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Subject: Medwar Sicily Session Report rss

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Steve Duke
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Pete and I gave this one a try on Saturday at Great Hall Games in Austin. I’m a big CDG player and wanted to play a game that was more conventional while Pete’s generally tired of most CDGs as well. I’ve been reading an excellent book on Sicily (“Bitter Victory” by Carlo De’Este) and it has always been a campaign that has fascinated me. I’ve had several Sicily games over the years and picked up Worthington’s offer on a prepub sale. I also bought their North Africa game as I’m a fan of system games and these seemed simple but not simplistic.

We had a lot of folks stop by and observe for a bit and they all said the same thing—“I’ve never heard of Worthington Games.” So you guys in marketing need to step it up!

I’ve read Bill Morgal’s excellent session report and mine will attempt to compliment his. Pete and I rolled dice to determine sides and I was the Axis. Given that we had a major gaffe in the terrain effects chart, this proved in my favor.

We played through 12 turns and it was apparent that the Axis would get at least a minor victory. I felt like the game played out fairly historically and I was pressed with the decision of needing the good German units forward to blunt the Allied advance while a)not wanting to risk them becoming casualties and b)needing to get 25 combat points off the map after turn 12. This total represents the bulk of the German forces and for the major victory of 30 points, the German cannot afford to lose very many units to achieve this total.

Our terrain effect gaffe clearly hurt Pete’s advance. We had misread that terrain took off dice for EACH attacking unit, not just for the total attacking stack. Of course after the game and figuring out what went wrong, we found that only certain types of terrain: bridges, rivers, ridges, cause this dice reduction to each unit. Otherwise, it is typically -1 off the total attack. The fact of the gaffe immediately made Pete want to play the game again to see if he liked it.

I generally used my Italian units at key points to slow his advance. The lack of zone of control for non heavy units takes a bit to get used to from other games. We did not have nearly the supply problems we might have expected, especially given the large number of out of supply markers provided. Maybe we missed something but I had a generally successful withdrawal and did not threaten his supply line much at all. This is something I can take a look at for the next game as an area to improve. Pete managed to cut off a few of my units but even cut off, they have to be destroyed and therein lies why I can see how some folks wouldn’t care for this game.

It is dice heavy. Infantry units roll a number of dice based on their combat strength and hit on any roll of 6. Heavy weapons (tanks, motorized) hit on 5 or 6. If your dice hate you, you can easily hate this game. On more than one occasion, Pete attacked me with 6 or more dice and rolled no hits. Likewise, on other attacks, he rolled 3 out of 6 hits. Between that and the randomness of which of the special cards you could get, there could be some wide variances in outcomes. I certainly want to give this one another try.

I drew the Mussolini card as my very first card! This card gives the Axis player 3 RPs per turn instead of rolling a die and halving the result (rounded down to a minimum of 1). The 3 RPs enable you to rebuild any unit that has a back side (many Italian units do not and are just dead when they are hit) as well as ‘buying’ the special cards. The Mussolini card also prevents the Axis player from having to roll for Italian desertion if the Allies play that card. So bottom line, it was a great card to get on the first draw and along with our terrain effects gaffe, clearly skewed the game in my favor and gave Pete an uphill climb.

At some point in the game after using the Italians as speed bumps and using the Axis forces as counterattack forces where the Allies get over extended or blooded on their turn, the game starts to focus on the area around Messina. Given that the Allies must capture all the cities to win, I found myself as the Axis wondering why fight for the rest of the island anyway? The natural defense terrain around Messina clearly favors a fall back at some point in the game. I think this can be sooner rather than later. One of the key decisions for the Axis is when and how much to withdraw the Germans. You need their greater strength to resist the Allied advance but you can’t afford to lose them and you need to get them off map to win. Timing is everything.

