Recommend
50 
 Thumb up
 Hide
11 Posts

Elusive Victory: The Air War over the Suez Canal, 1967-1973» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Elusive Victory Review rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Jon Bryon
England
New Addington
Croydon
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Elusive Victory is a GMT game which has been around for a while now, released last summer. It's an adaptation of GMT's Downtown, a game I highly recommend and for which I wrote an extensive and well-received review. Since Elusive Victory (EV) shares the same core game chassis as Downtown (DT), I direct you to that review for a detailed explanation of the Sequence of Play, which is identical between the two games. This review will concentrate on the differences between the two games.

Obviously, the most apparent difference is that DT is about the airwar
over Vietnam, whereas EV is set in the Middle East, although at an almost identical time period. However, rather than a superpower facing off against a small, backwater nation (apologies to the Vietnamese; I've been to your country and it is beautiful!), EV is between a small but powerful Israel Air Force (IAF) and the rather larger, yet not so well-equipped, surrounding Muslim nations, principally Egypt (EAF).

Some of the hardware in EV is therefore similar to that in DT: on the plane front, A-4s, F-4s, MiG-17s, MiG-19s and MiG-21s all make a reappearance; on the SAM front, the ubiquitous SA-2 is back. EV, however, introduces lots of new planes to play with, especially from the French (for example, Ouragans, Mysteres, Vautors and Mirage IIIs, although the latter have already featured in the DT module Dragon's Jaw), but also from elsewhere, including Su-7s and Su-20s, Il-28 Beagles, Hunters and L-29s. More aircraft, such as the Su-15, are promised in future expansions that will be available through GMT's C3i Magazine.

In DT the Vietnamese only have limited ground defence options: standard AAA, Fire Can radar-directed AAA, and SA-2B SAMs. EV expands on these considerably. The EAF have newer SAMs at their disposal, namely the SA-2D/F, with improved performance at altitude, the SA-3, with better performance against closer low/medium targets, and the SA-6, which is much harder for the IAF to locate and jam. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, with the newer SAMs suffering from shorter range and, in the case of the SA-3, limited ammunition. In addition to these new toys, the EAF also have Gundish radar-directed AAA, which is a little more lethal and a little more accurate than the older Fire Can units, although only at much shorter range.

Which brings us to the second most significant difference between DT and EV. DT is very assymetric, pitting a few MiGs and extensive ground defences against a big, more technologically-advanced yet dogmatic and fragile invading force. EV is somewhat more even, introducing a more symmetrical battle where both sides engage in air-ground attacks. Whereas in DT there is a clear-cut defender and attacker, for many of the scenarios in EV, both sides are simultaneously attacking and defending. The Israelis, therefore, now also need to prepare ground defences against attacking EAF aircraft, and for this they use regular AAA and the HAWK SAM system. The HAWK is a pretty fearsome system, with a large amount of ammo and a long range. However, some asymmetry in the battle is preserved as the IAF defences are usually sparse compared to the EAF's numerous SAMs, and on the other side of the coin, the IAF get better and more numerous planes in their attack formations, deploying Suppression of Enemy Air Defence tactics and dedicated jammers. The EAF's attacking formations are usually much lighter in numbers and poorly protected against attack.

I always play DT and EV by email, using the superb VASSAL modules. When playing DT it often seems a bit of a one-sided affair in terms of player workload, and the US player gets to 'do' more stuff in order to keep the game flowing. (I imagine this is not true when playing face-to-face or with live online play; I think it is an artefact of porting to a PBEM system where players want to minimise the number of files they send, so the US player usually, for example, automatically rolls the AAA attacks, whereas in real-time play the DRV player gets to do this.) Because EV gives both sides a significant number of flights to move, and ground defences to deploy, the player workload is more even for PBEM play. From a personal point of view, this shift makes the EV PBEM experience a little more enjoyable compared to DT.

Just like DT, EV is really a game of two halves: the early war, in 1967 or so, and the later scenarios in 1973. The early scenarios have a nice, ad hoc feel to them. The order of battle is not well established, and the players get to use all kinds of unusual aircraft which are often very slow, poorly equipped (no jamming or RWRs for example) and carry tiny bomb loads. Early war tactics are also more limited, mainly for the EAF player who has to follow Soviet doctrine when initiating air-to-air combat, which is a significant handicap. The later scenarios introduce more advanced equipment and flexible tactics, most notably the A-4E/H/N and F-4E for the Israelis, which are much better equipped than the French aircraft against SAMs and are able to carry more accurate and useful weaponry, such as Maverick and Shrike.

