Wednesday, January 26, 2011

We all have our weaknesses

And my weakness is silly themed card games. And among the silliest of that genre are the various Fluxx versions.

Now, like the Munchkin series of silly themed card games, Fluxx has its detractors. And most of their criticisms - which tend to revolve around its random nature which tends to work against skilled play -- are perfectly valid. I also don't care.

I've neve rhad a bad time playing Fluxx. I've introduced to it to various groups of gamers with sucess. The kids like it. And as good as the main game is, the themed versions like Martian Fluxx and Monty Python Fluxx are even better. So the news that there's a Pirate Fluxx on the way means that there's another purchase in my future. Aaaargh!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Persian Incursion update

The online match us progressing nicely. We've had a few questions and had to make gentlemen's agreements to cover some vague spots but it's been very illuminating. So far the Iranian air force has bee a negligible factor, losing quite a few planes. The SAMs have likewise been more of an annoyance than a threat.

On the other hand Edgar has made good use of the political game to complicate things for the Israelis and his ballistic missile attacks are showing some potential with a couple of missiles actually making it through although they didn't hit anything.

We're on Turn 5 of the 21.

Panzer Lehr rebuffed! A Memoir '44 fight

Game Store Tony's Panzer Lehr came up short in our continuing Grand Campaign when we played "Panzer Lehr Counter Attacks" today.

As usual it was a close-run affair, ending up as a 5-4 victory for the Allies.

In many ways it wasn't as close as the score would indicate, however, as the Germans just couldn't seem to draw good cards nor roll anything but flags against the Americans. Both sides had trouble finishing off units and by game's end there were just 2 or 3 undamaged units total on the board.

In contrast the U.S. side seemed to draw every special card there was. Still, the Germans game within one move of victory as they knocked off a fourth U.S. unit and got a Panzergrenadier to the board edge, ready to exit for a game win if it survived to be ordered again. The U.S. had 3 medals at that point.

But the US also had an Armored Assault card and three tank units within range. While one picked off a weakened German unit for Medal No. 4 the other two jumped on the nearly exited German troop unit. As it turned out only one was needed as its 4-die attack caused 2 hits and a retreat and the follow-up pursuit close assault finished it off for Medal No. 5.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Napoleon's War: Volume I - The 100 Days review

2010 was a bumper crop year for the Napoleonic battle game genre, with three highly anticipated titles appearing within a few months of each other. Fantasy Flight published Battles of Napoleon, GMT game us Commands & Colors: Napoleonics while Worthington was first out the gate with Napoleon's War Volume I -- The 100 days. Each game promised to be the first in a series and we already have confirmed sequels for two out of the three. I'll discuss how NW compares to those other titles later on.

The first out of the gate, Napoleon's War is an elaboration of Worthington's popular Wars for America series of games, which is probably best known for its handsome Hold the Line game of American Revolution battles.

Napoleon's War doesn't have the German Game production standards of HT, but it does have little plastic soldiers! The game comes with two dozen generic 1800s style infantry, eight cavalry and eight guns in each of three colors -- blue, red and gray for a total of 120 figures. The figures are, actually, the same figures used in Viktory II, a game by another manufacturer. The figures are small (the infantry is about 20mm tall) and made of hard plastic.

There are two double-sided 22-inch by 25-inch full color cardstock mapboards depicting the battlefields of Ligny, Quatre Bras, Waterloo and Wavre from Napoleon's Waterloo campaign. Unlike similar games all the terrain is printed on the maps, there are no separate terrain tiles.

There are also two card stock 8.5-inch by 11-inch scenario cards, one for each battle and a cardstock player aid card with terrain effects and information tracks needed for play. A die-cut counter sheet includes various informational markers, not all of which are used in this volume and counters for leaders.

The rules booklet is 8-pages long, on glossy paper and in full color. Finally there are some six-sided dice. All of this in contained in a fairly standard bookcase-sized box.

Overall the presentation is pretty close to current wargame industry standards, although certainly not cutting edge nor quite as nice as the German-style packaging in some recent Worthington designs.

The game system is essentially an elaboration of the Wars for America series rules with some key changes to represent European battlefield tactics.

