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Cataclysm: A Second World War» Forums » Sessions

Subject: A toe in the water: Cataclysm AAR rss

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Paul Dobbins
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Last night(Thursday, June 21st) four regulars at Kip's Thursday gaming sessions, Bob, Mark, Kip and Paul, sat down to a learning game of Cataclysm. Bob walked us through the session; he was ably aided by Cataclysm playtester "Hawkeye", who sat in with us while we caught our bearings. Bob made a great call in starting us off with Scenario C.2 Days of Decision; a relatively short Europe only scenario for ostensibly two players, but we had four, running Germany(Kip), UK(Paul), France(Mark) and Italy(Bob).

This is not your typical WWII strategic wargame (and it proudly claims as much in GMT game related copy). You get it right away. Since the game typically begins in 1935/36 -- this scenario 1937/38 -- there is much pre-war political/diplomatic maneuvering and force planning. Re: the latter, the scenario starts with a preset force pool and on-map deployments, but part of the deep strategy is adding options to the force pool as it grows in response to greater national commitment, from a sleepy start through mobilization to total war. Armor army groups and carrier task force groups (a.k.a. "upgraded units") don't come easy and cost a great deal of limited resources. This scenario, though, ends in sudden death whenever the Pearl Harbor shoe drops in 1941/1942 (turn three of the scenario), so the build-up upgraded units is not a priority. Adding armor, however, may very well pay-off in any of the vicious little battles are that guaranteed break out as Europe staggers to limited war.

Hawkeye advised Germany to get cracking right out of the gate, and our game proved the wisdom of that advice. It just so happened that reserve flags and subsequent chit pulls allowed the UK and France to ally early (great die roll Mark/France), and put substantial units into France before the German hammer could be cocked for a solid western whack. I expect the next game will see an early surprise attack if for no other reason than to disrupt a similar effort to bolster French defenses.

Naturally, Germany and Italy allied in response to the western alliance. Italy moved on North Africa and precipitated limited war. Italian successes pushed the fascist cause forward substantially on the victory track and got France into early trouble. It is surprising how quickly a nation can get into stability problems, and it is fatal not to react as swiftly as possible to restore national grit when a slide into potential collapse is looming. In an alliance, it may be advisable on short notice for one power to transfer a flag to an ally by means of a pressure political action; flags in reserve are a good idea in advance of such a possibility.

During the game, each of the four nations got into some trouble before it proved fatal to one side (see below). France was reduced to 0 victory points, and teetered on collapse, but walked back from the brink.

Italy was definitely snake bit, as it lost two battles against the British, a naval fight in Central Mediterranean, and a land battle for Egypt, despite having airpower(both battles) and armor(Egypt) superiority advantages. Bad dice rolls. Italian wins would have crushed the western allies and won the game; even a split would have helped the fascist cause.

Somewhat out of nowhere, the Germans slipped into collapse. An untimely Home Front chit pull, failure, and (an) ineffective propaganda flag play are a bad combination. Once Germany collapsed, though it safely avoided surrender, it was kicked out of the Italian alliance and was forced to accept armistice with the west, taking it out of the limited war. That big western build-up protecting France was free to turn on Italy, and it did so as soon as possible. The UK, with air superiority, won a battle in the Po Valley having secured a portal into Italy through Switzerland. By the way, we weren't sure the designer had a proper perspective on Switzerland, which is typically off limits in WWII games. In our Cataclysm run through, Switzerland was bagged fairly easily by the UK in a single turn.

As we learned, flags and offensives are always in short supply, and the Germans suffered especially from the slows as it's chits were tardy emerging from the cup. This much is clear, the variable nature of the chit draws/action phase has a dramatic effect on gameplay, as timing issues seriously complicate planning. Make sure you have a prime chit in reserve, i.e. a chit that can trigger/kick-off your strategic plan, use it as fast as you can, and replace it with something useful if you can. Flags, which provide political actions, are very versatile, especially early, but those offensive chits, which provide military actions, are gold as the war picks up momemtum. Wave the flag early, then go for the gold!

The German collapse and Italian hard luck led to a French/UK win. The fascists have to score 2x the VPs of the democrats in order to win the scenario; in our game, dems and fascists finished virtually tied, so the dems won.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Thanks, Paul! Sounds like you had a good time. Even better to have Hawkeye on hand.

We love hearing people's war stories. If y'all play again, post another AAR!
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Ananda Gupta
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When the UK invaded Switzerland, did you remember to make the effectiveness check? (Assuming Switzerland was not enemy-controlled)
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Paul Dobbins
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Oops, we better check that effectiveness check bit for Switzerland And we all loved the game!
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Paul Dobbins
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I see it now, 9.2 Case 2. A belligerent democracy must pass an effectiveness test when attacking an ungarrisoned country. We didn't do that. Good catch AG!
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Martin Petersen
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Nice, thanks!
How many hours did it take to finish?
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Paul Dobbins
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It is a relatively short scenario. With time allowed for discussing the rules and kibbitzing, it took about 3.5 hours, roughly an hour per turn. We could play this scenario faster next time out, with less teaching and more throat cutting arrrh
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