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Fun City Gaming

This is a weekly report of our Tuesday night gaming sessions in Chelsea (Manhattan).

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AAR 19 April 2016 - Advanced Squad Leader, Pericles, Virgin Queen, Pitch Fleet

J. R. Tracy
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We had thirteen players last week for some old favorites, a new offering, and a playtest.

The Virgin Queen crew continued into the third turn. The Spanish are busy suppressing the Protestants in the Netherlands, but the Huguenots are rising in France. Philip II threw a dagger at Elizabeth, who survived but was not quick to forgive - English troops have landed in the Low Countries to assist the Dutch. With the Huguenot threat driving the French closer to Spain, we see the sides forming up for the long term in the west.

Don Johnny on the spot

Out east, the mighty Ottomans suffered a blow when mutiny sent a whopping twelve strength points AWOL. That gave the Holy Roman Empire the upper hand in Central Europe, but Sultan Hawkeye is already rebuilding with a gleam of vengeance in his eye. The HRE could well tip the balance in the west but overcommitment there might leave the door open for an Ottoman counterstrike. The Protestants have a one point edge over Spain, but no one is a threat for a lightning win. Machinations continue....

Tribal warfare

Don Pablo and Brother Paul squared off for an ASL match of Friendly Fire's FrF 82, Riders on the Storm. Set in 1944 Provence, encircled German elements have to fight through a screen of Maquis before dealing with a mixed bag of GIs with armor support. The Germans have flaktracks, obsolete TDs, and other odds and ends, while the Americans have a fighter bomber to make things interesting. Unfortunately for Don Pablo, snipers sent two of his AFVs home almost immediately, and Paul's Hellcat arrived to nail two more (hull down no less) with Bounding Fire APCR shots. Pablo lacked the armor support he needed to break through the dogfaces, so he gracefully conceded.

Pushing past the partisans

Mark introduced his latest effort, Pericles, a game on the Peloponnesian War loosely based on the Churchill model. Maynard and I ran Athens against Dan VIII and Bill as Sparta. Each player-pair (Aristocrats/Demagogues for Athens, Agiads/Eurypontids for Sparta) competes to run their city-state, and then cooperates against the enemy in the general conflict.

Each three-year turn opens with an Aristophanes card, basically a random event thematically linked to one of Aristophanes' plays. Next, the factions of each city meet in their respective Ekklesia to debate the issues of the day. As with Churchill, issues are proposed and 'debated' via card play, which pushes them one way or the other along an influence track. You win whichever issues end up on your side of the track, collecting strategos tokens along the way. These tokens are used later to fund actions. Whichever faction wins the most issues controls their city for the remainder of the turn.

What's the name of your act?

The issue tokens are then distributed around the theater map for execution. Players place issues one at a time (face down) in sequence, so if multiple issues are placed in one region, they will be resolved in a queue in reverse order of placement, like the orders in Forbidden Stars. Issue types placed on the map include Diplomatic (building influence or flipping enemy allies to your side), League (building allied bases and units), Military (building units or moving and fighting), and Oracle (pick up Honor, remove enemy units, or build influence). Decoy issues are provided for deception. Three more issue types are resolved offboard - Games award Honor (VPs) or strategos tokens depending if you are at peace or war, Ostracism grants your faction control of the city regardless of how many issues you won, and War/Peace might flip the overall status (both cities must select Peace for a treaty, only one city need declare War).

Most map activity is straightforward but resolving a Military issue in a contested area is a little more involved. This is considered an expedition commanded by the issue 'owner'. All four players secretly commit strategos tokens to fight (1-5 for the expedition commander, 1-4 for everyone else). These contribute combat strength but also determine the amount of Honor at stake in the battle. The expedition commander (only) may summon reinforcements based on the total number of strategos tokens committed by his side.

This...is Sparta!

Combat resolution is a diceless comparison of strength - Athens is better at sea, Sparta better on land. The winner is determined, casualties are removed, and Honor is won or lost. Both factions of the winning side gain Honor, but the ruling faction earns a little more. If a given side's field forces are completely eliminated, his bases and influence are removed as well. However, a friendly fleet paddling around after losing a land battle can save your bases. This is vital, as bases are necessary to build and support units, and their loss really kicks up the Honor damage.

We played the shorter First Peloponnesian War scenario, a minimum of three turns (ending with peace after three turns or six turns total if we remained at war). In our game, Maynard and I decided to hold Sparta at bay in the Isthmus of Corinth while expanding our hegemony through the region. We fought tooth and nail for the right to rule Athens but were in perfect harmony in terms of foreign policy. We made peace with the Persians and scattered bases across the Aegean and westward toward Sicily. We fought several losing battles on the Isthmus but our mighty fleet just offshore preserved our presence. Unfortunately, our diplomatic success did not outweigh the honor lost in battle, so when peace finally did come, Sparta won pulling away, with Dan VIII the overall winner. That makes him the current world Pericles champion, but before he gets a big head, I'll point out he's also the fourth-worst player on the planet.

Contesting the Isthmus

I enjoyed the game and the structure. The board action is more wargamey and less linear than Churchill, but retains the same sense of directing a sweeping conflict as a supreme ruler rather than as a field officer. The debate engine is sound and the few random events we saw were interesting and appropriately scaled, but there are still some things to work through in terms of combat resolution and tweaking the honor system. I appreciated the tension of faction competition at home and warfighting abroad, but I was playing in the spirit of the topic. It will take a more critical eye to make sure that tension is genuine. We also need to explore the tools provided to thwart your faction-rival in foreign affairs (for instance, it is possible to weaken or even scotch altogether a partner's military expedition). Overall, an intriguing mix of proven concepts and fresh ideas applied to a difficult theme - looking forward to further playtests!

Don Pablo, Dan VIII, Mark, and I wrapped up with Pitch Fleet, a flicky space racing game in the spirit of PitchCar with a touch of Ascending Empires. We split into two teams and raced through a series of six planets. Successive planet targets are determined by random draw from the planet deck, and each player is dealt a hand of three 'power cards' for that leg of the race. The power cards determine how you can flick (thumb only, ring finger, the dreaded catapult, etc) as well as a victory point reward or penalty condition, for each move (three moves per planet-leg). For instance, I might have to use my thumb but I would score points for knocking another ship onto a planet. All very straightforward and occasionally quite challenging.

Ready for launch

Don Pablo and I started out well, beating Dan VIII and Mark to the first couple planets and picking up some bonuses along the way. Unfortunately, Dan VIII is an experienced star pilot and Crokinole wizard, and his steady play eroded our lead. We were winning going into the final planet, but were undone by an asteroid belt, an errant catapult flip, and some clutch piloting by Dan and Mark. Great filler fun, worth a look for dexterity fans!

