Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Commands & Colors: Ancients (GMT) ~ "Colline Gate" & Dominion (Rio Grande Games)

Game: Commands & Colors: Ancients
Scenario: Colline Gate - 82BC
Participants: Jim "HeavyD" D, Myself
Time: Friday, Apr 22nd ~ 6.30PM - 8.45PM

HeavyD and I decided on some Big Boy Blocks for this evenings game. As we have played through most of the scenario in the first three games in the series, I decided to crack open one of the most recent games, Expansion #3, "The Roman Civil War". I believe this is the first scenario from this expansion that we've played.

We started with the first scenario, "Colline Gate" which looked interesting. It has Walls in it and the Romans (HeavyD) start out in front of them in a rather precarious position given that walls will block retreat paths. We diced for sides I got the Samnites. The Samnites start with six Auxilia', two Medium Infantry, two Medium Cavalry and one light sling unit.  The Romans start with a slightly heavier force of six Medium Infantry, two slingers, two Medium Cavalry and one Auxilia. I have one leader and a four card hand size, while HeavyD has two leaders and six cards. I go first.

Initial Set Up

I open with a pretty good hand; I start with a "Double Time" allowing me to engage right away. I have three attacks on the first turn and all of them result in retreats. HeavyD also looses a couple of his slingers on the end of the line. As I was able to make him retreat my lighter Auxilia's are unscratched which helps as I am fighting at a disadvantage against HeavyD's Medium Infantry (3 dice to 3).

End of the Samnites first turn, Roman backs against the wall

HeavyD counters by reengaging my right with most of the units I forced back. He also pulls some of the Mediums out of the gates. He lines up four units (M) to my three (A). My units perform very well, I believe the official term is something like "I diced the heck out of him". HeavyD looses one unit completely to a three flag roll on my part and has several others take a few blocks as casualties. One of my Auxilias is down to one block and the other two are still on good shape. Again though HeavyD has his back to the wall and is very vulnerable to retreat results, which will kill off his blocks due to the wall.

Roman Counter Attacks...


I counter with activating three units on the right, I focus all my attacks on one Medium infantry because my guys can only move one hex and be able to battle. I take out the Medium Infantry and very little loss during the combat phase. HeavyD counter's as he really has no other choice. He looses another Medium, while only taking down one of my Auxilia's two one block, I have two now on this side that are one-block wonders.

The Action continues on the Samnite Right

On my next activation I move up my Medium Cavalry to attack his remaining Medium Infantry and send my one-block Auxilia after his Slinger, who are trying blend into the wall that their standing next to. Not wanting to be left out of the action, my Cavalry unit performs well (I dice him again!) while the slingers fail their "blend in" task check, dieing as they try and flee over the wall. I end the turn with two more blocks, thus we are in sudden death mode as I only need one more to get the win.

Step 1: Select an enemy unit

Step 2: "Be" a good player!

Step 3: Remove the enemy unit, collect Victory block...it's Simple!

HeavyD counters by moving his Medium Cavalry unit out with his leader. They roll up and waste my Medium Cavalry. I start to look at the left have side of the board as there are no more Roman's on my Right (sans the Cav unit that can withdraw). I again have a "Double Time" card when I need it and am able to advance most of my left up against his line. My dice are cooling off though and these battles do not go anywhere nearly as well as the opening rounds on the right. Neither one of us loose any units and I take slightly more losses then HeavyD.

We are running out of Roman's on my right

Getting close!

HeavyD counter attacks and forces one of my Auxilia to flee. Then I play a "Order Three Left" card and move in against the Medium Infantry, while my Slingers attack HeavyD's Cavalry and Leader. The Slingers open with a bang, taking out the Medium Cavalry for the win.

The Map at the end of the Game

This is a tricky scenario for the Roman player who starts with a nicer force, but in a very precarious position, having to deal with the wall. We had some good laughs at my command dice performance though.

