops. It's pure mindless dice rolling fun.

Hope this helps.
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michael dorazio
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Yeah, don't spend much time considering which to get. They are equally good, both as games, and as entry-level war games. Pick either one.
 
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Mark Buetow
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Well, first off, welcome to wargaming! Both Hammer of the Scots (HotS) and Bonaparte at Marengo (BaM) are great games. I own both and play them frequently.

There are, to put it simply, two areas of knowledge used in a wargame. The first is the game mechanics. How do units move? How do they fight? How do you get more units?

The second area is strategy and tactics. Just knowing how to play and move and fight and which dice to roll doesn't mean you know what you're doing. Sometimes, when you first read the rules, you can set up the game, and have an idea of how the game "works" but have no idea what to do first.

So, what you should do to learn any wargame is read through the rules, set up the game, and play a few turns against yourself to get the hang of the mechanics and the objectives you want to achieve.

That's just some general intro to wargame thinking, at least how I've experienced and approached it. On to your question....

The games are similar in that they use "fog of war," that is, the wooden blocks hide the steps (strength) of units from your opponent.

The two games, however, have vastly different objectives and vastly different ways of doing things.

If you have ever played chess, you know everything there is to know, within the limits of your own analytical skills. This is called "perfect knowledge." Any move you make in chess is completely controllable; there is no luck or randomness (though you might ascribe such words to your own poor moves!).

BaM is similar to chess in that there is no "luck" or "chance." The most "randomness" comes from the initial French setup of units. Other than that, the moves, combat and losses are all under the control of the players. The goal of BaM is to wear down the opponent's army such that it "breaks" by being demoralized. There is a secondary territorial obkective for the Austrians in the event that the game clock runs out with no army demoralized. The key to BaM is maneuvering in a way that harms the enemy. Head-to-head matches of brute strength (assaults) are a very bloody and difficult prospect.

In HotS, things are much different. The goal is to control the most nobles. Conquest is achieved by strength more so than maneuver. Stronger armies will defeat lesser armies (usually). A key difference between BaM and most other wargames is that BaM uses no dice. HotS does. The number of dice rolled by each unit is determined by how many steps it has. As hits are rolled, the blocks have their steps reduced until they are eliminated or switch sides (the nobles in HotS).

I think it would be helpful also to throw out some general wargaming concepts which are common to most wargames and how each game handles them. Generally speaking, Hammer addresses these concepts in traditional ways; Bonaparte addresses them uniquely.

Steps refers to a unit's strength. In BaM, steps are reduced by assaults and retreats. Each step lost is also a morale point lost, so the battles have a direct effect on morale. In HotS, steps are lost to die rolls. Units have a certain number to roll (equal or less) to hit. Each hit removes a step from the enemy units. In Hammer, steps can be replaced with "rebuilding" points during a Winter Phase of the game. In BaM, steps cannot be regained by units. (In some senses, this reflects the struggle in Hammer over many years, versus a one day engagement in BaM).

CR: Combat Resolution Most wargames handle combat by one of two methods: A table which has attacker versus defender strength ratios cross referenced to a die roll to determine battle results (this is a CRT: Combat Resolution Table). Another method is direct die rolls with "hit" numbers. This is how Hammer handles combat. Units roll and if they roll less than or equal to their number, they hit the enemy and force him to reduce his steps. BaM handles combat in a rather unique third way: There is a formula for how strong the attacking units are, the type of approach the attack is entering, and the defender's strength. This will determine the number of steps the loser removes. Combat in BaM also involves "maneuver attacks" which can force units to retreat just by moving near them and thereby causing them losses.

Stacking refers to how many units may be in a space. Some games have a limit as to how many and what type of units can occupy a space. Others have no limits. In Hammer, there is no limit to the number of units that can be in a space on a particular turn; however, there are limits to how many units you may move across a border at once (called hexside limits (this is a common feature in Columbia's block games). In Hammer, you are limited as to how many units you may have in a space when Winter comes. In Bonaparte, each locale (space) shows a number which indicates how many units (blocks) may be in that space.

