Wednesday, November 26, 2008

One irony of Avalon Hill's "50th" anniversary

Hasbro selected three games for "Anniversary" editions to mark the 50th anniversary of Avalon Hill's founding.

While all three games are worthy classics (Acquire, Axis & Allies, and Diplomacy), none of them are original Avalon Hill games. Acquire was published by 3M and brought into the AH line when it took over the 3M line. Diplomacy, of course, is just as old as AH, but was first published by Gamescience before being bought and published by AH. Axis & Allies was never in the old Baltimore-based Avalon Hill's lineup at all.

It would have been nice to see a real Avalon Hill classic republished, but there are few candidates that might match Hasbro's market. Perhaps the most likely candidate would be an updated edition of Football strategy that reflected the way the NFL is played today.

Among the wargames I think there are few games that could make the transition. Most of the better games are in the hands of MMP or being republished elsewhere. Maybe, just maybe, a heavily revised Midway with plastic Axis & Allies style ships could catch the eye of the modern bit-oriented gamer. Of the classic hex-and-counter games Afrika Korps has probably held up the best, but I don't see it appealing to Wal-Mart shoppers.

No, it's easy to see w hy Acquire, Dip and A&A made the cut.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Like Lions They Fought review

Like Lions They Fought
a review

Some wargames cover situations where one side’s chances of winning militarily were small to nonexistent. The usual design approach is to set up the victory conditions so that each player must strive to better the historical result.

Like Lions They Fought, the issue game in Command Magazine No. 28 in 1994, takes that approach to game the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 in an entertaining way while bowing to the historical reality that the Zulus, a locally powerful tribe of herder-warriors, had no chance of prevailing over the military might of the British Empire. But if the Zulu player can keep his king, Cetshwayo, out of British hands longer than the historical result, he wins.

The game scale is 5 miles per hex, one month per turn. Zulu units are regiments of varying strength, with each combat factor representing about 500 warriors. Combat factors range from 1-5. British units represent companies and battalions of regular and colonial troops, with each combat factor representing between 80 and 120 men. The counters are the user-friendly 5/8-inch pictographic style favored by Command Magazine during this era. Zulus are white background, British are light red and some neutral Zulus are gray. The map is another functional and attractive Mark Simonitch production.

The game sequence is a little unusual, in that the Zulus move, the British move and then there is a mutual combat phase where the Zulus are always the attacker, no matter who initiated the combat. The designer notes explain that the spear-armed Zulus had no choice but to attack the rifle-armed British to avoid getting shot up at long range.

The overall strategic situation has the British invading Zululand with multiple independent columns converging on the Zulu Capital of Ulundi. The Zulus have an opportunity to recreate the battle of Isandlwana and decimate one column, but for religious reasons the victorious Zulus are removed from the map for two turns while the warriors go home to their “kraals” to purify. Each Zulu regiment is associated with a kraal and if it’s home kraal is burned, the unit cannot return to play.

Naturally, therefore, a major British objective is to burn kraals, causing an inexorable decline in the number of Zulus. Meanwhile the British get stronger.

The middle period of the game sees the British, after having torched many kraals, closing in on Ulundi. The Zulu king flees and the British spend the rest of the game chasing him around the map. If they catch him, it’s game over, British victory. Historically the British captured the king in the eighth month. If he’s still on the lam at the end of that month, the Zulu player wins.

Combat is reminiscent of XTR’s pre-gunpowder games, where both sides line up their units off board and match unit for unit. The British shoot. Zulus die. More Zulus step into the gap, there is a melee. Both sides have a chance to retreat. If neither does, the battle goes on for another round. Essentially, the Zulus must ensure they have numerical superiority to have any chance of winning a battle.

The game takes about ten minutes to set up and can easily be played in one sitting.


(Yes) For Wargamers: A unique topic covered in a playable way.

(No) For Collectors: No remarkable collectibility.

(No) For Euro gamers: A hex-and-counter wargame where the theme is a little more unpleasant than usual, as the British player has to go around burning homes in order to win.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Out of the box impression of Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition

I haven't even punched out the counters or taken the figures out of their bags, yet, so this is a very preliminary impression.