Mark sends one into the void
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Tue Apr 26, 2016 5:03 pm
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AAR 12 April 2015 - Star Wars Rebellion, Concordia, Virgin Queen, 1989

J. R. Tracy
United States
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We had fifteen gamers last week for mostly multiplayer action.

Scott, Dutch, Mark, and El Rios took another shot at Star Wars: Rebellion, with Scott and El Rios running the Empire. Dutch and Mark tucked their base on lonely Ilum, near the heart of the Empire, and set out to fan the flames of freedom. The early going saw a lot of Rebel production, thanks to intrepid diplomacy, but repeated sabotage missions were either opposed or immediately undone. By midgame both sides had strong forces deployed.

The pride of the Alliance

Though doing well on the conventional front, the Rebels were struggling with irregular warfare. In addition to their sabotage troubles, they just couldn't complete any of their objectives. Things took a turn for the worse when General Rieekan was captured. Imperial interrogators strapped him to the Comfy Chair upon which he quickly divulged three possible Base locations. The Empire smashed into Ilum and despite a valiant defense, the rebellion was quickly snuffed out.

He switched off his targeting computer

Unlike the previous week, this time they strictly followed the four player rules, which add some friction and create timing issues. Opinions were mixed - Dutch didn't feel they were worth the hassle, but Scott thought they added to the experience. Everyone had fun, but agreed the failure to hit objectives doomed the good guys. So far we've had a pair of Empire wins, but we will crack the code for Rebel success soon.

Inordinately proud

The second half of the Here I Stand/Virgin Queen derby commenced, with Campoverdi taking up Spain, Smitch France, Mitch the Holy Romans, Stéphane the Protestants, Hawkeye reprising the Ottomans, and Jim the eponymous virgin. In two turns of play things look tight, with Spain slightly out in front. England and France are trying very hard to make peace, while the Proddies have made good headway in the Low Countries. That may soon be reversed, however, as the tercios are marching north to enforce God's will. More to follow in the coming weeks.

They always start out as friends

Dave and Maynard squared off in 1989: Dawn of Freedom, with Maynard running the regimes to Dave's democrats. Killer card combos and the retention of a couple countries swung the game to the Communists, with Maynard taking home the win.

The east remains red

Last up, Natus, Dr. Rob, and I tried Concordia, a deck building and set collection game set in ancient Rome. Players send their colonists across the map to set up outposts in the great trading cities of the ancient world. Every settlement features a particular good (brick, grain, tools, wine, cloth in ascending value). Produced goods are stored in your warehouse, and may be sold, exchanged for other goods, or used as part of the purchase of cards, colonists, or new settlements. The cards themselves allow particular actions, and each card aligns with a god from the Roman pantheon. At game end, you score VPs based on the god-cards in your deck. Each god has a particular objective (Mars loves colonists, Jupiter is fond of settlements, etc) and multiple cards for a given god will multiply your score - three Mars cars will triple your colonist tally, for instance.

The tentacles of commerce

I quickly grabbed a tool city and a cloth city, and decided to continue to develop those commodities going forward. Natus was just spreading everywhere, grabbing cheap settlements (usually brick) wherever possible. Rob was a single-minded vintner, ultimately cornering the wine market by settling all but one wine city. As the game clock wound down, Rob was in a position to end it, but wasn't sure how we stood for final scoring and decided to press on. In the end, he won with about 154 to my 146 to Nate's 138 - the stack of points from his wine monopoly easily outstripped our more diversified strategies. He would've won by even more had he closed things down a turn sooner, since I netted fifteen points on my last turn.

Never mind the quality

I can't say the game exactly drips theme, but we had fun working through the trading and timing puzzles. I found myself caught out a couple times by inadvertently precluding a more attractive option with an impulsive choice. One neat aspect is the Diplomat card which allows something akin to Glory to Rome's 'follow' action - you get to copy another player's most recent card. A few times I was able to anticipate someone else's choice and set myself up to take advantage of it, always fun when you can pull it off. It's a good, deepish Euro worth exploring, and should prove popular with our crowd going forward.
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Wed Apr 20, 2016 12:44 pm
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AAR 5 April 2015 - Star Wars Rebellion, BattleStar Galactica, Here I Stand, Alhambra

J. R. Tracy
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New York
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We opened April with a whopping sixteen gamers, jammed in for a variety of multiplayer action.

With folks trickling in, Dan VIII pulled out Klask, a typical Dolan delight, and Herr Fuchs and I gave it a try. It's a hockey-like game with players manipulating pawns to strike a ball toward the enemy goal. The gimmick is the pawns are controlled by magnets beneath the playing surface. Three more magnets act as obstacles. Points are scored via goals, but you also score a point if your opponent makes an own goal, his pawn stumbles into his own goal, or if he collects a couple of the obstacle-magnets. Needless to say, the last three conditions generated over half our scoring. I had a healthy lead but David chipped away until we were each one a way from the win...and I sent my pawn tumbling into my goal. Good goofy fun.

Dextrous

CattleCar Galactica can accommodate a crowd, so Mark set it up along with Maynard, Dan VIII, Bill, Volko (the King of COIN), and Volko's buddy Mike. Dan VIII maintained a steely robotic persona but somehow was allowed to continue breathing oxygen. Other than that, no obvious toasters appeared as the dials steadily ticked downward.

Redlining

Mark used every opportunity to direct suspicion toward Volko, a sure sign of ulterior motives. With fuel at bingo, it looked like all was lost with the fleet almost home. However, a Raptor sniffed out some extra juice, so maybe humanity would be saved after all. At that point, Mark said "Uh-uh" and blew up the ship, exchanging a high five with fellow Cylon Maynard. Dan VIII's pulsing red eyes remain unexplained.

Blow 'em all out the airlock just to be safe

Last week's Here I Stand game continued, with Campoverdi's Habsburgs a key away from a win. Campo spent a lonely Diplomacy phase while the rest of the table conspired against him. Once they got rolling, Campo marched on Algiers, besieged it, and seized it via Treachery! for the victory. The Blame and Recriminations phase immediately commenced and has yet to cease. Most of the same crew will fire up Virgin Queen in a week or two.

Algiers for the win

Dutch, Dr. Rob, Herr Fuchs, and I broke out the new Star Wars: Rebellion, with Dutch and Dr. Rob running the bad guys while David and I handled the Rebels. For those few unaware of this game, the Rebels have a hidden base somewhere on the map, and the Empire must find and eliminate it. The Empire is working against the clock, losing if the turn marker reaches the Rebel Reputation marker before they nail the base. The Rebels try to complete particular objectives which move their Reputation marker down the track towards to the turn marker, while resisting the Empire's forces when and where it makes sense. Each side starts with four leaders and recruits four or five more over the course of the game from a pool of eight or so per side - these are used to move units and execute missions. We used the basic rules and fixed setup.

