Month: April 2010

Washington’s War: First Look (Review)

Introduction

Never having played We the People, I was able to approach Washington’s War completely absent any preconceived notions or bias. I could be wrong, but I think that’s a good thing because I won’t be reviewing the game relative to its previous incarnation, I’ll be judging strictly on the merits of the current version. The Playbook that comes with the game contains Player’s Notes, written by game developer Joel Toppen, Design Notes written by designer Mark Herman, and a full two turn example of play that is just excellent. The game Rules and Playbook are freely downloadable at GMT Games website (click the “Games Page” tab, then select “Living Rules” from the left sidebar menu to locate game Rules and Player’s Notes). So, I’m not going to provide a traditional review since it’s been done so well already. I’ll try to focus on the more intangible stuff. Game consumer stuff, if you know what I mean.


Components

Washington's War Review

The game box had the feel of an old-school Avalon Hill game. Heavy. Solid. Nice. Like most games being produced today, the components are absolutely beautiful. The map is mounted and lays out perfectly; no bumps, bends or non-aligning edges. The game counters are sturdy and durable and the playing cards are printed on good quality card stock. Only noticed one minor components gaff; the square “Colony Control” markers. Nine of these markers contain British flags on one side and American flags on the other (which makes sense), but six of them contain British flags on both sides. Not sure if the designers of the game are trying to say that there’s no way the Americans can ever control more than nine colonies, but I know several optimistic American players who would disagree. Nitpicking aside, I’d have to give an overall A+ for the components!


Rules Organization

Washington's War Review
The rules are organized reasonably well. You have to search multiple sections to find out about all the different ways to execute PC actions, but the information is easy to find. The Player Reference Cards should probably have a more comprehensive table, possibly titled “Place/Remove/Flip PC Markers”, which details all the ways that PC markers can be placed, flipped or removed in more detail. If the table just says “per the restrictions of 10.11”, then you have to go back to the rule book anyway. Kind of nullifies the benefit of the reference card.

I only found one inconsistency in the rules. Rule 6.33D says that “Each player may play/discard a maximum one Event Strategy Card for each battle.” But the “Combat Resolution DRMs” chart on the Player Reference Cards says “+1 Discard of an ENEMY Event Card (9.45)”. Rule 9.45 makes no mention of the fact that it must be an enemy Event Card either.

Other than these two items, I have not found any omissions or inconsistencies in the rules, which is really nice for a change. Although there will invariably be errata released in the future, I think the rules will hold up well over time.


Setup

Washington's War Review
Pet peeve #1: If I get confused by the Setup section of the rules, the game immediately becomes a candidate for eBay. There’s just no excuse for having confusing setup rules. This game’s setup instructions were mostly clear and concise. Again, one minor exception: it wasn’t clear to me why there is a reference to placement of “Committees of Correspondence” and “For the King” PC markers. They are just regular PC markers. For a minute, I was looking for markers that had those identifications on them. There’s nothing in the Terminology section (3.0) or anywhere else in the rules that refers to “Committees of Correspondence” or “For the King”, so I don’t understand why those reference had to be included in the “Setting up the Game” (4.0) of the Rulebook and “I. Setup” section of the Playbook. The game is still on my shelf, not on eBay, so it clearly passes the Setup Test.


Examples

Washington's War Review
As I mentioned earlier, there are many good examples in the rules book itself and the companion Playbook is full of examples, taking you through two complete turns of a hypothetical game, complete with Strategy Card plays and battles. You can’t ask for better than that.


Playing the Game

Washington's War Review
Can you really complete a game in 90 minutes? No, not in my brief experience. I suppose if you had two very, very serious players who could hyper-focus and filter out all external distractions you could finish it in 90 minutes. If events unfolded such that the game ended in 1779. Maybe. If the time comes that I’m able to finish a game in 90 minutes, I’ll amend this review…

But, what are we talking about here? Speed Chess? Who wants to rush through a game like this? The message the publisher is trying to convey is that it can be played in a single sitting and is therefore suitable for tournament play. A more realistic estimate in my opinion would be 2 to 3.5 hours, depending on the variable ending turn which could be between 5 turns (1779) and 9 turns (1783).

The game plays very well. It’s one of those types of games that are relatively easy to learn but difficult to master. I’ve played it three times now (finally won as the British – score!) and, although I have a good handle on the game mechanics, I still feel like I’m drifting through the turns; never quite sure how I’m doing until it gets close to the end. But with each game you get better and better at running the cost/benefit calculations in your head to determine the best (or, at least, the better) move. You start seeing the big picture a bit more clearly. My appreciation for the design is growing.

What I found a bit annoying was trying to keep track of all the different ways you can place, flip, and/or remove Political Control (PC) markers. After 10 or 15 trips to the rule book to confirm I was doing this correctly, it got a bit old. There are three different ways to place PC markers, and the British have a slightly different way of doing it than the Americans. I know it’s not a big deal, but it annoyed me. Maybe it’s me that’s getting a bit old…

Washington’s War is at least as much about maneuver as it is about combat. Although it’s not likely to ever happen, you could win the game without ever fighting a battle. You will find yourself dedicating a lot more brain power to proper positioning of Political Control (PC) markers than you will to planning battles. This is a deliberate feature of the game and one that I like very much. Not that I’m against Blitzkrieg-y kind of games (I love them) but, in this game, a successful battle is really just physical confirmation that you’ve out-thought and out-maneuvered your opponent.

