Vietnam: 1965-1975 – After Action Report (NLF)

Vietnam: 1965-1975 - After Action Report (NLF)

An NLF Commander Reports

By Scott Cameron

NLF Point of View

I was the NLF commander in a recently completed Vietnam: 1965-1975 campaign game, as Mark D’s opponent. Fortunately, my troops came crashing into Ho Chi Minh city to end this war in the Spring of 1972…


Developing a strategy for playing this game as the NLF can be difficult. Since they won historically, there is a tendency to do what they did but that’s not necessarily a good idea since the Allies will most likely be expecting that & will have their own strategy primed to defeat it. But going with something different risks ignominious defeat as there is likely some reason your “good” ideas weren’t followed by the real NLF!

What I eventually decided to do was to follow a much more passive path than the NLF had historically. I would try to maintain & build up my armies & replacement points, using them to get population shifts, while forcing the Allies to come after me. Historically, the NLF launched repeated offensives which were devastating to Allied morale but also led to massive NLF losses & gave the Allies breathing space to recover their population levels. I wanted to maintain an army for the entire game, keeping a constant downward pressure on the population, while forcing the Allies to come after me. And I wanted to be able to keep units in heavy terrain, in Hold status if I could, to force maximum losses when they did. As his population slipped away he would be forced to attack me & the extra units he’d have to buy & the replacement points he would lose would somewhat offset the morale points he wouldn’t lose to offensives. The I-go, You-go, I-go sequence of the game was a big help here since it would allow me to run units out of the mountains down into the rice paddies at the end of a season where possible & then run them right back out again at the start of the next season. I also wanted to concentrate my “population offensive” on individual provinces, rather than spread out & diffuse the effect. It’s much better to run a few provinces down to 0- than it is to try to get a lot of them down to the mid-range. Once they’re at 0-, they tend to stay there & then the units can be moved to another province to start degrading the population there. So eventually, the map will be checkerboarded with provinces at 0- & others at the maximum with a few “battleground” provinces which are flooded with NLF units & which are headed for 0-. Lastly, I positioned as many VC battalions adjacent to roads as I could, putting them into “Patrol” where possible to keep the Allies from being able fully to use their advantage of mobility.

Mark made a couple of mistakes that tended to play into my strategy but they are both mistakes I had made myself in my previous attempts to play this game. As he noted in his review, he overlooked the importance of sending economic aid to SVN in the early going to drive their morale up. This would have put him on a better column of the population chart & greatly slowed the shifts of population, although at a cost in commitment. He also degraded the effectiveness of the ARVN, using them as cannon fodder for American attacks, something else I’ve tended to do myself in my attempts at playing this game. I think there’s a tendency to disbelieve that you’ll ever get to the point of American withdrawal, since the game is so long, & so you tend to ignore what the ARVN will be like in 1970 because who expects to still be playing then? On the other hand, I have to give him a lot of credit for hanging on so long. The game looked to be over in 1970 with the Americans leaving & the ARVN down to a handful of replacements while several divisions worth of NVA & a big stack of artillery moved inexorably down the coast. But he found a way to slow us down & made it to 1972 & was even picking up population at the end! He ran his search & destroy operations very effectively & was usually able to kill what he went after, or at least make us pay in replacement points. I think the only really important error he made was the one he mentioned about leaving IV Corps after having pacified it. At the end of that turn, with the Corps area flooded with Allied units & with only a scant few VC hiding in the weeds, I was pretty depressed since I foresaw a war that could last till 1975. It would be hard to put any NLF units into IV Corps with all that Allied strength there & the population would gradually shift back to him over time. Had he stayed there, even for a year or so, things could have turned out differently since the NLF would have been almost forced to come out of the hills & start confronting him for territory & I might have had to start the big offensives I was trying to avoid. But instead Mark transferred most of the units out of IV Corps to battlefields in the north & the VC came back right away. Of course, this is what the Americans did historically, at least early in this war–not to mention early in the Iraq War(!), so he had some good company in doing it!

The political rules didn’t play much of a role in our game. SVN was lucky to have few coups & mostly decent leaders. They had the “?” guy for a long time & followed him with Big Minh & Bao Dai. His commanders were very loyal &, in fact, at the end of the game, it would have required a roll of box cars to have a coup. But he was greatly hampered by the utter incompetence of his Chief of Staff. I think Mark did a very good job of moving his divisions around to keep the incompetent commanders in military backwaters or in areas where they could defend in place while the good commanders could attack the bad guys. He always seemed to have lots of ARVN units to throw at us no matter where we were. But his Chief of Staff was a millstone that helped to thwart all of the best efforts of the ARVN.

One thing I disagree with in Mark’s after-action report is about the ARVN Rangers. Even though they’re expensive, I think they’re worthwhile. The +2 movement across the border was a big annoyance throughout the game & definitely had an effect on NLF strategy. Without it, there would have likely been more units in IV Corps & more battles there as well.


I think we all had a good time & I’m already missing playing the game (Vietnam withdrawal!). Victory Games was one of the best game companies ever & this was one of their best games & it was a pleasure to have had the experience to have played it all the way through at least once. Thank you to Mark for suggesting it & to Ron, my co-general, for helping to lead our side to victory. Mark, count me in the next time you want to play it.

Vietnam: 1965-1975 – “Highlanders” (Scenario)

Highlanders – A New Scenario for Vietnam: 1965-1975


The Quest to Control the Central Highlands

Vietnam: 1965-1975 - Scenario

This article contains a new scenario for Victory Games 1984 title Vietnam: 1965-1975. This scenario is not based on any historical Vietnam action or operation, but is meant to provide a fresh introduction to this great game. Unlike many of the original scenarios, it contains some of the strategic aspects of the game as well as providing a challenging and unique operational situation. A few entirely new ideas and victory conditions have been thrown in as well. It is designed to be played to completion in a single sitting, which eradicates the only remaining legitimate reason for not giving this game a try.The Situation
The NLF have decided to make a major push in the Central Highlands, hoping to be able to build upon success there and expand their drive down to the South Central Coastal area, and the populous Binh Dinh province. US Intelligence has caught wind of a pending enemy operation but, lacking  any specific information regarding the objectives or the forces assigned, MACV HQ must make their best guess of enemy intentions and deploy friendly forces accordingly.  US/ARVN friendly towns in Kontum province have been threatened with NVA/VC reprisals and ARVN commanders have been targeted for capture or assassination. The outcome of this deadly contest will decide the allegiance of the Highlanders for years to come…Click here to  download scenario instructions and tables in PDF format.

Setup

This scenario begins with the 1st Game Turn of Summer 1966 and ends with the 2nd Game Turn of Summer 1966; it lasts two turns. The play area includes Kontum and Binh Dinh provinces, Laos and Cambodia. Only the northern map, which includes the General Record Track, is required.

There are no fixed starting forces in this scenario. The US player is allowed to spend a certain amount of US Commitment and ARVN supplies to build forces as he sees fit. The NLF player may spend NVA commitment and VC supplies to do the same. Both players secretly allocate their Commitment/Supplies at the same time. However, the US/ARVN player must deploy units first.

