Sunday, January 27, 2008

Saturday, Jan 19, 2008 - Battles of the Third Age, Rohan Battle

Before Meryvn came over for our Conquest of Paradise game Nevin and I played the Rohan Battle scenario from War of the Ring: Battles of the Third Age. Nevin took command of Saruman's forces and I took Rohan. The game went to position 12 or 13 of the Fate Track when Saruman cried uncle after his forces attempting to take Helm's Deep were decimated by the Ents storming out of Derndingle (Fangorn) and then regrouping in the Deeping Coomb forming a defensive barrier to future Shadow attacks. Before the Ent attack the Shadow forces were making good progress first eliminating Eomer and his forces on their way to Helm's Deep and overrunning the forces in the Fords of Isen and the East Fords. Theoden appeared in Edoras and Aragorn in the East Entwade both prepared to march to relieve the siege of Helm's Deep before the Ents appeared.

Posts on Boardgamegeek say that the Rohan player has little chance if the Saruman player chooses the third position exclusively, The Pits, on Shadow Box after the first few turns. I'd like to play this one again to test this out.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Saturday, Jan 19, 2008 - Conquest of Paradise

We were supposed to go out of town this weekend but our plans changed Friday. I gave Nevin and Mervyn a last minute invite for some gaming on Saturday and they both accepted. We decided to play Nevin's recent game acquisition, Conquest of Paradise (GMT Games.

Conquest of Paradise (CoP) is a game of Polynesian empire building around 500 AD in the central Pacific Ocean for 2-4 players. Each player represents one of four starting Home Island Groups, the Tonga, Samoa, Hiva, and Raiatea and attempt to expand their empires by exploration, colonization of island groups, and cultural advancements represented by the purchase of the Arts and Culture cards.

How to Win
Victory is measured by the accumulation of victory points by controlling Villages, Island Groups, and Cultural advancements at the end of each game turn which represent a span about 5 years. The game ends once a player or players meet or exceed the victory point goal for the game. In a three player game the victory point goal is 25 victory points.

The Map and Player Home Islands
In our game, Mervyn controlled Hiva, Nevin controlled Tonga, and I ruled Samoa. The map is divided up in hexes that represent ~600 nautical miles of the Pacific Ocean with some already known island groups printed on the map and the remaining hexes where explorations are possible marked with a light blue squares. The map location of the starting home island for each player marked on the map. Samoa and Tonga start adjacent to each other with Hiva 5 hexes (3000 nm) East. In addition to the players starting home islands, the map is printed with known pre-existing Independent Polynesian empires. These island group empires may be conquered by the players. All of these known independent island groups are West of the players; the closest one being Fiji which is adjacent to both Samoa and Tonga.

The Turn Sequence
A turn in CoP represents the passage of 5 years and consists of the following steps.
1. Turn Order Step
During the Turn Order Step the player with the lowest Victory Point score becomes the first player. The rest of the turn's steps are then resolved starting with the first player and rotating clockwise. [OOPs] Looks like we did this wrong. The player with the lowest VP score gets to do the following: (1) Chose who will be the first player this turn and (2) what direction the turn order rotates, clockwise or counter-clockwise. [/OOPs]

2. Exploration Step
During the exploration step, in turn order, and if the player's Explorer canoe was not lost last turn, a player can explore the ocean to discover new islands to colonize using their Explorer canoe. The explorer canoe can pre-move to any one of the player's controlled island groups. From that island group the explorer may move into an unknown hex, draw a Discovery marker randomly and place it in the hex with the Knot side up. If the tile drawn is an Off Course marker then the player to your left picks an adjacent, unknown hex, where the actual exploration takes place. The player then draws a new Discovery marker. If the cumulative knot total is 1-4 then the player may move into another unexplored hex. If the total is 5 then the exploration is over and the players Explorer canoe is placed in front of the player off map. If the total is 6 or more then the exploration is over, and the Explorer canoe is placed in the Lost Box. Lost explorer canoes are not recovered until the end of the next Exploration Step so you effectively will not be able to do exploration the turn after you are lost. After the player has finished exploring the tiles are flipped to reveal what they were, Open Ocean or an Island. [OOPs] We did this wrong too. If the player drew an island Discovery marker they immediately draw from the Island Group pool, look at the island and decide if they will place it face up or face down, then place the Discovery marker, knot side up, on top of the island tile. [TIP] There is a bit of strategy here deciding whether or not to reveal an island group immediately after discovery or to keep it hidden. If it is left on its hidden side, where it is still Unknow to players who don't have their Discovery Marker on it, a player can't not move his Transport or War Canoes on to or through that hex so it is effectively a barrier to their movement.[/TIP]If an Off Course marker was picked, after the new hex is determined the Off Course marker is removed from play to allow the player to try to explore that hex again if they wish.[/OOPs]

