Fortress Europa (cont) – Allied Fail

I think my Dad may finally break my streak.  Despite having a phenomenal start following D-Day, some unfortunate rolls (retreating Nazis & bad weather) and poor strategic choices have been costly.  The US armor getting bogged down by trying to cut around the south of the Massif Central to get behind the German lines only to get bottled up in the Rhone & Saone Valleys has probably hurt me the worst.  I should’ve launched my second invasion against Marseilles rather than La Rochelle, but I wanted to mix it up a bit. There were also some minor mistakes that proved major, like having an HQ just one hex shy of being able to land paratroopers in Antwerp; if I’d been able to do that, I could have landed several armor divisions behind the fleeing Wehrmacht.  Instead, I’m having to fight for every inch of ground, and my dad has made the best of the terrain in eastern France.

I don’t know if I’m “losing” or if I’m going to lose the game, but I’m faring much poorer than the Allies did historically.  This map is shows operations from late August to mid-September.  The green is about how far I’ve managed to push and the purple is where my Dad’s line is holding.  It’s the end of October and I haven’t reached the Siegfried line.

Fortress Europa

We’re going to try to wrap things up this weekend.

The Challenge

Circumstances have prevented the Dungeon Crawl Classics group I’m in from having enough folks to run anything, so we’ve been playing various other games during our regularly scheduled nights.  Last time we got together, I decided to bring over “The Challenge”, an obscure card game whose perforated cardstock I’d not even gotten around to separating yet.

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Hey… hey, wait… spells don’t use the numbered cards, there are no 6s and even Axes only go up to 7!

“The Challenge” is a game of quasi-D&D-like PVP action.  Players take turns having their party members fight it out with weapons and magic until one party is eliminated and the player with the most remaining HP + Magic item value + HP of enemy characters killed is the winner.  Instead of the BS backstabbing and indirect conflict of Munchkin, The Challenge is all about straight head to head combat.  As its name implies, a challenge is issued and characters slug it out until one is killed or both players have exhausted their actions.

Each player starts with 5 characters that can be sorted into one or two ranks.  The races of the character (Orc, Human, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling) aren’t particularly relevant unless you choose to let players pick parties by race rather than randomly to get a more balanced party.  More important are the classes and their abilities.  Each character card has three abilities, meaning those are the cards that can be played when they are in combat: Fighters will have three of the four weapon types, Clerics and Wizards will generally have one weapon and two spells or no weapons & three spells, and Thieves will have two weapons + Backstab.

So, you draw a fist full of cards from the Melee and Mystic Action decks.  The Melee Action deck is mostly full of weapon cards, Daggers, Staffs, Axes, Bows, and Swords, but also has a few “Parry” and “Dodge” cards.  The Mystic Actions deck has spells, equipable magic items, some special thief actions (Spy and Hide in Shadow), and some general defensive items/actions.  These cards can be played based on what abilities are listed on the character card.  If you have a fist-full of Axes, chances are, you don’t want to attack with a wizard that turn, but if you’ve got that shiny human paladin, you’re good to go.

One of the neat aspects is the “ranks”; most characters can only attack one rank away (i.e. a fighter on the first rank can only challenge a fighter on another player’s first rank), but characters with bows can attack two ranks away, wizards can attack any rank(or two ranks, I forget), and if you play a “hide in shadows” card on a thief, they exist in special thiefspace and cannot be attacked but can attack either rank (though doing so will cause them to leave thiefspace).  Once we actually figured out how the thief worked, we realized they were pretty badass.  Since hide in shadows can be played as a response, it meant that they could attack with impunity so long as you had an extra hide in shadows card.

We had a lot of fun with it, but we will definitely need to create our own set of explicit rules and clarifications.  For one thing, the rules pertaining to cards were neither entirely on the card nor in the rules’ description of the card, so you had to read both the card and the rules to figure out how something worked, and even then it could be vague.  Dispel Magic was a point of contention because it was so varied in what it did: on a defensive turn, Dispel Magic could be played to neutralize a negative effect, such as Hold Person, on your own party, but on an attack turn, it could be used to destroy an enemy’s magic item (initiating a challenge against that character), remove a Charm Person (initiating and then instantly ending the challenge if the dispel resolves and you regain control of your character), or counter a spell targeting your caster.  The jury is still out as to whether it can negate an Orb of Protection (because Orb of Protection is party-wide and normally targeting an enchantment/equipment initiates a challenge against whomever is enchanted/equipped), but we agreed that it could not negate the Shield Wall action.  And here is where things are confusing: there are things which are actions which common sense tells you is an item.  Healing Potion is not an item; it’s an action that can be played in response to taking damage or to remove accumulated damage.  Similarly, an Orb of Protection is a “Special Defensive Action” which can only be played during a defensive turn.  Note that the categorization of Mystic Action Cards is listed not on the cards themselves, but in the manual’s description of each card.

