David Dockter
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Background: Integrated Poly/Mil/Econ strategic level games




A wargamer in paridise


A game store mecca

In the middle of hurricane season (the reign of weather chaos this fall!). Been based in Nassau the last two years. Experienced my first Cat 4 with Mathew last October (page 2 of Wargamers or Pirates in Nassau? 1st MN hits the beaches of the Bahamas. ). Looks like a Cat 5 on the way this time.

I am ALWAYS in the market for meaty integrated poly/mil/econ strategic level games; especially the rare solid space opera 4x games. I stumbled across Struggle for the Galactic Empire at the Compleat Strategist (what a FAB game store!) in NYC. Irma had began churning and I was headed back to Nassau. I recalled a few recommendations regarding "Struggle". Although I am not a fan of solitaire games, I decided to take the plunge anyways...thought it might get my mind off of IRMA. After returning to the Bahamas, I punched counters and began hurricane watch.

Background: Always Searching for the Next Stellar Crusade...


Stellar Crusade


Master of Orion

I remember playing the crap out of many a SSI computer game back in the day. I think Gettysburg actually got me back into wargaming after one period of wandering in the desert. One of my favorite games was Stellar Crusade (anyone know how to play that on a MacBook?). I remember staying up many a late work night back in the day, pounding out turns on my Sr.Panasonic Partner PC

Of course, many of us were also smitten with MOO (Master of Orion): loved that game! And, I occasionally have been on a SyFy reading binge. Somewhat related, on Guns, Dice, Butter there has been some discussion about the early days of our hobby and the links to various SyFy writers, including the great Issac Asimov, J.E. Pournelle (here's a link to a tit&tat between him and Dunnigan - https://archive.org/details/GeneralMagazineVol9i2 - lead article - Pournelle's review of Origins ) , among others.

Struggles should quench your SyFy game bug if you have one at the moment.


I believe either Berg or Herman mentioned some link between Asimov and SPI (Simulations Publications, Inc.) . Well, he is in this game in spirit!



A Bit About this Beauty...

Strategic/National/Political Will


Damm, I dig good strategic/political/national will models

Games that most impress me are those containing solid, well thought out models of strategic/national/political will. I think the best two models, by a country mile, ever produced in our hobby are by the masters Herman and Rowland (For the People and Empires in Arms ) I've been lucky enough to get both on Guns, Dice, Butter; interesting discussions regarding their models and related games.

So why do such games impress me? Simple capture the flag (take this or that location) and/or inflict losses drove our games in the hobby for a long time (they still do!). War is about bending the will of the enemy and maintaining yours. Designers that develop models to reflect this MUCH better model "war" than others.

The model then needs to have will (or in the case of Struggle, chaos) rise and fall as a function of both random events and player action. How this "will" changes should then impact a side's capabilities: political, military and economic. For example, when will weakens, less resources available and less military operations (in a Card Driven Wargame, perhaps less "ops" and less "reps").

In order to fine tune that model so that players conclude that it accurately accounts for the primary dynamics of the conflict is a real art. Struggle for the Galactic Empire contains a relatively simple model, without many bells and whistles that I usually DEMAND, but I think it does a fairly decent job of accounting for some of the major dynamics required by a meaty space opera conflict.

Anyways, a few of my favorite strat/poly/national will game models are shown below for other strategic/national/political will pilgrims:


Political Will in The Halls of Montezuma


Strategic Will in For the People


Political Status in the best multiplayer war-game ever made: Empires in Arms


National Will in La Grande Guerre 14-18


Political Effects in Rossyïa 1917

As indicated, "Struggle" contains a decent "will" model. In this case it is model of chaos; with various game actions driving the chaos model higher or lower. Low? You win. High? You are subject to many more random events, the center does not hold and you lose. The designer, Joseph Miranda , really produced a great dynamic to drive this game with the chaos model.


The Chaos model...basically a strategic will model

The Berg "Sh*t Happens Random Events Chart

Accompanying this chaos model is an OUTSTANDING random events engine: the master Berg would be proud. Tip of the hat to Miranda; really good, imaginative work.


Chaos events...a sh*tload: LOVE IT!

Units


Unit counters...


...unit counters...


...counters explained

Units. A decent diversity of the usual suspects. I think the designer hit just the right note. The counter art is fine; nothing spectacular.

Factions


a few aliens in the game...

Another place in which this game REALLY excels is including various "factions" that help give the game its flavor. They all seem to have a mind of their own with different agendas. It is the mix of those agendas that helps produce great narrative. Here's a synopsis of the line up of characters:

Usurpers: Imperial units that flip to the dark side and move to grab power at "The Core". They also pump chaos level.

Independent Empires: these bastards establish themselves in a system and then start recruiting & expanding

Invaders: Spawn of chaos that rampages through the galaxy

Rebels: Sort of the core of the Chaos team. Random events are constantly causing rebellions here and there.

Aliens: a variety of these a*sholes. Some relatively harmless, others fairly dangerous.

Frequently, they are all active in the galaxy. You job is to allocate resources vs. prioritized threats. You will have your hands full, since Mirandi did a solid job of writing some relatively decent A.I. to manage them. I did check out the BGG files section for this game and use one of the variants that I think improves on the A.I. Download it and give it a whirl.


