Rebellious #GameNight with #1775Rebellion (@Academy_Games)

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Courtesy Academy Games

The RockyMountainNavy family weekend game night this week featured another new acquisition, 1775 – Rebellion (Academy Games, 2013). 1775 – Rebellion is the first game of the Birth of America series. The publisher, Uwe Eickert, personally recommended it to me for helping teach the RMN Boys about the American Revolution. When I purchased the game, I also picked up the book Teaching the American Revolution Through Play that uses the game as part of lesson plans.

1775 – Rebellion is a light, strategic wargame. Like many Academy Games products, the game is a mix of “traditional” wargame mechanics with a strong Eurogames influence. Using simple gameplay, wooden cubes, cards and custom dice this area-control game recreates the American War of Independence. The RMN Boys really enjoyed the game. The random drawing of turn order keeps the tension going even when it is not a players turn and the hand management of Movement or Event Cards allows a wide variety of strategies to be attempted.

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The Rebellion takes shape

Our game played out very close to historical. The Rebellion was strong in the New England colonies, but the British swept down from Canada and threatened to roll down the coast. Rebellion resistance stiffened (thanks to French intervention) and the British were stopped. Changing strategy, the British used large Loyalist forces in a Southern Strategy to attempt to roll-up the coast from the other direction. However, the wily American Militia along the colonial frontier used many Indian allies to successfully contest complete control of colonies. By the time the Treaty of Paris arrived, the British were behind on colonies and lost the war.

During play, there were two events that highlighted how thematic the game is. At one point during the evening, the youngest RMN Boy (playing the American Militia faction) complained that it was difficult coordinating – or always agreeing – with his brother playing the Continental Army. I pointed out to him that historically Regular and Militia officers often quarreled and sometimes misunderstood each other. They even sometimes worked against each other too! The youngest RMN Boy thought about that a moment, and sheepishly looking at his brother said, “Oh, I guess this game is real.” At another time during the game, the youngest RMN Boy (again) grumbled that is was “unfair” that the British Regulars and Loyalists had more Warship Movement cards than the Americans did.  I pointed out to him the British had the Royal Navy, whereas the Militia had boats (like those used by Washington to cross the Delaware) or relied upon the less numerous French fleet. Realizing that the cards were not just there to make his life difficult, I could see the realization in his eyes as he started understanding the maneuver advantage naval superiority gave the British in the war.

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Courtesy Academy Games

Such is the teaching power of 1775 – Rebellion. Before we played I looked through the Teaching booklet and consciously tried to mix in a few learning points. The book lays out a five-lesson plan that uses the game for two of the lessons. I appreciate that each lesson has readings and writing assignments that focus the discussion and learning objective. I will be using this book in a more formal fashion later this winter, maybe during a break week to have fun/education. The lessons are aimed squarely at the middle school student; making the youngest RMN Boy a prime candidate.

The truth to the matter is that I don’t have to rely on the book; the game teaches by itself. From the custom battle result dice that often have units flee or retreat as much as (if not more than) they destroy a unit, to the Event Cards that invoke historic events (you should have seen the boy’s faces when I played Benedict Arnold in a major battle and turned their last Continental Army unit and ensured my battle win) the game just feels right. I am not saying this is a replacement for Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection (GMT, 2016) which is still my favorite strategic game of the AWI, but 1775 – Rebellion is a perfect “lighter” game that oozes so much theme with very little rules overhead.

The RMN Boys have really taken to the Birth of America series and want both 1754 – Conquest: The French and Indian War as well as 1812 – The Invasion of Canada. Mrs. RMN saw the boys engagement with the game (and the long conversations the boys and I had after the game and on Sunday talking about the history of America in the the late 18th and early 19th centuries) that she has “approved” a future purchase. I can’t blame her; 1775 – Rebellion has spurred their desire to learn more about American history. There is no better praise of a game than to say, “it makes one want to learn more.”

