Month: January 2012

Dawn of the Zeds Solitaire Board Game Strategy – First Edition

By Jaret R. Morgan

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You can barely make out the fires far to the east. You haven’t heard anything from Sheriff Hunt in hours. You sent him to help the militia in Beauxville make their stand. He could already be dead. To make matters worse, that group of refugees from Ingeburg arrived moments ago and rumors of infected in the group have already frightened citizens turning terrified. You can feel your grip on the town loosening. Even Doc Seaver suffered a complete nervous breakdown amid the constant flow of injured and dying. Professor Agee said she was close, very close, to formulating a compound that would be effective in the fight against this horror. But is there enough time? You slam your fist against the wall.“Dammit, Agee…please hurry.”

This beginner guide assumes you already have a working knowledge of the rules of the game. It will provide you with basic tips for better play and will break down the contents of the game so that you get a clear picture of overall structure. There are also sample turns included!


Board

The main part of the map consists of Farmingdale at the center surrounded by four tracks. Farmingdale has a Town Center square (“0”) and four Town squares (“1”) that each belong to one of the unique tracks. Town Center belongs to ALL tracks. For instance, West Side, a Town square, is the #1 space on the Highway Track. Downtown is part of the Mountain Track. Keep in mind that the #1 spaces are NOT considered adjacent to each other. To move from the Mall District to Suburbia, you must go through Town Center.

Mayor Hernandez’s “Management” abilities can be used if he is present in Town Center. Being able to speed up movement through town and increase gunfire and forage odds is very helpful!

The Zeds have four avenues of approach to Farmingdale. Each avenue, or track, is named for its unique geographical feature. These are: Highway, Forest, Suburbs, and Mountain. As you will see in the Event card breakdown, Zeds on the Highway and Suburbs track, as you would expect, move faster than on the Forest and Mountain track. Also take note of the Suburbs track. Because it is more populated (with two villages instead of one) it is probably the most vulnerable to an early “Brains!” card.

Zombie Zinger: In one ill-fated game I played, on turn 1 I moved Capt. Piazza into space 4 of the Suburbs track. I had intended to use her Elite Sniper ability on a tough Zed unit by the time it hit East Irek. But I turned a “Brains!” card over on turn 2 and when it was all over, East Irek’s villagers and civilians were decimated, Piazza was dead, Beauxville’s milita was wiped out and all I had left were exhausted and frightened refugees at the Bridge. Oh, and the Infection level was up to 6.

Take a look at the Mountain track. The Mine is VERY important but hard to hold. As has been stressed in other strategy articles, AMMO is a necessity. Being able to inflict damage on the Zeds without raising the infection level or risking losses yourself is probably the most precious ability you have in the game. You cannot run out of this valuable resource. Your best bet for securing ammunition is to barricade the Mine and have Mr. Johnson present (he has the Heavy Weapons ability). Sheriff Hunt adjacent to a civilians unit isn’t bad either because the forage roll will always be above and beyond your action allowance.

Don’t forget that terrain spaces give you a favorable < 1 shift. Don’t hesitate to use these naturally defensible spaces to your advantage. Try not to defend attacks in clear spaces.

Zombie Zinger: Favorable defensive column shifts do not “stack”. It is a common mistake to add a barricade bonus to a natural terrain bonus for a < 3 shift. Remember: it is either < 1 or < 2, not both!

The terrain spaces also play a negative part in the game due to Chaos markers. Zeds that end a phase in control of a named space place a Chaos marker there. Chaos markers are dangerous for several reasons:

  • During a Brains! Event your Infection level increases by one for every two markers in play
  • During an Outbreak, a Zeds unit will pop up on the Chaos marker closest to Farmingdale on the track indicated by the Fate draw
  • Refugees who enter a Chaos space increase the Infection level by one
  • The National Guard might be hindered by Chaos markers, thus prolonging the game
  • Oh, to even clear a Chaos marker, your Infection level will go up by one unless you use Doc Seaver’s Purging ability or Professor Agee’s Decontamination

This means that the Suburbs and Mountain tracks are harder to clear. The Mountain track has three named spaces and the Suburbs track has FOUR named spaces!

Zombie Zinger: The first time I lived through until the National Guard could arrive was by pure luck. My National Guard Fate draw was for the Suburbs track. I had three Chaos markers on that track! My roll was 1 and the National Guard managed to squeeze through to save us!

It definitely is worth keeping the Chaos markers in play to a minimum. Once the middle of the game hits and you are starting to retreat and hold down the fort in Farmingdale, you can’t have Zeds popping up on your doorstep. Success in the game depends on TIME. The longer it takes for Zeds to show up in Town the better. If a Strength-8 Zeds marker pops up at the Gap or even the Bridge you really don’t have a lot of time to get rid of it!


Event Cards

The Event cards drive your story and you draw a new one every turn. There are 48 total cards and 13 will help you, 30 are pro-Zed, and 5 could go either way.

Favorable Cards

Supply Room Discovered: Being in the Mall District gives you four Supply points

Hunting Lodge Located: Being in the Gap gives you 1, 2, or 3 Ammo points

A Hero Arrives (x2 cards): Gain a Hero for the fight

Berserk Hero!: Favorable shifts for attacking and defending this turn for one Hero

National Guard Helicopter Strike: Target a Zed unit for some hits

Hospital Efficiency: No-fail healing and Infection level reduction

Well Armed Civilians: One of your Civ units gains 1 favorable shift on fighting table until eliminated

Army Drone Missile Strike: Target a Zed unit for some hits

Stocked Barn Discovered: Being in the Farm gives you 1-6 Supply points

Research Discovery: Being in the University space increases your Research level by one

Research Materials: Being at the Nuclear Plant increases your Research level by one

Soldiers of Fortune: All gunfire attacks get a favorable shift and consume no ammo but lose Supply points

Neutral Cards

Vengeance!: Initiate a free attack with a favorable 2 column shift on fighting table

Unidentified Mob Appears: Gain new Zed or VIP Survivors based on Infection level

Flamin’ Zeds!: Zeds going through Chaos markers receive 2 > though they will suffer a hit

Raiders Appear!: Raiders make appearance, hurting Zeds and Friendlies alike

National Guard Arrives!: Game is either over or it continues to punish you

Unfavorable Cards

Mountain Night Assault: Mountain Zeds increase Infection level and you get no defensive table shifts for terrain

Highway Night Assault: Highway Zeds increase Infection level and you get no defensive table shifts for terrain

Forest Night Assault: Forest Zeds increase Infection level and you get no defensive table shifts for terrain

Suburbs Night Assault: Suburbs Zeds increase Infection level and you get no defensive table shifts for terrain

Mine Explosion!: Zeds or Friendlies must retreat from the Mine and take hits; Lose Ammo or add Chaos marker

Nuk’lr Meltdown: Zeds or Friendlies must retreat from Nuclear Plant and take hits; Infection level increase or Chaos marker add

Toxic Zeds: If the Nuclear Plant is Zeds controlled, one Zed unit will raise the Infection level by 3 during combat

Fast Zeds: If the Farm is Zeds controlled, one Zed unit will start moving one additional space

Smart Zeds: If the University is Zeds controlled, one Zed unit receives 1 >

Tough Zeds: If the Mine is Zeds controlled, one Zed unit will have a 50% chance to cancel future hits

Wandering Zeds: Suffer a free Zeds attack on a random track

Hidden Zeds Appear: Suffer a free Zeds attack on a random track

Disaster At The Lab: Good chance of losing a research level and maybe a hit on Hero at the Lab

Contamination At The Hospital: Possible Infection level increase and maybe a hit on Hero at the Hospital

Death Trap: All Zeds attacking terrain spaces get 1 >; also suffer additional hit and attack if you would normally retreat

A Fed Zed Ain’t A Dead Zed: Zed units in or adjacent to Villages or Towns get to flip to full strength side

Hell’s Dinner Bells!: Zed units in or adjacent to Villages or Towns get to flip to full strength side

Nervous Breakdown: Select a Hero in Town Center, Lab, or Hospital; Could suffer 1 or 2 hits

Local Zeds Outbreaks: Eliminated Civilian units are replaced by Zed units

Zeds Disease “Quickening”: Eliminated Civilian units are replaced by Zed units

There’s No Way Out!: All Zeds attacking Terrain spaces get 1 >; also suffer additional hit and attack if you would normally retreat

Growing Despair: Zed units in spaces 3, 2, or 1 each give a 50% chance to cause a hit to Civilian units

Brains! (x4 cards): Turn sequence suspended; Infection level increase based on every two Chaos markers; all Zed units advance; if a Zeds unit is still adjacent to a Friendly unit, continue fighting

The four “Brains!” cards can trigger devastating chain reactions in a track, particularly in the Suburbs. Be careful about filling a track up with Friendly units!

Where Are They All Coming From?: Remove all Dead Zed markers and add a Zed unit to every track that has no Zeds

What The…? There’s More!?: Remove all Dead Zed markers and add a Zed unit to every track that has no Zeds

We Can’t Kill’em Fast Enough!: Remove all Dead Zed markers and add a Zed unit to every track that has no Zeds

You Gotta Be Kidding!: Remove all Dead Zed markers and add a Zed unit to every track that has no Zeds


Let’s now do a quick count or summary of the “Sequence of Play Activities” on the Event cards.

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I hope the summaries gave you a little more information and guidance on what is in your Events deck and what your chances are at particular results. Remember that you are always free to check your discard pile at any time!


Fate Cards

The Fate card deck is exactly balanced with 10 cards good for you and 10 cards bad! These cards add some interesting narratives to your story and can make you breathe a sigh of relief or make you want to finish pulling your hair out.

Good Fate cards give you a shot at another Hero coming into play, gaining additional actions, reducing the Infection level, increasing movement, having a Civilian Leader show up, etc.

Through cards you have a shot at getting a maximum of 3 more Heroes into play: two from Events and one via the Fate card.

Bad Fate cards give Zeds the gunfire ability with a Supertoxic Stench, can bring an Alpha Zed into the picture, stop Refugee movement, can collapse the bridge outside of town, cause you to lose supplies or ammo, etc.

As for track location on the Fate cards, the most common is the Forest track (25%), followed by Mountain and Suburbs (20% each). This might make up for their slower speed on the Forest and Mountain track. There is one each for where Zeds are strongest and for Player’s Choice.

Why is the Forest the most prevalent Fate card location? One can’t help but wonder what further evil might lurk deep in the silent, pitch blackness of the woods outside of Farmingdale! The dense forest might hide other mysteries…

Heroes

It is now time for a quick discussion of the Heroes. If you wondered about the green diamond and blue swirl icons on some of the Hero cards, the designer did mention that their purpose will be revealed in future expansions. The green diamond is mentioned on the back of the Player Aid Card, under Rule 16.3 “Historical” Set Up, as an optional game start set up as per the Top Secret Green Diamond report!

