David Dockter
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How did I get HERE?



Started a thread a few weeks ago about multiplayer wargames. That thread dealt with the political component of multiplayer wargames - specifically those wargames with a healthy political dimension: Multiplayer Power Politics: RCW>LotSM>RoR>FF>PAX>COIN?>Churchill . I subsequently added the operational dimension. Taking the two together, ops & politics, most of us began with Risk & Diplomacy. Rise and Decline of the Third Reich was the first integrated model that blew me away (but, that takes a number of sessions to complete and eventually spawned into A World at War ).

Friends (and bunch of the hobby!) started playing A&A (1981) in the early 80s. I hated A&A; no politics and an operational/strat warfare model not much better than Risk. Russian Civil War 1918-1922 (first edition) arrived in '76, but myself and my clan didn't discover it until later. It got some decent table play until History of the World arrived in 1991: that took our a lot of our sh*ts & giggles Friday nite table space for a few years.

Empires in Arms and World in Flames masterpieces arrived almost back to back (from one designer! - Harry Rowland ), but those were both way of life games vs. something that could be played on Friday nites or long Saturdays.

The Republic of Rome burst on the scene in 1990. That game SIGNIFICANTLY expanded the political dimension of our multiplayer wargames. However, it had STEEP learning curve. Then the CDW (card driven wargames) started to hit the scene with Successors (second edition) . The Napoleonic Wars stormed the scene in 2002 and held many of our Friday nite tables until GMT COIN Series titles started arriving. Struggle of Empires got a little play in the mid 2000s, as did Pax Romana - but that takes a couple of LONG sessions. Pax Porfiriana stole our table space for a few years not long ago, but, the military op side was too abstracted for my taste (i've still got to try Lords of the Sierra Madre (second edition) one of these days).

So, I'm always in the market for something less than EiA, but a tad more political and economic component than NAP wars. That brings us to Triumph & Tragedy (T&T)...

Wendell and few 1st MNers did some playtesting on the design. I stayed clear; it had blocks (eeegads!). I HATE blocks games. One exception: East Front - which a mate and I loved. Oh, and I had a brief dalliance with Europe Engulfed , but, that ended badly. I know there is a big tribe that totally digs block games, but, not me: too little politics/chaos and not enough chrome/historical dynamics for my taste. And, most importantly, there are not enough dials to spin and levers to pull for my liking.


Fans per owners is HIGHLY correlated with BGG rating: no great surprise. That's usually the metric I look at to see if a game is "hot" and has a required fan base to keep a game going, generate quality suggestions to improve the game, etc. T&T is off to a good start on that account with 30 fans out of 69 people rating the game; which also give it boost - a head of steam - in the ratings game

People have been rabid about playing T&T at the First Minnesota Historical Wargame Society . Last week there were four games (I think we've had multiple games going on EVERY week since Wendell introduced it via playtest). Lots of buzz (somewhat related see chart above regarding buzz and games from the 2004 > 2006 timeframe with at least 200 ratings that got varying levels of buzz). Finally, I couldn't take the chatter anymore (too many, "Dr, it doesn't have much chrome, but, you really should give T&T a whirl" - it's a great game"...and my answer, "But it's got blocks...and I HATE blocks! And, it looks too frickin....SIMPLE. Yuk!").

So, when this Friday rolled around, we had a blank spot on the monster game schedule (having just played Day of Days: The Invasion of Normandy 1944 ) . I also knew I could only play for a bit, so, for some inexplicable reason I suggested T&T. Great gaming mates Alsen and Frick hadn't played, but quickly agreed.

A bit about the game...


Fairly vanilla stuff; but, the integration of it all is what shines

Setting Up

We arrived around noon (Frick was actually on time!) and began setting up. "Who has read the rules?" I asked. Frick - "I glanced at them". Alsen - "I sort of read them". Since I hadn't even downloaded them yet, we looked around for a dungeon master. Gordo had arrived early and then Allan showed up. "Hey Allan, you think you could give a 10 minute on T&T?". "Sure".