The American generals are much easier to set in motion and have special movement capabilities that can keep them just barely out of range of the British army, should they choose to be out of range. Greene, Arnold and, of course, Washington are quite capable battlefield commanders as well. The British generals, on the other hand, are generally more powerful than their American counterparts, but they’re ponderous; a bit harder to get moving. This is because most British generals require a 3 point Operations card to move them. None of the American generals are that expensive; they can all be moved with 1 or 2 point Operations cards (and, of course, 3 point Cards can move them as well, but none of them require a 3 point Card).

As you would expect, the British have a real gift for sailing and can transport troops quickly from port to port which can be a real shocker for the land-bound Americans. And George Washington and his troops have a real gift for hitting and running which frustrates the British. The Brits just know they can kick ass if those damn colonials would juststaystill.

British reinforcements are on a fixed timetable, whereas the American player has more discretionary control over the timing and strength of his reinforcements. Of course, the same Operations Cards that he must expend to move his armies are the same Cards that control the flow of reinforcements. Each Ops Card can only do one or the other. There’s always a trade-off.

Finally, the American ace-in-the-hole is the elusive French naval and ground support. American success in battle is the key to winning French recognition and support and there is a special track that counts down to French intervention. French intervention provides the American player with some French ground combat units and an abstract naval capability that helps restrict British naval movement (somewhat).


Winning the Game

Washington's War Review
The victory conditions instruct you to either exterminate the enemy army (seriously) or control a certain number of colonies. The extermination option seems to be ridiculously hard to achieve, so you’ll focus on the colony control option. The Americans must control 7 or more colonies in order to win. The British must control 6 or more. Canada counts as a colony for victory purposes so there are a total of 14 colonies to be had. I like the fact that the burden of victory is on the Americans. Most revolutionary war games put the onus on the British. But in this game if neither player achieves their victory conditions or if both players achieve their victory conditions, the British win. Sorry America, but if you’re not first… you’re last (nod to the Ricky Bobby/Board Gaming Fan community).

It seems to be a pretty balanced game. I’ve been watching others play the game as well and I don’t yet see a pattern of one side winning consistently. Good news for the tournament-minded folks.


Summary

Overall, Washington’s War is a well designed, well tested and well received new game. I would not put it in my top ten, but I certainly wouldn’t turn down an offer to play. I’ll probably be playing this quite a bit over the next few months and will return to update this review if I think it necessary. A “living review”. Why not?

Aegean Strike: Review

Introduction

The central scenarios of Victory Games Aegean Strike are hypothetical World War III contests, pitting the mid-1980s U.S. military against the powerful conventional forces of the Soviet Union, specifically covering the eastern Mediterranean theater of operations. The second tier combatants in this game are Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria. There are scenarios that cover other potential situations in the region, such as a war between Greece and Turkey, a Soviet attempt to remove NATO Pershing Two missiles from Turkish soil by force, and a scenario that links up with Gulf Strike. The situations described in the scenarios are interesting enough to attract gamer attention.

Aegean Strike Board Game - Title Graphic

Victory Games Gulf Strike is such a favorite of mine that I had a positive bias before even opening the Aegean Strike box, making the writing of an objective review difficult. But, not so fast… even though both games share a common rule set, Aegean Strike is a very different game with a very different feel and tempo.

Components

Overall, the game components are excellent by 1980s standards. The map is clear and legible, as are the unit counters. Some common complaints:

  • Airbases, and associated Air Defense units, are printed directly on the map – In Gulf Strike, airbases were distinct counters. Each airbase counter had a corresponding box on the Airbase Display. It was a bit difficult to keep track of where all your air units were based, but not excessively so. Aegean Strike has the airbases printed directly on the map. The Airbase Display has a box for each Airbase on the map. The first problem is that the Airbase display, in most cases, doesn’t even show the name of the city; it only shows a hex number. It would be so much easier to see “Larisa” on the Airbase Display, rather than just seeing “1615” and having to look on the map to find out that the city of “Larisa” in Greece is located in hex 1615.
  • Unit counter colors – Everyone I speak to expresses a problem with the choice of colors for the unit counters. Nobody likes the red U.S. units. Why would the U.S. army be red and the Red Army be yellow? I suspect one of the Victory Games suppliers was running a special on red card stock…
    Aegean Strike - The Red Army is yellow?
  • Marker shortages – The number of informational markers included in the game is inadequate. Many of the scenarios list units that start the game with hits already accrued (i.e. units that are not fully “mobilized”). Division sized units will have 6 hits accrued, but there are insufficient “6” hit markers to cover all the divisions that require them. Because a “7 turn” (or “20 turn”) game means 7 turns (or 20 turns) after hostilities actually commence, the game could use a marker to indicate this turn of commencement. “Undetected” markers commonly run out early in the game (before the Soviet navy is decimated). Also, it would be helpful to have markers to indicate successful Close Air Support missions, Declared Combat situations, and Interdiction markers, rather than having to use markers from another game. No markers are provided to identify Turkish Strait hexes that have had their Bombardment Rating permanently eliminated. There are other examples of markers that I had to devise on my own, but I don’t want to beat the subject to death. Suffice it to say that a business decision was likely made to save costs by reducing the number of counters. Fair enough.

Rules Organization

Aegean Strike - Game Box Cover

Like Gulf Strike, the rules are excellent. There are remarkably few omissions and ambiguities considering the complexity of the game. The “Charts, Tables and Examples Insert” provides a good range of examples for some of the trickier concepts and the charts are mostly understandable.

