Friday, December 30, 2011

My 2012 Gaming Resolutions

Rather than lay these out here, I'd ask people to refer to the Geeklist I've created for this purpose. I'm asking for a certain amount of feedback from those who follow my musings.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

2011, Highs and Lows

So what were the high points and low points of 2011 for me? We were always supposed to start with a high point in my high school drama class, so I'll start there:

+ Game Cons/Retreats this year were particularly great, from Salishan in January to GameStorm in March, to WBC West in May, to the Sunriver Euro Retreat in September, to BottosCon in November, to Salishan again in December. All good times spent with good people.

- Conversely, I seemed to attract the crazy on BoardGameGeek this year. For some reason I expect gamers to be more logical, but in fact they seem to be more intent on proving how much smarter they are than the rest of us, leading to some really incredible exchanges. While I ran into some doozies, the one that had to amaze me the most was the one noting that I'd put over 100 titles up for grabs in the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund auction in November, which somehow devolved into people bitching about fundraising auctions in general and bundling of games in particular. As Matt Monin said when he shut the discussion down, "Shutting this down because..."

+ I made some new friends this year: Tripp, Jim, Rob, Art, Eric H, and probably a few more that I'm forgetting. I keep saying it, but it's still true - it's all about who you play with.

-/+ This year more than any other got me to start to really see that I don't need to buy 100 games a year. This will be a very hard habit to break, but I've already started by paring my wargame pre-order list down to something like five games total, of which two should be shipped within a few weeks. I've also realized that I don't need to get every expansion for some games, so Dominion, Thunderstone, and Combat Commander are about as complete as they're going to get, at least for now. I also don't need to get games just to see how they work.

+ Some wargames made a big impression on me this year: Labyrinth, Axis Empires: Totaler Krieg, Fighting Formations, Nightfighter, Breakthrough: Cambrai, Up Front (not new but newish to me), PQ-17, ASL, and No Retreat! All of these are games I will continue to play. A few titles continue to impress: the Fleet series, Here I Stand,

- Some wargames made a negative impression on me, some that were kind of surprising.

  • A Few Acres of Snow (arguably not a wargame, this one left me wondering what the hype was about), 
  • the East Front Series (incredible detail and a huge map for a relatively small number of combat rolls and accordingly an unfortunately increasing likelihood of the dice screwing you hard and early), 
  • Fields of Fire (new rules came out that did little to address the issues I'd brought up repeatedly - what a pyrotechnic can do and how to fill out your mission sheet, among others)
While I'm quite fond of all of the wargames I mention above, I have to give the nod for Best New Wargame to Axis Empires: Totaler Krieg. I've gone into some depth about why I think this is the grand strategic WW2 game for me in an earlier post, and while it is in some ways a reprint at the same time quite a bit has been changed in the game. I'm really looking forward to exploring this game's depths over the coming year, whether solitaire (a sure-fire way of telling if a game grabs me or not) or face-to-face. 

Honorable mention goes to Fighting Formations, which has such a novel engine under the hood. I'm not sure it's been as enthusiastically embraced by wargamers as, say, Combat Commander, and it's a much more focused set of scenarios, but there's no question it is a breakout design. 

+ Looking at the multiplayer strategy bracket, here are the plusses:
  • Mage Knight, the Board Game (really deep strategy game based on the collectable figure market game that has since been discontinued. Vlaada Chvatil does it again.)
  • Dominant Species (came out in late 2010, but this game may be my favorite multiplayer strategy game),
  • Gears of War (best GM-less "dungeon crawl" game out there, although not as fun solitaire as with others),
  • Sid Meier's Civilization came out very late last year and should be included in this category. It's a great translation of the computer game, which is hilarious since it originally started as a board game that became a computer game. We've all been waiting for a good implementation for a long time. 
- There were some disappointments as well in this category - Urban Sprawl looked to have promise after the first play, but a second play with fewer people saw my attention waning and it's unlikely to see more table time for me. Horus Heresy (played Jesse's copy) was fun but the game seemed a bit too limited in replay value to me and I am now very leery of big box games. I finally got Mansions of Madness on the table as well, and found it to be a hard game to get to love for a variety of reasons, but primarily because you're either going to be the Keeper or an Investigator when you play, and you probably won't get to switch sides because you need to know the scenario very well long before you start playing it. That and the fiasco with the expansion components, where one scenario has tiles that are on both sides of one piece. Whoops. 

Giving out a best of for this category is tough - all three of the great games are just that, great games. All bring novel approaches to game play to the table. I'm going to give the Best New Multiplayer Strategy Game award, by the thinnest of margins, to Mage Knight because of the range of scenarios, it's entertaining solitaire version, and the great bits (painted characters!) It almost lost on length and opacity of the ruleset, but I think this will be a go-to long game at cons and retreats over the coming years. 

+ By far the biggest category is for Euros. There are some great new games out there this year, especially in the deck-building area where I didn't expect such great choices as Rune Age or Eminent Domain. 7 Wonders continues to impress, especially scaling for different numbers of players. Spectral Rails was a hit with me too. I liked Blood Bowl: Team Manager as well, although I think this needs to be a four-player game. 

- And of course, a few were duds. Elder Sign completely struck out as a solitaire game, and even the iOS app is missing enough of the replayability elements for me to be wary of purchasing it. Airlines: Europe took the classic Clippers and turned it into a math exercise. Innovation has been a huge hit with my group, but I continue to wonder what the fuss is about - a lot of playing and jockeying that in the end seems to be about who knows what other cards are in the deck, and there are a lot of cards. 

This one is particularly tough because nothing really jumped out at me or broke ground. Except one game that is so different that I'm giving the Best New Euro Game award to it: Ascending Empires. Nothing else gives a real-time feel (thanks to the micro-turns), nothing else has a physical game element (the flicking to move starships), and the tech tree gives the game valuable replayability. The only downside is that the board tends to warp and you need to do some work with plexi, washers, and rubber feet if you want the game to avoid the "subspace crevasses" that my board turned into over a few days in September in a fairly dry climate, even in the big ziplock bag. 

I have a few other awards to give:

Best Event Host goes to Rob Bottos. Chris Brooks came so close, and in fact I had more fun at Chris' retreat than I may have had ever, but Rob puts on his show in a hotel and one that seems to have more than it's share of excitement - this year it was a salsa party next door that made my teeth hurt. And I play in a band. I know Chris will understand. 

Best Event goes to the Salishan Game Retreat, hosted by Chris. See my previous post for details, but it was awesome. 

Best Expansion goes to Ticket To Ride: Asia. Two new maps, a new Mountain mechanism for the "normal" side and a very cool six-player team game on the other. Biggest problem is that I need my original TtR box for the pieces and the 1910 set for the train cards (unless I want to shuffle 110 teeny tiny train cards). Three plays in three days, all great fun. Combat Commander: Resistance was a close second, but oh those "missing" Molotovs...

Biggest Disappointment goes to A Few Acres of Snow. I was very excited to give this a shot, but the reality left me happy to see the game end and go on to something else. I may try again someday, but frankly I feel like Martin Wallace has been trying a little too hard since the whole Steam debacle. 

Biggest Kerfuffle goes to Quarriors for the incredible amount of hate that game generated online. A very close Honorable Mention goes to Eminent Domain for taking so long to come out, the publisher essentially telling the Kickstarters who had supported publication that their "special" game element was actually going out to a lot more people than them. Had they not, at the last minute, found a way to give people something unique this would have won easily. 

Biggest Dick goes to... The Box. 'Nuff said.

And that's that. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011 In Review: Games Played

I've discussed what I purchased in 2011, now it's time to see what I played. I've always liked Dave's "Nickel and Dime" list, which is a convenient way to group games. However, I think there's some value in picking numbers other than 10 and 5. In my case a "dime" is five or more plays, a "nickel" is three or four.

I should also note that I am using data from the Geek (again), as that's where I've logged the data. However, I was a bit inconsistent in how I did this - an "incomplete" game may have meant I was playing the game over several sessions, which is misleading as the game was not incomplete at all. Also, I started the year using the expansion name of the game I was using, but I have decided that I will log the game in 2012 under the core game title and note the difference in the comments section. This will give me a better sense of the games I'm playing.

Only one game saw more than ten plays, and that was Dominion. Almost all of them happened at my family's Sunriver vacation over the summer, when Alex and I (and our niece Alexis) played this frequently. I'm finding that what events I attended had more to do with what games got played than a lot of other things. The other games that got played a lot over that week were the Lord of the Rings LCG and Nightfighter and in fact almost all of my LotR games and all of the Nightfighter games got played over that week.

Some games were solitaire or had a solitaire version and I might have played the game repeatedly to try to "grok" it better or because the game was pissing me off. Elder Sign is an example of both, and I'd given up on it completely as a solitaire game and it was headed for the sale pile before I played multiplayer and enjoyed it much more. Soviet Dawn, on the other hand, saw me playing the game seven times, but all of them happened in about a two hour period when I was losing the game six or seven cards in over and over, and I kept playing because I wanted to get to at least the second deck. Thunderstone I played several times with the new expansions solitaire just to get a sense of the game.

Otherwise, there are a lot of wargames in the Dime section because, as noted, they were played over several sessions. The exceptions were Up Front (which I played in a tournament in November), Axis Empires: Totaler Krieg (which were small scenarios to learn the game), Fighting Formations, and Gears of War.

Other games that saw repeated play were 7 Wonders, Labyrinth (some solo, some not), Ascension (not counting the over 600 games I've played since this iPad app came out - it's evil), and Magic: The Gathering (because of the tournament at Salishan). Various Combat Commander games came out as well, and this is definitely the wargame I played the most over the year.

On to the Nickels!