1. Turn 1 Purchases– Both players secretly record Turn 1 expenditures on their Highlanders Scenario Record Sheet. Each player should refer to the correct Unit Charts for valid purchases and Turn 1 costs. Commitment/Supplies available at the start are as follows:

  • US Commitment = 15
  • ARVN Supplies =  28
  • NVA Commitment = 10
  • VC Supplies = 12
Note: For both ARVN and VC, ignore “Personnel” costs mentioned in the game rules. Only Supply Points matter in this scenario.

When both players declare they are done recording Turn 1 expenditures, no further changes may be made. Proceed to the next step.

2. US Deployment – The US/ARVN player may deploy purchased units anywhere in Binh Dinh or Kontum provinces. US Air, US Airmobile, US Riverine, and US and ARVN Replacement Point markers are placed on the General Record Track, as necessary.

3. Assign ARVN Leaders – If any ARVN forces have been deployed, leaders must be chosen. For each ARVN division, or part thereof, randomly select a Division Commander (1-Star General) to command it. Each general must initially be placed in the same hex with at least one of their divisional units. If any non-divisional ARVN units (i.e. independent battalions and artillery) have been deployed, a Corps Commander (2-Star General) must be randomly chosen to command them. The Corps Commander can be placed in the same hex with any ARVN or US unit on the map.

4. Perform ARVN Effectiveness Check – For each ARVN leader, roll one 6-sided die (for Corps Commander ONLY, subtract 1 from the die roll). If the leader’s rating is greater than or equal to this number, then the units under his command are “effective” for the Game Turn. Otherwise they are “ineffective” (see the game rules for the effects of this condition). Turn ineffective leader counters over so that only their ineffective side is face up (i.e the side with only the 1-star or 2-star indicator, without the rating number).

5. NLF Deployment – The NVA/VC player may deploy purchased units anywhere in Laos, Cambodia or Kontum province only (may NOT initially deploy in Binh Dinh). NVA and VC Replacement Point markers are placed on the General Record Track, as necessary.

6. NLF Selects Reprisal Target – The NLF player must now secretly choose, and record on the Highlanders Scenario Record Sheet, one town in Kontum province as their “Reprisal Target” (either Kontum, Pleiku or Dak To). This town will be an important victory objective.

7. Play Game Turn 1 – Begin and play Game Turn normally (however, see “Special Rules”, below).

8. Game Turn 1 Scoring – When Game Turn is complete, each player scores the Game Turn using the “Turn 1 Scoring (VP)” column on their Victory Point Schedule.


Game Turn 2

Vietnam: 1965-1975

1. Turn 2 Purchases – Both players now secretly record Turn 2 expenditures on their Highlanders Scenario Record Sheet. Only Commitment and Supplies not spent on Game Turn 1 are available to spend now. Each player should again refer to the Unit Charts for valid purchases and Turn 2 costs (note that Turn 2 costs are double the Turn 1 costs). When both players declare they are done recording Turn 2 expenditures, no further changes may be made. Proceed to the next step.

2. US Deployment – Newly purchased US ground units may enter the play area via any northern border hex (i.e. the I Corps/II Corps border) that is not enemy occupied or in Qui Nhon city if not enemy occupied. Newly purchased ARVN units may enter the map via any road hex in South Vietnam that enters the play area (hexes 5634, 5436, 4435, 5324, 4824, 3922), if not enemy occupied. Units are placed directly on one of these border hexes and begin movement from there. Newly purchased US Air, US Airmobile, US Riverine, and US and ARVN Replacement Point markers are placed on the General Record Track, if necessary.

3. Assign ARVN Leaders – If any new ARVN leaders are required, due to the purchase of new divisional units, or the initial purchase of non-divisional units, choose and place leaders exactly as in Game Turn 1.

4. ARVN Effectiveness – Perform ARVN effectiveness check again for all existing and newly placed ARVN leaders.

5. NLF Deployment – The NVA/VC player may deploy purchased units anywhere in either Kontum or Binh Dinh provinces. Newly purchased NVA and VC Replacement Point markers are placed on the General Record Track, as necessary.

6. Play Game Turn 2 – Begin and play Game Turn 2 normally (again referring to “Special Rules”, below).

7. Game End Scoring – When Game Turn is complete, complete Game End Scoring (see Victory Point schedules).


Special Rules

    • Skip the Strategic Movement Phase in Game Turn 1 (gives NLF surprise advantage). Perform this Phase in Game Turn 2 normally.
vietnam_sc1_fig5
    • ARVN Rangers – Rangers are purchased and used normally. However, for combat assignment, treat as if there are 5 Rangers in play (i.e. all available Rangers can be assigned to an operation on an unmodified six-sided die roll of 1 to 5. Restrictions on placement (i.e. one Ranger per operating unit hex) still apply.
vietnam_sc1_fig3
  • ARVN Leaders – In this scenario, ARVN leaders actually appear on the map. Leaders move along with the unit they are “attached” to when placed. They may never end movement in the same hex with another ARVN leader, and they must remain attached to a subordinate unit (or U.S. unit, in the case of the Corps Commander) for the entire scenario. If they end up alone in a hex they are considered captured/assassinated for victory point purposes.

Winning the Game

To prevent players from trying radical strategies, such as saving all their commitment/supply points for use on turn 2 or for conversion to victory points at game end (i.e. effectively spending nothing and deploying no units at all), victory points are earned after each Game Turn. A player who does not play aggressively in Game Turn 1 will incur such a large victory point deficit they’ll never be able to dig out of it during scoring at the end of the scenario.

At the end of Game Turn 1, calculate scores based on the “Turn 1 Scoring (VP)” column on their Victory Point Schedule. Again, at the end of Game Turn 2 (and the scenario), follow the “Game End Scoring (VP)” Victory Point schedule. The winner is the player with the most victory points.

NOTE: SCENARIO VICTORY CONDITIONS ARE STILL BEING PLAY TESTED and may be amended in the near future. Please email feedback, comments or suggestions to The Boardgaming Life. We’d love to hear from you.