That said, I am impressed. It's a LOT of game. The storage boxes are an especially nice touch. In game storage is usually hit or miss and Hasbro's storage up to now hasn't usually been very inspired, but this game changes all that.

Besides solving the storage of parts, this conficuration of storage bixes should help keep the very large box rigid and avoid some of the kind of damage that tends to make large flat boxes less stury than other types.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Proud Monster, a review of the Command Magazine version

Let's see. Two full-sized maps, 959 counters, 18 pages of rules, 23 player-turn "couplets." This is a big game. Especially for a magazine. Proud Monster was the issue game in Command Magazine No. 27 in 1994.

While not the largest "monster" game about the Eastern Front in World War II, Proud Monster may be the most playable. While there are 18 pages of rules, the game is only of moderate complexity by wargame standards. The game is basically your standard hex-and-counter wargame with an IGO-HUGO turn sequence.

Units are generally brigades and divisions. German mechanized divisions have four steps, infantry divisions have two and Axis allied units one. On the Soviet side nearly all the units have one step, with the reverse side of the counter showing the unit in an untried status. This rule gives the game a lot of its character and helps speed play because there's no "factor counting." The exact strength of any given hex or group of attackers is usually unknown. This creates an appropriate mind set of "I'll send six divisions to attack that city or I'll hold the line with 24 divisions" instead of looking for the exact last factor for a 3-1.

The game is sweeping in scope, covering the first six months of the invasion of Russia. The Panzers rampage where they will, send fistfuls of Soviet units into the "dead pile" while the infantry struggles to keep up. Meanwhile, zombie-like, the recently slaughtered Soviet units return to play, along scores of new units. This is actually a nice touch. The Germans woefully underestimated the size of the Soviet military establishment and within a few weeks of the start of the war had already destroyed more divisions than they thought existed before the war.
There are a lot of little things that help make the game playable despite its vast size. For example, the map's hexes are slightly larger than standard helping fingers handle the large stacks of 1/2-inch counters. All the different types of Soviet units are color-coded, making set up and running the reinforcement/replacement system easier.

The game includes several of Bomba's signature East Front interpretations, including the "GAS" line, about halfway to Moscow, where the German supply system attenuates. The Germans can avoid the penalty if they declare a "pause" and basically suspend their offensive for a turn. This is always a difficult choice. Another big decision for the Germans is whether or not to concentrate supply on 18 mobile divisions for a final push, at the cost of starving the rest of the army. (Bomba returned to this idea in The Moscow Option, which is essentially a "what-if" mini-game of Proud Monster playing out the drive on Moscow proposed by Guderian.

The Combat Results Table is the same odd-based step-loss-result system familiar to players of Command Magazine games.

While billed as 12 "turns" long, each "turn" is really two turns as the term is used in most wargames. Here they are called "couplets." The game could just as easily have been called 23 turns long, with every odd turn starting with a reinforcement phase and every even turn ending with a victory check phase. This is a long game, and will take at least a weekend to play. Setup will also takes time , and will probably need to be done before the play date.

While it can be a long game, it may end early. Every turn the Germans check to see how many victory points (scored by capturing cities) they have achieved. If it's more than that turn's goal then the game ends in German victory. Naturally the amount need increased every turn, but this rule prevents the Soviets from merely high-tailing it to the rear at top speed. On turn I the Germans need just 4 VPs, which they can achieve by taking just Kaunus, Vilnius, Minsk and Kishinev (near Odessa). The game scale is 20 miles per hex, two weeks per turn.


(Yes) for wargamers: A very big, but still playable wargame on the biggest campaign in history. Really captures the vast scope of the campaign. There's a new edition available, so players will presumably prefer that one.

(Yes) for Collectors: Sought-after.