Part of being blessed with one of the best wargaming clubs in the universe is there is ALWAYS a dungeon master; some one that knows the game, can explain in it in a few minutes, watches a few plays ("Do this, not that") and then be around to answer a question or two. Sometimes, they'll even decide to be apart of the session. Allan started us off and later in the game we were lucky enough to get Drew to observe & comment.


Dungeon Master Allan



So, what about this game?

1) DAMM ELEGANT DESIGN. Everything costs a buck. Want an Action Card? $1. Want an Investment Card? $1. A new unit? $1. A pip on unit? $1. Fantastic production track. Your production is the lowest value of # of factories, population and resources. Except, if at peace, you are not limited by resources (WHAT a great idea - since, it's assumed, you can trade for what you need). Turn order? Roll a die. That determines both the turn order and whether or not play proceeds clockwise or counterclockwise. VERY cool.

2) Very good! poly/mil/econ integration. Well honed integrated mil/poly/econ models seem to be so very rare in our games, but, this designer has cracked the nut. Decisions about what population & resources to grab - and how to grab them - are constantly facing players.

One simple mechanic that is typical of this design is what occurs when a player declares war on a neutral: each opponent receives a number of action cards equal to the country's capital city muster value. So, a the price for being the aggressor is that it provides currency (action cards) to the other players: the world is outraged and energized.

Another cool mechanic is "the peace dividend": each player at peace draws a hidden chit at the beginning of a turn that grants 0, 1 or 2 VPs.

...and another cool mechanic is that the cost of your factories decreases if a player declares war on your country. Evidently, workers get patriotic.

I could go on. There is a fair amount of that in T&T: simple (elegant!) nods to dynamics faced by countries; all distilled into a PLAYABLE integrated poly/mil/econ game.

3) Meaty player choice matrix. So, you do your production. Early in the game, you receive $8 to $12. How to spend? Invest for the future? Diplomatic influence or operations? New units or reinforce existing units? What type of units? During the action diplomatic phase, defend your sphere of influence or muck with your neighbors? My recommendation would be do JUST DO SOMETHING - don't analyze it. You'll be playing a lot of T&T: learn by mucking up.

4) Blocks, pips and die rolls to hit. Pretty standard stuff that you would find in about any block game....grumble, grumble. Have one of my few quips here: would have liked to see some different capabilities & pip levels in the units (infantry should have more...tanks some breakthru ability - maybe they have - I haven't read the rules, but, I'm guessing the dungeon masters would have said something). Maybe a few more unit types also. But, this is beer & pretzels, so, it doesn't really matter what they represent. Could be dragons!

5) Tech A player can pursue (thru play of investment cards) a variety of technologies that basically improves unit capabilities (movement or combat). All simple and well done. You can research stuff "in secret" and it costs you in hand size (each player may only hold a few cards over to the next turn).

6) Capture the flag No strategic or political will model here. Basically, a capture the flag game: grab some capitols. You can also win via VPs (territory & production I believe - someone said something about 25 pts) and building the bomb.

7) Sandbox game Don't worry about historical dynamics or constraints. Germany and the Soviet Union want to teach the western democracies a lesson they won't forget? No prob. Soviet Union want to launch a Sea Lion and Churchill & co (yes, I built the carrier as the Soviets!)? Knock yourself out. This is beer & pretzels; I should say QUALITY beer & pretzels. Fairly rare and I'm guessing T&T will develop quite a following in the hobby since it both appeals to those searching for lite fare and nutcases demanding enough dials & levers to keep them engaged. It's also such a great blend between the politics and military dimensions.

You'll not find leaders - or personalities. No factions. No historical units. No back story. No front story. The absence of such things for me is ALWAYS a deal breaker, BUT...in the case of this GAME, it wasn't an issue: I was too taken by the decisions faced each turn and how well the poly/mil/econ model is integrated.

If you want historical dynamics and flavor related to WW2, at the strategic level, try World in Flames or Empire of the Sun or A World at War: those are the three.

8) A three way Not many decent three player games in the hobby. This has the potential to be one.

