Friday, September 30, 2011

Twilight Struggle (GMT)

Game: Twilight Struggle (GMT)
Participants: Jim "HeavyD" D, Myself
Time: Fri, Sep 23rd ~ 7.00PM - 9.30PM

I was not a fan of Twilight Struggle (TS) after my initial playing. We kept at it though and I quickly grew to love it. We played the heck out of it for a couple years after it was released in 2005. With so many good games being released in the past few years, we've not played it as much. HeavyD and I were looking for something that we could play in one sitting and something that we wouldn't have to spend any time on the rules so we selected TS. We rolled for sides and I got the USA with HeavyD taking up the Soviets.

Early War

I had the Middle East Scoring card in my opening hand, so this fit well with my plans to do a Coup early int he turn. This is a fairly standard opening for the USA player early in the game. You want to get influence in there so that you can spread that into Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Coup was a disaster, with me rolling a one. The rest of the turn didn't go any better. I also had the Castro card in my opening hand, so I played it with the event going first and then I did a Coup attempt in Cuba, rolling another one. With these two failed Coupes and the ME scoring card in my opening hand I started falling behind the influence race. The end of the first turn found my down five VPs.

TS Set Up

Start of Turn 3
 Turns two and three saw HeavyD steadily spread influence in Asia the Middle East and Europe. HeavyD was also able to take advantage of my failure in Cuba to establish a strong foothold there. I was able to progress the space race which kept the VP gap down, but this was a temporary thing as I was increasingly unable to make up any group in the big three (Europe, Middle East and Asia).

Middle War

Start of Turn 7

Turn 4 opened with a HeavyD being up by 4 VPs. I had a four box lead on the space race, but was getting dominated in the Middle East and Asia, while holding my own in Europe. I didn't have any influence in the Middle East. Things got gradually worse over the next few turns, where HeavyD was able to either get ahead of my in the Influence race or at least hang onto his domination in most of the regions.

Late War

By now I knew that I had very little chance of coming back in this one. I had managed to keep the VP level out of Auto Victory range, but as the turns went on and I was unable to make any progress I knew that the end was near. Strangely HeavyD didn't share my opinion and was convinced the game was much closer then it actually was. I finally could see no point in going on at the end of turn eight. HeavyD was at 10VPs and we were heading towards a final scoring. To demonstrate my point, we did a final scoring test at the end of turn 8 and it finally dawned on HeavyD that he had a land slide victory on his hands. So I threw in the towel.

End of the Game

I still had a pretty good time despite my slow start. It was good to get this one on the table again after several years away from it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics (GMT) ~ Corunna, 16 January 1809

Game: Commands & Colors Napoleonics (GMT)
Scenario: Corunna, 16 January 1809

Participants: HeavyD and Myself
Time: Fri, Sep 9th, 7.00PM - 8.30PM

More CCN! We are on a roll with CCN here in STL. HeavyD and I got together on our normal Friday night for another Scenario. We selected "Corunna" which is a large scenario. The scenario pits Soult against Moore's English. The French are on the Attack with a large force. The British have a good sized force and some excellent terrain to defend. Additionally we see some special British Units for the first time. We meet the Rifle unit as well as the Grenadier Guards.

The last time I played (with Bob) I was the defender in a scenario similar to this one. Bob and I both learned the hard way that this game is very different than CCA. Bobs attacking force was shot to pieces. We were both left scratching our heads wondering what happened and trying to figure out how to attack in this game. It's not as simple as CCA where the attacker is slightly favored in that he attacks first and units retain all of their battle dice until they are eliminated. Of course I was the defender in the prior scenario so while I knew it was different I was not some concerned to spend much time thinking about it after we played, I should have. 
Corunna, at Set Up

I recall not having a very good initial hand and it didn't get much better over the course of the game. Knowing that I had a bad hand, I started shooting at HeavyD with my Artillery, hoping to cycle through some cards and get a few together that would enable me to attack in one region repeatedly. HeavyD wisely moved forward in a couple of places taking advantage of the terrain offered and my lack of advancing. I could do little to react as I continued to draw weak cards. 

