Wednesday, April 28, 2010

PBEM Olympics - UR Game 1

After the crushing defeat of PR, I chose to start our next series in a game none of us had tried before - MaBiWeb's implementation of UR. Having virtually no clue, we setup - I was immediately unhappy with my choices. I had pinned myself between Justin and Nathan and the edge of the board (Chester was off by himself). I had to punish Justin in order to break out, which only helped Nathan and Chester. Both of them managed to score double ziggurats and my late push wasn't enough to catch the two of them. Justin hadn't caught onto the rules or the scoring and floundered in this first round. Final scores: Nathan-39, Chester-37, Me-36, Justin-13

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Geekway to the West 2010

One more day until the Geekway 2010. Ok, the official event starts Friday at 8:00AM, but I get to leave Thursday morning and will be gaming most of Thursday. I'm excited about this year's Geekway for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I get to hook up and game with a familiar cast of characters - Nathan Winchester, Justin Easley, Jason Easley, Chester Ogborn, Steve Wicklund, John Davis and Matt Steele. Nathan of course is my local gaming buddy, Justin and Jason are guys I met in Omaha who have trekked out for the Geekway the past three years, Chester is an Omaha native who is an ingrained part of the history of the Geekway, and Steve, John, and Matt are guys I worked with at Union Pacific. I look forward to sitting at a table at some point with all of them. Justin, Nathan, and Chester are of course the other three players in my online PBEM Olympics group so I'm sure there will be plenty of bitching the whole weekend. Though the point of the convention is to play games, the point of playing games is social. A long weekend of relaxing games is Chicken Soup For the Boardgamer's Soul.
Beyond getting to see (and beat repeatedly) good friends, there are the games. The first year I attended I didn't know what to expect and played a pretty good variety of games. Some new and I taught a number of games I knew. Last year we wanted to play certain games and only got in a handful of ones we planned to. What we ended up doing a lot of last year was playing the excellent selection of games from the Play to Win table. For those unfamiliar with the PTW table, here's the deal - sponsors have donated a huge selection of games that are available to checkout and play. After playing, everyone that played the game gets their name entered into a drawing for that game at the end of the Geekway. This year's table is again loaded, but I think we may actually try to play a few more of the games we've been talking about this year. I think last year's table was actually a bit more interesting - not a slight against the sponsors, rather the games that came out this past year just aren't as interesting (to me).
There are also the other events - tournaments and the trade table. This year there are a number of tourneys being run. Justin and I are returning as The Droids Ur Lookin 4 in the Crokinole tourney. I'm also planning to play in the Pitchcar tourney. Both are going to be nice breaks from the mental strain of being abused by my so called friends for three days. The trade table is a deal where you put your games up for trade. At the start of the event, a name is drawn at random. That person gets first pick from the trade table. After that, whomever's game is picked picks next and so forth. Good fun.
There are some changes to the event this year. Previous years have been in smaller venues with fairly "normal" hours (8Am-11Pm). As the event has grown, so has the need for a larger venue. This year the Geekway is being held at a hotel and there will be 24-7 (24-3) gaming. I'm not sure how well I'll hold up (its hard getting old), but I imagine I'll push through. In truth, I know that after two solid days of gaming my brain is fried. Perhaps the open ended times will take of some of the "pressure" to cram in as much playing as possible. Also, since we are staying at the same location as the actual event, taking a break whenever we like will be nice.
So, what games am I looking forward to trying (or trying to play)? Here's what I'm packing:
Amazing what you can fit into one regular sized game box.
  • Q-Jet 21xx
  • Edel Stein and Richt
  • Fjords
  • Tichu
  • Landlord
  • Buried Treasure
  • Excape
  • Sushizock im Gockelwok
  • Undercut
I'm also planning to bring out:
  • Senji
  • Wings of War II (minis)
  • Steam
  • Steam Barons
  • Gulf, Mobile, Ohio
  • A Game of Thrones
  • Twilight Struggle
  • Combat Commander: Europe
Twilight Struggle is something Nathan and I will play while traveling. Once we get to the hotel, I'll try and break out Combat Commander to teach to Nathan. I imagine I'll get in at least one more game of that with Jason Easley too. In addition to the games I'm bringing, I expect to play Greed Inc, Indonesia, Planet Steam, Confucius, Chaos in the Old World, War of the Roses, Thunderstone, and who knows what else. If last year was any indication, I'll play about 25% of what I think. Whew! I better get some rest :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Combat Commander: Europe - Closed For Renovations

Humaine, Belgium, Dec. 27, 1944 - After days of fierce combat and heavy bombardment, the town of humaine was surrounded by forces of the US 2nd Armored Division. Most of the German defenders surrendered after some hard fighting. Remnants of 9th Panzer Division occupying a chateau on the north end of town refused to give up, however, and it fell to CCR to root out these stubborn troops.