This is a game that if you have the patience to figure it out and don’t mind having to piece together your own errata will make a great addition to your gaming parties.  It would feel right at home among something like Bang! or King of Tokyo for folks who like their party games a bit more cut-throat but don’t like the more passive aggressive styles of play.  Though the box’s disclaimer “Warning: Don’t Play This Game With Your Friends” is silly and childish, it could just as well read “Warning: Don’t Play This Game With Eurogamers.”  The only way you’re going to win at this is to be unafraid to throw an axe in someone’s face.  Just make sure you’ve feigned with a Sword-3 or something to draw out that Parry before you drop the Axe-7 on them.

I found this game cheap several years ago and regret waiting so long to play it.  Old as it is, this one is still going for under $20 in a lot of places, and I highly recommend it.

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From Boardgame Geeks; not my copy.

Fortress Europa

Fortress Europa may be a tough oyster to crack.

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Bismark proved to be too rules heavy to plunge straight into without doing some serious research in how to play, so we opted for an old favorite in Fortress Europa. The time we played before, years and years ago, I was the Germans and got soundly trounced. Apparently the Nazi forces non-coordination rule we’d used then (SS can’t coordinate attack w/Wehrmacht can’t attack with Luftwaffe can’t attack w/SS) must have been from a magazine or something, because we can’t find it now. We’re going ahead with using it anyway, because it’s realistic and why not?  We are skipping out on some of the hidden unit/secret movement/decoy options, though.

My initial landing at Normandy is not going particularly well. I lost two British division in what should’ve been a sure thing attack and ill weather immediately following D-Day has kept me from bringing in a true second wave. Right now, Ike and few divisions are hemmed in around St. Malo. If I can root out some of the Nazis who are cut off and holed up in Brittany, my logistical problems will be solved. The main thing I have going for me at the moment is that none of the other German armies can leave their districts until I launch a second invasion or push out of my current theater.

I’m definitely bringing my own dice tonight. I feel like half of the rolls I made last week were 1s. After playing a game like Civil War, the randomness is a bit annoying, particularly given that all attacks are fairly straight odds rolled on a 1-6 table. There’s some punching back and forth, with troops being quickly replaced and built back up, but managing to get 4-1 odds and still losing an attack because of rolling 1s is disheartening.

Civil War pt8 – The South Wins! (Sort of)

I won.  I can’t believe I did it, but somehow I won.

No, I did not win the Civil War as the South; in fact the South lost the war quite badly.*  But the requirements for the North to win the game are brutally stringent to compensate for their overwhelming superiority in numbers, naval capabilities, and near infinite supply and rail capacity.

The final point different at the end of turn 19 was 71; the Union needs 75 more Victory points than the South by the end of the game to get a marginal Union Victory.**  And yes, in the end, all of those points around the margins DID make a huge difference.

Jackson’s late war raids into Tennessee didn’t net any permanent point changes, but kept the bums Grant left in charge from taking any of the Deep South cities that would’ve been freebies.  He did keep my dad from being able to double-score Alabama by taking back Decatur before Rosecrans took Montgomery, which was a huge deal.  Before the end, he was wiped out, as was AS Johnston, both taken as POWs and with the latter the disgrace of losing not one but two whole armies to the Union foe.

The final battles in the east were a bloody mess.  Grant, with a smaller force, attempted to lure Lee away from Richmond, all while wreaking havoc on my already scant supplies, but Lee had to stand against Sherman, who was leading the Army of the Potomac.  Luckily, late war, I had managed to keep the odds against Sherman just narrow enough and was fielding great generals to my max modifier limit so that every attack resulted in a Union defeat. ***

The wildest part is that I can say Earl Van Dorn (historically an inept fool who botched things in my home state pretty badly until he was murdered by a jealous husband) actually won the game for me.  In the last two turns, I managed to eke out a few extra points, with Hindman marching out from the fortress I’d built in Blytheville, AR to take Paducah, KY and AP Hill taking the Florida militia from Pensacola to liberate Meridian, MS.  But the 2 Victory Points worth of cities Van Dorn took in Kentucky late-mid game and his last turn (nearly last move of the game, in fact) move to retake Norfolk and its 3 Victory Points were absolutely the difference between winning and losing.