Do not forget that Heroes with two dice abilities get the result of BOTH dice when they roll doubles!

Mayor Hernandez

Unless you are about to lose the game and you are throwing all caution to the wind, Hernandez belongs in Town Center. Don’t even think about moving him. Don’t forget that his Management abilities only apply if he takes no other actions in the turn…so if he gives the stirring Speech, he can’t also use Traffic Control or Keys to the City. Having him in Town Center and Mr. Johnson also somewhere in Farmingdale pulling forage duty is nice. His Citadel ability might be your last hope when the undead horde has Farmingdale surrounded.

Sheriff Hunt

He is one of your best all-purpose heroes. He is a great fighter in hand-to-hand, can fire long range, is hard to injure and gives adjacent friendly units a free action. You can almost see Hunt racing ahead of refugees to fire on a pursuing Zeds unit and then using the free action to hurry them along their path. Perhaps you want to set him up behind a civilians unit so that he uses gunfire and then has the militia fire for a free action (a one-two punch).

Deputy Schmidt

A toned-down version of Sheriff Hunt, Schmidt is also tough and skilled in hand-to-hand and is more deadly in the Forest and Mountain tracks. Keep him on those tracks to maximize his effectiveness. Like Hunt, you will be using Schmidt as a combat hero.

Captain Piazza

Early in the game I like to send Captain Piazza against the toughest Zed unit on the map. She can fire from safe distances and has a 50% chance to evade any hand-to-hand combat. She is also fast so she is great for racing from track to track to handle Zeds. When the villages fall and Farmingdale is in trouble, stick her in a tower in Town Center. Hopefully the Mayor is there for a real nice Gunfire combo.

Mr. Johnson

However you end up with this old coot, don’t forget your Stockpiles (1 Supply, 2 Ammo)! With his Heavy Weapons and Scavenger abilities, he is a great choice for holding down the Mine. If you have the Mayor in play, he is powerful in Town also. However you use him, try not to waste time moving him from place to place. An action spent moving is NOT an action spent foraging.

Doc Seaver

Not only is he great for healing, but I believe he is your best bet for clearing Chaos markers, especially early in the game if your Research Level is low.

Professor Agee, PhD

If you want a real hope at getting the Super Weapon then she is your ticket. It is wasteful to even have Doc Seaver try. Once that Super Weapon is discovered, she is awesome at clearing out Chaos markers! The Super Weapon is very helpful in your game despite being hard to get. The Antidote makes Decontamination very nice but really is probably only worth it if you are trying to get a high end game score.

Pickles

Pickles can pull one of two main duties for you: forage or freeze up a Zeds unit. Even a Zeds mob might have problems getting by this dog as long as you aren’t rolling ones.


Counters

There isn’t much to say regarding Zed and Civilian counters. However, your initial draw/setup might have an impact on your starting strategy.

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Looking at the table, if all of your 2-strength civilian units are in villages you know you are in trouble. Be prepared to fall back or try to maintain your supplies and build barricades. If you have your 4 and 3 units out and the Zed units are 4s and 5s, you might feel more brave and willing to make a stand. Just remember that it is hard to heal your militia units and the zombie horde is never-ending. A few bad event cards will find your once promising start turned around on you in no time!

Zombie Zinger: I usually have no problem having my 4-strength Civilians unit use gunfire, and if I have to, any 3-strength Civilians. A 2-strength Civilians unit firing their guns is usually just a waste of ammo.

So how does a Zeds marker show up in your game? Well, we all know that you start with one on each track at the beginning of the game. Here are other ways:

  • Outbreaks: Not taking care of your Infection level? Don’t worry, no matter what do, you are going to have many Outbreaks! But plan for them! You know when you have one, a Zeds marker will show up on the Chaos marker closest to town on a track determined by Fate draw
  • Event Cards (44-47): These nasty cards usually won’t trigger an Outbreak themselves but they do add Zed markers to all Tracks lacking Zeds BEFORE the start of the Zeds phase (so they are moving)
  • Event Cards (14-15): These cards spring surprise Zed attacks on a unit but do not actually place a marker
  • Event Cards (31-32): These turn eliminated Civilian markers into nasty undead
  • Event Card “Unidentified Mob Appears”: This will place a Zeds marker or VIP Survivors based on Infection level

Trust me, when it rains, it POURS ZOMBIES!!! Look what the game designer himself had to say in a session with never-ending Zeds and a collapsed bridge!

16th card – “There’s No Way Out!” – Ugh! First of all, I have another Outbreak to contend with. Hand soap, people! My Fate Card is “Bridge Collapses” – of course it is! I place the “Bridge Collapse” marker on the Bridge space like a dutiful loser. And then to add insult to injury, Beauxville is attacked and mauled. The poor Civs have to retreat, but can’t. Not only because there’s no way out – but even if they could find a way out, the damn bridge has collapsed! I told you this game is realistic. So the fight has to be done again and the poor schmucks are massacred on the beaches – a regular zombie clambake. I have three actions – Pickles Forages and finds three ammo! Schmidt opens fire on those pesky Forest zombies and rolls a “12” – three hits and those green meanies are dwindling away. Things are starting to look good!– Hermann Luttmann

Yeah, “Things are starting to look good”, he says. These are very famous last words when playing against Zeds. He lost the game a few cards later! Never get comfortable…it’s always going to get worse!

Fighting Table

Get to know your Fighting Table. See that One Third and One Half column? No matter how well you roll, you are retreating if you are the attacker. You have to roll at least an 8 on the Equal To column for the defender to retreat. As an attacker, you still suffer losses even on the Triple column with a roll as high as a 5 or 6! The table slightly favors the defender. If you are attacking, make sure the odds are right!


Gameplay

Ok, enough talk, let’s start a game! Use the following game turns to get more comfortable with how the game works. Follow along with your copy of the game.

Setup

  • I rolled a 10 for Supplies and a depressing 1 for Ammo
  • I place the Infection and Research markers on the board in their 0 boxes
  • The Player Actions marker also starts in its 0 box with its “can Speech” side up
  • I place the villagers in their respective spaces on the tracks
  • I place the following Zeds units:
    • Mountain: 8-strength
    • Suburbs: 5-strength
    • Forest: 6-strength
    • Highway: 6-strength
  • I place the Civilian units as follows:
    • Lefty’s Pass: 3-strength
    • East Irek: 2-strength
    • Beauxville: 2-strength
    • St. Thomas: 2-strength
    • Ingeburg: 4-strength
    • Town Center: 2- and 3-strength
  • Due to low Ammo I select Mr. Johnson as my first Hero, increasing my supplies by 1 and my ammo by 2
  • My next three Heroes, chosen at random, are Sheriff Hunt, Pickles, and Doc Seaver
  • I shuffle the Fate deck and construct the Event deck as directed in 3.12-3.14

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Initial Thoughts

Starting with 1 ammo is enough to make me jump off the bridge near town. Some tough Zombie units have started play, particularly on the Mountain track. The Suburbs are in bad shape with 2 of the weakest units defending it. I might be able to hold off the Zeds on the Highway track.

Because of the low Ammo roll, I decided not to risk chance and selected Mr. Johnson right off the start even though I usually pick Sheriff Hunt. I ended up with the other great forager in Pickles. But with the toughest Zed unit on the Mountain track I am starting to think that the Mine is not worth rushing towards. Maybe I should keep Mr. Johnson in town and use Pickles to bark at undead? That leaves me with only 1 combat Hero to handle matters. What if I send Pickles out to the 8-strength Zeds unit to try and freeze it in place and follow up with Mr. Johnson to try and fortify the Mine space? No, that is too risky. Not enough time and it is always risky to string friendly units along a track, especially staring down at the strongest Zeds unit. It could tear through several friendly units like a hot knife through butter. In the first 16 cards there are 2 Brains! cards. Hopefully they are not near the top of the deck.

Let’s see what the first Event brings us.

Suburbs Night Assault (#6)

1. Refugee Phase: 0
* There are no refugees on the map yet anyway. All the villagers are still making their stand.
2. Outbreak: 10+
* We are at level 0 so we are ok here.
3. Consume Supplies: No
* Still have a nice full load of supplies.
4. Zeds: Suburbs x2
* The 5-strength Suburbs Zeds unit marches into space 7 but then marches AGAIN into East Irek!* This Sequence of Play has an asterisk. ALWAYS read the Event card description at the bottom before beginning the marked phase. The instructions could take place before, during, or after normal phase resolution.* Remember, anytime a Zeds unit enters a space with any non-Refugees, hand-to-hand fighting is sure to come!* This particular card will, on the Suburbs track, increase my Infection level by 2 instead of 1 for Hand-to-Hand attacks and I get no combat terrain shifts for friendly units.* Increase Infection level from 0 to 2. It is strength 5 attacking strength 2. This is on the DOUBLE column. Normally I could shift it to GREATER THAN because it is a terrain, or named, space, but this particular Event card prevents that on this track.* I roll two dice for 4 and 3. Reading a 7 on the DOUBLE column results in “1/3”. The first number is for the attacker and we apply the Zeds hits first. They take 1 hit so they get a 1 Dead Zeds marker placed on them.* The Civilian unit suffered 3 hits and because their result is in red they must retreat. Three hits almost eliminate the unit. Flip it to its reduced strength side AND place a Casualties marker on it. Retreat them to the University. They were also “released” when the Zeds unit first entered their space so they are no longer turned 180 degrees.* Now the Zeds “Control” the space. Time for the villagers to FLEE! They are flipped to their Refugee side and join the militia in the University space. If they are caught by the Zeds again they are devoured!

* The Zeds just gained control of a village. That’s a Chaos marker! East Irek is in turmoil!

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5. Actions: 2
* Move the Actions marker to the “2” space.* What in the world can I do with a lousy two Actions? Uggggh. Civilian units can only move up to 2 spaces and cannot stack except with Refugees. If I had more actions I could possibly juggle another Civilians unit (not Beauxville’s as they are not released yet) with the fleeing units from East Irek AND move the Refugees. But with only two Actions all I can do is hope that the Suburbs track sees no movement next turn. Moving Doc Seaver all the way over to #4 and then removing the Casualties marker on the next Action is practically meaningless. The 5-strength Zeds marker, upon moving again, will still be fighting at TRIPLE odds and will surely destroy them. I just don’t see that as a good use of two Actions. My only other thought would be moving Sheriff Hunt to prepare for action on a future turn. Because he is “Tough” he might be able to hold off a Brains! advance.* Let’s move the East Irek refugees one space to #4. Maybe I can salvage one thing from that horrible attack.* I want to forage with Mr. Johnson. I roll both dice for 4 resulting in not a darn thing.