Each player begins his turn by rolling a D6 and dividing the result by two, rounding up, and adding that total to a scenario-defined base number to determine a number of Command Action Points (CAP). In the Waterloo scenario, for example, the French base number is "4" so the French player will have from 5 to 7 CAP per turn. One CAP can generally activate a unit to move OR fire. Additional CAPs can be spent to order a unit to conduct "shock combat," conduct extra moves, rally and various other special actions. As a side generally has a dozen or so units there are clearly never enough CAPs available to do everything and the game's design tension come from managing limited resources effectively.

A unit is comprised of from 2-4 infantry figures, 2 cavalry figures or two guns, which represent the unit's ability to absorb damage and affect morale. Each hit removes one figure. Some elite units get counters that can absorb one or two more hits and provide a morale bonus like additional figures would and indeed, it's perfectly possible to buy extra figures (available from Viktory) and replace the counters with additional figures -- which is what I prefer to do.

A unit's fire power is NOT based on the number of figures it contains. All units roll 3 dice when attacking, with 6s as hits. At close range artillery hits on a 5 or 6 and during shock combat infantry and cavalry hit on 5-6 and 4-6 respectively. Some terrain such as woods, towns and ridges will subtract a die from an attack.

Terrain effects are very straightforward Besides reducing attacker's dice some terrain provides a morale bonus to the defender's and a few types slow down or stop movement.

Victory is determined by victory points with one earned for each enemy unit eliminated. In some battles there are also terrain features that are worth VPs as well.

Altogether its' a very simple and intuitive game system that's easy to teach and explain. Some additional rules account for specific Napoleonic tactics such as squares and morale. Some "Intermediate Rules" add rules for skirmishers, light infantry, British rifles, horse artillery and cavalry leaders. "Advanced" rules elaborate on the capabilities and limitations of squares while "Kevin Duke's Advanced Skirmisher Rules" (?!) add more detail and options for light troops. In turth, however, none of this is particularly involved or detailed or complicated by wargame standards. All of it is contained in just 8 pages of rules after all.

Despite -- or perhaps because of -- the brevity of the rules there are some point that may not be clear on a first reading of the rules and there's reason to think the scenarios were not playtested enough. The Wavre scenario, especially, looks virtually unwinnable for the French if the Prussian follow an ahistorical strategy and leave most of their army on the field instead of marching most of it off to help Wellington.

There's no rules for linking the four battles in any way and the maps are not contiguous. The scale is also not consistent between the four battles. In Quatres Bras, for example, each unit appears to be about a regiment while they represent as many as two divisions at Waterloo.

Thats aid, the battles are entertaining and quick. While the preprinted maps reduce the flexibility of the game compared to the tile-based system in similar games it does simplify and speed up set-up immensely. All unit starting locations are printed on the maps as well, so set-up time should be less than 5 minutes. Playing time is likewise short, with most battles reaching a decision in less than an hour, so there's time to play several matches in an evening.

From a simulations standpoint it provides a reasonable impressionistic treatment of Napoleonic battles, covering most of the high points such as combined arms effects, battlefield leadership, morale and troop quality. It;s far from the last word in authenticity but it shouldn't offend historical sensibility and is probably comparable in simulation value to game systems such as the old SPI quads or the newer "20" series games.

The obvious comparison game for Napoleon's War is GMT's Commands & Colors: Napoleonics and both games shares some similar design concepts, although the execution is different. As to which one a gamer might prefer, I confess it's a hard call. Each has ts good points and if you can I'd say you should get both. If space, money, spouse or philosophy get in the way of having both on your shelf there are some distinctions that can be made.

First, Napoleon''s War operates generally at a slightly higher scale than C&CN. While NW depicts the entire battle of Waterloo, for example, C&C:N concentrates on portions of the battlefield such as the I Corps attack from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. NW units are brigades or divisions while C&C:N units are battalions to brigades.

Napoleon's War gives the player a bit more control over his fate. While you don't have enough CAPs to do everything you might want to do, you'll almost always be able to do the one thing you most want to do. C&C:N, because of it's card-based command system, will sometimes leave you frustrated with a dead hand. This does bother some people and if you're one of those people you'll like NW better.

Napoleon's War will set up much more quickly than C&C:N and playing times are similar, so if you don't have a venue where you can set up ahead of time NW will give you more playing time on average.

