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No Retreat! The Russian Front» Forums » Reviews

Subject: My "first" Wargame - A Review by a Eurogamer rss

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Alex
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I really encourage you to read through the intro since it makes my background clear and helps you to decide if what I say also is true for you or not.

1. Intro (about myself)

I don't play a lot of Wargames and I don't write a lot of Reviews (yet)

I mostly play Eurogames and I mostly tend to prefer the heavier ones like Agricola and Brass. But I also like some lighter Games and some highly thematic Games like Battlestar Galactica.

A year ago I dipped my toe in the water of Wargames. I bought ASL Starter Kit #1 and read the Rules. We all know, that those Rules are in Fact written like a Law-book and are absolutely non forgiving and 0% redundant, which really makes it hard to understand them at first. But I wrestled myself through the rules and played some hours of solitaire ASL to get into it... I didn't know what it was but after this session, i was kinda turned off and let ASL rest on my shelf for a year.

a month ago I got a demo and the first scenario of "Fighting Formations: Großdeutschland Infantry Division"
It instantly became clear to me that I really don't want that level of detail. (yes only NOW)
I found the mechanics of the game to be elegant and well thought out but the game didn't strike me because of the level of decision involved.

I don't want to decide if the Tank uses the road or not and in which direction it will be facing (and for ASL in which differing direction the gun will point and in which direction the gunner will look and in which direction his Cap will point and...)

Excuse me Wargamers but I see that as very unrealistic. Those ASL-people tend to play as perfect as possible but no real fight would have gone this perfectly.
The Intel about terrain, position and strength of opposing Units and their objectives were not absolute.
The units mostly have no form of communication or way to know where even the friendly units were.
The decisions taken by the player reflect only a very small part of history. At most: the tactical battle for an important city.

The much more important choice than all choices in a tactical game of course was the decision to attack or not to attack in first place.

That was what I wanted! I now knew it!

So I went to a German forum and asked for a large-scale WWII Wargame which should cover the "Eastern Front".

There were people suggesting "Eastfront II", "A Victory Lost" and"... Denied", "No Retreat", "Europe Engulfed" and the coming "Sturm Europa"

2. The first Play

I heard "No Retreat" would be "rather simple" compared to other Wargames and decided to try a game over Vassal.

We played the Barbarossa Campaign and the Russian player was familiar with the game and explained the rules to me. I already had read them before, so we got a pretty fast start.

During the game I made many mistakes and always had no idea why it was a mistake. Only after I thought about what exactly is happening thematically I could understand what failed. This gave me a very thematic feel. I really felt as if I was a great German General planning the next 1 or 2 months of a specific (Russian) campaign. I see a lot(strength of own and opposing units, approximate position of units, terrain, own strategical possibilities (cards)) but not everything (opponents strategic possibilities). The planning ahead is therefore rather limited. Other than that this game feels like chess. The amount of counters is exactly right for me and I really get an epic feeling when playing this game.

3. Afterburn

We played will winter 42 and ended the game there. I went online and did research about the Russian front. It fascinated me what exactly happened, where and when. What strategic positions were important and why and what were the decisive decisions in the campaign.

This Game does it all for me. It reflects all problems and possibilities of the Eastfront. You really can cut off Leningrad, get encircled in Stalingrad and get stuck few miles before Moscow... more than that: It is not unlikely to happen! It seems that Carl tried to NOT script the game wherever he could but make the mechanics "more real" instead so that historic progress of the war can be obtained without any scripting. I really liked the freedom! That way I got to decide! - not the script! but still often times the history tells the most logical story! - I can't describe my feelings. I was amazed and the experience was awesome!

4. ...after three Plays

Well, I bought a copy - just for the sake of owning one (I will probably not get it to the table too often).
I love this Game. It has so much intrinsic depth, that it amazes me.

Games like Puerto Rico get solved after some Time, and the same people then lose interest in the game since then it is not fun to play it anymore. (yeah, I know, it is obscure)

I really can not imagine anyone even to begin solving this Game. It is and feels so asymmetric and organic for me but still is very abstract. this aspect reminds me a bit of "Tigris and Euphrates", don't know why... but even more so:

It really feels like a "be a general"-Simulation with all the possible facets and every meaningful choice, while being as simple as a heavy euro.

I really am surprised by the component quality of this production. But this has been often said before...

To me it looks like the perfect Wargame for Eurogamers because of many aspects. The most important for me being that it recreates History organically and makes me come back for more.

