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Subject: Ticonderoga: two broken games for the price of one! rss

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Severus Snape
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Introduction:

What follows will sometimes seem confusing. Part of it is my attempt to review the game. The other part is a set of questions and answers between myself and one of the designers. This Q&A took place on CSW. As I attempted to play the 1758 scenario, I found myself running into questions and concerns. I have a bunch of photos but I do not have the technical skills to include them in this review. These photos would better illustrate some of the issues raised.

Straight from Decision Games we get the following description:

“Ticonderoga simulates six engagements in the region between the upper Hudson and lower Lake Champlain, specifically the area between northern Lake George and Fort Carillon (a.k.a. Ticonderoga) during the French and Indian War (1755-58). The game system emphasizes the importance of leaders, and highlights the role of individual command skills, circumstances and luck. Throughout the game, leaders’ skills are tested as their units maneuver and fight, and every leader has the capacity to be “inept,” “capable” or “exceptional,” varying from engagement to engagement.

The game includes a lot of randomization; so every game may vary in tempo. One game may involve more soldiers than another, and often the quality of the lower-level (unnamed) leaders will be different. There are three campaign and three raid scenarios, featuring many units for the longer games and fewer for shorter ones (280 counters total). Each hex on the Strategic Map represents 1.5 miles, whereas each hex on the Tactical Map (for the area near Ticonderoga) represents just 400 yards. Individual units represent from 50 to 800 men, and leader chits each represent a single commander, sometimes a famous historical figure, at other times an unknown man of low-rank.”

Ticonderoga is designed by William Nester and Eric R. Harvey. The map design is by the more than reliable Joe Youst, and the colourful counters that you will later see are by Trevor Holman.

Further introductory thoughts:

The idea of having both a tactical and a strategic map is always, always, always, cool. The nagging questions are: how will these two maps work in practice? Is this just a gimmick, such at the Oxes and Diamonds in ATO’s Strike the Bear, a game that deserves to be renamed Woof! The Dog.

Returning to Ticonderoga, the published games begins with an inauspicious note: the many of hexes on the printed map are incorrect for both the strategic and the tactical map. It seems an early play-test version of the map is responsible for the human errors that followed.

This crowding is another wargame magazine necessity, and one which I have previously lamented. It detracts from the two gaming maps. The lower, tactical map, is shown in the next image.

It would help matters if the upper of the two maps was clearly labeled as the strategic map, and the lower one labeled as the tactical map; why would no one, among the gang of clearly intelligent people, have proofed the maps for such details at this? And then there is the mystery of the two Lake Champlains, the one to your west, and the one to your east, depending on whether you are looking at the strategic map (the correct location for this wondering lake) and the tactical map (where Lake Champlain should be Lake George). And there we have our inauspicious beginning.

But it is not all bad news! No one who plays this game, particularly those with an interest in The Seven Years War in North America, wants to replicate the mistakes of their French, British, or Native historical counterparts. Who, in his or her right mind, would duplicate the leadership bungling of the British Abercromby, who threw away his numerical advantage, and possibly his career, with his failure to take Fort Carillon (i.e., the French name for Ticonderoga) during the summer campaign of 1758?

Ticonderoga addresses this over-abundance of hindsight by including a random draw for a certain number of leaders, and making all leaders roll for his ability at those activities most important for warfare, such as tactical leadership. Even the reliable British Howe, or the heroic French Montcalm, can rise to the occasion, or flounder to failure, depending on the die roll. How it all works out remains for you to see. There are also six scenarios in various seasons.

Components:

When you look at the images of the counters on BGG, what is your opinion, beyond the array of colours and details? With the benefit of the game in literal hand, as a whole, by which I mean unpunched, they scream rather loudly. But I expect that things will tone down a bit when they are stacked on the board—and there are no stacking limits, by the way, so maybe Abercromby can muster his whole force for an 18th century version of “The Big Push.” Though they still don’t quite match up to the overall touch of your typical set of ATO counters, this set is a leap forward for Strategy & Tactics, and the force behind it, Decision games. But DG prefers to play the part of the frog who leaps forwards and backwards, because in the very next issue you might wind up with something like these snazzy beasties.

The lesson to be learned is to never count on DG, and its magazine, S&T, to be consistent, let along to get it “right,” while being thankful for the times where they defy their well-established tendency for mendacity and mediocrity. By the way, note how well cut these counters are for Lest Darkness Fall. Sigh. They are the reason for why I have never gotten this game. Let us return to our regularly scheduled review.

The Rules:

According to a posting on CSW by one of the playtesters, Ticonderoga is unplayable, as is, but when he posted this (October 2012), he admitted to not have seen a final copy of the rules. We shall see if he is correct, but such a comment among the first couple of dozen on the thread, makes me nervous. Eric R. Harvey, one of the two designers, generously offered his help.

