Saturday, July 22, 2017

LITTLE BUNDLE OF JOY - THE 4 Rs

     One of the wonders of the age we live in is the brave new world of parcel tracking. I ordered a couple of items from NWS about 2 weeks ago only to wake up this morning to see that my package was "out for delivery." Ah, those three magical words! Ever since then, I've been busy preparing my game room for the new arrival. And here's the little bundle of joy now!

The 4 Rs in situ.
      I have a lot of gaming to do, but I couldn't resist these. In the case of Redvers' Reverse, the obscurity of the topic is what got me. The fact that it is a solitaire game is icing on any already awesome cake.
     As for Revolution Road, check out the video I linked to in a previous post. People this enthusiastic about their product just have to be supported. I'm happy to do it! The producers also invoked David Hackett Fisher's Paul Revere's Ride, one of my favorite books. I won't hold it against them that they also recommended Nathaniel Philbrick -- this time. Makes me wonder. That's a pretty big lapse of judgment there, boys.
     In the gaming world, I'm looking for new blood. And this is exactly what I got. This will be my first experience with Legion -- and, if RevRoad proves not so good, my last with Compass. My previous Compasses include End of Empire (3 out of 10); On to Paris (1 out of 10);and Fornovo (1 out of 10). I have bought -- but have yet to try -- Saipan, the Bloody Rock. But looking at the errata on ConsimWorld does not fill me with confidence.
     Anyway, this is meant to be a joyous occasion, so let's be positive, shall we? Oh, yes, let's!

     Revolutionary Road

     I mean Revolution Road, the Compass Games' "Shot-Heard-Round-the-World/Don't-Shoot-Till-You-See-The-Whites-Of-Their-Eyes" double header, and not the shitty Richard Yates novel, which he more or less rewrote verbatim some years later, calling it The Easter Parade. Sometimes a guy has only one idea....Oops, digression alert! 
     Anyway, Revolution Road is actually two-two two-games-in-one! Each has its own map and rulebook. It also has the most adorable dice bag and dice I've yet seen in a game. 

The dice in their little bag are just darling! The game with the lid off: cards, Bunker Hill rulebook, adorable dice, Compass catalog. Compass is known for their high production values. This game is no different.
      Compass makes a great first impression. I can't wait to play these games. What's more, they come with solitaire rules -- and solitaire AI for both sides (which they refer to as the British Bot and the American Bot.)

Two games in one. One countersheet, a shitload of player aid cards, and 2 rulebooks. Wow! Awesome first impression. (Fornovo made an awesome first impression, too. So did End of Empire. So did On to Paris! One must learn to temper one's enthusiasm.)

      Redvers' Reverse

     I'm assuming this game is about some guy named Redvers for whom things don't go quite so well. But I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. But I do know it is a game covering the Battle of Coleso, 1899, a  Boer War action. (This is the same year both of my grandsires were born. Neither is still with us, obviously. But it's curious how extended back in time we all are...Just a thought.) 
     Legion Wargames does not share the lavish Compass Games' production values. But it's close. Real close. Only the B&W rulebook sets them apart. What the game includes are a wonderful map and truly giant-sized counters, maybe 3/4" or more. (After having set up La Bataille de la Moscowa on my table, I can really really [that's 2xreallies] appreciate the big counters. My old eyes thank you, too.) The game appears to be solitaire only.  And that's good, since I am also solitaire only.
     What I love about what I've seen so far of Legion Wargames is the obscurity of the subject matter of their games. If I'd been paying closer attention, The Battle of Tanga, 1914 would have been in this box, too. If Redvers turns out good, we'll be shrinking the rip-rap off of Tanga next for sure. (I mean ripping the shrink-wrap. I got ahead of myself there. Shrink-wrap and rip-rap are different things entirely. Shrink-wrap is where you find awesome games lurking. Rip-rap is where you find awesome largemouth bass lurking. Why I remember one spot...Oops, digression alert!!!) 

If Legion performs well here, it will have earned a permanent place in my obscure-battle-loving heart!