Highlanders Scenario Record Sheet – US/ARVN

US/ARVN Unit Chart 1st TURN 2nd TURN
US Starting Commitment 15
US Expenditures Cost: Turn1 / Turn 2
Any Battalion 1 / 2
Headquarters 1 / 2
2 x 105mm Artillery 1 / 2
1 x 155mm Artillery 1 / 2
2 x 175mm Artillery 3 / 6
3 Air Points 1 / 2
2 x Airmobile Points 1 / 2
1 Riverine Point 1 / 2
3 Replacement Points 1 / 2
7 SVN Military Supplies 1 / 2
Cruiser 1 / 2
Battleship 3 / 6
Total US Commitment Spent:
US Commitment Remaining:
ARVN Starting Supply 28
ARVN Supply Recv’d from US
ARVN Expenditures Cost: Turn1 / Turn 2
Infantry Regiment 2:3 / 4:6
Division Headquarters 3:2 / 6:4
Armored Cavalry Squadron 1:1 / 2:2
Armored Battalion 1:1 / 2:2
1 x 105mm Artillery 4 / 8
1 x 155mm Artillery 7 / 14
1 x 175mm Artillery 11 / 22
4 Replacement Points 2 / 4
Ranger Group 9 / 18
3 Infantry Battalions 2:2 / 4:4
Total ARVN Supply Spent:
ARVN Supply Remaining (Starting Supply + Supply Recv’d from US – Expenditures):

US/ARVN Victory Point Schedule
Condition/Event Turn 1 Scoring (VP) Game End Scoring (VP)
Unspent US Commitment 3 each
Unspent ARVN Supply 1/4 each
VC Unit Eliminated/Dispersed 1 each
NVA Unit Eliminated 2 each
No NLF Units in Kontum Province 5 5
No NLF Units in Binh Dinh Province 5
“Reprisal Target” Not NLF Controlled 10
No ARVN Leaders Captured/Killed 10
US Repl Point Expended 3

Highlanders Scenario Record Sheet – NVA/VC

“Reprisal Town”
Enter Town Name:

NVA/VC Unit Chart 1st TURN 2nd TURN
NVA Starting Commitment 10
NVA Expenditures Cost: Turn1 / Turn 2
Regiment 3:2 / 6:4
Division Headquarters 1 / 2
Artillery 2 / 4
3 Replacement Points 1 / 2
6 VC Military Supplies 1 / 2
Total NVA Commitment Spent:
NVA Commitment Remaining:
VC Starting Supply 12
VC Supply Recv’d from NVA
VC Expenditures Cost: Turn1 / Turn 2
Battalion 2 / 4
Regiment 10 / 20
Division Headquarters 6 / 12
3 Replacement Points 3 / 6
Political Section (max 2 per turn) 0
Total VC Supply Spent:
VC Supply Remaining (Starting Supply + Supply Recv’d from NVA – Expenditures):
NVA Unit Chart costs such as “3:2” indicate a cost of 3 to create the unit and a cost of 2 to upgrade the unit to its “augmented” (or mechanized) side. Or the unit can be purchased augmented for a cost of 5 (see game rules if any additional clarification is required).

NLF Victory Point Schedule
Condition/Event Turn 1 Scoring (VP) Game End Scoring (VP)
Unspent NVA Commitment 2 each
Unspent VC Supply 1/4 each
Captured/Killed ARVN Leaders 10 each
NLF Occupies “Reprisal Target” 10 15
Other Town Occupied by NLF 2 each 1 each
Qui Nhon city Occupied by NLF 5 10
Cultivated Hex Occupied by NLF 2 each 1 each
US Counter Eliminated 5 each
US Repl Point Expended 3

Vietnam: 1965-1975 – After Action Report

Another campaign game in the books! The NVA rolled into Saigon in the Spring of 1972!

Vietnam: 1965-1975 After Action Report

By Mark D.

US/ARVN Point of View

Unfortunately, I was the US/ARVN player…


Some Lessons Learned (for the US Player):

  • Watch ARVN Morale! – US allocations in the very beginning of the game (Summer of ’65) are critical. It is imperative that SVN morale be raised above 70 as soon as possible. Allocate Economic Aid, bomb the North, inject new commitment… whatever it takes to get the SVN Morale above 70. Otherwise, you’ll receive a detrimental column shift on the Pacification Table. This can leave you with a Pacification deficit that might be difficult bring back into balance.
  • Let the ARVN Slack Off! – I know it’s tempting to try to make the ARVN stand up and fight for themselves right from the beginning, but I think it’s a terrible mistake. No matter how judicious you are with your US allocations, there’s no doubt that the US will be leaving SVN long before 1975. Once the US is gone, the ARVN must have enough reserves left to duke it out with the NVA. I made the mistake of putting the ARVN to work, turn after turn, starting right from 1965, but they’re just not effective against the VC. So hundreds of ARVN Replacement points were squandered, for very little return. Let the Americans win the Pacification battle, build up ARVN replacement points to as close to 200 as possible, and then go home. 200 ARVN Replacement points can last a LONG time. I actually lasted over a year with about 25 ARVN Replacement points; I kept rebuilding the ARVN armor/cav battalions, which cost Supply but no Personnel, and used them to absorb losses.
  • Don’t let your large American EGO influence your decisions! – I can think of at least a dozen occasions when I stayed in a battle far too long just because I didn’t want to leave the enemy in command of the battlefield, and it cost me quite a few precious US Replacement points. Fighting the NVA in the mountains is a brutal business. If that first round combat die roll does not go your way (leaving you with a negative pursuit modified), just let it go and live to fight another day.
  • “Special” Forces, my ass! – The ARVN Rangers are a waste of resources in the early stages of the game. You can get 100 ARVN Replacement points for the same Personnel cost as 5 ARVN Ranger Battalions. The Rangers are primarily useful in helping hunt VC, but if you let your ARVN slack off (see above), you won’t need them for that purpose. If, during the later stages of the game, you find that you can spare the resources, the ARVN Rangers actually perform a more valuable service by inflicting a +2 movement point penalty on NVA units entering a SVN national boundary hex (if all 5 Rangers are present; only +1 for 3 Rangers). In many cases this forced the NVA units to use strategic movement to get from Cambodia/Laos into SVN, meaning that they could not attack in the same turn they crossed the border. This small heads up comes in handy since the US has considerable capabilities for quickly redeploying units to meet any new threat.

I’m going to see if I can convince my opponent to post some lessons learned, from the NLF point of view.


I kept loose track of time spent and figure it took about 125 hours to complete this game (over the course of 13 months!). All involved thought it was time well spent.

Gulf Strike: Player Aid

A General Information Tracking Sheet for Gulf Strike

This Game Record Sheet allows for tracking of the following important Gulf Strike information:

  • U.S. Special Forces Detachment Missions – Space is provided for up to 30 Game Turns of missions for all 9 Detachments of the 1/75 Special Forces unit and the 9 Detachments of the 5th Special Forces Group unit. For example, entering “A 1316” in the GT6 space for Detachment 1 of the 1/75 Special Forces unit indicates that 1 Detachment is assigned to an “Ambush” mission in hex 1316 starting with Game Turn 6.
  • Continue reading “Gulf Strike: Player Aid”

The Korean War: June 1950-May 1951 (Review)


A New Look at an Old Favorite

The Korean War Board Game Review


Introduction

The Korean War: June 1950-May 1951 is a simulation of the first year of the Korean conflict in which U.N. (but, overwhelmingly U.S.) forces went head-to-head with the North Korean People’s Army and Chinese Communist Forces.

It’s a moderate complexity game that can take from two hours to play, for a small scenario, to 15+ hours for the campaign game. The game contains units for American, British and other United Nations countries (collectively referred to in this article as “U.N.” forces), Nationalist Chinese (Formosa/Taiwan), and Republic of (South) Korea (ROK) forces on the allied side, and North Korean People’s Army (NKPA), Chinese Communist Forces (CCF), and Soviet Union (USSR) forces on the other side.