The rules are just eleven pages in length, with another four pages for the scenario set-ups. There are errors in the rules, and you have to go to CSW to see Eric’s corrections for the misnumbered hexes for the tactical and strategic maps. My first reading of the rules was favourable, and I found the layout to be pleasing to the eye, and gentle on the mind. This is not to say that questions did not arise, but at least the migraine stayed away, unlike a plethora of other designs. Here are a couple of images to show their layout in this issue.

I will address the clarity of the rules, and any concerns that I might have, when I get to the partial scenario that I played, the earlier mentioned Summer 1758 campaign.

Some gaming nuts & design bolts:

In terms of game scales—there are two here for distance—the strategic map finds each hex approximately representing 1.5 miles, while the tactical map hexes cover around 400 yards. The combat units represent anywhere from 50 to 800 men, with the leader units representing a single commander. As mentioned earlier, there are no stacking limits, and leaders are not exclusively assigned to any one unit, and they can command any combat units unless a more senior leader is present. The movement factor on units is doubled on the tactical map, although weather and terrain will likely have a say in just how far anyone goes.
The sequence of play has both day turns and night turns, where players alternate. What is neat about night turns is that a leader risks getting “lost,” and there is even a lost diagram that has to be used for such an event. There is one for both the tactical and the strategic map. Each side’s activation involves the standard movement, followed by combat, phases in the “I go/you go” fashion. Prior to the day activation, the following steps are involved: a Weather phase, a Council of War phase, Earthworks completion, and an Indian desertion check.

With the latter, a ten-sided die—D-10—is rolled, and the odds are high that a unit will be either reduced or eliminated. Weather is self-explanatory, but even the summer may not prove to be the best for campaigning because it may be too hot. The game length is never long enough to build or repair a fortress, but earthworks can be made to help with the defense.

Council of War is the neat, and seemingly new, touch to Ticonderoga, but its use presumes something that may not be happening: a change of plan. Each turn both players “must demonstrate a path of connected land hexes from each and every leader present in the game to the senior-most leader present on the map.” If such a path cannot be shown for a subordinate leader, a roll is made and compared to that leader’s leadership range. Penalties range from not being activated to move, to a combat unit being reduced.

But let us return to the fact that this rule, which I think is a nice design touch, assumes a change of game plan. Who knows what lurks inside a wargamer’s head, but perhaps the CoW roll should be made every five minutes, instead of once per turn.

Land movement is standard stuff, impacted by weather and terrain. At this game scale, zones of control only exist on the tactical map, with units stopping upon entrance, unless as part of an advance after combat. Units are allowed to exit a zone of control at the beginning of its movement, and move directly into another zone of control.

Bateaus and canoes make up the transportation technology for 18th century water movement. They can even be portaged over land, which slows the combat units down that carry them. It will take a certain number of plays before I figure out how best to use water movement to one side or another’s advantage.

Leaders roll for their movement. The three categories for this, and other aspects such as combat, are inept, capable and exceptional. Ineptitude will cost your leader two movement points, while capable and exceptional will gain you one and two movement points, respectfully.
The explanation of combat is a bit tricky and more convoluted then necessary. Despite being able to stack like pancakes at a church breakfast, only one attacking unit is involved against one defending unit. Modifiers, such as terrain, earthworks, cannons, elite units, forts and any leaders present play a part. The attacking rolls first and applies the results, if any, followed by the defending unit. Thus both sides fire at each other, with the attacker going first. We will note how this carnage plays out in the example turns from the scenario that I will cover.

As a result of combat, loses can occur, units may be reduced and flipped, or removed and replaced with a randomly selected cadre unit of variable strength. Leaders may die, units may retreat or even flee and be pursued. Attacking units may attempt a surprise attack, but a defending unit may prevent this by announcing that a patrol is present, which does reduce the defender’s strength number by one point.
Cannons, as they are apt to do, like to blow things up “real good,” which can include enemy fortresses or enemy arms, legs, torsos and heads. Speaking of icky dead things, General Braddock, he of doofus-gets-ambushed, and Washington-slept-somewhere-near-this-tree fame, can be resurrected to participate in subsequent campaigns, though why anyone would bother bothers me.

The 1758 Summer Campaign Scenario:

In one of the earliest CSW postings for Ticonderoga, Eric Harvey notes the following setup errata. Listing this gives one an idea of the “issues.”

Set-up Errata

Okay, in short, the designer had two maps spliced together, and so the hexes on the tactical map are wrong.

Anyway....here is a the conversion that makes the set up right. For the 1758 Summer Campaign (18.4), we have...

