Sunday, May 17, 2009

WBC West 2009 - Friday Afternoon through Sunday Morning

A busy day yesterday, so no post. Sorry about that!

Chuck arrived close to 1:30pm because of a conference call he had to take on the road. Remind me never to rise high in management. At that point, it was increasingly clear that the OCS scenario wasn't really going to be a good one for multiple players - not enough clearly delineated "fronts" where people could more or less operate independently. While that kind of blew my "monster" game goal for Sunriver, at the same time I didn't mind letting Eric and Mike monopolize the big table for two full days at all, and they certainly enjoyed themselves, at least other than when the dice went hard against Mike. The DSDF was in full force all week. 

As it was, Chuck and I decided to take on Wallace's Waterloo wargame ;-) and I'm sorry to say that my opinion of this game has soured quite a bit. This time I took the Allies, and once again the French managed to wipe out 13 steps of Allies units within three turns. I'm kind of at a loss as to how the Allies can avoid this, although I'm sure there's got to be a way to do it (Wallace does tend to have well-playtested games). Chuck made about the same number of dumb moves that I did, but still had no problem coming across the low ground to his left flank and eliminating unit after unit of mine. I counted that in three turns, I got to play a grand total of 11 actions, one of which was red and the rest were green. Not much you can do with that but stand and take your lumps. This game has moved firmly off of my "buy" list and to my "avoid" list until more people have played and start to understand how the game "works". Make no mistake, Wallace games require you to play in a specific fashion (albeit often with multiple paths to victory) in order to succeed, and this one seems to be cut from the same cloth.

Next up we played the DVG edition of Down In Flames, this time playing the Guadalcanal mission. We got through three or four missions before I was able to bomb Henderson Field to smoking ruin as the Japanese. The missions all followed a very similar pattern: escorting fighters wiped out within one or two turns, bombers wiped out shortly thereafter. The Corsairs were unbeatable for the most part, and our bombers didn't survive or even cause much trouble for the attacking fighters right up until my last mission, when Wind caused us to have only two mission turns and I drew hordes of good cards for my defensive mini-hands. I went in with a tight pattern because Chuck had chosen Bombs against me, and blew the Marines away. Not the most satisfying game I've played. Perhaps I'm playing this one wrong too, but I've soured quite a bit on it in two plays. Perhaps the problem is that it's too *easy* to maneuver on an enemy now, so you see *lots* of bursts being played. Worth following up on, but I'm afraid that this version tips the pendulum too far in the other direction. 

Eric joined us in the evening to learn Through the Ages (he'd played once before, but it had been a while). My 'splainin' was strong, as he gave Chuck a run for his money, and only me wiping out his half-built Transcontinental Railroad and Chuck's building of Hollywood on the very last turn saved the game for Chuck. Me, I expect to suck at this game for a very long time until I get to know what the various strong combos are, but I still love it. The most played game of the week, and while it isn't a wargame it's certainly a great and elegant design.

Saturday morning dawned sunny and warm (at last!) and we all stayed inside to game. Eric and Mike continued with OCS, which was to last until nearly 11pm, breaking only for meals. Chuck and I set up Sparatcus, and we were determined to play the entire game through. He made mediocre progress in Spain in the first two turns, then Lepidus showed up in Etruria forcing me to bring Pompeius back to take care of him (which I was able to do in Turn 3), but the Spanish were doing much better by then. Turn 4 saw the Republicans pushing the Spaniards back in dramatic fashion, and had Chuck not gambled and brought in the Pontines a turn early they would have been in serious trouble. Perpenus never showed, which would have been a great boon to me, but I'm fairly sure that that entire storyline is a little tough to pull off in a game because of the right people getting the right cards in the right order with a single deck. 

Poor reinforcement rolls forced me to play a waiting game in Asia Minor, combined with terrible cards (I had exactly one activation I could do in three turns), and my dice rolls started to go south with one notable exception: In about 11 consecutive attempts to avoid rout, I rolled the best possible, and often only possible, result, a 1. The one time I whiffed it wiped out Pompeius's force, meaning that I had to resort to shipping a crappy consul over to run things in Spain. By the end of Turn 8, Spain was effectively Spanish and I had little if any chance of winning. 

Meanwhile, Crassus and a decent sized force took on Spartacus and lost decisively, ending the Republic's chances for survival at the end of Turn 8. I conceded at that point, having gotten the Serviles into play and accomplishing what I wanted to do - get through the majority of the game. The Sertorians had clearly gotten enough provinces that they could hold onto, and I had lost pretty much every legion I had, being down to something like five on the board. Which was a good lesson - keep every legion you can. I had been removing them during combat to avoid attrition problems, but getting them back was a real trick, even with the three Republican resource cards. The other problem was that I wasn't bringing in extra Proconsuls when I could, which would have been worth the Crisis cost (I never dropped below +10 the entire game, despite using the "Stability Goes First" errata). Especially since we'd forgotten to change the legion limits for stability once Asia Minor entered. Believe me, you need the extra help by then. 