I fired at him for some time just trying to build up my deck. One card that was new was the "Supply" card, which forces one enemy unit to teleport back to a friendly board edge (to re-supply). We had not seen this card before and it was pretty interesting. I used it to push back one of his light infantry units out of the town. HeavyD wisely pointed out that I should have used it on the Artillery unit because it would have taken the artillery unit a lot longer to get back up into the line. Good point. 

The French advance on the Right...
...and get shredded

Finally I had "Give them the Cold Steel" and a couple of movement (move three units) cards for my right hand wing. I started forward. HeavyD had a card that allowed him to react (starting a theme that continued throughout the night). This I was caught in the stream with my attacking forces. I took heavy fire. Then if was time to give them the bayonets, I had three units attack the town on my right and it was a disaster. I rolled very poorly and HeavyD was able to retain control of the town while my three infantry units were shredded. Soon all three were either eliminated or running away badly damaged. 

French Progress on the Left

At this point, HeavyD started to move his left toward his center. I was down 3-4 flags and getting grumpy. I kept getting the wrong cards at the wrong time. When I did pull a couple cards that worked together, HeavyD seemed to always have cards that would allow him to react the very next turn, making it hard for me to make much progress. 

As he was already ahead on flags, I decided to move my cavalry out on the left and actually made some progress. We both we learning on the job as we went through these moves. Cavalry is very dangerous and yet also very vulnerable. We at least had some fun on my left dancing back and forth with the Cavalry. I also noticed later that I took three blocks for French Cavalry when I should have taken four, I'll never make that mistake again. 

HeavyD's British move in for the kill

Soon HeavyD was in full on counter attack mode and the game didn't last much longer. He had his six flags to my two. I can certainly see that I've got some learning to do in putting together successful attacks in this game, and that is a good thing. I am only 4-5 scenario's into the game and still have a lot to learn.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics (GMT) ~ Rolica (French Second Position), 17 Aug 1808

Game: Commands & Colors Napoleonics (GMT)
Scenario: Rolica (French Second Position), 17 Aug 1808 (Scenario #2) & Vimiero, 21 Aug 1808
Participants: Bob H and Myself
Time: Mon, Sep 5th, 2.00PM - 4.30PM

Labor day found Bob and I back at the table ready to pick up with CCN. We picked the second scenario, which historically is a different part of the same battle (Rolica) as depicted in the first scenario. I think I was attacking in the last one so we started off with Bob attacking with the British and Portuguese in this one. This scenario is about the same size as the first one, the Allied player (Bob) has a 6 card hand while the defending French only have 5 cards. Victory is decided by the first player to get five Victory flags. This scenario has some interesting terrain. The Rugged Hills channel the attacker in his approach as well as block line of sight and prevent entry by all units. 

Bob opens with the "Le Grande Manoeuver" card advancing on my right. Then he is able to bring up two artillery units in the center supported by Infantry. I am getting very uncomfortable now with those guns only three hexes away. Bob then continues to press on my right, but I drive him back with losses here. Bob then brings up his battery on this side as well as moving his Heavy Cavalry into range. I have a unit off the hill now and they are getting nervous with the approaching Heavy Cavalry. Bob unleashes a "Cavalry Charge" card on these guys and they quickly go into square. Bob then rushes up some artillery after I destroy the Cavalry unit with supporting fire. 

Set Up
I am out of cards that allow me to do anything on my right, so I launch an attack in the middle hopping to take advantage of my melee prowess (French Infantry get an additional die in melee combat). I am able to drive off the guns (both batteries) but they only retreat one hex and Bobs infantry stay in I am in trouble as I am even closer to his guns and in the open. 