3. Movement and Battle Step
In turn order, each player may move their units on the map. There are two types of movement in this step, Transits and Movement. A Transit is a pre-move of units within the sphere of a player's empire connected by Transport Canoes. What are Transport Canoes you ask? Regular canoes can be used in two modes. If used as part of the Transport Canoe Chain is it turned face up in the island group hex it occupies. In this mode it represents the transportation infrastructure of your empire. All of your island groups connected within the Transport Canoe Chain can be moved to during the Transit pre-move portion of the Movement & Battle Step. Canoes part of the Transport Canoe Chain can not themselves move in the Movement & Battle Step. Any of your unit types, Colonies, Warrrior Bands, Transport Canoes (not part of the Transport Canoe chain), War Canoes, and Rumors can be moved using Transit. [OOPs] I don't know if Mervyn or Nevin did this wrong but I did. I thought I needed Transport/War canoes to move my Colony and War Band units during the Transit move.[/OOPs] After the Transit pre-move regular Movement takes place. Regular Movement is used to move units beyond the boundaries of your empire. In Movement only Transport canoes, War Canoes, and Rumors can move by themselves; Colonies and Warrior Bands are required to be carried by a canoe. A canoe can transport one unit. A Transport canoe can carry a single Colony or War Band while a War Canoe can carry a single War Band.

Ok now to the important part for us wargamers, how do you attack? Transport canoes, with or without a War Band can not enter another players Island Group hex or a hex containing another players War Canoe; they must be escorted by at least one War Canoe to enter. So after all your Movement is complete and you have at least one War Canoe in a hex with another players units or Island Group hex a battle takes place. Yes! Battles are really simple although we managed to do the first one incorrectly. 8^) Basically the attacker rolls a D6 and looks up the result on a table. The result is either an Attacker retreat or eliminated or a Defender retreat or eliminated. The attacker keeps rolling until one side has no more front line units; that side loses and the other side wins the battle. If the attacker loses he retreats from the hex otherwise the defender retreats his forces from the hex and the attacker remains in the island group. In addition the attacker has an option of either eliminating all the defender's villages from the island group or eliminating all but one village by eliminating one of his surviving front line fighting units. This village then becomes his and the island group is then controlled by him.

4. Building Step
During the Building Step, all players simultaneously purchase new units, using the Build Points (BPs) they have for the turn, and place them on their island groups that paid for them. They may also purchace one Arts and Culture card (two BPs) which may grant them additional VPs, when revealed, a special benefit either one time or for the whole game, or both.[OOPs]We were reading the text to determine if the benefit was one time or lasting but we should have been looking at the color of the VP bonus text. If it is blue it is a one time bonus and if it is red it is an effect that lasts for the remainder of the game.[/OOPs] Each island group you own generates one BP for each village on that island group. If an island group is connected to another island group(s), via your Transport Canoe chain, the player can pool the build points from the islands to build units on one island group or more connected island groups. Oh there is one important fact I have yet to mention; there is a Fog of War element in the game in that all player's units are placed on the map with their back side facing up so the other players don't know what they are until revealed.

5. Victory Step
At the end of the turn, each player adjusts their victory point marker to indicate the victory points they currently have; note that VPs are not cummulative. Victory points are gained for controlled island groups, villages, atolls in your transport canoe chain, and revealed Arts and Culture cards that award VPs. If one or more persons has reached the VP goal for the game the game ends if not a new turn is started at step 1.

Our Game
Since Nevin and I were practically on top of each other at start I decided to build War Bands in my home island when ever possible to dissuade Nevin from attacking and I imagine Nevin's large stack was composed similarly. Nevin was the first to go on the war path attacking Mervyn with two War Canoes carrying a War Band apiece. Mervyn repelled the Nevin's invaders with no losses to either side and a few turns of peaceful expansion followed. [OOPs] It seems we interpreted the combat explanation incorrectly as Nevin had only two units in his front line instead of four.[/OOPs] Each of us started off exploring towards each player's side of the board so as not to intrude into enemy territory early on and both Nevin and I avoided going East towards the independent island groups. Toward middle game Mervyn's luck with the exploration tile draw gave him a slight lead in VPs with me in second and Nevin third. To prevent us from gaining more VPs Nevin played Severe Deforestation on us removing the village counter on the brown box of both Mervyn and my home island group. [OOPs] Severe Deforestation doesn't also remove the Improved Agriculture marker. In fact, no event can remove Improved Agriculture from a space once it has been purchased. [/OOPs]

As mentioned earlier, Mervyn was very lucky during his exploration and by game end he had constructed a contiguous island group of ~11 islands (no atolls) and Nevin added another 2 islands to that group in his exploration! While the game progressed Nevin remarked that the Hiva lived on Pangea. And so came to be the founding of the great Pangean Empire.

