Thursday, December 30, 2010
We decided to do a convoy scenario. The basic notion was that an International Flotilla escorts a munitions convoy to Finland during the Winter War.
I think the convoy scenario, as written, is very difficult for the convoy payer to win. Even with a 20-point bonus (100 scenario points to just 80 for the intercepting player) there are just too many threats to counter and the intercepting player only need to get lucky three times. If three convoy ships get sunk then the attacker wins.
I took the convoy, although not expecting too much. As it turned out the convoy nearly made it.
Besides the five merchant ships the convoy escort included the following:
Vainamoinen - coast defense ship
2 x B-239 Buffalo - fighter
HMS Gustav V - coast defense battleship
HMS Gotland - scout cruiser
2 x HMS Goteborg - destroyer
ORP Blyskawica - destroyer
ORP Orzel - submarine
2 x S-Boat - torpedo boat section
The intercepting fleet was all Soviet
Kirov - heavy cruiser
2 x Krasni Krim - light cruiser
4 x Gromkiy - destroyer
S-13 - submarine
2 x Il-2M Sturmovik - attack plane (yes, I know the plane date is 1943. I overlooked it.)
We used the standard map set up listed in the rulebook for the convoy scenario. The notable feature of that map is that it includes two islands on the Soviet side of the map.
The Soviet destroyers quickly moved off to each flank and laid mines between the islands and the map edge, which induced the convoy to take a central route.
First blood went to the Convoy side, which sank a destroyer with a torpedo attack from the S-boats. Some long-range fire from the coast defense ships, spotted by the Gotland's seaplane crippled the Kirov. Unfortunately a Sturmovik got through the air defenses and took out a freighter. I figured the two Russian bombers were the main threat. There was virtually no chance I could shoot them down so the best I could hope for was to keep aborting them. Their bomb attack was powerful enough that an attacked freighter was nearly doomed.
The Soviets were annoyed by the spotter plane "buzzing around" and two turns later when the bombers returned they took out the Gotland. Meanwhile the Kirov and S-13 were sunk and the surviving Soviet ships pulled back. The S-boats hid in an island zone. As the convoy slowly advanced, long-range fire from the coast defense ships banged up the Soviet surface flotilla severely while the Buffalos and air defense fire from the escorts aborted the Il-2s. So far, so good. The S-Boats made a death run at one of the light cruisers that came to naught, but it was becoming clear that the Soviet fleet was destined for destruction under the big guns of the convoy escort, so they made a mad dash at the enemy. All were promptly sunk, but in the melee the Sturmoviks sunk one more freighter and a shot from a light cruiser damaged another one. The Finnish coast defense ship was also crippled by a torpedo hit.
The next few turns went at a rapid clip as all the Soviets had left were the two airplanes, which could only fly every other turn. The Buffalos and escorts did their best, but eventually the Sturmoviks got a shot. A very fortunate die roll only added one more damage point to the freighter. It was crippled, but still there. Finally the freighters reached the board edge and the Sturmoviks had one more try. One was aborted but the second one plastered the crippled freighter and sent it down.
It was the closest I've seen the convoy come to making it, but it still fell short.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Deciding not to let a good blizzard go to waste, Young general and the Old Warrior hauled out BattleLore for a go.
We reviewed the rules, as it had been quite a while since we played, but it turned out Young general didn't need the help. Ahem.
We played the next game in the Creatures expansion, the Magic Vortex, which introduces the Rock Elemental. As usual the creature didn't help much, as will be recounted below.
I had the creature-equipped Standard Army, which in this case broke with tradition and had the Goblins on its side and the Dwarves with the Pennant Army. This suited Young general fine, as he's no fan of the Goblinoids, regarding them as just this side of useless.
Young General's War Council comprised a Level 3 Wizard, and Level 1 Commander, Cleric and Rogue. Old Warrior also went with a Level 3 Wizard, the mandatory Level 1 creature and rounded out his council with a Level 1 Commander and a Level 1 Warrior.
Old Warrior's plan was to pick away at the Pennant Army until he gathered enough Lore to be bale to deploy the Rock Elemental against a weak part of the Pennant line.
And the plan might have worked, too. Several Pennant units were reduced and one was killed off in melee. The Old Warrior drew a Fireball in the initial hand and gave into the temptation to use it, incinerating a Red Banner Heavy Cavalry unit. This was quite satisfying, but in retrospect may have been a mistake, as it took a few more turns to build up enough lore again to deploy the Rock Elemental and by then it was too late.