These games, in comparison, were mostly real games: no incomplete sessions for one game or test games. These tended to be non-wargames, but there were a few: No Retreat!, Here I Stand, Nightfighter, and PQ-17. The euros were Quarriors, Eminent Domain, Mage Knight, Rune Age, Dominant Species, London, Power Grid, Sticheln, and the Ticket to Ride Asia maps.

Beyond that, there were quite a few other games played in the 1-2 game range. In fact, I played over 120 different titles. I don't quite have the gumption to try to figure out how many games total, but it was well over 300, and that doesn't include electronic versions unless it was a wargame (so no Race for the Galaxy, no Ascension, no Ticket to Ride on the Mac or the iPad). That's a healthy number although I'm not sure it's a healthy variety.

One friend of mine, a wargamer, comments to me that he's amazed I can keep the rules for all of these games in my head. Of course that's silly, I can't do that. What I can do is remember that there are various types of mechanisms and remember, to a point, what games include what mechanisms and how they work in that game. That said, I rely heavily on the rules in most games and while there are a few that I know very well indeed, most of the time I need to doublecheck something in any game I play.

As a dude, I know that different = attractive. At the same time, in some ways I am a creature of habit. For example, I eat Frosted Mini Wheats for breakfast nearly every day, but I like eating completely different types of food for lunch and dinner (although I don't mind leftovers). Eating, say, pizza (other than the health issues) for dinner every day would bore me silly after a couple of days. OK, maybe that's the wrong example, but it's generally true.

With games, there are some that have attracted my full attention (Totaler Krieg, Up Front, Combat Commander, PQ-17, Fighting Formations, Labyrinth, No Retreat! in the wargame arena) and some that I enjoy but simply require the right time and place and players. In the end, I guess I really like variety and I really like new and shiny, but in the end I think it comes down mostly to who you play with.

I will discuss the highlights and lowlights as well as my own Favorite Games in the next entry.

2011 Gaming In Review

Before I finish deciding on my 2012 Gaming Resolutions, I thought it would be cool to look back on 2011's gaming and see what sort of interesting conclusions I could draw, independent of my 2011 Gaming Resolutions. This is the advantage of logging your plays and your collection, whether on the 'Geek or in some other fashion.

This year I added quite a few games to the collection, selling off perhaps twice as many. It's a little difficult to get a good accounting as I was still entering quite a few games that were either in the closet or that simply hadn't been counted into the database the year before for one reason or another.

Here is a list of the non-wargames I purchased (non-expansion) since last January, roughly in the order of their acquisition:

Merchants & Marauders
Eminent Domain (via Kickstarter)
Wealth of Nations
D&D: Wrath of Ashardalon
Isla Dorada
Mansions of Madness
Spectral Rails
Junta: Viva el Presidente!
Airlines: Europe
Cargo Noir
Space Hulk: Death Angel TCG)
Star Trek: Expeditions
Ascending Empires
Conquest of Planet Earth
Source of the Nile (used)
Rune Age
Elder Sign
Gears of War
Blood Bowl: Team Manager
Urban Sprawl
The Ares Project
Mage Knight: The Board Game
Poseidon's Kingdom
Powerboats (used)

Total: 30

Here is a list of the non-wargame expansions I purchased since last January:

Thunderstone Promo Cards
BStar G: Exodus
Thunderstone: Dragonspire
Thunderstone: Thornwood Siege
Nightfall: Martial Law

Resident Evil: Alliance
Many LotR:LCG expansions
Many Warhammer: Invasion expansions
Wealth of Nations: War Clouds
7 Wonders: Leaders and Manniken Pis
Ascension: Rat King and Return of the Fallen
Power Grid: Russia and Japan map
Age of Steam: Secret Blueprints 1&2
Railways of the World: Event Deck
Railways of the World TCG expansion
Talisman: The Dragon expansion
Cosmic Encounter: Cosmic Conflict
Ticket to Ride: Asia

Total: 15 (not counting small expansions - 60 cards or less)

Here is a list of the wargames I purchased (non-magazine, non-expansion) since last January:

Steel Wolves
Decision Folio Series (6 titles)
We Must Tell The Emperor
Levee en Masse
Drive on Stalingrad
Karelia '44
Case Yellow, 1940
Guderian's Blitzkrieg II
No Retreat! (GMT version)
Proud Monster Deluxe
Axis Empires: Totaler Krieg
Breakthrough: Cambrai
Iron Tide: Panzers in the Ardennes
Fighting Formations: GD
Bloody Kasserine (used)

Total: 21

Here is a list of the magazine wargames and expansions I purchased since last January:

IJN (for Silent War)
ASLSK Expansion Pack #1
Various VPG expansions
Arriba Espana
Russian Civil War 1918-1922
The South Seas Campaign
The Hardest Days
The American Revolution: Decision in North America
Combat Commander: Resistance
For King and Country (ASL Module)

Total Magazines: 6
Total expansions: 4 (not counting VPG expansions)

Total non-expansions purchased: 50
Total expansions: 20

What do I derive from these numbers? A few things:
  • I have considerable discretionary income;
  • I preorder a lot of wargames, but only seven this year were from pre-orders, this is a smaller number than I expected;
  • I played 21 of the 30 non-wargames purchased this year, meaning the copy I purchased;
  • I played 9 of the 21 non-wargames I purchased, at least to the point of reading the rules, setting up the game, and pushing counters around. 7 of those were played to completion. 
  • I sold more games this year than I bought, but I still am out of room for new games!
I've changed a few things in my buying habits: most of my preorders have been cancelled pending seeing if the game is any good. I'd gotten in the habit of just ordering everything and that was not working well - too many games that were DOA and too many that I really didn't have an interest in the subject matter. I now have something like four or five games total on preorder, and two of those will arrive in the next month or two. 

I'm also learning that the vast majority of magazine games are terrible. There are occasional gems, but for the most part they are intellectual exercises for the designer and the reader, often relatively unsupported and unplaytested. I will not be picking these up in the future. 

I am done collecting Warhammer: Invasion cards. Three full cycles and three full expansions to the set are more than I am using now. I will continue with one or two more cycles of LotR and see if it gets any play with me. I also have enough Combat Commander, Thunderstone, Dominion, Talisman, and many other system games, to last me for quite a while. I'd already jettisoned several entire lines of games during the year (Great Battles of History, Panzer Grenadier, Some War At Sea, etc), so it's good to realize that inertia is not a good reason for buying a game. 

While there were some disappointments in all categories, I did not sell anything I purchased this year. For some reason that comforts me to some extent. On the other hand, there were some real winners - this was, overall, a very good year for games

For financial reasons, 2012 will be a year of relatively few purchases for me. My goal is to keep total purchases under 20 games, including expansions, that come in a medium or larger box (Return of the Fallen barely makes this cut), and another 20 expansions that come in a small box (like the LotR:LCG expansions). The new Civilization expansion is a borderline case, and might go on either side of the cut. I realize that for many people, 20 new games a year would be a huge number, sorry about that: don't hate me because I'm pretty!

Enough for now. I will continue in the next post discussing the games I played, and follow that up with my favorites (and duds) of 2011. At that point I should be ready with my 2012 resolutions, just in time for the new year!

Happy Holidays to all of my readers, may you get exactly the right games under your tree (or menorah, or in your mailbox, or at your FLGS). 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Salishan Gaming, Saturday through Sunday

The big game on Saturday was an 18xx game that involved Sardinia. They can make an 18xx game that takes place nearly anywhere, I guess. I was not involved, but it did tie up half of the group for nearly the entire day - I believe they finished around dinner time. I'm sure someone will disabuse me of this idea, but it sure seemed like they were at it for a long time to me.

My first game was a teaching game of Eminent Domain with Ken and KC. I find that this game tends to be tricky to learn for even the most experienced gamer, in no small part because we tend to ignore play aids and information on cards. I'm finding that the best way to teach is to focus on text for actions and symbols for roles. I also leave out advanced techs, which does not show the game off to it's fullest potential, but at the same time I think that it just becomes more confusing when they are there. I do leave in the first level techs. I believe that I came in second, as you don't get Brooks Bucks for anything but first or last.

Next up, I got in a five player game on the TtR Asia "Legendary" board, which was a lot of fun - you have Mountain Passes that require you to "burn" one of your trains for two points. Despite making a lot of mountain pass routes (and thus having a lot of my trains tied up off-map) I came very close to taking longest route and within 10 or 15 points of winning the game. Five people on any map is a tense experience, but I managed to get all of my routes completed. More of a traditional experience compared with the Team Asia side of the mapboard, but a nice addition and with some fun cities to pronounce: Dacca-dacca-dacca-dacca!

At this point, the four non-18xx'ers were going to play Agricola, which I am not interested in playing with five given my low experience level with the game, so I decided to tackle the rules (in extremely small print) for Mage Knight: The Board Game. After a couple of hours, KC and Jeff allowed me to attempt teaching the game (which I did poorly, but in my defense you must play this game to teach it and I did not get that far). We got through the first round (the Day turn) and by then it was time for dinner and then the evening activities. I did learn quite a bit about efficient deck play, however, that I put to good use in teaching the game to Alex, Dan, and Matt G the following Tuesday. I will post a separate entry on this game in the near future, but suffice it to say that it may be my favorite long multiplayer game, blending elements of roleplaying games (increasing abilities as you progress in experience), multiplayer strategy (lots of resource management in terms of cards) and wargaming (complexity level and numbers of systems). While there is a deckbuilding element, at the same time it is nothing like most games bearing that descriptor - you build your deck very slowly, accelerating as the game progresses but still very slowly. Thank goodness I had my iPad to be able to read the text in a font size more appropriate for anyone over the age of 15.

We ended Saturday with two large scale events - a Magic sealed deck/booster tournament and an auction for a set of games, using the Brooks Bucks as currency.