      Total Immersion

     I like to immerse myself in the games I play. That means reading books. I've already read Paul Revere's Ride. (Early in the book, we learn that Mr. Revere wrote the word "marsh" as "mash." It's like having his voice tape recorded! I suspect his night ride to Concord would have gone quicker if he hadn't left his khakis in the pocket of  his khakis!) 
      For Redvers' Reverse, I picked up this (.99-cents for Kindle): 

A memoir of the Boer War. Mr. Reitz regrets going to war.
     For Revolution Road, I picked up this (.99 for Kindle -- don't let some 21st century charlatan sell you a "sensitively edited" version for $15.99):

A memoir of the Revolutionary War. Mr. Martin regrets going to war. See a pattern developing here?
        Keep an eye on My Daily Dragoon for play-throughs of both of these games.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

ON TO MOSCOW!

     Preparing for the big one: The full Battle of Borodino.

The complete OOB, ready for deployment, suh!
My cardboard minions, awaiting orders.
In all its glory. 75 miles to Moscow.
First stop: Borodino. Appears to be lightly defended.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO PARIS

     There's a reason I'm generally leery of snap judgments. The problem is I wanted it too bad. Seems to be a recipe for disappointment. My head knew better. My heart said otherwise. (Lousy heart...)
     If my initial reaction to On to Paris! seemed too good to be true, that's because it was.
     Here's the problem in a nutshell: The French leaders are all vastly over-rated. Remember my last post when I wasn't doing too well against them. I thought it was due to my lack of experience with the game, that I just had to try harder. Maybe if I cut off their supply first... No, the French leaders are better at reacting than their opponents. Maybe if I concentrated on picking off isolated corps...No, only bad leaders would leave corps isolated, plus the reaction thing again. There's actually nothing you can do. With all those awesome leaders, the French should never lose a single battle, unless it's due to the French player's incompetence. Once he understands the rules of the game, he should never lose. He might even contemplate taking the offensive!

Heeeeeeere's Patrice! Patrice de MacMahon, Duke of Magenta. (Apparently made Duke prior to the invention of 16-color EGA graphics.) The game treats him as though he were Napoleon himself -- and I mean I, not III! History has not been so kind.
      In every battle, you count all leaders on both sides. Almost every Prussian leader is a 0, so that's easy. 7 of 9 starting French Corps leaders are +1 or +2. So a 3 Corps per side, the Prussians start off in a -3 hole. In addition to that, the French automatically get a +2 due to -- get this -- Prussian incompetence! You've gotta be kidding me! Look, combat rolls are only 2D6. If you're getting an automatic +5, you're almost always rolling at max. 
     What's the big Prussian benefit? Artillery. At first this seems like a big deal, since the Prussians routinely double or triple the French. But while this looks impressive on paper, in practice it only accounts for maybe a +1 difference, maybe a SP or two.  

+'s are good. These look more like Napoleon I's army, not Napoleon III's.
      I don't want to make a huge deal about it. I went back and looked at Hozier's Franco-Prussian War book to see what the story is about French leadership. I highlighted a few passages until I lost heart. At some point you just have to say "F-it, I'm moving on."
     According to my reading of Hozier, most battles were lost by French leadership before they ever started. In one passage, speaking of De Failly, a leader in MacMahon's army (in the game, MacMahon is depicted as a military genius of the first order), Hozier says: "Trusting to a vague idea that the enemy were on the defensive, he neglected this obvious precaution."
     But wait! There's more....