9) Act now or invest for later The basic trade-off between short term action and long term investment is SMARTLY sprinkled throughout the design.

10) VERY low barrier to entry This is a great game to introduce people to the hobby. You can be playing, as we were, in about 15 minutes (assuming a dungeon master). It took about 2 full game turns (1936 & 1937) to grok it.

11) Quality of components: decent Nothing spectacular with the components, but GMT has published a fine package. I like the map: evocative and clean. Blocks are blocks. Rulebook? Haven't read it and probably won't.

12) Play balance? Perfect Plan Proof? No idea. Don't care at this point. I'm anxious to try "Flood the zone" and do the opposite of what your opponent does. I did constructed a death star lite (the air armada - but that only had four air units - will try one with all air units - and they can move a long ways with strategic movement); will be interested in the death star heavy approach.

13) Screwage Factor? Ok. Nothing special. There are a few cards that allow you to pimp your opponents. There are no restraints on diplomacy (no enforced peaces, etc), so, games may deteriorate into final turn king making...too early to tell.



On to the actual play on Friday afternoon...

1936: Diplomatic Spats

Of course, we had no idea what to buy. Someone at 1st MN shouted, "Buy factories early and invest in politics". So, that's the route the Uncle Joe and Churchill went. The BIG Deutschelander split the diff.

Production:

Germany: Factories: 12, Pop: 14, Resources: 11
Allies: Factories: 8, Pop: 13, Resources: 14
Soviets: Factories: 10, Pop: 12, Resources: 12

Here was how the players spent their production:

Germany: 6 on cards, 6 on units
Allies: 5 on cards, 3 on units
Soviets: 7 on cards, 3 on units

So, what to do, now that we've built?

We all started off investing in the future (build factories) and attempting to snag countries diplomatically (using Action Cards...each card allows you to place "a pip" on one of two countries...a few Action Cards allow you to "jump the line" and place influence directly into a country...and their are a few glorious screw you neighbor cards). A player simply places an Action Card with the country they want to influence in front of them. It stays there until the end of the turn. However, if an opponent plays the same country Action Card, that cards are both discarded (the new play negates the previously played opponent card). Very cool - do you negate another players' influence in a country or establish your own influence in another country.

The German started out with THREE "jump the line" cards (that damm lucky Alsen!) and secured Austria - and placed an influence in Rumania. He also built up a few mansions in Latin America, in case the war should go badly.

The Allies primarily worked on the USA (successfully, ended the turn with two influence markers). Spain, Portugal, Yugo and Denmark also gained some Allied influence.

The Soviets spent their turn being hamstrunged by Germany and only managed at the end of the turn to gain influence in Bulgaria.

A bystander remarked on the tight alliance between Churchill and Stalin. "You guys still smarting from the lashing Alsen gave you in the Ancient World series games?" Frick and I answered, "DAMM right! Death to Germany!".


1936 end of

1937: More Diplomatic Spats

Production:

Germany: F12 (Factories), P15 (Pop), R13 (Resources)
Allies: F9, P13, R13
Soviets: F11, P12, R12

Spent on:

Germany: 6IC, 6AC, 0U (6 investment cards, 6 action cards, 0 units)
Allies: 4IC, 4AC, 1U
Soviets: 4IC, 4AC, 3U

1937 was a continuation of 1936: the diplomatic waltz continued. The Allies continued to focus on getting the good ole U of S A into the fight. Germany worked on the near abroad. Russia meddled here and there.


1937 end of

1938: The Peace Dividend Sucks: Time To Be a Bully

Production:

Germany: F13 (Factories), P17 (Pop), R12 (Resources)
Allies: F10, P14, R14
Soviets: F12, P13, R16 (all hail Persia!)

Spent on:

Germany: 2IC, 4AC, 6U (2 investment cards, 4 action cards, 6 units)
Allies: 3IC, 3AC, 4U
Soviets: 2IC, 5AC, 5U

Things changed in 1938. Drew sat down and Uncle Joe received it's third "0" peace dividend chit. The Soviet commented, "I'm losing the diplomatic game. Brits have influence in Peria. And, my peace dividend sucks". Drew commented, "Quit whining and go take stuff; it's a wargame! Go kick some arse.". And that's when the game changed.

