Recommend
74 
 Thumb up
 Hide
15 Posts

The Lamps Are Going Out» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Lamps - an Historical point of view rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Koinsky
France
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
I'm very surprised that no one wrote a review about this game which is out for several months, now. So, here is my attempt to write one...


WHERE I COME FROM AND WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR?

Usually I play a wargame, then I read historical or testimonial books on the topic.

This time, my approach has been the reverse. A couple of years ago, because of the centenary of the Great War's beginning, many newly published books became available and I had the opportunity to learn a lot about the topic.

I was looking for a game about WWI that would be faithful to the historical storyline.

I'm an exclusive solo gamer when it deals with wargames, I was looking for a solo-friendly WWI themed game.

After some researches (that were not extremely dense, since WWI themed games aren't legion) I ended up ordering this game on the promises of the designer's notes found on p 26-28 in the rulebook.


COMPONENTS OVERVIEW


note: on the pictures, the green and pink post-it are my reminders. I put them on the plexiglass...


The components are very good looking and serviceable.

I'm slightly disappointed with the map, because the paper was already slightly worn where it had been folded. I don't know if Compass games changed the paper they used for Silent War or Enemy Action: Ardennes which was satisfying....


The artwork by Tim Allen (map, counters, cards) is great (as usual).

The map could have gained in playability by slightly modifying the countries respective surfaces (overstacking in the west front while the vast Russia is almost empty) or adding some magnifying spaces for Verdun, la Somme, the Rhine.... There is enough room left to optimize the playability, IMO.

Overall, the artwork is very nice but could have been more functional to stack the counters.



Overstacking on the west front, since the setup and it will get worst very soon


The counters and cards are nicely illustrated, full of flavor. A pleasure to the eyes, except for the very small size of the font on some cards which might be hard to read.

Note that there are some minor errata on the cards. Nothing prohibitive, but always annoying to see errata on a first printing. An errata file is available in the files section.

The rules are functional, for the most part very clear and easy to reference while playing.


HOW TO PICTURE A COMPLEX CONFLICT?

I assume the lack of games on WWI topic (compare to the huge WWII offer) is partly due to the difficulty to understand which countries were allied and which weren't. It was seriously a mess in Europe at the time and if you don't know a thing about Europe and its geography, it might be hard to enter this conflict.


I'm not the best judge in that matter (for obvious nationality reasons) but I think the rulebook does a nice job explaining the alliances and especially the map.
The map has a colored code that shows the Nations which are allied and those which are neutral at the start of the conflict. You can easily catch which alliances they will follow, once at war, since they use the same color as the allied Nation with a different hue. I found this clever and it should be very helpful for players unfamiliar with the conflict or European's geography.


Some Alliances at the start of the game (1914) and their potential future allies who will enter the war later during the course of the game. I leave it to you to guess with whom Romania will make an alliance


THE DIFFERENT COUNTRIES WAR ABILITIES

The designer chose to split the two main opponents (Triple Entente on one side and Central Powers on the other side) into 4 factions allied two by two. Faithful to History.

Germany is allied to Central Allies (they are called Central Powers for geographical reason) and Western and Eastern Allies form the Triple Entente (Great-Britain and France in the west and the great Russia in the East).

Each faction has its specificities regarding how many armies, artillery power, trenches, technologies (etc...) they can develop. It's easy to grasp, each Nation has a limited war power according to the number of counters.



Some forces in presence. Trenches were at their apogee on the west front where British and French fought. Some British troops are missing on my picture... They are already in the colonies


Furthermore, 2 factions use a deck of technology cards they will (or not) develop throughout the game.

Historically, Germany and Western Allied developed sophisticated lethal weapons going from poisonous gas to tanks, recon planes... WWI has been a very innovative warfare conflict; probably one of the reason it lasted so long (hard to fight heavy artillery with the cavalry. They tried, actually...)

The technology will influence the course of the game. The 2 factions will draw one tech card at the end of their turn. Depending on the circumstances they will be able (or not) to implement the technological progress in a subsequent turn.



The two technology decks



It's faithful to History, adds chrome and gameplay options. It's efficient without adding complexity to the gameplay.



WINNING THE WAR : NATIONS INTERACTIONS AND PRODUCTION POWER

The victory conditions are clear: in order to win, the Central Powers must conquer Paris (in France) or the Triple Entente must conquer Berlin (in Germany).
If they don't succeed before the end of 1918, victory points are scored depending on their other conquests.


Germany must work in good alliance with Central Allies whenever possible. Likewise for Western and Eastern Allies. Fighting together is naturally an obvious option. But things were more complex and the design takes good care to show it.