Napoleon's War and C&C:N are both well-supported by their respective companies with more expansions in the works and NW already has a couple of expansion packs which add another 8 battles. C&C:N seems to be somewhat more popular, probably because its part of the hugely successful Borg design train, Worthington's system is well-liked in its own right and you should have little trouble finding opponents either way.

I think C&C:N may be a little more dramatic with a stronger narrative style because of the cards. NW is a more straightforward wargame in that sense.

And, of course, Napoleon's War ha figures, whereas C&C:N has blocks. Some may have a preference.

Speaking of figures, some may also compare Napoleon's War to Battles of Napoleon, but don't let the fact that both games use figures fool you. They are much less similar to each other than NW and C&C:N are. Battles of Napoleon is considerably more detailed and intricate than either and drills down its focus more. In BoN units are usually battalions, although they are sometimes regiments and there's much more attention to things such as formations,lower-level command and control, morale and discrete types of units. It has altogether more of a miniatures feel than either of the other games It's tighter focus is illustrated by how it treats Waterloo, depicting no fewer than three discrete parts of that battle as scenarios. There's really very little topic overlap.

Overall I recommend Napoleon's War. It's an enjoyable way to spend an evening. Generalship will play a bigger role than luck in the outcome of your battles but there's plenty of scope for the unexpected appearance of the Goddess Fortune to keep things exciting. The figures add a very nice touch, although I'd recommend enhancing the visual effect by pimping out your game as far as your wallets and talents allow. I got a special 1-3 die from Chessex for command rolls, bought more troops from Viktory and replaced most of the cardboard chits with custom markers from Litko systems. But you certainly don't have to do that to enjoy the game, everything you need is in the box.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Persian Incursion News

Withdrawal From Hill 112 -- decidedly not!

Continuing the Grand campaign with Game Store Tony I was expecting a tough fight in the next scenario -- Withdrawal From Hill 112. It didn't turn out that way, and Tony can legitimately blame the cards and the dice.

Specifically he can blame the first card I played as the British which was the Air Power card. I used it to hit his four units lined up on the board edge on the German Left (British Right). There were four because that's where he placed the reinforcing infantry unit he rolled up from his Reserve Token.

Well, the Air Power card is always dangerous, especially in Allied hands but the dice were especially biased toward the Allied side this time as seven of the eight rolls caused hits. This literally gutted the German's offensive potential on that side, as it left just two full-strength units.

His attempt to do something with those units backfired as my defenders were able to get a couple more good rolls and pretty soon he was down a unit with all the rest weakened. I decided to do my best to hit that weakness, to the extent of transferring most of the British armor from the Left and Center to the Right flank.

Tony tried to take some pressure off by advancing in the other two sectors but I pretty much ignored him aside from a couple of defensive moves and made a big push against his weakened flank. It was really too much and the Germans crumbled under the British armored assault. Soon it was 5-1 in the British favor with a single figure left in one German infantry unit literraly surrounded by British armor and troops. A Behind Enemy Lines finsihed that fellow off for a 6-1 British victory! This ended the campaign and the final victory point count after three battles was 16-10 in the Britis favor for a 2 point "Major" victory for the Flanking Caen campaign.

So now it's on to The Breakout!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Labyrinth first play

I got the chance to try out Labyrinth yesterday. First thing I have to admit is that I really feel at sea with this game, similar to Twilight Struggle. There are no flanks, maneuvers or determined charges in this sort of war. It's clearly going to take a few games before I have much of a clue what to do.

That said, it was a lot of fun and very interesting. Compared to Twilight Struggle I think it's a little bit less complicated, but still seems pretty deep. It seems a little easier than it is in TS to avoid handing your opponent free events when you play operations because many of the events have conditions that must be satisfied in order to be triggered.

My first play through I played the Jihadists and I was pretty successful in bringing ing about Islamic rule, but Glen's US was pretty quick to stomp each one out and the US ended up winning by having more than twice as many resources under Good Government than I had under Islamic rule. Next time I'll spend more time recruiting and laying the proper groundwork.

I have to say that the components are absolutely gorgeous. There's a full-colr game rule book, a full-color Playing Book which includes a long and well-explained example of play, a nice mounted board, stiff and thick cards, counters, 15 desert tan colored blocks to represent the US troops and 15 black wooden Jihadist pieces with a crescent and star to represent Jihadist cells -- all of it packed inside one of GMT's famous "armored" game boxes that should stand up to considerable handling as geeks take it here and there for game session.