(No) for Eurogamers: Way, way too much wargame.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

WizKids and the future of bit-based games

What the exact story is behind the surprise announcement by Topps that WizKids will fold is buried in corporate confidentiality. While the game industry is pretty small and the wargame industry even smaller, it's relatively transparent as such things go. There's a lot of gossip that passes around and many of the company's talk a lot about their plans and many of them are pretty good at interacting with their customers.

This is less true for the bigger guys, although I think even Hasbro is better than most wholesale/retail outfits in communicating with its customers. Topps and WizKids seem more in the traditional corporate mold that way.

Still, the WizKids announcement follows an industry-wide pattern of delays and product changes that may very well be affected by larger economic conditions. The global credit crisis and retail retrenchment will, of course, not leave the game industry unscathed, but I think the real impact of that still lies in the future (not the far future, though, just Christmas). I suspect that this year's production issues are related to changes in China, where the vast majority of the nice bits that graced games over the last decade or so were made.

For most of the last 10 years there was a "sweet spot" where low labor and production costs and favorable exchange rates made it very inexpensive for games to include nice bits, especially plastic pieces. It was possible to include large amounts of pieces (War of the Ring, Tide of Iron, Axis & Allies, Memoir' 44, etc.) and it was possible to have hand-painted pieces: (HeroClix, Axis & Allies miniatures, D&D miniatures, Star Wars etc.). It was even possible to have large numbers of hand-painted pieces (Heroscape).

I think that era is coming to a rapid end and will not reoccur for the foreseeable future. There will still be nice bits, but I think there will be more reliance on blocks and counters (Worthington Games, GMT) because it's considerably cheaper to use print instead. There will probably be a more judicious use of plastic as far as quamity goes and less use of expensive hand-painted models.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Unheralded use for the Memoir '44 Overlord counters

There's been some grousing about the counters included in the Memoir '44 Overlord expansion but I think even owners of two M'44 sets can find a use for them.

Memoir' 44 has many good qualities, but portability isn't one of them. It's a big box and with expansions it can be quite a bit to haul around.

Using the counters, though, one can create a "travel" edition that will fit in a folder with the rules and many of the marker counters. If you use one of the paper maps it will be even more compact. You'll still need a dice pouch and a box for the cards but overall it's a much smaller package.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The issue game in Command No. 26 in 1994 was When Tigers Fight covering the 1944 campaign in the rarely-simulated China-Burma-India theater.

With one-month turns and 60 km hexes, it's clearly strategic in scope. The game is pretty much XTR-standard, with NATO-style unit symbols, attack-defense-movement factor units in most of the standard XTR color themes: Red Japanese, Brown Commonwealth and Olive American forces. The higher quality Chinese Nationalist units are blue, while the "junque" stuff is purple and uses the reverse side to show untried unit status.

The game sequence is standard IGO-HUGO with various special rules added for chrome. Units are generally divisions, except for the mob-like Chinese forces, which bear unit symbols ranging from division to army group size. Japanese and Allied units are 2-4 steps, while the untried units are one-steppers.

All-in-all a fairly unexceptional game of the sort Command successfully published for eight years. When Tigers Fight is in just about the middle of that run.

But unlike most of that run When Tigers Fight has been criticized for play balance issues. Some maintain that the Japanese can guarantee a win by concentrating on the sudden death victory conditions of capturing two of three Chinese supply cities. The player's notes published with the game note that the Japanese can go any one place they choose, but evidently the playtesters missed that if the Japanse picked the sudden-death cities as their goal they could not be denied.
I haven't played enough to verify that the Chinese cannot stop such a strategy, but this kind of complaint is rare for an XTR game and that rarity adds credibility to the charge.

There's also a problem in the Burma front, where the Japanese can almost certainly ensure getting at least one unit into India at game end, costing the Allies one of their three possible victory points.

If the Japanese don't win a sudden-death victory, the winner is determined by comparing victory point totals. Each side has three possible victory points, awarded by achieving listed goals such as capturing all the Flying Tiger airbases (for the Japanse) or controlling a Chinese city original under Japanese control (for the Allies). The side with the most VPs wins.

The game itself is well presented, with the usual quality Mark Simonitch map work and player-friendly 5/8-inch unit counters.