So, what could my dad have done different to win?  There are so many things that one wants to do in a turn of this game which one may not end up getting the opportunity to do for any number of reasons.  Well, one thing I’m beginning to think after having played this game 3 times in my life now, is that battles between the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia tend to be strategically among the least productive moves either side can take: the North should be making marine invasions of the Deep South and the South should be trying to avoid pointless losses, as they get no reinforcements for the second half of the game.  Had Curtis, who had given me so much trouble early-mid game, kept on marching south into the undefended swamps of Florida, there were more than enough victory points to win free for the taking.  I could have never gotten anyone down there to stop even 1 or 2 SP of union troops.  Also, if Rosecrans had sent any of his generals with independent commands to steal up some open cities.  While Armies have their purpose, I think that one of the keys to winning is using one and two star generals to take small forces off in different directions to either lure the larger forces away or simply snatch up unguarded cities.  Even if these small forces get crushed by a large one, they divert command points and attention away from more vital strategic goals.

Final score in the Far West?  2 points for burning down all of New Mexico for me, 4 points for burning down 8 forts in Texas and Oklahoma for my Dad.  And hey, my stupid Mexican banditos finally did something and managed not to raise alarum, allowing them to burn down one of the 4 forts in New Mexico.

I was a bit worried about my current win streak, but my dad took things in stride, largely because it was such a hard fought victory and, I think, because Civil War has so much less to do with chance than many tactical games tend to.  He got to win the war, I got to win the game, so it worked out nicely.  Another amazing things about this game is how there is no “death spiral”.  In games like Bar Lev, there comes a point where it’s clear that things will turn into an out-of-hand massacre, but Civil War, things are down to the wire: the Union cannot stop their full court press and the South cannot take even the smallest victory for granted.  North?  You have a navy and twice the manpower, so why aren’t you in Atlanta RIGHT NOW? GO GO!  South?  You have two great Army generals and a handful of magnificent bastards at the Brigadier and Major General Ranks, so try to keep at least two Confederate States from being burned completely to the ground.  Remember how you kept getting less reinforcement than the Union for the first half of the game?  Enjoy getting no reinforcements for the second!

What are we going to play next?  I’m not sure.  We might play Bismark, but as a boardless naval wargame, if we can’t conveniently play it in a space that doesn’t require hunching over two tables spread across a pair of double beds, we might need to try something else.  Maybe even Dragons of Glory?  I do know that my dad wants to play some more Ogre to cleanse the palate.  My dad will be out of town for a few weeks to have an honorary 33rd Degree conferred on him, so I’ll have some time to study some rules and come up with ideas for our next game.

*The only way the South “wins the war” is if they can keep the point spread to less than 50 by the end of the turn 17; if this occurs, Lincoln has lost his election bid to McClellan’s peace ticket.  Any victory for the South on turn 19 is strictly in game terms. 

**: As mentioned before, the way that victory points are scored are handled in such a way that the South doesn’t get very many, while the Union racks up a lot (because they’re going to be doing most of the conquering).  

***: Remember what I said about low-random probability?  If my dad had bothered to check the combat charts, he would’ve seen that it would have been impossible for me to deliver worse than D3 casualties against him so long as I could keep 10 SP and remain a “large force” unless he managed to get a few column shifts via terrain.  With weak odds, your best bet is to amass commanders with bonuses, who will ensure that your results are good despite your rolls.  My dad never got many leaders with modifiers with his armies, so even on his best rolls, he was getting around 6 or 7, while on my worst rolls, I was getting 7-8.  With Lee’s 3 rerolls per encounter, it generally meant getting between 9-12, (1d6+6 with 3 chances to reroll!)

Civil War pt 7

The situation in the South continues down its dire course to oblivion.  On Turn 17, Lincoln’s re-election is almost a shoe-in.  That’ll give me at most two turns to try to scrounge enough minor victories to off-set the fact that the entire South is on fire.

How bad is it?  So bad that it’s actually become difficult to figure out what parts of the South are in supply and which are not.  There’s actually a rule for that: supply is any area in which at least 9 victory points worth of cities are connected by rail.  As such, the entirety of the South is out of Supply except for a small pocket around Virginia and North Carolina.

