#Wargame Wednesday – #FirstImpressions of Poland Defiant: The German Invasion, September 1940 (revolutiongames.us, 2019)

I HAVE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH THE CHIT-PULL MECHANIC as well as early World War II games. Poland Defiant (Revolution Games, 2019) hits both of these wants of mine and delivers an interesting, tense battle of the start of World War II in Europe.

When I first saw the advertisement for this game, I jumped right in because of the chit-pull mechanic. Although mechanically based on an earlier Konigsberg game, I never owned or played that title. In Poland Defiant, major formations are activated when their Command Chit is drawn from the pool. In addition to the Command Chits, there are also Special Command Chits representing higher headquarters as well as Action Chits for Random Events and Replacements. The chit-pull mechanic means the turn order is randomized – i.e. friction in warfare. Inevitably, your perfect plan to sequence attacks all along the front are disrupted because one group jumps off too early (their chit comes out first) or the enemy disrupts the offensive (their chits are drawn instead of yours).

Poland Defiant adds another layer of friction given that, depending on the turn (one day of the campaign) each side doesn’t necessarily get all their Command Chits. For instance, on Day 3 (Sept 3) when the Germans have six major formations in the field (6x Command Chits) they only get five activations. This means somebody is not going to get an activation that day. But who? For the Polish player the problem is worse. With seven formations fielded (7x Command Chits) the day starts out with the arrival of another formation (+1 Command Chit) and the Replacement Action Chit (+1 chit) for a total of nine chits in the pool (assuming no headquarters have been lost to date). However, on Sept 3 the Poles were really reeling from the invasion and their command and control (C2) was at their worst, which translates in the game to only four activations FOR THE ENTIRE DAY. At least half the army is not going to move (maybe more if the Replacements Action Chit is amongst the drawn). Edit: Per 2.5 Action Chits, “Action Chits do not count against the number of activated Command Chits drawn per turn.”

I admit that after I quickly jumped and ordered Poland Defiant because of the chit-pull mechanic, I was doubting myself over the topic. I mean, it’s the invasion of Poland! We all “know” this was a cake-walk for the Germans, right? How can a steamroller possibly be interesting, especially for the Polish player getting steamrolled? Well, designer Stefan Ekstrom and developer Roger Miller solved this problem with three simple rules; German Operational Pace, Command Range, and Supply:

  • German Operational Pace – Found in rule 4.2.1, German Operational Pace requires the German player to compare their current VP to the number associated with the turn. If the VP count is equal to or better than no problem (everything is developing according to plan). But…if the VP is “behind the pace” the German player suffers a negative consequence until they can “catch up” to the plan.
  • Command Range – Formations have headquarters and headquarters can only command so far. Get too far ahead of your commander and suffer. This creates opportunities to disrupt your enemy’s plan by attacking their HQ. Very importantly, if you destroy a HQ all those commanded units become “independent” which in the game means other HQs can activate them, but individually and not as a mass formation. They still fight, but far less efficiently!
  • Supply – Nothing special here but a supply line is needed to keep fighting. Striking out cross-country is certainly fun (charge!) but if you don’t protect your supply line one will find themselves going nowhere very quickly (or not).

In Poland Defiant the German player can win an Automatic Victory if they have a unit in supply in any Warsaw hex at the end of a turn. More reasonably, the German player will have to accumulate VP. Up to 14 VP are possible, with 10 VP being equal to the historic result at the end of ten days (Turn 10). Can the Polish player hold the German to less and “beat history?” Play Poland Defiant yourself and find out!

Overall, Poland Defiant has a very small footprint – a 3’x3′ or 1m x 1m table can work. The rule book is an entire 12 pages (one for cover) and the back of the title card acts as a player aid. Poland Defiant is not complex but it delivers a very playable game about a tragic campaign – and makes it interesting and challenging. It’s well worth our investment in time and money.

As dawn breaks on September 1, 1939, Poland stands defiant against the Third Reich (ok…poor lighting for the only picture I took before starting play)

The costs of the #wargame #boardgame hobby

Looks like the hobby boardgame and wargame industry could be hit by tariffs on games and parts made in China. Dependably, hobby gamers on BoardGameGeek and Twitter are all abuzz.

