Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ardennes '44 Conclusion (GMT)

Game: Ardennes ’44 (GMT)
Participants: Bob H and Myself
Time: 1.00PM – 5.00PM

Situation at the start of todays session.
This afternoon we finished out six turn scenario of A44. Bob threw in the towel with a turn remaining. As we had not played this excellent title in nearly a year, we were fairly happy with the outcome (as far as we had fun and got familiar with the game again). This is a game where there are a lot of subtle rules that can have a great impact on each player.  I consider myself lucky in how the first night turn turned out, if the German player doesn’t account for KG Pieper’s special ability (move and fight in both the 16PM AND 16Night turn) he can really be behind the curve in the North. 

The 6PA had made the most spectacular progress thus far. This was mostly due to some impressive roles by the first wave of VG divisions on the first and second turn of the game. KG Pieper was then able to move in, break a hole in the US line North of St. Vith and finally break out along with the 12SS. This proved decisive in the final outcome of this game. 

Before my last Combat Phase of our last turn (18PM I believe)
During the first turn today, I was able to keep feeding units into the hole in Bob’s line. The 12SS moved North over the Warche River and behind the Elsenborn Ridge. This sealed the fate of a couple of the regiments of the 99th Division and trapped at least one of the regiments of the 2nd ID. Bob was able to push me off the fuel dump, thus I was not able to remove the fuel and didn’t keep possession of the VP hex. However the 12SS was able to get deep enough to make sure that all of the units that had made this initial breakthrough were kept in supply. This was important as I was able to hold onto Monschau and its VP hex despite a determined effort by Bob to push me out.  

The 1SS was able to take Malmedy and ensure a crossing point over the Warche to the West. This was important as there are several VP hexes within 3-4 hexes of that crossing site. KG Pieper meanwhile was fighting CCR of the 9th US AD near Recht, NW of St. Vith. I think I had a good shot at Stavelot and or Vielsalm in the next turn or two. The three Infantry divisions in the 6PA spent these two turns catching up to the Mechanized elements, by at the end of the 2nd turn they were back in the front line. 

In the Center, the 5PA finally started to make some progress. In our experience, this sector of the front is where the Germans make their deepest penetrations and the US player is most hard pressed to contain them.

A good view of the 5PA area (and Bob's fingers!)
The 2PD had the most success. I moved them initially North the cut off St Vith, then having done that they turned due West and started to roll through the thin US line. I think all of the 2PD attacks were at least 3-1 and this is the best terrain on the map for a PD to succeed. They were also able to make a few Breakthrough combat attacks which really helped crack Bob’s line. Lehr started to get in the game after some terrible traffic and bridge detours. They moved through Clervaux and started moving down the road to Bastogne, largely undamaged to this point. 

The 116PD along with the 62ID were able to encircle St Vith by the end of the 2nd turn. I elected not to attack St Vith as I was still trying to get the infantry caught up as well as waiting one turn would allow me to attack with a column shift for St Vith being OOS. The 116PD had taken 2-3 armor step losses, hardest hit of all the Panzer Divisions. 

7A front near the end
The Seventh Army made some progress but was down 8-10 steps having taken huge losses getting across the Our River. I did take Diekirch and Ettelbruck as well as Echternach, all of these being VP hexes. I really had only the 5FJ division left available for continued offensive operations, the rest of the 7A’s divisions were all down several steps. 

It was at this point (18PM turn) that we decided it was starting to look like a rock solid German win for the six turn scenario. Thus we hope to play this one again soon as we are both eager to try again having re-learned all of the subtle yet import points of the game. In my experience with Bulge games, this one was one of the most exciting. I’ve never seen the fuel dump taken, nor have I seen the US player lose 3-4 Artillery batteries due to the line being broken. I think I got lucky as the Germans, in that the next time we play we’re both going to be much better versed on the game and it’s unlikely that we’ll see these types of holes in the US line. I want to try the whole Bugle scenario next time, not the shorter ones. 

