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Subject: First Battle rss

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Chris Rush
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Though my dad had gotten this for me a couple of years ago, I had not really had the chance to play it until my parents came to visit this past week (not me, of course, their grandchildren). It had been almost 2 years since we played Tactics II, so I had to re-familiarize myself with early Avalon Hill movement and strategy (i.e., brush up on my "soaking off"). Admittedly, I have far too little experience with these classic wargames, and though I acquired a few classic AH games this past summer (Civilization, 1776, Rise and Decline of the 3rd Reich, Siege of Jerusalem) as well as some older 3M sports games and a couple Axis and Allies versions, my children are too young to play them with me, and we don't have much time to play anyway. Thus it was nice to get to play one, even without much prior experience. This lack of experience showed in my poor setup and stacking. My dad, being far more experienced than I (we didn't play nearly as much growing up as we should have, which wasn't really anyone's fault, neither was his selling off his massive collection to pay for my brother's college education - including an unpunched Wacht am Rhein ... who knew?), did a much better job laying out his pieces.

I was Napoleon (nominally, only, since he did a much better job arranging his troops, despite his loss and my victory) and badly commingled several stacks of 4- and 6-movement groups, hampering the army's movement a great deal. I was aided by the generous "add 4 movement along primary roads" rule from this early game. Of course my dad stacked up his P-A-A defense at the roads junctures at Quatre Bras and Tilly, as well as the Dyle River headwaters. He left some wiggle room at Nivelles, probably because he was taking it a little easy on me, but I didn't utilize that side of the board much. Instead of biding my time, I took the "win by enemy defections" strategy of victory, instead of "eliminating all the P-A-A units" strategy. Since the commanders did nothing in this version, not even exerting a zone of control, I left them all behind, except for a couple I threw at Nivelles, just for fun. I flung most of my heavy fighters toward Quatre Bras, trying to skirt most of the cavalry up around St. Gery and through the river.

The first major offensive was a disaster for me, as was most of the die rolls until the very end of the game. I rolled mostly 5s and 6s, perhaps thinking it was Risk instead of an AH classic. I did not roll a single 1 the entire game. I had a few 2s, which usually worked against me, with those old CRTs (though I don't think I was using an original CRT for this game, since it was a chart, not a sliderule - perhaps borrowed from my AH Gettysburg game?). As I said, the first skirmish was a disaster: though I had a great number of forces, I failed to peek under all his stacks, and only ended up with a 2-1 ratio - of course I rolled a 6 and lost 5 units about 2 minutes into the game. The game proceeded much the same for quite a few turns. Somehow, I was able to skirt my cavalry along the right edge of the board and up the river, which never did much for my defense, since my dad always knew to attack with at least 1 unit also in the river or hilltop, negating my double defense (with only 1 exception the entire game).

Despite my original "plan," I was somehow able to eliminate a few of his center defense units, thanks to a strong 15-total stack I had march right up the road. He was a bit generous with his defensive posture, usually putting his units in close propinquity instead of with a hex between them, though he didn't take a dive by any means. He made mostly 6-8 strength stacks, instead of the extreme really strong or really weak stacks I did in my inexperience. He did allow me to rethink some of my combat breakdowns, encouraging me to do more soaking off instead of the instinctive "add them all up and go for it" tactic I tried to do too much. He also took it easy on his movement allowance, almost never maxing out his movements, even when it was in his best interest to move one or two more hexes. He says he wasn't letting me win, and it would be odd to let me win a game now (as opposed to 18 years ago), but experience probably could have won out against my poor die rolling and combat fecklessness.

Somehow I broke through the middle before too many reinforcements arrived (it seems my zealous frontal assault worked out after all), and I even managed to work some cavalry down the river (after fairly major casualties), and my "defection" strategy started to take shape. I re-glanced through the rulebook only to discover he could "defect" the reinforcements that hadn't yet arrived, so I had to backtrack a bit up the Waterloo road, making a rather pyrrhic stand around Mont. St. Jean (which I probably didn't need to do, since I could have evacuated my still in-tact 15-strength trio forcing him to defect 30 strength units, but I decided to stay and attack some units of his first). I lost quite a few units in this, but it managed to pay off in the end. My major central assault had by this time traveled through the ridges around Nivelles, facing more of his reinforcements, and finally having some die rolls go my way. Mostly it was "Exchange" (of course), but somehow, thanks to combat strategies he gave me mid-battle, I forced several of his weakened units to attack at poor odds, ending up in three "Attacker eliminated" rolls in a row, leaving the road to Waterloo mostly clear. The forest around Tilly action had left him in the dust, thanks to the road and my remaining horse artillery (which I unrealistically marched through the forest), and his generosity in his own movement patterns, and soon my "defection" strategy paid off. I did not have enough movement points to get off the board just yet, having a large army convention just along the edge of the board, but his heavy hitters were too far behind me to catch up, even with the road bonus, and I was able to win by defection the next turn. We didn't officially total up all the units, since after quite a few of my units moving off he counted up he wouldn't be able to stop me on the next turn, so we called it a victory for Napoleon, thanks to a generous filial Wellington, and a game that should have been played decades ago but was enjoyed this day nonetheless. (Perhaps enjoyed even more with the fact he had just bought me Leonardo da Vinci, Through the Ages, and Easy Money at the game/comic store earlier that afternoon.) Good times.
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Lewis Goldberg
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What a neat writeup! My Dad is gone over 10 years now and I still miss him. Enjoy the good times.

Don't know how old your kids are, but in my experience, 5 or 6 is not too young to introduce them to basic wargame concepts via Strike Force 1. It's an SPI oldie that you can Print-n-Play. They'll learn the concept of being able to move "all, some, or none" of their pieces, CRT combat, working towards a victory conditon, etc. Once they get familiar with that, "Dad's games" will look very intriguing to them if they have any taste for wargaming.

Sounds like we'd be an even match playing wargames - too bad you're not closer
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Chris Rush
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I didn't know until tonight you commented on and tipped my session report. Thanks for both; I appreciate it. My kids are 3 and 1, so some time to go before we get to wargames. My 3-year-old and I have been playing a summer-long session of Candy Land, though.
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Lewis Goldberg
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Uncas007 wrote:
My 3-year-old and I have been playing a summer-long session of Candy Land, though.


Session reports!
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