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Paul Koenig's Market Garden: Arnhem Bridge» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Early look at VPG does Arnhem rss

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Thom0909
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I bought Market Garden: Arnhem as an add-on purchase. I haven't played any of Paul Koenig's three Victory Point D-Day games, and hadn't even heard of the Arnhem game. At the time I write this, I've only played a few times, all solo. So this isn't a definitive look at the game. I don't intend to cover every rule, and would refer people to one of the video reviews to see how it all looks.

This is apparently the first of a WW2 Operation Market Garden series. It covers three days in September '44, the battle around Arnhem bridge, 600 meters per hex, units are mostly battalions.

Components are typical VPG
. It arrives in a ziplock bag. The small map is 11 by 15 hexes, although the hexes are a good size. There are 20 unit counters per side, one-quarter of which are HQ/Command counters (this is a chit-pull game). One problem: my counters wouldn't pop out, and I had to use a razor blade to cut them out. But the rule book is excellent and thorough (“A player does not move any of the opposing player's units!”). It includes one page of combat examples. It's all done with great consideration, for example:

From gallery of Prop Joe

Above, the orange disk beneath the Allied unit (I believe that's the King's Own Scottish Borderers) indicates they've taken two hits (three and you're out), while the yellow disk under the German SS unit tells us it has taken one. It's nice that you don't have to pick up the counters to see what's written on the disks. Also note the colors of the NATO symbols (white, gray and orange) correspond to HQ command chits that are pulled each turn. It makes it all a bit easier. (Caution: this SS unit is actually independent and can activate with any German HQ. Try not to forget to move it at all.)

The game is 10 turns, two of which are night turns that allow nothing but limited German movement. The board starts out with only four units on it (all German), and it's not until Turn 7 that everyone has made an appearance.

Movement is pretty standard. In the picture above, the second number shows movement points. The highest movement allowance in the game is 10, and as I mentioned, the board is only 11x15. Add in the lack of Zones of Control, and they can really cover a lot of ground. This is all offset slightly by the terrain-laden map. More significant is the fact the battle grinds down a bit in Arnhem, north of the bridge. By then, you'll have more movement points than you need. Still, battalions making a late entry will have no trouble quickly getting to the thick of the battle.

But movement doesn't sell wargames, combat does. The first number on the counters is combat strength (CS). In the most basic form, you roll a d6 (maybe even the tiny die provided), and score either a single hit, exchange (both sides are hit), or miss. Note that (1) the defender's strength doesn't matter here, (2) you can't register more than one hit per attack (although you can have multiple attacks per turn), and (3) the attacker can't clearly lose, although he can draw or fail. I'll leave it to the reader to figure out the implications of this.

Terrain affects the attacking chances, and pretty much everyone will be on good defensive terrain. There are also artillery support markers either side can play that add or subtract to the attack. With these, something is lost in solo play. They're abstract, but create some strategy about using vs. holding, or perhaps trying to draw out your opponent's support in advance of a later attack.

You have a few options as to how to conduct combat. You can combine units for one attack in MG:A, which will usually guarantee a hit. One of the big decisions to make is whether to take the one assured hit or to roll separately with hopes of hitting twice. Remember, it takes three hits to kill off a unit, and you don't have a lot of turns to get it done.

A unit is allowed to both move and attack in the same turn. Each value is cut in half (rounded up), but if multiple units combine, they can still bring some punch. You'll use this a lot in the game.

And then there's close combat, where you actually enter the same hex as the defender. It's tough to pull off – the defender gets to take a shot at you first, the one time the defender's strength matters. But if you win, the defender must retreat (retreating is optional with the normal fire attacks). Close combat is what you do when you have to capture a bridge hex in the late turns.

That's mostly it. The winner is the side with the most Victory Points, and it will look like an NFL score. The Germans get a whopping 10 VPs if they exit the Recon 9th SS unit off the south edge of the map (shown below). My first solo play, I ran this unit across the bridge and off the board within the first few turns. This taught me a lesson about how to play the Allies.