Altogether top notch in every way.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Waterloo sessions round 2 -- Commands and Colors Napoleonics this time

The second in a series of battles between Game Store Tony and yours truly covering the same historical ground (The I corps sector at Waterloo) using three different recent games, in this case Commands & Colors: Napoleonics.

Once again I took the part of the French and again my pregame plan was to make my main effort on the right, avoiding Hougoumont. In C&C:N, of course, you can have all the plans in the world, but if you don't have the cards you can't pull it off. As it happened, though, I DID get the cards.

After some back and forth bombardment that went all the French way (the exposed Dutch unit was eliminated despite pulling back to the ridge and the Britsh guns were reduced to one block and forced to retreat behind the ridge for safety) I started my move on the right with the right flank units stiffened by the Young Guard. Tony was no Wellington was was clearly unwilling to wait patiently for the French and the two side clashed in front of the ridge. Meanwhile another Dutch brigade made a foray around Hougoumont as well, although that came to a bad end from close-range French cannon fire.

The battling was bloody but the Young Guard settled into Papaeotte and refused to be moved out of it, leaving the French with a 6-4 edge in flags. Tony decided he had to pull back his decimated troops on that flank. With the pressure eased there was time for Napoleon to play Le Grande Maneuvre to move up several fresh units including, critically, the Guard Heavy Horse. The following turn the Guard Horse crashed into some Dutch light horse using the Cavalry Charge card. The poor light horse hardly knew what hit it as the French rolled SEVEN dice (4 blocks +1 French Guard +2 Cavalry Charge ) and three sabers wiped them out for Flag No. 7. The breakthrough took the Guard straight into that one-block British artillery unit behind the ridge and unsurprisingly it, too, couldn't deny a seven-die attack. Flag No. 8 and victory for the French again!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Memoir '44 campaign continues

Game Store Tony and I continued our Gramd Campaign of Memoir '44 with Capturing the Crossing.

I got a good reserve roll of two grenades and I decided to go whole hog and commit both of them to get anotehr artilery unit and an additonal armor unit, both of which were committed to the Left Flank. I really wanted to win this scenario so as to not allow myself to get into a big hole. Tony decided not to expedn his one Reserve token even though he could have added a THIRD elite armor to his OB. Campaign Event rolls resulted in the British being short 3 figures of infantry and the Germans losing one tank and one infantry.

As it turned out that extra armor unit I took was the margin of victory.

Tony's female friend of the hot Battle Cry dice rolled his dicd for him in the ensuing battle and true to form her dice remained red hot -- but red hot dice were no match for red hot cards. My British for once got all they could wish for in the card draws ,with plenty of Assault and Attack sector cards and multiple useful Tactics cards sucha s Direct form HQ and Armored Assault. Meanwhile Tony couldn't seem to draw a center sector card to save his life, with most of his action happening on the two flanks.

British armor, backed up by infantry and some artillery fire support made a strong push int he center and left flank and simply overwhelmed the Germans. Which is not to say there wasn't hard fighting or the chance for a German victory, as the offensive was very expensive for the British armor with FOUR tank units being wiped out, killing three infantry and a tank in turn. That FIFTH, reinforcing, tank unit was the key to winning, however, as it survived (with one tank) a duel with the Elite German tank unit sitting on the bridge. It killed the last Gemran tank for medal No. 5 and then advanced onto the bridge for Medal No. 6 and the win!

Game Store Tony gets his chance to take the offensive with the next game, Withdrawal from Hill 112. Once again the British will be down three infantry and the Germans down one tank and one infantry figure. The Germans will have one Reserve token to commit to the upcoming battle, while the British have none.

Monday, January 17, 2011

OOps, may have created a monster

Introduced Young general to Magic: The Gathering (mostly because I really don't like Yu-Gi-Oh at all) and I think I may have created a monster. He practically begged me to play all day!

I've been letting him win decks off of me. I had a collection of old pre-made decks I never really go tot play with so I'm letting him win the deck if he can beat it. I bought him one new deck to start and so far he's take three off me in nine games.
At this rate I'll be emptied out by the weekend!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wow. THAT was embarassing. A War at Sea session

There's nothing more embarrassing than "cheating" and still getting crushed!

