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Subject: A short review, well maybe not so short... rss

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Hans Korting
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After receiving the The Scheldt Campaign game recently I decided to get this game on the table soon.

I have been playing around with the game a bit over the last couple of days and decided to share my impressions on it. The fact that the battle depicted here took place in my own country surely triggered my interest in the game. The whole Market-Garden operation is well known, but this bitter struggle to open up the Scheldt is often overlooked.

The game system used is based on the VPG Bulge 20 game by Joseph Miranda, which I never played, and I must say that I really like it. Now I must confess that I played the game solo, but did not find this to be an obstacle at all.

It takes some getting used to not having all the counters on the map. Task Force HQ counters are placed on the map, except for the detached units, and the unit counters are placed on OOB mats. For me this helped playing the game solo since I put the loss markers underneath those counters.
The map is well executed although the spaces to put the Staff Cards on are shorter than the cards themselves. Another point I'm not sure about is the fact that those spaces, and those for the 'dead' units and the spaces to put the counters in during battle are really close together. During battle a marker is placed on the map and the participating units are placed on the Battle Mat space. Maybe putting the game title between them might have been better. I also assume that during a face-to-face game the Allied player will sit on the southern side of the map and the German player to the north. But the spaces for the cards and counters are on the south side...

The counters are good, mine had a small problem with some of them cut too close on the right side, the unit designation is REALLY close to the edge or the bottom edge of the numbers partly gone on those. But only a few of them had this problem. Another point is that you will run out of the low value (-1/-2) loss markers really quick. (I solved this by using the backs of the -7 markers as extra -1s and the inverted -7 side as extra -2s)
There is a good and solid rulebook and some good player aid cards. I only had a couple of questions, mostly to verify I was reading things the right way, and Brian Train answered them really quick. The Staff Cards are simple but effective.
So, some improvements could be made, but...

I really like this game!!!

Once you get the way the Staff Cards work figured out, which is not that difficult, you will feel how the actual commanders felt. As the Allied player there is so much that you would like to do, but the cards and situation don't allow you to do so. Each and every time you will have to weigh the pros and cons of pushing your units some more, or to regroup and/or recover them. There are moments that your attacks seem to run into trouble and then suddenly luck is on your side and things get moving again.
As the German player you make the Allies pay and try to stall the offensive as much as possible.

The game is relatively easy to get into, but the options and uncertainty of how your moves and attacks will work out make it a challenge.

There are several 'what-if' options that allow you to add units that did not take part in the real battle because they were kept busy further east or their use was cancelled due to operational difficulties. You are also presented with a 'free' set-up option to explore a different approach to the area since this will put you a few days before the historical beginning of the attack.

I can only come to the conclusion that this is a great game and that I do hope that it will be followed by more titles, using the same system.

Hans




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Pete Belli
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cool

Thank you for putting this game on my radar!
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Brian Train
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Thanks for the kind review Hans!

I am glad you enjoyed the game system, it seems to be very flexible and presents players with a lot of choices in a compact and simple way.

This is the first game to focus only on the clearing of the Scheldt Estuary by the First Canadian Army (which also included American, Belgian, British, Dutch and Polish troops under command). Most games on NW Europe, if they deal with the Antwerp question at all, just direct the Allied player to occupy that section of the map which represents the Scheldt - usually shown as a small muddy spot near the edge of the map.

The staff cards in the game, and the attritional nature of the combat system, show the limitations both sides worked under and how their forces melted away during the fighting, in some of the most unpleasant terrain in the Northwest.

Brian
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Magister Ludi
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I had been thinking of designing my own game on this campaign...now it looks like I can relax and just play instead.
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Hans Korting
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No, please design the game.

This is an interesting and often forgotten campaign that should see more coverage.

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Magister Ludi
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I have gathered a few books, maps and OOB data and was thinking of using the old SPI 'Victory in the West' game system, but it just wasn't working for th scale of the battle.