After the Yankees had finished picking apart the undefended heartlands of Mississippi, they set their sights on Alabama.  Johnston & Jackson and a few thousand men were about all that stood between the Union onslaught into Alabama and Georgia, and Johnston ended up having to surrender his sword to Lyon upon the destruction of the Army of Tennessee in Chattanooga.  Unfortunately, Albert Sidney Johnston in this game is dishonorable cur, who showed up next turn to take over the Army of Mississippi from Jackson (I made the fatal mistake of forgetting that he was one of my only leaders in the leader pool when I drew a leader to place with Jackson; AS J outranks Jackson, and therefore assumes army command.  Unfortunately, Johnston costs 1 more to move, ruining any chance that I could ever afford to move the Army of Mississippi back into supply).  To rectify this late-war snafu by the besieged Davis, Jackson left the paperwork and title of “Army” with Johnston and a skeleton force, marched into Chattanooga, cutting off a Lyon who had been marching up the valley toward Virginia, and now threatens to liberate Nashville.  Meanwhile, to escape the wrath of jealous husbands in Arkansas, Earl Van Dorn continues to wreak havoc in Kentucky.  Though he’s out of supply and easily crushed if anyone actually opposed him, no one has the time or resources to stop him and his band of raiders from nabbing a few marginal victory points here and there.

I’ve managed to create enough trouble in Virginia by sending outriders to keep the Army of Northern Virginia in supply and have retaken Richmond, but there’s so little of the Confederacy that’s left in fighting condition, I don’t think I can hang on for three more turns, much less close the necessary gap in victory points.

One of the things I think I appreciate most about Civil War is how little of the strategic elements are left to luck.  Luck really comes into play in a few places:

  1. Initial Command Points – While these are randomly determined, the spread tends to be narrow and balanced. Higher rolls (which tend to offer fewer command points) are balanced by the initiative bonus of having the first action.
  1. Turn Initiative & Reroll on Command Table – Though the initiative spread is random, getting more actions in a phase can sometimes be a good thing, other times be a bad thing. Winning initiative presents some advantage early in a turn, but can hamper in a longer turn. Though the South may often hope for short turns, getting bonus points by an initiative tie can sometimes be a blessing.  In almost no case, unless it’s a perfect storm moment, can you really say that any result swings things heavily in one direction or another for a player.
  1. Commerce Raiders – Ships sunk by commerce raiders are determined at random, but these points are so much on the margin that rolls really average out over the length of the game. Sinking (or attempting to sink) a confederate commerce raider costs a lot of mobility for the Union for what might be a difference of 1 or 2 victory points over the course of the game.
  1. Injuns – The most random chance involved in the game is in the Far West theater. Roll to try to flip an Indian Tribe’s allegiance. Roll to see if Forts are alerted.  High Roll wins in a fight against Texas Rangers.  Roll to see a Fort is Massacred.  If a Fort is Massacred, roll on the Massacre table to see what kind of Massacre took place.  Lots of silly fun and rolling dice for what will typically amount to 2 or 3 points for either side over the course of the game.  The Random element here does very little to impact the overall course of the game.
  1. Combat – You’d think this is a biggie, but it’s really not. While the combat table itself is spread over results of 1 through 12, there is actually very little variance between the results, especially when large forces are involved. It often becomes a battle to see who is left with the better of D2(demoralized, lose 2 SP) or D3.  As such, combat becomes more about getting the right number of troops in the right location to take advantage of geography than rolling high consistently.  Results are fairly predictable.  More important is who has maneuvered into a position where they can deliver a demoralization one pulse, shake demoralization, and then have enough command points to move again in the following pulse to take advantage of any geographic development (tactical or strategic) that has opened up as a result of an opponent’s retreat.
  1. Leader Death – The probability of Leader Death is relatively low and determined by rank, but having to roll for every leader in a stack after combat means there’s a definite probability that someone really good is going to get hit by a stray bullet at some point. Losing a good commander is one of the few places where this game can screw you by fate.

But really, what all of this is to say is that I have no one to blame for my loss but myself.  Not chance, but choice.  But that’s one of the things I love about this game.  While there is an element of random chance to add some excitement, so much of Civil War is directly related to strategy.  One good or poor choice will have far more repercussions for turns to come than even a string of poor dice dice-rolling.

This week will probably conclude our game.  I’m almost certain my dad is going to win, but he’s been amazed at how hard I’ve fought.

Civil War Pt 6: The South is Burning

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What I wouldn’t do for her help now!

My positive turns of fortune were quickly reversed by the might of the Yankee Military Industrial Complex.

