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Subject: Garfink Review......From a Solitaire Player's Perspective Series rss

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Eric Lai
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Introduction:

This is another review by me from a Solitaire Player's Perspective. I have been a collector & player of solitaire games for quite some time now, especially solitaire war games, one of my favorites of all time is Ambush!, and when I heard that John Butterfield had designed another Solitaire game, I knew it was going to be something special.

There isn't that much innovation in the wargaming world compared to the much more active Eurogaming world, but in this title, John has created something truly unique like he did with Ambush! In this review, like all my others, I am not going to rehash rules and how to play. I will take you through what I like or dislike about a game and leave it for you the reader to make up your own mind.

Commentary:

I was pretty excited to receive my copy of this game in the mail. The box is under stately small but the choice of cover and colors certainly has a nostalgic quality to it. On unboxing and unfolding the map of a section of Normandy and Omaha Beach, I was presented with a gorgeous map with tonnes of markings. Some may not like all the clutter, but in hindsight, all these "markings" are all very practical and useful to the game mechanics and the choice of vibrant primary colors for various enemy strong point made the game much easier to play in the long run. In fact, if all these "vibrant markings" were made duller to compliment the nice map, I am sure this game would almost be unplayable. The counters are standard fare, the only comment here is that the colors for the two divisions are both green of a slightly different shade and I can imagine that with inadequate lighting they could be hard to tell apart. I have six spotlights over my gaming table so that wasn't a problem.

The rule book is adequate to the task, its not very thick but it is pack full of information. It took me a little longer than usual to work through the rules, not because they were badly written but because there are so many new mechanics involved. I found that during my first game I had to refer to the rulebook often. My only advice here for future designers is to include an index, there were times when I forgot something simple like: what is the stacking limit again and had trouble finding it in the manual, an index would've smooth things out greatly. But overall its all very serviceable rulebook and there is a separate booklet with a few examples of combat and movement that is nice. There are a couple of reference sheets that are very good and easy to use.

I have played this solitaire monster four times now, and have really enjoyed every game, the game is remarkably replayable because of the random elements in where your units land on the beach and if they survive the landing at all. The static nature of the German's defensive position makes for good "solitaire system" opponent and instead of dice there are multi-function cards that add to randomize events like where and who the German bunkers fire at, where German reinforcements enter play and other Card driven events (but this game is NOT a card driven game, the cards are just a randomization engine that makes sure events occur both randomly and in the correct chronological phase of the landing). The game is divided into two parts, both with its own victory conditions. The first is the landing and to take control of the beachhead by nullifying the German Beach defenses and taking initial control of the draws. The second part is to take control of the large area of the high ground and complete control of the draws.

It is very clear to me that there has been a good amount to play-testing and quality control has been done for this product, all my games seems statistically similar to historical events and what I like is the timing of things seem to concur with what occurred historically, like the affects of the tides, the various stages of the operation, it just seem to fit chronologically. Nice.

The first part of the game, where the landing teams try to take control of the beachhead is the better part of the game in my opinion, the solitaire system seems to take good control of these static defensive positions and give them a life of their own. The casualties are high initially and there is a deep sense of satisfaction as you start taking out the German Bunkers. The way the game is able to emulate the chaos of the D-day landing is commendable and during the game, like in real life, you can see the Allied forces get organized to the situation in due time.

John pretty much threw in all the spanners into the works to stop the allies, like the necessity of cliff scaling to take out some bunkers, beach obstacles, off-map artillery as well as bunker artillery, beach mines, seawalls and other things that block movement. Once you get into range of a juicy German Fortification, you may then find that you don't have the right weapons for the job after you risk you men's life to get up there. You either had to plan ahead for such contingencies or think on your feet and recover and regroup. Its all very realistic. The use of hidden depth markers really produces a nice fog of war, which is as everybody knows very hard to do in a solitaire game. Both Ambush! and D-Day at Omaha does an excellent job in this!

By the way there is an introductory scenario where you only control half the beach and play only through half the number of turns. I skip this altogether and started playing the full game straight away, but its there for those that like a easier learning curve.