There is a pretty cool ASL scenario that recreates the Breskins Pocket with about 16 mapboards that I am also hoping to play one day. Will have to see if I can find and post the link.
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Brian Train
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Great minds think alike Magister... a game on the Scheldt was to be the fourth in the Victory in the West series that SPI published, after Sicily: The Race for Messina, Patton's 3rd Army: The Lorraine Campaign, and Operation Grenade. But it was not to be.

When I sat down to design this game, I did think about using the VitW system with its strength chits, and got as far as an OOB with units rendered for the system. But like you I found the system wouldn't work for the scale of the battle. It looked like it might have, given the number of divisions involved on either side, but I wanted a system where the forces involved would melt away gradually, and players would need to balance carefully between driving forward (or tenacious defence) and resting (or trading space for time).

There are a lot of players who don't care for things like hit markers having to be adjusted, but in my view any system using step reduction or similar mechanisms was just too coarse to do the fighting justice. I think I did the right thing here.

(Oh, and in future printings of the game, we will adjust the number and type of hit markers for more small-denomination ones. This was an artifact of moving from a 280-counter DTP effort to a 192-counter die-cut counter sheet.)

Brian
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Magister Ludi
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I have been assisting in playtest of the MMP game VCS Salerno which uses the VitW system, so there is life in the old engine...

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Brian Train
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Oh, I quite liked the system, I just don't think it was appropriate for this campaign at the level I wanted to treat it.

I have heard that Decision Games will be doing a folio game on the Scheldt, but that will almost surely be one of their "system" games so units will have at most two strengths, full and half, because of the counter sheet limitations (usually 80 counters for these folios).

Brian
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Michel Boucher
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ltmurnau wrote:
I have heard that Decision Games will be doing a folio game on the Scheldt, but that will almost surely be one of their "system" games so units will have at most two strengths, full and half, because of the counter sheet limitations (usually 80 counters for these folios).


It might be their new mini series, so 40 counters, but they'll need two games using the same system rules. Joe Miranda is the exclusive designer for this series. I have the Air War pair, Eagle Day: The Battle of Britain and Cactus Air Force: Air War Over the Solomons, and the solitaire pair, Border War: Angola Raiders and Congo Merc: The Congo, 1964.

And, yes, at that scale, it will be coarse, only two steps at most. But it's good to know that campaign is finally getting some traction, considering how crucial it was to the final push.

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Brian Train
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I am fairly sure Joe Miranda is not designing the Scheldt game, so it is probably not one of the 40-counter mini-games. Decision is still coming out with a lot of folio games - they just released eight new titles.

Think of it as the Revenge of the Quads, only smaller.
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Benoit Larose
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Hey, I went through the same thought process with VITW. OOB and all... even a part of the map. Didn't work.

I actually started with GMT's Operational Series games (Airbridge to Victory). Then I tried VITW. After that (you won't believe this), I did a full-bloiwn version based on Breakout: Normandy system. That was just to big an unmanageable, but I do have a prototype set up.

My project though covers more ground and time. Sept. 4 to November, including MG and the battles of Overloon and the Mass salient.

Looking forward to try this one!!!cool
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Brian Train
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Good luck with your super-sized effort Benoit!
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Brian Train
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Thanks!

Tide of Fortune is the only other operational game I know of that treat the Scheldt campaign as something more than a few muddy hexes in the northwest of the map that the Allied player has to drive through. Even Road to the Rhine gives it scant consideration.

Brian
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Joe Oppenheimer
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I started a solo learning game of this over the weekend and I am really impressed. The staff cards give you a very different perspective than in most wargames. I like that even though you get to pick you hand you still never have every option that you want.

Looking forward to bringing this in to my local group for a ftf game some time.
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Brian Train
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Thanks, I am glad you like it!
I used the Staff Card system, again heavily modified from Bulge 20, for a game on the next Israeli invasion of Lebanon (this gmae will be in issue #9 of Modern War magazine). However, the combat system in this later game is step-reduction with flipped units, not the gradual wasting away as shown by the Hit markers in this game (not my choice, the original form of the game had pretty uch the same bucket-of-dice system as in Scheldt Campaign but the DG playtesters did not like the hit markers, so we went to a coarser system using only 1d6).
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