“A 25% tariff is going to make games unaffordable!” Maybe. Roger Miller, President of Revolution Games points out:

Its a tariff on the production cost of games, not the list price. Production as a percentage of list price is usually between 12%-20%. So an increase in total price of 5% would cover the entire tariff.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2204314/lot-games-are-going-get-more-expensive

A 5% increase in game prices is not great, but it’s not the end of the world either.

Other BGG users are lamenting the “inevitable” decrease in quality by not printing in China:

I have had several publishers tell me that they can’t get the quality as good printing in the US as they get printing in China. I don’t know whether that’s true of all types of games or just the games those designers publish. But it’s a mistake to assume the only reason to print in China is price. It’s possible that tariffs could lead to quality dropping as more games are printed in the US.

BGG User Eric Brocius

I think Uwe Eickert of @AcademyGames might have a different opinion:

“…and today we are going to talk about quality issues we are seeing from China.”

Fortunately, I have options. The US-based print-on-demand publishing model of Hollandspiele (@Hollandspiele) is looking mighty appealing right now. Games like Brave Little Belgium (in the header image) are quite likely going to bubble to the top of the purchase queue….

All this drama is going to have to play out. To me, the bottom line is that I will likely have to pay more for games. The question is, “how much?” I believe the increase “should” be less than 25% but I am not sure many companies in the very cottage-like boardgame industry are prepared. So I expect prices to go up by at least 25% and maybe more.

Yes, this means I will have to get pickier on what I buy. But…if companies want to keep chasing my wallet they need to be diligent about controlling their costs and only passing on to me what is fair and proper. To be clear – I am perfectly willing to pay a premium price for a good game; I am not willing to pay premium dollars to a company unable to control their cost AND quality. Just because you can’t control YOUR costs doesn’t mean I automatically accept you passing that problem to ME (close to what I used to hear in the military, “Your stupidity is NOT my emergency!”).

Hey, here’s and idea! Let’s play the games we already got! Maybe tariffs will slow down the spread of the Cult of the New or be the antidote to the viral Fear of Missing Out. For myself I am behind on my 2019 challenges to play all the Charles S. Roberts and Golden Geek and Origins Award winners I have in my collection. That’s over 50 games to play this year! Or maybe I go ahead and pull the trigger on Scythe: The Rise of Fenris and start a campaign. Or I get the latest FREE Cepheus Engine: Faster than Light rules and start that RPG campaign the RockyMountainNavy Boys have been hounding me about.

If anything, I probably need to invest in those expansions or published-but-unpurchased games NOW before people slow down buying “new” games and turn their dollars towards that segment of the market and drive prices up. That’s what I’m going to tell Mrs. RockyMountainNavy to explain the bills. It’s sure to work….


Feature image Brave Little Belgium from Hollandspiele. A “towering” figure in the hobby boardgame industry tried to besmirch this game; don’t “vasel-ate”, just buy it and enjoy a great game!

Historical #wargames need history

I will always be one of the first to proclaim that wargames are great educational tools. For myself, wargames have taught me so much about warfare through history. Part of the reason Mrs. RockyMountainNavy approves of the RMN Boys and myself buying and playing wargames is that they often learn something. The first way I ofter learn from a game it to read the historical background or designers notes. Unfortunately, in this day of increasing production costs (born out of player demand for higher quality components) and internet access, I see some companies moving away from including these in a rule book. I say it is unfortunate because when historical commentary, designers notes, and a game come together it can be a magical learning experience.

21Zs4bRKTyePYBBq8zpgGQTake for instance Counter-Attack: The Battle of Arras, 1940 (Take Aim Designs/Revolution Games, 2018). The publisher’s blurb for this design by Michael Rinella states:

A critical moment came just as my forces reached the Channel. It was caused by a British counter-stroke southwards from Arras on 21 May. For a short time it was feared the panzer divisions would be cut off before the infantry divisions could come up to support them. None of the french counter-attacks carried the threat of this one.” – Von Rundstedt, Commander German Army Group “A”.

COUNTER-ATTACK: THE BATTLE OF ARRAS, 1940 is a two-player game simulating the British and French attack on mobile German elements near Arras, France, on May 21, 1940. 

That is the extent of the “historical background” provided in the rule book (actually, the Von Rundstedt quote is on the website and not in the rulebook).

I admit I bought the game on the strength of it being a Michael Rinella design. I admit I bought it because the price point for a folio game from Revolution Games is attractive. I admit I like the game even without more historical background included.

