Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bye Bye Blogger

After several hours spent trying to figure out why my images weren't being loaded, and then dealing with the trumpster fire that is Blogger's web-based draft editor, I've given up on the platform. At this point, I am happy to hear what other people use. As far as I'm concerned Google has killed this blogging channel.

The worst part was by far how unfunctional the draft editor was. Select a draft post to edit, move your mouse across the screen, and watch your images, or at least the boxes where one might expect to see images, fly around the post. The watch as you can't scroll up or down the post! Ha ha!

Customer support kept telling me to contact the maker of BlogTouch, the editor I downloaded to allow me to, y'know, edit the draft, when I had told them repeatedly that the editor online didn't work. Despite the initial material having nothing to do with BlogTouch. 

Enough. My final post on this site will let you know where I've moved. Maybe the Geek, although I've found their image addition ability to be onerous in normal posts...

Monday, November 21, 2016

Crazy Year

What a year. I had every intention of being better about keeping this blog updated, but between open heart surgery in March, joining an R&B band as a keyboardist (not my wheelhouse, it has taken more work to prep for this band than any given year getting my master's), and the incredibly depressing US election (not a political statement, just a fact that we elected a man to the most powerful position in the western world who ran solely to get a good renewal deal for his reality show series, as documented by the person running the campaign when it started), putting out content just wasn't in the cards.

Now, I am actively trying to avoid political news after suffering a very mild and temporary stroke last week (doing fine now, just a couple of hours of wonky vision and a whole lot of medical tests to find out that, as someone on blood thinners, there isn't much I can do about a stroke if I have another). As part of that effort, it is my intent to focus on games that I'm interested in but that don't have a lot of coverage in the usual venues. Not a big fan of CSW because of the lack of threading, but I will cross post to the Geek.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

NRIF Turn 1 Weeks 3-4

Let's get this turn finished up.

Week 3 sees the supply situation for the Brits the Sam, with one unit out of supply. The US left their mech unit on its reduced side, which doesn't have the extra SP symbol, to allow them to have all units supplied.

The Brits take the airport and move to flank the HG panzer unit. They get one Reserve Point back. The Us units will try to reach the coast east of Palermo to force the 15th PG unit to have to retreat toward Messina, then they will try to take Palermo in the next turn to cut the Italians off and get the Axis Italy marker to the Armistizio! box. It will be very difficult to destroy a German square unit, although the 15th is in a bit of a pickle.

Here is the board state, including combat markers.

 

No CBs placed by the Axis, which keeps them from using their big CB Shock marker.

The first attack on the Italian unit east of Palermo results in an EX/CR result, which eliminates the Italian but loses on US step and leaves the 15th PG with an escape route! The other US attack results in a CB result, so the Axis got lucky on the US side of the island.

The Brits want to channel the HG unit to the west, so they start with the attack on the untried Italian. A DR result pushes it back up the coast road, and the 46th British follows it. The big battle is against the HG, and the Allies throw in their last Blitz marker as well. The result is a D, but the Axis would like to prevent units from blocking the supply road on the north coast, so they throw in their Veteran NCOs card to force a reroll, which gets the exact same result. HG loses a step to stay in place, and the shock/target marker requires a UK step as a result. The Canadians take the hit although there are better units to supply the 50th for next turn.

No second combats, and no units from the Reserve box for the Allies. Here is the map post combat...

 

The Axis are all in supply, as is the UK 50th North now that the Canadians aren't hogging all the petrol. The Axis sees the writing on the wall and pulls back while leaving a spoiling force in Palermo.

There is no combat, as the Brits choose not to use a CB against the FJ unit and the Axis wants to just slow the Allies down. Sicily is lost, but maybe the Italians can hold out in Palermo for the final week and mess up the US supply situation.

 

The Allies draw another useless card, spend one US reserve to draw a second card, which is immediately discarded without any effect. The US then uses a second reserve to draw a third, but it too is useless. The US used its reserves because Palermo will give them two more reserves without running into more than they can stockpile. This is seven cards, but the US will burn one to improve the 3rd. The Germans also draw a useless card as Forts aren't available for a couple more turns, and choose not to burn any reserves in what is already a losing cause. They burn one card as well to improve HG. On to week 4 and the last player turns of July 1943.

Everyone is in supply now for both sides. The US wants to take Palermo to give them port supply. They would be OK with using Catania, but it only supplies five SP, so better to take Palermo if they can. The U.K. Forces won't push as hard this turn, they just want to set up to try to sidestep the German units if necessary. An advance in either hex would put two German units out of supply, so worth the minor risk. No UK units attack, hoping th German burns CB to avoid the Mointain penalties.the Germans use the shock/CB marker to force combat with the slightly weaker Brit units on the SW flank of Etna.