After dinner, it was Dancing with the Stars night, so I thought I'd check and see what Robert Bolan was doing. Turned out he wasn't doing anything so a little while later he stopped over and we sat down to play the 4th scenario for Combat Commander: Europe. This scenario pits the US forces in an assault against the German defender. The Germans have only two "1" command leaders and a small force of Elite Rifle Squads backed by some good weapons - heavy and light machines guns as well as the bad ass IG 18 Gun (pictured). Robert was tired of playing defender and choose to be the US forces this time around, so I setup my Germans. The main objective to the map was the chateau in the middle of the map (worth 15vps), so I setup the bulk of my forces there and one small group on my left flank. I setup wire in front to slow down any guys wanting to make a charge. Robert had to setup his US forces only in the first row of the map and spread out accordingly. My first turn was vanilla - I fired the IG 18 to let the Us forces know I could see them. Robert's cards weren't quite what he wanted, so he discarded the first hand - something I hoped for early - and I capitalized by getting reinforcements immediately. I choose a sergeant (leadership 2) which immediately gave me a huge amount of flexibility that I hadn't had a minute earlier. The US forces then called upon their artillery to lay down a couple of thick fields of smoke. With the German vision of the enemy reduced to one unit, there was nothing to do but fire and wait. The Germans managed an early kill by breaking and then routing an American squad. Then there was a lot of waiting - by both of us. Robert couldn't get movement cards, and I was holding cards waiting for the inevitable assault. It never came. Time ticked away rapidly in the early stages of the game. Finally Robert was able to press - he started moving troops up the German right flank, covered by a wall and lines of trees. Rather than waiting to be hunted down, I moved a couple of weapon units and heavy machine guns from the position in the house, out to some trees outside the wall in the hopes of catching the Americans out in the open. The US forces caught the Germans moving into position and open fire, breaking both weapon teams. I was forced to use my Recover card to restore the teams instead of getting off some shots with my Assault Fire. Once recovered, the machine gun teams were able to break an American leader, but the US brought up a medium machine gun and blasted the weapon teams, breaking them again. For a while it was a stalemate as the US tried to finish off the troops, but they were able to dig in a bit and last (though I couldn't get a Recover card to restore them to fighting prowess). Finally, I used an advance to pull the group back. A breeze came up and wiped the smoke from the map. With the view cleared, both sides started firing, though to little effect. And then the game went against Robert. Time and again, he called for an artillery barrage - time and again, the people shooting the artillery missed. A lot. Twice Robert hurt himself with artillery while the German forces looked on. The third time cost Robert the game. The third time, Robert rolled a Time! and then rolled sudden death. He never got a chance to see the perfect shot his artillery was about to deliver into the heart of the Germans. Sadly for the Americans, not a single German unit was lost, while the US suffered 3-4 losses and lost by a score of 31! I fear for our next game - Robert's luck has been so bad these two games, it will be bound to swing around soon enough.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Combat Commander: Europe

