Mike and I had agreed to play Warriors of God today, as he had President's Day off. At the last minute, he needed me to come over to his place, which I did, but decided at the last minute that I should bring my copy just in case he didn't have it. Turned out that was a good idea, as he didn't own the game.
Mike and Eric had played before as one of their Two Sides of the Coin sessions, and Eric *hated* it. Mike was so-so, feeling like the game was pretty wacky, which is how gamers say "hopelessly random". And to be fair, the game has an enormous amount of chaos. Given that it's set during the Hundred Years War, that's not necessarily a bad thing. I've posted in a previous entry about how I felt about the chaotic element, saying that this was a game about managing said chaos - there are some things you know will happen, and some things that you fear will happen, and the key is to work off of the former and hope for the best but expect the worst from the latter.
In our game, the worst happened to Mike in the first turn or two, when I built up a 17 point lead over the first five or six turns. He lost multiple leaders, I managed to snag all but two of the III areas on the map (a key to winning), and he was never able to force me out of anything but the one area on the Channel whose name I can't recall. I also tended to win battles pretty handily early on, and several of his nobles spent time in the Tower of London (I was, clearly, the English).
By the end of the game, he was finally starting to press in terms of points, but I think that the key element that he wasn't able to pull off in those areas was that they are all but impregnable, even to armies with cannon, if the defending armies can elect siege. The trick is to get rid of the control marker in the area during activations, thus making it impossible for the defenders to hide in the castles. That, and not bringing in your battle commander that has a 1-1 rating (which means you're stuck trying to roll a 6 on one die every battle round. Can't win that way).
Mistakes were made on both sides, and I had astonishing luck rolling two 1's in a row to defeat Jean d'Arc with Plantagenet at game end, but I was still 12 points ahead at that point and it wouldn't have helped. As I've said before, the be all and end all of this game is area control, and if the English don't get rooted out of Burgundy and Aquitaine, they're probably going to win. Better to make those a priority and send enough armies to knock them out. Of course, having your leaders die as they get close doesn't help, but I suspect that a little more focus on those areas and that strategy would have made for a very close game.
I have to say that I like this game more than ever. We got through the whole thing in about four hours, with several rules look-ups as we were both a little rusty on some elements, and I think that if you understand what you need to do and how to do it that the chaos factor adds to the replay value rather than to the frustration level. By turn 10 (of 12) we had lost exactly the same number of leaders, and I controlled only five or six areas the last third of the game. They were all big point areas, though, and had Mike managed to take even one of them that would have been a 16 point swing over four turns. That was well over the difference in the score. Just because there's chaos doesn't mean that you can't find ways to win. I think this one is worth learning to love.
We also played the Sword Beach map from PK's D-Day, reviewed recently. I lied about one factor, that I didn't figure out until after Mike and I had played (and he'd beat me by one point when he got four units off of the map): There is a movement activation as well as the full fire and fire and movement activations. The fire/move action, as you'd expect, limits you to half of your movement, which I screwed up in our game. I find this series fascinating, with interesting decisions and very tight using the rest and refit optional rule. Next time I'd use all but Leadership, which seems to me to just add too much extra chaos to the game. I'll also note that I got exactly three artillery the entire game - Mike won that roll every turn but one. Highly recommended, and I'll be picking up the rest of this series. Victory Point Games are looking to be frequent purchases by me, I really like their stuff.
As a final note, I've become a playtester for the Hell Over Korea expansion for B-29 Superfortress. It's a very different game, with the fighter presence actually a threat rather than just an annoyance - I ran into twelve different fighters in my initial run as opposed to three in the original game's first mission. One fighter even managed to kill one crewman and send another one home from the war, on a single successful attack. That's what happens when you put an aircraft that was the most advanced bomber on the planet six years before up against jet fighters. Fortunately, no random events yet. That will be a bad day.
Thanks to Mike for hosting, and for lunch. And for his copy of Moseby's Raiders, which he was going to put up on eBay. What a guy!