Threw together a 200-point game of War at Sea at the game store facing the redoubtable Game Store Tony -- r at least it was supposed to be a 200 point game of Allies against Italy, with me being the Allies (mostly British) and Tony taking the Italians. But my quick math was off a little bit and I inadvertently gave the British a 225-point fleet. Oops.

The Allies fleet comprised the battleship HMS Royal Oakm the battlecruiser HMS Repulse, the carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Glorious, the light cruiser HMS Euryalus, the destroyers HMS Cossack and HMS Javelin, three Swordfish torpedo bomber squadrons and three squadrons of Martlet fighters (all British), the Australian heavy cruiser HMAS Australia, and three allied destroyers (St. Laurent (Canada), V. Olga (Greece) and Witte de With (Netherlands) and the Greek submarine Proteus.

The Italian force comprised the battleships Lirroio and V. Veneto, the heavy cruiser Zara, the destroyers Ascari and Luca Tarigo, the subs Leonardo Da Vinci and Ambra and a strong air arm of one C202 fighter squadron, two squadrons each of JU-87 dive bombers, SM.79 torpedo bombers and Atrone patrol planes.

Well, the 25-point edge didn't help at all as the Allied force simply wasn't able to deal out enough heavy blows while the Italians were able to hammer away.

The allies were able to cripple the V. Veneto and slightly damage the Littorio, but they only shot down one squadron (the C202) and sunk four naval units, the Zara, the Acari, the L. Tarigo and the Da Vinci. Yep, just 42 points worth of Axis lost.

Meanwhile the Axis chewed up their opponents. Besides grabbing two objectives worth 200 points they sunk all the Allied naval units except the Ark Royal, the Javelin and the Proteus. All three Martlets and one Swordfish also survived. Still, the Axis scored 158 points for eliminated Allies -- which is what clued me in to my math error. I realized that if I lost 158 from a fleet of 200 then I had too much left! Sad.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oh Oh. End of the line for A&A minis?

This announcement that WOTC will "depart pre-painted plastic miniatures, " while not directly addressing the Axis & Allies miniatures lines, is quite worrisome for the future of those offerings.

I had strongly suspected that Counter-Offensive was likely the last set we'd see for the Land Miniatures. It would be unfortunate if the Late War set never came out as there are a few gaps in the line that could use filling, but it wouldn't be a disaster.

On the other hand, it seemed like we had a firm commitment for at least a couple of more sets of the naval game and the gaps left in that lkine are more serious as Rich Baker seemed to be deliberatley holding onto some units for later sets. An abrupt cessation of the line would be very bad in that case.

It may be too early to "panic" but Hasbro has been strongly trending away from pre-painted plastic minis over the past year or so (Heroscape, DDM, etc.) so this is not entirely a surprise.

Snow terrain board

I definitely feel like I'm living in the middle of one. Damn there's a lot of snow!

Meanwhile, the Persian Incursion campaign is moving along. We're using a site called ACTS to run the game in a journal or blog-like way. It's a useful tool.

So far the Israelis have run a raid on the Arak Nuclear reactor site. One solitary damage box survived on one building which robbed the Israeli's of a Strategic Victory! This was followed up by a Nuclear Infrastructure Table roll that bounced off the lowest end of the table for no effect at all on Israeli opinion and a 3 die roll for the Iranians domestic opinion.

Four MiG-29 attempted to intercept the outbound rid but a flight of four F-15Is just peeled off from the raid and a salvo of four AIM-120s blasted the MiG flight at long range. Three planes were shot down with two pilots KIA while the fourth MiG was damaged but was able to return to base.

Now waiting for the Iranian reaction.

Monday, January 10, 2011

First Memoir '44 campaign

Game Store Tony was psyched enough about getting his own copy of Memoir '44 that he decided to gett he Campaign Book as well. So now we have a Battle Cry campaign AND a Memoir '44 campaign going! The Battle Cry one is an informal let's-just-play-all-in-order one but the M44 campaign is a formal one right out of the Campaign Book. We're starting, naturally, with the Normandy Campaign because that requires nothing but the base game.