Dominion (Rio Grande Games)

As the night was still young, I offered to show HeavyD how to play Dominion. I had first seen this game six months ago while visiting Rikk out in Arizona. A few months after that trip, Rikk sent me a Dominion and Dominion Seaside out of the clear blue. He and I had the chance to play it 4-5 times recently while I was on another vacation back in Tempe.

I really like this game. It's certainly a Euro, but its got some very nice mechanics and is a whole lot of fun to play. It's doing very well, getting good marks on BGG and there is a very favorable video review of it over at the Dice Tower.

So first an overview. The game is for 2-4 players and takes perhaps a half an hour per player to complete. Each player starts with ten cards (seven coppers and three estates). There are then tens stacks of face up cards that the players can buy during their turn to add to their deck. In addition to these ten cards, there are three currency cards (copper, silver and gold) and three stacks of VP cards (estate, duchy and province). These too are also available to be acquired (by purchase or other events) for addition to you deck.

Here we see the coin and the set of ten cards you can purchase during the game

The mechanics of the game are very simple, you start with your hand of five cards, you then take an Action (most of the cards you buy are actions [of the ten]) then you finish with a Buy. An action consists of "playing" an "Action" card; for instance if you play a "Village" card you are allowed to draw an additional card and then take two more action (playing two more action cards). Buying consists of using the money cards in your hand along with any extra money that your action cards have provided for the turn to purchase one or more card (you can only buy more then one if one of your actions gave you a +1 buy). The objective of the game is to have the most VP's at the end of the game. The game ends when all of the provinces are taken, or three of the 10 available cards are taken.

HeavyD building his Dominion
So this sounds pretty simple and it is, HeavyD grokked the mechanics within a couple of hands and we were off to the races. I was certainly no expert, having only played the game 3-4 times previously, so we had a nice time looking over the various cards and what they meant to us. There isn't alot of player vs. player interaction (in this configuration at least). Each of us bought "Militia" cards early on so for the first 5-8 hands we were using these cards a lot, these force the other player to discard down to three cards, thus he's starting with three instead of five cards.

Final Scoring

There are something like 25 types of cards in the base game. You only will use ten during any one game, so this means that the game provides many re-playings as you mix and match the various cards you want to play with in any one game. The game comes with about 5 suggested sets of ten, but after that you are then able to construct your decks to meet whatever tickles your fancy.

I can't wait to play this one again...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Battles of the American Revolution, Vol. III (GMT) ~ "Eutaw Springs"

Game: Battles of the American Revolution Series
Scenario: Eutaw Springs
Participants: Jim "HeavyD", Myself
Time: Friday, Apr 8th ~ 7.00PM - 9.45PM

Having just finished a couple games of PQ-17, HeavyD and I decided to head back into some familiar terrain with the ARW series. We selected Eutaw Springs as its perhaps the smallest of the scenario's in the series and easily completed in an evening. I had recently played "Germantown" with Bob and had a fantastic time, I can't even remember who won, but I do recall the good time we both had. HeavyD and I diced for sides and I ended up with the British, again.

The Scenario starts with the British encamped (again) along the Eutaw Creek in South Carolina in 1781. General Greene is commanding the Rebels with Colonel Stuart commanding the British. Each side had roughly 2,000 men in the battle. The scenario begins with a British foraging party about a dozen hexes away from the British encampment. They are scourging the countryside for yams. General Greene's Army Enters the map on the first few turns. The British cannot move for the first two turns. On the third turn the side that wins the initial skirmish with the yam pickers will go first.

The Map after Initial Set up
Early Turns
HeavyD's Rebels approach the British main line

HeavyD did not get the better of my foraging party, this I am able to sound the alarm and go first on turn three. This allows me to set up a line in front of the historical line. The next couple turns go quickly with HeavyD overrunning my foragers (no VP or AM effects) while I tweak my line and send a couple units to the river to counter the Swamp Fox.

The Opening Round, HeavyD's initial attacks on the British line

Finally around turn six HeavyD makes his initial push against my main line. He makes three attacks, all are at 3-2 odds. The first attack goes well "-/D", sending a unit of mine reeling back in Disorder. The next two attacks though are less successful ("R/-" & "D/-"). HeavyD's line is in some disorder after his turn. Specifically, I see that his flanks are lightly covered and his guns are out there as well.

