Where There is Discord (WTID) is a solo wargame based on the 1982 Falklands conflict between Argentina and the United Kingdom by Daniel Hodges of Fifth Column Games. The game covers the time period from May 1st up until May 28th, with the starting point being the Falkland Islands occupied by Argentinian forces and the British Task Force on its way to the area. You are put in the position of the commander of the British Task Force. The game plays in two distinct parts with firstly a slow build up as the Task Force moves closer having to contend with Exocet missile attacks and fluctuating international and domestic opinion. Secondly the Task Force is close enough to attempt to land British forces in San Carlos Bay. Throughout both phases the Task Force receives air, sub and surface fleet attacks on the Task Force subs, fleet and Harriers that have been deployed in a number of defence zones. The challenge is for the Task Force to arrive reasonably in tact and start landing troops around May 21st, land sufficient troops in San Carlos Bay and hold enough ground by the end of the game on May 28th in order for the land war (not part of the game) to proceed successfully. The game has a suggested playing time of 4 hours and certainly gets much quicker as you pick up familiarity, but do allow much more time on first play.
This heavy game comes with two large mounted map boards with excellent artwork by Mark Mahaffrey, 176 thick one inch counters, 60 cards (two types), a 60 page rule book and a separate briefing booklet, 2 player reference cards and twenty (20) dice. For a first game, the developers have made something of outstanding quality. Some areas have perhaps been overdone, for example the playing area is enormous, with places marked for almost every type of counter. I had to play this game standing up a lot of the time in order to reach everything, eventually sitting down and keeping a lot of the less important counters nearer to me than in their correct positions. Overdoing the quality is hardly a negative criticism though and is much better than the alternative of producing a poor quality game. The developers have to be congratulated. The player aids contain very useful information but as a player I felt as though I could do with an additional summary list of dice rolls that have to be taken in turn order.
Rule book 8/10
The rule book is a large A4 colour glossy booklet. The content is comprehensive although there is no index. The main problems with the rule book are down to section ordering. The sections are not ordered according to the turn order which is printed on the player aid, this was a bad decision in my opinion. The result is that as each turn progresses you are constantly flicking backwards and forwards to find the correct section of the rulebook. Already my cover is coming away from the staples and I may have to spiral bind the rules to protect them against future wear and tear. The only other criticism of the rule book I would have is that it contains large sections of continuous text with no illustrations. A picture really does speak a thousand words and the rule book could be improved by including more relevant images of game components interspersed with the text to help explain a particular rule.
In complexity terms I would give WTID a level of 3 or 4 out of 10, compared to say Fields of Fire, another recent solo war game, which would be nearer 10/10, so I'm definitely placing WTID in the Low-Medium complexity category. Each turn starts by determing the current weather conditions, drawing an event card and updating the situation report. The player then deploys the Task Force surface fleet and Harriers across a number of defence zones, and subs in one of three sea zones (coastal waters, search box and exclusion zone). The next phase is to check for sea detection and combat between the Argentinian subs and surface fleet and the British subs. The Argentinian vessels also get a chance to find and attack the Task Force. Then between 0 and 5 Argentinian air raids take place depending on the level of air activity given in the situation report (the level increases as the Task Force gets closer) influenced by the current weather conditions. Air attacks may be intercepted by Harriers undertaking combat air patrol (CAP), or Task Force warships in the zone being targetted. Super Etendards may launch Exocet missiles from a distance, other aircraft try to bomb the Task Force from close range. Finally the Harriers have to return safely to the Task Force carriers.
Air to air combat and surface to air combat is performed using a novel (to me at least) two pass system of radar locks and target locks using dice. Air to surface attacks are made using a single dice roll. The type of dice used in comnbat are determined by the type of system being used (surface to air), for example Sea Cat, or the type of aircraft involved (for air to air), for example Harrier vs Mirage. Hits by any type of surface or air combat system (apart from the Exocet) are quite hard to achieve but the effect is normally devastating meaning that tension is built up incredibly when raids take place. The two pass lock/fire system increases this tension and is much more interesting than just making a single dice roll.
