Fire & Fury
I went to see a friend of mine in the provincial town of Riistavesi and took with me the Port Republic game I made for last Warcon. Since I had only played it through once before, I was happy to get it on the table. So, 6mm ACW it was! Port Republic as a historical wargame is a bit of a lopsided battle. The Union troops on the board are initially strong, but are quickly outnumbered by Confederate reinforcements. It's a matter on how hard the Confederates jump up and down on the Union and to set victory conditions accordingly. This is why I designed an "equalizer variant" to the battle to make the opposing parties more evenly matched. This was quite easy and historically plausible as there were a couple of "Independent brigades" in the Shenandoah valley at the time accompanying another division. We signed the transfer papers and suddenly they were supporting Shields against Jackson. The scenario proved very even now, with both sides having difficulties gaining ground. In the end It was two victory points in favor of the confederates, but the situation was very much a draw. Stonewall Jackson himself was captured by a charging Union Brigade.
The next one was a block wargame. One of Columbia Games' newer offerings, it pits the armies of Julius Caesar against those of Pompey, so the Roman civil war was next. For those who've played Columbia's wargames, the game is instantly familiar. Movement on land and sea is familiar to War of 1812, and the game features a card driven system of activations, reinforcement and special events. Players have a hand of cards to activate their units each year. The card played determines initiative that turn, the number of locations (1-4) the player may activate and how many steps the player may repair and reinforce blocks (1-3). The special events range from getting a small bonus to combat to being able to steal a block from your opponent.
The scenario starts as Caesar crosses the Rubicon and progresses for a maximum of five years. Caesar has better troops and more of them, but he has the burden of attack and a temporary inferiority at sea, so it balances out. Although in our game lady Fortuna granted great victories and humiliating defeats, the game remained very close until the very last phase and battle. On the last turn there were lots of opportunities for the game to have ended differently, but in the end Caesar lost 6-7. It was very exciting and took us about 5 hours. Of Columbia's games, I think this one is the most forgiving to a player losing his blocks that I have played since players are allowed to reinforce a lot and returning an eliminated block into play costs the same as reinforcing another for one step. The only limitation is that some of the better legions can only come back into play in certain cities, and only if those cities are occupied by friendly troops. I warmly recommend this as a light block wargame, although it definitely takes more than the two hours printed on the box if the war drags on for the whole duration.
|The game was decided in Greece and Pompey took a narrow win. The green stacks with the brown blocks have Julius' troops which have been hijacked using the special "Jupiter" event card.|
Valor of the Guards
Last up, some more ASL! My game of choice for tactical Hex&Counter WW2 tactical action has gotten a lot of attention recently, and I'm quite happy with the situation. We played Scenario VotG9 "Eviction notice", which takes us back to the savage streets of Stalingrad. The Soviets are attacking a German position and have to assert control over the northern half of the field, which is no easy task. Both sides had a good number of elite troops, and the Germans were equipped with a 37mm gun. The Soviets had two T-40 tanks but it was the T-34 which gave the Germans trouble. The German gun wasn't able to scratch it and I won't mention anything about the antitank rifles they had. The T-34 could pretty much just waltz up and down the streets at will without fear as long as it wasn't tied into melee.
|"Eviction notice" is one of the smaller scenarios in Valor of the Guards. The Soviets must take the right side half of the field in order to win.|
The fighting in the buildings and rubble was pretty much what you would expect of Stalingrad. Lots of fire, lots of casualties in melee and little ground taken as a result. After some nasty casualties on the both sides, it was the Soviets who suffered most and were unable to claim the area they needed for a win.
So, Miniatures, Blocks and Hex&Counter games all in the same week, and it's only friday! A good cross section of the most popular ways to play wargames. I really cannot name a favourite type. With miniature games, I love the visual grandeur and the hobby aspect of building terrain and painting miniatures. Block wargames are without peer to present fog of war, bluffing and uncertainty the armies faced. Hex&Counter games represent a vast variety of different levels of command, scale and realism on a fairly inexpensive medium. Each type of game has their pros and cons, and I'm happy to play almost anything in the light-medium scale. ASL is one of the few "hardcore wargames" I bother with though, and I definitely shy away from the monsters.