     "A girl thirteen years of age gave, for a thaler, much useful information [to the Prussians] concerning the division of General Douay." The Prussians managed to find a source of info. It cost them a buck. Probably could've been had for some candy, if they'd had any. The French command couldn't be bothered with such trifles as reconnaissance and various forms of info-gathering. This was MacMahon again. Not Ed, either.
     "Although the fight lasted so long, no supports were sent to the French general from Marshal MacMahon."
     "For the isolation of his division [at Wissembourg] MacMahon must be held in some degree accountable."
     "[By doing this thing just mentioned] it is not impossible that a check might have been inflicted on the Prussian commander. Nothing, however, of the kind was attempted."
     "De Failly...misinterpreting orders....remained immovable while the German army was being concentrated." De Failly again. At least he's rated 0 -- the same as all the Prussian leaders who did not remain immobile (but that's another story). Note also that he is in MacMahon's army and MacMahon has a 4 reaction rating (the best on the board) and +2 re-roll rating (also best, similar to Alexander the Great presumably).
     "MacMahon...knew that the prince was marching upon him...[but] had no idea of that army's strength and was even unaware of its exact whereabouts." A 4 Reaction rating! "He had no scouts or spies thrown out, no organization of outposts, none of the precautions usually adopted by a leader of armies to warn him of his enemy's vicinity." 4!
     "Fortunately for the Germans, the French were left by their generals with a most inadequate supply of artillery -- one of those unaccountable mistakes which marked French generalship as a MAIN CAUSE OF THE DISASTERS TO THE IMPERIAL ARMIES IN THE CAMPAIGN." (Emphasis added.)
     I could go on and on. We're far from finished with MacMahon, and haven't even started in on Frossard and Bazaine and the rest of these Gallic clowns. A true comedy of errors. As a hopeful fan of On to Paris!, it just becomes too depressing.
     In the end, I can only say this: F-it, I'm moving on!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

ARE WE IN PARIS YET?

     I've been wanting to play On to Paris! since December, but it seemed like I always had something better to do. Too many games, too little time. A lot of us are in that boat. But do yourself a favor and learn from my mistake. Whatever you do, MAKE TIME for ON TO PARIS!


     I'm usually leery of making snap judgements, but I feel pretty safe with this one, even though I have yet to complete a full turn. Laugh if you want, but I've been playing for a number of hours now and these have been some of the most rewarding hours I've spent wargaming. Granted I've done pretty poorly for the Prussians. I'm definitely not blowing the French out of the water as I expected. Maybe it'll turn out that the Prussians can't win or something or the game is fatally flawed in some other area, but for now I can say that this is the best operational level wargame I've ever played -- and that goes for WWII games, too.

As you can see, I'm not exactly steamrolling the French.
     I think it is more likely that it means you're going to have to apply some brainpower to win this one. I find myself thinking about it in my downtime.
     It uses a Movement-Reaction mechanism that is both engaging, innovative and fun. I know, I know...It borrows from Victory Games' The Civil War. But that was 30 years ago, folks. Let's move on, shall we?
     I still love Alice Cooper, but I know nostalgic tender feelings when I see them. I had The Civil War back in the day, too. And guess what? I found it just okay. In fact, I didn't play it much. The way people talk, you'd think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. If it had been produced by -- oh, I dunno -- West End Games, people'd be saying The Civil What Now? Admit it! (Sheeple! But I don't mean that in a bad way...)

I originally had a problem with the size of the printing. But I turned the map upside-down, putting me closer to the action and I find that helps a lot. Every other complaint was just picking nits. I'm ashamed, actually. It's a beautifully produced game overall.
Sorry about the light, but I wanted you to see the whole picture. The manual suggests cutting out the Army Cards and placing them wherever is convenient. Those are what you see on the map (3 of them, a couple more on the side). I photocopied them first, though.
The Strength Points that make up the Corps are kept track of on each side's Corps Cards. Convenient and easy, better than stacks of SP counters on the map.
The piece de resistance (I use the French because I don't speak Prussian. All right, I don't really speak French, either.) The 10-step combat sequence. For gamers like me, this is Valhalla. My first battle took me an hour to go through. My last one, more like a half-hour. 
     Most readers know me by now. I like complex, process-heavy games with strong period ambience and meticulous historical veracity. This game has all of this in spades. This is really a Franco-Prussian War game, and not some generic exercise dressed up in pointy helmets.
     I feel a bit like a schmuck in carrying on like this, but I actually get butterflies thinking about this game. I think I'm in love!

 WHY DID WASHINGTON CROSS THE RIVER?

