Tag: War Game Strategy

Strategy articles pertaining to board games classified as “war games”

Raid on Iran: Mission Briefing

Strategy, Success and Failure in ‘Raid on Iran’

by Mark D. & Tony Stroppa

Raid on Iran Board Game Replay Title Graphic


Overview

RAID ON IRAN, published by Steve Jackson Games back in 1980, has become one of my favorites over the last 30+ years. I don’t consider it a brilliant design or a showpiece of conflict simulation, but I do find it enjoyable, challenging and possessed of a depth that allows for virtually unlimited replay without getting stale. And that’s good enough for me.
Continue reading “Raid on Iran: Mission Briefing”

Bar Lev: The Yom-Kippur War 1973 – A Board Game Review

Nearly 40 and Still Going Strong

By Mitch Freedman

barlev_rv1_title

Why would anyone want to read about a game that is almost 40 years old, let alone write about it?

Well, there are lots of answers. One of the best is that sometimes a game manages to give something that stays interesting no matter how long its been around. And while its not exactly fair to compare Bar Lev to Monopoly or Scrabble, it does have a cult following that has never died. On top of that, its innovative combat systems are still fun to play even today.

Besides, its not quite gone. You can still find copies of Bar Lev (designed by John Hill and published by Conflict Games in 1974) out in the world of E-bay Continue reading “Bar Lev: The Yom-Kippur War 1973 – A Board Game Review”

Empire of the Sun: In An Afternoon

Strategies for the 1943 Scenario in Mark Herman’s “Empire of the Sun”

by Tom Thornsen

eots_st1_title

Credits: Awesome Robert Bailey painting titled “Imperial Sacrifice”

Overview

Many of you who read Mark D’s review of Empire of the Sun may have looked into it further and decided “No, a game with a long learning curve that takes 10 to 12 hours or more to play is not for me.” Other than playing the game with someone very familiar with it, there isn’t much that can be done about the learning curve, but there is something that can be done about the playing time. The 1943 scenario is an excellent game for learning the system from either side of the table. This scenario has been used in the preliminary rounds of the WBC tournament for the last couple of years and has proven to be very balanced with some very exciting games.

The scenario starts with the Japanese Empire at their peak and the allies just starting to field forces sufficient enough to contest further advances and conduct some limited offensives of their own. The Guadalcanal campaign is over in the South Pacific and the allies are ready to take the offensive in New Guinea. The Japanese have conquered Burma and are planning offensives into Northern India. Both sides must be on the offensive in some part of the map to be successful, while defending in other areas. Victory will depend on how successful these campaigns are as the allied strength builds and the Japanese forces, with their very limited replacement and reinforcement rate, fade away.

If you played the game once or twice and are familiar with the mechanics, then this scenario can be played to completion in about 3 hours. There are a lot of moving parts in this game, so set up time is not insignificant. You will have to sort the counters and consult the rules for set up to properly place them all. Just as important is the construction of each player’s card deck. Many event cards are already out of the game and many of the good Japanese offensive events are in the discard pile. When you include the set up time for the game you should expect to dedicate 3.5 to 4 hours. I have my units and counters sorted for the 1943 scenario, since that is what I usually play, which facilitates set up a great deal.

Perhaps the one item that slows the game down the most is the one we all ask the first time we set up the game and look at our first hand of cards. “What do I do now?” This is when you look up the victory conditions and attempt to figure out what you can do with your cards and units available to achieve them. The victory conditions for this scenario offer several paths to victory for both sides. This article will help get you started down the road to playing by answering that question.


Japanese Options

The Japanese control the Australian Mandates (+3) and the Burma Road is closed (+1), while the US Political Will is 6 (-1) for a total of 3VPs. The Japanese need at least 6VP to win, so they have to get to work early. By the end of this scenario the allied forces are going to be picking up VPs that the Japanese cannot contest, so the greater the VP count on the last turn the more risks the allies will have to take.

China-Burma-India (CBI)

There is a treasure trove of VPs in Northern India for the Japanese. Each of the five hexes of Northern India (1905, 2005, 2104, 2105, 2205) is worth 1VP with the 2VP bonus for control of all five. In addition, control of all 5 hexes at the end of the game will result in India being in Unrest on the India Status Chart for an additional VP, resulting in a total of 8VPs.

Empire of the Sun Board Game - Northern India

But wait, there’s more! If the Japanese can achieve this result by the end of the second turn (turn 6), there are event cards that could move the India Status marker to Unstable for yet another 2VPs on turn 7. If the Japanese can play one of these events and hold the Northern India hexes against all allied attacks on turn 7, then that is 2 more VPs for a total of 10VPs. There are several Japanese event cards that either move the India Status marker or negate SEAC HQ offensives and these should be considered for play to the Future Offensives Queue if it looks like you will have a chance to use them.

There is one more threat here that the allies cannot ignore, and that is the conquest of China. While the cards and dice have to cooperate for this to happen, there is much to be gained by keeping this threat in play. The fall of China and the -2 US Political Will associated with it is 7VPs, plus the allies will be reduced to a six card hand on the last turn. Once this damage is done there is no way for the allies to undo it. The China marker starts in the Major Breakthrough box of the Chinese Government Front Status track. The Japanese start the game with a successful China offensive event as their Future Offensive card. If they can draw another China offensive event in their first two hands of cards, that will move the marker adjacent to the Government Collapsed box. The only way to move the marker to the last box is the play of an OC3 card for Operation points and make a China Offensive die roll.

Empire of the Sun

This die roll may only be attempted on the second turn of the scenario (turn 6). The chance of success is very poor if the Hump is still active. If Dacca is controlled to shut down the Hump for an allied support die roll modifier of 0, even if you took 2 divisions out of China for reinforcements and the Allies still have an air unit in the China box the chance of success is still 50%. Well worth the effort.

The forces available at start in this area are insufficient to make much progress. Early in the game the Japanese must redeploy significant army ground and air units to this area, especially the 20 factor elite army air units. Playing a card for Operation points limits the player to a single declared battle hex. Only by playing Operational Events can the attacker declare more than one battle hex. Many of the big Operational events in the Japanese deck limit the number of ground units that can be activated to none or one. The big air units will be required to pummel and pin down allied units, as well as attrit the allied air and naval power and provide air cover for attacking ground units.

North Pacific

Attu/Kiska (hex 4600) starts occupied by Japan for 2 turns, so if the Japanese still control the space after the first turn (turn 5) there will be a loss of 1 US Political Will (Rule 16.42).

Empire of the Sun Board game

Since event cards that move the US Political Will marker are only playable for Operation points in any scenario, this is often the only time the US Political Will marker moves in the scenario. Is it significant because moving the marker from 6 to 5 is a difference of 2VPs (from -1VP to +1VP). By using 1 army activation and an Amphibious Shipping Point (ASP) the reduced Japanese 27th army at Hokkaido (3704) can be used to reinforce the space, which makes any allied attempt to capture it almost prohibitive.

If occupied at the end of any turn, the islands of Kauai (5708) and Hawaii(5908) each give 1VP, while Oahu (5808) awards 3VP. This requires having a full strength unit survive the turn there, as all are outside of the supply range of any Japanese HQ. None of these are likely unless the US army forces abandon Oahu. This becomes a creditable threat if the Japanese move all of the troops in range of Combined Fleet HQ into range of other HQs, then use a card to remove the Combined Fleet HQ to the turn track and enter it as reinforcement on turn 6 at Kwajalein (4715) in the Marshall Islands. This will surely draw the attention of the allied player to that area and they will promptly reinforce those areas. With the major commitment of units and card play that this requires, it is rarely attempted unless the US navy has met with a disaster during the turn.

However, Combined Fleet HQ at Kwajalein also creates a forward threat to the Solomons (the island chain that includes Guadalcanal (4423)) and South Pacific, which might stretch the allied defense and leave other options.

