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.

1 comment:

Nevin said...

I got Wings of War: Dawn of War for my birthday a couple of weeks go.