So, as I wrote the other day, the post-Claymore gaming bash took place a couple of weekends ago. This year's was particularly epic. Martin was there as usual. So too was Alistair, an old friend of Bill's who was visiting with the express purpose of getting in some gaming. Our regular host was absent this year, so Martin drove Alistair and myself back to Glasgow from Claymore, where Bill's arrival chez yours truly was awaited with the aid of some games of Up Front.
What followed was a weekend's gaming so intense that I couldn't've detailed it all even if I'd sat down to write it up straight away, let alone at this remove. So I'll have to restrict myself to listing what we played and noting some highlights (or otherwise, as may be).
In the space of those 2 sessions, we saw played:
- 13 games of Up Front.
- 1 game of Judge Dredd.
- 5 games of Cosmic Encounter.
- 2 games of Settlers of Catan.
- 2 games of Combat Commander: Europe.
- Up Front:
- Alistair: 6 games out of 11.
- Bill: 3 games out of 3.
- Martin: 3 games out of 5.
- Me: 1 game out of 7.
- Judge Dredd: Martin.
- Cosmic Encounter: Bill won every game, including 1 solo victory, 2 joint victories with Alistair, and 1 joint victory each with me and Martin.
- Settlers of Catan: Martin won both games.
- Combat Commander: Europe: I won 2 plays of scenario 4 against Martin.
- Alistair: 8 (out of 19).
- Bill: 8 (out of 11).
- Martin: 8 (out of 15).
- Me: 4 (out of 17).
The next thing that I'm going to bring to my readers' attention is that this was a truly awful weekend's gaming for me! And it wasn't just that I won a meagre 4 games out of 17 played (one of them being a joint victory at Cosmic Encounter more or less gifted to me by Bill). No, it was that I spent most of the time playing like a numpty!
In Cosmic Encounter for example I kept using my powers badly, if I remembered to use them at all.
And that game of Judge Dredd is probably the worst I've ever had. I was sitting on 4 points (thanks to the 'Gila Munja' card) well into the mid-game, which left me wondering if I'd get any arrests at all. This all the more so since I was playing with 3 master-finkers whose deviousness knows no bounds. My only comfort at the end of that game was that I won't have to endure a second term of Chief Judge Rex after he stole my office at the Grand Hall of Justice the last time Bill and I played. At least Chief Judge Lum lives far away, so he can't rub my nose in it quite so regularly. (Bitter, moi? Surely you jest?)
As for the Up Front? What can I say? Some of it could be put down playing the weaker side in difficult scenarios, or to luck (and it can, really!), but a lot of it has to go down to bad play against someone who was on the ball and who was playing the game with the right measure of aggression and daring, namely Alistair.
Take our 3 plays of the Japanese versus the Russians in 'Patrol'. I was happy to play this scenario to try out the variant Japanese setup I had used against Bill a few months ago. Our first play of this was a closely fought win for Alistair IIRC. The post-mortem led us to the conclusion that, if the setup was viable, I had lost because I hadn't pushed the Japanese forward in the aggressive manner required. So we tried again, and I did, winning with a cakewalk. Seeing what the Japanese could achieve with this setup, Alistair simply adapted his own, creating a mammoth Russian firebase with the result that my own lads died in droves as Alistair won a cakewalk of his own. So much for my variant setup was the conclusion of our post-mortem on those games.
It was the kind of flexibility demonstrated there by Alistair that I just didn't show in my games, 'preferring' instead to plug on with poor plans in the face of increasingly desperate situations. Painful as it was (and it was), I have to say that this sorry tale has reconfirmed my love of Up Front. I'm looking forward to playing more soon, and to applying the lessons I learned that weekend.
Of course, my gaming that weekend wasn't all bad: I did win those 2 games of Combat Commander against Martin. I was playing the German defence in the chateau which I have tried and failed to capture against Tony before. This was a bit of a worry to me: Martin is a great gamer, quick on the uptake, aggressive, and never afraid to take risks. So I was faced with the very real prospect that it would fall to Martin to have the honour of being our first player to win this scenario as the Americans.
That honour is still mine to win, but only just. In our second play Martin got closer to winning than I've ever managed. The key to his strategy was the smart use of smoke coupled with bypassing the chateau to gain VP by exiting his units off my board edge. This puts pressure on the German defenders in a way in which my frontal assaults of the past have simply failed to do. The result was a nail-biting game which demonstrated all the virtues of Combat Commander. And, because Martin insisted I record and report this: it is a measure of how close he came to victory that I had no leaders left, and was just 2 more eliminated units away from surrendering when I finally won thanks to Sudden Death while my MG nest was hosing down his platoon making a dash for the board-edge. Gaming is rarely better than that!
I can in all honesty report that some smart cardplay on my part (much smarter than most of my Up Front cardplay that weekend it has to be said!) played a definite role in my eventual victory. That said I must also report that sheer dumb luck played at least as great a role. Perhaps not quite so extreme in its sheer dumbness as my Egorov moment in my recent game against Tony, but a pretty hefty dose of good fortune in my favour all the same.
My own story aside, Alistair, Bill and Martin's weekends had their own highlights.
Alistair's no doubt includes his 5-1 run of victories against me at Up Front, which included several more cakewalks than the one I have already noted. Of all these, I expect that defeating my Russian Guards with his Volksgrenadiers in some 2 decks in our play of 'Elite Troops on the Attack' is one which he will savour for some time to come.
Bill meanwhile will be happy to be reminded that he won every game of Cosmic Encounter and Up Front that he played.
For his part, Martin will certainly be pleased with his own Up Front record. Two very convincing victories at Settlers of Catan which left the rest of us wondering how he'd done it will be very satisfying too no doubt. But something tells me that he'll be happiest of all at having won the prize of prizes: the best office in the Grand Hall of Justice in Megacity One. Curse you Chief Judge Lum, curse you!
- Once more unto the breach! (Or: Still no room at the inn)
- Easter extravaganza #3: country-house carnage