Bobs initial advance on the Right is pushed back

Bob then sends in the Heavy Cavalry and Artillery

Bob then moves the action to the right again killing my squared unit with artillery and ranged fire. I am down to one 2-block unit on my right. Then the center heats up again with Bob pushing my three units back, destroying one and gravely injuring another. A "Bayonet Charge" takes out my lone unit on the right, taking the leader with them. Bob now has four flags to my two...he is getting close. More pressure in the center gives him the 5th flag and the win. 

The French attack in the Center to drive off the Artillery
"Bayonet Charge" Does in the French Right

This was a pretty good scenario. Bob was able to effectively use all three branches of his force in the mixed terrain. We got to see some Heavy Cavalry dash about (and subsequently get eliminated) as well as aggressive use of Artillery in the advance. The whole thing took less then an hour, so we quickly set up the next scenario. 

Vimiero - 21 August 1808 (Scenario #3)

Vimiero at Start Set Up
We then went to the next scenario in the book, "Vimiero". This one is larger then the prior two both in the number of units involved and the number of victory flags needed for a win (6). The terrain is much more open as well with a lot of open ground to cover for the attacking French. We diced for sides and I got the British. 

The French drive the British out of Ventosa on my left

Bob opens the action on my left responding to me running into the town in front of his forces. He runs up with a move three Right card, I don't do much in response and then he uses "Bayonet Charge" to eliminate my unit in the town. He continues to advance on this side but I am able to push his attacking units back with my return fire. 

Then the action moves to my right as Bob sends forward a large force. The slaughter starts in my next turn as I start taking out his units using ranged fire. I have some artillery on the hill in front of him and am really taking a toll on his advancing forces. We see about four french infantry units melt before our eyes. Amazing! I am now up four or five flags to one and nearly as soon as it started this one looks like its going to be over. 

The French Assault takes heavy losses from British fire

Bob does finally get a foothold on the hill in the middle but I then send in the Portuguese Cavalry and finish them off, getting the last flag for the win. This one was really over fast as I diced the heck out of Bob. Both of us were scratching our heads after this one, wondering what a poor attacker is to do when advancing on British Infantry and Artillery in terrain. 

The End...note the lack of French units on the British Right

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Battles of the American Revolution, Vol. VII (GMT) ~ "Germantown"

Game: Battles of the American Revolution Series
Scenario: Germantown
Participants: Jim "HeavyD" D, Myself
Time: Friday, Sep 2nd ~ 6.30PM - 8.45PM, Saturday Sep 3rd ~ 12.00PM - 3.00PM

The last time I played Germantown was my first and it was a great time. Bob and I had a good game, with highs and lows and lots of drama. I lost as the British in the end, but I didn't feel like I was loosing until the very end when the Army Morale track gave out on me. HeavyD and I decided to play this one as we had been on a GCACW kick for the past several months and wanted to play something that we could finish in one or two sittings. As I had already played the British once, I volunteered to play the Americans this time around. 

When I sat down to set up and then to think about what I was going to do in this game, I thought back to my last game with Bob. In that game I remembered messing up the defense of the fortified house (the Chew house) by not putting enough guys in it. I also recall having Bob's artillery shoot the heck out of me, neither one of these recollections offered much insight into what I was going to do this time. So basically I was starting in fresh. 


Initial Set Up

After spending some time going over the special rules we were ready to start. The first turn went very well for me as I was able to capture HeavyD's initial battery after forcing his infantry to run off. In my second turn I decided to divert the lead elements of my army down a side road (lane really) using strategic movement. My thinking here was that due to the fog in the early turns we are really bound to the roads more then usual (-1 MP when not on a road). So my thinking was that I would split off the first portion of the army and try and get in around the fortified location and cut it off. I had the trailing elements (lower quality) of the army and most of the artillery stick to the main road. This, to me at the time made sense as I was moving almost all my guys at full strategic movement rate, instead of moving down the main road and then bumping into the Chew house. 