I may have been the last white middle-class male of my age group to have actually played Magic in card form. I have played the demo for Duel of the Planeswalkers on my PS3, but I did not buy the game and have never played the physical version, although I've probably been given a couple of hundred cards in boosters or starter packs over the years. Being tossed into a booster draft, I did what any sensible person who had drunk too much for three days in a row would do - I picked the color I had the most of in the starter deck (green), and went for that color exclusively with the idea of having some Blue cards to fill out the deck if necessary. At the end, I had enough Green to have a monochromatic deck, and I did fairly well with it. My first game with Matt saw him struggling to get any Land cards while I stomped all over him (our second non-counting game was exactly the opposite). I went on to play KC in the second round, this time narrowly losing a very close game where I came very close to wiping him out. Hilariously, there was a very strong Red card, some sort of dragon, that I had in the booster draft at one point and considered keeping it because it seemed so strong, but instead passed it to KC, who used it to kill me in our game. Ha ha! My biggest problem in that game was that I was getting almost nothing *but* Land cards (I had 15 in my 40 card deck, probably one or two too many, but this was still a statistical outlier). We played a second hand, again non-counting, where the same pattern more or less played out and KC looked to be unstoppable right up until I unleashed a Hurricane that nearly killed me but did kill him.

My final game was against Jeff, and in many ways it was the most satisfying. He had a White deck with (I think) green as a secondary color, and we were working hard to knock each other down. I was running out of cards after having an artifact that allowed me to draw extra cards with four mana (and again, I had lots of mana available). As we were getting close to the end of my deck, I forgot that I would need creatures to block if I wanted to survive and Jeff took my out, but I almost certainly would have lost anyway. KC took the tournament and I gave my cards, most of them vintage and a few apparently valuable, back to Chris as he'd supplied every card we used. This was much more fun than I'd expected, and there were many Magic games going on for the rest of the weekend. This has inspired me to consider a WoW Raid deck game again at some point (we tried this once, but it was a fail as I just wasn't as prepared to teach this game as I needed to be).

One interesting thing I noted over the course of the evening - Being the "outsider" when it came to Magic (although KC insists my play was quite good, I think a bit too generously), it was enlightening to hear people discussing different cards and effects about something I had no experience with at all. At one point, I realized that when I talk about gaming, most people have the same experience I did when it came to hearing Magic discussions. Usually you experience this with wildly different disciplines or hobbies, but in this case Magic is a big part of gaming culture and to hear something discussed that is gaming-related that had so little context surrounding it (what's a Dithering Snake Dancer - you aren't going to know from the title) was very odd. Just an observation, I make no judgements whatsoever about the CCG community at large and the Magic community specifically.

That left the auction, which seemed to consist of everyone other than Jeff hanging onto their BB as though they were something other than scrap paper. I ended up with several games - Gift Trap, Quartto, some card game that uses letters on the cards to create a variety of word games, and Drunter & Drueber. We also learned what all of the secret BB awards were, most of the ones not awarded being about complaining about various things. I guess that's a good thing - most of the positive awards were handed out.

I should note that while waiting for the auction, we also learned that I had missed winning the iOS Ascension tournament to Greg by five points. I assume, given that most of my five games averaged over 70 points, that this was effectively a tie when considered statistically. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Sunday was short, with mostly Magic games going on, plus a rematch of Eminent Domain with the full game (I won on a tech strategy, but KC and Ken, with planet and influence strategies, respectively, were within a couple of points. This game is perhaps the deepest of the deckbuilding genre in terms of long-term play, and I recommend it so long as you have gamers involved. We also finally tried out Team Asia TtR with six, Matt R (who is not fond of the series, but like this one a lot) as my partner as we sailed to a victory. This may become my favorite six-player game, although Medici will be a close second at worst.

At that point it was time to pack up and head home. Interestingly, aside from one point on Friday where I realized that we were only about halfway into the weekend, and another point where Greg suggested on Saturday that we all agree that it was really Friday, I did very well at living within the moment rather than being sad that the weekend was drawing to a close. I attribute this to both the alcohol and my midnight excursions to the beach to enjoy the sounds of the surf (it was largely clear, but too bright of a moon to have done any stargazing, unfortunately). This is kind of a big deal for me, learning to improve my experience on a conscious basis, and then to have it become an automatic response. While in the context of gaming it may seem like a minor accomplishment, on a larger scale (specifically regarding my hypertension issues) this may be the key to improving my life in significant ways.

Huge thanks to Chris for hosting a bunch of internet whiners (you can't expect good internet service when you're out about a mile on a sand spit) with good humor in what is a fairly tight space for 10 people. I really enjoyed the various metagames we played over the course of the weekend, although I will not even try to recreate them at Sunriver as I can't imagine I could do nearly as fantastic a job as Chris did. I also enjoyed discovering the Andy Samburg/Justin Timberlake SNL Digital Shorts (D*ck In A Box et al), which produced much hilarity for me on Saturday night if not for everyone else. Thanks also to everyone attending for making the experience so much fun. It's nice to have such great gaming partners and friends.

Considering Gaming Resolutions

It's almost the new year, at least for everyone using Common Era reckoning based on the solar astronomical calendar, and so time for me to both consider how well my gaming resolutions for 2011 came out as well as come up with some good resolutions for next year.

I'm starting to think about next year's resolutions, but I'd like to get suggestions (serious ones, please) about what resolutions to shoot for next year.

First, though, a recap of how my resolutions for 2011 went and what I learned from the experience.

  1. Learn and play ASLSK/ASL. This went better than I suspected, but worse than I hoped. This may be a standard refrain for all of my resolutions! Thanks to my good friend Ken I got in two ASLSK scenarios, all of which involved small-arms, no ordnance, and no vehicles. This was by design. Because Ken is an old ASL hand, we mostly relied on his understanding of the game for the rules rather than using the ASLSK rules per se. That said, I enjoy the game but I need to decide if I want this to be a focal point in the future. I am certainly incapable of teaching this game to others at this point (a rarity for me), so it will be difficult to enlist people within my existing circle to play against unless they are already familiar with the system, so it will probably remain an occasional game I play unless I decide to make it my "lifestyle" game. I consider this goal a measured success.
  2. Attending an out of state gaming convention. This was an unqualified success - I attended BottosCon 2011 just south of Vancouver, B.C., and had a wonderful time, even meeting a couple of people (including Rob) that have been invited to our annual WBC West nanocon in late spring. Surprise high point was, as long time readers know, my first exposure to Fortress America! I plan to attend this again in 2012, in no small part because Rob does such a great job of building community. 
  3. iOS Game Development. I consider myself to be a good programmer, at least based on the limited coding I've done over the years, most of it in the 80's/90's. With iOS coding, I ran into a bit of a problem - to code for iOS, I need to know Objective-C or Java (which I don't, although I know C and some C++), and I also need to know the XCode environment. Apparently all at once. I'm taking advantage of the iTunesU Stanford classes on iOS coding, but it moves along quickly and assumes a good amount of object-oriented coding knowledge that I don't really have, although the concept is right up my alley - I considered my coding strengths to be in data types, and with OOP the entire process is about setting up data types and how you can interact with them. This will continue on into 2012, but it's slow going with some big gumption traps in the early portion. Definitely a failure although with some small success, but I expected as much.
  4. Classic Euros on the Table. A success, with only one session all year that didn't have at least one "classic" euro played (as defined by me), and that was when we had nearly 10 people show up to game over the summer. With one session left this year, I'm declaring this a complete success that was not only met but accomplished exactly what I wanted it to do - give me a chance to revisit some great games I haven't played in a while. 
  5. Long Term Study of WW2. My intent was to start learning more about all of WW2 chronologically, including gaming something about that period. I actually finished a fairly interesting book on the Spanish Civil War, although one that was clearly intended for the classroom, and gamed a bit on the subject with GMT's Spanish Civil War, Firefight/Decision's Arriba Espana, and MMP's Guadalajara. AE seemed like a game that was SCW themed more than a simulation, TSCW was very interesting but required a lot of tracking of what hex belonged to which side, and Guadalajara had some systemic issues because of the operational lines dictated between the Italians and Spanish (there wasn't much reason for the Republicans to fight the Spanish as there were no objectives on that side of the line). This is not to say that the games weren't good, or that I wasn't informed by setting them up and whatever small amount of play I devoted to them, just that this is a difficult goal to do on your own. Much better to have a small group, even one other person, with whom you can discuss what you've learned and game with. Solitaire gaming continues to be a difficult thing for me to sustain as I'd much rather play against a live opponent. While I will continue to work my way through a reading study, the game component is just not likely for me to try to continue. It's not like I own any games that involve Poland anyway. A failure with some elements of success, but it was also a very experimental goal.
  6. Play A Fleet Game Multiplayer. This one was a complete success, played out at WBC West in May 2011 with Chuck, Alex, and Matt. We played a largish (but not full-rules) scenario that took us the better part of the day, and both sides learned a lot. Next year we hope to get the Indo-Pakistani War scenario from 5th Fleet on the table, perhaps with up to six players. I still think a full-scale campaign game is more than we can take on, but this makes for an excellent multiplayer game where the old axiom "the more the merrier" holds true. 
  7. Play out the Runebound Campaign scenarios. I got through two expansions and the Isle of Dread, leaving two box sets and four expansions unplayed. Part of my problem was trying to extrapolate Mr. Skeletor's solitaire adapations to the regular ruleset, which almost merged up with the normal rules. I like the modified threat track idea, but I spent too much time trying to figure out how to retrofit the solitaire adaptations and what to do when the adaptations didn't address other issues with the scenarios. I think these games are probably going to spend a bit of time on the shelf until my granddaughter is old enough to play (and I'm hoping that's in about three years when she's six). Again, I'm finding that solitaire play is a much tougher row to hoe for me, and that's making it harder for me to work up enthusiasm for playing the entire set. 
  8. There is no 8! Or 9 or 10! Take that Vasel! ;-) Seriously, 8 is almost always "give back to the hobby" and this year I did it in a different way by donating nearly 100 games and expansions, largely from Avalanche Press, GMT's Great Battles of History, and old AH/Smithsonian games to the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund auction on BGG in November. I got into it a little late, and I was slightly disappointed at the relatively low bids made, but I did generate $1300 for the fund and (only slightly more amazing) managed to ship all of the games to 18 different recipients spread around the world. As I write, most of the people have acknowledged receipt and no one has complained that the games didn't arrive. Teachable Moment: Don't try to ship more than four or five packages at once. Without an Excel spreadsheet, this would have been a disaster. An entire bedroom became a shipping point for three weeks trying to get all of this stuff out, and I spent well over $100 for shipping materials. Also, thanks to the great people at BottosCon and my group in Portland who also helped out by buying some games in advance that contributed to the total.
The main thing I learned this year is that solitaire gaming, while appealing intellectually, is not nearly as satisfying an experience for me. As such, I'm going to focus more on face-to-face gaming goals next year, as well as one surprise goal that may be the most foolhardy yet. And another that may be the most difficult goal I've ever attempted - put a hard limit on what games and supplies I purchase in 2012. Stay tuned for the 2012 resolution list!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Salishan 2011 Retreat - Thursday through Friday

Chris held his annual Salishan gaming retreat this past weekend, and it was a hoot and a half. Attending at various stages were Chris, myself, Greg, Mike, Ken R, Ken K, KC, Rita, Jeff, and Matt R.