However…

Understanding more about the battle greatly enhances the gameplay experience. When I found historical context in the rule book lacking, I dove into my book collection. There were a few pages in Len Deighton’s Blitzkrieg (Ballantine Books, 1979, 1980) that were very helpful but the level of detail was far above that represented in the game. I was starting to get a basic understanding of the battle, but without something a bit deeper the game was going to move to my “play it once in a long while” shelf. Other books mentioned the Battle of Arras, but again at a very high-level of discussion (often the battle is mentioned in passing).

[Many of you are shouting, “Just google it, man!” Well, if you trust Google and wikipedia then you deserve what you get.]

This past week I was in the base Exchange and passed the magazine rack. There in front was WWII History Presents: World War II Tank Battles (Sovereign Media, Spring 2019). One of the articles is Armored Strike at Arras ( or Rommel’s Panzer Strike at Arras on the cover) by Christopher Miskimon. This article almost looks like it was written with the game in front of the author. The units are the same, the locations identical. I literally was able to set up the game and move the units according to the article to see how the battle flowed.

As great as it was being able to see how the battle flowed, more importantly the article generated a greater understanding into why the battle occurred the way it did. When I first set up the map I was confused; the Germans are to the south and west of the British/French forces. Weren’t the Germans attacking from the east? Why does rule 8.3.2 Area Operational Sectors limit the Germans to operating south of the Scarpe River? Miskimon describes the overall situation:

The Panzer divisions had raced ahead, threatening to cut off Allied units and destroy them piecemeal. At the same time, the distance they had gone from their supply created an opportunity the Allies could exploit if they could move quickly enough. Success would result in the panzer units being cut off from their fuel and supply sources. The tables would be turned. A dire situation turned into a last minute victory, perhaps one big enough to turn the tide of the campaign and allow them time to consolidate and strike back. (Miskimon, p. 20)

Historically, the British battle plan was thus:

The plan of action called for the columns to move in parallel. The two columns would descend Vimy Ridge [Area 29] and move south towards Arras [Area 25], passing the town to the west. Afterward, the British would turn left and move south of Arras before forming a new line oriented toward the east. The distance for the Left Column was 18 miles. Since the Right Column would have to make its left turn farther out, it would cover 21 miles in total. The entire British force would have its right flank covered by a French armored unit, the 3rd Division Legere Mechanique. (Miskimon, p. 22)

The Germans situation called for bold action:

The German XV Panzer Corps was situated in the path of the British columns. The 7th Panzer Division under Generalmajor Erwin Rommel had a mission to isolate Arras from the west. For this purpose, it would be heading west and north into the oncoming British. Once west of Arras, the division was to seize crossings over the Scarpe River, a tributary of the Scheldt River. The 5th Panzer Division was assigned to protect the 7ths right flank through supporting attacks. The inexperienced SS-Totenkopf Division was deployed to the left flank of the 7th Panzer Division. (Miskimon, p. 22)

With these three paragraphs I already have learned so much more about the Battle of Arras that I can now play the game with meaning beyond simply looking at the Victory Conditions.

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Historical setup – or – now it makes sense!

Still missing here are designer’s notes. I fully agree with designer Volko Runke who states, ” Every model of history is built to purpose.” Understanding the designers “purpose” creates better understanding of the game design. A combination of historical background and design purpose makes game far more enjoyable for me.

Counter-Attack: The Battle of Arras, 1940 will not be moving to the lesser-played shelf, at least for a bit. In struggling to learn the game, I actually was playing using Optional Rule 18.1 Historical Setup. Now that I understand the strategic/operational situation of the battle, I feel ready to use standard rule 5.3 Unit Setup with its more free-form setup.

As much as I like this game, I wish it had included just a bit more, because a little knowledge makes a huge difference in enjoyment! I hope game designers and publishers realize this and make it a point to include both historical background and designers notes.

 

 

 

 

 

March 2019 #Wargame #Boardgame #Kickstarter & Pre-Order Update – or – The Root problem of Defiantly losing control to Memoir-able games!

Coming out of the holidays in 2018, Mrs. RockyMountainNavy asked that I try to “control” my spending budget for boardgames and wargames in a bit of a more reasonable manner. She asks not because she dislikes my gaming hobby (on the contrary, she heartily endorses it) but because I was a bit too frivolous with my spending. I promised to do better.