Rebel Attacks Stopped


I get the initiative on the next turn. I get a little excited as I see some good attack possibilities leading towards getting his Artillery. I guess I am still thinking back to my last game in which I took a pounding from Bobs Guns. Thus I decide to drop my strong main line and "go for it" early on with two attacks on HeavyD's flanks.

British Counter Attack

Both attacks end up being 4-1 and both get a "-/1" result. I am feeling pretty good at this point. Then when I watch HeavyD begin his turn I am not so happy with myself. During his turn, Heavy decides to take advantage of my foolish attacks and goes after 2/3s of my force with nearly all of his. I have left myself entirely too spread out. I am sweating musket balls now as the retreat rules are very black and white, if you have to retreat through an enemy ZOC, you are eliminated. In a scenario of this size, loosing 2-3 units for lack of a retreat path can be the end.

Maj. Majorbanks Surrounded!
HeavyD decides to go all in on his half of the turn throwing nearly his whole force at 2/3s of mine. The odds are low but the risk is worth the reward for if he can get the surrounded stack to retreat, they are done for. His attacks, both 1-1 are uneven, he gets a "-/D" against the reckless Majorbanks and a "-/1" against Coffin's units in 1013. The D results in the lead unit eliminating due to retreat path blockage, but the 2nd unit in the hex holds its ground. I am left with a 2-6 Cav unit and Majorbanks still surrounded at the end of the turn. The losses thus far are still fairly even as is the Army Moral chart.

British Attacks, top of turn 7

After British Combat phase, Top of Turn 7

I get the Initiate again at the top of the turn, which was a life saver. If HeavyD had been able to go first, he would have been able to seal the deal and likely have taken Majorbanks and his band of Cavalry out for good. Instead I am able to extract Majorbanks and reassemble something like a main line, albeit a much smaller one. I am able to take out one of his Artillery units and Majorbanks sends a unit of militia fleeing, forcing me into their hex.

As I had to advance into the vacated hex with Majorbanks and unit, HeavyD is again able to surround them, he also attacks my main line, looking to get rid of the exposed de Lancey Unit. HeavyD makes three attacks in his turn, a 3-1, 2-1 and 1-1. Amazingly, the 3-1 against Majorbanks goes badly and he's forced to retreat with a "R/-" result. However, Heavy is able to take out de Lancey and gets a PIN in his other attack. Thus my already smaller force is getting smaller and Majorbanks is still in danger.

The Results of the Rebel Combat phase, turn 7

The End Game

I believe HeavyD uses some of his momentum to gain the initiative on turn 8, he absolutely needed it to start bringing this one home. HeavyD again mounts an attack at Majorbanks unit, getting a 4-1. Elsewhere he continues to pressure my main line with two 2-1 attacks. The combats this turn are all one sided, with Rebels starting to get the upper hand. My AM slips down a notch around this time. The 4-1 attack against Majorbanks gets a "-/1*" results, thus my intrepid leader finally falls in battle. The unit takes a "1" hit but is still standing after the powder smoke clears.

The two attacks on my main line result in a "-/D" and a "-/AC", things are starting to fall apart. However with the three turns (and counting) that its taken HeavyD to deal with the late Majorbanks, I still have a glimmer of hope to hang onto. The Victory point tally is still close, in order to win one side needs to have +3 more then the other. At this time it's still around 0 or +1 and it's not looking like he's going to make it into the British encampment to get the +3VP for controlling 4/7 hexes there. So there is hope, albeit little of it at this point.

End of Rebel Combat Phase, Top of turn 8
In my half of turn 8, I am forced to make a heroic attack (1-3) with the remnants of Majorbanks Cavalry, they valiantly enter the eliminated box, having tied up a sizable portion of the Rebel force for 4 turns. Elsewhere I fall back on my camp as now we both know that the game is going to come down too a few VP's. I get lucky and get to go first at the top of the next turn (turn 9), further allowing my to pull my units back on the encampment.

