One of the things Eric and I wanted to target was going back to games we'd previously played and giving them a second go. So far, due to so many great games that we wanted to play being published, we haven't been able to do this, but with the delays in starting our OCS Korea game we had a few weeks to fill in. And so we decided to get Prussia's Defiant Stand (BGG entry) from Worthington Games back on the table. In our previous playing (Eric's take, my take) we had a rule or two wrong, suffered badly from the DSDF, but generally really liked the game, despite some of the most atrocious rules ever.
This time around we kept the same sides, Eric as Frederick and the Prussians, myself as the coalition (Austria, France, and Russia/Sweden). In fact the game opened the same as our previous affair, with Frederick marching on Dresden. This time around we played that all face-up blocks on the battle board were 'engaged' and eligible to take hits, rather than hits having to be taken in the block class (Leaders, Infantry, Cavalry). The rules clearly states that any 'engaged' block is eligible to take hits, in fact it's in bold, but never identifies what is an engaged block. Anyway, Eric takes Dresden without too much trouble, while I play a waiting game, building up Austrian strength. 3VPs to the Prussians.
In the second year, the French and Russian arrive in turn 3, immediately pressing forward. The Russians besiege Konigsberg, the Swedes take Stettin. The French have advanced up to Dresden, and with an Austrian force and the aid of a card that allows two armies to both take part in the first round (normally one would be a reserve, joining in during the second round) I pound his forces into submission, but take a lot of losses in the process.
Meanwhile the Russians have captured Konigsberg, and start to move forward. I attempt a forced march, but roll 4 '1's in 6 attempts, and lose 4 steps. Not trying that again. The Austrians now push forward, and besiege Breslau. This is where we make our only real rules gaffe, and miss that both Breslau and Cosel are now out of supply, and should be losing steps.
Eric attempts to extricate his force in Cosel by attacking into Breslau, but against a stronger force he comes off the worse and only the leader makes it back to Gloggen.
I push the Russian Cossacks forward, and they capture the weakly defended Gloggen, but a large fight for it develops, as Eric counter-attacks, and I try to reinforce. Eric comes off the better this time and retains Gloggen, but Breslau falls to siege.
Going into 1760, we're both fairly weak, the victory track is at 4VPs in my favor, having just earned 6VPs at the end of 1759. Eric has some work to do to regain some VPs or he will lose at the end of the year, as 10VPs is a game-ending decisive victory condition. (You earn VPs at the end of each year for the enemy cities you hold.) However, it's now 2230, and we have to call it a night. It's going to be tough for the Prussians to come back from this one. Even if they capture a 3 VP city back, it just postpones the loss by one turn. But without Frederick, and generally weak on troops, it's going to be a hard fight just to survive this turn, and we agree that an Allied win is the most likely outcome.
OK, so after a second play, has anything changed? Not really, it's still a very engaging game. Good length, interesting choices, good mechanisms. A proper set of rules would go a long way to making this game more acceptable, as they are really bad, even in the 2ed. Some other gaming friends tried this with the 1ed rules, gave up on it, and won't try the game again. I feel that's their loss, but it's only a small one, as there are so many great games out there that they won't suffer from a lack of games to play.
And that's where I think that Worthington (and they're not alone in this regard) have kinda shot themselves in the foot. They've produced a fine little game that deserves to see some table time, but the rules were so bad that people won't play it. Why fight through the ruleset to find out whether the game is worth playing when there are many other games in the queue all shouting 'Play me!'?
I can see this game being great for a Sunriver WBC-W bash.
My only concerns are in play balance, as I felt I had a relatively easy time of it. Then again, that card that allowed me to bring in my two major forces in the attack on Dresden was major, as it allowed me to take out a strong force and Frederick. After that, building up and attacking to Breslau made that and Cosel out of supply, and it seemed like an easy win. Knowing that, the Prussian player may need to withdraw out of Cosel, or be a bit more aggressive in defending Breslau.
All it shows is that even after a second play we still need to get it back on the table again. And I'm pretty sure it will make it, despite those rules.