Hex 4729 should be 2214

Hex 4228 should be 1614

Hex 4227 should be 1613

Hex 1027 should be 1517

Hex 1126 should be 1519

Hex 1023 should be 1821

Hex 1821 should be 0823

Hex 1917 should be 0728

Hex 1916 should be 0729

Hex 2016 should be 0628

Hex 1916 should be 0730

Hex 2015 should be 0269

For the 1757 Winter Raid (18.5), we have...

Fort Carillon should be hex 3811 (not 3812).

For 1757 Summer Raid (18.6) we have...

Hex 4228 should be 1614

Hex 1126 should be 1519

That should do it.

Eric

And Eric goes on to explain what should not have happened:
This was a most-unfortunate thing that came as a result of the hand-drawn playtest map (which had different hex numbers for the Tactical Map) not getting translated on the actual map.

Unfortunately the subsequent playtesters did not playtest all the scenarios (or even set them up), or this would have been caught immediately.

Another player noted that in this particular scenario, there is not enough bateau to transport the large British force. Eric says that the scenario should list them as sloops instead, allowing the British force to move by river.

Unless I am missing something in the setup, I do not see any information for where Fort Carilion/Ticonderoga should be located. Rather frustrating when this important detail is absent without leave.
The setup takes time because all the combat units, respective to the two sides, look the same. But since the strengths vary, and the unit identification print is small, time is consumed.

Before battle commences, the rules for battle have to be sorted out. Another CSW poster asked the following to Eric:

5. Combat clarification. If a stack of combat units attacks a hex containing a stack of combat units:

a. Is it correct that all units in the attacking hex may fire on a single unit in the defending hex, and can ignore any and all other units?

No.
b. Is it correct that unless fired upon, no unit in a defending hex may fire?

No.

But what Eric fails to do is to actually explain the rule, because I was working under the same understanding as the person who raised this question. Confusion likes company, I suppose. I followed up with the following and continued with the setup.

Stacking rules and combat:

Eric, you answered "no" to an earlier thread on combat, but provided no clarification as to how combat works in the game. Given the ability to stack to a height equal to the Tower of Babel, how does combat work in this game when only one unit attacks and one unit defends? Could you please explain.

_________________________


Remember, the rules, as printed, have the tactical map hexes all wrong. But the corrections posted on CSW have a stack of British units on a hex that does not exist on the tactical map. I used my best judgment and placed them slightly to the upper left of the British forces on Lake George.

At this point in the review, I faced a conundrum: how should I understand the combat rules? I have a full-time job, part-time classes, and a long-suffering spouse. I cannot just sit on my hands and wait when I have the precious free time to play a game and write a review on it.

Here is some of what rule 11.0 states about attacking:

“However, each unit may attack one enemy hex. Two units may never combine their strength numbers as a singular attack (although two or more units may each attack the same hex individually), nor may any unit’s strength number be shared with another unit.” As is, it sounds like only one unit may attack from any given hex.

“To attack a hex, the attacking player must simply select one of his own adjacent units to conduct that attack (which must be adjacent to the enemy hex), and one enemy unit to be the target of that attack, and then roll one 10-sided die” adding modifiers along the way. Again, it sounds as if it is a one unit versus one unit combat. If not, what am I reading incorrectly?

This idea of a one-unit versus one-unit battle does not seem to go with the high stacking allowed in the game, and you see some of the British stacks at the set-up.

Eric Harvey, you will be happy to know, has a life outside of many the whims and whines of those who inhabit CSW, people such as me. His priorities, which include a young family, mean that his replies are sometimes delayed by the things that matter.

Concerning rule 11.0, the attacking rule, and some odds & ends that I raised, Eric wrote on CSW:

Stacking rules and combat

Eric, you answered "no" to an earlier thread on combat, but provided no clarification as to how combat works in the game. Given the ability to stack to a height equal to the Tower of Babel, how does combat work in this game when only one unit attacks and one unit defends? Could you please explain.

Joseph,
The rules state (11.0) that you simply select an attacking unit and roll a die (trying to roll under its printed hit number). Since the rules state that you roll for each unit individually, it doesn't matter what the stacking is.
Eric, is Fort Carilion on the tactical map for this scenario? If so, where is it located? Is it an actual fort, or just earthworks?

If you're referring to 1757 Winter Raid Scenario, it's in hex 3811 (strategic map). Yes, it's a fort.

The range of sloops

"Actually, for this scenario, the bateaux are supposed to be sloops, and there should have been a note in the scenario to treat each bateau as a single ship. I'll add it in to the e-rules."
What is the range of sloops?

Same as the bateaux (try spelling that three times fast).

