Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sunday, 7/22 - Star Trek: the Adventure Game

Cody and I played an older game from my collection on Sunday afternoon - Star Trek: the Adventure Game from West End Games, 1985.

It is a two player game; pitting the Federation and Klingon Empires against each other as they try to increase their presence and influence within the Treaty Zone established by the Organians. Because the Organians prevented any outright hostilities between the two empires there is no direct military conflict between the two players in the game. Each side explores the planets within the treaty zone and attempt to sway the inhabitants to become members (Federation) or satellites (Klingons) of the respective empires. Each side starts with a Heavy cruiser and three small cruisers with which to explore the treaty zone.

The game went down to the wire with Cody winning by the slimmest of margins with the Victory point marker on the zero space, Federation side up.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

North Texas Wargamers Gameday - July 21

Another meeting of the North Texas Wargamers this Saturday. Brian considered cancelling it as the Dallas Games Marathon was held on the same weekend but there were enough of us who could not attend the marathon long enough to justify the expense so we met for our usual time slot 11-6PM. The following games were played:

Command and Colors: Ancients
Al Hay
Greg Blanchett's daughter Emily
I heard that Al was schooled at least three times by Greg's daughter.

Wings of War: Dawn of War
Al Hay
Mervyn Dejecacion
Mervyn picked this up today at Game Chest after I bought his copy of Stonewall in the Valley from him. I had almost picked up a copy myself yesterday. Now I can play Mervyn's copy.

Twilight Struggle
Steve Gallob - United States
John Boone - Soviet Union
I had heard good things about it on Consimworld and Boardgamegeek and had considered purchasing it many times but never had. After playing it I can see why it is so popular and has bumped up a notch on my "must buy" list.

The game portrays the post World War II Cold War between the two major superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States. The game covers the ~45 years of cold war in 10 turns with each turn composed of 6(early years), 7(middle year) or possibly 8 action rounds lead off with a special simultaneous card play round called the Headline phase where each card's event is resolved if possible. After the Headline phase each player, starting with the Soviet, alternates playing cards until all action rounds are complete after which there is a check for possible scoring do to military operations conducted during the turn, then getting ready for the next turn.

The engine that drives the game, as in all card driven games (CDGs), are the cards and as in most card driven games the players have the choice to either play the card for the Operations Point (OPs) value or the event.

All the events are influenced from the long history of the Cold War and are marked indicating which side can play the card for the event either the Soviet player, the US player or both players. Unlike other card driven games, Twilight Struggle adds a novel twist in that a card that is played by your opponent for the Operations Points whose event belongs to the other player causes the event to also occur with the player who played the card deciding the order the card is resolved either the operations first then the event or vice versa. I believe this is the first time this mechanism has been used in a CDG and adds greatly to the tension in the decision making process. You may have quite a few cards in you hand whose events belong to the other player and having to decide when to play them and in what order they are resolved is sometimes quite exciting to say the least. Fortunately the game adds another novel mechanism whereby you can "dump", not use for OPs or the Event, one or possibly two of these cards - the Space Race Track.

Twilight Struggle abstracts the space race between the two super powers using a track that records the important milestones of space achievement during this time period. In order to advance on the space race track, one plays one of your cards for that round and then rolls the die. If the die falls withing the required range you get to advance, if not, you remain where you are; either way the card is still spent. As you progress up the Space Race track usually the first player to the new level is rewarded either with VPs or some special ability they can use until the opposing player catches up to your level. In our game neither one of us progressed farther than "Lunar Probe".

If one plays a card for Operations Points these points can be spent on one of three activities, placing influence, attempting a coup within a single country, or attempting to realign the government of one or more countries, up to the operations point value. If using the operations points for influence each Operation Point translates to one point of influence in a country (if not controlled by the other player) that can be applied to that country in order to sway it towards your ideology. Each country has a stability rating.

The higher the number the more stable the country is and the harder it is to switch sides once it falls under control of one of the players. The stability rating is the minimum amount of influence one side needs in that country before it controls the country. Both sides can apply influence to the same country and this is what usually happens especially in battleground countries as each side fights to control it. If this is the case then the influence needed to control the country is the stability rating plus the influence applied to the country by the other player. In addition, once a country is controlled the non-controlling side must then spend OPs points on a two OPs for one influence point basis in that country.