Smart Zeds (#12)

1. Refugee Phase: 1
* Move East Irek’s Refugee marker to Beauxville. Remember that there is no stacking limit for Villagers/Refugees.
2. Outbreak: 7+
* Still no problems here. Not yet anyway.
3. Consume Supplies: Yes
* My Supplies go from 11 to 10.
4. Zeds: Suburbs x2
* Are you kidding me? Move the Zeds unit on East Irek to the University. Those poor people! They just retreated to the University to make their last stand!* Now we interrupt our movement to handle the fight here. Increase the Infection level from 2 to 3. Every hand-to-hand combat will increase that Infection level.* The odds, 5-1, starts on the TRIPLE column. The University space lets me shift it down to DOUBLE. I roll two dice and get 9. The result is “0/3”. The Zeds suffer no hits and the people in the University are butchered! But at least they are not gone permanently. Place the Civilians marker, on their reduced side, in the HOSPITAL on the map.* The Zeds control another named space! That’s another Chaos marker! The Suburbs are a mess of undead and fires.* Finish the second part of their movement by placing them on the #4 space. If I hadn’t moved those Refugees on my first turn, they would have been devoured and removed from play! Note that I never placed a Chaos marker on #7 or this #4 space. Only named spaces controlled by a Zeds unit gets this marker. Picture the blank spaces as desolate enough to not have roaming bands of undead giving you trouble.
5. Actions: 4
* Move the player actions token up to 4.* Let’s move the Refugees again, to the Bridge. If the Suburbs track advances again and they cause the Civilians in Beauxville to retreat, these Refugees will get eaten. Remember that they only run by themselves when they first flip from Villagers to Refugees. When they are Refugees they are VERY vulnerable.* I don’t think the odds warrant me spending two actions to send Doc Seaver to the Hospital and then attempt healing. With my research level low, I require a 6 to heal the single unit there anyway. I’ve had it with running! Move Sheriff Hunt to the Bridge!* Our third action is going to be a Long Range gunfire attack from Hunt against the Zeds in #4. Deduct 1 ammo from our amount to bring it down to 2. With gunfire you use the Gunfire Attack FV row at the top of the Fighting Table. Sheriff Hunt is a strength 5 but suffers a < 1 penalty due to Long Range. He will fire on the 4 column. If I can get the Zeds flipped to their reduced side, the militia in Beauxville might have a chance. I roll a 7. I follow 7 across and get the result “2/2”. With gunfire you do not suffer losses so ignore the first 2 and only apply the hits to the Zeds. With two additional hits the Zeds unit gets flipped to their reduced side of strength 3 with no Dead Zed marker. Zed units have a total of six steps so whenever they suffer a total of three hits they get flipped. Three more hits and this unit is gone. But was this enough?* Should I fire again with Sheriff Hunt? Did you read the Smart Zeds Event description? The University space is indeed Zeds controlled. If I do not eliminate them, they will always get a favorable 1 > on their attacks. This would nullify the natural defense of Beauxville. I think I will fire again! I decrease my ammo from 2 to 1. I then roll a 10 and when I look under the 4 column I see that the Zeds unit suffers 3 hits! They are gone! Throw the unit back into your cup/container.* Sheriff Hunt, using his Leadership ability, can now either move the Refugees into the Suburbs of Farmingdale or convince the people in Beauxville to forage for him. Let’s try hunting down some ammo. I roll a 6 and my ammo goes back up to 2. What luck! And there are no Smart Zeds around! Whew!

Looking at the board, I am kind of torn now on having Doc Seaver head out to restore order in the Suburbs (I have plenty of supplies for that!) or send Pickles to the mine.

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Brains! (#41)

There is no normal Sequence of Play now. Follow the instructions!

1. We have two Chaos markers in play. Add 1 to our Infection level (now 4).

2. Advance every Zeds unit one space. The 3 Zed units left in play are still on their START spaces. Each moves to their respective #7 spaces.

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If I hadn’t eliminated that Zeds unit in the Suburbs, it would have advanced on Beauxville. If it had defeated the militia there, it would have advanced again on Sheriff Hunt! If they managed to get by my Hero, they would have eaten the refugees! The Infection Level would have soared! I HATE BRAINS! CARDS!

Well Armed Civilians* (#23)

The title of the card is marked with an asterisk so I follow the instructions right away. I get to place a Well Armed marker on any Civilians unit. We could put it on the unit in Ingeburg to make them really tough! Or we could try to make the unit in St. Thomas a little tougher. Looking at the card I see that the Zeds in the Forest are going to advance. So yes, let’s put the marker on the unit in St. Thomas and hope that the militia in Ingeburg can hold their own.
1. Refugee Phase: 0
* The Refugees from East Irek must wait outside Town a little longer.
2. Outbreak: No
* Still ok here!
3. Consume Supplies: Yes
* Flip our supplies marker from +10 to its normal side and place it on space 9.
4. Zeds: Forest
* Move the Zeds unit to space #6. They pose a real threat now to the citizens of St. Thomas.
5. Actions: 3
* Move our actions marker to the 3 space.* Let’s have the militia in Ingeburg open fire. They have strength 4. Deduct 1 from our ammo to bring it back down to 1. I roll 7 so I cause 2 hits to that Zeds unit. Place a 2 Dead Zeds marker on it.* I can’t really afford to move Pickles or Doc. I need ammunition!! Mr. Johnson forages and gets 8 so I get 1 ammo point! Increase our ammo from 1 to 2.* I have Mr. Johnson forage again. I roll 8. Since it is doubles I get the result of both dice and that would be +2 to our supplies. Bring that total back up to 11.* Sheriff Hunt now will move the Refugees into Suburbia.
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Toxic Zeds (#10)

1. Refugee Phase: 1
* My villagers from East Irek finally make it to Town Center. Hmmm, that will raise the Infection level by 1 so it is now at 5. Now I can either Equip them and send them back out into the fight or Protect them. You better bet on me arming them and kicking them back out the door! I only have one Civilians unit in the hospital so I can use my two replenish actions for this procedure on the same unit. The Civilians unit pops back into Town Center at FULL STRENGTH. That Refugees marker is removed from the game
2. Outbreak: 5+
* My run of luck has ended! The Infection track is at 5 so there IS an outbreak!

  • i. First, decrease the Infection level by 5. Now it is back at 0.
  • ii. Make a Fate Draw. I draw “Drastic Times, Drastic Measures”. This is a good card. I can use it decrease the Infection level by 5 by spending an ammo point. You can almost hear the screams of infected people who don’t want to die as they are gunned down. I get to hold on to this card. Look at the Track location above the title. It says where Zeds are WEAKEST.
  • iii. Draw a Zeds unit from the cup. I pick a strength 6 unit. The WEAKEST track is obviously the Suburbs. This unit is placed on the Chaos marker CLOSEST to Town Center. This is the University. Looks like Hunt has more work to do!

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3. Consume Supplies: Yes
* We are now down to 10.
4. Zeds: Highway x2
* The Zeds attack Ingeburg! Increase the Infection level due to Hand-to-Hand combat. It is back to 1. These Civilians are now released.* It is 6-4 so they fight on the GREATER THAN column. Since I am defending in Ingeburg I shift them onto the EQUAL TO column. I roll 5 and so the Zeds unit gets flipped to its reduced side with 1 Dead Zed marker. They retreat back to #7 since their fight result was in red. The Ingeburg Civilians suffer a Casualties marker.* But they advance again! Increase Infection level to 2.* They are now the underdog, fighting at LESS THAN. I still get a column shift for defending in a terrain space so I roll on the ONE HALF column. I roll 3 and the undead are destroyed! Put their rotting backside back into the cup.
5. Actions: 3
* Move your actions marker to the #3 space.* Move Hunt to #4 in the Suburbs.* Let’s fire on those undead! Deduct 1 ammo, now down to 1. I am adjacent so no Long Range penalty. I am firing on the 5 column. I roll 11! That’s a full 3 hits and will flip that Zed marker to its reduced side.* Ok, let’s put some barricades down in St. Thomas. With the well-armed Civilians there, this should be a stable fighting position for a while. Decrease supplies from 10 to 8 and put a barricades marker in St. Thomas. Instead of < 1 for defense, I now get a < 2 for the space. Also remember that you can only keep 1 barricades marker in play for each track.* Sheriff Hunt is going to have the Civilian marker in Beauxville forage for us. I roll a 5 and so my supplies are back up to 9.* It is the end of the Action phase and the Nuclear Plant space is NOT Zeds controlled. There are no toxic zombies!
dawnzeds_st1_map7_large

I really need to get those Chaos markers cleared off the board. The longer they stay, the more chances of Zeds popping into play closer than you would like! They also help increase that Infection level.

Don’t hate me for sending those poor refugees back out into the fight. This game is hard enough without trying to save everyone. You just can’t! Sometimes you have to let people die!

I was really hamstrung from the beginning in this game with such a poor ammo roll. That’s life.

Getting barricades down early on a track in the beginning can help get you some time. Hopefully I won’t have to worry about the Forest for a while. I need to get one down for Ingeburg and I need to take care of that valuable strength 4 Civilian unit!

