Monday, April 23, 2007

"So you say you want a revolution..."

I'll say it up front: This week's gaming session was rather strange.

It was also very short. Partly because my daughter was ill, and partly because the game we played was MUCH shorter than expected.

Recently, after listening to the Point 2 Point podcast featuring and interview with the braintrust behind Worthington Games, I decided to pick up Clash for a Continent. It's a hex-n-counter wargame, but it's on the far simpler end of the spectrum.

The game covers 5 battles of the French and Indian War and 10 battles of the American War for Independence. It is played on a 13x9 hex grid (coincidentally the same size as the Command and Colors series) and the counters are actually stickers placed on thin 1” wood squares. I'd say the blocks are probably 1/3 the thickness of your typical Columbia block game.

As the game is played with the pieces flat on the board, there's no actual fog of war involved, so it's not a block game in that sense. Combat is reminiscent of the Command and Colors system as well, though it uses normal dice instead of the custom ones in Richard Borg's series. The game is screaming to be done up in miniatures, and there are a few pictures in the game's entry on the geek showing someone doing just that.

Scenarios typically last between 20 and 30 turns. You're usually fighting to score a certain number of VPs through killing units (one VP each) or capturing VP “units” on the board. One side is then trying to deny victory to the other.

A turn consists of both sides in turn rolling for action points then spending those points. You roll a d3 (½ a normal die rounded up) and add that to a fixed number that is scenario dependent. Usually that fixed number is 2 or 3. Moving or firing units costs 1 AP, and close combat costs 2. There are a couple other things you can do, but those are the primary ones. Movement and firing actions can be done in any order. Only dragoons and Indians can move and fire in the same turn.

Combat is simply rolling three dice looking for a particular target number. In close combat, that's usually a 4 or higher, and ranged combat depends on the attacking unit type and the range to the target. The target number is then modified by terrain. More often than not, you're going to need 6s to hit. Units can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hits (depending on unit type) before being eliminated. Hits are indicated by either rotating or flipping the block so that the appropriate number of remaining hits is facing you. There's a handful of other things, but that's basically it.

I picked the Camden scenario to start as there wasn't any terrain in the center of the battlefield to get us confused – I wanted something simple so we could learn the core of the system without getting lost.

I took the Americans, and Tim had the British. We started out with a little artillery barrage and counter-battery fire, resulting in me losing both my artillery units early on. He pushed forward on his right into my militia and took out one or two. I advanced on my right, and was strongly repulsed. After about 8 turns, I had lost 6 units to Tim's 3, and the game was over.

It took all of about 20 minutes from the time we set up the board, went through the rules, and finished the game. We both sat there going “is this it? Did we miss something?”

After glancing through the rulebook to see if we did, in fact miss something (which I don't think we did) we decided to pick something with a slightly more interesting terrain situation. We picked Saratoga, and kept the same sides.

This one went much better. The Americans are trying to take a hill in the far right corner of the map while defending a hill in the near left corner. You have to decide if you're going to attack in force, or defend what you have. Both sides have a sizable force in the middle, both parked in the woods, if I remember it correctly. Just out of range of the others.

Both of us took the offensive at first, trying to pick out a weak point and focus on it. Early on, Tim took out Benedict Arnold, giving him 2 VP. However, I was managing to force back his attack with him taking some losses. He finally advanced his center to reinforce his left flank, and I attacked a gap he left between his left and center. This tipped the balance my way as I was able to concentrate fire on one unit at a time finally wearing him down. I won that battle with a 6-4 score. Neither of us managed to take the other hill, but I won through attrition. This battle took us around 40-45 minutes. We had to call it a night at that point, as I had to help my wife out with the kids.


This is a very light wargame. People have compared it to the Command and Colors system due to the board size and the way combat is run and losses are taken. Those are really the only similarities, however. As you aren't dependent on cards telling you where you must focus your actions, you are more likely to be able to do the important stuff when it's important. You just don't know how much of it you'll be able to do. I would say, though, that the game is probably closest to Battle Cry in complexity and feel. I have not looked at any other Worthington games to know how Clash for a Continent compares to their other offerings.

One thing that didn't help was that the rulebook is very wordy. In the hands of a good editor, the eight page rulebook could probably be brought down to five or six. Explanations of the terrain and unit types takes up the first three pages, the actual rules are the next four pages, and the last page is advanced/optional rules and a brief campaign system. The latter is merely a list of scenarios to play that are linked together according to the historical campaigns in which they belong with VPs totaled at the end. There's no reference card, so I ended up creating my own which distilled the rules onto a two-sided sheet. Of course, the game is simple enough that we didn't really need the reference after a few turns. (There are a number of reference sheets available on the 'Geek - I just hadn't looked.)

I was a bit underwhelmed by the game. I'm not going to call it a “bad” game, but it just seemed to be lacking something and I can't put my finger on it. There are a number of optional rules that we'll likely throw in if this game hits the table again. It is possible that there are scenarios included that are far more interesting than Camden. And, for that matter, it's possible that Camden is more interesting than we found when we had no experience with the game.


Tim's the game chooser this week, and I have no clue what he's thinking. I have a couple ideas for the week after, and they may stray from the directions we've gone to this point.

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