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#FamilyGameNight – Further Thoughts on #Scythe (and #AutismSpectrum)

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Courtesy Stonemaier Games

Scythe (Stonemaier Games, 2016) has quickly become the game-of-choice for Little RMN. We have played it three of the last six Saturday Family Game Nights. This weekend we added in the Invaders from Afar expansion. We played another 3-player game where I won using Rusviet/Agricultural with 91 points against Nordic/Mechanical (71 pts) and Togawa/Mechanical (26 pts.)

Some reviewers and critics accuse Scythe of starting out as a series of solo games, or of feeling to “samey” ever time. After the second game I was starting to feel the same way. However, when I got the Invaders from Afar expansion, it reminded me to look at each factions special abilities. These asymmetric abilities are what sets each faction apart and to win one must take advantage of these differences.

Most importantly, each faction has a different movement advantage. In our game, the Rusviet can go from any Village to/from the Factory. The Nordic workers can swim across rivers, and the Togawa can jump to Traps. In our early games we didn’t pay too much attention to the special movement and thus our first mechs invariably were for Riverwalk.

Secondly, each faction has a special ability or characteristic. For Rusviet it is “Relentless” which allows the player to pick the same area of the production mat each turn. For Togawa it is placing/arming Traps. These asymmetric (overused word) abilities again distinguish each faction. Proper use can assist in the run to victory.

Recognition of these differences, and how to use them, is key to the game. Unfortunately, in last night games the Middle RMN Boy drew Togawa. You have to understand that the Middle RMN Boy is on the Autism Spectrum and his ability to rapidly process information is challenged. Drawing Togawa from our newly purchased expansion he had no real time to study his faction and figure out how to take advantage of his faction’s abilities; especially the new Trap rule which is a key special ability. More than anything else I feel this contributed to his low scoring.

All of which serves as a reminder that games are for fun. I am going to sit down with him (not his brothers – help him feel important) and we will discuss each faction. I think if we do this, it will help him “see” what makes Scythe an impressive game. In the end, I hope it will keep the game “fun” for him instead of making him feel left behind. After all, we are a family and need to remember that gaming together is more important than just winning.

A Cold Night in Hell #ConflictofHeroesAwakeningtheBear

I am Prisoner 46001628. Until last night I was a Major in the Red Army. I was leading a small ad-hoc unit that was trying to stop they German juggernaut. I failed. For that I will pay the penalty the State has imposed.

The Generals say they gave me enough force. I was given two platoons of infantry with mortars and five tanks, including a lumbering T-35, a new T-34b, and even a ZiS-30 tank hunter. Our mission was to recover a valuable cache of documents that had been left behind in a command post that another unit had failed to destroy properly. The command post was in an entrenched position near a village. The documents were considered so valuable that we were ordered to attack in a cold winter night. But the orders were also confusing for was told to preserve as many units as possible.

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The German force with Secure Mission and Night Condition Card

From the start the mission was difficult. We had been told the Germans were not around, but upon our arrival we found a small armored detachment already occupying the command post.

 

Using the Firefight Generator the scenario was set. As the Soviet player, a series of entrenchments was placed around the Control Point, but before units could occupy the trenches the German players took it. Whoever removed the Control Point (the documents)  also immediately gained 5 VP. In an effort to salvage the situation, the Soviets played Rear Guard which awards 2 VP for every unit that escapes after Round 3 of the five-round firefight.

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The Soviet force with Freezing Cold Condition Card and Rear Guard VP Bonus

My units advanced slowly in the dark, led by the slow T-35. Visibility was greatly reduced, but we soon figured out the Germans had the documents and were escaping. My units took defensive positions as we tried to determine the German disposition and searched for a weak point. Very quickly, we took fire on our right flank and we quickly lost a T-26. In the center of our force, the Germans charged the ZiS-30 and destroyed it.

The German players started out very aggressive, closing the range and immediately targeting the dangerous ZiS-30 tank hunter. The Soviet defenses on the right and center collapsed under the constant attacks.