Though Lee finally was able to take command of the Army of Northern Virginia in Maryland and leave Hood in charge of the Carolina forces, Union Ironclads made it impossible for to ferry supplies to the army. The raiders in Pennsylvania didn’t succeed in luring away more than a few troops away from the Army of the Potomac. Lee was forced to make his move and hope that McDowell was too inept to keep him from skirting the river south and take Washington. Alas, my dad succeeded on his reaction roll and McDowell managed to cut me off. Bloody skirmishing ensued that ultimately led to Lee being driven back into Virginia. In the back and forth, nearly all of Virginia has been lost.

Things are just as bad, if not worse in the west. Though normally an incompetent bum, with no one but militiamen to stop him, Rosecrans has been cutting a swath through the deep south with the Army of the Cumberland. Some fighting back and forth around Memphis finally sealed the fate of the far west and deprived the rest of the Confederacy of scant imports and delicious tex-mex cooking. I just can’t match the flexibility of the Union marine forces and the Union’s now virtually limitless supply capacity. Whereas I’d had Grant on the ropes just before, with every Yankee available hopping on a train and joining up with the Tennessee to reinforce him, he was quickly able to rebound and make things dire for both AS Johnston and Jackson. So, while Jackson was busy trying to deal with the marines who kept trying to take Memphis, Grant was able to put the hurt pretty bad on Johnston who, unlike Grant, didn’t have a bunch of recruits to make up for his losses. Now Jackson is cut off and out of supply in the middle of Mississippi and will have to get all the way to Georgia before he can reconnect with his supply line, and Johnston’s beaten a retreat all the way from Decatur to Chattanooga with not much left of the Army of Tennessee but the baggage trains and the paperwork. Unless I win initiative of the first pulse of next turn, Johnston will be forced to surrender.

Very little is happening for me in the TransMississippi, and now that they’re completely cut off from the rest of the Confederacy, probably even less will. The only upside is that my Dad will be so busy taking Alabama and securing Virginia, he might not have time to finish off my token force in North Little Rock. And man, for all of the dozens of command points spent in the Far West over the course of the 13 turns we’ve finished, we each have only 1 victory point a piece to show for it. I’ll probably never get a second one, because of how lousy the Mexican Banditos are. Most wild Indians still have a shot of burning down a fort even if it’s been alerted; banditos will ALWAYS either go home or get killed if they try to attack an alert fort. I’d’ve been better off sending my Apaches or Comanches across hundreds of miles of desert into New Mexico than send Mexican Banditos, even if they were closer.

There are a few things I wish now that I’d done differently.

I wish I’d sent even a marginally competent 3 star general to Arkansas so I could have done SOMETHING there after the first turn or two. Ironically, crushing Lyon’s force in Springfield turned into a strategic mistake, because it gave my dad the chance to put one of the top tier Union generals* into a theater where he’d see a lot more action.

I should not have pushed into the North with the Army of Northern Virginia. For the most part, we’d kept detente, and I’d finally dealt with the worst of the coastal raiders. I’ve lost too many leaders, either to wounds or death in fairly meaningless battles. Since I was never able to take Washington, I never got any permanent victory points for cities I took north of Dixie. I would’ve been better off trying to keep my ports open.

Even though it would’ve tied up my 2nd best general and an entire army, I should’ve left Jackson with his monstrous force in the Swamp Fortress outside of New Orleans. It would’ve kept the Mississippi River open and I wouldn’t have that blundering bum from Delaware steamrolling across the deep south from Vicksburg to Atlanta. It would’ve meant that I couldn’t press the assault against Grant as I’d done, but it proved to be a major strategic mistake.

Which leads into my next mistake: I should not have pressed against Grant. I came so close to annihilating the Army of the Tennessee I could taste it. I had Grant at such a huge disadvantage for awhile, it seemed like I could actually squash him. Unfortunately, doing so meant chasing him north toward Paducah and leaving Nashville open. And dagnabbit, what did I JUST say about Lyon? Having two decent sized armies operating in west Tennessee seemed like a good idea until one of them had to head back to Nashville and let Grant get between them.

Even though I did a great job of holding Tennessee much longer than the actual confederacy, I sacrificed too much energy in trying to create diversions in Kentucky. There’s just no way for the south to both keep Tennessee safe from the Cairo staging area and do anything in Kentucky while staying in supply.

I wish I’d built more commerce raiders. Nearly all of my points are going to come from the CSS Alabama, who’s sunk upwards of 30 ships. It’s just that the Confederacy has so few resources they can devote to naval strength. Just about the only thing that confederate vessels are good for is keeping the rivers open for a couple of hex-sides, and there are times I really wished I’d managed to do so, those discretionary points just always made sense to be used for something else.

