Friday, June 9, 2017

MY WARGAMING WEEK

     Hello, and welcome to Wargaming Week, a new feature of this blog (which I just thought of 30 seconds ago) dedicated to sharing our recent gaming adventures.
     Early in the week it was Dead of Winter, an entry in the Great Battles of the American Civil War series from GMT, covering the Battle of Stones River.

The opening setup. The crack of dawn turns out to be the crackling of Confederate musket fire.
     I've attempted to play this one off-and-on since I got it last winter. I've played it enough to know I like it. That is, I like it in theory. I like the scale, the presentation, and the rules are awesome. So what's not to love. To be honest, I don't know exactly. This just does not hold my interest.
     Part of the problem is this opening situation. The "surprise attack" rules are just so contrived. Worse, the various advantages given to the Confederates are strangely layered. One rule appears here, another there and still another there. You suppose you can discern the thought-process at work here. It feels as though the advantages are just heaped one atop the other until the desired effect -- the collapse of the Union right -- is achieved.

Mission Accomplished!
     It's boring because it's so canned and predictable. Look, the Southern boys get four activations -- Fatigue-less no less -- to the Yankees' one. What do you think is going to happen?
     Just as bad is that on this first turn visibility is just two hexes, the Union is under surprise attack, and yet rear portions of the Union position can react with perfect omniscience to the unseen enemy. It's a mediocre effort, as is the game package as a whole. See my Game Ratings page for further info.
     Anyway, this game system deserves better than what it gets from the designer of this module. Life's too short.

It looks good, though!
     Decision Games', Hurtgen: Hell's Forest (since traded away) has the same problem (among many many others). How do you stop the Americans from advancing into Aachen? You simply halve their movement allowances like 3 times, make them "fatigued" on top of it, replace poor German leaders with good ones and allow the makeshift German units total freedom of movement and commitment. Look, designers, if you have to stoop to this level, just start the game on a later turn.
     Better yet, try not to be so damn boring.
     The highlight of the week, though, was my learning games of The Last Blitzkrieg. Maybe I should call this the lowlight of the week. If you've been following along lately, then you already know my thoughts.

The Objective markers are plain white with OB J printed on them. Wow! How exciting! The "Support Dropped" markers have -- you guessed it! -- "Support Dropped" printed on them. At least they are green and gray -- even though the designer says you don't really need them. A lot of stuff you do need is not included.
     To add insult to injury, I bought both this and Baptism by Fire. I traded them both away this week (BBF unpunched and unplayed), along with End of Empire and Beyond the Rhine. Good riddance. I seriously couldn't stand to see this garbage littering my game shelves.
    
To engage in combat, you compare the middle superscript numbers, representing the quality of the unit. Only the arrow units fight. One other unit may "assist." There are only a very few modifiers, so every combat is pretty much like the last. Numbers of men are unimportant (that's why there are no strength numbers on the counters.) 4 fights 3 with an assist from the armor (which confers a +1). Simple, but stupid.
     Let's be honest. To make any Bulge game interesting takes a touch of genius. This one feels like a collection of undeveloped ideas that might or might not make it into the final game. The problem: This IS the final game. Wow!
     Hopefully, this is the last time I'm taking such a bath on bad game purchases. I'm going to be much more careful from now on. So far here's my no-buy list: Richard Berg, Dean Essig, Decision Games. And Compass is on a real short leash. This list alone will save me several hundred a month, probably.
     Another game I really want to learn is Compass Games' On to Paris. I actually had it set up recently only to find that I couldn't read any of it. The text on the player aids is blurry and the print on the counters is too small to see from any reasonable distance. This one will be relegated to Vassal play only, I'm afraid.

Nice looking game.
     It's a very complicated game and I keep putting off learning it. It's hard to invest the kind of time and brainpower for a stand-alone Franco-Prussian War game. If it were part of a series, I'd have an easier time of it. But I don't know what the plans are for this game system.

The counters badly need color-coding to distinguish the various corps and whatnot. I'm not sold on the hexside terrain artwork either.
     Another game I've been playing for the last month or so is Next War: India-Pakistan. This is a marvelous game of near-future warfare. Some people complain about the complexity, but don't listen to them. It's worth the investment. The air war, in particular, is well done.

The only short-coming is a rather small playing area.
     What makes this game seem more complex than it is are the huge number of options available at every turn. For me, I play for an hour or so at a time and then come back to it as it can overload my circuits.

Pakistani armor breaks through the Indian defense on turn 1. An "Initiative Turn" involves several different sorts of movement and combat segments for both sides. It's a very innovative way of showing the massive destructiveness of modern warfare. If you like blowing stuff up, this is your game!
     I'm still learning the game, so I'm starting off without American, Chinese or Russian intervention. Next time, however....

The air game is played out largely on this card. You can also conduct ground strikes from here. I love it!
     Yesterday brought a new baby into my home....La Bataille de la Moscowa from Clash of Arms. To go with it, I also picked up a book on Borodino by some guy I've never heard of, and I downloaded the most recent rules and had them printed and bound at PIP for 25 bucks. They did a magnificent job. 24-hour turn-around, too. America's getting great again!

Moscowa is a 4-mapper, baby. Can't wait to crank er up!
      The rules that come with the game are, apparently, a stream-lined version of the main rules. They're just fine to the play the game with, but I prefer complexity and realism over playability. If you're familiar with Battles from the Age of Reason, then you should be able to dive right in. As soon as I'm done writing this, I'm setting up the pieces for the first battle. (My counter-clippin' finger's gittin' itchy...)
     The coming week will see BAR: Prague again (I hope), Moscowa and maybe some newcomers I plan on picking up in exchange for The Gamers' junk I'm trading away.
     This has been Wargaming Week for June 9, 2017. Good day, and good gaming!

4 comments:

  1. a very interesting read my friend

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    1. Thanks, Stephen! I know you've been doing this a long time, but I'm finally getting into Napoleonics. So far the La Bataille game has been great, and I'm really having a good time with it. Thanks for stopping by.

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