At this point I was in a knife-fight with the Germans. After losing the T-26 and ZiS-30, we quickly also lost a submachine gun squad, a BT-7 tank, and even the T-35. Seeing my position hopeless and rapidly dissolving, I ordered a retreat. Two squads of soldiers valiantly defended the escaping force and gave their lives so that at least some of us may live.

I make no apologies; the Germans brought superior firepower to bear on my forces that lacked proper anti-tank weaponry.

I gladly give my life for the Motherland.

The German players pushed their force forward very aggressively and were not afraid to engage in Close Combat using tanks against infantry squads. The Night Condition and the inability to conduct indirect fire meant the two Soviet mortar squads were unable to fire against German troops, and the Soviet tanks proved to have too slow a rate of fire in the armored engagements. Conflict of Heroes uses Action Points and Command Action Points to allow a unit to move or fire. Each unit gets 7 AP when activated. The Soviet tanks too from 5 to 6 AP to shoot, whereas the Germans took only 2 or 3 AP – meaning the Germans had double (even triple) the shot opportunities. In the end, the Germans not only were able to exit the documents (5 VP) but destroyed seven other squads/tanks for a total of 12 Victory Points. The Soviets were able to exit four units for a measly 8 VP.

This scenario shows the narrative power of the Firefight Generator. Built randomly, both sides built their force, altered the weather and visibility, and modified victory conditions.  The RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself are getting much more familiar with the CoH system and event his involved battle was completed in a fast-paced and tense 2 hours.


The following handwritten note was found scrawled on the bottom of Prisoner 46001628’s letter:

Unexcusable! This coward could not even kill one German squad! He took a force that should have been sufficient to at least kill one German squad or tank and did NOTHING with it! SHOOT HIM NOW!

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After the Surrender – Courtesy historylearningsite.co.uk

#FirstImpressions #SupplyLinesoftheAmericanRevolution from @Hollandspiele

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Initial Setup

Supply Lines of the American Revolution: The Northern Theater, 1775-1777 (Hollandspiele, 2016) is a very interesting design. Supply Lines looks like a wargame, but plays more like a Eurogame – and its not just because it has little wooden cubes!

First off, Supply Lines has a very eurogame-themed focus – logistics. Many games have supply rules (some too many rules) but none in my collection have placed logistics in this sort of prominent role. Before you go off saying logistics is unimportant, take a look at a few of these historical quotes:

“Gentlemen, the officer who doesn’t know his communications and supply as well as his tactics is totally useless.”
– Gen. George S. Patton, USA

“Forget logistics, you lose.”
– Lt. Gen. Fredrick Franks, USA, 7th Corps Commander, Desert Storm

“Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics.”
– Gen. Robert H. Barrow, USMC (Commandant of the Marine Corps) noted in 1980

“Logistics is the stuff that if you don’t have enough of, the war will not be won as soon as.”
– General Nathaniel Green, Quartermaster, American Revolutionary Army

“There is nothing more common than to find considerations of supply affecting the strategic lines of a campaign and a war.”
– Carl von Clausevitz

“Leaders win through logistics. Vision, sure. Strategy, yes. But when you go to war, you need to have both toilet paper and bullets at the right place at the right time. In other words, you must win through superior logistics.”
– Tom Peters – Rule #3: Leadership Is Confusing As Hell, Fast Company, March 2001

“Logistics sets the campaign’s operational limits.”
– Joint Pub 1: Joint Warfare of the Armed Forces of the United States

“Logistics … as vital to military success as daily food is to daily work.”
– Capt. Alfred Thayer Mahan, Armaments and Arbitration, 1912

My copy of Supply Lines is the boxed version that comes with a 12-page rulebook, a 22″x17″ map, 88 counters, 2 dice, and 100 wooden cubes. The game has only one scenario (campaign) beginning late 1775 and progressing to the end of 1777 with 5 turns each year. Armies are represented by generic leaders (few) and numbered chits that represent  the size of the force with no relation to any real unit organization or echelon.