Sith 1 and Sith 2

David and I made a mistake right off the bat, picking a productive system (Utapau) for the Rebel Base. This was a bad choice because we were then reluctant to use diplomacy on it to bring it explicitly into the Rebellion, for fear the Empire would react and stumble upon our hidey-hole. Live and learn! Elsewhere, we weren't doing bad - the Stormtroopers and friends walked all over us, but we completed a couple objectives and even raided Coruscant for two reputation points. Sadly for Jabba's cousins, Nal Hutta was ionized by a Death Star, but we didn't much care for his kind anyway.

Degentrification

Unfortunately for The Cause, the Empire was approaching the Rebel Base and we had no real chance of resisting. Our one hope was to move the Base and hope to complete some objectives before it was found again. We jumped to Dantooine and had five potential reputation points in hand, enough to end the game if we completed them all. Unfortunately, moving the Base is just a notional act - the existing garrison stays in the old system. So, all the Empire had to do was walk in to take the new place until we sent in some troops. Sadly, we only completed two more rep points' worth of objectives before everyone's favorite Sith Lord kicked down the door of our new digs. Victory for the Empire, but a lot of fun for everyone.

Dropping in for a visit

We played a few rules wrong (moved our base immediately instead of at the end of the turn, rolled for 'Attempt' missions even if unopposed, etc) but overall the rulebooks seem clear if a little scattered. Combat is involved but much cleaner than Forbidden Stars, to which I've heard it compared. The mix of missions, objectives, and character recruitment is certain to vary widely from game to game, which assures good replayability. If you like the subject matter, I doubt you'll be disappointed - the theme is well executed. However, with 25 leaders a few undeveloped minor characters unavoidably appear, particularly on the Empire side, like Force Choke Guy and Died on the Death Star Guy. That's not really an issue, of course, and prompted me to look 'em up on the Wookipedia to find out more about them. Solid game, solid theme, solid fun.

No Wookiee no cry

Last up, Stéphane, Hawkeye, Dave, and Campo played Alhambra; I'm pretty sure Dave closed out the evening with a win. It was a crowded night, but we survived!

Nightcap
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Sun Apr 17, 2016 5:49 pm
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AAR 29 March 2016 - Blood Rage, War of the Rings, Here I Stand, Glory to Rome

J. R. Tracy
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We had fifteen players for three big games to close out March, with enough energy for a nightcap to boot.

GorGor, Bill, Scott, and Brother Leon tackled Blood Rage, a mix of first-time players and not-quite-veterans. Bill embraced the Loki strategy for the first two Ages, working it to good success and a lead entering the third Age.

Raging

Scott wallowed forty points behind the leaders, but had steadily built up all three of his dials, which translated into more (and more effective) actions and a nice VP kicker at game end. Sure enough, he came roaring back, ripping through the pack to pluck a win.

Whip my hair

Our annual Here I Stand/Virgin Queen derby kicked off, with Smitch taking France, Campoverdi the Habsburgs, Hawkeye the Ottomans, Dave the Pope, Jim Spain, and Maynard the Protestants. Negotiations were conducted ahead of time so the crew was ready to go and hit the ground running.

His turn to stand

Smitch made a fairly standard opening for France, grabbing Metz before moving on to the rest of his to-do list. Unfortunately, he undergarrisoned the city and Campo was quick to grab it. Out east, a couple foreign war cards stripped Ottoman troops from the frontier, and soon both Buda and Belgrade were in Habsburg hands. As the evening drew to a close, Campo was on the precipice victory, but will face the combined wrath of Europe when we return next week.

Just a key away

Mark, Tenno, Natus, and I decided to try a four-handed game of War of the Ring. Tenno ran Mordor, Natus moved into Isengard, I had the Elves and Gondor, and Mark had Rohan and the rest of the Free Peoples. Mark is an old hand at the game, Nate and I had a little experience, and Tenno was trying it for the first time.

Mark and I quickly settled on a Mad Frodo: Fury Road strategy, and sent the Fellowship running hell-bent for leather towards Mordor. We split our draws early between strategy and character cards, but by midgame focused exclusively on character draws in search of anything that could aid the Ringbearer's quest.

Sauron makes a suggestion

Saruman fired up the Uruk-Hai and fell upon the poor peaceful folk of Rohan. Mark did what he could to preserve strength, giving ground in front of the betrayer's hordes. Natus was moving so fast we felt we had to take some chances, and cut through Moria with the Fellowship to save time. Fortunately the Balrog was napping so we slipped through unscathed. Gandalf departed for a costume change so Strider took over as guide.

We had great luck on our run to Mordor - noble companions fell one by one for the cause, but several cards reduced our corruption and we managed to get three of the four blue Hunt tiles into the bag. Before the Fellowship reached Mordor proper, Strider peeled off for Minas Tirith to accept his crown. We only had two corruption as Gollum took over to lead us up the slopes of Mount Doom.

From the cellars of Isengard

Meanwhile, Natus and Tenno split their attention between hunting the Fellowship and marshaling forces against our strongholds. Unfortunately for them, their hunting was undone by poor cards on their part and well-timed draws on ours. On the military front I had Minas Tirith loaded for bear so the Shadow pursued softer objectives. However, it was clear the game would come down to the fate of the Ring. Despite our relatively good health going in, the corruption piled up quickly. We were a couple steps shy of a win, but the hunt box was full of eyes thanks to a card, and a couple unlucky draws could sink us. Tenno pulled one Eye tile, running us to within two points of crossing over to the dark side. Fortune smiled as the next tile took us to the hoop, with Frodo executing a three-sixty thunderslam for a glorious Free People win.

On the doorstep

It was a fun game, and worked well with four. It came down to a combination of great card draws that facilitated our single-minded strategy, and too much caution on the military front for the Shadow after they rolled Rohan. I think Tenno is hooked, though, and is itching to put the lessons learned to good use.

Bill, Scott, GorGor, and Leon wrapped up with a rousing game of Glory to Rome. They went the distance, draining the deck without hitting an auto-win. Everyone's vault was stuffed, but it was down to Brother Leon and Scott - Leon had the edge in Merchant bonuses, which proved enough to pip Scott by a point. Great cap to a fun evening, sending Leon off in search of a copy for himself, poor soul.

Bound for glory
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Mon Apr 11, 2016 4:43 pm
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AAR 16 March 2016 - Advanced Squad Leader, Triumph & Tragedy, The Gallerist, God Kings

J. R. Tracy
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We had a dozen players on Saint Paddy's Day eve, with a couple learning games and a pair played to conclusion.