South Pacific and Dutch East Indies

For the most part, the Japanese will be on the defensive in these areas. There are 5VP available if there is no LOC between Townsville (3727) and Oahu (5808), but it will be difficult to achieve this condition at the end of the game in the face of the overwhelming naval power the allies should have on the last turn. The most important objective here is to maintain control of Rabaul, and with it the Australian Mandates. Should the allies gain control of the Australian Mandates the Japanese will lose their 3VP plus a -3VP for allied control for a total loss of 6VP.

Empire of the Sun Board Game

It is important to garrison ports and Resource spaces, as this will require the allied player to declare a battle hex by attacking them. The allied player will be hard pressed to make progress if he draws a hand with only two or three offensive events that allow multiple battle hexes to be declared. For some ideas on what to defend, read the section on allied priorities.


The Allied Options

The scenario starts with the VP count as an Allied Tactical victory, just 1 VP short of an Allied Decisive victory. If you can only foil all the Japanese initiatives, then victory is yours. Doing so is far more difficult that it would appear at first. The Japanese have the benefit of interior lines and can shift their forces between areas much quicker than the allies. This forces some long term planning on the allies, especially when it comes time for reinforcements and replacements.

China-Burma-India (CBI)

While the forces at start here slightly favor the allies, you are sitting on a virtual gold mine of Japanese VPs and they are likely to send significant army forces to reinforce this front. The allied ability to reinforce this front is…almost nonexistent. There is a path of 28 sea hexes from Darwin (3023) to Madras (1406), but the moment the Japanese place an air unit in Medan (1813) or Tjilatjap (2019) the SR path is blocked and an allied carrier would have to attack that base to allow ground units to SR between those ports.

Empire of the Sun Board Game

Your seven commonwealth ground steps and four Chinese ground steps are going to be hard pressed to hold on, but do your best. Dacca (1905) is the key position, as control of that one space at the end of the game will keep India stable and limit the Japanese to no more than 4VP for the CBI theater.

Since the allies play first in the scenario, one line of play is to open with an offensive in this area to attrit the Japanese ground forces, gain ground and get the remaining Chinese units into play. The objective of such an offensive is the occupation of hexes 2108 and 2208, which will put all Japanese units north of that line Out of Supply. If successful it could delay the Japanese advance considerably, but if unsuccessful it could accelerate the Japanese offensive.

Another line of play, which can be used in addition to the early offensive, is to remove S. PAC HQ from play with a card play, then have it return to play at Madras. This will permit the entry of US ground and naval forces to this area as long as the HQ is in supply. The arrival of XXIV corps in this area as a turn 6 reinforcement is a boon to the defense. Since S. PAC HQ cannot activate any commonwealth units, it has limited uses for offensive actions in this area.

North Pacific

As noted in the Japanese section, the US Political Will drops by 1 if you do not have a ground unit in Attu/Kiska at the end of the turn. The 8 factor Marine Brigade and the BB Mississippi could attempt to land there with an OC3, but Combined Fleet HQ is in range for reaction and the CVL Junyo in Kure (3407) would react to the battle to turn it away, since the allies have no air factors. Even if you have removed Inter-Service Rivalry (ISR) and can commit the Long Range Bomber (LRB) unit from Dutch Harbor (5100) to the attack, the Japanese have enough naval strength at Kure to make victory in the air naval battle difficult. Even if you win the air/naval battle, Japanese air and naval forces would deny you any positive die roll modifiers in the ground battle, reducing the chance of a successful landing to 70%.

Empire of the Sun Board Game

You could redeploy those units to Dutch Harbor for an attempted landing at Attu/Kiska with an OC1 or OC2 card, but the Japanese have a reduced army they could use to reinforce Attu/Kiska to make a successful landing almost impossible. It is probably worth making the threat, just to force a Japanese reaction. A more likely path to success is a surprise attack with an OC3 card near the end of the turn, when the Japanese may not have a card to change the intel condition.

Probably the greatest impediment to any operation to liberate Attu/Kiska is that it requires a valuable ASP to attack it, and the allies have only 4 ASPs on the opening turn. Progress of War requires them to take four enemy held bases by the end of the turn, and Attu/Kiska does not count toward Progress of War since it is not a named location.

One important objective for Central Pacific HQ is the conquest of the Marshall Islands, and the -3VP it inflicts on the Japanese. Note that the Japanese do not have an Aircraft Zone of Influence (ZoI) over Eniwetok (4415), nor any unit defending that port. The allies could use their opening offensive to land a ground unit there, which is then 50% of the way toward the conquest of the Marshall Islands. The problem is that this base is way beyond the allies’ ability to provide air cover, so any unit there is likely to be OOS by a Japanese air unit at Ponape. You could deploy a carrier there to exert your own air ZoI, but the allies are very short on carrier SPs at the start. The greater threat is a late turn follow up invasion of Kwajalein, which would convert all of the Marshall Island hexes to Allied control at the end of the turn. A boon if Progress of War needs those bases.

South Pacific

While playing defense in Northern India, the Allies must conduct a vigorous offensive in the Solomons and New Guinea. Not only is this important for the Victory points, but it captures enemy bases for Progress of War that, for the most part, do not require ASPs to capture. Let’s go right to the details.

Empire of the Sun Board Game

The allied Future Offensive card at the start of the game is Operation Toenails, which provides a +1drm in ground combat. Driving the Japanese from Lae (3822) should be a high priority at the start with that event. The allies start with control of two New Guinea ports and need 2 more for -1VP. Those two are going to be Lae and Wewak (3720). The sooner they are under allied control, the sooner the allies can start pressing forward for more. The Japanese have two full strength armies on New Guinea, with another at Rabaul (4021). However, they are unlikely to be reinforced with the higher priority going to Northern India, so the sooner you can start to reduce these armies the better. There is no ground unit at Truk, and the Japanese are unlikely to weaken the defense of Rabaul, so press them in New Guinea.

With the fall of Wewak, the allies must press forward into Aitape (3620) and Hollandia (3520) to create two additional threats. Once the allies have Hollandia, the fall of Biak would give the allies control of New Guinea. Control of 4 ports of a Japanese controlled New Guinea is -1VP, but allied control of New Guinea is a loss of 3VP for the Japanese. Hollandia or Aitape also make possible an allied LOC to Palau Island (3416) or Ulithi (3615). Both of these ports are within 11 hexes of Tokyo (3706) and allied control of either of them (in supply at the end of the game) is another -3VP. If the allies can take control of Hollandia by the end of turn 6, they are very likely to have conquered New Guinea and have a port within 11 hexes of Tokyo for a total of -6VP. I will note here that the other two ports that are within 11 hexes of Tokyo are Samar/Leyte (3014) and Saipan/ Tinian (3813). The former is usually well defended and difficult to keep in supply, while Samar/Leyte can be taken if the Marshall Islands have been secured.

In spite of all the above, the focal point of the South Pacific will be Rabaul. There is net swing of 6VP for the transfer of control of the Australian Mandates from the Japanese to the Allies. The allies are going to face many demands for ground units in this scenario, from Northern India to New Guinea to the Solomons, and how they allocate their precious ground units may well determine the victor. One of the important reasons for capturing Hollandia by the end of turn 6 is that the US army corps can then focus on Rabaul. The Japanese are not going to abandon Rabaul, and unless they have reduced their ground forces there to less than an army, a direct landing on Rabaul is unlikely to succeed. The most common approach to investing Rabaul is to land US army corps units adjacent to Rabaul in hex 4022 for an overland march into the port. If things have gone very well (or very poorly) in Northern India, a crafty allied player will land reduced strength corps there for 1 ASP each, then reinforce them to full strength at the start of turn 7 for the final push.

