Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thursday Nooner Gaming

It's every other Thursday, so I was out at Jesse's trying out more stuff. Today we played a battle scenario from the Jutland module for Great War at Sea, as well as the Zama scenario in C&C:Ancients.

While I've owned one of the GWaS modules (Plan Orange, the one that supposed a naval war between the US and Japan circa the early 30's and includes early carrier action), it's just never gotten out on the table. Most of the problem is that Orange had very early rules for the air game, and I really wanted to get more of an idea of how the non-air part of the game worked without fiddling with those rules. Since none of the operational scenarios skipped the air game, and Chuck didn't think the tactical game was that interesting, we decided to put it on hold at both of the last two WBC Wests.

However, since I'd gotten the Jutland game (the re-write of the Northern Waters module), this seemed like a good time to give it a try. Chuck is coming over on the 18th to play, but Jesse also wanted to play the game. However, neither of us really felt like we had a good grasp of the operational game, and I wanted to get comfortable with the tactical game, so we tried out one of the battle scenarios that had a handful of battle cruisers each. Note that because of the stacking restrictions, you pretty much end up with one stack of ships each, so not a lot of maneuver, but on the plus side the ships had decent range and power to make it feel like you were driving really big boats around.

The game features a lot of dice. And I mean a lot. With our two stacks, we were firing up to 34 dice worth of guns early on. That's a lot of dice, and while some deride this technique for resolving combat, I would reply that it gives a broader range of results that is more likely to follow the statistical model over time than rolling single dice at the same frequency. However, you want to have a lot of dice on hand. Keep in mind that this many dice were needed for five Brit battle cruisers, so not even a huge number of ships. The other advantage is that combat moves along pretty quickly.

I won't go into detail on how the game went, other than to say that it was pretty interesting compared to what we were expecting. Lots of wild dice rolls (Jesse seemed to roll low on hits, but what he did roll was deadly - I'd say a full quarter were plunging shots that just killed me - I on the other hand seemed to roll tons of hits that did no damage whatsoever) - at one point my BC Moltke was pretty much dead in the water waiting for him to finish me off, and survived a couple of attacks on what seemed to be a prayer. In the end, the very high VP amounts for my ships (which did, it must be said, hit on 5 or 6 as opposed to just 6's) and Jesse's ability to do significant damage on a small number of hits did me in, and he won 220 to 134.

Which brings me to a very strange rules artifact that I need to look into. When you roll a hit, you then see exactly what you hit, based on 2d6. If you hit a gun that doesn't exist on the ship, you end up instead hitting the gun beneath it. However, if you hit a gun that did exist but has been destroyed, you hit the hull instead. If you hit a tertiary gun (the lowest of the three types), nothing happens. This creates the following situation: Jesse's ships had no secondary guns, so according to the rules I could not actually do any meaningful damage if I hit his secondary guns as the tertiary guns weren't powerful enough to do any damage at all. Considering that a result of 6 and 8 hit the secondary guns, that's 10 out of 36 dice results that are meaningless to anyone shooting at the Brits.

By contrast, when Jesse shot at me, he not only got the chance to knock out my secondary guns, but once they were gone those hits went toward destroying my hull, the part of the ship that, you know, keeps it floating. Which is important to ships, I hear. In other words, Jesse had better than a 1 in 4 chance of getting rolls that would hurt me, but if I rolled them they wouldn't hurt him. While I suppose that you could say that this meant that the shells were getting farther into the structure of the ship because of the damaged components, but to completely ignore the hits if you didn't have the gun to start with... This is very strange and something that doesn't sit right with me (especially as I got the benefit of this). To be fair, we did mistakenly assign half of the secondary fire shots I hit Jesse with against one of his lighter battle cruisers, but I really took the brunt of this rule and it's a bit beyond me as to how I could ever have won with the rule as we interpreted it.

I'll also note that we neglected to do excessive damage (when you hit a part of the ship less armored than the type of gun you are firing with, you may do extra damage), but this was such a minor effect with so few secondary guns that we just skipped over it.

Regardless, I really enjoyed the tactical game, even if it was a dicefest. I'm looking forward to playing this on Sunday. BTW, I also plan to put together an Excel spreadsheet containing all of the ship data that I can then put together to use rather than the awkward data sheets that are shipped with the game. Avalanche really should make this available to owners, there are are a lot of ships and it will take some time to get all of the data incorporated.

Next up was Ancients, which gave me a chance to compare this game with Simple GBoH. We picked the Zama scenario as it has a decent amount of units, fairly even units and command, and very little terrain to get in the way. I was hoping to see if the Roman legions could function as they did historically. The answer, of course, is not really. To use your Velites as would have been done requires you to have the Move-Fire-Move card to start with, then a Move Medium Troops, then a Move Heavy Troops card. With a couple of extra cavalry cards in case you need them. Of course, the cards don't really allow for this, so the game is more of a disappointment to me having played a "realistic" game of ancient warfare on the same scale.

Which is not to say that the game doesn't do an excellent job considering the limitations of the system, and still much better than Battle Cry or Memoir '44 ever did. I still sent my elephants into his line, hoping to soften up Jesse's Romans a bit, he still brought his Velites up to try to do the same to me. We ended up meeting in the middle of the field, but the game was decided on the flanks. We both did a lot of damage to each other, and when his light cavalry exploited a break on my far left flank (I really couldn't have extended this line any further), he was able to get to a one-block light infantry unit to win the game. Also helpful was my Warrior attack on his medium infantry that netted me a single block of his in return for my entire unit - he rolled four swords and blue squares, killing them outright. Final score was 8 flags to 6, with me having to look hard for units that were beat up enough to kill easily.

I was glad we got this game in, we learned a lot about some of the special units in the game, particularly elephants. Important note: Elephants can't ignore flags when bolstered by adjacent units, so when the first Velites through missiles at the elephants in my front line, they ended up rampaging my own troops, killing three LI total before I even got to play a card. Clearly the right play - if you have the card! This would be an interesting game to play with each side getting to pick one card from the deck, maybe from a menu of choices, or perhaps based on what era and what nationality you are playing. Worth a thought.

Thanks to Jesse for having me over!

PS - Wii update: Stopped by Frye's on my way to Jesse's, as well as the local GameStop. I didn't expect any Wii's at Frye's, but I did score some grip sleeves in different colors for the controllers I am (hopefully) soon to own. The clear one fit over the nunchuk I do have quite nicely, and this will hopefully prevent any flying controllers. No Wii's at GameStop either, but I did get an interesting piece of information: They had gotten their last group in on Monday, and were expecting to get more in about three weeks. This makes me think that perhaps Nintendo is shipping them out on week A to one set of retailers, on week B to another. Given that Fred's got in a bunch of Wii's two weeks ago, I'm expecting that they will get more in next week. However, I do plan to stop by tomorrow morning just in case. I will prevail!

No comments: