Recommend
87 
 Thumb up
 Hide
9 Posts

Angola» Forums » Reviews

Subject: On Behalf of Ragnar Brothers, I Would Like to Apologize… rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
David G. Cox Esq.
Australia
Lighthouse Beach
NSW
flag msg tools
badge
Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Angola


Historical Simulation of the Angolan Civil War, 1975-1976
For One to Four Players
At least six hours playing time
Designed by Phil Kendall
Published by Ragnar Brothers (1988)


Angola is a simulation of the start of the Angola Civil War – a struggle for control of Angola after Portugal gave it independence. Four factions are vying for control – two of these factions are communist in philosophy and the other two factions aren’t. In the game there are no individual winners – either the two communist forces will win a joint victory or the opposing non-c9ommunist forces will share a victory.

As a consumer I have very mixed feelings about Angola. The physical quality of the components are woeful, even by the standards of 1988. As a connoisseur of military simulation games Angola is a superb game, even by the standards of the twenty-first century.

The BGG is my main tool for selecting new games to join the elite ranks of my ever-growing collection. I don’t know exactly what it was that brought Angola to my attention. Looking at the available information I felt that I would like to own and play Angola and decided I would try to obtain one of the original Ragnar Brothers editions, even though Multiman Publishing has their own version in the works.

I looked around to see where they were for sale and which geeks had them up for trade. I eventually was able to make a trade here in Australia – but suspect that I was over generous with what I traded away. When I received Angola in the mail I was stunned by the primitive nature of the components.

This is going to be a good, bad and ugly review and we may as well start with the ugly.


How Ugly?

Very!

Angola is so ugly that I have made myself a set of new counters and a set of new cards. I don’t normally ‘pimp’ up my games, but with Angola I made an exception.

My home-made cards

The cards are just plain cardboard with some typewriter print on them – no graphics, no fancy fonts, just plain text on plain cardboard. And very tiny into the bargain. My new and improved cards are standard card size (fits into card sleeves). They also have a background map of Angola as well as having a heading on each card that is colour-coordinated with the colour of the paper on which they are printed. If you have a copy of Ragnar Brother’s Angola, do yourself a favour and use my cards.



The counters actually make the cards look pretty high-tech. There are seven cards – each one has black printing on coloured paper which has been stuck onto a sheet of thin cardboard. Having played several of the Ragnar Brothers’ more recent games which have quite good production values this came as a real shock to me. On top of the primitive graphics the counters have to actually be cut out by hand. Luckily Karsten Englemann has made his own counters and placed them as a file here on BGG – I have been able to manufacture my own counters which are more attractive, more colourful and thicker than those which came with the game.

Englemann counters

The rules are poorly laid out with information not presented in the order in which you need to know stuff and with related information not all together in the same part of the rules. The graphics in the rules are tacky.



The player aids are well written and highly useful as you play the game but their appearance is in keeping with the quality of the other components so far mentioned. I have been told that consistency is a virtue to which we should all aspire – unfortunately the Ragnar Brothers have achieved consistency in the physical quality of Angola. I have actually reformatted the player aid cards and they, too, are available as downloadable files here on BGG.

The map is colourful, attractive and functional so perhaps I should leave it there at this stage.



How Good?

Very!


The game is a delight to play – and with my home-made components a beauty to behold. I will talk about its virtues as I work my way through the sequence of play.

The game turn is broken into several phases.

The first phase is “The Start of the Turn Phase” – not very imaginative but quite accurate. During this phase players gain new operations cards, check how many cards they are allowed to use this turn, organise their cards for the turn and then determine who the First Player will be this turn.

At this point in time I need to tell you about Operations Cards and players’ forces.

The Counters (Forces) – players have several different types of counters. Most of the troops will be local infantry (smaller units or larger Brigades), reinforcements (specialised troops that give dice roll modifiers or special abilities) or direct aid from foreign powers. Importantly, each player has a number of ‘column’ markers – these are crucial to the game design. A column marker allows several combat units to group together and work in conjunction. Forces can only engage the enemy if they are part of a ‘column’.

Operations Cards – each turn players have a range of cards that they can use to activate troops – each round a player will play a single card and activate the troops specified. The cards are placed in order at the very start of the turn. Elite troops have more than one card and so can be activated more than once each turn. Some cards are blank and must be played, thus forcing the player to miss a turn. A certain amount of thought and planning goes into organising your cards. Sometimes events may transpire to put your troops in a vulnerable position only to have no serious reaction from your opponent simply because they don’t have the cards they need when they need them.

The next part of the game is the Operations Section – each turn the start player is determined randomly. Players take turns revealing the top operations card in their deck and activating the appropriate troops.

The last part of each turn is called “The End of the Turn” phase. Firstly you check to see if one of the alliances has had sufficient success to achieve an automatic victory - it is possible for either side to achieve an automatic victory before the end of the tenth turn. Players then check to see who achieved more success in the previous turn and their Victory Marker will be advanced. Players are then allowed to reorganize their column markers.

