Monday, January 30, 2012

Some Thoughts on War at Sea Special Abilities in the post-RB era

With the departure of lead designer Rich Baker from WOTC and the subsequent uncertainty about the future of War at Sea Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures, it's worth considering how fans of the game will cope with various issues related to the game.

One of those is what to do about the various ships that never appeared in the six sets that were published. While custom units have been a popular feature at Axis & Allies Fourmini all along, these were always 'unofficial' and subject to be superceded when the ship finally appeared in official form. The problem now is that there will be no 'official' versions of some ships, but it would be nice to have a consensus among the players on the accepted game stats for some of the ship's likely to appear, epecially given the Shapeways ability to make models compatible with WAS.

Generally the basic stats like speed, hull points and even firepower dice are not too controversial, but special abilities are another matter. They're improtant for giving the game it's flavor, but at the same time they can be highly subjective.

I think the current SA fall into three broad categories.

The first are the ones that are inherent abilities of a ship or weaposn system as will pretty much always appear when the ship's hardware warrants it. Some examples include the Long-Lance Torpedoes SA of most Japanese surface combatants, the Extended Range X SA of most battleships and the Submerged Shot SA for most submarines. These aren't so much "Special" abilities as they are standard abilities that just don't occur often enough to have a spot on every card. Most of these are pretty uncontroversial and if a ship has the hardware it gets the SA.

The second type of SA that is all-about giving a ship a unique flavore based on some unusual event in its history. Examples of this include the Fatal Flaw SA for HMS Hood, the Embark B-25 SA of the USS Hornet or the Inspiring Example SA of the USS Arizona and Giogios Averof. Often these SA aren't even much of an advantage and they are always highly subjective and often controversial. In my opinion these sorts of SA should probably be avoided in the future without RB's explicit endorsement. I think they'd likely be contentious when ap[lied, which defeats the purpose of having widely accepted semi-offfiical stats for new models.

The third type is, by far, the largest, and these are historically justified SA that are selectively applied to certain units -- generally for game balance and interest -- but are by no means exclusive to those units. A good example of this is the Lay Smoke Screen SA, which every destroyer is the game could legitimately have, but is limited to certain units. Other examples include Sub Hunter, Radar Fire Control and the various Expert plane SA that many aircraft carriers have. Most of the game's current SA fall into this group and it would be interesting to see where opinions fall on how often to include these for new models and if there are any criteria that should be applied.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The future of D&D and RPGs

And interesting article from an insider explaining why the RPG business is in trouble and some thoughts about where it may go from here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mussolini as Schrödinger's cat

The Storch lands next to the hotel in preparation for evacuating Mussolini (represented by the German Victory Medal) under the protection of Otto Skorzeny (represented by the Green Battle Star counter). The landing site is well-guarded by German paratroopers, but note that each unit has lost a figure. At upper left is a unit of Italians (here depicted using Russian figures) trying to stop the evacuation.

Was he alive, or was he dead? It all depended upon when you looked, Thursday as Game Store Tony and I took a short break from our Russian Campaign to play a scenario from the new Memoir '44 Campaign Book 2, specifically the Rescue of Mussolini scenario from the Air Aces campaign.

I really wanted to try this one out because it's quite different from the typical Memoir '44 scenario. For one thing, victory is not based on medals -- but simply on Mussolini's fate. If he's rescued the Germans win, if not, they lose.

There are quite a few special rules and a chance to use pieces that don't see much use otherwise, such as the Storch liaison plane and paradrops.

The Italian force is comprised of eight regular infantry units deployed in four pairs across the hill and mountain hex adorned map. Mussolinui, himself, is represented by a German Objective marker in the Prison Camp Hex.

The German force is comprised of six elite infantry units which enter via the Paradrop procedure, which in Memoir '44 involves actually dropping the pieces from about a foot above the map! After they land the Germans can give a marker to one of the units representing the legendary German commando leader Otto Skorzeny. The fnal element of the German force is the Storch Liaison plane, which must be used to evacuate Mussolini.

