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Subject: Solitaire Review of Triumph and Tragedy game (2nd Ed) rss

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Kevin Thomas
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I broke down and bought this game after an awful lot of deliberation and looking at the components. The low solitaire rating presented an obstacle and the other major obstacle was a design in progress I have going on which I didn't want to stray too far away from. However, I took the plunge in July and have to say that playing the game has been a pleasant diversion from my design and that I've had hours and hours of enjoyment! From the very first, I would say that if you are happy to tinker a tiny bit with the card play, the solitaire rating is much higher than the 2 as published.

Solitaire gaming is a quirky business to begin with! You have to accept that the general direction of play is going to be obvious and have to put your mindset on one side and play out that side's turn, and then do the same for the other side for it to be successful. However, there are instances during play when something unknown comes up and those surprises keep things unpredictable. Dice rolls and other unknowns help to keep things uncertain. One thing that affords itself well is the use of house rules to work around certain difficulties or to limit the game in some way, and let's face it, you won't or shouldn't(!) have much in the way of opposition to making those changes! Finally, the real purpose of a solo game is for the pure enjoyment of playing a title, or experimenting with it.

First games
Straight out of the box, this game is playable solo, with the obvious concession that no unit is going to be hidden. I play the game from the Axis side of the board with the blocks lying flat, face up. The current pip is facing North. During play, when I am working out what CV's are being increased or what units are activated as part of a command card, I stand the unit up. Once the move or battle is over, the blocks are laid flat again. This is all relatively standard for solo play of a block game.

You could try all sorts of tricks to only reveal purchases at a given time, but that seems outrageously complicated for the most part. CV purchases have to be known, but newly purchased cards are played face down until that side's Government phase. You don't know what cards you are going to draw, so this keeps things up in the air. The bigger obstacle of course is the card play, mainly dealing with the Government Phase. As the design is high level, there are all sorts of house rules which can be implemented, but I generally first have a round where the Investment cards are dealt with, unless there is some critical Diplomatic wild card which needs to be played to make a country a satellite. It takes a bit of time to weigh up the cards and which to play, but the easiest thing to do is just pick up a side's hand and play something accepting that mistakes are a given. It all pans out in the end, but can get a little mind boggling when there are lots of cards outstanding! Solo play is definitely missing the fun of multiplayer in this aspect. During the phase, I generally do not pass as a player until such time as that side really should pass, but suit yourself.

It's really hard to play this solo as anything other than the Axis vs Allies + USSR. It's a repeat of World War 2! That's my interest, at any rate, though I'm sure if you're interested in really pursuing a given 'what if' such as Spain converting to USSR, or a free for all with all powers at war against each other then that could be a great experiment in its own right. Even with an Axis vs Allies approach, there is scope to explore the different strategies available in during WWII and the game supports this relatively well. You can go for the standard knock out of France, followed by turning East. Or you can pursue a strategy against the West and a ramped up Med agenda up to a point. Note: the USSR gets very big by 1941 if not involved in combat, and in 1942, the Russian Bear is enormous, perhaps beyond military defeat. Ignoring the USSR is going to lead to trouble very quickly in this game.

I've played a few games starting in 1936 and these are the most challenging. They have generally turned into an Axis vs Allies contest and I think it was in the first game where the Allies won by occupying Rome and the Ruhr while the USSR was still slogging into Poland. War generally breaks out in 1939 or 1940. In solo play, you really need to watch out you are not wasting all sides' efforts on just cancelling out Diplomatic influences. It is a waste of precious resources for both sides so needs to be kept to a minimum. I have a little trick to help avert some of that later, below.


18.0 Two Player Rules
I think there are some devices in the Two Player Rules which can be very useful to limit the combined weight of the West/USSR against the Axis. I am using all of the bullet points rules in 18.0, prior to 18.1 with the exception of the fortresses in Baku and India......don't like that! I haven't tried to use the Passive Ally rules but that could help.

17.0 The Short Game
I've played two games using the 1939 start point. This makes solo play much easier IMO. At this point, I'm just testing the system: can the Germans defeat France in 1940 and turn on USSR in 1941 with enough steam? Is the game historically accurate from a military perspective? Prior reviewers have stated that T&T is not a military simulation, but I was pleasantly surprised by the system. It has the capability of simulating the historical campaigns at a very high level. The first games didn't go well for Germany, but the last one resulted in a certain Russian collapse to happen early in 1943. The West was down to 8 Prod in 1942, so that's an Axis win.

Components
Great! I love the map and plan to put a few of my home brew counters on it to play test a few ideas. Straights are an interesting concept that work well. The map really does remind me of AH's Hitler's War even though that was hex based. I think it is the scale being represented where that similarity comes in.