From gallery of Prop Joe

There are a net of eight VPs at stake with control of Arnhem Bridge, not to mention the benefits of controlling the bridge traffic (it's the only way across the Lower Rhine).

There are also a bunch of VPs at stake for control of Arnhem town and city hexes, for destroyed enemy units, and for units remaining on the board at the end. These points are likely to be divided fairly evenly, and thus will serve only as tiebreakers if the recon unit and bridge points are split. When one of your units is eliminated, you'll likely regret the loss of combat power more than the VP.

There are some optional rules. The most natural is indirect fire, which lets Heavy Weapons companies fire weakly from two hexes away (still nice, given how jammed things can get). There's also a game-y rule involving a Leadership chit that seems like fun with two players. The chit can be used for re-rolls, unit recovery, and a few other things, and can be stolen from your opponent.

So how does it all play? One thing I like is that, for the most part, the opposing units enter East-West, but the bridge runs North-South. So the battle lines aren't clearly designated at first. There actually isn't a ton of broad maneuvering due to the grind of Arnhem, but the absence of ZOCs prevents it from being completely static. There will be a fight at the bridge, and then some outer fights to get to the main fight.

Most of the decisions are about how to execute combat. Combat results aren't highly variable, which I like. Chit pulling leaves you off balance: you get your best attacks by being adjacent to the enemy, but have to be wary that you might not get the first attack next turn. Ultimately, it's pretty bloody. Having played only a few times, and all solo so far, I can't speak for game balance with any degree of authority yet.

I haven't played Market Garden: Arnhem enough to issue an ultimate judgement on it, but it's certainly fun for at least several plays, probably more. Those who dislike VPG's cheap/simple games won't like this one, but it seems a good choice for those looking for something quick and simple to learn. I personally wouldn't recommend a chit-pull game as a first wargame, not out of concerns about complexity, but because I think it's better to start with IGO-UGO just to get an idea for why people found it necessary to try other methods.
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Nigel Swan
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Great review..
How long does it take to play?
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Christopher Taylor
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Thomas, I really like your review style! (Insert "I like your newsletter and wish to subscribe." quote here.)
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Joshua Gottesman
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Varduk wrote:
Great review..
How long does it take to play?
I've only played 1 partial game, and based on that, I'd guess 90 minutes, tops. Maybe an hour once you know the system.
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Thom0909
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Joshuaaaaaa wrote:
Varduk wrote:
Great review..
How long does it take to play?
I've only played 1 partial game, and based on that, I'd guess 90 minutes, tops. Maybe an hour once you know the system.
Yeah, I'd say about an hour. It definitely can be started and finished on one weeknight. Set up is 5 minutes.
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Nigel Swan
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Sounds perfect.
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Paul Koenig
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Perfect indeed. I'm going to my in-laws this weekend and bringing Arnhem along. I'll play it after getting "tired" of playtesting Paul Koenig's The Bulge: 6th Panzer Army.

Thanks for the kind review. The game takes about an hour to play.
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Edward Hung
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bubbakoenig wrote:
Perfect indeed. I'm going to my in-laws this weekend and bringing Arnhem along. I'll play it after getting "tired" of playt
esting Paul Koenig's The Bulge: 6th Panzer Army.

Thanks for the kind review. The game takes about an hour to play.
Hey Paul, can you share with us some details of your bulge game?
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Confusion Under Fire
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bubbakoenig wrote:
Perfect indeed. I'm going to my in-laws this weekend and bringing Arnhem along. I'll play it after getting "tired" of playtesting Paul Koenig's The Bulge: 6th Panzer Army.

Thanks for the kind review. The game takes about an hour to play.
The game seems to be of a similar ilk to the Normandy beach landing games. These are small but thought provoking games that are ideal to take with you. I always take at least one of these games when I go away and they can often fit inside the box of another game.
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