With a 2-1 lead and a fair number of battered unit in Young General's Pennant army things weren't looking too bad for the Standard troops -- and then Young General dropped the boom. He had been hoarding Lore and finally had enough to play an Assault Card. (It cost him 16 lore because he didn't have a Warrior loremaster.) Well, he had quite a few units within range and was able to slam into the Old Warrior's host up and down the line! By the time the carnage ceased the Standard army had lost four units and the score was 5-2 in Young General's favor. Desperately the Old Warrior's wizard conjured up the Rock Elemental, who did his duty and wiped out a unit for a third flag, but it wasn't too hard for Young General to find that sixth flag and the win as he jumped all over the Goblinoid Lizard riders.
And so that was that. A 6-3 win for the creature-less Pennant army.
Old Warrior was left ruefully considering the possibility that the Rock Elemental, unlike so many of the other creatures, seemed to have serious potential, but he gave up most of it by indulging in a dramatic, but ultimately indecisive fireball.
Next up is Spider river, where Old Warrior will get two chances to see if a creature can make the difference. So far they seem to be more hindrance than help.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
All three games were recieved well in the hobby, and each is different enough that a real buff could be excused owning all three, but I have to say that I think the real winner in the bunch is C&C: Napoleonics. I'll go into more detail in a compative review I'm working on, but the bottom line is that C&C: N is simply a lot of fun to play. The Borg game engine has proven remarkably adaptable. All have proven to be very popular in both sales and generally. On Board Game Geek they rank (among wargames) at No. 5 (C&C: Ancients) No. 34 (Battlelore) No. 36 (Memoir '44) and No. 70 (Battle Cry). I expect CCN to join them all in the top 100 as soon as it gets enough votes, but the intitial ratings are very high and if they hold up it may very well end up above CCA. An expansion is already on the way.
The Worthington Game series that includes Napoleon's War has also proven popular among wargamers, although not a real cross-over success like Borg's designs. Still, it's also an entertaining play. This, too, already has a couple of expansions in print.
The real question mark among the three is Battles of Napoleon. I think it's a very interesting game system and highly rated, but it seems a little too involved for some tastes and I wonder if its sales will support any expansions. While it's not the only history-based wargame in the Fantasy Flight line (which also includes Tide of Iron and Wings of War), I'm not sure that it's a comfortable fit for FFG's usual market. Will it survive?
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
On the other hand, Israel needs to persuade at least one of the three powers controlling the air space on the way to Iraq to allow the air strikes to go forward because Iran's program is too extensive for a single air raid to do significant damage. So while the Israelis could certainly fly though the first time without permission, they'd need so many follow-up strikes that flying through without clearance isn't practical. Those three powers are the US (for Iraq air space) Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Bond's judgment is that Israel doesn't have the necessary level of support in any of the three. It's about getting that support and keeping it long enough to matter thant most of the game revolves. And here Iran does have come cards (literally) to play.
I'm definitely needing a partner to try this out. Any takers?
Friday, December 10, 2010
Just perusing the components and starting to read it this product is clearly the most comprehensive treatment of one of today's biggest geopolitical and military issues -- could Israel attack Iran to eliminate its nuclear program? It addresses the technical and tactical aspects of a potential strike in excruciating detail (using the Harpoon 4 game engine) and the "game" portion (it's a standalone game, NOT a Harpoon module) provides a framework for examining the potential political and diplomatic consequences.
This is going to take a couple of days to digest, but I expect to say more about it later.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Wellesley leads a dash for an objective flag. He'll get it, but won't stay long. In the end he emerged victorious without it. Photo courtesy Glen Cote
With the help of Glen Cote I got the eagerly anticipated opportunity to break in the new Commands & Colors: Napoleonics from GMT today and was not disappointed. It's definitely a great game.
It's the most involved game in Borg's series, although not by much. It reminds me most of Commands & Colors: Ancients in that there are a lot of subtle unit differences to consider and use of the player aid chart will be constant during the early going. But I expect fans will play this one enough that they'll internalize the numbers before long.
We played matches of the first two scenarios in the scenario book, two battles based on the morning and afternoon actions at Rolica in 1808 -- a total of four games in less than 4 hours!
We were aided in this by the fact that the OBs in the two scenarios are nearly identical so the only thing we had to chance was the terrain.