The game is played in a maximum of 12 Game Turns with each Turn representing one month of real time. Each Game Turn is further broken down into two Action Phases, each representing approximately two weeks.

Full disclosure: The Korean War is my favorite game of all time. So don’t expect to hear a lot of negative, critical stuff in this review. In addition to some rehashing of the rulebook, I will also try to give you a sense of why it’s my favorite game and why I think you should also play this game.

Components

The Korean War Board Game Review

The components are average for a mid-1980’s game. The map is functional, legible and without any significant discrepancies or misprints. The pieces are colored such that it is quite easy to distinguish between U.S., U.N., South Korean, North Korean, Russian, Nationalist Chinese and Communist Chinese units. The pieces are also quite durable. (I once accidentally spilled an entire glass of iced tea into the counter tray; I then towel dried the counters, separated them and let them air dry for 24 hours… they’re as good as new). Two informational inserts contain most of the commonly used charts for easy reference, as well as including them on the game maps themselves (i.e. combat charts, etc.). I doubt the game map would stand up to the “iced tea” test, but one wouldn’t expect that level of durability from a paper game map anyway.


Rules Organization

The rules are well organized and fairly comprehensive. One of the most outstanding things about this game is the fact that after countless hours of play, neither I nor my gaming comrades have found any significant holes in the rules at all (see “House Rules” under the “Player Aids” section for the few minor rules items that we felt needed tightening).


Setup

If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ll know that the thing I hate most in the gaming world is confusion or ambiguity in game setup instructions. The Korean War scores an A+ in this category. The setup instructions for all scenarios as well as the Campaign Game are crystal clear and without error or ambiguity.


Strategic/Grand Operational Aspects

There are several mechanisms built into the game which simulate events and decisions far above the pay grade of a battlefield commander (although MacArthur did his best to insert himself into this decision cycle). These are decisions made primarily by the U.N. player, but there are also a few to be made by the CCF/NKPA player. For the U.N., these decisions all fall under the category of “commitment” levels and determine the allocation of troops and resources to the war.

Imposing restraint on the commitment levels is the “Global Tension” level. The higher the commitment of U.S. and enemy resources, the more likely the Global Tension level will increase. If events escalate out of control, resulting in World War III, the CCF/NKPA player scores a “Decisive” victory, so it is incumbent on the U.N. player to manage these levels wisely.

At the start of the campaign game, three Commitment levels must be assigned starting values (and managed or adjusted each game turn thereafter):

The Korean War Board Game Review

  • Intervention Level – Represents the U.S. commitment to deploy troops and naval and air forces to the war. A higher Intervention level pumps up the reinforcement schedule, but also (potentially) pumps up Global Tension.
  • Rules of Engagement Level – Determines how far north the U.N. player may employ “strategic” air missions (supply and movement interdiction). The further north you go, the more effective the interdiction and the more likely to have a negative impact on Global Tension.
  • Mobilization Level – Governs three important U.S. capabilities. First, it determines the speed at which destroyed U.S. units can be reconstituted and sent back to the front. Second, it represents the call up of U.S. National Guard divisions and schedules their deployment to Korea. Third, it determines the number of U.N. Amphibious operations (Assaults or Evacuations) that can be executed each turn.

These levels can all be adjusted (upward) during the course of the game, but the initial Intervention Level is super important because its escalation is somewhat limited (i.e. starting the game at Level 4 and escalating later to Level 5 does not get you the same amount of reinforcements in the same amount of time as if you’d begun the game at Level 5).

The Korean War Board Game Review

Another political kind of decision facing the U.N. player is the option of inserting Nationalist Chinese Divisions into the battle. The Nationalist Chinese were the losers in China’s vicious civil war and went into exile on the island of Formosa (Taiwan). World opinion was divided on who should be recognized as the “official” government of China, with the U.S. and other western countries insisting that the Nationalist Chinese on Taiwan were the only legitimate government. So, the decision to bring these forces in from Taiwan would have political repercussions, represented by Global Tension in this game.

The CCF/NKPA player, to a much lesser extent, has “big picture” decisions to make. There are game rules that determine when Chinese and/or Soviet intervention can be called for (mostly based on U.N. combat unit proximity to Chinese and Soviet national borders), however the timing of the actual deployment is up to the CCF/NKPA player. For example, if the CCF roll successfully for Limited Chinese Intervention on turn 4, they may delay actual deployment of these forces until turn 5 or 6, etc.

The Korean War Board Game Review

In addition, the CCF player may opt to launch an invasion of Formosa (Taiwan) to forestall any possibility of Nationalist Chinese divisions being deployed in Korea (i.e. they’ll be on Taiwan defending their homes instead!).

The initial selection and management of these levels and options adds another dimension to the game. Decisions here have far reaching consequences on the battle field. This, in itself, gives the game quite a bit of replay value.

If you like games with some depth, rather than just odds-chart combat contests, you’ll really appreciate the additional layers in the game system.


Operational Aspects

It’s great that the rules are organized well and the setup instructions are clear, but if the game does not play well, it’s all for nothing. Fortunately for us, The Korean War campaign game is one of the most intense, competitive and engaging games ever designed. The action is tense and continuous. Here’s a brief outline of the basic flow of the game:

  • A powerful North Korean force, complete with armor assets and loaded for bear, invades South Korea. The South Koreans, along with most of the western world, are caught by surprise. The country’s defenders include only depleted strength, screening forces that are brushed aside by the ferocious assault.
  • The South Korean player is hard-pressed to stem the tide of invading North Koreans. Fresh NKPA divisions continue to push south-ward. American reinforcements begin to arrive in the southern tip of the country (Pusan), albeit in drips and drabs. But is it too little, too late? As the defensive perimeter shrinks, the outcome is difficult to predict. U.N. options include the possibility of getting Nationalist Chinese Reinforcements or the use of Atomic weapons. Both of these options, while having an immediate defensive benefit on the battlefield, have longer term consequences that may prove fatal to the allied war effort. This phase of the game will end with either the collapse of the invading North Korean army, or with the Americans and South Koreans being driven off the peninsula, losing the game.
  • Assuming the game has not ended in a North Korean military victory, the U.S./ROK (and other U.N. forces) will switch to the offensive and rush to annihilate the retreating North Koreans. Powerful American reinforcements are now flowing into the country. It is imperative that the entire invading North Korean army be trapped and destroyed. Flanking maneuvers, like the historical amphibious landing at Inchon, should figure prominently in allied strategy. Finally, the U.N. player must decide whether or not to invade North Korea and, if so, in what strength and configuration?
  • Assuming the U.N. player has decided to invade (the most likely scenario), it’s a race against time. Objectives along the Yalu River (the border between North Korea and China) must be secured rapidly before the Chinese decide to intervene militarily. The extreme northeast corner of North Korea, which contains 3 objective cities, also shares a short border with the Soviet Union. The closer the U.N. gets to those borders, the greater the likelihood of Chinese or Soviet intervention. If the requisite number of cities can be secured, the game will end in a U.N. victory. If not, then most likely, the U.N. forces will be facing an avalanche of Communist Chinese Forces.
  • If the U.N. is not able to win a military victory, they will be in a desperate situation, fending off attacks on all sides by a Chinese Army group that will rapidly grow to 42 divisions. It’s now the U.N. player who must save his troops from annihilation. Will the retrograde movement (i.e. retreat) be successful or will the entire American 8th Army be surrounded and captured or destroyed?
  • U.N. forces retreating from North Korea into South Korea, although saved from encirclement and defeat, must eventually stop running and turn to face their pursuers. U.S. 8th Army must be instilled with confidence and fight back. As the Chinese formations get further and further away from their sources of supply, they will be vulnerable to aggressive U.N. counterattacks.
  • If the game reaches this final stage, it becomes a contest to accumulate victory points (awarded for controlling certain cities). It’s possible that the Chinese invasion will be so successful that the original South Korean objectives can be captured, netting the CCF/NKPA player a military victory. But most likely, the game will end in a somewhere along the historical DMZ.