The most important advice? BE FLEXIBLE! Every game is different! Let’s continue…

A Hero Arrives (#9)

1. Refugee Phase: 2
* Nothing to move here.
2. Outbreak: No
* I’m loving it!
3. Consume Supplies: 4+
* I do indeed have 4 or more full-strength Civilian units. Let’s decrease our Supplies from 9 to 8.
4. Zeds: Suburbs and Forest
* Let’s start with the Suburbs. The reduced strength Zeds attack Hunt. Increase the Infection level to 3. Notice Hunt is NOT in a terrain space. Try not to ever get in this situation! Yes, I hoped I could finish that unit off with gunfire, but that is life. The good news is that I am risking this with a Hero unit that is “Tough”, skilled in “Martial Arts”, and the Zeds are indeed only strength 3 right now. I roll on the LESS THAN column and get 11! Yuck. But because Hunt is skilled in Martial Arts, I am allowed a re-roll. I roll again and get 6. The result is a “3/1” so the Zeds are gone! But now Hunt is hurt! But he is Tough so let’s roll again and get 4. He avoids the hit!* Ok, let’s go to the Forest. We have another Hand-to-Hand attack there so increase the Infection level to 4. Normally we would have to roll on the TRIPLE column, but the Barricades give us a < 2 shift and these are Well-Armed Civilians so they get another < 1 shift so we are back on the EQUAL TO column! OH NO! I roll a 12! That is a “0/3” result. The Civilian marker is flipped to its reduced side and a Casualties marker is placed on it. Retreat them back to the Farm. The Villagers are now released and flipped to their Refugees side. They also go to the Farm. The Barricades marker STAYS there for now. They are only cleared off the board when the Zeds marker advances past it. I could still rush in to save this valuable marker if I am able. But a Chaos marker is placed as this is the end of the Zeds phase.
5. Actions: 3
* Ok, I get a new Hero! Hmmm, I think I want to get working on that Super Weapon. I’ve been fairly lucky in keep Zeds away (though the Forest needs attention) so I am hoping Hunt alone can work on things. So let’s select Professor Agee. I put her marker down in Town Center.* Let’s move the Refugees one space closer to town and put them on #3.* Put Agee in the Lab* Move Hunt to Town Center. My plan is to move Seaver out immediately in the Suburbs if no Zeds appear so he can clear a Chaos marker or two. Hunt will be my back up for the Forest track. Since Hunt is back in Town, let’s have him direct a Civilians unit to do something for us. Let’s forage. I roll a 4 so I get 1 Supply. Move the Supply marker up to 9.
dawnzeds_st1_map8_large

You Gotta Be Kidding! (#47)

1. Refugee Phase: 2
* I move the St. Thomas Refugees to the #2 space. Note that this does not mean I can move them 2 spaces! It only means, during this phase, I can move up to 2 Refugee markers 1 space.
2. Outbreak: No
* Out of these four special Event cards, 3 of them say No and one of them says 10+.
3. Consume Supplies: 3+
* Yep, that puts us down to 8.
4. Zeds: All Tracks
* Ok, at the beginning of the Zeds phase, we remove ALL DEAD ZED markers. We have none now. Then we draw for tracks that do not have a Zed on them. This would be for the Highway and the Suburbs. I draw a 5-strength unit for both tracks and put them on the Start space. Remember, Zeds get placed on Chaos markers during Outbreaks, not these cards.* Now, time to move. The Highway Zeds go to #7, the Mountain Zeds go to the Mine, the Suburbs Zeds go to #7 (there goes my plan for Doc Seaver), and the Forest Zeds attack!* Move the Infection level to 5. Remove that Barricades marker. The Zeds start on the TRIPLE column. The Well-Armed Civilians are fighting in a Named space (the Farm) for < 1 and of course they are Well-Armed for another < 1. This puts the column I’m rolling under at GREATER THAN. I roll 6 and that is a “2/2” result, the last result on that column that makes the Zeds retreat. Put a 2 Dead Zeds marker on them and remove that Civilians marker and put them in the hospital (reduced side). The undead did not get the Farm, but the militia sure did buy it! Make sure you put the Well-Armed marker away; that does not go to the hospital with them.
5. Actions: 3
* Send Hunt to the Farm. He’s gonna hold that Farm for us!* Let’s do some research! I roll two dice for Prof. Agee due to her Bioengineering ability. I get a 5. I get to move the Research marker one space over to number 2. It does not cost me any Supply points as we are still early in our Research. It won’t cost us anything until level 3.* Should I forage for Ammo? Should I have Hunt fire, spending our last Ammo point? Should I spend an Ammo point to reduce our Infection level? The Civilians in Lefty’s Pass sure would like a Barricades marker (or maybe even run)! What do I do? I’m going to go the way of the indecisive leader that gets people killed and have Pickles forage for us: 10, so that is 1 Ammo, giving us 2 Ammo points.* Go ahead and play our Fate Card, Drastic Times, Drastic Measures, at a cost of 1 Ammo point. Note that this does not cost us an Action to play. Some cards will specifically say “…as an Action…” whenever doing something costs you a valuable Action. Our Infection level is back at zero.
dawnzeds_st1_map9_large

Should I have been more aggressive with my Hero pick? I’m kind of weak on the combat side. Schmidt or Piazza would have helped more than Agee. But Agee can get us that Super Weapon and a higher result at the end of game (provided I even make it there). Should I have saved the Drastic Times card for when I can spare more ammunition? Am I going to regret not building a Barricades in the Farm, Ingeburg, or Lefty’s Pass? Probably. But that is the name of the game!


Yeah, This Game Is Hard…

If you feel alone in the world with nothing but losses to show for your efforts, take a look at other players and their anguish from game reports they have posted on Boardgamegeek:

Found some more supplies, but not many. Where are the Feds?Here they come! The big mob finally sallied in from the Bridge. Sheriff Hunt tried to stop them, but he was overrun and, well, eaten. Zeds came in from the south, too. But a rapid response of gunfire by civilians in each area caused Zeds casualties and drove both groups back. We have very little ammo left.

Omigod, they’re in the Town Center, swarming everywhere! Where did they come from so fast? They’re beating on the door of my office. The wood’s breaking……

–David Spangler

It truly felt like Zeds walking relentlessly to Town Center and I had that scary feeling and nervous hand shaking every time I drew another Event card from the deck, praying for the National Guard to arrive.

–Mariano Rico

Shivering, disoriented and alone, only Professor Agee is left on the map. The last hope of mankind stands in her dirty lab coat, surrounded. Her only chance is to go back to the Hospital and try to heal back an army that can put up a fight. Despite numerous attempts, she can’t find enough medicine and healthy bodies to drag back with her. She returns to the Town Center, grabs a wrench and crowbar and awaits the inevitable. I Am Legend! On card 41, it’s all over but the whimpering.

–Hermann Luttmann

The two groups of Zeds on the Suburbs road made a vicious assault on the Suburbia district. The first one came in and was fought back and the second assault wiped out the Zeds. The second fresh group of Zeds assaulted only a few minutes later overwhelming the exhausted defenders. The Zeds who could not get to a body to feed on shambled onward and moved into the Town Center…

“Farmingdale, this is Red Hawk One, over.”

“Farmingdale, this is Red Hawk One, please respond, over.”

“Farmingdale, this is Red Hawk One, please respond, over.”

“Farmingdale, this is Red Hawk One, Please respond, over.”

The silence on the other side was answer enough to the fate of those in Farmingdale.

–Joe Norris


Summary

I hope the sample turns helped your understanding of how a game is played. If you have not done so already I STRONGLY recommend you download the FAQ and Clarifications document from either the Victory Point Games website or Boardgamegeek. There is lots of good information and strategy there.

Don’t get frustrated. This game is HARD. But the more you play and the more you get familiar with the cards and text, the easier it will get. Just think of all the little things that might have helped you that fell by the wayside because you forgot about that Hero’s ability or the benefit on the Fate card that you forgot you were holding? And hey, nothing helps if the dice Gods are not in your corner.

I want to thank Hermann Luttmann for such a fantastic nail-biter of a solitaire game, Alan Emrich at Victory Point Games for making this happen, and everyone else involved in art, graphics design, writing, production and playtesting!

Good luck and happy hunting!

— Jaret R. Morgan


Very special thanks to Hermann Luttmann for helping me to get this guide finished!

NATO: The Next War in Europe (Variant)

Variants for Victory Games’ NATO: The Next War in Europe

By James Elkins

NATO: The Next War in Europe Board Game

Let me say, right off the bat, that I’m a big fan of Victory Games’ board game NATO: The Next War in Europe. But there are some aspects of the game that have always bothered me… and I felt it was time to propose some improvements/adjustments.
Continue reading “NATO: The Next War in Europe (Variant)”

Space Empires 4X (Review)

A Review of GMT’s Space Empires 4X Board Game

By Mark D., Ray Gorka and Scott Cameron

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

A few of the guys at my gaming group, myself included, are quite partial to space-themed board games. As it’s been quite a while since a major war game company has published a “space war game”, we were looking forward to the release of GMT Games’ Space Empires 4X, and got it on the table soon after publication.

It’s a standard 4X game (Explore, Expand, Exploit & Exterminate… hence the “4X” in the title) with a space theme overlay. Each player starts off on his own Home World surrounded by nearby, but unexplored, Home systems. Players home systems are separated from each other by an (also unexplored) intergalactic no-man’s land, referred to as Deep Space, that is generally dangerous and inhospitable.

The general pattern of game play is (as expected):

  • Explore your own Home system, colonizing planets, accumulating funds and building bases and combat units (Explore/Exploit).
  • Expand out into the wild and dangerous Deep Space systems and explore there (Expand/Exploit).
  • Eventually make contact with other players’ civilizations and fight them to the death (Exterminate).

Does this all coalesce successfully into an enjoyable and competitive game? We’ll review some aspects of the game and find out. We managed to get several sessions played, using mostly the standard/basic rule set, and this review is based on those experiences. In addition to my own opinions, I’ve sprinkled other players’ comments throughout the article. There were differing opinions…


Game Components

The game components are all top notch, although I find the map a trifle bland. The rules are clear and well organized. You can tell that a lot of care went into making them as concise as possible. There is a considerable amount of errata and Q&A to be found on the internet, but I don’t think that’s indicative of a poorly thought out game. I think the designer/developer just wants to be as thorough as possible and so has posted just about every question that’s been asked, along with corresponding answers.

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

The game map is mounted and the unit counters are high quality, as we’ve all come to expect from GMT Games. No complaints about the components.

And I’m thrilled that it’s not another Card Driven Game! I have no problem with CDGs, but not every game is conducive to being managed like a poker hand.


Bookkeeping

There is a certain amount of bookkeeping required in Space Empires, so if that puts you off, you should find another game. Personally, I kind of like the bookkeeping. I think it’s good to have a record of one’s decisions and choices to review afterwards when pondering what could have been done better.

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

Most of the information you’re required to record is pretty straightforward: purchases of units and investments in technology. Unit purchases include ship units such as Battleships, Scouts, Destroyers, Ship Yards, Colony Ships, etc. Technology research investments result in technological advances such as Ship Size (ability to build larger ships), Attack Tech and Defense Tech (to improve attack/defense strengths), Move technology (allows ships to move faster and farther), Tactics tech (provides advantage during the combat fire resolution process), and others.

The only tricky part (which tripped ALL of us up, at least once or twice) was keeping track of which ship groups belonged to which technology level. For example, if you built a Cruiser on turn 2 and then researched Exploration Technology on turn 3, only Cruisers built on turn 3 or later would actually have that technology available to them. Which would make sense if these space ships were rolling off a Ford assembly line. But I’d like to believe that in our space wandering future, upgrades will be made via software updates and/or portable upgrade kits. Tracking technology level per ship is not a major burden, but it’s one of those fiddly things that you invariably screw up.