To that end I have tried to control my “acquisitions” so far this year. One change in strategy I adopted is to go ahead and look at Print-n-Play modules a bit more. I also took a hard look at my GMT Games P500 and other pre-orders to try and “trim the fat.” I also committed to looking alot harder at what Kickstarter campaigns I would pledge to support. As tempting as they were, I passed on several new P500 and Kickstarter campaigns. I was doing pretty well until this month. Since the last days of February and into March, I have fallen off the wagon a bit and pre-ordered or pledged for three games.

 

I backed a new Kickstarter campaign in March. This one is really a no-brainer for me as it expands my 2018 Game of the Year. Leder Games Kickstarted Root: The Underworld Expansion. As I write this post the campaign already has over 10,000 backers and nearly $850,000 pledged – with over 2 weeks remaining.

I really am looking forward to this expansion with two new factions and two new maps. I realize that my $50 pledge will grow by at least $20 more for add-ons. Of that money, paying $5 for corrected Faction Boards is an easy choice. Paying $15 for the Better Bot Project may seem pricy, but given that it includes Bot Boards for all the factions it will make the game not only more solo friendly but able to play larger faction counts with fewer players. But given my love of the game it is so worth it.

poland-defiant-coverI also pre-ordered Poland Defiant from Revolution Games. Having picked up Counter-Attack 1940: The Battle of Arras (Take Aim Designs/Revolution Games, 2019) and Panzer Expansion #4: France 1940 (GMT Games, 2019) earlier this year I am on something of an early-years World War II kick. The period is coming to fascinate me as the various nations tried to figure out what the new age of warfare would look like. I really enjoy playing Counter-Attack 1940: The Battle of Arras and positively enjoy seeing Youngest RMN Boy discover more history through Panzer Expansion #4. I also look forward to the chit-pull mechanic as I have come to appreciate the power of that mechanic and its useful application for solo gaming.

pic4610324Another game I pre-ordered is Memoir ’44: New Flight Plan (Days of Wonder, coming May 2019?). I expect this new module to get heavy use as the RockyMountainNavy Boys often play Memoir ’44 without me. That said, these days I enjoy the simplicity of Richard Borg’s Commands & Colors-series and its various implementations in Memoir ’44 or Battlelore. Don’t get me wrong; simplicity is not lesser enjoyment. Games like Commands & Colors: Tricorne – The American Revolution (Compass Games, 2018) are awesome for teaching and learning more about the time period.

What about you? What games are you (im)patiently waiting for?


Feature image Leder Games

#Snowday #wargame #boardgame w/ #RevolutionGames @Hollandspiele @compassgamesllc @StrongholdGames @Gamelyn_Games @gmtgames

It snowed here yesterday.

Not a YUGE snowstorm, but enough that the Federal and Local governments along with schools were closed. Road conditions looked pretty bad so the entire RockyMountainNavy family stayed in all day. Which means it’s GAMING time!

21Zs4bRKTyePYBBq8zpgGQThe first game played was actually the night before. Seeing that a day off was coming I pulled out Counter-Attack: The Battle of Arras, 1940 (Take Aim Designs/Revolution Games, 2019). I used the Historical Setup (again) but this game went nothing like my last. The Impulse part of the Area-Impulse mechanic ensured that the fortunes of war were fickle, especially for the German player. This time fate favored the Allies who won an Automatic Victory at the end of Turn 2.

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German victory….

For the snow day proper, the first wargame to hit the table was Brave Little Belgium (Hollandspiele, 2019). Again, the chit-pull mechanic made for a hard-fought battle. At first the Germans were neigh-unstoppable but in the mid-game the tide turned against them. However, in the late-game the End Turn chits came out before the Entente could counterattack effectively. The Germans won…just barely.

 

pacific-tide-front-coverPacific Tide: The United States versus Japan, 1941-45 (Compass Games, 2019) followed with me playing as the Japanese player against the US solitaire bot. Although the rules for this game are very easy I still struggle to execute good actions for the US side. Consequently, the bot was unable to stop me and I achieved an Automatic Victory at the end of 1942.

The RockyMountainNavy Boys interrupted my wargame marathon with a 3-player Tiny Epic Galaxies (Gamelyn Games, 2015). I was able to hold them off and win with the Orbiter Secret Mission.