Once you reach roughly half way through the game, the time scale of the game changes from 15min/turn to 30min/turn and with that you have more actions and your units can move further & the Germans are deadlier. The game changes drastically. I personally liked the first part of the game better, which only stands to reason. I think it is a lot harder to simulate a ground battle on flat stretch of country in a solitaire way and still make it realistic. The battle through the bocage country would have been a lot of running battles and the static nature of the Germans doesn't quite make as much historical sense as the beach phase of the game. Fortunately, in my second game (having won my first game handily), I chose to use the optional non-historical rule of adding Panzer divisions in the high ground (These were out of range historically & matter of factly, because Hitler is an idiot and didn't listen to Rommel), the system moves the tanks in quite a realistic fashion and made the high ground more deadly. Without the tanks, you will find the Germans out of reinforcements (the number of which is limited) and all you do is form up into small teams around a general or HQ (these give you a free action to troops in their command radius) and systematically wipe out all the German units placed and since you know there are no more reinforcements coming for the Germans, you don't have to watch your flanks. But the addition of the tanks makes things a little harder.

(There are certain ways that the static reinforcements can move, but I didn't see that movement as extremely coordinated or particularly dangerous.)

All-in-all, the battle for the high-ground is still a bit of fun and my small gripes are nothing compare to the achievement of this game. Even in the latter battle for the high ground the mechanics are innovative and
though not as historical as the beach landings, still fun to play through. (Or else I would never have played it four times in quick succession)

How does it compare with other games? Before this game I played DVG's Field Commander: Alexander and in hindsight that game is no where near as good a simulation as D-Day at Omaha Beach, if you think that the enemy is static in this game... well they dance around the enemy in FC: Alexander in comparison. That game the enemy is all static, no movements at all and that game feels very linear where this one feels very much alive. FC: A is very abstract in comparison (which stands to reason, since that games tries to emulate the career of Alexander where this only emulates a single battle), whereas D-Day at Omaha Beach has the scaling perfect for a realistic experience.

I have said in the past that a good solitaire game must have some random elements to make things unpredictable and this game has done that with one of the best fog of wars ever created for a solitaire game. I have also said that a good solitaire game allows the player to make meaningful decisions and not allow the system to play the player, well this game does that in abundance. I found myself looking forward to the US action phase!!! The other phases are mostly upkeeping, but the upkeeping is easy and quick because... going back to my introduction to this review.... of the vibrant colors of the map!!

I did found the game a little easy, having won all four of my games, but each victory was different, some were better than others. This is in no way a negative point, the game came with a good history supplement that gave you a nice historical perspective of the battle and with what I know about beach landings and tactics, I just made the correct decisions in my game and was rewarded appropriately. It would be very wrong if the game destroyed me (in a random fashion) even when I was doing things right. The random element in the card play evens out over the course of a game and it is rare that the randomness takes over.... I can assure you I had some bad runs of cards plenty of times and had a perfectly planned attacked halted.

Example: I am a careful sort of general and usually don't go into any battle without a good chance of winning. So with this one German reinforcement position, I had 3 units move into attacking range simultaneously, two of my infantry were in flanking position and one was a heavy infantry with range attack. The reinforcement had no depth marker which means it can only attack one of the two adjacent infantry. A safe attack... if one of my infantry get disrupted I still had the other two. Lo and behold, I draw a card where the German infantry goes on patrol and this disrupts both my infantry and the same card affected an ambush on my heavy.... Very nasty draw. There are moments like this all over the place, but there are lots of little fire fights going on, so losing a battle doesn't mean you lose the war. So it goes on.

Conclusion:

Excellent solitaire game, one of the best ever made, very hard to fault. Its historical, a good simulation, strategic and fun all rolled into one. How many solitaire games out there can you play with two people, playing against the same solitaire system and still have fun? This is a testament of the a solid system that really challenges the player with a sense that you're playing against a live opponent.

I felt that my real world strategies, which were better than those used on the actual D-Day Omaha battle, worked as planned (I have hindsight logic... General Cota didn't!) and the game simulated well enough to reward my strategic decisions. I am sure that if I attacked straight up a draw without thinking, I would've been slaughtered like in real life.

I highly recommend this game to any war gamer, it won't change any Euro gamer's mind though, in its heart its a hardcore war game and I like that very much.

I rate this a 10 out of 10, a must have for both the solitaire gamer and war gamer.

+10 points for the perfect solitaire war gaming experience!

A geeklist of my other Solitaire Reviews
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Adam D.
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Very nice review.

