Saturday, August 23, 2008

WBC West Report #6 - Friday Evening thru Saturday

Friday night was Chuck's night to teach and moderate Republic of Rome, the 20 year old AH multiplayer diplomacy game where everyone can lose but only one person can win. The game has a rather checkered career, having had the initial problem of some of the densest rules ever written for what is a pretty simple game at it's core. Page after page of exceptions and special cases make reading the rules (in 1990's-era Don Greenwoodese) an exercise in tedium. My electromagnetic fields class textbook was an easier read. Making things worse, AH itself tended to give official errata that contradicted itself on occasion. There is a living rules edition on the net that's been stable for a couple of years, and I recommend it as the authoritative rules in the absence of input from the publisher. 

Fortunately, Chuck knows the game well, and so the five of us listened to him explain the rules (too much - this game *must* be taught on the fly, as goes for so many AH multiplayer games of the era), then dove into the labyrinthine morass that was Roman politics. After a couple of turns, we pretty much felt we knew what we were doing, but given that no one really wanted to be sneaky we mostly just dropped intrigue cards on people who looked like they were ahead and gave consuls to people who had recently lost senators. 

In an interesting bookend, we had an epidemic early in the game, and one more on the very last Forum Phase roll. In the first case, Dave and Chris lost senators, and in the last I lost my really good senator to end up close to last before I could transfer my faction leader marker to him. In the end, it was really more about having a lot of fun with people around a table than playing the game per se. This sort of game screams "fiddly!" to me in so many ways, and the weak 90's era AH graphics and chits don't help. Put all of the markers and other minutiae into an iPhone app, and this might be worth playing, but for now I'm unlikely to pull it out. I own a pristine copy that I may end up putting up on eBay before the Valley Games reprint comes out (assuming it ever does - that's a company with a poor track record of success in publishing).

Saturday was our last full day, which is always a bit sad for me. My brains are *just* starting to run out of my ears, which indicates to me that the week went about as long as it was supposed to. Today, Chuck and Mike played the Cedar Creek scenario in Glory III, with Mike's die-rolling and the Deansian Statistical Distortion Field putting the big hurt on his side. Dave did some biking and other non-gaming activities, while Chris, Ken, and myself played three turns of Napoleonic Wars. Combining this with Welly and Here I Stand in one week shows that I can at least tolerate playing this system, and I enjoyed all three games (despite the delta between the three nearly popping my head). 

I took France, while Chris was the wily English and Ken the Austrians and Russians. Napoleon took his first impulse to make a run at Austria, but suffered horrendous attrition (thankfully halved) of half his force in the first forced march space. Ken brought up the Russians quickly, and Chris sank the combined Spanish/French fleet at Trafalgar with no problem. The French ships never left port again, not even to commerce raid. That gave Chris the chance to move his units around the board at will, but it didn't help much. A build up in Naples was met with a French force that zipped down from Milan to first take Naples (fortuitous, as Joseph was crowned on turn 3 by a proxy neutral card play). A build up in Portugal resulted in the British kicked out of Portugal and nearly losing Gibraltar (but the Spanish were unable to finish on the second round after getting two sixes in the first). Finally, he invaded mainland France not once but three times to little avail other than soaking up French CPs, which admittedly is the whole point.

Meanwhile, Napoleon simply couldn't get it done in Austria. Five attacks in the first turn all failed to dislodge Kutuzov's large mixed army, and despite Spain having a Capitulation card in the second turn, France wasn't able to get into Vienna before it was played. Prussia's fortunes went back and forth and back and forth, and very nearly fell into the French camp when England failed to return them to Unaligned status, which would allow the French to preempt on the next impulse and play a 6 action card with a 6 Reserve card (the old plus cards in the first edition), but Austria had a card that preempted France's preemption, and thus Prussia remained neutral into the third turn. I'll note that the French had four six cards, a five, and a four, plus their reserves which were 6 and 5 respectively. Hard to get more CPs than that in a turn. Things were better at the end of turn 2, plus Europe was exhausted, but a six was needed to create peace and the game continued into turn 3.

On the third turn, France had managed to grab a few keys (Naples, Salzburg, Venice) and had an extra card. Good events bumped the cards for them and the Spanish up, and they ended up being the last two powers with cards. This time, when France played the card that lets them replace all of the cards in their hand, they drew the capitulation card, so I knew it was time for Napoleon to bring it to Vienna. Kutuzov intercepted, and the final battle dice totals were 29 to 25 with the edge going to the Austrians and Russians. I rolled like a demon, though (finally, after losing so many battles where I had an edge), routing the two forces, although the Russians had a card that negated the rout, and then preempted after the British impulse (this time unopposed) to force the Capitulation and knock the Austrians out of the war. Only one ceded territory, though, but I still had enough to put France up above any other power. Britain never had enough gas to get the Prussians in, and Europe was once again Exhausted. 

At this point, France was the only player to donate a card to stop the peace roll, meaning they'd win on a 2 or higher on a d6. 

So I rolled a one. 

At this point, we were all exhausted ourselves after several days of gaming, and we all agreed that we'd let the game die on it's own. France was in a good board position, although with a little cleanup to do. Prussia, on the verge of going to the coalition camp soon, and Turkey going to the Austrians (like I cared), were both about as full of units as possible. Berlin had more than 20 units and four leaders. That next turn would have been about the French and British pushing that rope back and forth, while the Russians (who saw something like 15 units and leaders go to the regroup box after the Austrian capitulation) and Austrians would have been playing catch up. The French wouldn't have been able to bring in the Prussians, but the Austrians would have gotten the Turks, although aside from threatening Italy I'm not really sure how much help they'd have been. 

Nappy Wars is a real hoot, and definitely best with 2, maybe three. I suspect that this will see some more table time for Chris and myself, as it hits his sweet spot for complexity. 

Tonight we are off to see Wilco, Ken has bowed out as his family came out to Sunriver, and I suspect that Mike has about had it with dice for the week as well. Tomorrow, Chuck and I hope to finish our epic AVL game, and I will do a recap post on Monday of the entire week as well as how that final set of games turned out.

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