519Going into the late afternoon and evening, I pulled out Cataclysm: A Second World War (GMT Games, 2018) and set up scenario C.7 Pour La Patrie. This is an alternate history scenario which posits that France is Fascist and allied with Germany while Italy is Democratic and allied with the United Kingdom. The scenario runs from 1937 to 1942 (three turns). I really liked this scenario as it allowed me to explore the core game mechanic without any subconscious pressure to follow a “historical” strategy.

With schools already calling for a 2-hour delay on the next day all three RockyMountainNavy Boys challenged me to a fun game of Survive: Escape from Atlantis (Stronghold Games, 2012). Sharks and Krakens and Whales, oh my! I never had a chance!


Feature image by self

#Impulsive #Wargame Play – Counter-Attack: The Battle of Arras, 1940 (Take Aim Designs / Revolution Games, 2019)

Early in the Battle of France, German forces managed to defeat Allied forces and push them back considerably. In an attempt to shore up defenses against the rapidly approaching German advance, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) reinforced the town of Arras.

The latest wargame to hit the RockyMountainNavy table is Counter-Attack: The Battle of Arras, 1940 by designer Michael Rinella using his Take Aim Designs imprint and published by Revolution Games. This is the next game in Mr. Rinella’s Area-Impulse System. Counter-Attack: The Battle of Arras, 1940 (CA:TBoA) takes a relatively small battle and gives it a medium-low complexity treatment that delivers a tense, see-saw battle.

CA:TBoA is the next game in Michael Rinella’s Area-Impulse System. The first game I played in this series was Patton’s Vanguard: The Battle of Arracourt, 1944. I am very happy to see that CA:TBoA is not a straight port of the Area-Impulse System as used in Patton’s Vanguard but a tailored implementation that maintains the proper balance between “known” and “tailored” game mechanics.

Thematically, CA:TBoA is a bit unusual and not what one commonly expects in an early-war Panzer battle. In CA:TBoA it is the Allies on the offensive and the Germans on their heels. This alone should make the battle of interest but what when mixed with the Area Impulse game mechanic it becomes a complex problem portrayed in a very playable manner.

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The battle is joined….

Each turn in CA:TBoA is composed of a Momentum Phase, Combat Phase, Reorganization Phases, and the End Phase. Within the Combat Phase, there is a variable number of “mini-turns” or Impulses. Here designer Michael Rinella uses time pressure to portray the ever changing flow of battle. The player with Momentum executes impulses of movement/combat actions but with each additional impulse the chance of fate swinging the momentum increases. The player can keep going until all units are Spent, the player Passes, or the momentum swings. The ever swinging Momentum is what makes CA:TBoA interesting. Once the Momentum swings your way you want to spend your units smartly and get your actions done quickly before you lose momentum. Of course, when you just need one more Impulse to finish that attack you may get it…or not.

Combat is a straight up 2d6 plus modifiers rolled for attacker and defender with the difference being expressed in Attrition Points. Assault Combat results are Repulse, Stalemate, Success, or Overrun while Bombardment Combat results only occur when the attacker beats the defenders die roll.

Each turn in the game is one hour of time and the map scale translates as roughly 1 mile for every 1.5″. This make CA:TBoA more of an engagement than a battle but the Impulse game turn mechanic highlights the fluid nature of the confrontation and forces the players to think hard about any fleeting opportunities that arise.

Victory in CA:TBoA is very asymmetrical. The Allies can win an Automatic Victory if at the end of any turn they control a pathway from the off-map sections to the south to their supply area off the north edge. The Germans automatically win if they occupy Arras and the Allies do not have units is at least two areas south of the Scarpe River. If neither side has an Automatic Victory then it is up to the Allies to hold several areas along the southern map edge for Victory Points.

Component-wise, Counter-Attack: The Battle of Arras, 1940 hits a sweet spot for a small folio game. the 17″x22″ map covers not only the battle area but has room for the administrative tracks. The counter density is low and the counters themselves are big enough to be seen clearly. The rule book is a bit strange with text very close to the edges, and there are few typos but it is not poorly done, just a bit weird looking.

I did find it strange that the Setup rules in the basic game are variable and the historical setup is an Optional Rule. I was expecting the opposite and actually played using the historical setup the first play so I could learn the game rules before I start experimenting with variable ahistorical decisions.

