Wednesday, January 27, 2010

DiceCon East 2010 #1: We Go!

Getting in
An early start; a big bag of games; a cold and dreary Sunday morning; yadda, yadda, yadda- you get the picture dear readers: DiceCon East 2010 dawns. Badger, Donald and myself arrive promptly at the familiar old Over-Seas House on Princes Street, grab a table, and start getting ourselves settled in.

That Castle, looking south from the edge of Princes St.

We're expecting a 4th player who'd signed up via TacG@fB, but yours truly has cleverly forgotten to ask the guy his ETA, or for contact details; so we really don't know when to expect him. Other keen gamers are drifting in, looking around, and a Memoir'44 Overlord board generates the attention you'd expect as it starts to take shape. Someone appears who's at a loose end- Adam by name, new to Memoir and interested in having a go. Soon we are ready to begin.

Getting down
Another 'Bloody' Omaha: the setup
Figuring that Adam should be spared what Badger and Donald'll already've had more than their fill of down the years- me telling them what to do; I opted to play a Field General, leaving someone else to 'enjoy' being my Command in Chief. The familiar random selection left us with:
  • Germans:
  1. Donald, CiC.
  2. Me, insubordinate subordinate.

  • Americans:
  1. Badger, CiC.
  2. Adam, duly dutiful junior.
Another 'Bloody' Omaha: the set-to
Double the width as they are, those German lines of ours looked perilously thin compared to the scene with which I'm familar from our games of the Omaha scenario in the basic game: Operation Neptune- First Assault Wave (BTW, the new version of the basic scenario- from the Air Pack, has lots of extra goodies to play with, not just aircraft).

Immediately then, the scaled-up Overlord game was challenging perceptions of mapspace and gametime virtually hardwired after 100 plays or more. Intriguing but not at first troubling, this was to prove important later in the game. The new dynamics of mission management created by the bigger map were given a further twist by the Overlord cardplay rules:
  • The CiC can play 1, 2 or 3 cards/turn:
  1. Field Generals receiving Section cards may not also receive Tactics cards that turn.
  2. No player may play more than 1 Tactics card/turn.
  3. The CiC only draws 2 new cards at the end of the turn, no matter how many cards were actually played.
The overall effect of these rules is quite delightful: both the tabletop and the card-cycle are more dynamic, naturally enough; yet this comes at a price which you will have to pay sooner or later, when your hand winds down leaving your army hung up in the face of an enemy you have to hope is experiencing the same C3i difficulties. Once again the underlying strengths of Richard Borg's core design show through in the subtle effects its simple rules can generate. We were all impressed.

These dynamics were at the heart of our game on Sunday. Donald's and my Germans were rapidly able to bring down the satisfyingly withering hail of fire for which 'Bloody' Omaha is infamous, and the Amerian lines were soon looking well ragged. Even so, the VP totals were still too close for comfort. More than that, we'd lost the crucial artillery unit anchoring our right flank, an opening Badger and Adam exploited quicker than we could fill it.

A couple of Infantry Assaults were all it took to turn that flank around. Soon Donald and I were desperately throwing everything we could into reinforcing our right as the battle raged on around what remained of our original defenders. The fighting was bitter and the game hinged on single dice rolls more than once. In the end though the American weight of numbers told and they broke through to win 8-7. Not a moment too soon either: Donald and I had another pretty solid play for victory ourselves the very the next turn.

Logistical overkill 1
Tactical superiority 0

What a great game! Badger, Donald and myself all enjoyed the Overlord experience, agreeing that it breathed new life into M44; exactly as with Epic Battlelore, as Badger pointed out. For his part, Adam enjoyed playing a game that was so quick to pick up, and in which the cooperative nature of Overlord play meant that he didn't have to face all his decisions himself. In fact the way the Overlord rules eased Adam into his first ever game was particularly impressive. All of which just goes to show: Memoir'44 might not be the grognard's WW2 tacsim of choice, but the game's far from dead yet! ;)

- DiceCon East 2010 #2: Still going

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