Prior to playing this again I am going to update my player aid card as well as create a 2nd sheet for it. I want to Bullet point all of the early game special rules (i.e. KG Pieper) as well as expand on some of the definitions (supply paths, disruption effects…). 

After the game, Bob and I talked about this experience versus the two Normandy (N44 and BFN, both by GMT) games we had just played.  We both felt that while those are excellent games, from an excitement/engagement level, the Bulge is hard to beat. Being the Defender in a Bulge game is much more interesting than being on the Defense in Normandy. All in all I can’t recommend this game enough if you are looking for a regimental level Bulge game (my other recommendation would be Bitter Woods).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ardennes '44 (GMT)

Game: Ardennes '44 (GMT)
Participants: Bob H and Myself
Time: 2.00PM - 5.00PM

We continued today with our 2nd sitting, I started off with my 16PM turn. I came in thinking that I would try and set up the 1SS for a night move, but they were in a good position to crack open the US line in the PM turn. Also, I realized late in the turn that KG Pieper (4 units) would be able to move + fight in the PM turn, then again move + fight in the night turn. Thus I was able to open the line in the PM turn and move KG Pieper and 12SS through/into it.

In the AM turn, the gate was open and I was able to move both Panzer divisions deep into Bobs rear. This might be a game-ender...we'll see. I also was able to move next to one fuel dump and it was the actual dump. I attacked it and was able to secure it. Additionally, I was able to attack and eliminate two artillery batteries and encircle most of the rest of the 99ID as well as other elements. Now the race is on as Bob got the 11th Armored Division as reinforcements in his AM turn and they are moving in. Bob pulled out the 99th and 2nd and is attacking West trying to break out.

In the Center I moved the 2P around Clervaux and went after the 9th Armors CCR. Lehr moved up slowly across their bridge and focused on Clervaux. I continued to attack towards St Vith with the 116th PD and the VD divisions in the area. These attacks went poorly with me loosing several armored steps and not making much progress.

The 7th Army made very little progress except near the seam with the 5th Panzer army, here he is still falling back and trying to establish a line. Elsewhere along the 7th Army's front I have taken 4-6 steps in losses and he is still holding his initial line.

There was a lot of down time while we each did our turns. Also, the next time I play this game I have to make a list of all the little details that happen in the first couple of turns:

  • KG Pieper free Night Move
  • No Bridge Blowing 
  • German Reinforcements in 17AM
Overall a very good time though. I love the puzzle that this game presents each player with. You have so many holes to exploit of fill, agonizing combats to decide on and deciding which artillery units to flip or move. Good Stuff. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sword of Rome (GMT)

Game: Sword of Rome (GMT)
Participants: Jim D, Joe C, Bob H and Myself
Time: 11.00AM - 5.00PM

This was our first 4-player game of SoR in several years. HeavyD and I were playtesters and played it several times back when it was released. With the Release of the 2nd Printing, we decided to give it another go as we've been trying to get back into multiplayer games with more regularity.

The game is a 2-5 player game (best with 4-5 players, in my opinion) covering Rome's assent to power from 386BC to 272BC. It is a card driven game with many of the features of this genre; leader activation, political control of spaces and a very interesting combat mechanic.

In the past few weeks I've re-read the rules and played a 2-player and 3-player game, both were more or less trainer games, getting ready for this event. The 3-player game was ok, it was our first time back with the game and it was ok. The Guals are handled abstractly, by rolling on a chart once a turn, the players then play Rome, Etruscan/Samite and Greece. The Guals being abstracted really changes the dynamics and makes for an ok three player experiance, for my money, TNW is the better choice when you only have three players. The 2-player game is ok, but I'd rather play something else if there are only two of us, too much of the interesting bits are missing when each player is controlling two powers, however it was a good experience for learning the ins and outs of the games mechanics.