Another use for OPs are coup attempts. Only one coup may be attempted per card play. The operations value of the card is used as a die roll modifer to the coup die roll. The die roll plus OPs value is compared to twice the stability rating of the country. If this total is greater then the coup is successful. The difference (die roll + OPs value - 2xStability Rating) is the number of influence removed from the opposing players influence in the country. If there is any of this difference left after removing all of the opposing player's influence the remainder is added to your influence in the country. As you can see, countries with high stability ratings are more difficult to have a successful coup in. If a coup is attempted in a country that is a "battleground" country the coup also affects the level of the DEFCON Track by decreasing it one level closer to Nuclear War. "Battleground" countries are those countries that were historically important during the Cold War period usually because of its strategic location or resources, IE Oil. They are used during scoring rounds to determine who has more control in a region and hence who gets the most victory points for that region during a scoring card play. Coup attempts also increase the value of the Military Track by the Operations Point value of the card used for the coup. Players also score victory points at the end of the turn if one side has failed to accrue military operation points at least equal to the current DEFCON level. For example if the DEFCON level is three and one side has 5 military operation points and the other side has two the other player would effectively net a +1 VP since the other side missed the DEFCON level by one point. The third use of Operations Points are Realignment Rolls. Realignment Rolls are used to reduce enemy Influence in a country. Each Operations Point allows one Realignment Roll in one or more countries. A realignment is less severe than a coup as it allows you, if successful, to only remove the opposing players influence but not add to your own.

A game can end one of four ways, going the full ten turns (winner determined by final score), one side gaining enough victory points at the end of a turn for an automatic victory, one side causing Nuclear War (that side loses), or by play of the Event Card "Wargames" if you satisfy its condition. Victory Points are scored for the various areas when their respective scoring card is played by a player during the action round and at the end of turn 10 when all areas are scored to determine a final victory point score.

As one can surmise the various tracks, influence, coups, realignment attempts, and events all interact in an elegant way making playing the game both a thought provoking and enjoyable experience.

I had never played before so Steve gave me the Soviets. In the game the Soviets have the early advantage but as the game goes on more pro-US cards are introduced into the mix. The cards are divided into an early, mid, and late war deck with mid and late year cards added as the game progresses. The game went the full ten turns with the Soviets coming out on top at (minus) 14 victory points. As each turn is made up of multiple action rounds, I could not possibly remember all of the goings on but some of the memorable moments from the Soviet perspective are included below.

Great Moments in Alternate Soviet Cold War History -
1. Soviets having complete Control of the Middle East during a Middle East scoring round.
2. A successfully played Arab-Israeli War converting a strong (influence 5) US controlled Israel to Soviet control after first converting neighboring Lebanon and Jordan (Egypt was already Soviet) to Soviet control.
3. Having a strong hold on North and South Korea along with Vietnam in Asia.
4. Having and playing "Terrorism" immediately after Steve played "Iranian Hostage Crisis" there by causing him to randomly discard two of his cards instead of one.
5. Being able to play "Aldrich Ames" on Steve as my Headline card of turn 10. This allowed me to view his hand and arrange his cards in the order I wanted him to play them.
As a first time player the board was a little busy for me but it was a very enjoyable game.

Marne 1918: Friedensturm
Paul Borchers
Brian Marrs
This is a new game by the French company Hexasim covering the World War I German offensive in May-August 1918.

A Victory Lost
Mark Simonitch
Greg Blanchett
Covers the Russian offensive Operation Saturn and continues through van Manstein's famous "backhand blow" on the Russian front of World War II.

World War II: Barbarossa to Berlin
Walter McGovern
Sean Harris
European theatre coverage of World War II from the Spring of 1941 to the collapse of Germany's war machine in 1945, if it goes that long.

Monday, July 16, 2007

On the Table Sunday, ASLSK#1 - Simple Equation

Mervyn came over Sunday afternoon to play a scenario we had played on our last go with ASLSK, the Simple Equation scenario. It was Americans, me, vs. Mervyn's Germans. The Americans were on the attack having to capture 25 building hexes on board z but had to setup on board y.

The first time we played this scenario my Americans advanced on the wings with good results especially making good use of the wooded road on the left. This time Mervyn posted a unit to guard that approach so I decided to go straight up the middle. Mervyn had pre-planned his setup before coming over and it appeared to be a good one after the first turn as he managed to get good defensive fires on my advancing units. At the end of the turn he had already casaulty reduced one of my squads and the rest of the broken ones routed to YK6 to for a rally attempt with an 8-0 leader left behind for just such an occasion. Luckily for me with their 8 morale on the reverse side I managed to roll low enough even under desperation morale to rally all of my broken squads.
Turn two kept the Americans occupied trying to take the YI2 building position. Mervyn had set two squads with an LMG there in the beginning. I managed to break one of them and he routed away. The lone surviving squad survived my first close combat attempt and the units were locked in melee. Later that squad needing a 3, rolled snake eyes and eliminated my squad who needed a 6 to do likewise. Of course my squad failed its roll so the German's still held the building.
In turn 3 I wasted a lot of ineffective prep fire on YI2 so had to send in another squad to take the building. I was finally successful but I was taking too much time on board y. Mervyn's turn 3 prep fire managed to break my point platoon eliminating the half squad carrying the Flame thrower in YJ1. These broken units would rout back to YH3 and YL3.
My lone 9-2 leader, not wanting to leave the Flame thrower in YJ1 during turn 3 stayed and tried to pick it up. I needed anything but a 6. Guess what I rolled? You got it a six further stalling my attack. After my turn 4 movement we had to stop the game; Mervy had to go home. Half the scenario time was over and I still had not made it to board z and Mervyn's defensive fire was making it tough.
The "Simple Equation" the Americans used was to use their machine guns to suppress the Germans so the Flame thrower could make quick work of them. In this game my GIs could not do this; the prep fire with the MGs was ineffective and when I got close enough to use the flame thrower it didn't do its job either.