Notice that the above outline contains several points at which one player or the other can win a military victory. Also notice that, assuming the game does not end in a military victory, both players have the opportunity to test their offensive and defensive talents. How many games give you the opportunity to go from being the offensive player to the defensive, then back to offense again… and maybe back to defense after that?!? If you’re the CCF/NKPA player, you’ll probably experience that sequence of events. It’s just one of the many great features of this game.

The campaign game is always a nail-biter! Between two players of equal skill, the final outcome will usually be decided in the final turn or two. After 20+ years of playing this game, I’ve never played a game that wasn’t up for grabs at least until the last two turns. Many times it was undecided until the last few minutes of play!


Movement/Combat

Both armies are regulated, for purposes of movement and combat (and certain other operations, such as Entrenchment), via “Operations” and “Action Points”. Each turn, players take turns rolling dice to see how many “Operations” they can execute. An Operation, generally speaking, represents one unit performing movement and/or combat. Each time a player rolls the die, he may be granted from 0 to 3 Operations, so one can never be sure exactly who will be moving next, and how much activity will be allowed. It’s kind of an expanded version of the “chit pull” system common in many board games.

The Korean War Board Game Review

The exact number of attacks or movement points that can be expended is governed by the 3 “Action Points” allowed per Operation. For example, under normal conditions, a unit may expend 1 Action Point to spend 4 movement points, then spend a second Action Point to attack, then a third Action Point to move again (assuming the attack successfully removed the obstacle of the defending unit). It could also attack, move, then attack again. Or spend all 3 Action Points on movement, etc.

The laws of Probability being what they are, the Operational allowances usually balance out over the course of an entire game. But on any given turn, the Operational sequence can have a dramatic impact on the ability of each side to execute their operational plans.

Combat in The Korean War is a fairly standard business with combat odds ratios, supply status , armor and air support, and defensive terrain modifiers, along with a die roll, determining a point on a combat matrix that decides the resolution of the battle. Combatant units may be eliminated, degraded, and/or forced to retreat. Destroyed U.S. and U.N. units may be “reconstituted” and brought back into play after a delay of a few Action Phases, while ROK, NKPA, CCF, and USSR units are permanently destroyed.


Supply/Logistics

The game’s supply rules are appropriate for the scale of the game and are not onerous, as can sometimes be the case. I know that real war is primarily a logistics exercise, but this is not real war; it’s a game. And games that are primarily logistics exercises appeal to a smaller segment of the gaming community. The Korean War will appeal to a much broader segment of gamers.

The Korean War Board Game Review

In a nutshell, players are required to position Supply Depots on the map and to provision these Depots with “Supply Points” that can be expended. The more points expended, the more powerful the Depot. An “Accelerated” or “Offensive” Depot acts as a force multiplier, effectively multiplying a unit’s attack strength by 1.5 or 2, respectively. Conversely, the limiting or absence of supply will reduce a unit’s attack strength to ½ or ¼. Players will often agonize over decisions about supply allocation when their forces are located on multiple, separated areas of the map. You can beef up one sector at the expense of the others, or try to balance the allocation.

Supply is a key consideration that will directly impact combat operations, but it’s managed beautifully and does not detract from the enjoyment of the game at all.


Air Power

The Korean War Board Game Review

With the exception of a special rule for the very first Action Phase of the game, only the U.N. player has air power. Air units are allocated between tactical (Close Air Support) and operational (Interdiction) missions, as the U.N. player sees fit. As you would expect, Close Air Support provides a direct, albeit limited, benefit to U.N. combat actions, whereas Interdiction hampers the enemy’s supply and movement capabilities on a province by province basis. It’s fairly abstract, which is a good thing at this scale, and does not bog the game down with air combat minutiae.


h2>Scenarios

There are five non-Campaign scenarios:

  • 1. The Invasion of South Korea – Identical to the first four turns of the Campaign game, but without the political decisions.
  • 2. The United Nations Strike Back – The U.N. final defense of the “Pusan Perimeter”, the U.N. breakout and counter-offensive, and the aggressive northward pursuit of the retreating NKPA.
  • 3. The Chinese Intervene – The initial, massive CCF offensive against 8th Army along the border between North Korea and China.
  • 4. The United Nations Resurgent – After the rout of 8th Army and its retreat south of the South Korean capital city of Seoul, the U.N. regains it equilibrium and, under aggressive new leadership, launches offensives which drive the enemy out of South Korea.
  • 5. Defeat Into Victory – This is a combination of Scenarios 1 and 2.

These are all very competitive scenarios, which pretty closely parallel the different operational phases of the campaign game (as specified in the bullet points for “Operational Aspects”, above).

Most games at this scale provide smaller scenarios so they don’t scare off the “2-hour attention span” crowd. Unfortunately, I’ve found that most short scenarios are dull and/or unbalanced. It’s as if they were just thrown in to provide an alternative to the full length game, without regard to playability or play balance (which is probably true in most cases).

Once again, The Korean War is the exception to the rule. Most of the scenarios are quite competitive and tension filled. The one exception (maybe) is the “United Nations Strike Back” scenario that, although it models that period of the war quite well, really does not provide a “fun” game for the CCF/NKPA player, at least in my opinion. Could just be personal bias: I hate any game that has “exit units off the north edge of the map” as a victory condition. To me that’s not a war game as much as a mobility exercise, as your units make ridiculous maneuvers to circumvent enemy units in their mad rush to get off the board… never mind that they’re leaving half the enemy army in their rear. While the “Chinese Intervene” scenario has a bit of “exiting off the map edge” thing going on, it doesn’t interfere with player behavior as much as in “United Nations Strike Back”. Try playing them both and you’ll see what I mean.

Although the Scenarios are good, the Campaign Game is really where it’s at. It’s hard to go back to playing the scenarios after you’ve run through the Campaign once or twice, although I still find the scenarios a great teaching aid for new players, and a necessity for any type of single-sitting or tournament play.


Winning the Game

Each of the five non-Campaign scenarios has its own victory conditions, usually involving the accumulation of Victory Points. In these scenarios, Victory Points can be awarded for controlling cities, destroying enemy units, or exiting units off a particular map edge.