Today's four player version was hands down the best of the recent playings. We had three players that had experience with the game and one player with no background. In spite of this, today's game was one heck of a good time. I was Rome, with HeavyD taking the Gauls, YJ on the E/S and Bob with Greece. We played the 6 turn version and it came down to the last impulse of the last turn. Bob won with Greece, with my Romans a VP or two behind. HeavyD had Gual in third place with YJ a distant fourth with his Etruscans and Samnites.

I'm sure if you asked the players involved you'd get several different explanations of why the game turned out like it did. But in the end it was essentially the three of them trying to get Bob the win over my Romans. An early alliance (and some would say a poorly conceived one) gave Rome a very safe and strong position in turns 2-3 allowing me to boost my support in my cities while also creating several more walled cities, thus by the last couple of turns I was getting 7-8 CU's a turn as reinforcements while everyone else was struggling to keep an army in the field. All of the Etruscan starting lands were overrun in this period, knocking YJ out of the running for a victory. This also made it very hard for HeavyD to raid and thus get VP's...so both of them, around turn 4-5 started to play king maker, essentially doing what they could to assist Greece and trying to bring down the now very strong Romans.

Despite this (three against one) I had a fantastic time. The constant conflict (in spirit at least) between HeavyD and YJ on their differing takes on what should be done was an especially entertaining diversion. The next time have a multiplayer game day, I hope we have half as much fun as we did today...

I would move SoR up to nearly neck and neck in the 4 player game area after today's experience (after TNW of course). I shall try to set up another game of this in the coming weeks.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Steam (Mayfair Games)

Game: Steam (Mayfair)
Participants: Dave A, HeavyD, YJ and Myself
Time: 3.30PM - 8.45PM

Steam is a 3-5 player train game. Each player tries to build out track and haul goods, earning money and/or victory points. This was the second and third time I've played the game. I really like it, but its one of those games where I know I'll never be competitive at. I understand the mechanics of the game and think they're really neat, but when it comes to knowing how to maximize my move in relation to the other players (mainly YJ here) I am at a loss. Perhaps its a game where playing it a bunch would lead to that, however, like Agricola it's not likely going to be played by us that often.

The first game was Dave's first one and YJ and my second. We mostly re-learned the game and taught it to Dave at the same time. Then we ran out of time as HeavyD showed up, so we restarted on the other central Europe map (included on the back of the NE USA map). The second game went the distance with YJ having a 5-7VP lead, Dave was in second with HeavyD a distant third and myself in the distance in fourth place. Even though I knew I was loosing fun was had by all. I imagine the next time this one will be played is when we have another visit from Dave.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Adrennes '44 (A44)

Game: Ardennes '44 (GMT) - Six Turn Scenario
Participants: Bob Hinson (USA), Myself (German)
Time: 7.30PM - 9.15PM

Situation near Clervaux at the end of the Dec 16AM turn. 
Tonight Bob and I started A44, the six turn scenario. It being December 16th and all we decided to give this game another go. Bob and I had both recently played Simonich's N44 and TCC and enjoyed them. We had played this title about a year ago and liked it. My current favorite Bulge game remains Bitter Woods, but A44 is a close 2nd.

I had a pretty good start, I rolled a lot of 1's and 2's, thus pushing Bob's troops off his starting line. We averted a near disaster near Clervaux when I had the 2nd Panzer Divisions Panther Battalion cross the Our River at Dasburg in error. The attack went well and I got another attack due to the Breakthrough Combat (19.4) result, so I advanced to Clervaux and pushed the 9th Armored Division battalion out of town...luckily we caught the error (vehicle units cannot cross and unbridged river) and we were able to redo the attack, which still went very well for me.

The Northern Shoulder Sector (end of Dec 16AM turn)
In the North things also went well. I should be able to make good progress with the 1SS and 12SS in the PM turn. As you can see the Losheim Gap is open, I should be able to have the 1SS attack near Andler this next turn. I hope the 3FJ can continue to push the 99th back to Bullingen (1731).

We plan to resume on Sunday.