Natus, Campoverdi, Dave, and Dr. Rob tackled The God Kings: Warfare at the Dawn of Civilization, 1500 – 1260BC, with Nate running the Babylonians, Campo the Mittani, Dave the Hittites, and Dr. Rob the Egyptians.

On the first turn Natus and Campo tangled with Babylon getting the worst of it despite having the odds in her favor. Dave's Hittites filled a vacuum in Anatolia, while Dr. Rob readied his war engine for impending conflict. On the second turn, the Mittani were hit from all sides. Campo turned to face Dr. Rob while Nate took advantage of the distraction. Dave took a piece of Mittani territory as well. All was not rosy for the non-Mittani, as event-driven rebellions proved a nuisance for both Babylon and Egypt.

Crawling up the coast

That's as far as they got, but the impression was positive. They found it less involved than Genesis: Empires and Kingdoms of the Ancient Middle East, which is surprising because Genesis is pretty straightforward in my opinion. However, as with Genesis, the GK factions are rather generic, distinguished more by geography than by capability. Events do add faction character, though, and when the Mitttani morph into the Assyrians allowances are made for Ashur's Finest. A promising first run and worth a re-visit.

Il Duce of Babylon

Hawkeye and Scott decided to practice their ASL combined arms skilz with Hart Attack, an old ASLUG scenario updated in the recent ASL Journal #11. British infantry, supported by American M3 Lees, are attacking Fallschirmjägers in Tunisia. The German infantry is tough, the terrain is channeling, and they have a 40mm squeezebore anti tank gun in support. A gaggle of Panzer IIIs show up mid-game to help out the defense. The Allies need to capture buildings and exit AFVs, with knocked-out Panzers reducing their VP target.

Leading with Lees

The early going saw the German ATG trading shots with a Lee, shocking it twice, until the gun position disappeared in a burst of 75mm high explosive. The British infantry was oozing around the flanks with the German infantry screen falling back as best it could. The loss of the gun will certainly hurt the defense but help is on the way. They called it early, with looming commitments preventing a continuation. This was already a good scenario, and I think the new configuration makes it even better - I hope they get a chance to return to it.

Summoning a crit

Smitch brought down The Gallerist, a pretty heavy Euro with an art market theme, and was joined by Jim and Mitch. The players are gallery owners who expend actions discovering, developing, and exploiting marketing talent. As Smitch describes it, it has a nice find-extra-actions emphasis, with actions the primary resource. Unlike some other games, choosing a particular function doesn't block the other players, but if they pick that action they kick out your piece, effectively granting you a bonus action that turn. Anticipating the needs of other players and nipping in just ahead of them to earn extra moves seems to be a vital tactic. Smitch had a couple sessions in already while Jim and Mitch were new to the game, and the experience helped him to a healthy 208-128-102 win. However, the bulk of his victory margin was derived from the international market, an element largely unexplored by Jim and Mitch which really isn't felt until the final tally. All three very much enjoyed the game and it looks like it will return.

Artsy-fartsy

Last up, GorGor, Dutch, and I had a great game of Triumph & Tragedy. Dutch had the Reds and GorGor the Axis, while I ran the West. As the West I'm always fearful of an early Axis Blitz, so I split my production between a judicious buildup and diplomatic activity, trying to get the US in as soon as possible. I didn't have much luck with the US at first, but I did snag Persia as a satellite. Dutch saw this as a reckless encroachment of his natural sphere of influence, and despite my protests at the time, in retrospect I concede his point. He responded with a prompt invasion of Persia, and we were at war.

Persian distraction

Unfortunately for Dutch and his Kremlin cronies, his invasion failed to secure Persia in three seasons of campaigning, despite outnumbering me 3:1 in steps. Epically awful dierolling was a disaster for the Soviet cause, as it sucked up production better used elsewhere and the delay pushed the conquest of Delhi from a foregone conclusion to a long shot. In the meantime, GorGor steadily gobbled up Mitteleuropa with deft diplomacy, ignoring the steady stream of telegrams from Moscow with messages like "He only built five steps last turn! *Five*!" My own diplomatic efforts paid off too, with the US finally joining my camp. My anxiety shifted from existential terror to a more refined unease at the actions of our suspiciously peace-loving Führer.

The Baltic States are nervous

Axis production was up to 17 and Steve had a handful of Peace Dividend chits and a growing vault of mystery technologies. My own troop strength wasn't great, but I had Jets and Rocket Artillery, so I felt it was time to bring Germany into the war. After seizing the Low Countries, I invaded the Ruhr. I was thrown back, and even lost the Low Countries themselves, but at least the Peace chit pipeline was shut down and Axis production was now tied to their vulnerable resource pool. Rather than push his luck in the west, GorGor turned east instead. Dutch had nibbled at bits of Poland and nearby territories, but quickly pulled back in the face of GorGor's own Rocket Artillery (rocketless Dutch: "Preposterous! We practically invented it!"). As the Axis armies pushed deeper into the USSR, I saw an opening and knocked Italy out of the war, with French troops leading the way.

Undone by the underbelly

With Rome in hand and a heap of Western steps on the doorstep of the Ruhr, we called it as a West victory in '43. GorGor revealed just how close it was - he had six points from Peace chits (in four draws!) and one step of an A-Bomb built. With 17 points of production, he was just one shy of an auto-victory, so war came in the nick of time. Dutch was unduly hosed by his Persian adventure, and I was the primary beneficiary - by the odds I should've been down a major capital and struggling to remain relevant. It was a good, tense game, with many lessons learned (and mis-learned too, I'm sure) - I've yet to have a dud game of T&T, and already look forward to our next session.

Statistically irritating
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Mon Apr 4, 2016 2:24 pm
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AAR 9 March 2016 - Advanced Squad Leader, 1989, Neanderthal, Forbidden Stars, Fields of Battle Volume 1 - The Great Northern War

J. R. Tracy
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We had ten players a couple weeks ago, fighting on Earth and across the cosmos.

Scott and Jim returned to Neanderthal, with Scott a Cro-Magnon and Jim the eponymous Neanderthal. Scott again struggled on the food front, while Jim's randy Neanderthals used both gathering and some big hunting scores to expand their population. Jim maintained his lead and kept the good hunting grounds to himself, converting to tribal in the closing turns to seal a win.

Tribal elders confer

I initially overlooked Jim and Scott's second game, the Kliszow scenario of Fields of Battle Volume 1, The Great Northern War, because I somehow failed to get a picture of them in action. Fortunately Scott took a couple shots himself to accompany his excellent writeup, which may be found here.

Dave and Stéphane played 1989: Dawn of Freedom, with Dave running the democratic movement against Stéphane's regimes. They're well-matched at this point, and went the distance in a close game. However, Stéphane managed to retain control of two countries, and the resulting bonus gave him the win. It's good to see a winning strategies developing for the Reds, contrary to our early experience.