Finally players are given new units. The more cities you control the more recruits you get. The side that is doing worse receives Direct Aid from foreign powers. Players also secretly bid for reinforcements – you decide how many reinforcements you want and the more you take the more chance of your opponent receiving Victory Points.


Balance in the Game

One of the most interesting aspects of the game is the in-built balancing mechanisms in the game. If you are doing well then you opponent is doing poorly – the side doing better gets more recruits (i.e. new infantry units) and the side doing worse gets more direct aid from foreign governments not wanting to see the side philosophically aligned with their own political ideas go down (direct aid tends to be fairly high-tech). If you want/need more reinforcements you just take them but give up victory points in the process.

Having said that, the Direct Aid you can receive from foreign powers is limited and if you take too much it will dry up and ultimately cause some long term problems for you via the Crisis Table (this is random but tends to be the removal of forces – you have lost the support of your foreign masters and they are pulling out to avoid political consequences back home).


The Military Point of View

The four forces in the game have different potential forces and different levels of professionalism in their forces (this is represented by the make-up of the operations cards available to each political faction). To a certain extent initial forces are distributed randomly and so each game will have a different starting position. The first two turns are often an opportunity for each faction to establish a military power-base which it can use as a spring-board for future military operations.

Moving off-road is slow and hazardous – the road network is a crucial factor in taking control of Angola.

In Angola combat is a multi-faceted aspect of the game which is relatively simple to perform but difficult to explain. The crucial aspects are that dice roll modifiers are very important and that one way to obtain modifiers is to have areas adjacent to the combat controlled by your own troops – this means that if you want to attack a strong position, sometimes you need to spend some turns before the assault preparing by sending troops into adjacent areas.


Really Nice Aspects of the Game


• It is nice to play a team game where it really is two people against two people
• Planning military operations is very important in Angola
• The balance of the game is excellent – even if you take some hard knocks on one turn there are balancing factors in the game that will allow you a chance to fight your way back
• The mechanics of the game are simple and yet quite interesting
Keep in mind that the game is long (at least six hours) but down-time between turns should be quite small once players are familiar with the rules.


I paid too much for the game but am glad that I have it. The components are sub-standard but the files here on BGG allow you to make quite a handsome game. I look forward to seeing what the MMP version looks like when it comes out.

Will the counters look something like this?


The Game is Afoot!


75 
 Thumb up
2.67
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
United Kingdom
Durham
flag msg tools
Scheiß Inselaffen!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for the review! Today, I think, is the crunch day on which MMP will decide whether to cancel Angola. This truly is a brilliant game. The one time I played it, I hand the kind of gaming epiphany that I had with Twilight Struggle. Cancelling the reprint would be a crying same. Preorder now!
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robert Wesley
Nepal
Aberdeen
Washington
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mb
I say they DUMP the redundant NATO UNIT TYPE symbol and replace it with either a "flag" or "guidon" of an actual "Unit" or NAME or something else "useful"?
shake
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Iain K
United States
Arvada
Colorado
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
So let me understand. If you're doing badly foreign powers will aid you. However, if you take too much foreign aide, they'll abandon you as a liability?



I won't be surprised if this were exactly how the system works from the perspective of third world countries like Angola.

Great review.
12 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve
United States
Flagstaff
Arizona
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Awesome. I really hope this one gets enough orders to come out from MMP.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David G. Cox Esq.
Australia
Lighthouse Beach
NSW
flag msg tools
badge
Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
citizen k wrote:
So let me understand. If you're doing badly foreign powers will aid you. However, if you take too much foreign aide, they'll abandon you as a liability?


A lot like the USA in Vietnam - the worse things got the more resources the USA would put into that particular war but when things got to the point where they understood they couldn't win, they pulled out.

Yep - your understanding is completely correct.
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jonathan Harrison
United States
Fisher
Illinois
flag msg tools
So long ...
badge
... and thanks for all the fish.
Avatar
mb
garysax wrote:
Awesome. I really hope this one gets enough orders to come out from MMP.

It did. cool And I can't wait for my copy. I remember the first time I read this review...
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Hoyt

Butte
Montana
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I feel bad now that I didn't help with the pre-order, I have recently acquired a used MMP copy and the components are very nice and the game is FANTASTIC. Thank you to MMP and the people who pre-ordered to keep this game available for me.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robert "Smitty" Smith
United States
Unspecified
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
It's hard to argue with your assessment of its lack of beauty. When I reviewed it years back for Paper Wars, my initial conclusions were...well what do we have here? I reworked the rules as well to make them logical and more readable but game play was engaging. They did that well and their overall vision was to be commended - and that map - goofy as all get out but sentimental favorite.

Smitty
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.