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Subject: Is this the perfect introductory wargame? rss

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Rusty McFisticuffs
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I just got my copy today; I haven't played it yet, so this review is based purely on first impressions from reading the rules and fondling the bits.

However, my feeling is that this could be the perfect introductory wargame. The! Perfect! Introductory wargame! This is my first purchase from LnL, and I am really, really impressed.

As an aside, my criteria for "perfect introductory wargame" are:
- physically small enough to not be intimidating
- easy to teach
- fun, fast-playing
- 60-90 minute playing time
- presenting a situation which doesn't leave a new player wondering what they're supposed to do
- rules-wise, not demanding anything that potential wargamers are going to balk at
- "something that I'll want to play repeatedly" (which is at odds with some of the above)
Also, "readily available" and "inexpensive" certainly help too, ha ha.

Games which I consider close are G.E.V. and Target Arnhem: Across 6 Bridges (and Strange Defeat: The Fall of France, 1940 as it should have been, not as it actually is).

OK, on to the game. To me, the rules are the most important part, but the bits are what hit you first, so let's start there.

The bits

The box is nice and compact, 9" by 6". I think it looks good, good enough to hand to a dubious potential player--there's nothing on it which says "this is going to be even more tedious than you expect," and it even advertises "drop dead sexy counters" and a pair of lucky dice.

The map is mounted, sort of--it's about half the thickness of the material you might expect when you read "mounted map." Mine is warping some, and it doesn't lay flat; it's a single piece with three cuts (so that it can fold into eighths to fit in the box), and where those cuts meet, the edges are warping away from each other. (There's a picture of what I'm talking about here, and it got worse after I took the picture.) Normally I'm a fan of mounted maps, so it pains me to say that, in this case, it might have been better to have gone with a paper map. It looks like you'll have to use plexiglas with this one (or aggressively bend your board, and hope it stays).

Graphically, the map looks great. The terrain key, turn track, and other aids are printed around the edges (which I like), and the features on the map are clear enough. (I know barkmann had a couple of "which terrain is this hex" questions in the rules forum, but I think he was just making sure--the terrain types seem clear enough to me.) The hex lines on the map are "surprisingly subdued" (especially considering that this is from LnL, ha ha), but not so much so that I anticipate a problem during play; I think they're just right. The hexes are nearly 1" across, so there's plenty of room for the 5/8" counters.

The counters are maybe not quite "drop dead sexy," but they do look good. Like the map, the 88 double-sided counters are printed on material which is thinner than what I thought was standard, and they're actually a little harder to pick up than normal. (I think it's a combination of the thinness, the glossy finish, and the edges slightly rounded from the die cutting.) I think I've seen a comment here about mis-cut counters, but mine look pretty good; there are only two which have an edge with a very thin line of color from an adjacent counter.

One minor complaint about the design of the counters is that there are a couple of markings (combined arms bonus, attack & initiative bonus) which are really small. Also, you gain (or lose) points by shattering enemy divisions; for the Commonwealth and the Italians, the color of the counter tells you which division it's in, but for the Germans, you have to look at really microscopically small unit IDs.

So, two points here: it would have been nice if German units' divisions were more clear, and, as the number of units you have to kill varies by division, it would have been nice to include the "10 red guys, 5 orange guys, 4 blue infantry/artillery, 4 black or gray guys" numbers on one of the player aids.

(Oh, it doesn't come with baggies for the counters, but you've got some of those.)

Finally, on to...

The rules

They're four pages! I love that, and I like the succinct writing style. There are a couple of deliberately funny bits, but nothing which distracts from the rules themselves.

There are several interesting bits:

The activation system is normally a die roll (although you get to adjust or choose your activation number in some cases) which determines which units you'll get to activate, and whether you'll go before your opponent. The player with the higher activation number goes first, and activates any/all units whose initiative rating is equal to or greater than his activation number. (Activated units can move or fire; some units can make overrun attacks while moving.) Faster, more responsive units have a higher initiative rating, so with a higher roll, you'll get to go first, but you may only be able to activate your speedy guys; with a low roll, you'll go second, but you'll get to activate more of your units.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that your activation number is also the number of movement points available to each unit! That's neat.

The stacking limit is 3 units per hex, which is nice and manageable. (And there are only 38 units on the larger side, and no unit will have more than one additional damage counter, so I doubt there will be unplayably thick carpets of counters.) One interesting rule is that each attack targets only the top unit of the stack, so the defender has to decide which of his units is on the front line before the attacker moves or attacks, and the attacker has that information before he starts his turn. (You can reorganize your stacks on your turn, and during the night impulse.) I really like this; it adds some neat forward-looking decision-making to the game at the cost of only a couple simple rules.

Artillery units have a few interesting rules. They can hit units 2 or 3 spaces away (their range is printed on their counter); they can't enter enemy ZOCs; and they can target any unit in a stack, not just the top one. For ranged attacks, they require spotters; normally spotting range is 1 hex, but some terrain features increase this to up to 3 hexes. I really like this too; I expect these few simple rules will encourage battles over terrain features which give you an advantage rather than directly increasing your VPs.

Combat is done one attacking unit at a time, by rolling two dice, adding modifiers, and comparing it to the defending unit's toughness. (The list of modifiers is a little long to be running through for every attack, but I doubt it will be that burdensome during play.) A hit knocks the unit down a step (units start between 1 and 3 strength), and when a unit reaches 0, it's eliminated. (The unit's strength is added to its attack roll, so damaged units don't hit as hard.) Units have a chance to recover strength during night impulses (there are 4 impulses during each day).