Freedom waits for another day

Mark, Mitch, Smitch, and Bill traveled into the future for Forbidden Stars, a space conquest game set in the WH40K universe. Mark ran the Eldar, Mitch the Chaos Marines, Smitch the Orks, and Bill the Ultramarines. This was the first or second game for everyone so it moved a little slowly, but they had a lot of fun with it. Deft use of the warp storms frustrated many plans, but by the time they called it Smitch had the edge with two objective tokens in hand against one for everyone else. Other than an over-involved combat resolution system, I really like the game, and hope it sees more table time.

Chaos versus the Ultras

Hawkeye and I paired up for ASL. We selected Riding to the Rescue, designed by our very own Jon Bays, a sinister Canadian who hides his true malignance behind a veil of courtesy and good humor. The setting is 1940 France, and I had to extract a force of encircled second line British infantry with the help of late-arriving armor. I could head either for a long board edge or dash across a bridge. I chose the latter, as the terrain seemed to offer more cover on the approach, while the board edge option required battling through some stone buildings. My infantry was crap, but I had three zippy Mark VI light tanks on hand and a couple mediums arriving mid-game, against a pair of armored cars for Hawkeye.

Triple teamed

I opened by going after Hawkeye's armored cars, throwing all three Mark VIs against one. I managed to knock a tire off, but one of my tanks was immobilized as well. My infantry took out the other A/C with an ATR; I eventually killed the immobilized PSW, but lost a tank myself to a German ATR. My fight through the woods toward the bridge was held up by a very stubborn German squad, and by the time I solved that little problem, Hawkeye had brought up the forces who had been guarding the now-irrelevant board edge. I still had to get by the bridge garrison but now the bridge itself would be under German fire.

The bridge defenders didn't put up much of a fight, but Hawkeye had a couple clusters of Germans with line of sight to my exit path. I still had my medium tanks, however - one was an infantry support tank, armed only with smoke rounds. This seemed like just the ticket to deal with a leader-directed medium machine gun. Unfortunately, I missed my first smoke attempt as well as a second Intensive Fire shot. My other medium took care of a second machine gun position, but I would now be facing a -1 shot in my exit hex, along with the resulting residual firepower for later units. I had just enough units in range to theoretically win, but Hawkeye broke the first troops to move, sealing my fate.

Perilous crossing

This was a very fun scenario, a difficult puzzle for both sides. I was too slow in reaching the bridge, and perhaps a little careless with my armor. I needed to reserve a unit or two along with a tank to harass Hawkeye's follow-up group, who approached essentially unmolested. I also needed to get my smoke tank into better position - an orchard hindrance made the difference on my last-turn miss, and there were at least two other spots I could've parked with better lines of sight. Hawkeye did a good job keeping up the pressure and identifying the ideal positions to interdict my final rush. Nice situation, and short enough to finish on a weeknight.
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Mon Mar 21, 2016 1:00 pm
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AAR 23 February 2016 - Crusade and Revolution, Neanderthal, Pax Pamir, Blood Rage, Bellum Gallicum II

J. R. Tracy
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We had fourteen gamers a couple weeks ago for a millennia-spanning selection of games, with some mythology thrown in.

Mark and Hawkeye finished their game of Crusade and Revolution, having reached the War of the Columns.

With a little help from their friends

Mark continued to preserve and protect Republican morale, holding onto province capitals and playing morale-boosting events whenever possible. Hawkeye pressured Madrid and cracked the outer defenses but could not take the capital itself, despite the aid of his Fascist patrons.

The Basques hang on

In the north, the Republic held its ground, and once the mighty Asturian corps appeared, Hawkeye's job was doubly difficult. A ripe crop of morale points remained just out of reach. With each passing turn, the morale threshold for Republican defeat receded, and the threshold for auto-victory approached. Finally, on the eve of the War of the Armies, the Nationalist battleship España struck a mine off the northern coast. The resulting boost to Republican morale cinched a victory for the regime, after a hard-fought war. Another good session with a game that grows more interesting with each playing.

The final blow

Dave, Campoverdi, Smitch, and Natus dove into Blood Rage. Dave had the run of the board after the first Age, but Campo closed the gap in the second thanks to a Loki-based strategy. However, the Age concluded with a massive battle amid the roots of Yggdrasil, during which Smitch played Odin's Tide, reducing everyone to a single figure each. The final Age was a battle between Smitch and Dave for first, but Smitch held the mighty Odin's Throne card, doubling his quest points. That was good for a solid victory, with Dave in second, and Campo edging Natus for third.

Natehalla

Scott and Jim squared off for a scenario of Bellum Gallicum II, a Vae Victis game on Caesar's adventures in Gaul. Scott's Helvetii were on the move, trying to reach the coast, while Jim's legions tried to stop them. Jim adopted a Hearts and Minds policy, cutting out Helvetic hearts and cleaving Helvetic skulls.

Dividing Gaul

This proved successful, thanks to some lopsided results on the swingy skirmish CRT and the mobility of the Romans, who force-marched with seeming impunity. Neither player was impressed, but they did say it's possible the scenario doesn't reflect the game's strengths the way a campaign might.

On the run

They followed up with Neanderthal, the latest groovy Eklund offering. Players propagate their species, expand their skill sets, and develop their tribal culture. Half the fun is trying to bring down the various critters that roam the prehistoric landscape without getting consumed in turn by the other predators in the neighborhood. Scott built a nice lead in intellect, but unfortunately his big-brained hipsters were so busy composing Beat poetry they forgot to send out for pizza before the big storm hit. A chaos event wiped out Scott's tribe, handing Jim a win, but I think they uncovered a rules error or two in the recap. Regardless, good experience gaming, and sure to return to the table soon.

Today's menu

Last up, GorGor, Dr. Rob, Bill, Brother Leon, and myself got in a couple games of an earlier Sierra Madre effort, Cole Wehrle's Pax Pamir. Dr. Rob poached a win in the first game with a deft manipulation of the regime status, overcoming Leon's superior board position. He zipped out the door, so we reset for a four-hander.

I can see my house from here!

Our second game saw the locals dominating. This was great for GorGor and myself, who enjoyed the lead in Afghan prestige - I was slightly ahead and well positioned for a win after the first couple Topples passed without incident. Unfortunately, the third topple was long in coming, and Leon avenged his close loss in the first game by grabbing a win in the second, thanks to timely plays from his hand to secure the dominance he needed in the nick of time. I am warming to the game - I think I like the gritty confusion of Pax Porfiriana a little more, but I appreciate the relative clarity of Pax Pamir's presentation, and enjoy the added geographical dimension.