Victory Conditions These vary for each game. Some games have you destroy or occupy particular objectives. Some games assign victory points for various occupying forces or objectives. Some games offer different scenarios and the victory conditions vary for each scenario. In Hammer, the goal is to have the most nobles under your control when the game ends. There are also some "instant" objectives such as killing Edward twice (Edward, then Edward II) would give the Scots a victory. In BaM, the objective is to demoralize the enemy army. If that cannot be done, then Austria has to occupy locale's with stars (at least two of two different colors); then France's objective is to prevent that.

I hope this rambling post has given you some helpful guidance as you enter this great new hobby. If you can swing it, I'd recommend both games, since they are very different in how they work. Both are extremely fun. I, for one, and there are many others, who would be happy to work with you online (via Cyberboard or Vassal software) to actually learn either of the games.

Let us know what you decide and how we can help!

Mark
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Wow! This is more than I ever expected. Thank you all.
This is a great community of players.

After reading it sounds like both are worth getting and owning. I think I will get Bonaparte at Marengo first and see if Hammer of the Scots might come for Christmas!

I can not thank you all enough.

Also, I DL Cyberboard but have no idea what to do, how to do, and why I would want to do it!


 
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Charles F.
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I'm firmly in the HotS camp. I do admire the innovative system employed in BaM, but believe that the scenario and gameplay as such fails to live up to the promise the system offers.

Let me explain:

'Tis not Marengo! The game only covers the first half of the Marengo battle, i.e. the Austrian advance. Historically, after a decisive clash at the Austrian point of furthest advance, the Austrians were pushed back once more back to Marengo and beyond. A classic see-saw engagement! This simply is not modelled by the game. Not only is there no time for events unfolding in such a manner, but there's also no incentive whatsoever for the French to try to accomplish what was historically done.

This is a great shame since a game allowing for such dynamics would be a lot more interesting that the hold-retreat-hold course typically seen in BaM and because historically BaM entirely falls flat.

While the above is my principal criticism, I do also have to say that the headlong retreat part of the battle is pretty formulaic and hence lacking excitement. Furthermore, the game tends to end in an anticlimactic manner in which the winner is already easily apparent before the game comes to an end.

Equally, at the end of the day, I don't think the fog of war provides enough uncertainty as to compensate for the absence of dice or cards. Perhaps even Bowen Simmons feels likewise, since his mantra for his upcoming Austerlitz game using the same system happens to be: More Poker!

But to offer my advice to the original poster: If you're really into Chess and abstract strategy games, BaM - more of an acquired taste - might be more to your liking (at least if you not overly mind the criticisms I noted above). Otherwise, if you're looking for excitement and sudden reversals in your games, it's HotS all the way.

But I'd even qualify that: Better skip BaM and wait for Bowen's upcoming Austerlitz game, which is bound to offer a more compelling scenario.
 
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Gotthard Heinrici (prev. Graf Strachwitz)
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I would wait for 'War of the Roses' as I think it's replayability value is higher that HOTS.
Get Bonaparte at Marengo anyhow if you can. Completely different game.
 
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M B
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After reading the last two posts I think I will go check out the other games as well.

I do not mind a bit of luck in a game, but I am more directed that way as anything too heavy will never get played at my table unless I play it solo.

I think I will go check out Austerlitz and War of the Roses before making any type of decision.

Is there anything else I should know (that I am totally unaware of currently) before I proceed?
 
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Jim Marshall
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The more games you look at, the worse it will become - you'll end up wanting them all!

I haven't played B@M (I do like the look of it - I'm waiting for my copy to arrive from Thoughthammer) but I will say that HOTS is great fun, very colourful and doesn't take too long to play. There is enough meat on the bone to make it a decent wargame too. This makes it my recommendation, especially for a first wargame.

The risk if you spread your net too wide is that you'll end up with something very complex with a long play time.