Set up will take about 20 minutes and the entire 10-turn campaign can be played in an evening.


(Conditional No) for Wargamers: You may want to consider adjusting the victory criteria if you do play. Published on the 50th anniversary of the campaign, it's too bad the game doesn't work better.

(No) for Collectors

(No) for Eurogamers: Not only a detailed hex-and-counter wargame, but one with reported problems. Stay away.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Does the game hobby need a non-FLGS based model?

BoardGame Geek has a couple more announcements of local game stores closing, and given that everyone is expecting a very weak holiday retail season I wouldn't expect these to be the last. Many will no doubt try to make it through Christmas somehow and end up closing shop after the holiday sales numbers are in.

No doubt this will be a retail industry-wide problem, but here we're just concerned with the impact on gaming.

For a generation the game hobby has largely organized itself around local game stores. People would purchase and play their games at the same place. These were often not exclusively game stores. Many were some combination of hobby (kits and trains), card (sports and magic) and/or comics retailers as well. The important thing is that they would provide space for gamers on a scheduled basis. Collectible game sanctioned play is based on the existence of these venues.

But they seem to be becoming quite rare. Here in Connecticut, for example, there are just a handful of places and just one pure game shop (The Citadel in Groton). Can this model survive?

I suspect not, but then the question becomes, how do gamers find each other and get together to play? Finding like-minded hobbyists is always a challenge for niche past times. The rise of the Internet and various meetup sites seems to have the most potential in my opinion. There are a couple of gaming related meetup groups that I know about locally.

The biggest challenge for meetup groups is securing a regular meeting place, especially one that isn't dependant on one particular host. It's a big demand on someone to expect someone to make their home available every week no matter what. The best venues are often local colleges and libraries, but I wonder if there's a big enough demand for a dedicated meetup site to operate, perhaps as a "Meetup Club" where different meetup groups could rent space. This kind of site would be especially useful for game groups, who often have a fair amount of stuff to lug around.

It's hard to say whether this is the solution, but it seems clear gamers can't count on their favorite local gaming store to be around much longer, especially outside of major urban areas.

So what happens to HeroClix now?

Topps announces it's closing up shop on HeroClix:

So where does that leave the HeroClix community in the future?

The precedents aren't good. It seems that collectible games need the injection of fresh product in order to stay alive and played.

While there are examples of long out-of-print board games that keep getting played such as Up Front, this doesn't seem to happen often with collectibles.

I think HeroClix has a big enough universe of figures to be playable indefinitely, but without organized tournament play I wonder if players will lose interest. Or will scenario-based play now become the preferred way?

Crossposted from BoardgameGeek

Breaking news No More WizKids!!!!

Topps is discontinuing WizKids immediately!

Among the things this will likely mean is an eventual end to HeroClix and HeroClix support, although the company said it will continue to support December store events and brick redemptions for a short while. The company said it will look into partnership agreements that might keep HeroClix going, but I'd be skeptical of success given current conditions.

Given the sharply increased cost of bits from China along with the retail weakness in the economy there may well be some more news like this.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

When Eagles Fight review

When Eagles Fight is a detailed hex-and-counter wargame. It covers the Eastern Front campaign of World War I, from August 1914 to early 1917, when the Russian Revolution ended active operations. It appeared Command Magazine issue No. 25 in 1993.

Like most Command Magazine issue games When Eagles Fight doesn’t try to break any new ground in design technique. Instead it hangs various special rules on a framework of tried and true standard wargame mechanics to simulate its topic. It’s a testimony to how robust those standard wargame mechanics are that this works so often.

Physically, the game is well presented, with a Mark Simonitch map and the 5/8-inch counters Command often used during this era. The Germans are the always-crowd-pleasing white print on black counter look often used by Command. Their Austro Hungarian allies are white print on grey. The Russians are yellow on green, which XTR often used for pre-Soviet era Russian troops. A single Rumanian Army counter is black on yellow.