Afghanistan for the Afghans!
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Mon Mar 14, 2016 1:28 pm
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AAR 16 February 2016 - To the Gates of Vienna, Crusade and Revolution: The Spanish Civil War, 1989: Dawn of Freedom, Mythotopia, A Study In Emerald (2nd Edition)

J. R. Tracy
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We had ten players last week for some wargaming, euros, and crossovers.

1989 has been getting a lot of interest lately and we had two games going side by side. Stéphane and Maynard paired up, with Stéphane taking the Reds. This was a tight game on the board, with Stéphane’s regimes grudgingly giving ground to the rise of democracy. The VP count was close with the play of the last card, but this proved deceptive. Stéphane retained control of two countries, and the added bonus bumped him up to a comfortable victory margin. Dave also won with the Communists in a very quick first game with Smitch, but they reset and played nine of ten turns of a very close rematch, to be concluded next week.

Dueling '89s

We had another rematch at the other end of the room, as Mark and Hawkeye returned to Crusade and Revolution, switching sides with Mark defending the Republic. Mark concentrated on Republican survival, hoping to counter growing Nationalist strength long enough to survive the War of the Columns and reach the Mobilization (middle) deck. As such, he defended the province capitals and tried to keep the Northern and Southern fronts separated as long as possible.

Klown Kars lead the way

Hawkeye ultimately broke through from the south, thanks to the Italian CV-33s, but the regime's morale remained high. However, the various Nationalist strongholds continue to hold out and could generate some morale hits should Hawkeye manage to relieve them. The Madrid front has settled into a stalemate for now, as the War of the Columns draws to a close. Next week we will see Mobilization, and with it the large corps-sized units. Good game so far, and fun to watch.

The Alcázar still stands!

Mitch paired up with his son Eliot and tried Mythotopia, the Wallace deck-building conquest game. They were playing for the first time but as experienced deck-builders they warmed to it quickly. Eliot eventually wrangled a concession from dad after an apocalyptic battle in the middle of the map. I think they enjoyed the game, and didn't notice the end-game issues others have found. However, they might not come into play in a two-handed session.

For the win

Scott and I broke out To the Gates of Vienna, an operational game from S&T on the 1683 Ottoman invasion of the Holy Roman Empire. Players command leaders along with (mostly) brigades of cavalry and infantry, with siege artillery and supply train units thrown in. Hexes are twelve miles across and turns are monthly. Activity is governed by morale points, which are expended to activate stacks, draw 'Campaign' markers (random event chits), prosecute sieges, or, for the impatient, storm fortresses outright, and other fun stuff. The Morale track also determines victory, as bad outcomes damage your standing, restrict your ability to act, and ultimately (spoiler alert) inflict defeat.

The traitor Thököly and friends

The turn sequence is simple - calculate morale points, then conduct operations with alternating activations. Combat is odds-based, with each side having its own CRT - there is some attacker attrition, particularly through the 'counterattack' result. Siege attempts are resolved via a table (again, each side has its own) with siege guns adding extra rolls, as do some leaders with an engineering ability. A breach result on a siege roll generates a battle without the defensive benefits of the fortress walls. Alternatively you may attempt to storm a fortress, but then the heavy multipliers kick in. All of this costs morale points, and at some point you are forced to pass (you lose once you hit zero morale or below). Finally, you resolve logistics and attrition, and set up any reinforcements received that turn.

The game opened with Scott's Ottomans massed in Belgrade in the southeastern corner of the map, with garrisons scattered across fickle Hungary and a sizable force in Buda. My Habsburgs were spread from Vienna to points east, with some loyal Croats around Gratz. Each turn's initial morale is determined by fortresses held, so I planned on pruning Ottoman holdings as much as I could before the Sultan really got rolling. Erdödy led his Croats south and subdued a couple small fortresses along the Drava River, while Lorraine and Esterhazy rolled up the Turks along the Danube on their way to the great prize of Buda. I also bought a couple Campaign chits in the hope of scoring some reinforcements; the Saxons appeared, and the Pope was kind enough to offer his blessings - a whopping eleven bonus morale points!

Fruitless effort

Going into the second month, I had the upper hand, thanks largely to the bonus actions granted by the Pope's good word. Buda was proving a little stubborn, unfortunately, but all the smaller holdings I picked up ate into Scott's morale total and boosted my own. I pressed my siege of Buda, welcoming the Saxon supply unit since I had to burn an Imperial train to feed my besiegers. The ominous rumble of kettledrums echoed up the Drava, but I figured I'd take Buda, grab Pest across the river, and enjoy a substantial operational advantage before the Sultan approached Vienna. Never mind the fact my siege attempts were costing me three points a clip (off a game-opening base of twelve), or that my mighty army was melting like ice cream on a hot summer day.

By the third month, Buda still held. All my Austrian troops were committed, with the Bavarians assuming the defense of Vienna and the Reichsarmee riding to Lorraine's support. Erdödy's force disappeared under Janissary boots but I figured I still had a couple cracks at Buda before I had to return to defend the Hofburg. My next attempt failed, and suddenly the kettledrums were beating double-time as Scott force-marched the final stretch. "No worries", I thought, "his siege should take at least a month." Unfortunately, while the flower of Austrian youth perished by the thousands below the walls of Buda, the Sultan simply walked up to Vienna, said "Boo!", and my Bavarian defenders perished from fright. The defeat and subsequent loss of the capital broke the Empire's morale, ended Leopold's reign, and granted Scott a well deserved win.

This means nothing to me

We had a split opinion of the game, with Scott a little negative and me a little positive. We had the same complaints - the random events have no constraints or dependencies, unreduced fortresses on your line of communication can be ignored, and the combat and siege tables have some flaky aspects - but they weighed more heavily in Scott's opinion than mine. I felt the game had a nice pace, hit the highlights of the campaign in terms of position and maneuver, and had an epic feel appropriate to the conflict. The diplomatic context of the campaign was highly chaotic, so I can appreciate the randomness in the Campaign chits. However, an ill-timed event could decide the game on the spot - Sobieski might show up before the Ottoman main force crosses Hungary, for instance, in which case the Sultan should probably turn around and head home. Judicious surgery would improve the historical fidelity, but the game as it stands is worth checking out if you like the topic. Scott might be willing to provide a copy at a reasonable price....

Scott and I then joined Mitch and Eliot for A Study in Emerald (second edition). As an avowed First Edition snob I was skeptical, but willing to give it a whirl. I was a Loyalist and didn't do much to hide it, concealing a Royal and assassinating suspicious-looking agents. Unfortunately, Mitch was doing a *great* job of hiding his own Loyalist tendencies, so while I was busy killing his guys, Eliot was wreaking havoc for the Restorationist cause. Eliot topped the table by taking yet another city, triggering the game end. I crashed to the bottom of the heap when a few of my kills were disqualified, which in turn dragged down Scott, paving the way to Eliot's second win of the evening.