Overall, Counter-Attack: The Battle of Arras, 1940 is a solid little game that allows one to play out a lesser known but highly interesting scenario. In the historical Battle of Arras, Erwin Rommel dashed amongst the anti-tank and Flak guns-turned-tank killers to bolster the defense. The same can happen in this game. It is also fun to see the British and French on the offensive together (sorta). Fortunately, the game lends itself to creating a fun experience through simple, solid mechanics that capture the essence of the battle in a very playable manner.

 

Giving Thanks for #Wargame Sales

If you missed the great GMT Games 50% sale earlier this year there are many other chances to get in on great wargame sales. Here are a few that I am aware of. For the record, not a single company has compensated me in any manner for these mentions; indeed, I am actually “compensating” many of them by making a purchase!

Academy Games

Compass Games Holiday Sale

  • It’s time to celebrate the holidays with special savings from Compass Games! We invite you to download our 2018 Holiday Catalog with special savings galore. Our holiday price brings you 30% off the retail price. Use the catalog order form or go online and use coupon code: HOLIDAY18. Note that special prices and preorder prices are already discounted so no holiday code is necessary at check-out. See catalog for more details. The holiday and special prices are valid through 1/15/2019.

Conflict Simulations LLC

  • CSL is having 15% off sale, just use the discount code: THANKSGIVING at the checkout.

Flying Pig Games

  • From RIGHT NOW, through Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Flying Pig Tuesday (Nov 27th), all in-stock, boxed games in the Flying Pig inventory are 50% off. That includes, Armageddon War, Burning Lands, Old School Tactical Vol I, Old School Tactical Vol II, Old School Tactical Airborne, Night of Man, and ’65 Squad-level Battles in Jungles of Vietnam. Click here to visit our website and Happy Shopping!

Hollandspiele

  • No sale yet, but I saw Tom Russell post in a BGG forum that his sale starts 01 Dec.

OSS (One Small Step)

  • From all of us at One Small Step, please accept our wishes for a safe and joyful Thanksgiving holiday! To help celebrate, we are now running our annual Black Friday sale. 25% off published games and magazines. Simply enter the following code at checkout: BLACKFRISale runs now through Monday the 26th. Does not include pre-order items, subscriptions, or games already on sale.

Revolution Games

  • November Sale – Save up to 40% on select titles.

Tiny Battle Publishing

  • From RIGHT NOW, through Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Tiny Battle Tuesday (Nov 27th), all in-stock, games in the Tiny Battle Publishing inventory are 25% off. Click here.

Don’t forget your FLGS either. Some of them are having sales too!

For all my wargaming friends out there, have yourself a blessed Thanksgiving and a happy Christmas season. May all your favorite wargames find their way into the trench beneath your tree and breakout in the New Year.

Featured image courtesy worldoftanks.com

#WargameWednesday – Deep Play of Patton’s Vanguard (Take Aim Designs/Revolution Games, 2017)

Patton’s Vanguard: The Battle of Arraourt, 1944 covers key battles in September 1944 in the Lorraine region of France. Designed by Mike Rinella (Michael Rinella on BGG) with graphics by Charles Kibler (BGG link), the game was published by Take Aim Designs and Revolution Games in 2017. Although I had played the game twice while on a road trip, it was not until this last weekend that I really played a deep dive of the First Scenario.

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Patton’s Vanguard comes with two scenarios, each covering four days battle. Turns are a single day, units are Company-level, and the map uses areas to segment the battlefield. The really interesting game mechanic is found in 8.0 Impulses. Each Impulse the German then the American player performs one action. If the first American die roll (DR or 2d6) of the turn is equal to or greater than the Impulse number, the next Impulse is played. If the DR equals the Impulse number the weather also changes. If the DR is less than the Impulse number the Daylight Phase of the turn ends and the Refit and End Phase is executed and play goes to the next Turn. This mechanic is called the Sunset DR. It is what makes Patton’s Vanguard a tense game; one can never be sure just how long each turn will last. With only four turns to achieve victory the pressure is on the Germans to attack.

Using an area map also means there are no Zones of Control. Well, not officially. One of the hardest concepts for me to wrap my head around is the concept of Contested Areas in the game. Contested Areas first appears in 7.0 Stacking and Control.

7.4 Contested – An area is considered Contested if it contains units of both sides. Contesting an Area that is controlled by the enemy does not alter control of that Area. Units within a Contested Area may only conduct a Ranged Attack (8.1.2) or Bombardment (8.1.3) against enemy units within that Contested Area.

