Friday, November 24, 2006

Block Mania!

Chuck came over the day after Thanksgiving for our more-or-less monthly day of wargaming. We weren't quite sure what we were going to play, and ended up playing two of Columbia's popular "block" games. These games use wooden blocks instead of cardboard counters, and the blocks stand on their sides to conceal not only the unit, but it's current strength as well. The games range from recreations of the various theatres of WWII to such under-appreciated topics as the Scottish rebellions of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. On the table today were Liberty, a fast playing ACW game, and my first playing of what is perhaps the most venerated block game of all, East Front, covering the Great Patriotic War (as it is known in Russia).

Chuck and I have played Liberty before, and like most of the more recent block games (Hammer, Crusader Rex), it seems to hinge quite a bit on one or two battles or the luck of the draw with incoming units (in this case, when the French come in). However, there were a few new rules that were supposed to "fix" things (something that hasn't worked so well for CruRex, apparently), so we decided to give it a try. I was the evil Brits, Chuck the brave Americans.

I started out with an attack into Charleston by sea on the second turn that managed to kick the Americans out of the coastline all the way north to Norfolk, with only one American supply town in the interior at Ninety-Six. As the game progressed, I managed to take New York (then lose it), take Hartford, lose Boston, and take Ft Ticonderoga. I was building up the points, but it was clear that I was going to have to make a push in the north if I wanted to win with just a few turns left. I made a big attack into Boston with units from both the north and the south, including two fleets. However, Chuck picked that time to roll like a maniac and I ended up losing almost the entire force (including all three fleets and Howe, one of my leaders). He then rolled for French entry, and it was clear that the British were done in the Colonies.

We had a very nice (if lengthy - I don't think Seasons and Regions had staffed for a busy day) lunch, then back to give East Front a try. Chuck thought he might have a pretty good chance of remembering how to play, but we decided to walk through the Edelweiss introductory scenario, which is more of, well, a walkthrough to get an idea of how the game worked. We realized that you don't actually *play* the scenario until we'd gotten through the whole thing, so we set up the historical Barbarossa scenario and took a couple of player turns to give me an idea of how things worked. I learned quite a bit about how to use HQ units to the best advantage, choosing when to blitz, etc.

I'm quite taken with this game, as it combines a strong puzzle element with very fast moving combat while still preserving the logistical, organizational, and attrition elements of combat on the Eastern Front. The only real problem is that the game can take a long time if you're playing more than a six month scenario. We're talking about trying out Kursk next time we play this title.

Thanks to Chuck for coming over and giving me a good dose of block madness!

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