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Subject: Reviewssion Report From A Non-Wargamer rss

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Nick Reed
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Okay, so, first things first. This is actually a combination review and session report. Why's this? Well, to give you a little bit of background...


(Picture courtesy of Doodlemonkie)

I'm not a wargamer. How can I prove I'm not a wargamer? Well, a good start is that I don't even know how to pronounce the name of this game. (I can practically hear the derisive snorts of the real wargamers already!) So, anyway, up to this point I've never played a wargame before. None has ever tempted me to even try. However, when I saw a really nice copy of this game on offer at a local charity shop for just £1.50, even I couldn't say no. So, having picked it up on Tuesday, I thought I'd flick through the rules during the week and have a play at the weekend, doing a report of it, and seeing as this would be my first wargame play, it'd probably be both a review of the genre (and this game in particular) from an outsider's perspective, as well as a summary of an actual game attempt.

In an attempt to keep the two areas of this post separate I'll break off obvious Session Report sections in Green, and Review sections in Red. General ramblings I'll keep in black. This way you can focus on whatever area interests you the most.

Preparation

So, with 3 work days until the weekend, I figured I'd take the rule book with me to work each day. I've got a 10-15 minute train ride to and from work, so that'd provide plenty of time to wade through it all.

The game comes with a 12 page/side A4 manual. OF WHICH I HAVE SOME MAJOR GRIPES. Nowhere in the documentation is there a basic summary of what you're supposed to be doing. There's a section (on page 11!) on victory points, a subpoint buried away about one ship ramming something, another point buried away about primary targets and demolition... but nowhere does it simply state something like the following: "You have a load of boats under your control - try to ram the Campbeltown into the Southern Caisson, scuttle it; dock the other boats at the German-occupied port, unload your troops, and target as many VP points on the map as possible with your Demolition troops whilst the Assault troops provide cover and the boats retreat back to England." Is what I've written there a good and complete summary? Well, no, I just made it up quickly off the top of my head, and when playing a wargame you're supposed to devise your own plan as the situation and opportunity dictates, however reading the rulebook I had to piece this basic premise together from half a dozen different places. DOES THE GAME NOT WANT ME TO KNOW WHAT I'M SUPPOSED TO BE DOING!? I don't know what this raid was all about, historically speaking, and masking the objective in this manner is a completely unnecessary barrier to understanding and game entry.

Newbie-wargamer warning: Beware the abbreviations! Oh sure, that's probably the case for all games, and they do (as their name suggested) help abbreviate things, but wargamers do seem to like their abbreviations. Triad, dr's, DR's, DRM's, HDT, VP, MF, MC, KO, ... I was practically drowning in the things. Yes, they make sense after a play, but I'd just order the cranial implant ahead of time to work out what they all refer to.

Additional newbie-wargamer warning: Oh my word, these rules are a struggle to read through dry! Every single line seems to contain some vital subpoint, and you just know you're gonna forget something vital during play. That said, I can't say that this is a wargame problem - I've got and played a couple of other games designed around the time this one was (The Willow Game + Wizard's Quest), and it seems to be a fault of that era of game design - heavy, one-million-subpointed gaming systems.


So, I spent my journeys to and from work plowing my way through this 12-page snoozefest of a rules booklet. And despite how much I wanted to reenact Ash's magazine usage from Alien with the game designer, I have to admit I was looking forward to the game at the weekend. It wasn't the rules booklet that was giving me the interest - it's the fact that I'd also peeked into the rest of the contents of the box and whilst a gajillion little cardboard squares were included (well, what else did I expect), a really nice set of maps were also there, and the thought of playing a wargame across that still seemed like it could be fun.

So, come Saturday morning (and it's a glorious day outside), I cleared the dining table and unpack the contents of the box: The rules booklet, 3 folded boards which form the playing map, a ton of different types of playing counters (all nicely compartmentalised by the previous owner of my thrifted copy in a collection of old camera film containers), and 3 different-coloured dice (as well as a bunch of marketing bumpf from the era).


(Picture courtesy of Felisan88)

Set Up

So, being my first game, I decide to go with the default primary targets for all the troops, seeing as I've no idea what I'm doing. I'm somewhat confused by the fact that some troops don't seem to have any targets assigned to them. Didn't they have assigned targets? Do I have to set them anyway? .... 5 minutes later: oh right - they're assault troops and don't get assigned targets - that was.... obv--- no, it wasn't obvious at all! Okay, so it looks like I don't have to do anything on the scoring sheet. Cool. Now all the British boats are placed on the board (easy), and all the German searchlights and guns are put in their predesignated positions.