Soviets first invaded Persia successfully. Soviets also pulled off some successful tech research making the RED war machine more formidable. REDs also built their air force and commented to the German, "Comrade, if you hear a loud buzzing sound soon, don't look up, run".

The big develops on the diplomatic front were Germany snagging Poland and the Allies gaining the entry of the good ole U S of A.


1938 Persia


1938 end of

1939: Let's Go Poland!

Production:

Germany: F15 (Factories), P16 (Pop), R10 (Resources)
Allies: F11, P12, R14
Soviets: F13, P17, R20

Spent on:

Germany: 2IC, 4AC, 4U (2 investment cards, 4 action cards, 4 units)
Allies: 3IC, 3AC, 5U
Soviets: 2IC, 5AC, 6U

Players began to really concentrate on building and positioning their forces. The soviets sent a massive air armada east to the Polish border. The German thought he heard buzzing, but, wasn't quite sure. Russia then declared war.


1939 end of

1940: Dictators Fight

Production:

Germany: F15 (Factories), P16 (Pop), R10 (Resources)
Allies: F11, P12, R14
Soviets: F13, P17, R19

Spent on:

Germany: 0IC, 3AC, 7U
Allies: 3IC, 2AC, 6U
Soviets: 0IC, 4AC, 9U

War got out underway in earnest. The soviet air armada (four 3 pip air units) led the way and promptly eliminated two panzer units (a great cheer went out!). Soviets barreled successfully into western Poland and dispatched the Germans. Turn continued with many bloody battles between the two dictators, with Germany clearly getting the short end of the stick. About that time, the Allies remarked, "Time for the Allied invasion of Germany about to begin".

That led to a discussion about the dynamics in a 3 player game. If you go to a fight for the finish with one player, the third may jump on the carcass and snatch victory. So, 3 player games require much more finesse that what many of us wargamers are accustomed to. We found this same thing when we played Churchill . Amazing that the hobby has given us potentially two great 3 player games this year. Of course, time will tell with both, but, the initial impression that Churchill & T&T are going to get A LOT of play; especially with the First Minnesota Historical Wargame Society

At that point, the Soviets had to end the morning/afternoon session. We all looked at each other and said, "What a fun game. Play again soon".


1940 end of

Wrap Up: BIG Thumbs Up

Great game. BIG hats of to the designer, the T&T team and GMT. It already has seized the club and I can see it being a go to game for quite awhile. I can't wait for someone (maybe the designer!) to "steal the design" and place it in another conflict - and wrap some flavor/chrome on it (but not break this glorious engine from Craig Besinque).

2015 is shaping up as the best year for new wargames since....ahhhh.....2005 (Twilight Struggle {it's a wargame - it has a tank counter}, Empire of the Sun, Carthage: The First Punic War, Under Lily Banners, a game on the Russian Civil War, among others).

Check out this Class of 2015 so far:

1914: SMS (played it, thumbs up)

Balance of Powers (heard good things about)

Churchill (played it...A LOT, thumbs up)

Day of Days (a big dumb monster) Turn Back the Clock with a BIG DUMB MONSTER: 1st Mn Hits the Day of Days Beaches: SEP 4, 2015

EotS v2 (loved EotS v1; so REALLY looking forward to it)

Enemy Action Ardennes (I hear great things about)

Genesis (played it, thumbs up): Some Bronze Age Friday Nite Hittite Fun: 1st MN Gives Berg's Genesis a Whirl: July 31, 2015

VCS Salerno (looking forward to it)

Triumph & Tragedy (which my club is ga-ga about)

PAX Romana remake (loved PAX v1)

...and there are others

plus, GMT's ACW game from Mark Simonitch is due out soon.

It's great to be smack dab in the middle of the 2nd Golden Age of Wargaming (I peg its start at 1999, with Paths of Glory).

