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Malta Besieged: 1940-1942» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Worse than Montgomery rss

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David Oldster
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I finally got to play a game of this to completion. I managed to play two games before that to middle epoch end before having to quit. So, this review is based on one and two-thirds games or so.

Components:

From other Victory Game reviews, these are the same. Functional, not fancy, but they get the job done. The main thing I am worried about is the inevitable disintegration of the map along the creases, but that won't be for a while yet.

Still, all the components are easy to distinguish, their design makes it clear where they fit in on the map, it's easy to set up and almost all of them that affect gameplay have a summary of their effect.

Rules:

Really good. I had some problems figuring out Tobruk, but that is because I was rushing through that point in both of my unfinished game. Once I sat down and reviewed the "Tobruk falls" mechanism, it was very clear. It shows more my low IQ than the excellence of the rule writer.

Gameplay:

Like the other Victory Games solo games (based on what I've seen in reviews), you have a multiple front mechanism pushing in on you, and you have to push back. If any of the Axis fronts reaches Malta, then there is a chance Malta will fall and you will lose the game immediately.

In addition, you have to keep up your morale, supply, and military on separate tracks. If these are maximized, good things happen in your turns, and if they are at 0, very bad things happen.

The game is divided into three epochs roughly matching the actual turning points in the Mediterranean campaign. In each new epoch, you set aside the seed card (first card you will always draw), shuffle the rest, and put the seed card on top. Every card can affect Axis fronts, your morale/supply/military, affect dice rolls (+ or -) in various areas, and there can be a convoy attack as well. (Some cards have a few other neat outcomes which I won't go into here.)

Every card also gives you a certain number of actions you can take in a turn. Plus, you can always spend 1 supply to get another action, but, if your supply goes to zero, bad things happen. You really have to make some difficult decisions some turns. Actions can be used to try and increase your morale/supply/military, attack an Axis front, raid Rommel's supply lines, or purchase Ultra (your Allied intelligence abstraction).

Convoys can bring you more supply points, but the Axis will be attacking them. The closer they are to Malta, the more chance a given Axis front will have of doing 1 or 2 hits on a convoy. (2 hits are done by getting critical hits, usually by rolling a 5 or 6, except U-boats never critical.) If they are on Malta itself, then they do 2 hits automatically, except for U-boats which still do only 1 hit.

You can assign convoy air support either through the use of an Ultra token (representing Allied intelligence), or later in the game you get Spitfires which can do the same thing. Air support will affect the resolution of all those convoy hits by applying a -1 DRM to the dice roll. (Low dice rolls on seeing if a convoy hit knocks out a supply are good for the Allied player.)

The Rommel mechanism should be mentioned. There is a "Rommel Situation" track. Basically, if you successfully attack Rommel, the DRM starts going against you (abstracting the shortening of supply lines and logistics for the Afrika Korps). There are some event cards that help you, and performing a Raid action on Rommel's supply lines will move the track in your favour.

Gameplay is fairly fast, but I still haven't gotten the 60 minutes claimed, more like 80 minutes. Still, I think as time goes on I might get it down to a lunch hour of gaming.

Summary:

I really like this game. Yes, it is mildly pre-programmed, but there is rarely a dull turn. You never have enough actions to do what you want, and the tension ramps up as the game progresses, especially once Rommel comes into play. I liked having more to think about than just pushing Axis fronts back. and there is a lot of strategic depth in each turn.

I can see playing this game a lot in the future, and picking up more Victory Games

As for worse than Montgomery, I ended up with a draw in my first full game. Malta held, but Rommel was still driving around North Africa. Next time, Axis, next time...
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David Kennedy
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Once you have played a lot more, please let us know your revised impressions. I think that would be fruitful. With SoS games, reptition is the path to insight.
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Mark Delesdernier
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Agreed with Mr. Kennedy. It really takes about 10-15 plays to get to the point where you know the deck well enough to make informed decisions about where to defend depending on what's coming up. Am eagerly awaiting getting this one, but will have to get to We Must Tell The Emperor played first which is still waiting to be punched. Have fun with the SoS Series... it's hard to go wrong.
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Thanks for review! Mine is coming tomorrow
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Stephen Collazo
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This is HIGH on my want list. Thanks for the review! Recently "discovered" VPG games (Alamo Remembered and Empires in America, my first 2 Victory Point Games and unlike so many of other games I own, these 2 are actually getting played!).
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Steve Carey
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Thnx for the concise review, David - I really appreciate the comments in regards to the rules as we put forth the maximum effort into making them tight.

Note that Air Support (-1 DRM to all Axis hit resolution rolls) is different than using ULTRA for Convoy Escort (negates all rolled Critical Hits).

And don't forget to seed Card 48 (Operation Torch) at the bottom of the Late War deck, too.

You're right about game length - we've officially adjusted it to 75 minutes.

A Draw in you first full game? Impressive. The game is very challenging by design because even though the Commonwealth won the historical campaign, they very easily could have lost and were constantly walking the tightrope.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and for helping spread the word about Malta Besieged - we're really proud of reaching our goal with this release.

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David Oldster
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Oops, yeah, the air support is different. I played it that way, but I didn't report it that way.

I missed the rule about Operation Torch, maybe my game wouldn't have been a draw. laugh

This is overall a really tight game that is still fun to play. Great job!
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