And yes, I am now hooked and will happily play 97 further Games over Vassal. And even if i will never touch my GMT-Copy it already has payed off!

Thanks Carl, for this wonderful design.

[Where do I sign up for wooden counters (which too, won't be used...)]

EDIT1:
5. after 6 plays (one Solitaire)


I now am getting better with the rules and our campaigns tend to be tighter...

In the 2-Player Game I tend to make fewer mistakes... Well differently put: My mistakes, are not so crucial anymore... I still do a lot of em but the big ones I have left behind me... I read a lot and watched a lot of documentary about this horrible period. (I really even had a period where I thought if it is "right" or not to play these games) Thatway I really can understand what happened there and what were important strategic positions. Carls Design reflects em brilliantly without adding to much of rules complexity.

It for example is obvious, that the defense Rings around moscow are represented by a Forest area around the city. - good job.

I still am happy hi did not make the kerch-strait-hex a Mountain-Hex (even if the gameplay would be the same.)
I sometimes wonder why he didn't include special Rules for movement across rivers but only for combat across rivers.

But I really love the fact the kerch strait isn't just a "double river". thatway an army can "occupy" the strait (probably representing them successfully managed to cross it on the offense or being there first on the defense). This is a more dynamic solution compared to two hexes with a "double-river" in-between.

The solitaire-game (without the solitaire rules) made me understand how important the information about the cards of the opponent can be. Only now I see, that I have given away to much information about my cards and my plans regarding them. Nice! Other than that, I dont like that I have to manage two hands... kinda fiddly

I am looking forward to play the Solitaire Module which arrived in the mail today. About that... Guys: It's at best "functional". I don't remember where, but someone said "the quality is fine"

Wow... as a Eurogamer I can only say: IT'S NOT! This doesn't mean I regret the purchase, but ... you don't even get sleeves for cards like that! The counters are not so good either (great, that I have the GMT-ones!) we will see if the Gameplay after all is worth the purchase...

I still want to play 94 more Games of "No Retreat!", so still a game I highly recommend.
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Wargames like this really are the best 2 player games I think

I am getting competent at this one now I believe!!
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"Excuse me Wargamers but I see that as very unrealistic. Those ASL-people tend to play as perfect as possible but no real fight would have gone this perfectly".
i was interested in what you said about highly tactical war games like ASL being unrealistic. i tend to agree with you. i sometimes liken a heavily tactical game with loads of detail thought out of something that actually happened in a in a few minutes or even a few seconds as trying to do something to a car like changing the oil or the spark plugs while driving down the road at 50 miles per hour!
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Welcome to the pleasures of wargaming you might want to look at Conflict of Heroes for tactical "euro" war gaming...

And thanks for writing such a review. Helps brings others into the genre.
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nhojput wrote:
"Excuse me Wargamers but I see that as very unrealistic. Those ASL-people tend to play as perfect as possible but no real fight would have gone this perfectly".
i was interested in what you said about highly tactical war games like ASL being unrealistic. i tend to agree with you. i sometimes liken a heavily tactical game with loads of detail thought out of something that actually happened in a in a few minutes or even a few seconds as trying to do something to a car like changing the oil or the spark plugs while driving down the road at 50 miles per hour!
I've thinking the same lately because I've been watching Band of Brothers and documentaries. I find that the tactical level has the worst abstractions. I even prefer slightly higher levels to have a better feeling, like in TCS o Panzer Grenadier.

There, or in operational/strategic wargames you have the feeling that you are taking decisions like the ones the generals in the real conflict had to take, while at the tactical level you can't do things like hiding behind a barrel or throwing a stone to cause misdirection, unless you are playing with minis, I guess.

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GangZda wrote:
[Where do I sign up for wooden counters (which too, won't be used...)]
Well, I made some for my playtest game:

Board Game: No Retreat! The Russian Front


Board Game: No Retreat!


They are not that hard to do.

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licinius wrote:
GangZda wrote:
[Where do I sign up for wooden counters (which too, won't be used...)]
Well, I made some for my playtest game:

Board Game: No Retreat! The Russian Front


Board Game: No Retreat!


They are not that hard to do.

Where did you get those wood stuff, and can I have the files for the stickers?
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I explained where I got the wood counters in this thread:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/700633/no-retreat-the-rus...

Sadly, I think the on-line store where I bought them in the USA is not active anymore.

But you must be able to buy them in Germany: this is where they are coming from. Both the squares and the round counters are from the "Settlers of Catane" Eurogame.