On our first go around, the raid was pretty much a disaster. Two of the six German units were destroyed while landing and the others were scattered. While Skorzeny was able to lead two units in an assault on the prison that liberated Mussolini, the Italians seemed to have no shortage of useful cards, and were able to react energetically. A mad dash for some safe spot was unsuccessful and the Italians ended up mopping up the whole German force and recapturing Mussolini. The Storch was never brought on.

We set up and played again and this time it was the Germans who seemed to get most of the luck. Only one German unit was lost in landing and the three units in the eastern batch landed in a tight group near the hotel, as did one scattering unit from the western group. Skorzeny again led a charge on the hotel that liberated the deposed dictator but this time there were a bunch of supporting units along for the show. Meanwhile the Ilatlians had areal drought of usable cards, being stuck with several for a sector where they had no units.

The Storch was brought in, landed and took off with Mussolini for the win -- although possibly just in the nick of time, because the Italians had just drawn the Bombardment card, which Game Store Tony was clearly going to use on the grounded Storch if there had been another turn.

We agreed that we needed one more game to resolve the split, so we made plans to play a tie-breaker at the first opportunity!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Arkham gaming

Had some nice gaming sessions at the opposite ends of the time spectrum at Arkham Asylum this weekend.

On the one hand there was a quick, 45- or 50-minute game of Memoir '44 on Friday where my Germans were able to make short work of a large force of Russians during our continuing grand campaign game. Even though Tony's Russians had son many troops they overlapped the enire baseline by two ove rand each side and had two more reinforcements the Germans were just hot on the dice and had pretty decent cards to back them up as they rolled to a 6-2 victory.

On the other hand all day Sunday was spent in a grand campaign of another sort as we played Axis & Allies 1940 Global rules using the Alpha +3 revisions. Three fellows from the Hartford group came down to play myself and Roy at Arkham. Two of the Hartford gamers played the Axis, with one controlling Italy and Germany and the other Japan. A Hartford colleague controlled the British and the French, Roy handled the Russians and I handled the USA, ANZAC and China.

To make a long story short, I think things went relatively satisfactory for the Soviets (Moscow was at least 2 turns away from falling when we ended on Turn 5), the ANZACs (Homeland safe, fleet just took Okinawa) USA (large fleet parked off Japan, troop convoys forming in USA, Philippines never fell) and China (Almost all territory liberated) but this didn;t make up for a series of disasters involving Britain. The British player was aware of the threat of a Germa
+n Sea Lion on Turn 3 but he forgot to move the destroyer he intended to sacrifice to block the North Sea approaches. This, of course, created a cascade of negative effects elsewhere, despite the fact that Britain recaptured London on the next turn. Perhaps the most damaging effect was that Italy was basically left alone to rampage throughout Africa and the Middle East. Italy's economy got up to 50 + bonuses and Italian troops were as far south as the Belgian Congo and as far east as Western India at game end! The Japanese essentially abandoned much in the way of effort against the US and China to concentrate on the British and managed to take India on Turn 5. This second blow caused the Allies to concede, as we judged this was not a recoverable situation. While the Soviets could hold out to turn 7 or maybe even 8, there was no prospect of relief for them even then and the German juggernaut was just gathering stean and had substantial Italian troops available for devastating one-two punches against Russia. I had some hope of the US and ANZAC taking Japan by turn 8 or 9, but this would have been far too late as the Germans were poised to take London AGAIN on turn 6. With the fall of Moscow (and necessarily the third Soviet city as well) the Axis would win a European victory on Turn 6, long before the US plans could bear fruit.

A sea of green US pieces surrounding Japan does no good as disasters elsewhere doom the Allies cause.

It was good playing against such experienced Axis players, however. I picked up a lot and have some ideas of what to do for next time. We were really hurt by the British error, which negated some pretty good play on the part of the Soviets. I didn't feel too bad about how I was doing but the problem for the US is that it's hard to start to have a game impact unless the Brits can hold out.

Overall, though, it was a good game. I don't know when we'll do another Arkham Global 1940, but we may make a trip up to the hartford group's "Bunker" this spring.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Off to a gamey start

Here's starting the new year off right -- the girls and I sit down for a game of Bosworth.