And the campaign got off to a stinky start for yours truly. The first scenario is Flanking Caen and despite using a reserve tokens to buy an extra tank my British were not able to make any headway. Tank unit after tank unit was forced to retire to safety behind the ridge after being shot up. I was able to infiltrate one infantry unit to capture an objective marker but it was blasted away immediately. The sole bright spots were eliminating the German elite infantry and the artillery unit but the final score 5-2 in Tony's favor!


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Persian Incursion replay starts

On a pretty ordinary morning in Iran there's nothing much happening on the front page of the newspaper, but even as the delivery people hawk the morning's broadsheet an 80-plane Israeli air strike is on its way. The world will not be the same ... .

Anniversary refight of the Battle of New Orleans, Napoleon's War

Young General and Old Warrior took a break from BattleLore action on a snowy January afternoon to refight a battle that also took place on a January some 196 years ago, although there's no evidence the ground was snowy in the least.

The second "Battle Pack" for the Napoleon's War system features four battles from America's "Napoleonic" war, the War of 1812. Now this is familiar ground for Worthington Games, as this topic had previously been done as part of For Honor & Glory. In the case of the New Orleans battle, the new version takes advantage of the dedicated maps to render a somewhat more faithful representation of the battlefield, which was kind of sketchy in the earlier game's somewhat more generic treatment.

It still appears to be a tough row to hoe for the British, however, as they're forced into a brutal frontal assault across open ground against a fortified enemy who had superior numbers of guns. The only advantage the British have is the superior quality of their infantry: Two +2 Elites, two +1 elites and three regular four figure infantry for a total of 34 MP. In contrast the more numerous American forces have just two four figure regulars and nine 2-figure militia for only 26 MP. Both sides have a 2 figure cavalry unit which is of minimal use because of the special rules for the America's War battle pack that prohibit them from using shock combat. Basically they're a speedy but very weak combat unit.

Where the US had a big edge is in guns -- three units compared to just one British. The British also have a rocket unit which is weaker (just 2 dice of fire) but has the advantage of being able to fire over obstacles and units. One important special rule for this scenario is that all the artillery and rockets have an extended range of six hexes, hitting on a 6. Instead of the standard rule which allows the guns to hit on a 5 or 6 out to 2 hexes, in this scenario a 5 is only a hit when adjacent. The Americans also had a slight edge in leaders, a pair of +2 (Jackson and Coffee) while the Brits had a +2 (Packenham, who deployed on the right) and a +1 (Gibbs, left). The British had a slight edge in CAP (4 of 3) but given that the American force was strictly on he defensive this seemed even.

If were an open field fight the American edge in guns wouldn't be so important given the poor quality of their troops, but it's not an open field fight. While the British have some redoubts and trenches to shelter it, the burden of attack is on them. They have to scope 6 VP in 20 turns or less. While there is a 2 VP objective hex behind the US line, I see little chance the British can get there. No, they need to kill US units and while the 2-MP militia are pretty easy to make go away, there is the problem of that line of entrenchments -- behind a canal!

The British advance is further constricted by a large Cypress swamp on their right flank which forces any advance to stay within US artillery range.

Naturally Old Warrior took the British side. The plan was to advance on the right and carry the works on that side, which seemed somewhat more doable than the left. The British would make some demonstration on that side as well, looking for a chance to rush in if artillery fire created a weak spot.

The good news was the the advance on the Right was able to make it to the wall and get across, eliminating all three militia units there. The bad news was that it was enormously costly, with the +2 elite reduced to a single MP and the +1 elite to 2 MP. This force was too weak to try rolling up the US line in the face of the guns and troops in the center. While this had been going on a West Indian infantry unit that had ventured forth on the left was gunned down in a single turn by those sharpshooting pirate gunners. It appeared the British were going to have to try their luck on the left after all. The presence of a road on the left flank promised a possibility of developing an attack quickly and minimizing the time under the US guns, but even has the British started to form up they started taking noticeable losses and the 4-figure regular British unit in the center barely made it across the line of departure before getting wiped out.

The first wave of British attackers to make it to the wall included the +1 elite and the surviving West Indian unit. The elites were wiped out in fierce close-quarter fighting with the US regulars and gunners but the West Indian unit was finally able to force the US troops back. A counterattack wiped out the West Indian regiment and it was up to the British cavalry and the last elite and Gibbs to carry the day. They came within 1 die roll of making it, as a volley from the elites finished off the US regulars and left just one gun standing -- the score was 5-all.