Each faction has its own war power. Allied factions can share some production power (under strict rules) during the course of the game.

But as history have taught us, they did not always work in good alliance, mostly because each nation was suffering a shortage of almost everything (men, weapons, food...).

The game pictures this with what is called the production power. Each Nation has a limited quantity of production points (thereafter PP) it can uses, each turn, to refit, renew troops and build trenches.

The quantity of PP depends on the industries the Nation had historically developed.

For instance, in 1914, Germany was highly industrialized and had prepared for war for several years. Therefore, it's logical to picture it with the highest number of PP (12). They can give PP to the Central Allies (which are poor in PP) but at the same time, Germany wants to overflow France with a lot of troops as soon as possible before dealing with the great Russia in the East. So Germany needs a lot of PP to maintain its own troops in order of battle...

On the opposite, France industries were stuttering and they have only 4PP. Great Britain (that received fundings from the USA very early in the conflict and which was more industrialized) has 7PP and can give some PP to France; but at the same time, Great Britain has to take care of its colonies in East-Africa and Near-East and can't be generous every turn...



East-Africa : duel zone between the British and the German and a precious production point for the British to preserve as long as possible.


With a very simple mechanic (a limited number of PP available to the main Nations that they can use for themselves or share with their allies), the designer did elegantly picture very complex relationships between the different countries.

Some decision making are extremely tense.

Especially because of the order of play of the Nations.
A Nation that receives PP from an Allied will not be able to use them immediately. The opponent will act before it can use the PP. Therefore, scarcity is always present and the delay between the "gift" and the use of it may have serious consequences.

Overall, the decisions making are interesting and their effectiveness unpredictable because of the turn order. It gives a dynamic and a rhythm to the game by planning ahead.


BATTLEFIELD

Hardcore wargamers might be disappointed: no charts, no tables... Nothing... Combat resolution learning process : 2 minutes!

GROUND COMBAT

Most of the time 1D6 is rolled on each side. The highest wins. If tie, the attacker wins.
Some DRM (Die Roll Modifier) through event cards or a supplementary die thanks to a new technology (tech card) such as a heavy artillery... and that's all.

The simplicity of combat resolution should rally many non-wargamers to this game.


Even if it's extremely simple, for combat also they are some tense decision making.

An army that fought (rolled a die) is spent and need to be refit to fight on the subsequent turn. However, since you don't have enough Production Points to refit every troops, it's sometimes wiser not to fight, even if it's hard to resist temptation.

Furthermore, you can move only two armies per turn (through friendly-areas). So, if you want to put the odds in your favor, you have to think hard which army you will move where and when before rolling a die.

Once again, the designer's choices make sense to picture this conflict without adding complexity.

On the west front (near Paris and Berlin, the winning conditions), WWI was a war of defense in which the generals spent months to concentrate hundred thousand of men and shells on the front line - to try - to blow the opponents with huge artillery bombardments before sending the infantry.

So, it's realistic not to be able to fight on every front every turn. And being limited to two armies' movement per turn is also realistic when you consider the size of those armies and the limited railroads (destroyed, for the most part, by a retreating army).

It takes several turns to prepare for the big-west-front-offensive and optimize the odds. And even with the best preparation, the odds are not always on your side. And you will have to modify your plans.


NAVAL COMBATS

Fighting on sea is as simple as fighting on land with 1D6 or 2D6 and a simple chart. The consequences are the gain or the loss of precious Production Points for Great Britain (which was partially dependent of USA supplies by sea) or for Germany.

U-boat warfare isn't forgotten, it has an effect on USA entering the war. Remember the Lusitania? it also has an event card for it.


Naval warfare - fleets and u-boats


Also, Great Britain can organize an amphibious invasion necessary to reach Turkey early in the game. They did try in reality. Gallipoli was a major disaster. It's hard to succeed with an amphibious invasion also in the game.



HISTORICAL STORYLINE AND EVENT DECK

The Historical line rhythm is given by a deck of events (historical, political, technology) cards ordered by years.



1916 event deck for the 4 factions

It's not a card driven game, though and it renders the process very solo-friendly.

At the beginning of each turn, a faction draw the top card of its deck and implement it, if possible.

I've learned, reading the designer's notes, that "The entire event deck was computer modelled and simulated billions of times to measure the interrelated effects of the cards and the probabilities of the various events that the cards can trigger in order to make things as reasonable as possible".

This is a brilliant idea. I'd be curious to see what parameters they used.

Although I'm not a computer, I'm very pleased with the historical outcomes I've observed during my different plays. They make sense.



FINAL THOUGHTS

If you made it until there (sorry for the length) you must have understood that I'm enthusiastic about the game.