We’ll probably be wrapped up in two more sessions at most, unless I’m forced to surrender in the next few turns. Since both the Army of Mississippi and the Army of Tennessee are on the verge of being annihilated, it’s looking very possible.  And yeah, Board Game Geek’s 20+ hour playtime estimate is probably not all that far off.

“Aww, man, I don’t know what I’m gonna do…”
“You can free all the slaves and surrender.”
*:The game’s creators are certainly Nathaniel Lyon fanboys; that Stonewall Jackson may have been promoted to 3 star general, had he lived, seems like a more reasonable ‘what-if’ than the 3 star Lyon (who is mechanically the equal of Thomas, Mead, Grant and Sherman), especially since it’s highly unlikely that a Union player would leave a 2-2-2 general in TransMississippi theater.

Civil War pt5

I’ve just had too damn much content this week to talk about the Civil War game I’m in the middle of. Won’t be a problem next week, as my Dad & I didn’t have a chance to play, but I will have some extra time to consider my strategies.

Not much is happening in the far west; the Texas and New Mexico militias have gone home and can never come back (SPs can only be placed on victory point cities, of which there are none that far west), but we’ve both got 1 Injun point each, with two Texas forts burned down and two New Mexico forts burned down. If we get any more really long turns, my Mexican banditos might ineffectually ride around central New Mexico firing guns in the air and letting everyone know they’re coming, but my most productive strategy in that theatre will be to call up some Texas Rangers and make sure as many Injun tribes are on my side as I can.

The TransMississippi isn’t quite to Kirby Smithdom yet, but it’s looking like a real possibility if things aren’t shorn up quick in Mississippi. I’m suffering in this theatre from a lack of generalship; there’s no one with enough stars to form the Army of the West, so my main hope is that I keep my dad busy enough in Tennessee and Maryland that Arkansas won’t seem worth it.

Things are interesting in the West: AS Johnston had been holding his own fairly well against Grant and Lyon along the Cumberland, but I desperately needed army-level flexibility and leadership to keep things that way. So Stone-wall Jackson took the paperwork and the command staff of the Army of Mississippi up to Memphis by rail and left a fairly sizable force behind in the Swamp Fortress outside of New Orleans. Unfortunately, the Army of the Cumberland managed to amass enough forces by sea in New Orleans and gather enough ironclads to shell the place to pieces. Now maybe a thousand starving guys in the swamp are all that stand between the Union Marine invasion force and Vicksburg. My only consolation is that I’ve been able to do the rope-a-dope on the Army of the Tennessee; my dad made the mistake of splitting the army, leaving a fairly strong force behind with Lyon north of the Cumberland, so he could try to earn some promotions for his top leaders with probing attacks. His problem was that I’d dug in so deep around Nashville and had such great leaders that any attack was bound to end up in my favor. By pouring everything I had into pursuing and pummeling Grant, I was able to drive him halfway back to Cairo and nearly crush the Army of the Tennessee. I’d worn it down to a 6, which forced my dad to mobilize damn near every Yankee west of the Shenandoah to try to bolster the force back up. Once Stonewall Jackson can take control of the garrisons left along the river near Nashville to keep central Tennessee safe, Johnston won’t have to worry about his supply line, either. Everything’ll be hunky dory until Johnston finds himself between the Army of the Tennessee near Cairo and the Army of the Cumberland coming up through Memphis.

I finally decided it was time to force some distractions in the East, having put down the worst of the raiders in North Carolina. I’m still in trouble because the Union has free range of the coasts, but if I can bog my dad down around the Potomac, his command points will be too tied up in dealing with Jo Johnston and his outriders to continue an invasion of the Carolinas by sea. Johnston’s ventured around the Potomac into Pennsylvania and sent off a small command to take Harrisburg as bait. If McDowell tries to do anything about regiments that were sent to take Harrisburg, even though those forces will be completely overrun, he’ll leave a path wide open for Johnston to march straight from Chambersburg into Washington DC. As long as I can force McDowell to run around chasing brigadier generals around Pennsylvania, I’ll be in good shape.

We’ve been at this for about for just shy of a month now, and are at the half-way point for the game.  I’m really hoping that my Dad will win one, since, not counting the few games of Ogre we played, our latest streak has been 3-0 for me, but the opportunity to march into DC with the Army of Northern Virginia is just too much to pass up.

Anyway, tonight I play Dungeon Crawl Classics for the first time! My friend who is running his wild and woolly urban dungeon crawl has opted to use a different system so he doesn’t have to offer an apologia to new players re:LotFP’s art.

