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Belisarius's War: The Roman Reconquest of Africa, AD 533-534» Forums » Sessions

Subject: An inconclusive struggle rss

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Steve Shockley
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Got in a game of Belisarius's War this evening. I was the Vandals, and my constant opponent Kenneth was the Romans.

So, the Romans always start this one massed in Syracuse. One tall stack. Gelimer and his Vandals, on the other hand, have free rein to pretty much set up anywhere they want, as long as no more than two units occupy each starting space. For these purposes, we assumed that both leaders and fleets counted towards that limit.

I started in Carthage, Hippo Regium, and Septem - I put Gelimer in Septem, far away from where much of the action would be (like any good manager).

The Romans get to select their opening card. Kenneth chose the card that allows the Romans to place two garrisons in any fortress or town - even if enemy occupied! Yikes. He surprised me by choosing only one fortress, placing both garrisons there (Hippo Regium). My cavalry was forced to flee in the face of armed pro-Roman uprising. He next used the three fleet moves granted by the same card to sidle old Belisarius up next to Forum Traiani; his other fleets rolled a 4 and 1, limiting his invasion of Carthage to one force. The guys who rolled the 1 were stuck in Syracuse.

I would like to say my brave Vandals repelled the Roman attack on Carthage. However, they did not. They got their butts kicked, big time. Romans hit on a four or more! That's rough.

A word about the cards. The mix is interesting. The Romans have more recruiting capacity, as well as a better army. They also start with the Huns as allies, who are pretty tough. This is a fragile alliance, however, as both sides have cards in their deck that can flip allies of the enemy over to their side. This happened a couple of times in our game.

The power to pull from the discard pile - that most rad ability afforded by the presence of your supreme leader - is more important to the Vandal player. This is because the Vandal deck has a fair number of cards that do not provide recruits; a bad run of these cards at an inopportune time can be crippling.

There were a few turns where I had lost all of my armies in the east, maintaining only one force waaaaaay over in Septem. Here I was compelled to bide my time; after all, to win the Romans had to get all the way across the map to seize Septem. I could simply sit tight and hope for a draw.

But such is not the way of Gelimer. Oh no. Gelimer may sound like a nerdy accountant, but he is in fact a great warrior and so he decided to shoot over towards Hippo Regium to go for the Big Win, leaving a few units in Septem to defend against the sure to arrive Roman invasion. The Vandals must hold two fortresses at the end of the game to win, so my lousy single fort wasn't going to cut it. Gelimer and his cavalry - powerful horsemen who chuck 4 dice in combat and can probably do lots of cool horse jumps over big rocks and stuff - rode towards Hippo Regium, facing some harassment from the Roman Moor allies along the way (yup, they'd turned on me, the ingrates!)

Meanwhile, Belisarius, who had taken Forum Traiani, rolled a nice fleet roll and impudently decided to invade the now lightly defended Septem! Was it a dumb move to have Gelimer leave Septem with so few defenders? Probably!! But like I said, I felt I had to try for the win, because that's just how Gelimer conducts his affairs.

Sadly, Belisarius took Septem after a bloody and close run battle. Now the Romans had all five fortresses! Even worse, there were only a few turns remaining in the game (it only lasts 9 turns). Gelimer was too far away to get back in time. But wait! I drew a fleet card. I rolled: 4! Enough movement to zap old Gelimer right back to Septem, to attempt to reclaim the draw!

The battle that followed was cool. Supreme leader against supreme leader. At one point I remember rolling 4 dice, and getting 3 sixes. I yelled with joy. I pumped my fist. Kenneth frowned, not liking the turn the evening had taken. I won the battle. Belisarius was slain, and the game ended in a glorious draw. Ah, to not win, BUT ALSO TO NOT LOSE!! One barely knows what to make of it. I just drank more beer and cackled. Gelimer had denied Justinian his dream. Haha! Take that, Romans who do not, in fact, live in Rome. You'll just have to be happy with ... most of North Africa. Oh well. This mini folio game is for you, Gelimer.
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Gian Marco Franco
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Well written, it make me want to try a mini folio game, something i allways unconsidered.
 
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Steve Shockley
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Franco500 wrote:
Well written, it make me want to try a mini folio game, something i allways unconsidered.


Thanks!

As others have pointed out, these DG mini folios have their problems; vague rules, lack of development, etc.

If you are willing to tweak them to taste, they work well and fill the role of a quick playing, small footprint wargame fix marvelously. For those who like simulations, or just demand a polished product out of the bag, they will likely miss the mark.
 
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Christopher Wood
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In a previous life, I house ruled games all the time. But that was then.

I declined to repair the rules bugs in Belisarius's War, and still got several fun plays out of it.

So don't think you have to put on your designer hat before you put on your player hat for this one.
 
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Steve Shockley
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Christopher, I read your posted session reports. They're well done.

I guess it comes down to temperament. The simplicity of the games makes them easy to tweak, and so I feel compelled to iron out the wrinkles. But you're right, I didn't mean to imply they cannot be enjoyed as is.
 
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Christopher Wood
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You're right as well: the rules beg for fixing.

One thing I would do, if I were to do anything, is add a combat-withdraw option. It's madness to me that every fight is to the death, unless you are lucky enough to flee. Can't you be smart enough to flee?

I'd probably turn my attention next to the fleet movement. As-is, it's just ... weird.

But yeh, it's playable. Unlike First Saratoga. :\
 
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Steve Shockley
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The fleet movement can definitely be "gamed" a bit in an unthematic way. I just play that you have to choose who is on what fleet, then roll; if you don't like the roll, you don't have to move (but you forfeit your land move in so doing). Works ok for me.

Regarding retreat, it's funny because the Hand of Destiny rules, which are mostly identical to this game's rule set, allow for voluntary retreat. I think you just move away from the battle in lieu of attacking. If memory serves, this can only be done by mounted units.

At any rate, I'm glad to see there are folks playing and enjoying these. I have quite a few, and actually just ordered the latest 2 player mini folio, which came out a few days ago. It's about the wars to unify the Hawaiian islands in the 1790s. I don't think there is a BGG entry for it yet.

Cheers, and happy gaming.



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