A big part of what made this retreat special were the metagames that Chris had come up with. We had three in all: an Ascension (iOS) tournament, a Magic: the Gathering sealed deck/booster draft tournament, and an ongoing "rewards" program for doing various things, such as taking a walk on the beach, making someone a drink, winning a game (or coming in last). Chris gave out "Brooks Bucks" for these things, and at the end of the retreat we had an auction for stuff that people had brought, including a few very special things. I'll go into more detail on the auction in the second post.

Because I had a choir rehearsal on Thurday evening until 8:30pm, and Matt had a company party downtown that same night near my rehearsal, we didn't get out of Portland until around 9pm, and then we stopped in Sherwood to grab some groceries for Matt's meal prep. At Sunriver (my hosted retreat) I expect people to feed themselves for breakfast and lunch, and dinners are largely "go out" or "I make Costco lasagna". At Salishan, someone is always making a meal, largely because there are not a lot of close-by food options that are good. I brought an excellent Italian chili recipe I got from one of the Silver Palate cookbooks that I'd made in advance, plus some cornbread I prepared on Friday night. 5 BB for preparing a meal!

We arrived about 11:15pm, and while I was pretty tired I was massively energized by the news that the Ascension app for iOS had been updated and the expansion cards were now available for purchase. After doing my happy Ascension dance and preparing a couple of Old-Fashioneds for people (more BB!), Matt and I dove into the app for a bit while Jeff, Greg, Ken, and Chris finished up their game.

Once they were done, we all played a round of Train of Thought, a cool word association party game where you have to start with a word, add two more, then other people shout out guesses of what your second card's word is. You then pick one of those words, following it up with two more and go through the process until someone guesses the word. Both you and the correct guesser get a card which counts as a point, and you continue until the timer runs out, then the next person starts a chain of words. I grokked the process after one round and managed to win the game with 7 points after all of us had played the Conductor. I liked this game quite a bit as I do well with word association games, and this one encourages a lot of cleverness in what clues you give. Recommended as a gift, btw.

At this point, it was closing in on 2am, and with so many early risers in this group I knew it was time to get some rest. I had the upstairs loft that I shared with Mike, who was only sleeping there on Friday night, and I had my earplug earbuds, so his snoring was not an issue for me. Hope that was the case for him as well!

Friday was the "big" day for games, at least in terms of numbers of games played. I personally got in six different games, including one long game, Urban Sprawl, which kicked off the festivities. I had been very interested in trying this with three after my initial foray up at BottosCon in early November with four, and was hoping that the downtime was not bad - game length really doesn't change, but your involvement in the game is smaller with four, and many people are saying that four has too much downtime. I think that was at the very least a reasonable assessment from my first game.

I've discussed US in an earlier post, so I won't go into the details here. I will say that I had a much better idea of what to do in this game, but the arc went much the same way - player gets a lot of offices, other players work hard to get those offices away from first player, people score lots of points. Matt was the guy who ended up with a lot of offices in the midgame and during that period he created a lead that was very hard to overcome, nearly lapping me at one point. I made a strong end-game run that, had it happened before the final elections, would have put me within 20 points of Matt, who scored over 250 points, but as it was I was a lot closer to 40 points behind, with Ken further back than that.

I normally like to play a game several times before making a judgement on it, but in this case I think that I have to go with the general perception that the game is too chaotic for it's length, and even with three players there isn't enough going on that's interesting. I compare it to a solitaire game where a significant portion of the player's turn is administrating the AI - doing things on behalf of the system that don't involve any decision-making. In US, even though it's not solitaire, you can spend easily half of a turn (or more, if you don't do much) handling events, elections, etc. While the game is not total chaos, as some have unfairly said, there is simply too much time spent admining the AI and not enough making good strategic choices. I was disappointed enough that I stripped the sleeves from the cards and used them in a new game I'd bought on my way out. When I got home, US went on the sale/trade pile, a first for a Chad Jensen game for me. It simply won't see any table time with my group, and it's not compelling enough for me to hang onto for the future. As my other friend Chris said, "What a disappointment," but this time I agree.

The next game up was a four-player game of Team Asia for Ticket to Ride. This is perhaps my favorite version of this game, although I think that most games where the double routes become singles with a smaller number of players tends to "break" the maps to some extent. It's not bad in Europe, where you can lay down stations, but it's harsh in the other games and this is no exception. That said, it was a very cool game, although I think my communication with Jeff as my partner was partly to blame, while KC and Rita got a lucky set of ticket draws at the end that let them clean up.

The partnership works like this: You can't talk about your cards or the board (which I did not find to be an issue), but when you draw two train cards one goes in your hand and one on the card tray that you and your partner can see. Tickets work in a similar fashion, and you can place two tickets from your hand onto the tray as your turn if you wish. You can use cards from hand or the tray as you see fit. Teams play one person right after the other. There are also tunnels that have a large number of cards that are revealed, sometimes as many as six, so you better be ready if you need to dig. We had one route at the very end of the game die because we drew four cards that were locos or matches.

While I enjoyed the game, at the same time I was looking forward to trying it with six players rather than four. And I did, but not for a couple of days.

Next up was a quick game of 7 Wonders (four player, with KC, Rita, and Jeff). I did well, but not enough to win. As we closed in on dinnertime, KC pulled out Castle Ravenloft, which was perfect to allow me to start cooking. Because of some surprises (such as discovering my wife had frozen the chili and that I needed to mix the cornbread batter) I was not terribly involved in the middle part of the game, but it was clear that things were going just well enough for the party to advance toward Klak and his wacky machine. Once everything in the kitchen was more or less resolved, I got back to the game to find that we had just located Klak. I immediately used my Dagger Barrage and did quite a bit of damage to the machine *and* Klak, but my crit hit was unfortunately on one of the evil Red Shirts rather than a critical target. Everyone else missed pretty much every roll they had during their turns and KC's Dragonborn character died, which according to the scenario, lost the game for us. Still, a huge amount of fun for the parts I was there, and I'm glad I have this and Wrath (Drizzt seemed too much like more of the same, but I may pick it up at some point anyway).

After dinner, we played an excellent game of Elfenland with Mike, Matt, KC, and Rita, and while I had exactly *three* tiles that helped me that were played by other players in the *entire* game, I did pretty well, ending with 19 points at my home base. And I took third behind Rita and Mike, who had 3 and 1 cards respectively! My last hand I drew three raft cards when I had zero water routes I could use, and that killed me more than anything. Still, this is a very entertaining game, although every time I play we seem to use a different ruleset than I'm used to (the old Game Cabinet translation).

The end of the night was Red Dragon Inn, a wacky game of drinking your fellow adventurers under the table. I was Fiona the Volatile, and I think I must have set a record for passing out - I had three turns before the Alcohol hit the Fortitude, dude. Matt ran out of money after a few more turns, and Chris and KC fought it out, with KC running out of money but Chris running out of Fortitude, and in the end it was Chris who bit the floor before KC hit the stables. This is a great late night closer that takes 20-30 minutes and I will make more of an effort to get it on the table.

I ended the evening with a late night stroll to the beach to listen to the surf, which was cold but pleasant with cloud cover but a full moon. The night before had been completely clear, and I'd wished I gone out that night. A great end to a fun day.

I should mention that by this point I was up to about 18 Brooks Bucks, largely by making drinks and dinner and for bringing alcohol. I also made several Monte Carlo drinks, which is an Old Fashioned with Benedictine instead of simply syrup, and served neat rather than on the rocks. A great autumn/winter drink if you don't mind it being a cold drink in the glass, but warm going down.