Related: AAR from First Minnesota Historical Wargame Society 's this Friday's session: G.A.A.R. -- 9/11/15 -- Welcome To The Mecca of Gaming


...another game of T&T breaks out...another great 1st MN dungeon master, Sir Patrick (GMT shirt) hosting a few new players at 1st MN


...and another game of T&T breaks out...club prez lt. Jason (avalon hill shirt of course) and a few hairy arsed grognards: left to right: THE PUZZLEMASTER, Alsen and Frick



Other 1st MN/Sawatdee/Herr Dr AARs: 1st MN/Sawatdee/Herr Dr Session Reports

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Mike Oberly
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Agree with you on this game, and 2015 in general. What a great year! Nice writeup, David. This one is just pure fun.
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David Dockter
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Thanks Mike. Yes, pure, clean fun. Really a unique game: sandbox/beer & pretzel with enough nobs, levers & dials. Can't wait to play next week...hopefully.
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Wendell
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Wait, there was some OTHER dude called Wendell playtesting "World War II in a Sandbox" type games at First Minnesota gatherings, and I missed it? Because it sure wasn't ME!
devil

Dockter, think you're confusing this with Cataclysm: A Second World War which (A) has no blocks and (B) is pure awesome and (C) I have played with about ten different people at First Minn...

I did play T&T once a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed it a lot, would definitely try it again.
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David Dockter
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Ahhhhh....too many new games to keep track of! The class of 2015 is too many.
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Rich Horton
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Quote:
4) Blocks, pips and die rolls to hit. Pretty standard stuff that you would find in about any block game....grumble, grumble.


As opposed to what exactly? What percentage of hex/counter wargames feature some variation of attack strength/defense strength/movement pieces? And it doesn't even matter what KIND of game we are talking about; CDG, area movement, impulse, chit driven, Igo Ugo, etc. Most of them operate under the same sorts of conventions.

It's true the Columbia game ABC/123 system maybe has become too dominant, but, on the plus side, the fact those basic nuts and bolts have largely been taken care of has meant that design focus can be placed elsewhere. The one thing that cannot be said about games like Hellenes: Campaigns of the Peloponnesian War, Pax Baltica, Crown of Roses, or Wellington's War: The Peninsular Campaign 1809-1814, is that they are same ol' same ol'. (And this is without mentioning hybrid block games like 1805: Sea of Glory or PQ-17: Arctic Naval Operations 1941-1943.)

But that is just me prattling on like the blockhead I am.
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David Dockter
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Added a clarification to that dangling line, Mr.H (see most recent edit). I'm just a block bigot at the end of the day for the reasons stated.

I should also say that I don't mean "beer & pretzels/sh&ts and giggles" as a slag/slam. QUALITY beer & pretzels is rare ( Shanghai Trader - and that is about the opposite of T&T in every regard ).

My first impression is that T&T has a shot at cracking into QUALITY B&P; repeated play will tell.
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Rich Horton
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Herr Dr wrote:
Added a clarification to that dangling line, Mr.H (see most recent edit). I'm just a block bigot at the end of the day for the reasons stated.

I should also say that I don't mean "beer & pretzels/sh&ts and giggles" as a slag/slam. QUALITY beer & pretzels is rare ( Shanghai Trader ). My first impression is that T&T has a shot at cracking into QUALITY B&P.


Let's try to play Wellington's War sometime. You might find it a step in the (i.e. your) right direction.
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Gordon J
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Great report for a great game. This has everything I want in a wargame.
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David Dockter
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Yeah, you'll like it Gordo.
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Brian Evans
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I'm glad you had a good time playing the game and thank you for posting a session report. It's a lot of fun to see people getting into the game.


I'm also really pleased that you guys picked up the game rules so quickly and easily. It was Craig's intent from the get go to make sure this game was truly accessible. I noticed a possible rules mistake though. I'm not quite sure but it sounds like you guys treated Diplomacy Wildcards (Birds of a Feather, etc) as a little more powerful than they actually are. Yes, they do allow you to immediately place an influence marker in a minor nation but the conversion from influenced minor to controlled minor doesn't happen until the END of the Government phase.