Well, I was planning to do a little gaming at the Gamer's Inn this Friday evening, but plans went south and so Robert Bolan and I elected to simple meet at my place and play some Combat Commander: Europe. Since Robert lost our last game I let him decide if we should replay the 2nd scenario (Hedgerows and Handgrenades) or move on. He choose to replay the scenario as well as to reprise the Germans. Well, this time around, the result was the same - The American forces smashed through and forced the German surrender after extracting a good number of casualties. Robert managed to take out my mortar very early on, but I surrounded and isolated a couple of his Germans, weakening him as I advanced. After the defeat, we decided to play another game. This time, he choose to move on to the third scenario - Bonfire of the NKVD.
Outside Brest-Litovsk, June 24, 1941 - A Soviet forward command post belonging to the retreating 133rd Infantry Regiment is to be abandoned by noon, but not before all communications equipment is smashed and documents burned - including detailed plans of much of the frontier fortifications in and around Brest-Litovsk several miles to the east. A battered company of Russian militia must halt the German juggernaut long enough to affect a withdrawal to the relative safety of the Brest-Litovsk citadel.
Basically, the Russians (Robert) are defending the map. The objective on the far side of the map is worth a whopping 16 victory points - the Russians also start with 20! In order to win, the Germans will need to smash most of the Russian army and/or take the major objective before time runs out. To make matters worse, Robert gets to setup first - including a dozen wire obstacles in the way. He uses these to funnel me away from the forest (and cover) and towards a couple of houses he's setup in with machine gun units. This turns out to be a mistake. As the first turn taker, the Germans immediately overwhelm and eliminate 3-4 Russian units. They chase down and kill another couple while making a lightning fast push up the Russian left flank. Robert has to pull his troops back together and tries to regroup. I've got a couple of good positions, so I hole-up and start firing on his units. I'm now within a couple units of forcing a surrender. I figured this was my best plan of attack, as not a single German unit has been killed. Then Robert gets lucky - reinforcements. First artillery, then a new squad. I have one unit pinned down and am relentless in shooting at it, but can't ever even break it. The Russian artillery is becoming annoying, but not seriously damaging, so I regroup and re-position some troops to try and apply more pressure. The Germans finally break a couple of Russian units and then immediately rout them off the board to force the Russian surrender. This is an important lesson - when the Russians break, they are often hard to recover and easy to rout by the Germans. Without leaders, the Russians are just too easy to push back.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hedgerows and Hand Grenades

Robert Bolan came over to my place last night to get in a game of Combat Commander: Europe. We moved onto the second scenario in the book - Hedgerows and Hand Grenades. The background:
Bocage Country, Normandy France, July, 1944: A few weeks after the D-Day landings, General Bradley was keen to choose a suitable place for a swift, decisive breakout with a minimum of casualties in order to get his armored forces into more tank-friendly terrain. The key ground to the south of US First Army, however, was the town of St. Lo along the Vire River - which could only be had via a tough slugging match through moors, marshes and a patchwork of tiny fields surrounded by dense hedgerows. One such skirmish occurred amongst the latter terrain on the outskirts of Pont-Hebert, just a few miles from the vital St. Lo-Coutances road.
The map for this one was nasty. Lots of hedgerows, very little line of sight. Since Robert won the previous match, I chose my side - the Allies (Americans). I had to setup my side first in the first three rows of the map, after which Robert could dig himself in anywhere else on the map. I decided to go with the attackers so I could play with the mortar and artillery. As the defended, Robert would have a lot of ways to make life hell for me though - including being able to setup heavy machine guns pointing down the only easy terrain - the roads. Robert also started with 10 VPs. After we setup, I was allowed to place one of my leaders - Lt. Blankenship in position to be my forward observer. I placed him near the back of map - I hoped to get a few artillery shots on the rear flank, then exit him off the map for points and a quick reinforcement. Our objectives for the map? 2pts for each of the 5 spots, plus Robert drew a house in the middle worth an extra point, and I drew the one objective on Robert's side of the map for an extra point :(.
The battle started with my moving my troops up the left side, while the group on the right used the mortar to try and soften Robert up. Lt. Blankenship was able to call in a couple of artillery strikes, but to no real effect. The one effect - I got my Real American Hero into the game! I placed him near Blankenship - planning to exit them both off the map (only realizing after I did that, that the hero is worth ZERO points). Robert had advanced one of his squads and a leader into a house, which I decided I needed to invade (despite not being an objective point). A quick advance let me eliminate a couple of his guys right away and a few rounds into the game, I was quickly gaining points back. The first time card came in fairly early and Lt. Blankenship and the hero re-entered the game, moving to support my mortar team. By this time, Robert had taken control of the central locations - two houses tucked away from line of site of anything. I was forced to advance into the house and my group overwhelmed the occupants. I had now knocked Robert's lead down to a mere 2-3 points and had comfortably advanced to a point where I thought I had a chance. Then lady luck struck.
Robert, tired of being shelled, moved some units down to eliminate my mortar team, which they did with a swift advance. In addition, a couple of events for Robert were letting him score points for objectives held and units he had eliminated. Before I knew it, his points had skyrockets back up to 15! He also managed to get a number of foxholes, some wire and other crap into play. My offensive had stalled and was in danger of being done. He started breaking my units, and if he had gotten some rout cards, I was going to be in a world of hurt. That was when I noticed that I had killed a lot of Robert's guys. Though I wasn't going to be able to dig out his guys much, I was in pretty good position to win the game if I could kill a couple more guys. With that in my head, I made a push to try and take out another of Robert's groups. He brought in another team to try and help, and that was the mistake I needed. He made a group vulnerable and I brought a number of fire teams down on him and was able to force Robert's surrender. Robert had a huge number of points, but the casualties were too much for him. I may have won, but I think future attacker/defender battles will much much harder now that we know a few more of the tricks.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Things of No Interest