Next up, Saturday and Sunday.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

AE:TK - Fall of France Lessons Learned

I got the chance to run the A.3 scenario with my friend Eric on Monday morning, playing the West, and had a few thoughts on the scenario:

  • The Maginot Line is hard to get through in no small part because of the shifts from terrain and the fortress units, so it becomes a matter of attrition which the Axis does not have time to do. Metz in particular can simply be reinforced at least one step per turn. While breaking this line would almost certainly result in the conquest of France, it will probably take more than three turns to do so.  
  • Antwerp/Brussels (VASSAL module has a slightly different map than the new edition, so a slightly different arrangement of cities) is a bit of a trap if the Axis plays a Blitz marker on it. This will force a retreat which will screw up the northern end of the line. Note that I did this in my playthrough. As such, it's important for the Western Allies player to garrison Paris with at least three or four steps to avoid a quick breakthrough by a couple of big units that might push through Calais.
  • Alternatively, you could leave a single unit in Paris and retreat the whole stack into that city. You're going to lose any Belgian steps anyway, might as well burn it for overstacking at the end of the segment. 
  • Know some of the "smaller" rules, such as road/rail being slower for multistep units, no more than one minor nation allowed in a hex unless using an Exp unit, shifts for fortress units, Axis Minor Country Occupation conditional events, how the Naval Warfare Delay Box differs from the normal Delay box.
  • Understand the sequence of play and how some replacements come at the start of the turn and some come at the end. 
  • Contesting a support unit means that both units will come back a turn faster, assuming the same die roll to place it on the turn track. Sometimes it's better to let the unit place successfully and not come back than to contest and have the unit come back. 
  • While not important in this game because of length, anything you can do to improve your delay roll and hurt your opponent's can make a big difference. 
  • High odds are good for eliminations, but if you just want to be pushing back your opponent and are not as concerned with causing step losses, 3-1 is nearly as good as long as you can advance one or two hexes at a time. You need 6-1 odds to start pushing back faster or causing more losses. You want 9-1 if you don't want to take steps yourself. 
  • As the Axis, you really need to be able to place the Blitz marker in Paris at some point in order to force the units there out. Anything else won't get it done unless you completely overwhelm the French in your first attack. 
  • I really like this game.
In our game, Eric tried to breach the Maginot Line at Metz (and to some extent to the south) with some success. He didn't see being able to succeed without taking Metz, although the inability of those units to attack effectively more or less turns the hexes into impassible mountains that don't require much to keep those units tied down. He also didn't do much against Amsterdam/Rotterdam in his first attack and that may be an OK choice as the hexes around Rotterdam aren't all that important and even one 3-5-2 infantry will tie down that hex effectively. Remember though that the Allies will get a minor step that can be used for BH and to place in Am/Rot that could move out and screw up supply lines, although this is a step the French won't have. I think it best to take out BH early and just not worry about it, but I'm sure others have had different experiences. 

My next step is rereading the ruleset and playing the West Front one map game (at least in part), and then soloing the East front map. I'm making this choice because I recognize the most difficult part of the game to fully understand is the use of option cards, and these scenarios narrow those choices down to a level I think I can manage, especially with all of the changes to the deck made with every play, both in terms of cards you can play and cards that are out. Eric and I discussed an app or website that could do this, although since I'm trying to learn iPad coding I may do this for iDevices, and it would be a good sized project for me to take on. I'll let you know if that ever happens. 

Thanks to Eric for a good game. It was especially fun to see how a non-historical strategy worked out against the French, even if this one didn't go so well. TK seems to be an excellent vehicle for What-If's and counterfactual exploration at a manageable level.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

AE:TK - Fall Of France, Turn 5

Well, here we are. It's been a tough slog for the Axis, and they are far from being shoe-ins to take Paris this final turn, but they have some things working in their favor, such as an extra tank army and an AF.

Both the Blitz marker and AF are placed in Paris. This will limit use of HQs during Blitz combat, but the need is to push the French out and with four steps there this is the only hope the Germans have. They also combine the units east of Antwerp to form a second tank army.

The Germans move one 6-6-3 back from Lille to GM to make room for the 8-6-4 tank, and the only Blitz combat they can do is against Amiens, which results in a 25:10 fight at 2-1, raised up to 3-1 for the tank and AF (with the Fr HQ hobbling the attack somewhat). The Germans roll a 5 (they have been unfortunate in this campaign) for a Dr1 1/1. This is not as bad as it looks - it forces out the stack, which can't go to Paris but instead to Le Havre. The French lose one 1-1-2 step to the Force Pool, and the Germans reduce their 5-4-4 unit in Calais, while advancing the 6-6-3 in Calais and the 8-6-4 in Lille into Amiens. At long last, the Germans have a shot at Paris. Here is the final map situation before the final attack:

This is it, the combat for the whole enchilada. The odds are 14:4, with one shift right for the AF, two shifts left for the city and for the HQ. The result is 2:1, which is not good - the Germans will need a roll of 1 or 2 to force a retreat. The roll is...

a 4. The French hold out to win the scenario!

Clearly I am a terrible Axis player. ;-)

Just for fun, let's assume that the roll was a 1 or 2 and the Germans were able to invoke Case Yellow. Here's what would have happened per 16.2.1 had they been successful:

  • First, the Axis select France as the country in question. This country has a special set of steps compared to other countries, but it's important to note that Case Yellow *can* be invoked on different countries than France. 
  • All of the French units that don't have a V reinforcement code are removed from the game. That means two units on the map and one in the Force Pool. Note that the Allied AA army must perform emergency breakdown as the French step in it's holding box is not a V unit. 
  • The Br 1-1-2 Fra colonial unit in it's holding box goes to the Delay Box. 
  • Alsace-Lorraine and Occupied France are both ceded to Germany, these are now Home Country spaces. The two Br infantry units left in France are all Interned, which I leave as an exercise for the reader. 
  • Stuff happens in Syria, and Vichy is created. Any units in Vichy are interned. 
  • Germany gets to apply influence to a minor country (historically this is Italy, although Italy is not in play in this scenario). The Germans may, if they wish, influence Vichy, although again that's not valuable in this scenario. 
Had France fallen, this is what the map would have looked like at the end of the German combat phase:

Kinda empty. Like DisneyWorld with a hurricane bearing down. 

So where did the Germans go wrong? The biggest problem I'm experiencing with this game is how best to position units to be ready to exploit, to prevent "bad" retreats into their backfield (as happened a lot in Barbarossa), but also how best to choose battles so as to make hay. In this case, I think the mistake was to overextend to Paris and give up Lille at the end of the third turn. The French were simply too strong to leave units hanging out like that. Better to hold back one hex and not advance beyond Troyes, which would have still kept the French from using the Maginot Troops, but still forcing them to extend their front. The Germans have a huge quantitative and qualitative advantage, but they have a very narrow front to work with and taking advantage of a broader front would have been a better idea than pressing forward. I'm also not sure that I needed that second air unit near Rotterdam, and perhaps I should have held one out for the fourth turn. 

Certainly the Germans had some terrible rolls on the fourth turn, especially that Ex result. This is why you want to get a 6:1 combat ratio to avoid this result, which will stall an offensive like nothing else. Except an Ad result. 

I hope you've enjoyed this runthrough of this training scenario, and have a better idea of how the game works. I have tried to be as correct as I can, but as I'm still learning the game myself I can only apologize for any mistakes I've made with the rules, as well as any sub-optimal plays I've made. If you see any mistakes, please let me know in the comments and I will try to get them fixed in the entries. Thanks very much for following along, and maybe we'll play a game of TK someday. 

AE:TK - Fall Of France, Turn 4

The game is on the line for the Germans at this point, but there is some hope.

The Initial Admin Phase is fairly straightforward as there are no support units to place, although we do remove the two AF units left on the board from the previous turn to the delay box. We then combine the 2-2-4 with the 5-5-4 in Antwerp to create the full 8-6-4 panzer army, and build a 6-6-3 in the hex east of Antwerp with the three 1-2-3 units there. Because we want to get another couple of steps in Gau Moselland, we breakdown the 5-6-2 in Koln and move the 3-4-2 unit into GM. Note that we don't need to move the 3-4-2 to the Delay box because it wasn't going back to the Force Pool. Had we broken it down to three 1-2-3 units, it would have. Finally, we place the Blitz marekr in Lille, although it would have been awesome to put it in Paris. Looks like we'll need to be lucky or good or both to win this turn.

The 8-6-4 moves to Calais, the 6-6-3 we just built moves to Antwerp, and the 3-4-2 moves to GM as planned. For our final move, we move the 1-2-3 we just broke off and the tanks in Rotterdam and Ruhr, and move them all to the hex just east of Antwerp for combining in the last turn if necessary. The Mountain unit in the Ruhr goes to Rotterdam to garrison the conquered minor city. Note that the 4-4-3 in central France can't move, although it will be able to attack. Here is the situation after movement:

The plan is to punch through the line by taking out the 3-4-2 in Lille, then advancing to Reims with a strong stack, while taking out the units in Amiens in normal combat, possibly the units in Verdun as well. We should have Paris more or less surrounded by the end of the turn with little the West can do to fight the Axis off.

The Blitz combat needs to go well, so we throw everything we have at the combat against the 3-4-2 in Lille, which will have support from the French HQ in Paris. Initial odds are 35:6, which reduces to 5:1, but the Axis gets one combat shift for having a tank unit as the HQs cancel out. The result is not great: Dr 1 1/2. This is enough to kill the unit, but not enough to get a decent breakthrough. The 3-4-2 retreats one space, then is sent to the Delay Box and resplaced with a 1-1-2 inf step, then that step returns to the force pool. The Axis lose the 2-2-4 tank step in GM. One 6-6-3 advances from Antwerp, one from GM, into Lille.
All is not lost, though, as there can be one more large combat that will hopefully knock out enough steps to leave the Germans a clear path to Paris. The 8-6-4 and 6-6-3 in Calais and the two 6-6-3s in Lille, supported by the HQ in Antwerp, attack the Fr 3-3-2 and the British 1-2-2 in Amiens, supported by the French HQ in Paris. Odds are 30:7, or 4-1, with the two HQ shifts canceling out. The roll is a 6, an Ex! The Axis lose one step from the 8-6-4 unit in Calais, while the Allies lose one step from the 3-3-2, flipping it. There is no advance. This was a terrible result for the Axis, they were completely unable to advance much beyond getting into Lille, although the French units have been hurt pretty badly and there aren't many units left.

The Germans have no reserve movement, and no conditional events. On to the Allied turn, with the map situation as follows:

The French also have no support units to place, but none to remove either. No point in placing the Surface Fleet they got this turn. They are unable to combine any of their forces either, so how they place units will have a large effect on the outcome of the game.

