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The Invasion of Russia (1812)» Forums » General

Subject: A few comments and suggestions rss

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Matthew Bysouth
United Kingdom
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Ok, so this is a rather mixed post but a few things have finally forced me to put pen to paper (or rather ‘key strike to screen’). I rarely voice my opinions about a game at BGG (and never at CSW – can’t follow stuff over there and so if anyone wants to link this post to CSW please feel free). I don’t write reviews or rate games. This is because I generally don’t trust my opinion to be either well informed enough to be valid and/or representative enough to ‘speak’ to the majority of gamers. However, as you can see this game has got me posting, mostly because I know that there is another game planned in the series (and hopefully more) and felt that I should give some feedback. I hope nothing in my post discourages other gamers from supporting this excellent game. Anyone with an interest in Napoleon’s Russia campaign should give this game a look regardless of my comments in this post.

And so… to my points.

Congratulations
First and foremost I want to congratulate the designer and publisher in producing and distributing such an excellent game. I’ve really enjoyed playing it. It is tense, exciting, frustrating (in a good way) and clearly based on thorough research and consideration. The narrative you get from playing really makes you care about every decision and every die roll. It certainly does everything that I would want of a game at this scale covering this conflict. An outstanding job!

But… a few gripes….

1. Set-up
This game really reminded me of games I bought and sold pre-internet days. Why? Because I couldn’t make head nor tail of the set-up instructions in the rule book and before the internet, games like this went straight back out the door amid piques of frustration and gnashing of teeth. Of course, I deeply regret losing those games now that the internet has afforded access to players, designers and publishers in a way that was unthinkable when I was only one of a few local wargamers isolated from others. I could be playing and enjoying a lot more games now!

This game has been fantastically supported by the designer and publisher as well as a number of players and play testers. The forum here and at CSW is a mine of essential clarifications for the new player. I have no problem with this and am very grateful to all who contribute. However, I find it hard to accept set-up instructions that confuse me. I’m certainly happy to accept that this is a personal problem for me (since I am a bear of small brains) but in order to start the game with what I think might be the correct set-up I’ve had to cross reference the rulebook with the excellent AARs at CSW, alongside the Vassal module and several books about the campaign – and I’m still sure I haven’t done it correctly.

For example, here is an extract from the setup instructions in the rulebook:
‘Imperial Guard (4Iv, 1Cv, 2Av), Napoleon, Bessieres, Lefebvre, Mortier; I Corps (4Iv, 1IL, 1CL), Davout; II Corps (2IL, 1Ic, 1Cc), Oudinot in hexes: 2206, 2207, 2208, 2308, 2407, 2508’

Considering the vast number of games with very good set-up instructions I can’t believe there wasn’t a better way to write the instructions provided here. On reading this, without recourse to the internet and other gamers (and the designer/publisher), I found it very difficult to understand who should set-up where and how much leeway I have to decide myself. There is also different set-ups for the basic and advanced game but these are printed together. These, in my view, should have been given very different spaces in the rulebook.

Suggestion
Create unambiguous, clearly labelled, and easy to follow setup instructions for this and any other proposed games in the system.

1. Stacking
Ok, now I should admit that I hate games with stacks of counters so I am very biased in this regard. I find them tedious and difficult to manipulate (even with teasers). This game compounds this problem in two ways. Firstly, the game map is smaller than many games. This isn’t a problem for single counters as they fit perfectly within each hex but it is virtually impossible to check and move stacks without having to move (or ‘tumble’) other stacks or spread out the stack in some way. I know that a larger deluxe map is now available but I suspect that it still isn’t large enough for me and it is, of course, an additional cost (albeit fully justified I’m sure). Secondly, there is (for me) a lot of ‘stack checking’. I need to constantly check combat strengths, disrupted units, where cavalry is, combined arms, where depots are, as well as also needing to flip units etc…. throughout the game play. This slows me down considerably (particularly when playing solo) and, to be honest, is a deal breaker for me. I feel unable to play this game with the components supplied.

To overcome these problems I have created my own Command Displays (see photo below). Each country’s display contains a box for each commander. In the box I have printed the units that start with the commander and the set-up hex – this greatly speeds up set-up (see earlier). You can then place the units assigned to each commander in the box. It is up to the players to decide how to place them – whether on view or hidden in some way – you could even use a screen to hide things if you wanted. I also have a space for the Supply Train marker. I’m using cubes for mine to easily differentiate them from other counters in the hex. What I also like about this arrangement is that I can either assign multiple markers to a hex where commanders are stacked with other commanders (as in the rules) or I can house rule that I have to stack the markers with the specific commanders I am ordering meaning that I have to decide who is getting orders in each hex ahead of carrying out the orders (whereas if I stacked the markers in the hex as per the rules I would have more freedom regarding how I actually used them).

Here is a photo of a game at the start of Turn 1. You can see my homemade displays alongside each long edge of the map (the French are at the bottom and the Russians at the top). On the left hand side is a little table that I made for all the d6 rolls and modifiers I kept forgetting - foraging, attrition, hits to the winning side - alongside my reading matter for the campaign! I have also placed reinforcements on their entry turn of the Turn Track.



