Thursday, February 22, 2007

Feb. 22, 2007 - Barnes and Noble sale!

Well, I felt a bit silly buying a stack of games last night, given my current gamerless-group status - however, its pretty tough to pass on 75% off. You see, each February B&N clearances off a lot of the games that they stocked up on during the holiday season. This sale is a game unto itself, because it starts at 50% and then hits 75% and then usually they hit $1-$5. This is on games that typically run in the $40-$50 range (though last year, i found a couple $70 games at 50%). Both last year and this year, I got very lucky and on a whim stopped in to a Barnes and Noble store. At first, I was sure I had missed the sale as I didn't see any tables with games at all. However, as I went deeper into the store, I found them. a few minutes later, I walked out with 5 new games for around $60. I dashed off to another and added a couple more games. So what did I find?
  • Roborally - I found two copies of this (one at each store) for $12.50 each. I'll keep one and trade off or sell the other. On second thought, the box doesn't fit my collection - I may get rid of them both.
  • Rheinlander - I didn't find this game overly engaging, but its expensive normally, so its trade fodder.
  • Tsuro - I traded this away last year, but for $7, I didn't mind re-acquiring it.
  • Puerto Rico - I already have a new copy I've never opened, but you can't pass this up at $12.50. Definitely a trade or sell item.
  • I'm the Boss - this was a gamble. Its a Sid Saxon game, so I'm leaning towards it likely to be a good game, but I've never seen it played. Again, $50 game for $12.50, so I took the chance. At worse, its trade fodder.
  • Niagara - Spiel des Jahres winner in 2005. I was pretty middle of the road in my one playing of it (though the concept is sound and the movement of the river is unique and interesting). The only reason I grabbed this was to net a $50 game at $12.50. I'll likely keep this, though I would trade it if I get an interesting offer.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Feb. 10, 2007 - Battle Cry Charles vs Jason

Cedar Mountain
I guess I felt a little bold after the last campaign, as I pressed hard to try and trap Jason's troops at the back of the board. Unfortunately, the dice were on Jason's side and he mashed my forward units hard. This scenario also only gave us 3 cards, and mine were not helping me take the battle to Jason like I would have liked and he won 6-3. The confederates now are up 84-83 for the war.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Feb. 7, 2007 - Samurai

Another game of Samurai on MaBiWeb with the usual suspects - Dion Garner, Jason Sato, and Mike Gingold. I went with my four player strategy of trying to lock up one of the islands, while grabbing pieces as the opportunities showed. However, in a four player game, you typically need to have at least 5 of one of the three types to even contend for a majority, which I was not likely to achieve, so near the end of the game, I realized I could stop the game - no point in going on knowing I couldn't win. Since I didn't know who might win, I hoped for a three way draw. However, Dion and Jason had each managed to snag 5 in two different areas and Dion ended up having the most other influence for the win.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Feb 6, 2007 - Battle Cry Review (part 1 of 4 on the Command and Colors games)

This is part one of a four of a series of reviews I’m doing on the Richard Borg Command and Colors series. Each review will look at the game in its own light, as well as how it compares to the others in the series.

Battle Cry, which was released in 2000 by Avalon Hill/Hasbro, was the first game of the Command and Colors series to be published. The game was a light war game style game set in the Civil War. The mark of this game was the simplistic system for combat, as well as a card driven order system.

For each game, players take one side (Confederate or Union) and set up the game board according to the scenario booklet. The game board, which is made of large hexes, is divided into three sections (left and right flanks, and of course the middle). The setup consists of placing and terrain hexes on the map (to simulate different battlefields) and then placing infantry, cavalry, artillery and on occasion, a General unit. The setup for each scenario is set and doesn’t allow for any player configuration. The scenarios also indicate how many command cards each side starts with and which side moves first.

Each player takes his turn by playing a command card from their hand. The card indicates which section (left right middle) the player may order units, and how many units may receive orders. First the player chooses which units to order, then the selected units may move. Units have different movement restrictions on how far they may move, and if they can participate in combat if they move. After all movement is completed, combat is resolved. The player rolls dice depending on their distance from the unit being attacked and may modify the number of dice rolled based on terrain, whether a general is attached to the unit and possibly card modifiers. The die have unit symbols indicating if a unit has been hit or must retreat or been missed altogether. For this game, the die have two sides indicating infantry, one side for cavalry, one side for artillery, one wildcard hit (crossed sabers) and one retreat symbol (flag). If the symbol matches the unit under attack, that unit loses a “portion” of its strength. Infantry have 4 strength, Cavalry 3, and Artillery 2. Each flag is the number of spaces a unit must retreat back to their side. If a unit is blocked from retreating, it loses strength. If a unit must retreat off the back of the board, it is lost, regardless of strength (this is a major difference from the rest of the series). A unit always fights at the same power, regardless of how “wounded” it has become. When a unit is completely reduced in strength, the opposing player receives a standard bearer from that unit indicating a victory point. Scenarios are typically played to 6 VPs, first to get 6 wins.