Saving the best for last, the US first attacks the Italian adjacent to the 15th PG, receiving a DR that pushes it back to the coast road. Note that it has to retreat through the 15th PG but since stacking isn't enforced until later, this is legal as long as they aren't stacked at the end of the Results Step, this is permitted.  

The UK units use one Combat Supply Point to give them an extra combat factor, lowering ASP to 24, plus a shock marker, making this combat a 1-1. The result is a EX/CR, not the result they wanted. They can counterattack, not a great choice, or they can accept a D result by replacing the unit with a KG. If they do that, it moves the Axis Italy marker to Armistizio!, but the other option may give the Allies an advance to the coast to cut off the 15th. They figure that Palermo is falling anyway, so they place the KG. With Kesselring in command, they will get their LW unit back fairly cheaply, and they will have a junk card to burn anyway. 

Finally, the fate of Palermo, still important to the US forces. The defender is shattered and the US takes the town. Sicily is, for all practical purposes, Allied, and the Axis Italy marker flips. The Italians will capitulate when the Allies invade the mainland, so we are moving at a very historic pace.

 

I improve all of the Allied units that are reduced as I won't be able to keep those cards anyway.

The Axis Italians in the SW part of the map are now out of supply, so they are eliminated. Everyone else is in supply. The Germans prepare to move across the Strait of Messina next turn, or more likely be moved to their reserves. No combat, and no units moved from reserves.

For the Final Supply phase, there are no units or Landing markers in LZ hexes, and no No Combat markers, so nothing happens here.

As I look more closely at this rule, it seems clear that it occurs each week, which is a bit of a surprise. That means a couple of units would not have been in play for the Allies, although I would have been improving units instead. I choose to put the two OOS units, the 82nd and the 50th North, into the Surrendered units box for now. The second part of the phase is skipped until now. This is not at all clear from the example of play, which doesn't mention the rule at all, but I figure it wasn't going to be a big deal in this play through.

This ends the first full turn. It was a long one, and a bit of confusion around supply, but all in all successful, especially for the Allies. The next turn should be fairly easy, although we will discuss advanced game supply and possibly Attrition. This is the time for the Allies to set up for their mainland invasion, which I plan to perform at the historic site at Salerno on Turn 3 once I've gotten most of the units back to Reserves.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

NRIF HistCam, Turn 1 Week 1 Axis Move through Turn 1 Week 2

Back to the game. Let's see how far we get!

I set the Germans up more or less as they were in the EoP, with one near Palermo and the HG unit at the airfield. 

Some limits to the Axis this turn, no road bonus, no units coming in as Reserves. Nothing huge. However, they only have a single Blitz counter and their leader-generated CB marker is useless, so the key will be to avoid setting up a good Allied CB while creating a line that will be tough for the Allies to break through.

Also, just learned that I paid for Allied Port Supply (APS) in the first turn, but the Major Offensive is free so there are 25 points in the bank. This takes some pressure off of getting that second port in play the first full turn. We will look at the supply process in more detail at the start of the next turn, as sequencing will be important.

During the Supply phase, one Italian unit is OOS and is eliminated! Normally, a unit would get an out of supply marker, but since it's a round unit is is immediately eliminated and returned to the Italian draw cup. All other units, including the Allies, are in supply. I should note that APS does not play a role here, we are simply tracing a supply line to the Beachheads, and beach hexes are considered to have roads for purposes of a supply line to a Beachhead.

Here is a picture after Axis movement:

 

I decided to preserve as much Axis strength as possible, and even kept the HG unit at the airport as the line is so brittle. Once the Germans can deploy a couple more units next week that won't be such an issue, but for now it's critical to keep the airport in Axis hands. Note that I have kept a Italians in a couple of ports to prevent an easy grab if the Allied player happens to have the Naval Outflank card.

The Axis does not place any target markers, and the Allies used all of their targets, but the do get a free CB from Alexander, so they use it to force battle between the UK commandos and the Static unit north of Siracusa. That means the Italian NW of the US paratroopers gets a pass this phase. No cards, but the Italians play a Blitz marker. The rules are not crystal clear about which CRT the Italians use, but the term "player's CRT" is used at the start of the combat rules, so I will use the German table for them even though this seems counterintuitive. The odds are 1-2 up to 1-1 for the Blitz marker, no TEM because of the CB. The result is a counter attack, which happens at 2-1 with no modifications. The result is EX, and no way for the Allied player to improve that. Commando goes off to Destroyed Units, Italian static is removed. 

There is no reserve phase for the Axis, and no Second Combat, so off to the Weekly Prep. Allies draw a useless card, Germans get lucky. Allies use on Reserve point to draw an extra card which won't be useful until the next turn. Allies burn their useless card to improve the US 1st Mech, decline to improve the 82nd. Axis burn a card to flip the Italian next to the 82nd, allowed because it is a two step unit. The Allies decide against rebuilding the commandos for now. The week advances, and we return to player turns.