Tactics which experienced DT players are used to do not necessarily work so well in EV. In DT, medium altitude is usually recommended for the US flights, reducing the AAA threat and making the MiGs come up to fight, which can be very risky for the DRV. The EAF, on the other hand, can afford to be bolder in their air-to-air attacks, which makes medium altitude rather dangerous for the IAF bombers if they get jumped. Going down on the deck is less useful in EV since there is little rough terrain to mask flights from SAM radars and flights are easier to detect. Furthermore, the both players now need to deconflict their attacking flights with their defence systems, which is quite a complex affair for the EAF in scenarios with a large number of SAMs to deploy.

In terms of components, EV has been updated. It's not that DT has dated badly, but the player aids are now printed on glossier card, with brighter colours and are easier, in my opinion, to read. Unfortunately, the card seems less durable than that used in DT, and mine warped quickly. The counters follow the style established by DT, and can be used in either game without looking out of place; in fact, the recent extra scenarios provided in C3i #23 require the players to do just that in order to represent the US Navy in the Middle East as they join forces with the IAF against Egypt.

Two map sheets are provided in EV, double the area of DT, and are beautifully clear and easy to read. As with DT, rule book and separate scenario book are provided. I wish GMT would use glossier paper for these; the matt paper just doesn't stand up so well to all the thumbing players need to do. The scenario book is great, with great notes and is an interesting read in its own right. More scenarios are provided than in DT - 22 in all - which, given target and order of battle variations within each scenario, means the game is endlessly replayable.

My only criticism of the game is reserved for the rule book. The rules to DT are wonderfully written, being easy to follow, well-indexed and enjoyable to read. EV is similar, but has relied upon basically taking the DT rules and tweaking them where necessary. This is entirely sensible and understandable, but has introduced a number of errors and things which are difficult to understand. Some things mentioned in the text, such as 'Close Formation' are not relevant to EV, so introduce some confusion. Other changes, such as how the EAF should go about planning a raid, are glossed over and are inadequately explained. For the experienced DT player this does not pose much of a problem, but for someone new to the system there will be some confusion.

Fortunately, the support for EV is second to none. There are Living Rules posted online, and support from the designer on BGG and CSW is superb. DT was designed by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, but EV is designed by Terry Simo and is clearly a labour of love, just as DT was. Terry has designed a WWI airgame using the DT system, which is now on P500 at GMT; unfortunately I'm not interested in the era, but I do hope that the DT engine can be successfully applied to other post-WWII conflicts.

In short, EV is a great game that I love to play. As in DT, the game is full of meaningful decisions, stretching from the large scale of the planning phases all the way down to when to move what flight where and when to fire what SAM. The production values are good, the VASSAL module very well-implemented, and the differences compared to DT make it a worthwhile game in its own right.




46 
 Thumb up
3.57
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robert Hawkins
United States
Mooresville
North Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great comparative review. This one has been on my list since I saw the pre-publishing blurbs online, but with a severe shortage of face-to-face players, it's not made it to the shopping cart yet. Maybe I'll buy and try via VASSAL someday.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve
United States
Flagstaff
Arizona
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review. I couldn't get into DT... the assymetry was just too great. I also found the rules incredibly difficult for some reason--and this coming from someone who plays games that are *far* more complex. Just didn't click.

This sounds much more interesting however, especially with both sides planning raids simultaneously.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
R Larsen
Denmark
Naerum (Copenhagen)
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
garysax wrote:
Great review. I couldn't get into DT... the assymetry was just too great. I also found the rules incredibly difficult for some reason--and this coming from someone who plays games that are *far* more complex. Just didn't click.

This sounds much more interesting however, especially with both sides planning raids simultaneously.


I had exactly the same experience. Was really attracted to DT, and had a lot of hope for the game, but was completely turned off by the extremely asymmetric experience. Actually, this was enough that I had kind of decided to not be interested in EV.

This review makes me interested again. Thanks!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jon Bryon
England
New Addington
Croydon
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Goshawk wrote:
Great comparative review. This one has been on my list since I saw the pre-publishing blurbs online, but with a severe shortage of face-to-face players, it's not made it to the shopping cart yet. Maybe I'll buy and try via VASSAL someday.