Once the Task Force is close enough to the Falklands then the landings can begin. The aim is to arrive at this point with enough of the Task Force remaining to provide enough cover for the Task Force AND the landings in San Carlos Bay. San Carlos Bay has 10 landing slots each with an associated sea zone. This means that up to 10 vessels made up of troop ships, landing craft and warships may move into San Carlos Bay, but space is very tight and it becomes something of a shooting gallery. By this stage of the game the Argentinians are regularly performing five air raids per day on San Carlos Bay and the Task Force out at sea. Once the landings start then the Argentinian land forces start to deploy in defensive positions around the Bay to oppose the British landings and to counter attack those forces that have already landed. Each ground unit has a strength (which may be reduced if landing craft didn't help to put the British units ashore) indicating the size of dice used in combat, and a number of lives. Ground combat is a multi-round roll off using the two units' dice, with the unit having the lower roll losing a life, until only one unit survives. Extra lives are given for air and naval support, elite units and dug in units.
At the end of May 28th the British need to have more than 5 units ashore in San Carlos Bay to achieve victory, 5 units is a stalemate, and less than 5 units is an Argentinian victory. At any point during the game if domestic opinion falls to zero then the British public have lost their appetite for war and the game is immediately lost. Domestic opninion can fall when Task Force vessels are lost and through choices taken on the event cards.
The game starts slowly as the Task Force moves closer to the Falklands and by the landing phase is very hectic indeed with the casualty rate increasing considerably later on in the game. Solo wargames inevitably contain pre-programmed moves or actions for enemy forces (so called artificial intelligence), and how easy this is to manage is reflected in the complexity of the game. In WTID, the Argentinian air and sea movement and combat is dice based using quite simple rules. For example roll 3d4 to determine the position of the Argentinian sub ARA Santa Fe, with one 1 it is placed in the coastal box, with two 1s it is placed in the search box (open sea) and with three 1s it is placed in the exclusion zone, with no 1s it stays where it is. Simple charts indicate what happens to vessels after failed attacks, typically involving retreating back to the mainland. For Argentinian air raids, dice determine the type of aircraft, whether or not the attack is detected by Nimrods or the SAS (or the Chileans when international opinion is high), and the zone being targetted. Very simple system to apply and it becomes very familiar after a few turns. Other games have used multipurpose cards to cover events and random rolls and I was concerned that WTID would have too many dice rolls, but in the end I got used to this and it wasn't an issue for me. I would consider using a dice deck though but it would have to be comprehensive enough to cover all of the dice combinations.
The situation report cards have a fixed order but, apart from the numerous dice rolls, the 40+ event cards (of which around 15-20 are used each game) provide the main amount of variability. Each event card typically offers a choice of actions that affect international and domestic opinion. Of course, as commander, the tactics you employ in positioning the numerous elements of the Task Force play a major role. Any Harriers you deploy on CAP are unavailable for the next turn, so when and where do you commit them? How do you position the warhips to protect the fleet, taking into account the onboard defence systems? In what order do you land the ground troops, taking into account possible counter attacks? Maybe after a large number of plays an optimum strategy may be found, but I think this unlikely given the number of factors you have to take into account, although general guidelines will undoubtedly appear.
I described WTID as a low-medium complexity game. Low complexity does not however reduce the fun OR the challenge, in fact it makes the game move quickly and adds to the fun incredibly. Who wants to spend 15 minutes working out each individual maneouvre by the Argentinians, having to cross reference multiple tables and charts? WTID manages to build incredible tension and drama and leads to a very strong narrative/story throughout the game. This is helped by having each of the British counters individually named as a vessel (HMS Sheffield, HMS Hermes, QE2 for example), a Harrier (Black Leader, Red 2 for example) or a ground unit (2 Para, SBS for example). As commander of the fleet each loss is taken personally and for those of us of a certain age you are transported back to the television pictures from our childhood of burning British ships, aircraft streaking through the air and troops yomping across inhospitable terrain.
WTID is a very accessible solo wargame covering an interesting conflict that makes a refreshing change from the usual theatres covered by wargames. It is absolutely chock full of theme and story. If this conflict and time period interests you then I thoroughly recommend you give the game a go.
My overall rating is 9/10. Well done guys on a great game and I look forward to your future releases.
- quality of components
- very immersive theme
- easy to play
- very rich mechanisms
- overall size and space required
- rulebook section order
- lots of dice rolls
- Last edited Tue Oct 6, 2009 12:14 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:12 pm
If you do come up with an optimum strategy, please share, I haven't
managed to find one...!