Friday, May 9, 2008

MedFront or "miniFront?"

The Front series launched by EastFront and culminating in the most recent EuroFront II is one of the more involved block games, which are typically one-sitting, three-hour or less affairs.

It may just be me and my opponents, but I've always found the going kinda slow when playing one of the 6-month-long scenarios and a real struggle to wrap it up in an evening. Playing a whole front or the whole Front is clearly a multi-sitting or weekend affair. There are some "smaller" scenarios in the game system but most of the time this is a very relative term and they're not small in the way of Quebec 1759, Napoleon or even Hammer of the Scots.

One partial exception to this state of affairs is found in MedFront, which includes two complete games as well as being a component of the larger EuroFront project. I'm not sure where those two MedFront campaigns fit in the EuroFront II presentation, but the MedFront versions also have the advantage of taking up much less space with their smaller maps, so I suspect they're not obsolete.

The first of the small campaigns depicts the Spanish Civil War using just a dozen Nationalist blocks and 14 for the Republicans, making this a very small affair indeed.

One common criticism of the block games is over the "luck" factor because there's a lot of dice-rolling involved. Usually this concern is misplaced, because the more rolls the less the luck as the results tend to average out. While true enough in WestFront and especially in EastFront, it's much less true in SCW. Like War of 1812, luck can play a pretty big role in SCW because there are so few rolls. When battles involve a 3 CV unit firing at a 1 CV unit flukes are much more likely.

The extreme production point poverty of the two sides makes this a very slow-paced affair. Unless they capture Madrid or Barcelona (which may be game-ending events anyway) the Nationalists get 4 PPs per turn, which isn't even enough to replenish the Franco HQ one step every turn. Things are little better for the Republican side. They may get as many as 6 PPs in a turn, so long as the blockade doesn't kick in, the French don't renege on aid and they manage to keep Madrid and Barcelona in rail contact with the outside world.

This means that operations will tend to come in short spurts as the contending armies build up resources and then launch one big effort per season.

One aspect of the scenario many players may not care for is the sudden death victory conditions which can bring the campaign to an abrupt end if one side manages to gain a slight edge and then roll lucky.

The second campaign is the Western Desert, where the two sides have an absolute poverty of pieces, although adequate PPs for the most part. Incautious players will find disaster just a bad set of rolls away, as they maneuver armies with maybe a half dozen blocks.

Both scenarios offer a chance to play the Front system in a short time, so they might make a good introduction to the system, although probably too dicey for some tastes.

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