The New Britain hex (4022) is both a blessing and a curse for the allies. A blessing because the hex has no air base so is not eligible for a Special Reaction (Rule 6.27), a curse because it has no air base so any ground unit there subject to a air/naval attack requires a successful inteligence table roll in order to react allied air/naval forces there to defend them. I have seen some Japanese players deploy reduced strength naval marine units into that hex to foil this allied play. By doing so it forces the allied player to declare a battle hex which the Japanese can then react into to either turn back the invasion or send additional ground forces from Rabaul to cause additional allied ground step losses.

Much that is written about the War in the Pacific mainly discusses the air and naval aspect. In this game it is ground units that both sides will decry they lack. In the final analysis, you have to capture and hold terrain, and you need ground units to make that happen. And the ground combat CRT is bloody.

Dutch East Indies

For both sides, this is a peripheral theater of operations. The Japanese control it and have no VPs to gain there. The allies can reduce the VP total by 1 for each Resource hex they control at the end of the game, plus control of 2 of them will reduce the Japanese card draw by one. In a close game the allies should consider stationing a carrier group with a marine unit at Darwin (3023) to at least threaten a landing somewhere. The Japanese will rarely have enough units to cover ALL the resource spaces and will have to count on a successful intel roll to intercept.

The main point to remember here is that any resource space you capture has to be in supply at the end of the game for the -1VP to take effect. The Japanese air unit at Makassar (2620), on the island of Celebes, is the major obstacle to this. Unless the Japanese have relocated an HQ to provide an alternate path, this unit’s supply from South HQ must pass through Balikpapan (2517). Allied occupation or control of Balikpapan will put this unit OOS, which will negate its air ZoI and open supply lines for the allies. If the Japanese deplete the defenses of this area too much, the allied player could cause a lot of trouble by redeploying a carrier task force and a ground unit or two to this area. The command range of Southwest HQ can be a limiting factor, but usually it is a dearth of ground units to spare from the higher priorities that restrict operations here.


Other Things that Both Sides Must Consider

Both sides start the scenario under Inter-Service Rivalry (ISR), which prevents army and navy units from participating in the same operation. This is rarely a major problem for either side, but is certainly a limiting factor. The Allied player likes to use the 6 hex range of the LRB to pin enemy reaction forces at long range when conducting major naval operations, and this won’t be possible under ISR. The Japanese like to pair up reduced armies with naval units as a reaction force against allied naval landings, which won’t be possible under ISR. Drawing an ISR ender event is a bonus that must not be passed up. For the Japanese, and occasionally the allies, this offers the chance to discard a non-playable event (anything that directly affects the US Political Will) and return a good card from the discard pile. The allies have the very valuable “Heroic Repair” event in their discard pile, while the Japanese have several excellent operational events they will want to use in the first couple of turns.

Empire of the Sun Board Game

While a special scenario rule allows you to discard an OC3 card to remove ISR, it is rarely done. The main reason for this is that each side is going to have 7 action rounds per turn, or 21 total for the scenario. The Japanese may well have fewer since they can expect to lose at least 1 card and ASP to Allied Strategic Warfare. Both sides have a lot to accomplish in this scenario, and every one of those 7 actions per turn has to be productive. The more productive player will usually win. Other than the dreaded 0/9 die roll that goes against you in a major air/naval battle, there is little worse than discarding an OC3 to remove ISR only to have your opponent play an ISR event to put you back under ISR then drawing a replacement card!

Empire of the Sun Board Game

And a final word regarding the War in Europe (WiE) Level. This level has no effect on the VP total. The Japanese would need to move it 3 spaces to increase the possible delay of allied reinforcements, but there are so few of them in this scenario that it would be wasteful. The real battle here is the allied attempt to drive the WiE level above 0 which will allow his turn 7 reinforcements to enter the game. As the Japanese player you should consider playing any Major Victory in Europe for the event, keeping in mind that the allies need only a single event card to procure those four naval units. For the allies, any Victory in Europe event is probably better used for the event than the OC2 unless the WiE level is already above 0.

But the “Card Gods” have a sense of humor, and even the allied player lucky enough to drive the WiE level above 0 can run afoul of a turn 6 Submarine Launched Air Attack on the Panama Canal event, which puts those turn 7 units out of the game and allows Japan to draw a replacement card.


Got some feedback for us? Email your opinions and comments to Tom Thornsen.

The Trouble with Kuwait: Gulf Strike (Strategy)

Strategies for Scenario #1 in Victory Games’ Gulf Strike Board Game

Gulf Strike Board Game

Overview

Long before Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi army brought the horrors of war to the kingdom of Kuwait, there was a company called Victory Games and a designer named Mark Herman who postulated that it would likely be Iran who would incite a major war in the Persian Gulf region. Work was begun on a simulation that culminated in Gulf Strike, a board game that addressed a series of potential conflict scenarios in the Persian Gulf, from an Iranian invasion of the Gulf States (US siding with the Gulf States) to a Soviet invasion of Iran (US assisting the Iranian defense).
Continue reading “The Trouble with Kuwait: Gulf Strike (Strategy)”

Caesar’s Gallic War: Strategy Guide

Helpful Hints for Worthington Games’ Caesar’s Gallic War

By Daniel Berger (Designer)

Caesar's Gallic War - Strategy - Title Graphic

Guest columnist Daniel Berger, designer of Caesar’s Gallic War for Worthington Games, pens some useful strategy tips for ‘The Boardgaming Life’ readers.


Background

Caesar’s Gallic War is a two-player game that covers Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul from 58 to 51 BC. One person plays the side of the Romans, while the other plays the side of the Germans, with both players vying for control of the various Gallic tribes. The game is eight turns long, with each turn representing one year.

The game uses blocks and area movement, with simultaneous card play. Players use cards to collect allies, move units and attack or play events. Each Roman unit represents one legion plus auxiliaries, with the Gallic blocks representing the various tribes throughout Gaul. Certain leaders are represented in the game, including Julius Caesar, Vercingetorix and Ariovistus.

The goal for each player is to control the most tribes at the end of the game. Victory points are also awarded for killing certain units. The Germans can win a sudden death victory if they kill Caesar.

The design contains a mix of ideas from Columbia’s Hammer of the Scots and Richard Berg’s Julius Caesar, and some ideas of my own. It is slightly more complex than Hammer in that each card can be used for any one of several different actions, including the ability to sway tribes through activations or political actions, as well as naval movement (including amphibious invasions for the Romans), revolts, supply and wintering, and special leader abilities.

This is my first game design. It was largely inspired after a round robin tournament of Hammer of the Scots I had just participated in, during which time I happened to be tinkering with Julius Caesar, combined with my love of ancient history. I saw a good opportunity to merge some concepts from both games, as well as a general lack of coverage of that particular campaign in the gaming arena, so I took it.

While I do not have any plans to turn this design into a series, I do have other designs I’m working on.


Editor’s Note: Many thanks to Dan Berger for allowing us to publish
his strategy tips here on The Boardgaming Life!
You can get more info about Caesar’s Gallic War on its BoardGameGeek page.

Germans

You have an uphill battle in this game. You’re facing legions that are both stronger and faster than you, and Gauls that will need some “convincing” with regards to the long term threat the Romans pose to them. What’s a barbarian to do?

First and foremost, you must not engage in standup battles with multiple Roman legions outside of fortresses. You will probably lose, and probably very badly. Even if you have the odds in your favor the legions, with their “A” initiative rating, can simply retreat. Your goal is to cause attrition to the legions whenever and wherever possible so you can drain the Romans of their supply points. That typically means fighting only in fortress areas where you get a better initiative rating and a bonus.

Caesar's Gallic War - Trapped Roman Legions
That being said, it is sometimes better to let a tribe fight to the death if the area is doomed to fall anyway, as you wouldn’t want to let the Romans capture the tribe at full strength.