The AI governing the forces of chaos: the variant

Setting up Scenario 1...pimp it out and just teleport in


Setup

Set up is a breeze. I think the only thing I missed was putting a systems counter on the core; a somewhat big mistake, but easily corrected as you get playing. After I had the counters set up, I broke out the wood (borrowed it from my Churchill ). On all the picks, the wood represents:

Imperial systems (block with a cylinder is 4 value system, block is a 3 value, 2 barrels are a 2, 1 is a 1. Blue/green color represents the imperial forces, red the agents of chaos. Black generally some alien, usurper, etc. Meeples are leaders....the red/white x's are combat sites....big brown cones are main imperial fleets...red cone is DA INSTITUTE...what else? I think that is it.

By using the wood (recommend stealing it from Churchill - the right mix of "bits" for this game), it was a breeze getting a good feel for what the hell was happening at a glance: always extremely important in a meaty poly/mil/econ strat game.

Turn 1: Let Chaos rule!


Scenario 1


...victory conditions


T1 Chaos Phase

I selected scenario 1. The game begins with the player drawing 24!!! chaos counters and implementing them one at a time. So, you are not ever going to be playing the same game twice

So, 24 gifts from the chaos gods bestowed on the empire:


...the chaos counters

...missig ones were placed directly on the game map: primarily infestations of aliens. A recap of that chaos phase:

First big poke in the eye: Citizens Demand Reform. Basically, the empire has to spend $1 for each system. Given, that you begin with $10, you have to roll a die for a dozen+ systems to check if they rebel. In my case, 5 did for a loss of $8 in resource value (each system has a resource value between $1 and $4. Luckily, the chaos gods then tossed me a bone by allowing me to build a few free units ("Galactic Crusade"). Then, another slap in the head with a rebellion in S45 (Sector 45)...and another $3 in resources down the toilet.

With the next bunch of chaos chits, the empire received a few leaders, but, also a few aliens appeared here and there. And, an independent empire (they can be real nasty).

The final group of 8 chaos chits were brutal: Citizens Demand Reforms again (this time I lost 8 systems!), more aliens (Bio Meds and the dreaded Dark Empire). The final kick in the teeth was a power struggle that saw both my leaders killed. And, the gods of chaos laughed.

Some stats: So, after the chaos phase... Imperials possessed 17 systems vs the chaos side that owned 13.

During the Chaos Operations Phase, the imperials caught a number of breaks, with many forces of chaos wiped out. However, 3 independent empires all grew in size and scale.

During the Economic Phase, the empire collected $37, spent $21 on maintenance and $8 on a few units.

The remainder of the turn witnessed the empire retaking a few systems, while the aliens pounded a few friendly systems and fleets. The turn ended with the Chaos Level at 89: grim. But, I was immersed and having a real hoot.

The next morning I hurried off to work...and spent the day helping my comrades prepare: it was find and get a bunch of generators day.


T1: Imperial Combat Phase


T1 end


Buying generators

Turn 2: Pervasive Threats: How to Respond to this MESS?


What the hell to do? Love it!

The turn began with Asimov's "Institute" appearing in S14 (Sector 14). A Usurper force arose for the first time in S32. A got a big break with the even "Robots!": essentially, a windfall of $17, which put the bankroll at $25. During the Chaos Operations Phase, an independent empire in S10, expanded and captured another system: they were getting to be a real problem. A word on strategy...

This is a war game. So, marshall your forces, keep on the initiative (this, thru a flexible defense with 3 to 4 battle fleets that can keep critical portions of the empire secure), stomp out problems before they fester into debacles and try to run the economy well. And, hold on tight. Back to the Turn 2...

Biggest threats arose from two rampaging independent empires, both comprised of sizable military forces. During the Imperial Resource Collection Phase, the empire generated $39...for a bankroll at that point of $64: beginning to feel that maybe, just maybe, I'd survive a few turns. During the Imperial Movement and Combat Phases, the empire moved against one of the independent empires, but a screening force in place of another, attempted to capture the sector containing "The Institute" and went after a few rebellious systems (capturing 3). During Expenditures, the empire spent $22 on maintenance, and bought a few forces including a World Ship (expensive, but, a high quality unit). Alien Conflict Phase went very well for the empire, with most of the pests being eliminated. Empire ended the turn with $8 in the bank and the Chaos Level down to 78. Encouraging.

The next morning I hurried off to work...and spent the day helping my comrades prepare: it was get sand bags day.


T2 ends


A run on/for sand bags...

Turn 3: Stabilizing the MESS...


T3

Turn 3. Okay, at this point, I was feeling relatively confident that I was headed in the right direction...and loving the experience. So, chaos phase...