If you include all the Optional Rules (discussed later), this fiddly problem is eliminated via the Instant Technology Upgrade optional rule. This rule allows every ship to be instantly upgraded as soon as the technology is successfully researched. That’s more like it. Just “up-armor” those HMMVs and get back to the mission!

There were comparisons to other bookkeeping-heavy games like Pax Britannica, but Space Empires does not have the diplomatic element that Pax Britannica does, and it’s not meant to. It’s meant to be a multi-player wargame, not a negotiation game. Pax Britannica also had some very involved record keeping which made it a lot more complicated than Space Empires. I found the record keeping in SE to be so simple that it could have been done on a track on the mapboard, if secrecy was not required.
-Scott

Playing the Game

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

In a four player game, all players start off with the same forces and abilities, but each Home System layout is random. That is to say, each player has the same number of Planet, Mineral, etc. tiles, but they are deployed randomly, and face down. So a lucky player will have more Mineral markers very close to his Home planet, allowing for quick Mineral retrieval and conversion into usable Construction Points (CP), which are the currency of the game.

There is virtually no player interaction until one or more players venture out into Deep Space and beyond. Before that time, it’s basically four solitaire games going on at the same time. I like solitaire games… but not when I’m sitting in the same room with three other gamers. I find this early stage of the game to be very DULL. There is a “Quick Start Variant” mentioned in the Scenario Book that allows you to bypass this portion of the game, which is good. But the down side is that the astute player is then denied a chance to get a leg-up during this early/dull segment.

“When you really think about it this is only marginally a ‘space game. It’s in two dimensions, not three. You have terrain (black holes, asteroids, supernovas, etc.), and roadways (merchant pipelines). And the planets are like city sites. So this is really more like exploring an unknown continent than exploring outer space. You could turn this into an ‘exploring the Americas’ game without much trouble.”
-Scott

The first part of the game in which players are exploring their Home systems gets pretty tedious after the first game. As I said earlier, it’s like four solitaire games going on at the same time. So there is great reliance on the integrity and accuracy of the other players. While I’ve never been involved in a game where player integrity was an issue, accuracy is another story. Players making mistakes due to a forgotten rule here, or a botched calculation there, is a fairly common occurrence. When the “collective” is observing all moves, it not only gives everyone a better sense of what the competition is up to, but it also tends to catch these minor errors as they happen. This is nothing more than a personal preference, but I don’t really like games where each player is off on his own track, even part of the time. Yes, it speeds things along, but if I’m in that much of a rush to get through the game, maybe it’s not the right game for me in the first place.

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

So each player, head down, begins exploring his Home systems, exploiting the local resources for all they’re worth, keeping the books, researching technologies, and building the best space-faring fleet that his money can buy. The more experienced and methodical players will build Scouts, map out their home systems, colonize planets, and bring home the Minerals (i.e. cash) in the most efficient manner possible. The most efficient player will have an advantage going into the expansion stage of the game. But among competent players, it’s an advantage measured in inches. No one is really going to get that far ahead of the pack. This is the reason I’m in favor of the “Quick Start Variant” mentioned in the Scenario Book.

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

The second part of the game finds the players expanding out into Deep Space, possibly coming into contact with alien civilizations, worm holes (aka “Warp Points”), Asteroids and other dangers. Although different in name, I was disappointed with the variety of consequences for discovery of these markers. “Nebulae”, “Asteroids”, “Danger!”, “Super Nova”, and “Lost in Space” markers could easily have been replaced with a single “Bad Thing” marker (and maybe a die roll to determine which “bad thing” it is). Each did have its own unique definition, but it seemed to me like the original design called for “Bad Thing”, and the blanks were just filled in later.

Of course there are some “Good Things” out there as well such as Minerals and Space Wrecks, the salvaging of which bestows some new technological knowledge upon the salvager. But the “Good Things” are few and far between out in Deep Space.

“I think the fun really starts when you start having combat. Not only is combat more interesting than exploring, but that’s when you get to see whether your ship building/tech development strategies were smart or were tragic mistakes. I think that is the real meat of the game.”
-Scott

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

The possible discovery of (invariably hostile) alien planets was a bit more interesting, but the rules governing them were a bit sketchy. Aliens were one of the few areas of the rules that had us scratching our heads and wondering if we were “doing it right”. In one particular game, a player discovered so many alien ships in the section of Deep Space near his home systems that he used up all the available alien counters. So when another player discovered a barren planet (which triggers the appearance of alien ships), there were no alien ship markers left. So what happens? Are alien ships from a previous discovery moved to the new discovery? Is it just ignored? We found ourselves making up “house rules” to cover these odd situations.

One of my favorite Deep Space discoveries was the Doomsday Machine, introduced as one of the Optional Rules. Discovering a Doomsday Machine is like finding a sleeping hive of “Borg” and kicking it awake. The thing just makes a bee-line for the nearest planet, asteroid or ship and devours it. They’re extremely difficult to kill so if one happens to drift into your home system, fasten your seat belt!

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

There are special solitaire “Doomsday Machine” scenarios that pit a lone player against the Doomsday Machines. This was the first scenario that I played. It was probably not the best scenario to start with because Doomsday Machines are really only a small part of the standard two- or multi-player game. So knowing how Doomsday Machines behave really doesn’t teach you much about confronting a “live” opponent. It did teach the basics of movement, discovery, and production, but was not a great intro to Combat since all fighting was against the Doomsday Machines. And there were special combat rules to boot. But it was enough to get me started.

The final stage of the game pits the players against each other militarily. This is where you find out if your research and fleet construction decisions were astute… or “tragic mistakes” (thanks to Scott Cameron for that quote). We played the basic game several times and all came to the conclusion that even Combat was kind of dull. Several of us were just not interested enough to want to invest the time in trying any of the advanced rules, but a few of the guys were hopeful that Carriers with their attendant Fighters, and Raiders in conjunction with Cloaking and Scanner technology, would provide enough pizazz to make the game interesting. Sometime over the next few months, I’ll see if I can convince 3 other players to join me for a game using all the Advanced and Optional Rules. If I have a major change of heart about the game, I’ll amend this review… but I’m not optimistic.

Combat Example

The rules only allow a single Base unit per hex and my original Combat example had two Yellow Bases in one hex. The example has been re-worked to correct that error. Hat Tip to Fred who saw mention of this error on ConSimWorld and told me.

Since Combat is easily the most interesting part of the game, the following is a brief example of the combat sequence, using the basic rules. In this example, the Blue Player is attempting to conquer the Yellow Colony on the planet Cerberus. First, it must get through the Yellow defenses…

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

The Blue attack force consists of 10 combat-capable units:

  • 3 BattleCruisers
  • 1 Battleship
  • 4 Scouts
  • 2 Cruisers
  • Note: The 1 Colony Ship is not affected by combat as long as Blue still has other, combat-capable, ships in the hex.

The Blue plan is to destroy all of Yellow’s combat ships and then eliminate the Yellow Colony itself, thus making the planet Cerberus eligible for colonization by the Blue forces.

The defending Yellow force is made up of 5 combat-capable units:

  • 1 Shipyard
  • 2 BattleCruisers
  • 1 Base
  • 1 Battleship

Note that a ship counter with no numerical marker beneath it is counted as “1” ship; the same as if it had a “1” marker under it. In our games, we allowed either method of indicating a “1” strength.

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

Move Ships Off Map

The Battle Marker is placed in the combat hex and all the ships are moved to a “battle line” on, or near, the map. Note that for purposes of this example, I’ll just leave the ships on the map. The rules recommend that you line up your ships in Class order: all “A” Class ships on the left, followed by “B” Class, “C” Class, etc. Combat is fought in one or more “rounds”. The following steps (Screening, Fleet Size Bonus, and Resolve Combat) are repeated each Combat round.

Screening

The side that has the greater number of combat-capable ships may Screen a number of his combat-capable ships equal to the difference in ship counts. Screened ships may not fire or be fired upon. Since the Blue player has 5 more combat units than Yellow, Blue may screen up to 5 of his units. He chooses to screen all 4 of his Scouts (SC). (Note: The Colony ship, because it is a non-combat unit, is automatically screened until the end of the battle)

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

Fleet Size Bonus

The Blue fleet is twice the size of the Yellow fleet (10 combat units vs. 5) and could be eligible for the Fleet Size Bonus, which grants each firing unit a +1 bonus to its Attack Strength. However, since Blue may not include “screened” units in the total, he does NOT get the bonus.

Resolve Combat

The order in which units fire is determined by their Class. Firing is NOT simultaneous, so you must factor that in to all your combat plans. All “A” Class ships fire first, regardless of which player they belong to, followed by “B”, “C”, “D” and “E” Class ships. Both Blue and Yellow have “A” Class ships, so the player with the higher Tactics Technology level fires first. Looking at both players’ Technology levels, it appears that Blue has gone for quantity, while Yellow has opted for quality. Yellow’s Tactics level of 1 exceeds Blue’s level of zero (if nothing is circled, assume the “At Start Value”), so Yellow’s Base and Battleship units (Class A) get to fire first. Each unit fires by rolling a 10-sided die.

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

Fire Resolution

“A” Class Units Fire – The Yellow Base unit fires at the Blue Battleship (BB) group. The Yellow Base’s Attack Strength is 7 and Yellow’s Attack Technology Level is 1, so its total Attack Strength is 8. The Blue Battleship Defense Strength is 2 and Blue’s Defense Technology Level is zero so the total Defense Strength is 2. There is no Fleet Size Bonus. The total Defense Strength is subtracted from the Total Attack Strength to arrive at the attacker’s To Hit number. In this example, the “To Hit” number is 6 (8 – 2), so Yellow must roll a 6 or less to score a hit (note that a roll of “1” always scores a hit regardless of the “To Hit” number). Yellow rolls a “3” which inflicts a hit on the Blue Battleship group. Place a Damage 1 marker on the Blue BB. The Blue BB’s Hull Size is 3, so three “damage” must be inflicted before it will suffer an actual unit loss. Until that time, the Damage markers have no effect on the unit’s capabilities.

Next, Yellow’s remaining “A” Class unit, the Battleship, gets to fire. It also decides to fire at the Blue BB Group. Since the Damage markers have no effect on units, Blue’s values will be identical to the first roll. Yellow’s total Attack Strength this time is 6, 5 for the Battleship +1 for Yellow’s Attack Technology Level. Yellow rolls a “1” which scores another hit on the Blue BB group. The “Damage 1” marker is replaced with a “Damage 2” marker, but since the total damage has not yet reached the Blue BB Hull Size of 3, no Blue units are removed.