In other words, influence placed by Wildcards can be countered just the same as influence placed by a normal diplomacy card.

For example: Austria has 0 influence in it. Over the course of a Gov't phase, the Axis player plays three Wildcards targeting Austria, allowing the Axis player to accumulate three influence there. The West player, seeing that Austria is about to fall under Axis sway, plays an Austria diplomacy card of his own. Gov't phase finally ends and the players cash in their diplomacy cards for influence, in this case removing one of the three Axis influence in Austra due to the West player's Austrian diplomacy card. The end result: Austria has two Axis influence, making it an Axis protectorate but the West and Soviet's are both relieved that Austrians have avoided joining the Axis cause as full fledged Axis Satellites, for now.

Hope that makes sense!


Your comments regarding Tank chrome gave me a chuckle as that was easily the longest running issue during the course of the playtest and development. We kept subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) tweaking the Tanks to try and find just the right niche for them as an alternative ground unit to Infantry but with their own unique flavor and worthwhile attributes. I can't tell you the number of "break through" themed special rules we attached to the Tanks at one point or another but balance and easy of play always brought us back to where the Tanks are at now.

Happy gaming!
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David Dockter
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Thanks Brian. Yeah, yes I think we played those cards correctly (that an action card could still knock out an influence marker in a country from the blue cards).

Tanks? Yeah...I can see how that was a debatable point.
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Very Stout
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Is there no need for Casus Belli? Something I've always missed in a game at this scale.
 
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wifwendell wrote:
Wait, there was some OTHER dude called Wendell playtesting "World War II in a Sandbox" type games at First Minnesota gatherings, and I missed it? Because it sure wasn't ME!
devil

Dockter, think you're confusing this with Cataclysm: A Second World War which (A) has no blocks and (B) is pure awesome and (C) I have played with about ten different people at First Minn...

I did play T&T once a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed it a lot, would definitely try it again.


I have also been playtesting this one also, quite excellent, now to get its P500 numbers over the bar.

Mark
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Mike Oberly
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Mycroft Stout wrote:
Is there no need for Casus Belli? Something I've always missed in a game at this scale.


No, but there are penalties to declaring war, as David describes in this report. I think requiring casus belli for this period would be out of place. Germany didn't need one for invading Poland or USSR historically, after all. (outside of fictional ones)
 
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Gordon J
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MarkHerman wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
Wait, there was some OTHER dude called Wendell playtesting "World War II in a Sandbox" type games at First Minnesota gatherings, and I missed it? Because it sure wasn't ME!
devil

Dockter, think you're confusing this with Cataclysm: A Second World War which (A) has no blocks and (B) is pure awesome and (C) I have played with about ten different people at First Minn...

I did play T&T once a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed it a lot, would definitely try it again.


I have also been playtesting this one also, quite excellent, now to get its P500 numbers over the bar.

Mark


You wouldn't think a person would need both T&T and Cataclysm, but despite both being primarily 3-player games and being both strategic sandbox WW2 games, these games are night and day. But they have one thing in common: they're a ton of fun to play.
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David Dockter
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Damm you Gordo, Wendell and Mr.H all to hell! Another game on the must be played pile. Too many good games in the Class of 2015.

Is there still a playtest kit floating around at 1st MN?
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Devin Gallant
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just a note, i think you guys did production wrong... at a quick glance, germany was using their RES to determine their production in the early going... this is incorrect.... RES only counts towards production once you are at war

so until at war, ignore it for production
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David Dockter
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I might have miswritten something; we did catch that - disregard resources when at peace (as a constraint on production).
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Jeff K
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Damn, that is one helluva report, David! Outstanding, love the commentary too. I can't wait to get this in front of my group, because I suspect you are spot on in your analysis. Thanks for this!!

We seem to be stuck on Churchill at the moment, but we'll get to T&T soon enough. (It's a good problem to have).
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David Dockter
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Good thread: Some observations to U-boats
 
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