Nevin's exploration eventually forced him to explore towards Mervyn's Hiva Pangean Empire leading to two or three more battles between them. Fortunately for me I managed to stayed away from Pangea for most of the game and decided to expand Westward, late in the game when I could go no where else, into the Independent Island Groups first conquering Kiribati and then Pohnpei via Nauru (last turn of game). Mervyn looked like he may expansionist ideas toward my Samoan Empire so I stuck a War Canoe in the closest approach between him and I as a sort of destroyer picket while I headed East [TIP]This is another tactic to be aware of since War Canoes must stop when entering a hex with enemy War Canoes you can place them in enemy avenues of approach to your empire to give you at least an extra turn to prepare for the attack.[/TIP]. I had kept the majority of my Arts and Culture cards unrevealed so I figured I could end and win the game when I conquered Pohnpei but after the tally Mervyn's Hiva Pangean Empire claimed victory by 1 VP at 29VPs. Incidentally even if we had tied Mervyn would have still won the tie breaker by the large overwhelming number of island groups he controlled.

A lot of comments, on Boardgamegeek, have been made about the component quality of the game but as a wargamer the game is of typical good GMT wargame quality. I enjoyed the game and would like to play it again.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Combat Commander: Battle Pack 1, Paratrooper, Sunday 1/6/2008

My son and I tried out one of the scenarios from Battle Pack 1: Paratroopers the first scenario pack for Combat Commander: Europe. By the title of the scenario pack you can correctly assume all scenarios have paratroopers on at least one side and some have them on both sides. The pack includes two new double sided maps and 11 new scenarios.

I forget which scenario number it was but its title was "We Go!". It pitted the American 102nd airborne vs the Germans at St. Mere Eglise, France, 6 June 1944. The German forces set up first protecting three victory point objectives on the map. Two objectives were fairly close together, a single-hex (3VPs) and a double-hex building (4VPs) in the middle of the map and then a forest hex (5VPs) that sat along side a road intersection leading into the town. Once the Germans were set up the Americans parachute onto random hexes on the map. If they landed on, adjacent, or within line of sight of any Germans they landed on their broken side. Since the scenarios starts at night both sides were limited to two orders per turn. On time 3 the Americans get to increase their orders/turn to 3. On time 2 the Germans get reinforcements consisting of one squad, a leader, and a light machine gun (LMG). Additionally, at the beginning of the scenario, time 0, the Germans can not move until time 1.

Cody's airborne troops landed all over the map with three squads and a leader landing broken but were rallied on his first turn.

What's all this time 0, time 1, etc stuff? Combat Commander(CC) keeps track of time in a different manner than other tactical wargames or most wargames in general. Usually time is divided up into discrete turns such that one turn representing a discrete interval of time passing in the game world. A turn can be either one side completing its actions or both sides completing their actions according to the sequence of play. In CC the amount of time that has passed between activities (orders/actions) is variable and is controlled by the "Fate" card decks of both players. If a player draws all the cards in his Fate Deck a Time Event occurs. One of the things that happens is the time marker is advanced one space on the Time Track, ie from time 0 to time 1. There are also Time Events associated with some of the Fate Cards. If one of those Fate Cards is drawn while resolving a die roll a Time Event occurs. Each scenario will list when the scenario may end, when and if reinforcements come into play, etc according to the Time Track, ie the Allies get reinforcements on time 3.

Back to the action.
Cody had the first turn and a Recover Order in his hand so all his elite units that landed adjacent to the Germans rallied easily and all were flipped back over to their good order side. Rats! no easy pickings for me on my first turn. In CC units must be effectively broken twice before they are eliminated under normal fire attacks so it requires at least two Fire Orders to eliminate a unit. Cody's best leader Lt Wray was activated for movement and headed in the general direction of building 2J8, map 2 hex J8, in the area where most of his squads had dropped. Cody's other leader was all by himself in the fields of 2B10; he would not activate him for movement until a few turns later. In my first turn the squad/LMG and leader in building 2D3 fired on the squad in 2E4 for no effect. The Time Marker stayed on time 0 for quite a few turns so all the Germans could do was conduct Fire Orders on the Americans, when it was possible, while Cody slowly organized his dispersed squads around Lt Wray.

Once Lt Wray organized his forces the Americans became unstoppable. The US units have great morale even when broken. I ambushed one of Cody's squads and he still managed to kill my guys in Melee. I had one squad left when the Germans finally lost do to reaching their surrender level. The Germans managed to kill three US squads but two of them came back on the board do to the "Walking Wounded" event coming up twice for Cody. The US forces managed to take all of the VP spaces and the lone German took back the Woods VP space before they surrendered.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Six-Player Starcraft, Saturday 1, 2008

We had six people show up for Starcraft: the Board Game on Saturday. A random draw assigned the factions.
1. Queen of Blades (Zerg) - Troy Adlington
2. The Overmind (Zerg) - John Boone
3. Tassadar (Protoss) - Mark Bausman
4. Aldaris (Protoss) - Mervyn Dejecacion
5. Jim Raynor (Terran) - Mark Simonitch
6. Arcturus Mengsk (Terran) - Nevin Ball

Once the Third Stage deck showed up Nevin had satisfied his faction's special victory condition, controlled every area on two planets, for the win.