Here is the map after week 1:

 

Most units are in supply. One interesting wrinkle, the port is not acting to generate supply, and there are 7SP of US units and 7 SP of UK units, and the beachhead units have to supply one or the other. That means one unit of each faction will be OOS. Note the US commando is on the coast, so he's ok. I choose the US 82nd and the U.K. 50th North to be OOS for now. If there are losses there won't be a problem next turn. I just didn't count closely, I guess.

The Allies choose to press for Palermo with their US forces, with a screening force to protect their beachheads. The UK forces will press up the coast as there is little in the way to Catania. Once that is taken, the HG unit will need to decide if holding the airfield will be worth it. There are no good spots for that extra invasion yet, hoping to have US units closer to Palermo. 

Here is the map post Allied Move.

 

In combat, the 15th PG holds its position while the US loses a step. US attacks on Italian units result in no advances, and the British attack in the East results in the elimination of the Italians and the chance for a second combat, which they decline. HG is in some trouble, as is Catania and even Messina, so the Axis needs to reform their line in the east. Fortunately, they will get some help. The Allies choose not to place more units on the map, they have too many as it is.

Here is post combat for Allied Week 2:

 

Things have gone well in the west, but not so much in the east for the Axis. They will bring a couple of units on, but HG is at risk. The 82nd is back in supply after losing an SP step, but the UK unit is still OOS.

The Axis continues to pull back, trying to save as much time as possible. Here is their position post move:

 

The Allies put a CB on the 1st Canadians near Catania, but no other attacks. The static unit is a 0, so the Canucks get a free 6:1 attack that eliminates the unit and they move into Catania. This shifts the Armistice marker to the Viva Il Re box, and restores one UK reserve. The Canadians can't get a second attack as they advanced into a port. Still, they advance to threaten HG and the Axis may be having to consider abandoning Sicily after a very effective Allied invasion. 

The Germans bring in the reduced FJ unit from reserves, placing in the mountains near Etna.

Weekly prep sees the allies draw their card plus one more, both useless. The Germans do the same! At least they can use it for improving units.

Allies improve the 82nd, no others to keep in the Supply limit for the US. Axis improve the 1st FJ, the Italian west of the airport for a two value card discard. Allies rebuild the UK commando.

Here is the end of week 2:

 

Should be able to finish the turn in the next installment.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

No Retreat: Italian Front Historical Campaign, Turn 1 Week 1, Allied Turn

Back at last, just didn't have the time or energy prior to my surgery to do much on this front. I'm through recovery, eight weeks out of surgery as of today, and pretty much back to my normal routine.

After spending a bit of time trying various games out, I've settled on giving No Retreat! The Italian Front my attention for a long term game I'll do a prolonged session report on. The game has gotten some negative buzz due to what I consider unrealistic expectations from the gamer community, and as such is lacking in an extended example of play or tutorials on some of the less obvious subsystems, so I figure I can help with that through a combined session report/clinic.

Note that this is my first play through at this level, I'm sure to make many mistakes, but will note when I've done so and will rewind where realistic, leave on the map where not. 

I am playing the Historical Campaign to limit some of the choices I would otherwise make, and I think this is a better option for solo play anyway. I will be playing both sides to the best of my ability, but focusing on decisions for the aggressive side at any given point, randomize for card plays for the defensive side if there is ambiguity as to the best course. I will be using all of the advanced rules.

The first turn give a clinic on how to do an invasion, so I'll cover that now. First, you'll want some gas in your tank, so it's a good thinking that you start with a lot of supply, 25 points. That's really good, as you will need 20 just to cover four weeks of campaigning this month. The other five can be banked or saved up for the future. I think saving those five is a great idea, the alternative would be to spend it on Combat Supply. I will go into much greater detail on how Allied Port Supply works in a future post, just know for now that I'm being conservative with what I have.

The first thing we do is draw cards, and I get some good ones for the Allies, mainly the Naval Supremacy which gives all invading units one shift to the right in all combats. I'm not sure if this includes the US paradrop, I played it as if it was not invading. They also get the Naval Outflank card that allows for an extra surprise invasion hex later in the month.The Axis get a hand of crap, and end up giving the Operation Shingle card to the Allies, although they do get a replacement card and a Reserve point, so that's good. About all they have is one battle card that allows a reroll,

Alexander doesn't use his redraw ability at this point, as the first card is worth keeping. 

This is an excellent time to discuss the way the rules are written, how that makes learning the game both more and less difficult, and how best to approach a game with a given rules philosophy.