At the beginning of each turn supply is generated. Supplies come in two forms, Food (green cubes) and War Supplies (natural wooden cubes). Supply is only generated in cities that are occupied by armies. Once generated, supplies can be moved, but only if the “supply line” exists. When armies move they need Food (one cube per four armies or portion thereof). When armies fight, they gain “Battle Die” based on the number of War Supplies they expend. There are other rules which limit the amount of supplies that can be held in cities or that an army can carry with them.

In Supply Lines the Patriot player is trying to reach the Treaty of Alliance which represents the entry of France into the war. The Crown player is trying to take Victory Cities and deny the Patriot player from moving the Support Track his direction. This is where Supply Lines gets REALLY interesting, because in order to move the Support Track the Patriot player needs to win battles but for the Crown player to take Victory Cities he will need to win battles (moving the Support Track away from the Treaty of Alliance) which means calling call on reinforcements, which moves the Support Track in favor of the Patriot player. Of course, there is never enough Food to move ones armies, and it always seems to be the case that there is not enough War Supplies on hand when the battle is joined. Some battles can be big armies but few Battle Die because there are not enough War Supplies. In Supply Lines, battle favors the defender who often only has to expend a single War Supply for a Battle Die whereas the Attacker not only has to expend Food to move an army into battle but also two (2) War Supply for each Battle Die.

Thematically, I find Supply Lines evocative of the history published about the American War of Independence. The Patriots were always short of troops and trying to muster the militia (reinforcements in the game) while constantly fighting the specter of enlistments ending (seen here in a special Continental Army Disbands rule during Winter Turns). The Crown player either has to come overland from Canada or use his command of the sea to transport troops from port to port.

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Early 1777 – Patriots have yet to Declare Independence while Crown player has four Victory Cities – and will go on to win. Note lots of Food but few War Supplies available.

In my first game the campaign went poorly for the Patriots. Pushing out aggressively, they lost a few battles shifting the Support Track in a negative way. This gave the Crown player room to call for reinforcements while the Patriots had yet to reach the Declaration of Independence – and get more Patriot reinforcements. The Patriot player tried to hold New York City, but a large, well supplied amphibious force landed on Long Island, marched overland to the city, and after a pitched battle dislodged the Patriot defenders. From this point on the Patriots, unable to muster forces in the months of 1777, simply did not have enough force – not to mention War Supplies – to eject the Crown player from a Victory City.

Supply Lines’ focus on logistics highlights an important aspect of the American Revolution. Playing this game one gets a sense of the challenge George Washington faced in the dark days of 1777 – how to keep an Army together when you have little food, fewer war supplies, and expiring enlistments. The one blessing is that the Crown faced many of the same problems – not having enough supply at the point of battle.

The game mechanics of Supply Lines make this game worthy of replay even though there is only one campaign setup. In my first game, battles drained War Supplies at an incredible rate. But after a few combats I realized that, just like in history, it is not necessary to destroy the enemy simply to get them to retreat. In this game, retreating comes when the Defender is defeated (has less forces after the battle) AND fails a Morale Roll (where the Defender has to roll the force differential or more on a d6) which makes them retreat.

I personally have grown very fond of Supply Lines after just one play. Not only is it evocative of the American Revolution, in terms of mechanics it is yet another “simply complex” game – simple in game mechanics but complex in strategy. I also think my appreciation of Supply Lines shows my shift in wargaming tastes. More on that later, but suffice it to day for now that I enjoy exploring the different challenge Supply Lines tees up for the players.

RockyMountainNavy Verdict – PLAY MORE!

#WargameWednesday – #ConflictofHeroesAwakeningtheBear #FirefightGenerator Night

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Courtesy Academy Games

The RMN Saturday Gaming Adventures (SaGA) continued this past weekend with Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear (Academy Games, 2012). This time, we also pulled out the Firefight Generator to help us create the firefight. The Firefight Generator uses two decks of cards (one for the German player, the other for the Soviet) to build the firefight/scenario. Each card has a top section with either a Victory Point condition or Special Event (rules) and a bottom section with units. Depending on the scenario desired, players draw a variable number of cards and alternate playing the cards until the combatants are selected, special rules introduced, and additional victory conditions defined.