End of British Turn 9
The clock is ticking now for HeavyD. He has this turn and then next before the scenario comes to an end. He is still a couple VP's short of a win. Greene and Hampton charge into the British line with renewed vigor. He is able to make a 3-2 and a 1-1 attack. The odds are in his favor though as he gets the best of me in the Tactics cards and the final DRM's are +4 and +3.

Greene and Hampton surge towards the British Encampment
HeavyD does well in the combat phase and gets a "-/DC" and a "-/D", Coffin and his unit are sent running to the rear while the 64th gets captured. The end is near. HeavyD uses his momentum to get the initiative for the final turn and sets up the final coup de gras by surrounding Stuart and his few remaining Redcoats. He ends on a 4-1, +3 capturing the whole lot.

The Final "Coup de gras", Stuart gets captured to end the game...
HeavyD certainly held it together with the whole Majorbanks side-show. I completely blew it in my opening counter-attack by splitting up my force...what a knocker. Shame on me. The fact that the game went the distance was only due to some silly dice allowing Majorbanks to hold out as long as he did. Still, not a bad way to spend a couple hours with a good friend on a Friday night. Once again a reliable good time was provided with the superb ARW series.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ukraine '43 (GMT) ~ "Campaign Game" Part 4, Conclusion

Game: Ukraine '43 (GMT)
Scenario: Campaign Game
Participants: Bob H, Myself
Time: Sunday, Apr 3rd ~ 2.30PM - 6.00PM

At the end of our last sitting, my Germans had a large Counterattack SW of Kharkov against the 1TK go badly, Bob immediately hit back sending that portion of the front into chaos. As I sat down to do my turn prior to Bobs arrival I found that I was not as bad off as I thought I would be. I had Manstien nearby to lift some Disruptions and I still had a lot of mobile formations in the vicinity. Bobs lead formations were starting to separate from his trialing foot units and he was near the end of his supply line.

German Turn 8
SW of Kharkov, start of German Turn 8

I had a hole in my line from Paltava to Zenkov. I had this situation developing for the last couple of turns. It was like a funnel with the long end leading to this hole. I had strong mobile formations along the right hand side of it while my forces on the left were fairly well dug in. I didn't think Bob would ever try and exploit it as he would have supply troubles.

1TK, surrounded and eliminated

During Bobs last exploitation phase he moved his two Tank Armies forward, leaving a full strength German ID in his wake. I found that with Manstien removing a couple D's from my units I could make a strong counterattack against the 1TK. Better still I had the in-supply ID behind him to cut off his retreat. I spent a long time making sure I could get a 4-1 and pulled the trigger. The attack went well (DR1 + 1/1) and he lost 4 steps, the whole 1TK was eliminated.

The Mirgorod-Paltava Gap, end of German Turn 8

I left the hole in the line open, shortening my line on the left side to take advantage of terrain and ZOC bonds. Thus I had a nice three hex gap running from Mirgorod to Poltava. I had adjusted my line near Kharkov, continuing the get steps out of the noose there, ending with three steps in the city itself with Air support and strong ZOC Bonds into the city.

Bob's Comments:

I continue my attacks West of Kharkov and get good results but the weather has turned overcast limiting my use of air power.  I really feel that I'm on the brink of forcing Steve back everywhere because of the hole in the line west of Kharkov and push my lead Tank Armies ahead of the supporting infantry.  I note that he has some powerful formations in the area of the breakthrough but believe that with average die rolling I will be OK. 

Russian Turn 9
Progress in the South, RT9

This was a very Decisive turn, as we shall see. In the South a few hexes SE of Stalino Bob makes an sudden attack in hex 5627, catching me off guard (I failed to see his build up in this area). He gets a DR1 and I will have to pull a couple units back to reset my line after he's pushed my off this one.