I whink that "spielmaterial has them. Codes: CATAN14 , CATAN15, etc...

http://www.spielmaterial.de/english/

There must be other places you can get them, too. I know my local game store has bags and bags of those wooden bits for sale.

The files for the counters are already available in .jpg format in the Image pages here. You have both the GMT style and my playtest style posted: Look through the images on BGG.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/897790/no-retreat-the-rus...

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/897789/no-retreat-the-rus...

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Happym to here it Gangzda! I love this game too! And I don't know why but the comparison to Tigris and Euphrates I like.

So, it's Combat Commander for you next, right? Right??cool
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nhojput wrote:
"Excuse me Wargamers but I see that as very unrealistic. Those ASL-people tend to play as perfect as possible but no real fight would have gone this perfectly".
i was interested in what you said about highly tactical war games like ASL being unrealistic. i tend to agree with you. i sometimes liken a heavily tactical game with loads of detail thought out of something that actually happened in a in a few minutes or even a few seconds as trying to do something to a car like changing the oil or the spark plugs while driving down the road at 50 miles per hour!
and the wind softly whispered "Up Front"...
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Wow Alex. Your reaction is exactly the same thing I had! In fact I was planning on writing a review in a similar vein.

I never played a true "hex and counter" war game before I played No Retreat, but I am a big fan of GMT's other card-driven games (Here I Stand, Twilight Struggle, For the People etc). I was a little nervous until I took a look at the rules. Once I played a few games I realized the game Carl designed was... amazing.

His game system helps create a historical structure without strait jacking you with too many rules.
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lhughes41 wrote:
Welcome to the pleasures of wargaming you might want to look at Conflict of Heroes for tactical "euro" war gaming...
towncrier wrote:
So, it's Combat Commander for you next, right? Right??cool
I don't know if you really mean it, but for me the case is clear.

I really will explore "No Retreat!" a little longer before stepping to another Wargame. And if so i will probably orient myself to even bigger-scale games (like the upcoming "Sturm Europa!" [I know, exclamation marks are AWESOME!]

maybe even some more diplomatic wargames... I dont know...

But I definitely will first play "No Retreat[!]" till i can say "now i now this game good, and can play it really intuitively" - and this can take a while... I will come back for an update after hundrets of plays to tell you what exactly has changed.

Until then: I'm happy with "No Retreat!" and I don't really like learning new games... but playing them many times!

This is what makes me really feel out what is possible and what works.

Alex
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Fields of Fire might intrigue you given what you said about your beefs with tactical wargaming. It is complex but is an actual simulation of being in tactical command, rather than controlling all your units movement omnipotentally.
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garysax wrote:
Fields of Fire might intrigue you given what you said about your beefs with tactical wargaming. It is complex but is an actual simulation of being in tactical command, rather than controlling all your units movement omnipotentally.
Fields of Fire might be jumping the gun a bit for him, I think - No Retreat! originated from Victory Point Games, and if the OP is looking for similar gameplay value (and not minding a DTP drop in component quality), he may be better off first exploring the VPG catalog for his next few steps.
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Steve Carey wrote:
Fields of Fire might be jumping the gun a bit for him, I think - No Retreat! originated from Victory Point Games, and if the OP is looking for similar gameplay value (and not minding a DTP drop in component quality), he may be better off first exploring the VPG catalog for his next few steps.
I second that suggestion. cool
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first of all: Thanks for all the thoughtful suggestions.

I maybe did not make it as clear as it is on my mind:
I do not see myself buying or playing another wargame in the near future. I first want to get in 50 or 100 more plays of "No Retreat!" before I will CONSIDER to try another wargame.

I don't want to shut this discussion, mainly because your suggestions are probably well thought trough and may fill the need of a similar gamer like me, who DOES want to try some different wargames.

I just don't like to use Games like most people use DVDs: watching it one time, maybe two... and then going on to another movie.

Games are not made to be used like this. Great games like "No Retreat!" or "Twilight Struggle" but also Euro Games like "Tigris and Euphrates", "Agricola", "Power Grid", "Brass" and many other brilliant games deserve more. I don't want to play all the new Essen releases (even I am living 20Miles from Essen). Most of the new Essen-Releases fell flat for me this Year.
Why did I invest the time, effort and money?

Researching,
Searching for the best price or a available copy at all,
Buying,
reading and learning the rules,
Getting together a Group,
Explaining and doing a lame "First Game", in which always something gets not understood right and nobody really playes "good"...???