First up, empire received a leader: a good way to begin the turn. However, the chaos gods evidently awoke and shoved a rebellion and some invaders at me. Then some usurpers...and a few more rebellion: things had went to sh*t in a hurry. zombie

Chaos Operations went much better, with, their forces not doing much of anything. The damm independent empires continued their recruitment drive and further supplemented their somewhat sizable armies/fleets. Also, that shiny new World Ship I had just purchased in Turn 2? Blown apart by a rebel attack. cry

During the Imperial Move and Combat phases, the empire was able to eliminate some chaos systems. The highlight of the phases was a successful Morphogenetic Attack that converted one of the Independent Empire's main forces. Another cool feature of the game is that the designer gives us two types of combat: military (the type where you eliminate the enemy) and morphogenetic (where you convert the enemy).

During the expenditure phase, I bought a few more units and saved up enough for a Extropy Operation, which basically gives you a shot at reducing the Chaos Level. The turn ended with the Chaos Level at 69 and $16 in the bank. I did check where I was relative to victory...I would need 36 VPs to "survive"...and 41 VPs to be "Expanding". Currently my score was 28. I was really getting into the game. However, I decided to end the game here, since, I needed to prepare my pad for the big beast.

I made a quick dash to my local bar for a last beer (or two) and to begin to write up the session report, before the big blow would arrive...

FUN GAME!


T3 ends


Calm before the beast

Wrap up: BIG Thumbs UP!


Morale check failure...


...and a nudge from Hilton

A sense of urgency really kicked in on the island on Wednesday. I had scheduled a flight out the previous Saturday for Thursday to make a run back to god's country in Minnesota. I quickly packed up Struggle. Concluding thoughts?

I had a real blast; the game produced good narrative. I was immersed in game play: a great way to escape reality for a bit. If you like space opera 4x /integrated poly/mil/strat games, get this one. Get some wood and pimp it out. Download the variant on BGG: I liked it. Check out the FAQ, although I had almost no issue with the rules. And, just dive in.

Verdict? Big Thumbs Up...and this from a dude that does not dig solitaire.

When I got home, two new games had arrived: Trajan: Ancient Wars Series Expansion Kit and A Spoiled Victory: Dunkirk 1940 . Can't wait to punch and play both - one a solitaire and one a Miranda. Also, back in Minnesota, the Beloved Minnesota Twins are in the playoff hunt...and Irma is a long ways away. Even managed to drop by the club lair on Friday: F.o.G.A.A.R (Friends of Gordo After Action Report): 1st MN: Hurricane Edition: The Teachers of Grasshoppers: SEP 8, 2017

Thoughts and prayers for those that are going to bare the brunt of this beast. I did get reports from Nassau that they got off relatively light, thank god. I am planning to get another game of Struggles set up upon return to the Bahamas.


The comfort of gaming was awaiting in MPLS...


...and the Twinks in a playoff race: GO TWINS!
======================================================================



Link to other 1st MN/Sawatdee/Herr Dr AARs: 1st MN/Sawatdee/Herr Dr Session Reports]
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Gordon J
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Awesome report. I will pull this out again and this time I will use the variant.
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David Dockter
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My work is done

Oh, and use the wood from Churchill ; just the right amount & mix of bits.
 
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Gordon J
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Herr Dr wrote:
My work is done

Oh, and use the wood from Churchill ; just the right amount & mix of bits.


Normally I would not pimp it out, but for this game I think the wood is a good idea. It's a big map and a ton of counters and it's hard to get a clear picture of what is what.
 
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Gordon J
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BUT FIRST, I have to play Enemy Coast Ahead: The Doolittle Raid



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David Dockter
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Did that arrive?! I need that game NOW! Love the theme. Great map. Post a session report, Gordo.

Also, I think it would be fun to play Struggle two player - one person controls the imperials, the other the chaos. I think it would only require a few tweaks. Has anyone attempted that?
 
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Kristopher
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Hey, buddy, can you spare a role?
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I jotted it down in my Risk campaign book. I always used to do that so I could replay my moments of glory over a glass of brandy in the sleeping quarters. --Arnold J. Rimmer--
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Great write-up. Does exactly what you want one to do - make people interested in playing the game. Now I have to pull this out and try it again. And with the AI Variant.

And I like the blocks - shame I don't have anything comparable to it.
 
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David Dockter
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Check this out for bits:

http://www.lorenz-spiele.de

https://www.spielematerial.de

http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?type=4&cam...

http://www.litko.net/categories.php?category=Tokens-%26-Mark...

Anyone else have good bit places these days?
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Gordon J
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Herr Dr wrote:
Did that arrive?! I need that game NOW! Love the theme. Great map. Post a session report, Gordo.

Also, I think it would be fun to play Struggle two player - one person controls the imperials, the other the chaos. I think it would only require a few tweaks. Has anyone attempted that?


Yeah, I have been reading the rules for a few days. It has a 60 page rulebook, a 40 page scenario book, and a 30 page post-game Debriefing manual. Jerry White is a master storyteller. I'll post a report soon.
 
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Gordon J
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Herr Dr wrote:


thegamecrafter.com is one I go to for the basic wood components.
 
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Russ Williams
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Herr Dr wrote:
Also, I think it would be fun to play Struggle two player - one person controls the imperials, the other the chaos. I think it would only require a few tweaks. Has anyone attempted that?

I've not read of such a variant, but FWIW there is Joseph Miranda's separately published similar-themed 2-player game Battles for the Galactic Empire. (I've not played it.)
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