Blue now fires back with his “A” Class Battleship. The Yellow Base is the chosen target. Total Attack Strength is 6 (5 inherent Attack Strength +1 for Attack Tech level) and Yellow total Defense Strength is 4 (2 inherent Defense Strength +2 for Defense Tech level). Total Attack Strength minus total Defense Strength is 2, which is the new “To Hit” number. Blue rolls a “2” which scores a hit, and forces Yellow to place a “Damage 1” marker on his Base group. There is only one Blue Battleship so we now move on to the “B” class units.

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

“B” Class Units Fire – Both players have “B” Class units but, once again, the tie is broken in favor of Yellow since his Tactics technology level is higher. Yellow’s first BattleCruiser turns its attention to Blue’s Cruisers (CA), selecting them for targeting. Total Attack Strength is 6 (5 inherent + 1 Attack Tech) and Blue’s total Defense Strength is 1 (1 inherent + 0 Defense Tech), making the “To Hit” number 5. Yellow rolls “4” and scores a hit! A Damage 1 marker is placed on the Blue Cruiser group. Yellow’s second BattleCruiser attacks, rolling a “3” which also registers another Damage point. The cumulative Damage is now 2 which is equal to the Blue Cruiser’s Hull Size and so a unit is eliminated. The numeric “2” marker underneath the Blue Cruiser group is flipped over to its “1” side, and the Damage marker is removed. (Note: Or, since there’s only one Cruiser left, the numeric marker could be removed altogether)

Now, Blue’s three “B” Class BattleCruisers may fire back, and once again choose the Yellow Base as the target. Blue’s total Attack Strength is 6 (5 inherent Attack Strength and +1 Attack Tech level) and Yellow’s total Defense Strength is 4 (2 inherent and +2 Defense Tech) making the “To Hit” number 2. Blue rolls a “9” which misses. The second BattleCruiser rolls a “1” which is always a hit. The Yellow Base group now has a “Damage 2” marker placed on it. Finally, the third Blue BattleCruiser rolls a “2”, scoring another hit. The Yellow Base takes its third Damage, which equals the Hull Size, and is therefore destroyed. The Yellow Base unit is removed from the map.

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

“C” Class Units Fire – Moving along to the “C” Class units, Yellow again fires first due to the superior Tactics tech rating. Yellow only has a single, lowly Shipyard (SY) unit left to fire, but is determined to try and finish off the Blue Battleship. The total Attack Strength of 4 (3 inherent + 1 Attack tech) minus Total Defense of 2 (2 inherent only) produces a “To Hit” number of 2. Luckily, Yellow rolls a “2” and scores a third Damage point against the Blue Battleship. Now that the Damage level equals the Hull Size, the Battleship unit is destroyed. There is only 1 Battleship unit so the marker is removed.

Blue now fires back with his sole remaining “C” Class Cruiser against the Yellow Shipyard (revenge attack). In this battle, we follow the standard formula. Blue’s Total Attack Strength is 5 (4 inherent + 1 Attack tech), but Yellow’s total Defense Strength will only be 1. The Shipyard’s inherent Defense Strength is 0 and the Yellow Defense Tech number is 2. But, there is a rule that prevents a defending unit from benefitting from a Defense Tech bonus which is higher than its Hull Size. So, the Shipyard’s Defense Strength is capped at 1. The “To Hit” number is 4. The Blue Cruiser has excellent luck and rolls a 3 for a hit. The Yellow Shipyard only has a Hull Size of 1, so the single hit is enough to eliminate it. The Shipyard counter is removed.

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

End of First Battle Round – Since the Blue Scouts (“C” Class) were all “screened”, they are ineligible to fire, so the first Battle Round is concluded. Things are looking a bit grim for the Yellow player, now facing 8 attacking combat units with only 3 to defend. In the upcoming round, however, Yellow will get to fire its Class “A” and “B” units before Blue can fire back due to the fact that Blue now has no “A” Class units at all, and Yellow’s “B” Class units will fire first because Yellow has Tactics tech superiority. So, it is tempting to try to leverage this first strike advantage and maybe knock the Blue Cruisers out of the battle. The alternative is for Yellow to Retreat instead of firing, thus leaving the Colony on Cerberus to the tender mercy of the Blue invader (which would have to attack and reduce the Yellow Colony before it could attempt to make it a Blue Colony).

Blue would be given the opportunity to realign his forces, taking the Scout units from behind the “screen” and putting them on the front line. The numerical boost in attacking units would then trigger the award of a Fleet Size Bonus to Blue (for having twice as many combat units in the battle), making Yellow’s defense even more difficult. The current strategic situation, as well as your own personal style of play, would have to guide you in making the decision to fight or flee.

You can see from the above example that Combat is not a complicated affair. Some other considerations not addressed in the example include “terrain” such as Asteroids and Nebulae which neutralize Attack Tech and Defense Tech benefits (respectively) and therefore could have had a considerable impact on the sample battle. Other unit types, such as CarriersFighters and Raiders are available under the Advanced Rules and would, I’m sure, add a bit more depth to the combat resolution process. But, even with Advanced options, I find the Combat resolution process to be simple and straight-forward.


Thoughts on Advanced and Optional Rules

By Ray Gorka

The Unpredictable Research optional rule adds a lot to the Space Empires 4X. Likewise the Merchant Ship Pipelines advanced rule adds another dimension, as they are infrastructure you have to develop – and – protect! This leads to the Raiders (advanced rule) having higher value and therefore being a research target – which leads to Scanners (advanced rule) being a research target, that leads to variation among the Empires – which is what everyone complains is missing from the game!

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

We also found that due to the $10 Research increase cap (Research Gearing Limits optional rule) AND the Unpredictable Research (i.e. grant method) everyone was spreading research over multiple “projects” rather than dumping large expenditures directly into buying single tech breakthroughs. This has tended to “spread out” research more like it happens in real life.

Other observations are that the Doomsday Machines (optional rule) can be really nasty early on, but only a nuisance by mid game. And Empires typically don’t venture out to Deep Space until mid game. Also mining starts off as essential and tapers off to nothing as all the minerals are harvested. Some capability to have permanent resource spaces in deep space to “fight” over would be beneficial. We modified the confusing Aliens advanced rule so that we’d leave only one Alien ship over an Alien world then draw 3 more if it was entered. Otherwise if you left 4 at each world (per the rules) you rapidly ran out of Alien craft.

In a four player game, even with all Advanced/Optional rules in use, I do suspect that there will eventually be two basic problems. First, the obvious one: everyone gangs up on one Empire (and that Empire doesn’t last long). Second, as time goes on, everyone could end up with exactly the same technologies such that every Empire is a carbon copy of each other. The latter problem may not actually happen… so long as there is no conflict all the empires tend to pour credits into research. But once you start to build fleets (and pay maintenance), research dollars dry up, even more so when you start losing MS Pipelines and colonies begin to get chewed up and blockaded. The “gang up on the leader” problem can be solved by doing a 4 player game where the diagonal (or adjacent) players are allied!

Space Empires 4X Board Game Review

I disagree with Mark’s contention that the early exploration is dull and pointless. I don’t mind the bookkeeping at all and rather enjoy the early exploration part of the game. In fact, that is the first thing that sets the empires apart. How you explore & colonize, and where your planets and minerals wind up, influence your position. In a recent game, I had a spread of planets, sort of in two arms, stretching from my Homeworld to the perimeter of my local space with minerals nicely distributed around the Homeworld and along my planetary lines; that allowed me to smoothly and rapidly develop. On the other hand one of my opponents wound up with a donut empire with nearly all his habitable worlds spread out on the perimeter of his local space. That significantly slowed his initial development. A key point is that you won’t know that for a number of turns, so if you had decided to invest heavily in research early, then “discovering” the donut over the course of 4-6 turns could leave you in a deep hole! It’s all part of the subtle strategy, which would be lost with the Quick Start rule. I feel the exploration is paramount precisely for the diversity it adds, the lack of which is the number one complaint against this game.

I like this game and would play it again. I don’t think we’ve given it a fair hearing until we’ve played it several times, to completion, with all the Advanced and Optional Rules.
-Ray


Scenarios

The thing that impressed me most about this game is the variety of scenarios contained in the illustrated Scenario Book. There are 2-player, 3-player, 4-player and “Epic” 2-8 player scenarios. There are several solitaire scenarios as well. The aforementioned “Doomsday Machine” scenario, and another solitaire scenario, called “Alien Empire” that brings the normally dim witted aliens to life, making them a proper enemy.

In addition, each scenario has variants for different map sizes and configurations. (e.g. a small, medium, large; opposing players in opposite corners, or side to side, etc.). A “small” map puts opposing players in closer proximity so that they come in contact with each other more quickly, where as a larger map puts more Deep Space between them. There are some additional game variants listed in the Scenario Book as well.

Based on the few scenarios I’ve played, they appear to all be well thought out. If you become of fan of this game, you’ll have to be excited about the number of scenarios, as they should keep the game fresh for some time to come.


Summary

There are some good things to say about this game, and I’ve said them (and quoted others saying them). But I think that, overall, it’s just not an enjoyable game. I don’t mean this as a criticism of the designer or developer. Gamers who have been playing war games for years will easily recognize the quality of the design and the care that went into crafting it. I’m willing to bet the game plays exactly as the designer intended, so there’s no issue of insufficient play testing or “rush to publication”.

It’s just not my cup of tea. Period.

And I was not the only one who felt this way. It was difficult to get enough sessions under my belt to write this review because, after the first few turns, several players were just not interested in continuing. Free time for gaming is such a precious commodity that players will not squander a minute of it on something that does not “grab” them on the first play-through.

Although I’m not a fan of the game, I do have a few suggestions:

  • The general consensus in my gaming group was that ALL Advanced and Optional Rules should be used. The hope is that this will provide the best chance of making the game enjoyable to the widest range of gamers. The basic game just doesn’t cut it.
  • The real challenge in Space Empires: 4X lies in proper technology research and fleet construction. As is the case with many bookeeping games, the superior logistician wins. So sharpen your pencil and think about what you’re trying to accomplish as you make your production decisions. You won’t have enough scratch to do everything; so choose wisely.
  • Use the “Quick Start Variant” found in the Scenario Book. This allows you to skip the drudgery of the early game, without having much affect on the game’s outcome. I think that suffering through the dullness of this early stage several times may have gotten us off “on the wrong foot” with Space Empires, and contributed to the high player attrition rate. (Although Ray disagrees, you will ultimately thank me for this piece of advice)
The expansion will deal with a lot of these issues, including the addition of alien races with different capabilities.
-Scott

At the time of this writing, I see that GMT is advertising “expansions” for Space Empires. I wonder if this is material that really should have been in the original game. In any case, I’ll probably try playing the expansions because I’m still rooting for this game! But the bloom is off the rose and I don’t think I’ll ever find myself engrossed in Space Empires, as I had expected I would when it was first released.

