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Subject: A New Kind of CDG rss

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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Four Lost Battles covers the engagements of Grossbeeren, Katzbach, Kulm, and Dennewitz, which each saw Bonaparte's marshals defeated, which in turn nullified his great victory at Dresden and set up the disaster at Leipzig. This is a quad game in the tradition of SPI, since it offers four tactical situations that are linked through history.

Gameplay (28 out of 28): Four Lost Battles is an update of the system pioneered in Napoleon's Last Battles. Like the later game it relies upon commanders and leaders being able to control their forces in pitched battles that are decided through a bloodless CRT. The similarities diminish there as Four Lost Battles is quite a different beast.

The biggest difference is that it is a card-driven tactical wargame. Each side has two decks. The small deck is made up of mode cards that modify game set-up while the large deck is used to drive the game and present variables to the battles. The cards have four functions. First they decide movement points and they also initiate certain game phases, like weather and unit recovery. Next the cards bring in events like sluggish commanders, alternative reinforcements, or the arrival of Napoleon. Lastly the cards modify your victory points, usually subtracting them as most of the card events offer a benefit to your side. In the rare cases where you get no benefit the card will give you victory points. That being said the cards introduce a lot of chaos by forcing difficult situations and decisions. However, they also create a thrilling narrative and make the battles more than just an exercise in predictable battlefield management while awaiting rigid numbers of reinforcements. Instead you get a level of simulated battlefield chaos that is at once full of flavor and a bucket of fun, unless of course you are a control freak.

Sample Cards:


The cards can dictate the tactics, but usually they only modify the situation; in the end the player must decide how to use his available forces. Battle plans must still be made and your troops managed well. Here comes the other big improvement over Napoleon's Last Battles. The CRT while still bloodless, has a shock result in which a unit with superior morale can gain an advantage. I found this got rid of the rubber unit syndrome that plagues bloodless CRTs in which units seemingly revolve in and out of combat while taking few losses. The shock table makes unit quality important and it makes exchange results a little more common.

Katzbach in Progress:


Tactical (5 out of 5): Leadership and command control are important, but so is individual unit morale. This makes you consider troop quality as much as numbers. Cavalry charges add another layer and the cards add a level uncertainty and disorder that is at once fun and realistic. Overall the tactical experience is at once fresh and fun, and incorporates facts of Napoleonic combat that were not captured in similar games.

Accessibility (4 out of 5): The Rules appear thick, but they flow easily and are clear. The game does not lack player-aid charts and if you've played other Zucker games this one will be a breeze

Components (5 out of 5): OSG is known for fine looking games, but Four Lost Battles might be their masterpiece.

Grossbeeren Map:


Sample Units:


Originality (2 out of 2): I've always wanted a tactical game that included cards to increase the in-game variations, and the way it is presented here is fresh. In fact the cards make what could have been a respectable hex quad game a unique experience. Four Lost Battles might have too many cards and chaos, but the designers point out that the battles were more chaotic than usual due to consistent failures in scouting. My point is other games, particularly Napoleonic tactical games from Kevin Zucker, can incorporate these cards with some variations in use in order to curve the chaotic excesses. After all other Napoleonic Campaigns were not as confusing as the one simulated here.

To my knowledge this has never really been done before and I hope to see it again and again.

Historical Quality (5 out of 5): The battles were chaotic and often times meeting engagements between forces that blundered into each other. The cards capture the confusion in ways that would be too cumbersome if done through special rules. The units having different morale captures the widely varied quality of the forces involved, and of course there is the importance of command control. Certainly the rules could be more realistic, but if that is an issue just use Markus Stumptner's rules if you want a bloodier CRT and an orders and chit pull system.

Overall (49 out of 50): Four Lost Battles is a breath of fresh air into hex and counter tactical wargaming that, for all its merits, might be a little stale nowadays. It is a step up in complexity from the old SPI quads, but the cards streamline the rules while adding dynamics missing from even the superb tactical hex games. With Four Lost Battles you'll never have a dull moment. I highly recommend this game to any wargamer and I hope other designers have taken notes on this offering from Kevin Zucker and Alessandro Fontana.
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Jason Roach
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Sean,

Great review. Thanks for posting. I’m a big fan of the 4LB system and you described it well.

One note however: I wouldn’t say that the cards actually “drive-movement”, but I can understand that impression. I think how you state that the cards "set movement" might be a better way to describe it. All of the counters have a movement allowance on them, however certain cards can restrict movement. I believe that OSG described the system as a “Card Enhanced Game.” The perception that it "drives" movement is perhaps due to the fact that OSG printed the “normal” movement allowance on the other cards as well: the 4/6. So, any time you see that 4/6 on a card, that is “normal” movement, i.e. what is on the counters and the player is to refer to what is printed on the units; most of the cards have that 4/6 number on them. I think it was meant as a reminder of standard movement and to remain consistent. In hindsight, they should have only printed the restrictions on the cards, and left the ones that did not impact movement blank in that spot.