I prefer unit designations to play with, but in this case it would frustrate me. A low strength panzer can be used in France and then moved to Africa without worry about the DAK name not being on the block!
The cards are great. Admittedly, I'm not using the research to full effect, and have a nagging doubt about the cost of them.....they seem too expensive given the budget you have each year. I mean, if your economy is only 15 on a good turn, you're gonna be hard pressed to afford much research!

Historicity
In general, the game is hotly debated on BGG about its historical accuracy. First and foremost it is designed as a sandbox without much complexity and that is what makes it very popular and playable. I think the real three player diplomacy prior to the outbreak of the war is nicely represented. It's like a game of poker before war breaks out. There's nothing wrong with allowing alternative options from taking place. The combat system for this scale works well and has enough meat on it to make it interesting tactically. The scale is huge, and despite the game's scale description, I feel that infantry units are more akin to Army Groups when at full strength. Armor is equivalent to a Panzer Army or Front if at full. 1 or 2 pip Armor is a Corps in my opinion. This makes more sense given how many pips the entire Wehrmacht is likely to have going into Spring 1941. I estimate that to be about 60 pips max, if they have had a smooth ride in 1940.

I like the inclusion of air and naval forces in the game. Many other ETO games are too abstract in this regard. The War at Sea is playable in this game, and there is a little cat and mouse activity with the Uboats! Bombing is possible, though by default I give all sides the capability normally given with the tech card. This makes the Battle of Britain a possibility. It is even highly probable if two 3 or 4 pip German air fleets have survived the Battle of France, they could begin hammering Britain in Fall 1940. This can be expensive to the attacker, especially if Britain has Air Defence, but it's possible. Similarly, Fighter Command which defends against a German assault can subsequently be used to bomb Germany as soon as the danger is passed. An early bombing campaign becomes viable without much extra investment.

The entry of the USA uses a plausible formula. I quite like the automatically growing Force Pool of the USA with progressing years. Does it represent enough of the American economy? I'm not sure yet.

Historically, France and Britain deployed into Belgium before the German assault. In this game, if the West can swing the Low Countries as a Protectorate, they can do the same thing. That's an interesting tactical issue as well: how much safer is the West if they put a big army in there, or does it make much difference? All for you to find out.

Some things are missing:
No Lend Lease to USSR. You have to let them have influence in Persia to simulate that.
No Spanish Civil War, except with Diplomacy cards.

I'm not sure about the USSR economy if the Germans invade. They can easily be reduced to 8 Production and crumble if not careful. Best not to employ too many troops on the borders but keep some huge reserves inland. That Cadre in the Urals should be built to max and just left there as a Siberian Reserve!

I found there were not enough moves with just 3 seasons for the West and Axis. But allowing a certain number of extra Command Cards easily overcomes this and also introduces the possibility of stunning advances if the cards are played one after another. More on that below. One reviewer said it felt more like WWI, so more Commands should open things up. It seems to be a common house rule among players with this complaint.

My Solo House Rules.....or, How I learned to stop worrying, and just play this Game!
As mentioned above, the see-saw over diplomacy can be too taxing. Pinching a little trick of another GMT title, Twilight Struggle, I made the following rule:
Protectorates require TWO diplomatic influence to remove one of the opponent's influence. The exception to this will be wildcards, which can bump off that second influence. Associates remain easy to flip, but Protectorates are now more difficult. E.G. the German would need to spend two Spain cards to remove the USSR's Protectorate influence on Spain. Spain would then be left with only one USSR influence and be an Associate.

In the 1939 Short Game, I am experimenting with giving the West and USSR less starting Action cards. I slashed them in half to 6 and 5 respectively, but as mentioned the Axis won that game pretty soundly, so this is perhaps a little extreme. My reasoning in doing the reduction is to simulate some of the natural friction between the West and USSR that is absent in solo play.

Emergency Command activations can attack and VoN.

Combined Air bonus: if no enemy Air are present, attacking Air gets a G2 bonus instead of G1 if there are also friendly ground forces in the area.

The West and Axis can optionally play one extra Command card per year, in any season except Winter. Order of play is followed for the first card commitment in the Command Phase, followed by a second round of potential commitments from West or Axis. USSR does not get this option as it can play a Winter card. All sides commit the cards to be played in that Season, and then proceed with Player Turns in card order. Note that this can result in two consecutive turns for the same country if the order of the Command cards played is one after another, like Germany having Summer M10 and Summer N10!!! This puts a big onus on saving up good cards prior to a major offensive like Germany turning East. I feel the game doesn't have enough fluidity to represent WWII. I experimented with giving the West and Axis two extra optional cards per year if they can afford them, but this seemed too destructive.

Rome is worth 3 IND. If the Germans lose Rome, they immediately reduce IND by 3. Conqueror does not get an increase of IND.

Paris is worth 3 IND. If the West loses Rome, they immediately reduce IND by 3. Conqueror gets an increase of 2 IND! The third IND is lost.