Wargames tend to be more involved than most Euros. On the plus side, this can give a greater, more satisfying challenge, but if you end up with a monster you'll spend far more time analysing it to figure out how it works than actually playing the thing - assuming you can find an opponent.
 
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Poochie D
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Harae wrote:
I would wait for 'War of the Roses' as I think it's replayability value is higher that HOTS.


I'd like to know what makes you think this, considering War of the Roses is months or even years away from being released. Are you a play tester?
 
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Ken B.
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hacksword wrote:
Harae wrote:
I would wait for 'War of the Roses' as I think it's replayability value is higher that HOTS.


I'd like to know what makes you think this, considering War of the Roses is months or even years away from being released. Are you a play tester?



People have never let actually not playing a game before stand in the way of forming opinions, so why start now?

Both of these games are excellent. Yackity yack about Marengo's "history", you can read a book on that if you like. The GAME itself is fun and doesn't weigh itself down with stupid chrome for "history's" sake. You get the gist of the battle in a great-playing game, I'll take that anyday over a rules-laden history sim that could literally play itself.

Marengo has a great feel of bringing combined arms to bear on your opponent, of flanking and outmaneuvering...great fun.

Hammer is all about guerilla-style warfare as you yell, "Freedom!" in your best drunken Mel Gibson accent.


Lots of people think of these games as "gateway" games, however I think they're just fine as destinations of their own. My opinion? Get both of them.
 
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dom rougier
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I've been going through a pretty similar process recently, getting myself and my girlfriend into wargaming.

Neither of us really want to play anything much longer than three hours, and shorter would be better. She can be really picky about asthetics and theme, although she's very good at the strategy side of things, and her hand-mangement skills are far, far superior to mine.

We already love War of the Ring, a superb wargame (by my definition, anyway) at the longer end of our time limit.

This being the case I picked up HotS first, which went down very well, loads of knife-edge choices and flowing gameplay.

I then ordered Marengo and Command and Colours : Ancients.

Marengo I'm still waiting for, but C&C:A is amazing, a wargame that lasts an hour but still has a lot of depth and is great fun to play. It may be questionable as a simulation, but it "feels" right to me, which is far more important than exact simulation in my opinion.
 
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Gotthard Heinrici (prev. Graf Strachwitz)
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hacksword wrote:
Harae wrote:
I would wait for 'War of the Roses' as I think it's replayability value is higher that HOTS.


I'd like to know what makes you think this, considering War of the Roses is months or even years away from being released. Are you a play tester?


Twice as many Cards as HOTS...
 
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Charles F.
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franklincobb wrote:
Yackity yack about Marengo's "history", you can read a book on that if you like. The GAME itself is fun and doesn't weigh itself down with stupid chrome for "history's" sake. You get the gist of the battle in a great-playing game, I'll take that anyday over a rules-laden history sim that could literally play itself.


Ken, as far as I'm concerned, a wargame which cannot produce roughly the historical outcome no matter how you play, has a problem. I by no means would want a game to 'play itself'. But on occasion, I would like to see the French mounting a true counterattack and advancing. BaM simply fails to provide any incentives for such French play or the time necessary to accomplish that. BaM in effect merely covers one half of the battle and cuts out the most exciting part: the hour of truth in which Nappy won the day and turned the tables on the Austrians!

You're not taking my criticism seriously. To allow for the historical dynamics the game would by no means have to be 'rules-laden' or such. Different victory conditions, more time and a couple of odd tweaks would do the job.

BaM's a good game. But it could have been a lot better. The scenario simply isn't that well designed, which is a shame considering the promise of the innovative system.

Quote:
I would wait for 'War of the Roses' as I think it's replayability value is higher that HOTS.


I understand you're a playtester. Care to give insights into why you consider this to be the case?
 
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Ken B.
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charlesf wrote:

Ken, as far as I'm concerned, a wargame which cannot produce roughly the historical outcome no matter how you play, has a problem. I by no means would want a game to 'play itself'. But on occasion, I would like to see the French mounting a true counterattack and advancing. BaM simply fails to provide any incentives for such French play or the time necessary to accomplish that. BaM in effect merely covers one half of the battle and cuts out the most exciting part: the hour of truth in which Nappy won the day and turned the tables on the Austrians!