The corrections to the Summer 1758 Scenario :

Eric, you wrote that hex 2015 should be hex 0269, but there is no such hex on the tactical map. Do you mean 0229?
Yes! (sorry about the typo).

Rule 11.0 Attacking
Here is some of what rule 11.0 states about attacking:

“However, each unit may attack one enemy hex. Two units may never combine their strength numbers as a singular attack (although two or more units may each attack the same hex individually), nor may any unit’s strength number be shared with another unit.” As is, it sounds like only one unit may attack from any given hex.

“To attack a hex, the attacking player must simply select one of his own adjacent units to conduct that attack (which must be adjacent to the enemy hex), and one enemy unit to be the target of that attack, and then roll one 10-sided die” adding modifiers along the way. Again, it sounds as if it is a one unit versus one unit combat. If not, what am I reading incorrectly?

Well, it's not strictly only one unit versus one unit, It's just that each unit selects a target (as the rules states), so you could have three units attacking one enemy unit, if you have the numerical advantage to do so.

In effect, it can be one unit versus one unit if that's all that's involved.

Hope that helps,

Eric

____________________________________

I was still a bit confused, and rather discouraged, if truth be told, with the design at this point. One of the playtesters was openly expressing his disappointment and concerns over Ticonderoga, and found himself persona non grata.

I raised two more things:

In a stack versus stack, one to one, or whatever battle how will retreating work? If one unit is forced to retreat, or flee, does the whole stack go with it?

No, only the unit that failed to roll (only the unit that was attacked) must retreat.

Eric, please provide an example of attacking for Ticonderoga, and make each side have sizeable stacks so that we can get a handle on how this works.

Sure,

1) A stack of two units attacks another stack of two units.

2) The attacker rolls a die against a particular targeted unit; he either hits or misses.

3) The defending unit rolls a die in response; he either hits or misses.

4) If the defending unit was hit but failed to hit in response, he must retreat.

5) Repeat the process for the next unit.

This example of battle was not what I was expecting, but since I did not specify large stacks, I guess I got what I deserved. The Summer 1758 scenario sees a large number of British counters on the board, just waiting to be combined; there are no supply lines to be cut in any of these scenarios. Enough talk; let’s rock and play this game.

My would-be-playtest of the Summer 1758 six turn scenario:

I rolled a 6 and received clear weather in return, perfect for the beginning of the game. In the Council of War phase, all the British begin on the lake (with Eric’s corrections of their placements), so I guessed that they are in an unbroken LOC and I see no French warships to stir up Lake George (this is bad humour, as you will never see any fighting vessels for either side). The French are also okay; thus no die rolls for either side.

Turn One/Day/British

The British sloops moved their 11 hexes, and those led by Howe, and an unnamed leader, combined and marched to commence the festivities by attacking an unnamed French leader, his 1 SP regular unit, and their redoubt. No unit may attack more than once per activation, but a unit may defend as many times as it is attacked.

And then it all froze in its tracks because there are more questions needing answers:

Does the senior leader roll for each unit that attacks? Or is it just one roll that is applied to all units?

Joseph,

It's for each unit. The rule (11.3) says "regardless of any previous ability die roll results for that leader."

Eric, in my first combat, I have Howe leading eight combat units against an unnamed French leader with his 1 SP. Does Howe roll once, and then apply that to each of the eight attacks? Or does he roll for each unit that will attack?

Per 11.3, each unit.
I supposed the same question needs to be applied to the leader leading the defense when one than more defending unit is attacked.

Yes, same answer (see 11.7, where it has the same answer).

Can you please provide an example of multi-unit combat from an actual scenario, one that covers rules 11.0-13.0?

Joseph,

Here's a sample example of play, in five or six steps...

1) If two British 7-strength units are in hex 3803, and two 4-strength British units are in hex 3909, both hexes with a generic leader, and they are attacking the woods hex in 3809, occupied by three 5-strength Indians:

2) The British player chooses one of his 7-strength units, rolls for the leader (assume he is inept), and then rolls the combat die against one of the three Indians.

3) The British die roll is "5", but he must add +2 for the forest the Indians are in, and then add +2 for the inept leader (for a net combat die roll result of "9"). Since 9 is higher than the attacking British unit's strength of "7", it is a miss. Now, that targeted Indian unit rolls its defense die. There is no leader for the Indian unit, and no terrain penalties apply to defenders, so it's a straight roll; the roll is a "9", which is a miss.

4) Next, the second British unit in that same hex (which is also a 7 strength unit) attacks. Roll for the leader again, which this time is capable (generic leaders are never exceptional), and then that unit's attack roll is rolled (say, a "7") against the same target. Add +2 for the forest again, but -1 for the capable leader, a net of 8...another miss. That Indian unit defends itself again, rolling a "1", which inflicts a hit upon that attacking British unit (flipping it).