We will have to play this one again Mervyn!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Empire of the Sun - Cyberboard, End of '42 Turn

This is the end of the first turn, turn 2, of Mark Simonitch's and my Empire of the Sun game via Cyberboard.

Click Picture for larger view.

Mark is working on the Dutch East Indies after having taken Rangoon and made a landing on Biak Is, New Guinea. The allied units in the Philippines were isolated after the FE Air Force was destroyed along with what little US Naval strength that began in the theatre. ABDA HQ established itself on Timor. The 19th Air Force managed to survive a couple of attacks, both offensively and in reaction, and is currently based in Makassar. MacArthur, SW Pac HQ, evacuated the Philippines and will be redeploying at the start of turn 3.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

July 4th Holiday

For the July 4th holiday we went to my sister and brother-in-law's house for a couple of days and got to see my 5 month old niece and nephew.

We then spent Friday to Sunday down in Galveston so no wargaming this past weekend. On Friday we did play a six player game of Betrayal at House on Haunted Hill with my sister, niece, and my three older kids. My son ended up being the betrayer but we defeated him with a loss of two (not counting Cody) from our party.

The only other "battle" I had this weekend was with this little guy, a bonnethead (shovelhead) shark. After releasing him I had to catch him again and bring him further out into the water before releasing him as he was a little disoriented.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Gaming this weekend

Whew! A lot of gaming this weekend.

On Saturday at the North Texas Wargamers monthly meet for June we had a good group of players show up, sixteen I believe.

The following games were played:
1. EastFront II
2. Twilight Struggle
3. Imperial
4. Age of Empires III: Age of Discovery
5. War of the Ring
6. Command and Colors: Ancients

Greg Blanchett posted a few pictures on ConsimWorld,
Greg's Pictures.

I played a 4-player game of War of the Ring, Random drawing of sides resulted with Alan and Curtis as the Fellowship and Nevin and I as the Shadow.
The nations divided up thus:
Gondor and Elves: Alan Richbourg
Rohan, Northmen, and Dwarves: Curtis Kitchens
Saruman, Easterlings, and Southrons: John Boone
Witch King and Sauron Nation: Nevin Ball

In the multi-player game the players on each side take turns as the first player. In the case of the Fellowship, first player decides if the Fellowship declares. In the case of the Shadow, the first player decides how many die go into the Hunt box. In both cases they get the first action for that side. Musters were few in the initial turns so the Witch King didn't come out until turn 2 and Saruman made his appearance in turn 3. The Fellowship moved pretty well during the first few turns avoiding detection until they hit the 5th position on the Fellowship track. Not wanting to have to draw another hunt tile the Fellowship took the North Pass route. The Fellowship would never move very far from that point on chosing to split the Fellowship leaving Frodo, Sam, and Pippin? as leader.

Minas Tirith came under siege first but put up a good fight against the might of the Witch King and his dark minions. It was actually pretty close after the Grond Event failed to take Minas Tirith and reinforcements had to be called in for the dark lord to continue his siege. The Easterlings reinforced (Horde from the East Event card) their army up North and began their march for the DEW (Dale, Erebor, Woodland Realm) line while down south the Southron armies headed for Umbar planning to sail for Dol Amroth.

After the Southrons voyage from Umbar to siege Dol Amroth left Umbar bare and Moria was still lightly garrisoned the Fellowship, Alan, decided it would be a good idea to go on the offensive and attempt a military victory. Most of the companions separated from the Fellowship and joined the army from Lorien marching on Moria with Gandalf the White leading. About the same time Boromir and Strider made their way into the besieged Minas Tirith with the We Prove the Swifter event card where he was crowned king but his reign would not last long.

In my own attempts toward a Fellowship military victory it usually fails if you can not acheive it in one turn so as not to give the Shadow, who has superior action dice numbers, to react. Such was the case again when Umbar, with one lone besieged Southron survivor was relieved by a Dark Army near Minas Tirith. Moria fell to the Fellowship but it was not enough for victory.