Single legions, on the other hand, may provide a golden opportunity for you to strike. You must not only have the force required to destroy the legion, but be able to cut off any and all retreat routes. Such opportunities are rare, and must be taken whenever possible, even if it potentially means the loss of a tribe in the process. The 3 VP gained from the legion’s destruction far outweighs the loss of a tribe that can be reacquired later. On top of that, it removes the legion from the board for a turn, weakening the Roman presence in general.

Second, you must move Ariovistus and his Germanic hordes out of Germania at the first available opportunity. Ariovistus has the ability to “persuade” neutral Gauls to his cause without a fight. Use it. Even if it should fail, do not be afraid. Ariovistus is a B3, and the rest of the Germans are B2. With their higher initiative rating (and Ariovistus’ higher battle rating) you should be able to dispatch individual tribes with minimal damage.

Moving out of Germania also prevents the Romans from driving up the Rhine and launching an attack into Germania. If you haven’t conquered the Menapi and/or Treveri you could be pinned in Germania and destroyed. This must be avoided at all costs.

Third, take advantage of your ability to play two Neutral Tribe Activations per turn. The goal of the game is to bring the Gauls over to your side. Bring over as many as you can. Typically you’ll want to select fortified areas that you can potentially reinforce the next round, or an area that provides a potential retreat path, away from the Romans. However, if you select a tribe that cannot be reinforced there is a good chance that the Roman player will respond by overrunning the unfortunate tribe before you ever get to use it, making it a useless play. Try to avoid that.

Caesar's Gallic War - Massive Revolt Card

Fourth, don’t forget to use Political Actions! If you find yourself in a position where you’re strong enough to defend but too weak to attack, and you aren’t sure what to do, use your card as a Political Action. Your target, if possible, should be the name of the tribe on the card so that you can get the -1 bonus. If that’s not possible, then your target should either be a fortified area or an area close to Transalpine Gaul. The latter can force the legions back south to deal with the issue and potentially prevent a forced march the next round. The Allobroges or Helvetii are good targets in this case.

The last thing I want to discuss is the Massive Revolt. Remember, even if you don’t draw this card normally, you will be able to put it into your hand if and when the Romans acquire 13 tribes. The Germanic player should avoid the temptation to play this card too early (in fact, you cannot play it on the first turn). In practice you’ll want to wait until at least 54 BC (turn 5) so that you don’t give the Roman player too much time to re-conquer those tribes.

This will give you 4 tribes automatically (plus Vercingetorix) combined with a 3-op move. This is a prime opportunity to surround and destroy one or two legions. On top of that you can now implement one raid per turn. If you see that the Romans have been damaged and are low on supply points, you should take advantage of the opportunity to knock down Roman supply even more.


Romans

You, too, can use Neutral Tribe Activations and Political Actions to bring the Gauls over to your cause, but your primary means of winning the game is via conquest. You have stronger legions with the best possible initiative, and the ability to force march and invade. The question then becomes where to attack and how much force to apply. Unlike your opponent, you must manage your supply as well.

Caesar's Gallic War - Vesontio

In the early stages of the game you should play relatively conservatively. You have powerful legions, but only six of them at the start. Do not leave them in a position that could get them cut off and killed. Use your Gallic allies not only to absorb casualties if necessary, but to protect your legions from possible counterattack.

There are typically two routes to take with the Romans and they each have their advantages. The primary route (and probably the most popular) is the Northern route, where you immediately knock out the Helvetii, and drive up into Sequani territory. This has the advantage of eliminating a powerful tribe that’s close to Transalpine Gaul, while the fortress at Sequani (yes, there is one there, make sure you remember that; see official errata.) provides not only future supply points, but also serves as a potential launching point for raids into Germania itself. From there you can take Mandubii territory and push north into Belgica or towards the coast in order eventually to launch an invasion of Britannia.

The other route is the Western Route. This means capturing Cardurci territory, where you can then drive into Santones territory. This gives you an immediate port from which you can then raid the entire coast, including Britannia. It also then lets you use Political Actions against Britannia. In some ways this approach is more flexible, but it does have the disadvantage of not allowing you to mass your forces against large concentrations of Gauls.

Caesar's Gallic War - Roman Invasion Routes

Whichever path is chosen, you will want to capture the fortified areas whenever and wherever possible. Controlling these areas not only provides supply points each turn, but also deny the enemy a place to concentrate his forces against your legions. Fort busting can be difficult because of the advantages fortified areas provide. This is where Caesar’s special ability comes into play. I would say, unless you have overwhelming force, you should always use Caesar when assaulting a fortified area. His ability to fire before the defenders is crucial not just to winning, but to reducing the number of enemy dice rolled in subsequent rounds.

Once you’ve conquered a territory, the question at the end of every turn will become whether or not to garrison the area or have the legions return to Transalpine Gaul. Here you’ll have to balance several factors, in addition to keeping in mind that Caesar can only winter every other turn. First, how important is the area strategically? Second, can you afford to garrison a legion there given the supply situation? Lastly, how vulnerable are the garrisons to attack?

This is difficult to answer because it depends, in part, on whether or not the Massive Revolt event has been played. Until that event has been played, every legion you leave in the field is susceptible to being cut off and killed in a single stroke. You will definitely not want to leave Caesar in a vulnerable position, or you’ll lose the game instantly. There are two ways to approach this. One is never to garrison an area with more than 1 legion because it limits the potential for VP’s gained by your opponent. The other is to garrison an area with a minimum of two legions (harvest permitting) in order dissuade your opponent from attacking in the first place, especially in fortified areas. Both approaches have their advantages. Generally speaking, however, I typically garrison the fortified areas both because they provide Supply Points and because they’re difficult for your opponent to assault.


Synopsis

Caesar’s Gallic War presents a smaller, but highly disciplined and organized army in the Romans, matched up against a larger but diverse and disorganized German and Gallic adversary. Each side must play to its strengths. For the Romans, that means leveraging your military prowess to its maximum potential while utilizing a political approach where and when necessary, all while managing your logistics. For the Germans, you must know where and when to fight the Romans, while using your superior political advantage to maximum effect.

Got some feedback for us? Email your opinions and comments to Mark. And please visit Dan’s BoardGameGeek page for Caesar’s Gallic War.

Cold War: Strategy – Event Card Advantages

Trying to Capitalize on Built-In Event Deck Biases in “Cold War”

Cold War Board Game


Overview

Victory Games’ Cold War board game has a lot of moving parts and allows a considerable amount of latitude in development of strategies. It’s one of those “if it’s not prohibited by the rules, then it’s allowed” kind of games. It provides card play, diplomacy between the players, and rewards for Vegas-type players who have a knack for card-counting. It’s a light game, in the sense that the rules are not complicated and can be learned in about 15 minutes, but it has enough depth to appeal to veteran war gamers. It has everything except dice. And I dont’ miss the dice at all.

This strategy article will focus on the “card-counting” aspect of the game and will demonstrate how knowledge of the Event Cards can give you an edge in this very competitive game.


Statistics

The basis of any successful card tracking system requires some statistics first. You must know what is available in the deck before you can manipulate that knowledge to your advantage. With that in mind, I present the following statistics below and provide some suggestions as to how this knowledge can be best put to use.

Most Event Cards have three sections of information on them:

  • Action Card – This top section tells us who will be able to draw new Action Cards.
  • Instant Income, No Income, Vital Region SP Increase – This middle section will either list Regions that provide “Instant Income” this turn, Regions that provide “No Income” this turn, or a Region that has it’s SP value permanently Increased from 4 to 6.
  • Power Vacuum – This bottom section lists a Region and one or more turn numbers. If the current turn matches any of those turn numbers, then a “Power Vacuum” occurs in the listed Region.

There are a total of 50 Event Cards, and we will be discussing 46 of them in this article (13 “Instant Income”, 13 “No Income” and 20 “Vital Region SP Increase”). The other four Event Cards are the Game Ends Cards, which we will not be discussing in this article.