One notable exception is the “Troop Quality Effects Matrix” which probably doesn’t really need to exist. The matrix attempts to cover all possible combinations of troop quality (Elite, Line, Militia) for the attacker and cross-references that with all possible combinations of troop quality for the defender. The cross-reference then shows the final column shifts (+ or -) to be applied to the combat. A quick analysis of the matrix shows that it can be simplified to a comparison of the “worst” troop quality present among the attackers and the “worst” troop quality present in the defending stack. In other words, if the attacking stack contains both Elite and Line quality troops, the resulting column shifts will be the same, for each defender troop quality combination, as if the attacker only had Line quality troops. Spend a minute looking at it, and you’ll see what I mean.

A good case can be made that many of the Optional Rules listed should have been incorporated into the main rules set as they are always used in actual play. In particular, the “Variable Aircraft Speed” optional rule that debuted with Aegean Strike should be part of the core rules set for Aegean Strike and Gulf Strike, since it adds such value to the simulation. This new optional rule takes into account the differing speeds of the aircraft represented in the game. The idea that a Mig-29 just couldn’t seem to be able to catch up to a C-130 that had a 3-hex (i.e. 84 kilometer) head start always seemed kind of odd, so the new rule was well received and widely implemented.


Setup

Zoom in on Istanbul

As always, my #1 pet peeve is games with confusing Setup instructions. In this category, Aegean Strike scores very well, with the following exceptions:

  • Turkish Order of Battle (All Scenarios) – Several references to “within X contiguous land hexes of Istanbul” really shouldn’t include the Turkish mainland, because you would have to cross the Bosphorus Straits to get to the mainland. I guess the bridge might make it contiguous for ground unit movement purposes, but it would have been nice to have some clarity (i.e. “within X contiguous land hexes of Istanbul, considering the two hexes on opposite sides of the Bosphorus Straits to be contiguous”).
  • Soviet Order of Battle (All scenarios) – Several references to “any Soviet hex”. It’s not clear if that includes Soviet satellite hexes, such as Libya and Syria. The legend on the Strategic Map identifies red hexes as “USSR/Allied use”, but is that the same as a “Soviet” hex? The large Soviet ground reinforcement contingents that begin appearing on turn M+5 are directed to appear in “any Soviet Strategic Hex”, which leads me to believe that “Soviet” hex in this context means hex in the Soviet Union proper because I find it hard to believe that the Soviet 19th Army would be allowed to mysteriously originate in Syria. But, if “Soviet” does mean USSR proper, then would this apply also to Soviet naval units? If so, then it would make the Libyan and Syrian ports available only to Soviet naval units that can get through the Turkish Straits before the war breaks out. As a final word on this subject, Soviet Air Units are directed to appear on “any airbases on the Soviet Air Display”, which would clearly include Syria and Libya. Can you blame me for being a bit confused?

I know these are not really big deals, but I just despise even the slightest ambiguity in game Setup instructions.


Examples

There are many good examples in the rules book itself and the “Charts, Tables and Examples” insert (a 16-page insert that contains about 16 illustrated examples of the main game concepts); movement, detection, combat (air, naval and ground), supply, and amphibious operations. The charts provide quick reference for most of the frequently used information and the combat table is easily comprehended.


Playing the Game

Here’s that bias creeping in again, but it has to be noted that Gulf Strike is, in general, a better game. For several reasons which I’ll enumerate when it makes sense to do so (don’t want this to become an article about Gulf Strike!) but I suppose the main reason is that it lacks the sweeping grandeur of Gulf Strike (that’s right… I used “sweeping grandeur” in a sentence), where Soviet Armies maneuver over vast open areas of varying terrain, lay siege to major cities, and direct massive air armadas at enemy armies and navies.

Aegean Strike, by contrast, can be described as “Gulf Strike in a phone booth”. It’s a much more congested space, and the map becomes very crowded very quickly. Not that there isn’t any room at all to maneuver, but the victory conditions in the major scenarios channel all the combatants towards Istanbul; the center of the phone booth. In short order, Soviet and Bulgarian Divisions (and there’s a ton of them) find themselves tripping over each other to get near Istanbul.

However, Aegean Strike adds some elements that are not found in Gulf Strike, such as the uncertainty of knowing when the war will actually break out. This uncertainty factor should be given credit for adding a lot of replay value to the game. You’ll never know how many reinforcements will get in theater before hostilities commence and what shape your mobilization units will be in either. It’s actually one of my favorite aspects of the game. Some of my gaming colleagues see this differently. They say that if the war breaks out very early it favors the U.S. player because there will be more time for them to establish positions before the Soviet armies even arrive as reinforcements, and vice-versa if war breaks out late. Their complaint is that the winner is really decided by this luck element. I guess you’d have to play quite a few games in order to prove or disprove this theory.

The unusual terrain feature provided by the Turkish Straits also adds an interesting operational consideration to the game. How much of the Soviet Navy can get through the Straits and into the Aegean and/or Mediterranean before war breaks out and the Straits are closed?

Naval Operations

There isn’t a whole lot of cat-and-mouse action in naval operations in Aegean Strike. The Soviet subs try to position themselves to inflict maximum damage when war breaks out. The Soviet surface fleet makes a run for the Turkish Straits and hopes to not be trapped there or in the Black Sea when the music stops. But, in most cases, the U.S. Navy makes short work of the Soviet fleet. It’s just a matter of how much pain they inflict on the U.S. fleet before they go down. But it’s fast, furious naval combat. You have to like that.