The values on the counters are the usual combat-defense-movement layout, with NATO-style unit symbols for type and size. Most units on both sides are corps.

The game scale is one or two months per turn and 25 miles per hex.The basic sequence is IGO-HUGO, with a special strategic movement phase before the regular player turns. Combat is odds-based with numeric results that can be taken as step losses or retreats. The game designer is Ted Raicer, who has made a specialty of designing World War I games.Various special rules account for events such as the Czar taking command of the army, ammunition shortages and the like.

The Germans win by bringing on the Russian Revolution, their main lever being capturing Russian cities. The exact trigger for the revolution is unknown to both sides. During periodic victory check the German player rolls a die and adds the number of captured cities. If it equals or exceeds the number listed on the turn record then the Revolution starts and the Central Powers win. Sudden death victory is also available should either side capture an enemy capital. The Russian can also win by capturing territory in Germany or Austro-Hungary. Finally, if the Central Powers haven’t caused the Revolution by April 1917, the historical date, then the Russians win.

The game captures the see-saw nature of the fighting. With neither side able to achieve the troop densities of the Western Front, the front never became static. But lacking the Panzers of the next war, neither side has the maneuverability or concentrated strength for decisive victories, either.

Set up time is about 15 minutes with sorted counters and the entire 24-turn campaign is playable in an evening.

Command No. 26 contained rules and counters for a two-turn variant called Schlieffen East, which assumes the Germans decide to try to knock Russia out of the war first. This quick game gives the Germans just two turns to capture as many cities as possible. There are six Russian cities within reach. The two in Russian Poland are exposed and likely to fall, giving the Germans a 1/6 chance of winning. If they capture all six, which means driving as far as Riga and Minsk, winning is certain. This scenario should take no more than an hour to play.


(Yes) For Wargamers: A satisfying game that allows both players to attack and defend.

(No) For Collectors

(No) For Euro gamers: As with most hard-core hex-and-counter wargames the elegance of the game play is compromised by accounting for the messiness of simulating actual events. There is a lot of detail and some of it involves extensive rules for uncommon events with little game effect such as having three A-H corps banned from moving on Turn 1.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Solitaire play of King's Mountain in Hold the Line

The American Revolution Battle King's Mountain seems at first consideration to be an excellent topic for a wargame. You have two armies of almost identical size and quality facing off without any chance of outside interference.

Unfortunately there's the uncomfortable fact that the historical outcome was exceedingly one-sided as the losing army was completely annihilated for relatively small cost to the winner. It was, indeed, a stunning result.

By 1780 the fighting in the American Revolution had moved to the southern colonies in the face of the British defeats up north and the stalemate outside New York. As British Gen. Cornwallis campaigned through the Carolinas he dispatched a force of American Loyalists under the well-regarded Major Patrick Ferguson to cover his inland flank. Ferguson's force, while made up entirely of provincials, was well-trained and contained a core of troops trained to the standards of British regular troops. It numbered around 1,000.

Unfortunately Ferguson, while a god leader and trainer of troops, was evidently rather foolish when it came to psychology as he threatened to lay waste to rebel areas and unleash Indian raids. Rather than cowing the frontiersmen who inhabited the mountain interior his threats ended up mobilizing those folks and a force of about 900 of them moved to attack Ferguson's army. While completely irregular and not part of the formal Patriot forces (being neither Continentals nor militia) these frontiersmen was hardy campaigners with extensive experience with their weapons and no strangers to fighting.

Still, the Rebel force would normally be expected to have some problem executing a complex battle plan, having an ill-defined and informal chain of command. In the actual event, however, the Rebel leaders seem to have had no problem cooperating despite the informal nature of their army.

The Rebels caught up with Ferguson just south of the border between North and South Carolina at King's Mountain on Oct. 7, 1780. Ferguson decided to make a stand on the high ground of King's Mountain. This must have seemed like a self-evidently good idea, but as it turns out it was an enormous blunder. Ferguson died in the battle, so we don't know what he was thinking, but it may have been that he expected to tire out the attacking Rebels by having them attack up the steep hill. Further, he may have reasonably expected that his disciplined troops would be able to defeat the Rebel attackers piecemeal, as their unpracticed and irregular force would find it difficult to coordinate its attacks.

