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Subject: My Tannhäuser and me… rss

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Steve Rogers
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When I first learned of Tannhäuser, I was embroiled in another project, re-englishing the rules for Hybrid, another game by the designer, William Grosselin. That game suffered from an obtuse translation (from French) and high costs (imported metal miniatures). Despite the problems, it is a fantastic tactics game.

Tannhäuser is a reworking and in some ways it is an evolution of his previous effort, and in doing so it has avoided the pitfalls of its noteworthy ancestor.

Thematically the game uses the popular speculative fiction of alternate history weaving sci-fi, fantasy and supernatural horror into the fabric of World War I, where the Great War still rages. The Allied armies are known as the Union and the Central Powers are referred to as the Reich. The Union characters provided make up a squad of Marines equipped with standard period equipment and special weapons born of alien technology from the Roswell Crash site. They oppose the leader of the supernatural-powered Obscura Korps, his demonic minions and a special agent of the Kaiser, Eva Krämer, who may be forced to fight against her own side if the Obscura Korps goes too far.

First and foremost, Tannhäuser is a squad-level, objective-based dungeon crawler. There are two sides per session and up to five people can play, although I recommend 2 or 4 people at most in story mode. The 3 other variants lend themselves to larger groups.

There are 4 games modes with 3 levels of difficulty, the difficulty levels determine if basic troopers can re-spawn after being killed.

The rules translation is very well done and the game mechanics are clearly explained with numerous examples. I have seen reviews here that decry the rulebook, but all I can say is download it for free from FFG and reach your own conclusion.

The game is of average price, the quality of the paper components is very high, with a durable matte finish similar to contact paper. The plastic miniatures are pre-painted, the work is decent, the minis are 28mm scale and well-proportioned. The box is larger than the typical FFG gamebox, but less deep. After punching the counters everything, still fits neatly in the box. And yes, there are summary sheets for each side’s equipment rules

The dual-sided board is 26”x 26” (or 68cm x 68cm) and depicts two settings, a decrepit house and on the other a profane catacomb. Both boards feature tight passages and small open areas for the fighters to move and fight using the color-coded circles of the pathfinder system.

The pathfinder system, the most innovative part of Tannhäuser, is perfectly suited to the boards provided. This mechanic avoids the abstraction of orthogonal and hex-based movement and adds in line of sight rules without requiring actual rules. It’s simple and it’s brilliantly executed.

Turns are performed in alternating order fighter by fighter with an initiative roll at the start of each turn. Each fighter can move and take one action. Each fighter’s action and the initiative roll can be effected throughout the game by several factors, most notably completed objectives and casualties. The turns go very quickly and sessions are far shorter than other dungeon crawlers I have played.

Most weapons have a minimum engagement range and very few have a maximum range. The fighters in the game all have very different skill sets and equipment options that are highlighted when accomplishing mission objectives in the story mode. Each fighter has 4 primary attributes that degrade when they are wounded. The value of each attribute determines both how many dice the fighter uses when taking an action and the target number for success by their opponents.

Most actions are resolved by both sides rolling their respective dice pools and comparing die results against the relevant target number, the side with the higher number of success resolves the action in their favor accordingly.

The weakest part of the entire system for me is the dice pool and opposed rolls. I prefer target number mechanics with fewer dice rolls (Hybrid, being a direct comparison by the same designer). As dice pool mechanics go it is far less tedious than say When Darkness comes or my ill-fated romance with Arkham Horror (games I should love on theme alone), and if that is my only problem with the game, it’s a small concession.

The sides are very balanced in my opinion with strengths and weaknesses. The Obscura Korps basic troopers are both very different and deadly, but their characters are correspondingly frail. The Union troopers are loaded with skills and weapons that may require minimum ranges, but are particularly deadly; some can kill with one successful wound! As players learn the value of each fighter they can choose the optimum equipment load for their mission and squad needs.

When I first looked at the Story mode I was surprised that the missions were not laid out with specific goals or turn limits. The endgame rules are very clear, but there were no pre-planned missions for me to complete. However, as I read further I found what I was looking for, options.

Like many other excellent boardgames there are no scripts to follow in Tannhäuser, the players can randomize their objectives and weave the story around that, or they can customize their own scenarios. The characters are also loaded with optional choices of equipment and they can even be given one-off unique equipment load-outs.

The Death-match, Capture the Flag and Domination modes are boardgame equivalents to popular variants in many FPS video games and are entertaining for extremely quick play sessions, particularly with large groups.