5) In the next hex over (3909), the first British unit there (strength of 4) attacks. The leader there is rolled (assume he is also capable). The attack die roll is rolled, which is a "3", which is modified +2 for the forest, but -1 for the capable leader (a net of 4), which is a hit upon that Indian unit. That Indian unit returns fire, but misses.

6) Because that Indian unit was hit, but did not inflict a hit in return, it must retreat. This retreat only applies to that Indian unit, not the other two in that hex.

7) The other two Indian units in that hex were not attacked yet, and so they don't defend. But, the last British unit in hex 3909 attacks one of them next, but rolls a "8", which is a miss (even with a capable leader). That second Indian unit returns fire, but also misses. As there are no more eligible attacking units, that combat ends.

Eric, would you be able to share why you, and William Nester, chose to design the attack rule/combat in this manner?

Joseph,

The fighting of the French and Indian war, which was largely dictated by the terrain and the remoteness of the theater, precluded the mass army formations and maneuver that you saw in Europe, and units were not coordinated very well. Thus, this combat system works well to segment combat by individual units and leaders (which had a lot of influence on the outcome of a battle). The defender still has the advantage in that every unit that attacks it compels a defensive roll, and not to mention the advantage of terrain.

It's much more reflective or the kind of combat in the region at this time in history.
With large, physically unstable to human fingers, stacks of troops on a small board, this lends itself more to tedium than to enjoyment. I suppose that those with the software can create off-map OB sheets and make it more manageable and practical, but I lack such software.


I'm not sure I understand your point. In essence, the combat system is as simple as Axis & Allies, except adapted to a hex map instead of an area map. The addition of leaders is what gives it additional flavor.

Eric, with respect to your patient answers, and your taste in games, to use the combat system from A&A is not a selling point for me.

I just don't see much fun in moving a super-stack of British units and having to reroll a leader check for each and every unit that attacks. In my playtest, I have Howe leading 8 units, so 8 rolls might be needed, but I can see even larger stacks calling for 15-25 rolls, unless the French are wiped off the planet, sooner rather than later. It slows down the game too much, removing tension rather than adding it.

What is the justification for deciding if Howe is going to go from genuis to doofus back to inbetweenes in the course of eight die rolls?

Another leadership question: why would any player allow an inept named leader, Braddock, for example, to lead the attacking force? Is there anything in the rules that force a side to use the head honcho even if he is Mr. Wrong? Otherwise, you have your first example of "gamey" play by avoiding using the Braddocks of the battlefield.

Joseph,

I did not say that I used the system from Axis & Allies. I was only making a comparison that it's a simple non-CRT-based combat system. There's no charts to consult, you just roll a die and add a modifier here or there, easy peasey lemon squeezy.

I just don't see much fun in moving a super-stack of British units and having to reroll a leader check for each and every unit that attacks. In my playtest, I have Howe leading 8 units, so 8 rolls might be needed, but I can see even larger stacks calling for 15-25 rolls, unless the French are wiped off the planet, sooner rather than later. It slows down the game too much, removing tension rather than adding it.

Well, the problem with that analyses is that there aren't too many instances in which you're going to need to roll for, say, eight attacks at a time. Remember, you only need to roll as many times as you have targets. If you're attacking an enemy stack containing only three units, you only need three hits. You may roll for three attacks, you may roll for six, maybe on rare occasion you'd need to roll all eight, but I can assure you that no attacking player is going to wish he had less to attack with because it's too much to roll; If he missed with the first few rolls, he'll be glad to have more to roll with.

What is the justification for deciding if Howe is going to go from genuis to doofus back to inbetweenes in the course of eight die rolls?

The justification is that the leader wasn't everywhere on the line, and this is in keeping with what 18th Century warfare was like, particularly in difficult terrain. A leader could issue orders, but once the fracas began, he was only able to exercise limited control of units.

You must remember that this is before radios and field phones, and units had to relay on couriers to get messages back and forth. In difficult terrain (especially the kinds of woods and woodlands the map represents), a leader would have very little control over more than the units in his immediate vicinity.

Another leadership question: why would any player allow an inept named leader, Braddock, for example, to lead the attacking force? Is there anything in the rules that force a side to use the head honcho even if he is Mr. Wrong? Otherwise, you have your first example of "gamey" play by avoiding using the Braddocks of the battlefield.

Yes, leaders are necessary for some activities, and furthermore, in some cases a leader's abilities aren't a factor. For example, if you read 8.0, the first paragraph states that you can't move a unit at night without a leader. Furthermore, a leader's abilities don't affect night movement, as another example.