The Korean War Board Game Review

In the Campaign game, victory points are awarded only to the U.S. player. Victory Points are gained by controlling victory point cities (as specified by the numbers on the map), and are accumulated from turn to turn. Victory Points can be lost due to Global Tension. For each Global Tension Level, 1 to 6, subtract five Victory Points from the U.N. Victory Point total.

There are three ways victory is decided in the Campaign game:

  • World War III – If the Global Tension level reaches 7, the game ends immediately in a CCF/NKPA “Decisive Victory”.
  • Military Victory – There are certain geographical objectives (i.e. cities) which must be controlled by each player in order to claim a Military Victory at the end of any game turn.
  • Game Turn 12 – If the game goes the distance, the U.N. player’s Victory Point total determines the level of victory (i.e. “UN Decisive Victory”, “Draw”, “NK Marginal Victory”, etc.).

Unlike many other games, the Victory Point range for a “Draw” is rather narrow, so this is not a common outcome. In the vast majority of games, one side or the other will achieve some level of victory (Marginal, Substantive or Decisive).


Summary

By every measure that you could possibly set as the “gold standard” for a military board game, The Korean War: June 1950-May 1951 meets or exceeds the standard. Designer Joe Balkoski really hit a home run with this game. I surveyed my gaming group on Long Island, NY, asking them to list their top 10 favorite games. Only Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage scored higher than Korean War as a group favorite.

Some of my favorite aspects of the game are:

  • High replay value. Each game I’ve played developed and ended quite distinctly from all the other games, i.e. different winner, type of victory, level of victory, etc. I’ve seen games end up with the Chinese well into South Korea, and other times with the CCF virtually destroyed and U.N. units all over North Korea, as well as Military Victories for both sides and, of course, World War III due to excessive Global Tension. It’s not that the game system fosters random results. It’s more the fact that the variety of strategic, operational and tactical options allows for a wide range of results, much as the real war could have.
  • A simple movement and combat system.
  • Low counter density (even when a zillion Chinese units appear, it’s still manageable because there’s no stacking for the Chinese; it’s a max of one unit per hex).
  • Continuous action (with the possibility of a brief lull in the action at the point where the U.N. is deciding the right moment to cross the 38th Parallel into North Korea).
  • Both players are fully engaged at all times.
  • Challenging, competitive game scenarios.
  • FUN TO PLAY (we often forget about this measure of game quality).

Some gamers like certain games because of the historical period (i.e. Civil War buffs like Civil War games). Although my father served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, I am not and have never been a Korean War buff. So it’s kind of interesting that my favorite military history book is “The Forgotten War: Korea” by Clay Blair, and my favorite military board game is “The Korean War: June 1950-May 1951”. I suppose the military and political circumstances of the period make the Korean War such an interesting subject and, in that sense, this game is an accurate reflection of the conflict. I can’t recommend this game highly enough, and hope this review will encourage others to give it a try.

Battle for Baghdad: Board Game Review

Opinions heard ’round the table: Battle for Baghdad

We’ve been giving this game quite a workout out here on Long Island in NY. Most opinions are generally positive, but not all. Each quote block, below, is an (anonymous) comment heard around the gaming tables. I thought that gamers looking for information about this game might find this useful even though it is not a formal or organized review.
battleforbaghdad_rv2_fig1


Each player has to buy more Arms Bazaar cards in the beginning to insure they possess the offensive and defensive cards to protect their command cards and hopefully neutralize the enemy command cards before fighting a crucial battle. Also, by collecting more Arms Bazaar cards someone is more likely to have the Collateral Damage card and the other event cards that can negate the play of a particular offense and defense card. This puts the US player in a bind because he can’t afford to buy back his nuetralized Command Cards as they will simply cost too much. It also puts the other factions in a bind because they can’t guarantee they will win a particular battle!That’s why I think we should play it more and see how we can develop various strategies. I suspect that the game is not imbalanced once we discover all the subtleties of the system.


I think it’s too chaotic to be a good game. By that I mean that I think the game is too influenced by the cards you draw and there’s too much of a luck element. What it looks like to me is that they created the very nice map and sent it off to the printer, then created the very nice cards and sent them off to be printed, and finally started working on a set of rules to tie the whole thing together but ran out of money and/or time before they could finish the job. So you’ve got some strategic elements–occupying areas and then building infrastructure to allow you to build up security–but you don’t really have the time to do any of that. It matters more what cards you draw than what moves you make.The combat system is interesting but I think the command cards are too powerful vis a vis the forces involved and getting your command card knocked out by an attack card is too devastating and too random (since it’s based on what cards you’re able to play).

The game seems to want to be a beer & pretzels type game but also wants to have some simulation elements and I think it would have done better to just go for the b&p.


Actually, I think the chaos in the game is about right for Baghdad. I believe the combat system would work if players had the patience to develop a hand of appropriately powerful cards before rushing in to combat. We really didn’t even get down to half of the Arms Bazaar deck!There are many cards that can negate a perfect attack and defense card combo. I also think that each faction has to adopt different strategies and be as subtle as possible so their strategy is not obvious to the other players. We tend to stress the combat aspect too much and don’t utilize the politics of the game as much as we should.

For example, I realized playing the US that your only real asset is the proficiency of your forces. I could occupy areas and actually try for the standard win (120 total Political Points, with each controlled zone counting as 10 points, plus the sum of the Political Point markers held) if I could hold 8 or 9 areas. In doing that I had to make sure I didn’t accidentally separate the Sunnis and the Shities, which would trigger a victory for the Iraqi Government player. I also had to try to grab 40 or so Political Points. Attacking a nice big juicy group of Sunnis or Shiites is a great way for me to gain Political Points. So the other players should try not to form big stacks. Or they should wait to get the Collateral Damage card and then use that against the USA (causing all Political Points won in the battle to be transferred to the loser instead of the winner).


I really think each player has to find his own strategy to victory. I also have begun to realize just how important the Arms Bazaar cards are. They are probably more important than any onboard maneuvering until you make your move to win. Players have to patiently build a hand that is useful to their strategy. You also have to manipulate the cost of the cards with astute Initiative bids to lock out the players poor in Political Points so they can’t afford to buy Arms Bazaar cards. Also going first or second to get an early pick of the Arms Bazaar cards and also know what’s out there for the other players to select can be important.I still don’t think we have figured out all the possible strategies for each player and I doubt whether a given “go to” strategy is even possible for each player because of the richness of possible player interactions and the variety of possible card interactions.

I really think this game has amazing variety which really leaves it open to a multitude of potential strategies. It also means it’s replay value is very high. Having said all of that, I feel we still have only scratched the surface!