Air Operations

The air war is also quite intense in this game. In Gulf Strike, actual air-to-air combat happens a lot less frequently than you might think. There’s a huge amount of air space to maneuver in. Since ground combat actions occur on several widely separated fronts, even most close air support missions tend to go un-intercepted. Aegean Strike is a totally different kettle of fish. It’s air combat in a phone booth as well. No sooner does an air unit go “wheels up” than it is immediately detected and fighting for its life. Again, the action is intense.

Ground Operations

The ground war is where the game bogs down. You literally end up with Russians and Bulgarians tripping over each other to get at the Turks and Greeks. In both Scenarios 2 and 3, the larger scenarios, control of all the Turkish Strait hexes is a prerequisite for victory. Which leads to… you guessed it… ground combat in a phone booth. Scenario 2 has a “Short Game” (7 war game turns) and a “Long Game” (20 war game turns). In the long game, control of either Ankara or Athens is a second prerequisite for Soviet victory which widens the game out a bit as the NATO player cannot be sure towards which direction the Soviets will make their major push. But there will also be lots of crowded, intense ground combat in and around the Turkish Straits. Get your game tweezers out, unless you’ve got tiny fingers because there’s not going to be a lot of daylight between those units.

All of this phone booth combat makes for a slow playing game (relative to Gulf Strike). I don’t mean that as a negative at all. It’s just a fact. If you prefer a faster moving game, then Aegean Strike may not be for you. You’ll spend a lot of time looking up detection ranges for various aircraft and naval units, and varying standoff attack ranges as well. It’s too much to remember off the top of your head, but some are worth remembering. For example, U.S. strike aircraft using their ASM rating can fire at Soviet surface naval units from 4 operational hexes away; Soviet surface naval units can’t try to detect enemy air units until they’re within 3 operational hexes. Write that little tidbit down immediately before you forget it, U.S. player.


Special Forces

Aegean Strike Board Game - Special Forces unit

Another key, but often overlooked, aspect of the game is Special Forces. The Soviets have an overwhelming advantage here (30 Spetsnaz detachments compared to only 9 U.S. Special Forces detachments). But it comes down to resource management again. Running Special Ops is like a full time job in Aegean Strike. You must stay focused on where your detachments have been assigned and to what task they’ve been assigned.

Without going into a detailed explanation of how Special Forces work, let’s just assume you’ve got each of the 30 Spetsnaz (Soviet Special Ops) detachments assigned to Ambush missions. There are no game counters to represent these detachments, but there is a “Warsaw Pact Player Record” where you will write down the 30 hex numbers to which these detachments have been secretly assigned. Then you have to watch every movement of enemy units to see if they stumble into any of your Ambush hexes. It’s really quite a job to stay focused on this while simultaneously managing all the other aspects of the game. But Special Forces can make the difference between victory and defeat, so you must focus.


Play Balance

On one of the gaming sites (maybe ConsimWorld?), I saw a post by Mark Herman (the designer) where he said that he never gave a thought to play balance. He was just trying to create a great simulation. If that means one side or the other get stomped every time, then so be it. You’ll find, however, that the realism of the game system puts the burden of success squarely on the shoulders of the players. Just as in real life, it won’t matter how high tech U.S. weapons systems are, if you put a bungling U.S. commander in charge against a very competent Soviet commander. The Soviet commander would still wipe the floor with him. So it is in this game. If you can manage your resources better, and devise a better operational plan than your opponent, you’re going to win.

The rules suggest reducing available supply points as a handicap when players of differing skill levels play, which should work well as it makes it tough for even a great manager to allocate resources. But, ultimately, the great planner/manager will end up with the win.


Scenarios

A quick summary of the available game scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: Battle for North Africa is definitely worth playing since it’s a bit more interesting than the average mini “learning” scenario, and it’s actually quite competitive. This is not a strategy article so I won’t go into detail, but the initial setup positions in this scenario are really critical, particularly for the U.S. player. It will also give new players a good feel for the Naval and Air movement and combat systems.
    Aegean Strike Stragegic Map
  • Scenario 2: World War III, Southwestern Theater of Operations is the heart of the game. If the game could only have one scenario, this would be it. Much of this review is based on my play of this scenario.
  • Scenario 3: Turkish Missile Crisis is much like Scenario 2 except that Greece is neutral, leaving the Turks to their fate against the Soviets. Probably a much more realistic scenario, but I have not actually played it.
  • Scenario 4: The Greco-Turkish War is your “taken from real world headlines” scenario (much like Gulf Strike’s scenario portraying the Iran-Iraq War), where the Greeks and Turks slug it out with each other. The “Game Length” paragraph is comical: “The game continues until both sides agree to a draw or either player achieves his victory conditions.” I’ll leave it to you to figure out how the scenario ends 99.9% of the time. Without Superpower assistance, nobody’s winning this war. There’s a bit of uncertainty in that the breakout of hostilities is randomly decided, as is the setup order (i.e. who has the disadvantage of having to set their units up first). Play this scenario to gain insight into why these two nations (both NATO allies) have not fought a war even though there’s such animosity between them. The Soviet Union may be long gone, and the Cold War may be over, but Scenario 4 is just as topical in 2010 as it was in 1986.
  • Scenario 5: World War III is a scenario that links Aegean Strike with Gulf Strike. I have not played this scenario, but I’ll bet it’s a monster. So, if you like monster games, Scenario 5 is for you, I’m sure. If anyone’s actually played this Scenario, we’d love to hear from you at The Boardgaming Life, to get your feedback, scenario notes, series replay… whatever, for posting on this site.

