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Subject: Sublime Squad Solitaire rss

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Simon W.
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AMBUSH! REVIEW by Simon T. Willems

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INDEPTH REVIEW
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Let’s face it, sometimes you just can’t find a free and willing buddy to game with (especially wargame with). Lots of games offer solitaire variants, but Ambush was one of the few that was actually designed for it. I doubt you’ll find any other game like it nowadays due to the rise in computer gaming, but it still retains a remarkable charisma even today.

As much as I’d like to go into the 30 something page rulebook, I’ll have to settle for a glossing over. The game really isn’t all that complicated as most of the verbiage comes merely from the system in which events occur (which also governs the AI of the enemy soldiers). A player will begin the game by generating an eight man squad of soldiers down to the very stats/skills they possess and the equipment they carry. I found squad generation to be one of the most fun parts as it’s very reminiscent of RPGs. With a player’s newly formed team, s/he will start a string of non-chronological campaign missions set in the European theater of World War II.

Gameplay isn’t all that difficult as there are only a handful of actions each soldier can take. Every time a hex is entered a sliding mission screen will relate if an event is triggered by simple cross-reference. If an event is indeed triggered, then an accompanying booklet will be indexed for a paragraph that will explain what happens. The system really shines here as there is definitely a fog of war going on. Sometimes one will trigger a machine gun nest of hidden krauts if a soldier fails a perception check, a fighter plane full of supplies will crash into the countryside, or stranded paratrooper will be spotted in a forest dangling desperately in need of some help. There is so much flavor in the missions that one will quickly be enveloped in the feel of the game. Unfortunately the game’s strongest element is also its Achilles heel. The look-ups can get downright fiddly as the same event can be checked every other step throughout an entire mission, quickly turning into an exercise in frustration.

As far as the tactical aspects go, the Germans are fairly crafty with their preloaded AIs and so one will often be forced to make some tough decisions to put his/her troops in harm’s way. Combat is weapon based with simple modifier tables resolved by D10 rolls. Firefights tend to be very clean and easy with most of the agonizing choices coming in the way of strategy. Should one lob a grenade at the window of the well secured enemy stone building, or make a hand-to-hand assault against its occupants in a fit of daring? Go for the long range snipe, or attempt to snake one’s way through the heavy brush down toward a more suitable firing location?

All the missions are exceptionally varied although a touch on the hard side. Of course, this is war and no one said it would be a cinch. As much as I love the game, I rarely play it since I constantly lose by a few victory points as my squad, named after friends and loved ones, often die in horrific ways. The system is quite novel in its approach and a real gem from way back when so I don’t mind holding onto it. In fact, it really is one of my favorite wargames despite its many flaws. Occasionally I’ll pull it out to play coop with a pal, each of us controlling one four man group.

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BREAKDOWN
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PROS:
- Deeply strategic squad tactics
- RPG-esque elements like inventories and experience
- Lots of flavor
- Rewarding gameplay
- Plays solitaire and cooperative

CONS:
- Fiddly and laborious to play
- Scenarios are pretty long (around 3-5 hours)
- Difficulty is unforgiving, especially in later missions

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FINAL VERDICT
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BUY if you’re a wargame lover. I haven’t played many solitaire games but I can easily say that of them, Ambush is the best (and a darn good wargame to boot). You can probably find one on Ebay for pretty cheap and brag about this old diamond in the rough that was so far ahead of its time. I rate it a 7 out of 10.
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Eric Smith
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Nice review!

If you play in a campaign you'll find the rising values of your surviving soldiers will make the game balance more even. I shudder when I think of playing the game chronologically and thus starting with the air drop on D-Day - that's a killer scenario.

Cheers,

Eric
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Steve De George
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If there was some sort of software that had all the info in it and could handle the event stuff or something else, would that help speed up the game? I could see playing this with some computer help.
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Pelle Nilsson
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Thraka wrote:
If there was some sort of software that had all the info in it and could handle the event stuff or something else, would that help speed up the game? I could see playing this with some computer help.


Wow, this was an old thread.

If you look at my DIY Ambush! Missions thread you will see that my tools include the ability to play(test) a scenario you make on the computer (in a web browser), looking up paragraphs, events, and enemy units for you (only one paragraph is displayed at a time, but unit cards stay until you close them). The bookkeeping and moving units on the map is not handled.

There is Lutz's eAmbush project from many years ago. I guess that was/is supposed to do something similar, for the official scenarios. Never tried it.
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Pelle Nilsson
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Regarding what Eric said, if you play in chronological order there will be a number of scenarios from Ambush! Silver Star (in Italy) before the D-Day drops. Not that I am sure that makes the game a lot easier.

Ambush! Scenario List
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