Recruiting the Great Detective

I have to say, I kinda like the new version. I've heard it called a crippled, dumbed-down version of the original, but I don't see it that way at all. It is certainly streamlined, and Wallace tossed or neutered some of my favorite aspects, but the resulting game is easier to teach, faster to play, and free of a lot of the snaggy bits and back-and-forth city taking/losing that slow the original. I think it's a fine game in its own right, and wouldn't mind owning both versions. First Edition still rules, but this was a pleasant surprise.

He'll always have Paris
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Tue Mar 1, 2016 2:26 pm
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AAR 9 February 2016 - Crusade and Revolution: The Spanish Civil War, Star Wars: Armada, A Study in Emerald (second edition), 1989, Risk: Star Wars Edition, Nations: The Dice Game

J. R. Tracy
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We had nine players for a mix of terrestrial and outer space adventure last Tuesday.

This time it was Nate's turn to enter Dave's blood-spattered 1989 arena. Dave took the Communists to Nate's Democrats. Natus is new to the game so the issue was never in doubt, but I believe he did at least manage to snatch Hungary from the Master's hand before Party rule reasserted itself. With several players now familiar with the game, we will have a multi-table 1989 night soon.

Special pleading

Mark and Hawkeye paired off for Crusade and Revolution: The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939, with Mark taking the Nationalists to Hawkeye's Republicans. Hawkeye and I played this a couple years ago and really enjoyed it - it was great seeing it hit the table again after too long an absence.

Still dead

Mark focused his early activations on opening a supply line from Sevilla to the Northern Zone, to relieve the ammo shortage suffered by local Nationalist forces. He then paired the stalwart North Africans with recently-arrived Italian armor to hammer his way into province capitals and main cities, chipping away at Republican morale. He closed on Madrid, but Hawkeye stood firm. However, the North African/Italian juggernaut was more than the raw Republican militia could handle, and Mark was able to grab a couple more province capitals to drive the regime's morale below the auto-win threshold on turn five. Though short, both players enjoyed the game, and hope to have a rematch soon.

Linked up

Scott, Smitch, and Bill tried the second edition of A Study in Emerald. The first game found all three players serving the Restorationist cause, so Scott spent the game hoovering up Loyal-leaning cards before springing Change of Heart to switch sides and snatch the victory. In the second, Smitch won with a combination of city control and assassinations. We're a bunch of First Edition snobs, but the feedback on the new version was favorable, especially with respect to the streamlined aspects.

Fiendishly plotting

The same group pulled out Nations: The Dice Game for a nightcap, and Scott grabbed his second win of the night with a potent combo of bonus tokens, military, and commerce.

Into the second Age

Dutch and I had a very Star Wars evening, opening with Risk: Star Wars Edition. I had the Rebels to Dutch's Empire. This card-driven game recreates the Battle for Endor, with the Rebel fleet trying to destroy the Death Star 2.0. Ships maneuver in space while a Rebel away team works its way toward destroying the shield generators on the planet surface; the Death Star can't be attacked until the shields are down. Meanwhile, Luke and Darth Vader battle with light sabers - whoever wins gets a bonus card draw. Luke can even turn Vader toward the light by playing a Redeem Vader card when he's down to three hit points or less - this grants even more cards than he gets for killing his dad outright.

In our first game, I focused on the light saber duel, and soon whittled Lord Vader down to the point he was reading my brochures and just about ready to sign on the dotted line. Unfortunately, I needed a redemption card to seal the deal, and there are only three in the deck. I assumed one would be along Any Minute Now but sadly that was not the case. In the meantime, Dutch's Executor-class Star Destroyer was lumbering around the map puking out TIE fighters, and wearing down my fleet at an alarming pace. He managed to get all his TIEs deployed and they were tearing me apart, abetted by the Death Star itself, which can wipe out entire sectors at a time. I finally flipped Vader (three of my last five cards were redemptions) for a five card bonus, allowing me to claw back into the game. I hammered the TIEs and advanced on the shield generator. We had a very tense endgame as I tried to fight through the last Storm Troopers guarding the generator before Dutch could annihilate my fleet - alas, I failed, two spaces short of success. Good fun game.

So close

We reset for another match. This time I decided not to go after Vader until I had a redemption card in hand, and instead got my fighters rolling. I foolishly moved forward to attack the Executor, a bonehead move that just saved Dutch some actions. I compounded my sin with some bad die rolling, and was quickly on the ropes. By the time I redeemed Vader, I only had a handful of fighters left and had barely moved up the shield track. Dutch finished me off quickly and mercifully. Two fun games (though the first was much better) in well under an hour - not the deepest game out there but with two or three strategies to try before setting aside.

The mother hen and her little chicks

Last up, we played the basic scenario of Star Wars: Armada, and once again I took the Rebels to Dutch's Empire. My plan was to swing around the Imperial destroyer and clean up his fighters before going after the big ship itself. My plan was sound but my inexperience showed as I moved a little bit too quickly.

Command reset

I got in the first strike in the fighter battle, eliminating two squadrons of TIEs, but Dutch's survivors got some hits in on my Nebulon-B frigate. About the same time I discovered I was about to eat a broadside from the Imperial destroyer. I managed to get a couple shots in before going down, dinging the destroyer and wiping out the remaining TIEs. However, at this point my surviving CR90 corvette and X-Wing squadrons were chasing the destroyer, and given our positions and the sequence of play, I couldn't make up the point difference from the loss of the frigate.

Dialing up some damage control

Neat little game, with a lot learned. We still have a lot to explore with the ship upgrades, objective cards, and new ships, but so far I really like the contrast in ship types and the fighter/capital ship interaction. So far, I'm up in the air between this and X-Wing, but am having fun with both.

Just one more stern rake before you go
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Tue Feb 16, 2016 8:06 pm
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AAR 2 February 2016 - WTF1940: The Breakthrough at Dinant, Blood Rage, Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection, 1989, Arena: Roma II, Roll for the Galaxy

J. R. Tracy
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We had twelve gamers to open February, for some new titles and a couple recurring favorites.

Mitch, Bill, Dr. Rob, and Herr Fuchs charged into Blood Rage, again with the basic kit. Herr Fuchs romped to glorious victory, pegging out all three of his clan's stat tracks. Quite an accomplishment, and tough to beat, since he had more actions, more troops on the map, and bigger rewards for victory in battle. We'll have to crack open some of the expansions in weeks to come.