Summary

Overall, Aegean Strike an interesting game to play, but I would stop short of calling it a “fun” game. Victory Games was just not able to re-capture the magic of Gulf Strike. It also ranks pretty high on the complexity scale so if that puts you off, then you should definitely look elsewhere. It demands attention to detail and lots of planning. You need to be a great manager, book keeper and general to play well. Again, if that’s not your cup of tea, then you won’t like Aegean Strike.

For those who have played Gulf Strike and don’t mind this type of challenge, you shouldn’t feel that, since you already own and have played Gulf Strike, you don’t need to bother with Aegean Strike. As mentioned earlier the two are very different games and you’ll find that you need a completely different mind-set (and battle plan) to succeed in Aegean Strike. Just because I didn’t find this game as engaging as Gulf Strike doesn’t mean that you won’t. Just have your game tweezers ready.

Getting Ashore: Naval Transport in “Gulf Strike”

Techniques for Safely Delivering Heavy U.S. Ground Reinforcements to Iran in Gulf Strike

Gulf Strike Board Game

Gulf Strike is a game of planning. Let me repeat that. Gulf Strike is a game of planning. I could probably just end the article right here and consider it a great public service to the Gulf Strike playing community, but ego compels me to expound. Planning, at all levels, is essential to winning this game, from “big picture” theater-wide planning all the way down to planning missions for Special Forces detachments. This article examines the challenge of safely delivering heavy U.S. ground reinforcements via naval transport to the theater of operations covered by Gulf Strike Scenario 2.
Continue reading “Getting Ashore: Naval Transport in “Gulf Strike””

Vietnam: 1965-1975 – Designer Responses to Game Questions

Rules Questions

Nick Karp (Designer) Responses to Vietnam: 1965-1975 Rules Questions

Q: Rule “5.5 Casualties”, under the section “Allocating Losses” states that “a player may not expend replacement points in excess of his force’s combat strength”. Does that limit apply per round of combat, or during the course of the entire operation? (assume a hypothetical VC 2-strength point battalion)

A: The restriction is per combat round, not per operation. The VC could thus expend up to 2 replacement points per round.

Q: In the introductory scenario (Operation Starlite), the VC regiment sustains 2 losses in the first combat round, and then sustains 3 more losses in the second round, for a total of 5 lost points. It sustains 4 of them by expending all available VC replacement points and the fifth one by eliminating the regiment and increasing the replacement pool by 5 (the remaining strength points in the regiment). Suppose this had been a force of three VC battalions each with combat strength of 2. Would the same sequence be possible?

A: The same result would be possible, but the route would be different. The first 2 losses would have been taken from replacements, then the three point loss would have been parceled out as three one-point losses, assigned to each of the individual battalions. The battalions would then all be removed, recovering 3 replacements. Since two remain unexpended in the pool, five would remain.

Q: If the US player commits offensive reserves to an operation in progress, but the newly assigned unit is not actually attacking the target unit (used as a blocking force, let’s say), does the maximum replacement point expenditure still increase?

A: No. A unit must actually allocate ground strength points to an attack if its strength is to be counted towards maximum replacement expenditure. But even if a unit splits its ground strength between attacks, its full strength counts toward maximum replacement expenditure in each of the attacks.

Q: Rule “6.3 Security” states that “if all the defending units in the hex have retreated or been destroyed, the operating units may continue their movement, perhaps entering and attacking other enemy-occupied road hexes.” Yet the Operations Flow Chart indicates that after the enemy has vacated the hex, the operation ends. Which is correct?

A: The rules are correct. The security operation should have another decision point, allowing the operating player to continue, provided that the hex currently occupied contains no enemy units and provided that the units that continue moving would not exceed their movement allowance (by exiting a ZOC).

Q: If a US Security Operation results in more than one attack (on multiple target units along the roads), does the enemy get a Reaction Move after each successful road clearing by the attacker, before moving on to the next target unit, or does the enemy only get one reaction move after the Security Operation ends?

A: Only one reaction, after all movement.

Q: Are city and town hexes that have a road passing through them considered “road hexes” for purposes of Security Operations? Can a US Security Operation be used to clear a captured city of NLF units during the Strategic Movement Phase?

A: Yes, absolutely, to both questions.

Vietnam: 1965-1975 (Errata)

Errata for “Vietnam: 1965-1975”, as of October 1984

By Victory Games (Victory Insider #6, The General 21-5)

Counters

  • The US Armored Cavalry battalions designated 1/1 and 2/1 are independent units; they are not associated with the 1st Division.

Charts and Tables

  • The Terrain key lists incorrect Combat Modifiers for three terrain types. The correct values are: Mountains -3; Forested Hills -2; Cultivated -(RF).
  • Coastal hexes lightly outlined in yellow are landing beaches (see 3.4).
  • VC Suppply Conduits cost 0 personnel points (the value given on the NLF Player’s Chart and Table Sheet is incorrect). The map is correct.
  • US Riverine points cost 1 US commitment point each (the value given on the US Player’s Chart and Table Sheet is incorrect). The map is correct.
  • The Population Control Sheet has incorrect identifier codes for three regions: Vinh Binh (pop. 8) should have code IV-8, Vinh Long (pop. 11) should have code IV-6, and Kien Hoa (pop. 12) should have code IV-7.