Action Card

Some Event Cards contain only one Home Country name under “Action Card” and some contain two Home Country names. In total, each Home Country will appear 7 times solo, and 9 times in conjunction with other Home Countries. Each Home Country will be awarded an Action Card draw exactly 16 times.

The only advantages are those you create during the Action Phases when you can expel opposing Diplomats from your Home Country, and assassinate their Agents, thus limiting their ability to draw Action Cards. But there are no advantages inherent in the Event Cards.

Advantaged Player: None


Vital Region SP Increase

Cold War board game

When a Region appears under “Vital Region SP Increase” on one of the Game Turns specified, and currently contains a Vital Region marker, it is upgraded from its “4” side to its “6” side, making it worth 6 SPs to the associated Home Country player each turn. Each Card that contains a “Vital Region SP Increase” will list one Region and two Game Turns. If the current Game Turn matches one of the Turns on the card, the increase will take place. The following table lists every possible Vital Region along with the turns on which it could potentially be increased.

Vital Region Turn Turn
Afghanistan 5 6
Argentina 3 8
Australia 4 6
Congo 4 7
East Africa 3 5
Egypt 2 6
Horn of Africa 2 7
India 1 5
Indonesia 4 9
Israel 3 6
Japan 4 7
Korea 4 6
Scandanavia 7 8
Southeast Asia 2 5
Southwest Asia 4 7
Taiwan 6 7
Turkey 4 5
West Africa 5 6
West Indies 3 6
Yugoslavia 6 8
There is no Region appearing more than once, so there’s no advantage for any player there. On any given turn, no one card is more likely to be chosen than any other card. So, we can’t find an edge there either.

However, this table does tells us that Game Turn 6 is the most likely Turn for a Vital Region SP Increase to occur. And, of the 9 Regions that may experience a Vital Region SP Increase on turn 6, four of them are North American vital regions (two are Chinese, two are Western European, and only one is a Soviet vital region).

So the North American player can possibly gain some advantage by being prepared with properly placed Factories or, better yet, Economic Control markers in his vital regions.

Vital Region SP Increases only occur on Turns 1 through 9, so after turn 9 you no longer need to consider them.

Advantaged Player: North America

Instant Income

Cold War Board Game

Event Cards that show “Instant Income” in the middle section will list two Regions that deliver immediate income exactly as in the Joint Economic Growth Turn. Every Region, except the Middle East appears at least once for Instant Income.

There are two Regions that appear twice: East Africa and Turkey.

East Africa is a potential Vital Region for the Soviet Union and Turkey is a potential Vital Region for Western Europe, so acquiring Economic Control in these Regions can be quite lucrative for those players, if they happen to be selected as Vital Regions (and even more so if selected for Vital Region SP Increase).

If neither Turkey nor East Africa are selected as Vital Regions, then the double Instant Income advantage passes to whichever player has a Factory or Economic Control there, although they will not benefit nearly as much as if it was a Vital Region.

Advantaged Player(s): Soviet Union, Western Europe


No Income

Cold War Board Game

Event Cards that show “No Income” in the middle section will list two Regions that have income suspended for the current Game Turn. Every Region, except the Middle East, East Africa and Turkey appears at least once for No Income.

When looked at in conjunction with the “Instant Income” analysis, above, East Africa and Turkey become very interesting Regions indeed!

As stated above, East Africa and Turkey are potential Vital Regions for the Soviet Union and Western Europe, respectively. Should they be selected as Vital Regions, the Soviet or European players must insure that Economic Control is established as quickly as possible in those Regions. They have double the chance of producing “Instant Income” and no chance at all of suffering “No Income”!

Looked at from the other players’ point of view, a legitimate strategy for them would be to make sure that East Africa and Turkey are NOT selected as Vital Regions (recall that, at the start of the game, each of the players get to select the other players’ Vital Regions).

Advantaged Player(s): Soviet Union, Western Europe

Power Vacuum

Cold War Board Game

Depending on circumstances in the affected Region, the Power Vacuum can be a cost effective means of assuming Political Control of the Region. Every Event Card draw (with the exception of the four Game Turn Ends cards) brings with it the possibility of a Power Vacuum occurring. Power Vacuums can occur throughout the game, from Game Turns 2 to 12 so it’s an “all game long” concern. The table below lists every Region along with the number of Event Cards which show a Power Vacuum for that Region, and the range of Game Turns for which the Power Vacuum could be in effect.

For example, an Afghanistan Power Vacuum appears on 2 of the 46 Event Cards, and covers Turns 2 – 4 and 7 – 12 (i.e. in this case, one card shows “Turn 2, 3, 4” and the other card shows “Turn 7 or later”)

Region # of Cards Effective Turns
Middle East 6 2 – 12
Korea 4 2, 4 – 12
Afghanistan 2 2 – 4, 7 – 12
East Africa 2 2, 4, 6, 7 – 12
India 2 2, 4, 7 – 12
Taiwan 2 3 – 5, 8 – 12
West Indies 2 4, 5, 7 – 12
Brazil 2 3, 5, 8 – 12
Israel 2 4, 7, 8 – 12
Central America 2 4, 7, 9 – 12
Congo 2 5, 6, 9 – 12
Scandanavia 2 4, 5, 9 – 12
South Africa 2 3, 4, 7, 8
Yugoslavia 2 3 – 5, 7
Southeast Asia 1 6 – 12
Turkey 1 6 – 12
Andean Nations 1 2, 4, 6
Argentina 1 4 – 6
Australia 1 3, 5, 7
Egypt 1 3 – 5
Horn of Africa 1 3, 5, 8
Indonesia 1 5 – 7
Japan 1 2, 5, 8
Southwest Asia 1 3, 6, 8
West Africa 1 4 – 6
Philippines 1 5, 6
Venezuela 0

I don’t think anyone will be surprised to find that Cold War considers the Middle East Region most susceptible to Power Vacuums…by a wide margin.

But it is surprising to find that Venezuela is so stable, there’s no opportunity for Power Vacuums! I’m guessing that this was a production oversight. I mean, even Japan is susceptible to Power Vacuums on turns 3, 5 and 8. But it’s not on the Event Cards so we play as if Venezuela is Power Vacuum-Proof.

The next most likely Region for Power Vacuums is Korea, which could potentially be designated as a Vital Region for the North American players. Knowing that it is so susceptible to Power Vacuums, the other players can insure that Korea is designated a “Vital Region” at the start of the game, and then keep Korea packed with as many of their control markers as possible in anticipation of the likely Power Vacuum.

After Korea, the next three most likely Regions for Power Vacuums (Afghanistan, East Africa, and India), are all potential Vital Regions for the Soviet Union. Sounds like a disadvantage for the Soviet Union.

China’s first concern for a likely Power Vacuum in one of it’s possible Vital Regions is Taiwan, which appears 6th on the list, and Western Europe does not have to worry until Scandanavia, which is 12th on the list.

I would have to say that the Soviet Union is the most DIS-advantaged player for Power Vacuums, but Western Europe is probably the most advantaged.

Advantaged Player(s): Western Europe, China


Summary

Being aware of all the statistics presented in this article, and keeping track (to the best of your ability) of Event Cards which have already been played or, more importantly, have not yet been played, can give a Cold War board game player a real advantage. Based on the (very loose) analysis of the “Advantaged Players” listed in each category above, I will go on the record to predicting that the Western European player has a slim advantage overall. Although if the North American player can capitalize fully on the “Vital Region SP Increase” advantage, or the Soviet can score big with the “Instant Income/No Income” combo advantage, the game could drift in their favor. All things considered, I see the China player as having the roughest time. These are my predictions and I’m sticking to them until such time as someone’s else’s statistics prove me wrong.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the Event Card Deck may be subject to reshuffling at various points throughout the game… which kind of makes the card-counting a bit more difficult, but not impossible :-). On the other hand, the reshuffling can actually amplify some of the advantages (imagine “Instant Income” for East Africa appearing four times instead of only two?)