WHY?

Sure, sometimes it's fun to try out some new games and hell... "No Retreat!" is a rather new game, too...

but I already own some of the Greatest Games ever Made... I try to play them more... and for my Shame I even have like 20% of my rather small Collection not even played ONCE! So why would I ever consider a NEW game over a game I already own, at one time decided to buy and still decide to hold on to? I know... I'm bashing myself, but that's how I feel.

Right now I don't need more Games... I need more time to play those great games I already own and love. - like this one!

Thanks for all of the replies and the comments!

Alex
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To continue the off-topic, i agree with you Alexander : as an eurogamer, i consider i own all the euro-gems that could be bought (i only bought Friedrich Anniversary Edition (not a euro but...), Eclipse and Antiquity at Essen 2011).

It was A Few Acres of Snow which made ​​me look closer at wargames, a genre that did not attract me before. Since then, i bought Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan (2 plays FTF so far) and No Retreat! The Russian Front (1 play in progress on Vassal) and i am definitely hooked.

I have just preordered Napoleon's Triumph one hour ago....is it serious doctor ? am i becoming grognard ?

EDIT: spelling
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yea I played A Few Acres Of Snow some time ago - I really liked that one, too

But even if it is, it does not feel like a wargame to me.
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Totally agree with you, Conflict of Heroes is a superb series of games and would recommend them. Easy to learn and quick to play, most scenarios are only 5 turns.
 
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nescaff wrote:
Totally agree with you, Conflict of Heroes is a superb series of games and would recommend them. Easy to learn and quick to play, most scenarios are only 5 turns.
Yes I like that series too. I STILL do find the "action point" mechanism a bit too artificial, and the game a wee bit to time-consuming in execution. Plus the Tank/AFV rules are still not historically correct, especially in the depiction of German tanks vs Soviet tanks and Anti-tank guns.

But it's still one of the better tactical games out there.
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GangZda wrote:
I first want to get in 50 or 100 more plays of "No Retreat!" before I will CONSIDER to try another wargame.

I just don't like to use Games like most people use DVDs: watching it one time, maybe two... and then going on to another movie.

Games are not made to be used like this.
Alex
Alex we are minority, those of us who get the most satisfaction out of fully exploring a favorite game and playing it against competent players. The best way to do this I've found is to play online, travel to tournaments, and hopefully find someone nearby who shares your interest in exploring a few titles.

I find myself interested in less and less games every year, not because I don't think new games aren't good, but because I haven't tired of playing some of the first games I purchased years ago: Hannibal, War of the Ring, Puerto Rico, Agricola, Twilight Struggle, Tigris & Euphrates, etc. And yet... I also picked up No Retreat!

Last year a buddy and I played Texas Glory, not one of Columbia's most popular titles, more than 20 times. Although I feel I became a relative expert in the game, I was still surprised by one strategy at Prezcon 2012. And only because I had played the game so much did I fully appreciate this new line of attack. Same thing with Hannibal at WBC 2012. I understand that Riku tried some new strategy in Twilight Struggle at this year's WBC as well and won the event! I'm with you, its awesome to approach full understanding of a favorite system. But then you need to travel and show your skills!

Looking forward to No Retreat 2!
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I agree with your line of thought Michael. But if everybody did the same the hobby would be in dire straits! LOL!

I play only a very limited number of games, too. And play them often. BUT I do buy a LOT each year. Most will get little play, I call it a "game collection" as an excuse. But just studying a design is fun enou already for me.

All this to say that my first goal when making "No Retreat!" Was to make a game that would be played, and played MANY times. A bit like the "classics" of old, when only a few games were published each and every year. I had to walk a fine line between ease of play, fast setups and chrome and "puzzles" ( replay value ).

Besides designing a game, some of the greatest satisfactions I experienced in this hobby is when I felt I "mastered" a game.

Hopefully I have suceeded in this with "No Retreat!".

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Thanks for sticking up for our acquisitive tendencies! I have more games than I'll ever get to play perhaps, and that's after leaving half of what I had the last time I moved. I buy fewer games now after that moving experience, but I still buy. I just research more which is part of the fun!
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GangZda wrote:
Excuse me Wargamers but I see that as very unrealistic. Those ASL-people tend to play as perfect as possible but no real fight would have gone this perfectly.
The Intel about terrain, position and strength of opposing Units and their objectives were not absolute.
The units mostly have no form of communication or way to know where even the friendly units were.
The decisions taken by the player reflect only a very small part of history. At most: the tactical battle for an important city.
As an ASL enthusiast, I just will try to answer to your arguments.