Russian Secondary Attack takes Kharkov at a steep price (9 steps)

Kharkov sees a huge attack with Zhukov leading it. The attack in the Primary attack phase is a DR, I cancel the retreat with an additional step loss. Bob looses three in this attack. In the secondary attack phase Bob makes another 3-1 attack, getting an EX, re-rolls and gets another Ex. He looses 6 steps, I loose two and the city falls (as I am out of steps). He's paid dearly for it, loosing 9 steps to my three this turn. Bob add the three VP's to his total.

Russian Airborne Forces deploy in support of the Break through (RT9)

Normally this would have been the high point of the turn, but there we even more excitement just a dozen hexes to the SW. Bob decides to plunge through the Mirgorod-Poltava gap with his three Airborne Brigades covering his flank. Bob ends the turn with a Tank Corp in Kremenchua, which is on the banks of the Dnieper  River, a six hex penetration in my line along the Psel River. The Airborne Forces disappear as Bob rolls poorly and all three are eliminated on landing. During the supply phase, his entire penetration force (which includes the powerful 5TK) goes OOS. I'm not sure if this was part of Bobs plan, or if it caught him off guard. I do know that he was one unhappy player at the end of the turn with the loss of 9 steps taking Kharkov and then executing a glorious breakthrough only to see it get put OOS at the end of the turn, add in going three of three on his paratroopers dieing on landing and he was not happy.

End of Russian Turn 9
German Turn 9

While the breakthrough looks nice, there is no road network supporting it as long as Mirgorod and Poltava stay in German hands. With the staggering losses taken in Kharkov and the loss of the 1TK Bobs options are limited in how he can try and open the lines of supply to his OOS units. I don't want to even give him the chance to re-open the lines, thus I orchestrate an attack out of Poltava aimed at the Voronezh Front's jugular. My goal is to hit his still in supply follow on units and hopefully force him back, letting me set up a line of ZOC Bonds to further isolate his OOS Front.

48PK leads the strike into the base of the Russian penetration
 48PK leads the assault out of Poltava in the Primary Combat phase, pushing him back with losses on a 5-1 attack. In the subsequent combat phase I make another lunge and push him back even further with another 5-1 attack. Bob is forces to pull the Front HQ unit back out of danger in his reaction movement. In the South I pull back, shortening my line and thinning out the 2SS to fill the gaps. 

Southern Front, end of German Turn 9
Russian Turn 10

This are getting warmer in the South as Bob breaks open my newly established line. Here I have space on my side and Bob is short on mechanized units to exploit the breakthrough. But all eyes are further North watching the Russians try and get their isolated units back into supply before having to roll for isolation attrition.

Final Positions, End of Russian Turn 10

Bob opens with a strong attack on Poltava. He is forced to attack while OOS. The 5TK does manage to push me out of the important city on a low odds attack. He is still short of getting back into supply and is isolated. Bob just doesn't have much strength left to reopen the line with the heavy losses he's taken in Kharkov. The death knell sounds in the supply phase when Bob looses 5 steps to attrition. We agree to stop here for the day. Bobs pretty frustrated at this point having had a bad day with the dice, particularly the Airborne disaster and ending with loosing so many steps to attrition.

End of Russian Turn 10

While Bob has a small breakthrough going SE of Stalino, the looming disaster of loosing the rest of the OOS units to attrition and German attacks leads Bob to concede the next day. I can't argue with his decision as we are nearly halfway through the game and with these latest developments I couldn't see how he'd get back on track due to the losses he's taken to date as well as the impending isolation losses. Even at 4 steps a turn as replacements it'll be 4-5 turns again before he has anywhere near the strength he's need to start a large scale offensive. 

Southern Front, End of Russian Turn 10
When I sat down today, I had no idea that we'd see the game end today. I felt as though I was doing ok as Bob did as well. However you certainly can't as for more drama then we got these last few turns.

For those of you that don't have or haven't played U43, I can only hope that some day you'll have a chance. In my humble opinion it is one of Mr. Simonitch's finest works, right up there with Ardennes '44. Both of these games share a theme in that the defending player is very much engaged and is making nearly as many painful and important decisions as the attacker. Having recently played TCC and Normandy '44 I would easily place U43 above them, at least as far as having a much more engaging experience as the defender.