Significant Gripe #1: Setup of this game must have taken me about half an hour! Why? Solely because of the area numbering. All the areas have a 3-digit number assigned to them, and there's 4 general areas on the board: Section 1 (bottom right section of the board, on the far side of the 2 caissons), Section 2 (also in the bottom right, the opposite side of the caissons), Section 3 (centre of the board, Old Town and where most the landing action happens), and Section 4 (the whole top section of the map with the U-Boat Pens). Now this general numbering system makes total sense to me, however the sub-numbering within the sections is royal PAIN IN THE ARTICHOKE! Now, having played a game, I can see why some of the numbering is why it is, but trying to find the starting position for Guns and Searchlights - HYURK! E.g. The numbering along the East Jetty: 305, 304, 303, 302, 301, ... 311! 311!?!?! Again, I can see why now (so it provides a number that can be rolled on the dice for troop spawning), but when I'm hunting around the other three-hundred-teens for this in a completely different part of the board - GRRRRR!

Newbie note: All the initial items are placed on areas with their numbers printed red-text-on-white (narrow down your hunting to these - the same for when you're searching for spawn locations later in the game)

Additionally the whole A/B numbering of the two paired sets of guns confused me for a bit too - it's only later in the game (when flak tower fire starts being important) that I work out what's going on there.


Gameplay

So, from a review perspective, how does the game play? Well, it's split up in a number of turns (each symbolising 6 minutes of ground time), in which there's gunfire traded between the British boats and German dockside guns, movement of the fleet, landing of ground troops, spawning of German infantry around the port, movement of troops (the German troops follow pre-scripted rules to dictate where they go), traded troop-vs-troop fire, and attempts to lay charges and detonate them to blow up key German installations in order to get victory points (VP). The game continues until all British troops and boats have left the playing board.

01:28

So, it's the dead of night and the 18 British ships are poised in the Approach zone and the first turn of the game kicks in. Harbour Defense spots the allied ships as being the enemy and the guns pound away - The Campbeltown takes a couple of hits (including a Multiple Casualty which, with a roll of 6, causes a speed loss too - Crap!), the Fenton and Platt end up on fire, but other than that the hits are light. Phew! (I think.) Time for the British to counter-attack with covering fire.


Significant Gripe #2 / Useless Rule #1: Based on my one play of this game, I'll say this: Covering Fire is completely useless! According to the scoring chart, there's up to 45 guns on those 18 British boats there. In one turn of the game, the Germans get to pound away at the ships for 10-30 hits, and what's the British countermeasure with all those guns? On average, you get a 50% chance of knocking out one gun or searchlight (which'll probably be recoved in 1 turn or so), and beyond about turn 3 of the game the likelihood is that (because of lost guns) the penalties will mean you don't even manage that. ONE BLACKENED OUT LIGHT FOR 6 MINUTES IS ALL THEY CAN MANAGE IN RETALIATION!?! Give me a break. An undercover electrician with a single pair of wirecutters could have achieved more than the guns from those 18 boats!

Well, I wasn't really sure what was best to target, but as one of my boats had got caught in a searchlight, I target searchlight 342 and manage to disrupt it! Sweet. (This is the only success I manage with covering fire for the entire game)

Now, the Germans get another set of attacks against the boats with dockside defense, and despite only a few shots making it through, the Boyd is sunk, suffering dual multiple-casualty hits (with terrible dice rolling). (Multiple Casualty turned out to be the bane of my life during this game - I'm not sure if that's normal, but it was happening all over the shop for me)

I move the boats into sea-sections A and B (depending on their crippled speed). The Nock and Irwin fire torpedos at the Sperrbrecher (I know it's only worth 1VP, but I haven't figured out torpedo boats usage yet and I don't like the idea of those guns sat behind me as I enter the harbour) - Well, one torpedo hits, but it causes little more than 'damage' - the boat's still there. Crap. This isn't a good sign.


This is the end of the first turn of gameplay, and TWO HOURS have passed since I cracked the box open. What I've written above doesn't explain where this time's gone, but oh my word, I'm starting to get worried here. Everything I've done has required constant flicking through the millions of rules, and subpoints and exceptions to try and make sure I'm playing this right. I'm hoping the worst is over now as (although no troops are landed, so I haven't explored that portion of the game yet), I feel like I've got a handle on the general naval flow. But new to wargaming (or maybe it's just this game in particular) - don't be surprised if this happens to you.

01:34

Searchlight 342 gets restored.
Yes, my one covering fire hit is essentially pointless as it gets restored in time to be used next turn.