Victory conditions are surprisingly sweet. At the end of the game (6 days), the Commonwealth win if they have at least one victory point. (Easy, right?) They get those from controlling various points on the map, from shattering Axis divisions, and from exiting a certain amount of combat strength through a specific hex; they lose points when their own divisions are shattered. So (again, without actually having played) it seems like the Commonwealth player has some interesting options from the start of the game: go for a single piece of real estate, and try to hold it without losses? Go for a massive attack, heedless of loss, and just plan on shattering more Axis divisions than you lose yourself? Concentrate on a single Axis division, and then run off as soon as you're able to shatter it without having one of your own shattered? I really like having a choice of clear objectives--the choice is more fun than having a single way to win, and the clarity means a new player won't start the game wondering, "what am I supposed to do now?"

Summary/caveats

One last time: as I haven't actually played the game yet, everything I've said could be horribly wrong. Maybe all the things which excite me about the rules won't pan out during play, or maybe the gameplay itself will turn out to be boring and repetitive, etc.

Also, I tend to think I understand a set of rules when I'm reading it, only to discover that I didn't understand them so well once I start playing. I know barkmann has posted several questions in the rules forum, which does concern me a bit, but my sincere hope is that barkmann is a big dummy.

That said, I'm really excited about this game. It looks to me like the perfect amount of chrome for new wargamers, and I'm really impressed by the number of simple rules which struck me as clever ideas. I'm looking forward to trying it out with people who haven't yet found out that they're wargamers, and with regular opponents when we lack the time for something bigger.
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olivier revenu
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Hi rusty. We'll doing better in the next game to make the divisions numbers more readable. And I'm working now on a player aid for recording victory points, wich will be soon available (but I think that after 2 or 3 games, you will not need it anymore)
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Peter Bogdasarian
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I hope it lives up to your first impressions
 
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Donal Hegarty
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I just got mine half an hour ago..
As an art director I am prone to buy good design and this is the first reason I bought this. It looks great the counters are visually appealing on the beautifully subtle and clear map.

It needs to be said that the rules are six pages but well spaced and type set. May be a page and a half of a GMT rule book possibly less.
I have no problem with the map as of yet but I do agree the counters are a bit too flimsy.

I may get my eurogamer friends into wargames with this. especially if the quality of rules matches the package.

Avalanche press did a few quick start games of thsi size that needed a good polish for both the rules and the art. i hope this series doesn't.
 
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Louis-David Plourde
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Good review! I think the response to your title question is Yes! This game is a perfect introductory wargame. It plays fast and the system is fresh air into the world of wargaming.

kuhrusty wrote:

EDIT: I forgot to mention that your activation number is also the number of movement points available to each unit! That's neat.


The activation number system works very well! It adds challenge to the game and sometimes it gives you the opportunity to choose to go first or leave the initiative to your opponent in order to be able to activate more troops!

kuhrusty wrote:

I know barkmann has posted several questions in the rules forum, which does concern me a bit, but my sincere hope is that barkmann is a big dummy.


In the games I played, I didn't have any problem with the rules. They are clear and easy to follow. I think the intention of the designer was to keep the wording of the rules as low as possible and he did great job in writing a concise rulebook.

The first time I read the rules, I understand them pretty well and most of the questions comes while playing especially when reinforcements arrive. Most of the questions I asked was just to confirm my thoughts. I assure you I'm not a dummy.
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Rusty McFisticuffs
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I started a game with the burrito boy (age 7) today. (Well, I was still awake when he got up yesterday morning, so we set it up. Then, today, when my wife said the boy & I had spent enough time playing Axis & Allies for the day, he suggested this...) We only finished the first turn before getting caught, but we both like it so far. (He's the CW; as a handicap, he loses no points for shattered divisions. We'll see how it goes...)

I like the activation system even more than I thought I would; being able to adjust your next roll by one if your roll is a 5, or choose your next roll if your roll is a 6, is really clever. I like the uncertainty in how far you'll be able to move, or whether you'll be able to activate your slower units. (When you take a beating early in the day, should you run off around lunchtime, or stick around and fight in the hopes that you'll be able to withdraw out of an enemy ZOC before night?)

Other than the II/115/21 Pzd counter misprint, I think the only other thing we ran into was some confusion about whether recon is armor, but I've asked that here.

Domhnall101 wrote:
It needs to be said that the rules are six pages but well spaced and type set.

(Those are half-size pages, though, so I'd call it three pages of rules. Not sure why I said four earlier.)

Domhnall101 wrote:
Avalanche press did a few quick start games of thsi size that needed a good polish for both the rules and the art. i hope this series doesn't.

Yeah, I was really disappointed by Strange Defeat: The Fall of France, 1940. Apart from the rules and the art, though, it was fine.
 
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ian morris
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Crabe tambour wrote:
Hi rusty. We'll doing better in the next game to make the divisions numbers more readable.


Are you able to tell us what the next game will be ?


 
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olivier revenu
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gamer72 wrote:
Are you able to tell us what the next game will be ?




I don't know. LNLP announced not long ago : "Totensonntag is just the beginning. Modules are planned for Operation Goodwood, Prochorovka, and Kasserine Pass." And I heard there will be at least one relased in 2008.
 
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ian morris
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OK, thanks.



 
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Ray Smith
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Looking forward to the next installment with improved counters and no-warp board (I hope). Is the Operation Goodwood the fight around Caen, or the air operation for the Tirpitz? I'm assuming it's Caen, but the Tirpitz raid would be cool too.

Will OG be available by this Summer?
Thanks, and keep up the great work!

Ray
 
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Erik Nicely
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kuhrusty wrote:
Yeah, I was really disappointed by Strange Defeat: The Fall of France, 1940. Apart from the rules and the art, though, it was fine.


So it had good quality shrinkwrap and a solid cardboard box?

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