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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Got game!

Bitter, bitter battles
Badger came round last Friday and we managed to get in 3 games of M44: 2 more plays of M44:DoW veteran and esteemed scenario designer Brummbär's fine Normandy scenario Operation Charnwood; and 1 of official scenario #35: Nimjegen Bridges.

We chose Operation Charnwood because we'd enjoyed it the last time we'd played, and because we wanted to test out our favoured version of the variant artillery rules which have been the topic of a productive discussion over at M44:DoW.

I chose to play the Germans first; partly because I wanted to try out those variant AT rules (detailed in the M44:DoW thread linked immediately above); partly because I was keen to try out the latest versions of the Kampfgruppe and Saddle Orders rules Badger and I had agreed upon; and partly because I just plain fancied the challenge of trying to win with them.

I started really well, going into an early lead. Soon I was on 4 medals, and I was telling myself victory was assured. I was also telling myself and Badger both that even to think such a thing was to invite doom. How right I was: Badger won 5-4 in the end. I can't remember what went down; well, except for my making poor use of my first Saddle Orders plan; and Badger making equally good use of his Big Push plans to deliver the decisive blow; so we'll have to rely on Badger to come along and fill in the details. Oh, and I seem to remember that I ought to've formed a Kampfgruppe at one point, but missed my chance in the heat of the moment.

We were playing the British with the Marksmanship and Big Push rules which we had settled to our satisfaction last time. I did a routine Big Push early on. Then I came up with what I thought was a bit of a fiendish plan: I'd use a Big Push to hit Badger on my right with an Airstrike (which would target 2 units including his artillery) and a Right 3 in the same turn. This'll be fun I thought. Until, that was, I turned my plan cards over: I'd somehow managed to play a Centre 3 instead of the intended Right 3. Aaarrgh!

Seeing things start to go downhill from there, I hit on the plan of using Behind Enemy Lines to charge forward and grab Western Caen for a precious medal. I had everything I needed in my hand to pull this off and to follow it up to play for victory, including a Dig-In card which would've stopped Badger forcing my audacious infantry to retreat. But I just couldn't coordinate it all properly (ie. my cardplay was poor). In the end Badger mopped me up with a crushing 5-2 victory. Ouch!

By this time we were satisfied with the existing drafts of the Expanded Nationality rules for both the British and the Germans, so we decided to turn to the Americans for our last game.

We were playing rules tweaked from the latest version I put up. As with the British and German rules, I'm not going to go into details here, but I promise to have a version available online just A.S.A.P.

Playing the Americans, I had a tank-heavy army in terrain utterly unsuited for armour, and I was facing those fearsome Big Guns. WTF I thought: there was nothing for it to get stuck in. So I sent my river-crossing infantry across the river as quickly as possible, bringing their accompanying tank units up for fire support. There ensued a vicious firefight, which left me with 1 model from the original 12 at game-end IIRC.

Meanwhile, I was taking some pains to avoid coming under overly destructive attentions from those Big Guns. This led me to fight a holding action on the outskirts of Nimjegen while making a play for the railway bridge with combined infantry and armour. As around the Fort Van Hof Holland, the fighting was bitter on all fronts. At one point I'd quickly grabbed the railway bridge, only to be forced to beat a rapid retreat to save my depleted unit from destruction under heavy German counter-fire. I needed that bridge I realised, but I would have to time very carefully my next rush to seize it.

My chance came with a Their Finest Hour card. I really had no choice but play this: Badger had the upper hand; single-model units of mine were already saving the day by just not dying; and I had nothing else available which could turn the situation around. Plus: under the draft American Expanded Nationality rules, I'd get a mulligan before refilling my 6-card hand.

My Their Finest Hour dice roll was awesome: I got 6 orders from 6 dice! My attack went in, killing 2 German units IIRC, leaving victory actually in sight after all. My beleaguered lads held their breath in anticipation of the inevitable German counter-attack. They held when it came in. Meanwhile, I of course had drawn exactly the card needed to press home my attack, which duly went in, allowing me to sneak to victory on 6-5.

Badger was gutted- I'd escaped a 3-0 whitewash at the last moment; but he also shared my enthusiasm for the way the American rules had worked in that last attack. I was still left with the feeling that those rules need some work, but I actually found myself thinking that there is something there to work with, a feeling I've not had before about those rules.

Score
1-2
Shrugs ;)

Hoist on my own petard
Guess what? Rosy and I got another couple of games of Carcassonne on Saturday night just past. Regular readers might remember my comments about our last games, in which I talked about my efforts to develop the strategies of the farmers' game. You might even remember (and I quote):
"my plaintive cry (after a losing game, natch!) of- how did you get those farms joined up?"
And so there I was on Saturday night, cheerfully explaining to Ros the importance of the farmers' game, and pointing out how the key strategy was related to getting farmers placed and then building the farms to link up your farmers for those valuable points. Ros was clearly taking my little lectures to heart, because that plaintive cry was heard at the end of both our games that night!

I said Ros'd been "taking my little lectures to heart". But could she've been ignoring me utterly, given the mastery of the farmers' game I've so skillfully not been demonstrating? Answers c/o RD/KA!. No spam please.

Score
0-2
Ouch!

Series
1½-2½
Whimper. :(

Down, down, deeper and down!
Readers curious enough to investigate my BGG boardgames collection page (and that'd be curious as both verb and adjective I'd imagine) might already've noticed this, but a couple of weeks ago I finally succumbed and lashed out the cash for a copy of the sister game to Fantasy Flight Games' remarkable Doom: the Boardgame, the dungeon-delving game Descent: Journeys in the Dark.

Holy freakin' heck Batman! Without any shadow of a doubt this is the single most awesome box of gaming goodness I have ever seen. The box is the size of 2 Doom/Battlelore boxes laid side by side. It has the heft of a rucksack packed for a weekend camping in the mountains. Inside is to be found a truly stunning array of cards, die-cut thick card playing pieces, and simply the most beautiful polythene moulded miniatures I've ever seen in a boardgame. The detailing is exquisite, being on a par with hard styrene casts, especially on the 20 hero models. Looking over them brought back to mind the excitement my brother and I shared as kids when we got our hands on the first release of Airfix's (who went bust last year- news to me!) 1/32nd scale polythene range recast in 1/76th- their WW2 German Infantry set. We'd just never seen anything like them.

I simply cannot do this game justice today. I mean to say: I've been so busy lately that I opened it, punched out all the cardboard, drooled over the models, then left it on the shelf for nearly 3 weeks because I was just too busy to find the time and energy to sort through all the bits. So I was well pleased when Andy came round last Sunday and offered to lend a hand. We set to with a will, and we soon had the monster bagged and tagged. Then we had a go.

First impressions? The game absolutely rocks! This is the game we wanted Talisman to be back in the early 80's: an honest-to-god dungeon-bash in a box, a boardgame which delivers all the richness of the D&D experience with all the classic roleplaying elements stripped out. Of course, Andy and I only got halfway through our first game. We had to stop for the latest episode of- yes, you've guessed it- Doctor Who (another superlative story BTW). So I guess these initial impressions could be undone by future experience. But I do doubt it. More soon, I trust.

Meanwhile, if any of my readers out there have the experience to compare Descent with either HeroQuest or Warhammer Quest, I'd be really interested to know how you think the games rate against each other. I've got a feeling that Descent might represent a real breakthrough in dungeon-bash boardgaming, but with a mere single 1-room TPK game of Warhammer Quest under my belt, I'm not really in a position to judge.
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