Friday, September 7, 2007

A new beginning

One of the blogs that I regularly checked, and looked forward to new posts, was Two Sides to the Coin, so I was saddened to read that Tim was moving south and that it was to go on hiatus. Months passed and I thought I'd at least give Eric the chance to get some gaming in, and at the same time offered to post reports here. He accepted both offers, and so here I am.

When Eric and I were discussing getting TSttC restarted, I specifically requested that we start with CfaC. After reading Tim and Eric's previous report on it, I was very interested in trying it myself. I'm a big fan of the Commands & Colors series (although I generally suck at them) so it will come as no great surprise that I can report that I really liked CfaC.

There really are very few differences between the two games (well, game and series, I suppose would be more accurate). That main difference is in activation of units. In C&C you play a card which allows activation of a number of units in a particular area of the board. In CfaC you still get a number of actions, this time decided by a die roll, but you may use them to active whichever units you wish. Neat. You still have the desire to do more than your activations allow, but at least you're not constrained by your card draws.

The rules are very straight forward, so we jumped right in and started off with the Saratoga scenario, with myself as the Rebels to Eric's British. I started by bringing up my rear troops to form a more solid line, and Eric began a general advance with his right and center, obviously hoping to achieve the VP markers in my left flank corner of the board. This did not go well for him when I managed to kill his leader in an early fire combat, which requires a 1 in the fire, then a subsequent 1 in a second roll. This really hampered his ability to activate for the rest of the game, and swung it decidedly in my favor.

With me firing from the woods (-1 on the die for his attacks) into the open, I was quickly able to gain the center. Eric's units on my left were not well supported, having had to advance from deep on his flank, so I was quickly able to bring superiority to bear, and put him to flight. The game was quickly over, with the Americans winning a 6-0 victory. (Or 6-very little, in any case.)

This had taken only 20-25 minutes to complete, so we turned it around. This time the game went right down to the wire, lasting the full 24 turns. Learning from the previous game, I slowly maneuvered the British right wing into position, while my left flank fought to a virtual standstill. The critical factor in the game was the use of 'slowly' in that previous sentence, as I managed to roll 6 1s in a row for my activations, giving me the minimum possible. This meant that the British ran out of time, not quite being able to take the last couple of VP locations, on the last turn. Of course, that last turn required that I needed to roll a 6 to lose one of the VP locations, which I, of course, proceeded to do, just to make it that little bit harder. (For those not familiar with my own gaming blog, Thoughts of Chairman Mike, I have a continuous hate-hate relationship with dice.) Still, that left me with an outside chance of getting the 2 VPs required, but the Colonials refused to budge from the hilltop VP hexes, and I couldn't even manage to score the single hit required to eliminate one of them. This left the score tied at 4-4, meaning a win for the Americans. Of note was that despite rolling lots of 1s in his combats involving my leaders, Eric could never get that second snake eye to show itself for the kill, despite having around a dozen+ attempts.

A very entertaining scenario that could have gone either way, and one that I'd be more than happy to try again.

It was still not quite 9pm, and Eric wanted to try the scenario with his Native Americans (as is the correct term these days) attacking my British wagon train. In this scenario the fragile NA units have to get 5VPs, either by killing British units or capturing and making off with the units representing the train. The British have to avoid the NAs winning, by not dying and not letting the train be captured. This proved hard to do as first I and then Eric lost as the British. Eric's NAs seemed to be armed with sniper rifles as he picked off my units from long range. I tried to rush the train off the board, but Eric did a good job of circling his units round and getting kill opportunities.

In the second version, Eric focused more energy on taking out the fragile NA units, making no real attempt to escape with the train intact. This didn't work either, as I was able to pick him off by dashing multiple units forward using their capability to do a double activation move/fire. So although this game ended more quickly than the first (9 turns rather than 12/13) I had only 3 units left at the end. There were two amusing moments in this game. First, I managed to take out his leader by rolling another snake eyes in my single attempt. Second, in one fire attack I managed to roll 3 1s, then stated that my other unit would also fire, and that I was due some 6s. I proceeded to roll box cars and removed his unit! (Perhaps that's what I need to do - I need to be firmer with telling the dice what to do.....)

I really think this is a hard scenario for the British to win. Losses don't matter to the NA player, other than reducing his ability to attack, so they don't worry too much about it. I'd try it again, but I'd rather go for a more 'regular' scenario like Saratoga.

OK, so this is not a heavy, serious game. In fact it's so far at the beer and pretzels end of the gaming spectrum that it's offering to get the next round of drinks. But that's OK, because it doesn't pretend to be anything else. It's a knock 'em down, drag 'em out, and set 'em all up again type of game, the gaming equivalent of a night out with the boys. Just sit back, relax and throw some dice. You're there to go along for the ride, laugh at the dice rolls that go in your favor, wince at the ones that don't, and holler and slap your thighs when the inevitable wacky combinations pop up. I don't want to play serious, thinking games all the time, and this fits the gap nicely. It very much fits into the same grouping as the Command & Colors games, which are great games as long as you don't try to take them seriously. It may yet get added to my collection, although I don't think I'd use it often enough to justify the cost.

A most thoroughly enjoyable start to my involvement with TSttC, long may it continue! As is the tradition on TSttC, it's up to Eric to pick the next game, although it's going to be a few weeks before we can get back together.

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