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Subject: [Roger's Reviews] What if Market Garden had succeeded? rss

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"L'état, c'est moi."
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The Scheldt Campaign
A game for 2 players designed by Brian Train


"Flat, dyked country, much of it polderland reclaimed from the sea, borders both banks of the Scheldt. Roads and a sprinkling of houses are built on some of the dykes, villages on islands of higher ground. Small orchards and the trees lining roads and canals offer some vertical relief to the landscape but can, in themselves, be monotonous in the regularity of their planting. But dykes had been opened and water glistened on the polders, not deep enough to float an amphibious vehicle but sufficient to drown a wounded man.

There were days of bright sunshine during the Scheldt battles, usually after morning mist and fog, but these have been forgotten. The abiding memory is of grey skies, rain, fog, bone-chilling dampness, boots, battledress and blankets soaking wet, cold food, matches that wouldn't light, the soldier's weariness that is as much fear as lack of sleep, and everywhere, mud and water."

― Jeffrey Williams, The Long Left Flank: The Hard Fought Way to the Reich pp.114-115


Introduction
The Scheldt Campaign is the first game from new publisher Hollandspiele. The game was originally printed back in 2012 by Microgame Design Group, but has been updated with a new map and graphics.

The campaign to take the Scheldt Estuary became critical after Operation Market Garden failed to achieve its objectives, and the hoped for swift end to the war was not to be. The Allies needed a deep water port to shorten their supply lines, and Antwerp was deemed the best spot available under the circumstances.

With the failure of Market Garden, the Axis had time to reorganize and retrench around Antwerp. It fell to the First Canadian Army to clear the estuary. Despite its name, the First Canadian Army included "the 2nd Canadian Corps (which included the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division), the 1st British Corps, and the 1st Polish Armoured Division, at various times American, Belgian, and Dutch soldiers were also included as units."[1]

Map courtesy of www.canadiansoldiers.com

The campaign was fierce and lasted the better part of a month. One can only speculate what might have been had Market Garden succeeded, or if indeed the Allies had made a different strategic decision post D-Day.

Components
Hollandspiele uses a print on demand model for their games, and the order fulfillment is done through Blue Panther LLC. You can also download a print and play PDF version over at Wargame Vault if you want to assemble it yourself.



The map is split into two sheets and is beautiful. My sheet of plexi just about covers it perfectly, serving to keep the map flat and together at the overlap.



The game also comes with rules, setup sheets for both players, dice, counters, and play aids.

The counters are laser cut beauties.



They're both thick and extra hard and durable. I initially feared they would be sooty like the games from VPG can be, but to my surprise they're not, and it wasn't until I was all done punching and sorting them that I could catch a whiff of that laser cut scent from my fingers.

The box is perfectly acceptable albeit barely larger than the 8.5x11" rules inside, and the rules and player handouts are on decent paper stock.

Rules and Gameplay
The rules are clear, concise, and well written. The game is set at an operational scale.

Before I say anything else about the game, I have to shower praise on this brilliant little setup assistance. The back of the units have a letter on them indicating which specific unit they're with, and the setup sheet tells you where they go! So useful! Of course, many if not most games use double sided counters so that's not possible a lot of the time, but talk about a time saver.



The game uses a staff card system (originally invented by Joseph Miranda) which allows players to select (secretly) from a set of available actions that they then use to drive the action on their turn.

As you may anticipate by the units not being double sided, there isn't a two-step elimination involved with units here. Rather, they are given damage and their effectiveness is reduced as play goes along - given the size and scale of the game it works exceptionally well. In a game with many more units it might become tedious and over complicated, but here it's just right. The attrition system feels right when you're playing, and it works. That's more than good enough for me.

The game lasts up to 32 turns, but ends on the turn in which the final German coastal artillery unit is eliminated. A VP differential is calculated and marginal, impressive, or decisive victory is declared based on the result. Note that it's entirely possible for the Allied player to trigger the game end early but still be on the losing end!

If the German player manages to keep a coastal artillery on the map until the end of turn 32, they win an impressive victory no matter what.