As it turns out, Ferguson fatally misjudged his opponents. The Rebel commanders were able to devise a plan to surround the entire British force and then execute a simultaneous encircling attack. The Loyalists launched bayonet charges that drove the Rebel line back, but could not close with it in the heavily wooded terrain of the mountainside. Meanwhile the Rebel marksman picked off the Loyalists, especially the leaders, including Ferguson himself. Unable to return effective fire against the woodsmen in the trees and eventually the entire army surrended.

King's Mountain hasn't been extensively simulated, although it's not fair to say it has been ignored, either. For example, it's a scenario in Rebels & Redcoats Vol. III.

Still, simulating a battle that involved a crushing defeat for one side is never easy for designers, particularly when there's so little excuse for the loss. Ferguson's army was at least as good quality as the Americans and actually a little bit larger. His defeat is completely due to picking very poor ground on which to fight, compounded by a fatal misjudgment about his opponents.

In Hold the Line this design reflects the key facts of the battle fairly well given its simple design and manages to recreate the circumstances of the battle while presenting a chance for a different outcome. The Loyalist force of eight units and a leader sets up in the middle of the map in open ground in a line alternating between militia (2 Morale Points) and British Regulars representing the trained Loyalists (3 MPs). The American force is made up entirely of 10 militia units (2MP) with two leaders, but they have the advantage of being able to setup anywhere in a ring of hill and woods hexes completely surrounding the Tory army.

Besides the advantage of surrounding the Loyalists and having terrain cover, the Americans also have a significant command action point advantage of 3 to 1. This means that the Rebels will have at least 4 CAP per turn while the Loyalists will never have more than 4. While this helps recreate the historical result, I'm not sure it doesn't amount to an "idiot rule" for the Loyalists and is hard to justify on purely historical grounds. Ferguson's force did not, in fact, suffer from any notable command control problems.

For my solitaire run through I decided to concentrate the American effort against the middle of the British line by massing two groups of three militia each directly north and south of the middle part of the Loyalist force. Each group had one American leader. The remaining four militia units completed the encirclement around the ends of the British line. My plan for the British was to try to rush one side or the other of the American line and break through.

As it turned out, however, the first few turns really went the Americans' way and the two militia units and Loyalist regular in the middle of the map were quickly gunned down. Because the Americans didn't need to move much they could maximize their Action points to fire, which meant 5 or 6 shots each turn. Meanwhile the Loyalists were forced to spend two APs per unit as they moved and fired and/or tried assaults, so most turns they had just a couple of attempts at causing casualties and lesser odds of succeeding due to the woods and hills terrain effects. Eventually the Loyalists were able to fight their way into the woods and eliminate a couple of Rebel militia units but they were never able to make up the initial deficit and the game ended with the British scoring 4 VPs for eliminated American units while losing 6 VPs and the game. Actually, the British lost 7 VPs because they also lost their leader in the last assault combat.

As a solitaire scenario it worked reasonably well and resembled the historical result, although perhaps not quite so one-sided. I'm not sure how it would work as a two-player scenario because the Loyalist player really has few options. It might make a good scenario for an experienced player to use to teach a new player, though, giving the new person the American force.

Czechoslovakia 38 review

Czechoslovakia '38 is an interesting treatment of a fascinating what-if from World War II from Command Magazine No. 24 in 1993. It depicts a German campaign in 1938 to conquer Czechoslovakia, assuming the Czechs had decided to fight, rather than accept the Munich appeasement.

The situation is more balanced than one might think. While the German army is stronger, the Czechs do have extensive fortified zones to help them and the Germans are on a tight timetable to secure the country before the British and French work up the courage to intervene.

