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Subject: A Diamond In The Rough? And here's why. rss

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Chandler
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I picked this title up a couple of weeks ago after watching 5 plus hours of documentary and several hours of reading and researching the events of this civil war. Two diabolically opposed leaders, different tactics and strategies and thats not to say anything of vastly different ideologies. One one side is Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the prodigy of Dr.Sun Yat-sen, and leader of the Kuomintang(KMT), Nationalist. On the other is Chairman Mao Zedong, a charismatic leader with a penchant for guerrilla tactics and great love for Marxist communism with the support of the populace and peasantry. So enough of the fluff, how does the game do?


Components.

Counters: The counters for the units and markers is bland, I grew up on games like Kriegspiel and Blitzkrieg so to me there fine. But to guys these days and with all these cartoony euro games around, the counters show their age a bit. The communist have white counters with red writing in Chinese, not sure what it says(Hong Kong Grognards, feel free to chime in but it adds a touch of flavor. The KMT counters are white/blue with the majority having another Chinese character. There are markers for supply(KMT only) aircraft markers, featuring a jumbo jet silhouette and the police, well just say police in blue across them.

Map. I love this map, it's colors gel well together, the Terrain Effects Chart is well done and the Illustration in the corner of the communist shooting out of Mongolia is absolutely gorgeous and adds a bit more flavor. there is enough varied terrian to make it feel real.

Rules: Here is where I really slam games. This game is definitely not the worst rules I have ever read, that being said, they leave a lot to be desired.It seems that some thoughts where not clearly defined or finished leaving me to use "Grog sense" in order to complete rules that were vaguely stated. This was not too difficult and shouldn't be for a gamer with a little experience or a historian with a little knowledge of warfare of this period. The game had no charts, but it was 79' and it is a mag game, so I might let this one slide. Although I have posted a player aid and condensed tables here on BGG. Although admin hasn't gotten back to me on it and it's been quite some time.

Game play.

Once you have clearly defined the rule ambiguities and with custom player aid and condensed tables in hand, this game was an absolute BLAST! The closer me and my opponent got to the end the higher the tension got. Both players have to play completely different ways. The KMT player, me in this case, must make tough decisions early concerning the fate of Manchuria, where the Peoples Liberation Army is the strongest. The KMT player is hamstrung the entire game due to provincial ownership of units, I.e. units that say Peking on them, must operate within Peking with a headquarters, or suffer disadvantages if he chooses to leave and operate outside his home province. Units of different provinces may not combine their attack factors unless, they have formally abandoned their home province(this is accomplished by having one PLA combat factor in the province and the KMT player stating that he is abandoning the province, this gives the PLA player a base marker ( a spawning point for PLA units with ZOCs that come with an intrinsic defense of 1 for it and all surronding hexes, this is an ingenious way to recreate the peoples support for the PLA and protection they gave to such camps.) to place in the province due to garrison strength falling below 3 CF's). Units from different provinces can NEVER stack together. These mechanics are used to portray the fractional nature of the warlords that Generalissimo Kai-shek had to deal with. The KMT also has the Communications Police, these units have no attack factors, a single defense factor and zones of controls (ZOC) which only extend along road and rails. These units are used to hold territory for defense or suppress PLA Guerrilla units. The strategy I adopted was one of static lines with forts evenly spaced in between with Peking as the anchor for the line. I kept all units from Sichuan in Sichuan as a reserve force. A second defensive lines with no forts in it centered on the Yangze. The KMT also always has to be in attack supply as well as general supply, while the PLA can always attack. This gives timing and meaning for Offensive or counter attacks as once used, supply is lost for a turn. One supply unit can supply an unlimited amount of attacks for that turn within a 2 hex radius. These really make the war interesting. Also before any KMT attack you must roll a D6 and on a roll of 6 the commander "defects" and the turn for that unit is over. There are also 2 regions, Nigesia and Shansi, that once units are lost from these provinces they are unable to be rebuilt, same goes for their respective supply units. This is to simulate the remoteness and sparsely populated area in the far flung reaches of China.