I found it odd that the Allies are not concerned with casualties. My take is not to worry about inflicting losses on the Allies since it doesn’t bother them. Look for opportunities to block advances and avoid areas where you can be put out of supply. Delay, delay, delay. With weather turning mud, the Allied advance can be pretty plodding anyway with just scant resistance and that’s what we found in our game. But given the historical strain on the Allies to work together, I would think casualties would be something to consider. Not so in this game.

Pete played an Air Interdiction card on me that was pretty effective late in the game. We questioned why there were so many interdiction markers in the game since you can only affect one hex with that card, but you are provided with five interdiction markers. This caused us to look through the rules a few times to make sure we didn’t miss something.

Card play can be wicked to the receiver or virtually ineffective. The ‘tanks’ card for example, adds attacking dice if you have tanks involved in the combat. The Axis have ‘anti tank guns’ that take this card away. Others enable end runs or repositioning of forces, or even emergency supply for cut off units. The cards are interesting and the fact that most of them can be used over and over is interesting. We played that we shuffled the cards every time we had any discards and again, if the luck is against you, you could end up never getting an important card (like Mussolini for the Axis). Another option is to not reshuffle every time so that eventually, you get every card.
Once Pete got to the north coast road with some armor, I was fearful of Messina getting cut off but I was able to reposition some of my own armor to block this advance. Fearful of an attack backed by a powerful card or two, this fortunately for me never happened and we culminated the game at turn 12.

Overall, I liked the experience. Pete wants to give it another try and we may go to North Africa and try that venue before returning to Sicily. With only one game and the variation of the cards and potentially huge swings of good or bad luck with the combat dice, this game has a potential to be both incredibly frustrating and interesting at the same time. We will see how the Italians fare next in North Africa and I’ll write up a session report for that before we return to the difficult ground of Sicily.
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Tyrone Newby
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I like you session report;but here is an oldie but goodie(from 1981 S&T Mag.) Sicily game I find more interesting and ingageing to play=Sicily: Race for Messina(Victory in the West Vol.3);it's a great three player game it sure gives you the feeling that Patton & Monty is competing to be the first to get to Messina.
 
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Steve Duke
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Actually, I owned both Sicily games S&T produced.

I'd be curious to hear what you thought was more 'engaging' and if you've played Medwar Sicily (a 3-player option is available with this game too).

I always thought an interesting game concept for Sicily would use the 'Battle for Germany' approach. In that game, you play either the Soviets and the West Front Germans or the Western Allies and the East Front Germans. So you are trying to advance your army while trying to slow your opponent's army. That might work in a Sicily game quite well but I haven't seen anyone do that (yet).
 
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Tyrone Newby
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Yes,I like your idea of making it like the old SPI game Battle for Germany,it could work;Yes I played Med War :Sicily ,but only once(never completed the game),its a good solid game,but the reasons I like the old S&T Sicily is mainly because it's map;its larger,a bit more detailed,which gives you that good campaign feeling---the best way I can describe about how I feel about the two games(esspically the map),is watching a great movie on a 20" TV screen vs watching it on a 42"HD TV screen---its all within the pleasure of the eye!
I see your Avatar is the 7th Air Cav.,is that the unit you served in?---I served in the Royal Canadian Regt.Sp.Forces,and my 1/2 brother in the States served in the U.S Marine Corp.or if you just love the 7th Cav. ,thats cool too.
 
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Steve Duke
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It is the 1st Cavalry Division.

7th Cavalry (Regiment) was a subordinate unit to 1st Cavalry. You may remember 1/7 Cav and 2/7 Cav featured in "We Were Soldiers Once". They were part of the 1st Air Cavalry Division in Vietnam but 1st Cav subsequently dropped the Air Cav and became a heavy division post Vietnam. 7th Cav units continue to serve with 1st Cavalry Division.

My copies of those SPI games must have been different from yours! I would not describe their appearance as significantly better or worse than Medwar.

Now the GMT Sicily game was a better simulation, and better looking (imo) but at a great cost in rules complexity. Most of those SPI Strategy and Tactics games were nothing much to look at...

 
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