But, if I’m wrong about that, I’ll have no problem writing another review accordingly.

Sergeants Miniatures Game: Review

By Hermann Luttmann

sergeants_rv1_title

Sergeant Sybil, Reporting For Duty, Sir!

Sergeants Miniatures Game is a Lost Battalion Games release depicting skirmish-level WWII combat on the Western Front in 1944. The game comes with eight pre-painted 20mm miniature soldiers (four U.S., four German), numerous map tiles, tons of cards, two rulers and a rulebook. The core system is built around the use of Action Cards, with each soldier contributing his personal Action Cards to the main draw deck for that side. Individual soldiers each have a unique set of skills and attributes that are represented by their ratings in a variety of categories and complemented by the types of Action Cards they possess and then feed into the master Action deck.

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Each turn is driven by the revealing of Story Cards which set the parameters for the turn, dictating which actions (Hide, Look, Move or Shoot) can be conducted this turn by each side and in what order these actions can occur. These Story Cards also cleverly generate unusual events (lightning strikes, artillery barrages, mandatory shots, berserk charges, etc.) that will take place during the turn. In addition, before the game even starts, randomly drawn Orders Cards provide each side with a secret mission, awarding Victory Points for the successful completion of that mission. During the course of the battle, soldiers can become wounded, pinned and, of course, killed. The map tiles are all rated for their generalized effects on the game in relation to the four main actions mentioned previously (this abstracts the type of terrain in the map tile). These various mechanics all meld into a swirl of card play, punctuated by their tangible effects on the miniature soldiers on the map. As such, SMG presents the gamer with an interesting enigma. It’s a schizophrenic product that has so much going for it and yet so many factors that may irritate potential players.

First off, it is a very expensive game series to even get started with ($100 for the starter set, $60 for the expansion, $40 per team of four figures, etc.) and this is probably a prohibitive level of expense for a large segment of the gaming population (especially in this economy). But yet, the game is actually a bargain when you consider that the physical components are absolutely top-shelf and the overall quality is well worth the money spent. Secondly, it is a physically attractive game with beautifully pre-painted 20mm miniature figurines, sturdy precisely-crafted fiber board puzzle piece map tiles and nicely rendered terrain artwork on those tiles. Conversely, the playing card artwork is very cartoony (which may not appeal to serious “grognards”) and the outlying border area art is …well… strange to say the least. The Story Card areas have “ying-yang” symbology, the Soldier Card holding boxes possess a “Mens” bathroom door sign and the Action Card zones sport a “?” for some reason.

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Another dichotomy is the fact that the game system itself is very clever, with some unique card play mechanics that add narrative and excitement to the game. The Action Cards not only direct the action but also serve as the combat resolution system (that’s right, there are no dice used in this game) so they are wonderfully multi-functional and thus speed the game along tremendously well. But then there are the rules, which need to coherently explain this crafty system, but which are so vague and obtuse that it’s difficult to play the game straight out of the box without an accompanying myriad of questions and concerns. What is so odd about this is that the game is remarkably easy to play and yet the rules writing make it almost impossible to appreciate the elegance of the design.

Finally, SMG has wonderfully subtle details in the way each soldier’s characteristics reflect his individual personality and skills. Every soldier is a unique combatant with particular talents and shortcomings and each have a game-significant personality. But then when dealing with the effects of the skillfully drawn and nicely detailed terrain on the map, there are cases when these vibrant terrain features are physically present and directly affect the game – and then other cases in which these same features are to be ignored. In other words, it is precise and detailed in one aspect of the design and then oddly abstracted in other areas.

So what to make of this rather strange and unique breed of game? Well, I’m actually a huge fan for a few basic reasons:

  • My son absolutely loves to play this game with me. As I’m sure is the case with most of you gaming fathers out there, our kids seem to be more absorbed in the cyber world of Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, etc. This is the first board wargame my son has been adamant about playing with me – no cajoling, bribing or such on my part is necessary. He actually begs me to play! I’d pay double the price of this already expensive system for this joy.
  • Once you hack through the dense rules presentation by accessing Boardgamegeek and downloading some helpful player aids, the game really is quite ingenious. It manages to take what is at most times a painstakingly detailed subject matter – skirmish level miniatures – and makes it so playable it’s almost unbelievable. Granted, purists will probably not like the many game play shortcuts and cartoonish visuals, but this game presents a system that is a true rarity in the hobby – a miniatures game that you can set up, play to conclusion and take down in a relatively short evening.
  • The game is just plain fun. Forget about being a serious simulation of small unit WWII tactics and blah, blah, blah. It plays and feels more like an adventure comic book or an action-packed Bruce Willis war movie. There’s so much character and narrative in the game, you tend to just go along for the ride and enjoy it.
  • Lost Battalion Games rocks! It has top-notch customer service and support, including replacing some early Action Cards that required tweaking for balance purposes (at no charge) and providing a $10 holiday discount incentive for existing customers. In addition, the SMG product line is varied and always growing. There’s already a map expansion which doubles the size of the playing area and there are about a dozen booster miniature packs, including differently armed leaders, assault teams, BAR teams, regular squads, etc. This is a substantive and well-supported line of products. In addition, the design team is active on Boardgamegeek and respond quickly and in good spirit to any questions, comments and complaints.

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So the bottom line is, if you keep an open mind and simply “house rule” repair what needs to be fixed and/or re-interpreted, SMG’s problems can be easily overcome. And once you start playing the game without concern for the technicalities of the rulebook (which designer Jeff Billings, to his credit, is in the process of re-writing) and keep an open mind, this is a great gaming experience.

Be aware, though, that if you don’t like games that can handcuff you by the cards you draw (as with games like Combat Commander, etc.), then SMG is probably not for you in any case. But if a bit of chaos, lack of total control and simplicity is something that does not intimidate or offend you, then the Sergeants Miniatures Game is a worthwhile addition to your gaming stash.

Strike of the Eagle: Soviet Initial Strategies

By Harvey Mossman

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Soviet Initial Strategies

Academy Games’ Strike of the Eagle (Designers: Robert Zak, Brian Bennett and Uwe Eickert) is so challenging and elegantly designed that it has quickly joined The Boardgaming Life’s top 10 desert island games. In fact, it is in the top five of my exclusive list. Nuanced but straightforward rules provide exceptional challenges for both players and the contest is never a foregone conclusion. This article will propose one opening Soviet strategy. I will not claim that this is the best or most efficient strategy; however it is designed to wrest control of the initiative from the Polish player, reverse the initial Soviet deficit in victory points and unhinge the Polish Northern front.

The Soviet commanders of the Northern and Southern Front face completely opposite situations. In the North, the Soviets must take the offensive and break the fortified the Berezina River line in an effort to push through towards Warsaw and end the war. In the South the Soviets are desperately trying to hold before a Polish onslaught until either reinforcements arrive or success on the northern front unhinges the Polish lines forcing them to abort their offensive. Let’s first look at the balance of forces available to each player.


Soviet Northern Front Strategy

On the Northern Front the Soviets have 12 infantry divisions totaling 34 infantry strength points along with one cavalry division worth 3 strength points for a total of 37 strength points. Additionally, by the end of the first round, six more infantry divisions and one cavalry brigade enter as reinforcements bringing 15 more strength points into play for a total of 52 Soviet strength points. The Polish player has 8 infantry divisions on the frontline totaling 23 strength points and one Calvary brigade worth 2 strength points. In rear areas he has another five infantry divisions for a total of 10 strength points and a cavalry brigade at 2 strength points. However, these units are not immediately available at the front and will take time to move into positions where their presence can be felt. Therefore, the Soviets have a numerical advantage in in both number of units and total combat value yet they can still be stymied by a tenacious Polish defense based on numerous fortified cities. How can the Soviet player utilize this preponderance of strength to crack the Polish line without suffering enormous casualties?

It is said that armchair generals discuss numbers, strategy and tactics while real generals talk logistics. Indeed, maneuvering against the enemy’s lines of supply in Strike of the Eagle is imperative in devising a successful strategy that will avoid excessive losses. Remember that infantry must trace three spaces and cavalry units five spaces to a Key City which in turn must trace a clear line to Warsaw for the Poles or the Soviet Eastern links for the Russians. Units out of supply at the end of an operation phase each suffer harsh penalties, losing 1 strength point and restricting their choice of orders to Move OutDefend, or Withdraw. Moreover, units that are eliminated due to lack of supply yield 1 victory point to your opponent and can never be rebuilt for the rest of the game. Therefore, threatening your opponent’s supply line forces him to react to your moves.

On the Northern Front, the Polish defense is based on a line of fortified cities behind the Berezina River thereby making frontal assaults costly. The fortifications reduce the defenders losses by one and negate friendly attempts to outflank, The Soviets will be hard-pressed to take this position by frontal assault as they will often only obtain drawn combat results requiring the attacker to retreat. Therefore, it is best to look for areas where this line can be outflanked. The first axis of advance should aim at capturing the city of Vorenech. Here you can bring in units from Polotsk and the two strong infantry divisions from Beshenkovichi to attack the 2SP Byelorussian infantry division. It is often a good idea to force march the cavalry division from Vitebsk into this target city in the hopes of pinning the Polish unit so that it can be destroyed. Remember, the Polish player starts with the initiative and could very well retreat this unit by force march before you get a chance to attack. Therefore, if the Soviet player is allowed to execute his forced marches first, pin the Byelorussian unit with your cavalry. The Byelorussian unit is extremely exposed and no Polish units can reinforce it on the first operations phase. The Soviets will be attacking with a total strength of 11. With a 3 combat modifier card (either picked from the deck or a 2 combat modifier card played from your hand) your attack strength will be 13 causing 4 Polish losses. Of course Polish battle card play may modify Polish or Soviet losses and placement of a Defend order could further reduce Polish losses but the likely outcome is the elimination of the Byelorussian infantry division for one Soviet step loss. This victory achieves the first breakthrough of the Polish defensive line. On the next operation phase the Russians will have 3 infantry divisions and a strong cavalry division in Vorenech ready to drive straight ahead towards Hylbokaye, an important Key City for each side. If the Polish player does not pull out the infantry divisions in Druya and Disna, the capture of Hylbokaye will cut their supply line. (although not stated in the rules, we assume that Polish units cannot trace through neutral Lithuania). To adequately defend Hylbokaye against this Soviet juggernaut, rear area Polish units will have to be moved forward or the 4 strength infantry division in Berezino will have to react leaving a hole in the Polish line. No matter how the Polish player reacts this completely unhinges the left flank of his fortified line. Since Soviet reinforcements come in at Yartsevo, they can easily be railed forward to further pressure the extreme northern part of the Polish line.