It is interesting that you noticed how bloody that shock table could be. Some of my most serious losses have come from it. I recall one particularly awful result where it was raining and I counterattacked the French Cavalry with my own and ended-up in a terrific mess. I took heavy casualties and you could just sense the mayhem with horses slammed side-by-side, as the troopers slashed away wildly at close-quarters in the rain; I lost almost half of my Cavalry, but so did the French.

Anyway, very fun game.

-Jason
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Ph’nglui mglw’nfah Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!
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Tremendous review- shot this game from 'totally unknown' to 'must buy yesterday' status. Merci beaucoup!
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As always, an excellent review.

Going to send that link to my friends as a sales pitch to get them interested in my copy.

It certainly is a lovely wargame, begging to be played.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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One note however: I wouldn’t say that the cards actually “drive-movement”, but I can understand that impression. I think how you state that the cards "set movement" might be a better way to describe it. All of the counters have a movement allowance on them, however certain cards can restrict movement. I believe that OSG described the system as a “Card Enhanced Game.” The perception that it "drives" movement is perhaps due to the fact that OSG printed the “normal” movement allowance on the other cards as well: the 4/6. So, any time you see that 4/6 on a card, that is “normal” movement, i.e. what is on the counters and the player is to refer to what is printed on the units; most of the cards have that 4/6 number on them. I think it was meant as a reminder of standard movement and to remain consistent. In hindsight, they should have only printed the restrictions on the cards, and left the ones that did not impact movement blank in that spot.


Quite right and thanks for the note. I still see this as a CDG though and not just "card enhanced" as OSG says.
 
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Thanks Sean. I'm kind of sorry I didn't pick this one up when I had the chance. They had this game on sale at the same time GMT was running one of their sales and I couldn't afford both, so I went with GMT. I'll pick it up someday.


Definitely try to get this one Pete, it shot right to my top 20 after two plays.
 
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Jason Roach
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gittes wrote:
Quote:
One note however: I wouldn’t say that the cards actually “drive-movement”, but I can understand that impression. I think how you state that the cards "set movement" might be a better way to describe it. All of the counters have a movement allowance on them, however certain cards can restrict movement. I believe that OSG described the system as a “Card Enhanced Game.” The perception that it "drives" movement is perhaps due to the fact that OSG printed the “normal” movement allowance on the other cards as well: the 4/6. So, any time you see that 4/6 on a card, that is “normal” movement, i.e. what is on the counters and the player is to refer to what is printed on the units; most of the cards have that 4/6 number on them. I think it was meant as a reminder of standard movement and to remain consistent. In hindsight, they should have only printed the restrictions on the cards, and left the ones that did not impact movement blank in that spot.


Quite right and thanks for the note. I still see this as a CDG though and not just "card enhanced" as OSG says.


That’s understandable and I agree to some extent; aside from the possible movement restrictions, the cards change victory points, introduce events, alter the reinforcement schedule or bring-in new reinforcements, etc…I was focused on movement, but they certainly do “drive” much of the game’s experience, probably more than just “enhanced.” I also agree that when combined with the core mechanics such as that “Shock Combat” result, the cards add a lot to the narrative.

-Jason
 
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Borat Sagdiyev
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I bought this one almost a year ago and haven't still managed to play it. Hopefully, with this review as a introduction, it will be easier to find an opponent.

Btw, the shock table was an optional in other OSG games such as 1809. I agree that it makes for deeper and more tense combats.

One final note: If you enjoy so much "controlled chaos" you might want to try Combat Commander: Europe. It certainly takes command & control at the tactical scale to new heights.



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Andreas E. Gebhardt
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A job well done!!!
Andy (521tiger)
 
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David G. Cox Esq.
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This is an excellent review.

Having been an avid wargamer since 1980, I feel that initially there was a big difference between the game systems of Napoleon's Last Battles and Napoleon at Bay.

With the rules development that has gone into the NLB system, it now appears that NLB, the Campaigns of Napoleon series and the OSG Days series all have extremely similar rules. The main difference between the games coming out in each system now seems to be the scale that is being represented rather than the actual mechanics of each system.

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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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With the rules development that has gone into the NLB system, it now appears that NLB, the Campaigns of Napoleon series and the OSG Days series all have extremely similar rules. The main difference between the games coming out in each system now seems to be the scale that is being represented rather than the actual mechanics of each system.


I noticed that as well and I like it. Makes transitioning from one game to the next not nearly as arduous.
 
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