For our game, we played the three-player variant with the RMN Boys acting as the two German players and myself as the lone Soviet commander. Each side was dealt eight cards. It quickly became obvious that the Germans wanted to “go heavy” as they selected many armored units. As the Soviet player, my initial unit selection was a bit more “combined arms” meaning I ended up with several infantry and supporting mortar units that, in the long run, were of little value in the armored battle that was coming. I did however, take a modified victory condition which awarded extra VP for destroying a German vehicle or crewed unit.

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BT-7-1 in operations, carrying soldiers – Credits: Wikimedia Commons

The game itself was five rounds long. The Soviets had a control point near their (east) edge that they quickly surrounded in a defensive array using a trio of BT-7 tanks. During the firefight generation, the RMN Boys had taken an option to add a second mapboard to the firefight and chose to enter on that board (the “west board”) away from the Soviet control point (the German second commander could have entered anywhere along the “north” edge of the east or west board – but chose to stay nearer his brother-unit and enter on the west board).

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A rear view of a ZiS-30 and its crew operating it. – Courtesy tanks-encyclopedia.com

The slugfest that followed illustrates the awesome simulation power of the Conflict of Heroes system. Both sides were relatively evenly matched, with Command Action Points (CAP) roughly equal (Soviet 12, German 10). However, the superior tactical training of the Germans quickly shined through. There was no better example than in the tank-vs-tank fight. The Soviet BT-7 needs 5 Action Points (AP) to fire and given the standard 7 AP per unit activation means a tank gets one shot unless CAP is used. The Soviet tank destroyer I had, the ZiS-30, was more likely to get a hit but takes 6 AP to fire! The net impact of the high AP needed to fire meant that each tank could, at best, get ONE HIT in a round, therefore in turn meaning to get a KILL requires multiple hits over multiple rounds (all while hoping the German player does not successfully rally the hit unit, and therefore resetting the hit count).  On the other hand, the German Panzer III and IV take only 2 or 3 AP to fire, meaning an “average” unit will get at least two, possibly three fire opportunities per activation. In terms of hit chances, both sides had under-gunned tanks for the opponent they were facing, but with numerous more opportunities to fire (often before the Soviets could rally and remove a hit) it was only a matter of time before the Germans wore down the Soviet behemoths.

The RMN Boys did themselves proud. Given the trio of BT-7 surrounding the control point, they (correctly) focused on destroying the major threat (the ZiS-30 tank destroyer) using, interestingly, a mortar team to suppress the ZiS and later a PzIII to destroy it.  They also used the mortar team (employing indirect fire) to destroy the Soviet’s lone anti-tank gun. At that point the Germans used their forces’ superior maneuverability to go around the flank of the BT-7 defenders and get to the control point “through the backdoor.”  At the end of the fifth round, the Germans were ahead on units destroyed (seven Soviet versus three German) but given the Soviet player had occupied the Control Point four of five rounds it looked close (German advantage 8-7 VP). However, with the modified VP card played during the firefight setup, the Soviet player got four extra VP to give them a 11-8 VP win.

As the Soviet commander, I am lucky the German second commander did not enter the north edge of the east board as I had little defense in depth there and may not have had time to get the BT-7s in place to defend the control point. If the Germans had occupied the control point just one extra round the VP would have been 10-9…assuming I did not lose any other units!

Does all that sound too gamey? In play it doesn’t feel that way, as the modified VP conditions drive tactics and the special rules throw wrenches into the best-laid plans. The Action Point mechanic of Conflict of Heroes also brilliantly captures so many factors (such as training, discipline, leadership) without cumbersome extra rules. The RMN Boys are neophytes at tactical armored combat although they have lots of Memoir ’44 experience which gives them a good foundation to build upon. The Conflict of Heroes system is easy to learn but a tough teacher. I will certainly have to step up my game in future battles as they both learn more and get more aggressive.