Short Reviews will resume next week.

Civil War pt 4

One of the interesting things about Civil War is that turns can go by either really quickly or drag on for ages. For instance, last week, it took over two hours to get through turn three. Last night, over a little over two hours, my dad and I knocked out three turns.

The game has some built in balancing mechanics in regards to turn length. The game isn’t a straight up contest for who has the most victory points but a measure of the spread between the Union’s VPs and the Confederacy’s VPs. Part of the reason behind this is that the Confederacy isn’t really going to doing much rampaging conquest unless something goes dreadfully wrong for the Union player; they’re trying to hold onto what they start with, eking out a few extra points on the margins, while the North is trying to rack up enough points to end the war. Therefore, the Confederacy benefits from relatively short turns during which the Union can make as few actions as possible and waste what Command Points they have left. To compensate for the edge the Union has with longer turns, the Confederacy gets points for each re-roll on the command table (which results in additional command points for each side and more chances for the Union to take advantage of having greater numbers, more rail capacity, and a Navy).  In the long-run, you’re probably better off with short Union turns than the 1-3 extra point you get from extra command table rolls.

I’m continuing to have issues dealing with the naval incursions. Robert E. Lee has been forced to waste his time chasing Curtis’ raiders about in North Caroline, and Stonewall Jackson has built a fortress in the middle of the swamp just outside of New Orleans where the Army of the Mississippi is dug in deep to prevent further nautical incursions. With the Union forming the Army of the Cumberland in New Orleans, we’ve reached a bizarre stalemate tying up several talented generals, ships and thousands of men. I have no idea what I’m going to do in Arkansas, with no 3 Star to form and lead the Army of the West (I could always send Lee!). The only bright spots are Virginia and Tennessee. The Generals Johnston are dug in deep, Jo keeping McDowell inactive on his side of the Potomac and Albert Sydney keeping Grant & Lyon on the Kentucky side of the Cumberland. Despite making the west his primary theater all three turns, my Dad never got around to doing anything useful with Army of the Tennessee. Oh, and the Texas and New Mexico militias shot at each other in the middle of the wastelands and both deserted, closing, for now, the battle for the far west.

As a Cuban American, I am not offended by this at all, so all of you non-Cubans can shut up about it* + Civil War Pt 3

I absolve you, you deep fried queen of the south.  May the set of knives with your name on the blades in my kitchen remain forever sharp.

Paula Deen

Hell, she fired the person who posted this and pulled it immediately. For the people who were all “if it wasn’t racist, why’d she delete it?”, she deleted because of people like this guy and everyone else who is all “Saved for evidence of racism!”

Besides, isn’t this just white-face?  You see, Desi Arnaz and many Cubans, myself included, are basically just white guys who tan really well.  Now that White-Hispanics are a thing, liberal white people have made it so that we’re not even allowed to be “People of Color” anymore.  Probably because a lot of Cubans have an anti-communist bent for understandable reasons.

This did get me thinking about food, though.  There’s a decent overlap between southern down home cooking and Cuban cuisine.  My mom, who grew up in the north, remembers how people thought she and her family were weird and crazy with their red beans, rice, fried porkchops & vinegar and whatnot; down in the south, though, no one bats an eye at red beans & rice.  Fried anything is good.  Food transcends race and could be bringing everyone together if people stopped saying that eating other cultures’ food is racist.  Down here in the south, we’ll eat anything.

Speaking of the South, if the South rises again, it certainly won’t be the next few turns of Civil War.  After all of the chaotic scurrying in the Trans-Mississippi in the first two turns, my endeavors there amounted to little more than a temporary distraction.  I overallocated my command resources there while I didn’t have the manpower or generals to take advantage of it.  Meanwhile, though Johnston and Jeb Stuart were able to split Kentucky down the middle, them union boys were able to get into Nashville by boat from Cairo.  Fort Donelson & Fort Henry were both burned to the ground, and an out-of-supply Army of the Tennessee had to fight their way back over rivers toward the capital, surrendering Kentucky to the damn Yankees.  That’s not the worst of it, though. That bastard Foot sailed down the coast of Virginie and into North Carolina and seized several ports.  The Army of Northern Virginia’s far too busy keeping McDowell in check and on his side of the Mason Dixie to pull back and do anything about it, and even if they could, it would leave the road to Richmond wide open.  I don’t know that I’ll ever get enough guys to do anything about them, because the Rebs have garbage railroads.  I’ll need at least a two star general to march off and do something about those ports.  At least my Texas rangers ran off those damn Injuns!