Sounds simple enough. An Area with units from both sides is Contested. Units in Contested Areas can only use Ranged Attacks or Bombardments. Looking at 8.1.2 The Ranged Attack Impulse further specifies in part:

….A ranged attack may not be declared in Fog Weather (9.1)….Units in the Active Area may attack (only).

The sticky wicket here is that each turn the weather starts at Fog Weather and it stays that way until the Sunset DR changes it or Impulse 6 when the fog automatically burns off. So units in a Contested Area cannot move –  or attack – in Fog Weather.

OK you say, so armor and infantry can’t attack if stuck in a Contested Area during Fog Weather. Just use your artillery to bash’em.

Hold on. 8.1.3 The Bombardment Impulse states in part:

Artillery and Air Bombardment may not be declared in Fog Weather (9.1).

So OK, find a way to move them. Maybe 8.1.4 The Regroup Impulse? Be careful though:

….Units within a Contested Area may not Regroup into another Contested Area, even if friendly controlled….

In my postgame review I discovered the counterbalance to Contested Areas. It is 11.1 Mandatory Attacks and 11.2 Optional Attacks. Specifically, 11.1 says in part:

….If a Mandatory Attack results in a Repulse (11.5.4) all participating units must retreat (14.2).

11.2 Optional Attacks states in part:

….Moving units may not join with units already within a Contested Area (7.3) to make one combined attack.

Which shouldn’t make a difference until one reads Repulse in 11.5.4 Computing Results:

….Retreat is required in cases of Mandatory Attacks (11.1). Attacking units making an Optional Attack (11.2) may not retreat.

Why this detailed discussion? Because I totally messed up Mandatory Attacks and the Repulse part of 11.5.4 in my deep dive game. I didn’t retreat correctly (i.e. often enough) meaning I missed many opportunities for an Assault (move & attack) by making units too sticky with Contested Areas.

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End of First Scenario…sort of

You might be thinking I am hating on Contested Areas and all the nuanced interactions with movement and attack and retreat. YOU. ARE. WRONG. I actually think Contested Areas is a BRILLIANT game mechanic and the very heart of Patton’s Vanguard. I am not disappointed or angry after my deep dive game, I am immensely happy that I unlocked another level of understanding in this game.

I am also amazed at the amount of chrome that is found in the short 16-page rulebook. Chrome like US airpower or weather or historical leaders. Chrome that is seamlessly integrated into the game and contributes to the experience rather than a useless bolt-on mechanic put there to be “historically accurate” with no real game reason.

Patton’s Vanguard is a refreshingly different operational-level view of the Battle of Arracourt. Kudos to Mike Rinella for delivering a tight, tense game. Even though I made mistakes the game continues to intrigue me. Will have to get it back to the table for the larger Second Scenario covering September 25-28, 1944.

 

 

 

Summer Doldrums – or Continuing #Kickstarter and PreOrder Madness

As it is the summer, my gaming as slowed as the RockyMountainNavy Boys find more outdoor activities to do, the family is traveling more often, and long summer evenings make gaming less a priority. But it doesn’t mean I don’t want to play! Or try new games!

In April 2018, I had 13 games on pre-order. What has happened since?

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Preorder, or just a disorder?

I currently have 16 items on preorder. A majority (9) are GMT Games P500 orders. I have a love/hate relationship with P500; I love the games but hate the wait. I also am a bit disappointed that GMT Games has become a victim of the Cult of the New (COTN) with newer games seemingly taking priority over long-awaited reprints or expansions. I don’t blame GMT Games; they are going after the money where money is to be had.

I am also a bit surprised at the number of Kickstarter games I have pledged for. Given my hesitancy to previously support games I am surprised that I have five on this list. (actually six but the forever-delayed Squadron Strike: Traveller does not have a BGG entry and therefore does not show up). I have to say that so far I am extremely happy with the Triplanetary campaign since it is delivering early (my copy may even be in the mail as I type).

I actually had another Kickstarter item on order until last night when I cancelled it. It was an RPG product and I had backed it because the theme was interesting. As I looked at the product a bit deeper there were aspects that I found, well, I decided the product was not for me and dropped the campaign.