For movement:

  • the 1-1-3 mountain unit in Limoges moves one hex NE to tie down the German 4-4-3 unit;
  • The 3-3-2 SE of Paris moves one hex to Reims;
  • The 2-3-2 AA multinational unit in Paris moves NE to Amiens;
  • The Br 1-2-2 infantry in Amiens moves SE to Reims;
  • The Fr 4-4-3 infantry in Verdun moves through Reims to Amiens;
  • Two 1-2-2 infantry move from Metz to Verdun. 
The idea here is to present as strong a front as possible while preserving a ZOC picket between the Germans and Paris. Losing Metz would hurt a bit, but it is a tougher nut to crack than the Germans want for a sideshow right now. There is no combat, and no reserve movement. The conditional event gives the French one infantry step, which goes to Paris. 

The turn ends with the delay rolls, which could be important, but neither the Fr mech multistep or the two Axis AF units will see play for the rest of this scenario. However, the Axis get a 4-4-3, a 5-4-4, and an AF, while the British get a surface fleet and a defensive unit that won't see play. Either the Germans have enough to finish this or they don't. Here's the situation at the end of turn 4:

AE:TK - Fall of France, West Turn 3

A bit of mixed success for the Axis in their initial invasion, but they've taken Calais and are knocking on the door in Paris. The French forces have been divided, although the "useful" ones are all near Paris. The French must try to hold out through two more Axis turns, but it's not all about Paris and there's no guarantee they can hold out.

First up is the Option Card Phase, and the Allies are forced to play 16, the Dyle Plan. Anyone who has studied this period in history knows this was a Bad Play, but the card may have it's appeal. During the Option Card segment, the British get a 1-1-2 infantry and a second air force in the Delay Box, where they'll be lucky to see them at all in this scenario, although they'd be much more important in a campaign game. The card grants no replacements, but the Minor Country Production and French War Economy allow them to get two French Steps, which are placed in Paris.

During the Initial Admin Phase, there are no Political Events, so time to place support units. All that's left for both sides is the CV Fleet for the Brits and the AF unit for the Germans. The CV Fleet is placed in the all-sea hex just NW of Le Havre, in order to get a CV Strike in place that will help defend Paris next turn. Now the Axis must either contest it or have it flip to it's CVStrike side. Since the CV Fleet has been placed within three hexes of both Calais and Antwerp (both German Naval Bases) the Axis AF contests the CV Fleet and it goes to the Naval Warfare Delay box while the last German AF goes to the Delay Box. Just in case, both the British and French troop convoy markers go to the Convoy box. The West puts the Blitz marker in Reims as it's within two spaces of both lone Axis tank single-steppers alone in hexes.

Organization is simple - the French combine the two 1-1-2 infantry in Paris, sending one back to the Force Pool and flipping the other to it's two-step side. Here's the situation after Organization:

The Axis has left a couple of tank units vulnerable, and the French want to garrison their cities to avoid Case Yellow occurring without Paris being taken. Calais has been taken, so Metz, Lyon, Brest, Toulouse and Bordeaux  need to be held. The 1-2-2 at the south end of the Maginot Line moves into Lyon, the 1-1-3 in Lyons moves to Limoges to block the route to the south-western cities. We assume Brest will be OK. To help reinforce Metz, we move the 1-2-2 on the Maginot line just south of Metz into that space.

To complete movement, we want to carefully consider how units will be forced to retreat in the next turn. The Axis will almost certainly put a Blitz marker in Paris in order to force units in that space to retreat if they get that result, but remember that retreating units *pick up* units in hexes they retreat through. No point in making this easy for the Germans. The French make the following moves to try to better consolidate their position:

  • 2-2-2 Fr HQ from Reims to Paris,
  • 3-4-2 Fr Inf from Reims to Lille (to force an extra attack),
  • 1-2-2- Br Inf from Reims to Amiens,
  • 3-3-2 Fr Inf from Paris to Amiens,
  • 2-1-3 Br Tank and 4-4-3 Fr Inf from Amiens to Reims
At this point, the French are in a good position to attack the 6-6-3 on the outskirts of Paris. They have an armor unit to help get one shift, and an HQ to get another. It was a bit of a risk to put a unit in Lille, but the hope is that it will stall the German advance for another turn, and maybe some of the good units from the Conditional Events that we'll get this turn will have low Delay Box rolls. Here's the position after Operational Movement:

The West gets a Blitz combat and will use it to get the benefit of that British tank. The initial odds are 16:6, or 2-1, but there are two shifts for the attacker bringing the total to 4-1. Note that the UK tank must be supplied, and it is because of the Supply Convoy printed in the North Sea Zone Convoy Box. The roll is a 5, a Dr1 1/1 result - not great, but it will work. The 6-6-3 retreats one hex to the SE, then loses one step to attrition. The UK tank is sent back to the force pool as it is the only armor step in the attack. The West advances the two 3-3-2 infantry units in Orleans into the vacated defender hex. This has worked out well for the Allies, as the Germans can't get to Paris easily. The Blitz marker is removed. 

The French might as well continue to cause problems for the overextended Germans, so in the regular Combat Phase they attack the 2-2-4 in Troyes at 12:2 or 6:1 with a shift for the HQ in Paris. The result is Dr2 1/1, which is not great. The Tank, however, must retreat one of two directions, and neither is great for the Germans. The unit retreats two hexes to the NE, taking the 6-6-3 in Verdun with it, and then takes the step loss. One of the two 3-3-2 units east of Orleans takes it's step loss, and the 1-1-2 advances to Verdun, figuring that the German 4-4-3 can't move and will be out of the action for the most part. The 4-4-3 goes there as well. The French eschew Reserve Movement. The final position after combat (and, for all intents and purposes, the end of the turn on the map) is shown below:

There is no one for the West to declare war on (and they can't do it during Limited War anyway), so that leaves conditional events, of which we have a few. So far this has been a single event, but it's worth mentioning that there is a specific order you work through - Permanent Events *in order*, then Option Card events. We have some of each. 

We ignore reactivating or liberating minor countries, as these conditions don't apply. However, the next two events can take place, and the West must do so: Their Finest Hour and Paris Threatened, as an Axis unit is in France or Belgium-Holland. TFH simply takes the three units in the appropriate box of the Force Pool and puts them in the Delay Box. PT does the same with it's units, but since there is no minor country for the French to influence the second step is ignored. The Option card gives France an infantry step, so the 0-1-2 Res unit goes to Paris. 

It's the end of the turn, so we have to roll on the Delay Box and Naval Warfare Delay boxes to see if any of these units will play a part. I'd noted before that the Allies got a -1 DRM, but I'd misread the table - neither side gets a DRM. The French get a Surf Fleet support marker for the next turn, the Brits get a Can 1-2-2 infantry and their Surface Fleet in two turns, and the Germans get an AF and a 4-4-3 in two turns as well. The rest all will come in after the end of the scenario, so we ignore them. There is no point in checking the Belgians; if the Allies take Antwerp the Germans aren't going to be winning this game anyway. 

Finally, the turn marker advances to June-July, so the Germans get two 4-4-3 infantry units to their force pool (which they can certainly use) and the West gets a surface fleet. There will be very little support unit play in the next turn, but the Germans are happy to see an AF coming in for the last turn, they may need it. 

Things are looking a bit tougher for the Germans, will they be able to push through to the outskirts of Paris even though their initial plans were thwarted?

Friday, December 02, 2011

AE:TK - Fall of France, Axis Turn 3

We made it, Case Yellow. Should be very exciting! Well, for me...

Everyone on both sides of the Rhine has been gearing up and getting ready, so let's do this thing!

This is a Seasonal turn, so we need to first check the VP status. When I mentioned before that the Germans had +1 strategic hexes, I'd neglected Metz, which is an Axis strategic hex. That means that the Axis are actually at 0. However, if Case Yellow works out, they will take Metz, Antwerp, and Paris for the three they need to flip the turn marker to the Axis Tide side.

Case Yellow has four portions of the Option Card Segment, but only two of them are relevant to this scenario. France is not a PAC (Pact Affected Country), instead it is at war. Also, no point in removing cards we aren't allowed to use. We *do* select a Neutral country (Belgium-Holland) and go through the steps for declaring war on it. Because BH has units beyond the Res unit, we will spend a bit more time on it than we did with DN.

First, we get rid of any Partnership units, but there aren't any. Second, we put the Res infantry (and the country marker, just so we remember it's a Western Allied country now) in the West Force Pool. Third we place the Exp cavalry unit in the Delay Box because it has a stripe, but not the 0-2-0 Fort unit as it is specifically excluded by rule 13.7.1 Step 3. Fourth, we place the 0-1-0 unit in Rotterdam because that's where it goes (Rott). All units are placed single step side up, but there's a chance it will flip later. We place the single remaining unit, the Belgian Army, on it's one step side in Antwerp because that just seems to be the right place.

Next we place a Mobilizing marker in Antwerp, the capital, because the country was not activated by a Free Passage event. We then roll to see how many units will Mobilize on a d6, rolling a 2. That means both the Rotterdam fort and the Belgian army will flip to their two-step sides. Germany is now at war with Belgium-Holland, and it is a Western Allies active minor country.

The last part of the Option Card Segment is to add an Axis Scratch Convoy (which we won't use) and another AF support unit to the German Force Pool. Not a lot, but we have what we need. Replacements are 3 panzer and 6 infantry steps, which are placed as follows:

  • Three 1-2-3 in Frankfurt;
  • Two 2-2-4 in the hex east of the Ruhr with the 4-4-3 HQ Nor;
  • One 2-2-4 in the hex west of Kassel;
  • One 1-2-3 and one 2-2-4 in Hamburg for proximity to the front and we may need to replace steps;
  • Two 1-2-3 in Berlin
We are at capacity on every hex along the border other than the northernmost, and it has to go into the same space as the hex south of it. Don't worry, it will do some damage. Note that while the replacements are just for this turn, if I meet the requirements for Case Yellow in the next three turns at the end of my turn I can invoke it. Basically, I need to either take Paris or three cities in France, which would almost certainly be Metz, Lyon, and one of Brest, Toulouse, or Marseilles. All are pretty far out there, so Paris looks to be the place I want to be spending the summer in. 