The components for this game are a mixed lot. The plastic army pieces are quite good in blue and grey and there are colorful flag stickers for the standard bearers. The board and terrain hexes are good quality and will stand up for many plays. There are plenty of dice and they are of a good weight. They are however, the standard dice that Avalon Hill/Hasbro put out with a large number of games during this time, and so require stickers be applied to each side. This is not only tedious, but annoying if you are the least bit anal about this sort of thing. The cards are large and plain, but are not what you would consider standard cardstock, but rather cut cardboard with only the thinnest of finishes. The instruction booklet is quite plain and mostly black and white text (though it was printed on glossy paper – go figure). Though fairly spartan, the instructions are straight forward and its easy to follow.

- It a fun light battle game.

- Though not the best of the series, the pacing and way the battles play out are more “realistic” as far as feel for this era go than say Memoir 44.

- Games are played out quickly.

- Balance. A large part of this series is the balance factor. Though a scenario may be biased, by each player playing both sides and the winner being determined by the total of the two scores, any imbalance from the basic setup is neutralized.

- Easy to play via Email. This one plays very well over VASSAL, as each player’s turn is mostly self contained and requires little feedback (in over 18 games, direction of retreat has almost never been an issue). In fact, nearly all my playings have been via email/vassal.

- It’s not a simulation. True war gamers cringe when people call this a war game (even a light war game).

- It can take as long to setup as it does to play. Setup in this Command and Colors game is one of the faster ones, since the units are almost always infantry, but it still takes a while and this C&C game tends to use the terrain.

- If you somehow find a new copy of this out of print game, putting on all the pennants is a pain. The dice are also a bit of a pain.

- The cards aren’t the best and I have to question how long they’ll last.

- As I mentioned, this game is out of print. Though not impossible to find (as of early 2007), it does fetch a good price point on EBay, even for used copies.

- The entire game system is full of random goodness. From the cards to the dice that determine casualties. A well played game doesn’t always mean victory.

This one is a solid 8 for me. I enjoy the differences of this from the others – slower early part of the game with a furious mid-game and often a quick endgame (though on occasion, a bad hand of cards can draw out the game longer than it should). The pace of play, for me, simulates the battles for this era perfectly in such a light game. The system has its randomness, but I can accept that especially since it will even out over the course of a number of games.

Feb. 6, 2007 - Battle Cry Charles vs Jason

This one didn't look like fun, but I was able to press and take advantage of Jason's units being against the back side of the board. This let me take out a few units early and I think changed Jason's plan of attack, as he started to advance units. Fortunately for me, I was able to get a card letting me move enough units to finish off the game 6-3 (if I hadn't gotten that card, I'd have probably lost 3-6). The Union takes back the lead 80-78 for the war.

Feb. 5, 2007 Hansa on MaBiWeb

This playing of Hansa was with my normal online group of Jason Sato, Dion Garner and Mike Gingold. I played my normal strategy of getting as many markets in different cities early, and only trying to score when I had a good chance. Unfortunately, I didn't have many shots at matching pieces, and when I did they were never three-barrels. I also ended up having to either pay Jason, or leave the boat in perfect setup for Jason far too often and he easily won this one, while I was a distant 3rd.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Feb. 5, 2007 - Memoir 44 Charles vs Jason M

Ardennes - Bataogne Corridor East
Short and sweet. The West side was no good to me, but turnabout is fair play and the East afforded me a quick 6-2 win. I had a good run of luck as my tanks bulled their way through and my artillery helped to wear down Jason's troops. Jason is still up 115-102 for the war.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Feb. 4, 2007 - Memoir 44 Charles vs Jason

Ardennes - Bastogne Corridor West
Well, I don't even know what happened. We were going along normally, tied at 3, no real advantage that I could see on either side. The Jason played a "Their Finest Hour" card and managed to move some tanks all over the map. He got some good rolls and suddenly wiped out three more units, winning the game. 107-96 Jason builds his lead up again.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Jan. 31, 2007 - Memoir 44 Charles vs Bobby

In our continuing (and random) series of games...
Bobby managed a 10-7 win here (probably could have won earlier if he had the right card). I had a nasty game and my cards never seemed to allow me a chance to counter anything Bobby was doing - plus I hate having to play my card in advance of Bobby's turn (stupid Russians).