Category Archives: Boardgames

Rebel Raiders on the High Seas (09/02/14 – Nick)

This was our second play of this game so now it was my turn to suffer the frustration of being the early war Union (had it really been over 6 months since the first!!?). Luckily, C3i 27 arrived from Hexasim the day before our game so we were able to clear up a few of the rule queries from our previous game due to the updated Player Aids and FAQs included with the magazine.

The big picture

The big picture

I built up the Union forces and concentrated on enforcing the blockade (badly!) until the April 1863 turn, when the Union gets 3 dice in Land Assaults (from 1 in 1861 and 2 in 1862). With the Confederates in a land battle rolling 2 dice basic plus 1 for every battery which survives the naval battle and also winning ties, going in as the Union before 1863 takes nerve, luck and a stack of good cards (which I had neglected to have the luck to draw). Added to this is that if there are any Confederate ships present in a river or sea port and the Union is attacking by water they have to be defeated before any land assault can take place.

My attempts on Charleston & St Augustine

My attempts on Charleston & St Augustine

The Union initiates attacks by expending a “cannon pawn” – basically action chits, but they only get 2 free per turn, so if they want to make the full total of 4 attacks per turn they have to have “built” 2 extra pawns in the previous turn – of course, this spending of resources stops them building the Ironclads, Steam Sloops and Gunboats to actually do the fighting.

Island no 10 and Forts Henry & Donaldson

Island no 10 and Forts Henry & Donaldson

My main push was from Cairo into Fort Henry & Donelson, though I did fight a few naval actions down the East Coast, but even when I succeeded and cleared the Confederate navy out my land assault failed. I thought I’d worked out how to take Fort Henry & Donelson by sending in a force to take out the enemy batteries and ships, then sending in a second force to try and take the space through land assault, but this failed through a masterly card-combo from the Confederates. Needless to say, re-rolling any dice or all dice twice with the Confederates winning ties saw me lose the battle.

That damned card combo!

That damned card combo!

The C3i play sheet insert has an errata which limits Johnston to 1 space per movement phase, but if he succeeds in getting put back into the Confederate hand (which he did), then he can pop up anywhere on the map next turn (which he did). We got in 8 turns in 4 hours, so with 12 turns in the full game (perhaps 13 depending on a card play), we’re looking at 6 hours to finish if the game goes the full distance. I had to failed to emulate the Union capture of even 1 Confederate port in the last game (Key West), but now we have played 2 games we think that we can use the recommended 1862 scenario and we would probably get it finished. The later start to the game which places more Union forces in the Gulf of Mexico and thus gives them a better starting position might address our  queries over game balance. That said, it’s a sign of how good this game is that even while getting stuffed I really enjoyed the game. Recommended.

The stacked odds in the Gulf of Mexico

The stacked odds in the Gulf of Mexico

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Cuba Libre (19/01/14 – Nick)

For our first get-together in quite a while we settled on a game of “Cuba Libre”, with Nick taking his usual COIN series side of choice, the Government bully-boy faction, while I was those heroes of the revolution, the 26July. We decided to play with the non-player flowchart option – though it probably took a bit longer than us taking 2 factions each, it certainly spiced the game up. The AI for the non-player factions seemed plausible most of the time, although as the Syndicate I would have building casinos quicker (but what do I know – see final scores below….)

Set-up at start

Set-up at start

The first Propaganda came up on the 3rd card and the Government got smacked down a level of support to Reluctant almost immediately, due to the fact that the Directorio AI had reduced their support with Terror in Havana on their first action. With the downgrading of U.S. backing the Government lost Aid and started to become strapped for the resources needed to perform actions with. The Directorio AI was fairly even-handed though, killing a few of my guerillas as well, which allowed the Government to get a foothold in the mountainous Las Villas area – with its population value of 2 this really is a key area for all players. I attempted one attack on it which was foiled by a combination of the Directorio AI and a government momentum card which allowed them to assault and kill my troops as it it were a non-mountainous region. This defeat allowed the Government to gain enough points for a victory just as the third Propaganda card was turned, but the Directorio had the 2nd activation on that last card, and luckily the AI dictated that they performed a Terror op on all cities, snatching the auto-victory from the Government’s grasp.

Havana & Las Villas

Havana & Las Villas

I stupidly enacted the Pact of Caracas event, meaning from now on I couldn’t change the alignment of Directorio regions nor perform any actions which would impact their troops, so this meant I had to go into new regions to try and win support – unfortunately these new regions were crawling with troops and police.  I managed to overrun the economic centres in an attempt to deny the Government resources with which to buy Civic Actions  (swing areas towards support and thus gain victory points), but it was too little too late. The Government was able to pass on the last card before the final Propaganda, giving them 3 resources which they used on civic actions to bring 2 cities back to active support and gaining them the win – just…Final scores Government +1, Directorio & Syndicate 0, 26July -1. I finished last behind a couple of  AI Flowcharts – Che would have been disgusted!