  • I saw this article on the BGG about pimping up Combat Commander with bits from Litko and of course I couldn't resist. It is a little pricey for the size of the bits, but looks awesome. BTW, the pieces aren't assembled - if you do this, watch out for the glue. It works really well. It works too well - It dries in seconds and there is no forgiveness. I accidentally globbed a ton out on one piece and for lack of a better term - it is hosed. After that, I got a toothpick and started applying it that way - also a pain as you can't squeeze out much (remember, it dries damn fast). At any rate, I pimp up my normal games, so doctoring up a game that is all chits shouldn't come as a surprise. And yes, of course I clipped my counters. Even got a jig for it.
  • I also found (ok Robert Bolan) a copy of Combat Commander: Pacific for $50 shipped - in sleeves and the chits all punched and sorted in a plastic box. The next logical purchase should have been Combat Commander: Mediterranean or maybe Combat Commander: Battle Pack #1 - Paratroopers, but the price was right and so I couldn't resist - though I did resist for one day to see if Robert was going to buy it himself.
  • In keeping with the WWII theme, I also grabbed a copy of Wings of War: WWII Deluxe - this is the WWII (in case you missed that) version of Wings of War, and comes with 4 of the minis included. I ordered an additional four planes and plan to bring the whole shee-bang along to the Geekway To the West 2010 in a couple of weeks for a little bit of 4 vs 4 action.
  • Speaking of the Geekway, I'm not sure what we'll get played for sure this year. As always, there is a laundry list of games that we'll never have the time to play. Last year we played a lot of games from the Play-To-Win table. This year, there are maybe 3-4 games I really want to play from the table. The rest I either own or just don't care about I guess. Which games are they? Samarkand: Routes to Riches, Kingsburg (a little), Runewars (a little), and I can't decided about Dungeon Lords. I hear it is ok and it is not all that. I know lots of folks want to play it, but I've decided there aren't quite that many worker placement games that capture my interest.
  • So if I'm not totally engrossed in PTW games, what do I hope to play? A couple of Splotter games maybe - Greed, Incorporated and/or Indonesia. Steam and Steam Barons. I'd really like to play a big game like Descent, but I'm guessing that won't happen. And then there are the games that will for sure happen - Chicago Express, Tichu, Twilight Struggle, Combat Commander: Europe, Pitchcar, Crokinole, Wings of War (as I've already noted) and a host of little side games like Sushizock im Gockelwok and Exxtra. All I know is that normally about 15% of what we plan to do happens. This year they are having 24-3 (there is only three days) gaming, so who knows what we might fit in...

PBEM Olympics - Amun-Re Game 1

And the first game of Amun-Re is in the books. Amun-Re got moved up in the competition after we discovered it was getting pulled from SpielByWeb. We started 4 games (as any game started by a certain date could be played to completion) and took first moves in those games so that we could be assured of playing them through. In our first game, Justin and Nathan were first time players. Nathan got a pretty good overview from Steve Bauer at a Friday night session a few weeks back - it must have paid off as Nathan pulled out a second place finish in a pretty tight game. Justin missed how the pyramids scored until nearly the end of the game and had started the game with the fewest points in the first half of the game. Me? I got dang lucky. I squeaked out a 1 point win - barely scoring more points in the second round than I did the first - not a good showing. Chester never got in a rhythm nor found bonus cards that helped and brought up the rear this game. I expect his experience will help him in the coming games. I don't really care for this game and hope that this first place finish won't be followed by some 4th places. Final scores: Me-40, Nathan-39, Justin-36, Chester-34

