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Subject: A Great Low/Mid Complexity and Introductory Wargame rss

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Andrew C
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Initial Review of Clash of Giants II

Clash of Giants is a low to mid-complexity wargame recently published from GMT. It is the second in a series of World War I operational level games. The first installment is out of print and I have heard good things about it, though sadly I don't own and haven't played it.

I recently gave Clash of Giants II (CoG II) a whirl and thoroughly enjoyed it. This is an initial review based on the Galicia battle only, but as CoG II fills the same niche as A Victory Lost, but doesn’t seem to generate as much buzz, I though the game deserved a review. Having playing both, I think that if you like, or think you might like, A Victory Lost, then you’ll really like this game too. It has some similar mechanics, similar complexity level and play time, but enough that is different to make it a very enjoyable experience in its own right.

Components:

First, the game comes with typical GMT components (i.e. excellent by wargame standards). The map is paper with attractive and very functional artwork. Somewhat unusually the map is two-sided to support the games’ two battles: Galicia, between Austria-Hungary and Russia on the East front, and First Ypres between the Allies and Germany on the West Front. The map also contains most of the charts and tables needed to play. The counters are large (5/8’) and very clear and functional, sporting the usual NATO symbols. The box artwork is typical GMT faire.

Components: functional, attractive. 7 out of 10.


Mechanics:

The game design is simple with just an 8 page rulebook, plus a few extra pages for each individual battle.

The heart of the game is chit activation. For each players’ armies there is a chit placed into a cup (both sides’ chits in the same cup.) One at a time, a chit is drawn and determines which army goes (in Galicia, army lines are drawn on the map so there is no need to keep track HQ range or the like). As always, chit activation keeps turns and downtime short and enhances solitaire play.

After the chit pull is where the first CoG II wrinkle comes into play. As each army activates, the owning player rolls a die and consults a table on the map. The table shows how many movement points (MPs) each unit in the army gets to “spend”. For the Austrian-Hungarians, the table starts with generous MP allotments and progressively gets more stringent as the game progresses. The Russian armies, in contrast, start low and become better in later turns. Also, each army (there are four AH armies and 4 Russian armies in Galicia) has its own table so they are not all treated the same. That is, elite armies maintain relatively high MP’s throughout the game. This mechanic, along with stronger Russian reinforcements, makes a swing in momentum inevitable, but sometimes difficult to predict. It serves that function admirably and I’d like to see it in more games.

Another aspect of the game I found interesting was how the designer (Ted Racier of Paths of Glory and Barbarossa to Berlin fame) handled cavalry. Cavalry cannot stack with or cooperate with infantry in attacks. This, combined with its relatively weak combat values, make it suited primarily for a screening role.

Combat too is fairly unique and, befitting a World War I game, often results in attrition for both attacker and defender. The high likelihood of attacker losses took some getting used to- in most wargames the attacker only suffers attrition when forced to make a low odds attack. The combat mechanic works like this:

Each unit is rated on combat strength and Tactical Efficiency Rating (TER). The combat strength is simply a measure of the unit’s number of “steps.” Most units possess two sides at full strength and therefore have a combat strength of two. After taking a hit and flipping to the reverse side their strength drops to one. Units are also rated on TER which basically measures their combat effectiveness. Higher is better and the unit’s range from 2 to 5 (2 to 5 “ish”… I don’t have them in front of me.)

When attacking, you perform the usual odds calculation, but the odds table simply gives a die roll modifier, not the actual results of the combat. Both attacker and defender roll a die for EACH unit in the combat and compare it to their TER. If you roll higher than a unit’s TER it takes a hit. So, even if an attacker gangs up 4 units against one, several attackers might take a hit. There are several mitigating factors though. First, as mentioned, the odds will generate a die roll modifier which is subtracted from the stronger force’s roll. So a 4 rated TER with a -1 die roll advantage only takes damage on a six, while the weaker party might get a +2 die roll adjustment making a hit highly likely. Also, for high-odds attacks, there is a limit to the number of attacking units that need to roll for potential damage (for example, at 4 to 1 odds, only two attackers need roll against their TER).

There are other rules for ZOC’s and supply and the like that are fairly typical.

Mechanics: some solid basics and simple concepts, rolled in with a couple of great new ideas. 8 out of 10.


Gameplay:

As noted, the game is quick and simple. My opponent taught me the rules and we played a game to completion (the first time for both of us) in about 4 or 5 hours. I’m sure game time will be reduced in subsequent sessions. As noted, we played the Galicia scenario and I played as Austria Hungary. As A-H, I had to charge out and grab up to 8 victory cities, them slowly fall back as Russian reinforcements (and greater command initiative) came into play. To have the opportunity to both attack and defend in a 4 hour game is a great treat. Turns are quick which keeps both players into the game.

I also appreciate the game's low stacking limits and minimal (if any) markers, which make it easy to see the ebb and flow of the battle at a glance. Relatively short game time and a one-map footprint make this an ideal game for even a modest sized kitchen table.

Game play: Opportunity to attack and defend, minimal downtime. 9 out of 10.

Summary:

I liked this game so much that I immediately went on ebay in search of the first volume of Clash of Giants. It seems I wasn't alone, as a copy in shrink sold for around $70. Included in CoG II's box, though, is a second battle to look forward to, and I want try Russia in the Galicia battle. CoG II “feels” a lot like A Victory Lost (and is surprisingly fluid for a WWI game), and like A Victory Lost makes an ideal introductory hex-and-chit wargame.

Overall: 8 out of 10.
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Steve Herron
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Never play block wargames with a dentist, they have those little mirrors to peek behind the block.
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I appreciate your review Andrew I was toying on getting it even before I read your article.
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Jon Badolato
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Nice review. I have the original CoG still in shrink. Sadly I have not been able to play it. Will most likely get this one soon as well, as I understand the game is very solitaire friendly, and I can play even when my usual opponents are not around. Thanks again.
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Guy Riessen
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Nice review Cleitus! I p500'd this but haven't played yet--your review made me break open the shrink and get it out! Maybe I'll get a chance to play this long weekend--I hope!

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M.A.W. Schweizer
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Thanks for this review!
Just reminded me of this pearl (I am still in the adding of my games to my list here on BGG) and its great playability. I should really get this one on the table again.
(I prefer the Galicia battle)
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