Tuesday night Mike wanted to try the Stalingrad Combat Commander campaign scenarios again, and so we went at it. This time, however, we'd gotten as far as selecting our platoons before we knew what the objectives were, and as it turned out they were on my side of the (long) board. Mike's Russians didn't have a prayer, and he'd chosen support units that put us both in Recon posture. After things went rather strongly and decisively my way early, Mike conceded in frustration, very unhappy with the game as a whole.
After sleeping on it a bit, I've come to the conclusion that a very large part of playing the campaign scenario in Stalingrad is how you game the system to tailor your forces not only for that map, but for the objectives as well. Had Mike known that he was going to need to take an objective on my side of the board, he would have chosen campaign platoons better suited to attack, and enough to be sure that he'd be the one with the higher point value. Once you get to rolling on the support table, you simply make sure you pick a unit that won't tip the VP level over to the other side, thus allowing you to roll for the all important arty. For the Russians, the arty is critical because without it you won't have smoke, and won't be able to advance.
Knowing all of this, I think that the campaign scenarios will be much more interesting and the "construction" part much more important. It will be interesting to see if the Pathfinder campaign series in the latest C3i will follow similar rules. It will also be interesting to see if Mike ever plays CC again. :-)
Wednesday was the day for Dave and I to play games, but because of Chuck's departure we split it up so that Dave and I played in the morning and Mike and I played in the afternoon. So it was that Dave and I tried out Flying Colors, which he'd played last year and I played for the first time a couple of weeks ago. We picked the El Ferrol scenario, based on a hypothetical situation where the Spanish fleet declined to come out and fight the British, only to have the Brits take the port. This scenario assumes that the Spanish came out. Chuck and Dave played this last year, and Chuck won as the British.
I, however, was not as good an admiral with the Brits. Even with the Audacity advantage, they are fighting a Spanish fleet that is larger, has better Relative Rate with it's ships (averaging 2 compared to my 3's with a single 2), and better position early when they British are more or less firing into the wind all of the time. It wasn't pretty, and when the wind shifted after the fifth turn so that my only real options were running or dying, it was more or less all over. However, we did end up ending the game after turn 6 when my fleet ran away. I'd had three ships with struck colors out of six, although I did take one Spanish ship in retaliation. Dave won with a score of 18-10. The game is interesting, but I'm starting to think that perhaps the original scenarios are best for solitaire gaming. The new Ship of the Line expansion (which arrived the day after I left for Sunriver) has what appear to be much better balanced scenarios, so I'm hopeful.
The afternoon game with Mike was Monty's Gamble, after we'd already gotten in our game of Waterloo. I took the Allies, and proceeded to make a couple of dumb mistakes early - I didn't go after the supply area for the British 1st Airborne, instead allowing Mike to sneak one unit in there and prevent me from pushing him out. The other was not using my air bombardment in Zone F to clear out the area quickly enough. Mike blew bridges in Eindhoven and a bit further north, and so it took me up until turn 2 to get my units well into the 101st Airborne's operational area. On the positive side, both of the US divisions did a good job of taking and holding their areas, and by turn 4 I was ready to take Nijmegen. Unfortunately, the 1st Airborne had been kicked out of Arnhem when I wasn't able to get supply restored (not to mention that the weather went bad the last half of the game), and so I ended up with six points out of the ten, which included me not having the Initiative. I was contesting Best and Wylen, and was right on the verge of taking Nijmegen when the fourth day ended four impulses in.
I love this game, but it's a very hard game to win for the Allies under most circumstances. I did an amazing job of taking out Flak towers early (in fact, all but two were spent immediately), but failed a couple of critical bridge rolls as well as poor dice early in Zone F, and it's simply difficult to come back from any setback, especially if the weather goes bad. Maybe it's just because the tactical situation is a bit impossible. I did notice that the new 1.2 rules (which I hadn't gotten a chance to go over yet) changed several things, so if you've not gone over them in a while I recommend you do so before playing (and if you want to use those rules).
Eric arrived just before 7pm, so with four of us I proposed China: The Middle Kingdom, a Brittania clone. Decision Games published it, and so the human factors are a gawd-awful mess (it can be very difficult to distinguish the various units on the board - the lettering is completely unreadable at any distance), but the rules were pretty straightforward so we gave it a go, playing the first twelve turns.
After about four turns, it was clear that I did *not* have the rules as down as I thought I had, and we needed to start over. The early game features the "warring states" and there's every reason to go out and kill as many enemy units as possible. That's where the trouble started, however. One of the big features of China is that you have all of these rebellions where units from the new power replace units of the old power. To decide where this is done, you roll dice until you hit an area where the old units are, which in our case took about 30 roll for Mike's Han to come in. However, the nation he was replacing hadn't done that well, and so the Han didn't have a lot of units, and they only lasted a couple of turns. At that point, he'd been wiped off of the map for the most part, and didn't have much to do for the last 2/3rd of the game. Clearly a game he won't be buying. Me, I don't mind that sort of thing so much, but then I really think that the Brittania-style games are better solitaire anyway. I don't expect this game to come out in group play again, however, but it's really no better or worse than Maharaja or Italia so there you go.
Thursday morning had originally been scheduled for Eric, Chuck, and myself to play Here I Stand, but Chuck's courtroom hell, which had consisted of six hours of testimony and cross, was extended into Thursday morning, so he won't be getting here until later tonight. As such, Eric had cleverly brought the Elsenborne Ridge Panzer Grenadier set, and we played The Road to St. Vith, which required me to play much better than I actually did as the Americans to slow down the German onslaught. Failure to identify my M18 Hellcats (important because they can shoot and run) resulted in them being more or less wiped out fairly early, and a forward defense turned out to be a very bad idea indeed. Within 10 turns, I'd lost all of my AFVs with only half of Eric's four having been killed, so I conceded as he would be able to waltz around the board chasing my handful of remaining units until I was wiped out.
I have to say that PG is really growing on me, and the only problems I have consist of the relatively useless Opportunity Fire mechanism and the weirdness of having a negative DRM when you fire at another unit at exactly the same level of elevation as yourself, but because they're on a "hill" they get a buff. Oh, and you can see easily over crest lines, unlike pretty much every other wargame out there. And the assault rules are a little funky in spots. All of that aside, it's a cool game and one I want to play more of. Definitely time to pull a few out for solo play now that the three month cram session that is WBC is finally over.
Besides Chuck, tonight will see Alex and Matt R arrive. George, who may never live this down, apparently saw a rat (and by his accounts it was large enough to have opposable thumbs) in his back yard that then ran under his house into the crawl space. While I confess that I personally don't see how George's missing WBC will *help* the situation any (me, I'd call in the Army and have them call me when the little f*cker was dead), but he felt it was enough of a crisis to cancel his participation. As you can imagine, hilarity ensued on the Yahoo Group, including Chris offering to rent George his cat. I would counter-suggest a terrier, preferably a Scottie or Glen as these dogs were bred to be ratters. My own dog Hallie would *so* go all Glen of Imaal on that rat's ass! The Dutch, however, would probably just get the rat stoned and then take him down to the red light district and hope that he never came back. Whatever works.
Thursday at WBC is always a little bittersweet for me, as I recognize that time is ticking away and in no time at all we'll be packing up and heading home. Having a monster OCS game of Case Blue for the next two days, though, will hopefully be the high point of the week and we'll all go home happy. Even Mike, who keeps trying to light my copy of China on fire.
Hey! Get away from my game!