If Paris is conquered, Marseilles will become Vichy French with a 2CV Fort. French North Africa becomes Vichy with a 2CV Fort in Algiers. Syria becomes Free French with a 1CV Fort.
If Vichy France is attacked by a Great Power (e.g. by the West), all of its territories and remaining units will side with the opposite Great Power (e.g. the Axis).

In Summary
Buy it!!! Don't be discouraged by the low solitaire rating or reviewers saying it is not much of a wargame. If you are willing to tinker a very small amount, and want to play this as WWII, then it works. It's an attractive game, albeit at a big price. Games seem to cost $100 these days, but my oh my the boxes are huge and heavy! Excellent GMT quality. I'd like to thank the publisher and designer for a very good package!
Spring 1940 before the launch West
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Dave Daffin
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Nice review. I'm yet to play this due to its large footprint (I will be playing solo). I do already have a strategic level block game of WW2, Victory in Europe, which is perhaps a bit more abstracted than T&T.

Interesting to read about how you handle playing the game solo. I'll consider your variations when I get to around to playing it.
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Kevin,

Great post. For your solitaire play, consider using the dice for some decisions. For example, a decision For the Soviets to invade Turkey could be given a die roll of 1-2, or a decision whether to spend a card on diplomacy or hold it for a military campaign could also be given a probability.

If you're interested in some history, download the files on Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Switzerland:

https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/149322/czechs-fight-1938
https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/145259/poland-1939-histor...
https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/147534/swiss-charred-1936...

For the historical naval setup in 1936 use the following instead of any naval builds that year:

British Navy
UK ports: 2CV Fleet, 3CV Fleet
Mediterranean port: 1CV Carrier, 2CV Fleet

French Navy
Paris: 1CV Fleet, 1CV Sub
Mediterranean port: 3CV Fleet, 1CV Sub

German Navy
Not even 1 CV (All they had were a couple of cruisers and a half-dozen light cruisers and subs)

Italian Navy
Taranto: 2CV Fleet, 1CV Sub

Soviet Navy
Murmansk: 2CV Sub
Leningrad: 2CV Sub

Note that this naval setup will tend to impel players more along historical lines.

Finally, here's a handy reference:

https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/143358/deluxe-edition-exp...

Dieter
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Craig Besinque
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Kevin,

Excellent posting. A lot of interesting ideas in there. Thanks for making the effort to share them!

I would note that instead of playing blocks face up, when I playtest solitaire I keep the blocks hidden and use a revolving table (lazy susan) and simply "play what I see" from that side's POV. Works for me! (Sometimes I also write down a preset "tentative plan" for each side and try to follow that as long as practical -- often not long).

Your "Blitz" idea (2 Player Turns per Season) is interesting. We have toyed with many similar Blitz ideas seeking the WW2 'fluidity' you mention but always come away feeling they are too powerful. Once per Year is a good idea, but not sure about denying the Russkies the option. Winter command only works in Russia.

IMO someone will eventually come up with a mechanic that works without being too overpowering. Maybe someday I'll post our experimental ideas and let everybody try them out themselves. The main bugaboo IMO is to not make them too strong or luck-dependent. T&T is pretty unstable as is!

Thanks again, Craig
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Phillip Gooden
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I've also incorporated ideas from the Two-Player rules in order to play solitaire (you should also check out the Alternative Two-Player rules in the files section--some great ideas in there, too!). And I agree that this game is much more suitable solitaire than the box would indicate! I've had tons of fun playing this on my own, and though I think that the game does work best with 3-players, that doesn't mean 1- or 2-players is any less of a fulfilling experience.

EDIT: I think it would be awesome to see someone make a bot flowchart for this game. Don't know how difficult it would be, since I've never done it before (and couldn't), but I'm sure it's not impossible.
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Kevin Thomas
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Thanks Craig, that's very kind of you to comment! It's a cool game.

Regarding Blitz, I see your point about the Russians. Perhaps they should sacrifice the Winter option if they play an extra card during the normal season. No doubt I will be tinkering some more. I soon came to the realization you mentioned that too many Commands will break the game. The attrition of forces outstrips the ability to keep the armies in the field if too many cards can be played. Thus I settled on only allowing 1 extra per year.

Of course, if Armor had an extra capability......gulp
 
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Kevin Thomas
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imawesome13131313 wrote:
I've also incorporated ideas from the Two-Player rules in order to play solitaire (you should also check out the Alternative Two-Player rules in the files section--some great ideas in there, too!). And I agree that this game is much more suitable solitaire than the box would indicate! I've had tons of fun playing this on my own, and though I think that the game does work best with 3-players, that doesn't mean 1- or 2-players is any less of a fulfilling experience.

EDIT: I think it would be awesome to see someone make a bot flowchart for this game. Don't know how difficult it would be, since I've never done it before (and couldn't), but I'm sure it's not impossible.


Thanks I'll have a look at that
 
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