The Mob Casinos rule the cities

The Mob Casinos rule the cities

We both enjoyed this game more than Andean Abyss, probably because the cramped board meant we had to attack each other from the outset, with the victory point scores swinging back and forth. Cuba Libre is certainly very playable with 2 players (more so than AA) and if-and-when we ever get a 3-player session together with our mate the Pope (the one in our Vassal game of Here I Stand) then this would definitely be top of my list, with the AI playing the Mob (Syndicate).

Game end

Game end

Board Wargames played during 2013

Kingdom of Heaven - the Crusaders land at Antioch

Kingdom of Heaven – the Crusaders land at Antioch

Looking at my BGG recorded plays, it comes as no surprise that the game I played most was also my game of the year, “Kingdom of Heaven” from MMP. With 2 face-to-face plays and 2 games on Vassal, I’ve only really scratched the surface of this one as it has a lot of scenarios all of which look playable in an afternoon. I’m hoping to get a Vassal game of the 3rd Crusade in soon.

Rebel Raiders

Rebel Raiders

My next favourite game was GMT’s “Rebel Raiders on the High Seas”, a strategic level attempt at gaming the ACW at sea. The cards add a lot of flavour to the game and the fact that it can be finished in an afternoon means it should hit the table again.

Andean Abyss game

Andean Abyss game

I warmed more to “Andean Abyss” after playing it face-to-face with 4 players (a rare event), so much so that I bought “Cuba Libre” (the next in the COIN series) and have had 3 really fun solo games of it. If anyone is thinking of starting with the COIN series I would recommend starting with “Cuba Libre” and taking it from there.

Cuba Libre - a smaller scale game than Andean Abyss

Cuba Libre – a smaller scale game than Andean Abyss

I also bought “Fading Glory”, the Napoleonic quad from GMT and played an excellent game of Waterloo 20 against my son when we were on holiday. In a reversal of history, it came down to the last turn when his Imperial Guard corps beat the British Guard Corps at Waterloo for a last-minute French victory – a cracking little game and an excellent system. We also had a few games of Star Wars: X-Wing which is more of a minis game than a board game I suppose, but a fun fast-playing system whatever it is.

On the Vassal front, I had 2 games of “Shifting Sands” and 2 of “Kingdom of Heaven”, one of each with my school friend David (http://http://www.davidpentlandart.com/) and one of each with Gary of Sgt Steiner blog fame (http://sgtsteiner.blogspot.co.uk/). I also played a couple of games of Command & Colours:Ancients with Gary.

For those who read last year’s summary of my board gaming year, “Sekigahara” still lies unstickered and GMT have now issued a 2nd edition which has a big enough box to fit all the components in – ARGHHH!. As mentioned, I got “Cuba Libra” in the Autumn and my lovely wife got me “No Retreat – African Front” for Christmas, so hoping to get that on the table soon.

Next year I’m looking forward to “FAB Golan” (420 pre-orders) and the “Norway 1940″ expansion for “PQ17″ (388 pre-orders) – both from GMT, but looking at those pre-orders, I can’t see them getting printed next year. The next game in the COIN series is “Fire in the Lake” which is set in Vietnam will be printed, and though I love the theme, I’ll wait until it’s released before I commit to buying it. So with not a lot of new stuff on the near horizon, maybe I’ll get some of those old games on the table? We shall see….. 🙂

Cuba Libre, Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, Longstreet & Saga

My gaming has been restricted lately due to illness, but hopefully I’m on the mend now. One casualty of this was a game of Longstreet which I started but didn’t get to finish – here are a couple of (poor) photos of that game which at least give a flavour of the cards and unit sizes.

Rebs behind a wall

Rebs behind a wall

Union advance

Union advance

Unfortunately I didn’t get to play for long enough to form a concrete opinion on the rules, but I definitely want to give them another try soon.

On a recent holiday from work, I got a few solo run-throughs of “Cuba Libre” from GMT in – though I was a bit lukewarm on “Andean Abyss” (the first game in the COIN series) “Cuba Libre” is much more my thing with a smaller map and a faster playtime. Of course, we’ll need to see how this plays out face-to-face, but I have high hopes for it.