Is this a correct intepretation of leaders and combat? You can use a senior named leader, who is lower ranked, but not stacked with the higher ranked lemon?

This question was not answered, likely due to the “static” taking place between designer and reviewer.

By way of a Conclusion:

I will break this up into specifics, starting with the two maps. I like the concept, but the final product has them so close in design, so much alike in colour, that some of the fun is removed in playing on them. And then there is the case of the incorrectly number hexes, which has to be kept in mind each and every time you want to set up and play Ticonderoga. I suppose those with the graphic skills could make their own corrections by way of a map overlay, but I lack those skills, and am stuck with what came out of the press. I think that it is fair to say that the proofreading and editing for this game was abysmal and below any magazine’s professional standards.

Next comes the quasi-fiasco presented in the rules. The game may be broken. See what the people who have patiently played it out in full have to say.

What follows are among my final comments in the give & take on CSW between Eric and myself. They also serve as why I think this game is not just bad, but bad in such a way that beggars belief.

But you are dodging the main issue: rerolling for every unit might be a way of attempting to reflect 18th century command & control, but when a large stack attacks a large stack, it is a pain in the wrist. I am sure that there are other wargame designs that do the same thing, but then there are those that do not.

As far as on the "rare" ocassion, what is the incentive to have small stacks? There are no supply lines to cut; even the strategic map offers no incentive for anything other than head to head combat. And God tends to side with the big numbers, until such time as a Braddock choses to lead his men to glory.

This system of multiple leadership rolls is not evocative of the history, and it is simply not fun. However, the "exceptional/capable/inept" is a brilliant touch; keep it and put it in a design that is less "clunky." Just one simple roll should do it; after all, this isn't RHB's The Republic of Rome, where the issue is the number of modifiers, say around 106, that you have to consider before making that one roll.

I thank you for your help, especially with the attack rules and the longer example you provided. However, this game gets a thumbs down. There are--were--too many unasnwered questions, and the map mess is abysmal. I won't bother you with any more questions. There are too many holes and too little in the way of a fun factor. It neither simulation nor enjoyment.

I wish the DG would better support its designers by having good editors--do any exist? And I wish DG would stop putting out good ideas that are half-baked in the final product. But as long as we waste our money on DG lemons, DG will continue to make them. Build it and they will come. Publish it and they will buy it.


And then there is this comment of mine, partly inspired by Eric's--"gosh, boy, not every game will be a gamer's cup of tea" lame defense of a lame game:

Eric, the internet, as it often does, is blocking clear communication. I'll drop attempting to explain the "don't get it" point, because that horse was beaten to death at least three times. But whose counting.

You have been helpful, here and in e-mails, explaining the rules, and we would be much the poorer if you had not taken time away from your family, and your life, to help and humour those of us with an interest in the game.

Yes, likes and dislikes of wargames and other forms of "art" are highly subjective. I hope you find a market for this game. I hope DG gives more support--hello, how about editing the map(s) before going to press to check for accuracy--in you next game design.

My "thumb's down" will never be the last word for those who form their own opinions; this means that plenty of others will like what I dislike. There are wargamers who look at my likes/dislikes and know what the will dislike/like, if you catch the meaning.

If I am attacking across the board, there is a lot of die rolling involved. But if I have to make ten rolls to decide the outcome of one hex, well, as you know, there has to be something special in terms of the "payback." I have not found it in Ticonderoga.

Initially, I liked the game. I love the historical period, and my empathy is always with the designer(s)/developer(s) at the start. But how fickle I am once I open up the lid of the pickle barrel to see what lies beneath.

My personal conclusion is that Ticonderoga neither "works" as a bit of fun, nor as an historical simulation. This is not to deny the talent and energy that went into the product, and it will be interesting to see its defenders arise and speak of the merits of the game.

And with that, I'll call it a day.


I am sorry for any confusion found among those sturdy enough to have read this review from start to finish. The game just is not worth the effort for me to apply my editing skills to a higher level. But there should be enough present to convince everyone on the gaming planet to not conduct a trade with me for this game.

Don't be surprised if you see many editing this a great deal as typos arise, along with the removal of references to images that are not present in the review.

goo







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Billie Kingfisher Jr
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Seems like DG is spreading itself thin w/their 3 magazines and regular gaming commitments and the result is something like this game. Glad I didn't order it, though I like the period, I have noticed that their magazines have numerous typos, which unfortunately reinforces the percepion I made in my first sentence.

Just hope this isn't systematic of bigger more serious issues w/the company as I have enjoyed many of their previous products.
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Bill Eldard
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Thanks forthe warning. I am a big fan of the F&IW, but reading your review and the several post on the BGG page, I won't touch this one.
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Severus Snape
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Eldard wrote:
Thanks forthe warning. I am a big fan of the F&IW, but reading your review and the several post on the BGG page, I won't touch this one.