Harbour Defense fire and Dockside Defense Fire manage to land 27 hits this turn (3 auto HDF Vs the Campbeltown, Fenton and Platt, 12 HDF without rolling a miss, 12 DDF is sea-section A without rolling a miss, fortunately nothing in B). HOLY MOLEY! The Campbeltown (still only in section A because of its speed loss) suffered 2 Multiple-Casualty hits on 01:28, and 3 more this turn resulting in it bursting into flames and SINKING!!! through lack of crew. OH! MY! GORDON! Collier and Fenton are also pounded into the sea and are sinking and half the rest of the fleet has been hit to some extent.

The Ryder, Stephens, Rodier and Burt all beach at 366 to drop off their troops (3 assault units: Newman, Burn and Haines, and 1 demolition unit: Woodcock), the Falconar drops off assault unit Hogson at the Old Mole. The Irwin stays in A to pick up 12 of the remaining 13 commandos from the sinking destroyer (useless as commandos now, but maybe I can get them back to Blighty, at least - not this turn, however, with Irwin evading dockside fire), and I plant some ships in sea-section C with the hope that I can get some troops to the Southern Caisson and perhaps, maybe, accomplish what the Campbeltown is now incapable of doing - hitting that 12VP target. The whole assault has gone COMPLETELY down the pan, obviously, but is there anything at all I can salvage from it?


(I have at this point totally overlooked the fact that I can't force landings at non-predesignated locations before 01:52 - I realise this next turn, but fortunately I haven't messed things up too much with my boat allocations. I do now have boats in sea-sections A, B and C though ... which concerns me when I realise the dockside fire implications next turn.

It's at this point, that the sheer amount of dice-rolling this game's going to require hits me. After the game, my estimates are that I probably rolled around ONE THOUSAND dice during gameplay. Okay, so some were 2 or 3 at a time, but seriously - I don't think a thousand is incorrect in this evaluation, but My Word, that's a lot! Dice to make naval hits - HUNDREDS of dice to make naval hits. Dice for combat, dice for troops spawning, dice for actions based on what you rolled on other dice. I think my wrist might be broken. Keep this in mind with this game. It won't let you off easy.

British troop fire to the east takes out a German squad on the nearby bridge, and Hodgson attempts to grenade the Old Mole gun, but fails and gets hit by assorted gunfire for his troubles.

01:40

(Sigh!) I love those guns... Another round of naval fire, and the Irwin (having rescued all those commandos from the Campbeltown) is SUNK, along with the Nock, Beart and Stephens, and the Falconar and Ryder are on fire!! WHAT ARE MY BOATS MADE OUT OF!? PAPER!?!?!
Again, the dice-rolling is a complete MARE this turn. There's millions of the things. That's the one plus-thing I've got to say about the mass slaughter that's happened this round - at least I won't have to roll so many dice next time....

Wynn fires its delayed torpedos at lock gate 212 - I could move her back to sea-section A to try and rescue some of the handful of survivors from the Irwin, but she'd be all alone in A and I just know she'd get pounded, so I leave her huddled with the others whilst everyone rescued from the Campbeltwon drowns. Wallis, Henderson and Horlock drop off their troops at the Old Mole (demolitions units Bradley, Swayne and Wilson). These are the only troops I manage to land for the whole game (8 units out of the 19 I started the game with). And it puts me in a position where I've got 3 demo / 1 assault in Old Town and 3 assault / 1 demo over towards the gate + bridge leading to the Southern Caisson. This isn't seeming like the ratio I need to get good VP.

At this point, I take a break for lunch. Mostly through amused shock at how abysmally I seem to be doing, but also because it's now occurred to me: What the heck do I DO with my boats after landing troops with them. I've read the rules at least twice now and I don't remember anything being significantly indicated about this (see my previous comment about gameplay obfuscation in the rules). I flick through the rules to try and work it out. There's some minor point about hanging around and picking up troops to take back, but - HAHAHA - are you kidding me? There's no way I'm leaving boats under those guns. And staying for covering fire's obviously useless. Another rules search and, oh wait, it looks like boat crews returned to England will score VP. Okay, it looks the boats are going to flee next turn. I suppose the term is "tactical withdrawal", but I think "flee" is more technically correct.

So, back from lunch, and I spawn some more Strosstrupp units. All the way through to the 02:10, German unit activation is decidely low (not rolling any higher than a 7) The few German troops on the board are stationed to the east of where I've landed the troops, Burn manages to grenade the gun at 344, but gets completely wiped out in trading fire from the gun on the Old Mole. Nuts - this leaves the 3 demolition units in Old Town completely without assault backup now. Over to the east of Old Town, Woodcock preps some charges on the swing bridge at 211.

It's at this point where the focus of the game pretty much changes. Up to now it's all been Harbour Defense, Dockside Fire and ship movement. Now, the game swings into primarily ground movement mode, and I will say this - it does speed up the gameplay, which is quite nice.