1) Most ASL players know that their game is not realistic. Or that it is a realist simulation of a Hollywood movie. That is what they want, and an ASL game is packed with surprising outcomes and countless unexpected events. And there are heroes and cowards, sneaky snipers (that you don't control) and jammed guns (oops, not controlled effect), daring berserk charges (not controlled either) or creeping assault engineers trying to place a demo charge against an daunting pillbox. ASL is about John Wayne (and Colonel Klink sometimes too).

2) The game system ruins your plans very efficiently. Many things go wrong. Very wrong. And you will have to develop the true tactical skills which are: adapt and overcome. I hardly ever have seen an ASL game go perfectly well - and I have played hundreds of them. ASL is not for control obsessed players.
You mustn't have really played ASL if you believe that it is a dream for control obsessed people. ASL players could be considered as "anal retentive" because they like a very detailed rules system, but they learn to become relaxed philosophers quite fast.

3) With hidden and concealed units, intel is limited. Some scenarios - not speaking of campaign games - have variable OB purchases.
Player omniscience is a problem that most wargames have to adress - or simply live with. I don't see how ASL is worse than NR on this aspect. I would even suggest that LOS rules make some shots and moves quite uncertain.

4) One can indeed consider that units have too good a knowledge of where their buddies are. But this can be said of about any wargame - including strategic level games like NR where you know so much more than the historical commanders. Hardly avoidable without a computer generated fog of war.

5) Tactical wargames will indeed reflect only a small part of history. It is inherent to their scale. I don't see that as a problem. Expecting something else of a tactical game would be stupid.

Now, I won't convince you to like or even try again to play ASL.
It certainly is not a game which would fit your expectations.

But your remarks come out as unlearned.
You don't really know what type of experience ASL can provide.
You judge ASL players as if they were stupid people, or control obsessed.
There certainly can be jerks who play ASL - and I can be one at times.
But you should be conscious that most of them, if not all, are out there for fun.
And most of them do play other wargames and boardgames, which they like too.
You dabbled with the SK... you hardly played it at all. And you think that you are in a position to evaluate what ASL is about?
Without any serious wargaming background?
And you think that you are able to describe the motives and personality of ASL players?
You quite logically got most of your points wrong.

Btw, do you think other wargames are realistic?
The fact is that all of them are highly abstracted.
Because they are games, meant to be playable and fun.
Wargames are all like impressionist art: they only give you some picture of reality. But the sky may be purple and the sun pale green.
The overall effect gives players the impression that they are living out some reality. And it is pleasing. Quite like a 2D oil painting is related to 3D life.

I just purchased NR and I am looking forward to play it.
Just for fun.
So, you see, an ASL player can really like other wargames.
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Robin wrote:


I just purchased NR and I am looking forward to play it.
Just for fun.
So, you see, an ASL player can really like other wargames.
LOL! Thanks for your patronage. I agree with all that you said about ASL. thumbsup

Eons ago (more than 20 years) I was an ASL fanatic, I had all the games and modules, I even did some ASL introductory courses at a local games coffee shop. Then something broke inside me: we have way too much control in the game, the AFV rules make no sense, complex as they are, the leadership rules not much either. Bypass movement? Please! etc...

I found ASL way too much work for the "unrealistic" end result. Yes it was fun (all those "2" and "12" rolls and critical hits), yes it told a story well, but after a while it became very unsatisfying for me. So I gave away ALL my games, I just kept the Original Basic SL game. IMHO the series should have tried to stay close to the elegance of the original instead of morphing into the rules monster it became. Heck I used Basic SL to introduce gamers to Wargaming! Do this with ASL? I don't think so.

Luckily for me another game system came along that game me that Basic SL fun, and much more: Combat Commander: Europe. ASL gave me countless hours of enjoyment when I was a teen and had way too much time on my hands and I am VERY grateful for the experience. But now there is no turning back for me.

BTW one big excellent feature to ASL: the countless available scenarios of moderate size. But Combat Commander is way more fun, and, dare I say it, more "realistic".

Caveat: YES I bought back cheap on E-bay a Avalon Hill vintage ASL rulebook binder, complete with ALL the extra insets. I don't own the game anymore, but hey, only fools never change their minds, and this way I am ready myself to play agains an opponent who still owns the game. meeple
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