It may be true that the game would be different if we played it out to the bottom of the Arab Street deck but I don’t know if that’s likely to ever happen. I think that would require some stability in the positions on the board, with players mostly building up their strength and expanding into open areas. But once a big battle or two takes place or someone decides to try for the win, the situation becomes destabilized and people will start attacking each other. Then, all strategy & tactics disappear. They’ll either be trying to stop the leader or jumping on someone who has become overextended or weakened. Someone will always be threatening to win.One of the problems with the game is the combat system, which has some good ideas in it but which I don’t think works very well. The main question in any combat is: how many units do you commit to the battle? That sounds like a very interesting question with a lot of ramifications but it’s actually simple enough to reduce to a formula: n + x = y + z + 1 where n is the number of units you commit, x is the value of your Command card, and y and z are the number of units and the value of the Command card your opponent commits. So on the one hand, this is a really simple decision, but on the other it’s impossible since the values for x, y, and z are completely unknowable! You don’t even know the value of your own Command card since it could get neutralized. So it’s at the same time simplistic, but there are so many possibilities that it amounts to a wild guess.

And so having the loser discard his played Arms Bazaar cards while the winner retains his seems unduly harsh. Losing a battle can be devastating but since it’s more luck dependent than skill dependent the consequences can seem unfair. I think I’d rather see the Command cards be harder to neutralize, have both players discard the Arms Bazaar cards they use, and have them retain at least some of their units after the battle.


Get to know the Arms Bazaar card deck very quickly and very well. I would have played things much differently had I known there was a card that could nullify my victory (i.e. the Global Media card).Ignorance of the Arms Bazaar deck is no excuse.


I agree that this is not a game for perfect intelligence and optimal combat tactics. However it is realistic and does provide for some tense, difficult decisions in a battle. The possibility of getting your Command card neutralized must be weighed with the potential benefits of a victory ( in game terms this probably means garnering Political Points). Thus there is a real risk to participating in combat and the potential for reduced fighting abilities in the future. Therefore combat should not be entered into lightly. Also, one must “prepare” the battlefield by making sure he has strong offensive and defensive supporting Arms Bazaar cards to play in combat before the decision is made to have a battle.In all, I think this system is much more clever than a system of adding up combat factors and rolling a die on a combat results table. Both methods have randomness to them but I think this system requires more planning and provides more tension and fog of war.


While the Arms Bazaar cards are important, they are also pretty random. In a recent game, I moved last almost every turn and so never really got a choice of what Arms Bazaar card I was going to get. I was just handed the last card each turn and that was it. Despite that, I somehow wound up with an almost pat hand of offense/defense cards! I had two different cards of each type along with a fifth useful card for most of the game. This wasn’t skill on my part, it was just lucky card drawing and I don’t think it’s a surprise that the two winners of the game had the best combat cards.Despite having good cards, I still needed luck to win battles. One of my defense cards blocked Terrorist Attacks & Raids while the other blocked Precision Munitions. So any battle would come down to a 50-50 chance of my choosing the correct defense card for what my opponent was using against me. Since if I lost the battle the cards would also be gone, that would really damage my future combat strength if I made a bad random choice of defense cards.


The most interesting game I’ve played in a long time! Congratulations to MCS Group for dreaming up this gem! I’ve played the game six times so far, utilizing 4, 5 and 6 players, and every game has been completely different than all the rest. Lots of replay value.


My bigger gripe about the game is not the victory conditions, but more the card mechanics. For a CDG I think the deck design is very poorly put together. The Battle Cards are a random mix of offenses, defenses, special effects, some battle related, some not, and, I don’t know what. Combine that with the need to buy cards and I think the system is way out of kilter. Without Political Points to buy cards you are all but certain to not have enough ooomph to win any conflict, and that means no way to obtain new Political Points. Admittedly I had the low faction on the totem pole (The Jihadi), but I saw it with others to some extent as well. On the other end of the spectrum, once you can collect a decent amount of Political Points, you can keep buying cards, discarding the cards you don’t want or need, until you have a tailor made hand. So at the two ends you have players with almost no new card drawing ability each turn, hoping that the luck of the draw gives them a good card with their one free draw versus players that can buy 10 cards at a pop, dumping the dross and ending up with a tailor made hand. Not much fun there. And I am at somewhat of a loss how the ability to buy cards is tied to victory points.

Making Special Forces “Special” in Gulf Strike

Tactics for Proper Employment of U.S. Special Forces in Victory Games Gulf Strike


Overview

One of the most overlooked and misused U.S. assets in Gulf Strike are the U.S. Special Forces (specifically, in this game, 5th Special Forces Group and a Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment). Until you’ve actually played your way through the entire Scenario 2 or 3, it’s hard to understand the full impact of the Soviet “avalanche comin’ down the mountain” towards the hapless Iranians and light American ground forces. As the U.S. player you need to maximize each advantage the game presents you. One such advantage in Gulf Strike is the U.S. Special Forces. Provided that they’re used correctly. This article examines the various usages of U.S. Special Forces and provides some specific examples of how they can be put to best use in Scenarios 2 and 3.
Continue reading “Making Special Forces “Special” in Gulf Strike”

Battle for Baghdad: Initial Impressions

A Different Mindset: Playing Battle for Baghdad

Having just a handful of Battle for Baghdad sessions under my belt, this article can only provide some initial impressions of the game. I’ll attempt to provide a good summary, mainly useful to someone who has not played the game before, and provide some opinions of game features including examples for clarity. This review will be revised and expanded in the future as my mastery of the game increases and my opinions fluctuate.

Battle for Baghdad Review - Title Graphic

It’s true that Battle for Baghdad is definitely not a standard war game. But it is definitely not a “Euro” game either. It’s extremely interactive and competitive, generating quite a bit of combat each turn. In fact, any time two or more factions end the Recruit/Move phase in the same zone, there MUST be combat until only one faction is left standing.

My first bit of praise for the game stems from the fact that competent play requires a mindset totallly different from any other game that I have played. That’s a good thing, in my opinion. The game comes complete with extended examples of play as well as strategy tips for each faction. The strategy tips were extremely helpful. It probably would have taken hours and hours of game play (and mindset adjustment) to learn those lessons on my own (not that learning from experience is a bad thing…).

FYI: For some reason the downloadable rules on the MCS Group web site are not the final version of the rules that shipped with the game (at least when I last checked the site on 5/29/2010), so be aware of that.

Factions

The game can be played by 3 to 6 players, with each player representing one of the following factions: U.S., Sunni, Shiite, Iraqi Government, Al Qaeda and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO). With less than 6 players the NGO, Al Qaeda, and U.S. players (in that order) are ignored. Each faction has strengths and weaknesses. Some have special capabilities. For example the NGO player is exempt from the forced combat rules and may “coexist” in a zone with any other player. As another example of factional differences , the U.S. player is allowed to make 3 “moves” per turn, while the NGO player can only make 1. A big part of the game is knowing the capabilities of your opponents.

Each faction also has unique reinforcement “spawning” location restrictions. Some factions have special movement capabilities (airmobile, tunnel, etc.). In addition to a generic victory condition, each faction retains its own unique victory condition (more about this later).


Cards

It’s not a “card driven game”, in my opinion, because you don’t need cards to move or fight. You could theoretically play the entire game without holding any cards. But you won’t win too many battles without supporting Command Cards and Arms Bazaar Cards. So it’s true that the cards are an extremely important component of the game.