     To kick Rall's ass. 
     I'm taking some time off work this week. My goal is to learn On to Paris! and Washington's Crossing, another game that I just never seem to have time for. This one is from Revolution Games. This is another innovative system borrowing from a decades-old system by a decades-old designer I've never heard of. Look, good designers borrow; great designers steal. Okay? Lots of hand-wringing guilt out there. Just make your games and quit worrying about it!
     
Washington's Crossing has one of the best maps I've ever seen. Just beautiful!
     
The game emphasizes leadership and has a cool river-crossing mechanism. The game feels complex. It feels like something you can really sink your teeth into. Nice period feel. But a sort of skimpy production outside of the map and counters. On to Paris! includes nicely-produced army histories and leader bios. Washington's Crossing could use something like that.






BOOKS TO GAME BY

     I know more about Franco-Armerican Spaghetti-Os than I do about the Franco-Prussian War. But that is changing rapidly thanks to H.M. Hozier's 2-volume account of the war, The Franco-Prussian War. (Who names these things?)

     I got both volumes from Amazon for my Kindle for $1 each. Both are something like 600 pages. The actual war doesn't start until about page 400 of Volume 1. This is a comprehensive account, brother! An excellent read, too.



      Washington's Crossing is simply an outstanding book. Even if you're not playing the game, read this book. Just do it. Hey, are you still reading this? Go get the book!

MORE, MORE, MORE!

     Inspired by what I've been playing lately, I've just ordered a couple more, one from Compass and one from Legion. What I'm looking for is new blood. I absolutely believe that some of the designers who've been around a while have become a little jaded. (No! You think?) Well, they lasted a lot longer than I ever would have. It's a shitty business, even for big guys. It's even shittier for the small fries. Just sayin'. It's hard to put up with people like me. 

A solitaire game. Boer War.
     I forgot to mention....Another thing I'm attracted to are obscure topics. That's what made me look at this Boer War game from Legion. War is a dirty business. But even the Boer War is better than having to constantly choose between Nazis and Commies -- even though the Brits can be pretty nasty. You guys are awesome now, though (<<cough-cough>>not really<<cough-cough>>).
     Washington's Crossing has put me in a  revolutionary frame of mind, so....

     I'm supporting the little guys, the new guys. I'm giving them a chance. New wine in old wine skins and all that. Time for some fresh blood. (Don't tell anybody, but I'm actually thinking about giving End of Empire another shot -- AmRev style this time.)

     I love the passion of these new guys. Milan Becvar (of On to Paris!) and now these guys. Look at this video they produced. You have to support people like this!

     Until next time, happy gaming !

Friday, July 7, 2017

PRUSSIANS AND RUSSIANS

     I'm new to the La Bataille series of Napoleonic games from Clash of Arms, and so far I've been pretty impressed. Impressed enough that I've already added to my collection before I've even played the first game. (But isn't that par for the course? You guys know what I'm talking about.)
     Arriving this week were Lutzen and Ligny. No, not an eighties detective show, but two new La Batt games. New to me, anyway. Lutzen was published in 1999 while Ligny was published just this year.

      Moscow is a nice package, Ligny is even better. I found the Moscow maps a little thin, but Ligny's maps are definitely made of tougher stuff. The artwork on both is superb, and the counters are first rate, too. Lutzen is okay, as well, but showing its age, especially in the counter art.
     What is not so good are the rules that come with the games. Ligny comes with the "5th Edition" rules. The rules themselves might be okay, but the material quality is just about as cheap as cheap can be. Somewhere in the game, you are informed that you can buy a full-color digital copy of the rules -- which might not sit well with someone who just forked over $150 for a stinkin' game. (I paid $70 -- I'm getting smarter.) I've already had printed and bound a copy of the "Reg XXX" rules which to me are better than the either the "Marie Louise" rules (or whatever they're called -- these come with Moscow) or the 5th Edition. Both of these are streamlined versions of XXX. Talk about rules confusion! Why COA does this is beyond me.
     Worse for Ligny is that apparently COA is having some trouble with its box supplier and so the game ships in a ziplock bag. I got a $10 discount from NWS for this, but I was really hoping to snag an existing box before they're all gone. Too late, I guess. Anyway, NWS put the ziplocked game in a plain white box, so I least I have some decent storage for it. NWS is my new go-to supplier.

