Thursday, 31 August 2017

Boardgames #4

...or a Tale of 2 WW2 tactical boardgames (I's hardly Dickens)

The summer boardgaming extravaganza continues with a pair of contrasting WW2 skirmish level boardgames.

My son and I decided to have a game of Heroes of Normandie.  I'm a big fan of the system... there are earlier blog posts about it hereherehere and here (obviously I'm a bigger fan than I'd realised!).  At the end of 2015 I even signed up for a Kickstarter which produced lots of new squads and terrain tiles as well as storage for the counters and, more importantly, a revised rulebook which collated all the info from the various expansions.  Callum kindly put together the Pegasus Bridge shaped Dice Tower for me. I've always been slightly baffled by the need for dice towers but it was free....

The Very large box the Kickstarter came in

Storage for the counters
My Dice Tower...

HoN presents itself as a rather cartoonish WW2 movie inspired boardgame but underneath the bonnet is a very, very good tactical level game.   Normally when I've played this (usually against regular opponent Anthony at Guildford) we've played pre-designed scenarios from the main box or from the mini-Campaigns such as D Day.  The rules do, however, allow you to build your own forces within some constraints and so we tried both options.

Initially we played out the "Slaughterhouse 5" scenario which pits Germans against US troops holed up in a house and their comrades who have come to relieve them.  My son played as the Germans and really struggled to make headway.  As in previous games we found buildings to be real deathtraps: any units that head inside tend to be faced with a flurry of grenades.  Despite a furious struggle around the target house the Germans couldn't seize control before the end of the game.

Callum then suggested we try building our own scenario which we tried a few nights later.  The point balancing is more complex than it first appeared but we worked our way through and played out a straight encounter.  This was a very bloody affair...the tone was set in the first turn when my Greyhound which had advanced too far ahead to be safe, was swiftly despatched by a Panzerfaust wielding squad and most of my squads came under MG42 fire.  Some shoddy dice-rolling on my part and a good grasp of fire doctrine by Callum meant I was increasingly pinned down by MG fire and units began to fall rapidly.  Even the presence of 'The Rock' (a MG wielding hero with an unfeasibly large chin) made little impact and the game was rapidly over.

A few nights later I had one of my regular game nights with my friend Andrew.  He was keen to try out the starter kit of Advanced Squad Leader which her had acquired.  I last played ASL sometime back in the early 80s at uni and remembered it being very, very complex, so I was curious to see if it had changed or if my memories of the game still held true.

The game still feels very much like a 1970s/80s boardgame....little card chits, legalese rules in small print, very complicated turn sequences and lots and lots of baffling acronyms...

This is the degree-level turn sequence chart...

How did it play??  Well, the scenario pitted  US paratroopers against Germans at Vierville in Normandy with reinforcements arriving on both sides as the game progressed.  At first, I have to admit I found the turn sequencing baffling with units firing at different parts of the turn and at different strengths but the complicated turn sequence table did actually make sense and I quickly found that there was a pretty intuitive flow to the game.  It does have a chess-like structure which means you need to consider carefully who moves when and where...get it wrong (as I did!) and you'll pay the price.

Despite some early success in Turn 1 of 5 (low dice rolls are good and I rolled 2, double 1's in succession!!) Andrew was able to recover from his earlier damage and consolidate his troops in the village centre, occupying most of the objectives.  I think we got  to turn 4 of 5 but it was clear by this point that there was no way I was going to winkle him out of the buildings and we called it a night.

I enjoyed ASL more than I definitely has a very old-school vibe to did we ever manage to wade through the encyclopedia-style SPI rules in the old days??  But it was a fun game and certainly challenging.  Would it work as well once we added in more complicated weapons and terrain??  I hate to think how complicated it must get in the full game, and especially with vehicles,  but it was a fun evening and definitely one to revisit.


Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Boardgames #3

So following up from my defeat at my son's hands in Twilight Struggle we thought we'd go for something that brings all the family together in a spirit of goodwill and harmony...Kingmaker!

We last played this a couple of years ago but it involves roping my wife into a game and, to be fair, she's not overly keen on Kingmaker.  She does however have a knack of disarmingly insisting she doesn't know what she's doing while hoovering up Royal family members and seizing castles left, right and centre.  This game was no exception where she immediately up-scaled Percy (already one of the most powerful nobles) into some kind of uber-Lord who could easily take on everyone else single handed!  My son and I were had more balanced forces but he was slowly outstripping me and eventually (after 3 sessions of the isn't something that can be played out in an evening) I'd managed to take down Percy by combining everyone against him but realised I was still outgunned and conceded the game.

I played a lot of Kingmaker in my uni days and those games would go on for weeks (and involve tantrums... and chair throwing on one memorable occasion!!)  so this was relatively speedy by comparison!