  • Arab Street” cards represent the needs of the city’s inhabitants; a need that should be met by one of the factions, or a power vacuum that must be filled. Each card assigns “political points” to one or more city zones. Each faction that feels capable will then compete to control those zones, thus collecting the political points.
  • Command” cards function much like combat units in that they have a combat strength, but also have a command type (Conventional vs. Unconventional) that,when compared against opponent’s cards, may result in some type of combat benefit or hindrance (more details on this in a forthcoming strategy article).
  • Arms Bazaar” cards may be the most important cards. They are not revealed to other players until used. They can provide offensive or defensive benefits, versus the oponent’s Command card. At times, they represent literal events and other times they represent abstract capabilities. For example, there is a “Desertion” card that could force X number of enemy units to switch factions at the start of combat, and can be played against any player, including the U.S. player. I don’t think it’s meant to represent U.S. units literally defecting to Al Qaeda, but rather a nasty surprise upon discovering that your enemy had capabilities you were not aware of, or that your own units were not as proficient as you anticipated. The Arms Bazaar cards also have secondary functionality that allows them to be played in certain combinations. I’ve only scratched the surface in learning how to best utilize these combinations, but they seems quite interesting (see the “Arms Bazaar Cards” section of the rules where they briefly describe these combinations).

Combat

Combat occurs when more than one faction occupies a zone, and is always a contest between exactly two factions. So, for example, if three factions occupied the same zone, two of them will fight to the death, and then the remaining two will fight a separate combat. The order in which the combats are resolved is determined by the player turn order. In a three way contest between U.S., Sunni and Shiite factions, if the U.S. player goes first in the intiative order he will select either the Sunni or Shiite as his opponent. In any case, there will only be one faction left standing in the zone at the conclusion of the turn. (not considering the special NGO exemption).

The combat sequence requires a bit of adaptive thinking. Each player secretly chooses a “Command” Card (if he still has one) and secretly commits zero or more of his combat units that are currently present in the zone. This constitutes the players’ “force” for the combat. In addition, he may assign one Offensive and one Defensive “Arms Bazaar” card to the battle. After comparing cards and applying the effects (players may be able to “neutralize”, or eliminate, the opponent’s Command card), which ever side has the largest force remaining, wins. Here’s the unusual part: The loser of the battle loses EVERY ONE of his combat units, but the winner only loses the number of units he secretly committed. So, if you commit zero units, you don’t lose anything! Here’s a practical example:

U.S. Combat vs Sunni Player

  • U.S. player has a 6 point Command card and 6 units in the zone.
  • Sunni player has a 2 point Command card and 3 units in the zone.
  • The U.S. player could take a gamble and commit ZERO combat units and just rely on his 6 point Command card to win the battle.
  • Assuming the Sunni player commits all 3 of his combat units and cannot neutralize the U.S. Command card, the U.S. player would win the battle since his 6-point Command card is greater than the sum of the Sunni Command card (2) + combat units (3).
  • The Sunni player would lose all 3 of his combat units and the U.S. player would lose none.
  • The winner is entitled to a variable number of Political Points.

Of course, the unpredictability of the “Arms Bazaar” cards could turn this battle completely in favor of the Sunni player, and it could end up being the U.S. player who loses his entire force. To completely turn things upside down, there is a “Collateral Damage” Arms Bazaar card that takes the Politcal Points away from the winner and grants them to the loser instead!

As interesting as it is, I’m still not convinced that this combat system will stand the test of time. It seems to heavily favor the U.S. player, which makes perfect sense. But if there’s just no possibility of defeating the U.S. in combat, then why even have the combat sequence? Why not just abstract it out and make the game a purely political strategy game? At this point, I’m perfectly willing to concede that this is just a side effect of my inexperience with the game. For now.

Review Update: I have seen the U.S. player defeated in battle on more than one occasion, so it is possible. Add the “Terror Spectacular” and “WMD Attack” Arms Bazaar cards into the mix and any of the factions is capable of clearing any zone on the map, including zones occupied by powerful U.S. forces. These two cards cause ALL units, both friendly and enemy, in the zone to be eliminated, with the player who played the card awarded the Political Points for enemy units killed. Makes the U.S. player quite cautious almost to the point of being paranoid. Although I have to agree that it’s is a bit unnerving to see a single Sunni unit just march into the Green Zone while it’s chock full of U.S. units. Of course he could be bluffing…….


Winning the Game

The game ends in one of two ways:

  • The last Arms Bazaar card is drawn.
  • One of the factions meet the general or specific victory conditions.

I particularly like the way Victory conditions drive player behavior. There’s a universal victory condition (120 political points, I think) that represents total dominance of the city. So far, in the few games we’ve played, only the U.S. player has come close to that.

In addition, each player has a unique victory condition, which makes the game truly interesting. For example, the Iraqi Government player’s unique victory condition is to create a situation where no Sunni and Shiite units are in adjacent zones. That’s it. Just separate the kids so they can’t fight… and he wins! Of course that’s easier said than done. I actually pulled it off in the first game I played, but that was because none of the other players were sufficiently familiar with the victory conditions to see it coming. Not likely to happen that easily again…

It’s still too soon to tell if the victory conditions are balanced or not. I’m just dying to see a game where the NGO player wins! The designers have given this some thought, apparently, since the rules state that if no one meets their victory conditions by the time the Arms Bazaar deck is depleted, then the NGO player wins. If there’s no NGO player, the Al Qaeda player wins by default. So, these players have the most incentive to insure that no other factions succeed.


Player Interaction

There are no restrictions on player negotiation and overt or covert deal-making. As is common in multi-player games, everyone tends to gang up on the current front-runner. If a player can control the initiative and set himself up to be the last player in a given turn, he can arrange a sequence of combat actions and events that can decide the game in his favor quite quickly. In other words, it does not appear to be one of those multi-player games that just goes on forever.


Summary

Battle for Baghdad has all the elements of a great game. Now it’s up to the gaming community to determine if all the element mesh into a coherent whole. So far, this game has completely grabbed my interest and I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve spent playing. I also suspect that the replay value will be off the charts, which is super important nowadays when games like this are quite pricey.

Some gamers have a problem with some of the game mechanics, like the aforementioned case where U.S. troops could “defect” to Al Qaeda, or just the general concept that an NGO might actually have “troops” and engage in combat with other factions. I have no problem at all with these abstract representations and don’t think they detract from the game at all. I recommend you give this game a try.

After a few more sessions, I’ll update this review where I think it necessary.

Washington’s War: First Look (Review)

Introduction

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


Components

Washington's War Review

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


Rules Organization

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

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

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


Setup

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


Examples

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


Playing the Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Winning the Game

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

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


Summary

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

Aegean Strike: Review

Introduction

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

Aegean Strike Board Game - Title Graphic

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

Components

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

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

Rules Organization

Aegean Strike - Game Box Cover

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

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

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


Setup

Zoom in on Istanbul

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

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

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


Examples

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


Playing the Game

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

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

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

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

Naval Operations

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

Air Operations

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

Ground Operations

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

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


Special Forces

Aegean Strike Board Game - Special Forces unit

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

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


Play Balance

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

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


Scenarios

A quick summary of the available game scenarios:

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

Summary

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

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