Tuesday, August 19, 2008

WBC West Report #2 - Monday Night to Tuesday Afternoon

Monday, Monday... Can't trust that day. 

After our busy Monday morning and afternoon, the four of us pulled out War of the Rings for our evening game. Dave and I were Sauron and Saruman, respectively, while Chuck was Gondor and the Elves and Mike took everything else. Unfortunately, not a lot else to do when you're that last bit because it takes so long to get them going (aside from Rohan, of course). 

Chuck and Mike focused on running the Fellowship down to Mordor as quickly as possible, and I blame myself for not 'splainin' in sufficient detail to Dave how important it is to put at *least* two dice in the Hunt Pool for searching for them. As such, we whiffed a lot of Hunt rolls early, and the Fellowship made excellent progress. 

On the actual "war" front, Saruman made good progress in Helm's Deep, and was on the verge of assaulting the Rohanian (can't remember what they're called, there goes my geek cred), pushed from the south with the Southrons and was on the verge of taking Dol Amroth, which would have put us up to 5 VP. Dave assaulted Minas Tirith, but to no avail. 

None of that mattered, of course, because the Fellowship made it to Mordor with Gimli, two extra hobbits, and a pad of about five Corruption, so things weren't looking good. However, as they moved forward, it got to the point where we managed to get seven (!) dice in the Hunt Pool thanks to an event card, and when the Fellowship made the final push to the Crack'0'Doom (tm pending), all we needed to do was draw an Eye Hunt tile in order to corrupt them at the last possible second. 

And, of course, I did in fact draw an Eye tile! Hooray!

Except that Mike had this mithril armor or something silly and they made us draw again. Looking in the bag after the fact, it looked like we had about a 37% chance of drawing another Eye tile. 

We did not. The One Ring became the One Pile Of Melted Precious Metal, and all was for naught. 

Two things disappointed me about this game. There's a lot going on in the "war" segment of the game, and we were working toward that end (well, I was - Dave was not sufficiently "motivated" as far as I could tell, but it was his first game). I drew terrible events, very few of which were useful (and they are *hard* to read!) As such, the whole thing came down to the Fellowship, which seems to be a pretty common observation. 

The other thing that was horrible to realize was that I was missing the Aragon and Gandalf pieces from the game. How am I supposed to sell it *now*? I have no idea where they went, but I'm pretty sure I didn't put the game away last time as I sort the pieces by whether you start with them or they go in your pool, and the baggies were strictly sorted by type instead, so my guess is that someone else played it and the two extra companions never got put back in the box. Sigh. Perhaps FFG will be able to provide replacements. 

We finished up with a rousing game of Zopp, air hockey without the air. Good fun, although Dave and I were one point from a shutout before my flicking went totally pear-shaped and I more or less lost the game for us (made goals for the other team, kept hitting their pucks before anything else). Much smack-talking ensued. 

Ah, Tuesday afternoon - I'm looking at myself, reflections in my mind. Just the kind of day to leave myself behind. 

Tuesday was a lighter day for Dave and I, playing the campaign game of Wilderness War. This scenario gets short shrift from the CDG community, and I can almost see the argument. However, I've now played two full games (one on Cyberboard years ago), and I really like it. The map has time to develop, and the optional rules added in 2006 or thereabouts (which we never ended up invoking) do a good job without too much complication of leveling out some of the dangers (like one side or the other never getting their "9 card hand" card, especially important for the Brits because they don't get Wolfe until then). I got my card in 1757, while Dave's showed about a year later, which put him behind the curve a bit. 

It was an interesting game. We never really did much in the Ohio Forks area, other than raiding (which netted me around 6 points total, of which two were countered by Dave's two successful raids with his Iroquois and Mohawks, which he got early and kept for the entire game). I moved down to Ticonderoga early and set up a fort, but not much happened in the Hudson Valley for much of the game until Dave finally Surrendered Ticonderoga and that was as far as he got. 

Most of the action happened around Lake Superior, with the Brits making all the way to Niagara for a brief time. What killed them was me taking the fort at the NE end of the lake with the help of a couple of ambush cards, then building my own. He ended up with a sizable force in the area unable to escape because without supply they couldn't really get past the fort easily. Burning their carry at Oswego meant that once Levi could wipe out that force I only needed to focus on the Hudson and, of course, Louisbourg. 

That was an interesting axis of advance as well. Wolfe finally showed up in 1760, and after one failed invasion (thanks to some convenient fieldworks), he managed to get in and take the fort after several siege rolls. Despite my almost-well-timed Small Pox play on his large force, he managed to restore the entire 8 unit army with Troop Transports. By then, though, I had Montcalm with a very large force sitting in Ile-d'Orleans just outside of Quebec, and this time when Wolfe and Montcalm met on the Plain of Abraham, it was Wolfe who did the howling, and I don't mean in a good way. Reduced to three flipped units while I still had every unit I started with, Wolfe retreated to New York when I pressed and that was it for the Brit's adventures on the St. Lawrence River. 

At that point, the three points I'd gotten from beating Wolfe repeatedly put me up over the total I needed to win the game in 1761, two turns from the end, and that was it. Dave had suggested conceding earlier, but I'd talked him out of it and actually he was pretty close to pulling something out. The biggest thing the British player has going for him is the ability to operate on multiple fronts, while the French have the benefit of interior lines and an excellent transportation system over the various rivers and lakes - a unit can go from Niagara to Quebec in two turns. However, the French must pick their battles very carefully and force the British to spend time and energy building their militia and stockades to make the raids difficult. 

In our game, Dave learned that reduced units are extremely fragile, especially if the French can use their Militia units around Quebec - the units aren't drilled troops or regulars, but they can flip instead of Auxiliaries, and they don't lose combat effectiveness. As such, Dave kept losing units whereas I was able to preserve my regulars, and even got two chances to rebuild the regulars up (including an early play of the card). Pressing in all areas and waiting until the French are in the position of losing Regulars is the way the British can win the game, even with the delayed entry of Wolfe and Pitt that Dave experienced, and while I'm not saying he didn't play a good game (his drive to Niagara was brilliant, if flawed in the same way the drive on Stalingrad in 1942 Russia was - too long a supply line and not something you undertake unless you have the Iroquois on your side, which he did), I think that pulling back reduced combat units and fighting with fresh units would have helped him quite a bit early on, and the game could easily have gone his way as a result. 

After the brain burner that was OCS the previous day, this was an excellent choice to play today, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Winning, of course, never hurts, but considering that I've played WW something like ten times or more to Dave's once gave me a big advantage and I wasn't surprised by the outcome. Wargames require a deeper understanding of the operational situation that only comes with experience and repeated play, especially two player wargames and especially card-driven games where knowing the possible plays is what you need to start from. 

Meanwhile, in the Glory III (Antietam) Room, Mike and Chuck are still battering away at each other. They started out, but ran into a situation where it appeared they'd be hopelessly deadlocked, possibly because of a rules misunderstanding, but I really don't know enough about the game to be able to say definitively. They aren't sure at this point whether they'll continue tomorrow, which may mean we play Sword of Rome five-player rather than Wellington three-player while they continue. We'll just have to see. My preference will be for SoW, partly because I've never played that version, partly because I love the game but at eight hours it's hard to find people to play on a weekend for the necessary time. And you really need four or five, the three player game is a good introduction but just doesn't quite do it for me. 

More tomorrow after we've gotten our (wait for it) Thunder's Edge game in tonight and whatever the heck it is we play tomorrow.

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