Card-counting and nebulous player advantages aside, Cold War is a really fun game to play, and most gamers that I’ve played it with have enjoyed it as well. It’s definitely worth a trip to eBay to find a copy for yourself.

King Philip’s War: Opening Moves (Strategy)

Indian Tactics for Game Turn 1

King Philip's War Board Game


Overview

Success, for the Indian player in King Philip’s War seems to be heavily dependent on competent play during the first 3 game turns. If King Philip and his War Bands cannot make serious headway during these vital turns, defeating the English becomes nearly impossible. But what is the best strategy to employ to maximize the chances for success? Do you hunker down and defend your territory until other tribes can be activated via “Indian Diplomacy”? Do you aggressively attack every colonist and settlement within reach? This article discusses a tactical option for the Indian player on Game Turn 1.

Implicit in this article is the assumption that Church will not be successfully acquired before turn 3 although, according to the basic rules, it is possible that he could appear as early as game turn 1. If Church arrives on turns 1 or 2, the Indian player can just call it a night, so I strongly suggest either taking the developer’s advice for a more competitive game (see “Developer’s Note” in rule section 9.0). Eliminate the turns 1 and 2 Chuch die roll, and have Church automatically appear on turn 3. Or, better yet, keep the Church die roll, but don’t actually start rolling until game turn 3.

Situation Evaluation

The game starts with 11 full strength English infantry units versus 10 full strength Indian Warriors, and so grants a small advantage to the Colonists. But, more important, is the geography of the starting positions. With the exception of the string of Wampanoag and Sakonnet villages in the south, stretching from Massachusetts Bay to Buzzard’s Bay, the other Indian villages are separated from each other by English settlements. This means that while the Indians enjoy a mobility advantage in the early turns of the game (i.e. 6 movement points, compared to only 5 for the Colonists), they’re really kind of hamstrung by geography. So how do you capitalize on the mobility advantage?

There are two other English restrictions, prior to Church’s arrival, that provide the key to unlocking the Indian advantage:

  • 1. The English player may only move 3 companies per turn.
  • 2. The English may only move along “1-pip” connections unless they have a Guide with them.

This prohibition of 2- and 3-pip movements means that an attentive Indian player can position some of his units such that they are virtually unassailable by the English.


Starting Positions

The following graphic shows the starting positions as they actually were for a game I recently played, where I was the Indian player. The English player must set up first and therefore is at an immediate tactical disadvantage. In addition, the English are restricted to placing a maximum of a single Soldier unit per hex whereas the Indian player has no such restriction and may therefore concentrate units for local superiority at any point.

King Philip's War Board Game

The English in Plymouth Colony have set up to protect the town of Plymouth. By placing Winslow and a Soldier in the town itself and placing a Soldier/Captain in Middleborough, the approaches to Plymouth town, as well as the town itself, are guarded as well as they can be given the English forces available. All the Massachusetts forces are huddled in the southern part of the colony, waiting to rush in to Plymouth colony as needed. The Rhode Islanders, rather than attempting to fortify Portsmouth which is easily surrounded and crushed, all set up west of the river in Wickford and Pawtuxet. The English inability to traverse 2-pip and 3-pip connections on this turn (unless they get lucky and snag a Guide during an Indian-initiated battle) means that the Rhode Island colonists will be essentially stranded on the west side of the river but will be fairly mobile up and down the west side. Also, the ports along the west side of the river should remain under English control, allowing for reinforcements to be brought in from Connecticut, if needed. Finally, the Connecticut forces are both positioned in ports (New London and Saybrook) where they can be quickly rushed to any hotspot that may develop in Plymouth Colony or Rhode Island.

The plan, for my Indian Warriors, is two-fold:

  • 1. Raze at least two colonial settlements; preferably three.
  • 2. Send a powerful force deep into western Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Razing three settlements will allow me, on the Indian Alliance phase of Game Turn 2, to either bring the Narragansett or Nipmuck tribes into the war on my side. Razing only two means that only the Narragansetts can be coaxed into joining me (see the Indian Alliance Chart), which limits my options. But even just the Narragansetts should be sufficient for my “early game” plan. Ending Game Turn 1 without razing even one settlement would be a total disaster, but the odds are against that happening if the Indian units are set up properly.

First, both Sakonnet Warrior units set up in the middle of the three Sakonnet villages, near Buzzard’s Bay, in preparation for a move into Martha’s Vineyard. Next, all three Pocasset Warriors set up in the western-most Pocasset village, along the border between Rhode Island and Plymouth Colony. This stack will form the “shock troops” that will move into western Massachusetts. The six Wampanoag warriors are split between Philip and the un-named Wampanoag Sachem, three apiece. Philip will start in the Indian Fort of Montaup. Having this powerful force in Montaup affords me the option of striking out in any direction to challenge the Colonists, or of hunkering down in the Fort, rendering it impregnable for at least several turns. I set up the other Wampanoag Sachem with three Warriors in the village just south of Portsmouth (RI). From here, this War Band can move north to raze Portsmouth, since it has been left without soldiers defending it.

As mentioned earlier, we are ignoring the possibility that Church may arrive on Turn 1 for purposes of this example and, since no one receives reinforcements on Turn 1 and there is no Indian Diplomacy Phase on Turn 1, we may move directly to the Indian Movement Phase. The next graphic, and description that follows, show the details of my movement:

King Philip's War Board Game

  • The Pocasset “shock troops” traverse four neutral/open spaces, heading first southwest into Rhode Island and then driving northwest into Massachusetts Bay colony. An Interception attempt by English Soldiers in Marlborough fails, allowing my War Band to spend 5 movement points which includes the movement point required to place the Battle Marker at Brookfield.
  • The Sakonnets cross the 3-pip connection across Buzzard’s Bay into Martha’s Vineyard, and then spend a fourth movement point to place a Battle Marker outside of Edgartown. No colonial units were in position to Intercept or interfere with this movement in any way.
  • The Wampanoag Sachem and three Warrior units turn their sights north and place a Battle Marker against Portsmouth.
  • Finally, Philip and his three Wamapanoag Warriors leave the safety of the Fort and move northeast into the English settlement of Taunton, placing another Battle Marker. Since the connection between Middleborough and Taunton is only a 1-pip connection, the English Captain and Soldier in Middleborough are eligible to attempt interception, which they do successfully. Philip must now attack a reinforced Taunton.

The stage is set for the Combat Phase.


Combat

There are four battles to be resolved:

  • #1 – Brookfield
  • #2 – Taunton
  • #3 – Portsmouth
  • #4 – Edgartown

King Philip's War Board Game

Brookfield – The town of Brookfield contains no soldiers and so will fight with only its inherent strength of 1. The two full strength Warrior units are worth two strength points each for a total of 4. The dice are rolled and the results are: Green die = 6, Red die = 2, Event die = “Panic”. The total of the Red and Green dice is 8, which is an even number, thereby making the English the “affected” player. The English SP total is reduced by 1 to zero. Looking up the results on the Combat Results table, we find that the English suffer 2 hits; enough to raze the settlement. The Indians suffer no hits at all.

A “Razed Settlement” marker is placed on the town of Brookfield, and the Indian forces advance in. That’s one of the two razed settlements that I need this turn…


King Philip's War Board Game

Taunton – The attack on Taunton is the most powerful attack the Indians can make on Game Turn #1. Three Warrior units with a 2 SPs each plus Philip’s combat strength combine for a total of 7 SPs. Unfortunately for Philip, the English were able to successfully intercept and so rather than fighting a nearly defenseless town, he must also fight the colonial soldiers, a combined strength of 3 SPs (2 for the soldier and 1 for the town). The dice are rolled and the results are: Green die = 4, Red die = 5, Event die = “Spy”. The total of the Red and Green dice is 9, which is an odd number, thereby making the Indian the “affected” player. At the end of this combat round, a “Spy” counter will be attached to Philip, but there is no effect on this combat.