The game system uses the usual Command variation on standard wargame mechanics. The 5/8-inch unit counters have attack, defense and movement factors underneath NATO-style unit symbols. Most Czech units have one step, most German units have two or four. Czech units are red on white for non-mech units and blue on white for the mechanized forces. They have some mobile "Industry" pieces which can be evacuated for victory points. The airplane counters represent the air force. The game assumes Soviet intervention on behalf of the Czechs, which comes in the form of two useful aircraft units and a 4-step mechanized unit that will likely prove less useful because of its late entry onto the map.

German mechanized forces are black with white print, most non-mechanized units are in field grey. Eight divisions of the German "Strategic Reserve" are included, but they only enter play if the Czechs enter a hex of Germany.

While the Czechs can gain victory points for capturing a German city, they have to weigh the disadvantage of adding even more to the forces arrayed against them.

The Lufwaffe is represented by light blue air landing regiment and seven aircraft counters.
Finally, as an optional unit, there is a regiment of Sudeten Germans represented with a brown counter. For both sides most units are divisions or division-sized groups, with some regiments. The Czech army comprises 45 units, the Germans also 45, not counting optional units.The campaign runs for ten two-day turns across a Mark Simonitch map at 12 km per hex.

The 15-page rule-book describes a fairly standard wargame with a IGO-HUGO turn sequence. Nothing here will surprise veteran gamers.

A "Blitzkrieg" rule section gives German mach units some powers such as an overrun attack and the ability to move through zones of control at a cost in movement points.

The German wins by driving the victory point level of Czech controlled cities below 16 before the French/British intervene. Intervention happens sometime between turns 8 to 10. The Czechs control 45 points at game start, with the big prize being Prague, worth 4 VP for each of its three hexes (12 total).

The general course of play is a Czech retreat by stages in front of the German advance.
No draw is possible. The game can be played in an evening and will take about 20 minutes to set up, with starting locations printed on all the counters.

Command Magazine No. 26 added some variant rules that added another fortification unit to the Czech OB and rules for "Blitzkrieg-capable" Czech mechanized units.

(Yes) For Wargamers: An interesting campaign well portrayed.
(No) For Collectors: Nothing remarkable.
(No) For Euro gamers: No, standard hex-and-counter wargame.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Shogun Triumphant Review

Shogun Triumphant, a Command Magazine issue game, is an odd duck of a wargame, mostly because the battle itself is so bizarre. The game itself uses a melee-era system that emphasizes the morale differences between units. Units take "cohesian hits" from fire and melee. If the hits in one combat phase equal or exceed the morale value (here called "stalwartness") thenthe unit is eliminated.

The 158 5/8-inch counters show two armies, a "Western" army in green and an "Eastern" army in red. Each has mounted samurai units and ashigaru foot soldiers. The Eastern army also has a single cannon unit.

But the game is better understood as a contest between two coalitions comprising 19 little armies, with many of those armies of uncertain loyalty.

That loyalty is tested through a fairly involved set of procedures.

While both sides are theoretically vulnerable to treachery, the Western Army clearly has the most to fear. In the historical battle four clans from the Western army affected to the East, none went the other way.

The odds are something similar will happen in the game. There's just enough of a possibility of treachery against the Eastern army to keep that player looking over his shoulder, but the Western player has the burden of fighting a battle where some key units can't be trusted.
Victory is assessed by lost stalwartness points. Units eliminated and units that defect count against the owning side. The first to lose 160 points loses the game.

The burden of attack is on the Eastern player, so if neither side reaches 160 points by turn 8 then he loses. A draw is possible if both sides pass 160 at the same time.

Units represent groups of 200-800 fighters. Each hex is 180 yards across, every turn repesents 45 minutes.

Set up locations are shown on the Mark Simonitch map, so set up is fairly easy and takes about 20 minutes. The 8-turn game can be played in a single sitting.


(Conditional Yes) for Wargamers: Unusual battle, but more random than most wargames and this may turn off some people. On the other hand, this is a rarely simulated era, so it does have some interest.

(Conditional Yes) for Collectors: Rare game on a Japanese topic.

(No) for Eurogamers: Intricate game mechanics, highly random game play, make this unlikely to appeal to Eurogamers.