Monday, August 25, 2008

WBC West Report Part #7 - Final Day

When we last left our intrepid gamers, Doug and Chris were heading out to the Wilco concert (woo hoo!), Ken had finished his gaming for the weekend, and Dave, Mike, and Chuck were staying home to play India Rails. Apparently that didn't go so well for Mike, who I don't think has played a lot of these games. It's important to be careful to generate enough cash with your initial runs and not overbuild, and while I wasn't in the game I get the sense from his blog that he got caught short. You can always wipe your cards by losing a turn, which may or may not hurt you, but like I say, I wasn't there so I don't really know what happened. I do know that Chuck got the delivery cards in the right order and at the right times, which can be a problem with the game. Me, I prefer to play crayon rail games solitaire, as the downtime can be excruciating if you're just making a long run and other people are constantly making deliveries and drawing new load cards. 

There was a pretty epic Zopp game between Dave and Chuck later in the evening (I went to bed around 10:30pm), and I'm not quite sure who won, but the level of play was apparently a whole lot higher than when Mike and I were involved. ;-)

Sunday morning saw Chuck and I finishing up our AVL game. I had studied the board a little in case I went first to speed play up (right) and saw pretty early that were I to draw the STAVKA chit first that I would be in serious trouble. Sure enough, the first two chits allowed Chuck's Soviets to more or less wipe out my units near Stalino, and it was only the timely intervention (with no response from the Soviets) of most of my panzer units that pushed them back and more or less destroyed the Soviet army in that part of the board. However, I wasn't able to get the three infantry units out of Rostov intact, as that army didn't activate until too late to do any good, and I could have used them. However, the game was definitely in the balance.

Then I screwed up. I moved a panzer unit south to the Black Sea to prevent Chuck from using the road net to make a run for the Dnepr, but put it one space out of command from the best HQ in the area. To make matters worse, STAVKA came out first again on the 8th turn, and soon that unit was surrounded and I had to dilute my panzers to try to break out the southmost unit and also to head north to work on saving Kharkov. The breakout failed, and at that point I knew that I would be five points down at the end after losing points for OOS units, so I conceded the match at the start of the 9th turn. An epic game, with incredible luck on both sides. 

Perhaps the thing I like most about AVL is the narrative element. It really feels like units are fighting for their very survival, and I had not one but two chances to perform the famous "back-handed blow" first at Rostov, then at Stalino. It was a very tight game, but as happens in very tight games that activate via chits, how those chits come out at the end will have a huge effect on who wins. It is a testament to this game that I would have had a very real chance on the last turn had I not made that one stupid choice (among several stupid choices on my part). Of course, Chuck will say that I left him an opening to go retrieve 1st Panzer in Rostov, so there you go. A great game, one that I'll bring out repeatedly, and one that I'm already considering solitairing again in the coming weeks.

While we finished our game, Dave and Mike played for the Manouevre title, with Mike getting creamed fairly quickly. Something about dice and cards. The Deansian Statistical Distortion Field was in full swing over the course of the week, and Mike and I spoke a little about how shorter games might result in a more satisfying experience for him as he really likes close games that come down to the wire, and he'd have more chance of getting that experience with more games rather than fewer long ones. Of course, there's always chess. ;-) 

Our final game, played in between making beds and doing laundry, was Perikles, a fairly recent Wallace title published by Fantasy Flight. Personally, I think this is one of Wallace's best, although there is a fairly big luck element in the game during combat. And this time, I was the victim on the last turn. We were running 40-40-39-39 going into the final round, and I had no cities to guard, so I went after two of Sparta's cities. I had a chance to win the first one, but blew the following roll that would have won it. There's an example of where the dice, which are rolled perhaps fifteen or so times in a game by a given player, can really cause havoc. I failed pretty much all of my attack rolls in that turn, all six or so of them, and so handed Dave something like 12 points that put him in first place. 

That's not to say I don't like the game, far from it. I was in a position where I really needed some military victories because of how ownership of the cities and cube count played out, and I chose to go for two battles and failed both. One battle would not have gotten me the win, but it would have knocked Dave down far enough that Chuck would have taken it, so I went for both and reaped the whirlwind as a result. This game doesn't come out nearly often enough. 

And with that, WBC West was all over but the inevitable smack talk on the ride home. Dave asked us a few more wrap up questions for his video blog (an experiment that was successful from my perspective by virtue of it's relative unintrusiveness, although I have not seen the video yet). 

I will evaluate the week in a later entry.


dave said...

Those two Spartan battles were for 10 points, and I had to spend 2 cubes to defend. Had you not attacked me, I would have saved those 2 cubes and been able to place 4 more. So, your attacks netted me 4 points, and I beat Chuck by 5, so don't feel bad. :-)

Mike said...

> Mike and I spoke a little about how shorter games might result in a more satisfying experience for him as he really likes close games that come down to the wire

I just want a game where luck isn't so outrageously biased one way or the other, and I don't think the length is a factor. My CC game with Chris was as equally unsatisfying for me as the Glory games with Chuck. On the other hand, my OCS games with Eric have all been long games that were totally enjoyable because they didn't feature consistently wacky die rolls.

I dislike winning because of biased die rolls just as much as I dislike losing that way, as it's a poor gaming experience for both players. And that's what it's all about. But getting my ass handed to me when all the other player has to do in the game is stand there and watch as I implode on my own die rolls is more than a trifle frustrating. As you probably noticed.

Maybe I just need to play solo games.

dave said...

"Maybe I just need to play solo games."

Or at least try The Stranger (rolling dice with your left hand)...

Mike said...

> Or at least try The Stranger (rolling dice with your left hand)...

LOL & snorts milk out nose....