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Aachen: First to Fall» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Aachen: Quick Review rss

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Matt Irsik
United States
Clearfield
Utah
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I still own some of the original SPI folio games from their popular quads, so when I saw that Decision Games was going to re-release some of the games along with some new titles I was thrilled. The old folios are still some of my most treasured games and still get a lot of playing time. The ability to set up and get a game in around 2-4 hours depending upon title is still a huge advantage, plus some of the games are just fun to play.

Components
Aachen comes in the familiar folio package, with the map, rules, counters, and two plastic bags for counter storage tucked into both sides of a folder. The map is definitely an improvement on the old folio games with better use of colors. The counters are also improved over the originals, but instead of artillery units that were familiar to players of the old games you instead get a series of support fire markers(explained later). The rules are broken into two booklets with the first one being the standard rules for the series and the second one that is unique to the game. In this case for Aachen the special rules contain the set up, reinforcement schedule, and a handful of rules specific to the Aachen situation.

Rules
If you've played a lot of wargames you will only need to spend a few minutes with the rules, which is one of the big selling points of the folio games. Even if this is your first wargame there is nothing here that will overwhelm you. The system is your classic, hex and counter wargame with an IGOYUGO format that features standard zones of control, movement, and combat is pretty basic. The special rules were few and easy to remember, so not many problems there as well. The biggest change from the old folios to the new ones is the concept of support fire.

In the old games you had to maneuver around a lot of artillery units, always looking to see that you were in range of several units to provide offensive or defensive support. Not so here. In place of artillery units each side gets a number of support fire markers. In the case of Aachen each side roughly gets about 13 each during a turn. These can range from +3 to +10, with the U.S. player getting sometimes up to three +10 markers a turn. During combat each side can assign up to two markers per combat. Sounds simple and it should work well, right? Well, the problem is that these markers can be used ANYWHERE on the board! Yes, it can cause some interesting combat situations that I'll detail below.

Game Play
Aachen re-creates the U.S. drive to seize the city of Aachen near the West Wall fortifications. It is an interesting tactical situation in that the U.S. forces enter from separate areas and must eliminate all German forces in Aachen and seize several road exits. The map features extensive fortifications with the German strung out and at first glance it looks like an easy U.S. victory, which is definitely not the case. First off, you need to get the revised set up as the 3rd Armored is entirely in the wrong spot! In fact, I'm not sure how anyone played the game properly when it first came out!

Basically, the U.S. 30th Infantry division tries to get three adjacent West Wall hexes which will then unleash the 2nd Armored division. Other U.S. forces try to surround Aachen and begin to clear it out while the 3rd Armored tries to make progress towards the road exits for the victory conditions. The first problem with the game begins with the 30th Infantry and trying to seize three adjacent fortification hexes. Basically you need to roll an exchange as retreat results don't count when defenders are in fortifications. With the support fire system the Germans just try to keep the numbers close and force the US side to roll 2s and 3s(the usual number of exchanges). Plus, by judiciously moving around forces the Germans can stall the US advance for quite awhile, particularly if the US player is unlucky with the die rolls. If the 2nd Armored can't come in or comes in late in the game the US side has little to no chance to win.

This leads to a weird situation in the game. Support fire is halved firing into fortification hexes, but the defender's counts full. This means that the German player can usually save a few support fire markers for the end of the turn. This leads to the ridiculous situation of the German player looking around the map(remember, support fire can be used anywhere on the board)for flipped US counters. Fire a barrage at a few and hope for an exchange result. Every US unit eliminated shortens the game by one turn! If the US player saves some support fire markers to counter this, he won't have enough to support attacks into the fortifications! If the 2nd Armored does come in there's usually a race with the Germans fighting either desperately for the road exits or holding on to Aachen for dear life at the end.

Summary
Overall, this is a very average game that could be a lot better. It's tough for the 30th to get their three adjacent hexes and the support fire issues create some unusual game play. The US player spends the turns hunting for the right combo to get a chance to do an exchange to make headway, but if you're unlucky in rolls it could be time to clear the board and set up to try again.
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Barry Kendall
United States
Lebanon
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Support fire doesn't exactly sound "broken," but it's at least "dented" as written. I was afraid of this when I peered at counter previews and saw all those silhouetted support units and no unit-identified arty units.

I can see the SF unit approach for things like tac air, helicopters (in modern games) and maybe Corps-level arty, but miss the divisional arty units (and there weren't so many that counting Range was a big hassle).

Hard to understand how the set-up errors made it through playtesting and proofing.

It is good to see the small games coming out again, though I'd much prefer three or four in a box to the folder-format, which is just about useless once the counters are cut and bagged.
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Chad G
United States
Overland Park
Missouri
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My problem with the Fire and Movement game system that these folios are based on is the Friendly Fire rule. When bombarding a hex adjacent friendly units take damage if an A (attacker loss) is rolled. I'm fine with that but the impact of tying that to the combat table is that the more powerful the enemy unit is that's being bombarded the more likely that your troops will take friendly fire?!? The combat effectiveness of the target should in no way be able to steer rounds on your adjacent troops, it's ridiculous. Also the more artillery you use the less likely your troops are to be hit by friendly fire. So the more and larger shells you fire the less likely you are of friendly fire occurring which is equally ridiculous. I really want to like this system.

Can someone suggest a fix they use?
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Nicola Bassi
Italy
Alessandria
Piemonte
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Yeah, I agree with Chad.
Friendly fire issue is weird to understand, not only more an enemy unit is strong and more probably you will miss it but your closest unit will have to retire. Where? With Americans spreading all over the map is quite possible you'll be nearest to any enemy units (13 hexes far too) and you'll have to reduce it...
Moreover for American player is very simple to stop German reinforcements simply occupying entry hexes...

Truly I don't suggest this game if not for collection purposes. I'm sorry because the situation is very interesting.

Nicola
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Mark
United States
San Diego
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I've only played Naktong Buldge. The base rules are the same.

Bombardment is supposed to allow for an attacker to soften up an enemy unit before attacking it in normal combat. That works pretty well if the attacker has a lot of artillery and the defender does not. Friendly Fire is a way to limit artillery Bombardment by making it risky. The problem comes if the atteacker does not have a lot, or his artillery is restricted in some way. Now, the risk of Friendly Fire is too great to make Bombardment useful, especially since the friendly unit closest to the point of attack takes the hit.

I would suggest dispensing with Friendly Fire first, if it causes undo problems.
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Fred Schwarz
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New Baltimore
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I just played this and I think it is a dog. The Germans had the Americans fully defeated by Turn 7. They denuded their center and piled into Aachen to stymie the 1st ID while counterattacking and destroying the 3 AD in the Stolberg Corridor. The only nail biter was the 30th ID almost getting the three West Wall hexes but the German reinforcements counterattacked that effort.

The artillery chits were a bad idea. The old Quad game artillery units were better and forced you to keep intact lines or your artillery was at risk. This game has no incentive for you to keep an intact line. The chits give the Germans way too much flexibility for their mostly horse-drawn artillery units. And the chit employment sequence makes it a guessing game and not having anything to do with tactics.

Not being able to advance after an Exchange is odd too and really hurts the 30th ID chances of breaching the West Wall. Furthermore, it is technically not allowable to advance after a De if you stick to the letter of the rules.

Too bad. This could have been a nice continuation of the old West Wall quad, but this one is not worth the time to put on the table. It too easily falls to "gamey" tactics that don't even come close to reality.
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