I didn't see it in your article, so I thought I'd mention that the latest S&T has a Dieppe game based on the same system.
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Jim F
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Good review and I agreed with it except the phrase about the rulebook being 'adequate to the task'. I thought the rulebook was among the clearest I've read. Logical, well laid out and clear as a bell. Just my two pence worth.
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Doug Cooley
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Nice review Eric. I'd like to see a little more about how your review is different (the whole "solitaire player perspective" thing). Solitaire games have at least a couple of things that make them different - first is the ratio of "ride" to "puzzle" meaning what things are randomized and what things encourage you to play using correct tactics. You point them out but a little more detail on how they interact is always nice.

Second is how well the game keeps the player involved through making choices vs. simply administering the game's AI. DDaOB does a pretty good job of this, although the meat is clearly in deciding how to use your actions. A good solitaire game will mix this up so that the player doesn't have to spend all of their time admining the AI then spending a few minutes making decisions. A good example of a game that does this poorly is RAF: Eagle, the one where you play the Germans. When you plan the mission for 20 minutes then admin the AI for more than an hour, that's a bad mix and only for those who really really want to play the Luftwaffe in that conflict.

While I'm fortunate to have opponents, I also play a lot of solitaire wargames as well as I find the design particularly interesting. Like you, I'm a fan of the States of Siege series from VPG, especially the latest one on the Near East in WW1 (Ottoman Sunset). I also quite like VPGs reworking of The Barbarossa Campaign as well, although the price point may be an issue for you (over $40 US) if you expect better component quality for that price point.

Regardless, I think that DDaOB is one of the best solitaire games I've played, and it's even fun to play with a partner where you each take a US division, especially if you are teaching the game. I also agree that the second half of the game isn't quite as compelling, mostly because figuring out what the Germans are doing can become a bit tedious once there are so many more reinforcement points in play. I also wish that the designer could have found a way to make the game accessible for the color-challenged player, but I'm not quite sure how that would have worked without very tiny symbols all over the place.
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Eric Lai
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ride or puzzle, thats another way to put things which I forgot to add in this particular article. I haven't used these two terms specifically yet, but you're right B-17 is a ride... but a fun ride because of an excellent theme.

I would say this game is an equal amount of both. Its a puzzle thats for sure, as the game is decision heavy and like I said "rewards you for good decisions" but I think the 2nd half of the game is a bit of a ride. In most of my games the 2nd half felt a little linear and just mopping up.

To answer your second question: The administration of the game game's AI is certainly not overriding, I think that is one of the beauty of the system. The AI is so well integrated into the cards and board that you barely notice. I think the 2nd half of the game is little more burdensome though with the Lettering as well as the color coding.

Me: I agree with your VPG Barbarossa Campaign statement as well... Can't wait for the GMT version to come out.
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Eric Lai
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TheCollector wrote:
Very nice review.

I didn't see it in your article, so I thought I'd mention that the latest S&T has a Dieppe game based on the same system.


I didn't know that the Operation Jubilee: Dieppe, August 1942 was based on the same system! I knew it is a solitaire, (and since I collect solitaire wargames) so mine is on route shipping at the moment. In that case, I am really really looking forward to it.
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Phil Miller
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Garfink wrote:

I did found the game a little easy, having won all four of my games, but each victory was different,


Great review. This is one of my favorite solitare war games. I do have to disagree with you on the too easy part however. In fact I have yet to win a single game.

-Phil


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Eric Lai
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Oh really? Here are some tips (only read if you want tips!), these are not cheat notes just general strategies that works in any decent Omaha game.

I just followed the tried and true method of charging onto Omaha, study the intensity circles and you will find weak spots between the draws (you will have to throw men in there to die though, expect some casualties) and the other secret to get a foot hold on the high ground (the easiest to achieve) is on the left side, get up that slope and flank that far left Purple WN (its a bad WN for the allies and nullifying it should be a priority as it creates a crossfire across the field of fire of two other WNs) and then you'll have flanked all the bunkers on that side of the beach. On the right side use the free actions of the rangers to take out the far right WNs, one or two will usually die, but you will get up there if you're persistent enough. Once the HQ are on the beach you'll be in a better position (with more actions) to confront the tougher draws.

Use you Hero markers when you get them, I promote units that will find getting HQ influence far away and then use these units like rangers, also they are the answer when you don't have the correct weapons to attack German positions. So even when they are damaged to the point of uselessness that wild weapon card is essential to your success.