It wasn't meant to be, however, as that surviving gun was able to wipe out the horsemen for the 6th US VP and a shot from the other US regular felled Gibbs for the 7th and winning VP.

Compared to the actual event, of course, this was a closer affair, but it still ended up a British defeat. There were very few British figures left on the board -- a total of nine spread between five units. Young General resisted the impulse to be aggressive despite some taunting and made full use of his powerful defensive position to emerge victorious. Darn it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Meeting my Waterloo Part I - A Napoleon's War session report

Battle of Waterloo scenario setup

Game Store Tony and I embarked on a little project to play all three of the 2010 class of Napoloenic battle games riffing off the same historical scenario -- in this case the Battle of Waterloo.
We started with Napoleon's War - The 100 Days. I took the French while Tony took the Anglo-Allied side. While Tony was new to the game system, he has played quite a bit of the Commands & Colors system, especially Memoir' 44 and Battle Cry, so the basic concepts of this game were familar to him.
I decided to make my main effort on the right flank, basically the French I Corps sector. I did this in part because that's the zone featured in the scenarios from the other two games -- Commands & Colors: Napoleonics and Battles of Napoleon: The Eagle and the Lion -- and parttly because I think that sector is generally the most promising for the French in Waterllo battle games of any sort. I think Hougoumont, especially, is best avoided.
In this game that seemed a good call because Tony's first few moves were devoted to shoring up that flank, occupying the fortfified sites with guns, guys and generals and just making it very unappetizing to go that way. Aside from a stray potshot there was no activity on the French Left at all.
Instead I pushed on the right, with my first target being that end-most Dutch infantry unit. As it turned out they made their square die roll and the charging cavalry and guns and infantry seemed to bounce off them like they were all Clark Kents.
So the battle on that side ebbed and flowed, with counterthrust and melee. Soon some Prussians joined in,a s did the French Guard and other troops and by turn 12 the French were on the verge of defeat, with the victory point score at 6-5 in the Prussian-Anglo-Allied favor. As the British only needed 7 VP to win this was looking pretty bad for ol' Nappy. As a matter of fact it came down to one die roll that turn, as a Prussian horse unit charged some French guns and killed 1 of the 2 cannons! Even worse, a Prussian unit had stolen a march on Napoleon and was one double-time move away from capturing Placenoit! Placenoit is worth 3 victory points for the British.
So it came down to the French needing to win on their half of Turn 13 if they were to win at all. A blast from the surviving gun at the adjacent Prussian cavalry missed entirely, but Tony's celebration was cut short when a second French gun unit rolled much better and rolled 2 sixes out of three dice and wiped the cavalry out. Victory Point No. 6!
So now it came down to the fate of Frischermont, where that very same Dutch infanrty unit that had shrugged off my first attacks had taken refuge. The French Guard heavy cavalry attacked first. It wasn't a charge, so the cavalry would only hit on 6s, but that turned out to be enough as one of the two dice WAS a six. So now the Dutch were down to one figure. A French infantry unit in Papelotte beat the pas de charge and spalshed across the Smohain stream. It had but one die to roll (-1 die for the fortified building and -1 die for the stream) but it was a shock attack so there was a 1/3 chance of success. Sure enough, a 6 was rolled, the last Dutch figure was removed for Victory Point No. 7 and the French infantry advanced into the building and captured Victory Point No. 8 for the win!
So overall a very close game.
It took just 10 minutes to set up the game and the entire episode lasted 82 minutes including setup, explaining the rules and a couple of brief interruptions while Tony attended to customers.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 game purchases in review

I bought an unusually large number of new games in 2010 -- at least a baker's dozen -- and even more unusually, I played the majority of them! This is a welcome change from years past when i had high levels of purchases that didn;t make it to the table. Its been my experience that a game that doesn't make it to the table the first year I have it rarely make it later on.

In alphabetical order here are the complete new games I bought in 2010:

Arnhem: The Farthest Bridge - 0 plays. This is part of the new series of folio games published by Decision Games that are basically remakes of old SPI classics. The maneuver unit order of battle and map are identical to the old 1975 SPI Arnhem game, but there's a new game system with some significant rules changes. I bought this one in order to get a sense as to whether these represent enough of an improvement over the old game to warrant a purchase. I picked this one because I have more than a hundred games under my belt using the old game for comparison. I like how some of the new rules look but final evaluation depends on getting this rather old-school hex-and-counter game played.