Here's a picture of the map following activation of BH and Axis replacements:

The next step, as there are no political events, is to place support units and the Blitz marker. I begin by placing the Troop Convoy in the Convoy box of the North Sea just to take an infantry step to Stavanger on the off chance the Brits get stinky. Being out of supply won't hurt the unit in Oslo at this time. 

I also put the Sub Fleet in the Strategic Warfare box, and the West puts their Surface Fleet there as well to stop it. There's really no reason not to do this in this scenario, and the Surface Fleet isn't going to do much good for our purposes. Off to the Delay Box they go. Note that we need to take both Antwerp and Rotterdam to conquer BH. 

The really important part now is to place the Air Force units and the Blitz marker. Why not go big, I say, and use all four of the AF units, but there are some limitations on them that will slow things down. For one thing, you can't put AF units in adjacent hexes, at least if they've been placed successfully. If there were enemy AF units on the map, I couldn't place them in or adjacent to them either, but that's not an issue for us. The really obvious choices are the hex SW of Rotterdam (Air Base two hexes to the east), and the Gau Moselland hex (Air Base two hexes to the east). The UK AF contests one of these, but I have four units to work with so I just replace the unit that was contested with another one. This leaves one AF. I could put this unit SW of Metz, but I'm hoping I won't need it. Amiens or Rhiems would be tempting, but they are out of range of an Air Base, which requires a friendly unit in a road/rail, city, or port hex. We could put the unit in Calais, however, but I'm going to be slightly cautious

The Blitz marker Goes in Antwerp. Every hex I wish to attack in the Blitz segment is within a couple of hexes of Antwerp, so I should have enough units to knock out the BH units and start doing some damage to the French and British. My goal is to get far enough in to have a unit able to attack the French HQ and knock it out by the end of the turn, and have enough units in position to attack Paris next turn. Who knows, maybe I'll get there before July. Worked for Hitler. 

Next up is Organization, which mostly means building up my multi step units. I build the last 6-6-3 in Bremen, bump up the HQ Sou west of Kassel to full strength, and build one 5-6-2 infantry to take up the rear in Frankfurt. I leave the units uncombined in Hamburg and Berlin in order to use them to build up any units that take hits, if possible. No need to beef up the units across from the Maginot line, the French don't have enough attack factors to make that a reasonable attack. Here's how things look before I begin movement:

My plan is to use some units to attack Rotterdam, but to make the primary attacks (using HQs) against Brussels and Lille during the Blitz Combat segment. Lille is a bit of a crap shoot, but if I can bust through the line I stand an excellent chance of taking out the French HQ and Calais during normal combat, setting me up to take Paris with little effort next turn. Again, I have never tried this before, so we'll see how well it works. 

Movement goes like this:
  • Two 6-6-3's in Koln to Gau Moselland (which they can do because they are only moving one hex),
  • 5-6-2 in Saarbrucken to Koln to hold the logistical tail if necessary,
  • 5-6-2 in Frankfurt to Saarbrucken (why I build that unit),
  • 8-6-4 and 6-6-3 from Ruhr to the hex east of Antwerp, 
  • 4-4-3 HQ east of Kassel to Koln to support attack on Lille,
  • One 2-2-4 tank east of Ruhr to the hex SE of Rotterdam, which will allow other units to move through it,
  • One 2-2-4 tank east of Ruhr to hex SW of Rotterdam,
  • 6-6-3 in Bremen to hex SW of Rotterdam,
  • 2-2-4 in Hamburg to hex SE of Rotterdam,
  • 2-2-4 in hex east of Rotterdam to hex SE of Rotterdam,
  • 4-4-3 HQ Nor east of Ruhr to Ruhr,
  • Two 1-2-3 units in Berlin to hex east of Ruhr, just to give a bit of retreat room,
  • 1-2-3 in Hamburg via convoy to Oslo,
  • 1-2-3 in Oslo to Stavanger.
Tight, but we got them all in. Here's how it looks:

Now for the three attacks in the Blitz Combat segment. The 6-6-3 and the four tanks will attack Rotterdam, the 8-6-4, 6-6-3, and Nor HQ will attack Antwerp, and the two 6-6-3 and Sou HQ will attack Lille. Note that while I am stating which combats will occur, you declare them one at a time and are under no obligation to declare or undertake a given attack at any time. Time to see if being stingy with that AF support unit will pay off...

We begin in Antwerp. Because there are no French units present, the French HQ cannot participate. The two units involved as given above have 18 attack factors (8+6+4 for the HQ) vs 2, or 9:1 odds. There are four column shifts for the attacker (two air units, one HQ, one supplied armor during Blitz) and one for the defender (city) so the attack stays at 9:1. I roll a 6, a terrible roll, but better here than other places. The result is Dr2, 1/1. First we make the retreat, which must follow the retreat priorities. First, the unit must retreat to a space without EZOCs, and the only space is Calais. Next, the unit must do the same, and the only space is Amiens. However, since there were units in Calais that the Belgian army first went into, they must retreat as well, so the Br 1-2-3, the French 4-4-3, and the Belgian 2-2-2 all retreat to Amiens. This is a bit of a problem for the West, as only one minor country will be able to stay in that hex at the end of the Blitz Combat segment. 

Now we deal with the 1/1 attrition result. The Germans must lose one tank step as at least one was involved per, and the West loses one step from the Belgian army, even though it could have taken the step from any of the three in the space. Note that removing the UK step would not have helped as it's not a minor country, while France and BH are. 

Finally, we advance/exploit. The number of exploitation hexes is dictated by the retreat result plus the number of results the defender was not able to satisfy, which in our case is 2+0=2. The first hex must be the defender's hex, so the 6-6-3 advances to Calais via Antwerp, while the 5-5-4 armor unit advances only as far as Antwerp to keep the supply lines open. Not the best result, but one that will work. Perhaps we should have made the next attack before we made the attack on Antwerp...

Next up is the two 6-6-3's attacking the mixed French/British stack in Lille. Initial odds are 16 (6+6+4 for the HQ) vs 8 (4+2+2 for the French HQ), a total of 2-1. There are two shifts for the attacker (HQ, AF), two for the defender (river, HQ). The roll is a 5 for a result of EX. The Germans want to continue to press the attack, so they eliminate one step bringing one infantry down to 4-4-3. The West, realizing that they will get hammered in this hex in the regular combat phase, choose instead to retreat to Reims with the HQ. This allows the 6-6-3 and 4-4-3 unit to advance.  [Note: I missed the rule that you can't retreat a force that includes an HQ, even one providing ranged support, as in this example. Thus, the French must either take the hits from the units in Lille, or reduce their HQ before retreating. I suspect this problem exists throughout the entire example, for which I apologize, but the other elements of the example are worthwhile so long as you keep the retreat rule in mind. Sorry!]

The final Blitz Combat fight is in Rotterdam, which stacks up 6+2+2+2+2 for 14 to 2, or 7:1 odds. The Axis have an AF and a tank, and the BH have a city and a fortress unit, so the odds stay where they are. This time, the roll is a 1 which means a Dr3 0/1. Since the Fortress unit has no movement, it must convert all retreat results into step losses, which means it has one retreat result and one attrition result it cannot apply. This means an exploit value for the Germans of 4 hexes! One 2-2-4 moves to Rotterdam and stays there to allow for the country to be conquered at the end of the Axis turn, the 6-6-3 and two tanks end up in Gau Moselland, and the last two 2-2-4 tanks go to Antwerp to beef up the lost armor step in the next organization phase. 

Since this is the end of a segment, the Belgian army is removed for overstacking as there is another minor army in the hex. It was going to be removed anyway as BH will be conquered at the end of the faction turn. 

Not a bad start, but there has been no breakthrough to Paris yet. Here's the situation at the end of Blitz Combat - I have removed the Blitz marker to keep the map a little cleaner, same with the Mobilization marker. 

We need to keep pressing, so the Axis engages in two combats. The first is a "soak-off" to prevent the Fr HQ from defending in the second. The 4-4-3 unit in Lille will attack the combined stack in Reims at 4:8, or 1-2. This is a legal attack, as the attacker must prove at least 1-3 odds - you can't throw a toothpick at an elephant, but you can throw a toothbrush! The other will be a 20-6 attack on Verdun which will include two offensive shifts. The hope is to cut off the units on the Maginot Line, feeble as they are, and begin to encircle Paris. 

First the soak off, as otherwise the HQ could provide both ranged support *and* defend in it's hex! The odds are 1-2, shifted down to 1-3 for the defending HQ. The result is Ad 1/0, so the 4-4-3 retreats to Antwerp (the only hex that meets priority 1) and loses a step. This means the multi-step unit goes to the Delay Box and is replaced with a 1-2-3 infantry. Not great, but it gives us a much better shot at the units in Verdun.

Now for the Verdun attack. Having the 6-6-3 unit in Lille makes a big difference, as it negates the river defensive shift. The result is 3:1 shifted twice (AF, HQ). Note that tanks do *not* create shifts in normal combat, only during Blitz. This puts us on the 6:1/8:1 column, and we roll a 2 for a result of Dr3 0/0. It would have been nice to get some attrition too, but a Dr3 will give us some room to cause trouble for the French. The two units must retreat to the same space and their path becomes Troyes (only space not in an EZOC), then on to Orleans. They could not end up in Paris because the space SE of it is the same distance from the original hex and retreating units must be further away with each hex retreated. 