Cross referencing the combat strengths and die rolls on the Combat Results table, we find that the English suffer 2 hits, and the Indians suffer only 1 hit. The English absorb their two hits by flipping the soldier to his half strength side, and placing a “Raided Settlement” marker on Taunton. This prevents the Indian from scoring victory points for either an eliminated soldier or a razed settlement. The Indian player takes his loss by flipping one of the Warrior units to its half strength side. The English retain control of the town and Philip must fall back to the Fort of Montaup.


King Philip's War Board Game

Portsmouth – I have three Warriors in my War Band for a total of 6 strength points against a minimally defended town, so I expected this to be a walkover. Didn’t turn out that way. The worst thing that could happen, happened. By rolling doubles (3 and 3) on the Red and Green dice, the combat ends immediately without a winner.

No hits are assessed and no units advance or retreat. There goes my chance for scoring a second “easy” razed settlement.


kingphilipswar_st1_battle4_large

Edgartown – Another one that should be a walkover. I have 4 strength points of Warriors and the English have only a single SP for the settlement’s inherent defense strength. This attack is designed to accomplish two things:

  • Score another razed settlement.
  • Position my Sakonnets to move north to threaten the settlement of Sandwich, and then Plymouth itself.

In addition, both Edgartown and Sandwich are ports, so neutralizing them will restrict English mobility a bit more in the east. The dice are rolled and the results are as follows: Green die = 5, Red die = 2, Event die = “Ambush”. Since the total of the Red and Green dice is an odd number, the Indians are the “affected” player which, in the case of “Ambush” means they are the ones who got ambushed. Fortunately for me, the combination of English low strength points and low die roll assure that the Indians will suffer no hits, so the Ambush advantage is wasted. The British are assessed two hits which is what is required to raze the town. And that gives me razed town #2, and a victory point as I advance my Warriors into Edgartown.


The Combat Phase is concluded.


Assessing the Results

Even though I caught a bad break by rolling doubles in the Portsmouth battle, I still met my objective of razing two English settlements. In addition, I also met my other objective of sending a “flying column” into western Massachusetts Colony. Having razed two settlements, I will be able to activate the Narragansetts during the next Indian Diplomacy Phase. I’m feeling pretty good about the results of my Movement and Combat Phases, and I’ll explain why:

  • King Philip’s War Band is still strong and centrally located in Montaup. He is positioned to intercept the English in any number of different directions, and will inhibit their movement greatly.
  • The Connecticut Companies in New London and Saybrook will have to think twice about coming to the aid of Rhode Island or Plymouth Colony, since they may have Narragansetts all over them next turn. It’s likley they will remain in Connecticut.
  • The Rhode Islanders, while catching a big break by not losing Portsmouth, also must now look over their shoulder for Narragansetts next turn. They are also lacking sufficient strength and mobility to have a good shot at razing a Sakonnet or Pocasset village during their turn. The risk of weakening themselves on futile attempts to raze villages may be too great.
  • The Massachusetts men will have to content themselves with picking off some low hanging fruit by razing a Pocasset village, but they’re certainly not likely to forget Philip’s powerful War Band lurking close by.
  • Finally, and most importantly, the Pocasset raid into western Massachusetts now gives the Massachusetts colonists something to think about. Normally, these guys head straight down into Plymouth Colony and effectively shut down any hopes that King Philip might have had about dominating there. They must now consider that there is a powerful force of Pocassets that has just razed Brookfield and could easily swing back east to inflict more damage. Next turn, the newly arriving Narragansetts may also decide to drive north into Massachusetts and gum things up there. So, at least part of the Massachusetts colony force will have to remain there to keep a lid on things.

King Philip's War Board Game

Can you imagine if I’d been able to raze three settlements? Then I’d also be able to opt to activate the Nipmucks next turn. Their territory is positioned astride the string of western Massachusetts settlements from Northfield (in the north) to Springfield (in the south). They could raise holy hell among those settlements, as they did historically, and there would be very little the English could do about it, short of diverting Massachusetts power out west, leaving Plymouth Colony in the lurch.

Returning back to my “keys to unlocking the Indian advantage” mentioned earlier in the article… what is the English player to do now? He’s only allowed to move three Companies. How does he:

  • Provide support to Plymouth colony?
  • Defend Connecticut which will be threatened by Narragansetts next turn?
  • Run down the rampaging Pocassets in western Massachusetts?
  • Defend Rhode Island which will be seriously threatenend by a combined Wampanoag/Narragansett pincer next turn?
  • Keep the town of Plymouth safe and secure?
  • All of the above?

It won’t be easy with only 5 movement points and the inability to cross anything more than a 1-pip connection. In fact, due to the 1-pip restriction only one Massachusetts soldier unit (the one in Marlborough) can possibly even reach the Pocasset War Band that razed Brookfield! So Turn 2 Massachusetts reinforcements will have to be dedicated to meeting this threat, thus taking some heat off of King Philip in Plymouth Colony.

How should the English react? That will be the subject of a future article…


Summary

This article discussed some tactical options that can be employed by the Indian player on the first turn of the game in order to get King Philip and the Indians off to a good start. A “good start” in my opinion means not allowing the English to focus their power on Plymouth Colony by creating credible, non-ignorable (if that’s not a word, it should be), threats from the southeast corner of the map (Edgartown –> Sandwich –> Plymouth) to the northwest corner (i.e. western and north western Massachusetts). I was able to do that successfully on Turn 1, although it could have turned out even better.

I will be writing follow up articles to describe how this early game strategy actually turns out, as well as other articles related to early game play for both the Indians and Colonists. If you’ve got an opinion about this article or have one of your own you’d like to see published on TheBoardgamingLife.com, please click the “Contact Form” link, on the right, and let me know what you have in mind. (Note: You don’t have to fill in all of the information on the contact form: just a name, an e-mail address and a comment of some type, hopefully constructive).

Battle for Baghdad: Board Game Strategy

Strange Bedfellows – Sunni/Shiite Cooperation in Battle for Baghdad

For both the Sunni and Shiite players in MCS Group’s Battle for Baghdad strategy board game, survival is a minute by minute struggle. Faced with an aggressive U.S. player, both had better be ready to bury the hatchet (somewhere other than in each other’s head) if they are to have a chance at victory. This article discusses a cooperative technique that can be employed by the Sunni and Shiite players, acting in concert, to inflict maximum irritation on the U.S. player while increasing their own chances of survival… and victory.
Battle for Baghdad - Title graphic


The Situation

Part of the Victory Condition requirements for both Sunni and Shiite players is to have at least one Infrastructure unit in an Iraqi National Government (ING) Affiliated Zone. With that in mind, let’s turn to our hypothetical situation. The US player has been wrestling with Al Qaeda in the southern areas of Baghdad and has therefore been unable (or unwilling) to respond to the considerable buildup of Shiite units in Shaab and Hurriyah zones. The Sunni and Shiite players have been having intense, secret discussions during the “Coalition” phase of each turn so, when the Sunni player moves into Baghdad Central, the US player assumes this to be part of an encircling move against the ING Ministries zone.

The ING currently has its hands full trying to maintain control of the Presidential Palace North zone, near Baghdad International Airport, and the Rasheed Int’l Airport zone in southeast Baghdad, both of which are still under ING control, but lightly defended. Seeing that the ING is in no position to withstand a coordinated Sunni/Shiite assault, the US and ING players have decided to allow the US to assume responsibility for defending the ING Ministries zone. Coordinated moves between the US and ING leave a strong US force controlling the Ministries zone, and the ING force has choppered back to the Presidential Palace North zone to avoid conflict with the US (remember that if the US and ING share a common zone at the start of the Combat Phase, they must fight).