All in all, I still like this game, but it's long (a good six to eight hours for the full game) and I'm not sure that the first four turns giving and taking in Spain is worth the two hours it will take. Next time I'm likely to try the version that starts just before Mithradates enters. That scenario seems to hit the sweet spot of both presenting an interesting situation as well as being playable within four hours of focused play. 

After that, I took a little break to prep for our evening game, Cutthroat Caverns while Alex and Matt played a little Combat Commander (Fat Lipski for the warmup and rules refresh, and the assault on the Chateau for the main event that ran into the night). We went out for a nice dinner at the Sunriver Bar and Grill, then came back for my last game of the week. 

Cutthroat Caverns is, I fear, another Bang! That early card game produced a couple of hilarious sessions that later lost any semblance of luster they once had. On the other hand, CutCav, playing the Lady of Magtherion adventure and with three people (Chuck and Dave) was perhaps one of the highlights of my week. Dave and I blew all of our healing potions on the Lady early, and while I won't say that it was a huge mistake, at the same time I sure could have used them on myself.

We played very cooperatively early on, realizing that we had some very tough monsters to fight. It wasn't until we got to the end game, however, that the knives came out. 

******Spoiler Alert********

If you haven't played this adventure from the third expansion of CutCav, stop reading now and go down to the Spoiler Alert Lifted line to continue reading. Believe me, you'll enjoy the game more if you don't know what's coming.

We'd gotten pretty much to the end of the game, then we ended up fighting the Betrayal encounter, which took the gloves off big time. I felt this was a genius move on the designer's part, as the game felt much more cooperative than it normally does. In the end, Chuck killed off Dave and the two of us were left to fight the Lich Emperor, albeit with ten whopping points each. The Lich Emperor encounter included two skeletons which we took out with only five LP lost each, and then we fought Undead Dave, which we one-shotted neatly. However, we were pretty much out of cards to fight the Lich with, and while the first attack against me was deflected onto Chuck by a fortuitous My Hero draw, knocking him out of the game, I more or less needed to draw a 100 point attack to have any chance to win. I didn't and we died feet from our goal. At least, that assumes that there's no more stuff to fight after that. 

***********Spoiler Alert Lifted*******************

All in all, the biggest knock against the game was that often you had a choice to make with no information other than random chance. On the other side, there were some very clever ideas and I enjoyed the game quite a bit, as I always do with Dave and Chuck when playing these sorts of games. Next year we intend to come up with a new adventure, which I'm already coming up with good ideas for. The expansion was worth it's cost just for this one play, and we didn't even play with the event deck!

After that, I was toast and headed for bed. As I type this on Sunday morning, we have Dave and Mike playing Command and Colors: Ancients with a Roman/Barbarian scenario, Matt and Alex playing Settlers Card Game after making a geocache run (there are apparently quite a few sites within a short distance of the Sunriver house!), and Chuck and Eric are playing SCS Bastogne while I work on laundry and get the house ready to close up. While I won't say that it's been the best WBC, considering the massive disruptions to the schedule we've run up against (Beware The Rat! You've Got A New Job! You've Been Subpoenaed!), things went fairly smoothly. Also, having a long and adrenaline filled 10 days leading up to WBC West, I haven't had nearly as much energy as usual, nor did I have the chance to prep as much as I wish I had. I'll write more on new-game burnout in the near future, as well as more detailed reviews of some of the games we played for the first time. 

We'll see several people taking off in the next few hours, and I expect to get out of here around 3pm or so, although the idea of taking a nap before leaving is sure appealing. 

Next year we plan to shoot for a couple of weeks earlier in the year, probably late April (very late April) to avoid Mother's Day as well as Tax Day. It's my hope that we can expand enough to have games going in two homes, assuming Ken C can come out. It would be great to let Mike and Eric just go at it with a massive OCS game for three or four days and not have to take out the main gaming table for that time (we ended up playing most of the games I was involved with in the loft on a slightly scary ancient card table that my folks had when I was a kid, and even then it was the "crappy" one. 

Of course, the biggest improvement I could make would be to have less drama leading up to the week itself (in my own life, of course), but that's rarely anything I have any control over. 

The next big Sunriver event will be in mid-to-late September, which will be the long Euro-gaming weekend. 

Thanks for following along, and I hope you enjoyed the posts this year and had at the very least a cathartic experience. I also hope that those of you who couldn't come are able to attend next year. 

1 comment:

Eric said...

A quick clarification - I'd never played Through the Ages before. I own it, but it's never hit the table in my presence.

And I'd actually forgotten about the aborted wonder. I played better than I thought!