Sadly, it didn't get any better for Mike when we tried to start the Stalingrad campaign game again. This time, I insisted on playing the Russians to Mike's Germans, but this time I was aggressive in taking platoons (Krylov and Gordov), each with specific goals. Krylov's standard Rifle units were intended to hold one flank (Melenekov's were supposed to hold the other), and the mortar was intended to try to mess up the woods around Objective 5. Meanwhile, Gordov's SMG squads were supposed to advance up the gully system close to Obj5. I also managed to draw the best arty that still had smoke in the support table, and then proceeded to teach a clinic on how to use smoke to advance units across the board.
Perhaps the most alarming harbinger of what was to come was when I set up two units adjacent to one of Mike's forward units, then drew two Ambush actions, one Advance order, and one No Quarter action in my initial cards. Of course, I took Mike's unit out immediately. That group (Melenekov) continued up the gully on that side of the board, taking Obj1 and also knocking out the LMG nest he had between that gully and the middle of the board. I also brought up my SMG units to assault the units near Obj 5 under cover of smoke. The SMG units are particularly good for that sort of thing, having boxed firepower raising their melee value to 6, a match for many of the Germans.
Just before my deck ran out, Mike advanced into one of the gully spaces my SMG platoon was lurking in. I mentioned that since I had a couple of nearby squads that could advance into that space, he might take that into consideration. Sure enough, I had one more Advance card in hand and did just that. Mike conceded, although he seemed to think that I had a lot more VP than I did (in fact, he had 4 after that move). While I felt that his Advance into my hex was a bad idea, at the same time he didn't do much else wrong - having that much smoke and that many units I was very likely to do well, provided I could get enough units next to a space to load it up with units for melee, then get an Advance. Mike had felt that since most of my Advance cards had come out, what were the chances that I had one left in seven cards? The answer, of course, is that the Russians live and die in attacks on Advance cards, and you save them when you can, so it's not simply a matter of taking a statistical sample based on random distribution.
I also noticed that there were several elements of the preparation portion that Mike misunderstood, although I could *swear* I'd discussed them, and even afterwards he wasn't sure how the attacker was determined and how they got artillery. Part of the problem is that we're simply overloaded with information and rules systems this week, but another is that the scenario generation requires flipping back and forth between two rulebooks. I may take the time to consolidate the entire process into a single document, adding player notes so that people understand how critical that part of the campaign game is. A flowchart might help too. Either way, I felt terrible that yet another CC game had gone so badly for Mike.
Alex and Matt R showed up about that time, minus the Rat Patrol. George, I love you man, but you are going to take sh*t for the Rat for months. Mike joined the three of us for a quick game of Dominion while the lasagna cooked, with me failing to take full advantage of the Garden strategy.
Our evening game was really the first that I felt was successful. Dave took the night off to watch the NBA semi-finals, while Mike took the night off to plan for our Case Blue game the next day. Eric, Alex, Matt, and myself pulled out one of my favorites, Manifest Destiny. This was the first game for Matt and Alex, and Eric had only played once or twice. Fortunately, the game comes with an excellent sequence of play sheet that more or less walks you through the game, and I'm comfortable enough with the game to have a good style of teaching it.
Apparently it was excellent teaching, because the newbies took first and second! I had a very good start, spreading out around the board from Louisiana pretty quickly and zipping up the Profit chart. I did make a few mistakes by playing cards for events when I should have been saving them to play for commodity payouts, and I wimped out when I played Trustbusters and didn't screw anyone over (although there were very few choices as to what was going to be helpful).
A couple of turns before the end of the game, Eric got hit with both IRS as well as a World War, and he lost nearly $100 just prior to the Investment phase, and he ended up scoring 30 points on the turn after cards ran out. I bumped one point past him at 31, and then Alex also got there, but had more money than me to win the tiebreaker. Matt, however, nailed his Breakthrough roll (as had Alex that same turn) to score 9 points in one turn and beat us all with 33 points. A photo finish, and one of the most enjoyable games of MD I've played. Eric's take was that it was about 90 minutes too long, and to be fair it was a long game - a good 4.5 hours long. However, I feel that with experienced players and brisk play you could shave an hour off of our game time, not to mention avoid the whole 'splainin' thing.
Chuck, sadly, missed his flight and as I write this at 1pm on Friday he *still* has yet to arrive, although we expect him at any time. On the plus side, the Case Blue scenario really hasn't been in any state to accommodate multiple players on either side, so he hasn't really missed anything other than watching Mike blow his first turn on bad dierolls and little success. However, he has done much better in the next two turns, surrounding the Russians near Rostov and penetrating south toward Krasnodar and the Maikop oilfields beyond. We may just let Mike and Eric enjoy that game while we play something else. In the meantime, Dave has been teaching the Full Game of Through the Ages to Matt and Alex, and they seem to be having a good time.
More tomorrow afternoon. The plan is to finish Case Blue (or die trying - we are three turns into a 26 turn game, although the whole "Rostov Breakout" thing clearly was going to take a lot of time and brain cells and we're past that now), while Dave/Alex/Matt play Wellington, as Sword of Rome isn't going to work with three as well as Welly will.
I lover alliteration.