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Friday, May 16, 2008

Meanwhile... Last week's Sunday session

My week started with a hangover after a lovely Thai meal Andy, Donald and I shared on our regular post-session dine-out last Sunday, a little 'adventure' which included my losing my glasses... Erm. Fortunately, just like the last time, I had a spare pair waiting.

As site visitors might've noticed- via the recently-added handy BBG widget which shows the last 5 games entered into my games played database, the last Sunday session saw Attack Sub, Ivanhoe, Nexus Ops, Nuclear War and Settlers hit the table.

Attack Sub

The old Avalon Hill cardgame of Cold War submarine warfare in which designer Courtney F. Allen explored the potentialities of his revolutionary Up Front (BGG) CDG engine, Attack Sub (BGG) is a game that Andy and I had played before, so I was confident that it'd prove suitable as quick filler while we awaited Donald's arrival. Picking up from where we'd left off we played scenario B, 'Search and Destroy', featuring 2 US surface vessels- the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser USS Virginia and the helicopter-carrying guided missile frigate the USS Simpson; versus 2 Soviet fast attack submarines, the Molniya and the Skvortsov.

Andy wasn't keen to play the Soviets after the beating they took in our previous game, but he gamely left random determination to leave him to face the unknown capabilities of my US surface flotilla:
  • Sharing contacts, so that 1 ship can search for the whole flotilla.
  • Helicopters- ship-launched independent search and destroy units which greatly enhance a flotilla's flexibility by increasing your hand size so long as they stay aloft.
My ships set out to work the old 1-2, with the Virginia searching for Andy's clunker- the Molniya- to build up contact for the Simpson- which I was trying to keep safely out of contact from the Soviet subs- to strike. This plan nothwithstanding, the tense game of cat-and-mouse which ensued led to the Skvortsov being sunk first, in 2 shots IIRC. The Simpson followed soon after, taking my ineffectual helicopter with it.

The USS Virginia displaced twice the tonnage of the Molniya but the pair were well-matched for the final attack. Andy had been cursing his poor card draws, but I ventured that he was suffering from his CDG inexperience- cardplay involving multiple actions and/or discards is a very different beast from the 1-card/turn cycle with which he is familiar from Commands and Colours: Ancients. In the end it was luck that told, and the Skvortsov was sunk with a single longshot.

Score
1-0

Afterthoughts
The game went pretty smoothly, despite some confusion over the rules for contact-sharing. Andy and I also found ourselves wondering if one of the game's key rules- your contact level track registers opposing vessels' contacts with your ships, rather than registering your vessels' contacts with your opponent's vessels; if this rule actually serves any real purpose; an issue I suspect I'll have to resolve one way or the other before I bring Attack Sub to the table with Andy again. And I'll have to do it, because this is a game whose surface I've only scratched and I've a real hankering to do more.

Ivanhoe
We plumped for this gem by the prolfic Reiner Knizia to get us started when Donald arrived. A cardgame like this is ideal to get a session off to a quick start, and Ivanhoe (BGG) theme of medieval jousting might be a 'Knizia paste-on', but it certainly encourages banter and ribaldry that will get everyone livened up. And I think that the mechanics are actually more thematic than most people seem to give them credit for. In any event, Brave Sir John put on a bravura display of aggression and tactics against the underhanded trickery and scurvy double-dealing of those knaves Donald and Andy, proving his supremacy at arms not just once but twice.

Score
Andy. 0
Donald. 0
John. 3

Nexus Ops
We weren't playing Descent last Sunday because I didn't feel like GM'ing, so we were looking for some fast and furious multiplayer battle action. My collection is a bit threadbare in this genre, so we quickly agreed to take this one off the shelf. We'd played Nexus Ops (BGG) once before, and it had gone down well, so we were confident that it'd deliver what we were looking for.

And it did.

The random board setup put a solid line of magma pools between Andy and Donald, so that they could only attack each other down a 1-hex wide front. This gave me plenty of wide open space for my early expansionism, but it also meant that Andy and Donald's easier paths to expansion were coming at me from each side. And so the pre-contact wave of expansion gave me a solid resource base and early access to the Monolith, which I used to close down Andy and Donald's encroachments on my colonies. This had the result of driving Donald into a major attack on Andy. With the pressure thus letting up, I felt I was in a strong position.

I was. But the dice, the damn dice! I failed an astonishing and ultimately hilarious sequence of d6 2+ rolls, and all my crucial attacks went nowhere. Faced with this meatgrinder I was soon in the position of holding my empire together and so was never able to bring out any of my big hitters. Eventually I lost the Monolith too which relegated me to the position of a bystander to Andy and Donald's struggle for victory. This went to Andy, on 12pts to Donald's 11 and my 8.

Score
Andy. 1
Donald. 0
John. 3

Afterthoughts
I really like this game. Settlers meets Risk, in space? Yes please. A game I expect to play again soon.

Nuclear War
Scanning the shelves for another pick, Andy suggested this classic satirical game of global thermonuclear holocaust, a decision he rapidly regretted: going first as the owner, I decided to open hostilities by picking on the winner of the previous game, promptly wiping Andy out with the first card played (one of those 25 million dead secrets). Andy had to sit and watch Donald and I duke it out in a game in which I suffered a paucity of warheads and delivery systems of any worth, which left me on a losing wicket. Donald had 13 million population left when the bombs stopped falling- a result which could easily've been different with just 1 or 2 lucky shots on my part.

Score
Andy. 1
Donald. 1
John. 3

Afterthoughts
I think Nuclear War (BGG) comes into its own when you play it several times a session, fairly regularly. This helps foster the atmosphere of vindictive petty rivalry which is at the heart of the game's charm.

Settlers
We had time for 1 more game to close the session and Settlers (BGG) was an easy choice. I won by a comfortable margin.






Score
Andy. 1
Donald. 1
John. 4

My victory dance was brief, but well deserved. Mwah hah, etc. Grins ;)
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