Rules

  • (3.3) Units employing Strategic Movement can be forced into incidental attacks, just like any other units.
  • (4.2 and 5.6) The Combat Modifier for population centers is not cumulative with other terrain in a hex; the defender must choose which type of terrain he will receive the defensive benefit for, if there is more than one type of terrain in a hex.
  • (5.4) A defending stack has a minimum ground combat strength of 1, plus any relevant Regional Forces (e.g. an artillery unit by itself in a town would have an effective ground combat strength of 3 on defense).
  • (7.4) US naval units may never be used during NLF operations, for any purpose.
  • (11.1) Ineffective ARVN stacked with effective units do contribute to the combat odds if an incidental attack is forced upon units passing through their hex.
  • (12.0) Segment 4C incorrectly states that the SVN Draft Level influences SVN Morale. The Draft Level has no effect on Morale.
  • (12.0) Delete the reference to “Pacification Programs” in Segment 5A of the Seasonal Interphase. It refers to a rule that does not exist in the current version of the game.
  • (17.2) The rules refer to the Thai RTA (Royal Thai Army) division. This division was also called the “Black Panther” division; the counters bear the designation “BP”.
  • (17.5) Newly created VC units may be palced on the borders of the regions in which they are created; the production capacities of two (or more) regions may thus be combined to form a unit on borders.
  • (17.5) The heading “Placing VC Units” states that newly created VC units can be placed in any hex not occupied by enemy units. This is true, with the proviso that regional maximums (described earlier in 17.5) must also be observed.
  • (17.5) Sea transport of VC supplies is uneconomical (and virtually never undertaken) using the ratio of NVN Commitment:VC Supplies listed in the rules. Adopt the following correction: Calculate the amount of VC supply that gets through the US blockade normally (per the procedure given in the rules), then add 2 VC supply for each NVN commitment expended to determine how much supply is actually received.
  • (17.6) If 2 or more regiments in an NVA HQ are augmented, consider the division’s HQ augmented (at no additional cost). Once augmented, an NVA HQ moves at mechanized movement costs; its values do not change, however.
  • (18.0) NLF may not be set up in enemy-occupied hexes in any of the scenarios.
  • (18.1) In all of the scenarios, it is necessary for NLF units to capture a population center to receive victory points, not just enter it, as the rules incorrectly read.
  • Battle for I Corps Scenario: ARVN 1/1 was incorrectly listed in the set up as ARVN 2/1. Also US 1/2/1C was incorrectly listed in the set up as 2/2/1C. Play begins with the 1st turn of Spring, 1968 (not 1967). A special rule for this scenario was omitted: There is no Strategic Movement Phase during the first turn of the scenario.
  • Tet Scenario: US starting artillery is incorrectly listed as 8 155mm, 2 155mm, and 6 175mm. The actual initial artillery is 8 105mm, 2 155mm, and 6 175mm.
  • The total population of South Vietnam is 360 (not 350, as the rules incorrectly indicate in a few places). Starting SVN population in the Battle for South Vietnam campaign scenario is 217. Starting VC population is 143. Starting SVC population controlled in the After Tet scenario is 239; VC population should be 121.
  • After Tet Scenario: Add the following special rules:
    a) Begin play with the Unit Status Phase of the Seasonal Interphase of Spring 1968 (not with the 1st game-turn, as scenario instruction #9 incorrectly reads). Since phases 1-5 of the Interphase are skipped, there can be no Coups, bombing, or reinforcement during this Interphase. Future Seasonal Interphases are played normally.
    b) On Game Turn 1 of Spring 1968, skip the Strategic Movement Phase; on all future turns, this phase occurs normally.
  • NLF Morale is modified only during the Politics Phase of the Seasonal Interphase, never during the season (the NLF record sheet erroneously provides a line for morale modifications during the season).

Pacific War (Errata)

Errata for “Pacific War”, as of April 1986

By Victory Games

Rule Book

8-L-5: Fortifications
Clarification: When naval units engage fortifications, combat occurs during the Naval Combat Cycle. The fortification is treated as an unactivated naval unit, and range is bid by both sides according to the Naval Combat Procedure. The only difference is that the naval units use their Gunnery Strength (not Bombardment Strength) and calculate the effect on the Bombardment vs. Installation line of the Air/Naval CRT.
Continue reading “Pacific War (Errata)”

The Civil War: Cavalry “Stone Wall” (Strategy)

“Cavalry Stone Wall” in The Civil War


Technique for Delaying an Enemy Army on the Move


Overview

Even though The Civil War,  published by Victory Games, is a strategic/grand operational level game, the clever movement and reaction rules make maneuver a more important aspect of the game than is usual for titles on this scale. Often times a key objective will be won without firing a shot, as one army or the other finds itself outmaneuvered and dangerously exposed and decides to wisely give up the objective to “fight another day”. This article offers a technique for effectively screening an enemy Army that does not have any Cavalry leaders present.


The Cavalry Stone Wall

An army’s Cavalry is the best source of information on enemy troop movements and can be used to great effect as a raiding force to destroy enemy supply depots and deny control of critical rail junctions. Cavalry, when properly used in this game, can also be quite effective in inhibiting movement of enemy forces. Given the right conditions a 1 strength point force under a Cavalry leader can halt the movement of an enemy army many times its own size.


The Civil War: 1861-1865 Strategy

Consider the following case:

Three contiguous hexes, in a straight line, identified as hexes A, B, and C, such that hex B lies between hexes A and C (see figure 1).