I'm going to break down the rest of the session report into various subsections now:

01:46 - 02:04 (Naval)

Over the next 4 turns, the Rodier is set on fire and sinks and the Ryder (already on fire) gets hit again and EXPLODES. The remainder of the fleet head in the direction of the open sea, the Rodier, Tillie and Falconar getting pounded and sunk before they get out of range of the guns. For those counting, yes, this means that (encountering only a minor amount of resistance between France and England) only 5 of the 18 boats return back to Blighty. Of the 5, only 16 of their 30 crew remains - this'll reap me a massive 3.2VP towards my final score. Woot.


I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Multiple Casualties. They're a nightmare. More ships sunk because of this than because of actual "Sinking" dicerolls, explosions, or anything else. I hate them.

01:46 - 02:10 (Storming the Southern Caisson)

Woodcock (demolition), Haines and Newman (assault) stick together (the two assault troops providing covering fire for the demolition unit who, 2 charges left, I'm going to drive down to the Southern Caisson). German troops spawn in masses in the right of the map, but poor German movement rolls keeps them from the troops, allowing Woodcock to destroy the 211 swing bridge, head down and plant charges in the southern winding station and damage that too. The two guns at 222 spray the troops with gunfire. Haines (down to one man) dives into 222 on a suicide decoy mission (and actually manages to grenade one of the guns into scrap metal before getting gunned down!). Newman and Woodcock rush on down to the Southern Caisson, but as Woodcock is laying his last set of charges a mass of high-strength German troops spawn on both sides of the dock. Combined with the guns, Woodcock and Newman are completely decimated before they even have a chance to try detonating the planted charges.


Significant Gripe #3: Okay, so by now I know where some of the area numbers can be found, but I'm still struggling to hunt out quite a few of them (see Significant Gripe #1). This is made even worse during gameplay. Why is this? Well, German troops spawn all over the map as the game continues. Some consolidate in single, stronger units at the end of turns where appropriate, but there's still a mass of cardboard chits all over the place. And, as the areas are tightly packed on the board, there's little option other than to stack the German troops directly over the area numbers. So at the backend of the game I roll some dice and find an area number where a new troop should spawn and... spend ages shuffling troop chits out the way to try and find the appropriate place. Hrrrrmmm.

Useless Rule #2: Now, I know I'm going to take some flak from serious wargamers on this (and being only a 1-strength review unit, that could prove fatal - HAHA - I made a wargame joke!!1!), but: area modifiers... (sigh) What do I have to say about area modifiers? There's rules that different types of area (depicted as round, square, hexagonal, etc.) can have a 1-point modifier on certain dicerolls. Now, I know, I know - wargamers LIVE for this stuff. +1 modifier for being in an elevated position, -1 modifier for shining a light, +1 modifier for wearing shoes with nylon laces... you name it, they love adding it. But I gotta say, a lot of effort was obviously put into this on the map but it has about as much effect as the British counterattack naval fire - I think it affected 2 dice rolls during the entire gameplay. 2. Out of 1000 dice rolled. I can't be dealing with that. Sorry.


01:46 - 02:40 (East Old Town squad)

Significant Gripe #4: (Old Town, and the rail tracks near the Normandie Dock and U Boat Pens are good examples of this) Areas are linked by lines. Dotted lines, single lines, double lines, triple lines. They indicate the cost of movement and gunfire opportunity. Unfortunately they're black. And the colourful map is quite dark and littered with black lines. Why the movement lines couldn't be made more obvious, I've no idea (hello - "white" exists, Mr. Designer!), but distinguishing area connection lines and railtracks and other edgings of identical thickness is more problematic than it should be.

I have Burn run through Old Town to provide some covering fire for Bradley, splitting the Old Town troops up into 2 squads now - Burn + Bradley (the east squad, 1 assault, 1 demolition) and Swayne + Wilson (the west squad, 2 demolition). Burn and Bradley run up through Old Town and destroy the east swing bridge. Burn launches mortar fire at Flak tower 434B, disrupting it (and it doesn't recover for 5 turns!). (Question - does assault troops mortar fire count against their ammo count? I couldn't see anything in the rules to say it did, but it'd seem weird if it didn't, but using grenades does.) Heading over to the nearby lock gates, Bradley preps some charges and the two squads get absolutely mobbed by German units. Burn manages to grenade 1 6-strength + 2 4-strength units on one turn (my notes simply say "YES!" at this point), but it's all to no avail. More troops swarm in and amid the gunfire, Burn falls. Bradley struggles prep'ing and setting off the charges for several turns. Down to just one man and with troops massed over the shop, the remaining Bradley troop throws himself on the charge detonator and destroys the lock gate.