Make sure in the first part to gradually move your forces to the medium tide line to avoid losing units. Save a few tanks for their artillery support when your Hero can't make it to a certain position. In front of the tougher draws, your initial gain on the beach will be a crawl, I usually use my tanks to barrage to disrupt as many of the WN as possible whilst still leaving some actions to move my units. If you're lucky you may see a WN put out of action for 2-3 turns and this allows you to make moves up the beach.

Another think to look out for on the map is areas where you can get onto the high ground without climbing! There are slopes between the draws and the left flank that can get you up there faster. The far right flank will need a climb cliff action usually.

Good luck soldier!
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Reinhard Mueller
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Garfink wrote:

I did found the game a little easy, having won all four of my games, but each victory was different, some were better than others.

Are you sure that you did not miss a rule or two? You may check this thread:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/496120/most-common-rule-...

I simply cannot believe that one can win this game four times in a row on his first four plays. On the other hand - there are people who win the lottery.
Please do not let me and all the others who find this game extremely tough look like idiots ;)

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Eric Lai
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Hmmmm, I'm pretty good with rules, but you'll never know as there is no referee with solitaire games! Ha ha. No... I never re-roll dice nor cheat in any of my solo (or multiplayer!) games!! What would be the point of playing!

Seriously, I am pretty sure I got the rules down pat. Just respond to the situation in an intelligent manner and I found this game's random engine very forgiving. Lots of strategy, little luck!

(remember that you only lose if you lose 8 regular infantry... and not tanks and hard stuff, I made that mistake in my first game and thought... damn thats impossible, but to lose 8 regular infantry isn't easy if you keep disrupting them WN positions with your tanks!)

The most I've lost in the first half of the game is 6 on the left and 5 on the right, in one game I had only lost 2 on the left and 2 on the right! In this latter game, I was in such a strong position for the 2nd half of the game that I steam rolled the Germans and the 2nd half of the game became a chore!
 
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Reinhard Mueller
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Garfink wrote:

(remember that you only lose if you lose 8 regular infantry... and not tanks and hard stuff, I made that mistake in my first game and thought... damn thats impossible, but to lose 8 regular infantry isn't easy if you keep disrupting them WN positions with your tanks!)


You know that the infantry counts toward catastrophic losses when it is reduced to one step, not when it is eliminated? Just to make sure ;)
 
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Phil Miller
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I appreciate the tips but I am still struggling to see how I can perform all of the moves I need to when I only get 2 actions per sector per turn. I understand and use the infantry self-preservation move but by turn 4 I usually have more tanks on the beach than actions to move them. This means I have to either move some tanks off the landing hexes (to avoid the mid-tide) or leave them sitting there and try to attack a WN position. Even with a hero or two thrown in the mix, I still usually have way more units than actions to move them.

Also, I have studied the map and the only hexes that can be approached that don't have intense fire zones, are on the far right and far left sides, since you really have no control over where your forces land on the beach, this really doesn't help. And, trying to move an infantry unit laterally over to those positions doesn't count as a self-preservation move so would require me to spend an action per turn to move there. The rest of the map has at least one intense fire zone between the beach and the shingle. Since units in an intense fire zone (including armor) are automatically hit during the German fire phase if the fire card of that color is drawn, I find it very difficult to get a full strength infantry or tank unit adjacent WN position to attack. Then throw in the fact that attacking across the shingle doubles the defender’s strength. This forces you to attack with multiple units to have any chance of success. Once again this means using up your precious 2 actons for that action phase.

It is very possible I am interpreting some rules incorrectly. If you see anything above that is wrong, please let me know.

-Phil

edited for clarity
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Phil Miller
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Oh and my last post was not intended to degrade this amazing game in any way. This is by far my favorite solo war game.

-Phil
 
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Yes , the 2 actions/turn sure makes for a tough game. I think the idea is to barrage as much as possible so that your infantry can make it past those high intensity fire hex's. You may have to sacrifice some armor to the tide but if they manage to disrupt some WN's for a few turns, then they would of accomplished their mission.

I'm playing my first game of the Easy Fox scenario and things seemed to be proceeding okay. Got some infantry and a hero working up the left side and Disrupted 3 WN's with barrage fire in turns 2,4,& 5 and got lucky with some smoke blocking a couple more. Another hero leading the charge towards the slopes to attack WN64. Then turn 7 came along and the smoke cleared. Yikes! 3 armor units and 4 infantry took their first step loss and another infantry took it's second step down. Up to 4 units now in the catastrophic loss pile. Manged to disrupt WN61 & WN62N in the follow up US action phase with infantry attacks though so hopefully I can overcome that horrible turn.