I guess this depends on how you like to play games. I have no one to play this face-to-face with, but have not had difficulty getting in games PBEM using VASSAL. I think I would actually prefer to play them this way since I like the thinking space it gives, and the way I can fit playing a game that would otherwise take several hours (if not most of a day) around my schedule. If you like the idea of that, I'd say give it a try; it's very easy to play on VASSAL.

garysax wrote:
Great review. I couldn't get into DT... the assymetry was just too great. I also found the rules incredibly difficult for some reason--and this coming from someone who plays games that are *far* more complex. Just didn't click.

This sounds much more interesting however, especially with both sides planning raids simultaneously.


There's definitely less asymmetry compared to DT, but it's not completely balanced (no war should be) and the victory conditions reflect that. The EV rules are posted at GMT's website; I'd check them before buying if the DT rules didn't 'click', since they are very similar (in fact, identical in many places). DT was my first wargame, and I learned it by simply playing through the Sequence of Play; that made everything hang together very well. I think DT has a better programmed instruction sequence than EV, which, I think, also makes it easier to learn.

RLarsen wrote:
I had exactly the same experience. Was really attracted to DT, and had a lot of hope for the game, but was completely turned off by the extremely asymmetric experience. Actually, this was enough that I had kind of decided to not be interested in EV.

This review makes me interested again. Thanks!


I'm glad it may rekindle your interest. I like the asymmetry of DT - it's very difficult for the US to win during Rolling Thunder, and harder for the DRV to win during Linebacker - and I like the challenge that provides. DT is the kind of game where I don't care if I win or lose; for me the enjoyment is all in the experience. IMO the asymmetry is simply an issue for PBEM play because the player workload is not equally shared, not a problem for the game per se.

Thanks

Jon
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tom H
Australia
flag msg tools
badge
Basil Hilder KIA Lone Pine, Gallipoli
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks Jon. Well articulated review.

I've only had a few plays yet but I find the IAF are very potent against the EAF.

Cheers,

Tom
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jon Bryon
England
New Addington
Croydon
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
tomster wrote:
I've only had a few plays yet but I find the IAF are very potent against the EAF.


Thanks Tom.

Did you discover that playing early or late scenarios? In an early war scenario I thought like you, but in a late war one I had quite a lot of IAF flight shot down by EAF planes.

Jon
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tom H
Australia
flag msg tools
badge
Basil Hilder KIA Lone Pine, Gallipoli
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
That was early war... sounds like a good reason to try the late war!

Thanks again for the review.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Terry Simo
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Jon,

Excellent review and spot on with your commentary. We tried very hard not to have any errors in the rulebook in regards to rules that only applied to DT but some did get overlooked even with what we thought was a thorough review. Also, I'll try my best to convert you over to my new WW1 Air Game - Bloody April 1917. How can you pass up flying an Albatros or SE5?

To those who haven't taken the plunge to play this game due to lack of FTF opponents. This game plays really well PBEM using Vassal or Cyberboard so don't let that keep you out of the battle. I'd be glad to help anyone understand the rules or play a game via Vassal if interested.

T-Mo
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jon Bryon
England
New Addington
Croydon
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
T-Mo wrote:

To those who haven't taken the plunge to play this game due to lack of FTF opponents. This game plays really well PBEM using Vassal or Cyberboard so don't let that keep you out of the battle. I'd be glad to help anyone understand the rules or play a game via Vassal if interested.

T-Mo


Thanks T-Mo.

I really can't agree with T-Mo enough on the above comment. For the foreseeable future, I always intend to have a PBEM game of EV on the go at any given time.

As for flying an Albatros or SE5...good luck!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joao Almeida
Portugal
Carcavelos
flag msg tools
Great review...
Thanks also for clearing the'Close Formation' issue (it kept me wondering all this time...).

I was eager to buy DT, but I ended buying EV. I only tried solo playing both sides, but the detection rules can be very challenging if rolling real dice (Vassal random generator plays differently).

Some ad-hoc modifications can make a lot for balance, but T-Mo seems to be on the course to take this game to another level: new event rules, the double-blind play (the Vassal module is yet to allow for hiding flights), and the promised revision of fuel rules.
4 
 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.