Yes, but that's the least exciting part of the battle--after the artillery explosion and the arrival of the French reinforcements, it was pretty much a mopping-up exercise for Napoleon's troops.

And as I've read, it does prove to be close to history--it can be very difficult for the Austrians to achieve their goals in the time allowed. The 'end' of Marengo is meant to demonstrate the turning point of the battle, which is far less interesting than the Austrian's do or die assault that took the French completely off-guard.
 
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Gotthard Heinrici (prev. Graf Strachwitz)
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Quote:
I would wait for 'War of the Roses' as I think it's replayability value is higher that HOTS.


I understand you're a playtester. Care to give insights into why you consider this to be the case?[/q]

WOTR has twice as many cards HOTS

 
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I must say, this is very enjoyable reading as I am not aware of many of these things.
I am learning a lot here form reading what others have played and how they view certain aspects of games and gaming.



 
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Mark Buetow
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Quote:
But on occasion, I would like to see the French mounting a true counterattack and advancing.


Well then you should have seen my game yesterday! I held the French about a third of the way up the southernmost main road. Granted, it was against a newer player of the game (and I am no brilliant strategist myself) but he tired flanking me and a bad assault gave the French a push well into his lines. It was a "French Salient" on the board. My victory came because I was able to group my three infantries in that area and make a couple of my own assaults which broke his line. That would not have been possible without that extra three infantry that arrived at 4pm with General DeSaix.

So, it's certainly possible for the French to counterattack and press it home. In fact, my preferred outcome as France is to scoot back, regroup, bring in the reinforcements and try to hit back. Once the French have their stars covered, and if the morale levels are close, there's a chance the French can do that. Of course, if you can do it farther west all the better.

I realize that particular outcome is not the exact historical match; I'm just saying that it's certainly possible for the French to hit back hard at the Austrians.

Edit: fixed quotes
 
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Ryan Wheeler
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charlesf wrote:
But to offer my advice to the original poster: If you're really into Chess and abstract strategy games, BaM - more of an acquired taste - might be more to your liking. Otherwise, if you're looking for excitement and sudden reversals in your games, it's HotS all the way.


Charles hits the point! To me, this really sums it up. What do you like to play? How do you like your games to feel? They are both highly rated games so you're not getting a stinker whichever you choose. Both are only moderately complex so you're safe there.

Personally, I enjoy HotS more because of the card play and dice rolling. It can be exciting and I like the "turn of fortune" type of excitement more than the "intellectual battle of nerves and wits" thing that many gamers crave. I like BaM, but it is dryer and more procedural with a poker-like attitude.

I'd also like to add that if you're looking for the game that can better serve as a launching pad for other wargames, HotS fills that bill. It follows a pattern that will make it simpler to understand a wider range of wargames, especially the line of Columbia games.

BaM is different than most other wargames. The movement/maneuver *will* have you scratching your head for the first few games. And, really, maneuver and bluff is 91% of the game. If you think you'd prefer that, well then, you have your game.
 
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charlesf wrote:
And, really, maneuver and bluff is 91% of the game. If you think you'd prefer that, well then, you have your game.


As I understand the game from reading you can not see one another's units. With that said how does one bluff when you have no idea of what the other person has anyway?

I guess this is where you speak about poker as it is all in the body language and face of the other player that makes you think what is or is not there.

I think I would really like this game, but not sure if I could get too may others to play it with me. I would rather pick it up to start, but it may sit in the closet for months before seeing one single play.

To set a frame of reference, the person I play with thinks that Attika is way to complex and difficult to grasp. Of course there is nothing wrong with that, but to me this is not a complex game.

I play more with a person that likes Ticket to Ride, Clans, and Scrabble.

I have bought several Board Games because they looked really cool to play, but they have sat un-played. Oh, I have read all the rules and even tried some solo, but to get them on a table to play is another story entirely.