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Combat Commander: Europe

I don't remember where I got Combat Commander: Europe, only that I got it last April for $35 (plus shipping) and I didn't actually play it until June last year. When I finally played it, I realized I had got a bargain. Not because of the price, but because it was such a good game. The game felt like I had been thrown into Saving Private Ryan - chaos. Controlled chaos to be sure, but the game does such a good job of being a story and a game. Sadly, I hadn't played it again until last week. Dion Garner called to see if I'd be interested in getting together for a little gaming. I asked if he'd be interested in playing CCE, since it had been so long since I played. He agreed and so I brought it over to his place and we got setup. He hadn't played in a couple of years, so we played the first scenario - Fat Lipki. Despite fumbling a bit through some rules, we had an interesting game. The objectives were not great and so I put my German forces into the houses near my starting point and waited for Dion's Russian to come to me. He looked to have a good numbers advantage and it was only through some good recovery rolls that I was able to frustrate his efforts. Then he made a mad dash at me and had a really bad round. I was able to get up on him by six points when time ran out.
A week later, Robert Bolan came over so I could teach him CCE. We also played Fat Lipki, but since I had only played the German side, I took the Russian this time out. Also, the first thing we drew was the 5 point #5 objective - one of the houses. This meant that instead of random skirmishes, the game was going to be mostly about #5. It only took about two turns for Robert to declare that he loved this game. Maybe that was because at the end of the turn, I rushed the house with a rifle squad and a leader and got turned away. Down almost immediately with my best leader, I scrambled to get into position to take the house. Again I rushed the house, this time with two rifle squads and luck was not with me. The battle was looking rather hopeless and my casualties piled up. I tried to get my units into position again - looking again for an advance and ambush card and hoping Robert wouldn't have one too. His Germans flanked my team and started shooting from the woods, but the Russians held and managed to get dug into some foxholes. Then they started returning fire ferociously and a few routs pushed his wounded men back. Finally the cards were right and I went for a last ditch melee. This time the Russians were victorious. A bonus card for surviving the melee brought me back to within 5 points. If time ran out, we'd be tied - and Robert had the tiebreaker card! I hoped to massacre his remaining troops when they crossed the road (I had multiple cards for using my machine guns on moving targets), but time ran out and so did my luck. The game ended in a tie, and Robert still held the initiative card.

What is There to Say? Its Ballon Cup

Well, I taught Robert Bolan how to play Ballon Cup online at This game works well for mindless game play during the boring parts of the day and we've logged 9 plays since the start of April. The cards don't like me much though - I've only won 3 of our games thus far. Hopefully, the luck of the cards will reverse themselves before we get totally bored of this game.

Friday, April 09, 2010

PBEM Olympic Standings

Medal count after 3 events







PBEM Olympics - Puerto Rico Game 4

Well, it is finally over. Chester won his first medal in style with a nice gold for Puerto Rico. The fourth and final game of PR was fairly close - we all did well getting an economic engine going and scoring points. Chester didn't score a couple of early shippings and it kept him out of first place but he had two firsts and two seconds. I manged a second, third and two forths for last place and no medal. Nathan played well this last game - well enough that he took home the silver and broke his streak of bronze medals. Justin brought up the rear this game, but his earlier first and second place finishes made up for the fact that he finished last twice too. Gratz to the medal winners. And again - I'm glad we are done with this game.

PBEM Olympics - Fearsome Floors Game 2

The second heat of Fearsome Floors completed today. Since everyone understood the game, we jumped into the advanced setup (which nobody understood). Despite the painfully long process of setting up the board, the game seemed to fly by - likely because we setup the board to put the monster right into our lap nearly immediately. Justin outran all of us to the exit and put three guys out the door before Chester or I could get our second. Nathan already had two guys out, so he managed second place. Chester got his first out well ahead of me, so I finished dead last. Again. For those keeping track, Daniel Karp didn't die, but didn't make it out either. This time, he sat right near the door only to watch Justin win the game before he could escape.