Conclusions
This game is about a neglected part of WWII in the wargame market and that makes it interesting all on its own, but what makes it compelling is that this is a very tense game of cat and mouse. The Allies cannot afford to sit back and wait, they're racing against the clock. The Germans have enough resources and units to repel the assault and have very favourable defensive terrain. Reinforcements are available for both sides. The set up has some variable elements to it that allow for some flexibility and also provides for a lot of future replay ability - it's also extremely solo friendly if that's your preference.

When you sit down to play a wargame, you know going in whether the side you're playing won or lost and will almost invariably be about a well known and well studied situation. It's thus a bit of fresh air and a pleasant surprise to encounter a game where the opponents are evenly matched and the outcome is up in the air until the very end. Hollandspiele has picked a great game to inaugurate their company, and I sincerely hope that it will see its way onto more gaming tables now that it's more broadly available.

What if Market Garden had succeeded? We probably wouldn't have this great game.

[1] source: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/second-wor...


Thank you for reading this latest installment of Roger's Reviews. I've been an avid board gamer all my life and a wargamer for over thirty years. I have a strong preference for well designed games that allow players to focus on trying to make good decisions.

Among my favourites I include Twilight Struggle, the Combat Commander Series, the Musket & Pike Battle Series, Julius Caesar, Maria, EastFront, Here I Stand, Napoleon's Triumph, Unhappy King Charles!

You can subscribe to my reviews at this geeklist: [Roger's Reviews] The Complete Collection and I also encourage you to purchase this very stylish microbadge: mb
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Ron
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Very interesting game! And a great review as always, Roger! thumbsup

One question: does this game use a classical ratio table to resolve combat? The counters would suggest such a thing.
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"L'état, c'est moi."
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PzVIE wrote:
One question: does this game use a classical ratio table to resolve combat? The counters would suggest such a thing.

Oho! It does not! It uses a hit system (a 5 is 1 hit, a 6 is 2) and the unit accumulates damage and loses effectiveness until it's ultimately eliminated. It's not quite like a block game but it's definitely not a CRT game.

The number of dice rolled varies based on a number of factors, but it's not strictly the one pip = one die system from block games.
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Chris Buhl
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leroy43 wrote:
PzVIE wrote:
One question: does this game use a classical ratio table to resolve combat? The counters would suggest such a thing.

Oho! It does not! It uses a hit system (a 5 is 1 hit, a 6 is 2) and the unit accumulates damage and loses effectiveness until it's ultimately eliminated. It's not quite like a block game but it's definitely not a CRT game.

The number of dice rolled varies based on a number of factors, but it's not strictly the one pip = one die system from block games.


Terrain also allows the defender to ignore a certain number of hits, and that is cumulative. So a fortification in polder can be a tough nut to crack.
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Brian Train
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Thanks for the very nice review Roger!

I'm glad you enjoyed the game.

Brian
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Carl Paradis
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Great Review!

I'm tackling this edition in a few weeks. meeple
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David Janik-Jones
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Slywester Janik, awarded the Krzyż Walecznych (Polish Cross of Valour), August 1944
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I'm in the middle of updating the Vassal module as well. Another week or so and I should have that out the door, then I'll get my second edition copy ordered.
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Brian Train
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Thanks for your work David!

Brian

PS:
Roger, you refer to the game's staff card system "originally invented by a Joseph Miranda".
Did you mean "a" in the sense of "the Joseph Miranda", or in the sense of "a particular Joseph Miranda, apart from the larger crowd of Joseph Miranda clones that must exist, otherwise how do we explain his prodigious output"?


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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Roger's Reviews: check out my reviews page, right here on BGG!
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ltmurnau wrote:
Thanks for your work David!

Brian

PS:
Roger, you refer to the game's staff card system "originally invented by a Joseph Miranda".
Did you mean "a" in the sense of "the Joseph Miranda", or in the sense of "a particular Joseph Miranda, apart from the larger crowd of Joseph Miranda clones that must exist, otherwise how do we explain his prodigious output"?



This is why I like writing for Yaah!, I have an editor.
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