The No Retreat franchise started at Victory Point Games, Alan Emerich's small publishing imprint. Anyone familiar with Totaller Krieg, Alan's magnum opus, knows that he likes rules that are laid out to follow the sequence of play. This allows a gamer new to a title to simply follow the rules as the game progresses without needing to necessarily read them in advance, although it's always good to at least take a gander at the sequence of play ahead of time. Where this philosophy falls down is when there's a lot of chrome and/or systems that affect multiple phases of play. The remedy, as seen in TK, is to provide learning scenarios that introduce you to some of the more elaborate mechanisms. With NRIF, the remedy is bothe the Huskey scenario and the extended example of lay that takes you through a couple of weeks of the first turn, as well as another example that details assaulting a strong defensive line, as will occur occasionally in any game on the Italian Front.

NRIF uses this exact rules philosophy, which is no surprise as the designer, Carl Paradis, has a high opinion of Alan's work, and also published his first game with Alan as developer. As such, the rules layout is extremely similar to that of TK, almost note for note. I am good with this, but it does mean a certain amount of pain while learning the game. To be fair, any complex system such as a war game, especially one with such a unique system as NR, is going to have some conceptual pain, you just work through it to get to the play. In this case, the biggest broad spectrum issues are Invasions and Allied Supply. I will cover the Invasion issues here.

For Huskey, there are no requirements to start an invasion, which is defined as units coming in from the sea. For every other invasion, you need to play an event card that has the silhouette of a combat ship on it. There are other limitations on invasions which I will not go into here, it is enough to understand that you can't just land units up and down the coast when you feel like it.

You also can't land where you feel like landing, you have to choose Landing Zones, identified by all sea hexes with arrows in them. You need to bring both CW and US units to the party, as everyone wants a piece of the glory. You also need to define up to two areas of contiguous LZ hexes. The example in the playbook shows the two zones and I stuck with those for my play through. 

To start the invasion, you also need to have Landing markers available. The Allies have seven of these at the start of the game, and so can have up to seven LZ hexes involved. The example uses six with the idea that maybe you can make an extra invasion later in the month as a surprise, and in fact my Allies got an event card that allows that. You place your Landing markers on your LZ hexes in the Deployment phase, when you are moving units in and out of reserve boxes, but you don't place actual units just yet. I used the spaces used in the example.

The next step happens during the Movement phase. You can "move" units from the reserve box to LZ hexes with Landing markers at a cost of three MP, and if not in an EZOC they can continue moving onto land as normal. If the LZ is in an EZOC, you have to leave the unit there. So long as you are not in the final week of a month, these units may end up sitting at sea if the EZOC isn't eliminated, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Units fight as per the usual combat rules, and may or may not advance onto the beaches. Note that you cannot move or deploy a unit into an LZ hex unless there is a Landing marker in it.

You can also drop paratroops or land commandos as well during invasions, I won't get into those systems at this time.

Once units have fought, during the Reserve Phase the Landing markers can be moved onto the beach hexes their arrows point to and flipped to their Beachhead side to provide supply for the units on land. You don't need to supply units still in LZ hexes, and you don't need to have a  Landing marker in an LZ to keep a unit there until the end of the month, but you do need the Landing marker there to move a unit from Reserves during the Movement phase. You will generally want to convert Landing markers unless they would be vulnerable to an enemy attack. Also note that units in LZs tend to be more vulnerable to attack as well.

At the end of the months, during the Final Supply Phase any remaining unconverted Landing markers go back to the holding box and any units still on LZ hexes go to the Shattered Units box, so be sure and get everyone on dry land before the month ends.

On to the actual game!

I don't have a pic from the initial invasion, but it was very similar to the example in the playbook. By and large, the Allies had an excellent first week, with the US mech unit even getting a second combat opportunity and the US paratroopers surviving their drop. The British commando unit even managed to take Syracuse, although the Italian unit there wasn't brittle and could have take a step loss instead on the D result and prevented advancing. As we will see later on, it is critical for both the US and UK to take a port hex in order to gain Port Supply for the next turn. I'm a bit confused as to whether or not the Port Supply requires each faction of the Allies to have their own port, as in the standard rules, or if one port can supply both Us and UK units. 

Here is a pic of the end of the Allied turn, I have left the deploying units that came on in the Reserve phase on LZs to better show the converted beachhead markers. Once there is sufficient port supply, these will deploy back off of the board for use in the next invasion. Not shown is the Itslian Armistice box, which is on the Finito Benito space as the Allies have taken a Port.


 

The Axis will be on the defensive, trying to prevent the Allies from taking a second port or from getting closer to Messina. Ideally, the Allies should take the island in two turns at the most, the sooner the better so that they can get their landing markers back and prepare for Avalanche on the mainland.

Next up, I'll move along a bit more quickly as there won't be a lot of things to explain, and we should get through a good part of the month.