01:46 - 02:34 (West Old Town squad)

The West squad is a little less lucky. A 6-strength German unit spawns early at the power station which provides pestering fire as the troops run through town. Losing men almost every turn, the squad heads for the 321 swing bridge and manage to knock it out. Dashing over to 313 lock gate, they try and duplicate the 'success' of the east squad, but being both demolition units they simply can't provide the fire needed to keep enemy units at bay. The charges are prep'd, but turn after turn they fail to set them off, and that's the way things end for them - charges prep'd but undetonated as the final man gets mowed down.

After

The delayed torpedos from Wynn explode some hours later, but cause only superficial damage to the lock gate.


Summary

Session summary - so the rules say to aim for 70VP. Losing the Campbeltown and so many troops before they even land, I'm nowhere near this. 3.2VP for surviving crew back to England, 12VP from 3 destroyed swing bridges, 6VP from 1 destroyed + 1 damaged lock gate, 2VP from the damaged Southern Winding Station, 0.5VP from damaging the Sperrbrecher = 23.7VP.

HAHAHAHA - I SUCK!


When I check the clock at the end of the game, it turns out I've spent 10 HOURS playing this game. Now, a load of that is because:

1) It's my first attempt at this game
2) It's my first attempt at any wargame at all
3) I wrote a 7 page summary on gameplay solely so I could do this write-up

Can this game be played quicker? Heck, yeah! I imagine next time I might be able to play a game in 3-4 hours, maybe an experienced person in 2? I don't know. 10 hours isn't a good indication. And, on top of that, the actual 'game' part of that time didn't feel long (except for the starting naval section).

Okay, so what do I think of this game? Given all my gripes and the disastrous result above, I could easily imagine someone flaming this game to pieces. However, I think there's a lot to like about it. However, the sheer number of dicerolls is overwhelming and unnecessary. This reminds of a personal analogy - I have a bit of a habit of designing games in my spare time - mostly computer games, and mostly I don't get round to implementing them before I think of another design, so I've got loads of designs fleshed out on paper and in spreadsheets because of this. One of these is an RPG. I designed it with a computer in mind, but with a background of p&p roleplaying games a lot of the concepts inside it I visualised in terms of "roll X dice". However, because of the complexity I wanted in there, even simple actions would be a ton of dice rolling. This wouldn't be a problem on computer as it's all hidden from the user and over in a millisecond - in a real life game - you can't do that. This game makes me think of that. If there were a computerised version of this game, I would be a lot more tempted to play it. I actually want to play again and see what would happen in a situation where the Campbeltown reaches its objective. Where I've more ground troops to play with. When I know a bit more what I should be doing...

Is this a good summary of what a non-wargamer is likely to expect from a wargame. Again, probably not, no. From what I've read here on BGG, this game is much dice-heavier than other games, the lack of player-interaction (it's solo, after all) probably means it lacks something pretty major. But all that said, I think there's a number of key noteworthy points that could be worth pondering if you're tempted to venture into wargamer territory.


Just remember, though - those wargamers get a +2 on their dice rolls due to elevated experience...
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Franco
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Great review-cum-session-report! I enjoy the game, despite the rule booklet. It was the reorganized rules published in a General article that allowed me to play fairly easily. Download the article from here:

http://www.grognard.com/titler.html (I'm not sure hotlinking is a good idea, so I'll just point you to the 'strategy' article under the St-Nazaire title).
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Gordon Watson
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Incredibly ambitious/brave to jump into this as your first wargame experience.

- It's not desperately complex as wargames go but it was produced back in the day when rule books had to be written in x.x.x.x legalise paragraphs. Better, in terms of readability, can be had these days - although they are not always clearer - and graphic layout tends to make the experience a lot more pleasant.
- Being a solitaire game there was no one else there to help you through the learning play.
- Not knowing the history behind the actual raid would make determining the objectives of the game more difficult to derive from the somewhat dense rule book.

All that being said you seem to have played the game pretty much correctly and it was a good session report. A few points as to the game.
- I like it.
- The amount of dice roling for harbour and dockside fire during the first few naval rounds is one of the weaknesses of the game - it is a bit excessive. It's a shame they couldn't have abstracted it out a bit to fewer roles - although it does generate some tension in terms of what gets hit and builds the feeling of chaos and destruction that your little armada suffers.
- The damage inflicted on the fleet in your session is pretty representative (apart from the Campbletown sinking) of what happened in reality. The boats were only wooden hulled so they burned rather easily given the amount of explosive and incendiary ordanance that was flying around.
- If the Campbletown sinks before it hits the gate and manages to unload some of it's commandos you may want to start again as there is little (no) chance of winning.
- It is highly unlikely that any of the boats will survive long enough to be able to pick commandos back up after their missions - so once they have landed their charges group them together and head for home.
- Your next play should take half the time - £1.50 was a good buy.