The morning battle depicts Sir Arthur Wellesley ( the future Duke of Wellington) advancing on a smaller French force that is attempting to delay him. In the historical fight the French fell back after being outflanked. In our first game with me as the French I jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the race for five flags due in large art to a British bayonet charge against the French left flank that was met disaster as it failed to do much damage and was followed by a French bayonet charge in return that destroyed most of the British and Portuguese attackers. Glen was able to roar back, however, scoring five consecutive flags to seize victory from the jaws of defeat.
When we switched sides my Wellesley led a breakthrough in the same sector where Glen's had come to grief, making it all the way to the French left flank objective hex for the 4th flag! Glen removed that threat by the well-timed play of a Short Supply card that sent Wellesley and his accompanying infantry back to the base line for more bullets. This ended up just postponing the end, however,a s the British were able to get the 4th and 5th flags in other sectors for a 5-3 win.
So the British won twice.
Next we tried the afternoon battle, where Wellesley attacked a new French position through a series of gullies that channeled and restricted the attack. Historically British elan carried the day, but elan fell short for our British twice. In the first game I had the British (I was already on that side of the board from the last game). I tried to move up my guns but Glen's French were aggressive and came off the ridge line to attack the British spearheads in detail. At the end of the day the French were able to get to their 5 flags while only losing 2 or 3 to the British. When we switched sides it was much the same story except the French were even more fortunate in their combat effectiveness as Glen decided to forgo gunnery and rely on cold steel to carry the heights. Once again the French aggressively moved forward and the end was even more lopsided this time, with a 5-1 win for the French. Two French wins in that scenario, which does look tough for the British, frankly.
Considering the essential simplicity of the game system it managed to capture the feel of Napoleonic warfare very well. In particular there were a lot of cases of back-and-forth exchanges of key terrain positions such as ridges and villages. The rules for forming square work in an interesting manner that definitely involve some interesting choices, especially for lower-quality armies, because each square that is formed take a command card out of action for the duration of the square and reduces the hand of command cards by one.
It was an excellent introduction to the system and I can hardly wait for more.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
At Game Store Tony's request we have started a series refighting the battles of the American Civil War in roughly chronological order using the new Battle Cry game system, Our first battle was the little-known action on July 2, 1861 at Falling Waters, W.V.
It's well-known that the first major battle of the Civil War was fought at First Bull Run later in July, but apparently there was some fighting before that, including this battle where Thomas Jackson (not yet "Stonewall") attempted to delay a federal advance. It was basically two Union brigades against Jackson's one brigade, although the Rebel force also included the cavalry regiment led by the also-soon-to-be-famous Jeb Stuart.
Unlike the historical action, however, Tony's rebels were decidedly disliked by the dice, which didn't match well with his aggressive approach to the scenario. Before long Stuart found himself cavalry-less and was reduced to leading some of Jackson's infantry. Even the appearance of another artillery unit as reinforcements was unable to stem the blue tide and the fedearls ran up an early 4-1 lead in flags. The Rebs battled back with two more flags as the Union closed to try to finish the gray fellows off and eventually the deed was done for a 5-3 USA win.
Tony managed to get some revenge later, however, as his French narrowly edged my Germans 6-5 medals in the Battle of Hannut-Merdorp scenario from Memoir '44. This wasn't a very remarkable fight really. It was mostly a back-and-forth melee between two evenly matched forces amidst a scattering of villages and woods.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
First, though, let me provide a quick out-of-the-box review. This game is very comparable in presentation with the latest versions of Commands & Colors: Ancients. It comes in the patented GMT "armored box" that should stand up to wargame handling for years with reasonable care. It has a mounted mapboard, as has become the practice for GMT's bigger-selling games of late.
There are, of course, plenty of blocks and stickers of the usual high quality. Not much to say about those expect that it is a time-consuming task to apply them all and a bit frustrating for the clumsy like me. The terain tiles are also similar to what we've seen in CCA.
There is a profusely illustrated full color rule book and a likewise color scenario book with 15 scenarios. I felt this was a little on the light side. I would have liked to see a couple more battles but I'm sure future expansions will get the CCN count up into the triple digits like Memoir '44 and CCA soon enough.
The dice are basically the same quality as the ones in CCA and also require the application of stickers.
There are also four player aid cards with national and unit characteristics as well a a couple of cardboard displays for units that are in square. Not sure yet how that will work. This is a new mechanic in the Borg universe.