Battle for Baghdad - Positions at start of 2nd turn
Figure 1

The next turn begins with forces arrayed as in Figure 1, above.


Required Conditions

Although I’m about to present a series of game actions that absolutely could take place in Battle for Baghdad, I want to point out that I’m only presenting one of an almost limitless range of possible sequences. I find this to be one of the most compelling and interesting aspects of the game. The sequence that I will present is only possible if the following three conditions are all true:

Battle for Baghdad - Required conditions

  • The Sunni or Shiite player gains the Initiative, which will allow them to determine who moves first.
  • The player seating order, going counter-clockwise, puts the US player after the Sunni, but before the Shiite.
  • The Sunni player is in possession of either the Terror Spectacular card or the WMD Arms Bazaar card.

Once all the pieces are in place, the Sunni and Shiite players put the plan into action.


The Plan

The heart of the Sunni/Shiite cooperative plan is the agreement that they will not attack each other’s units, and that they will make a major push to clear ING zones of any US or Iraqi National Gov’t units, thereby clearing the way for one of them (or both of them) to soon be able to declare victory by occupying the required number of zones plus one ING zone.

During the Move Step of the Sunni Player’s Action Phase, he makes one move: a single Security unit moves directly into the American occupied Ministries Zone.

A single Sunni unit moving into the heavily defended Ministries Zone should immediately start setting off alarm bells in the American ranks (see Figure 3). They’ll immediately suspect the Sunni player is holding either the WMD or Terror Spectacular cards.

Battle for Baghdad - The plan
Figure 3

The objective is to either force the US units to abandon the Ministries Zone during their Move Step, or allow them to stand and die there. The American player may suspect that the Sunnis are bluffing, but that’s a hell of a chance to take. If they’re wrong (and we know they are), the end result will be the destruction of eight powerful US Security Units and a reward of 16 Political Points for the Sunnis (since destroying US Units nets the victor double the political points). Since the US player moves before the Shiite player, he’ll have no knowledge of what Shiite plans are.

The Shiite plan is to move his large force of Security units south to the ING Rashid Int’l Airport zone, thus providing a second simultaneous attack on the ING zones critical for victory to both Sunni and Shiite players. But this movement will not take place until after the US player moves. (see figure 4)

Battle for Baghdad - Shiite moves
Figure 4

American Response

What are the US player’s options?

    • A) Helicopter the hell out of there, possibly back to the Airport or Green Zone – At first glance, the safest option. But keep in mind that abandoning an ING zone to either the Shiite or Sunni player can cost him the game in short order. And what if, he wonders, the Sunni is bluffing and does not actually have the WMD or Terror Spectacular card? He’d feel awfully stupid getting bluffed out of a key position like that. On the positive side, with his US units out of the way, he gets to watch the Sunni/Shiite “allies” turn ugly and tear each other to pieces. (figure 5)
Battle for Baghdad - Helicopter out!
Figure 5
    • B) Move aggressively into adjacent, enemy occupied zone – Determined to make the Sunni player pay in blood for the attack, the US player may choose to move into the Sunni affiliated Azamiyah zone. A wise US player will also leave one unit behind in the Ministries zone, so as to insure that the Sunni must play the WMD or Terror Spectacular card in order to guarantee the zone will be cleared of US units. Don’t want to just give that zone up without a fight! (figure 6)
Battle for Baghdad - Aggressive Shiite moves
Figure 6
    • C) Call the bluff and sit tight in the zone – Hope that the Sunni is bluffing and does not actually possess the WMD or Terror Spectacular card. A bold move requiring nerves of steel… and the move the Sunni is desperately hoping for. (figure 7)
Battle for Baghdad - WMD option
Figure 7

The Aftermath

If the US player chooses option “A”, the turn will most likely end with Sunnis and Shiites in control of two out of three Iraqi National Gov’t Affiliated Zones. If the Terror Spectacular/WMD card is actually played, the Shiites will control one ING zone and another will be completed vacated due to the major terrorist attack. Not a good outcome for any of the other players since it may put both Sunni and Shiite uncomfortably close to their victory conditions.

If option “C” is chosen, not only will the outcome be much the same as option “A” results, but the US will have sustained large casualties from the WMD or Terror Spectacular attack, filling Sunni coffers with Political Points to boot.

So, we’ll have to assume that the US player will choose option “B”. And let’s further assume a truly aggressive US player. He sends three Security units into Azamiyah to attempt to take out the Sunnis there. Four additional US Security units are sent into Shaab to punish the Shiites. And one US Security unit is left in Ministries so that the zone is not given up totally without a fight. (As a matter of fact, it will be quite difficult for the Sunni player to win this battle without use of the WMD card due to the fact that US Security units count double in combat and due to the superiority of the US Command Cards)

Following the US moves, the Shiite player decides to stick with the plan and moves all available Security units south to Rasheed Int’l Airport. (see figure 8 for final dispositions after movement)

Battle for Baghdad - Actual game events
Figure 8

Moving into the Combat Phase, let’s assume that the US player defeats the Shiite player handily in Shaab, and that the Shiite player is able to overwhelm the lightly defender Rasheed Int’l Airport zone and assume control there. I believe it would be best for the Sunni player to shift play of the WMD/Terror Spectacular card to Azimiyah, thereby eliminating 3 US units and, more importantly, picking up 6+ Political Points (2 each for the US Security Units destroyed + the value of the US Command Card played, if any). Even though all Sunni units are destroyed in the attack, the Political Point reward will more than pay for replacements.

At turn’s end, we find the US player still in control of the ING Ministries zone, having defeated the single Sunni unit there, and now in control of the Shiite affiliated Shaab zone. The Sunni affiliated Azamiyah zone has been completely cleared by the WMD/Terror Spectacular event. Finally, the Shiite player is now in control of the ING Rasheed Int’l Airport zone, after having lost 3 units fighting the ING defenders there.

On the surface it may appear that the US player is the big winner, since the US still has 5 units remaining of the original 8, while the Sunni player has lost 5 units and the Shiite player has lost 6 units.

Battle for Baghdad - Aftermath of fighting

The counterpoint can be made, however, that the US player was not in control this turn, but simply reacting to enemy actions. The turn ended with the Sunni player accumulating enough victory points to rebuild his losses and then some, and the Shiite player in control of a critical Victory requirement zone (Rasheed Int’l Airport). The following turn will once again find the US player simply reacting to events as he attempts to recapture Rasheed Int’l Airport and reinforce Ministries before someone else attacks the lightly defended zone.

Summary

It’s true that in Battle for Baghdad the US is not often defeated on the battlefield. But, as a North Vietnamese Colonel once said, it is also irrelevant. Cooperative play, not just between Sunni and Shiite, is essential to counter an aggressive US player.

The sequence of events described in this article is just one of a myriad of possibilities that may occur in an actual game. The turn might have proceeded in an entirely different direction if:

  • The players were seated in a different order.
  • The Sunni player did not draw the critical WMD or Terror Spectacular card.
  • The US player withdrew from Ministries to Rasheed Int’l Airport, thereby denying that zone as a target for the Shiite player.
  • The Shiite player decided to double-cross the Sunni player and moved units into Azamiyah to attack the Sunni units there.

The replay value of Battle for Baghdad is likely the most outstanding aspect of the game. Although I have touched upon the game’s variability in this article, you must play a full game to truly comprehend it. The allowance of shared victories (i.e. more than one player can possibly meet their victory conditions in the same turn) will absolutely make for “strange bedfellows” from time to time. There are no “standard” moves or alliances that work all the time… or fail all the time… and that variety is what keeps me interested in playing.

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”

Getting Ashore: Naval Transport in “Gulf Strike”

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

Gulf Strike Board Game

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