I find the design extremely elegant.

Everything has been done to maintain a high level of credibility regarding the history with enough chrome. At the same time (except for some tiny rules related to neutral countries that might enter war during the course of the game) the design is streamlined.

Although I like playing monster wargames with tones of charts, I love the simplicity of this one which mainly focuses on fluent gameplay.

I'm not authoritative to declare what game is a wargame and what game isn't, but this game reminds me more of Twilight Struggle in the gameplay spirit, than of a 'pure' wargame (such as Enemy Action: Ardennes which I mentioned at the beginning)

It very solo-friendly.

The overall design could really convince people not interested in the topic at first sight or in hardcore wargaming to play that game. I'm considering translating the cards to play it with my non-wargamer partner...


My main complaint (yes, I've got one main complaint) is that the events are not explained anywhere despite being very well thought. How can you appreciate the -1DRM for the French army on the "Pantalon rouge" event if you don't know the story? A GMT like explanation of the events would have been great. That's a miss considering the historical quality of this excellent game.
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gordon J
United States
Eagan
Minnesota
flag msg tools
Print and Play Gamer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This is a really good game. One can solo this one easily and is perfect for two players. But I would not suggest this for 4-players. We played it once with 4 and Austria & Russia are really minor players compared to the West and Germany. And if you are Austria or Russia you will be twiddling your thumbs for parts of the game while the Germans and British pound each other in the West, rolling buckets of dice in many dramatic battles to the death.
15 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Friend
United States
Sierra Vista
Arizona
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
patton55 wrote:
This is a really good game. One can solo this one easily and is perfect for two players. But I would not suggest this for 4-players. We played it once with 4 and Austria & Russia are really minor players compared to the West and Germany. And if you are Austria or Russia you will be twiddling your thumbs for parts of the game while the Germans and British pound each other in the West, rolling buckets of dice in many dramatic battles to the death.

I have to agree. It's a great solo or 2-player game. As for 4 players, well... I'd find something else.
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Clint Pewtress
Canada
Guelph
Ontario, Canada
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
patton55 wrote:
This is a really good game. One can solo this one easily and is perfect for two players. But I would not suggest this for 4-players. We played it once with 4 and Austria & Russia are really minor players compared to the West and Germany. And if you are Austria or Russia you will be twiddling your thumbs for parts of the game while the Germans and British pound each other in the West, rolling buckets of dice in many dramatic battles to the death.


+1. I would only play this 2 player... first outing was four player, and as an alliance junior partner it's a damn boring afternoon.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
HERMANN LUTTMANN
United States
New York
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review - thanks so much!
I understand the comments about 3-4 players, but to be honest we've played it almost exclusively 4-player and there were no complaints. But again - that all depends on what you're looking for. I love playing the Central Allies for the sheer challenge and I know Fred likes playing the Eastern Allies/USA for the same reason. There's not a ton of dice-rolling for those two factions, but the decision-making is nail-biting and proper maneuvering is critical.

Kirk is just finishing his Event historical-detail document - Fred and I checked it over a few days ago. I'm sure he'll post it up here and on CSW soon.

Thanks again!

Hermann
13 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gordon J
United States
Eagan
Minnesota
flag msg tools
Print and Play Gamer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
HORST324 wrote:
Great review - thanks so much!
I understand the comments about 3-4 players, but to be honest we've played it almost exclusively 4-player and there were no complaints. But again - that all depends on what you're looking for. I love playing the Central Allies for the sheer challenge and I know Fred likes playing the Eastern Allies/USA for the same reason. There's not a ton of dice-rolling for those two factions, but the decision-making is nail-biting and proper maneuvering is critical.

Kirk is just finishing his Event historical-detail document - Fred and I checked it over a few days ago. I'm sure he'll post it up here and on CSW soon.

Thanks again!

Hermann


The fact there are not that many up-to-4 player games about WW1, is pretty unique and that would definitely entice some people to give the 4 player game a whirl. It's the reason I initially bought this game, because of the 4-player count. And it makes sense that the Austrian and Russian players wouldn't have as much to do as the West or the Germans, simulation and historically speaking, that makes sense. And some people won't care about that, they just love history and will have a blast playing this game regardless.

But speaking purely from a gaming point of view, the Russians and Austrians just don't have as much to do. Your turns will take a few minutes at most, and speaking for the Austrians, as the game goes on, you become more and more limited on your ability to do anything--which, hey, your the Austrian-Hungarians, you're supposed to suck, that's to be expected and very historically accurate. But doesn't make for an enjoyable time in my book.

Whereas the West and the Germans will have giant turns and are a lot of fun to play, because you have so much to do.

