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Lightning: North Africa» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Onward to Tobruk!! rss

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Dan Poole
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Lightning: North Africa is a 2-player card game that simulates the North African campaign of WWII. One player controls the Axis (GE, IT), the other controls the Allies (BR, BR Commonwealth, US). The game is fairly simple to learn and takes about 30 minutes to play.

sauronComponents:
-Axis deck of 46 cards
-Allied deck of 44 cards
-6 Map Setup cards
-3 Axis Setup Force cards
-4 Allied Setup Force cards
-6 Attack Plan cards
-1 Attack plan Summary card
-1 Rulebook
-a cardboard divider/holder in the box for storage

sauronSetup
1. String the 6 Map cards end to end to form a 6-region map of North Africa as Follows:

Algeria--Tripoli/Tunisia--Benghazi--Tobruk--Western Desert--Cario


2. Place the 4 axis and 3 allied Setup cards each below their corresponding region listed on each Force card:
-Axis: Beghazi x 2, Tripoli/Tunisia x 1
-Allies: Tobruk x 1, Western Desert x 2, Cairo x 1

3. Place the Attack Plan cards and reference card spread out, face up, near both players.

4. The Axis player starts with 4 cards from his deck, the allied player starts with 5 cards. The Axis player goes first.

sauronGameplay

Each player completes all steps in his turn before the other player goes.
1. Draw: Draw 1 card [2 if you control Tobruk]

2. Take actions: Either a) play any number of cards for their action effect and/or 2) activate forces already on the map.

-Cards have 2 parts: the main text and a battle section at the bottom. For an action, simply play the card and execute the action. Note some cards are Reinforcements. To play these, pay the cost (some # of cards) listed on the card and place the card within the stated region. Note reinforcement cannot take an action the turn it arrives.

-Activate forces. Each force card can do 1 of 4 things once per turn:
a) Move: move up to 2 regions (and not attack).
b) Attack: move 0 or 1 region and participate in an attack (if in a region with enemy forces).
c) Regroup: regain one loss.
d) Prepare: the force does nothing, but the player draws one card.

3. Declare Battles: Battles take place in regions containing both players' units (though combat is not mandatory. The attacker allocates any number of forces in that region to battle. The defender must allocate all units in the region. (see combat below)

4. Supply Check: This is simple. If any enemy force resides in a region between a unit and its friendly base, it is considered out of supply and must take 2 losses. Note units within AND controlling Tobruk are always in supply (see below).

5. Discard: A player's maximum hand size is 9. Therefore, he can discard unwanted cards.

6. Draw 2 cards

sauronBattles
Combat may seem kind of strange at first. In essence, the defender must guess which Attack Plan the attacker secretly chose. At the start of all battles, the attacker always has 1 of 2 Attack Plans to choose from: Armored and Motorized. So in this case, the defender would have a 50/50 chance of guessing the attacker's Attack Plan. However, there are 4 other Attack Plans (Overrun, Flank, Encircle, Siege) that may be "earned" by the attacker. This is done by the attacker playing a card and looking at the battle section at the bottom. This will list 1 of the 4 other Attack Plans or will state "Any" which can stand for any of the 4. The defender may then play a card with a matching Attack Plan to negate it. This goes back and forth until a player cedes. If the attacker played the last card, then he unlocks that Attack Plan as a selection option for the current battle. If the defender played the last card, then that option is not available to the attacker. Furthermore if the last card played has a secondary effect (which is listed in parenthesis) then that also takes effect (Loss: other player takes 1 loss, Discard: other player must choose a card to discard, Draw: owning player draws 1 card). Furthermore after the attacker has finished playing battle cards, the defender may elect to play a battle card stating "Armor" and/or Motorized" (the 2 default Attack Plans). By doing so, he makes these attack plans unavailable to the attacker unless the attacker rebuts by playing a card with same Attack plan. This can go back and forth as above.