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Red arrows indicate 1st operation phase moves, blue arrows 2nd operation phase moves and green arrows 3rd operations phase moves in the first round. Ghosted units represent units that moved into the city on the first operations phase. Ghosted orders represent orders to be executed in the second operation phase.

While the Soviet player unhinges the northern flank the Soviets can apply devastating pressure at the opposite end of the Polish Northern Front by driving on the key city of Mazyr. As we shall soon see, when we turn to Southern Front strategies, capture of Mazyr helps the Southern Front Soviet defend against any advances of Polish units into the territory formed by the confluence of the Prypiat River and the Dnieper River.

In order for this attack to materialize the first step must be to capture Kalenkovichi. The weakness of Soviet forces in the area makes this a difficult problem. In the first operation phase the two 4SP divisions in Tolochin must be moved by rail down to Rechitsa. A Reorganize order can be used on the infantry division that starts in Rechitsa if the Soviets have enough orders to spare. These units are now poised to strike in strength on the second operation phase with a Move To order on Kalenkovichi resulting in a flank attack which negates the fortification. The combat would include the three divisions from Rechitsa totaling at minimum 10 SP’s and two divisions from Zlobin for another 4 SP’s. Since this attack will not materialize until the second operations phase, it is conceivable that the Belarusian infantry division at Brest could have railed up to Kalenkovichi to aid the defense. If the Polish Calvary brigade in Charyshi tries to move and timely reinforce, the Poles will not have enough units to cover their southern flank and a hole will be created where the Soviets can penetrate into the Polish rear areas. Assuming no cavalry reinforcements but the possibility of the Belarusian unit being present, the combat would entail 14 infantry SP’s versus 4 Polish infantry SP’s possibly underneath a Defend order. The Defend order would negate 1 strength point loss caused by your 14 strength points but here is where it would be worthwhile to use a combat modifier card value of three from your hand which would then cause 4 Polish losses (5 for your combat strength and combat modifier -1 for the defend order) while the Polish are likely to inflict only one or two strength point losses. This results in the elimination of at least one and possibly both Polish units leaving Mazyr weekly defended while concentrated Soviet units poise to attack on subsequent operations phase.

With a strong push and average Battle Card and Combat Modifier card play, Mazyr should fall in the third operation phase. In addition, any Polish units trying to defend this area should have suffered substantial losses opening up the right flank of the Polish Northern Front. The capture of Mazyr also has several other important consequences. First it provides a victory point and a forward Key City from which the Soviets can draw supplies as they move along the northern Prypiat River. Ultimately their objective will be the key city of Luminets or an encirclement of the center part of the Polish line. Secondly, any Polish units operating on the right flank of the Soviet’s Southern Front will have to draw their supply from Rivne until Berdychiv is captured. This forces the Polish player to advance frontally against the Soviet forces and limits the opportunity to outflank the Soviet Southern Front line. Finally, if the Polish southern front is advancing, Mazyr provides a River crossing where Northern Front Soviet units can threaten the flank and rear areas of the Southern Front Polish line.

In summary, this northern Soviet front strategy attempts to outflank the strong central fortified Polish River line by unhinging the Polish extreme left and right flanks. It provides for the potential capture of two important Keys Cities garnering 2 Victory Points and the possibility of other Victory Points for a Great Victory in the battles generated. Since the Polish player starts with two victory points this quickly changes the momentum of the game. Additionally, victories in these opening battles should shift the initiative on the Northern Front to the Soviet player.


Soviet Southern Front Strategy

The strategic situation on the Soviet Southern Front is quite dire indeed. The Soviets have 10 infantry divisions and one infantry brigade for a total of 23 strength points as well as one cavalry division with 2 strength points. There are Garrison markers in each of the key cities on the southern front. The Polish player has 11 infantry divisions totaling 31 strength points, 3 cavalry divisions and the leader totaling 8 cavalry strength points. This means that the Polish player has a 39 to 25 strength point advantage and is more maneuverable due to the three Calvary divisions. Fortunately, the Soviet player only has two important cities to defend. Kiev must not fall or you will yield six victory points (two plus another four bonus victory points). Additionally, if Polish units crossed the Dnieper River, they may be able to advance on Gomel threatening the Soviet Northern Front supply lines. Berdychiv must be held if possible to prevent its use by Polish units to draw supply as they advance on Kiev. However, it sits in an exposed position with no direct retreat path towards Kiev thereby requiring that the cities of Koziatyn and Zytomir be kept open so that defenders in Berdychiv can eventually retreat. Otherwise, Berdychiv becomes a giant trap for Soviet units and a treasure trove for Polish victory points when Soviet units are eliminated for lack of retreat path. Additionally, as a road hub without fortifications, Berdychiv will likely be subjected to multiple flank attacks. Finally, the Poles have strong forces within easy striking range of Berdychiv. The overriding dilemma for the Soviets is how long they defend Berdychiv before their entire army is jeopardized. If the Soviet Army is destroyed in front of Berdychiv, a successful defense of Kiev is unlikely.

Red arrows indicate first operation phase moves, blue arrows second operation phase moves in the first round. Ghosted orders represent orders to be executed on the second operation phase.
Red arrows indicate first operation phase moves, blue arrows second operation phase moves in the first round. Ghosted orders represent orders to be executed on the second operation phase.

Red arrows indicate first operation phase moves, blue arrows second operation phase moves in the first round. Ghosted orders represent orders to be executed on the second operation phase.

There are so many possible strategies available to the Polish player when his offensive is launched, I can only give general guidelines as to an appropriate Soviet defense. First and foremost, the Soviet player must pick either Zytomyr or Koziatyn to defend resolutely. One of the cities will provide the retreat path when it is time to abandon Berdychiv. Establishing forces in Zytomyr, Berdychiv and Koziatyn allow some interesting tactical maneuvers to allay the effects of attrition on your forces and negate the multiple outflanking attacks on each of these cities. The Soviet player should initially place Withdraw orders on his frontline units as shown in the illustration above. The infantry unit in Korotsen and the cavalry unit in Romaniv will attempt a Forced March to Zytomir if not pinned. All other units will withdraw to Berdychiv except the infantry division in Zmerynka which will force March through Vinnytsia in an attempt to get to Koziatyn. Likewise the infantry division in Haisyn should end a forced march in Koziatyn. Once this line is achieved, a Defend order should be placed on Berdychiv and Zytomir with a Forced March To order. This Force March order allows units to exchange places between these two cities acting as support units thereby reinforcing the most threatened city and negating potential flank attack penalties. If any other orders are available consideration should be given to Force March the infantry brigade from Chernobyl to Fastiv to Koziatyn.

By the third operations phase, the Poles will be poised to attack in strength all along the Zytomir-Berdychiv-Koziatyn line. This is the moment of truth for the Soviet player. He must decide whether he can win the battle of Berdychiv as well as the battle for either Zytomir or Koziatyn. If he decides to stay and fight, Defend orders are appropriate and once again a judiciously placed Force March To order to shuffle units between these three cities to act as supporting units may be appropriate. On the third operation phase, much-needed reinforcements arrive in Elizavetgrad and, if possible they should execute a Rail Movement to either Zytomir or Koziatyn while Stalin reorganizes one of the units. If you have successfully held Berdychiv until the beginning of the 4th operations phase without losing too many units, you have achieved your objective. Hopefully by this time your comrade on the Northern Front has cracked the Polish defensive line and captured Mazyr. You now have the option of falling back on Kiev while awaiting the powerful 1st Cavalry Army to arrive. If the southern front Poles advance, they will be threatened by Soviet Northern Front units attacking south from Mazyr.

If possible, use a card for the 5th operations phase to accumulate reinforcement cubes. By Round 2, you should start to feel confident about holding Kiev and possibly launching a counterattack as reinforcements accumulate on your front. The Southern Front Polish player will eventually be forced to retreat as their Northern Front collapses. In Round 2 the Soviet player should cautiously pursue and use cards to accumulate reinforcement cubes so your Army is up to strength when the Polish retreat ends at the Curzon Line.


Summary

Strike of the Eagle is a game of maneuver and bluff augmented by sound strategy. It is a game where both players will have the opportunity to aggressively attack and tenaciously defend. While the strategies I have put forth can be adversely affected by card play and the fog of war, they at least provide a sound basis on which to develop your campaign. I am sure other and perhaps superior opening strategies will be discovered. The Boardgaming Life would like to hear about them. Please feel free to write us and we would be happy to publish the strategies that you have tried.


Feedback

Harvey,This is excelent article! I love to read such analysis.

However, I found one risky move in your strategy on Southern Front ☺

Moving 2SP division from Haisyn opens a gap which may be exploited in future phases by the opponent to flank attacks Koziatyn group, enter the rears and
take Uman. I think it would be better to leave it there (as reserve) and even Reinforce it (if able) with Reorganize order. That’s my subjective opinion.

Best regards,
Robert Zak, Designer

Robert,I am glad you enjoyed the article.

With regards to the risky move, It is really not that risky. First, the 2 SP Infantry in Kamianets will take 2 Forced marches to get to Uman or to
flank the Koziatyn group which means they don’t get there until Round 3. That is assuming the Poles have enough orders to move it each turn and if they
are spending orders on that then they are not using an order in the more critical central sector. If that 2 SP Division dashes for Uman it will get there
as a Force March on Round two with very little chance of taking the city due to being halved from the Force march. If other Polish units are diverted there
they will arrive on Round 3. By that time the Polish Northern Front should have been unhinged by Soviet attack as outlined by the article. Also, Soviet
reinforcements arrive in Elizabethgrad adjacent to Uman any nowcan quickly counterattack or at least threaten to.

Good Strike of the Eagle play is based on knowing the logistics and bluffing your opponent into making poor decisions. If the Poles capture Uman and use that to
draw supply for their attack towards Kiev, they are only really supplied to attack Kiev from the South and won’t reach Kiev until Round 5 at the earliest. By this
time the Polish Northern Front should be in full retreat and significant Soviet reinforcements should be arriving.

In summary, Uman is not critical to hold and if this strategy baits the Poles to go South then they are diverting forces from their main drive towards Kiev. Once
the Soviet Cavalry Corps arrives and the Polish Northern Front collapses, it is very hard for the Polish Southern Front Commander to continue his drive on Kiev.

In effect this strategy baits the Poles to go around south thereby drawing off some pressure in the center and right flank of the Soviet line. The center of Soviet
line is eventually going to retreat to Kiev anyhow but the longer you delay the Poles, the more likely you can hold Kiev.

Great to hear from you, and thanks for designing such an excellent game!
-Harvey Mossman