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J. R. Tracy
We didn't have a local game night this past week, because I joined a group of friends down in Florida for an extended weekend of gaming.
A lot got played, but here is a brief rundown of my small part:
FAB: The Bulge: Tony and I read up on FAB before the weekend and gave the tournament scenario a whirl. We had a rocky start but once we found the rhythm of the combat system we rolled along nicely. His Germans made good progress in the north but I stopped him cold in Bastogne, ultimately forcing him to withdraw once I threatened his supply. However, he was over his victory threshold and my best shot at a win was killing off a couple of his reduced units. Unfortunately, even with the Special Action buying me another round of combat I came up a couple steps short. We both enjoyed the game and the system, and identified several things we'd do differently in our next game. I can also see the longer campaign scenario being more rewarding, as the shorter game encourages end-of-the-world behavior almost from the outset. Interestingly, Bob loves FAB Bulge but doesn't care for FAB Sicily - he feels the situation just doesn't offer interesting options. I look forward to trying this one again, as well as the Sicily title.
iOS Battle of the Bulge: Tony couldn't get enough of the Ardennes, so we tried a quick pass 'n play game of the Race for the Meuse scenario, with my Americans pulling out a draw thanks to a timely counterattack against the German lines of supply. Tony had to divert his armor to keep the roads open to Bastogne rather than press on for the Meuse. A fun little app.
Le Havre: Very fast three-seater that we canned once we discovered somebody totally pooched the rule for using the Marketplace building .
Glory to Rome: Two games that both ended with a killer Road/Catacombs combo. The new Kickstarter version was rejected in favor of the garish yet strangely appealing original.
Dominant Species: The Card Game: Five-handed game - not bad, not great. If I want Dominant Species, I'll play Dominant Species; if I want a quick card game, I'll play something else.
Stronghold: Jim and Docktor played the human scum while Bob and I took the noble goblin/orc/troll legions assaulting the fortress. We opted for the straight-forward bash rather than feint for the flanking approaches - Bob and I both built trebuchets and ballistas and hit the walls as fast as possible. It was a very close game, with two breaches narrowly defeated when defending siege engines managed to pluck a troll from the wall each time. Our last hope was to break through at four separate points simultaneously, but we only achieved three breaches. Great fun; next time I'd like to add the gate to the mix. The gate rules add another layer of complexity but add to the options for both sides.
Orcs on the wire!
Pax Porfiriana: This was the hit of the weekend, with five games played. I only participated in the first two sessions, a five-seater and a four-seater, both with lots of back and forth across the table. In the first game, we all beat each other back from winning a given topple card, but Jason ultimately won with gold when the Diaz government survived the fourth and final topple test. Jason won the second with a more straightforward Outrage/U.S. Intervention win. Another game saw the Spanish flu destroy the table while the most unusual session suffered an extended depression/anarchy condition, with all the players reduced to one or two cards and barely scraping by. Very popular game with just one or two players walking away lukewarm.
Pocket Battles: Macedonians vs. Persians: We played three games of this with my Macedonians rolling to victory each time over Tony and GorGor's Persian hordes. We all enjoyed it but most of the fun seems to be in constructing your force. There also seems to be a strong first player advantage that is only partially offset by having to place the first unit. We mulled a variant where players secretly allocate a portion of their build points to an initiative bid, something we'll try next time this hits the table. The Macedonians are formidable but GorGor had some success with a missile-oriented force that might've won if he'd had the first move.
Plucky peltasts put paid to a pack of pesky pachyderms
Imperial: Old school session using the investor card - my diversified portfolio fell to concentrated holdings in the top two countries. Austria-Hungary dominated the southeast corner of the map, feasting on a once-mighty Russian empire distracted by British raids in the north. Good game but it reminded me why we usually leave the investor card in the box.
Austria-Hungary on the clock
Eclipse: A sprawling six-player session using the human side of the player cards. I was fortunate to have an ally to my right (Docktor - insane but trustworthy in his own peculiar way) and a lack of wormholes to my left. This allowed me to develop my economy before heading into the center of my system, find a route to my left-ward neighbor, and retake the galactic core from the then-leader. We had several contrasting ship styles, including juggernauts shooting spitballs and proverbial eggshells armed with sledgehammers. A second six-player session later in the weekend featured a 28-28-27 photo finish decided by resources.
Pigpile in the galactic core
Polis: Fight for the Hegemony: I taught this beauty to GorGor, with my Athens trading their way to victory thanks to a huge haul of silver in the final round. Steve also had bad luck early, failing his first four siege rolls. That doesn't sound bad in the grand scheme of things, but early on both powers are starved for prestige points, the currency of military action. Expending four points with nothing to show for it is a borderline disaster in the opening round. There is a lot to discover here in terms of strategies to exploit the subtle asymmetries. Polis should see a lot of table time in the near future.
Andean Abyss: This was a very unusual game in my limited experience with AA. The first propaganda (scoring) card popped up as the second card of the game, which was a drag for my FARC, best positioned for an early win but still a point shy. We then saw five of the eight heavy government 'capability' cards come up in quick succession. Bob was compelled to play these as events, which gave him a ton of toys but no troops with which to use them - the event plays came at the expense of rally actions. Thus, I was able to consolidate my forces and add enough opposition to steal a win on the second prop card. Overall a pretty static session, mostly a teaching game with two learners at the table. I am a long way from understanding the basic strategies here, particularly the best ways to use/abuse the LOCs. This has a small following in our local crowd, so there's a good chance we'll play it again soon.
Viva la Revolución!
Pursuit of Glory: Just my second game of this, both against Bob Heinzmann. Bob is an experienced hand and patiently tolerated my bumbling administration of the Central Powers. He got off to a great start with three sixes in his first three attacks in the Caucasus. That put me on my back foot from the get-go and I never quite recovered, as Bob stretched me on every front. I tried to dial up the Jihad as fast as I could but I spent most of the time reacting rather than driving. The final straw was failing to bring Bulgaria into the war because I needed the card for RPs to bulk up my desperately thin Turks. Despite the ass-kicking, it was an enjoyable game. I like it better than PoG, mainly because the choices seem less forced, at least for the Ottomans (Caucasus or Kut?). It is chrome-tastic, which isn't to everyone's taste, but that just inspires me to read up on the era and the theater.
On the run in Mesopotamia
Many other games were played, including Triumph of Chaos, Asia Engulfed, and War of the Ring, and a good time was had by all. My only regret was failing to get The Hills Rise Wild, a hit in years past, on the table, but I'm sure we'll get another crack at that on some future Florida evening. I'm back in snowbound Chelsea, the Sunshine State already a fading memory. Our regular Tuesday night sessions will resume next week.