I’m not worried about losing or doing poorly, though.  My dad needs to break his losing streak.  The best part is, I can honestly say I’m not going easy on him.  Taking both the Tennessee heartland and the Carolina coastline was a master stroke.  The idea of Stonewall Jackson burning down supply depots all over Kansas and Missouri may have been neat and exciting, but it was ultimately derping around when I should’ve been focusing on keeping the rivers open.

*: If you’re Cuban and are actually upset by this, fine, whatever, but white tumblrites and twitter hipsters getting offended on our behalf can sod off.

Civil War & Book Haul

Over the course of two nights, my dad & I managed to set up and play the first two turns of Civil War. My girlfriend could not wrap her head around the notion that we’d spent 3 hours playing Friday night and only finished two turns. Part of the reason for the length of turns in Civil War is the method of determining actions and turn length; turns can go on, while not indefinitely, for a very long time.

Each turn, both sides roll for command points and initiative. On the first roll, each player gets a number of command points for each theater based on their own roll and the priority of theater (which is set secretly by each player the previous turn). The difference between the players’ die rolls is used to determine how many actions each player may take, with the higher rolling player going first with an initiative advantage of one reinforcement point or one general without the cost of an action. Rolling identical initiatives will give both players additional command points, and move the command track marker along, unless the identical initiatives are listed on the command track as ones which will end the turn immediately. This goes on back and forth until both players have spent all of their command points and reinforcements or players make a turn ending initiative roll.

The mechanics of Civil War are designed to reflect the problems both sides had during the conflict. Supply and logistics are an issue for both players, but the south moreso. Historically, no sides were ever able to strike quick and decisive blows, but would rather skirmish, shift about, skirmish some more, and hope to eventually wear their enemy down. In Civil War, you can win several victories against an army, but in a subsequent pulse, reinforcements can negate any damage you’ve done beyond gaining advantageous grounds. Unless you have an exceptional general (a Lee or a Grant), most armies in a theater will only have two attacks in a turn, and there’s probably more productive use of your command points than having the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia go tit-for-tat. But when you’ve won a skirmish, you just feel like you have to press in pursuit for the kill, even knowing mechanically you’re not really getting that much of an edge.

So, in our first two turns, much of the mucking about happened in the Trans-Mississippi region. Stonewall Jackson led a small force to take Springfield and drive the Indians out of Kansas. Most of the operations were a wash, I couldn’t hold anything in Missouri, and Jackson was eventually ran back east, but not before three Union supply depots were burned. I may have made a mistake in not sticking Earl Van Dorn in Arkansas, thinking he’d do less harm banished to New Orleans; despite being an absolutely lousy general, he’s just about the only army level commander that the south can spare for that region early in the game.

Most of the rest of the turn was tit-for-tat along the Maryland/Virginia border while I built up the Army of the Tennessee. Beginning on Turn 3, both sides can make a play for Kentucky, and I want to have an army ready to do so while the Union’s attention has been divided.

I’m trying to get more reading done and less screwing around with antique video games (but Sword of Aragon is just soooo good!), and managed to knock out two of the books on my list from this weekend, a posthumously published Fritz Leiber Lovecraftian Sci-fi Horror, The Dealings of Daniel Kesserich, and a supplemental volume (a chunk of an earlier collection not entirely released in English) of short fiction by Stanislaw Lem, Memoirs of a Space Traveller: the Further Reminisces of Ijon Tichy.

Leiber’s Lovecraftian tale was a treat, and I’ll leave it at that; Lem’s short stories were a mixed bag. I find that I personally enjoy Lem the most when he is writing sci-fi horror tales of the “what hath we gods wrought?!” variety, in which mad scientists have unveiled their monstrosities that require a rethinking of human body, mind and soul. Some of his absurdist (often ad nauseum) stuff is a little too precious for me, and I won’t hold any attacks on straw capitalism he was probably forced to write in the 50s against him. But I prefer the Ijon Tichy as Randolf Carter to the Ijon Tichy as Baron Munchausen.

I really need to start doing my Short Reviews again, especially as I’ve got a lot of fodder for them. It’s just that my own writing and game development has taken up a lot of my time. Over the weekend, I picked up quite a haul to supplement my meager pulp collection, hopefully of the variety that will blow those 70s issues of Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction out of the water. For a little over $20, I got a stack of 15 issues of Astounding from between 1949 and 1951. The real score of my Sunday haul, though, was this copy of Planet Stories from 1949 featuring a Leigh Brackett Mars novel.

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