There was a pretty good documentary done recently by Jeremy Clarckson on the raid - you can find it posted in 6 (?) parts on youtube.

I need to get this out and give it another go - also just bought the ASL treatment of St Nazaire - now that is complicated.

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loquitur wrote:
Great review-cum-session-report! I enjoy the game, despite the rule booklet. It was the reorganized rules published in a General article that allowed me to play fairly easily. Download the article from here:

http://www.grognard.com/titler.html (I'm not sure hotlinking is a good idea, so I'll just point you to the 'strategy' article under the St-Nazaire title).

Ooo, thanks for the pointer. Not being a wargamer, I'm not at all familiar with (what I expect are) well-known wargaming sites (which that appears to be?) - those rewritten rules could have helped speed things along a bit. And it sounds like his worst-case 16.2VP-session was spawned from similar circumstances as my disaster here, so that's good to hear.
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James Fung
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First off, Raid on St. Nazaire (I can't pronouce it either; ask someone who knows French) isn't representative of wargames. Solitaire games tend to be special cases with unique systems and mechanics for their single-player design.

Second, bear in mind that what the game is trying to do simulate a particular commando raid. At this point in history, Hitler was master of Europe. St. Nazaire was a heavily fortified dock (there was, what, a battalion or two of naval batteries along the coast?). And Churchill green lights a handful of men to sail across the Bay of Biscay, invade Fortress Europa in wooden boats that have such short legs they had spare fuel tanks installed above deck, destroy a garrisoned naval facility, and escape?

The game's victory conditions were based off the original British estimates of success. They expected to land without much opposition, trash the dock, and escape before the Germans realized what had happened. As you found out in the game, history wasn't as kind. That's why there's an alternate victory condition included: just improve on your previous game.

German fire was devastating. British return fire was useless. It's what happened. As you found out, any boat that's on Fire is as good as sunk. And boat with speed loss will probably sink eventually. I will say you had extremely bad luck having the Cambeltown sunk, though. Usually it rams the caisson on Turn 2 at full speed and is scuttled.

To address your gripes:

I can see how it may not be clear exactly what your objectives are. All the intro text just sets the scene as the guns begin firing, not what the commandos were there for. I had read a book on the raid beforehand, so I knew what was what going in.

I personally don't find wargame rulebooks that dry. Then again, I consider 60-page rulebooks and RPG systems light reading...

Hunting for numbered spaces is a bit annoying. Nearby numbers are close together, but sometimes not that close. Setup is helped by the searchlights and guns being printed. In black on a dark board.

As for hiding the numbers being hidden when you have chits everywhere, well that was a bad design decision. I play RoSN in Cyberboard, so I just hit F9 and pieces disappear so I can find the number. I wish I knew a workaround in real life.

Covering fire is a bit useless... until you knock out that gun on the Old Mole on turn 2 and get a commando to grenade it. It's a game where a lot of bad stuff happens to British soldier, but the moments when you get your own back... That's when you make notes like YES!

I think some of the modifiers are important (like the -1 for commandoes). There's only 6. Hopefully with practice, it becomes more automatic. The modifiers are supposed to make sense: so I have a commando unit firing at the enemy in the same space, I should get a pretty good modifier on this attack.

I don't like the black connectors on a dark map either. Especially around the railroad tracks. Maybe they didn't want to screw up the ambience of the map, which I must say is very nice. Just sometimes a pain to play on.
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domus_ludorum wrote:
Incredibly ambitious/brave to jump into this as your first wargame experience.

Or incredibly foolhardy.

domus_ludorum wrote:
(Lots of other great points and advise)

When the Campbeltown sunk I did figure I was onto a bad gaming session, but I figure the uniqueness of that might highlight some interesting points of gameplay (as well as providing a differing viewpoint to other session reports here for those more interested in the session part of things). Plus I'd already sunk several hours into the game at that point, and I'm a bit bloody-minded, so...


Your point about the naval damage being pretty representative was interesting - I never really thought about the construction of those ships and (again - no historical knowledge) I figured the raid was a cleaner afair. Interesting to hear otherwise.

Also interesting re. the Clarkson documentary - I might have to hunt that out - I do actually like his stuff, in the mostpart, and it'd be good to see more on the inspiration behind the game.
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RoSN is more of a paper time machine wargame. It's more about the experience than the winning. The game itself is rather brutal. Not just the German guns, but ground combat mechanics make it a very dicey (ahem) affair. Like hitting the enemy but only rolling a 1 on the effect die. It's random, but it's also very exciting. In the same way Russian roulette is exciting.