Rolfvi (PLA Player and my dear old dad) Strategy was based on a Manchurian take over and a quick switch to the Conventional warfare doctrine. The unconventional warfare doctrine gives you a -1 to all attacks and a stacking limit of 2, but you no longer are stopped for movement by KMT zone of controls. In Manchuria the PLA shinned surrounding cities and taking them out of General supply and after two turns of isolation(No general supply)removing them from the game. After taking Harbin, Kirin, and Mukden. He than moved through all small towns and ports in Manchuria, thus denying me a place to bring them back during the reinforcement phase. The piece to renaissance was to happen in Tsitsihar, surrounded, isolated, and doomed I sent 7 factors to break them out(an HQ, and the rest of the Manchurian forces) This was successful at first, but the PLA was able to turn my flanks, surround them as well and eliminate all units 2 turns later. By this time (turn 4) the PLA could change it Doctrine to conventional if he wanted to, which he opted to do. This makes his troops stronger and more dense, allowing three to stack 3 instead of the usual 2, removing the -1 from the dice roll during attacks but no longer being able to disregard KMT ZOC's. The PLA player also has the unique advantage of being able to retreat two hexes instead of one and retreat through enemy ZOC's and even enemy units all together although it may of course not end its retreat stacked with such a unit. The PLA can also retreat into and move out of, but not through Mongolia and Korea.

After the destruction of all Manchurian forces and with no place to bring them back at I was effectively robbed of 10+ factors for the rest of the game. This is when I brought up all forces from the south to form the Peking line, From Peking to Tangku, with Tangku being fortified and another fort in between Peking and it. The PLA consolidated all forces and pushed into the Peking line, with no shortage of 2-10, thanks to cities in Manchuria,(whenever a PLA unit captures a 4 or 5 point city for the first time he receives a 2-10 combat unit to place in that city, a very cool way to distinguish the momentum of the people) and increased reinforcement levels due to game progression.Several large city battles fought just north of Peking forced an entire army to surrender!(KMT unit are replaced on the map by an the same amount of PLA combat units, this is achieved by rolling a Defender Surrenders on the PLA attacking table) Most typical combats resulted in heavy losses on both sides but the Peking line held until turn 16 when the PLA finally took it for 5 VPs.

The PLA also has guerrilla units at its disposable the units are used to stop KMT units from using rail movement all over the map and causing me many headaches. The PLA player used these units effectively and several times delayed entire offensive or caused other major issues. These units are a constant pain throughout the game. The final outcome was the KMT winning a tactical victory by ten VP(Cities on the map are given VP points). The last resource the communist have is their 2 artillery units they receive on turn 9. they have attack of 4 and are ideal for breaking forts (i,e, Peking Line)but an never be used 2 turns consecutively.

The PLA player said his mistake was going to conventional warfare too soon and not building up a second front in the south. The PLA player did to some tom foolery in the south in turn fifteen placing a base marker earned previously and took over 7 points worth of cities in Chunking.

My biggest blunder was definitely Manchuria, the loss of so many factors and for so little communist losses almost cost me the game. The PLA player didn't use his unconventional warfare doctrine as much as he could of and locked himself into taking heavily fortified defense in depth.

The KMT has sea movement and rail movement available to it, although rail is usually stopped by PLA guerrillas and the sea movement only allows 4 factor per turn from friendly port to friendly port. so these are only so useful. The key in my humble opinion to KMT victory is not letting the PLA build up forces in the south and creating the static defense up north by Peking.

All in all, we had a great time, the game has great mechanics and after reading and researching actually has a lot of aspects of the Chinese civil war built into thew way its played. Another cool mechanic was that supply can only be traced through the desert along road and rail hexes. Also if you could replace a supply unit for an airlift supply marker and have all units with a unobstructed supply path be able to get general supply for one turn. So many little cool features and little nuances that make the game feel authentic. A great game and with my player aid and charts should be easier to sort through muddled rules. This game has earned a permanent place in my collection. 8.0 A great game for new grognards, low complexity, deep strategy what more could a gamer ask for?







LongBranch Out



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Marco Arnaudo
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thank you for the great review, it motivated me to give the game a try!!
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Chandler
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Marco, what did you think?
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Marco Arnaudo
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nicky_longbranch wrote:
Marco, what did you think?


I got bored and lost interest after a while. I did not complete my game.
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I see, to each his own
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G. H.
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I just got this game. It looks interesting enough to bring to the table.
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Rich Perez
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Enjoyed the review - especially the Spider-Man like idea of 'Grog-sense surprise'

Have all Grognards been bitten by a 'radioactive history book?' whistle
 
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