Here is what I have been able to play with another person thus far.

Ticket to Ride
Clans
Carcassonne
Masons (one time)
Attika (one time)
Anno 1503 (two times)
Queen's Necklace (It was not understood so we gave up)
Railroad Tycoon (Managed to get 4 people for this but no one wanted to keep playing except for me, so we stopped)

The games I have purchased but have yet to play with another person are:

Conquest of the Empire
Antike
(Not sure if these 2 count as War Games, but I think not)
Clippers
Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition
Bison
Canal Mania
Amazonas
San Marco
Mykerinos

So there you have it; my entire collection since I started to play Board Games about three months ago.

I say all this only to show where the water level line in my gaming is at. I have had most of these on my own little table to try to see how they work, but a 2-3 player game is a lot less fun by your lonesome!

That is why it has been really beneficial to read all these responses to try to make an informed choice on what would work in my particular setting.

Thanks again.
 
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Rusty McFisticuffs
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Faithful wrote:
As I understand the game from reading you can not see one another's units. With that said how does one bluff when you have no idea of what the other person has anyway?

"If the unit I'm moving here is infantry instead of cavalry, I'll lose a morale point if he does maneuver attacks from here and here. I know that, so I clearly need to use cavalry. But he knows I know that, so I'll use infantry."

(For what it's worth, I think Hammer of the Scots is more "immediately fun" than Bonaparte at Marengo--I know I liked HOTS from the first turn, whereas I was dubious about BAM after my first game, and almost everyone I've introduced BAM to has felt the same way after their first game. I've spent more time playing BAM than HOTS, but I think HOTS is easier to get new players to play.)
 
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Jorge Montero
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I think BaM can reproduce the historical scenario pretty reasonably, if both players are trying. The main difference is that the French counterattack would just rout the austrians, not just let you spend an extra 10 turns running towards the other side of the map.

In any case, I don't think it's possible to reenact most napoleonic battles with your typical 2 player wargaming: The players have too much knowledge and control over the situation. Can you really simulate the restlessness of Napoleon's left wing at Ligny when they didn't realize that the forces marching towards their rear were reinforcements that came from an unexpected direction? Can you remake Quatre Bras or Wavre without forcing the French player to deploy his troops lethargically? Auersedt is just unbeliveable. As Bowen explains in his design diaries, Austerlitz is also very difficult to set up so that both sides react in a somewhat historical way.

And don't get me started about how 'historical' HotS is. Is it really any better?

Without umpires or a computer, there's no way to really put you in the shoes of an ancient general.




 
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dom rougier
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okies.... this looks like it's starting to get nasty


Suffice to say that people wouldn't be arguing about the mentioned games if they weren't fascinating and compelling pursuits in the first instance. People's opinons will differ about which is the superior, and whether either is a "simulation", whether a "simulation" is actually worth striving for and just what exactly is a "simulation" anyway.


Personally, I play wargames for a few reasons: I love the tactical and strategic challenge, I revel in the theme and "story arc" that a good wargame will have, and I also adore the chance to leave the table, spend a few days thinking about alternate tactics, ideas or bluffs, and then return anew to thrash them out in front of the enemy.

A good wargame to me would also inspire and allow me, if I choose, to read up on the history and perhaps gain some insight, context and perhaps tactical advantage from them.


I play a lot of boardgames, computer games and rpgs, but wargaming touches a nerve which most other media do not quite satisfy, as the abstract mechanics approach of most heavier euros just seems too cold and lifeless sometimes. (Caylus and Reef Encounter, for example)

Equally, a lot of Fantasy Flight, big-box games can be fun (Descent, Twilight Imperium etc) but many are too sprawling and out-of-control to play in a reasonable time and enjoy the same level of tactical challenge.



Europe Engulfed looks superb. I will probably own a copy at some point, and I will equally probably never actually play the damn thing. However, from all that has been written and said, it looks like a 15 hour game, which happens to be the right 15 hours.
 
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