I suggest reading some of the The General articles on the game's page under More Information and the Files sections.
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Fusag:
Again, lots of of good points - thanks for the experienced feedback - your review and session report here helped clear up some of my pre-game confusions before I brought the game to the table.

However, I guess I should quantify one point you made reference to:

fusag wrote:
I personally don't find wargame rulebooks that dry. Then again, I consider 60-page rulebooks and RPG systems light reading...

This is true. I've played p&p RPGs where the rule books were tons more complex than this. I guess what I meant by 'diffcult to read dry' is that I was reading this set of rules that seemed clouded by obfuscation, massive-subpointing, and abbreviations I wasn't up to speed with whilst on a train and without the pieces or board to hand. In that situation, I found some of it hard to get a handle on.
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Yeah, if you don't want to read an entire book, there's a good historical article at the same grognard.com site.
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Ncik wrote:
This is true. I've played p&p RPGs where the rule books were tons more complex than this. I guess what I meant by 'diffcult to read dry' is that I was reading this set of rules that seemed clouded by obfuscation, massive-subpointing, and abbreviations I wasn't up to speed with whilst on a train and without the pieces or board to hand. In that situation, I found some of it hard to get a handle on.

I agree. RPG rulebooks tend to have lots of blurbs to indicate what exactly rule X is meant to accomplish. It's easier to tie rules to a narrative you already have in your head than trying to make sense of a formless mass of rules.

A lot of wargames these days, or at least the ones with good rulebooks, write rules like annotated sequences of play. They first introduce the premise, objectives, components, and terms. Then they give an overview of what happens on a turn using the sequence of play. Then a section or two is devoted to each phase of the sequence of play. And there's sometimes an extended example of play to explain when and why certain mechanism might come into play. A lot of GMT games are setup like this now.

As for 80s era Avalon Hill games... well, let's just say some wargamers are like computer folks. Sure, there's easy GUIs, but some people like an austere command line interface.
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Ncik wrote:
Also interesting re. the Clarkson documentary - I might have to hunt that out - I do actually like his stuff, in the mostpart, and it'd be good to see more on the inspiration behind the game.

Here's the first video:
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Thanks for the effort in your session report. It reminded me of how much fun and tension I had playing this game. It IS brutal. I played a handful of times...and once things just went perfectly well and I was able to land most of my troops. The dock was successfully blown. I even eclipsed the "winning" score according to the rules.

But prior to that there were several BRUTAL outcomes. There are always a lot of ships in flames. A lot of dead soldiers before they even get a chance to fight. However, I felt like the game was challenging me, personally, to find a way to succeed.

This is a horrible first impression of wargames. A solo wargame, especially these older ones....they all have pretty crusty rules and will tend to not reflect very well what a typical 2-player experience would be like...or even the more contemporary designs.

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Nice review and session report. I really enjoyed reading it. I have been wanting to play this game for a VERY long time, but never had read the rules, I now wonder if it is the right kind of game for me. I like B-17 Solitaire game and I was thinking this would be a similar game. Lots of dice rolling in that one too. However, now that you mention all the "wargaming" lingo... I am not sure. I had bought the NEW version of PanzerBlitz Hill of Death, and I just didn't get it at all. Too much "wargame" verbage, so I traded it. I need to think this one out a bit. OR at the very least, read that Strategy "guide" first just to see if it is "right" for me.

Thanks for a really nice report/review!

I have also watched Jeremy Clarkson's Video "shown above" on Youtube. I HIGHLY recommend watching all 6 episodes!! Really puts the game into perspective of what really happened. Then, you will know why the boats get hit allot.

Oh, and you stole it for that price!! ;^)

BTW (By the way) I pronounce it at Saint. Na Zair I think that is how it is pronounced in the video as well.

Jim
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Thanks for the review/session report.

The first time I played this, the first turn I went thru the harbor defense fire. I remember boats taking hits, multiple casualties, boats burning... it seemed impossible.

Then on to dockside defense fire. Even more hits, more casualties, more boats on fire. The incoming fire seemed to never end. I reread and reread the rules thinking I must be doing something wrong.

I continued thru the game and at some point I thought "this really happened!"

For me, this lesson was worth all the money the game cost and all the time I spent on it.

I am always astounded by what men can do in combat.

Have played this many times since.
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JimM wrote:
I have been wanting to play this game for a VERY long time, but never had read the rules, I now wonder if it is the right kind of game for me. I like B-17 Solitaire game and I was thinking this would be a similar game. Lots of dice rolling in that one too.

I would give the game a try. B-17, I feel, is one of those games which you play for the experience (fighting off wave after wave when you've lost 2 engines, dropped out of formation, and are limping back to base with a disabled ball turret) rather than trying to outplay the opponent. RoSN is the same type of experience.