Axis & Allies Europe 1940 - 3 plays. I've only played this in conjucntion with last year's A&A Pacific 1940 as part of the epic Global A&A 1940 scenario but I've had a blast. I think the global game is big enough to mitigate some of the gamier aspects of the A&A system and yet simple enough to be a viable gateway, club, convention and game store experience. I expect more plays in 2011.

Battle Above the Clouds - 0 plays. This is the latest interation of the Great Campaigns of the American Civil War series, moving to the Western theater. I'm not entirely sure I like the new graphics, but until I get a chance to play it I can't be sure. This game was gifted to me by the widow of my good friend Mark Perry who died late last year. He had pre-ordered this game and when it arrived his wife decidedto give it to me rather than send it back. I do hope I getthe chance to play this one this year.
Battle Cry 150th Anniversary Edition - 6 plays. This update of the original Commands & Colors system game is one of my favorites for the year. I think it hits a sweet spot for gaming with newer and more casual wargamers and is an excellent intorduction to the system. This will undoubtedly hit the table a lot over this coming year as we start moving into the 150th anniversary era.

Battles of Napoleon: The Eagle and the Lion - 2 plays. This is one of the interesting trio of Napoleonic battle games that game out this year. It's probably the most involved of the bunch and has a real miniatures feel to it. I expect to get more plays in with this one over the coming year, although probably not qite as much as Napoleon's War and Commands & Colors; Napoleonics due to the lengthier playing time.

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics - 4 plays. This highly anticipated Borg title was well worth the wait. There are a lot of interesting twists to the system and it's a blast to play. The rules for squares in particular are interesting. Guaranteed to see more plays this year.

Cthulhu Dice - 0 plays. This trivial filler game surprisingly hasn't hit the table yet because thematically it's a little problematical for family play or with some of the more casual game groups I play with. I do expect to get a play or two in but it probably won't be played as much as it might have with a less grim theme.

Fires of Midway - 0 plays. I'm also surprised I haven't gotten this played yet. The stars just haven't aligned right, I guess, although that would probably be a more appropriate excuse for Cthulhu Dice. Still, it's one of my favorite topics and seems fairly quick to play, so I think it will get played before too long.

Gettysburg - 4 plays. This might be the surprise hit of 2010, getting played four times on three different sessions. It's slightly more approachable than Martin Wallace's Waterloo, which is similar. I expect to play this again this year as well.

Heroscape Master Set - Battle for the Underdark - 5 plays. It's hard to believe, but Heroscape started off the year with a new master set, pumped out three new Dungeons & Dragons-themed expansions -- and then died! It's too bad, but there's enough Heroscape stuff in my closet to keep me busy for years, the D&D foray added some interesting new rules (treasure glyphs, shadow spaces and Uncommon Heros) and I'm not even convinced that Heroscape is gone for good.

King Philip's War - 2 plays. This game prompted an unusual amount of mainstream press attention for a standard wargame when a newspaper journalist ginned up a little controversy about the game's topic among New England Indian tribes. The game itself is a nice little design with some interesting strategic decisions for players and opening a window to view an important, if obscure, episode in U.S. history. I hope to play it a few more times this year as there are some strategic lines I'd like to explore.

Napoleon's War - The 100 Days - 5 plays. The first out of the gate among the 2010 crop of Napoleonic battle games, this one builds off the popular system used in Hold the Line and the Wars for America series. Similar in scale and playing time to C&C: N, it will be interesting to see if it can hold its own now that the Borg game is out. It does have an advantage in set-up time over CC:N with the pre-printed maps and some find Borg's card-based section-restricted command system too artificial. I expect to get some more plays of this in as well, although I have to admit that CC:N has the edge with me.

Persian Incursion - 0 plays. By far the most serious wargame I bought in 2010. Persian Incursion examines the possibility of an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear program. This arrived late in the year but I'm trying to get a couple of plays in soon. While a stand-alone game that doesn't require Harpoon 4 to play, it's still pretty involved and not just a casual sit-down game.