Looking forward to trying out "The First Waves". As you said, great game that has me completely hooked.
 
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John Butterfield
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Eric -- Thanks for the review, much appreciated. Although, I too am amazed by your early success ... four wins in a row! The vast majority of players curse me for making the game too tough.

Phil -- Your interpretations look correct.

As I demo the game and observe people playing, I notice that some rules are more easily missed than others. Here's a list:

You may conduct just two actions in the east sector and two in the west sector per US Action Phase during the first 16 turns. This does not count infantry preservation moves and actions performed by units in command of an HQ or General.

Only infantry units, HQs and Generals can move into non-beach hexes during the first 16 turns. Armor, artillery and other non-infantry units are stuck of the beach until engineer bases clear lanes through shingle hexsides, starting on Turn 17.

Units may not attack through bluff hexsides.

Only infantry units may conduct free preservation moves, and may not use such moves to move laterally along the beach or to move off the beach.

A German unit may only be attacked once in a single US Action Phase.

A firing German position may hit a number of US units equal to the number of unit counters and depth markers in the position. If a WN occupies two hexes, count all the units and markers in both hexes. Starting on turn 17, this hit limit is doubled.

An infantry unit counts toward catastrophic loss when reduced to one step.

German unit strength is doubled if attacked across a shingle hexside or if occupying woods; unit and depth strength are doubled if attacked across a slope or if occupying bocage or a town.

If a German unit projects a field of fire into a hex, that hex is not considered US controlled for purposes of victory, even if occupied by a US unit.
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Steve Carey
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etagimbo wrote:
I simply cannot believe that one can win this game four times in a row on his first four plays.


I've played the game more times than that, and never prevailed once!

The design is taught, creative, innovative, and meticulous - overlooking a rule or two is very easy to do, and can have a significant impact on results.

This is why I enjoy playing solitaire games cooperatively with a friend or two so that we can provide checks-and-balances on rules and other play issues (did this today with Operation Jubilee: Dieppe, August 1942, in fact). Plus, I really enjoy sharing game narrative with others, too.
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Reinhard Mueller
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JohnButterfield wrote:

Only infantry units may conduct free preservation moves, and may not use such moves to move laterally along the beach or to move off the beach.

A lateral move is allowed though, if the unit sits in front of a non-scalable cliff. For example units stranded on the western edge of the beach are allowed to move towards hex 0607 for free, as sheer cliffs are not protective hexsides. Right?
This is a rule in favor of the invader which I missed in my first plays.

Cheers,
Reinhard
 
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Eric Lai
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Reading John's clarifications: The only rule I may have fuzzed up is: German unit strength is doubled if attacked across a shingle hexside, I am not sure if I applied this one, but the rest I got in full.

John can you give me an example of this? Does it occur in both phases of the game?

Thanks.
 
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Phil Miller
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mako88sb wrote:
Yes , the 2 actions/turn sure makes for a tough game. I think the idea is to barrage as much as possible so that your infantry can make it past those high intensity fire hex's. You may have to sacrifice some armor to the tide but if they manage to disrupt some WN's for a few turns, then they would of accomplished their mission.


Thanks for mentioning this. I was misinterpreting the barrage rules. I thought you had to have an infantry unit in command radius of an HQ or general in order for a tank to barrage. I realize now it just has to be in the field of fire of the WN it is barraging.

-Phil



 
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Phil Miller
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Garfink wrote:
Reading John's clarifications: The only rule I may have fuzzed up is: German unit strength is doubled if attacked across a shingle hexside, I am not sure if I applied this one, but the rest I got in full.

John can you give me an example of this? Does it occur in both phases of the game?

Thanks.


Since nobody responded, I will provide an example. Attacking WN61 in hex 809 from hex 710 would be considered attacking across the shingle hex side. When you flip the German 88 counter, double it's defensive value listed on the counter. When you reveal the depth counter however, it's defensive number does not double. Attacking across a slope hex side is even worse for the Allies as defensive strength of both the counter and the depth marker double. An example of this would be attacking WN60 (in hex 0807) from hex 0808.

I believe this is in effect for both phases of the game.

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Eric Lai
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Thanks Phil, much appreciated! Very succinct.
 
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