I also like the French & Indian War, and number Wilderness War among my favourite games. I think what is wrong with Ticonderoga goes beyond the poor editing and proofing; the design itself is flawed. There are no stacking limitations, you have to re-roll your leadership for each combat--imagine doing that between two large stacks of units--and there are no supply lines as strategic or tactical targets. And yet some good can be found in the ashes.

goo
 
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bart brodowski
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Pretty good "review." However, it is more of a review of DG's (read: Eric's) refusal to come to terms with genuine criticism and questions regarding the design, than of the game itself. I understand, having tried to play it myself, that this is because the game is "unplayable." Essentially, from the moment the game is set up and the first move is made, the player spends countless hours re-reading the rules and looking for answers to simple questions. "Is this really how it is supposed to work?" "This can't be." "What is the point of all the rules for getting lost, when only a fool would march on anything other than the marked trails?" But wait, it get's better. On the strategic map there are trails that are not represented on the tactical map. What if I am forced to retreat from one map to the next, while carrying boats, across a river? Is there a rule for that?

I still don't understand how this game supposedly made it through internal playtest (before being shipped out to outside playtester(s). And here is the where the story gets sinister. I doubt whether the designers ever did actually play one scenario to completion. I say this having seen the playtest rules, which were worse than the final published product. There were gaping holes in the most rudimentary elements of the game - movement, retreats, terrain, leadership, descriptions of units, etc. It would have been impossible to complete one turn, unless of course the designers had all the missing rules in their head and just forgot to commit them to paper.

I suspect from my experience with this game that DG (Eric) puts the minimum of development into a magazine game, apart from editing a final version of the rules. Each game is only going to be as good as the original design submitted by the designer. Subsequent playtesting and development is a joke.

Bart
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Severus Snape
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Well, Bart, it wouldn't call it sinister, but I do wonder what the h-e-double hockey sticks happened between design and publication. And when you wrote:

"Is this really how it is supposed to work?" "This can't be." "What is the point of all the rules for getting lost, when only a fool would march on anything other than the marked trails?" But wait, it get's better. On the strategic map there are trails that are not represented on the tactical map. What if I am forced to retreat from one map to the next, while carrying boats, across a river? Is there a rule for that?

you helped to nail other problems.

If I published anything, I would be nervous about any mistakes appearing. I don't even like my typos and miscues on BGG, and this is nothing compared to actually publishing a product for which people pay. DG should be ashamed of itself for putting out this sort of product, even while claiming pride for the homeruns it hits. But profit takes precedence over pride any day of the week.

goo

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bart brodowski
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I agree entirely.
 
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Barry Kendall
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Well, first off, I must thank the poster for a Herculean effort to make sense of a game that he clearly wanted to understand, play, and enjoy.

Second, it looks as though this game might be the worst example of design/development/editing/production miscues since "Armada" First Edition and possibly since "Fall of Rome."

A pity, particularly given the subject matter, which fascinates me and is rarely addressed in the boardgaming world, and the fact that I have a copy pre-ordered. Seems I have some cold-winter's-day pondering, backfitting errata and tinkering somewhere in my future.

And a pity, given DG's effort to publish not one, not two, but three magazines-with-a-game-in-it, each with issues ideally spaced two-months-apart, simultaneously. Eighteen magazines, rule sets, mapsheets, and countermixes per year.

Makes writing sixty or so sermons a year look easy.

XTR used to garner groans for not-ready-for-prime-time games obviously rushed by the publication schedule. Now and then there was a really good one in the mix, and some tolerable "nice efforts," but too many disappointments-with-a-magazine-around-them to suit most of us.

Now history repeats itself. I consider DG well-intentioned, even though they did renege on their promise to offer a "Wacht am Rhein II Update Kit" for those who all-too-eagerly purchased the first printing of WaR II (m'self being one, and NO, I did not buy Second Edition).

However well-intentioned, though, they appear to be somewhat outmanned by their production calendar. Given the narrow margins extant in the wargame-publishing field, more staff is probably not an option, but I wonder if something couldn't be worked out with hungry undergraduate communication majors, English majors, or unemployed recent liberal-arts graduates to undertake some of the basic proofing and consistency-checking required for a wargame to pass from final-playtest configuraion to ready-for-production status.

Even a non-gamer, assuming the capability to read a map rather than merely listening to a lovely Australian-accented female voice offering directions from one's on-board nav system, should be able to find mismatched hex numbers.

In short, there ought to be ways to keep little calamities such as "Ticonderoga" from reaching consumers who're paying for the thing.