Finally there are the command cards. These are high-quality stiff glossy cards similar to the latest versions included in CCA. There is one rather embarrassing typo on one card -- the "Give Them The Cold Steal" card which, of course, should be Steel.
Overall I had a good first impression and I can hardly wait to get this on the table.
Friday, December 3, 2010
This is in contrast to Days of Wonder, which made me watch the agonizing progress of my order of Memoir '44/Samll World expansions across the country via FedEx ground, I'm not sure it was doing me a favor. It sat in Connecticut for about three days. I think FedEx deliberately holds onto stuff so it doesn't arrive before its scheduled delivery time.
In any case, GMT e-mailed me that my CCN was shipped and bang! There is was on my doorstep.
It will take me longer to apply all the sticers than it took to ship it!
With a week of vacation ahead I hope to get in a session or two.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
I selected the First Bull Run scenario, which is the first in each edition's scenario book. Game Store Tony prefers to play the side he perceives as the underdog, which in this case was the South because they lost the war. Of course the CSA did win this particular battle ... .
In any case, we played the classic edition first. Game Store Tony had played Battle Cry before as well as a number of sessions of Memoir '44, so has experience. As an experienced Magic: The Gathering player he's also pretty good at hand management, which is a useful skill in card-based warames such as the Borg designs.
Tony's dice were also pretty hot along with his card draws, so he was able to jump out to an early lead in the flag count. Basically he smashed each Federal attempt to close on him. It was pretty grim. One of the flaws in the older game soon came into play as I had a Bombard card but my sole artillery unit was already gone, rendering the card useless -- a serious problem with just a 4-card hand. Left, center and right the Union side was decimated and the final score was 6-2 for the CSA.
For the rematch I explained the changes in the rules that applied to the scenario at hand.
Among them was that infantry units entering woods now have a limited ability to enter and still battle -- in the older version a unit that enters a woods cannot battle.
The new game adds a new kind of building hex called a "homestead." It provides less protection (-1 die) than the old game's -2 buildings (which are now "town" hexes in BC150) but infantry and cavalry that enter can still battle out at a penalty.
There are some significant differences with generals, who no longer add one die to attacking units they are attached to, but instead allow those units to ignore a flag and also "take ground" under some circumctances. Players of other Borg games such as Memoir '44, Commands & Colors: Ancients and BattleLore have seen these before, but it'sa new addition to the Battle Cry system.
The new Battle Cry also adds a new card called a "Fight Back" card which allows something similar to the "Battle back" function seen in C&C:A and BattleLore.
There have been changes to some other cards as well, with two of the most notable being the addition of the option of using a card you can't otherwise use (such as Bombard when you have no artillery) to order a single unit of any type instead and the disappearance of the overpowered All-Out Offensive card. In it's place is the Battle Cry card, which allows the player to roll dice equal to his command level -- ordering units that match the dice symbols. All of these are familiar to players of the other games in the series. Battle Cry, being the first game, lacked some of the refinements introduced in subsequent designs. These changes bring Battle Cry up to the current standard.
2010 edition scenario
Armed with these new rules we played the First Bull Run scenario from the new edition. Interestingly enough, the biggest changes in the game came from changes in the scenario design, rather than rules and card changes. The revised scenario adds an infantry unit to the CSA side and makes a minor position shift of the two infantry on the Confederate Right. It also ups the CSA card hand from 5 to 6. More signifcantly it also increases the USA hand from 4 to 6 and as the Union player I definitely preferred getting an extra card and having card parity over having one more unit.
In this case the outcome was even more one-sided, but the other way. Aided by good dice and useful cards the Union army was able to smash in both flanks of the CSA. Down 5-1 Game Store Tony decided to go out like a true Rebel and used an Assault in the Center to make a final charge with his survivors. They knocked off a couple more boys in blue and forced a retreat or two, but a Federal Counterattack card meant I had several opportunities to get that last flag. As it turned out, the first Union battle was enough and the game ended 6-1.
Overall I think the rules changes represent common-sense enhancements that bring Battle Cry in line with the state-of-the-art of the other Borg designs. It's still the most straightforward and easiest of the line and is an excellent introduction to the system. It's also a very handsome package, with all components upgraded, brand-new sculpts and new art throughout. The cards are sturdier than the original edition and the dice now have the special symbols printed on them instead of the player having to apply stickers. You still have to sticker the flags, though, which is a challenge for fumble fingers like me,
It's a great package.