Tannhäuser, in my opinion is an excellent variation on the dungeon crawl, with some additional game modes added for added value. There are future character expansions planned and one gameboard expansion due early next year which is preview-hinted in the back of the manual. If you like the theme and want a game that plays faster than any of its predecessors, you will find what you need and more in Tannhäuser.
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Mark Bigney
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Hey, I still like it.
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Mark
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Nice review, Steve. I've only played the game twice, but you captured all of my observations. I honestly don't get many of the very negative reviews that have shown up complaining about difficulties in understanding the rules, the mapboard, etc. As you point out the: the game is essentially a "squad-level, objective-based dungeon crawler." I've seen other references to games like Heroscape, which strike me as more-or-less accurate as well. If very simplified team combat is not one's thing, then one won't like this game. On the other hand, if one likes such things, then Tannhauser is simple, brutal fun. I for one enjoyed the over the top atmosphere, and the fact that characters die very quickly. Is it a great game? No. Is it a "brain burner"? No. Is it fun? I thought so. My biggest gripe, as I've stated elsewhere, is that the germans seem, on average, much more likely to win. I also think that the game is perhaps tooo designed with expansions in mind.
 
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Steve Rogers
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Noogs wrote:
Nice review, Steve. I've only played the game twice, but you captured all of my observations. My biggest gripe, as I've stated elsewhere, is that the germans seem, on average, much more likely to win. I also think that the game is perhaps tooo designed with expansions in mind.


Thanks for the compliment Mark!

I think the Reich side is very easy to play early on in the first few plays, their basic troopers are beasts! As the players refine their tactics you find the Union fighters can regularly deal with them using their own strengths. BD Brown a great example. Try him with the Mental Pack and watch how often the Union will get the drop on the Reich!

On expansions: it may only be my perception, but like movies and books, games are designed with expansions (or sequals) in mind more often than not. Classic one-off efforts are an exception.

Tannhäuser has story hooks for internicine conflicts within the Reich and partisan Union fighters as well as entire new factions and battlefields. Regardless, what I don't think will be lost is the speed of play and the flexibility of each fighter. For now I have so many options and equipment combos it will be quite a while before I need "more."

The best expansions give you something different to challenge you, while the average one just offeres you a slight variation and more of what you are familiar with. The worst expansions just add time frustation and errata. Based on my experiences with the designer's work his expansions will be first rate.
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Steve Rogers
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ced1106 wrote:
I'm still not sure what sets T apart from other light miniatures games. I've played Games Workshop light miniatures games, and am curious how T stands out against other similar games.


I don't consider Tannhäuser a miniatures tabletop game. It is a boardgame with nicely done pawns. The pathfinder system could be used in a tabletop game, but the effort would be very messy and largely wasted if you played with more than a few fighters per side. Regardless, I'd gladly share more comparisons. What would you consider a light GW game?
 
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Justin
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MrSkeletor wrote:
Well it's comforting to see that not everyone is disappointed in this game!


Num Ratings: 70
Average Rating: 7.23

that doesn't look so bad to me.
 
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Darrell Pavitt
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I think he's referring to reviews with titles such as:

Quote:
So Much Promise...and Incredibly Disappointing


and

Quote:
This game SHOULD have had it all...
 
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Steve Rogers
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First and foremost, the reason why people would enjoy Tannhäuser is straight-foreward fast gameplay. There is little or no downtime regardless of the number of players. Also, there are no random events. Some players do enjoy these "wrinkles" and for some games random events are the only thing that makes them playable, but when the object is to create a fast and ferocious game, random events such as card draws slow the game down and add time to the experience.

The pathfinder system as has been explained replaces orthogonal movement that is the staple of many similar games, including GW boardgames. The result is a movement system shaped by the rooms and terrain, which is no longer limited to a perfectly square world. The reward is system that shapes your tactics based on your surroundings without adding layers of rules, as opposed to a rule system where your surroundings have little or nothing to do with your options.

The fighters in the game are loaded with equipment options adding to the long-term useability to the game were as in many other similar games the fighters are the same, no matter what the objectives.

Tannhauser is designed to give fast thrills, reward bold tactics and give the players the open-endedness to re-invent the characters and tailor them to their objectives.

Lastly with respect to those of us lucky enough to own long out of print games such as Space Hulk, Tannhäuser wins out over other games simply by being available at a excellent entry price.
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