Barring all else, perhaps (no, not perhaps, more like "obviously") it's time for DG to slow the production schedule and devote more time to verifying the readiness of its products.

I like a number of their upcoming subjects in all three magazine-game areas (and most certainly wish them success 'til "Fail-Safe" is in my hands a year hence!) and hope they can soldier on with a measure of prosperity, but to do so, and not follow "Command" Magazine into oblivion, they need to fix this, forthwith.
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michael confoy
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I made a decision on Decision Games a long time ago which is reflected in my games owned list.
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Steve Carey
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bongina wrote:
Subsequent playtesting and development is a joke.


We feel your pain, Bart - that one sentence sums up Decision Games perfectly.

I am part of a large waragame group in L.A., and no one ever plays any of DG games (other than Butterfield's efforts).

Yes I know (and like) some folk at DG, but the company's haughty disregard for his customers, along with its sausage factory-like operation, is intolerable.
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A reminder: French wargame magazine Vae Victis did have an issue on those battles.
http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/9844/batailles-pour-la-no...

Design by known French and French Canadian wargamers.
I did not play but rating is rather good.

Smaller format than DG and unmounted counters !
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Darin Leviloff
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I can't jump to the conclusion that they are spread too thin. Some of their recent games have been quite good. In fact, I think they are 4 for 4 in Modern War as far as I am concerned. One dog does not a kennel make.

Then, article quality and layout has improved immensely. I'm still on board.
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Tim Benjamin
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I recently gave an attempt at another development disaster, Operation Elope in S&T 211. Although in the case of Ticonderoga I understood the combat model/rules it is absolutely astonishing that the map numbering errors were overlooked. I don't understand why there isn't one final 'just before committing to production' play-through with all the finalized components, perhaps like the old SPI 'Friday Night Follies' (or whatever it was called).

A new subscriber to S&T that received either Operation Elope or Ticonderoga as a first issue would be lost as a customer forever; how can such shoddy work be a good business model?
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Crassus wrote:
I can't jump to the conclusion that they are spread too thin. Some of their recent games have been quite good. In fact, I think they are 4 for 4 in Modern War as far as I am concerned. One dog does not a kennel make.

Then, article quality and layout has improved immensely. I'm still on board.



Seems like no other gaming company brings out the diversity of opinion that seems to surround Decision Games.

Ticonderoga is an anamoly. If all their games were like this, then they would do themselves in, not unlike FGA (Fresno Gaming Association). That is not to say that there aren't issues with a few other games in their line but Ticonderoga seems to be an extreme exception.

Whenever I deal with them, they are polite and courteous. The majority of my "boxed" games delivered by them have ranged from decent to well done (D-Day at Omaha Beach being a good example).

Magazine issues from ANY company always have the potential for "issues". A good portion of my gaming library is composed of errata for magazine games from current and former companies who didn't have the time or staff (or perhaps commitment to excellence) to complete the job. Kind of like biting into a cookie and getting the hint of raw cookie dough.

I've gotta agree with the statement that "one dog does not a kennel make". Decision Games has done me right so far and any complaints would be minor compared to the positive side of my gaming and customer service experience.

Nonetheless... if I was looking forward to a good game covering the French and Indian War and received a game like Ticonderoga, my patience would be severely tested.
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Severus Snape
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Whenever I deal with them, they are polite and courteous. The majority of my "boxed" games delivered by them have ranged from decent to well done (D-Day at Omaha Beach being a good example).


I have found their customer service this past while to be excellent. If only that excellence could weed out the dogs of gaming war before I buy them.

I have found their boxed games a mixed bag. Storm of Steel, by the normally reliable Joe Miranda, seems to have been rushed into the marketplace. It needs a bit more design "cooking" before I'll get a decent game out of it, and that is a real shame because it looks so good.

War between the States is a reprint that glossed over the original's issues while looking really glossy in the process. But I do like WaRII since Joe Youst improved it.

goo
 
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Severus Snape
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heath p avery wrote:
I just got this out...punched and ready to go....AND THEN THE PROBLEMS BEGAN !!! Cant even set up , cant find the right map hexes....nor the right...EVERYTHING
Thrown back on shelf in disgust The game counters and map looked ok...shame shame the rest is poor


I feel bad that you got suckered into this lemon of a game. One of the designers is active on CSW, but as far as I can tell, there is no shame, no regret, no apologies, no admittance for publishing a piece of garbage that not even a dog would eat. gulp

goo
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Late to the party but I am also having some trouble with the rules in a couple of Mr. Harvey's other games (Green Berets: Vietnam and Vietnam Battles: Snoopy's Nose & Iron Triangle). They are just obscure enough in critical places that it saps the enjoyment from the experience. Plus, there is little to no support here on BGG.
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