Sunday, September 9, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Boy, I'm rusty. I wonder if I can still write these things...

After too long a break, finally the wargames are starting to hit the table again. Mike (welcome to the blog, Mike!) and I got together to play Clash for a Continent at his request. He had been curious about the game since seeing Tim and my reports a while back.

I picked the Saratoga scenario as a starting point. The combination of terrain, asymmetrical VP objectives and differing forces make for an interesting battle. The two forces have main battle lines in the center just out of musket range – the Americans in the woods and the British in front of another set of woods. Each side has a two VP objective hexes to protect on their left flank. The British need 6 VPs (either eliminating units or taking the objective hexes) to win. The Americans also need 6 VPs to win, but win if neither gets 6.

I took the British in the first game and proceeded to make a number of tactical gaffes. The British have a command liability in this scenario (The Americans will average one more action point per turn) and need to be efficient in their actions. Particularly since that clock is ticking and they have to force the action to win. I got a little too aggressive and charged my main battle line forward instead of concentrating on taking the VP objective. Early on I lost a leader, exacerbating the command difference and my charge in the middle faded disastrously. This one went to the Americans 6-0.

We swapped sides and tried again. Mike had a good idea of what not to do, and went after the objective. I did the same as the Americans, and shuffled some units over to protect the objective on my left flank. Each of us made slow progress. Mike actually took one of the objectives briefly, but I was able to recover it. We each had a chance for outright victory on the final turn, but neither of us could pull it off and the game ended 4-4 with a win for the Americans on the tie. Mike had a rather amazing run of bad command rolls in this game. Fully 1/3 of his command die rolls were 1s, and I believe six straight at one point.

As those two games took us less than 90 minutes combined, we pulled out another scenario that I'd been very curious about. Bushy Run from the French & Indian War. In this scenario, the British are protecting a wagon train traveling through the woods, and a contingent of Indians are raiding it. Indians are interesting to play in this game – they move twice as far as nearly anyone else, can move through woods without stopping, and can either move and fire or fire and move in the same turn. Indian losses don't matter in this scenario – the way the Indians win is by taking 5 VPs in 16 turns. The British win if they don't.

The initial setup for this scenario has the British in the middle of the board and the Indians sprinkled all around. The British mindset in this scenario is very much “where are they coming from?” and the job of the Indians is to feint, cause a reaction and attack a weakness. I had the Indians first, and decided I'd try to cut off the British escape and attack the front of the wagon train while screening off support. For the most part, this was a very successful strategy. I steadily wore down the British while losing a little less than half my forces. I won this scenario in about 12 or 13 turns.

We swapped sides and went at it again. While Mike took a mobile defense approach with the British, I tried to stay static and set up a reactionary defense that would strike back at the Indians when they tried to hit me. Mike took a slightly different approach with the Indians than I did – he used the “move and fire” action a lot. The side effect was that this left his units next to mine allowing me to close-combat them in response. This was a high risk/high reward strategy that paid off for him. He won the game in 9 or 10 turns, but was down to only three units at the end. Had my last unit not fallen, he would have had a hard time finishing me off.

One thing that helped the Indians in these two games is that the combat die rolls for the Indians seemed rather high both times.

At this point, we'd been going for close to three hours and called it a night. My gut feeling on the game improved after this evening's worth of games. Bushy Run, in particular, was quite fun to play and provided some very interesting tactical decisions. The basics haven't changed – it's still a very light wargame and a bit of a roller-coaster with the rises and dips determined by your die rolls. Fortunately, it doesn't try to be more than that. Games are 45 minutes or less, making it very easy to either swap and try again or try different approaches to the same scenario. The game definitely shines with increased terrain and asymmetrical situations. It's just a pity that the conflicts involved don't have a large variance in troop types.

The natural tendency is to compare Clash for a Continent to the Command and Colors system. It definitely falls more towards the Battle Cry/Memoir '44 end of the spectrum vs. the C&C: Ancients/BattleLore end. Given the ability to focus your efforts where needed, I'd definitely choose this game over Battle Cry, but it's a tossup vs. Memoir '44.

It's looking to be three weeks until our next game due to a variety of conflicts, so hopefully this will tide you over until then. No idea what it'll be at this point, but that's better than nothing!

Thanks for hanging around and reading – it's good to be back.


Jackson said...

Great to have you back! I'm glad I didn't delete your bookmark.
Hey, nice analysis of the Clash game, who doesn't need some light gaming fun.
As for Battle Cry, you should really try out our wonderful variant Advanced Battle Cry Deluxe Version 3. I have links to it at the Consim world bc folder. It makes Battle Cry much more like CC Ancients.
Anyway, really glad to have you back!
regard, Jackson

Eric said...

Thanks, Jackson! Nice to know I haven't lost my biggest (only?) fan.

I'll give your Advanced Battle Cry a look, but it's not likely I'll be playing it any time soon - C&C:A is demanding all the bandwidth I want to spend on that system at the moment. And if I get an ACW itch, that damned GCACW system is screaming at me that it wants to be played.

Plus I got a couple new (to me) 18xx games, Red Star Rising, and GMT's got a bunch of good stuff coming soon. What's a time-challenged gamer to do?