But again, it's still a really cool game.
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gerit Driessen
Netherlands
Mierlo
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Thank you for this great review! I agree with you on all points. History is so elegantly weaved in the design, I can only admire it.

Regarding the map, it would be so nice if a mounted board would be offered some time; if the demand for the game is there, a lot could be said for such addition.

Can anybody elaborate on the computer modelling of a deck of event cards, and how they interact? How is it done? Is making such a model very, very complicated (as I suspect it is) or within reach of a hobby designer? It would be so cool to be able to know the probability of card decks in a game so one may design a game that makes a lot of sense Historically!

cool
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Szarka
Canada
Waterloo
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
When it is your turn to send a VASSAL move, the wait is excruciating. When it's my turn, well, I've been busy.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I have played once and we really enjoyed it (despite missing a critical rule which led to a slightly whacky outcome). Not everyone will appreciate the slower pace for the less powerful factions, but it's nice to have the four-player option. Still, all four players in our first game want to play again, which is a good sign.

I did find the resource in the files section that expanded on the uses of all the cards to be invaluable, as the text on the cards is fairly minimal in a few cases and left us with occasional questions.

I guess my only criticism would be that it probably can't be played in a single evening, but it was a long war, so that's sort of the way it has to be.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
tim allen
Canada
Winnipeg
Manitoba
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review! I am glad you like the graphics and I would agree that upon reflection some of the cards are hard to read due to my choice of font. I wont make that mistake again!
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ryan
United States
flag msg tools
1 Player hardcore
badge
Lone Warrior
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review. Very informative and well structured.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Koinsky
France
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
I doubt I will ever have any idea if this game is great or not played by 4 people, but I did convince my "non-wargamer" gaming partner to give it a go tonight.
I'm glad to report that "so far so good" after we've played a couple of hours (winter 1915, including learning phase and cards oral translation). That's very unexpected and pleasant.

PS: thank you for the appreciative comments regarding the review.
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pete Belli
United States
Florida
flag msg tools
designer
"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Good analysis.

The best wargames offer a balanced "play experience" along with play balance in the conventional sense that both sides have a relatively equal chance of winning.

A balanced play experience allows all of the players to remain active and involved throughout the session. While there might an occasional lull in the action or a pause in the game's narrative for one of the belligerents, such "down time" should be infrequent and of limited duration.

The innovative design used in this game is praiseworthy; the comments about the multi-player experience remind me of other WWI titles. Specifically, a classic game I reviewed many years ago called The Great War 1914-1918 (which has resurfaced in a new edition) seemed to have multiplayer potential but that was another mirage in conflict simulation desert.

As the reviewer mentioned, WWI was full of twist and turns. A game recreating the entire conflict with the rise and fall of empires is, in my opinion, best simulated as a nasty and somewhat Byzantine two player duel.
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Justin
United States
Aubrey
Texas
flag msg tools
badge
Hey, you're touching my face...
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This might be tops on my Christmas wishlist now. Unless I randomly come into some disposable cash before then.

Great review. Thank you.
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Fred W. Manzo
United States
New York
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Thanks for the great review.

As Herm said, we've been playing this game for 4 years(?) now with all sorts of gamers and no one ever complained that it was not a three or four player game. But that might be because we always had people go into it with their eyes opened. That is, the Russian position was used for first-time players or people who enjoyed trying to solve almost impossible problems with very limited resources. I would have to agree that there is not a lot of dice rolling for the Russians, but they play a critical roll in the game's outcome, as does the AH empire. It's just not a faction to everyone taste.

That's one of the great things about this game. Each of the four factions have different problems and resources and must use different approaches in order to have their side win the game. If you want to be in the thick of every turn at the maximum rate, then play the Germans or the Western Allies by all means, just don't play the Russians. But if you like to try solving tough problems in nefarious ways then play the Russians or the AH Empire.

In addition, the Russian player controls the Americans, so there are things to do, just different things to do.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Easy Red

Ballwin
Missouri
msg tools
I have set up con games for 2-6 players using board games like Academy Games 1775 and 1812....they really worked well as 2 hour games with cards and dice. They were simple to learn and tons of decision making as teams. I did those using 6mm figs on Ping-Pong table size 3d boards look really cool indeed!...So my question is...could this game be a good "Con" type game to draw 4 players in for a 3 hour session with me as a game master helping setup etc.?

At Cons, you really need to keep games moving and relatively short so the players can move on to other games on a schedule...I'm thinking this could be a real possibility with this Lamps Game...what say all you guys?

Simple, fun, challenging and within 3 hours is my goal to miniaturizing this game for a Con
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.