  • A 5 strength point Confederate Army, containing a Cavalry Leader, in hex C
  • A 20 strength point Union Army, with no Cavalry Leader, in hex A.
  • The Union force in hex A moves into hex B, attempting to either draw the Confederates into a fight they can’t win or, failing that, to bypass them entirely and drive deep into Mississippi.

The Confederates reaction needs to both preserve their small army, and prevent the rampaging Union army from driving any deeper into the South.


The Civil War: 1861-1865 Strategy

The Confederate Army in hex C executes a successful partial reaction (see “Partial Reaction Movement”, under rules section 9.3) by sending only the Cavalry force of 1 strength point and Cavalry Leader Forrest into hex B.

Since the reacting force is considered to have arrived before the force that caused the reaction, the reacting Cavalry force is considered to be the “defender”. Additionally, it is eligible for “Retreat Before Combat”, due to the fact that the moving Union force has no Cavalry Leader (see figure 2).


The Civil War: 1861-1865 Strategy

This, according to rules sections 4.1 and 10.1, will cause the “screening” of the moving force, thereby halting its movement.

And the best part of the maneuver is that the screening Cavalry unit can then retreat back into the hex with the Confederate army, regaining its original position (see figure 3).

Perfect.


The Civil War: 1861-1865 Strategy

Well, almost perfect. The retreat before combat maneuver can only fail if the commanding Cavalry leader fails his leader loss check by being killed or wounded.

There is only a 16.66% chance of this happening since 1-star leaders are only killed/wounded on a roll of 4 or 5 (rolling two dice), and 2-star leaders only fail on rolls of 3 or 4 (see figure 4). So the risk is minimal when weighed against the benefit.


Summary

In this example, a 5-strength point army completely stonewalled the movement of a much larger force with minimal risk to itself. You should always retain at least one Cavalry leader with each of your armies to prevent your opponent from running you into the “Cavalry Stone Wall”.

The Civil War (House Rules)

House Rules for Victory Games’ “The Civil War”

  • NSPs without Naval Leaders – Naval Strength Points (NSPs) without Naval Leaders present CANNOT transport a ground leader by himself (i.e. without troops). However, such ground leaders may be moved by Sea Transport, by spending Command Points in the appropriate theater.
  • Ground Leaders Commanding Navies – When ground leaders command naval strength points, you must spend their initiative rating in Naval or Discretionary Command Points (not theater command points as when they are commanding ground troops).
  • Leaders Without Troops – If a leader and one strength point occupy a hex at the end of a turn and the force is demoralized, the strength point will be eliminated, leaving the leader alone in the hex. The leader must immediately be moved to the turn record track for the following turn. Although it’s not exactly the same conditions, the “Movement of Leaders Alone” subsection of rules section 3.2 is clear about the prohibition of leaders being alone in a hex.

“Hannibal Ad Portas”* – Carthaginian Generals

By Gary Andrews and Fred W. Manzo

Introduction

Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage is not a balanced game. Undoubtedly this is due to Carthage’s strong initial position and numerous advantages. First, its finest general, Hannibal, begins the game with the highest possible battle rating and command of a powerful army further reinforced with 2 elephant units and his special abilities. And second, Carthage may call for help from any of 4 other generals, including Hannibal’s 2 younger brothers.

hannibal_st2_fig1

Against this, Rome starts with only a pair of medium sized armies under, at best, average commanders. But more importantly, Carthage wins all drawn games. That is, Carthage usually needs to control only 9 provinces to win a game, while Rome must hold 10 of the 18 political important provinces.

Even so, Rome’s position is not hopeless as it does get more reinforcements then its adversary and, unlike Carthage, they do appear where needed. Further, 5 of the 7 generals in Rome’s starting command group have a fighting chance against any Carthage commander and, of course, Scipio Africanus (a near equal of Hannibal) does appear on turn 6 with 5 extra combat units.

Still, it’s thought Carthage should win a majority of the time.

With such closely matched opponents, it might help new players to list the Carthaginian generals in the order of their usefulness.


The Generals

hannibal_st2_fig2

Hannibal Barca, the oldest son of Hamilcar Barca, is unquestionably the best general in the game. For those interested, the name Hannibal means “Grace of Ba’al,” while “Barca,” which means “lightning,” may have started out simply as Hamilcar’s nickname.

Most players, after re-creating Hannibal’s legendary crossing of the Alps on turn 1, consider having him go on to attack the only army standing between him and Rome. In order to judge if this is a wise course, players frequently add the number of attacking battle cards to the active general’s battle rating and add 1, they then compare this sum to the number of defending battle cards plus their general’s battle rating. It’s assumed the army with the higher total should win, but when Hannibal is involved two additional factors must be taken into account: the effectiveness of his elephants and his ability to use a probe card as a right or left flank or a double envelopment card. In short, “The Father of Strategy” is considered to be the favorite in any battle in which he is not outnumbered by 3 or so battle cards.

However, northern Italy, with its maze of mountain ranges, remains a dangerous location in any situation as a defeated army without a valid retreat path is annihilated (and retreating armies cannot cross mountain passes). So tread carefully.


* Hannibal Ad Portas (Hannibal is at the Gates!) was the phrase used by Roman parents to frighten their disobedient children.


hannibal_st2_fig3

The Hasdrubal in Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage was one of Hannibal’s brothers. He fought Roman forces in Hispania under the Scipio brothers (Scipio Africanus’ father and uncle) once Hannibal left for Italy. Hasdrubal, though, is unique in Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage given that he is the only general without a special ability. Even so, his superior battle rating places him second only to Hannibal in the Carthaginian army.