If you're having trouble with wargame lingo, you can always ask questions on the forums.
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earthboot wrote:
Thanks for the review session report. I had a great laugh, welcome to wargaming the old AH games!

But seriously, the report was a good read, I desperately want this game even more after reading it.

Hi again. Thanks. Unfortunately, it looks like I might be keeping hold of my copy of the game for a few more plays after all...

JimM wrote:
Nice review and session report. I really enjoyed reading it. I have been wanting to play this game for a VERY long time, but never had read the rules, I now wonder if it is the right kind of game for me. ... However, now that you mention all the "wargaming" lingo... I am not sure.

I must admit, I made the point about the wargaming lingo as a newbie-to-wargaming warning, but it's not nightmare-ish. Having played the game once, it now all makes sense to me (well, I guess it should after rolling 1000 dice ) It's just little things than, when you're trying to smoothly read your way through the rules, can cause a mental hiccup and your brain to go "Wait, what the heck did that mean!?" - A case in point for me was when playing the game I moved the shot turn marker onto the 5th square only to notice the "Note" associated with that square read "4 TH# HDT" - what the heck did that mean? Okay, so, now I know, but at the time...

JimM wrote:
I have also watched Jeremy Clarkson's Video "shown above" on Youtube. I HIGHLY recommend watching all 6 episodes!! Really puts the game into perspective of what really happened. Then, you will know why the boats get hit allot.

Indeed. I just watched them myself. Wow - now that brougth an awestruck tear to my eye, let me tell you!


Also, to address an earlier point that I realise I didn't clarify on:

fusag wrote:
I think some of the modifiers are important (like the -1 for commandoes). There's only 6. Hopefully with practice, it becomes more automatic. The modifiers are supposed to make sense: so I have a commando unit firing at the enemy in the same space, I should get a pretty good modifier on this attack.

This is actually a very good point. I totally agree about -1 for assault / +1 for demolition modifier. This does make you think. As do various of the other modifiers. Despite my (attemptedly humorous) jibes at modifiers, that's why I really only singled out the area modifiers to be mocked. They did only affect 2 dice rolls in the whole game, and they didn't feel as important as the other modifiers in there. THAT SAID, their existence is EXACTLY what I would have added if I'd been thinking about combat systems for a computer game. In fact, in my previously mentioned computer-RPG-design my own modifiers were much more overboard than this. But that was computer stuff, this is boardgaming - it's a minor point, and I won't argue with your comments on this - I just thought it worth highlighting.
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Ncik wrote:
This is actually a very good point. I totally agree about -1 for assault / +1 for demolition modifier. This does make you think. As do various of the other modifiers. Despite my (attemptedly humorous) jibes at modifiers, that's why I really only singled out the area modifiers to be mocked. They did only affect 2 dice rolls in the whole game, and they didn't feel as important as the other modifiers in there. THAT SAID, their existence is EXACTLY what I would have added if I'd been thinking about combat systems for a computer game. In fact, in my previously mentioned computer-RPG-design my own modifiers were much more overboard than this. But that was computer stuff, this is boardgaming - it's a minor point, and I won't argue with your comments on this - I just thought it worth highlighting.

That's the way of RPGs. More modifiers for more 'realism' for the you-are-there experience.

The -1 for non-circle areas does come in handy. Because the Germans react to you, you can position a commando unit in a square so that, when the Germans come stomping up the road, you're in building cover and they're in the open. I believe there were a couple instances of this kind of ambush during the actual raid.

Of course, then what happens is the German movement roll is more or less than hoped for, and they up too far away or right on top of you. That happened during the raid as well... Anyway, the -1 area modifier might not be applicable that often, but it still has an effect on play.

Oh, and don't worry about the -1 for the submarine pens. Just don't go near them. angry
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Just one last thing - the same game system as 'Raid on St Nazaire' is used in another game - Pegasus Bridge: The Beginning of D-Day – June 6, 1944. It's a Strategy & Tactics magazine game by the same designer as RoSN. Apparently it's not quite as good but it is another classic action by elite British forces - this time seizing (dropped in by glider) and holding the extreme Eastern flank of the D-Day landings.

I have a copy but haven't played it - must give it a try.
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The OP might like to check out this post I made on CSW last year:

http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?14@479.9hhhaiFMsG3.6@.ee6d7...

Check out posts 254, 255 and 257.

It's a bunch of stats and interesting (I hope) observations I've compiled over 20 playings of RoSN, which is one of my favorite games (from turn 3 on, when it gets to be less of a dicefest, that is).

Note in particular the average score for a game in which Campbeltown sinks -- it's pretty close to your experience, OP.

As I said then, this is never the same game twice, and the situation is always either desperate or potentially desperate - makes for exciting play.


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