Somehow we managed to lure my wife back for another game but only after we'd promised it wouldn't be Kingmaker.  This time we decided to go for Settlers of Catan.  I bought a set of this a year or 2 ago but hadn't actually played fact I've never played Settlers despite it being one of those seminal games that everyone seems to play.

Game #1 was very much a case of us all trying to work out what we were doing...despite the rules only being 4 pages long there still seems to be a bit of thinking involved.  As expected I was duly handed my arse to play with by my wife who pretty much wiped the floor with my son and I ...the revenge game is planned for this evening....

...UPDATE... I won!!!

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Chain of Command - Russia '42

This week's 'game I haven't played for ages' entry is Chain of Command.

Andrew and I have an occasional game at his place and it has been a good excuse to dig out rules and figures that haven't seen the light of day for a while.  Digging through the blog it looks like I haven't played CoC for a couple of years (and annoyingly the photos have vanished from the posts...something to do with photo storage I think).

This weeks game pitted the brave Heroes of the Soviet Motherland against the Evil Fascist Vipers (can you guess which side I was on??) in a straightforward encounter game with both sides pretty evenly matched.  The objectives were 2 bridges which were conveniently nearer my side of the table but most of the fighting actually centred round a small cluster of houses in the centre of the table.

I've just spotted that the right hand bridge symbol doesn't make any sense (unless it's a viaduct!),
but I cant be bothered going back and changing it!!!  How did I ever pass A-Level Geography???

In Chain of Command troops initially patrol, using patrol markers which move around the table until contact is made.  These then become a number of 'Jump Off Points' which troops can deploy from, given the right dice roll

After the initial patrol phase I made an immediate error and deployed a section rather quickly...I'd forgotten that deploying troops only leaves them vulnerable to getting caught in the open.  I'd attempted to run from the woods on the left to the village and seize the terrace of (suspiciously Western European looking) houses but failed to reach them.  Up popped a German section which proceeded to hammer me with rifle and MG fire...

The brave Soviet soldiers nearly make it to cover...

A 2nd USSR section watches from a ruined house...

oops...the very depleted survivors barely hang on

The survivors of the Soviet charge did manage to get into the houses and their Leader removed some of the shock but they were almost immediately close assaulted by the German section that had shot at them.  Not surprisingly the Soviet section was wiped out in the assault but did manage to cause enough casualties to throw the attackers back.  This bought enough time for me to deploy and move a MMG and crew into the terrace.  In CoC one of the results of the Command Dice that players roll each turn (which determine who can be activated etc) can be to allow the active player to retain the initiative and have another turn.  This time the Germans were the ones caught in the open as the MMG opened up on a German section caught between the 2 ruined houses opposite...

The MMG in position...
...and the lucky Germans caught in the open

Much to Andrew's relief, my dice rolling skills failed at this point and the Germans took relatively light casualties.  Andrew had learned from the very brutal assault earlier and stayed safely in cover in the ruined buildings and whittled down the MMG crew with rifle and LMG fire, eventually forcing them to retreat.

It wasn't looking great for me at this point...I had been having a little more success with my mighty tank and armoured car assault on the Germans in the SE farmhouse who were threatening the 2nd bridge.  I say 'mighty'... I had a T26 and a BA64...hardly a Kursk-level assault... but it was doing the job.  Andrew's section were trying to drive the tank off with small arms fire but then he managed to get the required roll to deploy his Panzerbuschse Team who, after a few close misses, managed to knock out the MG on the armoured car leaving it completely ineffective and vulnerable. My T26 wasn't having much luck firing on the section holed up in the buildings and I was conscious that there was a Pz38 lurking on the other side of the table although to be fair it had turned up and then refused to do anything thanks to some unlucky dice rolling on Andrew's part.

T26 to the rescue...

The uncooperative Pz38

By this point I had a couple of sections still Soviet antitank team had been quickly seen off by Andrew and my tank was stationary guarding one of the bridges but not able to achieve much.  On my left flank I had 1 section remaining in a farmhouse but they were coming under increasing fire from the Germans in the village and a halftrack which had also put in an appearance.   The farm only counted as light cover and I forgot that I could have the unit take up a 'Tactical' stance which would have improved their cover.  At this point I decided that the Soviets would make a hasty withdrawal and conceded, but I suspect there was going to be an awkward conversation with the Commissar afterwards. 

The unit in the Farmhouse....I finally get to make use of my laser line pointer!!!

As we got to the end of the game we realised it was now well after 10 and time to call it a night anyway...I guess the sign of a good game is not noticing the time passing by.  It's definitely inspired me to make more use of Chain of Command.   Somewhere in the loft are my early war British and Belgians so some exploring is definitely required, as well as beefing up the options for the Germans and Russians.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Forager-Napoleonic skirmish rules

These new rules from Stand To games have just launched on Kickstarter.

They look pretty promising with a very cinematic approach which sounds right up my street so I've succumbed and backed the Kickstarter (because obviously I really need another ruleset!!)

Details of the Kickstarter can be found here and the Stand To games page can be found here