Using these command displays has sped up gameplay by at least a factor of 3 and made for a far less frustrating experience.

Suggestion
Provide Command Displays (and possibly further tables etc…) for each side. A nice touch might be something that goes around the entire outside of the map and continues the artwork/style of the map itself. It could be made in different sections and might add about 10cm around the outside of the map. I’d certainly be willing to sacrifice some of the excellent paper thickness with which everything has been currently printed for something like this in future games.

Summary

Let me reiterate that this is an excellent game that anyone interested in the period should take a look at. I hope that these suggestions for additions are useful although I recognise that it is likely me that has the problem and that others have no issues with it as is and that’s fine. Sincere congratulations to the designer and publisher on their game and I’m really looking forward to the next game in the series.

Happy Gaming.

Mat
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Randall Shaw
United States
Kennesaw
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Why not post the files for your play aids to the file section?
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Steve Pole

Winkleigh
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Mat,

Many thanks for taking the time to write such a kind review. I have taken up your invitation to cross-post your thoughts to the TIR site at CSW.

Turning to your suggestions for improving the game:

1. Set up: I am sorry that you find these instructions confusing. Perhaps you could specify whether the problem is the use of so many abbreviations or whether it is the way that the instructions are written.

If it is the latter, maybe you could re-cast the extract you have cited so that it is more accessible and/or point me at a game where you feel that the set up is explained with greater clarity so that I may borrow (steal!) the format.

2. Stacking: I don't like large stacks either, particularly as they have a habit of collapsing into one another, leaving a confused heap of cardboard, just as a game reaches a crucial point.

My friends and I tend not to use the published counters/map when playing TIR. Rather, we have enlarged the map and play with plastic counters purloined from several old sets of "Dragon Lance" marked to differentiate troop types etc. The counters are shaped so as to lock onto one another and so do not topple easily; and, because combat and movement values are standardised we can get away with a fairly crude system of marking them.

(I should explain that over the years we have developed a large number of strategic scenarios using broadly the same game mechanics covering campaigns from Plato to Nato. A counter might find itself representing Alexander’s Thessalian heavy cavalry on one day, and one of Guderian’s panzer divisions, the next.)

This said, I really like your homemade command display boxes and will discuss with Nicola whether these might be introduced for future games in the series.

Regards, and thanks again,



Steve
19.2.15
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Colin Raitt
United Kingdom
Boston
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The set up is tricky to follow. First time played I was learning from someone who knew the game and I'm still not sure I had quite the right number of Russians.

Imperial Guard (4Iv, 1Cv, 2Av), Napoleon, Bessieres, Lefebvre, Mortier; I Corps (4Iv, 1IL, 1CL), Davout; II Corps (2IL, 1Ic, 1Cc), Oudinot in hexes: 2206, 2207, 2208, 2308, 2407, 2508’

I didn't fully realise the importance of line, veteran and whatever c stands for (conscript?). Naturally I knew infantry, cavalry and artillery but C for cavalry and c for conscript kept throwing me.

Now its easy of course.
 
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Steve Pole

Winkleigh
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Colin,

Many thanks for this. I've referred to your post (above) on the CSW site for TIR [no. 1036] and have suggested to Nicola that we might review the format of the Set Up Rules for the forthcoming 1813 game.

Regards,



Steve
20.2.15
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Matthew Bysouth
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First of all, thanks for the replies.

Sokadr wrote:
Why not post the files for your play aids to the file section?


If I thought they were correct I would but I'm sure there are quite a few errors in them at the moment.

Rubenpup wrote:

1. Set up: I am sorry that you find these instructions confusing. Perhaps you could specify whether the problem is the use of so many abbreviations or whether it is the way that the instructions are written.


Having looked at games that I find easy to set-up I've noticed that they all have the set-up hex number first followed by the counters that need to be placed there.

For instance....

Hex 2206
Napoleon
4 veteran infantry
1 veteran cavalry
2 veteran artillery

Some other things I like are... a copy of the map in the rule book with the setup shown (common in some tactical games), or the starting position of counters being printed directly onto the map. The start position of commanders could be printed on the reverse of the counter. As I said before, using Command Displays means that you can put the set-up info on them


Rubenpup wrote:

2. Stacking: I don't like large stacks either, particularly as they have a habit of collapsing into one another, leaving a confused heap of cardboard, just as a game reaches a crucial point.


Indeed!

Rubenpup wrote:

My friends and I tend not to use the published counters/map when playing TIR. Rather, we have enlarged the map and play with plastic counters purloined from several old sets of "Dragon Lance" marked to differentiate troop types etc. The counters are shaped so as to lock onto one another and so do not topple easily; and, because combat and movement values are standardised we can get away with a fairly crude system of marking them.


I actually had this game and remember the pieces well! It may even still be in the loft somewhere. May have to have a dig around!

Thanks again for the great game.

Mat
 
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Steve Pole

Winkleigh
Devon
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Mat,

Many thanks for your suggestion about the format for describing the initial set up, which I'll cross-post to the TIR site at CSW.

As regards "Dragon Lance", you can pick up copies of the game up for a song on eBay, particularly if it is not complete which, of course, doesn't matter if you are only interested in the counters.

Regards,



Steve
27.2.15
 
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