Wednesday, May 18, 2011

WBC West 2011, Day 3

Day 3 was the last day to come together for me in terms of my schedule. Originally we'd had three people looking to play something with no real consensus on what we wanted to do, but in the end Matt, Alex, and Dan ended up coming out on Monday evening and thus we had eight gamers for Tuesday. Tex and Matt played Labyrinth (with me helping them learn the game), Alex and Dan played Attack Vector, only to give up after finding that while the math was gradeschool level, the *amount* of math was not, and Mike and Chuck started their two day Ardennes '44 game. Eric and I played Fighting Formations, his first game and my second.

We played scenario 6, a one mapper with a decent range of unit types and numbers of units and a pretty cool situation with the Germans trying to attain objectives while the Soviets try to kill Germans. Eric was the Hun and I was the Slavs. I've discussed this game quite a bit recently, and I will go so far as to say that our game was in the top five wargaming experiences I've had (and I've had a lot). While neither of us played what I might call a stellar game (I was barely competent), there was a lot of back and forth and the decisions you got to make gave the game a lot of tension. At this point, I'm rating the game a 10, something I may have done once or twice in the past.

While we can argue about how effectively the game models real-life situations, the truth of the matter is that while I need a certain amount of what I'll call "plausible deniability" in a wargame, I do not need the entire ToE with fourteen variants of PzIVs. And you don't. The units, while modeling actual equipment, represents relatively few units. There is one variant of the T-34, for example, and it's used all over the place. And whether the Order/Initiative/Command complex models anything at all is definitely debated.

What does matter is that this game is great fun, and not only fun but the damned thing just makes sense. Every time you want to do something, you know what to do. There are some things we missed (like me putting my tanks in entrenchments, which I thought was equivalent to a hull-down condition), but we must have looked up rules about ten times. For Eric's first game, and my first game with a lot of new concepts, it was such a pleasant experience that you'd have thought we were playing the game for the tenth or twentieth time. Every order decision was difficult to make, combat flew by and there was almost no looking up of modifiers. We had a rolling melee in the middle of the board (where the road comes up the hill to the town) that took about half of the game to resolve. The hidden units are perhaps the most elegant solution to that problem I've ever seen.

Yeah, I'm gushing. And it's not just because I won because I managed to get a lot of really fortunate rolls that killed off enough of Eric's units to put the win out of reach for him. It's because we had a blast. Our game took about five or six hours not including 'splainin' and the day just flew by. Don't get me wrong, games like Combat Commander and Conflict of Heroes (and even ASL, to some extent) will have a place in my library, but there are other game series whose names will not be mentioned that are going on the sell pile when I get home because this is my game of choice at this level for 5-8 hour games.

We had a little down time before dinner (Eric's chili, which is still with me as I type, and I mean that in a good way - for me!), and then pulled out Dominant Species, played by Matt, Eric, and Dan and Alex (who played for the first time). First game for Dan and Alex, and like most people they had some trouble grokking the game, but by the end I think they started to see how things worked. Matt looked to be running away with it near the end of the game after I had some success in the mid-game, but a couple of nasty event cards played by Eric, who made an awesome comeback on the final turn, put me out of it and I stalled fairly badly. Enough to score 50 points in the last turn, but not enough to win, especially when I forgot that I needed to save myself from Regression in the last turn, instead wasting my play on Adaptation only to lose the chit immediately from regression (and all of my other elements as well). Eric came very close with his Reptiles, but in the end Matt won the game as the Arachnids. I continue to enjoy this game quite a bit, although it has gotten mixed reviews in our group, in my opinion unfairly as the game requires multiple plays to play effectively and most people who don't care for it aren't interested in playing again. Eric and I, however, consider it to be similar enough to Die Macher (and with none of the moronic graphic problems of the Valley edition) that I'd much rather play DS. The nice thing about Sunriver, however, is that we all can play the games we want to, and there are a *lot* of games to be played.

And that was Day 3, Tuesday.

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