Furious Norsemen

Dr. Rob grabbed the 9:23 Valkyrie to Valhalla, so Mitch, Bill and Herr Fuchs followed with Roll for the Galaxy. David once again took first, an unforgivable lapse on the part of Bill and Mitch. The district commissar has been notified.

Rolling to another win

Mark, Smitch, Campoverdi, and Jim broke out the new Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection. Jim had the Continentals, Campo the French, Smitch the Indians, and Mark the British. Mark locked up New England and drove the upstarts into the interior, where Smitch walled them off with his natives. Mark concentrated on a coalition victory and the disjointed French/Continental command couldn't match the focus of the British/Indian team. Smitch captured the individual win, but Mark shared in the glory of returning the wayward colonies to rightful rule. Forgiveness will be forthcoming, after a short period of bloody reprisals.

Easily amused

Opinion was mixed but topped out around 'indifferent'. Player decision-making often felt counter to thematic motivations. The Indian faction in particular seemed like it was more a COIN construction than an historical depiction. They gave it good marks as a pure game, if a little slow-moving, but not much to speak of as history. The presentation is beautiful, at least - to my eye, easily the most attractive of the COIN series to date.

Massachusetts declares for the King

Dave returned once again to 1989: Dawn of Freedom, determined to engineer a Communist win. Stéphane stepped into the Democracy seat. This time around, Dave carefully fortified his presence in country by country, pouring resources into securing his grip on power. His methodical approach proved successful and we saw our first Red win in our last four attempts.

The struggle for Hungary

Dave and Stéphane followed up with Arena: Roma II, with Dave teaching and winning their nightcap.

Dave has work to do

Last up, Scott and I paired off for WTF1940: The Breakthrough at Dinant, the latest offering from Battles Magazine. This is a company/battalion level treatment of the attempt by Rommel and friends to force their way across the Meuse against ever-increasing French opposition. I took the Germans to Scott's French. At first glance the game looks like a light magazine title but appearances deceive - this is a very rich game that packs a lot of nuance in a small package.

The sequence of play allows the German to move a small portion of his force first, followed by all the French, and finally the rest of the Germans. A light command overlay forces you to pay attention to formations and lines of communication. On your turn you activate units a hex at a time, mixing combat and movement in the same activation - you may attack immediately, or move then attack, sometimes paying a movement point for attacking depending on unit type. Zones of control are fluid - you may move through them, but you trigger reaction fire in the process.

Storm crossing

Combat compares combat strength plus a die roll against the quality rating of the lead defender. The resulting differential determines what color damage chit, if any, the defender draws. These chits progress in severity from green to red to black - the twist is *neither* player knows the actual result until the affected units activate or are attacked again! In addition to regular combat, you have artillery at your disposal - arty doesn't kill but it does disorganize, which removes zones of control, reduces unit quality, and limits movement to a single hex. Mobile units may also perform 'breakthrough' combat, which allows repeated attacks but like artillery can only disorganize defenders - very useful for punching holes that follow-on units can then exploit.

The Meuse itself is a featured player here, and the rules offer five different ways to get across. The easiest way is to just drive across a bridge, but the French engineers usually have something to say about that, blowing bridges 5/6 of the time. Otherwise, units can look for shallow crossing points, with hexsides rated for fordability potential - this option isn't available to tank units, however. The Schützen battalions (the infantry component of the Panzer divisions) have organic engineers, and can paddle across on their own. The Panzer divisions also have one Pionier battalion apiece that can lay a pontoon bridge - each can lay an eight-ton capacity bridge early in the game, and one or the other can drop a sixteen-tonner later. The PzIs and PzIIs can cross a light pontoon bridge but the Skodas, PzIIIs, and PzIVs have to wait for the big boy. Finally, each Pionier battalion can ferry a single battalion a turn. Of course, the French don't sit idly by while all this is going on, and crossing against organized opposition is extremely hazardous. The Germans can even crash right into a French defender on the far bank via amphibious assault, but that option reeks of desperation and is best reserved for dire circumstances.

Expanding the foothold

A healthy dose of chrome and chaos is provided by the tactical chits. Each turn the German randomly draws five from a pool, the French two. These chits provide airpower, disrupt enemy plans, allow re-rolls, etc. The most intriguing is the Rommel chit, which allows El Jefe to re-activate already spent 7th Panzer units for an extra move. The catch is if 7th Panzer receives any damage chits during the turn, there's a chance Erwin himself gets topped - leading from the front is not without risk.

Victory is determined by whether and when the Germans capture certain geographic objectives. They also have a randomly determined set of five secret objectives, which along with casualties suffered may modify the final level of victory or defeat. This is a nice touch and enhances replayability.

Our game opened with the scripted scamper of the French cavalry screen across the Meuse to the safety of the west bank. My on-map recon units followed close on their heels; in the early going I could only bring on four battalions per turn, so I got the Pioniers on immediately along with some Schützen in order to establish and expand a bridgehead. Scott blew every bridge I approached but I did find a ford into Dinant itself and supplemented it with a pontoon bridge. I soon had some light panzers across in support of my infantry, and started pushing north along the river toward Anhée, trying to open some space for a second pontoon.

Pour la France!

Once free of his initial movement constraints, Scott scrambled to build a line. He lacked armor, but he had several good-quality formations as well as some hefty artillery backing the line. Though pushed off the Meuse in the center, he maintained a strong position on the heights above Bouvignes and Anhée, exposing my troops to repeated reaction fire as they fought northward to clear the rest of the west bank. The French artillery in particular was very effective in disrupting my plans. The timely play of 'Indecision' chits allowed me to abort a couple French fire missions or things might have been even worse. We called the game going into the sixth turn - I was at the gates of Anhée and the heavy panzers were beginning to cross. Though we were playing for the long haul, this looked like a very close match, with control of Anhée determining the victor in the short seven turn scenario.

I think the game is a blast - the best new system I've played in some time. I enjoy the tactical decision-making and the variable objective chits demand a coherent longer-term operational plan. For instance, my chits rewarded a fast and heavy crossing, so I risked more casualties than I might've normally, and I needed to capture the artillery observation posts above Anhée, hence my turn north. The German player has the ultimate set of tools but is under a lot of pressure to achieve a great deal in a short amount of time. The French are no slouches - their infantry is outclassed but they have supporting assets to help stiffen the line, favorable terrain, and formidable Char B1s lumbering into action for the last third of the game. Most of our game revolved around the extended special case of an opposed river crossing, so I'm eager to find out how the system plays in a more conventional fight in the expanse west of the Meuse (about two-thirds of the map). My one concern is pace - it took us longer than I expected to get through less than a third of the game, but I suspect inexperience played a role, and the crossing is the heaviest part of the game rules-wise. Overall, a very enjoyable experience, and highly recommended.
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Mon Feb 15, 2016 4:58 pm
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