When all this back and forth card play is finished, the attacker then takes all the Attack Plan cards he now has available to him. He then secretly selects a card. At that point, the defender tries to guess the selected card. If the defender guesses correctly, then each of the attacker's forces must take 1 hit (3 hits destroys a force and permanently removes it from the game). If the attacker wins, he inflicts a number of hits equal to the number of attacking units. Furthermore each Attack Plan card denotes further bonus effects, which would apply only if the attacker selected this card (e.g. Overrun: +2 losses per attacking force). The defender may allocate hits as desired. Note certain action cards may be played at their appropriate times during or after battle to help yourself or hinder your opponent.

sauronVictory
Axis player wins if he has forces in Cairo at the end of the allied player's turn.
Allies player wins at any point there are no axis forces on the map.

sauronTobruk
Controlling Tobruk incurs 3 advantages:
1. Extra card draw during phase 1.
2. Controlling units there are always in supply.
3. Attacking player immediately takes 1 loss (total) if attacking Tobruk.
-Note control changes only when the attacking player eliminates all defending units in Tobruk.

sauronMy overall Impressions

Theme: 9 This depends on whether or not you care for North African WWII games

Mechanics: 7.5 This is a great game for what it is: a tight simple, yet tactical game. This is not a historical recreation of the war nor is it meant to be. Nonetheless the cards add a lot of flavor to the game.

Rulebook 7.5: I had a couple minor questions, but otherwise the rules are clear.

Strategy: 7 There is a moderate luck factor, since a lot of outcome hinges on card play. Having said that there is a lot of difficult decisions to be made. For example, do I save a card for its battle effect, or do I use it for its action?

Asthetics: 7 Nice cards with nice pictures on them. I really like the box art as well as the compact size of the box (it always peeves me when games come in an oversized box).

Overall fun factor: 8 True, the game does not have a high degree of verisimilitude in comparison to other wargames (i.e., Paths of Glory). Nonethless, this is not inteded to be an in-depth complete simulation of the entire campaign. The game greatly succeeds at what it is: a light, fun, quick strategy war game depicting combat in the North African desert. As mentioned above, the cards really add a lot of flavor to the game, so this more than just a "pasted on" theme, like so many other simplified games. It also makes a great travel game. I highly recommend it if you are looking for this type of game. I also recommend using crystals: 1 color denoting hits, and another color denoting that a force has taken its action.

Pros: fun, fast, quick, portable, strategic
cons: the combat results (especially when the attacker wins) seem a bit unforgiving, especially since forces can only withstand 2 hits. Needs markers (not a big deal; as mentioned above, crystals work great).















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Daniel Val
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Very nice review! Thanks!

Pros: I hadn't even heard of this game before this review. I like the theme, some concepts of game play and the fact that it plays in such a short time.

Cons: Now I want to buy this game. I really have to stop reading reviews!
 
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Michael Ward
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Under "Cons" you mentioned units can only take two hits. Its three hits.

If it was only two it would invalidate the tactic of moving past enemy units to put them out of supply. Your unit, which is now also out of supply, would take two hits in your supply phase and be destroyed, putting the enemy units back in supply.
 
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Dan Poole
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Thanks for the responses. As usual I should have been more clear. When I meant units can only absorb 2 hits, I meant that they can only take 2 hits without dying, meaning the third hit kills them.
 
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j b Goodwin

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Wow! Your reaction to this game was vastly different than mine! I really wanted to like this game right out of the box. The production quality of the deck is the best yet of the Lightning series (I really enjoy D-Day and Midway), but the rules are the same type of badly-written mish-mash I've unfortunately come to expect from the Lightning series. They would benefit from blind testing. Well-written rules are critical to this game, as it is almost completely counter-intuitive; so much so that after playing, we were unsure as to whether we had just missed or completely misunderstood critical rules.

The "Attack Plan" rules are one particular sticking point. There is no mechanism given for the "Guessing" part of this process. Although it's easy enough to write down the Attack Plan the attacker is using, or to use a shielded die to indicate the selected plan, the rules should at least suggest a process. Because of the drawn action cards, many of our battles ended up having no losses other than those due to guessing the plans correctly or incorrectly, and that didn't feel much like we were in charge of our battles. It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure at this point that it is one that works.

My first feelings after playing this game are those of puzzlement and disappointment. If I, having played the other games in the series, can't quickly see the salient points of gameplay, I just wonder how badly this game will apppear to the first-time player. It may be that after a few plays, I'll "get it." But why should it take several plays? A well-constructed rulebook is a much-better selling tool than someone saying, "I'm sure they explain that term someplace here in the rules...or maybe the FAQ...or maybe on this post on the Geek."

SECOND PLAY NOTES: Well, we seem to have gotten all the rules in place, but the pieces really didn't fall into place yet. We have great hopes for the third try, but the question still remains: this is the fourth game in this series; why can't Decision Games write a easily-understood rulebook?
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