Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Jena Campaign Huddersfield (UK) 25th June

More Megagaming! It's been a while since I've actually played having been on the control team for the last few games.

Rupert Clamp is running his game on the Jena campaign. It's a double blind campaign map game, a bit like a structured Kriegspiel but with his own system.

It also has a face to face battle system, that takes place during campaign time, so a legitimate strategy is to tie an opposing division or corps down on a battle map whilst your allies march to the sound of the guns.

In my view these are the best megagames. The more pure political megagames can go 'I do what I want because I say roleplaying'. By facing the players with the unknown of a hidden map and the harsh consequences of war people start to do something incredible, they think. You can pull of gambits that never work in open map games, and the chain of command and inter-team rivalry creates a whole lot of political fiasco on the side.

The game starts fairly early in the campaign (French still at Wurtzberg. As such it can go in a lot of different directions. Do the French go over the hill? or via the Fulda Gap?

These sorts of games are quite open and allow for some genuine strategic insight, bluff and operational planning debate.

If you are interested hit the above link.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Quick Looks April II: Dien Bien Phu, The Final Gamble

This is a game for people who value narrative content over anything else in a wargame and will pay any price to get it. I can best illustrate this with a comparison between the French supply systems in this game against the supply system in the Operational Combat Series from Multiman publishing.

To determine the amount of generic supply counters you get in in an OCS game you roll 2 dice and consult a chart and put that many tokens on the map at your supply point hex. These counters are then used to pay for ammo, artillery shells, aircraft refueling and sometimes food. They are generic abstracted supply, the detail is in how they are moved around the map.
Gabrielle has fallen, this helps maintain the Vietminh moral for a few more turns.

In Dien Bien Phu artillery ammo, food, fuel and medicine are all recorded on separate tracks. You spend meds to heal injured units and to keep malaria at bay, you spend ammo for each arty strike you carry out, you loose 4 food a turn or suffer for it, and if you run out of fuel you cannot do much in the way of strategic movement. Halfway through each turn you will reduce each of these tracks. You then get to take little ammo, medicine, food etc tokens and load them on to slots in a supply drop matrix. The number of spaces in the matrix goes down with bad weather and the encroachment of Vietminh trenches. You then roll a die and this tells you how many supply drops are aborted (it will be between 1 and 9). If you roll 9 you will roll two dice nine times cross referring the matrix each time to discard a supply drop. You then re-adjust the tracks back up based on what supplies you gained. Seeing the effect of malaria, the loss of drop sites and the whittling down of food and fuel supplies adds a lot to the story but fairly little in terms of decision making.

Starting setup
Kim de Kanger has shown some strokes of genius in this design on Dien Bien Phu, it is essentially a question of who will break first so he has loaded his rules density on to the French supply and the Vietminh moral. A lot of the real decision making falls around when to push and how hard. Do you take your foot of the gas and conserve or do you pump the accelerator and throw in a risky counter attack? I prefer games of manoeuvre to games of resource management, with Dien Bien Phu having a bias to the latter.
Combat has defensive fire and then assaults, quite a few counters can get stacked up.
Dien Bien Phu the final gamble does what it does very well, it has a cool artillery system, nice components, it produces a good story but it takes a lot of mental investment. Whether there will be a payoff for you depends on how much you get out of narrative detail.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Quick looks April / May 2016 - Legion Games part I: Quatre Batailles en Espagne

Personally I think the term 'review' should only really be used if you have played a game through several times, ideally opposed, and feel qualified to make some comment on the games balance. Most games that don't work for me are never going to get played multiple times. In fact I probably won't play them right through even once if they are a lot of work. Over the past couple of weeks I have been playing two titles from Legion Games, Dien Bien Phu the Final Gamble and Quatre Batailles en Espagne. I really like Quatre Batailles but I didn't really get in to Dien Bien Phu.

I going to start doing this new quick looks format for games I have only spent a few hours with and only played once. It allows me to give a general impression to the read of what the game is trying to do but falls short of a full review.

Quatre Batailles en Espagne

I played the Salamnque battle and it took me about 3-4 hours with just the base ruleset. The system plays a lot like La Bataille light (La Bat being a series from Marshall Enterprises and Clash of Arms games) the key different being this game as 30 minute rather than 15 minute turns. In effect the turn length produces very decisive results to actions giving the game a very action orientated feel. A cavalry charge will produce bedlam, an infantry melee will mostly result in one side breaking and artillery at close range really knocks holes in the regimental formations.

I am probably going to stick with this series for my Napoleonic fix it gives me a convincing simulation but with a shorter rule book than some of its competitors. It also plays rather quickly with the basic rules. The advance rules at a read seem a bit ambiguous in some areas, but not in a way that particularly bothers me. They will raise the realism, particularly in terms of command and control IN the base rules you can do whatever you want and it results in a short battle as both sides can get the attacks they want committed.

Visually, the maps are attractive and in the Legion style. The counters have some small numbers on them, and quite a few different numbers too. They are elongated and you flip them depending on whether  a unit is in line or column giving the game a nice visual effect.

My main criticism at this stage would be the casualty chart. You can use counters to track hits, but this adds to counter density and they could easily be confused with disruption counters. The game comes with a chart listing each unit and its casualty hits. If the boxes were bigger they could hold a cube, as it is you really need to photocopy it and use a marker pen. Its a shame a booklet of paper copies was not included. The only other issue I see some folks having is the setup rules can be a little vague. You get instructions like setup X division halfway between this land mark the south map edge. You can work it out but I could see ultra competitive types making an argument out of it.