J. R. Tracy(jrtracy)United States
We had ten gamers last night for a mix of light and heavy gaming.
GorGor and I paired up for another ASL playtest, Heart of Athena, for an upcoming Journal. My ELAS partisans were fighting to block a road to the center of the Greek capital, while GorGor's British paras struggled to clear it. He had three Shermans in support, while I had a menu of possible fortification purchases to provide some spine for my weedy 337 Reds. I also had four trucks representing explosive-laden tram cars, which I could detonate during the movement phase with potentially devastating effect. In addition, the sewers were my friend, allowing me to infiltrate behind British lines (as long as I didn't get lost!). Victory was determined by control of the buildings lining the main street.
I set up as far forward as possible, purchasing barbed wire and fortified building locations to protect my center positions and using a roadblock to seal one flank. I was worried about the paras slipping behind my lines but I didn't have enough troops to create a reserve. With substantial reinforcements coming on turn two, I hoped to hold my victory locations for the first couple turns and retain enough strength to generate any necessary counterattacks in the endgame.
Oozing around the flanks
As expected, Steve hit one flank hard, supported by smoke from his mortar and AFVs. Only a lucky Molotov cocktail kept him from sweeping around my right; unfortunately, the victims of my firebomb routed forward and would prove to be fatal to my cause. I stood strong in the center initially, holding my own in a pair of close combats despite being substantially outnumbered. With no infantry to spare, I sent my trams toward a flanking Sherman - small arms fire stopped one, a fighterbomber stopped a second, but the third made it into the Sherman's location and destroyed it in a fiery blast. That was the highlight of my game, however - my last tram failed to stem the para push on my left, accurate British fire broke my center, and all the melees went south. The forward-routing broken British infantry rallied and grabbed a couple victory locations. Finally, when my reinforcements failed to make a dent, I had to throw in the towel.
My big fat Greek bomb trolley
Steve and I were both very skeptical going into the scenario - partisan scenarios always look dull on the card for some reason. However, the SSRs add some good twists to a typical city fight and the chronic weakness of the partisans is offset by some useful capabilities (sewer movement, ability to ignore rowhouse black bars, Molotovs, etc). It's difficult to make a call on the balance because my setup wasn't great and I made at least one key play error, but I think it is a promising situation and a nice departure from standard ASL fare.
We saw another two turns of Crown of Roses, which as predicted proved to be a bit of a thrashing for Buckingham (John), the current leader. As he said, it's not really a four player game, it's a three versus one player game, and he's the one at the moment. Still, he pressed his advantage with aggressive play on turn three, hitting the plague-depleted Warwick faction hard. Warwick himself had a brush with death, escaping with a wound. Despite his (incomplete) success against Warwick, John took heavy losses over the course of the turn while Steven as Lancaster consolidated his position, emerging as king going into turn four.
Clinging to Kent
Campoverdi as York opened turn four by going after the king himself in Essex but the king slipped away. Steven retaliated in turn, damaging the Yorkist cause as Campo scrambled to preserve a deteriorating board position. Jim as Warwick extracted some revenge from Buckingham, bringing down Buckingham himself in the game's first death of an heir. As the fourth turn closed, John/Buckingham still leads in VPs, followed by Campo/York, Jim/Warwick, and Steven/Lancaster. However, Steven's board position looks very strong and he has the kingship in hand. Jim commented that the players are discovering the dilemma between expending resources (cards) for on-map operations versus building your political base for upcoming turns via noble bids, influence purchases, etc. It's slow going so far as they struggle to find the right balance, but I think they are all enjoying the game.
A tip o' the cap to the Earl of Foppington
Scott, Bill, Hawkeye, and Dutch broke out Viktory II, a straightforward multiplayer wargame that uses random tile placement to generate a map, with predictably nutty results. Dutch seemed to get the short end of the stick geographically, lacking good defensible borders. He struggled to hold off Scott, looking for Bill to fall on Scott's capital to reduce the pressure. Bill, however, was content to develop a peaceful agrarian society, safe behind the mountain walls separating him from his neighbors. Hawkeye proved to be the most opportunistic, taking Dutch's capital to end the game with a win. Interesting game, nice simple Ameritrash, and worth some more table time.
Viktory in progress
Judge's selection for Tidiest Build Pool
Next, GorGor and Scott taught Glory to Rome to Bill and Dutch. As expected, it was a bit of a mystery for the first-timers. GorGor used a a fistful of Legionaries to good effect, with a couple nice supporting buildings. He essentially stripmined his neighbors, Scott in particular, to stack up the VPs as he completed his pricey projects. Steve told us to ignore the muffled screams coming from his vault - it was merely the wailing of Scott's former clients.
Last up, I introduced Hawkeye to Combat Commander. I initially pulled a Stalingrad scenario but quickly aborted when I realized it was far too hairy for a first game. Instead I reached for the tried and true Fat Lipki, a smallish meeting engagement. I got the Germans by random draw, and set up heavy in the center with a leader and a squad covering the right flank. Hawkeye chose to drive down his right flank, my left. I quickly exited my flanking group and dug the remainder into the buildings in the center. This proved to be one of those treasured CC:E games where I had the cards when I needed them and made the draws when I had to. Hawkeye generated some fierce attacks on my critical leader/lmg/squad position, but every time he dialed up a 20-value attack I pulled nines and tens myself to survive. When he did manage to break me, I had a recover card handy. The few times I had to flush my hand, I was relieved to see Hawkeye do the same. As the endgame approached he started to get some traction, killing a German squad and a freshly minted hero in close combat. Unfortunately for Uncle Joe, we hit the sudden death limit immediately after, and even the Advantage card couldn't save Hawkeye's Soviets. It was a good learning game, and Hawkeye's extensive experience with both ASL and Up Front made him a quick study.
On to Moscow!
Next week, maybe some fresh GMT action or a return to the American Civil War!