Typically, Carthaginian players use him to defend Hispania (Spain) until reliable sea movement becomes available. He then usually invades Sicilia with 10 CU (Combat Units) as the island contains two provinces. Alternatively, Hasdrubal could be sent to Sardinia in an effort to trap any Roman army hunting raiders there or he could be sent to any undefended province. The main Roman problem during the first two-thirds of the game being that the Old Republic has only 3 generals, while it must defend 4 vital areas: northern Italy, southern Italy, Sicilia and Sardinia. Clearly, Hasdrubal could always follow the advice of baseball legend Wee Willie Keeler and “hit’em where they ain’t.”

hannibal_st2_fig4

Mago, another of “the Lion’s Brood,” was Hannibal’s youngest brother. In real life, Mago fought beside Hannibal in Italy. In the game, he’s primarily used to lead Carthaginian raiding parties into Sicilia or Sardinia as his special ability allows him to move easily by sea.

Typically, a raider’s main job in Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage is to prepare the ground for Hasdrubal or Hannibal’s larger armies. Raiders usually start by flipping single spaces to give Carthaginians a refuge in case of defeat and, if not stopped, they quickly graduate to converting whole provinces in order to generate additional allied troops.

hannibal_st2_fig5

Gisgo’s actual name was Hasdrubal Gisco, but as Carthage seemed to have had an overabundance of generals named Hasdrubal, he’s known in the game simply as “Gisgo.”

According to the great Roman commander, Fabius Maximus, Gisgo was “a general who showed his speed chiefly in retreat.” This is reflected in game terms by Gisgo’s ability to avoid battle and intercept on a roll of 1 to 3 and through his low battle rating. These game characteristics make him an ideal candidate to command raiding parties. Like most Carthaginian generals, if Gisgo is eliminated on one of these near suicidal missions he simply re-appears with any other friendly leader, in any other location, at the start of the next turn.

However, at least once per game either Mago or Gisgo should be given a break and used to lead surplus troops out of Africa. Without such a mission, the “Hanno Counsels Carthage” (badly) event will have a devastating effect on play as it prevents Carthaginian reserves from entering the game. Yet, like other events, its effects generally can be mitigated by proper planning.

First, as there are 64 cards in the event deck and as 72 cards must be dealt each game, players are virtually assured of seeing the “Truce” card at least once. And, second, no matter how the “Truce” card is played, it always revokes a “Counsels” card. So, if the “Hanno Counsels Carthage” event appears early in a game, players should expect it to be cancelled before too many reserve combat units have accumulated and if the event appears later there would have been plenty of opportunities to withdraw the forces in question.

hannibal_st2_fig6

Hanno “the Great” as he was known to his supporters, led the political faction opposed to Hannibal and the Barca family in the Carthaginian senate. Carthage, apparently having suffered from a severe shortage of names, had 3 politicians called “Hanno, the Great.” Technically, ours is “Hanno, the Great” number II.

In any event, Hanno starts in Carthage and may not leave Africa. However, in compensation, his special ability enables him to remove the enemy PC marker in the last space he enters. This makes it difficult for Rome to raise allied troops in Africa, particularly when the Republic has only had time to place the bare minimum of political markers it needs in a province. For all Hanno has to do in these cases is to move into the province, remove the critical last Roman PC when he stops and Rome instantly loses control.

Unfortunately, for Carthage, any army under Hanno’s command has such problems getting started that they may not respond quickly enough to make any difference.


Summary

As has been mentioned in other articles, one of the keys to successful play in Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage is knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your commanders. We hope that the information in this article will provide the foundation for devising your own winning Carthaginian strategies.

Korean War (House Rules)

House Rules for Bethpage, Long Island, NY Gamer’s group


  • Repeated Reorganization Operations – Although the rules clearly state that a unit that undertakes a Reorganization operation does NOT become fatigued (see Section 10 on page 19), it was clearly not the intent of the designer to allow repeated Reorganization operations on the same unit (i.e. Break-down, Build-up, Break-down, etc.). House rule states that each unit can only be involved in ONE Reorganization operation per Action Phase.
    Normally, once the Chinese intervene, the UN player runs out of units more quickly than the Chinese player does, leaving the Chinese player free to maneuver unmolested at the end of the turn. The intent of this rule is to prevent the UN player from artificially delaying the commitment of his units until after the Chinese player runs out of non-fatigued units.
  • FEC Enhancement Restrictions – If a Far Eastern Command (FEC) American unit is completely surrounded by enemy Zones of Control, it may not receive the FEC Enhancement referenced in Section 13.3 on page 24. The unit may be enhanced during the first subsequent FEC Enhancement phase in which it is not completely surrounded. It’s seems unlikely that upgraded equipment and personnel would have been able to get through to totally surrounded units.
  • Chinese Initiative Period Restrictions – North Korean units in South Korea are NOT considered automatically in supply during the Chinese Initiative period (see Section 19.3 on page 38 of the rules). They must be able to trace a supply line of any length, uninterrupted by enemy units or zones of control, back to a CCF Placement hex (see “Placement of CCF Reinforcements” on page 37 of the rules, and the Terrain Chart on the map for more info on Chinese Placement hexes). This restriction applies only to NKPA units south of the 38th Parallel. The intent of this rule is to prevent NKPA units, left behind near or below the 38th parallel, from benefitting from a Chinese supply network that they clearly would not have had access to, particularly when surrounded by UN zones of control.