So I think Bob and I are going to take a detour to the ACW for some GCACW (Battle above the Clouds) prior to our planed trip to the Chickamauga Battlefield at the end of April.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Agricola (Z-man Games) ~ "2-player scenario"

Game: Agricola (Z-Man Games)
Scenario: 2-player (E Decks only)
Participants: Rikk "The Pirate" M, Myself
Time: Saturday, Mar 26th ~ 6.30PM - 7.30PM (Tempe, Arizona)

For the past 30+ years I have marveled at the reaction Rikk gets from the opposite sex. I could devote many blog posts to this very topic, yet I will spare you all this. However, if you ever have the good fortune to be in Arizona (he rarely travels) and go out to diner with him, you are sure to be entertained by the dynamics he evokes from the fairer gender (could it be those big ears, or perhaps the diminutive size?). The reason we ended up playing Agricola today was Rikk's encounter with an energetic sales-girl in a game store in the mall. Rikk and his crew had recently played Puerto Rico (an excellent Euro) and this triggered a discussion on Agricola. Thus Rikk was very susceptible to the enthusiasm displayed by our game-store girl; who certainly has mastered the art of retail sales.

At any rate, we walked out of the mall with a new copy of Agricola and another expansion for Dominion. I was excited as this weekend was turning into a Euro-centric gaming marathon. Rarely do I have the chance to play this many Euro's in Missouri. Rikk had never played Agricola, so I spent a half an hour going over the rules and the objective of the game with him. For those that don't know, Agricola was the game that unseated Puerto Rico as the number one game on BGG (oh by the way, the last time I looked, Twilight Struggle has taken over the number one spot.../nice). It was this (#1 ranking on Board game geek) that got my attention. I have PR and we've played it a good number of times and really like it. When I heard that Jim (a local gamer) got Agricola and liked it I decided that I would pick it up and give it a shot. We have had about a dozen games of it in Missouri.

A very busy Euro

The premiss of the game is pretty straight forward, you start as a farmer (and wife) and a plot of land (during the middle ages), your goal is to make a big thriving farm, one that is better (more VPs) then your farmer neighbors (players). The game has 15 turns, during each turn your people (farmer + wife) can take an action. The actions are as simple as gathering goods (wood, clay, stone, grain) or learning a profession (represented in the game by decks of cards) or making an improvement (again via cards) to your farm (like a fireplace or a well). Once each player has taken all their actions the turn (or round) is over. Early in the game you have 4 rounds before the Harvest phase, as the game progresses you have fewer and fewer rounds between harvests.

The harvest phase has each player feeding his people (failure to do so results in a -3 VP "begging" card), harvesting crops (taking one grain/vegetable from each field) and then making new farm animals (each pair of animals can make a new one). At the end of the game players will add up their scores to see who won. Turn order is very important in this game (as in PR) as there are times where some of the other players will want to take the same action you are wanting to take. This is the main point of player interaction in the game (one of the actions allows you to take the first player position in the next round). Aside from this, there is not much player interaction.

My Farm at game end

There are three decks for Occupations and Minor Improvements. This feature really adds to the re-playability of the game as their are all kinds of card interactions to ponder. The decks start with a simple one (occupations give players benefits to their actions as do the improvements), then a complex deck (which isn't really that much more complicated) and finally an "interactive" deck where the cards have features that will trigger other cards in the deck.

I made the mistake of including the cards in the first game with Rikk. The rules come with a family version (sans cards) and recommends doing that for the first game or two. It's not really that the cards are any more complex to new players, its just that they (the new players) tend to spend a lot of CPU time on the cards when in fact there are only 2-4 cards out of your starting 14 that you want to get into the game. The important thing for new players to focus on is setting up your farm and making sure your people get fed during the harvest phase.

Rikk's farm...

The game only took about an hour and Rikk quickly grasped the basics, only begging for food on the first harvest. Rikk enjoyed it and we decided to talk Chazzy into a game of it the next day.