DOUBTS AND REDOUBTS

     Yeah, La Batt is awesome -- for the most part. I'm having a little trouble making the Shevardino scenario from Moscow work, though. It is impossible to duplicate the French performance -- and I think I found out why.

     In reality, the French captured the redoubt pretty easily -- at least by the standards of this game. That's not going to happen in this scenario. The book you see pictured above (which, oddly, is listed in the game's bibliography -- apparently no one actually read it!) asserts that the hastily-constructed redoubt was not large enough to accommodate more than 3 guns. The scenario has 3 "increments" of guns in the redoubt -- an equivalent of 12 guns. That's a short-range firepower of 27!
     What this means in the game is that if you're assaulting this position, you'll be facing at least an 8:1 shot, maybe a 10:1, depending on the size and formation of your assaulting troops. This will result in a minimum of 2 or 3 hits, for a final assault modifier of -12 or -18, a guaranteed failure.
     That's not how it happened historically. Not even close. It wasn't pretty, to be sure, but it wasn't no guaranteed failure either.
     I have a few changes in mind to make this scenario historically accurate:

1) Reduce the Russian artillery inside the redoubt from 3 increments to 1. 27 firepower becomes 9.

2) According to the book above, the redoubt did not shield the occupants from French fire from a hill 250m away. This hill is depicted on the game map, so I propose that the redoubt defenders taking fire from this hill do not get any benefit from the redoubt. (Historically, the French planted a battery here and did much damage -- not possible in the game as it stands.)

3) This is a pet peeve of mine and needs addressing in this game. As it stands, casualties are counted FAR too low in victory reckoning. This scenario becomes a blood-bath if played straight out of the box. The Russians can win easily simply by committing his elite grenadiers from turn 1. Why shouldn't he? There's no reason not to! Casualties mean virtually nothing. For example, the loss of 20 cannon is worth the same as the VPs awarded for the capture of the insignificant village of Doronino! Does anyone believe that place is worth the loss of 20 cannon or 1000 casualties?
     The formula for awarding VPs for losses is (# increments x Mod)/10. The Mod for artillery is 2. So you lose 1 VP for 5 increments of guns (the equivalent of 20 guns). The next time I play, I'm leaving the French VPs as is, but losing the /10 part for the Russians. The Russians would far rather preserve their forces (especially their cannon) than retain this rather insignificant position which half the Russian generals did not want to fight for in the first place. This will also encourage the Russian player to be cautious in committing his forces unnecessarily, something which should be a feature of EVERY game, not just this one.

BEST. DESIGNER. EVER.

     Wargame producers sure do talk a good game, but sometimes you wonder, don't you? With two pages of fine-print bibliography which includes references to "primary" and "secondary" sources (Oh, please, people!), you'd think someone might have noticed that the first introductory scenario is woefully unrealistic!
     So even my new favorite game is not without its blemishes. I'm a stickler for historical accuracy. I like to be put in the position of the actual commander and face the same decisions he had to make, and make them for the right reasons.
     I hate having to make house rules and hate having to test house rules for a game I paid good money for. I'd rather buy a game than make one any day. But, for cryin' out loud, people. How hard is this, really?

NAPOLEON ON MY MIND

     These are on my nightstand now:
All three volumes on my Kindle, 2-bucks each. Today, we're all Habsburgers!

The description of the battle for Shevardino starts on page 35.
Napophiles on Amazon seem to hate this book -- so I just had to have it. 900 pages. I like big, meaty books that Napophiles on Amazon hate. Anyway, The New Yorker says it's "successful." So there's that, too.
    Next time, we'll look at some more 19th century Europe. On to Paris! has finally made it to my table. Another Napoleon!