The American Main Force clashes with the British Picket line

We caught an error we made early enough on turn two to go back and fix it. You cannot use strategic movement on a path, so I had to re-march my right wing (Militia) along the road, causing them to move in parallel with my main force, keeping them separated as well. These early turns are quick as most of the British forces are unable to move yet. One thing that caught my eye was that HeavyD was moving very aggressively towards my Militia column with his Hessian's (some of the only British units that can move on turn two). 

End of American Turn 3 (top of the turn)

Action on the Right

As I walked away after completing my 3rd turn I felt ok about how things were going. I was a little annoyed at how rusty I had played already. An example of this is some of my initial attacks. This series is deceptively simple, yet underneath lie's a rich and complex system, especially the combat system. I had made an attack or two without thinking ahead to what might happen. Retreating is tricky and you need to plan for it, both your attackers retreating and the enemies retreats. I had missed this and bunched up my troops. 

Caught Unaware, the American Militia stumbles into a Hornets nest

Thus when HeavyD went after my right wing with his Hessian's I was caught off guard and badly placed. HeavyD got a back to back turn as well and this aided him greatly. It was yet another case of my not thinking ahead to that eventuality and thus planning for it. You should always plan for that if you win the initiative at the top of the turn. I didn't and it cost me. I was really starting to get frustrated by how badly I had played this. Also, I had greatly underestimated HeavyD who had clearly brought his A-game.

The Right Wing fighting for its life (end of British turn 4)

Things went from bad to worse for my Militia as he was able to virtually wipe out the entire column, capturing or eliminating almost all of them. I quickly shot down the army morale track as my hopes plummeted. His initial attacks didn't go as well as they could have, yet I was still trapped due to a PIN result and ZOC's. My wing was also unsupported, so I had little around to run over and assist with. Before I knew it, the game was all but over. True we were only on the 4th turn, but I had lost 7-8 units and my Army morale was already at the half way point. Elsewhere on the field of battle I had little to be excited about. 

HeavyD was able (with the double turn) to base his line on the Chew house and this was a bad thing as that place is hard enough to take when you have it completely surrounded. Now he had it well supported in the middle of his line. Also, the weather played a roll. It remained Dense fog on the fourth turn, thus my artillery was unable to even see any red coats, much shoot at any. 

The point in the game where I resign...

I decided to throw in the towel here as at best I had a long way to go to even get back into a position to even think about getting a win. Plus the day was young and we still had time to play some other games. 

I have to hand it to HeavyD, he beat me fair and square and very soundly. I really underestimated him. I also underestimated the game, missing (or forgetting) many important points that I had learned the hard way in previous playings. 

Given that the day was young, we broke out Dominion and played several hands. We went with Random decks (5 cards each) from the Core set and Seaside. I think we played three hands, all were pretty close and entertaining. Then we decided to break out Agricola. I had been playing this one with Bob recently and wanted to get HeavyD familiar with the game again as it had been some time since he played it. We played the core game with the "E" Occupation cards. I drew a Plow maker and this really helped out. I wonder, in the wider world of this game whether the cards are seen as a good thing or a bad? In our case locally, they are usually the thing that will nearly always determine the winner. Usually one person will draw one or two Occupations that are really good and they'll shoot out in front (like I did here). Interestingly though, the final score was very close to the last couple games Bob and I had played with the winner having nearly double the VPs as the next player (always two player games). I am planing on having Bob and HeavyD play a three player game of Agricola latter in the month, so perhaps that will mix things up a bit. 

Nothing like a few hands of Dominion to take the sting off

Ah, the thrill of agriculture gaming!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics (GMT) ~ Rolica (French First Position), 17 Aug 1808

Game: Commands & Colors Napoleonics (GMT)
Scenario: Rolica (French First Position), 17 Aug 1808 (Scenario #1)
Participants: Bob H and Myself
Time: Sun, Aug 28th, 3.30PM ~ 4.45PM

Finally, the CCN dice are here! Valley Games, makers of the excellent wooden CCA dice have released a similar set for use with this game.  I think the main reason I haven't come back to this game since last winter was the dice the game ships with. They are not for me. I can't remember checking the mail box everyday for a week like I did after I ordered these dice, I was very eager to play this title again. 