The Shadow then kicked it into gear finishing off Minas Tirith, where Boromir and Aragorn fell, and captured, Dol Amroth, Pelargir, Dale, The Woodland Realm, and Lorien for the Shadow military victory.

Where were the armies of Rohan and Orthanc? They spent the game staring at each other building up forces. Rohan was pinned protecting its own land from an attack from Orthanc and did not help Gondor. If the horse had come to Gondor's aid it could have possibly turned the battle for Gondor during the early stages. The Dwarves too were quiet, never getting to war, while watching their neighbors in the DEW line be conquered.

Nevin then came to my house and we played a 3-player game of Drakon with my son. We made the biggest dungeon map yet in all the games we have played so far. It contained very little gold and a lot of sneaky traps. My Drakon winning streak continued to 5 games.

Lastly, we then played a 3-player scenario I created for Federation Commander: Romulan Border. Taking inspiration from the original series show "Arena", it was two Federation players vs the Gorn player. Nevin commanded the outpost, a Federation Commander Mobile Base, on Cestus III along with an orbiting Fed Frigate.

Cody played Capt. Kirk in the Federation Cruiser coming in to give aid, and I was the Gorn Cruiser protecting Gorn space from the invaders.

Both the Frigate and Outpost started with their shields down and no weapons armed. Nevin could not raise his shields until either I fired on his units or he detected me with his sensors.

Cody was limited to a speed of 8, warp 2, until either of the previous conditions for Nevin were met simulating the distress call. The Gorn cruiser had all plasma torpedoes (4 of them, two S-type and two F-type) fully armed.

On the approach, Nevin picked up my ship before I got to fire on him so his shields were raised when I launched my torpedoes and fired off my 4 phaser salvo at his base at the end of turn 1. The base fired what phasers could be brought to bear on two of my strongest torpedoes in order to lessen their effect when they hit next turn. The frigate moved off and hid on the other side of the planet at this time. At the beginning of turn 2, all players began charging their mult-turn arming weapons (Photons and Plasmas). Impulse one of turn 2 started off with a bang as 4 plasma torpedoes slammed into a single shield of the outpost causing heavy damage.

On turn 2 the Gorn ship turned toward the Fed CA while firing off a phaser barrage from the port side to finish off the outpost. There were no survivors. Nevin's FF vowed revenged and turned back to pursue the Gorn. Turn two ended with some plinking phaser shots between the combatants with no real damage and the launching of missiles against the Gorn ship. Fortunately I had one phaser left to take out the missile from Nevin's frigate. If it has hit I would have taken 12 points of damage to my front shield. The Federation Photon torpedoes would be fully charged at the start of turn 3. Plasmas normally require three turns to charge but the bigger tubes can fast load an F-type torpedo in two turns by paying more energy. I decided to do this with my two S-type torpedo tubes. Otherwise I would have to spend turn three running from two angry Federation ships with possibly overloaded photon torpedoes while my heavy weapons were still charging.

Turn 3 started off with the FF and Gorn CA in close proximity with Cody's cruiser in hot pursuit. Phaser shots were traded at some point and then I managed to get into position where I launched two plasmas at range 1. Since Nevin's phasers on that side had already fired this turn they hit doing a full 40 points of damage. The frigate was gutted. Only his two photon tubes remained for weapons and his power systems were down to around 3 points.He returned fire with both photons, one which was overloaded to +4 level. The overloaded one hit doing 12 points of damage to my shield. At this point I turned and ran as Cody still had all photons ready and some one had launched another drone missile at me. Turn three ended up with both Fed ships and lone drone chasing after the fleeing Gorn ship. At this point we decided to stop the game as the victory conditions I had made it impossible for the Federation to win. I have to do some work on this scenario.

On Sunday, Nevin came over again. We started off with Battlelore, Call to Arms expansion,

and then played an Epic Battlelore game.

Nevin won both of these contests. The first one was close but Nevin's forces really killed me in Epic Battlelore, 7 to 2 flags! Nevin had the Hill Giant but he never was a factor in the battle. One lone red unit on Nevin's side accounted for about 5 of his flags.

He was awesome and I could never kill it causing it to retreat about three times never able to get that last hit needed to finish it off. Finally on the third game we played a single map Battlelore scenario, standard Battlelore with lore using the full war council.

I finally won one.

While Nevin read the rules to Mag Blast, Cody and I played the same Battlelore scenario Nevin and I just finished. This one ended up being a mad melee in the middle section as both forces were mixed up pretty good. A couple of times I moved units and declared combat on my own forces. Dad triumphed over son in this one.

We finish the night with a game of Mag Blast. A game Nevin picked up on his way to my house, along with Epic Battlelore. We really liked this one, especially Cody when he whipped up on us with his Recyclon Empire. Long live the Glorp Empire. We shall rise again from the ashes of our defeat!