The last two games are Father’s Day gifts to myself and show as preordered because I don’t have them in hand just yet. Once again, the ever-awesome The Player’s Aid guys just make it so that I can’t pass on another game. In this case it’s Patton’s  Vanguard (Revolution Games). The other is Mrs. Thatcher’s War: The Falklands 1982 (White Dog Games). This buy was heavily influenced by an interview designer Ben Madison recently did with Bruce Geryk at his Wild Weasel podcast.

Four of the Kickstarter games are to deliver before the end of the year. We will see; Triplanetary looks like it is coming in early but three other Kickstarter campaigns I have backed (two non-boardgames) are delayed. Maybe a poor investment?

Why Navies Fight – #PacificFuryGuadalcanal1942 (Revolution Games, 2016)

One of the smaller games I got last year was Pacific Fury: Guadalcanal 1942 from Revolution Games. After my first play thru I took issue with the historical accuracy of the game but generally liked it. This past weekend I pulled the game out again and ran thru the campaign again. This time I payed more attention to the rules. After this second play thru, I see a lot more depth in the game and like this particular design a lot more!

Pacific Fury simulates the naval battles off Guadalcanal in late 1942. Each turn is a month, and each player must allocate his forces to up to seven Operations each month. Once Operations are allocated, the forces can only enter in that order. But operations can be more than just a Sortie to enter the board; to move and fight also takes Operations. Every Operation is a choice – enter more forces or execute an action with a deployed force. This is one layer of depth that makes Pacific Fury an interesting game; the timing of forces entering and (usually combat) actions. How long do you allow for the carriers to clear the area? Will that bombardment mission disrupt Henderson Field and allow a follow-on landing? Do I have a strong enough force to hold Ironbottom Sound? what about the Tokyo Express?

Another layer of depth – and one I misplayed my first play thru – is Hits and Sunk ships. The combat system is very simple – for each “firing” unit roll d6; if the number is less than or equal to the Combat Factor THAT NUMBER OF HITS is scored. Hits are then apportioned by the attacker with the number of hits allocated to each target compared to the Defense Factor. There are two possible results: Sunk (removed from game) or Hit (moved to Turn Record Track to return later).

The practical impact of this game mechanic to strategy is very important – although sinking ships is good to simply “damage” the ships might be more effective. The Japanese player can return ships two turns later meaning a ship damaged in Turn 3 will not return before Turn 4. In contrast, American ships with better damage control and closer repair facilities return the next turn. Thus, like the real battle it portrays, Pacific Fury becomes a furious battle of attrition.

Another design decision in Pacific Fury that makes it very interesting is the victory conditions. There is only one way to win this game; control Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. This may seem like blasphemy to a naval gamer – many of whom only think in terms of sunk ships – but it actually reflects the reality of the battles fought from August to November 1942.

As I recognize how these game mechanics reflect aspects of the campaign often overlooked (or glossed over) in other games both my respect and enjoyment of Pacific Fury has increased. In my most recent campaign play the result was a draw. Actual losses on both sides were small; the Japanese lost Zuikaku, Shokaku, Ryujo, Nagato, and Nachi while the Americans lost Saratoga, Wasp, South Dakota, North Carolina, San Francisco, and Chicago.

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End of Game Condition

The Americans were actually a bit lucky that they were able to even get the draw. On Turn 3 (October 1942) the Japanese had retaken Henderson Field but at a cost a many damaged ships – ships now effectively “out of the game.” In the Event Phase of Turn 4, the Americans rolled IJN Overestimated which returned a “destroyed” carrier to the battle (incidentally, a carrier originally destroyed in the Event Phase of Turn 2 when the Japanese rolled three (!) Torpedo Hits and elected to sink that carrier). With the Hornet back, the Americans were able to use airpower to destroy the Japanese force patrolling Ironbottom Sound and get a bombardment force in to disrupt Henderson Field just in time for an amphibious force to land in the very last Operation of the game.

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Courtesy  goodreads.com

Pacific Fury reminds me that it is not enough to just “learn the rules” but it is also important to step back and understand the “why” of a game mechanic or rule. Usually these are hinted at in Designer’s Notes but in Pacific Fury such notes are lacking probably because the original game was published in Japanese. So in this case I had do do a bit of (enjoyable) discovery on my own. I am glad I pulled this game out again as I have deepened my understanding of not just the game but of the entire naval campaign for Guadalcanal. Pacific Fury is actually great compliment to what has to be one of the best books on the subject, James D. Hornfischer’s Neptune’s Inferno. Enough so that I need to stop typing away here and resume my reread of that book….