Bob and I have played CCA quite often (not so much this year though, Dominion has been filling that hole) in the past and have always enjoyed it. Thus I was able to talk Bob through the rules to this game fairly quickly. I took pains to point out all the cool features the designer has included here to expand the system (card driven blocks) to include the Napoleonic area now. Let me run down a few of these, first off each unit is unique. That is a departure from CCA where a Roman Heavy Infantry was mostly identical to its opponent (with some exceptions of course). There is now much more focus on ranged fire. Infantry can fire at two hexes while Rifle infantry units can shoot further. Your units also degrade as they take losses, something that wasn't the case in CCA. The cards are also much improved with all sorts of new things included. Lastly, terrain is much more important now, it both protects and can impact line of sight. 

At Set Up

We selected the first scenario with me taking the attacking British and Portuguese. I start with a larger force while Bob sets up on a nice hill in the middle of the map. There are two hill hexes on either side of the map that I will get a victory flag for while I occupy them. I have three artillery units (2 foot in the center and one horse on my left) while Bob only has one on the hill in his center. I have more infantry then Bob (9 to 7) but Bobs are French (+1 in melee) and mostly sitting on the hill to start off with.

"Bombard" clears off the French Artillery

So, having played this once before I knew that you had to be a little more careful then you do in CCA. If you move up with out cards to then continue or support your move, you can get mowed down if you don't have cards to shoot back. So I started out banging away with my artillery at his (on the hill), these were 1-dice shots (4 hex range). The closer you get to artillery the more dangerous it becomes so I wanted to take out his artillery before I started the infantry assault. Eventually I drew the Bombard card. Wow, what a great card this is (+2 dice [at least]) to your artillery shots. By the time I drew this we had been shooting at each other for several card plays with Bob getting the better of me. This card did the trick and I was able to knock out his artillery unit. 

The British move up on the Left

I then started to press on my left. Bob had some good cards and bushed me back with some good shooting. I was able to deploy my horse artillery up front with supporting infantry as well. I soon ran out of cards for my left and started to pull some for the right, where my Portuguese where stationed. I was able to get them all up there in musket range, bushing Bobs light cavalry back. 

I had pulled the "La Grande Maneuver" card in my initial hand and it had really surprised me. This a cool card allowing you to run up to 4 infantry units like four hexes. They are however not allowed to battle or shot at the end of this move. So, I couldn't control myself and played this to make a made dash out of the center with my British Infantry. I thought this was worth the risk as I had the Portuguese over there already and they had pushed the French back and even taken one of the VP locations already. 

The Portuguese push the French back on the Right

Of course this was a disaster, but it was wildly entertaining. Bob had two full strength units and one half strength one adjacent and on hill hexes. He opened up on me on his next turn and started to mow down my glorious red line. I shot back or melee's back, it was a blood bath on both sides. At one point Bob played the Elan card and only activated two units with it, whew. But, it was getting desperate, both of us knew that the end was new and were trying to finish off the other guy. Each one of us had a few 1-block units so we were focusing on trying to take these out. In this game of course, a 1-block unit is twice as vulnerable then in CCA because it can only shot with 1-dice (most of the time) and more importantly it can only melee with one. 

"La Grande Maneuver" sends the British Infantry onto the Hill...

We also say our first square formed int he game here. I had a 1-block unit that Bob charged with his light cav, I squared and he still took me out. It was over shortly after that as I watched all of my British units die, including the over. But, as expected it was a heck of a good time.

...where they all died!

I'm so glad we have the new dice now. I expect we will be playing this quite a bit now.

A close up of the excellent new CCN dice from Valley Games (Google them to order yours)