This leaves the advancing armies with a small dilemma. Supply is a good thing to have, but not critical if you don't need to move. I decide to be bold with the Axis exploitation, which is three hexes. The 6-6-3 in Lille advances around to the hex SE of Paris the 6-6-3 in Gau Moselland advances into Verdun, and one 2-2-4 tank advances to Troyes. My hope is that this presents the West with too many threats to defend against even though the tank in Troyes and the infantry SE of Paris are now out of supply and thus won't be able to move in the nex OpMove phase. 

For reserve movement, I can do some things. First, I move the two 1-2-3s east of Ruhr and the single 1-2-3 in Anwerp to the hex between the Ruhr and Antwerp with the idea of building a new infantry army next turn. I move the Nor HQ to Antwerp where it will be better able to defend front line units. Sadly, I can't move units into EZOCs (or out of them) so the tank west of Kassel has nowhere useful to go. Just in case, I bring it and the mountain unit in Hamburg into the Ruhr. At the very least one will be able to garrison Antwerp.

We have not met the requirements for Case Yellow, although we are very close! Even worse for the French, we have a breakthrough that may allow us to evoke Case Yellow even if we *don't* take Paris.  However, we have conquered BH, so it's units go to the Conquered Western Minor Country box with the Danes and Norwegians. Here's the map at the end of the Axis turn:

I'm not at all sure that this went like I'd hope it would, but there's no question that the Germans made some good progress, advancing adjacent to Paris (if a bit tenuously) and conquering BH. While there have been some losses, and few for the French, the point is not to take out units but to take territory, and some rather specific territory at that. 

In the next installment, we'll see the West's response and attempts to hold paris while preventing the Axis from taking the entire country. 

AE:TK - Fall of France, Allied Turn 1 thru Allied Turn 2

Last time, we ran through the exercise of how to take Denmark-Norway using the Operation Weseruebung Option card. Now we will brush through the rest of the "Phony War" period as both sides build up for Case Yellow on Turn 3.

At this point, the Allies are unable to mount an invasion of Norway, and really the Brits don't have the troops to do this effectively anyway since they can't get air cover in the vicinity until they have their CV Fleet and even then the Axis can counter it if they can get one more unit up there. We will ignore DN for the remainder of this scenario for the sake of simplicity.

During the Allied Player Turn of Turn 1, we start with the Option Card play as this is a Seasonal Turn (note that we don't perform a Victory Check as it is not part of a Faction turn). The predesignated card plays are 23 - Commonwealth Support for Spring and 16 - Dyle Plan for Summer, so Dyle will be Pending and Commonwealth Support active. Dyle won't be much help other than to put several units in the Delay Box for the Brits and give the French one replacement step at the end of every turn, so not much to plan for there.

The active card for this turn has three sections, an Option Card segment, a Replacements Segment, and a Conditional Events segment that would normally happen every turn during this season. By scenario special rule, however, the Conditional Events event is ignored as those troops were sent to the Mediterranean and that part of the map is outside of the scope of this scenario. The Pacific War Display is not at issue so we ignore increasing the PSV by 1, but we do place the two colonial infantry units (Aus and Ind) in the Force Pool, although we won't get those steps replaced because of the special rule mentioned above. Finally, Britain gets one whopping infantry step, which it places in Southampton with every intent of shipping it to France. Note that this is Britain's last ground unit in the Force Pool, and it will have no further opportunities to place replacements because the option cards for this scenario don't allow it.

There are no Political Events and no need to place any support units other than a Troop Convoy in the North Sea to allow the Brits to bring over a 1-2-2 unit if they wish. The British want to be a little careful because that Airborne unit could show up again, so they will want units in both London and Southampton as they are both spots the Germans could use to get a toehold. A British Troop Convoy support unit is placed in the North Sea convoy box. There is no point in placing the French convoy or the British Air Force unit - the French don't need a convoy, and the AF unit will be needed when the Axis invades.

For the Initial Organization segment, the British choose not to combine the units in Southampton so that they will continue to protect the southern port cities. The French have some combinational opportunities, but the units are out of position to do so, so it will wait until the next turn.

For OpMovement, this is a good time to start getting the defensive line built up. For right now, that means moving the 1-1-2 one stepper infantry in Strasbourg to Verdun to create the larger unit next turn.  I also move the 1-1-2 one stepper infantry in Dijon over to Paris just in case the airdrop unit shows up early. It's out of range, but this is cheap insurance and Dijon is not going to be an area of issue. I also move the 1-1-3 mtn unit from Marseilles to Lyon just in case. Were Italy in play, I might be more cautious with my southern flank, but for now there's really no urgency down there at all.

The Brits first send the Brit 1-2-2 infantry in Southampton to Le Havre via the Troop Convoy. This moves the Troop Convoy to the Used box and we place the moving unit in Le Havre where it cannot move any more. The other interesting move I will do this turn is move the BEF 1-2-2 unit in Calais to Paris to build the AA Army next turn. Why not.

The French are built for defense and since it's Limited War there is no ability to declare war on BH, so at this point the Allied turn is done. There's no need for Reserve movement either. Neither of the Permanent Conditional Events (Finest Hour and Paris Threatened) can be executed, and there is no Occupation issue for West units as there is for Axis units in foreign countries. Here is the final position at the end of the West Faction turn on turn 1:

At the end of the turn there are two things that happen - managing the Delay Box as well as advancing the turn track. The Axis Sub Fleet rolls a 2 with no DRMs and so is placed in the May-June turn box. The Brits get lucky with their Surface Fleet and roll a 1, modified by -1 to 0, so it returns to the Apr-May turn box and will be available right away. The last unit is the Axis Airborne unit, which rolls a 6 and will be out for the rest of the scenario.

Finally, the turn marker advances, flips to the Axis Turn side, and a few units go to their respective force pools - The Axis get the 1st Panzer army and the 18th army (which we were waiting to build next turn), while the Brits get their Surface Fleet back and a CV fleet back, as well as a Polish Colonial unit from the fall of Poland. Sadly it will not see action as the Brits have no replacements coming in.

Apr-May is a Mud turn, so that will have several effects on the game, the main one being that it's hard to conduct an offense in Mud. As such this will primarily be a preparation turn for both sides. Here's a rundown of what Mud does in this scenario:

  • Air units can only be placed at sea and doesn't provide shifts in combat;
  • EZOCs become *very* sticky - no leaving them under any circumstances.
  • Blitz Combat is not allowed
  • Defenders get a shift to their benefit on the CRT, and;
  • No exploitation (but you can advance into the defender's hex if vacated)
In other words, a bad time to invade France. That's OK, we have a good Option card for doing that next turn. For now, there's not much point in doing much besides placing the supply convoy to Norway, combining some units, and getting ready to invade next turn. It is possible for Norway to become a battleground with the two UK fleets available, but for our purposes we'll stick to history. 

If you remember, we held off on combining some of the one-steppers last turn because we were waiting for better units to come along, and two of them have. Using the formula on the Axis Force Pool, we combine the infantry and tank step just west of Hamburg to create the 1st Panzer 5-4-4 tank army, then combine the other 2-2-4 tank unit in the space to bring it to full strength. Similarly, we build up the 18th Army using the steps in the hex west of Kassel. 

During movement, I finish up by moving the 18th to Koln, the three 1-2-3 infantry in Frankfurt to Bremen (to build next turn), the Sou HQ and 1-2-3 infantry in Kassel one hex to the west, the 2-2-4 tank unit in the Ruhr up to the hex just east of Rotterdam, and the 8-6-4 tank army west of Hamburg to the Ruhr. I also bring the 2-2-4 tank unit in Hamburg down to the hex west of Kassel. I don't engage in any combat, nor do I see a point in reserve movement. I keep the 1-2-4 mountain unit in Hamburg just in case the Brits get ideas with an invasion, but Frankfurt is safe for this turn, as is Munich. 

At the end of the Axis faction turn, I see no reason to declare war on BH, as I'll get to at the start of the next turn with the Case Yellow Option Card, and there are no conditional events, permanent or otherwise, to execute, and that ends the Axis turn. Here's the situation at this point:

The West faction turn is similarly set up. There's really no need for support units, better to save them for the coming turns. There are only two combinations, flipping one of the two 1-1-2 French infantry steps in Verdun to it's two step side, removing the other step to the Force Pool. The other creates the AA multi-national army in Paris, so in this case we take the French 1-1-2 step and put it in the special Minor Infantry Step box in the Western Force Pool. With a very few multinational units, the minor nation unit used to build the larger unit is not available for building elsewhere, as it is for most multi-step units. 

Movement is even simpler - move the Br 1-2-2 infantry in Le Havre to Lille to help bulk up the line. The French HQ is positioned to protect any stack of units from Metz to Calais, although it will only be able to protect one per combat phase. At this point, the West has done all it can do and the turn is over once the Br 3-4-2 infantry unit, the Ge 6-6-3 infantry, and the Axis Sub Fleet have gone to their respective Force Pools as the turn marker advances to the May-June turn space. 

As you can see, some turns go much more quickly than others. The key lesson to take from this is that war, even at this level, has a tempo, with build-ups that eventually lead to campaigns. Once the materiel and forces involved in a campaign are spent, you need to build back up. The obvious times to do this fit in with the calendar and how seasonal weather affects operations. 

Here is the map just before Case Yellow is to kick off in our next installment:

I should also note, in case it is not clear, that I am a rank novice at this game. As such, the choices I am making are probably not optimal because I simply haven't learned enough yet to make really good choices. That said, I'm hoping that by going through this exercise I *am* finding various things that *will* point out good practices, such as how to invade Norway. I spent quite a bit of time figuring out how to get the Airborne unit up there, learning as I went that it needed to be in supply when it landed, so it needed the supply convoy as well as to be in a port that would qualify as an Open Port. I expect I'll make similar discoveries in Case Yellow.