Friday, July 28, 2006

WCB West, Part 2

When we last left our heros, Doug was kicking Chuck's tush. Sadly, that was to end in a blaze of, well, something.

Wednesday night was a game Chuck had designed (and is still working on) that I won't go into, but it involves moving around the map collecting various gems that you can combine, then going to another place where you play Can't Stop (in essence) to get something that matches, and the more gems and other things you get the more points you get. I won because I figured out early that you want to get one of all six options, while Chuck couldn't win the Can't Stop part. Then Dave showed us Siena, which is better left undiscussed (I gave up at midnight after nearly 3 hours).

Thursday morning, and Chuck and I played the World's Shortest Game of Royal Tank Corps. This is an area activation game along the lines of Breakout Normandy and Monty's Gamble. The Germans have to take about four turns of brutal slammage before they can really do anything other than stave off the British assault (the milieu is the attack on Cambrai in WWI), and I made a couple of small tactical mistakes compounded by Chuck's spectacular resupply to his artillery units, and it was clear after two turns that things were going to go badly for the Germans, so we agreed that this game was best conceded by me. I think I successfully predicted this result, though, in my previous recap. I will definitely need to solo this game a couple of times to see what the Germans need to do to survive more than a few turns, it really is an astonishingly grim game for them early on.

We decided to play the first day of Columbia's take on Gettysburg. Most Columbia games are more operational or strategic on scope, so playing a tactical game is interesting to say the least. The game is unlike many of Columbia's offerings in that units can attack adjacent spaces (up to three spaces away for artillery) before anyone even moves, and then the rest of the units can move, but don't enter spaces with enemy units, although they may attack into those spaces. Fire and melee are both heavily restricted in that only a single unit may fire/melee across a hexside, so it's important to get a flanking position to attack. After one day, the Confederates (me) had taken Gettysburg itself, Seminary Rigde, and Benner's Hill by the first day, although we had not extended the line on the left up into the Peach Orchard or up to the Round Tops. Our result (in what was clearly a "test" game) was a draw.

Chuck felt that there weren't any "big" battles in this game, unlike most Columbia games, although I'd have to say that the scope was so different that any sort of breakthrough would be unusual and would require more attrition that we'd generated. I really liked the supply system that differentiated between HQs at different levels of command, it made for a very interesting game in my book, even if nothing really "big" happened during the game. It only took about three hours for one day, and that included digging through the typically miserable Columbia rules.

As an aside, I will say that I've met Tom Dalglish (pronounced "dog leash"), and he is clearly someone who doesn't understand why people don't "get" his rules system. I would strongly suggest that he use extended play examples in his rules that demonstrate how the system works, as the rules were very unclear, especially if you are used to the typical operational area movement game such as Hammer of the Scots or Crusader Rex. Also, if you are going to use the "margin" method of play notes and examples, leave out actual rules from the margins as people don't look for them there. This is a very good game once again made unnecessarily difficult by a poor ruleset. Which is a shame, because I think this may be my favorite block game so far (and I am not a fan of ACW). I'll have to play a full game, or one that starts on turn 2 to get a better sense, though.

Chuck's wife Jodi was due to show up soon, so Chuck and I played Pizza Box Football, the Smashmouth version (simple time management, but a full four quarters). I took the Seahawks and Chuck took the Pack (both '94 versions, the '95 season hasn't come out yet, at least as far as I know), and I rolled significantly better than Chuck. After dinner, Chuck and Dave played a little Zopp, which is a fun Crokinole-type version of air hockey. Good fun with lots of smack talk all around. I lost to Chuck in the one game we played.

To close out the evening, the three of us played Merchant of Venus, the old AH chestnut that plays like a train game. Dave went for the Freighter strategy with Red and Yellow drives, I went for a Transport with just Yellow and taking Fares along in the extra space, and Chuck took a Clipper early on that became a Transport later. I edged Chuck for the win when an extra good became available at the place I was sitting at, then got my fare into the Galactic Base when I was able to roll 20 movement points in two turns just in time to beat out Chuck when he learned he couldn't just sell his ship parts for the win. About as close a game as I've played, as Dave was a turn or three behind both of us. Good fun, and the first worthwhile game of MoV I've played.

Friday (today) was the day that Chuck and I took on a "big" game, in this case Empire of the Sun. Last year it was Barbarossa to Berlin, the CDG that takes on WWII from 1941 on. EotS is Mark Herman's PTO game, with similar structure (the Japanese simply try not to be completely obliterated), but this one is hex-based and a much different animal. Herman does great games with rules that drive me nuts - he uses 20 words to describe what should be done in 5, and so the ruleset is difficult to parse. When I got the game, I spent hours reading it, even my wife noticed that I was spending a lot of time getting the game down.

When it comes down to it, the game is very interesting, although I have yet to see the Japanese do well enough in Burma to justify a strong China strategy. We left off in the game at 1944, with Chuck's Allies having just taken Bangkok (although with heavy losses), and the Americans just getting back into the Philippines. Particularly notable was an attack on Commonwealth forces just north of Bangkok that saw two 18-12s and a 9-12 vaporize with a lucky roll on Chuck's part (and about half of the Japanese fleet vaporize at Truk around the same time). On the other hand, I have used ever Weather card, sometimes twice because of discard pile scavenging due to Inter-Service Rivalry recovery cards, to slow the Allies in 1942 and 43. We tabled the game around dinner time and plan to pick it up on Saturday.

For evening games, the three of us pulled out Arkham Horror, the reissue of the old Chaosium title. I have been lukewarm on this game, as it doesn't solitaire as well as World of Warcraft, and just doesn't have the same level of immersion for me. However, our game was good fun, although a bit easy - we never felt like we were up against the clock as the Mythos cards kept putting new gates in areas we'd already sealed. The terror track never got above 0, and we did a good job of busting up monsters - I think Chuck took about 20 points in monster pelts alone. Me, I kept losing my sanity, which was annoying. Dave loved the theme and overall play, and hopes to play it with his daughter once she turns 5 or 6. Eek. Still, this was clearly a fun little puzzle game for three, certainly better than I expected given past experience. One thing that really helps is someone that understands the basics, my previous multi-player game was a mess because I was trying to learn it while playing, which is a bad idea.

Last up for Friday was a game of Dave's called Foreword. This is a computer-aided party game where you try to think of a name of a movie (or song, or whatever) that is as close to a randomly-generated name on the computer as you can think of. I suck at these sorts of game, as my brain shuts down in this sort of relationship - at one point I was trying to think of a movie name when we were supposed to be thinking of a song title! Still, the fact that you can choose your own categories and the short length save this one.

Chuck and I plan to finish up EotW tomorrow (just five turns left, ack), and I hope to get in a little Great War at Sea with him before he leaves for a romantic dinner with his wife, when Dave and I will almost certainly play Hannibal or Twilight Struggle. Sunday is up in the air, although we don't leave until 4 or 5, so we should get in *something* during the day.

These "retreats" always go far too quickly for me. Sometimes I think that I could just live in a house with six other gamers and just play for months. Sometimes OCD works in your favor!

Part three to come...

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