Cuba Libre midway through a solo game

Cuba Libre midway through a solo game

Going back in time to before the long, hot summer, Nick and myself had both been given GMT’s “Rebel Raiders on the High Seas” for our birthdays in June, so it was a no-brainer to try to get it onto the table as soon as possible and we managed this in late June. It was our first trip to sea since a 7 hour marathon “1805:  Sea of Glory” game in October 2009, which we of course failed to finish – “Rebel Raiders” looked more promising in the “finish in an afternoon” category, with 3 hours being the predicted play time. It isn’t a card driven game as such, more card assisted, but gripping none-the-less. The Union have to enforce the blockade whilst at the same time trying to conquer forts and ports by sea and river – the Confederates have to send out blockade runners to bring back goods, giving them victory points which can then be spent on building ironclads, raiders or cannons for port defence.

The east coast as the Union blockade tightens

The east coast as the Union blockade tightens

The Union dice rolling was truly appalling during the game with only Key West falling in the first 2 years of the game, but despite our unfamiliarity with rules we nearly got the game completed, so for once the playtime estimate looks about right.

Cards of the coast of Florida

Cards off the coast of Florida

I have put my non-playing time to some good use by finishing my Scots and Irish warbands for Saga – expect to see these on the table over Christmas in at least one of our usual multiplayer games.

Scots Hearthguard

Scots Hearthguard

Scots Spears

Scots Spears

Irish Hearthguard

Irish Hearthguard

Next Saturday I hope to see a few Saga tournament games at Warfare in Reading, though unfortunately I won’t be playing 😦

Until next time…

Star Wars: X-Wing (17/03/13 – Solo)

Stay on target

Stay on target

This was an odd choice to play solo given the hidden movement mechanic, but with the arrival of the new ships and the impending dual with my son over Easter, I felt I needed to brush up on the rules and some tactics.  Also, being completely depressed by the rugby (the injury rate in the Irish team being comparable to the attrition my Crusaders are suffering in a Vassal game I’m playing at the moment), I needed something which wasn’t too heavy.  Anyone who enjoyed “Wings of War” would enjoy this game, though the movement mechanic of playing 3 move cards has changed to selecting a move on a dial which is then placed face-down beside the ship it applies to. Each ship comes with a stat card which detail the pilot skill as well as what their attack and damage ratings are, any special actions they can perform and whether they have shields or not – much of this information is replicated on the model ship’s base, which is useful. There’s a choice of up to 6 pilots for each machine – there may be more with some of the expansions which I don’t own – and each ship can be given upgrades, though this means you will get less ships for your force.

Stat cards

Stat cards

In the turn sequence, after orders have been placed, there is a rigid action order where the least skilled pilots move first but then the most skilled pilots fire first. For dolts like me this takes some getting used to as the least skilled pilots can stop the pilots who move later from performing their orders by getting in the way, so some pre-planning and thinking ahead is essential (as well as second-guessing what your opponent will do). When ships do get in each other’s way, the base overlap is dealt with elegantly – you have to stop if you can’t completely clear another ship’s base and a Special Action can’t be performed if you end up touching another ship’s base (or an asteroid). As two of the new ships (the Millenium Falcon and Slave-1) have very large bases, planning becomes even more important now and blocking these ships from moving is easier to execute than against ships with smaller bases. On the plus side, the ship you’re touching can’t shoot at you (usually – there is a special pilot ability which overrides this, but I think only one A Wing pilot possesses it)

Rebel scum

Rebel scum

Shooting is dealt with by opposing dice rolls with certain special actions able to influence the dice in the attacker or defender’s favour, but when there are any hits left over then damage has to be taken. There are two types of hits shown on the dice – normal and critical (as in “Wings of War”), and normal hits must be cancelled before criticals. A normal hit just draws the top card off the damage deck and places it beside the ship card face down – when the number of normal hits equals or exceeds the hull value of the ship, it is destroyed. A critical hit means the damage card has to be turned over and this is always bad, ranging from damage to engines/cockpit etc (which can sometimes be repaired) to losing 2 hull points.

Dodging asteroids

That’s more or less all there is to it. There’s a few extra bells and whistles such as stressful moves which allow difficult manoeuvres at the expense of losing special actions in future turns until you perform a calmer manoeuvre, but sometimes you have to perform that Immelman to avoid flying off the 3′ x 3′ board (thus exiting the game). There are also penalties for hitting asteroids and shooting at ships obscured by asteroids, but not too much to remember. If the above sounds too simple, it still gives a really exciting game in under an hour on a small table which is sometimes all I have time for.

Slave 1

Slave 1

The one issue I would have with the game is price. Though the starter set can be had on-line for around £25, it only gives you an X Wing and two Tie fighters. This is enough to try out the rules and see if you like them but to give a decent game you will want 3-6 ships per side, and at £12 per ship it soon gets expensive. I got mine for Christmas though, so I didn’t pay :-), but it is a consideration. That said, the possibilities for cliched Star Wars quotes during a game are endless, so the game gets a thumbs-up from me on that alone.